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6 Easy Steps for Logging Footage


Need help logging footage? Let’s look at six easy steps that will get you on your way and your next project out the door.

No matter what type of production you do, at some point you will need to go through and log the footage and ready it for editing. This practice holds true for narrative, documentary, commercial, and industrial. There are some that I’ve met over the years who do not take the time to run through this process, and in the end their project suffers because of it.

Since I am in this very stage of my current documentary film, I felt now was as good a time as any to share six  easy steps to help you log your footage.

* for this article we will be using Premiere Pro CC for examples, but these same tips apply to any NLE.

1. Organize Your RAW Footage

While this is not as important to some as it is to others, I’ve always found that if I organize my hard drive folder structure in a similar fashion to how I will structure my bin in my NLE, then life is made that much easier. The more organized you are, the easier logging and editing will be. For a great look at how to organize your hard drive folder structure, check out this article from Aaron Williams at PremiumBeat.

Video Courtesy of Edit Cellar.

2. Import Footage into Preferred NLE

Now that you have your hard drive organized and ready to go, we can begin importing that footage into what ever NLE you prefer. How to go about doing this is different for each NLE. In fact, Adobe Premiere Pro CC alone has several methods for importing footage. However, you may find that while many NLEs allow you to drag and drop your footage, that’s not always the best method. Go through the process a few times and find out which way is best for you.

One thing to remember while importing is to use the structure that you began with during the organizing stage. If you keep this same structure in place throughout, you’ll make things easier on yourself.

Video Courtesy of PeachPit TV.

3. Review What You Have

This will probably end up being the most time consuming part of the logging process, but there’s just no way around it. You need to know what you have so you can determine what and how to use it. I work with a lot of footage on each project and even though I feel I know every frame that was shot, there are times when I find something I had completely forgotten. It’s going to happen… and this is a great way to freshen up on every clip before you start editing.

4. Take Out What You Don’t Need

Another great part about reviewing your footage is being able to see what you absolutely have to have and then removing what you feel isn’t usable. But by all means, DO NOT delete that footage. Instead, what I like to do is create an additional Bin labeled “rejects”. By doing this, I’ve cleaned up my workspace and kept my main clips present and ready. Meanwhile, the rejects are just a bin away if I ever decided that I might need them.

Video Courtesy of Manhattan Edit Workshop.

5. Break Your Footage Down and Create Subclips

When you’ve reviewed all of the premium footage and you’re ready to move forward, you’ll want to begin trimming that footage down. I like to trim the excess fat and create subclips. For me this just helps when editing because now all I need to do is just drag and drop my clips into the timeline. From this point my adjustments are minor and I’m more focused on how to artfully craft the clips together. In fact, here is an article I wrote at PremiumBeat about the very subject of subclipping. It’s a process that I now use with whichever editing software I’m working with at the time.

Video Courtesy of PeachPit TV.

You Won’t Remember Everything, so Write it Down

Writing things down is key. Ideas and thoughts pop up randomly and then disappear just as quickly. So, in order to remember all of those things, I like to have a notebook handy. When I’m logging my footage and preparing it (either to edit myself or working with my editor), the notebook is my best friend. Hundreds of thoughts and ideas will hit you when reviewing and logging, so it’s best to write them down and review them when you get to your timeline.