Before I get to the crux of my post, I would like to explain a few terms that a few people might not know about. Here is the progression of a cut as I do it…when dealing with a documentary project that has a script:

RADIO EDIT – Laying out of narration and sound bytes. Just getting things in script order on the timeline.

ROUGH CUT – Filling in the cut with footage. This is also the time that I start to ad pacing to the cut. Adding slates (title cards) where footage is missing and needed.

FINE CUT – Fleshing out the cut with music and more footage. Deal more with pacing as music is added…give breath to scenes and add montages when needed. Start to get into creating the style of the show, creating transitional moments and unique pacing. Sound effects added at this stage. Perhaps adding lower thirds (ID tags for interview subjects).

FINE CUT 2 – Addressing the producer and network notes. More versions as the notes progress.

PICTURE LOCK – Polishing the transition moments and all segments of the cut. Bringing the show to time, meaning making the duration as long as the network requires. Adding the required act break durations and title/credits.

When it comes to editing a rough cut, I am used to delivering what to many would seem like a “fine cut.” What that means is that it has music and transition effects and sound effects. I have gotten used to this because many of the producers and production companies I have worked for have demanded this sort of cut. Many producers can’t watch a rough cut for what it should be…just a rough assembly of the footage to get an idea of the story structure. They get distracted when they don’t hear music or the cut isn’t smooth or a sound effect.

Here’s a great audio clip that explains this well:

Rough Cut Lady

Last week a producer, who typically wants the “Fine” rough cut just wanted a rough cut. A typical rough cut. I am not used to this. I haven’t delivered a ROUGH rough cut in a long time. So I had to try to re-train myself NOT to add music and transitional moments and sound effects. And after a week of cutting I presented the producer with one of the roughest cuts I have done in a while. The other editors also did rough cuts for their segments…well, except for one who had more time to add music and transitional moments.

So I strung the segments together and watched it with the producers as we output it to DVD for the network. While watching it all sorts of story structure issues popped up. We found parts that needed to be moved and other things that simply just didn’t work. here are a few paraphrases of the session:

“We have too many subjects in this segment. Two people are fine…the third makes this too long.”

“This part is good, but we need to move it earlier so that the rest of this segment makes sense.”

“This doesn’t make sense…we need to add some narration to explain this better.”

“Isn’t this (task we are talking about) actually harder when done in this manner? I recall an interviewer talking about this…perhaps we should add that.”

“The segment order doesn’t make sense…let’s try this one, then this, then this, and finally that.”

Perfect. Just what we needed. Normally we would have spend a few more days on the edit, making it all fancy and FINE…and THEN be hit with these notes. Meaning that we just wasted days of our time on something that was cut. And sometimes as an editor you feel like “Hey, I spent a long time on that, I’d hate to see it go.” The same reason that the director shouldn’t edit their film. “But I spent a week shooting that scene…I can’t cut it!” If it doesn’t work, it needs to go.

Anyway,it was refreshing to go back to a rough rough cut,not spending days cutting something, then to lose a sequence that then messes up the music timing so you have to spend time trying to fix that…something that is very frustrating. Now we can move things around and get the story in order, THEN add music and pacing.

BTW, our first show is at the colorist and will be done VERY soon. No clue as to an air date yet. I’ll let you know when I find out.