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How to Edit a Video From Interview Footage

Staring at hours of interview footage looking for a story can be daunting. Make it a bit easier using these tips to organize your videos.

Whether you shot the interview or received the footage from production, staring at a big batch of interview clips can be both incredibly daunting and exhilarating. As an editor I enjoy mentally and emotionally torturing myself with an excessive and borderline unhealthy amount of over-organization. By that I mean, I spend too much time making sure my clips, bins, folders and project files are orderly so that I prevent confusing my future editing self. But that doesn’t mean piecing together a cohesive story is any easier, it just helps us get there. So how do “piece” together these interviews and stories? You’re probably looking at either a few very long clips, or several short snippets that make up the larger conversation that was shot on the day. So let’s talk about how to approach this edit. 


Organization



As much as it hurts to admit, editing an interview takes a long time. There’s a lot of different factors that go into it, and no matter what NLE you work in, organizing and structuring a story from this type of footage is difficult due to the freeform nature of the type of story you’re telling. It can go anywhere and be anything. It's usually one or two people speaking and you really have to guide the conversation or the audience will be lost almost immediately. 

But within that, there are a ton of “ums”, pointless tangents, and frankly, irrelevant sentences and points being made. Finding any form of cohesion is the mission and if you’re not given a clear script or direction from production, you’re in for it come time to start working. So let’s talk about how you can set yourself up in the best possible way once you’ve received the footage. 


Label Everything



First, always remember to keep specific “Bins” or “Folders” for specific cameras, and then subsequent dates. This way, you know you need to use your master or “A” cam for the majority of the interview and there’s no wasted time spent looking for that camera's footage. Second, if there are multiple days, noting this will also help keep the timeline in chronological order. These are also just good things to keep in mind for your next job so you can know to make sure you’re going to receive this information from production. Also, with this level of organization, if your client ever wants to see any of the footage from a specific day, you know where to go. If you’re new to editing and need some tips on how to approach this, check out the tutorials I’ve listed below:




Once you have it all organized, it's as simple as building the story on your timeline. Once you have the meat of it placed on your timeline, it's time to start trimming and making significant cuts.But, that doesn’t mean it's easy to keep it all concise and clear in your head as you do it. 


Transcribing the Interview


The difficult thing about editing interview footage is the layout of your clips and the inevitable inability to pull the story and key moments apart, without having to sit and watch the clips in their entirety. It takes a lot of time and we as editors don’t have a lot of time. So for myself, I’m a visual editor and words help me form some sense of structure to the story. Then I can start piecing together some form of a story, narrative, or just general cohesion to what I’m working on. Transcribing is an absolute must for anybody editing interviews, documentaries, or even podcasts. This relatively “new” type of post-production AI can save you literal days of your life. Just let that sink in. However, these services and extensions not only save you time, but end up helping the edit along the way, making the final product better -  pleasing your clients with little to no notes (hopefully, but let's be real - there will always be notes). So let’s dive into one of the better services available to editors.


Using Simon Says 



The text-based video editor from Simon Says helps to see the big picture as you look for clips and gain a better understanding of how the edit is going to flow. Transcription has been a rocky road as most of the transcription services I’ve used in the past get a little wonky in different ways. Missed words and not understanding punctuation can lead to a confusing transcription that ends up taking your time to correct and figure out where the mistakes were made. So whether the actual transcription is accurate is one hurdle to leap, then it's about seamlessly incorporating the transcription into your edit. The Simon Says extension is seamless as it is acutely accurate to your footage. Let’s look at how you can use this transcription tool works for each NLE, respectively. 


Premiere Pro


DaVinci Resolve


Final Cut Pro X


To wrap this up, the basic idea I want you to leave with is that it's really daunting to start editing an interview, especially a long one, but it doesn’t have to be a miserable process. Through new tools and extensions, we don’t have to lose our minds anymore with the boring sides of video editing.