Interview project editors are faced with an overwhelming task: to reduce hours of footage to just a few minutes for the final cut. Eliminate that stress with these six steps.
Video Editors, how many times have you encountered the following scenario?
A director has just returned from a shoot with a hard drive full of interview material. There is an energy in the air as you discuss ideas and think about what could become of this piece.
You make yourself comfortable and prepare for the cut. You think about the limited time it takes to reduce five hours of interviews to the twenty minutes of gold that form the backbone of your video. So many decisions have to be made – it's overwhelming.
They struggle to find a place to take off. And even if you're starting out and you're already working on it, you feel like you haven't made any concrete progress at all, and things start to drag on.
After having been confronted with this situation far too often, I developed a wonderfully methodical process that enables me to work efficiently at this stage of a processing. I've been using it consistently for years and it has impressed quite a few directors along the way.
Here are six steps you can take to avoid brain fog so you can start editing interviews sooner.
Transcribing your interviews is the best advice I can give to anyone editing this type of video. There are many, many benefits to having your interviews transcribed. If the director suddenly wants to find a specific soundbite from a specific interview, you can easily search the transcription for specific keywords or phrases. You can also just flip through the interviews when you are not in the editing suite. You will find that the benefits are endless.
The job of locking transcription can be delegated to an intern if that is an option. Or, if you have the budget, you can send it to a transcription website.
Before transcribing, it pays to create your MultiCams first if you have filmed from multiple angles so that you can drag the MultiCam clip into your timeline and export the audio from there. This way the timecodes on your transcription will match the timecodes on your interview timeline. This is important if you want to keep your process efficient.
Note that some transcription pages charge every minute of audio. If the clip you exported is shorter, you'll pay less. To save money, you can even fill in gaps where the respondent isn't speaking. For example when setting up or between questions.
With the transcription service I use, five hours of interviews cost around $ 450, which is not that important in a large post-production budget. Of course, you can include this in your original offer to the customer before production begins.
Once your transcriptions are complete, you can start editing! I recommend downloading them as PDFs as this will give you fantastic highlighting features.
Read all of the transcripts from beginning to end and mark off anything that may be used for editing. I usually open the PDFs in previewThis allows you to use different colors when highlighting.
3. Create "Good Content"
Now is the time to get back into your editing software. The next step is to go through all of your interviews and cut out any highlighted segments from each interview into a new project (or sequence if you're a Premiere user). I suggest naming it Good content, or something similar.
Before copying each section, add some text above each one. If you copy and paste the text from the transcript of what is being said in each highlighted segment, all you have to do is drag the playhead over a specific clip to know exactly what is being said at that point without having to go through it. This can save a lot of time later.
After you've copied all of your selections into this new project, you can move on to the next step.
4. Create "Good Content Ordered"
It's time to organize your sound bits by topic. For example, if it's someone going on an expedition, the topics could be Prepare before going, Getting started, and Return home. I often use a large text slide to label each section as shown above.
This part of the process is made easier by the text slides you just created. Hopefully by this point you know the general structure you want your content cut / stringout to have so you can arrange the sections in the order they would be – in case they are used in the final video.
5. Create "Content Cut"
This is the most creative part of the process, and for many the most enjoyable part. First, duplicate your project and rename it Content cut. Now that your footage is fine, you can see when what you've said repeats itself and quickly delete it.
This is the stage where you are busy erasing and trimming your cut until it is what you want your last piece to be. It's worth leaving spaces between sections as you inevitably have gaps in your final video where you can let it breathe a bit.
You can also cut certain sound bites in half or combine them with other bites. The point is to massage the content until it tells the story you want. You may find yourself piecing together three different short paragraphs from three different parts of an interview to create the sentence you wanted.
6. Create Refined Content Cut
Duplicate your project file again and rename it Refined content editing. There is real finesse taking place in this phase – cutting out the "umms" and "errors". Think about which parts can be shortened, if only with a few words here and there.
This is your final content cut. It is inevitable that you will go back and make minor changes to the content cut later in the edit. This is made much easier, however, by the different timelines you've already created at each stage. You can go back to Good content ordered project and take a bite that you had thrown away but now think it would work. Again, the text slides come into play to make your life easier.
While this process is time consuming, it saves time in the long run, especially when a client requests certain soundbites (which you now conveniently have saved in one of your projects).
Of course, you can customize this process so it works best for you. Hopefully this will allow you to do your content cuts more efficiently without feeling overwhelmed.
If you are thinking about video editing, check out a few more resources that can help you improve your edits:
Cover picture via FrameStockFootages.