Recently, I built a rack in the closet by my desk to hold my trusty G5 computer, NTSC monitor, sound mixer, speakers, and my one terabyte of hard drive space. A few weeks ago I set up an automatic backup system, opened up Final Cut Pro, and got to work. Since then I've been seated here eight or ten hours a day (when I'm not teaching) with a mug of coffee, pulling individual happenings, minutes, and seconds out of the 130 hours of footage we have amassed and placing them in order, shuffling them around, shortening or stretching them until I'm happy, adding music, taking away music, adding titles and graphics, then sitting back and watching, adjusting, fiddling, struggling, finding the perfect solution, scrambling around for the perfect solution, watching some more, then shutting everything down and going to bed or taking a shower, still thinking, then occasionally rushing back over to turn everything back on and work some more.
So far I am approximately 1/4 - 1/3 through the rough cut. I'm putting things together from start to finish, so I've just passed the 30 minute mark. I'm really excited about what has come together so far.
Walter Murch, the famous editor and sound designer of such films as The Godfather 1-3, Apocalypse Now, The Conversation, THX-1138, The English Patient, etc. etc. wrote once that sometimes he missed the old-fashioned way of editing, where you strung up film on spools, sliced it up with a razor blade, and put it back together with tape. The thing he said he missed most was when you had to rewind or forward through all the footage you weren't using. Unlike now, there was no way to suddenly jump to the middle of a reel. On the computer, you can just go to any spot you want, but on those old Steinbeck machines you had to sit patiently while all the film whizzed before you. Murch said that often the process of watching all that footage when you were looking for something else made connections happen; made ideas pop up that wouldn't have. You can plan an edit all you want, but sometimes the footage itself speaks to you and gives you opportunities and ideas that you could never have arrived at by yourself.
So I've been doing a lot of watching. When I'm looking for a second or two from a shot I remember, or trying to find a soundbite or bit of conversation, I make sure I watch and listen to as much of that 130 hours as I can. Over and over.
Incidentally, our first "goal" is to have the completed rough cut (!) by March 5. It would be a miracle, but I'm shooting for it. The first 30 minutes is easy --- now the harder part begins.