Chapter 11

Procedures in an Editing Suite

The subsequent description of tasks and the different phases of editing mostly refer to professional fictional productions for cinema or television. But documentary style productions work in a similar way. Of course, a small project without any budget needs a different approach, but if you have a lot of footage to go through a structured process is of great importance.

Available Footage

Obviously, professional dramatic film productions have a script before starting principal photography. Often, there is also a storyboard that shows the entire film broken down into drawings of all its individual shots. For sure there is a shooting schedule that determines exactly when and where a specific scene is filmed, and who the characters that are taking part in it are. Every task is listed and defined precisely. An overall visual concept exists and the technology it takes to realize it is arranged.

But naturally, even with the best of plans deviations from the script will become inevitable as soon as shooting is under way. External circumstances demand adjustments, dialogue has to be changed, and scenes are cancelled. The main actor is occasionally lacking in concentration and the supporting actor amateurish. Daylight is fading too quickly, the weather doesn’t play along, and the shooting schedule is too tight and is impossible to put into practice. Errors occur. In the simplest case they might be continuity mistakes. But sometimes shots are missing and this is either only detected after shooting has ended, or it was accepted by the director consciously.

There are always several takes to every shot that was planned. Maybe the actress is merely convincing in the first part of the first take. When recording the shot a second time, it might be the second part of the take where she is delivering a good performance. But none of the takes is good throughout or something went wrong with continuity, maybe the cigarette was burned down too far in the second take. So the director decides to shoot another take and send several takes to the edit suite as ‘OK’.

Reviewing Rushes / Dailies

The raw footage from a day’s shooting is called Rushes or Dailies. To prepare for editing the First Assembly you first have to separate takes that are good for editing from the ones that are no good. Only the good ones will be used for editing. The other ones are kept separately so that they don’t have to be viewed again. This is decided on the grounds of the actors’ best performances, the best timing, and the most intriguing pictures. This selection process can be revised. In the course of editing there will be many situations where the rejected footage will get reviewed in the hope of finding a bit of film that helps with editing.