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How long to edit an independent feature?

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How long to edit an independent feature?
on Feb 28, 2007 at 6:24:34 pm


I've been a pro video editor for more than ten years now- mostly corporate, docs and some commercials. I'm going to be editing an independent feature-length (80 min) narrative film (actually DVCPRO HD P2) on my FCP system and am trying to estimate how long this will take. I'm used to estimating for docs, where you mold the story during the editing process, but for a narrative, where the script is already done, what is an average finished min.s per day?- 2 min... 8 min...? How many work days to get to a finished first cut?

This film will be shot somewhat verite style and hopefully I'll be on set most times to note good takes, etc.

Any thoughts would be appreciated!



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Charlie King
Re: How long to edit an independent feature?
on Feb 28, 2007 at 7:32:10 pm

There are too many variables possible to estimate with no more information than you gave. I would hope you are including your time at the shoots. There will always be something that wasn't shot, or looked better in the field. If there are no re-shoots available you will have to construct some elements to fill. You just can't really plan for those.


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Re: How long to edit an independent feature?
on Mar 1, 2007 at 1:29:45 am

As Charlie said, there are a number of unknowns right now. Until you start getting things in the can and seeing if all the elements (talent, script, crew, etc.,) are "playing nice" together you just have no idea how thing are gonna go. I haven't worked on a feature length narrative before, but I've worked on shorts that ranged from "easiest edit ever" where the scenes fit together like lego blocks and followed the script perfectly to "nightmare edits" where the final cut that didn't resemble the shooting script in the least bit.


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Mike Cohen
Re: How long to edit an independent feature?
on Mar 2, 2007 at 4:05:31 pm

read this book:

it covers many of the nightmares you may face.

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P. J. in Hollywood
Re: How long to edit an independent feature?
on Apr 15, 2007 at 1:31:11 am

Yes, there are many variables. Just for something to compare your project to, a producer friend just completed principal photography on a low budget Indi feature.

They are allowing 10 weeks for the off line edit, rough assembly, before the exec producer sees it and makes any changes. After that, any changes can be made. As the executive producer, if he doesn't like what he sees, he can recut the film entirely or make any changes he wishes.

Note: This particular film was shot on 35mm with "down and dirty dailies" done to DV Cam for a low rez off line edit, so as to save money for the DI which is being done at Technicolor.

Whether or not you want to go to the expense of an on line finish (in a DaVinci suite, etc.)depends on your ultimate product release and budget. For a film-out theatrical release, you may want to up-rez for a 2K output and on-line finishing. Some festivals will accept digital cinema. Others require film.

Any way, when picture lock is achieved, the project goes into the DI suite for on-line color conforming and dropping any opticals into the project, as well as head and tail credits.

With a 2K color conformed file and a Digi-Beta copy, its time for the sound track. The music will be composed and recorded as well as ADR, Foly and SFX done and laid in. This process takes a few weeks more. Sound design is its own subject, as you probably know.

Next,its time for audience testing and any changes that need to be made so it plays as well as possible. Sometimes alternate endings are shown in order to see which one plays best. Those alternate endings are frequently included in the DVD.

When all this is done, its over to the distributors and to the executives do the festival thing. That's a whole other game.

This is for a low budget indi feature, a comedy that is non-CG intensive. Yours may be different.

Hope that this gives you some idea of the process and what to expect for a simple off-line edit on a non-CG type of comedy. If you are only going out to DVD (not a theatrical release), you can probably complete the whole thing in your NLE. DVD authoring is another topic.

Best of luck,


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