The Art and Craft of the Documentary
Documentary films have long been an important part of the Sundance Film Festival. The festival’s U.S. Documentaries category features films that explore stories about individuals, events, and issues. Some films take a fresh look at a well-known topic, while others introduce new ideas, people, and points of view.
Four films in this year’s U.S. Documentary Competition category used a post-production workflow based on Adobe Premiere Pro CC, part of Adobe Creative Cloud. For the editors of Jim: The James Foley Story and Gleason, it was the first time using Premiere Pro, while the editors of Audrie & Daisy and Author: the JT LeRoy Story were already familiar with the capabilities of the software. We spoke with each of them about their unique experiences creating the films that earned them a coveted spot at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.
Audrie & Daisy
In Audrie & Daisy, AfterImage Public Media in association with Actual Films, explores the stories of two high school girls with similar experiences living on different sides of the country. Until about two years ago, the team worked with Final Cut Pro, but ultimately hit a wall with needing to transcode everything. After testing different NLEs, they chose Premiere Pro CC.
“We knew we were going to shoot a majority of our footage in 4K UHD using the Sony F55, so we wanted an NLE that could handle the format natively,” says the film’s Post-Production Coordinator Michael Goodier. “We did a couple of short form projects and found that the native Sony F55 footage could be ingested into Premiere Pro CC, dropped into a timeline, and edited without transcoding. That was the biggest deciding factor to go with Premiere Pro.”
When managing the post-production process, Goodier appreciated the ability to adjust color within Premiere Pro to test looks. “We used the new Lumetri color panel in Premiere Pro CC to do temp color and it was incredibly powerful, easy to use, and responsive,” he says.
The post-production workflow also included Adobe After Effects CC and a bit of Photoshop CC for graphics and animated sequences, as well as Adobe Media Encoder CC, which let the team output multiple Premiere Pro timelines at once.
Former New Orleans Saints defensive back Steve Gleason found out he had ALS around the same time his wife found out she was pregnant. He started recording video journals for his unborn son on whatever he had available, including his cell phone and GoPro camera. When filmmaker Clay Tweel met Steve Gleason, he knew he wanted to tell his personal story of strength and dedication.
Tweel worked with Final Cut Pro for years, but Gleason is the first film he edited with Premiere Pro CC. With 1,300 hours of footage, he calculated it would have taken four weeks to transcode. “We got the footage in March and Sundance Film Festival was the goal,” says Tweel. “We chose Premiere Pro CC because we could start editing right away.”
Adding to the sheer volume of content were the different types of codecs, media, and archival footage. Tweel used Adobe After Effects CC to animate the wide variety of still images included in the film and to create motion graphics to explain difficult concepts, such as how ALS works. Dynamic Link let him easily move content between Premiere Pro and After Effects, for a more seamless post-production process.
Jim: The James Foley Story
Jim is a film about American photojournalist James Foley, who was kidnapped by ISIS in Syria in 2012 and executed in 2014. The film was co-written and directed by Brian Oakes, Foley’s close childhood friend, and edited by Aleks Gezentsvey, who has worked on both TV series and film projects. This was Gezentsvey’s first project cutting on Premiere Pro. Oakes’ background with Adobe software, along with knowing it would be an archival-heavy film, led the team to select Premiere Pro as the editing platform.
“Adobe Premiere Pro is great at dealing with a variety of codecs and frame sizes, and personally, I wanted to get comfortable with it,” says Gezentsvey. “I’ve been keeping an eye on the rapid development Premiere Pro has undergone in the last three years, and I know there are more great features to come.”
The post-production process involved working with various external departments for music, sound, and color, and Gezentsvey found the process of sharing materials to be very straightforward. She also appreciated the ability to round-trip graphics and footage internally with Adobe After Effects CC, Photoshop CC, and Illustrator CC.
Author: The JT LeRoy Story
Michelle Witten and Lucas Celler discuss the creative process they and director Jeff Feuerzeig developed to tell the story of Laura Albert.
Simplifying the documentary filmmaking process
Creating a documentary film is no small task, and can often take years to complete. Documentaries typically involve large quantities of footage and various types of archival content with different formats and frame rates. Anything that makes the job of processing this content faster and easier is a godsend. Premiere Pro CC not only speeds the ingest process, it integrates seamlessly with other apps in Adobe Creative Cloud, helping documentary filmmakers focus on the stories they want to tell, rather than the technology they use to tell them.
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