Editing by numbers

In life, the only two things I'm ever organized about are video gear and video files. 

On the last documentary I worked on, we had more than a thousand hours of raw footage. First we tried using Premiere Pro's markers in the project to get a handle on the content of the interviews. What later proved to be a lot more useful was coming up with a numbering system on paper. First, we transcribed every single interview. Including the interviews done in different languages. Once we had all the transcripts, we read through the dialogue and began pulling themes. Each theme had a number. So for example (1) Fall of Aleppo (2) U.S. airstrikes (3) ISIS propaganda.. 

We created a numbered Google doc so we could list everything that's been said under (1), (2), (3), etc. Along with a column for numbers, we gave columns for who said it and for the start and end time codes from the original interview so we could find it easily. After that, we assembled our numbered selects in a Premiere project so all the (1)s lived together, all the (2)s, (3)s, etc. in individual sequences.

I'm using the numbering system on another documentary now, which has only three main interviews and is a lot less footage, and organizing the interview sync has been a breeze. Why does this work? I'd say on a neurological level, people process numbers a lot faster than they process words. So editing by numbers distills down information and lets me go back and find the nuggets in the speech. It speeds up the process of finding and creating sync underneath b-roll, and it's faster than reading the transcript and cherry-picking out of the original interview. 

Final Cut Pro X has really adopted this kind of workflow with the ability to do specific keyword searches, but I have to say that I still love having everything in a searchable Google doc. I'm sure in the future, when Premiere Pro realizes they need a better tagging system, they'll come up with something that will automate transcription and metadata all in one so editors can focus on other things.. like for example, this chicken playing piano.