Archive for the ‘Technical & process’ Category

Video Tutorial on Cuts and Transitions

March 29th, 2016

Here’s a well-executed tutorial to watch and enjoy – and learn from. Using examples from a potpourri of popular movies including Misery, the Matrix, and Easy Rider it explains basic cuts such as match cuts and jump cuts and basic transitions both video and audio. The tutorial is an ode to editing and the joy of filmwatching and filmmaking that flies by, belying the thought and effort beneath the cuts. Click on the “cc” button on the lower right to see which movies the cuts are from.

Film Editing: Great Cuts Every Filmmaker and Movie Lover Must Know For more categories, descriptions, and discussion of basic and complex cuts, transitions, and VFX read my book Film Editing: Great Cuts Every Filmmaker and Movie Lover Must Know

To see more tutorials on post and editing as well as directing, cinematography, costumes, screenwriting, and more filmic arts, check out Rocket Jump Film School. It’s less a school than a website dedicated to the film community no matter your level of experience serving up a bevy of free podcasts, videos, events, tips, forums, etc.

Editing practices, Editor’s role, Technical & process, Visual FX editing

The Art of Editing a Montage – Part 3

January 16th, 2016

Having explained the purpose of montage, its history, and the guidelines for cutting a montage, this last post details the types of montages and then has some fun looking at how some montages have become clichés and been parodied.

Types of Montages
Montage scenes have many themes – dramatic, comic, news – to list a few primary categories. The following table charts the major categories types of montages and gives examples.

Type of Montage Example
Grief or recovery The character walks the old, familiar path on the beach or in the city, stares out the window on a rainy day, or lies in bed unable to move. After the montage, the character returns to life by taking a first step or making a choice of some kind.
Love The lovers enjoy sunsets, romantic dinners, rolls in the hay, etc. before emerging from their cocoon and addressing the realities lurking around the corner.
War A soldier goes through the travails of boot camp, acquires helmet and weapon, and sets out for the field of battle. The montage sets the scene for battle and the testing of the soldier.
Success A rock band plays for the local Elks club and by the end of the montage is headlining at Madison Square Garden.
Learning and training A student studies for the test. A skier practices for the Olympics.
Job A college grad is interviewed by a series of bizarre employers.
Dating A woman goes out with a string of loser dates.
Clothing A man tries on a succession of ridiculous ties.
History Immigrants arrive in Manhattan and erect the city.
Process A reporter travels to different holy sites, seeking enlightenment.
Search A man tries on a succession of ridiculous ties.

Some well-known examples of movie montage can be seen in: Rocky (the training sequence ending with his runs to the top of the steps), Scarface (rise to power montage cut to Push it to the Limit song), Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (visiting the museum montage), Clueless (makeover montage) and Lord of the Rings – Return of the King (lighting of the torches in different lands montage). Even animated movies contain great montages such as Toy Story II (Jessie’s backstory), the expositional opening, and Cars (see below).


In Cars a montage with voiceover takes the audience on a trip down memory

lane to the glory days of the hamlet of Radiator Springs.

Spoofs of Montages

The hours approaching, just give it your best
You’ve got to reach your prime.
That’s when you need to put yourself to the test
And show us a passage of time.
We’re gonna need a montage (montage)
Oh it takes a montage (montage).
Song for montage scene in Team America and in South Park, Episode 3 Season 6

A few montage themes have reached cliché status and become parody material such as the “Getting over the loss of a love” montage, the “Getting fit” montage, and the “Preparing for the big event or showdown” montage. So you can have fun creating montages that make fun of other montages or scenes from movies. The Montage song and scene in Team America by the producers of South Park who repeated the song with different images in South Park, Episode 3 Season 6 is one example of this. Here’s another.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Jump cuts, a sunset, and a roll in the waves spoof clichéd lovemaking scenes in this

montage from The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. (Selected cuts)

Final word: Have fun pulling pictures, sounds and music together to assemble a montage – and make sure it counts toward moving your show’s story forward.

Editing practices, Editor’s role, History/research, Technical & process

The Art of Editing a Montage – Part 2

January 16th, 2016

The last post introduced montage and talked about the purpose montage serves in fiction and non-fiction pieces. Today’s post summarizes the history of montage and goes over the important rules to keep in mind when you’re actually cutting a montage.

