Post Production

Ideas for editors and post-production people while in isolation or quarantine

I’ll bet there are a lot of things you’d really like to do but you just haven’t had the time. I know I’ve got a pretty good list an binge-watching is not one of them.

It may seem like a no-brainer to learn something new while you’re isolated in downtime. NAB has canceled. You local restaurants and businesses may or may not be shuttered. Your downtime may be a self-imposed (or government-imposed 🤨)  quarantine but it might also be because your jobs canceled or your place of employment has temporarily shut down. What seems like an eternity of free downtime can easily get taken up by endless binge-watching of any number of multi-season television shows but I’m going to suggest a few things that might be more productive. Some of these are my own ideas, some I’ve overhead and some come to us via Twitter.

With that, here are some ideas for editors, students, artists and post-production people of all kinds while in isolation or quarantine.

Learn something new for your post-production career

This is an obvious and easy one but so often we don’t sharpen our skills into new areas we know that we need. It’s hard to come home from a long day of editing and sit in front of the screen for another few hours. Our brains and eyes and fingers need a rest. Take this time to do some of those tutorials you’ve bookmarked and read some of those articles you’ve saved.

While I hesitate to recommend YouTube tutorials as so many of them are full of bad advice there is much that can be learned there. I honestly think it’s better to learn how to fix your toilet than it is how to properly use Adobe Premiere. Your public library might have Lynda / LinkedIn Learning access for free if you have a library card.  EditStock is offering 30% discounts so if you’re in need of new or different kinds of footage to edit then check them out.

Make use of those free 30-day learning trials

While we’re all used to (most) software having a free trial period, many learning platforms also have free trials. I’ve linked to some of those below. If you sign up and get something really good out of them consider staying on once the trial is over. Unlike the free YouTube world, these sites have staff, marketing and infrastructure costs that they must pay to stay alive.

Lynda / LinkedIn Learning and their free 30-day trial but check your library for free access!

Pluralsight 10 day free trial as they offer a lot of different skills outside of the creative space

Mixing Light has a 7-day free trial and there is no better place to learn color grading

Some training sites don’t have quite the same model as the ones above, like fxphd or Ripple Training so it’s worth browsing their offerings and signing up if there is something you wish to learn.

Our sister site Moviola.com is full over 3,000 filmmaking videos that are all free, all the time so you can always start there.

Just go ahead and download DaVinci Resolve

resolve-icon-2If you haven’t yet given Resolve a play then you know you want to as God knows you’ve heard enough about it over the last few years. It’s free, it’s available on both Mac and PC and it’s an incredible tool that can do pretty much everything you need to do in post-production. I’ll even give you the download link right here. I don’t think Resolve is going to take over all of post-production as there are still things some of the other NLEs do better and damn it, it’s okay to just prefer the way one NLE works over another. But Resolve is so full-featured it can be a great free tool to supplement many parts of the post-production process. And you know you’ve been wondering about … and it’s free.

Blackmagic has produced an incredible array of training materials for Resolve including video and PDFs ready to go. There’s not really any indication they are going to slow down.

For the Media Composer and Premiere Pro editor

fcpx-icon-2Apple offers a free 30 90 day trial of Final Cut Pro X. If you’re on a Mac, download it, install it and give it a play with an open mind. Leave your preconceptions at the door and don’t listen to what others have said if you haven’t kicked the tires yourself. It doesn’t work like Media Composer or Premiere so don’t try to treat it that way. Invest in some good training that will teach you how to use it properly and you might find you don’t hate it. After you invest a bit of time in FCPX you might indeed determine you don’t like how it operates. That’s okay but hopefully, you’ll come out with an understanding of why others do like (even ❤️💕) it and you can respect them for it.

UPDATE 3/26/20: Apple upped the free 30-day trial to 90 days. Now you really have time to test it out. It’s also worth noting that Logix Pro X will get a brand new free trial, also for 90 days. The Logic trial will begin soon.


For the Final Cut Pro X editor

motion-iconIf you’ve never taken the time to download (Mac App Store link) and take a look at Apple’s Motion motion graphics application then you should do so. At $50 I’ll make the proclamation that dollar for dollar Motion is the best bang for the buck you can spend in post-production. You might be happy with all of the effects plug-ins and templates you can already get for FCPX but Motion will allow you to create your own should you so choose.

Better than that you can use Motion for all kinds of motion graphics and effects work. You can do so in a more traditional motion graphics keyframing interface that isn’t FCPX’s horrid frustrating keyframe interface. You’ll be happy with the $50 spent and if, at some point in the future, Apple adds a send to Motion option back to FCPX you’ll be ahead of the curve.

Avid’s FREE Firsts

media_composer_video_editor_softwareprotooks-first-iconToday’s massive media creation atmosphere means many editors and media creation professionals will never come across Avid’s Media Composer or ProTools. They are industry standards for video editing and audio editing respectively. All that tv you’re going to binge-watch was most likely edited and mixed on these two Avid products.

Avid offers full-featured, free versions of both Media Composer and ProTools. These |First products are the full application just limited in things like the number of tracks you can use in a timeline and what you might be able to output. The benefit of this approach is that if you learn how to use the First version very well you can easily step into the full version as it’s the same piece of software. I’m also a firm believer in, at the very least, knowing what others are often arguing about so you can talk intelligently on the subject.

Download Adobe Audition

auditionOk, video editors working in the Adobe ecosystem … you know you’ve seen it in your Creative Cloud app and probably never hit the install button for Adobe Audition. You should and a work hiatus is a perfect time to learn how to use a good digital audio workstation. Adobe Audition is incredibly powerful and one of the most underrated post-production tools out there (kind of like Apple Motion).

