According to Academy Award winning film editor Walter Murch there are two different types of video editors: sandwich makers and spaghetti sauce makers.
Sandwich makers build an edit one clip at a time… like making a sandwich. Put this sound bite here, add this image, and build up to a final edit. Making a sandwich is fairly intuitive and simple.
We, however, make spaghetti sauce.
In the video clip below he mentions that the advantage of boiling the footage down, as with cooking, is that all of the ingredients “manage to infiltrate each other over time… all of those flavors begin to work together in ways that is very hard to track. By doing it slowly there is a simmering effect.”
As laborious as it seems for our assistant editors to keep watching the same footage over and over again as they cut the raw footage down for our editors, it actually makes the process go faster in the end, because all of the best of the best pieces are kept throughout the process. Even the revisions can happen faster, because you spend a lot less time hunting and pecking for the right footage since there is a ‘bread crumb’ trail back to the raw footage.
When the editor takes over the project from the assistant, the footage continues to get boiled down further and further until there is a ten minute assemble of the broad story. Cutting continues even further, then, until we reach the under 2 minute goal length.
It takes days to ‘make this sauce’ properly, but as Mark Twain has been quoted as saying, “I’d have written you a shorter letter if I’d had more time.”
Here is another clip from the same symposium. In it he surmises that in a 50 shot scene there are “as many possible variations as there are subatomic particles in the universe.”
Something for our assistants to chew on as they cull down the typical 300 plus clips (and three to six hours of raw footage) shot in a typical September Club shoot day.