View Full Version : Editing another filmmaker's bad footage

Steve Olander
08-05-2016, 10:44 PM
I was asked to help shoot a short for an Actor (He wrote and directed the film) I've worked with before (good guy) but I just didn't have the time at the time he was doing it so they had to go with someone else. The footage was then edited by an editor in California. We thought with a California editor it would be done by a serious editor who knew what he was doing.

The finished film was posted for others in the project to see, and the link was also sent to me. The video was bad. It was.....bad out loud. Not because of the story or the acting, but because of bad audio, bad lighting, bad white balance, bad framing, and bad camera placement. The 180 degree rule was violated without being done by an accepted exception.

....it was just not good. Oddly, the filmmaker who shot it all appears slightly older than me (I am 52) and you would think he would have a handle on things, but this did not hold true.

They then asked me if I would PLEASE edit it for them. Well, some things changed for me and I felt I had the time. Also, I am learning FCPX and needed a project to learn the program on, and this film is about 12 to 15 minutes long so that would be good for me.

I am by no means a premiere filmmaker, though I am proud of what I've done so far, and what I can do now, but I didn't think people were getting along shooting video like this. I thought everyone knew to unplug refrigerators and other appliances that make noise, and not to leave the mic on the camera across the room from the actors.

The whole thing was shot day-for-night. I told them when they did this to be sure not to get the sky in the shot, but they did. Also, you can see the shadow of the boom mic with the dead cat on it in a couple shots, even on an Actor's back!!

So now I am going to make this into the best film it can be with what is there.

The finished video did not have the bad white balance corrected by the editor so I put together the shots for the first scene that I felt worked well and corrected this. All the footage had a green cast over it. Now it looks right. Also, I did a lot of cropping and panning to give the scenes movement because it was shot with the cameras on tripods and then never touched. There is zero camera movement in the footage, so I had to make it.

The editor just added the "day-for-night" effect to the footage and then stopped. Nothing was done to make it look realistic. I have 6 and 8 layers to make a couple outdoor shots look like they were really shot at night. My compositions include making a porch light that I lit and put a glow on the house, a cast on part of the house from a street light, light from inside the house in a window, and the moonlight on the rest of the house where the street light does not reach. I also had to mask out part of the lawn because this shot was done at high noon with bright sunlight and the lawn was just too bright and washed out.

So far I have about 1:40 edited with 16 hours into it to fix a number of issues. There are still more, and some sound effects to be added to that footage.

Granted, part of that time was also learning where things are in FCPX and how to use them (I've used other editing programs). Finding takes to use and put together into an entertaining film is also not easy with the footage I have.

I've only done one big project so far, and I didn't think I had learned enough to be at the top of the game, and I'm not, but MAN! I can't believe there are people like this out there who don't know that they don't know about filmmaking, and they're making films!!!

Number one (and this has been in every facet of my life), know when you don't know. It's OK not to know. You can't know everything. When you know that you don't know, you can learn about it, and listen to those who do know to learn more, but first you have to be aware that you don't know.


Anonymous Filmmaker
08-06-2016, 03:16 AM
Great post. This is one of the best exercises to do when you're learning editing.

Steve Olander
08-06-2016, 06:15 AM
Thanks. Im actually learning Final Cut Pro X now. I've edited for 7 years. I've used Pinnacle Movie Studio 10, Sony Vegas Movie Studio Production Suite 10, Sony Vegas Pro 10, and now I am learning FCPX.

That said, we will all learn about editing until we die. All this filmmaking stuff is a constant learning process, and improving. This is the first time I've edited someone else's footage for a film. I've edited an industrial video for a major refuse collection and recycling company but that was done to their outline/script and was not a fictional film.


Anonymous Filmmaker
08-06-2016, 07:24 AM
Thanks. Im actually learning Final Cut Pro X now. I've edited for 7 years. I've used Pinnacle Movie Studio 10, Sony Vegas Movie Studio Production Suite 10, Sony Vegas Pro 10, and now I am learning FCPX.

