Editing a Robot Documentary – From 100 Hours to 82 Minutes [Part 2]

If you missed the first half, check out Part 1 on editing Bots High. The first cut of Bots High that Andrew and I sat down to watch was extremely long, extremely rough, and Andrew and I both fell asleep at one point. The main challenge with a documentary is it’s so malleable. You can easily reorder, cut, or add scenes, and radically change the story. There’s no script to go off of. There’s no re-shoots of stuff that was missed. I’ve always had a basic outline for the film from before I started. Meet the teams, follow them as they build their robots, and end at the national competition. But which robot building teams do you show? Who are the main characters? Which story lines do you expand on? That was what we spent five months figuring out. The beauty with non-linear editing (that’s pretty much any editing done on the computer) is you can try a lot of stuff, save it, try more stuff, and never worry about destroying old work. There are about 50 different versions of the film. Originally the film started at the end, at the national competition, and then jumped to Mayhem in Miami six months earlier. It opened with an image that while I shot it I knew I wanted to try to open the film with it: Elizabeth in her dress walking down the sidewalk with her robot in tow. It pretty much sums up the entire film. But alas, that was the only thing that was good with opening the film with the third act, and it didn’t work in the...

From 100 Hours to 82 Minutes [Part 1]

This post will start a series the shares some insight into the post-production process for Bots High. First, some rough numbers and info: 9 months of production 100 hours of footage shot 2 Sony EX1 (the main camera) 2 Panasonic HVX200 1 JVC GY-HD110 1 Flip HD 3 terabytes of data 5000 Video Clips Edited on Final Cut Pro 7 Andrew (the editor) and I have never worked on a project this big or with this much footage, and Andrew wasn’t even starting on the film until a month or so into post-production, so I had to get all the footage sorted and narrow it down. As much as I love finding shortcuts, there was no shortcut for this process – I sat down and watched all 100 hours and logged it into a database. I tagged each shot, noted where it took place, who was in the shot, what happened, and some other details. In a perfect world I would have been reviewing everything as I shot it. In this same perfect world there would also have been full transcription of all the footage. But the world isn’t perfect and there wasn’t a budget for it, so we worked with just summarizing each clip. Warning – A/V Geek Talk Here are some more details if you want them. All the footage was imported into Final Cut. Since most of the footage was shot on tape-less cameras, this was very easy as all the clips were already separated and there’s a good amount of meta-data given with each clip. I imported everything into one file (bad idea for stability,...

Fast, Cheap, and Good – Making a Quality Robot Movie

So a lot of people have been asking me how long until the film is done. When I tell them probably early November, their reply is usually “what’s taking so long?”, especially when they know there’s a rough cut done. There’s a saying in filmmaking, though it could pretty much apply to any large project. For your project you want everything to be good, fast, and cheap, however you can only have two. If you want the film to be good and fast, it won’t be cheap (i.e. any Hollywood movie, and even then it might not be fast…or good). In my case I want Bots High to be good and cheap, so therefore it won’t be fast. There’s a lot to be done – animation, titles, music, sound design, color grading, plus future podcasts and video clips – and there isn’t a massive team working on it. And with editor Andrew (above) moving on to other projects, it’s basically been myself sitting in front of the computer trying different music and tweaking edits, before animation is done, picture is locked (editing officially done) and the movie is sent to the sound designers. In future posts I’ll go into more detail on the post-production process, because I’m sure even at the mention of sound design there was some confusion, and hopefully I can shed some light onto the...