23 Sep Video Editing, oh my god!

Night and day I’ve been editing video and audio clips for the Marshall Islands Story Project. Two weeks ago the Historic Preservation Office in Majuro told me they are expecting the Project to be finished by the end of September. I thought I had until January. The Preservation Officer said, “Look at the contract.” I wanted to laugh because it’s not like anybody has been looking at the contract throughout the project (see previous blogs for details).

Be that as it may, I’m trying to finish the website by the end of month. But here’s the problem: editing. Audio editing is pretty straight forward. You load the sound onto the editing board, you move the markers to highlight where you want to cut, then you cut. I’ve never had a problem with my audio editing software.

But video editing, oh, my god. Video editing programs are buggy! I’ve tried three now. I may have to try more. They work okay for a while but then they start getting irritable, like a mentally-ill friend who’s gone off his medication and starts making irrational comments and gestures. This goes on for a while — I try to be patient, I try to work around the gaffs and interruptions. But then, suddenly, the program crashes.

I reload it. I start the editing project over — it may take me an hour just to trim the start and end of a video because the program quickly gets temperamental. And then, then, I make a final cut, and, yes, the program freezes or suddenly loads in fragments of a different clip. I burn up hours and hours like this.

Here’s the added complication. A lot of this video — done in the field — needs improved sound (mostly the wind ruins it). So I have to overdub the audio clip onto the video clip. You might think this would be easy (I did.) Video runs faster than audio. So I have to trim the audio, sometimes every two minutes, cutting where there is the speaker’s pause.. Some of these tapes are over an hour long. Oh my god.

I’ve got interviews with two kings and all kinds of other important people. It won’t do to have them mouth a sentence silently, only to hear their words follow several seconds later. Still, I can’t be too fastidious. One clip today took me four hours to complete. The sound syncs in for a minute, then cycles out for a minute, then comes close to syncing for a minute, then cycles out for a minute, then syncs in for a minute. On my god. I’ve got 31 videos to edit.

Here’s yet another problem. Even after I save the edited clips, sometimes the file gets corrupted. I don’t know how. It has something to do with file transfers from computer to computer. In making the transfer at my office computer, I now have 18 finished audio clips I can’t access because the folder is “corrupted.” I do have back-ups. Always make back-ups.

The video-editing program I’m working with now, Corel’s Video Studio, costs $100 and I’m not asking it to do much. Really, the stuff I’m doing is very simple. I’d pay more for a better program, but I have yet to read a review of a video-editing program that does not crash or act out (unless I’m willing to spend $1,000 or more). At this point, I don’t have TIME to buy another program and work through its bugs.

It’s an imperfect world, we all know. It seems video-editing programs capture that fact better than anything else they try to do. No doubt years from now our successors will look back and shake their heads in wonder at our crude technology and ask. How did they manage? . By fits and starts, I’d answer But we did, we do, prevail.