A Brief History of Montage
To best understand montage it’s important to know its history which evolved through three distinct definitions and theories in three different countries during three different time periods.

1) Soviet Union – 1920s
To revolutionary Soviet filmmakers, montage was synonymous with editing and meant the
Vsevolod Pudovkin,the filmmaker and film professor who greatly influenced this generation of Soviet filmmakers, saw montage as the linking of ideas through the linking of one shot to another. His student, pioneer filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein, viewed montage as the conflict of ideas derived from the opposition of one shot to another. Eisenstein wrote: “The general course of the montage was an uninterrupted interweaving of diverse themes into one unified movement. Each montage-piece had a double responsibility to build the total line as well as to continue the movement within each of the contributory themes.”

2) France – 1950s
The French New Wave filmmakers and theoreticians including Andre Bazin, Agnes Varda, Francois Truffaut, and Jean-Luc Godard rejected Eisenstein’s montage theories for their own theories of “realism” which they implemented in shooting and editing their films. Realism reflected the social and political movements of the day due to its transparent visual, narrative, and editorial approach. It anticipated today’s reality shows with its rapid, documentary style pf shooting, hand held shots, jump cuts, defiance of the 180° rule, improvised dialogue, and breakdown of the fourth wall between actor and audience. Montage in the credits of a French movie means editing and stands for the editor; son montage is the sound editor.

3) United States – today
Montage has come to be defined as a sequence of images used to convey facts, feelings, or thoughts that functions as a transition in time, knowledge, or place. Montage is a way to succinctly deliver or sum up a lot of information and can be used to inform, entice, amuse, and always, to advance the story.

Montage Editing Rules
The rules for editing a montage are the same as for editing anything else: Each cut should be motivated (have a purpose) and advance the story you’re telling. How you cut a montage scene is similar to how you cut an action scene in some ways. In both types of scenes the visuals drive the action, flow, and storytelling. Sound (music, voiceover, and sound effects) underscore the scene’s action.

However cutting a montage differs from cutting action in three major ways. First, action scenes tell a story linearly with shots from the same time and place. Conversely montage scenes can pull footage from any place (cities, countries, planets) or time (prehistoric, modern, future, fictional). Second, action scenes normally use straight cuts to drive the action. The shots in montage scenes are usually separated by dissolves, wipes, or other types of transitional cuts. Third, montage scenes are rarely silent; most are set to music and/or involve wild sound recorded at the scene or deliberate, recurring manufactured sounds. Narration habitually replace dialogue in montage scenes. Often you’ll cut the montage to music. But just as often you’ll create the montage and add the music later.
src=”×65.jpg” alt=”fahrenheit” width=”300″ height=”65″ class=”alignnone size-medium wp-image-5595″ />

Fahrenheit 911

In Fahrenheit 911 Michael Moore rejected music and narration in this montage, employing

only ambient sound to document everyday life in pre-war Baghdad. (Selected cuts)

Putting a Montage Together
Composing a montage is freeing and rewarding as you work to assemble a cohesive whole and stumble across random connections. You may put shots together from a variety of sources (dailies, news reel footage, YouTube, TV shows, archival sources, etc.) as well as variety of locations, eras, and angles. The juxtaposed shots will delight you and lead you down cutting paths you never imagined. Accidentally, you’ll insert a shot at the wrong place and be happily surprised by the result.

Some montages are a blend of images that are marvelous, soothing, gorgeous to behold such as a bevy of images of our national parks. Other montages serve up a collision of images where shots clash, disorient, or disturb viewers, e.g. a montage of exposing the pristine and poisoned lakes of our land. Either way, make sure that the audience will make the desired connections from your scene.

