in Filmmaking

Final Cut Pro markers are better for notes than log notes

When it’s hard to remember a lot of things, people take notes. That’s the same thing an editor does when he sits down to watch hours and hours of footage that’s been shot. When I’m editing a project, I like to watch the footage through once without making notes. That allows me to experience the footage as a viewer would. On my second viewing is when I begin to make my notes.

But while I was editing a project almost a year ago, I realized that once I took my notes, I almost never reviewed them. It’s partially because Final Cut Pro, the editing software that I use, only allows you to view your notes on a single line:

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As you can see, that’s barely any room to make any lengthy notes.

If I want to see all my notes, I’d have to scroll all the way over. This used to force me to use extreme shorthand. Even then I’d sometimes notice that I couldn’t read my notes even if I wanted to.

For awhile I continued taking notes just in case I needed to refer to them, but I never did. I’d just replay all the footage and pick and choose the moments I wanted. It was as though the notes were completely unnecessary, but at the same time it would have felt wrong to not take notes. After all, professional editors take notes.

While editing my current project, I had to place a marker to remind me to revisit a great moment with one of the actors. So, I pressed M to make a marker, and pressed M again to bring up the Edit Marker box:

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Then it occurred to me, instead of just placing a maker there to remind me to revisit this moment, why don’t I write into the Comment box, maybe the line of dialogue that I like, and see how Final Cut Pro displays this comment.

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As you can see, when I roll over the marker, the comment is displayed clearly.

Notice how many other markers are on that clip? Each one has a comment marking a moment that I like. I like this because:

  1. Unlike the Log Note area, I don’t have just a single line to write all my thoughts about the entire clip.
  2. Even if I could fit all my notes into the Log Note area, I’d still have to pull up the clip and find those moments in order to use them. This way, when I see my comment, I’m at the exact moment.
  3. I can quickly move between markers using keyboard shortcuts, giving me access to quickly flip through all the best moments in a take.

This could be especially helpful in documentary footage where there isn’t a specific script to follow and it’s much harder to remember exactly where a certain moment is within a clip.

I hope this helps anyone else who’s had the same issue of taking notes and then not using them. Remember to subscribe to my RSS feed or by email so you can get instant updates to my new blog posts.

Anyone else have a good tip or trick for remembering good moments over lots of footage? Share it in the comments.