A Checklist for Video Editing
Lanny Cotler recently sent me a request that I’ve been thinking about a lot. He wrote:
My biggest nemesis in my work with FCP (since v.1) has been media management. A checklist at this point would be helpful: Libraries, Events, Projects. Do I move, adjust, stay where I’m at?
What questions should we be asking ourselves and addressing at this point? Are there things we should do, by way of setting up our workspace, that will help us to keep things organized going forward?
My first reaction after reading this was that this was unanswerable; every project is different, there are no “rules” that apply to everyone.
But, the idea refused to stop bothering me until I realized that, at a higher level, there are a number of questions that we must ask ourselves before we start any project that can prevent problems. Even more helpful, these questions are, essentially, the same whether we are editing in Premiere or Final Cut, or any other NLE.
They fall into the following categories:
- Legal / Review
- Project Workflow
- Naming Conventions
- Backups / Archives
While the answers to these questions will vary with each project – and not all projects require answers to all these questions – the more you plan the entire process the fewer problems you’ll have during the course of a project.
It’s not that problems don’t occur; EVERY project has its share of problems. The goal, instead, is to figure out answers to common problems in the calm before the storm, rather than when backed into a corner from the latest crisis du jour.
LARRY’S PRE-FLIGHT CHECKLIST
Legal / Review
- Where are you storing releases and other legal, edit-related documents?
- When is your deadline? (It is very helpful to know the location of the finish line before you start the race.)
- Who reviews and approves the rough cuts and intermediate edits?
- Who reviews and approves the final master?
- What back-up paperwork do you need to submit along with the final master for distribution?
- Who processes new camera files and where are they stored?
- Who logs files and how are log notes created, retained and transferred?
- Who edits the files and how do they obtain log notes?
- How will you store and share review notes?
- Who locates needed still images and where are files stored?
- Who locates needed music, where are files stored and how are releases tracked?
- Who locates needed sound effects and where are files stored?
- Who does the final sound mix, what software are they using and how will you transfer the master edit to them? Have you tested the transfer process?
- Who does the final color grading, what software are they using and how will you transfer the master edit to them? Have you tested the transfer process?
- Who is responsible for creating subtitles and marrying them to the final video?
- Is this a solo project, or the results of a team? If part of a team, have you defined job assignments for team members?
- Who are members of the team, when do they start, who hires them and who manages them?
- How will you technically share files between computers?
- Will you have more than one editor working on this project? If so, how do you plan to share files and projects to avoid problems? Have you tested the transfer procedure?
- What folder/file naming convention do you want to use? (Even if you can’t rename clips, having a folder naming convention can help a lot.)
- What metadata do you want to track for each clip? Who’s responsible for entering the data? Where do you enter it?
- Are you able to name your clips before importing? If so, what naming convention do you want to use? If not, will you rename clips in the NLE?
- What project/sequence naming convention do you want to use so that you always know which edit is the most current?
- What file naming convention do you want to use for exported master review files so that you know which is the most current?
- Have you written down and formally shared these naming conventions with your team?
- How much media, in hours, do you expect to shoot/acquire/use in this project?
- Using a plug number of 20 GB / hour for SD, 100 GB / hour for HD, and 400 GB / hour for 4K, do you have enough storage space?
- Are you shooting for HDR? (If so, double all file sizes.)
- How many clips do you expect to track; do you need a media asset management system? ( FCP X currently has a limit of about 3,500 clips per library.)
- It is a good idea to keep still images in one set of folders, audio files in a second set, with video files stored in a third set of folders. How do you want to name those folders, and where do you want them stored?
- In general, I recommend all media and libraries/projects be stored on external devices, rather than the boot drive.
Backups / Archives
- How often do you want to make backups of your media and projects?
- What software will you use for backups? Is it current and do you know how to use it?
- Where do you want to store backups?
- How long do you need to retain them?
- Do you have enough storage space?
- Who is responsible for storing the master file and all project components after the project is complete?
- What files will you need to retain for the long-term (more than three years)?
- What technology will you use for archiving?
- How will you track which files are archived and where they are stored?
- How will you update your archives as technology changes? (Have you budgeted for long-term storage?)
- In general, I recommend that backups and archives be stored on separate gear from that used for the day-to-day editing of a project.
- What project frame size do you need to deliver?
- What frame rate do you need to deliver? (It REALLY helps to shoot the frame rate you need to deliver!!)
- If frame rate conversion or resizing needs to be done before starting the edit, who is responsible for converting the files?
- What video and audio codecs do you need to deliver?
- Will all media be shot before editing starts? If not, how will you indicate footage that is still to come?
- How will you notify team members of missing shots, then track when shots are received?
It seems like the list of questions is never-ending, especially when all we really want to do is get in there and start editing.
However, the more time you spend planning and testing your workflow at the beginning of a project, the smoother the overall project will run and the easier it will be to resolve those problems that do crop up during the edit.
Let me know if I forgot anything significant and I’ll add it to the list.
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4 Responses to A Checklist for Video Editing
WOW! Supremely helpful.
I never thought my simple, perhaps only intermediate questions, were so seminal. No credit to me, but to you for interpolating a fine starting point for editors.
Larry, you are a superior teacher, one who can readily intuit the “child’s mind” that we all have as we climb the learning curves.
Thank you so much!
Very interesting. Now I need to take individual items on the list and research them to learn options and best practices. Eg, what are good logging practices, where do caches go, how to use naming conventions. It’s a start for many searches.
As you start to research these, you’ll discover that there is a LOT!! of variation. I would not waste time trying to figure out what is the “best” approach – because what works for a feature film is not helpful at all for a wedding videographer or a documentarian.
The much more important point is to think about the answers to these questions from the point of view of your project. Even if your initial answer proves to be incorrect, the fact that you thought about it before you started editing makes that problem easier to solve.
And, in general, I store caches to external drives, logging practices depend upon the video format of your source media and the software you have access to, and naming conventions are anything you like – PROVIDED they are consistently applied and you can understand them.
I’m way old. Started with 8mm. Your check-list helps.