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How to edit 2 versions of a feature in parallel

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Drew Lahat
How to edit 2 versions of a feature in parallel
on Aug 7, 2018 at 9:21:32 pm

Editing a bilingual indie documentary feature, we're deep into the rough cut. We have a broadcaster in Israel who's the main customer and funder, but we're US-based and aim for a major north American festival run.
Most interviewees are bilingual, and the director shot interviews in both English and Hebrew. He wants 2 versions that will be very similar, but with dozens of interview sync shots swapped between the versions.

If I could lock this version, and then do the US edit this would be fairly straightforward. However, he's requesting (and looming deadlines call for it) to deliver rough cuts of both versions now - and proceed with both in parallel.

I have some deep concerns about that, and want to determine the best workflow moving forward (as well as communicate implications for the production) before "forking" the edit. Initially he thought we could put English and Hebrew content on different layers. This is great for GFX, but IMO not for the interviews since the runtime is not identical, of course.

I see no way around it - the moment I split the cut into 2 timelines, I have to carefully keep track of every single editorial change, and conform it to the other versions, in one of two ways:

1. Conform changes to the other version as we go.
2. Declare that e.g. US is the 'master' version and Israel the 'alt'. Do all editorial changes on the 'master' and essentially create the alt cut anew every time a delivery is needed (by replacing all the Hebrew syncs).

What are your thoughts? How would you approach this?

My last thought is whether Premiere for Teams could help automate the conform - when you have 2 users working on a Team Project timeline, you can review and conform changes afterwards, right? Will I be able to utilize that mechanism even if it's just me working on 1 station?

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David Roth Weiss
Re: How to edit 2 versions of a feature in parallel
on Aug 8, 2018 at 1:53:47 am

Your initial concerns are 100% valid Drew. Telling the story once elegantly is tough enough, and time-consuming enough too, doing it twice simultaneously is going drive you completely insane. The only way I’d take that job is if they’d agree to let me spend my time cutting the English version, and then leaving the Hebrew version to an assistant or another editor to conform as best as possible to your cut.

David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor/Colorist & Workflow Consultant
David Weiss Productions
Los Angeles

David is a Creative COW contributing editor and a forum host of the Apple Final Cut Pro forum.

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Jamie Pickell
Re: How to edit 2 versions of a feature in parallel
on Aug 8, 2018 at 5:25:53 pm

I don't envy you and as David said, your concerns are legitimate. That being said, this is what I would do.

1. Determine that the Israeli cut is the master since they are the paying client and presumably have an airdate for your film.
2. Once you've hit rough cut for the Hebrew version, have an assistant editor or junior editor cut all the English soundbites in the order they appear in the rough cut.
3. Duplicate your Hebrew rough cut timeline and put in the English soundbites (and narration if you have any). Depending on which language is faster, I'm assuming you'll need to tweak shots and music scoring to fit.
4. Determine how much time you need to make those changes for the English version and make them.
5. Deliver the rough cuts as you finish them. Depending on the length and complexity of your film, there will probably be at least a week difference between your delivery dates.
6. Put the English cut to the side.
7. Address whatever notes you get from the Israeli broadcaster and go through fine cut and picture lock for that version.
8. I'm going to assume that the English version will be owned by your production company and so does not have to match the cut you deliver to your Israeli client. I'm also going to assume that your director will disagree with at least a few if not many of the changes the Israeli client wants to make to the film. In which case you will fundamentally have two separate films.
9. Go back to the English version after you've delivered your final to your Israeli client and make the film your director really wants to make.
10. If your director is trying to hit a deadline for the U.S. film circuit that does not allow you to address that film after you've made final delivery to your Israeli client, then he needs to hire a second editor to make that second film.

Good Luck!

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Drew Lahat
Re: How to edit 2 versions of a feature in parallel
on Aug 8, 2018 at 8:01:03 pm

Thanks Jamie, David,

Those ideas were very much in line with what I figured. As for the detailed steps, instead of #2 I just lay the alt-language selects in muted layers, in the relevant positions. It's as close as we'll get to a dual-version edit without forking.

Ultimately I had a conversation with the director/producer yesterday and I was able to explain the complexities involved in this path. He determined that having an English version now was a "nice-to-have" but not a must, and so we may shelve it. The production's resources don't allow having a 2nd editor at this point (or more so, don't allow the efficiency loss of duplicating changes to a 2nd similar-but-not-identical film). We'll focus on the Israeli edit first, then US.

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