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Introduction

Introduction

From reading literally thousands of posts and teaching hundreds of people Final Cut Pro and editing aesthetics over the past few years, I've come to the conclusion that learning by doing is the quickest way to master Final Cut Pro (and it's just plain more fun). After you've mastered the tool, it becomes much more enjoyable to express yourself through your edit decisions. Furthermore, several areas or concepts seem to give new editors and even experienced editors problems. So in response to this, I wrote this tutorial. It's really for any editor who would like to learn a logical way to make edit decisions, as well as expedient ways to perform them with Final Cut Pro. In many cases, I talk about workflow that applies to any editing application, because they are as similar as they are dissimilar.

This is not only an attempt at teaching the software. To you it is also an attempt to teach you a technique for editing any project in such way that its goal is reached successfully. The same principles expressed during this tutorial apply to any project you might do, be it a narrative film (like we'll edit together here) or any other form of communication, entertainment, or even a commercial project, such as a television commercial or an industrial marketing video.

I've always felt that editing is very similar to creative writing. Editing is the final rewrite of the script. When editing a documentary, it is very common for the script to be written in the editorial stage. Certainly, when editing anything shot without a script, such as a wedding or other social event, it is in the editing bay where the story is written or rewritten from what actually happened. I believe there is story in every use of the medium. It's your job as an editor to write with pictures and sound the story that might or might not have been written before the shooting took place.

I've attempted to write not only for beginners, but for experienced users of Final Cut Pro as well. If you have some experience with Final Cut Pro or are coming from another editing application, you might find some of the material here familiar. I suggest, though, that you not skip areas of the tutorial you feel you know already. I've purposefully peppered this tutorial with techniques you might not have known Final Cut Pro can do, even in “basic” areas of the software. Just as important, the story-building techniques this book covers are cumulative. The technical editors of this book were amazed that there was still something to learn, even in areas of the software they thought they knew or had mastered. The text also includes a narrative on my cognitive process as I edited the film; hopefully the techniques I employed will help you with your projects when you make edit decisions. At the very least, I hope you gain the ability to know how to approach any project, by simply asking yourself the questions I asked and answered as I edited “The Midnight Sun.” You'll not only get a solid foundation in how Final Cut Pro works, but you'll also see how to edit more successful programs. This is my hope for anyone who works with this book.

Having the basics down will serve you well as you learn to use the higher-end features of Final Cut Pro. This tutorial assumes that you've completed the earlier chapters. The first time you start using this tutorial, go through the entire tutorial from the beginning. If you get confused or don't understand an instruction, to check out how any edit or effect should look, simply open the finished sequence file that is included with the tutorial's project file to see how the finished step should look. When you have finished the tutorial, use the book as a reference in the future. Unlike a user's manual, this book is intended to serve as a way of learning the interface, because you need to learn it to finish editing the film.

I've included on the DVD all the available material that was used to edit “The Midnight Sun.” Refreshingly, there wasn't a large shooting ratio. After you've finished the tutorial, I think it's a wonderful idea to reedit the program in the way you find most effective. Giving the same source material to different editors in my classrooms over past few years has opened my eyes to the fact there isn't a single way to edit a program or movie. The editor's personality and expressions show through the edit decisions each editor makes. It's exciting to see a different point of view, especially when it's expressed with the same source material. So by all means, play with the material, use different shots or shot order, and experiment with the footage to teach yourself how edit decisions affect the story's emotional impact. Enjoy yourself; let your imagination take you places in your mind you didn't know existed. I hope you surprise yourself.

I hope you learn to look at your work from a fresh perspective each time you start another editing session.

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