By Lynn Walsh, RTDNA Contributor
“It was left on the cutting room floor,” is sometimes a phrase you don’t want to hear. Sometimes it gives you the sense that you weren’t able to get certain information or a character into the piece. But, it doesn’t have to.
Instead of looking at it as a negative, I see it as proof that you were prepared for the editing process -- something that can save time when putting a story together. Being prepared also gives you more elements to use when telling the story, hopefully giving you more options and in the end a better story.
One of the things I have learned the most while being an investigative producer is that preparation really can be everything. It can make the difference in a story you are telling, especially when it comes to the visual elements. Here are some tips I have learned along they way to keep the editing process moving smoothly:
Get your documents ready. I make sure my editor/photographer has a clean hard copy and a digital copy in multiple formats. This allows the documents to be used in a variety of ways throughout the story. The worst part of putting together a long investigation is not having your documents in order. I organize everything electronically using DocumentCloud or Google Drive. I also print and label the important documents we will be referencing in the story. It sounds silly, but the last thing you want to do is begin the editing process and not be able to find the key document involved.
Have video in the proper formats. I am always amazed at how long video can take to transfer or convert. Even though we are moving and transferring it all the time, I always underestimate the time it can take. Have this done before the editing process starts so you are not wasting the editor’s time. By converting a DVD to a useable format and capturing the video, you are allowing the editor more time to be creative.
Look for original video or reports. Sometimes investigations seem to lack visual elements. One way to get around this is to search for file or original video that may be able to be used. For example: if you are referring to a prior arrest or an event from the past, see if there is video of the incident or a report from the incident. Maybe there are 911 calls or surveillance video. Sometimes these were not available when the incident first happened because the investigation was still ongoing, but if it is closed those items can most likely be released to you.
Get creative with video shots. While reenactment can sometimes be cheesy and inappropriate to use, there are times where you can tastefully show the viewer an event from the past. Consider using new technology like Google Earth to go back in time to the date you are referencing. You can show the viewer what the scene looked like on that day. If you can use graphic analysis of an event using animation, that works too.
How do you get organized to edit a complex story? Let us know in the comments below.
Lynn Walsh is the Investigative Producer at WPTV, NewsChannel 5 in West Palm Beach, Florida. She loves holding the powerful accountable and spends more time than she would like fighting for access to public information. Follow her on Twitter and on Tumblr.
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