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A thoughtful, thankful, thinking Thanksgiving to all

November 20th, 2012

Time to pull away from the pie, the family, the game, the parade, the historic basis of this holiday, and the soldiers abroad and pull in here for a reflective video set to a Thanksgiving song by George Winston. This resonates deeply for me as I went back east to peak colors followed by the death of my beloved mother, Mary Beth Denny Chandler, on October 26.

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What do you think is the best edited film of all time?

July 16th, 2012

Editors’ Guild, 75th Anniversary Banner

The MPEG posed this question to its 6200 members as part of its 75th anniversary observation this year. See what you think of the results, published in the May edition of “CineMontage,” the guild’s monthly magazine:

Table of films

Breaking down the choices

Though the picks range from 1924-2011, they’re a bit heavy on the last few years, though interestingly, the 70s garner the most films and the top choices. Perhaps this is understandable given all of our memories, but Rope? Really? It has 10 cuts! Perhaps the movie should get a special award for cutting in the camera as Hitchcock designed it to mimic the original British stage play by filming it on one set in real time. Limited by the 10 minute length of a 35mm camera roll, Rope’s 81 minutes are actually composed of 10 reels, 10 master shots, and 10 cuts (the first of which is establishing shot of Manhattan), and no coverage.

I also missed seeing The Best Years of Our Lives (1946 Oscar winner for Best Film Editing) and The Apartment (1960) both of which garnered an Academy award for Danny Mandell who edited for William Wyler (1933–1946) a and Billy Wilder (1957–1966) and is tied with Thelma Schoonmaker, Ralph Dawson, and Michael Kahn for three Oscar editing wins.

Guild’s breakdown of choices
Editor's Guild Magazine Cover
The magazine article notes that, “Most of the films cited are from the 1970s (17), followed by the ‘90s (16), the ‘60s (13) the ‘50s (8), the ‘00s (7), the ‘80s (5) and the ‘40s (3)” and that the 1930s gathered no selections. Another oversight! So much for Modern Times (1936), The Awful Truth (1937), Gone with the Wind (1939), Stagecoach (1939), and The Wizard of Oz (1939)!!

To read more about the nominations, including about the top sound and music editors honored by guild members’ choices, click the magazine cover.

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What do VFX editors do? Really.
Pt. 2: Picture editors: Creating VFX on the digital editing system

March 5th, 2012

Visual effects are just another way of creating film for me to cut. We’re used to having the film shot on the set, processed and sent to the editing room and that’s it. In the visual effects world, that’s just the beginning of making the shot. Instead of the shot being made in one day, it might be made in anywhere from one month to one year. Visual effects are just a tool the same as making a decision to shoot with a Steadicam or on a dolly…One of the nice things is that it allows post to be involved in creating the shot.

Zach Staenberg, A.C.E. Gotti and The Matrix (all three films).

Real time and rendered effects

When you create an effect and the editing system can play it back instantly, it’s called a real time effect. When you create an effect and you can’t see it (play it back) instantly, you must command the system to render it i.e. create new media for after which it becomes a rendered effect and is indicated as such on your timeline. Rendering an effect can take seconds, minutes, or longer depend­ing on its complexity. Since rendering eats up time, many editors set their effects to render all at one time, then take a break, checking back periodically to make sure the system didn’t hang.

Real-time effects are preferable because you can immediately view them to accept or reject them or determine how to adjust them. System owners frequently add video capture cards such as AJA’s Kona or those offered by Matrox and Black Magic to boost process­ing time and allow for more real-time effects.

Making VFX

Since there are numerous classroom courses, books, and manuals, and online tutorials online — free and fee — that detail how to create all types of effects on the widely used editing systems, I’ll just list the four basic steps here.

  1. Park your playhead on or near the cut point of the edit where you want to make the effect.
  2. From a menu or tab, select the effect or drag it to the time line. You may need to add an extra track beforehand, depending on the type of effect.
  3. Render the effect if necessary.
  4. View the effect.

Voila!

Video Effects Timeline

Video effects selected on timeline.

Photos courtesy of Les is More Productions

A few final words

Option: You can create your own VFX for reuse by labeling them and saving them as favorites. Many editors copy a bin of favorites to a disk or drive and take them from project to project.

To finish: You will have to get your VFX – along with the rest of your show – to your final formats. This may involve uprezzing, outputting to tape, and/or onlining to put the best images forward.

Coming up: The next post – the last in this series – will cover what happens when a visual effect is outsourced.

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Deconstructing a Dragon, Edit by Edit

January 12th, 2012

New York Times slide showThe December 18, 2011 edition of The New York Times Magazine focused on the thought process of the editing duo Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo along with that of the film’s director, David Fincher. The article focused on a scene which you can see as a slide show.

