Last week I was enlisted to help edit a news package for Native American Public Telecommunications (NAPT) that would also end up on the MacNeil Lehrer NewsHour. This was a rush job, as it pertained to the 2012 election, and that was in less than a week. We had to work quick to get this done in order to air. Very typical for news…but something I hadn’t done before. It was a whirlwind edit.
First off…the story. Click on the link above to watch the end result. Basically it is about how important the Native American vote is to the elections in Montana. While we did showcase one candidate (who was the first Native American to be voted into a statewide post), the main story had to be about the vote itself. Because if you make a piece about one candidate, and air that, you need to provide equal air time to the opposing candidate. So we had to do this properly.
How did I get this job? Well, the producer is a Native American producer out of Idaho, and I have a lead into that community on several fronts. Mainly because I too am Native American (1st generation Salish descendant, part of the Flathead Nation in northwestern Montana). But also because the camera operator runs Native Voices Public Television, and I was an intern there in college. And he is my stepfather…but that’s besides the point. I’m a decent shooter and good editor (so I’m told), and they wanted my talent. So on Tuesday I flew from LA to Great Falls…a trip that took 11 hours, mainly due to the layovers in Portland and Seattle.
I tried to pack light. I packed my 2012 MacBook Pro, AJA IoXT, mouse, assorted cabling and 500GB portable hard drive and clothing into my backpack. And then in the camera bag I packed my Canon 7D, GoPro, headphones and various accessories. Then a pelican case with a 2TB CalDigit VR. All perfectly sized for carry on…nothing needed checking. The camera operator was bringing along a Sony HDCAM camera…tape based (one reason I was bringing my IoXT…to capture the tape)…as well as an audio kit with shotgun mic, wireless and wired lavs, Lowell lighting kit and a Sachler tripod. While he was slated to be the main camera guy, I brought along my 7D and GoPro to shoot extra stuff.
Now, while I was landing and staying in Great Falls, we needed to go to Havre Montana…120 miles away. So we were up early and headed out. I mounted the GoPro on the roof of the car to get driving scenics, and shot a bit out the window as we drove with the 7D. When we arrived we needed to go to a few locations to get some interviews before the rally that evening. I’ve never worked in news, but because I have seen a few reports, I noted that often they have a wide shot of the reporter talking to someone before the interview, or a second camera shooting the interview, so I did the same. Shooting a wide of the interviews to use as intros or cutaways. Between getting interviews and the rally, we also got as much b-roll as possible: campaign signs, scenics, town shots, as well as the reporter/producer standup. I was glad that I was there with the 7D, as pulling over to get a quick shot of a sign or a poster was really easy…a lot easier than pulling out the big HDCAM camera and sticks.
When we got to the rally I was relegated to audio duty. Handed a boom mic and the wired lav and a small mixer, and charged with getting the audio, and riding the levels.
The rally wrapped at 7PM and we needed to get back to the hotel. While we drove back I offloaded the 7D and GoPro cards to my portable hard drive (loving the SD card slot in my laptop now), and then transcoded them into Avid Symphony. The vehicle we were in had an DC outlet so I didn’t have to worry about power. I was very glad to have this “down time” to transcode the footage.
When we got back to the hotel we ordered pizza and set up my remote edit station. I connected the camera to the IoXT via SDI, and that to my MBP via Thunderbolt. Then the CalDigit was connected via Firewire 800…fine for capturing and playing back DNxHD145 (1080i 29.97). I was lucky enough to have an HDTV in the room, so I used that as the “client monitor,” connecting it to the IoXT via HDMI. We watched the tapes as we captured, and then the producer wrote the story (he had to write a print version, a radio version and a web/broadcast version). We did have the first part of the story written, he did it as a stand up in the field. The rest of the story he recorded as temp with a Snowball mic and Garageband. And then he and the camera guy went to bed…long exhausting day. I edited a “radio cut,” just audio stringout of the standup, narration and interview bites. That took about an hour for a 5:30 run time. Then I too hit the sack at 12:30. We agreed to meet at 6:30 AM to finish the rest of the cut.
At 6:30 met in my room, drowned ourselves in coffee and continued to edit. After an hour we had the piece done, with a run time of 5:17. I did a quick audio pass to even things out, very rudimentary color pass using the HDTV…and then compressed a file and posted it for the clients (NAPT) to review and give notes. We hoped to have it delivered by that day, but since the Exec Producer was traveling too, they didn’t get a chance to see it until later. So, I packed everything up, backed up the media onto the external drive and the CalDigit VR (redundancy!) and headed to the airport (11:30 AM flight). I received notes while on the road, and when I landed (9:55) I got home, set up the drive on my main workstation, addressed the minimal notes, did a proper audio pass and color correction using my FSI broadcast monitor…and compressed it for YouTube per the clients request. I had that uploaded to their FTP by 1AM, and it was online by 6AM…YouTube, NAPT website and Facebook.
This certainly was a down and dirty edit. And I’m sure it took longer than most news stories do. I also know that the ability to edit at least the tapeless formats native would have sped things up, but I did have time to transcode as we drove back. Although, if we shot entirely tapeless, I’m sure I could have had the rough cut done during the trip back. And I know that using another NLE, say Adobe Premiere, would allow me to edit the formats native and save on transcode time. But I needed solid tape capture, and Avid with the IoXT gave me that. Yes, I could have captured with the AJA tool as ProRes and brought that into Premiere (I say, anticipating y0ur comments). I used Avid as that is what I was used to and it’s best to use what you know when you have a quick turnaround. One of these days I will learn that app better.