The Making of Indie Van Game Jam, Part IV: Editing

Let’s wrap this up and talk about post-production and editing!

How long does it take to edit an episode of Indie Van Game Jam?

The short answer is two months.   In the spirit of being completely transparent about our process, here is the editing schedule for episode two:

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What’s your editing setup/process look like?

I edit on a Macbook Pro laptop w/ Premiere Pro.

The first step I take is to create a folder structure for the project:

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I’ll then import all the audio and video footage into PluralEyes in order to sync them.  PluralEyes is exceptionally good at syncing — I’d say about an 80-90% success rate — and the rest usually needs to be manually synced (possibly because the camera audio is too low for the program to detect or that either the camera or H4n stopped recording, so PluralEyes can’t find the companion clip).

Next, I’ll set up bins in Premiere Pro like this:

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Then I import the footage.  I’ll also create a few Google documents and share them with the team: (1) Master Assets, (2) VO Scripts, (3) Master Schedule, (4) Color Keys, and (5) Treatment.

After organizing the bin structure, Chad or Zeb and I meet up for several days to cull through the footage and sort it all into folders or sequences.

All unsynced footage resides in a bin called RAW FOOTAGE.  All synced footage is placed chronologically onto a timeline called THE WELL.  Between those two places, we cast our fishing lines and scoop material into folders, giving them scene names.

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I think one of the fundamental theories of editing is that it is easier to work from a micro to macro level than from a macro to micro level.   Simply, this means that it’s easier to build up than to have to remove. (Maybe this holds true to part of the human condition as well; it is easier to forge bonds than to destroy them?  Who knows.)

How do you pick and choose what to add to the timeline?

We’re both watching and listening for funny lines, important game development stories that progress the narrative forward, threads we want to keep or move into the Detour bin, etc.  It helps for me to sit down with a developer to understand some terminology and note the difference between things that were actually carried out during the game jam and things that were part of a wish list.

For each clip, we try to consider sound, image and story as three equally important components to the episode (e.g. Will it be possible to improve this sound later?  Does he go into too much depth here on the topic of free-to-play?  Should we move it the Detour bin?  Let’s grab this bit because of his facial reactions when he plays the game for the first time.)

It’s very important at this early stage to go through all the footage together not only so that we know what we have but also because filtering footage into as many bins as possible puts us ahead of the game when we’re trying to find it again later.  For example, general travel footage can reside in the ‘Travel Bin’ and also ‘Whiteboarding’.  If it sounds tedious, it’s because it probably is — but uber helpful down the editing pipeline.

While we’re sorting, we will also start color coding clips based on their content:

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After one or two passes through sorting, I’ll group the colors together, then make edits into the clips, almost like creating a radio cut without paper.  What we’re doing here is eliminating the time that it takes to transcribe interviews, strike out sentences, and build an editing script.

Sometimes though, I will take story notes in a document I call ‘Treatment’.  It is a prose version of how scenes progress, but I generally use bullet points.  For example, there is a scene in episode 3 where I wrote down:

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After we finish sorting, hopefully the cut is down to a little over an hour.

Then we kind of attack the editing from all sides.

There is a document that’s called ‘Master Assets’.  It’s a list of things we think are necessary for the episode to stand on its own.  That includes Diego’s artwork, character animations, Chad’s code footage, Zeb’s level design footage, Zeb’s music, gameplay footage, VO scripts, After Effects Map Animations, nameplates, game jam scorecard design, etc.

Everyone pitches in to create the assets while I attempt to cut a scene down to its projected run time.

At this point,  I’m thinking a little about pacing, maybe music and moving assets around, but mostly just trying to get through one scene pass from start to finish through trimming.

I am trimming up the uhs, ums and pauses, making everything sound quick and deliberate.  If there are any design ideas that come to mind, I’ll jot those down, too.

At the end of the day, I’ll rig a time code stamp on the video and ship it to the team via Dropbox.  I’ll usually receive feedback the next day but won’t look at it until I’m done doing first passes on all scenes.

The notes from the team are extremely helpful.  They consist of suggestions for assets we need, comments on confusing lines, etc.  The master asset list is updated again.  Zeb made a very interesting observation one day that there’s this kind of ebb and flow happening where the timeline and list of things to do will expand, then contract, and finally we’ll start to see what the episode wants to be about.

We’ll kind of all have this instinctive feeling when we are one or two weeks out from finishing the episode.  Backers are sent a rough cut and encouraged to email us with comments on the upcoming episode and suggestions for improvement.  I do read all of them and take these into consideration!

There are more choices made with regard to music, sound effects, animations, title designs, fonts, etc.

I’ll spend the week leading up to release sound editing in Audition and color correcting, tweaking visual and audio transitions, moving around key frames in Premiere and/or After Effects.

The day before release, I render all the effects, export and upload the master sequence to YouTube on a private channel, type in the episode description and search tags.

On Friday, the episode is out there, and I am like the parent waving goodbye to the kid at the bus stop on his first day of school.

That’s it, folks!  I may edit this series and include more pics on the process at a later time.  I hoped you enjoyed that insight into the making of Indie Van Game Jam!

Ride on.

-Scott

This is the final part of a four part series. Check out the first part on our gear, the second part on pre-production, or the third part on filming.

The Indie Van Game Jam is a comedy documentary web and video game series in which we travel around the country, interview independent game developers, and make games along the way in our van. You can check out the series on IndieVanGameJam.com and vote for us on Steam Greenlight.

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