Examining an Editor’s Head

Writer Gavin Edwards did an intelligent job of getting inside the mind of an editor, explaining how we make editing decisions, observe rhythm, keep aware of the audience’s focus will be, compress time, and consider continuity.

Edwards also touched on crossing the line and modern style editing, with a great joke from Fincher about split screens. The director joked that he wanted to install a klaxon in the cutting room to “Stop them before they split again!”

I grew up on the NY Times and still get the Sunday edition with the weekly magazine section so was gratified to see an in-depth examination of how editors approach scenes and the whole. Admittedly, the article reminded me of my book, Film Editing 101: Great Cuts Every Filmmaker and Movie Lover Must Know where I pierce the veil on nearly 50 types of cuts editors make, including time compression (as well as expansion) and crossing the line and look at why an editor would make a certain type of cut and how it affects the audience.

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New Year’s Exhortation

December 28th, 2011

Last month I wrote about how Michael Wiese Productions, my publisher was assembling a compendium of over 50 of its authors “Top Ten Reasons Why it’s a Great Time to Be a Filmmaker. It’s free and available for downloading and sampling now at http://www.mwp.com/ I’ve already included my contribution last month but here are excerpts from my publisher’s preface to this 124 page e-Book.

Michael has worked in Hollywood and other places, producing Hardware Wars, and many other shows and documentaries on his spiritual journey to Tibet, Peru, and Bali. He’s a terrific person whom I revere. These excerpts from his article show why.

OCCUPY HOLLYWOOD!
by Michael Wiese

As people all over the globe challenge the underpinnings and practices Michael Wiese of banks, stock brokers, and politicians, those of us in media can do our part by challenging the destructive and morally vacant — almost invisible by its pervasiveness — vast meta-program that drives the Hollywood mindset and its output. It’s clear to those who look deeply that the very quality of human life on the planet is dependent upon storytellers (that’s right — you and me) to step up and transform the story mythos of our community.

Michael Wiese

Mythos is defined as “the characteristic spirit of a culture, era, or community as seen in its beliefs and aspirations.” Hollywood media is one of the largest U.S. exports. Embedded in so-called entertainment are American materialist values that are sold worldwide. More and more people fall under its spell so that now billions of people in India, China, and Africa have been taught to crave the consumerist lifestyle they have enjoyed for decades in American television programs and films…Most of us accept what we are told rather than examine things through our own experience. We have been taught not to trust ourselves.

• To an extraterrestrial observer, the purpose of human life would appear to be to sell things to one another. Perpetual consumerism drives over consumption and over-production. Planned obsolescence creates massive landfills…If the goal is to sell us more of everything, then the result is burgeoning personal debt, obesity, and an insatiable need to acquire more than your neighbor, creating alienation and competition rather than cooperation.

• We live in a world where the dominant force is male-driven. It’s aggressive, competitive, war-mongering, resource exploiting, and based on “may the toughest guy win,” “get it while you can,” “me first” philosophies. It is really any wonder why things are as they are? What’s missing is the female-oriented mythos based on nurturing, cooperation, preservation, and compassion. In the male-dominated media industry hierarchy, only 17% of its executives are female. (If the natural world utilized only 17% of its feminine energies, all life forms would be extinct by now.)

• It’s no surprise that most films, television, news, and commercials are violent, and sexual, and marginalize women in an attempt to convince us to buy more things we don’t need. Our diet of television news generates fear. Videogames teach children killing skills and disregard for life. Commercials and magazines have subverted sexuality (which can be a path to ecstatic divine states) into a kind of bait-and-switch game to flog their products.

• We have become slaves caught in habitual behaviors linked to our electronic machines. None of this is news to you or me. We are aware we are deep in the muck. We know it and we try to keep it at bay, hoping and praying that there will be a technological solution. Surely, someone will invent something. Maybe there will be a new Apple App that will fix it all. We shirk responsibility because we feel powerless to do anything. That’s where the change must come. What is needed is a new paradigm and a remembrance to older paradigms from the wisdom cultures of the world. We need new stories to tell, new visions to put forth, and awakened filmmakers to co-create them. This is where you come in.

The new vision would:

• Celebrate our capacity to be magnificent, compassionate, and generous.

• Welcome women to fully participate in the top decision-making positions in media, government, and all professions, to regain a balance in solving the great challenges before us.

