Workflow – What does that even mean?

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Workflow is one of those super generic terms that everyone seems to know they need to understand but there’s no really good definition of what it includes, if you don’t already know. While the word itself is pretty simple, the term “flow” seems to be where it gets very ambiguous. Flow can mean a great deal of things but can also be incredibly simple. Let’s go over what the most basic workflow in editing is.

First, a definition. Workflow is anything you do to during your project to take it from beginning to end. This includes what you actually DO with all the hardware and software that will be your tools for creating your final vision. The tools themselves are not technically a part of workflow, it’s what you actually do with them that takes you to each next step that we need to focus on and all the steps combined add up to your final workflow.

The most basic workflow that can be documented is Capture > Edit > Finish. This workflow is linear and goes from each step to the next without any branches or extra steps. Here’s an example of that:

Capture

You are shooting a corporate interview so you bring along a Sony FS-1oo to shoot the images. The audio is important, so you decide to attach a nice Sennheiser microphone to the camera as well as a Sony lavalier mic. You have the audio going right into the camera so that it is embedded in the Sony footage. Once you are done shooting, you remove the SD card and copy it to your editing computer. This is a two step capture phase, one step is the actual use of the camera to record and the second is the file transfer to the editing computer.

Edit

You fire up Premiere Pro and cut to your hearts content and mix the audio for taste, maybe some color correction and effects are thrown in to boot. This phase is even simpler as we are using one piece of software to perform one edit.

Finish

Finally you “Ctrl-M” on the timeline in Premiere to fire up Media Encoder. After selecting a high quality h.264 profile template to create a good web-ready file for the client, which is what they are expecting, you fire off an encode and save the file on your drive somewhere. Once the encode is finished, you send along a copy to your client and they are happy with the work, ending your workflow. This goes back to two steps, one is the encode operation, the second is sending the file to the client.

Clearly this is about as simple as you can get and many of the professional readers here will start to ask questions like, “Wait, you didn’t make a backup! ” or “Where is your archival stage?” or “What about client review?”. Well, those start to get into more complicated workflows and we can certainly get as complex as we want, but the key to understanding the word workflow as it pertains to production is that workflow is the container for all of the actions you take towards the success of the project, plain and simple.

In the workflow series we will get into steps, tools and methods that will help you decide what to use and when it is appropriate, for all manner of video productions.

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