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How to get over editing procrastination?


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I expect that it's a common problem, but how do you get over the 'hump' of starting editing a new project?

My most recent project is a family holiday during which I shot 1100+ clips over about a 10 day period, and I'm now procrastinating on editing it.

My process is normally:

  1. review each clip and pull any good moments onto a timeline to create an assembly
  2. if the chronological order I pulled them in isn't quite right I'll group sections together and arrange them in chunks
  3. then I review the clips rating them into a few groups - normally "great people shots" "good people shots" "great non-people shots" "good misc" and "didn't make the cut"
  4. then cull all the "didn't make the cut" ones and start assembling little stories (sequences within locations)
  5. then I find music
  6. then I start to edit to the music and iteratively cut more and more out until I've got a tight end result

The challenge I have is that step 1 takes forever and it's often quite demotivating finding that I missed shots, camera wouldn't focus, things I thought I had I don't, mistakes, etc.  Once I get the music in place it becomes enjoyable, but before that it's just a chore.

I've read that instead of the above where you touch every clip, some multiple times, that you just pull in the great clips and go from there, but I've found that often clips that aren't great are needed to complete sequences etc, and constantly playing "where was that clip I saw yesterday" doesn't sound like much fun either.

I don't know what the answer is, but maybe there's a way to think about it that helps?  I suspect my process is OK, I just need to change my perspective to make the process more enjoyable, such that I'll actually do it.  I love to shoot way more than editing, so I have dozens of projects sitting unedited on HDD..  

thanks :)

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For holiday videos I separate all the clips into folders per day. Then put that whole folder on a timeline and scrub through it. I cut out anything that's definitely not going to make the cut and leave the rest in the timeline, trimming out the nice bits of each shot. Sometimes I close all the gaps, sometimes not. Now I have a sequence with only usable material. I duplicate that and have a sequence to actually work in, creating your stories.

This way, you have the fun actual editing part laid out, and if you need a clip you saw yesterday, you can scrub through the rushes timeline of the day to find it, and bring it back into the main sequence. To take it one step further, you could also label clips green for 'great', orange for 'possible' and red for 'hopefully not, but if I really need it'. Then you can just skip to the orange bits to find those cutaways or whatever.

I imagine for the most part each day is it's own story, barring a few situations. So you can even just edit the days as they come to breakup the spotting process a little.

Also, what might help is not thinking that your just spotting your footage, but look at it more critically and think how you could have improved each shot, even the good ones. Then it becomes an important part of making the next one even better, which might make it a little easier this time around haha.

Another great way I've seen, for premiere users at least, is automating to sequence. It's absolutely amazing, although I guess can take the fun out of the editing to music? 

(shame about the shitty clickbait title)


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I have the same issue as the OP.. especially with those personal/family projects where there is no deadline, it's super easy to keep putting it off.  Here are a few things I've found have helped me.  Also, is this the most first-world problem or what?

General life / process stuff:

  • Find the music first and let it guide you.  Usually you have an idea of the style of the video, and the tempo or mood you shot for, so instead of grinding through 10 days worth of clips it can be more fun to go trawling through some really cool music listening for the piece that works best.  It does help to have a few clips to put up against the music candidates, but it's usually pretty quick to find a few good shots for that.  Once you have the music (or a few top candidates) it can help clarify the tempo and pacing and sometimes certain sequences will start to take shape in your mind (e.g. an cool intro or a dramatic crescendo).  The music can then act as a good motivator for starting to work through the clips because you're thinking about how the moments you're finding can fit into the different musical sections.
  • Temporarily suspend some other personal projects/hobbies.  All the other stuff in our lives can easily get in the way of starting a big project like this.  Sometimes you need to give yourself a bit more breathing room.  For example right now I'm taking a 2-week hiatus from guitar practice so I can get enough time to work on a personal vacation video project.