• Convert “weaponry” to “livingry.” Convert national defense budgets to “plowshares” to eliminate hunger, poverty, and homelessness. (The $500+ billion that the U.S. spends annually on the defense budget would make quite a dent.)…The standard of living could be raised worldwide for everyone…At the moment, we can’t see what needs to be done because it’s all around us. Our own beliefs have to first be examined and changed. The filmmaker needs to make a commitment to transform and connect with other parts of his or her own mind in a profound way so that he or she will not just be making the same old stuff.

• Filmmakers and writers can stimulate this transformation by telling fresh stories that envision a world that works for everyone. Things are already headed in this direction, so you will have a tidal wave of energy behind you. Audiences will awaken from their slumber, realizing their own magnificence and power, their connectedness, their natural knowing, and the result can be a global transformation.

• The answers and solutions to our current crisis already exist among us. So in Occupying Hollywood, let’s make a new kind of film, one that envisions a world that works for everyone, where humans, animals, and plants can rejoice in our mutual dependency and interconnectedness. Remember, we live in heaven here on earth — let’s not blow it.

Click here  http://www.mwp.com/ to read Michael’s entire article.

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Mismatches, Merrymaking, Movie Making, and a Magazine

December 23rd, 2011

MovieMaker mag’s current issue, “Complete Guide to Making Movies 2012” includes a couple of articles by yours truly. So happy holidays! Here’s the first part of the first article.

Mismatches: Why do they happen and how to deal with them during editing

How many times have you gleefully noticing a mismatch during a movie on TV show? Guess what? Many more mismatches have been put over on you than you’ve ever detected. Can you detect the mismatches in this cut from The Aviator, which won the Academy Award for Best Editing? (See * below for the answer.)

Mismatch frames

The Aviator ©2004 Miramax, All Rights Reserved.

Types of mismatches

When searching for the right place to cut, editors habitually look for a match point – a place in the first shot that is duplicated in the second shot. When there is no duplication, you have a mismatch. There are many elements to match, hence there are many types of mismatches. The two boxes below describe the main types.

Mismatches due to direction, camera, or sound recordist

These are the primary mismatches to finesse when editing.

Mismatch Example
Screen direction A person or an object does not exit from the right side of one shot and enter from the left of the next shot so they appear to have jumped across the room.
Screen position A group of people or objects on the right side of the screen in one shot are on the left side in the next shot.
Eyeline A person looks right and down in one shot, and left and up – in totally different direction – in the next shot.
Pacing Camera tracks, pans, or dollies faster or slower in one shot than the other.
Sound The wording, volume, or pacing of the dialogue or sound changes from one shot to the next.

Mismatches due to department or actor

Pay attention to these issues too, but often you can get some help from your Post House during the post editing phase; for example color grading will resolve lighting problems.

Mismatch Example
Lighting, make-up, hair, or wardrobe Eyeglasses on in one shot and off in the next.
Position of limbs or props A telephone in the left hand in one shot and the
right hand in the next.
Weather It’s rainy in one shot and sunny in another.

Cutting around the mismatch

To assuage a bad match, make the most sensible, least discernible cut. How to do that? Here are five main ways to avoid a mismatched edit:

  1. Cut away to another shot and then back.
  2. Cut earlier or later where there is a better match.
  3. Cut to a tight close-up, overhead shot, or an insert shot.
  4. Add a quick flash frame (frame or two of white) between cuts.
  5. Add a short, transitional effect such as a dissolve or wipe.

If the mismatch is in screen direction, there are numerous tried and true remedies:

  1. Cut to a shot coming straight at or away from the audience.
  2. Cut out of the first shot when the person’s eyes pass the edge of the frame on the left. Then cut to the second shot approximately six frames before the person’s eyes enter the frame. This allows the audience’s eyes to adjust and makes the person appear to be moving in real time.
  3. Reverse the shot.

When you encounter a sound mismatch, equalize the volume or cross fade to balance disparate volumes or sounds. To ameliorate wording and pacing problems, find an acceptable cut point, make an overlap (a.k.a. an “L” cut), or edit in a cutaway.

With experience, you’ll make all these fixes reflexively, and come up with tricks of your own.

Conclusion

To read the complete article as well as my second article, “Facing the Footage: How to avoid frustration and wasted time by editing confidently from the first frame,” read the current issue of MovieMaker.

*There’s a mismatch in the left hand position of the hatless character (Howard Hughes played by Leonardo DiCaprio) as well as in the background action.

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App(ly) yourself to the Holidays

December 19th, 2011

I received an email from Gordon Burkell, mastermind of AOTG (Art of the Guillotine), a Canadian website for AOTG_Appeditors that I’ve posted about and recommended before. Just in time for the holidays, AOTG has brought out app aimed solely at editors.

And it’s free.

