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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 Avid Media Composer and Documentary Editing with Final Cut Pro X.
- Interpreting a creative brief
- Logging interviews and other footage
- Pulling selects and presenting ideas
- Building sequences and scenes
- Creating title graphics
- Animating images
- Adjusting b-roll shots
- Tightening clip timing
- Compressing and exporting multiple files
Skill Level Intermediate
For me, rough cutting is really one of the most fun parts of editing. So far we've really worked with one hand tied behind our back. Let's work on the visuals, let's work on the interviews, but now, it's all at that point where it's all coming together. If we take the painting metaphor, it's all there on the canvas, and we are doing the fine work, we are really bringing out the features and the strong points, the themes and ideas of our painting or our documentary, if you will.
So I want to take a close look here and see the types of things that we're doing in this stage. The emphasis is going to be on timing in parts but also on content. And there's going to be parts where what we need is still in the Project panel and hasn't come down to the timeline. We are going to go back to our media to search for things. So let's give ourselves a little more timeline room by closing this whole frame. Great. So we can see our whole timeline, and I'm even going to collapse our tracks here so we can see every single element that's in play.
So now we are actually looking at the entire timeline. There we go. We can really see everything. And a good way to proceed, I think, is going to be to compare and contrast. Generally, when I am doing this type of work, I am making a lot of little adjustments, and sometimes they don't become clear until you see a before and after. So let's go ahead and launch the first part of BD, his intro through to about here, where we make this transition, and then I want to compare to after I've spent some time really rough cutting.
(BD Dautch: My name is BD Dautch, and I have Earthtrine Farm, and we've got about 10 acres in Ojai, that we're farming on. It's all certified organic by CCOF. And we grow about 100 different herbs, vegetables, flowers, fruits. And we sell mostly at the farmers market, and also we sell to caterers, schools, restaurants. We have to pick it as fresh as possible and immediately get it into the shade. We try not to do any shipping. We try to keep it all local.) Okay, that's the assembly cut version.
Now let's see the changes when we move to a rough cut version. Okay. When I launched our opening, I noticed a few things. I noticed some timing things and some awkward cuts. I certainly noticed some jump cuts that need to be covered, and I certainly wanted to create something at the beginning, a temporary title so that we at least had a placeholder, and we know editorially how it works. That title is not very attractive, but I think it will give you the idea. So comparing to what we just watched, look at the difference between that and the new opening.
The content is pretty much the same, but the editing is much, much smoother. (BD Dautch: My name is BD Dautch, and I have Earthtrine Farm, and we've got about 10 acres in Ojai. It's all certified organic by CCOF. And we grow about 100 different herbs, vegetables, flowers, fruits.
And we sell mostly at the farmers market, and also we sell to caterers, schools, restaurants. We have to pick it as fresh as possible and immediately get it into the shade.) Okay, can you see all the differences? First of all, we've really smoothed things out. I think we've established a nice little rhythm coming into the piece. Second, did you notice that when I needed a cover shot, this piece that was sort of in and then out again, this is that same clip that I decided I don't want in the open, I moved it to the end, and then I needed some coverage, so I moved it back. But it's really hanging together, and I think you can really see the difference between an assembly and a rough cut.
Now I want to move back to our assembly timeline and take a close look at another scene, see another before and after. I would actually encourage you to look at the entire timeline before and after, but I am going to highlight a few areas. So you can see how we've improved the beginning of the cut by adjusting the timing, by adding certain things, creating some pauses, even adding a temporary title as a placeholder. Now let's look at another part of the cut and see how it came together.
I want to look at the portion with John Downey, the chef. So I am going to play this scene right here, and then we are going to look at the changes between the assembly and the rough cut. (John Downey: I'm John Downey. I'm the owner of Downey's Restaurant. I'm a chef at Downey's Restaurant. We've been here for 30 years. And as I say, we opened this restaurant in 1982, and in about 1983 BD came through the back door. Scallions and tarragon.
We'll use the tops in a leafy greens mix, which is one of the fish garnishes. We'll take Swiss chard and turnip tops, maybe. Then moving on, we have beautiful Swiss chard. I'm a great fan of Swiss chard. He's dedicated, it makes you want to cry with how dedicated he is to producing the very best.) Okay. Let's go ahead and take a look at all of the changes that come between this assembly and the rough cut.
I do want to point out that this is very much my process. I just am watching and noticing, making changes as I go, but I'm skipping a lot of the details so that you can see the results. These changes when taken individually are so subtle, you have to take a step back and see the forest for the trees. Let's look at how the John Downey scene wound up. Okay, you saw the way that the scene with the chef was working. Now I want to show you after the edits how it's working in the rough cut. It's been tightened and smoothed out. I think it's quite a bit better.
(John Downey: We opened this restaurant in 1982, and in about 1983 BD came through the back door. We'll take Swiss chard and turnip tops. He's dedicated, it makes you want to cry with how dedicated he is to producing the very best.) (BD Dautch: Incorporates everything that I look for--) So you can see that the chef scene has really come together, and among other things, it's connecting better with BD's story, and that was always an important goal for me.
Let's watch one more finished section, which is the end, and what I want to point out here is that the end was largely assembled not during the assembly period, but in fact, during this rough cut period. And that's not totally unusual. The reason is that endings are hard and the more you edit, the more familiar you get with your content. So all those little things that I've noticed, but not used or moved to the end, you can see how I've shuffled them around here. So let's just watch the new ending. (BD Dautch: ...in life, from family, to economy, to community. It becomes a celebration of life, as well as a culinary celebration.) So you can really see some of my thought process with the ending.
Remember this shot? It was at the beginning, at the end, and now it's at the beginning and the end, and I sort of like it. It brings us full circle, and it's really kind of a pretty shot and then this shot turns out to be important too at the end. I realize that interactions with people seeing BD again, smiling, and actually talking to people at the market that, that was really going to be the right feeling to end the piece. The same thing with BD's last bite here, and notice that about half of these shots are new to the timeline, between the assembly and the rough cut, and there's nothing wrong with that.
It's always acceptable to dig back into your media and figure out is there something I need is there something better. At the end of the day rough cutting is a very organic process, and I find it very enjoyable. It's nothing more than repeatedly looking at your timeline, watching it, and attenuating yourself to different improvements that you can make. It's often true that you just don't know the next thing to do before you've done the thing before it. That was the case with my ending here. I just didn't understand how it would work until I got to this stage of the edit, and creatively you just need to leave yourself open to the process in that way.
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