How To Edit A Documentary

How To Edit A Documentary – An Inside View

If you’ve ever wondered how to edit a documentary then editor Steve Audette is the man to show you how it’s done. Steve has edited documentaries for nearly 20 years and currently edit’s many of Frontline’s prime time docs. During the post production of Gunned Down, Steve tweeted numerous insights and images from the suite as he progressed through the edit, which are compiled below.

Steve also gives you a good look inside his edit suite in this previous post Inside A Professional Edit Suite. Steve has also shared an exceptional masterclass on editing documentaries for TV that people will actually want to watch, which you can find in this previous post too. It features one of my favourite Steve Audette quotes…

The mind cannot absorb, what the butt cannot endure!

In this 20 minute lecture Steve shares the essential skills a documentary editor needs to wield After Effects effectively to add some pizzaz to their projects. In the video below Steve demonstrates how he created the title design for another Frontline documentary, United States of Secrets.

You can also read a little bit about Steve’s documentary workflow in this 2002 article from Digital Video

As part of my work flow, I digitized entire interviews and used script integration to match them up to their transcripts (Very handy when you are trying to get a guy to stop talking. Just find the same word with a period at the end — double click, and drop it in audio only.) Once lined up, I never looked at the interview bins again — only the scripts.

If you want even more insight into how to edit a documentary then you should definitely look into whether an online editing course like Inside The Edit, might be the next step. It’s not cheap, but it’s an excellent education for learning the craft of documentary editing.

Lastly, these 4 minutes with Frontline producer/director Michael Kirk on how to produce a documentary are well worth a watch for a good sense of all the work that happens before the footage makes it into the edit suite.

Editing a Documentary – Tweet by Tweet with Steve Audette

Read through these tweets to see how Steve cuts his docs, I’ve also included the occasional question and answer too. In this second timelapse (the first is at the top of this post) you can see what Steve is up to as he edits. I count at least three cups of coffee!

In this reply to Steve’s RTAS compressor settings Matt Smith shares his RTAS EQ settings to roll off the extreme high and low end in order to deal with mic noise.

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