Currently available iPad and iPhone, Burkell told me that he is aiming for an Android release in January and a Blackberry release is also in the works.

He also wrote that, “The app contains exclusive videos from the American Cinema Editors, the Canadian sample interview

Sample interview on app.

Cinema Editors and the Australian Screen Editors as well as audio interviews with editors around the world. It has an event section that helps find events near you and also keeps people up to date with the editing news section.”

Download the app at: http://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/aotg/id461852158?mt=8&ign-mpt=uo%3D4.

Read about it yourself in MovieMaker Mag

To learn more, read an interview with Burkell in this month’s MovieMaker magazine. Incidentally, the hard copy of this issue of the mag contains two articles by moi, which I will feature in upcoming posts.

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Thelma and Hugo

December 12th, 2011

Thelma Schoonmaker

After a long lapse, an excuse to write about Thelma Schoonmaker – in a category of her own among living U.S. editors – due to the article about her in the latest Editor’s Guild magazine.

Schoonmaker began collaborating with Scorsese on Woodstock, and has received three Oscars on movies they made together (Raging Bull, The Departed, and The Aviator). Hugo, their latest effort, is certainly worthy of winning them more accolades. If she gets the Oscar for Hugo, she will break the record and become the first editor to win four Oscars.

In addition to helping bring three Oscars to Schoonmaker, Scorsese also brought one Michael into her life. That would be Michael Powell from the UK, who became her husband. Powell directed such venerated movies as The Red Shoes (which Scorsese and Schoonmaker restored a few years ago), The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, (which she’s restoring during her off time) and Peeping Tom. Read the Guild article to learn more about how Powell strongly influenced Schoonmaker, Scorsese, and Hugo. Here are the parts of the article that impressed me the most from Schoonmaker and Scorsese on their first foray into 3-D:

Schoonmaker on 3-D

Thelma Schoonmaker and Martin Scorcese “… when I’m working alone, I work in 2-D because my two work monitors with my timeline are in 2-D but when I’m working with Marty [Scorsese] in the afternoon, I put on my 3-D flip-up lenses and we watch it in the RealD format.”

“In terms of cutting, it was actually not that much different, frankly. We don’t have a lot of quick, jumpy cutting. Some shots have to be adjusted every day, really, in the digital lab that was built for us. There was someone checking of how each of the cameras was laying down the shot. But it wasn’t so complicated for me.”

Scorsese & Schoonmaker don 3-D flip-ups to view Hugo on location in London.
Photo by Jaap Buitendjik.
© 2011 GK Films, LLC.

Last word: Scorsese on 3-D

I find what Scorsese said in an interview by The Guardian about filming in 3-D to be intriguing. This clearly isn’t the last 3-D movie he intends to make.


“It’s literally a Rubik’s Cube every time you go out to design a shot, and work out a camera move or a crane move.  But it has a beauty to it also.  People look like…moving statues.  They move like sculpture.”

“The 3-D allows you to experiment more with the emotions from the actor.  That’s what’s missing in 3-D right now.”

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Na’vi on the ‘Net

July 30th, 2010

Pandora Landscape

My friend, linguistics expert Paul Frommer, the professor who created the Na’vi language for Avatar, called me last week to catch up and wish me well in my new home in northern CA. He mentioned that he has created a blog and is giving lessons in Na’vi for all levels online.

“I don’t make a dime from this,” Pawl (his Na’vi name) explained, ”but the fans are really demanding it.” So if you’re interested, go to his website, http://naviteri.org/ (Na’viteri means “Concerning Na’vi”) which lists other resources, events, and developments of the language.

I’ve blogged about Paul before because he’s a terrifically brilliant and kind person and I find his achievement amazing for several reasons. First, his success exemplifies how there are many paths into filmmaking. I’ve known editors who came from music, physics, literature, etc. There is no one career path for filmmakers. Second, Paul worked long and hard on languages and on Na’vi before it hit the screen. And he still loves it so much he is composing new words and developing the language on his own, keeping it pure and complex linguistically. Third, the language is taking him around the world for lectures and workshops and has led to work on two other movies. Fourth – and this is just my opinion – the Pandoran people carry a lot of Paul’s own life values and values which he’s able to infuse into the language.

So whether you want to learn Na’vi or not (and I don’t), it’s interesting to learn about another aspect of filmmaking and the person behind it.

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Martin Luther King Day 2010

January 18th, 2010

Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King Tombstone
OK, all you creative maladjusts, it’s time for a great contemporary movie on King as well one about Shirley Chisholm and Barbara Jordan.

In the meantime, I hope you, like many of us, are smiling at the words, deeds, and promise of our current president.

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