Editing a Feature Film in FCPX
The past two months I was hired to edit a feature film called HEADLOCK – written, directed and starring Mark Polish (Twin Falls Idaho, The Astronaut Farmer, Northfork, For Lovers Only). I was given a 10 week time period and delivered a first assembly edit in 8 weeks thanks to FCPX. New locations were being shot in R3D media while I was trans-coding and syncing dailies. I decided to used REDCINE-X PRO to trans-code to ProRes422 overnights instead of allowing FCPX to handle it internally. I kept a composition book edit log marking notes of each day which came in handy to stay organized! You’ll thank yourself later that you wrote notes down. There were 15 days of scenes to sync. I created an Event for each day and then imported the trans-coded media and external audio in. I created keywords: DAY1_SYNCED and _BROLL etc… As I’m syncing, the new clip created I would then drag onto the respective keyword. I am a visual editor so being able to see my video and audio visually and easily allows this process to be fast in addition to skimming quickly and finding those shots I want and adding to favorites keeps the flow going. I would also add other folders with keywords specific to each location as this movie required cross cutting environments of Mark in similar positions.
As I began to edit the scenes I would create a folder called “Edited Scenes” and then within that created a compound clip called SCENE_91 etc. (Whichever scene was within the corresponding day). Then I would drag this over to the keyword I created so I could always easily locate that scene within the day it was shot. I then began to edit the scenes individually within their own compound clips. Once the scenes were edited to my standard I would create a project and copy them into the project. Since a lot of scenes were still missing I created place holders with the name of the scene and brief summary of what was in the script. Later when Mark and I began to work together we would begin to arrange the scenes in a way that makes sense for the assembly even though we had chunks of the movie that were not in yet. A few days into the edit Mark and I had a rhythm we liked to call “screen jazz editing”. We were essentially screenwriting in the edit room and I was adding sound fx at random and picking the first thing that caught my ear reacting immediately in the moment. Michael Andrews (Donnie Darko, Bridesmaids, Walk Hard) who is doing the music for the film gave us some temp music to fit the mood of what the film was calling for. Some very psychedelic and abstract sounds and drums that I would then interplay with the edit in the characters movements, for example as Tess is hitting Kelley trying to wake him up in the hospital we cut drums to her movements as well as when she is squeezing his hand and communicating via Morse code these sounds were essential to have in the assembly edit as the sound begins to become just as important as the characters. Towards the end of the cut I divided the film into 20 minute Reels and labeled them as R1_DC1_v1 etc. [Reel 1; Directors Cut 1; version1]. I also created two adjustment layers and labeled them SFX and MUSIC just as a visual cue to see my SFX and Music arranged more like track based editing. Dragging them to the length of the cut and then disabling them creates a separating line that won’t render and you can still see.
FCPX worked great and has become an extremely fast editing tool for me. Despite what others say about it, I find it to be incredibly fluid and fast when you use it correctly and keep your system clean and organized. Each update it improves and Richard Taylor’s website http://fcpx.tv/ shows a list of improvements that it could use as well as showing those that Apple has addressed.
No matter what tool you use, great editing comes from the editor creating it.
July 2nd, 2015 Update: Editorial continues with Bryan A. Shaw and myself. VFX Pulls, sound design, Foley, editing.