Archive for the ‘Visual FX editing’ 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

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

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

100 years of Rotoscoping

January 16th, 2015

Confession: I’ve watched “Glee” since its first episode in May 2009. I like the message of the show – acceptance – seeing GBLT characters as well as hetero-and metrosexual characters, and its often non-formulaic plots, issues, and nuances not to mention its musical numbers. As a member of Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (the TV equivalent of the Motion Picture Academy where you get to vote on the Emmys) I enjoyed a Glee cast and crew night (Cory Monteith, RIP, was more good looking in person). However, last season (#5) I thought the show died with Monteith, unfortunately.

So I tuned in this week for the beginning of Season 6, the final season, as creator Ryan Murphy has announced, ready for the show to end. I was elated to see new directors and a reboot of the show. I loved this number on Episode 2, “Homecoming.”

It is a scene designed to be completed in post and a nice homage to a particular type of animation, still used and appreciated today. Can you guess the two filming techniques the filmmakers used?

Dissecting the Scene
If you guessed green screen and rotoscoping, you are correct. This energetic scene, uniquely combines green screen (the frame the characters hold and characters jump through) and rotoscoping (the B & W animated part of the scene).

Rotoscoping is where you draw an outline over live action to create animation. This technique was patented in 1915 by its creator, Max Fleischer who put the Bop in Betty and animated Superman, Popeye, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and more.

The more you know and understand about film techniques, the more creative you can be. Enjoy this succinct tutorial

on how you can rotoscope your own films today as well as brief history of Fleischer and his rotoscope machine.

Editing practices, History/research, Technical & process, Television, Visual FX editing

Editing a Book Trailer – Part 2

December 11th, 2014

My caveat for PictureYourBook’s  second book trailer was that my partner Jay and I create a trailer with free music (thank you YouTube) and no VO. My reason? I wanted to show authors how a lower budget video can still be a highly effective, engaging trailer. Here’s Jay’s experience meeting that and other challenges that the trailer presented.

Cut By Cut – Editing Your Film or Video, 2nd Edition 1:02 from Jay on Vimeo.

Editing the trailer for the book Cut by Cut, Editing your Film or Video by Jay Scherberth

Challenge: Multiple Assets and a Multi-Step Process
The main challenge in planning and editing this trailer was to keep track of the many steps involved and required tools used so that future modifications could be accomplished as efficiently as possible.
After reviewing Gael’s storyboard, I quickly realized that organization was going to be extremely important. With over 160 individual assets, I needed to start with a directory structure that would allow me to break down and categorize each element for easy retrieval.

Solution: Organization
I created a parent folder on my project hard drive hard drive called ‘Assets’ under which I would create sub-folders for each asset type; e.g. images, SFX, music, VO, photos, EFX and so on. The idea is to create ‘bins’ (folders) in the edit project that mirror the physical external storage allowing for easy, organized import.

It’s very important to place your initial assets in a location that isn’t going to change until the end of the project. Not doing so causes the dreaded “Media Off-Line” or “Media Can’t be found” messages when opening your editing project.

Setting up the Project
Whenever possible, I prefer to create my editing projects and do all visual effects and final output in one NLE tool – Adobe Premiere. However, due to the large amount of assets and the desired design concept, I needed to spread the workload between the CC 2014 versions of Premier, Photoshop, After Effects, Audition and Media Encoder. This workflow created more steps but enabled me to have access to a larger array of effects and flexibility for making changes. It’s easy to paint yourself into a corner without a thoughtful approach to the challenges of a complicated project.

Workflow and Software Tools
I combined visual elements into composite Photoshop images. These resources were imported into After Effects allowing for layer level manipulation. While working in After Effects, I created several compositions and sub-compositions that were imported directly into Premier. The Premiere NLE was used mainly as a way to assemble all the After Effects imports and to add music, titles, and sound effects. I employed Adobe Media encoder to accomplish the final encoding and delivery.

Final Note
The ability to directly edit and import / export visual material between Adobe tools greatly simplifies the overall workflow process when multiple tools are required to finish a project. I don’t mean to sound like a commercial – I don’t get a dime from Adobe – it’s just an editor’s truth.

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

Editor’s Eye: Visualizing Your Film from the
Postproduction POV – Part 4

November 27th, 2012

Laying out the rest of the groundwork for designing your project, this post concludes my four-part bust Laying out the rest of the groundwork for designing your project, this post concludes my four-part series on the magical, imagineering aspects and grounded engineering requirements of envisioning your film from an editorial standpoint.