To get off to a good start cutting your montage, clearly organize, label, and describe your shots. This way you can ensure that they fit what you’re trying to say and show – and you can quickly grab them and throw them on your timeline as you’re immersed in the process of creating the montage.
Here are some specific DOs and DON’Ts for constructing a montage:

  • DO pay attention to pacing. Choose shot content, focal length, and duration to maximize information, engagement, and the story you’re telling.
  • DON’T make every cut the same duration. Choose each shot’s length – frames – to seconds – by how much information it needs to convey. Once the shot’s played out (is no longer engaging), cut away to something new. Often you’ll notice that the cuts tend to get shorter as the montage progresses.
  • DO freeze shots, speed them up, or slo mo them to communicate their content the most effectively.
  • DO feel free to use multiple visuals such as split screens, supers, layered shots to increase the information and pace of your montage.
  • DON’T use every type of wipe or dissolve in your digital editing machine’s toolbox. Unless you want to look amateur or are making a parody montage.
  • DO make sure that the sound you use – music, sound effects, and/or words – supports your montage.
  • DON’T cut on every beat of every of the music. Borrrring.
  • DO use color correction to adjust shots from different time periods, places, or sources for readability and aesthetics.

When you finished editing the montage, you’ll find you’ve created a scene that is much bigger than the sum of its cuts.


The long montage which Spike Lee inserted at the beginning of When the Levees Broke:

A Requiem in Four Acts serves as an elegy to the city of New Orleans. (Selected cuts).

Coming Up
In final blog on the art of editing montage, we’ll look at the types of montages and how in some cases they’ve become so clichéd that great spoof montages have been created.

Editing practices, Editor’s role, Technical & process

The Art of Editing a Montage – Part 1

January 16th, 2016

December’s issue of MovieMaker Magazine consists of its annual guide to making movies and once again contains an article I wrote, “The Myriad Uses of Montage.” You can buy the hard copy and read the article now or view it online in a few weeks. It’s a case of the editor being edited: My article was cut down a bit and retitled. To get the full benefit of my effort, I am running the entire article here over three posts. Today’s post reveals how a montage is conceived along with the purpose of a montage.


Show a lot of things happening at once.
Remind everyone of what’s going on.
And with every shot you show a little improvement
To show it all would take too long.
That’s called a montage (montage).
Oh we want montage (montage).
Song for montage scene in Team America and in South Park, Episode 3 Season 6

Montage. The word glides off the tongue of many a filmmaker, but what exactly does it mean? Derived from the French word “to mount,” a film montage is a succinct, self-contained sequence of images designed to convey or recap facts, feelings, or thoughts.

A montage arises from the script on a fiction show or the outline on a non-fiction show. Typically the script or outline will call for a montage with a line like these:

  • A series of shots as Jack and Jill go up the hill.
  • A progression of newspaper headlines revealing the murder.
  • Archive footage of tornadoes in the Midwest.

A montage can also be dreamt up after the shoot by the director or editor such as opening teaser montage showing what your doc will be about. Most opening credit sequences on TV shows are montage scenes.

frames from Midnight in Paris

Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris starts with an dreamy montage of the city accompanied

by a drowsy jazz tune that sets up the movie. (Selected cuts.)

Purpose of a Montage
Documentaries, commercials, infomercials, news shows, dramas, and comedies – all types of shows – incorporate montages to get across information and move along the story that they’re telling. Montage scenes are self-contained and frequently serve as bridges between dialogue or action scenes. Most often a montage functions like a musical interlude as it bridges time, place, or knowledge with its evolving collage of images.

Montages are commonly relied upon to deliver exposition, flashback, or flashforward scenes. You can also employ a montage to stretch time or show a character’s interior thoughts. In the example below, we see where a desperate character’s mind goes when he’s immobilized in a canyon due to a boulder pinning his arm.

frames from 127 Hours

In this montage from 127 Hours, director Danny Boyle employs split screen shots to

deliver James Franco’s character thoughts of his family. (Selected cuts.)

Montage scenes invariably show and tell a lot of information in a short amount of time. Most often montages compress time, showing a week, a lifetime, or an era in a minute or two.


In Into the Wild director Sean Penn compressed time in this montage via postcard-like

text and music to show the main character’s journey to Alaska. (Selected cuts)

Coming Next
Part 2 of The Art of Editing Montage will give a brief history of the montage along and cover the rules for cutting montage including specific DOs and DON’T’S.

Editing practices, Editor’s role, History/research, Technical & process

Testing a Media Assets Site: Does Motion Array Meet a Freelance Editor’s Needs?

