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A Beginner's Guide to Organizing Your Edit

Not everyone who reads NoFilmSchool is an expert – in fact most of us are still trying to learn something – and that’s really the reason why we hope people keep coming back each day. If you’re new to filmmaking, your editing experience is probably very limited – and it can be overwhelming starting from scratch. One of the most important things you can do if you aren’t very experienced is to learn good habits right from the start. This isn’t limited to editing, but also shooting and managing media. There’s always more than one way to do something – but there are certainly wrong ways to do many things that can lead to mistakes or slow you down. In terms of editing, organization is something every professional editor will stress above all else. Embedded below is a video describing that process.

This video, from Richard Harrington’s Blog, takes you through the steps that you should take once you’ve offloaded all of your footage and audio:

Though the video is describing the process using Adobe Premiere Pro CS 5.5, it still applies to other editing systems (like the newly announced Adobe CS 6) and isn’t too far removed from the way that it is done in Final Cut Pro X. If you still have access to Final Cut Pro 7, it is done almost exactly the same way. While it may seem that your 2 minute video doesn’t really need this type of organization, the earlier you learn good habits, the easier it will be to transition to bigger projects. Having edited a feature length film myself, I can tell you that if you don’t develop a good organizational structure with bins and clips labelled correctly, it’s going to be a nightmare.

Even if you’re not a beginner, sometimes it’s good to be refreshed on the basic organizational structures and what bad habits you might be developing while editing.

[ via Richard Harrington's Blog]


We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

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  • Great post joe.havnt watched the video yet but i will when i get the chance.i’ve got a request though,could you do a post on timecode and how we can use it to sync sound when editing and what to watch out for when using it.that is one of the things i’ve not been able to learn really well online.i’d really appreciate it,even if you just point me to the right resource.thanks.

    • I second that.

    • FCP7, Premiere and AVID it’s all literally selecting both clips and clicking Merge Clips, (or Sync Clips in AVID) then selecting timecode from the menu that pops up.
      You need to have Jam synced your camera with an audio recorder on set first though. however numerous factors on set can give delays to the timecode reaching the camera, but you won’t ever be off by more than a few frames

      • But what’s the timecode doing in that whole story other than that you’re selecting an option? I can’t get my head around it.. I can try and guess, but it still doesn’t make sense to me.

        • Back in olden days, picture and sound were synced together by using a Clap Stick on the Slate. The Camera Assistant announced the take (scene 7, take 3) which was also written on the slate, then s/he Clapped the stick together which gave a visual and sound mark. This could be used with multiple cameras, but each camera had to see the Clap Stick/Slate — then they would refocus on the scene.

          Now-a-days they use SMPTE time code to sync the video or film to the sound. The camera(s) and sound recorder are Jam Synced together (so that they use the same time code). Here’s a good explanation of Jam Sync The Time Code is the same on all cameras and the sound recorder — no need for Clap Sticks. The Time Code runs continuously, so that cameras can be turned off than back on and still be In Sync with the other cameras and the sound recorder. But sync can drift and you’ll need to Jam Syn everything occasionally.

          There are several explanations of SMPTE Time Code on the ‘net, but all they will do is confuse you ’cause they are about Television Time Code.

          Hope this helps.

          • Thanks for all the help people!!il go check out all those links.from what i’ve read so far, i think its something I need to really learn to make my work faster, or so i think.much appreciated.

    • Northerngeek on 04.30.12 @ 3:49AM


      Have you considered PluralEyes? I’ve been looking into this stuff recently and their product seems like a good idea- the sort of thing you’d imagine would be built into all NLEs in this era of budget film-making.* At present it doesn’t correct for drift but I recently confirmed with their customer support that the upcoming v3 will fix for that too (their DualEyes product already does but I believe PluralEyes is more popular/?Powerful?).

      Time-code, especially generating it and syncing it between devices baffles me, but from what I can see this product will make the whole process faster and possibly cheaper. There’s a free 30 day trial too with free upgrade from V2 to V3 for people who buy now.

      If anybody has an easier way (or cheaper) that doesn’t involve manual syncing let me know!

      *= Personally I believe Adobe should/will acquire them sooner or later to continue their recent strides at satisfying budget filmakers.

      • Yeah, i,ve just read about it but havent used it.maybe il get down to trying it out sometime.but i still need to learn stuff about timecode itself coz i wouldnt like to be in a situation where use of timecode will be important and i have no clue about it!!thanks alot though.

        • Shaun Wilson on 04.30.12 @ 10:43AM

          Plural eyes works about 80% of the time, its not very good on large chunks but for takes around 2 mins and under it does the trick. Waiting to see what V3 does (or doesnt).

          • I’ve been using PluralEyes for about a year now with long (30+ mins) & short takes and have rarely ever had a problem. In my experience I don’t think the length has anything to do with non-syncing clips.

          • I’ve found that for Dual Eyes, using a loud, specific clap pattern before action on each take leads to accurate syncing. For instance, Shot 1 – Take 1 –> Clap, [pause], clap. Shot 2 – Take 3 –> Clap, clap, [pause], clap, clap, clap.

  • I used FCP5-7 then moved to FCPX … With the first look to CS6 i heard the comment FCP8 and i was like sound about right … CS5.5 is a classic but after using FCPX its stone age organization system … I saw features in CS6 that is a direct rip form Fcpx witch I like because they did not change the system ( well i hope not ) that is so key … Im learning cs5.5 till cs6 comes out just so i can be on top of it … the video is the classic style of organization … I HATE the fact you have to click 3 times per clip to review (in FCPX you dont ) and you have to go to another panel … that is such a waste of time … why? clicks = time … the color coding of clips is priceless tool when organization im so glad you touched on that … anyway you can group clips saves time … with al that said thanks for posting this video and all the other videos … they are much needed …

  • Lliam Worthington on 04.30.12 @ 12:36PM

    Great post. Really looking forward to getting stuck into CS6 and stoked by the new subscription model.

  • Lliam Worthington on 04.30.12 @ 12:36PM

    Also wanted to say, really enjoying your posts in general joe. Koo has made a great choice :)



  • Joe, fantastic post. I’ve been editing my own work for a few years now, and have an established rhythm, but it’s nice to confirm some habits and maybe add a few new ones to my workflow.

    Additionally, watching Rich organize in CS5.5 reminded me and taught me tools that I can use in my new suite.

    Fantastic work, Joe. This is the kind of content sharing that I think of when I think of NFS.

    • Thanks, I’m actually surprised more videos like this don’t make the rounds – setting up your NLE of choice properly is one of the most important steps to becoming a better editor.