Monday, 1 July 2013


I saw some discussion about workflow recently that got me thinking. The biggest challenge I've found with fanediting has definitely been understanding the technical concepts underpinning editing, and how they relate to the software used for editing. I have a tendency to try and learn things on the fly, which is fine in some ways but means that I can miss out important aspects that I might have caught if I had been more methodical initially. With that in mind, it seems worthwhile to try and break down my workflow for editing projects. Being new to this, I'm sure experienced video editors like some of the long-standing members at FE would grimace at certain steps, but I'm gradually learning how to make fewer mistakes.

Firstly, I dump the contents of the disc to my drive. For the time being, I'm constrained to editing from DVD, so I usually use DVD Decrypter. I tend to demux the audio and video streams into one file each (m2v for video, ac3 for audio). I'll also dump the entire disc in file mode.

Next, I start the film playing as normal in VLC in windowed mode, and make an initial changelist in a text editor. This won't necessarily be a final changelist - some changes are simple and work as intended, others are more complex and have unintended repercussions.

Depending on the nature of the changelist, I may or may not need to substantial audio editing like removing or replacing music. I open the AC3 file in Audacity and render it down to a 2-channel stereo AC3 file which I'll use for the first pass; if more substantial audio changes are needed I'll come back to Audacity with a more refined audio changelist.

I open up my current editing package - Premiere Elements 10. There are a number of issues with using PrE 10 for editing; primarily its bad handling of 5.1 audio and its limited DVD authoring options - this is why I'll use a stereo file for the first pass. I create a new project and import the M2V and AC3 files I've created. If I know I'll need other assets, I import those as well. After waiting for the files to be conformed, I save the project and put the main audio and video files onto the timeline. I normally find a scene with dialogue to test the alignment of the two files and ensure that they're correctly synchronised.

Now, I'm ready to start working on the changes. If I anticipate having to perform any significant audio editing, I start at the end and work in reverse, because I'll need accurate timestamps all the way through for the audio editing (for example, where I want to use the start and end of a dialogue segment, trimming the middle, and moving the background music so that the cut is non-obvious). The editing process itself is easy - generally a case of inserting a cut at the beginning and end of each segment to remove, and making sure the transitions are smooth.

If I don't expect any substantial audio changes, I'll just work forwards from the start.

For projects involving substantial audio editing, the process is effectively the same in Audacity - open the AC3 file, start at the end and work backwards making the changes as indicated by the precise changelist. Upon completion, I save the project and then export as a 2 channel AC3. I then import this into the PrE project and replace the placeholder audio track, again using a dialogue scene to test for alignment.

Once the changes are made, I export the project as an MP4 for previewing and error-checking. More often than not, I find it a good idea to leave the project alone for a couple of days and then watch the MP4 - it helps to have a little distance where possible. If I'm unsure about the narrative flow at this point, I'd reach out for help with previews from friends or the FE community.

If there are issues of any sort, it's time to go back and iterate through again. If the problems are with the narrative, the original changelist needs to be reviewed. If the issues are with the implementation of the edits (audio or video transitions between segments, or a drop in quality) then it's time to check the source files and each change that has been made.

When that's finished, it's time to export as MP4 and test again.

If the goal is just to make an edit for myself, I can stop here. If I'm hoping to release an edit to the community, there's some more work to do.

Firstly, I decide whether to create a DVD to go with it. Usually if I'm going to bother with a DVD, I try to come up with some extra feature of some sort. I'll import the required source material into the project, and check that the extra feature works as necessary. Then I set the chapter markers, verify that the previews on the chapter screen are displaying correctly, and export the DVD files. Once this process is complete, I create a new project in CD Burner XP, import the DVD files and use them to create an ISO image. It's important to verify that the ISO image plays correctly - I test this first by mounting the ISO as a virtual optical drive, then by burning it to disc and playing that. On occasion I've had corrupted exports (usually due to running system-intensive software at the same time as the video export process); the same is true of DVD burns.

Secondly, I try to come up with some cover & disc art for the project. In my case, I'll tend to have related ideas for my cover/disc art and my DVD menu (because it makes the creative process easier). That's mostly a case of opening the relevant template in Photoshop and working on the design until I'm happy with it. I usually export as TIFF and PDF.

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