August 8th, 2015

When you have a website you get numerous unsolicited offers to improve your SEO. These emails go straight to my Block Senders and junk mail folder. Once in a blue moon – and July 31st there was a stupendous one – you get a request that is a win- win. Kaila Williams from Motion Array emailed me asking, “In an effort to increase our membership, I was wondering if you would be willing to write up a review of the services that Motion Array has to offer. We’d like to extend a free month of full membership (NOT the trial membership) in exchange for your honest review of Motion You would have access to all of the After Effects templates, stock video, stock music, and animations that we offer, in addition to the phenomenal customer service that we pride ourselves on.”

I immediately put Jay Scherberth editor extraordinaire and my partner in Picture Your Book on the case. Jay tried out the software and reported that “There really weren’t any significant negative aspects to the site or service.” Neither he nor I get remuneration of any kind from writing and posting this except for the quid pro quo stated above. Here’s his full review:

Jay on Motion Array
Motion Array logo Like most freelance Editors and Web Designers, I often have multiple projects going on, each with a looming deadline. If I don’t have the time or the skill set to create certain media assets, I’ll look to the web for a solution. There are plenty of stock footage sites out there like iStock, Getty Images and Shutterstock which do a decent job at providing the basics like photos, illustrations, and some music. However, often times I’m looking for something more, like unique motion graphics and fresh new After Effects templates.

Motion Array graphicRecently, I tested a media asset site that provided everything I needed for a project at a very reasonable cost. That site is and on it I found just the right stock music and an easy to modify After Effects template with a tutorial. To finish it all off, I grabbed a great stock motion background piece.

Motion Array categorizes all media assets and they are easily searchable. This is important because I would rather spend time creating than searching. All stock motion graphics come in QuickTime format and are encoded in popular video codecs, making them compatible with most all popular editing software like Adobe Premiere, my NLE of choice. The video resolutions, codecs, and frame rates are all listed on the individual product pages.

Motion Array previewThe folks at have done a fine job at creating a well-organized, minimally designed (remember- less is more!) website that comes up fast. I especially like the previewing options that are built into all sections of the website. If you want just a quick look or listen, simply click the asset thumbnail and it plays almost instantly. If you discover a piece of music or an After Effect template that looks promising, click the asset name and you’re presented with a detailed product page, listing format, resolution, frame rate, etc. and a large player. I especially appreciate the “Related Products” suggestions that appear just below the asset you’re examining. This helps you to zero in on just the right piece by suggesting alternative versions. is constantly adding new material which has become an almost daily ritual for me. It’s fun to discover the new, cutting edge material they’re coming up with. The amount of motion effect flares, fractals, shimmering light streaks and swirling particles seem endless but the number and quality of their animated text effects is equally impressive.

And finally, downloading and using the material is painless due to the built-in product tutorials packaged with each asset. While browsing the website, be sure to examine their extensive library of tutorials and free downloads. There is plenty to like here, especially Motion Array’s no long-term contracts policy. Check it out!

Editing practices, Editor’s role, Technical & process, Visual FX editing

The Lumière Brothers and their Fantastic Film Machines – Part 2

July 15th, 2015

Lumiere BrothersAfter Louis and Auguste Lumière introduced their Cinematograph to the world and turned its hand crank to run the world’s first film in December 1895, they had many offers to buy the dual camera-projection machine. But the brothers Lumière refused all offers. In 1896 they took their Cinématograph show on the road, opening theatres in London, Brussels, and New York and projecting their short, celluloid films.

film strip

That year they also shot over 40 “Actualités” – short films about daily life in Lyon and environs. Additionally, they filmed the first newsreel, (of the French Photographic Society conference) and the first documentary (on Lyon’s Fire Department).

First Cinema Auteurs
Next the Lumières and trained a team of operators to use the Cinematograph and to shoot scenes that were screened as “Lumière shots.” monitors at Lumiere Museum The team fanned out from Lyon to capture everyday life and events all over the world from China to Turkey to the U.S. They filmed in a particular style developed by the Lumières which dictated where to place the camera, and basic film grammar, rendering the brothers the first auteurs, according to film historians. All in all, the operators created 1428 shots, many of which run continuously at the museum. (See photo of monitors to right.)