3) Shoot right for postproduction
Too many projects show up into the cutting room sadly compromised due to poor audio, lighting, or planning in general. If you’re involved with production, when you’re on location or on the set, be sure to get the critical shots, record the important sounds, and keep accurate logs and records during. Shooting correctly saves time, stress, and money in postproduction and reaps fantastic footage that you can’t wait to start editing!

Bringing together the MAGICAL and the TECHNICAL
Once you’ve got the shot footage in front of you:
Be organized and know your shots
…while it’s great to talk about how revolutionary Avatar is, we were still making a movie…when you come down to it, all this technology is just there to make the images more compelling and to tell the story better. Ultimately, we’re asking the same questions editors always ask: Does this shot work? Does this scene serve the story? It’s all about performance and story. Things just take a little longer to get done when you’re on the moon Pandora…
John Refoua, A.C.E., co-editor, Avatar

You’ve got to know your raw material in order to have an idea of how you’re going to edit it. View the footage for the scene and make mental and/or written notes about shots, lines, angles, or cutting ideas. Also, review any notes you took when screening dailies or that you received from the director. The late Dede Allen, who edited Bonnie and Clyde, Dog Day Afternoon, and many other major films related how she works: “If you have a great deal of coverage, you really can’t just go plowing through the whole thing, you’d never remember all of it… I make massive notes which I have if I need them, but I memorize the material so thoroughly that I seldom even look at my notes.”

You’ve already read the script but now you have the real, filmed version of a scene along with the lined pages that the script supervisor labored over for your benefit. As you approach cutting the scene, familiarize yourself with it as well as the scenes before and after it. Since you usually edit a show out of sequence, it’s important to be clear on what the scene is about. Ask yourself: What led to this scene? What does this scene lead to?

If your project is a doc, PSA, or other non-scripted piece, review the paper cut and keep it and your logs of the shots handy as you cut. Since non-scripted shows normally have fewer guidelines than scripted shows, your editing will have a major impact on its content and structure. Initially you will be the one who decides what the audience sees and learns and when they see it and learn it, so you want to know your shots and laser in on the story you’re molding from them.

Doc or drama, you want to be clear on the purpose of the project you’re editing and who will be seeing it. Is it a training film for navy recruits or a cereal commercial aimed at kids? Is it a muckraking documentary on the food industry or a drama about Navaho code talkers in World War II? You get the idea.

Finally, as much as you have ideas for how you will put scenes and the show together, as you progress, you will find things don’t work as envisage. This is normal and means you will have to try other approaches to making a cut or a scene work. Remember the wise words of sound and picture editor Walter Murch, (The English Patient, Apocalypse Now, and many more): “Editing is not so much a putting together as it is the discovery of a path.”

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

Editor’s Eye: Visualizing Your Film from the
Postproduction POV – Part 3

November 12th, 2012

This third part of a four-part series on the magical, imagineering aspects and grounded engineering bust requirements of envisioning your film from an editorial standpoint launches the discussion of how to plan the mundane, engineering-type aspects of your project. MovieMaker magazine will publish part of this series as an article in their annual filmmaking guide on December 4.


1) Know what happens before and after editing in the filmmaking process.
Ten years ago postproduction was at the end of the food chain. Now we are in production meetings.
Alicia Hirsch, VP of post production, Fox television studios

There are six stages to any film or video project: Greenlighting, Development, Preproduction, Production, Postproduction, and Distribution.  Understanding what goes on before and after editing (postproduction) will give you more insight into the successive stages of filmmaking and make you a better participant in the process. It will help you communicate more effectively with those whose work overlaps yours, primarily the script supervisor and cinematographer (from the production phase) promo producer and publicist (from the distribution phase). More importantly, current workflows are converging post production with production and even pre-production, especially in animated shows and those with loads of VFX (visual effects). The lines between filmmaking phases are less distinct today and will get even fuzzier in the future.

2) Backwards engineer your show

In other words, to know where you’re going when you’re setting up and designing a project, you must know the end result. This advanced planning covers several fronts:

a) Know the venue(s) your audience will use to view your show.

Will your audience see your show in a theatre? On the ‘Net? TV? Or where? Determining your show’s viewing venue will enable you to decide its final delivery format a.k.a. finishing format. The four finishing formats are: film, tape, file, and disk. Your show may need to deliver on more than one format. Each format has many different types, e.g. 16mm or 35mm film, .mov or .avi file, DVD or Blu-ray. Be as specific in your planning as possible. The format you finish on may not be the format you shoot on. For example, you may shoot on a file on a card but deliver on tape, called a “tape out” show or shoot on film and have a file out show. Which brings us to workflows.