That said, we will all learn about editing until we die. All this filmmaking stuff is a constant learning process, and improving. This is the first time I've edited someone else's footage for a film. I've edited an industrial video for a major refuse collection and recycling company but that was done to their outline/script and was not a fictional film.

Good for you! That is very true.

Walter B
08-06-2016, 07:57 AM
"To know you are really good at something requires the same skill as to be really good at that thing.
The opposite is also true: people who have no idea of what they are doing, often have no idea that they have no idea of they are doing.
This explains a great deal of life."

- John Cleese on creativity

In Dutch we have a phrase that roughly translates to 'unconsciencely unable', meaning that some people are not aware of their lack of skill/talent.

What you describe is also why I always say that people should make more than 1 short before starting on a feature, because they often still have too many blindspots.

Good luck!

Mick Scarborough
08-06-2016, 04:19 PM
Just remember in the end you can only do so much to a poorly shot film. So cheer and show pride in what you did to improve the film and dont beat yourself up for things you couldnt fix. Technology can only do so much.

08-07-2016, 01:10 PM
I had a similar experience myself. I made a short film and was looking for a colorist. I hired one based on her portfolio of other projects that looked like they were graded well, and then when she did mine, the color was not good at all, and worse than before in some shots. You can also see mismatched here and there, and the color just looked faded, like there wasn't enough contrast. I felt it was a waste of money, but perhaps she did her best, with my instructions and it was not her fault maybe. Or maybe she didn't bother to do a good job, not sure.

So I learned a lot of grading myself over a few months, and just graded the short myself. I asked others' opinions and they all said that my grade was much better than hers. So I feel if I can wear an additional hat myself to save money, than I will. Not sure if this is good advice, or not, just going by how I like to learn to resolve those problems as well.

Steve Olander
08-07-2016, 06:12 PM
Thanks everyone.

Walter B, I believe it is because I have always known when I don't know something (with few exceptions, no one's perfect) that I have been able to admit to myself that I needed to learn something, and that I was not capable of doing it yet. Heck, when I was 18 I never worked on a car but I changed an engine before ever changing an alternator. I knew I didn't know how to do it, so I went to the library and got a Chilton's manual (repair manual) for my car and copied the page after reading it a few times, talked to a couple people who had done it, and then I did it myself. But, you've got to know you don't know.

Yes, no one should start filmmaking with a feature. There is so much to learn through experience.

Mick, I am giving myself that leeway. I have told people, this is never going to be a really good film (again, not because of story or performance) but it will be multiple times BETTER than it was edited originally.

ironpony, I remember when you went through that. That is why I have chosen to learn every facet of filmmaking myself. No one cares about what you are doing more than you. Because of that, I know I have to do as much myself as possible, because no one is going to care about it as much as me.

I have learned there are some things I am better at than others. Also, I cannot do it all at once, like on a shoot, though I've tried. It really is not fun. Directing, lighting, sound, camera, moving everything, etc....... whooo!!!!

Tonight I was working on a new scene, and will work on it some more before going to bed. With some clever timing between cuts, and careful shot selection, it should be pretty presentable.


Steve Olander
08-23-2016, 02:06 PM
Well, I have about 4 1/2 minutes edited now. I saw something in the footage I could not believe. Between takes cameras were left running so I got some insight into how the project was shot.

In a bar scene, shot in a bar, the DOP put a shotgun mic behind the bar, practically right on top of a refrigerator. As mentioned, the refrigerator was not unplugged. One of the actors asked about background noise (I believe trying to clue in the DOP about all the refrigerator noise from several refrigerators). The DOP picked up the mic, removed the foam windscreen and put on a dead cat, and told the actor the dead cat would knock down some of the background noise.

I hope no one here believes that. A dead cat (fuzzy windscreen) will only help eliminate wind noise, not refrigerator hum. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I also did not see anyone wearing headphones to monitor what kind of sound they were recording.

The good news is, FCPX has a really good background noise and hum reducer. It could not handle a lot of the shots (couldn't use them because of noise) but I was able to save the scene and put something respectable together.


08-23-2016, 03:24 PM
Refrigerators are such a common problem that can be prevented if people just pay attention to what they're doing.

