Save your indie film a load of money in the editing room - and time.
Video editing is, without a doubt, one of the most important aspects to consider when making a movie. Sure. People will argue this statement - but at the end of the day? It's the visuals set out by the editor that people see. Generally, the editor will work with both the producer and director, to more align the vision intended for the project. This isn't always the case however, and in such instances, the editor is left with the difficult task of knowing what the production team have in mind. More importantly? What the viewer has in mind. A good editor is the unsung hero of any film or show. Their work goes undetected. If it is noticed however, perhaps a little more experience is in order. Edits noticed by the viewer is something to be avoided at all costs.
If you happen to be reading this, it means you're looking for a video editor - or for information to use when searching. Perhaps wondering what the standard rate is? Maybe asking yourself what's included in a standard editing package Vs a blanket post-production service? Or... maybe you simply have one thing on your mind. How to save a load of money in the editing room. This article is aimed to help you out - by saving money and time. This is an indie site - and this piece is geared to those with a tiny budget.
Two main types of services are commonplace in the indie, low budget post-production field. The first is the turnkey, full-service option. These services often include an edit, color correction and finally, color grading. Generally, these types of services charge per finished minute. I've seen services charging $25.00 to $120.00 per finished minute. Sounds crazy right? On the higher end of the scale, a 90-minute film would really rake in the coin for its post-production engineers. If you're paying this price however, you generally get the best of the best. The lower-priced services ranging in the $25.00 - $50.00 per minute mark, may sound more tempting... although seemingly still pretty expensive for the indie filmmaker. I should also add that just because a rate is lower - doesn't always mean lower-class service. Some people simply love what they do - and want to remain consistently working. Also keep in mind that these per finished minute services, provide 3 distinct post-production elements. If you want a video editor alone, the price point drops substantially.
The second common service is the, "By the hour approach." There was a time when you could give an editor, a roughly estimated length of your project, and get a block rate. These... by the project rates are quickly vanishing - and the hourly rate is overshadowing all other rate calculators. Especially in the indie, low to no budget scene. The reason you ask? The footage. The massive amounts of footage. The industry today is all digital and the mindset is to shoot and shoot... and shoot some more! Eventually, with all those dozens of takes, a great shot can be found. Right? It's a great idea in theory... until some poor editor has to comb through terabytes of footage, before they can even start to edit. If a project takes 5 hours to put together, let's not forget the 25 hours spent prior - sorting through footage to find the best takes.
I should also add - not to let price always dictate the editor you'll decide on. There are loads of excellent video editors that charge much less than they are worth. Maybe they really like your project? Or maybe they consider video editing more of a hobby. No matter how you slice it, if you're willing to do some leg-work, you can get amazing people at super low rates.
Those tips we promised.
At this point, I'm pretty sure all you folks craving a video editor are cursing me for all that hoopla written above. You wanted to know how to save some real coin - when searching for a great editor - right? So with that little bit of exposition behind me, I've got some great tips for you all. Some may sound, and will be, common sense. Others maybe not so much. The point is to help you save a little bit of cash and if I can help do that... my job is done. Let's get started, shall we?
- Keep things as organized as you can. Keep shots as professional and steady as you can. Why does this help? A lot of editors are perfectionists. Or nearly so. It drives them nuts to see hap-hazard footage, and most of them will try and fix it a little. Smooth it out so it's easier to work with - maybe crop out a boom mic or two. This all sounds like a small amount of work, and there's nothing wrong with helping out. Except for that extra time. Believe me when I say that every minute or two, attempting to fix a shot, all adds up by the end. Another reason editors are so anal? The more they fix some bad shots in the edit, the better the edit will look. No editor wants to look bad... because of something they could have fixed. Yet it does take extra time.
- Use the same cameras! Nothing is harder than trying to match colors, temperatures, resolutions and yes ladies and gents... even frame rates. If you're looking for a smooth edit, try and use the same cameras.
- White balance every shot. Believe me... it saves loads of time in post-production if the colors are reasonably close. Refer to tip one.
- Try to cut back on what you actually shoot. Practice a scene first. Go over the dialog and blocking. Keep that recorded footage to a minimum.
- Don't send the outtakes. Keep these for yourself and when everything is said and done, create your own blooper reel.
- Send the B footage in its own folder. As an editor, you never know when you're going to have to make use of some B footage. Having it all mixed in with the regular shots however, just adds more work. When separating B footage remember to try and keep each location and scene in its own folder, within the B folder.
- Speaking of footage - for the sake of all that is good - sort it before you send it! Don't just cram all the footage onto a drive and send it off to the editor. Go through, scene by scene, and put everything in the appropriate folders. Pick your favorite 2 or 3 takes and send them. Don't include all 50 clips of the same shot - do some of the work yourself. Label the folders. Scene 3 folder and within that folder, have groupings of subfolders with your favorite few takes. This may be a little more work for you, but the amount of time it saves an editor is astounding. If the editor can shave off his workload, that translates to massive dollar savings for yourself.
More often than not, hiring an external editor saves loads of time - and yields a far better project. There are always exceptions, those gifted people who can act, direct and edit their own projects in a fantastic way. For the most part however, this isn't the case. A hired, unbiased editor, can see things in a way you never dreamed. They are editing as if they were a viewer and will do their best to make the pacing of a project perfect. I can't count the number of movies I've watched that would have been amazing... with a slightly different edit. That shot you love? The one where the actor delivered perfectly... on every level? That shot may not even be needed to progress the story. You'll never see it that way though, because you love the shot so much! Nine times out of ten an unbiased, good editor will produce a film that flows nicely and isn't overly lengthy. A win-win.