I’ve separated this step from editing because it always takes a lot of time, and is more like pre-editing. In production houses, assistant editors are employed to do this role because it takes so much time. They can even filter out all the excess footage so that the shots are ready and prepped for the editor to choose which shots to use. But it’s also a far more technical step than the editing.
So what do you need to know? Mainly I just want to warn you that it can take a lot of time, and I think usually we don’t consider this when we try to work out how long the ‘editing process’ will take. Even if you don’t have any problems, you’ve still got to factor in that importing your footage will take a lot of time, and this will vary depending on your camera and computer.
The other thing is that there are a lot of things that can go wrong in this step, especially if you don’t notice them while you’re importing, such that they cause a lot of heart ache and wasted time later on. The reason why problems arise so easily is because of all the different things your trying to get to work together: hardware, software, format, and compression. So besides factoring in time for the actual import, it’s worth acknowledging that you will probably spend some time problem-solving in this step. I’ll walk you through a few common problems, though chances are your problem (if you have one now) won’t exactly fit any of them, and the best thing to do is going to be to jump on a search engine and find some forums where people have experienced the same thing. Often these can be found in relation to the software you are using. Back to the problems…
1) My camera doesn’t seem to talk to my computer
Your problem is a hard one, because it could be to do with any of your equipment: camera, computer, software. Check first of all that your camera is on in the play mode. Then check how you’ve connected it to the computer, making sure your computer and software can accept that method of transfer (usb is usually a safe bet). Check your software is open and that you have checked all instructions for how to import footage from your type of camera. For hard-disk and sd card cameras, you need to transfer the footage files, often with some sort of transcoding (which the software should do). For tape cameras, you need to log and capture the footage in real time. If you’re still struggling, start by searching online for help with importing with your software. If that doesn’t help, search online for your camera model as well as the software your using to see if anyone has had the same problems or if the camera is compatible with your software.
2) My footage, once on the computer, seems out of sync with its audio
This (or something similar) will usually occur because the import settings that you have selected (or on default) in your software do not match the settings that the camera exports in or the footage files’ settings. This is the case on a number of camcorders – they can record at a higher audio rate than what they export at. Weird I know. But you’ve got it now, so if you want a way around it, you’re going to need to match the import settings to whatever your camera output is. If that doesn’t work, it’s time to search online to see if anyone has had the same problem with a similar setup.
3) My footage needs rendering all the time in my editor
This will be the case if your import settings for your footage do not match the settings for your editing project in your software. If you can’t change the settings for your project (eg. if you already are using other footage in the project), it may be worth re-importing your footage at the same settings as the project, simply to save rendering time. If it is a new project, you might be able to change the settings of the project to match your footage. You can leave your final format to exporting if you need it in a different one. Having the raw footage so that you don’t need to render it will save you a lot of time when editing.
4) How did my hard-disk fill up so quickly? And why did my computer get so slow?
Video footage takes up a lot of space. Think about it – for PAL HD footage, every second of footage is 25 high resolution photographs. So, if you’ve got 20 minutes of footage, you’re effectively storing 30,000 photos. That takes up a lot of space. And the higher the compression quality on import, the larger the space it will take up. Be careful though of compressing your footage on import just to save space. If it’s your only option, you’ll have to do it. But if not, keep the settings at full so that you at least have the option of exporting it at full quality. Chances are that your camera will already use some sort of compression. So if you use the same setting for import as your camera, it should be manageable. But be prepared for it to take up a lot of space. The other thing is that your computer likes a bit of a buffer of space to work fast. Techies can tell us why that is the case, but for now you just need to know that you don’t want to fill up your computer on video until there’s only 100mb left on your hard-drive. Leave a number of gigs free, and that will help your computer to run faster when you get to editing. This problem of footage taking up lots of space can be helped by pre-editing… (read on)
5) Should I import it all in one hit, split it up but still import it all, or just import sections?
You can import it all in one hit – it’s easy and really quick to set going, and you can then leave it importing while you do other things. The problem is that you then have to deal with all the footage in editing, and it takes up a lot of space. If you’re on a tape camera, then it’s even worse because it will either all be one file, or the computer will have automatically guessed how to separate it up. So if at this point you can just choose the shots you’re probably going to use and copy them across, or log the sections you’re probably going to use and have them imported, then you’ll save time when you go through the footage for editing, and you’ll save space. This process will be greatly helped along if you storyboarded well, such that you knew what you were looking for and which shots worked, and if you took good notes along the way in the filming process. You can also filter out all those filming mistakes (like when you pressed record by accident – oops!)
In the end, it’s often a trouble shooting process. The more you use your camera, computer and software, the better you’ll get at importing what you need and knowing the settings you need to look for. What I can’t believe is how surprised I still get when something goes wrong. It’s happened enough to me that I know I should expect it, and yet the shock still comes flooding in. Thankfully, I also know that there is a world of knowledge out there that I’ve been benefiting from for years. Chances are that someone has already had your problem and you can find an answer quickly. Otherwise there are a lot of forums where you can ask questions from techies about particular software and hardware problems. Feel free to ask here, and maybe I can either help or direct you to somewhere that you might be able to find an answer. Happy importing!
Please comment if you want any more details about the above step.
If you want to see an example of this, check out my post that details a bit of how I went through the 8 steps in making a recent film.
Next step: Edit your film
This post is part of the series 8 Steps to Making a Video