Editing interview

In anticipation for editing my new interviews tomorrow, I decided to read up on tips to edit interview. It was actually quite difficult to find information on this, because once you understand the technical side of the software you are using (Premiere Pro), the rest is quite subjective – it depends on what you want to achieve, and is based on what kind of footage you have.

Unfortunately, the creative aspects of editing involve cut aways, noddys and filler shots, which I don’t have for most of my interviews as they were generally quick practices. The interviews I filmed, where I am not on screen, only use one camera and so only have one angle of footage. I tried to film cut-away shots, however because I was only doing quick practice interviews the setting wasn’t relavant and so the only cut-aways I could film were of the person’s hands, and of them looking around the room etc. This does not give me much scope for creativity. In one interview I did however manage to get a few filler shots, because the discussion was about her recently being burgled and we were in that same house, I filmed a few shots of the house, in hope that I can layer these over the audio.

When Zoe filmed me interviewing, she used both of our cameras. This means that there are two angles of footage. One camera stayed still, and Zoe moved the other about during the interview, which means there are a variety of shots to be creative with. We have decided that we will both edit the footage, to create two versions, as we want them for different purposes (I want the interview to be the important part, whereas Zoe is only concerned with how the footage looks). I plan to edit the footage so that there is a great deal of variety, and where applicable I may edit in my filler shots to really experiment with different techniques.

I do not expect the interviews I filmed, where I am not in the footage, to be successful. In the styles of interview I was trying out, the footage is quite irrelevant without the interviewer in it. For example, the ‘chat show’ interview and the ‘debate’ interview both require the interviewer to be on screen, in order to really capture the essence of the style. I ended up using these self-filmed interviews as a warm up, as it was obvious once I had begun, that they would not be of use. One benefit however, was that they provided an alternative audio of the questions and responses, which means that when editing I can selectively pick the better audio, and layer it behind my cutaway clips if need be.

Below is a section from a blog post I looked at, about how to edit documentary, which I read as guidance before tomorrows editing session, you can read the whole post at: http://digitalfilms.wordpress.com/2011/11/24/documentary-editing-tips/)

” If your documentary tale is built out of interview clips, then a lot of your time as an editor will go into organizing the material and playing with story structure. That is, editing and re-arranging sound bites in a way to tell a complete story without the need for a narrator. Often this requires that you assemble sound bites in a way that’s quite different from the way they were recorded in linear time.

Enter the “Frankenbite”. That’s a term editors apply to two types of sound bite construction: a) splicing together parts of two or more sound bite snippets to create a new, concise statement; or b) editing a word or phrase from another part of the interview to get the right inflection, such as making a statement sound like the end of a sentence, when in fact the original part was really in mid-thought.

…It’s very important to listen to the interviews in their entirety and make sure that the elements you are splicing together aren’t taken out of context. You don’t want to create the impression that what is being said is the exact opposite of what the speaker meant to say. The point of this slicing is to collapse time and get the point across succinctly without presenting a full and possibly rambling answer. Be true to the intent and you’ll be fine.

Typically such edits are covered by cutaway shots to hide the jump cut, though some director stylistically prefer to show the jump cut that such edits produce. This can give a certain interesting rhythm to the cut that might not otherwise be there. It also clearly tells the audience that an edit was made. It’s a stylistic approach, so pick a path and stick with it.

The beauty of the HDSLR revolution brought about by Canon is that it’s easier (and cheaper) than ever to field two-camera shoots. This is especially useful for documentary interviews. Often directors will set up two 5D or 7D cameras – one facing the subject and the other at an angle. This gives the editor two camera angles to cut with and it’s often possible to assemble edited sound bites using cuts between the two cameras at these edit points. This lets you splice together thoughts and still appear like a live switch in a TV show – totally seamless without an obvious jump cut. I’ve been able to build short shows this way working 100% from the interviews without a single cutaway shot and still have the end result appear to the audience as completely contiguous and coherent.

Mine the unrehearsed responses. Naturally that depends on the talent of the interviewer and how much her or she can get out of the interviewee. The best interviewers will warm up their subject first, go through the pro forma questions and then circle back for more genuine answers, once the interviewee is less nervous with the process. This is usually where you’ll get the better responses, so often the first half of the recording tends to be less useful. If the interviewer asks at the end, “Is there anything else you’d like to add?” – that’s where you frequently get the best answers, especially if the subject is someone who is interviewed a lot. Those folks are used to giving stock answers to all the standard questions. If their answers can be more freeform, then you’ll tend to get more unique and thoughtful points-of-view.”

Things to note from this article:

  • I should spend time moving the different answers around the story line, and mixing up the order to create an interesting story to the interview: I don’t have to edit in the original order.
  • Can cut and paste bits of audio to make the answers make more sense, or to condense a waffly piece of dialogue, however be careful not to take sentences out of context, or change the message they were trying to communicate.
  • I can hide jumpy-cuts between spliced shots by editing in cut-aways (unfortunately I didn’t film many of these except for in one interview) – if doing this try to stick to one style.
  • When Zoe filmed me interviewing she used two cameras, however I only had access to one when I did the filming myself. For future reference, I should try filming with two cameras, because you can create a smooth piece of film without having to film cut aways or filler shots, as you can alternate between the two different angles.
  • In future when interviewing, I may try asking the standard questions to begin with, and then circling back to ask for more genuine answers. I also need to remember to ask the person whether they have anything to add, at the end of the interview. This may produce interesting and opinionated answers, about things I may not have thought to ask about.
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