MediaStorm’s Advice to Multimedia Producers

After my last post, 10 Ways to Improve Your Multimedia Right Now, I thought it might be instructive to take a step back from technical issues and focus instead on some of the underlying ideas that help shape the production process at MediaStorm.

The concepts below have been compiled by members of the MediaStorm team over the course of their careers. Most of these ideas will hold true whether you are creating multimedia in Final Cut Pro, iMovie, or Soundslides.


  • Never update your hardware or software in the middle of a project. After you’ve completed your project, backup to a separate drive, then update. If Final Cut is behaving oddly, try deleting your preferences by using FCP Rescue or do it manually, using the instructions detailed in this previous blog post.   
  • When building an editing suite, purchase the fastest computer, largest display, most accurate speakers, and the most comfortable chair you can afford. Tighten your budget elsewhere. These four are your lifelines. See MediaStorm’s gear kits for a more detailed list of recommended equipment.
  • New technology is important only insofar as it allows you to do your job more easily. Your job is to tell good stories.


  • Organize your project at the very start of the process. Doing so later will undoubtedly be more complicated and require more time.
  • Give your assets meaningful names. In three weeks, you’ll never remember what “sound test 3” refers to without spending the time to find out. For a more extensive discussion of how to organize a multimedia project, download Tips from the MediaStorm Final Cut Workflow.
  • Keep lists, particularly for export and deliverable specifications and settings. Even if you’ve memorized these requirements, it’s easy to overlook small details when you’re up against a deadline. Plus, it always feels good to cross items off a list.
  • Hold on to the most recent output from all of your projects. This way, when you need the file again, you won’t have to stop working in order to generate a new one.
  • Keep versions of previous work. Leave them behind like breadcrumbs. Eventually you’ll need to find some missing piece of information. Make the path back easy to follow.


  • The first minute of a project is often the most difficult to produce. Start with what you know, and build from there. The finished pieces will tell you what is missing. As an example, for most MediaStorm productions, including Marcus Bleasdale’s Rape of a Nation, the image edit of the opening sequence is generally produced last. That first minute is most important for capturing the viewer’s attention. Therefore, it must be truly compelling. It’s hard to know what’s most compelling until you have a comprehensive knowledge of all your material.

  • Confusion and disorder are where you begin. Work through it. Creating is making sense of the unknown. Simplicity comes last. The rough cut of Kingsley’s Crossing was well past 20 minutes. Only after producing everything, can you know what to leave aside.


  • Plan to spend about 10 hours of production time for every minute that ends up onscreen.
  • Editing is making a thousand small decisions. Focus on the specific. Don’t be satisfied with a decision that is not correct.
  • In the beginning, every photograph, every sound bite is precious. In the end, you’ll slaughter whole sections you’ve loved without blinking. To paraphrase David Mamet paraphrasing the old editing adage, “You start with a scalpel, end with a machete.”
  • You will never have all the right assets. Key images will be missing; an interview will be garbled. Limitations are opportunities to make unexpected choices.
  • Understanding and completing a project happens exponentially. Completing the last 20 percent of a project will occur much faster than creating the first 20 percent. Time you put in at the beginning will pay dividends at the end. The first two minutes of Iraqi Kurdistan by Ed Kashi took weeks to complete. The last two minutes took days.
  • Viewers are far more forgiving of bad video than they are of bad audio. You can produce a successful documentary with poor video. The same cannot be said for bad audio.


  • It’s easy for hours to evaporate when you’re editing. Try to get out of the office and go for a walk once a day. It’s amazing the insights you can have when not focused on solving a problem.
  • Multimedia producing is more like making films than slide shows. Watch movies.
  • Don’t rely on just the assets collected in the field to understand your subject matter. Read, read a lot, read often. Even if it’s only tangentially related, this knowledge will seep into your command of the story.
  • Producing is a collaborative process. Other people’s suggestions can and will make your project better. But as David Mamet writes in Bambi vs. Godzilla, never seek advice from someone who doesn’t have a vested interest in your success.

And Most Important

  • Of all your tools, story is the primary one. Every image you use, every video clip you include must, on some level, advance the story. Otherwise, it’s just technique. And technique without purpose is showing off. Viewers want story. They long for it. They crave it. Give them a good story, and they’ll always come back for more.

Learn more about our approach to producing multimedia by purchasing MediaStorm’s Post-production Workflow. Spanning more than 200 steps, the workflow covers every phase of editing, from organizing and editing assets in Final Cut Pro 7 through backing up and archiving your project. The workflow includes exclusive access to our Aperture Workflow and our Final Cut Asset Parser. Learn more about MediaStorm’s Post-production Workflow.