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Editing your phonescoped video

If you've followed the previous sections of this guide, you've probably got reams of footage on your phone. Getting some great shots is obviously the hardest part of phonescoping, but its the editing process that turns that raw and lengthy footage into something watchable. Condensing all your hard work filming into an edited film that's ready to publish and share isn't as easy as you might first think. You've got to invest time in surveying your raw video and locating the best clips before actually combining them in an edit. Sometimes you just don't have what you need. Maybe the camera wobbled at a vital moment, or perhaps you hadn't framed that bird you were filming quite as well as you thought you had. But this is all part of the learning process. Once I gained some experience editing it certainly changed the way I went about shooting the footage in the first place. This section will take you through key aspects of editing together your footage and features a couple of videos where I edit together some of my shots.


Begin by looking back over your footage and start thinking about what you want the end result to look like. A simple shot of a perched bird might only require a bit of tidying up. A more complex multi-shot film will require more thought. Is there a story you want to tell? Can you edit together the best bits of your footage into that logical and engaging narrative?

The nature of filming with only one camera means that you're unlikely to be able to capture the complete birds behaviour in a linear fashion that makes up that story. Things will go wrong with some of the shots, and you may have to rearrange what happens and when. Taking the example of filming a Kingfisher, fishing from a perch. Maybe you want to begin by establishing the scene with a long shot, before zooming in to a shot of the perched bird. Then maybe you have a slow motion take off, another shot of the bird diving into the water for a fish. And then a shot returning to the perch, and wolfing down the fish it's just caught. That requires quite a bit of planning. First of all of course, you've got to get those shots, and have the presence of mind to think about capturing all the pieces. It's easy to forget the long shot for example. Then you need to assemble those pieces into the narrative. When filming in just such a scenario, I happened upon a Kingfisher that spent a few minutes getting a massive fish it had caught in the right orientation to swallow it. I managed to get that on film after a quick setup. I assumed that would be it, but the bird began to fish again, and I got some nice shots of it diving into the water. In the edit, I reversed the order, so you first see the bird attempting to catch a fish, and then finally eating one. There's some artistic licence here to generate a logical story for the film.

Performing the edit

I edit most of my videos on the my phone. It's fast, convenient and seems to me to be very much part of the ethos of phonescoping. For short sequences I've even managed to shoot and then immediately edit a sequence out in the field.

I begin by reviewing my footage and finding the highlights I want to use. I tend to edit new clips of longer shots, that just have those highlights in them. This makes it all the more manageable, and keeps things working more quickly on your phone. Load a 30 minute slow motion shot into your video editing app, and it might take hours to process. So I first trim it down to the (usually) short section I want using the iOS photos app. I also take the opportunity to adjust the start and end points of any slow motion footage.

As I assemble these short but roughly edited highlight shots, I favourite them by clicking the heart icon so I can easily locate them from the mass of raw footage in my Camera Roll. This approach can be seen in the first video below, where I edit a single shot of a perched Peregrine taking off.

With the components assembled, open your video editor app and load them up. As discussed in the Equipment section, I use the Splice app. Now it's a question of fine tuning the start and end points of each video and ordering them into a cohesive whole. You can also remove any unwanted sound (or add additional sound) and also tweak the transitions between videos. The basic editing process is illustrated here in this second video.

When you're filming it's important to shoot as much film as possible to give you the best chance of getting that perfect sequence, that might only be a few seconds long. Editing requires something close to the opposite approach. You might have hours of footage and you probably need to distill it down to mere seconds. You have to be ruthless with your hard work filming. If you nailed the shot of some great bird behaviour, but maybe you lost the focus or didn't get the right framing, you might have to just go back to the drawing board. But hang in there. As I said before it's a learning process and the more you shoot and then edit, the better you'll be for next time. Check out my Vimeo account, and you'll see a marked improvement in my footage over time as I gradually learned how to do it better, and fine tuned my phonescoping kit.

Editing videos is probably best illustrated with an example or two, so check out the videos below to see how it works in practice. Note that since filming these videos, iOS Photos has been updated and changed, and Splice app has been completely changed (and wrecked!). I now use iMovie!

This video demonstrates the basics of performing a simple edit using the iOS Photos app. As well as being useful for trimming very straightforward single sequence videos, it also provides a foundation for more complex editing. I use the approach demonstrated in this video to roughly trim down long videos to particular highlights I want to combine in a more complex edit, which I describe in the second video guide below.

This second video guide follows through the more complex process of editing together several roughly cropped sequences of video into a finished result. It focuses on the use of the Splice app on iOS,

Summary: Top tips for editing phonescoped video

  1. Take the time to fully review your footage. There might be some hidden gems of momentary but interesting behaviour that you hadn't seen first time around especially if you shot in slow motion

  2. Make rough edits of promising sequences of footage, to narrow down your raw film to the clips you want to use. Make use of favouriting to mark these highlights

  3. Combine these clips in your editor and trim the start and end of each clip precisely. Allow time for transitions and for the shot to begin after a cut

  4. Think about your narrative and order your footage to tell a story, however simple

  5. Set the scene with long shots before moving in for the detail and highlights - a simple but powerful technique

  6. Think about the audio. Maybe you just want to mute background noise. Or perhaps add music or reintroduce calls or bird song

In the final section, I provide some frequently asked questions to help you troubleshoot your phonescoping.

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