“There’s something extremely cinematographic in the films that Louis Lumière and his cameramen made … He is “the last of the inventors but he’s the first of the filmmakers.”
Thierry Frémaux, director of the Institut Lumière and the Cannes Film Festival

The Photorama
In 1900 the Lumières came up the first surround theatre with the invention of the Photorama. At the museum which photoramaI visited in Lyon, you could stand inside the system and watch a street scene of horse drawn carriages and people negotiating the streets of Marseilles. The Photorama used 50mm and 70mm film placed in 12 cameras to shoot the scene. To project it the Photorama employed 12 lenses attached to a circular plate rotating 3X/second that swept past the film in a circular motion, encircling the audience.

Moving on
As vaudeville theatres began adding the novelty of movies to their repertoire and filmmaking became a business with directors, actors, etc. the Lumières lost interest. “We stopped filming to leave it to the artists,” Louis stated. After 1914 the French influence declined and Hollywood took the reins.

But the Lumières dedication to image making didn’t stop there.

In 1903, after two years of work, Louis came up with what he considered the greatest invention of his life.Ad for Lumiere film He developed the autochrome plate, the first color photography process. Dubbed the “blue label” due to the color of the boxes the film came in, the invention allowed people to take photographs by themselves, without depending on a photographer. The process lasted over 30 years and made the Lumières very rich.

Other Lumière Inventions

The brother continued to create photographic materials andLumiere Truck invented a precursor to the hologram but they also ventured into other areas. Louis invented a mechanical hand to replace those amputated on WWI soldiers. August came up devised a non-adhesive dressing – the Tulle Gras – that was used for decades to help burn victims. He also founded pharmaceutical laboratories and the medical review. The Frères Lumières patented over 200 inventions before Louis died in 1948 and Auguste died in 1954.

And the last word goes to …

Louis Lumiere Plaque… Thierry Frémaux: “Lumière invented the movie theater. Of course, you can watch films on watches, on iPhones, great. But the movie theater is incomparable.”

History/research, Technical & process

The Lumière Brothers and their Fantastic Film Machines – Part 1

July 3rd, 2015

While in France this May I had an experience that truly thrilled me: I visited the Institut Lumière Rue du Premier Film in the Monplaisir district of Lyon. Its grounds, which encompass a museum and a hangar are devoted to the two brothers – Auguste and Louis Lumière – who famously invented, filmed, and exhibited the first motion picture.

Institut Lumiere Staircase inside Institut Lumiere Located on Rue du Premier-Film, the museum is housed in the villa that their father built and the boys renovated to the Arte Moderne style.

The brothers were as thick as twins, having made a pact as children whenCinema Wall at Institut Lumiere they survived a near-drowning. They studied at La Martiniere, Lyon’s biggest technical college, and worked at their father’s photographic factory. He challenged them to invent and Louis came up with the dry plate process, a milestone on the road to creating moving images.

Everyone, including Edison was working on motion picture machines. The brothers patented a number of inventions, including film perforations in 1894. Yep. They put the perfs in celluloid film.

The Breakthrough
The big invention – the Cinematograph – they patented in 1894. “All I wanted to do was reproduce life,” Cinematograph at Institut LumiereLouis explained. Influenced by the Impressionist painter, he took practical input from the foot pedal of the sewing machine in creating the Cinematograph.

What I hadn’t understood previously was that what made the Lumière machine Kinetoscope  at Institut Lumiere unique was that fact that it not only filmed images but it also displayed them. Edison’s Kinetoscope and Herman Casler’s Mutoscope required viewers to peer into scope to enjoy short films as did the Lumières’ kinora which was which was popular in the UK and Ireland during WWI.

What set the Lumières’ Cinematograph apart was that it was a camera and a projector – the first dual machine.

First Movie Exhibition
On March 19, 1895 the frères Lumières turned the hand crank on their Cinematograph to La Sortie des Usine Llumiere shoot “La Sortie des Usines Lumière” (Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory). They screened it privately.

Then, on December 28, 1895, it became the first film to be exhibited publicly. First Film Poster  at Institut Lumiere The Lumières ran the silent black and white footage in Paris at the Salon Indien du Grand Café. (To the right, see photo of film poster – the first – for the event.)

