Director and Editor Todd Douglas Miller Talks Editing Apollo 11

Published on in Exclusive Interviews

Director and editor Todd Douglas Miller sifted through NASA’s archives and used Adobe Premiere Pro to piece together the story in a way that has captivated audiences. He takes viewers back in time to the center of the excitement with perspectives from Mission Control, the astronauts, and the many spectators who watched the historic launch. Todd received the Sundance U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing and he spoke with ProductionHUB.

PH: Can you discuss Apollo 11 and how the project came up? 

Todd Miller: It started with a question - could we tell the story of Apollo 11 using only archival materials?  Then we began by trying to quantify exactly how much material related to Apollo 11 was in NASA vaults and at the National Archives. 

PH: What storytelling approach did you take? How did you determine what footage you wanted to use? 

Todd Miller: We wanted to only use archival materials in telling the story sticking with a direct cinema style as much as possible. 

PH: What was it like sifting through NASA's archives? How long did that take? 

Todd Miller: The majority of the material came from National Archives with some other reels being supplied by NASA’s Marshall Spaceflight Center and Johnson Space Center. The project took about three years. 

PH: Why did you choose Adobe Premiere Pro to piece everything together? (Any specific features that were particularly useful?)

Todd Miller: We used Premiere for the offline edit. I enjoy the GUI of Premiere and it seemed to handle multiple streams of our proxy files (downconverted from 8K) well. The conform, color, and finishing were done in other programs depending on the deliverable (ie, 4K theatrical, IMAX, 2K broadcast, etc).

PH: Did you face any challenges with the film? What were they and how did you overcome them? 

Todd Miller: There were numerous challenges, but one of the biggest challenges, outside of scanning/restoring countless film reels, was to accurately represent the sound design. We wanted everything to feel as if you were there.  Luckily we had a great sound designer, Eric Milano, who made sure everything was as accurate as possible. 

PH: What do you hope the audience takes away from Apollo 11? 

Todd Miller: That this was an enormous undertaking made possible by individuals all working together for a common goal. Apollo 11 represents the greatest achievement in human history. And its success was dependent on hundreds of thousands of people working as one.  

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