Save time organizing big video projects by slating your shots!

Today’s episode is about keeping your video project organized.

Now, when it comes to small projects, it’s not so hard. And it’s not even really all that important. You write a script, you get your shots, you bring ‘em into your editing software, and you sort of cobble ‘em together on your timeline. And then you’re done.

But just as soon as you’re coming up against a big project? One with a hundred or more shots? Well, that’s when you might find yourself a little… lost. Which shot is which? How is MVI_4725 different from MVI_4726? How should I sort them? Should I divide them into bins? How long do I have to spend organizing my shots before I can even get to editing?

Fortunately, there’s a little trick you can use to make your clip-organizing go a LOT faster. Here’s a video that shows you how!

 


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Transcript

Today’s episode is about keeping your video project organized.

Now, when it comes to small projects, it’s not so hard. And it’s not even really all that important. You write a script… you get your shots… you bring ‘em into your editing software… and you sort of cobble ‘em together on your timeline. And then you’re done.

But just as soon as you’re coming up against a big project? One with a hundred or more shots? Well, that’s when you might find yourself a little… lost.

Okay, this is the part from the outdoor scene, and I think it’s from… this part of the script? Okay, I’ll put it here… and then what’s this one? No, wait, this take is better.

No, hang on, I need to go through and… painstakingly rename all of these.

Five hours – and five cups of coffee – later, you’re ready to pull your hair out, but at least you’re almost one-tenth of the way done!

Why does editing have to take so long? Is it a task best left to the most obsessive and compulsive of individuals? Wouldn’t it be great if you knew exactly where all of your clips were supposed to go when you sat down to edit?

Right now I’m in the midst of putting together a big course on multi-camera production, so I’ve been wishing this were possible myself. But I did stumble on a way to actually do this. Sort of.

As is so often the case, you can’t just work some magic in post. You’ve gotta start with the script, and develop a tiny little helpful habit while you’re shooting.

First of all, let’s look at this script. The first thing you need to do is give each shot a number. And then turn that into a shot list. Now you can keep track of your shots as you’re shooting. Write down the best takes. Scratch ‘em off as you finish each one.

Being able to see your progress will serve as a much-needed morale booster on a long project like this one.

And if you’re a Trello user like me, well, I like to make a card for each location, and use a checklist inside that card as my shot list.

That’s handy by itself, but it’s even more useful when you get in the habit of slating your shots.

Grab yourself a little dry-erase board. Write down the location and shot number.

Ah! Hang on, don’t hit that record button just yet. Hold up your slate first.

Okay, now you can hit record.

The idea is to get the slate in the shot on the very first frame of each clip. This is the magic step that makes this trick really work.

Why is that? Because pretty much all editing software displays that first frame in the thumbnail!

So, when you import your clips? Wow, just look at all those shot numbers. Now you don’t need to rename anything! You can just look at the thumbnail. Now you can just look over your script, and be like, oh yeah, this clip goes first, and then this clip, et cetera.

If you want to get even fancier, you can write down take numbers on the slate and on your shot list. And then you can be all, oh, looks like Take 3 was the best, so I’ll use that one.

Congratulations: you just saved, I don’t know, maybe a few hours sorting all your footage. Honestly, you might consider doing this for all your projects, even the small ones. (I did it for this video!)

By the way, in case you don’t feel like incessantly writing numbers on a whiteboard, I made a little tool that you might find helpful. It’s a template for Apple’s Numbers app.

The first sheet is a shot log. Pretty self-explanatory, except for this little checkbox next to each shot. When you click it, and then switch to the “slate” sheet, all the info in that row gets blown up!

Put it on your iPhone or iPad and you’ve got a perfect slate.

If you’d like to download it, just sign up for our newsletter at the end of this video! That’s all for now. Thanks for watching!

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