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Hiring and working with editors...?

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Grant WilberHiring and working with editors...?
by on Dec 28, 2012 at 5:33:34 pm

This last year was my first full year doing video production. Overall it went well and I'm in a good position to grow this upcoming year. However the biggest downfall was the post-production. I can work 18 hours on set without breaking a sweat, but after 20 minutes in front of a computer it kills me. Got alot of edits done really late and it didn't take much to disrupt my schedule and cause things to be delayed days or weeks+.I also wanna try to pass on my editing work so that I can do more shooting and manage clients better.

Any advice when looking for editors or what to give them? Pretty much everything I do is for web-only and are :30 - 5 minute pieces. Sometimes scripted, sometimes three hours of footage that needs a story developed. It's been hard for me to give up control of the editing process. I hired one person once, but all I thought of when looking at the edit was that I could do better and I ended up redoing it.

If you have someone editing your stuff do they do it until the end including 2nd, 3rd+ drafts from clients suggestions or needs? Or do you take it over at some point? Also where do you find good editors?

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Mark SuszkoRe: Hiring and working with editors...?
by on Dec 28, 2012 at 7:22:42 pm

Grant. What I read between the lines of your post is that your main issue is that you need to give up some control/authority, but won't let yourself do that. Finding good editors in this market isn't very hard. The COW has a section full of good demo reels. Finding one you will be able to trust, where you can stay hands-off, is harder, and involves inter-personal skills. If you continue to micro-manage the editors you hire, and jump in to take over, nothing will improve; you'll only increase your stress, expenses, and delays.

A good leader delegates. Delegating involves initial coaching and training-up, so that everyone knows what the expectations are, how you generally like things done, what your main goals are. Then you have to sit back and give them the autonomy to go ahead an execute the overall plan, their way. You can check progress at whatever frequency suits you, but you absolutely must resist taking over the job after you've delegated it.

True, nobody will do the job quite the same way as you can. OTOH, there's always someone out there who can do it better than you, or at least in a different, but no less valid direction, which you may never have explored on your own. That's the power of collaboration.

Don't get bogged down in process: only focus on results and benchmarks. Instead of telling the editor "you did that wrong/ in a way different from my way", ask the question: "what's your thinking in this section about how it's put together?" They may have an insight you're missing.

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Grant WilberRe: Hiring and working with editors...?
by on Dec 28, 2012 at 9:55:30 pm

Thanks Mark. I do realize that giving up control is something I gotta just do. Your point of teaching is good too which is something I think I need to learn. I have no clue how I'm able to put together a video outta some of crap I shoot so its tough to explain to people what I'm looking for and give directions to go about it when I don't have any methods myself.

Are there any good ways of setting up or preping an editor for a project? Sometimes I have a script, but alot of times I don't. Do you transcribe speech and pick out lines or shots that you know are going to work for the client, or just give objectives then let them go to town?

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Mike CohenRe: Hiring and working with editors...?
by on Dec 28, 2012 at 11:27:34 pm

When I started in production, here is how a typical project went:

Pre-production / scripting, etc
Video shoot
Log tapes from VHS window dubs
Write time codes into script
Perform offline edit either in Avid or tape to tape. With Avid you can get a nearly final edit, but at the time, the image quality was offline resolution only, so what you do is export an EDL. With the tape to tape method, you basically have cuts only with perhaps some placeholders for supers and graphics (we didn't have Photoshop yet - either you pay someone to use a paintbox or you put in a card) and you made a handwritten EDL. Or you could do your offline edit on a computerized edit controller, but still as cuts, and get an EDL that way.

In any case, you would take your edl, figure out the cuts needed for the b-reel, and manually dub those with timecode to a BetaSP tape or whatever. Then you would take your edl and your source tapes and your b-reel and go to an online editor to finish the job. You'd sit behind a desk witching a monitor and watch as the editor assembled your program cut by cut by cut. Things like effects and supers did not always translate from the NLE or pencil, so you'd have to tell them what to do. It could take hours to assemble a short program. Then you take your master and off you go.

