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Editing with Raw Footage

I like things simple!

On the most basic level, editing is organising footage into a beginning, middle and end. Simple as that and the starting point with most edits is the raw camera footage.

We produce hundreds of videos a year and an increasing number of our clients have been asking for the raw camera footage after a project. This is quite common if we’re working with a design agency who has video editing capabilities in-house or a large organisation with an internal marketing team.

But it takes more than just dragging a few clips around a computer to turn raw footage into a polished professional edit.

Working with raw camera footage for those not familiar with the technical and creative side of editing can be a battle. It’s time-consuming, confusing, demanding and probably not the best use of your time either.

So if you’ve been landed with a hard drive full of clips from a shoot and want to know what to do, here’s a quick rundown of how to get the best out of raw footage.

What is Raw Camera Footage?

Raw footage is the original unedited video that’s captured during filming. It is completely bare of any colour grading, sound mixing and editing so it is literally raw from the camera. Just to be clear, the term ‘raw’ also refers to an image format used by high-end cinema cameras, but let’s not get bogged down!

Because raw footage comes straight out of the camera, it won’t look or sound like anything you’re used to! The colours might be slightly washed out or have a slight orange or blue tint. The sound might be echoey or imbalanced. There’s likely to be more footage than you expect and a lot of it might not be suitable, such as gaps at the start and end of interviews or several cutaways shots of the same scene.

Working with raw footage is a technical challenge, but there are things you can do to make it work for you.

How to work with raw footage

Colours may appear faded or desaturated in raw footage. This is because the footage has not had any colour correction applied as this typically happens at the end of the editing process and not in the camera.

Once you’ve finished an edit with raw footage, take a step back from the edit and take a look at the colour with fresh eyes.

Look at the colour balance – is it to warm or too cold. Are the colours saturated enough? Does the contrast need balancing? If there’s already been a professional edit made from the footage, maybe have a look at that and see how the colours compare to your version.

If you’re editing raw footage yourself, the audio will definitely need some work doing to it as well.

Raw camera footage is not captured with a perfectly mixed ‘stereo’ sound. Instead, it will have a number of mono audio channels – usually anywhere from two to ten and maybe more.

Each audio channel captures different audio source with different microphones used in each one, for example, interview subjects speaking on camera will have their own microphone, which will feed into one of the audio channels.

Another channel may have a camera mounted microphone on it to capture the general sound of a space, known as a ‘scratch’ mic. The audio from the scratch mic is only used when capturing general shots or cutaways, so if you’re editing an interview or if the sound is too echoey, identify the scratch mic and turn it off.

Editing with raw footage

Editing raw footage yourself is a guaranteed way to put your computer through its paces! Our edit suites are of the highest spec and we’re constantly upgrading them, so if you’re thinking of using an old Windows XP laptop as your edit station, you might want to think again!

If you’re going to be editing raw footage, you will need to have a dedicated edit computer or at the very least a high spec PC or Mac. You’ll need lots of hard drive space too, as roughly one minute of raw footage is the equivalent of one gigabyte of memory. To put that into context, it’s about the same file size as 2000 Instagram photos.

But if you don’t have a fast computer to edit with, there is a solution.

Most editing applications will allow you to convert the raw footage into smaller files that put less pressure on your computer processor. Known as ‘proxy’ files, these are temporary, low-resolution versions of your raw footage that you can edit with. Because they’re smaller in size, they put less strain on your computer. Then, when the edit is complete, you can easily relink the proxy files back to the original raw footage in the editing software and export your edit in full quality – a huge time saver!

Being able to work with raw footage gives you the freedom to reuse footage from your shoot and get more mileage from your videos. If you’re filming an event and want to get a bunch of testimonials to use in the future, having access to the raw footage can be a great benefit.

But it can take a lot more time for someone with no editing experience to work with raw footage, so the perceived savings of using someone in-house rather than a professional isn’t always cost-effective.

We often edit with raw footage provided by other production companies or non-professional footage tidies into nice edits, so you can rest assured that we know what we’re doing!