Behind The Scenes: Editing Process

Here is my workflow for editing a testimonial video. I'm using Final Cut Pro but these concepts apply to any editor.

1 - Getting Organized

After I dump my files from the camera card or cards I go through them and apply Finder Tags. This doesn't take as long as it sounds. I typically shoot a whole bunch of classroom b-roll and then move to an office for some interviews. The classroom shots get the tag 'B-Academics' while the office interviews are tagged simply 'A' or maybe if I'm doing several interviews 'A-Academics' or 'A-School Life' or whatever. Finder remembers my previous tags so it's easier to be consistent. These tags turn into collections when I import them to FCPX.

When I'm editing I use gaps to help me stay organized. Gaps are those little blank spaces between some of the clips above. Clips that I love I put to the left of a big gap. Clips I think I might use go to the right of the gap. In the first image above you can see the clips to the right vastly outnumber the clips to the left.

I always start with A-Roll. That helps my story work first before I get tackle the visuals. I look for a strong opener, enough detail in the middle, and then a strong closer.

I always edit to music even if it's only scratch audio that I'll replace later. This helps gaps not feel as awkward and helps me think about pace. This video wanted to be about 90 seconds so I add a marker to the audio track at that point as a visual guide.

2 - A-Roll in Place

In the second image above you'll see that my A-Roll clips are in place with a few gaps in between to give the audience a little bit of breathing room between thoughts. I've deleted all the extra shots to the right. If I want to remember some of them to keep them in my mind as options later I'll favorite them.

I've added a gap in the beginning to help me remember I want to open with B-Roll and I've added the titles at the end. I'm also a bit longer than my target length. I prefer to have a bit more than I need at this point so I can trim back later. I find this easier than trying to add something in later.

3 - B-Roll Going In

If I play back the video at this point I'll have a black scene every time I play through one of my gaps. Time to add b-roll to cover these gaps. I've organized my b-roll shots the same way I did the a-roll so I listen to what the speaker is talking about and then try to find a shot that illustrates that point from my b-roll.

4 - Almost Done

Finding good b-roll takes time. I have a special tag called 'awesome' for the really cool shots that I know I want to use. When adding b-roll I start there and try to put my awesome shots early in the video.

5 - Ready for Review

Looking good! All the a-roll gaps are covered with b-roll and everything is starting to work together. Next step is to publish to YouTube as an unlisted video so I can send it to the client and they can easily pass it around for feedback.

What do you think? How do you tackle the editing process? Have questions? Let us know in the comments!