Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Documentary Editing Introduction

For my second project in this module, we were asked to edit footage taken from a documentary called ‘In A Climbers Hands’. This documentary followed a young man who explained about the different locations he climbed in, different styles of climbing and about obstacles he faces. It looked like quite interesting footage.

I enjoy watching documentaries. I feel that they present information in a very expressive way, a way the audience can connect and understand the information they are being presented with, as well as being able to envision what the documentary is about – for example, a space documentary has interviews by experts, but also shows footage of what they are talking about (be it CGI or real footage taken from space) to allow the audience to entice themselves further into this story.  I also enjoy how documentaries can be created as entertaining as drama features – only the features are reality.
In regards to editing, Documentaries do tend to present many challenges to an editor. Documentaries allow an editor to play a ‘writer’s’ role within the film to select the correct shots and construction to present the story clearly and effectively.
One of the important features of editing is the Structure and Style. There are different ways you can build a documentary. The aim of this style of film is have an end product that tells the audience an engaging story. In regards to structure, there is a variety of ways/forms that the film tends to take:
·      Using ‘the voice of god’/narrator to guide you through the film
·      Interview sound bites that completely tell the story.
·      Re-enactments used that show the events that happened by using acted scenes or readings.
·      The hidden observer – the audience being involved almost.
It is known that the best way to approach a documentary is to use a combination of all these forms. For example, you may be able to set out an entire story, which is completely told through the use of sound bites, however it isn’t entirely ‘fleshed’ out. This is where parts of narration would help clarify the story and bind all the elements together to bring the piece together as a whole for the audience to understand.
Another important feature, which is mentioned above, is the Story Arc or the Character the film is focusing on.  The people you see within a documentary are real, but when it comes to watching the film, the audience perceives that these people are no less characters in a film, playing a role performed by a dramatic actor. For the editor, the way sound is selected and put them together (as well as the order that these are presented to your audience) establish this vital story arc, but allows the audience to create the idea of heroes and villains within their minds.
Audiences have always wanted a film that starts with a logical beginning, it then needs to build some form of tension and then have an ultimate resolution. This doesn’t mean that every film created needs to have a happy ending, just an ending that allows the story to leave the audience with conclusions and answers.
A key aspect to think about when it comes to editing the story arc is to ensure that your characters are balanced out. In interview-based documentary stories, the same, or similar questions are asked to a variety of interviewees as the different interviews are taking place. This is extremely helpful when it comes to the editing stage because it allows you to balance the different on-camera appearances, and mix them up when choosing whose response to use in the final film. This way, it allows the same subject to be discussed between a number of people, rather than heavily viewing one person. TIP: it’s sometimes best to have one person start the thought or the statement the film is trying to get across, and then conclude with another, assuming that the two different compliment each other.
Another important idea behind editing a documentary is Objectivity. The majority of documentaries are created from a point-of-view, and sometimes a bias one of the people involved – whether it be those in-front or behind the camera. Even if you try to portray each side of an argument fairly, the choice of shots and sound bites reflect an almost ‘sub-conscious’ opinion of the person who’s in charge of making that decision. An important tip for this aspect is it ensures that as an editor, you make it clear that this is a personal statement by those involved, so the audience isn’t forced or tricked into believing the filmmakers view.

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