Reviewing clips:

  • Use markers in the clips to save the good moments.  You mention reviewing clips and pulling any good moments directly on the timeline.  I used to do this too but it's much faster to scrub through a clip and just mark the good in and out (with hotkeys of course) instead of trimming it on the timeline.  It also gives you a permanent record of the good moments (saved in the marker data) instead of depending on that trimmed clip remaining on the timeline as the record of that moment.  Also doesn't clutter up your timeline until you're ready to actually edit.
  • Scrub through clips at high speed.  Probably goes without saying, but there's no need to watch every clip from start to finish at regular speed.  Most clips only have 1 or 2 good moments and you can usually spot them while scrubbing.  Scrubbing is also better than skipping ahead as you'll see quick moments go by that could work.  When you spot a good moment, scrub back a bit and then watch just that moment at full speed.  Then mark the in and out, as above.
  • Make sure you can scrub clips smoothly.  If your camera source files don't scrub smoothly (like my Sony A9's X-AVCS h264 files, ungh) then make some proxies to be able to scrub quickly (I use 1080p Cineform).  This will also speed up the editing process as it will remove all those little micro-delays when you re-position the play head or skip back a few seconds or do some scrubbing through the timeline.  I waited way too long before doing proxies but they are totally worth it and very low-hassle nowadays (e.g. Premiere's ingest tool, only took me a few minutes to find the encoding settings and start encoding them).
  • Remove useless or very low-value clips from the project.  Again probably goes without saying but sometimes we review a clip there's nothing good there, but we're afraid of losing anything so we leave it there cluttering up the project.  If you know there's nothing there then just remove it from the project as it will speed up the rest of the process and with over 1100 clips you'll almost certainly have more than you need.



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10 hours ago, kye said:

I don't know what the answer is, but maybe there's a way to think about it that helps?  I suspect my process is OK, I just need to change my perspective to make the process more enjoyable, such that I'll actually do it.  I love to shoot way more than editing, so I have dozens of projects sitting unedited on HDD..  

Can't say I am not in the same boat as you. I consider your steps the "brute force" method which many times we just have to go through. 

What I find helps immensely is having an idea of the end result before you even shoot it. Makes both shooting and editing more fun/easier/faster. 

If you already got the footage, instead of looking at the footage to determine what moments you need to include, try to mentally recollect moments of the event. Our imagination is really good at making good stories but most often external information restricts it. 

Music can be inspirational as well. Many times I hear a song my imagination runs wild and all the just shots fall in place. 

Hope it helps. 

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If I'm procrastinating on an edit I done of two things:

1. I don't think about the whole project and just edit the part I know is good. You have to have at least a couple shots in mind where you thought "Wow this is a great shot."  Find those and start building around those clips. That's usually enough to keep me going on a project.

2. Alternatively, I start with the part I know will be most problematic. Once I have that done and see that it took me less time than I thought, it's easier to keep going on the parts that don't have problems.

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Great thread. I may be just stating the obvious here but one of the main issues here sounds like it could be about 'motivation' - though I also certainly appreciate the contributions on individual editing processes.
Towards the motivation aspect, I think I'm not alone in suggesting that one might need to imagine getting the work up and off to an audience that can appreciate what you've put together, a drink and a laugh, the human side of presentation.

I'm in the edit on a  huge (18,000+ assets) long form doc shot across many years... often I create little vignettes and pass them along to a few friends to see if and how they respond... it serves as a bit of a driver to keep me pushing especially since there is so very little financial remuneration in doc film.

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1,100 clips is a LOT of clips.

Maybe first start with a piece of paper and a pencil. sit down with your favorite beverage and just write down what you remember from the vacation as being great moments.

Then maybe try to search for those particular clips that have those great moments.

Then of course you will want some B roll.

A wise man once said, if you don't have a destination, then all the roads are the right road. So I think working backwards like this might be a good start.

I know myself that I wouldn't be able to just start scrubbing through 1,100 clips and saying, "Is this a good clip or not?" I would just give up.

