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The Moving Picture: The Art of the Realtime Edit
Posted Oct 11, 2005 Print Version     Page 1of 1

One of my favorite EventDV articles of the last year is Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen's piece on The Art of the Wedding-Day Edit. It offers practical suggestions from three experienced pros on editing wedding videos fast enough to show at the reception. It offers insight into a way that most event videographers may not have considered to expand service offerings, explore new creative outlets, and boost the bottom line all at once.

My favorite line is a quote from Mark Von Lanken that hints at both the artistic and practical joy of showing your work to an assembled crowd: "The client actually pays you to show your work to hundreds of their closest family and friends." But that payoff doesn't come easily. A same-day edit takes a lot of work and a lot of time, and creates a situation where a lot can go wrong without thoughtful planning and execution. Nonetheless, just about any video artist or businessperson can probably relate to the positives.

The meat of the article discusses various approaches, such as a template-like approach that combines heavy doses of already assembled footage with typical ceremony shots that can quickly replace timeline placeholders. Interestingly, however, it doesn't explore what would surely be the quickest option for turning around a wedding day video: live switching. But of course, why would it? Live switching may be the production reality for news programming, sports, and live daytime talk shows, but it would be rather impractical at most weddings, and for several reasons.

First, there's equipment. You'd need to have a 2-4-channel switcher console that would likely cost at least $1,500. (Focus Enhancements' MX-4 DV and Edirol's LVS-400 have FireWire inputs for DV cameras have street prices around $2,000 and $1,600, respectively.) Second, running the cables through the church or wedding site for lockdown cameras is problematic enough with a crowd of people moving in and out, but even worse for the necessary handheld shots that produce the most effective close-ups. If a cable is tripped on and a feed is lost, so is your edit. Switching an event live is far from error-proof, even for seasoned professionals at highly choreographed events. For a wedding video, the risk vs. reward would be rather high.

Still, live switching can be both exhilarating and a highly efficient use of time. An hour event takes the same hour to shoot and switch. There's no logging of clips, no assembling of bins, and no work after the event beyond duplication. In fact, live switching can be such a time-efficient way to assemble an "edit" that in the old days of linear editing, I'd often switch instead of edit multi-camera shoots after the fact. Admittedly, I never did this for wedding videos, but it worked great for lectures, panel discussions, and even concerts.

Before an event my colleagues and I would point all the cameras at one person who would overtly clap for both a visual and aural sync point. Then, as long as all the cameras kept rolling from that moment on, we'd be set to switch later. We'd put the tapes from the three or four cameras into a stack of identical VTRs, sync them up using the clap point, press "Play" on a remote that controlled them all, and run them all through a switcher. We'd often have to start over a couple times, and hope we didn't make a major gaff well into the real-time switch and have to start over. But at the end of the event we'd have a deliverable product. If we'd had had a way to tweak those realtime-switched "edits" back then, that would have been ideal. But given the expectations of the time, the content was quite adequate.

Today, of course, production values and expectations are much higher. Television-quality graphics, titles, and even effects are not only obligatory to wow clients, but also a way to create a custom look and feel. Editing is expected to be and should be more polished given today's editing software, with program gaps shortened and gaffs removed.

But for event videographers, being more efficient is the true beauty in the new multi-camera editing features of today's nonlinear editing software, particularly Final Cut Pro 5's new implementation, although the multi-cam feature in Avid Xpress has improved, too. With support for multiple formats in the same timeline, Xpress and Liquid Edition offer key advantages to videographers beginning to work with HDV. There's still often extra time needed to acquire or upload footage (unless you work with FireWire drives on the cameras), but doing a real-time "switch" with Final Cut's multi-cam editing feature means you'll have at least a rough cut of a 30-minute ceremony done in 30 minutes. Can you do better than that without logging or previewing the footage from all the cameras first?

Best of all, unlike the old days of rolling decks, you can go to the timeline and make adjustments, move edit points, add titles, add a slow motion effect, correct colors, and everything else that you could do during normal editing. Admittedly, that means extra time, but if you're doing your rough cut while previewing the available footage, you'll be that much closer to basking in the acclaim for your wedding-day edit.

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