I took a class on the movies of John Cassavetes, and remember reading that he and his wife (Gena Rowlands) shot so many movies in their own house that there was always a big sign on their fridge reminding people to plug it back in after they finished shooting.

Steve Olander
08-23-2016, 04:56 PM
Mara, I believe it may be because the sound of a refrigerator is such a regular part of our lives that we tune it out and don't think of it. But in this case it was several commercial refrigerators. They don't sound like the one we have at home.

I know when I set up my boom mic and listen to the mic before turning over control of audio to someone else I listen intently to hear what is going to mess up the sound. I am talking about tiny sounds. What's the weak buzz? It's a compact fluorescent bulb on it's way out. Wait.....I hear the coffee maker in the kitchen. Someone watching is swaying a little bit, causing a floor board to creak. Someone is motioning their arms and their long sleeves are making noise rubbing on their torso.

I am catching all these things, and this guy did not suspect 2 or 3 commercial refrigerators needed to be unplugged?

I agree, the hardest part about dealing with refrigerators on set..........is remembering to plug them back in!!


Steve Olander
10-16-2016, 06:03 PM
Finished!!! Well, it ended up being 8 minutes long and I have 30 hours of editing into it to fix it. Some of that time was also learning my way around FCPX, which I learned a lot about.

There were a number of places in the noisy bar scene (refrigerator noise) where I had to use dialogue from other angles, slice it up, time it right, and clean it up as well. The mic for that audio was on the camera rather than on the refrigerator. FCPX was able to clean that up quite well. On top of that, adding the ambient crowd noise and music helped to cover up anything that was left over.

Luckily I love a challenge, and also I needed something to learn FCPX on, otherwise I would not have bothered with this. The acting is good, and though very topical, the story is pretty well done. It just would have been best if someone else could have shot it. Everyone seemed pretty pleased with the results, and that makes me feel good.


02-12-2017, 02:40 PM
I had a similar experience and am still living it. I had an old friend look me up on Facebook after we'd lost track of each other for about 18 years. He'd just directed a feature and didn't like editing, so he asked me to read the script for possible interest in the project. The script was terrible. Though we both live near-- and have worked in--the Hollywood system (we met in the cutting room on NightMare on Elm street part 5)--and there's a screenwriter on every corner, he opted to have an actress friend of his with no writing experience write the script based on his plot. Were I in the picture at that stage, I would have seriously tackled that script and whipped it into shape. Anyway, the script was pretty bad--and to top it off, it was part 1 of a 3-feature trilogy. Now, this was seriously low-budget--I try to get folks with no budget to do short films first--but a 3-feature trilogy is just waaa-aay too much to bite off. Years later, the other parts are still never shot--so all he has is part of a story. Anyway, the footage was pretty decent, as I dug through it. He recorded double-system audio (man, that term dates me), so I had to sync the better audio to the video to discover they used a slate but had to numbers on the slate…which made syncing the audio kind of a crapshoot. Lots of false starts on both the video and audio so finding the matching audio without numbers was a nightmare. And as I looked through it, I could see no transitions from scene to scene, no match cuts, no shooting style of any kind. There was no design to it. And there were a few scenes with a computer monitor supposedly on, with graphics to be laid in later. So what does he do here--moves the camera back and forth during the scene which lasts a full 4 minutes. No prep--no planning on how that FX would be done later. I know how to do it--and it's time-consuming, but there was no budget for it…so the graphic remains missing. And there scenes where one half of a phone conversation was shot--but not the other side. And missing entire scenes. Getting this thing to cut together was a challenge--a sometimes fun one, but I knew when we were done we'd have only part of a story--with some pieces missing from even that part. One scene I had to fabricate entirely--and when we reviewed the cut he asked if I had more footage from that "scene." I explained there is no footage for that scene--that I made it up completely from bits and pieces of other scenes. 4 years later and it's still not done--not even sure how to proceed without the rest of the story. Just another well-intentioned feature film that no one will see.

02-12-2017, 07:28 PM
That's bad to hear.

I was wondering, why is a double audio system dated to you? I have used it before, am I using a dated system?