Friday, July 11, 2008

Edit this

Charles here.

Rick was right. In his post (below) he said I’d be telling all my colleagues about Age of Persuasion and I have been. Good stuff.

As Rick noted, I work in advertising as a senior copywriter slash producer. The slash producer part of the job has me directing, producing and editing video projects for our clients, and it’s proving to be the most interesting parts of my day. And before you start thinking iPod commercials or Chevy spots, what I do is a lot different. Think training films, company profile videos and webcasts. I was about to write that producing these pieces has little in common with my writing, but of course everything has something in common and that goes for this as well.

This week I’ve been working with cameraman/editor Matt Robinson on finishing a recruitment video for an area healthcare provider. We felt that the best way to tell the story was without a narrator, just string together a bunch of interviews, documentary style, and let the people who know the company best put the story in their own words. This is a common concept and it’s popular because it works. I proposed three main topics…the client came back with a list of 16 people who had to be interviewed, and when a client says that, it means that they have to appear on camera. Keep in mind that the video has to be under seven minutes, preferably under six and a half. That works out to about 25 seconds each, which sounds like a lot but you have to figure in transitions, into footage and closing footage, so in the end it’s closer to 20 seconds each. Still, it sounds like plenty…until you do the interviews.

When we were done with shooting all the interviews—from the CEO to the maintenance worker—we had about 200 minutes of footage to shift through, Now most of it was me asking questions and them giving answers that I knew as I heard them I wasn’t going to be using. But I still had to sit through all the tape a couple times to identify the appropriate quotes, making sure I wasn’t taking things out of context, finding the best quote that helped tell the story, double checking to make sure I used everyone we filmed at least once. These all get written down on 3X5 cards, by the way. When I was all done, I spent a couple hours laying the cards out to find the best way to tell the story that needed to be told, then Matt transferred my notes to the footage and we had our first rough draft.

It was 19 minutes, 44 seconds long.

The first round of editing was easy. I pulled the lines I liked but that didn’t advance the story all that much. That got us down to around 12 minutes. In the next round we lost all those artistic reaction shots and that heartwarming story that illustrated a key point. These were the hardest to cut because we liked them so much, but we needed the time and are working under a tight deadline—the final is due to the client Tuesday of next week. Those cuts got us to 10 minutes, give or take a few seconds. Then Matt went to work, trimming the quotes down to their essence. For example, the person might have said, “What is really, uh, what I think is important about what we do here and what I do in particular is that whatever we do, we are doing it in a coordinated way. We’re a team. That makes us better in the end.” Matt would trim this to, “What is really important is that we’re a team. That makes us better.” Same message, just a lot leaner. Matt has a good ear for that, and when he was done he announced he had the footage down to 6 minutes, ten seconds, but that he still had to tack on the opening montage and add in all the B-roll footage. We’ll finish under seven minutes, but not by much.

Is it the story I wanted to tell, or the story Matt wanted to tell? No, but it’s the story the client needed us to tell, and we only got there by brutally editing out all the stuff we thought was necessary to make it a good video.

So there you have it, a story about editing.

There’s a lesson in here somewhere, but I think it got edited out.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So true!