Audio is crucial to a good video experience and while Premiere has some of the best NLE audio tools out there Audition can take your audio finishing to another level. Don’t fear the conform process moving an edit from Premiere to Audition as there is a command to easily send it over. You can also open an Adobe Premiere timeline right from withing Audition without generating any new media.

What to do to fill your time during isolation or quarantine doesn’t have to revolve around post-production software. In fact, it shouldn’t you should take some time to get away from it if you’ve been forced away from it.

Make a family documentary

While we’re supposed to practice social distancing during this time it’s okay to be around your family and even then if you choose to make a family documentary you can do so without close contact. I thought about this when I saw this tweet from Philip Grossman.

This is something that I desperately wish I had done with my parents and grandparents before they passed away. Most all of us in this business have the gear to do this and even if you don’t you’ve got a phone that shoots great audio and video. Bonus points if you learn a new NLE to edit the thing. And remember, your family documentary doesn’t have to be about aging parents. Make a family documentary short about your kids and have them do the same about you. There’s some media literacy learning during prolonged school closure. Grab iMovie, for free on your phone. They can figure it out.

Digitize your family archives

Many of us have a few boxes of old family photo albums, 8mm film, VHS tapes, scrapbooks, audio cassettes and the general family history that accumulates over the years as parents age and pass away. Often those things end up in a box in the attic. Like the family documentary above these memories are timeless but the medium holding them (photo paper, magnetic tape, regular paper) can break down over time. Or a mouse might get into that box and go to town.

I’ve got three bins of photo albums, photo prints, slides, scrapbooks, diaries and VHS tapes that all need to get digital. It’s the kind of thing you put off and put off.

While there are numerous services that will digitize these things, and will even send you a postage-paid box to ship them out, if you have time on your hand you can do a lot of that yourself. A flatbed scanner or an iPhone app or a bedsheet with the working projector means there are tools at your disposal to archive these memories yourself. That is time-consuming so in lieu of doing it yourself take this downtime to use a service like Everpresent or Legacybox to get those archives digitized.

Finally set up your cloud backup service

Once you’ve got a ton of new family archives digitized you’ll want them (and all your other digital life stuff) in a secure off-site location should the worst happen. If you haven’t yet signed up, set up and uploaded to a cloud backup service like Backblaze, Carbonite or IDrive then this might be the opportunity.

Since most home internet upload speeds are slow it takes some time to sort through and determine what all you want to be protected in the cloud. These consumer services aren’t meant for terabytes of client video media but rather personal cloud backups and they should be treated as such. Most of them archive by hard drives and if those drives aren’t mounted every 30 days or so (check the service you’re looking to use) they will delete that media. I recommend a dedicated “family” drive and a repeated reminder to mount and check every so often.

Spend some time away from the screen

Glowing screens consume the editor’s life. One, two, three or more screens stare back at you for 8 to 10 hours (or more 😩) every working day of our life. We then look at phone screens throughout the day for text messages, social media, and various work-related apps. Often we browse the iPad or tablet in the morning over coffee, during lunch or dinner for more social media, reading the news or playing some games. To wind down we Netflix and chill, Hulu a series or endlessly browse Amazon Prime Video to find the 🏆 amongst the 💩. We spend so much time staring at screens so use this time to get away from them.

I used to love building models and always wanted to build a model for each cool car I’ve had over the years, many of which I’ve already started. The thought of impending isolation made me dig out the box. Extra point if you can tell me what the green one is (and no, I’ve never had that one).

How about:

  • Read a dead tree paper book that you can hold, smell and turn the pages of.
  • Draw, be it with some sketch paper and marker assortment or printer paper with pencils and sharpies. Just draw like you used to do when you were a kid.
  • Paint for creativity. Do you by chance have the oils or watercolors from that college art class? Get them out and use a part of your brain you haven’t used for years. Don’t have any painting supplies? Amazon is still (most likely) delivering and delivering quickly.
  • Paint your house. Not the exterior of your house but I bet many of us have a room or wall or some touch up that we’ve always wanted to do. I’m sitting here typing looking at bare wood on an office door. Unless there’s a mandated shutdown on business your Lowes or Home Depot will be open. Better than that visit the local hardware store as they might be hurting for business right now.
  • Do you have kids? Play. Play Lego, Hot Wheels, Barbies, tea time, hide and seek, the floor is lava, wrestle, paper airplanes, board games whatever you can do with them. Go outside in the yard for some 🏈, ⚽️, 🥏 or 🏸. This might be (hopefully) the only pandemic you get to spend with them.
  • Do some yard work if weather permits. You don’t have to actually stay inside this whole time and if you own a home you know there is yard work you want to do.
  • Cook. Yes, the Costco has been overrun and missing 🧻 as well as a lot of food but many of them still have stock. Check the organic section as it’s probably stayed pretty well stocked. I saw some advice on Twitter that your local Asian market is probably full of products without many people shopping there.

These ideas above might seem like no-brainers but I hope they can be helpful to see them written out and even a quick breeze through them might lead to an idea or might help stave off some boredom or might get you out from in front of the tv for a while. I need to heed a lot of the above advice myself.

I also asked this question on Twitter and got some great responses.

img_3136Any other good learning links you’d like people to know about (as I know there are tons of them not listed above)? Any software that every post-production professional needs to know about? Is there a game that every family should have and love and play often? What’s a good book that you’ve had on your reading list but haven’t had time to dive in to?

Please let us know in the comments.

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PVC Staff
Scott Simmons was born in rural West Tennessee and didn't really realize that movies and tv had to be made by actual people until he went to college. After getting degrees in both Television Production…