The final stage of video production is one of the most crucial points of all. The skill of the video editor reflects massively on the quality of the finished product. It is because of this that poor shots can be enhanced after filming, or that great cinematography can be ruined by a shoddy editor. In our scenario of micro-budget filmmaking, the editor could very likely be the director and writer as well. This can actually give an advantage to us, at the cost of more work. Without passing the project between writer, director, and video editor, the initial vision and personal touch remains untarnished. If we do have access to another editor, the director should be heavily involved in the editing anyway to maintain the desired feel.
While our skill at editing video is very important, one could easily argue that the software used to do it is equally valuable. No matter the type of camera, audio recording system, and other equipment used to make the video, the editing software should a big focus on a limited budget. This varies from project to project, depending on the specific requirements by video, but ultimately a good editing software can be used to counteract all kinds of lower-quality recordings. Note that this doesn’t mean the editing stage is some godsend wherein every mistake can be rectified.
Enhancing Bad Video
As stated earlier, a good editing software can be essential to correcting poorer-quality video. However, we shouldn’t waste our time trying to manually fix every shot that doesn’t fit our needs. Before even bothering to put a shot into the project, we need to determine if it is salvageable. That comes down to a measure of how badly it is messed up and how much we need it in the final product. In a perfect situation we could merely go back and reshoot the clips required, but often for many reasons that is not the case.
- Lighting and Color: If we don’t set up consistent lighting between takes, a random shot or two can suddenly become off-color compared to the others. This can be rectified by color correction or lighting effects, such as changing the levels of green, red, and blue saturation.
- Accidental Background Changes: Commonly, this can refer to a piece of filming equipment being left in the background of a shot, or something like a boom mic entering the top of the frame. More so with the first example, this can become a nuisance when we go back to edit and find that every take for the shot contains the same error. The easiest fix for this is to crop the shot down by bringing the size up and moving the video around if necessary. But if the undesired object is in the middle of a shot, it becomes more difficult. For this particular problem, I’ll give a more specific fix, using adobe products. If the shot was taken with a tripod and is unblocked by interference, this gets infinitely easier. We simply get a picture of the video in question and open it with Photoshop, and then we can manually remove the problem with a mixture of tools, such as patching and even penciling if necessary. Then we put the correct picture in the same place in the shot as the problem was before, and it will vanish. More likely, however, the shot will be shaky or some kind of action will alter the problematic spot. In this case, another option is to take each frame and perform this same process through After Effects or Photoshop.
- Unintended Shakiness: To correct this, we need to get in and alter specific frames by movement and increasing/decreasing the size of each one. This trick can be used to make a much smoother video, but it can be very time consuming. It becomes even worse with clips that are out of focus.
- Out of Focus Video: This is the worst possible problem to try and correct. When a desperately-needed shot is out-of-focus, I would highly recommend reshooting it. Without that option, little can be done. Using a mixture of Photoshop and Premiere we can manually go in to enhance the sharpness of the frames, but this usually results in a grittier version of the blurry mess that we had before.
Audio editing can be nearly as difficult as video editing, although there is a bit more leeway for us to work. We can cut audio clips quicker and overlap them easier than video, as well as bring them down to near-muteness without taking away massively from the footage on screen.
- Inconsistent Audio Between Shots: Even with the benefit of a separate audio recording from the camera’s mic, the sound level can vary dramatically between cuts, so much that it becomes extremely distracting and sounds very unprofessional. A way to plan for this during the filming stage is to record background sound in the shooting location, and then only place the required sounds such as lines and effects over top. A good rule is to keep the audio level low unless it is important and requires attention. Even with this rule, however, we can come across required audio pieces that begin or end with too much dissonance with the neutral audio around them. Here fading can come into play, where we gradually turn down the audio levels of the clips at the beginning or the end.
- Mic or Camera Shifting Sounds: These tiny, disturbing blips are hard enough to catch while editing, let alone while recording. Using the background sound technique from above, these can be easily removed by simply cutting them out and throwing in the neutral audio to cover the gaps. They are more difficult to disguise when in the middle of an important sound, which usually results in more creative audio editing or changing the sound all together. This can mean lip-syncing a new line or manually implanting new elements to a required sound effect.
- Lines Delivered Between Shots: Often a cinematography technique, this only becomes a problem when the multiple shots all show the actor’s face as they are delivering their line. A single audio clip of the line should be selected for the project. Then comes the fun of lining up audio and video. If using Premiere or another program that has a visual representation of the audio wavelengths, this gets easier as we can line up the two audio clips on separate tracks and then delete one to get a smooth single line. This technique is not perfect, and often relies on the actor saying the line the exact same way in every single shot. If the line in question is delivered in chunks, separate chunks can be used for separate cuts. If that is still not possible, we can cut away to something that we didn’t intend to use, such as a reaction or even a detail shot of something in the vicinity, or anything else where the audience cannot see the actor’s mouth.
Like so many other aspects of filmmaking, the editing stage takes up a ton of time. The more time we dedicate the better our final project will be, but it can easily become tens—if not hundreds—of hours of work. Without a dedicated editing person or team that becomes so much more baggage for the solo director. Some people find editing to be incredibly boring, and even the most enthusiastic among us will still find parts to be too tedious for our tastes. It’s important to stick it out and try to do the best possible job. This is basically the last sweep of the project that we started in the planning stages so long ago, and without the appropriate focus for the editing stage it can all fall apart.