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Short Film Editing Workflow

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Matt Kelly
Short Film Editing Workflow
on Apr 14, 2015 at 10:39:14 pm

Hey guys! I'm a high school video student tasked with a 25 minute short film and 2 months to complete it. We have a class of 15 students, but I'm the one leading the charge. I was just wondering what you thought might be the best way to attack editing; we'd like to split it up between a few (3-5) editors so that way it's more easily accomplished given our time frame. There are about 10 scenes in total. Ideally, I would think that it would be easiest to divvy up those scenes and edit them on several stations, but there runs the problem of it not flowing perfectly well with our soundtrack. What's the best way to go about it?


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Mark Suszko
Re: Short Film Editing Workflow
on Apr 15, 2015 at 2:27:22 pm
Last Edited By Mark Suszko on Apr 15, 2015 at 2:29:18 pm

Each editor could keep their own project file, connected to the same pool of footage. Then you just trade the project files (which are small enough to probably attach to emails) between yourselves to see what each editor comes up with.

Dividing up the project into sections may be efficient, and it may give "interesting" results to have all the different parts edited by different people. I'd worry that the overall effect of that will be that the project will end up looking like a confused crazy-quilt, because all the editors are likely to impose their own style on their section. This can give an artistic and/or comical effect, as in the online projects where people each take an assigned six seconds or so of Star Wars or Robocop and shoot it in various styles from anime to puppets to interpretive dance. For any particular scene, there are innumerable ways to shoot it and cut it.

If the project is supposed to be a drama or serious story, it could be hard for a team of editors with different aesthetics to keep it on track, and not look disjointed.

So maybe what you want is not to divide it up into chunks, but to work on it as a true team effort, where you all work on the same section, compare versions, then vote on a master version, and move on to each scene in turn. The very real risk there is that you won't make your deadline.

Another way to go would be to have the entire team tackle the intake and logging of the raw footage, then designate one editor make the "master" cut, sitting with the Director, and the other editors each take a separate task like doing just the Foley effects/sound design, just the dialog audio, just the music cues, just the color correction, just the special FX compositing or graphics, etc. That's more along the lines of what a real facility might do with such a project, and you can all be working simultaneously on the same master cut. It takes a little more management of egos, and good team-management, to make sure everyone feels they are a key member of the team. The nice part is that the film is truly complete in essentially one step, rather than first doing the master cut, THEN the foley, THEN the music, etc. Everything is being worked on simultaneously.


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Matt Kelly
Re: Short Film Editing Workflow
on Apr 15, 2015 at 8:17:55 pm

Thanks for the reply Mark! As you might imagine, the biggest priority for us to reach the deadline, so I'm just trying to think of the most time-efficient way to go about it. Ideally I'd love to go about editing this project in the most industrially professional way as possible, but at the same time, I don't think the rest of the class will be willing to put in the time and effort required to do so.

I can definitely see how we might run into problems with differing styles. Maybe we could assign one person as the editing director to be on quality control duties to make sure each scene is similar in style? Not too sure how to go about that.

Your last idea also could be a good one. I'll talk with the class about that.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Short Film Editing Workflow
on Apr 16, 2015 at 6:32:26 pm

Please do write back to tell what they chose to do, and again, when the project is over.


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Richard Herd
Re: Short Film Editing Workflow
on Apr 21, 2015 at 8:05:55 pm

How are you being graded?


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Matt Kelly
Re: Short Film Editing Workflow
on Apr 23, 2015 at 4:47:09 am

Sorry for the late reply! We decided to split up scenes evenly between four editors to do a rough cut, mostly to establish continuity, where I will do "finishing touches."

Richard - it's a really loose grade. Our video class is heavily senior-based, so our teacher decided to let us take on a hefty but fun project before we graduate. It's pretty much whatever we make it, and as long as we put the time into it (no worries there), our grade will be just fine.


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Richard Herd
Re: Short Film Editing Workflow
on May 6, 2015 at 9:30:37 pm

[Matt Kelly] "Sorry for the late reply! "

Me too!

