Monday, 8 December 2014

How to Finesse Your Videos in 3 Easy Steps

Being an editor is much more than just “cutting”, it’s about storytelling. It’s about the right cut at the right time; it’s about the perfect color temperature, the audio balance, the pace… Here at SWAGGER Media we have a “not-so-secret formula”, one that has proven to be a key part of our workflow. And today, I’m going to share that Swaggeriffic not-so-secret formula with all of you. We like to call it: the finessing process.

Finessing means refining, polishing or handling something with great skills. We believe that finessing is essential, especially in the post-production department, where stories are assembled, enhanced, wrapped up and delivered to our clients.

So, how exactly can you finesse your videos?

1. Work your color magic!

Questions you need to ask yourself: What color temperature/style are you looking for? Are you looking for a natural look (warmer or cooler, depending on the location or intention of your piece), or are you looking for something more complex?

Adobe Premiere has some standard color correction effects that can help you adjust and enhance the basics: brightness, contrast, lighting (shadows, mid-tones & highlights), temperature, saturation, etc. Our go-to effects are usually the Brightness & Contrast, Color Balance and Three Way Color Corrector.

After the basic adjustments are done, we also love to use other color correction plug-ins, especially when we’re searching for further looks and possibilities. FxFactory is one of our favorites suites; it works on Final Cut Pro X, Adobe Premiere, and After Affects.

Here are some of the FxFactory effects we like to work with when finessing color:

-Lumetri Looks: This set of filters includes several Cinematic looks, special Saturation and Desaturation effects, Style looks (Sixties, Seventies…) and various temperature filters that can be easily applied and adjusted to your convenience. They come with a pretty cool sample guide to the right as well. 

-Vignette: We love to use soft and wide vignettes on some of our interview footage, to give it a bit of texture and center the attention on the subject(s).

-Vibrance: This one makes colors pop! But be careful; it needs to be well balanced with your saturation to avoid pixel issues.

-Bleach Bypass: We use it when we’re looking for a grungy, edgy, washed-out style.

Now, when the standard filters and other color plug-ins are not enough, we recommend using a color correction software like DaVinci Ressolve, especially when working with Black Magic footage.

2. Master your audio!

-Level your tracks: Is your volume balanced throughout the entire video? Are there any involuntary inconsistencies, high peaks or very low portions? Are the audio channels panned correctly? Our recommendation is to monitor your audio to make sure it stays between -6 & -12dB, always avoiding unnecessary peaks or low patches.

-Play with your music: What’s the purpose of your music track? Is it your main and only audio track or is it the background piece of a voice over/subject? Do you want to use the entire track or just a fragment? Music is a remarkable tool if you use it in your favor. Listen to it, look for the right beat and time your cuts to it. Play with its levels (turn it up during your intro, outro or climax moment; turn it down when you need it as a subtle background), add a music break or even even re-edit the track if needed.

-Pauses are ok: Intentional silences or pauses are very powerful. Don’t be afraid to pause or fade out your audio if you need to focus on a clip/image, or if you want to go to black and keep it silent for a couple of seconds. Use pauses wisely.

-Avoid rough audio cuts: We tend to get room tones on set so we can insert them in-between audio cuts. This helps us get a smooth and even tone throughout our audio tracks, which can also be improved by adding a quick 5-10 frame crossfade between the cuts. -It’s all about the details!

3. Check your timing!

-VO timing: If your piece has a voice over or narrator, use it as a guide for where to cut. You can cut per sentence, per statement, or just follow the voice over’s pace to accomplish a natural rhythm.

-Music timing: If your project has music, cut your clips to the beat or the many beats of your song. Adding markers to your track or timeline is always helpful.

-Action timing: Forget about the 3 seconds cutting rule. Cut with intent! For example, cutting right in-between the same action from a wide camera to a tight camera is usually very effective (same thing from tight to wide). Cutting in and out of a clip while a camera movement is going on, could make your video flow nicely as well. Also, avoid cutting to a clip before the action or the camera movement starts.

This is it: the 3 basic steps of our finessing process! Don’t forget to also keep an eye on your transitions and effects, if you have any. –But that is material for another blog post!

So tell us, what do you do when you’re finessing your own videos or projects? Is there any tip or recommendation you can add to this finessing guide? Feel free to share your thoughts and comments in the section below or tweet @swagger_media!

¡Hasta la próxima!

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