In this “How To” segment I show you how to prepare a Hard Drive of raw media for an Editor and how to make basic selects of your preferred takes. Further, if you are not comfortable using the software I show you how to make a paper edit of raw footage.

Be sure to watch my video channel for more Sci-Fi filmmaking giddy-up.

How To Organize A Hard Drive Of Raw Footage To Entice An Editor To Work On Your Low Or No Budget Video Project

You spend months thinking about and prepping your project during pre-production period. You wrote the project or created it. You have a handle on it or are steering the ship. Momentum is building. You survive the shoot and now you enter the post-production phase. You have a years worth of blood, sweat, and tears on a hard drive. You need to find an editor

You look at some editing reels and the editor you think is perfect is $650 a day your total budget for the edit is $500. You talk to several editors to try and get them excited about your project in the hopes they will join the team. I am going to stop right here. Put yourself in the editor’s shoes, you want them to edit for little or no money and to start off that relationship you’re going to hand them a hard drive with three terabytes of raw footage that contains a bunch of folders that say, Card 01, Card 02 and contains numerically labeled shots. That is hardly enticing, in fact, its a deterrent.

Here is a simple way to get an Editor excited about working on your project. You want them to be able to dive right in. You are going to prep the drive. First, create a series of folders. The main folder will be the project name, the title of the work. Within that folder create subfolders. Number them as follows: 01_project, 02_Media, 03_Music, 04_Audio, 05_GFX, 06_Docs, 07_Stills, 08_Assets, 09_Exports.

Folders copy

Now move all your media into the 02_Media folder. If you record audio separately move that into the 04_Audio folder. Add a copy of the script into the 06_Docs folder. If you have storyboards put a copy there. If you have ideas for music put those in the 03 Music Folder.

This next step is what will really help you entice an editor to start on the project. Set up the project in the editing software and make selects. Most likely you will be using Final Cut, AVID or Adobe Premiere. As of now, the most predominant DIY platform is Adobe Premiere Pro CC. If you don’t own it you can get started for under $20 a month. Whichever platform you choose the steps are the same and very similar to the project folder structure. In your chosen editing platform create a new project. In the project create a series of folders. 01_ Sequence, 02_Media, 03_Music, 04_Audio, 05_GFX, 06_SFX, 07_Titles, 08_Misc. Next, import your footage into the project. Media into the media folder, Audio into the audio folder, etc.

Project copy

This next step will really go a long way. Create a New Sequence in your project and call it selects. Start to watch all your raw footage and “select” your preferred takes and pull them into the timeline. Perhaps you like two, just pull them both. Creating a sequence and making selects is very simple. If your not comfortable or familiar with the editing platform at all a few google searches will guide you through this basic process.

Alternatively, if that seems too involved or beyond your time or abilities. At the very least Set up the drive with the folders and create a paper edit. Create a document and assign a brief description of each Footage Card and Contents. Then Do a paper edit. Watch the footage in a viewer such as Quick-Time. Make your selects that way. Create a new document, split the page into two columns. On the left will be the script, On the right will be your notes and your ‘Selects” If the script says, ‘Mary Enters, speaks to Bill. Mary: Hi Bill!” That will be in the left column in the right will be the shot into something like Mary Enters Card02, IMG-0190.mp4 at 03:04. And just map the whole script out with your selects.

paperEdit copy

The point of all this is to present the editor with a project they can jump right into. If you present an editor with a low rate and terabytes of raw footage they will politely pass. If you talk to an editor excited about the possibilities of the project with specific examples from media you’ve already organized and prepped you have a reasonable chance to get them just as excited about being a part of something. If you don’t have the money to invest you simply need to invest your time. Sharing the time investment with the editor rather than laying it all on them will encourage talented people to join you. Last I should mention be sure to make a backup of the drive and its contents and store that away safely.

For more tips and shared experience visit our youtube channel Create Sci-Fi with plenty of informative videos on creating content.


Your Video Production Music On A Budget Can be Royalty Free And Not Suck

I want to share with you some simple scoring solutions I’ve come across and use a few myself. Music is often not dealt with as part of pre-production in tight budget scenarios. A lot of time and effort goes into location scouting, production design, casting and the monumental task of simply scheduling everything. Editing becomes a priority immediately after shooting simply because you want to see what you got. But the score is often ignored by most filmmakers and becomes an afterthought. Not because of ignorance or poor planning mostly because they are the last steps and often fall under the proverb “I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it”!