“Sortie” was the first of a parade of ten films (38” to 49” each) hand cranked through the Cinematograph. The films included a comic sequence of their gardener directed by Alice Guy – “Arroseur Arrosé” (“The Sprinkler Sprinkled”) – shown here with sound which was of course added much later.

Other everyday sequences sported titles that told the tale: “Baby’s Breakfast,” “Horse Trick Riders,” and “Blacksmiths.”

Thierry Frémaux, director of the Institut Lumière and the Cannes Film Festival believes, “Lumière invented the movie theater. Of course, you can watch films on watches, on iPhones, great. But the movie theater is incomparable.”

But wait! The Lumière brothers invented other film machines and devices and much more. Part 2 of The Lumière Brothers and their Fantastic Film Machines will illuminate these.

History/research, Technical & process

It’s a Rough Cut Life

June 22nd, 2015

One of the great parts of blogging is hearing from readers. When the reader has created a video like Matt Orfalea who sent a bouncy, spot-on comic short, “Rough Cut” the joy is tripled. Watch it and relate, all you editors and producers.

Matt’s Story
How Matt got started creating videos is a wonderful story itself. I’m handing the invisible mouse over to Matt to tell it in his own words. Stay tuned for the punchline.

“When I was in high school, a teacher came to me asking if I wanted to edit his documentary about our school’s community service. I was stuck in boarding school, on crutches at the time, so I wasn’t able to do much else. He gave me a quick intro to iMovie and lent me his laptop and camera (amazing right?). I soon found myself in study hall…having fun! That had never happened before!

The documentary was screened in front of the whole school. Everybody seemed to love it and cheered. Except for the headmaster. Because my doc made fun of our school’s community service effort, and the fact that although the headmaster required all students to fulfill community service hours, he had not contributed a single community service hour himself!

The priest who had approved the screening told me afterwards that he almost got fired for it. Yep. My very first film almost got a priest fired!!! That was my introduction to the power of cinema.”

Where is Matt Today?
Matt Orfalea
Again, in his words,
“After graduating from Santa Fe University of Art & Design, I moved to LA to work in postproduction. All those editing gigs were the inspiration for “Rough Cut.” I still do freelance work and many many rough cuts.

I’ve been making YouTube videos for years now and have managed to gather a small following. The ultimate goal would be to just focus on that. Of course making a sustainable career out of YouTube is a total long shot… So I figure if YouTube doesn’t work out I can always be a rapper.”

Check out his videos on YouTube.

Editing practices, Editor’s role, Fun & games, History/research, Technical & process, Visual FX editing

At Last, a Modern Book on the History of Editing

April 6th, 2015

A good book like a well-edited film just flows along and carries you in its merrily rolling stream. Such is the case with Twilight for the Gods written by Jack Tucker, ACE.

Twilight for the Gods book coverHe has created the most up-to-date, thorough, readable history on editing that I’ve encountered. He packs its 116 pages with facts and concepts and works in anecdotes and true tales from the editing room that, like any good cut, push the story along and make it zing.

In my October 13, 2011 post I opined that “A good history of editing has yet to be written.” Tucker has now done that from the viewpoint of a Hollywood editor.

I crossed paths with Jack twelve years ago when I was teaching Final Cut Pro and writing my first book on editing. He kindly opened his garage where a KEM resided and patiently posed for Jack Tucker at KEMphotos for the first edition of Cut by Cut: Editing Your Film or Video. Then he met me and my photog at a now defunct film lab where he had a film cutting room and taught students about film.

In addition, Jack exuberantly blurbed both editions of Cut by Cut Jack Tucker cutting film(“Finally we have a comprehensive text on the subject. It is what God and DeMille intended.”) I have quoted him in my books and to my classes: “Editing is not a technical process. It’s an artistic process. It’s about story telling. What editors do, is the final rewrite of the script.” So I am happy to repay him and happier still to state emphatically that Twilight for the Gods is a fun, worthwhile read for all who want to understand the process, politics, and evolving technologies on the decades-long road from patchers (the original film cutters) to digital film editors.

