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Asset-managing a documentary?

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Drew Lahat
Asset-managing a documentary?
on Dec 21, 2009 at 8:36:29 pm

I'm embarking on editing a 60-90 min. historical documentary; the materials supplied by the director span DV tapes, DVDs, online videos, even Flash. Luckily I only have ~7 hours of footage to work with (not 700), but I still like being anal about asset management, it always pays off later.

I'm used to narrative projects with structured data: scenes, shots, and take numbers, unified timecode etc. My question is not technical, but purely creative & managerial: what strategies do you employ when preparing your footage for editing? How do you attack this massive pile of shots?

Due to the amount of footage, scale and crew size (no assistants) I'll skip FileMaker and intend to utilize what I can within FCP.

1. What data do you log?
Some fields I had in mind:
- Description
- Director's notes
- My notes
- Shot type (interview/B-roll/still)
- Characters featured in the shot
- Location
- Acquisition source
- Ref. number (for archival footage, if applicable)
Anything else you'd recommend?

2. How do you organize your bins?
I usually have one set of bins for "originals" or "master clips", sorted by technical parameters (source type / reel), and a second set which includes subclips, organized by content (some story block units).

3. Any other suggestions or insights?


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Scott Sheriff
Re: Asset-managing a documentary?
on Dec 21, 2009 at 9:31:03 pm

Been asked a hundred times.
Try the search function.

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Shane Ross
Re: Asset-managing a documentary?
on Dec 21, 2009 at 9:37:47 pm

I have a tutorial DVD that goes into this in detail.


Read my blog, Little Frog in High Def

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walter biscardi
Re: Asset-managing a documentary?
on Dec 22, 2009 at 12:01:01 am

[Shane Ross] "I have a tutorial DVD that goes into this in detail."

And this is what I followed when organizing our current documentary. We have almost 400 hours of material now for three documentaries that are being cut back to back to back. I have followed Shane's instructions to a "T" on organizing and editing the doc. This DVD is a MUST HAVE for any FCP editor.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author.
HD Post and Production
Biscardi Creative Media

"Foul Water, Fiery Serpent" now in Post.

Creative Cow Forum Host:
Apple Final Cut Pro, Apple Motion, Apple Color, AJA Kona, Business & Marketing, Maxx Digital.



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David Roth Weiss
Re: Asset-managing a documentary?
on Dec 21, 2009 at 10:06:26 pm


The most important thing in a doco is to be able to find material quickly. However, unlike a narrative film, which has script pages and scene numbers etc., docos typically have no blueprint to follow, so there's no magic bullet or one size that fits all, because the logic that leads to finding shots quickly is often very different on every documentary. Sometimes the logic is best tied to a reel number, sometimes the shooting schedule, sometimes by the location, sometimes by the people or subject involved, and that may not present itself to you right off the bat. So, a good rule of thumb that I follow is not to get overly ambitious initially.

I typically start by using markers to break each reel down in its own separate bin into meaningful and manageable chunks that can be named and found easily. You'll find that if you right click on a clip with markers, the markers are listed by name and you can easily and quickly skip between them.

Then, as I proceed and begin to see patterns in the material, a logic typically begins to emerge. At that point I will then usually break down the material into subclips, and I'll create new bins that help me to organize by scenes and/or story points.

The important thing is don't go overboard with so many subclips and so many bins that you can't locate anything any more. One really needs to strike a balance that allows you to identify the best individual selects without creating so many entries that they become hidden away and lost. The find and find all commands do become very helpful for finding things at this stage should you find that you have tucked things away into hidden corners.

This technique, i.e. markers first -- then subclips, is very cool because it allows you to sort by clips, but it also allows you to scrub through organized reels. This can be very helpful when you're looking for those additional cutaways and b-roll that are always needed when fine tuning.

David Roth Weiss
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles


A forum host of Creative COW's Apple Final Cut Pro, Business & Marketing, Indie Film & Documentary, and Film History & Appreciations forums.

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Mark Raudonis
Re: Asset-managing a documentary?
on Dec 22, 2009 at 1:01:59 am

Have you looked at CATdv?

There's a forum for it right here on the cow.


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