From Compostelle to Kuujjuaq—Editing the Path to a Thousand Dreams

By in Timeline Tuesday, Video Editing

From Compostelle to Kuujjuaq presents the life of an exceptional man: Stanley Vollant. As the first native surgeon in Canada, Vollant initiated an ambitious project: a 5 year, 6000 km walk across Quebec, Ontario and Labrador to mobilize the first nations communities, deliver a message of hope and motivate them to realize all of their dreams.

Stanley Vollant

From Compostelle to Kuujjuaq consists of two 1-hour documentaries relating 2 expeditions and 52 days of shooting with multiple cameras (Sony F-55, Sony PMW-200, Panasonic GH4, Drones). The shooting was mostly done in HD 23.98 fps mixed with some 29.97, 30p, 24p with a little bit of 4k on the side, timelapses, REC 709, S-LOG3, double system recorded audio that had to be synchronized. Also I had approximately 30 hours of HD archival footage and with no help from an assistant editor! This was the biggest project I had to manage and edit in 20 years. It was huge!

Timeline of the two 1-hour documentaries 'From Compostelle to Kuujjuaq'

I work a lot with 2 other popular NLE and there was absolutely no doubt that Avid Media Composer was the way to go to tackle that kind of monster. After all, media management must be solid and worry free. Furthermore, I am a freelance editor living in one city, the director in another and the producer in a third one. However, both of them had to have access to all the media, at all times. So I had to copy everything (4 TB of DNx36 media) on external hard drives. The upside to this is that I could send them a bin with the latest version of the edit instead of QuickTime files. No relinking was required. Great!

First off, I created a timeline for each day of shooting containing footage from all the cameras with the audio synched. I did a first screening of everything, cleaning up what was unusable and placing on V1 anything that contained bits of sound that could be useful at some point and on V2 everything else that could only be used for visual coverage. That way I could easily see in a glimpse what was what and scroll my way through each day as fast as I wanted. It was much more efficient than opening a bin and clicking through all the clips one by one.

Example of a shooting day cleaned up

Timelines of each shooting day

For each interview, which were already transcribed into Word Documents, I went up and beyond what I would normally do. I roughly pre-edited the content to keep only the stuff that could be used. Of course, since this happened early in the process I had to keep more, but the idea was to have chunks of interviews that made sense and were more concise. I also copy-pasted the transcribed document in the title tool on V2. This was a long process but saved me so much time later on when the director would tell me: “I remember that guy saying this/that to me on day 16”. Boom! There it was, pre-edited.

Example of an interview with transcription

From a story editing point of view, this is also the hardest project I had to do because the focus wasn’t on the expeditions themselves, they just served as a driving link to talk about much deeper matters as we went along in the films. We basically broke the expeditions to open up “theme-bubbles” about first nation health, culture, education, identity, alcohol and drugs, suicide and, of course, more personal issues about Stanley’s life. This looks easy on paper and during the pre-production talks but it soon became a real challenge. It’s all about timing, it must be fluid and story compelling without losing the adventures’ pace. To succeed, this was a team effort between the director, producer, scenarist and I.

To learn more about Stanley Vollant’s project Innu Meshkennu, visit www.innu-meshkenu.com.

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After working full time as an editor at Technicolor-Québec for 17 years, 8 of which as both an editor and a technical director, I am now a freelance editor. During all those years, I’ve edited more than 30 documentaries, countless TV shows and a gazillion TV ads. Amazing how much material you can edit in over 20 years when you think about it! www.linkedin.com/in/pierrebretonmonteur