Thus Spake Tucker
“It is twilight for the gods of time and space … Now electronic editing has erased the mysticism that long protected them and their craft. The editor’s power over time and space is being usurped … Sitting behind him are the director, the Twilight for the Gods book coverproducer, the executive producer, and the lead actor all eagerly helping him or her edit, and all covetous of the power of the gods. Collaborative art has gotten confused with mob rule.”

Thus Tucker begins his book by explaining its title – which both pays homage to editors past and lays out a challenge to editors present and future. He hopes that the latter “… will love the craft as I have and learn from it. It is magic, and we are the gods of time and space.”

Tucker Enters the Cutting Room
Tucker started his editing career as an airman at Vandenberg Air Force Base in 1964 when he was assigned to the editorial department of the 1369th Photo Squadron. Cinema Editor Magazine coverFrom this assignment he became infected with what he terms “‘the holy disease,’ the love of filmmaking—and particularly of film editing.”

Eventually, Tucker landed in Hollywood where he worked on features and TV shows and founded and served as editor on “Cinemeditor,” the ACE magazine. He toiled on many of the same movie studio lots I did. So I got a kick out of his description of Washington Row – two stories of editing rooms at MGM (now Sony) that back up to Washington Blvd. in Culver City – which he likens to “a tenement in a New York slum.”

Tucker on Editing
There will never be another time like this first cut. It is a solitary moment between creator and creation. The editor knows that it is only his skill and instincts that are shaping the film at this point. It is a love affair, a first love, between editor and footage, with no outsiders involved.”

While this is not a “how to” book but rather a “how it’s done” book, Tucker drills beneath the surface to delineate editing systemthe editing process starting with organizing and viewing dailies, proceeding to facing the footage and making your first edit and on to facing the director with the completed first cut of the show to re-cutting. He covers today’s digital editing room as well as yesterday’s film cutting room, bridging them with his deep knowledge and passion for the art of editing, a testimony to art triumphing over whatever technology evolves in the future.

Tucker On Working with Directors
Tucker devotes a chapter to the relationship between director and editor, making many astute observations. He believes that editors are the “real assistant directors” whereas the ADs on the set are function editor and director more as production managers. He recalls talking with Director-Editor Robert Wise who cut for Orson Welles who recounts how directors used to view cuts only in the screening room and never entered the editing room. When the director is in the room, Tucker believes that the editor will work to please the director (or other power-that-be) rather than experiment with the footage to possibly bring out the film better. Just as the editor is the impartial artist removed from what happens on the production set, the director should be the impartial viewer in the theatre, removed from what happens in the editing room. Of course with digital systems this is no longer the case, with everyone thinking they can edit the movie if they just learn the tool but good films and editor-director collaborations can and do occur daily, Tucker notes.

Tucker Covers the Waterfront of Film Editing History
Poster of Edison's invention Tucker does a great job of discussing the familiar as well as lesser known figures, events, and entities in film and editing history including Edison, Muybridge, and his zoopraxiscope, Zoetrope, Eastman and celluloid film, Fred Ott’s Sneeze (1889, first film shot in the U.S.), the Lumiere Brothers, George Melies, Edwin S. Porter, Mabel Clark, patchers, DW Griffith, The Trust, and Margaret Booth, the French New Wave, split screens, and Donn Cambern and the cutting of Easy Rider.

Original Moviola He also details the technological inventions that affected art and craft of editing. He pays tribute to Iwan Serrurier who invented the Moviola and reveals how it got its name.

Tucker looks at the beginnings of TV, including the history of Dann Cahn and the “Monster Moviola” as well as the inception of the Cinerama technique. Who knew Cinerama was originally developed from an Cinerama Dome Air Force gunnery training tool? And that it “was a bitch to edit” Tucker asserts. In his always clear and accessible way he explains how the addition of color and sound on film affected the medium. And he documents the technical developments of video tape, demystifying 3:2 pulldown, telecine, linear editing, and generation loss along the way.

The Long Goodbye
He documents the long fade out from cutting on film that began with the appearance of nonlinear tape based systems in the 1980s and finished in the millennium after digital systems began proving themselves in the 1990s. The last chapter ends with Tucker detailing the current Hollywood editing landscape with Digital Intermediates, the demise of film labs, digital archiving issues, and dailies shot on Red Cameras and Alexas.
Wild Bunch Poster

Looking at the horizon, he concludes philosophically with a line from Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch: “It ain’t like the old days, but it’ll do.”