Often times scoring falls to the editor by default and he or she will score with temp music that you do not have the rights to but helps with pace and tempo. That becomes a slippery slope, you can become married to a tempo and energy and then never get the rights to that track. Also if your picture cuts are married to the music once you change it out recutting is inevitable and that’s going to be double the work. Worst case scenario is your cut was better with music you cannot obtain, that will haunt you. My hack is simple, create a music library of the vibe you want for your project. I Would recommend 3 to 1, three song options for each scene or a moment you will be scoring. Make it clear these are the only options. That way the editor can audition the tracks from that group of preselections that are in your budget or already cleared.

The good news is great news actually, getting the rights to a piece of music to score your production has become very affordable and there are many free options. Filmmakers can get cheap or free scores by creating them through software programs like GarageBand or an online service like Filmstro that allows you to score your video with their library. Websites like Pond5 and Audiojungle have tracks you can get the rights to for around $20. If you consider the time investment of the free options $20 is a bargain. Also with the low-cost sites like AudioJungle and Pond5 you can download any track before you actually buy it. This makes it easy to fill up your projects music library. It will have an audio watermark but that is fine for trying out tracks in your edit. You can also find some free options too. I’ve used Free Stock Music quite a few times. And for free sound effects an excellent resource is Freesound.

Creating your own scores with GarageBand can be rewarding, it’s not too difficult to learn and with the newer version you can import your video. GARAGE BAND TUTORIAL

Is a customizable music library that always you to control several aspects of a music track to customise it to your image. It is subscription based. FILMSTRO TUTORIALS

Is part of Envato Market. At AudioJungle you can buy royalty-free music and sound effects inexpensively. The site is home to a bustling community of audio composers and producers. They offer ‘Music Kits” to customise and rearrange music tracks without using complex software. Basically, they give you the separate elements of a track.

Similar to AudioJungle, Pond5 is a New York-based online marketplace for royalty-free media. The company licenses stock footage, stock music, stock photography sound effects, after effects, images and 3-D models.

Free Stock Music
There are many free tracks on this site. They offer a 100% royalty free license that allows you to use the music in all types of productions, for worldwide distribution, forever. There are never any licensing fees.
Freesound is a collaborative database of creative-commons licensed sound for musicians and filmmakers. They have just about any sound effect you are looking for.

There should be an option on this list to fit your creative and budgetary needs. I hope you found this article useful. For more tips and shared experience visit my youtube channel Create Sci-Fi with plenty of informative videos on creating content.

Green Screen Keying And Compositing Tutorial Video Without After Effects

In this VFX tutorial on Create Sci-Fi, I take you step by step through the process of keying and compositing green screen footage without using After Effects. We achieve this effect right in your editing software.

Be sure to watch my video channel for more Sci Fi filmmaking giddy-up.

Low Budget Filmmaking Costs An Astronomical Amount Of Your Time, It’s No Secret How To Be Successful

The secret of low budget filmmaking is communicating effectively and taking the steps to be completely prepared. When you do not have money to invest the only option left to you is to invest your time. When embarking on low budget project you must lead by example. If you cannot communicate clearly and quickly what you want from your team you’ll have a very difficult time recruiting people at a low or no rate and you will quickly lose the people who are already on board. You have to do the work, all of it, all the time.


If you are serious about embarking on a long journey of DIY, Low Budget filmmaking you need to learn a filmmaking skill. Sounds obvious right? But do not be that person who has an idea for a project and expects everyone else to do all the heavy lifting. When I first started out and to this day when I show one of my films someone will come up to me excited by what they see I created independently on a low budget and want me to help them make their half baked idea a reality. Low budget filmmaking is such an insane amount of work and time along with the utilizing of hard earned contacts, why in the world would I spend all that time and potentially burn my contacts for someone else’s project? But what I am more than willing to do is share what I’ve learned and help you get started making films for yourself.

