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How to Plan Ahead for Your DSLR Film Edits

By taking a few simple measures, you can plan your editing ahead of your digital film shoot, so you don’t find yourself in a tough spot later. Shot lists are essential for making sure that you get everything that you need for your need for the movie. That includes a wide range of shots, variations in camera angle, and key objects.

But you can't plan for everything. Maybe when you were scouting the location, you didn’t notice the cobblestone street around the corner or the period-era telephone booth. Even if these are for nothing more than a cutaway, you should take the time and try to include them.

Another dilemma happens when you have a brain freeze while making the plan, and later realize that the shot list favors a certain side or angle. You need to supplement some varying shots to balance the day’s shoot.

Even if you’ve written up your shot list, prop list, and a list for the lists, you’ll still make changes on the fly. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn't keep track of those changes. Think of it as a constant work in progress.

  • Take copious notes: Make sure they match up with the shot info. Write down anything you need to modify.

  • Fill in the blanks: If you notice a shot type that works better than what you planned, or it's something you didn’t consider, by all means add that shot if you have the time.

Do a sound check before you film

Before you press the Record button, you must always make sure the basics are covered. That means to set a white balance, adjust exposure, and re-focus. Equally important is being certain that the audio levels are within range. Quite simply, sound makes the movie and often is that invisible factor for movies that don’t turn out well

Consider the following:

  • Make sure microphones are properly placed: There’s nothing worse than capturing bad audio because the boom operator pointed the dead squirrel in the wrong direction.

  • Monitor with headphones: There’s no substitute to listening to sound from the scene while it’s playing out.

  • Capture a few minutes of background noise: If you do it at each place you shoot, it helps immensely when you edit. The reason is that sometimes, you’ll have some unwanted sounds like a blaring horn at a key part.

    You can alter the audio track in the editing process to include natural sound in place of the noise. Other times, you can add a continuous background track to compensate for scene changes, and the subsequent difference in sound with each one.

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Log each shot before you film

You have a shot list and you're using a clapperboard for each shot. You should also keep a running list of each take and add notes so that you can more easily go through the footage when it comes time for editing.

Manage continuity

You have many challenges when it comes to shooting a linear story in non-linear fashion. When assembling the movie, the consistency between different parts of the same scene is often compromised. Maybe your actress is wearing a watch at the beginning of the scene and not at the end, or her hair is styled differently.

Most feature films have a person dedicated to maintain the integrity of the movie's continuity. The script supervisor pays close attention to the needs of each scene. Because that most likely will be you, you need to add that job to your growing list of titles.

The following can help:

  • Take digital photos of each scene

  • Keep track of camera angles

  • Be sure wardrobe, hairstyle, and props are consistent

Back up your film content

Although digital media cards keep getting bigger, HD video capture fills them up even faster. As a result, you’re going to need a lot of cards to work with. Here are a few tips:

  • Bring more cards than you need: That’s a no-brainer. It makes your life easier.

  • Transfer to a hard drive: It's not a bad idea to do a field transfer of all your content to an external hard drive, but don't erase cards until you have backed up multiple versions.

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