Postproduction: Horizontal Editing

video editing

Last time I explained a couple of ways to make use of multiple tracks. In essence, they were ways to manage or arrange your footage using the timeline instead of using bins.

This time I’ll talk about using just one track.

When I work with some directors, I do the first cut alone. I look at the shooting notes, watch through all the takes—paying attention to all those that are “starred” or marked as good—and then cut together the piece based on what I think are the most appropriate takes for the scenes.

Then the director comes in. We watch the cut and then make changes based on our combined vision.

One director I work with wants to review almost all the takes to see if others would work better. I could just go back to the bin and start loading up one take after another, playing through and inserting each take into the piece. Depending on the number of takes for each shot, that can be pretty cumbersome.

I could also go vertically and lay each take up above the previous one, turning them on and off as needed. That gets a bit complicated with multiple tracks of audio, and it can make for a very confusing timeline.

video editing
The “show duplicates” function indicates which takes are being used.

Instead, I end up putting all the takes down at the end of the timeline, and by “end” I mean with quite a gap from the last shot. The takes are grouped by scene and are trimmed so the clips only contain footage from “action” to “cut”.

Now I have a way to show the director all the takes, one right after the other. And if I have “show duplicates” on—a feature that uses a special marker to indicate clips already in the sequence—I can tell the director which take is the one I used.

If the director wants to try a take in the scene, I simply copy and paste it over the other take (or paste it above the original shot so I can compare them). By copying—rather than moving—the clip, I maintain the duplicate clip status so the system still indicates the new take is the one being used.

This isn’t a technique I use all the time, but I’ve learned to modify my workflow depending on the project and the people I work with.

Michael Guncheon is an accomplished editor who has cut a wide range of projects, including music videos for Prince, a documentary on Genesis, and numerous commercials and corporate pieces. A partner at HDMG, a Minneapolis video production and post-production company, Guncheon has written several books on DSLRs and is the author of the Kodak Digital Photo Guide. He has presented his talk on shooting with HDSLRs at Twin Cities Public Television, WGBH in Boston, PBS in New York, the Hollywood Post Alliance and at the annual SMPTE conference in Hollywood.