Documentaries in the Classroom TARIQ BUTT'S LEARNING JOURNAL


For my short documentary I wanted to highlight an exhibit by the Lillian H Smith branch of the Toronto Public Library titled “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: 200 years of mad science”. I shot at the library with curator explaining the themes and some of the artifacts in the exhibit. Video and audio were recorded on an iPhone 6s at 4K 30fps and edited with Adobe Premiere Rush (and significant use of Adobe Audition and After Effects).

Working with Adobe Premiere Rush was both a joy and a frustration. On the one hand, the ease of use and ready accessibility to the most common functions (especially effects) made Rush a lot more user friendly and allowed me to speed up the workflow. The audio effects in Premiere are amazing and I found audio cleanup was faster and produced better results. However, I often found that I was working with a stripped down version of Premiere Pro and made the lack of availability of some useful functions to be frustrating. As a seasoned Premiere Pro user, I had pledged to constrain myself to the stripped down version offered by Rush. One of the features sorely needed in Rush is the ability to unlink audio and video track (is this available? Did I just not see it?) Working with footage where I had let the camera freely travel over exhibits while the curator explained them, I was relying on the unlink function to sync the audio and video. However, I couldn’t do this in Rush. I ended up having to extract audio from video clips in Audition and working with separate audio tracks while muting the audio on the video track in Rush. Secondly, I felt like I had less control over my timeline. Rush would drop videos haphazardly on the timeline when I selected and dragged them onto the timeline from the bin. Once again, am I missing something? I ended up having to lock tracks and only leave the track I wanted to bring the clip into unlocked. Lastly, I missed the ability to change the speed of clips and perform basic motion graphics like panning across and scaling still frames (aka the Ken Burns treatment). I ended up relying on Adobe After Effects for the motion graphics.

Overall, I found working with Rush to be fun and intuitive. It helped me work faster due to the ease of use and ready availability of common features. I was able to find workarounds for the weaknesses and shortcomings.

The first cut of my documentary is over 6 minutes long. This is not a problem with Rush... this is a problem with being in love with the subject. It still needs audio and video cleanup. I will have to focus on these aspects as I work towards shortening the video. I must brace myself to kill my darlings... how Frankenstein of me...

WEEK TWO: Chop Two...

After bringing in my rough cut at almost six-and-a-half minutes I was sure that I wouldn't be able to cut it down to a minute. However, with a radical re-imagining of the material, drastic cuts and a better understanding of Premiere Rush I was able to bring it in at about a minute and 20 seconds.

Using Premiere Rush was a dream the second time around. The key difference was that I had learnt the strengths and weaknesses of the tool and adapted my workflow accordingly. I prepared the audio assets before I even launched Rush and then focused on dropping them in the timeline and assembling my audio and video according to my plan. Executing my plan was quick and easy because I played to Rush’s strengths. I kept the assembly simple and made sure I locked the timelines so that the clips were not jumping to spots I didn’t want when I brought them into the timeline. The basic audio enhancements that I required for my edit were achieved quickly and easily with Rush. Overall, I am happy with the final product and the time it took me to get there.


My learning over the few weeks of using Rush are primarily based on how it differs from Premiere Pro. I would list my learnings as follows:

  1. Prepare all your assets knowing the limitations of Rush. This means working around the inability to unlink audio from video and change clip speed. All such effects should be done in-camera before you import your footage into Rush. This includes any panning over stills, holding a still frame and (for lack of a better term) “motion graphics” you might want to achieve.
  2. Rush’s audio enhancement tools are powerful, quick and easy. They are great for patching up small imperfections in your audio, such as removing background noise and echo. I found the amplification to be less effective.
  3. Make sure you do the little things right. For me this meant having to get used to less control over the timeline. Rush uses its intelligence to drop clips (seemingly) willy-nilly on the timeline. I had to lock all video and audio tracks except for the ones I wanted before importing any assets. I am sure that this is mostly a function of me having to learn the new software and one can work with this function in a more effective manner.

My overall impression of Rush is that it is a tool that makes video editing quick and easy. It also makes it more accessible to students and less experienced users thereby making an ideal tool for editing short documentaries.

Lastly, my experience using Rush is limited to a Windows laptop that is gasping whenever I try to edit video on it. I am certain that using a more suitable device – Windows or Mac will provide an even more experience by playing to Rush’s strengths of being quick and easy. I am also eager to try the app on mobile platforms and will make that the next step in my learning.

As for using documentaries in the classroom, I have always been a big proponent of it (please read my blog at edsecute.com). What this course reminded me of was how the new generation shoots and edits documentaries. I learnt to edit on Premiere in 1996 when getting the film or video digitised was half (sometimes more than half) the job. Now students shoot video on their mobile devices and Rush provides them an excellent tool for editing videos quick and easy, on the same devices. This is great because Rush makes the "chore" part of the task quick and easy thereby allowing more time for the fun and important tasks of watching, unpacking (inidividually and collectively), analysing and applying the lessons within the documentaries.

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