One year ago I was sitting in a ice cream shop with my two friends from college, John Meier and Tanner Shinnick. We met up to talk about 2014, the year that we finally make a feature film. We started out by pitching various ideas we had ranging from a quirky apocolypse comedy, time travel, and a 90s period piece. Through a series of events though we changed plans and settled on doing a documentary about the competitive showing of llamas.
A year later we met once again in an ice cream shop still unable to to believe what we have accomplished in the past year. We have raised money from investors, organized and filmed seven different shoots (totalling 30 days) that took us to Georgia, Tennessee, Colorado, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington, Oregon, and Kansas. We ran a successful kickstarter campaign that reached almost $17,000 a week after finishing filming and are now starting post-production.
As relaxing as it was to finish filming it is equally terrifying to realize what is ahead of me. After the three of us discussed how we were going to edit Llama Nation, it was decided that I would be the one who would head that up. In order to make that work I had to move in with one of the producers, get a bunk bed because two beds wouldn’t fit in his room, give up any employment opportunities, and dedicate the next six months of my life to looking at a computer screen filled with llamas.
As terrifying as that is, it isn’t nearly as daunting as the task before me of working with roughly 150 hours of footage (2 TB), analyzing it, and then piecing it together to get an hour and a half documentary that matches the vision of the director. If it wasn’t terrifying though, it wouldn’t be something worth sacrificing for.
This isn’t about me being scared though. This is about what I am doing to make editing a feature length documentary a manageable thing to do so that I can focus on creating the best edit possible. There are many cliches I could use to go over the importance of breaking down big tasks into small parts so I will forgo those because if you have or haven’t worked on a featuree film I am sure you konw that already.
Starting out with this though I realized that the first few things that I needed to do weren’t anything that I would have ever expected to be steps in completing this film.
1. Setup the work space
I never thought about this before because I usually just edited wherever on my laptop or at the desk I was assigned where I worked. I am going to be spending a lot of time here so I want to make sure that it is something that I am comfortable in and doesn’t prevent me from working. We got a cheap desk at Ikea that was big enough to hold the computer and drives. I also like to write with pen and paper when brainstorming so I got another small desk on the side so that I have space to write. I hate clutter when editing so I made sure that there were only the essentials on the desk, computer, speakers, hard drives, mouse, and keyboard.
When mapping out the story we plan on using note cards just like Dustin Lance Black (Oscar winning screenwriter) talked about in this video.
We wanted to organize them on a wall but because things are going to be moving around and being taken down a lot we didn’t want to ruin the pain on the wall. John had a 10 foot vinyl poster that we flipped around to the white back side and will be using that to tape note cards to.
2. Setup Computer
We are going to be editing on an iMac and wanted it to be just dedicated to the documentary so we did a clean wipe of everything so we could start out fresh. We installed the main programs from the Adobe Creative Cloud, including Premiere, After Effects, Prelude, and Speedgrade.
3. Figure out storage
We have been storing all of our footage on a USB 3.0 hard drive and then backing that hard drive onto two other hard drives. The problem we found with those is that they are terrible to edit off of for a project this size. Whenever we would try and work with the footage in Premiere it would take at least an hour to load all of the footage. After talking with a few people we learned that what we needed was an external hard drive that had thunderbolt to transfer the data fast and also a hard drive that had fast read/write speeds. Everyone said the same thing – we needed to get a RAID setup.
If you are like how we were two weeks ago you don’t know what RAID actually is but knows that it is something good. After doing my research I learned enough to understand how RAID setups work and which ones are best for what application.
RAID work by taking multiple hard drives and having them work together as one. There are many different ways you can set them up that are meant for different tasks. The three options that we considered using were:
Raid 0 – This splits the file into the same number pieces of hard drives in the RAID and saves each of that piece onto each individual drive. For example if you have four drives a file will be split into four different parts and will take ¼ the time to read/write because you have the four drives working at the same time. This was the fastest option but if any of the drives failed we would lose everything on the drive.
RAID 1 – This mirrors the files onto each of the separate drives. It isn’t a fast solution and is meant more as a backup option because if one drive fails it is already mirrored on another drive.
RAID 5 – This is like RAID 0 but instead of splitting it up into four pieces it splits it up into three pieces and saves it on different drives and then copies part of that onto the left over drive. It then cycles through which drive it saves the copy to so that if one drive fails you still have everything you need backed up throughout the different drives. It isn’t as fast as RAID 0, but it is still fast.
After looking at all of our options we went with the Pegasus M4 set up as a RAID 5. We decided that even though we would already have our footage backed up on three other drives we still wanted a little extra security. Also at RAID 5 we were getting faster speeds than we had before.
So that is where I am at now. I have been working on editing the documentary for a week and I haven’t even opened up Adobe Premiere yet. It is a little daunting but less so than before. As I go on through the process I plan on updates to what I am doing so you can see the process we are going through and what all goes into editing a documentary. If you have any questions about anything leave a comment below.3
Also – I tried my best to explain RAID systems in an easy to understand manner but I am by no means a computer expert. If you are and something I said is wrong then feel free to correct me.