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Yeah that sounds like a lot of footage. I understand that you don’t want to miss anything but with that many clips, it seems like you may be missing out on your holiday. Plus, how long are the videos you make from the clips?

I think what Mark suggested is a good idea for this project but for future projects you may want to map out your day every morning with shots you will need to tell the story. 

For instance, if you’re going to Disney World, you know you’ll want that wide iconic shot of the Castle. If you know what part of the park you’ll be spending your time in that day, you’ll also know what rides and attractions are planned. That alone would give you a rough shot list. Get the shots that will frame the story and some impromptu shots while the action is unfolding and grab a beer in Germany at Epcot Center.

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The basic process is always the same with 4 steps:

1. Shooting
2. Review and sorting (remove the bad stuff, trim each clip to keep the usable part, put markers and group the sorted clips by topic/date/location/subject/quality based on your need)
3. Editing (create a story, make it fit with the music, etc.)
4. Effects and grading

I understand that you struggle during the "Review and sorting" step which can be very boring especially on a big project. However, it really helps if you plan ahead before recording the first clip. Personally I always have a general idea of what I want to create, I usually pick a few songs or stories in my head and then start shooting accordingly instead of shooting everything randomly because then you end up with a lot of footage but still no idea of what you can do with it. That's demoralizing (gosh, I have millions clips to sort but I still don't know what I to do with it). Early planning helps to shoot less and be motivated to finish your project because you have a vision and a plan. Perhaps you should think about your creative process.

For my latest video (music video of Buenos Aires with hyperlapse and aerial video) I did a lot of research about the city before going there, I created a storyboard, listed the shots I wanted in order of priority and picked a song. I ended up with close to 8 hours of footage to create a 5 minutes video, but at least I knew what I wanted. The "Review and sorting" phase was done over two weeks one or two hours at the time maximum because it's boring as hell (I listen music or podcast at the same time). Then it was just a matter of fitting the best footage in the timeline with markers based on the music and storyboard.

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Procrastination is your body telling you you need a break. Seriously, take the day off, force yourself to go enjoy something else guilt free. But when you come back to it you just need to force yourself to focus on the task. But break each task down to manageable chunks and give yourself small breaks in between. Your creative energy is finite and needs to be replenished, managing that is as important to your work as the work itself. 

I generally put everything on a timeline on track one and group everything by what it is. Then I quickly scrub through each group, roughly cut out the stuff that looks good, and move the good stuff to track two. Then I duplicate that timeline, ripple delete all the track one stuff, and again scrub through the selects to pull out the good clips. Once I do that I should have gone through all the footage twice, and I should have an idea of what I've shot and how it can go together. From there if I can see a clear path I'll put a very very very rough assembly together, right up until I run into an obstacle -- then I switch gears and go find music. At every turn when I hit a roadblock I change direction and do something else, because at least for me I find that if I hit too many roadblocks it completely drains my motivation and I fall into a rut. I make it a priority to manage my motivation, and in the long run it makes me more efficient.

Of course, ymmv, some might read this as silly touchy feely self help crap, but it works for me!

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19 hours ago, mercer said:

I understand that you don’t want to miss anything but with that many clips, it seems like you may be missing out on your holiday.

Yeah, be careful not to put the filming before the moment itself! 

I casually filmed my brother's wedding yesterday, and I had to sometimes quite consciously *NOT* be focused on the filming itself. Rather instead just be in the moment of enjoying and soaking in what is happening. Who cares if the framing or focus is a bit off? Never mind. I'm not there for the filming, I'm there for the wedding itself! :-) 

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Thanks everyone, it's great to get such a helpful mixture of technical and more philosophical tips.

