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This course is part of a series that looks at Documentary Editing from the point of view of 3 different editors in 3 different editing applications. For more insight on editing documentary projects, take a look at Documentary Editing with Premiere Pro and Documentary Editing with Final Cut Pro X.
- Interpreting a creative brief
- Exploring the documentary postproduction process
- Organizing footage and using searching techniques
- Setting up and using digital transcripts
- Building sequences and scenes to form the rough cut
- Adding effects to repair and enhance footage
- Fine-tuning the sequence to reach picture lock
- Receiving feedback
- Finishing the film with titles, color correction, and professional audio
Skill Level Intermediate
Once you have locked your picture, and have either sent away for titling or completed them yourself, you're ready to tackle other finishing stages of the post-production process. We are going to talk about two of these right now, the professional audio mix and color correction. Now, these phases of the process are extremely deep, and we won't be going through them step-by-step, but I did want to at least get you acquainted with them. Let's first address audio. Now, you have probably already done a general level of acceptable work in Media Composer regarding general correction of level and pan, and you may have addressed some corrective work via audio suite plug-ins, but by and large, most major audio corrections are typically done outside of Media Composer, most often in Pro Tools.
Whether the audio mix is completed in Media Composer or exported to Pro Tools, there are several issues that should be addressed in a general workflow by the audio mixer. The level and pan must be adjusted to balance the mix. Then the dialog, and in our case the interview audio, must be emphasized and all other supplementary audio must be mixed appropriately. Room tone or ambiance must be used to repair sections of audio that need to be replaced or re-edited. EQ should be adjusted to eliminate unwanted frequencies and enhance desired ones.
EQ adjustments should also be made to match audio quality between interviews. All attempts to eliminate or reduce unwanted background noise must be made and finally, damaged or distorted audio should try to be recreated. There are of course countless other adjustments that the mixer will make, but this is at least a high-level understanding of the process. If you're interested in learning how to mix audio, there are several Pro Tools audio mixing and mastering courses on lynda.com. To export your audio for Media Composer for Pro Tools, you will need to ask the sound designer how you should deliver it. There are a couple of options.
If you have a fairly small sequence, like less than 20 minutes, you can do an AAF export and choose to consolidate and embed the media. This results in a single file containing the edit and the media. Your Pro Tools Editor can then import that file into a Pro Tools session and all your cuts in media will be translated appropriately. If your sequence is larger, you might want to copy all audio media from your Avid MediaFiles folder onto a portable drive, export your sequence as an AAF, and just choose "link to existing" media.
The result is a file that only carries your edit, not the media. Then Pro Tools can link to the copy of the original media that you supply. Now, after all of this audio work is done, you will get the audio back from the mixer, and it will be one mixed file, usually a WAV file that you will bring into your project and edit into your master sequence. Another large and crucial phase of the finishing process is color correction, which should also only be completed once picture lock has been achieved. Documentaries especially benefit from careful color correction since the footage is often been shot under so many different lighting conditions.
The color correction workflow is a deep one, and if you want to explore the entire process, you can check out my lynda.com course titled Color Correction: Creating a Polished Look in Avid Media Composer. This will take you through every stage. Again, here, I'll just give you a very high-level overview of the process. Color correction starts by analyzing and correcting shots on an individual level. You first get accurate black and white levels. You then work to remove any existing color cast. Finally, you improve the general color, the hue and saturation of your image, paying particular attention to your flesh tones.
Once the shots are corrected, your next job is to establish shot-to-shot correction. You want to make sure as best as possible that all shots from one scene look like they belong together, and that each scene fits together visually as well. Finally, once all individual shots are corrected, and you have made sure that all the shots fit together well, you can apply a broadcast-safe filter so that everything falls within legal broadcast levels. You can also apply a global look or style to one or more sections of the film if you like.
So let's just go over this very broadly. I have here a shot that needs to be corrected. It's a shot in one of my scenes. So by setting accurate black and white levels, removing color cast, and improving the color hue and saturation, it looks like this. This is correcting a shot on individual level. Then I want to make sure that all of the shots in this scene look like they belong together, like so. So we're paying attention not only to one shot, but a little bit more globally to all of the shots from one scene, and this is establishing shot-to-shot consistency.
Then once I've done the work in making sure that my shots look good and my scenes look good, I can then stylize the film if I like. So I might want to apply a filter, like so, and you can do this to the entire film, to certain sections, whatever makes sense for your documentary. Now, you can color correct your film in Media Composer, or you can send the sequence to a professional colorist that will complete the online color correction in Avid Symphony or another third-party program.
Now, both the professional audio mix and the color correction phase are just part of the essential steps in finishing your documentary. You may also send away for professional effect in compositing work or professional titling, but like I said before, these online editing stages are far too extensive to describe in detail. For now just realize how important they are in making sure you deliver the best quality product possible.