I managed to nail down my editing process yesterday while editing my new video (titled “My Little Pony Reaction Video”). It was the first time I’d edited in Final Cut Pro X, which is an amazing step up from iMovie, and pretty much halved the amount of time it takes me to create content.
I’m also writing a lot of long-form stuff at the moment, and this morning I realised the processes for these two things are very similar.
Number 1 to be a vlogger: Think
This would be the planning step. Every time I have a little idea, I’ll note it in my phone, and when video-making time comes I’ll go through my notes and pick the things I wanna do. For the new video, this process took ten seconds: “I should watch My Little Pony and react to it live”.
Number 2 to be a vlogger: Create
This would be the filming step. I let the camera record one long take while I try things out, ad-lib, say things different ways, and generally work the video out live. For the new video, this process took an hour. Some of it worked and a lot of it didn’t.
Number 3 to be a vlogger: Structure
This would be the organising step. Even though the footage has been imported into FCPX, I don’t start editing yet – I’ll first just go through the take, find the things I like, and drag them into the timeline. By the end of this process, my hour of footage had been cut down to about eight minutes of content.
Number 4 to be a vlogger: Edit
This would be the final step. I’ve got all the things I like enough in the video, but it’s still a slow mess with bad transition pauses and lots of repetition and unnecessary stuff. The goal is to get it down to four minutes, which in this case means I need to cut half of my footage out. I go in several sweeps -
Sweep 1: I play through from the start and stop whenever I see something I don’t like. This is an easy enough step to do, because I’ve already gone through all the footage to pick my favourite stuff, so there will be good bits that stick out in my mind, which makes it easier to judge the not-so-good bits. (This got it down to just under six minutes)
Sweep 2: Same thing again, only now the video’s coming together more, there’s less space from good bit to good bit, and the space in between can go more easily. Sometimes I’ll cut things out because they don’t make sense anymore, or because a joke goes on way too long and cutting one long joke is better/easier than cutting five short ones. (This got it down to four minutes, twenty seconds.)
Sweep 3: Last sweep takes ten minutes. I just took out a couple more bits that took it just below four minutes (3:56 now), and by this point I’ve seen all the footage four times, so the bits that are funny are obviously still funny and the bits I was unsure about become worse and worse. The more you look at it, the more certain you become about what is and isn’t working.
Number 5 to be a vlogger: Feedback
I don’t always do this, but if people are around, I show them my video. I’m only showing them because I want them to enjoy it, but it also functions as a final sweep. Watching it with someone else allows you to gauge things you might not have been sure about. It’s like passive feedback – their reaction (or lack of reaction) to certain parts helps me make final small changes.
AND THEN YOU RELEASE IT WHEEEY
This same process can be applied to books, I think, or at least I’ll try to.
First, thinking. Working out enough of the idea that you’re ready to go in there. I absolutely don’t know every detail, but trust that I’ll be able to work it out.
Second, creating. Writing a draft. Filming takes between 30 minutes to an hour, and in that time there will be blocks of a few minutes where it just isn’t working, but then you pick it up again. Stretch that process out for weeks and you can see there are whole days where it’s not working and you just don’t want to do anything. But you MUST. Get it done. Get it down. Just write some fucking words until it’s over.
Third, structuring. Realising what you need and (more importantly) what you don’t need, and what you like most, and how it all flows together.
Fourth, editing. CUT THINGS CUT THINGS CUT THINGS CUT THINGS CUT THINGS. I DON’T CARE IF YOU LIKE IT. CUT IT OUT. Keep sweeping until you’re happy with what you have. And do it efficiently – I’ve been sweeping the first chapter of my nanowrimo novel since I finished it in 2008 and I’m still not happy yet, and that’s just the first chapter, but I haven’t been dedicated to making it work. Always had other things to do. Don’t do that. When I edit a video, I don’t work on any other projects until it’s done, so when you’re editing a chapter of a book, don’t work on any other projects until it’s done.
And fifth, feedback. I prefer asking a lot of people for feedback, since no one person is right or wrong, and if I get six sets of notes, it’s easier for me to see what problems are common to a majority.
Oh, and don’t take feedback personally. I stopped writing for two years because I expected to be a brilliant writer and found it really hard when people said my nanowrimo novel needed a lot of work. I thought “well I’m not good enough to do that, then, I’ll just stop”. If you want to be a writer (or a vlogger) – DON’T JUST STOP. Because that’s how you improve.