This is a long setup to say that today if you want to give an editor tapes and an EDL, you need to put some work into it. Digital editing can make producers lazy - why log footage when you can just do it in the editing software? Well yeah you can do that but in your situation, which is a sign of a growing business - you may not want to be doing it that way. And yeah, you need to give up the button pushing, but you can still be in control of the process and the final product without pushing the buttons.

Rather than an EDL perhaps it is a script with timecodes entered in as well as a column for supers and description of graphics or effects or photos or stock video to comp in - whatever the visuals are. You have to assemble a set of instructions if you expect the editor to be efficient and effective. Otherwise the editor will be sitting there making stuff up. Unless you have a big budget, you don't want the editor making stuff up. As a producer, it is your job to make stuff up and then you pay the editor to put your vision together.

Maybe the editor takes a few days to a week to do his or her assembly, depending upon the length of the program. A recent first edit took 6 days for a 55 minute show with lots of graphic builds, plus 1 day with me sitting in the edit bay behind a desk watching a monitor calling out cuts, corrections or supers. Sounds familiar, right?

You put work into planning the shoot.

You need to put work into planning the edit.

I average 40 hours each. And it pays off.

Then subsequent edits can be hours per cycle plus export/render/ftp time. The big time investment is the first edit, so put in your own time to make sure it is a finite bucket of time, and not a black hole.

Mike Cohen

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Mark SuszkoRe: Hiring and working with editors...?
by on Dec 29, 2012 at 12:19:16 am

I'm not usually telling another editor what to do, usually I'm the editor. Most often I work alone, with a vague list of objectives or bullet points to hit, and they leave the rest up to me. I actually like this the best; they trust me enough based on previous work to let me have my head, then they'll come in and look over the finished work and maybe make a small change here or there. I much prefer that to something tightly scripted where my only "craft" contribution is finessing the cut a few frames either side of the cut point.

You're just going to have to choose some path mid-way between these extremes. I think you'd feel better if you at least have a treatment or some storyboards to hand to the editor, and perhaps a handful of what you know are the sound bites you want, then let them put it together the way they think best. Review at the rough cut stage, tell them what you like first, then describe what it is about the parts you don't like as well that bothers you. Let them first offer ideas for changes, unless it's something just very blatantly wrong or missing. Ostensibly, you've hired them not just to finish your work, but be a creative collaborator, with contributions of their own to add to the work.

Bottom line is: the better you prep the editor, the less uncertainty there is for everyone, but don't confuse prep with telling them every cut to make and how to make it.

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Scott SheriffRe: Hiring and working with editors...?
by on Dec 29, 2012 at 7:13:12 pm

I have to agree with Mike and Mark. I learned to edit the old school way where you worked from either a script with TC, or a shot list with TC and massaged from there. I still much prefer this when editing for other media professionals, as apposed to acting as an uncredited producer in the editors chair. I also agree that learning to let go of some of the creative control is a good thing and it take some getting used to doing that, a well logged and prepped edit session this is the best approach to achieve your goal and still retain control of the most important creative aspects of your project.
The real problem is that many of the 'new' editors either cant, won't or are just not that good at that disciplined type of workflow, and us seasoned editors that can do this no problem are getting harder to find as many have moved on due to the business climate we find ourselves in.

Scott Sheriff
SST Digital Media
Multi-Camera Director, VFX and Post Production

The Affordable Camera Dolly is your just right solution!

"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur." ---Red Adair

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Stephen SmithRe: Hiring and working with editors...?
by on Jan 2, 2013 at 9:47:48 pm

Try out multiple editors. Just hire them for a project and see how you both get along. If it works out try to hire them full time. If it doesn't work out, don't invite them back.

Stephen Smith
Utah Video Productions

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