I’ve been doing this Navy video production thing for about ten years now. Over that time, I’ve developed a workflow that streamlines my production process. There isn’t anything magical about what I’m doing, but it works, and I’d like to share it with you.
If you’re new to the rate, or if you’re venturing into video/multimedia from a still or print background, I invite you to check out my workflow, and see if you can find something useful.
Here are the basic overall steps of my workflow:
- Create a “roadmap” of soundbites to help guide you through the interview.
- Interview after the event.
- Go through your interview footage and create a phat interview sequence.
- Slice down and rearrange the phat interview until you have a solid skeleton of soundbites that tell your story.
- Lay down your music track.
- Edit in the pictures and photos.
- Mix your audio. Start by leveling out your soundbite track with the other tracks muted. Then, turn on your nat sound and level it. Then turn on your music and level it.
- Adjust the color of your video tracks.
If possible, I usually shoot my interview after the event. I do this for two reasons:
- After witnessing the event, I have a better understanding of the event and the story arc. I know the important parts, the visual parts, and the parts that can be left out without hurting the story.
- I know what shots I’ve got. Even if I haven’t had time to review my imagery, I’ve got a good idea of what I captured on video and in stills.
I take a couple of minutes before an interview and jot down what I call a “roadmap.” My roadmap is a list of soundbites that tell the story of the event. For example, if I was doing a piece on Navy divers working with some Guatemalan navy divers, I would imagine the completed multimedia piece in my head. I would think about the soundbites that would make a complete piece, and I would jot those soundbites down. Here’s a bit of what my roadmap might look like:
- We are in Guatemala working with the FEN (Guatemalan special forces).
- This week we worked on searching signals in the classroom, then we practiced them on dry land, and finally we did them in the water.
- Searching signals are a way for a diver to communicate with the surface by pulling on a line attached to the diver.
- We all took turns diving and “driving” the diver.
- It was a really great engagement, and I’m really impressed by the way they operate.
“I use it as a cheat sheet to guide me through my interview”
Once I have my roadmap jotted down, I use it as a cheat sheet to guide me through my interview. While I’m interviewing, I look at the roadmap and ask questions to elicit the soundbites I need to tell the story. My roadmap usually has more soundbites than I end up using in the final product.
Here is a photo of one of my actual roadmaps, and a link to the video that came from this roadmap.
Here’s the video that I produced from this roadmap:
As you can see, my roadmap is just jotted down in chicken scratch. It doesn’t take a lot of time or effort. For years, I wrote down a meticulous list of questions for every interview; that was too much wasted time/work. I also went through a short phase where I was just freestyling questions with very little preparation; my OCD wouldn’t allow that to continue. The roadmap method I use now is a happy medium that works well for me without taking up too much time or energy.
(On a side note, here’s a link to a post I did on simple interview-lighting techniques: https://milcdigital.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/rembrandt-lighting-video-interview-techniques/ )
At my current command, I work in Adobe Premiere, but my basic workflow is universal to whatever editing platform I’m using.
The “Phat Interview”:
The first step in my editing process is to chop up my interview. I create a new sequence and I chop up my interview into small, manageable soundbites. This serves two purposes:
- I get to listen to my entire interview while I’m chopping it up. This gets me familiar with the soundbites I have to work with.
- I have all my soundbites on one sequence in my timeline, and, because they’re chopped up, I can use my keystrokes (up and down arrows in Premiere) to jump through the interview when I’m looking for a particular soundbite.
I call this my phat interview.
The “Skeleton Interview”:
My next step is to create a skeleton of the story I’m going to tell. This is the most important and most difficult step in my workflow. This is where I create the story’s framework (or skeleton). This is the structure on which the rest of the story is built. It doesn’t matter how many great sequences I shot, if I don’t arrange my soundbites in a way that tells a cohesive story, then I’m not going to have a solid multimedia piece.
For the skeleton, I duplicate my phat interview. I move all my soundbites to the right. This creates an open space on the left-hand side. In that open space I start bringing over the soundbites I’m going to use, and I start arranging them into a story skeleton.
In the example below, the green clips are my skeleton, and the purple clips are the leftover soundbites that I don’t plan on using.
My next step is to lay down some music. For me, music determines the rhythm of the piece. So, I want to have that rhythm there when I start editing video and pictures over the skeleton I’ve created.
By the way, I HATE digging through production music to find the perfect song. If I find a piece of music that’s cool, but isn’t right for the for the particular multimedia I’m working on, I will download it anyway. I’ve been doing that for about a year, and I’ve created a little library of quality tunes. My library is the first place I look before I resort to searching online.
“The Navy currently has an account with a music library called Killer Tracks”
The Navy currently has an account with a music library called Killer Tracks. If your command doesn’t have access to it, ask your chain of command to get in touch with the folks at Navy Visual News in the Pentagon, or the Navy Production department at the Defense Media Activity. Someone at one of those places will be able to point you in the right direction toward getting access to some music.
The Fun Part:
Editing video and photos over the interview is my favorite part of the process. Beyond the basics of sequencing, matching action, and having your pictures match what your soundbites are saying, I don’t really have any tips for this part.
Good or bad audio will separate the pros from the chumps. There are a million ways to get an acceptable audio mix. Here are the steps that I follow:
- I turn off (mute) all my audio tracks except for my soundbites (which is usually my “Audio 1”)
- I set the levels for my soundbites. I go through each of the soundbite clips and make sure the levels stay between -12 and -6. These numbers aren’t written in stone, but I’ve found that if the soundbites peak at -6, it gives me enough room to work with once I turn the nat sound and the music tracks back on.
- After I’ve leveled the soundbites, I turn on the nat sound track (the audio from the b-roll video). I leave my soundbites on, too. I go through every clip making sure the nat sound isn’t overpowering the soundbites. I am also raising the nat sound during spots where there are no soundbites. I’m doing this step by ear, but I’m making sure the audio levels don’t peak out into the red.
- Next I turn on the music and follow the same steps: make sure it’s not overpowering the soundbites, make sure the audio levels aren’t peaking in the red, raising the music levels where it makes sense to do so.
The last major step in my workflow is enhancing the color of my video. This can be memory intensive and require a lot of rendering. I do this step last so I don’t have to re-render my color effects a million times while I’m editing the video.
I don’t have a set technique for color grading. I’m always trying new things. Sometimes I’m drastic with it; sometimes I’m subtle with it. I just went on a little kick where I was working in contrasty black and white.
“Shout out to NPASE East’s MC3 Andrew Schneider for turning me on to Premier’s RGB Curves”
Right now, I’m using RGB Curves and Color Balance (HLS) to get a slightly over saturated and contrasty look. Both of these effects are found in the “Color Correction” section of Premiere’s video effects. Shout out to NPASE East’s MC3 Andrew Schneider for turning me on to Premier’s RGB Curves.
The basic adjustments I’m into right now are:
- Creating a slight “S” curve on the Master channel of the RGB Curves
- Bumping up the Saturation a bit in the Color Balance (HLS)
NOTE: I’m having a hard time using this technique to get a consistent look in my underwater shots.
Shooting is a whole topic by itself, but I just want to make two quick points here:
- A. B. S. Always Be Shooting. (https://milcdigital.wordpress.com/2014/07/13/putting-in-work-on-deployment/)
- You’ve got to be comfortable shooting stills and video (and writing print stories, and creating graphics.) We are no longer “still guys” or “video guys.” In my experience, the customer is not impressed by “focused excellence.” The customers expect an MC to be all things media.
Once again, there is nothing magical about this workflow, but it works for me, so maybe parts of it can work for you. Thanks for reading, and, as always, please feel free to contact me on facebook or email.