As @OliKMIA says, it's the creative process, and I am definitely still working it out for myself but I have got a lot of elements down.
I shoot a lot, and @mercer and @IronFilm are right that it shouldn't get in the way of the trip, but for me the logic is actually a bit different.  I like shooting, the challenge of it, the way that it forces you to actively look, rather than just passively drift through situations.  I also use photography if I'm a bit bored too as it's fun to try and challenge yourself about how to have as much variety in your B-roll for example, which is great if you're in-transit between locations.  Also, I think I shoot a lot of clips because I want to enjoy my holiday and so in a way I'm shooting while thinking about my holiday instead of shooting trying to think about the final edit.  I'm also shooting in-case something happens in much the same way as a street photographer would find a background and then frame and pre-focus and just wait for someone to walk through the scene, but in video you need to be rolling if you want the whole shot.  It makes me far less efficient, but in a sense I'm trading off enjoyment of the holiday vs work in the edit suite.  
Also, I like to be spontaneous and let the holiday dictate what I shoot, rather than pre-visualising or planning as @mercer and @Don Kotlos mentioned and then making the holiday fit more into the shooting.  I also don't like to direct, so these trips are mostly fly-on-the-wall (or massive-camera-on-the-wall as the case may be!)  On this whole trip I might have asked someone to stand somewhere or to look at the camera only a handful of times.  The last thing a family holiday needs is a bossy photographer ordering everyone about all the time :)

I think I've got the technical aspects of editing that @tellure mentioned mostly in place, I use markers, scrub through longer footage, use an editing codec (720p Prores Proxy proxy files are smooth as silk on my MBP), and removing useless clips.

I got this editing process from Kraig Adams at Wedding Film School who did a BTS of his whole editing process (10 x 1hr YT videos from nothing to finished films) and what I liked about it is that you don't spend time looking at 'bad' clips again and again, but @Don Kotlos is absolutely right about it being the "brute force" method, and that's definitely what it feels like!!
The other approach that @NX1user and @Mark Romero 2 mention is that instead of starting with everything and deliberately taking out the bad stuff to only pull in the good stuff.  This makes total sense considering that only a small percentage of the footage makes the final cut.  The challenge I have with this approach is that I think I will start off finding some good footage that suggests a particular style of edit but then later on I'll find more footage that suggests a different style of edit, and now I've reviewed a bunch of shots with one style in mind but am now going in a different direction and so many decisions were made incorrectly.  I think this would work well for videos that are pretty straight-forward, or for people who can hold a lot of information in their heads and can remember what footage there was and kind of hold multiple edits in their head as they're working.  This is absolutely not me!!

Breaking it down into bits as @Anaconda_ says is a good idea, and publishing them to keep up motivation is also a good idea - thanks @User.  I'm still not sure if I'll end up with just one final video or multiples.  In terms of the final output I'm also undecided.  I've previously condensed week trips into sub-5 minute videos, but this one had a lot more locations and activities.  I've thrashed this out with a couple of friends and we came to the conclusion that the length is irrelevant as long as it stays interesting - I've seen a 25 minute home movie from a 5 week trip through Europe that stayed interesting, so it can be done for home videos, plus there's the "super vlog" format that seems to work really well too.
Getting more understanding about what my audience wants would be good.  Unfortunately it's mostly relatives and friends that are in other cities / timezones and aren't up for critiquing my film skills so that is likely to be limited.

Music is important too, but I don't think that starting with it would work for me.  I think my editing process is more 'emergent' where my review of the footage (however tedious that is) gives me a sense of what happened and the vibe, then I can get a bit of a high-level view, which obviously you can't from 1100 clips, and then I bring the music in, and then the structure comes from that, and then the clips kind of conform to the music.  It's not a straight relationship between the clips and the music.

Perhaps the most crucial part of the whole picture is motivation and creative energy.  As @tellure and @jhnkng suggest, it's limited and needs to be managed.
I know that procrastinating is a sign to manage my energy - unfortunately I feel half-way to burn out just living normal life (full-on kids, full-on job, full-on family, etc etc) and I will look back on a month gone by and be annoyed that I didn't do any real video stuff (camera tests don't count!) but the truth is that I was just tired for the whole time.  I'm trying to improve other parts of my life but it's slow going and I want to still be able to share some of these moments.

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