In order to get your footage organized, you first need to watch it. With feature productions you would do dailies, but on smaller scale that probably won’t be the case. So sit down with a note pad and pen and prepare to take notes as you watch. This helps you to determine which takes are best, which ones have shots you want to use, and which ones you might not even want to mess with. These notes along with a good shot log from the set can save you hours—sometimes days—during the capture process. Final Cut gives you the ability to mark clips as you capture them as good or bad. Marking your clips along with a good labeling system ensures you won’t be digging through all of your clips for the shot you want.
You want to develop and easy labeling system, nothing complicated as you might forget when you come back to it later. I prefer using what has already been established. You need to ask the director for a shooting copy of the script (you should already have a copy of some sort) which will have all of the scene numbers listed out for you. Now you can label your captured footage according to its proper scene. For example if you are working on scene 11’s third take that’s a close up on character B you could label the footage like so:
Scene 11.3 CU Character B
That label structure allows anyone working on the project to know what he is going to be looking at without having to pull it up. This is great if you find you have to bring another editor on board or even an assistant.
Once you get all of your footage labeled and captured there is one more step that can make your editor process even easier. Using Bins. Final Cut Pro allows you to organize your captured footage into separate collapsible bins (much like multiple folders for documents on your PC); so instead of having to scroll through hundreds of captured clips, you can click on the bin to find a shorter easier to navigate list of footage. You can group your footage however you like, but here are some common examples. Group footage by scene ranges, like scene 1-5 then 6-10. You can organize according to types of footage; outdoor or indoor, night or day, b-roll or stock. If you want to take it even further you can break it down by individual shots; ECU, CU, Med, Med 2-shot, Wide, Est, MOS, Pan, Tilt, Zoom, Depth of Field. Organizing to that level is great in some cases, allowing you to specifically pick the shot you want, but it will sometimes be too much when you’re just trying to lay out a rough cut.
I know it’s fun to just sit down and start cutting, but you’ll find if you take the time to organize your footage, you will work quicker and be able to handle more projects at once.