The Editing Suite And Rough Cut

After fumbling the way through the feedback, it was time to start working towards a finished piece over the Easter break. The first thing I needed to do was get the opening sequence to an acceptable working level. I cut the majority of the chase sequence out, and after a return trip to Wainbody Wood, managed to also bridge the gap between the initial meeting, and the sitting down on the log. These ‘location shots’ were very basic, but allowed for some interesting photography work from my own visual style.

I roughly pieced together all the separate audio and visual aspects on the timeline, and then rendered all of them in one epic day-long render, and then being able to access them, sorted out which one matched which clip, and re-rendered all the usable clips in a second day-long rendering session. After all clips were on the timeline, it was time to get to work – I went through the film chronologically, meaning I had to flit between Day 1 and Day 2 shoots to create the coherent narrative. Even during this first creation, I was editing parts of the script out that didn’t seem to work. I was aware this film was probably going to end up tallying more than the fifteen minute target, but even with editing the script as I went, I knew it was better to have too much than too little.

I chipped away at the central conversation for over a week, some days only doing a few lines of the script. I often had several shots of the same line being delivered, so I had to choose which ones had the best acting, the best framing, or the best delivery of the line. I sequenced all the clips up numerically, and did the same with a separate list of audio clips. This set the clips I was definitely using apart from all the other ones (which were subsequently discarded from the bin). By the end, only the numbered clips remained, and the numbers made each individual clip easier to find on the timeline.

At the start of the editing process, I actually colour-coded the clips depending on when they were done and by whom (a trick I picked up last year). Day 2 was relatively straight forward – there was the first half half of the shoot, and then the second half of the shoot. All audio was captured and uploaded in one go, labelled simple as ‘Day 2’. Day 1, of course, was a lot more complex – camera one was the main camera, camera two was the one with no audio, and then we also had the main audio recorder, and the second audio recorder. Luckily, all four parts were uploaded to four different folders, so it wasn’t that complex to find them in data storage. But by the time they were all in the FCP bins, I had seven different parts of the film to keep separate – this was absolutely paramount, as I would then know which audio was captured at approximately the same time as certain videos, and could thus synchronize the two easier.

The original script was split into three acts, which generally were able to stick to the colour pattern of the bin clips quite well (Act 1 was yellow, Act 2 was red, and Act 3 was green). Below you can see a photo of the timeline in operation:

Red And Yellow And Pink And… – Note the colours and numbers of the clips in the bin (top left), and the graded footage in the top right of the screen. Peter’s hooded top changes for the final scene, but nobody noticed this detail as most of the film was in black and white anyway! You can also see the ambience track along the bottom of the timeline below the pictures – most audio was recorded in mono, meaning only one audio track was used unless I heard that two were needed.

The ambience track was implemented early on, though it took a while to realise that there was a bird song repeated over and over in the background! Later feedback has suggested this is a good thing though, so I may only change the ambience in certain parts to make the repeating bird song less obvious.

Aside from making alterations to the script and the opening chase sequence, I also had fun playing with steady-cam effects on the cut aways (which made some of the rather shaky Canon 5D shots look really amazing!). I also had fun with the grading in response to the film’s mood. Originally, the film just went gradually straight through from black and white to ending up in full saturation. However, one particular scene features Amy loosing her ‘rag’ and grabbing Peter and shouting at him. I felt the colour grading worked better when it responded to the mood of the film – it was designed to symbolize progression as the characters changed. At this point of the film, I feel some ground had been lost between the two, and decided to change the grading back to black and white as this scene unfolded. It worked well visually, so I decided to keep it in – it made the final few shots of the main conversation very fluctuating in saturation levels, but this in turn made the visuals all the more interesting in the final act.

The Argument – This is the shot where the colour, getting richer and richer, suddenly reverts back to black and white as it was at the start. It was to symbolize the mood of the meeting. Anger has taken over Amy, fear has taken over Peter, and it’s not until Amy half-apologizes that the film begins to colour itself in once again. (Note the drop in quality – the picture is in perfect focus, but the quality was affected in the upload. This is the due to the 25p scan most likely – the side effects of using it are something I’m still discovering as a media producer, since I was usually based around 50i scan. 25p should be relatively the same… but there are always differences!)

I used audio faders to bridge and merge the varying audio clips, and the use of the wild track helped a lot too. Eventually I managed to piece all the clips together in the correct order, and after cutting the start and end of each clip to make the narrative tighter, the rough cut was finally starting to take shape. I faded the ambience out during the flashbacks, but more work may be needed to separate Peter’s monologues from the forest background noise (‘tricks’ in Adobe Audition are currently being investigated).

I got the sound and visuals to an acceptable standard (which included not altering the speed of any frames – as found with Peter’s feet in the chase sequence, the footage had interlace issues, and therefore could not be adjusted accurately without altering sample rates. It was considered major fuss for relatively insignificant shots). The final time broke in at roughly nineteen minutes – four minutes longer than it was supposed to be.

Feedback from a few friends and family from this initial rough cut were – interestingly – mostly positive. The grading worked well, the acting was to a high degree, and although the film may have benefitted from being based around the angel rather than the student (as she was more interesting), the film still served it’s purpose of showing a transition of a depressed student to a more confident young man. Because of the grading change during the small argument, the final shots were not so easily discernible in the narrative’s timeline. Although Peter’s hooded top (and indeed his attitude) changes, a strap-line of ‘Three Months Later’ may be beneficial to the audience in the final shots, to show that we are now later on after the events with the angel.

Titles still need to be done, and there are two audio problems at the beginning (running over the wooden bridge), and at the end (just running through the trees in the second jib shot!). Special effects need to be added when Amy first appears in front of him, as well as some additional sound effects in that shot, and when Peter gets a phone call at the end (possibly creaking noises during the ‘location shots’ around the forest as well to build up a level of an ancient, isolated atmosphere).

I’m Only Doing This Once – The rough cut was finally completed during the Easter break. Now in the final few weeks of work, my attention starts to focus on the addition of music and sound effects. Parts of the script need to be cut, though feedback has been loose on this front – people want less of Peter’s dippy character, and more of Amy’s darker character. Based on this I shall try try and cut to a fifteen minute schedule (‘less meat’ in the script is what one person advised). Once audio errors have been sorted, and the running time finalized, credits and titles will be implemented last (usually very basic with me). Marketing will be done in the last two weeks or so after the finished product is ready for distribution.

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