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Re: (Business advice) How long it takes to edit a 52 minute doc

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Shane Ross
Re: (Business advice) How long it takes to edit a 52 minute doc
on Apr 14, 2014 at 11:42:01 pm

I think that 3 weeks for a 54 min doc is EXTREMELY optimistic. Unless you have very little footage, and it's planned out very well before you start cutting...I'd be doubling that time.

Is there a script? Or do you need to look at the footage and help shape the story?

How much b-roll is there?

How complex is the edit going to be? Long takes, or lots of shots, with some quick cutting? Do you need to deal with the music too?

I cut a 24 min doc on my own...handed footage, handed a direction and told to go. That took me 4 weeks, but I had to watch all of the footage, make selects, break it into specific sections...all that. And this was a very straight forward edit...nothing flashy.

On the flip side, I'm cutting a History Channel show that has 44 min episodes. Scripts handed to me, so I basically take care of the b-roll, music, and pacing. Highly paced, lots of quick cutting and effects. I can get 2 min done a day...after I look at all the b-roll. So 44 min takes approx 22 days or three weeks, JUST for the rough cut. Add in a day or two for footage review and that's 3.5 weeks. And then there's first round notes, as you don't cut things perfectly the first time. So you address those notes, and screen again, and more notes. All in all it's 5 weeks from start to online and delivery...for 44 min.

But I'll leave that one out of the mix and stick with the 24 min one I did. It took me as long for the initial pass of that project, the first or rough cut, for a 24 min project. Half the length of the one you are doing. The last week was addressing notes, and online. And I'm an experienced documentary editor with 12 years of experience editing. For someone new to this, it might take longer.

But the devil is in the details. How complex is the project/edit, is there a script, how much footage do you need to wade through? And then you need to add in time for client revisions. Unless this is a VERY simple documentary, I cannot see how three weeks will be enough time. Unless you work 18 hour days...but then the rule of diminished returns kicks in...your creativity lessens the longer you work.

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