Editing & life, Editing practices, Editor’s role, History/research, Technical & process, Television

Guest Blog: Why Editing Can Make or Break
Your Corporate Video

January 28th, 2015

On this site and in my books I’ve written on this subject but I thought it would be good for editors, producers, and other filmmakers to hear it from a company of professionals. I welcome guest bloggers with informative articles so here’s one submitted by One Inch Punch Pro, a Toronto based video production company that creates corporate videos, music videos, short films, reality television and more.

Why Editing and a Good Editor Matter
If you are tasked with creating a corporate video, you should be aware One Inch Punch Pro Video Production companythat the mere production won’t be the end of the road. There is another critical step that can make or break your video and that is the editing process. Some mistakenly brush off editing as a final touch up that doesn’t significantly alter the content of the production. The truth is that editing really does matter and it has the potential to make a video a hit or a dud.

Editing takes experience, technical knowledge and an eye for what looks, sounds and feels good. Lean on the expertise of a corporate video production company if you have any concerns over the editing process. The editor you hire will know all the ins and outs of the editing process including motion graphics, soundtracks, compression formats and more.

Plan the Editing Process: Getting Started
CalendarWhether or not you proceed with the help of a professional video editor, you should establish a plan for the editing of your footage. Take a few minutes to plan out how you’d like your final production to appear. Think about your target audience and your motivation to create the video in the first place. Then think about how you’d like to supplement your video content with things like animations, text and graphics. Re-watch your footage and take notes about what you’d like to improve and how you’ll go about doing it. Once you’ve established a vision, it is time to start editing.

Convey a Story
A story is the foundation of just about every video production. It is imperative that storyboardyou keep this in mind during the editing process. An editor has the power to make subtle changes that will shore up a story and connect events in a manner that engages the audience with the plot. The editor should be able to determine which parts of the script don’t carry over well onto the screen and then re-craft your video to fill in the gaps to help reinforce the plot.

Establish the Pace
The pace at which your video proceeds can make a big impact on the audience. Use the editing process to focus on the length of time that shots are held. Pay attention to how quickly you cut from scene to scene and how much time you let the camera hold certain images. This is a delicate balance that can be refined during the editing process. Be careful to not linger very long on one image or scene as it might serve to turn off the audience and cause their minds to wander. Over cutting or rapid cutting between shots can leave audiences confused and feeling as though they are watching a video that is rushed. Just because a video has a lot of cuts doesn’t mean it is good. Part of an editor’s job is to find the emotion in a scene, and sometimes holding on one shot is the best cut of all.

One key area where corporate editors exerts control is the music. While editors don’t always choose a video’s full score, they often have a say in the style of music, where it is implemented and for how long. Music really does make a monumental impact on the quality of the final production.

music scoreWhen you think of the typical corporate video’s soundtrack, you likely think of extremely cheesy music that sounds generic and flat out bad. It’s the type of music that doesn’t hold a viewer’s attention. This is exactly what you want to avoid and where the editing process can play a key role. When editing, ask yourself, “Does this music make the viewer want to stay tuned in?” The proper music has the potential to do even more than that. Ideally, the audio will actually pull viewers in and spur them to pay closer attention to your video’s story.

When editing, be sure to fit the music to distinct parts of the video as appropriate. For instance, if you have an intense segment that transitions into a hopeful scene and further evolves into a humorous ending, select different music for each part. The right music will establish a foundation for the actions, words and animations that occur on the screen.

Problem Solving: An Important Role of Editing
The editing process is in place to make a video production “work.” While the editing suitedirector/cameraperson invests plenty of time and effort filming all sorts of shots, the editor is there to piece it all together into a cohesive production. This is extremely challenging; many editors actually fail to solve all of the problems in an artful manner. Sometimes there is a missing segment of the script because actors weren’t available on certain days. Other times, there are problems with audio, images and animations. The editing process is key to ironing out these issues and building a final product that is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s a bit like piecing together a jigsaw puzzle.

Editing practices, Editor’s role, Technical & process