Sounds like a fun project. Just note that in a real environment we can change "how are you being graded" to "how are you being paid." So going even further here there would be a single "A" to earn (a 4.0) and the rest of you would split it equally into Ds (1.0 each) :)


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Matt Kelly
Re: Short Film Editing Workflow
on May 8, 2015 at 4:07:24 pm

Interesting note to think about! I definitely think that were this not a school atmosphere (filled mostly with seniors who are ready to get the heck out of here!) we would be going about this differently. What this seems to be turning into is me doing a solid majority of editing in its entirety. Which I'm actually okay with, I love this stuff :)


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Mark Suszko
Re: Short Film Editing Workflow
on May 8, 2015 at 10:54:43 pm

You will find that that passion is one of the key things that sustains a person on their journey to Mastery of a craft, even more than native talent. Talent can be learned, passion comes from inside you. If you love it, truly, you'll put in the time to get great at it, while others watch the clock and split on the dot, never to return. You won't even care or notice they left. If this thing consumes your thoughts at every hour, wherever you are, to that kind of level, chances are you are on the right track in terms of vocation. Keep at it.


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Matt Kelly
Re: Short Film Editing Workflow
on May 9, 2015 at 11:46:24 pm

It's odd - I've been having some of these thoughts myself recently. I've only just put my toes in the water when it comes to video production. Prior to joining a class last year, I've had little to no experience with video in any capacity. But especially this year, I've found myself gravitating more and more towards my projects. It's gotten to a point where I've been seriously considering a career somehow with it. Only issue for me is that I don't know if I'm getting way ahead of myself - maybe a few years down the road I'll discover that video production was just something of a flame towards the end of high school. But those are just my late-night thoughts, thanks for your input Mark!


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Christopher Travis
Re: Short Film Editing Workflow
on May 29, 2015 at 12:43:58 pm

[Matt Kelly] "Only issue for me is that I don't know if I'm getting way ahead of myself - maybe a few years down the road I'll discover that video production was just something of a flame towards the end of high school"

A small piece of unsolicited advice:

I would suggest you don't think too much about this. I was lucky, and got given an opportunity at a (relatively) early age to work in an industry I've come to really enjoy. However, all the time I've been doing this I've seen many of my friends floundering for years looking for a career path to get on. Most of them it seems to me are, or were, paralysed by choice and, for fear of making a bad choice, ended up making no choice at all.

What I'm most grateful for is someone offering me a path and saying "try this". Without that I'm sure I'd have been the same as some of my friends, fretting over what path to take. Ok, so it happened to work out for me that I stayed in this industry but I think it's important to realise that trying something for a few years, then realising you don't like it is not a waste of time. In many ways we only develop a sense of what we actually like by developing a more and more refined sense of what we don't like.

So in short, if right now you feel like this is something you'd like to do, then give it a go. Just go in with your eyes open and keep asking yourself if you're still enjoying it. I'm nearly 10 years down the line and still enjoying it, but if you get bored after 2 or 3, you haven't wasted 2 or 3 years. You'll be able to chuck it all and start again.


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Matt Kelly
Re: Short Film Editing Workflow
on May 29, 2015 at 3:58:05 pm

That's an awesome bit of advice, Chris, thank you so much for sharing. I think you're probably right. It's a little stressful with graduation coming around next Friday, and trying to figure out what I want to do with my life, but I think you're right. They say people switch careers an average of six times in their life, so I'm probably overstressing. Who knows, if the opportunity comes my way, maybe I'll give it a shot! Thank you so much for giving me your advice, it's always appreciated. :)

On a side note, I'm hoping to have the film completed on Monday :D


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Matt Kelly
Re: Short Film Editing Workflow
on Jun 3, 2015 at 4:42:50 pm

In case anyone was still interested, here's the link to the video!





There's a lot of things I would like to have done differently and better, and in some cases I just flat out ran out of time, but for a high school production with a total timeline of just a month to make, I'm really happy with how it turned out. Please, feel free to give any sort of constructive criticism, I'd love to try and improve my work! Thanks for all your help guys :)


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