I was thinking recently about the most common problems I see week after week in my email. So, I decided to compile them into a list.
Some of these fall more into production, but since production and post are joined at the hip, both sides need to be talking to each other throughout the entire project.
Here’s my Top Ten List of common editing mistakes.
1. Insufficient planning.
This pretty much covers everything. We all want to start cutting immediately. The problem is that if we don’t take time to plan what we are doing and how we will do it, we’ll get into the middle of an edit and have a really, really hard time figuring out how to get the project finished.
There are very few problems that can’t be solved by taking a few extra minutes to plan and practice. Key questions you must answer before editing begins includes:
2. Start editing before determining deliverables.
This is the question I get asked the most. “I’m editing video format X, but I need to deliver video format Y. How do it do it?” In some cases, you can’t.
The best advice is to edit the format you need to deliver. If you don’t know what you need to deliver, or if you need to deliver multiple versions, edit the highest quality format available. It is easy to scale something big into something small and retain quality. It is impossible to scale something small into something bigger and retain quality.
3. Not testing the complete editing, output and compression workflow.
This is a biggie. If you’ve never edited a project using this codec, or have never matched this specific deliverable, or never compressed to these specs before, please TEST a short sample project early in the editing process, when you have time to get help or purchase additional software tools. The worst time to discover you have workflow issues is when you are at deadline and the budget is empty.
4. Underestimate storage requirements.
Any hard disk has only two states: empty and full. Always assume you need more storage. Don’t ever select a video format because you don’t have enough storage. Highly-compressed camera-native codecs like H.264 are hard to edit, hard to color correct and slow to render. Yes, they take less space, but your time and project are worth far more than the cost of buying new storage.
5. Attempt to organize and manage media when editing is mostly complete.
The time to get organized is at the beginning of a project. Think about where and how you want to store media. How you should organize it and where you will back it up. As soon as you start moving media in the middle of a project, clips go off-line and you’ll lose days trying to figure out where you moved it and reconnect what you need.
6. Record the wrong video codec.
Not all codecs are created equal. Some are better for HDR. Others are better for green-screen. Still others are better when you are shooting in the jungles of the Amazon and need to carry everything on your back. Think about your deliverable. Ideally, shoot at the same image size (or larger) and the same frame rate as the project you need to deliver.
Just because you own the camera does not mean that it shoots the best codec for your project.
7. Shoot at the wrong frame rate.
It is far easier to convert the frame size than to convert a frame rate. If you are posting exclusively to the web, shoot whatever frame rate you want – the web doesn’t care. And, no, shooting 24 fps does not make your project look film-like. LIGHTING and EXPOSURE make your project look film-like.
I defy anyone to tell the difference between 24, 25 and 29.97 fps frame rates when lenses, lighting and exposure match between them.
Shoot the frame rate you need to deliver. Converting frame rates always looks bad, especially for any video that contains movement. (Which is all of them…)
8. Capture unusable audio during production.
Audiences will happily watch low-quality video – Poltergeist, Super-8, Blair Witch Project, and every video of a cat falling into a swimming pool – but they will NOT watch a video with bad audio.
Decrease your editing stress. Strive to capture the best quality audio possible during production and you’ll be amazed at how much easier your editing becomes.
9. Not allow enough time or budget for post-production.
Production, by its very nature, sucks up every dollar and day you can give it; and still wants more. There is a huge temptation to steal money and time from post and give it to production. Fight this urge.
Incredible story, pictures and acting are of no value if you can’t get the project edited and in front of your audience. Contrary to popular belief, editors do not work for free. And editing 1,000 hours of production footage into a 30-minute program cannot be done in a week; or even a month.
10. Assume any production problems can be fixed easily in post.
Post-production can work miracles, but it takes time and money and talent. It is FAR easier to remove a light stand from the shot during production by asking a PA to walk over and move it, than to paint it out during post. That’s if it can be painted out at all, the more likely option is that you can’t use the shot. Which is a shame, because its the only time the actor actually remembered the right lines and the lighting was perfect.
Try really hard to see what’s actually in the frame and correct the obvious. This allows post to concentrate on telling your story and staying in budget.
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Here they are again in summary form:
As always, feel free to add some of your own thoughts in the comments.