Join Ashley Kennedy for an in-depth discussion in this video Watching dailies and organizing footage: Setting yourself up for success, part of Filmmaking Forum: Conversations.
- Hi everyone, in this episode of the Filmmaking Forum Conversations course we're gonna talk about screening those dailies. Watching the footage you're about to edit yourself or hand off to an editor is a given, but different people adopt much different approaches with this. Some watch everything from start to finish and take notes without even going into the software, while others watch one sceen at a time as they go during the edit. I got a lot of great creative strategies with this series of interviews, so I hope you enjoy.
- It is really important to watch every frame that is recorded and look at every still that is available to you, every inch of stock footage, because you never know what you're going to need and when you're going to need it. - My pre-editing workflow is I sit down and I watch the footage and that's it. I know that like Walter Murch has this really intense, note taking process with File Maker Pro and databases and I've actually done that before, it just doesn't work with the way that my brain works. For me I want to experience it as closely as possible to the way that the audience is going to experience it.
And an audience member's not going to have a laptop typing notes, they're not gonna have a notebook writing anything down, they're just gonna watch it. So I will literally just sit on the couch in front of my client monitor and I will just watch the dailies strung out, I watch everything, and I just watch it. I used to take notes when I was less experienced. I would have the script in front of me and I would be like, oh, that's definitely the that one I want, alright, so 24, H, take four, and I would write it next to the line of dialog on the script. But I found that as I was cutting the scene that was almost kind of penning me in a corner where if I explore the footage more and I don't get locked into anything then I'll just randomly find these great tidbits, because I'm not stuck in the one take or another.
- I always find for me I'm like, oh good, this is the part where I can basically relax and just watch TV. It's like, hey, I'll get a soda and I'll sit back and just watch, and dadada, and I'll make notes. And I'm like, oh, I like that. So I don't have to actually do anything yet, so it's actually very relaxing. So that's (laughing), I really enjoy that part of it actually. I remember I kind of freaked Dana out on Batkid when I told her I was gonna sit and watch everything, 'cause we have this deadline. And she was like, "Can't you just start cutting?" I'm like, no, I don't even know what this stuff is, I gotta sit and watch it all first. And that's where I would go in and find the stuff that I don't know that anyone had really listened to, which is like the body mic that E.J., the adult Batman, had on him that you could hear all these golden little exchanges between him and the little boy that I don't know that anybody else had every listened to before.
Or like in Dear Zachary one of my favorite little things when I'm kind of painting the picture of what Andrew's parents are like there's a little thing that Andrew at certain points would go, "It was wonderful." He does this kind of thing. And I found David on another clip going, "That was wonderful." And you could see father and son making the same exact inflection on the same word. And I was like, oh, there's, oh, and, but you're not gonna find that, those kind of details unless you are watching every frame from top to bottom and you find those little things that just make it pop.
And then you put those two things right next to each other in the movie and people immediately get it. But you're not gonna find it unless you sit and watch all 300 hours. - The other thing that I do that wouldn't have been unconventional 10 or 20 years ago, but today it's becoming more unconventional is I watch every frame of footage that was shot and I watch it in the order that it was shot. And what that does is it helps me understand the scene through the director's eye. 'Cause I know a lot of editors, especially in TV, because the turnaround time in TV is so fast that they'll just choose the last take of every setup, so that they can see the basic way it's shot, just watch 'em in a row and then cut their scene, but I don't understand the director's intention when I see that.
So if I see five takes of a master shot and I see the transformation in the performances or the camerawork between take one and take five I can say, oh, I can see what that director wants, I understand why they made that change, so they're never gonna say to me, "Well, why did you use that?" It's because I understand, or sometimes you'll even hear them directing like, "No, no, no, no, that's not what I wanted, I wanted this." So that informs the choices that I make in all the shots. So by watching the footage chronologically the way that its shot I see the scene through the director's eyes.
And that's probably the most common comment I'll get from directors is, "It's like you knew what I wanted from the scene." It is like, yeah, 'cause I watched you direct it. So that's one of my tricks for being able to do that. - I kind of work inch by inch. So I'll watch like the first 30 seconds or first minute of everything and then I'll start cutting. So I'll kind of get the idea of the end of the scene from the master and then kind of scroll through and see what the scene does, just so I'm familiar with what the camera's doing, and then I'll just start laying down things.
And I'm doing this all aware that it's a first pass, it's a rough cut. I'm not trying to make it incredible at this point. I'm really just trying to, I'm trying to use my first cut as a way of getting to know the film. And I'll just start to make these decisions, lay another piece, and just, so by the time I've cut the whole scene I've watched every piece of film, but I'm not watching everything beforehand. And like I said, it's a tactile way of me getting to become very intimate with the footage, as apposed to having to take notes and then remember, oh, on this line I need to be in this take.
It just helps me kind of retain all that information a little bit better. - I generally watch all the footage in whatever scene I'm working on, just so I know all the angles that are there, what the options are, and get an idea for the performances and stuff. And then I'll start cutting and then while I'm cutting I'll end up probably watching all the stuff, at least scrubbing through it, like another time or two. So by the time I get through a scene I'm pretty familiar with all of its footage and I have a idea where things are.
- I tend to get a bin full of dailies, I will watch a couple of the wide master shots to get a sense of the scene, and I will try and cut a version of the scene as quickly as possible, so that I start to understand the strengths and weaknesses and the challenges that are going to be solved in that scene. If I have time I will watch all the dailies. Quite often I don't have time to do that anymore, because there is so much that's shot and multiple cameras.
In the background my assistants are busy assembling a massive selects roll of every line of dialog from each camera angle. So I, for each line in the script I will have all the masters and then all the mediums and all the overs and all the closeups on different video layers, so I can see at a glance V one is the wides, and then after that V two is the mediums, V three is the overs, V four is the closeups. And then it will go back to V one for the next line of dialog. So they are busy combing through the dailies, building up these giant selects rolls.
They build up that giant assembly, so that by the time I finish doing my first cut of the scene, which is basically completely disposable, then I will go through and I'll start thinking about what kinds of coverage I want to use to build the scene up. And then the great thing about that system is that when the director comes to join you and they go, "Well, what are the options we've got for that line?" You can go, here they are. And you just press play and you can watch 30 of them back to back. And they can go, "I like version 13, "20, and 26.
"Can we just try those?" And you can slug them in and try them straight away. - I'm also a big advocate of someone that should watch all of the footage. I know it's not going to be painstaking, but I believe in that you don't just hand off footage to the editor and say, oh, make this work. I believe in being very hands on and being able to look at every single frame that I've actually captured, so I have a very clear idea of sort of the direction I wanna give to the editor. It's a very good way to learn also, learn about obviously what the story is and what the narrative is, but also, just as a cinematographer and as a director you're learning from what you're shooting.
So you know where to be at a very specific moment, or in a scene, or how to sort of block a scene, or how to capture a scene. And I think being able to watch your own footage I think makes you better at that.
- Advice for novice filmmakers entering the industry
- Finding, enhancing, and tweaking your story
- Experimenting in filmmaking
- Solving problems and troubleshooting your film
- Changing your approach or finding new angles
- Communicating and collaborating on set and in the edit room—and with clients
- Working on different genres of film
- Teaching and mentoring new filmmakers