One of the most hotly contested practices in video production is whether or not to release raw footage to clients.
If you hire me as a producer, that’s what you hired me to do – produce.
There are limited exceptions to this rule. I made one this past week.
I have come to regret that decision.
“You did WHAT with that raw footage?!?!?!”
Photo Credit: Wendy D. (Part of the “Shaun Yells At Inanimate Objects” series)
Simply put, raw footage is video “as shot”, without any modifications made to it. In some cases, there is an extraneous track of audio; in others we shoot with a muted contrast to allow for more options in post production colour correction. Almost always, there are camera moves that are intended solely to reframe the image during sections we anticipate we won’t be using the video.
As a shooter who also edits, I’m always paying attention to when I can change my shot up without adversely affecting the content (“shooting for the edit”). If I guess wrong, I know I need to cover that section up with b-roll or some other “trickery”.
It’s all part of life as a working videographer.
At the request of a good buddy of mine, I released an interview segment of video so he could cut a promotional piece for himself unrelated to the project I was producing. I wouldn’t be using that section of the interview for my project anyway and he is an editor, although more of a motion graphics guy than long form story editor, so I figured “why not?”
What could possibly go wrong?
Well… when I saw the finished edit of his material, I was horrified to hear that he hadn’t panned the two audio channels to centre – I routinely record one track of audio to two discrete channels with different audio levels to “protect” the audio from over-modulation (distortion caused by sound levels exceeding the ability of the recording format to respond to further changes in loudness, characterized by a “buzzy” harsh edginess). If the audio doesn’t distort, I delete the quieter of the two channels and pan the remaining channel to centre. Voila.
In this case the audio on the finished product is louder in the right speaker than the left. It’s actually pretty distracting if you are watching with anything besides an iPad or laptop.
Okay. I can live with that.
As well, the footage looks like raw footage. I colour correct almost all of my footage in edit to make it more aesthetically pleasing. In the case of this material, it was lit solely with practical lights in the space where we shot the interview and demonstration for my project.
As well, it was shot over a 7 hour period – rather than correcting for changing lighting conditions as the sun slowly changed position over that time, it is easier to match colour in post production after the fact.
The video has a muted greenish colour cast and the footage lacks contrast. It just doesn’t look polished.
Same frame of video – Raw footage on the left, First Pass colour correction on the right.
I’m having a much bigger issue with that.
Lots of folks argue that if the material is compelling enough you can shoot it with an iPhone and people will watch it.
Sure. But that is appropriate for bystander footage of a plane crash or a military coup.
It isn’t appropriate for documentary style video production by a professional videographer and isn’t something that I want associated with my name. In this YouTube/Google search engine optimized world, your video now comes up when someone searches my name. Without the context that this was something I did as a favour for a buddy as a sidebar to a larger project, I look lazy and unprofessional.
My next gig is dependent on my reputation being untarnished.
Frankly, it’s my own fault for not sending the footage out without at least a preliminary colour grade on it. Lesson learned.
Lastly, I assumed (yes… we all know what that word really means…) that my buddy would be kind enough to cover the abrupt camera moves and reframing that are a natural part of interview coverage when you know you aren’t going to use that section of footage anyway. In this case, his commentary was unrelated to the story I knew I would be telling so I chose that point in time to move the camera.
There is a thirty second section of footage where you can see and hear me moving the camera and placing it on a shelving unit next to his work space.
No attempt was made to cover that up. To my buddy, the content of the interview was strong so he stayed with it. There was no absence of graphical material to cover the repositioning with – it just didn’t occur to him because he was so wrapped up in getting the auditory messaging out there.
Sometime you can’t see the forest for the trees – the reason I don’t release raw footage is because I can’t trust that someone else’s attention to detail is going to be as discerning as mine. It has taken me 15 years to build my brand.
I feel like damage was done to that brand this week by someone who would never do so willingly or knowingly.
I have literally had people tell me their nephew is “good at ‘all things computer’, we’ll have him edit it for us… he’s 14… he plays a lot of video games and he just downloaded Final Cut from The Pirate Bay”.
I wish I could say I was kidding.
That’s why I don’t release raw footage.
Thanks for reading!