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Iterations - Editorial friend or foe?


In the editorial process perhaps “iteration” is your single greatest friend and foe all at the same time. The ability to change and try different things has never been easier. Technology allows us to experiment, and explore, but it also gives us opportunity to change, and convert. You see, it wasn’t always like this. 

In olden times, the process of video editing meant selectively copying the portions of your tapes to a “record master”. Each shot needed to be meticulously planned and laid down in order, one shot at a time. When you got to the end of the edit hopefully you hadn’t forgotten a single shot or clip, and hopefully you hadn’t put in to many shots. A single trim or addition or change could mean re-cutting EVERYTHING from that point on till the end of your program. There was so such thing as a “ripple edit”. Editing then was much more precise. You worried about how things were flowing WHILE you were cutting and, by and large, you weren’t even allowed to make mistakes.

Back then, “offline” meant something, and “online” was expensive. 

When the dawn of non-linear editing happened we all thought, “oh wow, this is going to be awesome, we’ll be able to work so much faster, get so much more done, and do a much better job”. In all fairness, the only one of those three that is remotely true, is the third. We do indeed do a better job. 

However, the ability to say, “oh crap, I forget to mention we need to insert some bumpers in between these themes in our story” has meant that we no longer worry about that level of preplanning. “We can always change it later” usually means WE WILL… change it later.

However, this post was not supposed to be a history lesson. It was meant to be some ramblings about “iteration”. By and large, the ability to try something another way is your friend as an editor. The commitment level to ‘give it a try’ is much less with our current technology. This allows us the freedom to give it a try, see what happens if we start the story in the middle and then backtrack. Experiment with putting a little more space between the answers. Try a different cut of music and then re-cut to the beat… again. These iterations allow us to improve. 

As a producer you should plan on this. As a content creator you need to be aware of this. It is really easy to eat up your budget by trying options. If “time is money” and iterations take time, then trying too many iterations can be expensive. However, you also may find the magic that makes your piece really sing. 

Often times I’ll show a piece to someone and they ask how long it took to cut. When I tell them there have been many times when they are astonished or they gasp. “I don’t understand, it looks like a really simple piece, why so long?” I then have to explain to them that, “yes, this piece looks simple, but you aren’t seeing all the previous versions BEFORE we got to this one”. 

I wish I had a dollar, (why do we use that phrase?) for every time I spent hours, if not days on a passage in an edit only to have it all thrown out for a MUCH simpler treatment. Since we are pushing all those buttons it can be frustrating to “kill your babies” but as an editor, you learn to live with it. Hey, it happens.

So, if you’re trying to save time and money in your edit, it pays to be organized. It pays to be strategic, it pays to avoid un-necessary iterations and your “what if’s” and walk into the edit suite prepared.

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Reader Comments (1)

Hi Chris thanks for the history lesson and missive. As always well said. Might I add when your clients go gosh golly why so long you might want to say- perhaps under your breath- crap or snap. Just saying...
March 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTom McWilliam

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