As a Low Budget filmmaker most likely you are focusing on writing and or directing. Sorry to tell you, those don’t count. As the writer or director at the end of a project, it has your name on it and you will represent it. When you go to festivals you will speak for it and ten years from now it is a solid director or writer credit on your IMDB. That is your compensation for the time and effort you spent.  Everyone else just wants to get paid and if they are not getting paid they need to be excited about the opportunity your project provides them. They need to clearly see the value in offering you their time and effort.

Since writing and directing do not apply here I recommend learning editing. To begin to learn how to edit, you can subscribe to Adobe Premiere pretty inexpensively. Certainly, alternatively, you can learn photography, sound recording or sound designing which is great. But if you are starting from zero as a camera person there is a lot of gear to buy and understand. To practice that skill you need projects or need to schedule the time to shoot. With editing, you can just sit at your computer at home and practice. You can even hang out in the park or coffee shop with a laptop. Sound design is more akin to editing in that context but if your aim is filmmaking picture editing makes more sense.

But I need a project or source material you are saying. I hear you and this is what I suggest. A good exercise is to make a music video from the royalty free archival footage, I like the Prelinger Archives. Also, kill two birds with one stone, ask a local or independent band if you can use one of their songs. If you have a friend who is a DJ edit video to one of their tracks. That way they get a music video or projection video and will most likely share it. Your first credit as an editor. I made this music video for a band I really admire Vanish Valley for free, but it wasn’t free was it? It cost my time. But I loved the song and was excited to make something with the footage I found. Passion and drive are key because there is not money motivating you, in fact, it’s costing you money.

The most important reason for learning to edit is for practical reasons. You should learn to edit because you will spend the most money and time on editing. And as they say, a movie is made three times. First when you write it, second when you shoot it and third when you edit it. As a low budget filmmaker, I am guessing you are writing and directing so you might as well round it out. If you are just starting to write have a look at my writing article.

keep in mind you are just learning you do not need to master any of the skills but you should have a working knowledge of them. I stress editing because I will repeat,  it will save you the most money and in my opinion, give you the most fulfilling creative experience. When you do one day get an actual workable budget and you sit with your editor you will understand the job and know how to communicate your ideas. And now we get to the point.

When you are paying people little or no money you need to be able to communicate effectively to them what you need. Simply understanding what they do even if is beyond your abilities goes a very long way. Let’s say you are learning to edit but you are not up to speed when it comes time to make your project. I can guarantee you will have an easier time getting an editor if you just do the prep work yourself. With digital filmmaking, there is a lot of raw footage generated. If you hand over a hard drive with 1TB of raw footage to an editor you are not paying. Trust me he or she is not running home to dig into that. If you have a basic knowledge you can load your footage into an editing project file. Organize the footage and make simple selects of the takes you like. After that process, you have a very clear handle on what needs to be done or a very clear idea of what you are lost at sea with and need input on.  If you give an editor a project that is organized and all your best takes are selected they will go straight home and dig in. By taking the time to organize the project you communicated to the editor one, you do not expect them to do all the work you want them to contribute and two, you communicated what you are looking for in your edit by making the selects. Also, it is always good form to mention these are your suggestions nothing’s in stone and encourage them to try their own ideas. Now you placed value on their time.

Perhaps you have nothing but burning desire to tell your story as a movie. You still need to get people excited and interested in helping you. You have the most basic elements at your disposal right now, a paper and pen, well most likely a laptop and word processor. Paper and pen just sounds more dramatic. You write your story out long hand. Your characters are here they go there, he said, she said. Then you take your story and turn it into a script, exterior day, stage direction, character dialogue. Next, you make storyboards, draw in rectangles how you see the scene, stick figures and arrows are fine. This is your directing rehearsal, your practice for communicating with the camera person and actors.  Finally, do a paper edit, make two columns and in the right column put the dialogue and action in the left column put the description of what we see on screen. This is your editing rehearsal, your practice for communicating with the editor. By the time you do all this work you will be bursting with clear ideas and direction.  You can now get potential collaborators excited about your idea and clearly communicate with anyone who agrees to be involved in your project.

In closing, I will say always be gracious and never loose you cool. It is a process, one project at a time. With each project learn a new skill and build friendships with the people you’ve gathered around you. If they had a good experience they will always be up to working with you again. Which means on the next project that’s less of your valuable time you need to spend.

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