Take a group of dancers, three years and the ambition to push the boundaries of pole dancing and you have the ingredients for a good feature length documentary. It turned out that FCPX was the ideal tool for the edit.
Matthew Celia wrote to us about his film that recently screened at the Manhattan Film Festival. His production of the film ran in parallel with the maturing of FCPX. We will let him take up the story after the trailer for Off the Floor.
About the Film
In the fall of 2010, my wife and I attended a dance performance in Venice, CA where a group of young women had fused modern dance with aerial fitness (pole dancing). Having arrived at the performance expecting one thing, we left with a completely different thought about the artistic merits of pole dance. We knew it was immediately interesting.
What began as a documentary about the underground world of pole fitness transformed into a personal human interest story about one dancer, Jessica Anderson-Gwin and her group of dancers struggling to invent a new art form with this fusion of modern world narrative dance and pole tricks.
The first company ever to stage a performance with 5 simultaneous poles, they appeared on MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew, created a second company in Nashville, TN, and continued to struggle for acknowledgement and acceptance. For the past 3 years we followed them through success and failure, capturing their art and their lives with our cameras.
Their struggle became our struggle. The journey of these women became the crux of the story. The editing process made heavy use of key features in FCPX: keyword collections, proxy workflow, mixed format timelines, native RED support, multi-cam and synchronization, and the amazingly fluid magnetic timeline. As the program matured from 2011 until the end of 2013, we took advantage of each new feature to help us tell our story.
Keywords and Organization
We grouped footage by type (interview or b-roll), by location, and by featured person. In each keyword collection, we further narrowed it down by marking our favorite moments to give us a place to start. Once multi cam clips were introduced, we used smart collections to organize the multi cam clips, which were used to piece together 4 camera recordings of their dance performances and dual camera interviews with second source audio. Utilizing keywords allowed the same footage to exist in a few different folders, which helped us find what we needed quickly.
Being a self-funded independent documentary, access to the latest technology isn’t feasible. In our case, we chose to shoot on low-budget DSLR cameras which record to H.264. FCPX works with H.264 natively, but I’ve always found it less taxing on my computer to transcode into a more edit friendly format for long format work. In the past, I would transcode everything to ProRes 422 and cut from that. But with hundreds of hours of footage and not knowing how much more we still had to shoot, I needed a solution that would provide me the speed optimization of ProRes, but with the file size of the original H.264 media.
Simply choosing “Create Proxy Media” on import allowed me to have FCPX automatically generate proxy files so I could edit and work. When it came time to output, all I had to do was change a preference setting and FCPX was back referencing the original H.264 media. No reconnecting. No scary media offline. For someone who had managed proxy workflows for other documentary films, it was a dream.
Working with Others
The Magnetic Timeline
I am an editor, but primarily I am a storyteller. The way I describe working in FCPX is like playing improvised jazz. Because the mechanics of the software fade away, editing becomes fluid and creative. The focus moves away from “how do I do this” and becomes “why should I do this.” For me, this is very freeing.
Often while cutting the documentary, I’d start by skimming through the hours of footage we shot and marking interesting moments as favorites. I would then drop all of these into the timeline in random order and begin to craft. Reordering, trimming, slipping, all incredibly fluid and intuitive thanks to the magnetic timeline. We could feel the pulse of the piece come to life as each shot moved into its correct place to tell the story.
It’s The Little Things