My First Big Mistake as a Video Editor and How I Became a Capturing Master

My first big screw-up as a video editor
My first big screw up as a video editor

My first big mistake as a professional video editor came quick. It’s October 2009. I’d been at my first job out of college for a couple weeks. My post production experience consisted of a handful of school projects. And Avid Media Composer? The software was still completely foreign to me. I had been using it a bit and reading the manual since starting my job but still didn’t understand why NOTHING MOVED WHEN I CLICKED IT ON THE TIMELINE! All that FCP7 training for nothing…

There are a couple things you should know about where I was working. First, we created training videos for a specific industry. Second, we were a non-profit. That means we kept as much as we could in-house. When we didn’t have to hire out for a professional voiceover (VO) artist we used one of our people. And third, we captured our VO into Avid Media Composer through a mixer into an Adrenaline.

So there I am. It’s 8:30 AM and I’m in “Avid 5” (my glorified closet) running an XLR cable from our sound booth (another glorified closest). The senior editor asked me to record a script with our VO person while she was off that day so she could start on it first thing when she got back. She ran me through the drill the day before. Plug XRL cable into the mixer. Turn on phantom power. Turn off speakers. Plug in headphones. Open Avid. Open VO bin. Ctlr+7 to open the Capture Tool (I was on a PC back then). Name the clip. Pull up faders. Mic check. Okay, I can hear the VO person. The levels on the mixer are lighting up. Hit record. Check for blinking red light in the Capture Tool. Wow…I did it!

Fast forward some two hours and 50 pages of script later.

Our VO person finishes the last line. I stop the capture. The master clip appears in the VO bin. I quickly save the bin and take a deep breath in relief. I wrap up the cable and put away the “Quiet Please” signs. I grab my second cup of coffee and settle back into my edit bay.

I double-click the master clip of the recording session to start editing out the bad takes. I press the spacebar to play the clip and silence…

It’s playing, right?

I check the speakers. Click play. Nothing. Move to later on in the clip and click play again. Nada. Turn up master volume on the mixer. Open up another master clip with audio. Click play and blast my eardrums out. Yep, the speakers work. Where’s the audio I just recorded…?

After several hours of Google searches to no avail I give up. Defeated. Embarrassed. I wasted an entire day on this and our VO person’s morning. This was the first project that was entrusted to me too. They’ll never trust me again. I had no idea what I did wrong and the senior editor won’t be able to work on the project tomorrow!

The next day when she comes in I hang my head in shame and tell her what happened. We take a look at the clip together and she confirms my fears – I didn’t record anything.

She confirms my fears – I didn’t record anything.

I set everything back up to show her my exact steps. Connect the XLR cable, turn on phantom power, turn off speakers, plug in headphones, open Avid, open VO bin, open Capture Tool, name the clip, pull up fad… “Wait! You have to select A1 to capture audio.”

Yep. A1. Not the sauce.

I screwed up. But learned. In fact over the next few months I made it my mission to understand everything there is to know about capturing (even though that knowledge it’s pretty much worthless today!). I read the chapter about capturing in the manual over and over. There were a handful of people in the office that understood capturing and I picked their brains until I knew how to do it better than they did. I knew every deck we had, how it all worked and was able to set it up with my eyes closed. I worked there as a video editor for another four years and to this day have never made that same mistake. They ended up trusting me to complete other projects again too.

Photo by Matt Hobbs on Unsplash
I learned what I did wrong then became a master at it.
Photo by Matt Hobbs on Unsplash

You’re going to screw up. New and seasoned editors screw up. I screw up. The key is to learn from it. Learn what you did wrong and don’t do it again. Then go learn everything you can about that topic so you know more than anyone else around. You’ll no longer be the person who messed up an entire recording but the one who they depend on to record something.

I will never make that mistake again and became a master at a topic. Mistakes happen. Just don’t let the same one happen twice.

What have you ever had giant mistake before as a video editor? Consolidate wrong and delete a ton of media (I’m guilty)? Mislabel 200 DVDs (I’m guilty too)? What happened and what did you learn from it?

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