Creating a Documentary with Final Cut Pro X

Over the last 2 years I’ve worked on two documentaries: Frustrated 2 which deals with the broken child support system here in the United States. As well as Unethical Practice which deals with the fire at will policy that many companies have and which provides no job security for the working class. While these 2 projects were created on a shoe string budget the process from start to finish was anything but short and sweet.

Frustrated Chapter 2

Frustrated as the title goes deals with the frustrations that many face in the United States. Chapter 2 deals with the Child Support System and how Fathers and even mothers are treated who don’t have custody of their children. The preparation process before starting to edit this film was broken down into 4 sections:

  1. Gather all the footage

    Getting all the clips together is vital as it helps you find the videos you will need for the final timeline. I am grateful that when I got the hard drive from the cinematographer all the footage was organized into folders by date, the audio and video were also stored in separate folders. I cannot stress enough how important organizing for any project is VITAL!

  2. Identifying the Useful sections

    After you have located all of the footage for your edit you then have to spend a large portion of your time listening and taking notes, this way you can begin to get familiar with the footage. Even if you shot the footage yourself, getting reacquainted is equally important to organizing your footage, this way you know who said what when and where.

  3. Syncing the Audio

    You may or may not know but a camera be it a motion picture camera, iPhone camera, consumer video camera is not meant to be an audio device! As a result audio is often recorded separately and synced in post. For the synchronization I used final cut x audio syncing feature. You simply choose your audio, then choose you video, right click and from the menu choose synchronize clips.


    However keep in mind that your camera needs to have some audio — which is often called scratch audio — this audio is used and analyzed for the synchronization. For syncing to work well the key is getting clean audio, once both your camera’s audio is clean and the audio coming into your audio recorder the process is usually seamless.

  4. Organizing the clips

    Final cut X helps editors keep organized by placing all the elements for their films into a library file.

    This is a great way to keep your entire film organized because from my past experience, you don’t want to have your files everywhere and on different drives. Scattering your footage makes backing up or moving your project from drive to drive very difficult. It also slows down the editing process because your elements are coming from different locations which of course put more work on the processor, hard drives and ultimately your system.

Unethical Practice

This documentary which is approximately 15mins long had a totally different post production process than that of Frustrated 2. One of the challenges was the that there were no dedicated cinematographers, it all had to be shot as we built the timeline. This process was challenging to me because I could not envision the final edit. Whenever I’m lost with my edit I stop and think: what is the purpose of this film and how best can I present that?

With Unethical Practice I identified that we need present the problem and lead up to the solution. In the end it really wasn’t just my brain storming that solved the problem but a close collaboration with the director & producer of the film. I will create a separate post going over in depth my Unethical Practice workflow and the overall message behind the film.

Stay tuned!