I shot using a tape based format, so it was fairly easy for me to keep track of the footage. Technology changes quickly, and I’m sure that there are efficient ways to travel with and back up footage on camera hard drives. (Just make sure that the camera doesn’t get stolen!)
I hear that people are trying different methods of capturing images that include streaming video back to the States, but be cautious when relying on methods that rely on someone else’ technology when traveling to other countries. Different countries also have different TV (NTSC, PAL, SECAM) as well as electrical standards. Also keep in mind that the electrical system in many countries can shut down unexpectedly, so it is important to have back-up systems, not only flashlights but also camera batteries and power for anything else that you need.
If you’re doing a project by yourself, try not to be a flashing billboard in another country. (My purse was stolen at one point in my travels. A few days were taken to go to the embassy, rebook my flight, cancel credit cards, get another issued and sent to the next destination – it’s much better to be smart and blend in.) Taking a huge camera around in a country where the camera costs more than a year’s worth of food might not be the smartest thing to consistently do. You might be able to pull it off, but I was really glad that I had a small camera.
Regardless of what method you use, you or someone will need to log all of the footage. It’s good to have a system of labeling that makes sense. Having a good system will save time, as well as your sanity. It will minimize frustration throughout the whole process, especially at the end of post when you’re looking for that one shot.
Once the footage was inside the timeline, I transcribed all of it. Some people can edit films without transcribing, but I can’t. I print it out then take crayons (color coding – see left) and scissors to it, then tape it back together in a different order in attempt to organize the clips into a more coherent film. (I probably did this at least 15 times. Each time I thought to myself, “Yes! I’ve finally done it this time.”)
It’s important to learn the basic intricacies of audio and audio clean up. If there’s wind hitting the mic, learn how to get rid of the ultra low frequencies and keyframe it out. I shot in many different conditions and locations, so audio cleanup took a lot of work. Even though there are still noticeable differences between clips, it’s much better. Once it starts screening in different venues, how your film looks and sounds is out of your control. Try to make your audio as clean as possible. That said, know that both audio and color correction are easy ways to really mess up a film near the end of post. If audio is over cleaned, it will sound metallic. Then the original clip needs to be found, opened and the process needs to starts over again.
Considering Democracy was heavily researched and lists its resources at the end of the film. This is not typical of a documentary, but since there is sometimes resistance or disbelief toward some of the information in the film, I included it. I checked and cross referenced resources within both nongovernmental and governmental informational organizations. (Because I’ve been in post for such a long time, I’ve updated the statistics a few times over the years and have found the proportions in the statistics to have largely stayed the same, but the differences have become greater. For example, the amount that Americans pay for healthcare has stayed way ahead of all the other nations, but the amount that we pay has increased at a greater rate than the other nations. Perhaps it’s time to have serious conversation about these issues!)
What I used
I was based in the Adobe world of editing and worked between primarily Premiere for video editing, Photoshop and Audition for audio cleanup and creation. I really appreciate the digital age and its ability to harness productivity. For example, after I researched and found statistics, the information was put into a spreadsheet; the graphs were created, then remade in the title window, then animated with transitions.