Staying organized in post production

For some reason, when most people watch me edit, the first thing they often say is "wow... you're fast!"

Yes. I know. But I'm not being fast to be flashy or to show off, I'm being fast because I'm staying incredibly organized while I edit, and because I believe that the speed at which I move through the software makes it possible to try more things, and end up with a better, more refined result. When I have a client in the room, I don't want my speed or inability to do something to hamper the creative process, and give off that look I've seen too many times of "this is fine if you think it'll be too difficult to do."

The way you get fast is by staying organized, and that begins with thinking before dumping any actual footage into your timeline. You can stay organized any which way you want, this is my personal way of staying organized.

SLIM AND PORTABLE

I like my organization method to be slim, meaning using as few folders as possible. I've seen a few other methods that use numerical folders to keep things in order, and I've seen some systems with tons and tons and tons of folders, which I think makes it more confusing when you ultimately need to download footage into your bins.

So here's what I do:

This is my folder structure in Finder (or Windows if you prefer to use a PC, it would be the same).

It's pretty self explanatory what goes where, but just in case, here's a little breakdown:

folder structure explained-01.png

I try to drop things into these categories to make it easy to find, but to also prevent me from digging through too many folders. You can add more folders as you need, but try to grow slowly, don't overwhelm with folders. Take a look at this real working project folder:

So there's a few additional things not in my preset folders, but those are things I add as I need them. I don't always go to a final mix, and I don't always version so high that I need to hide the old versions in an "_old" folder. These are the types of things you add as you need them.

What I do is keep a folder on my desktop called "NEW PROJECT" and this folder structure is already setup in that folder. I simply duplicate that folder every time I begin a new project.

Once you've got all of your footage organized how you like it, I have another layer of setup inside of Premiere, where I edit.

INSIDE OF PREMIERE

I've got it setup like this when I first walk into a project:

There are a few small differences, but mostly things are pretty much identical to the folders outside of Premiere in my operating system. Here's what's new and different inside of Premiere.

My GRAPHICS folder is much lighter. I haven't setup the folders for Images, Logos or Vectors because I may not have any of those in this project, and if i do, I can simply import the entire folder and it will automatically create that folder for me. In their place what I do have is a folder for AE, where my projects and renders can live. I've also got a folder for Titles where Premiere can generate new title items, and I've got a folder for Solids. I start with a White and a Black because, let's face it, you kind of always use these somewhere in your timeline for some reason.

Instead of a folder for Project Files I instead have a bin for Sequences, where you would store any timelines you generate.

It's a pretty simple setup that, again, relies on it's simplicity to be effective. If I add too many bins it begins to take me too long to twirl into those bins to find what I need, and Premiere's "Find" tool in the bins is very powerful, you can find what you need instantaneously if you've misplaced it.

One last thing I do in Premiere that ties directly into organization is I renamed my labels to something that actually makes sense.

This may be a small thing, but I find it infinitely useful in keeping organized. We are usually visual thinkers, so seeing in a big complex timeline where that one VFX shot is located, being a pink, gives you a benchmark for finding the shots you need elsewhere in a timeline. Like so:

In this example, those bright purple boxes are subtitles, so now I kind of have a benchmark of where a certain scene in the movie is that I might be looking for, and I can get there very quickly without having to do a lot of scanning. I just know that I'm looking for the scene that happens after the subtitled scene.

One final organizational tool, your timeline layers. You can rename them, and I highly recommend it. Keep it simple, make it easy to follow, do what works for you, but try to keep things organized. I use this method:

Video 3
video 2
Video 1

a1
a2
a3
a4
s1
s2
m1
m2

The "a" audio layers are for audio recorded or directly linked to the video. I keep 4 layers of it handy. The "s" audio layers are for sound effects I've added in. And the "m" audio layers are for music that is being used.

WRAP-UP

I can't imagine being an editor without having clients in the room with me, whether that's a producer or director on a film, or a corporate client who needs to make changes to their video. Clients will eventually sit in the room with you, and it's up to you to be able to deliver. To me, delivering means fostering great creative sessions with ease, making every suggestion a possibility quickly, and trying things out until you find what works.

If you work quickly, and keep organized, you can try more things out, and where some editors might only go 3 steps in, I want to give the client the opportunity to try six steps, even if they end up deciding that going back to step 2 or 3 was the way to go after all.

Do what works for you to organize your projects, but if you want my personal organization folder, you can always e-mail me at brianlevin83@gmail.com and I'll be glad to send it along.

 

Thinking outside the box - how I used a DIY beam splitter for an interview

I recently completed work on a short video celebrating the achievements of students in the 2015 graduating class at DePaul University. The goal of the video was to have a handful of different students speak on camera about their time at the school, and their goals moving out into the world.

We knew that this project was going to consist almost entirely of interviews with the students, and that the students would be speaking directly into the camera. Without including any other footage, such as stock or b-roll, we had to be creative, and figure out how a single camera could sustain a 2 minute video.

An added challenge to this was that the students would be looking directly at the camera, and so there wasn't much of an opportunity to use a B-Camera or a C-Camera like I had done many times before. This often presents problems in editorial, where you desperately want your interview subjects to say just the right thing, but it takes just a little bit of cutting and finessing to get them to do it. This is where multiple camera angles come in handy... in this situation, we had none.

So what to do?

I scoured the closet at the office looking for some inspiration, hoping I'd find a piece of equipment that would magically allow me to rig up two cameras in exactly the same place so that I could at least have a cutaway angle. Then it hit me... TELEPROMPTER.

I'd done a ton of prompter work at my previous job, and knew all about how to set it up, and how it works. I realized that if I removed the bottom plate from the teleprompter, where the iPad normally sits, that I could look from just below the prompter upwards and get the identical camera angle to the camera hiding behind the double sided glass.

Like so:

So we did some rudimentary tests in the office:

My thought was that if I could get the two lenses to line up to each other in the reflection from the perspective of the interview subject, then both lenses would be seeing the same angle. From there it's simple math, choosing a good solid lens for your medium A-Cam shot, and then choosing another longer lens for a close-up on the B-Cam.

The tests were successful so we implemented them into our creative treatment.

Here's how this setup looked on shoot day:

You can see that we have a camera directly behind the glass, while another camera is placed below the prompter, looking straight up into it. From just the right perspective I was able to get the two lenses to line up, effectively creating the same camera angle at two different focal lengths, simultaneously.

We used monitors on set to make sure that both cameras had good, matching angles.

This is what our set looked like:

And our final result:

This was a really fun project to put together, we interviewed over 30 people in 2 days with a setup that allowed us to rotate students in and out quickly, without adjusting our setup.

A big thanks to the crew that helped make this possible:

Amanda Smith, Producer - Guy Bauer Productions
Jason Chiu, Cinematographer
Josh Brunelli, Production Assistant - Guy Bauer Productions