b) Know your project’s workflow

Workflows are the name of the game in planning a projects’ path through postproduction today. There are workflows for HD shows, workflows for 3D shows, for low budget docs, for low budget dramas, for animated shows, reality shows, TV dramas, features, for FCP shows, for Avid shows: You name it there’s a workflow for it. Workflows are also designed according to editing system, type of show, budget, camera used (Genesis, RED, Viper, etc.), region, and politics among many other reasons. While there are ordinary workflows, it’s just as ordinary to deviate from them; each project is different.
How to make sense of it all?
Know the common workflows – tape, tapeless a.k.a. file, and film – so that you can create your own. Get input >from the post supervisor or associate producer – whoever’s in the know on your show. Understanding your project’s workflow has the additional benefit in that it will ground you in the basic steps and processes of postproduction.

c) Set a postproduction schedule
Every project has a schedule sheet with dates that you must meet such as First Cut, Director Cut, Producer screening, etc.  If you’re a student or an independent filmmaker, knowing the schedule is doubly important as its part of budgeting – another area to cover when visualizing your show. You may make the schedule on your computer using a calendar program or receive it from the post supervisor – or both – but in either case, allow for easy updates as most schedules can and do change. Since postproduction takes place at the end of the show, If it’s running behind or the schedule gets shortened, editorial gets pushed to work harder and longer!

d) Know the digital system you’ll be cutting on

Cutting digitally requires a lot of general knowledge. You need to understand time code and video tape, have solid computer and internet skills, be able to create VFX on third party software (preferably), and
digital system have experience with film if you’re hired on a film show, not to mention know how to edit! Working on a digital system, even when you’re totally comfortable, is a constant learning process. Just when you become familiar with the current software there’s an upgrade or new version and more to learn.

No matter how experienced you are with an editing software, don’t assume everything on your system is in working order unless you own the system. Put your system through its paces by checking out everything that you will be doing: ingesting and outputting to tape, mixing sound, recording with the mic, making DVDs, importing from CDs, etc. You don’t want to wait until dailies are flying through the door to find out your deck isn’t reading time code or a channel on your mixer is muted. Secure an expert friend or system guru you can call on when a technical breakdown is beyond your expertise so you can keep your project running smoothly.

If you’re picking out a system for your show, make sure that it can perform what your project requires (fit your workflow and achieve your finishing format) and that it is compatible with all equipment – tape deck, servers, or another editing systems third party, etc.- that you’ll need to interact with.
This concludes the Imagineering part of visualizing your film. My next post will alert you to the more mundane engineering requirements that are part of envisioning your film

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

Editor’s Eye: Visualizing Your Film from the
Postproduction POV – Part 1

October 17th, 2012

Many people believe that if a show is well shot it’s just a matter of bust removing the bad bits and the show automagically comes together in the cutting room. Not true. Editing, a.k.a. postproduction, like any other phase of filmmaking, has a mission, and, like a military operation, requires vision and much groundwork.

When you really think about it, a script (fiction shows) or outline (non-fiction shows) are merely of words on paper which may or may not lead to an outstanding film. Films are made of images – still and moving – along with sound: words, SFX, and music. It is editing that brings all these elements together.

Here’s how Alexander Payne, director of The Descendants, Sideways, and Election, expressed it in a recent article in CinemaEditor, “Of the three areas of filmmaking – writing, directing, and editing – editing is by far my favorite. I call it the Promised Land…Writing is hideously painful, directing is exhilarating but physically taxing and demands a lot of constant ego massaging of others. As [director Akira] Kurosawa used to say, ‘The only reason you write and direct is to get material to edit.’ And that’s exactly true. Editing is where you make the film. It’s a very beautiful thing.”

So let’s look at how you can envision your film with an editorial eye and anticipate both its magical, imagineering aspects and grounded engineering requirements.

Harold and Maude poster

1) Visualize your images – and plan

The opening shot of the 1971 film Harold and Maude shows Harold attempting to hang himself from a homemade scaffold. I once heard screenwriter Colin Higgins explain how this shot initiated the film’s plot. As a UCLA student working on his thesis film, Higgins wanted to drop the camera vertically as fast and far as possible and had to motivate this technical move. Voila! The cult film’s death/life plot.

The point here is to visualize your movie as you read the script or create the outline if it’s a non-fiction piece. What set-ups will work best? What objects, images, or VFX will tell your story most effectively? Especially if you need animation or VFX, start drafting, storyboarding, and budgeting right away.

That’s all for today, folks. Next post will delve into visualizing sound and music – and making a sound plan (yes, I can never resist a pun) for both.

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

What is Motion Design?

October 10th, 2012

Here’s a fantastic animated video that clearly and creatively explains all the different types of motion graphics 2D, 3D, and more. It will help you understand the possibilities and could spark your imaginative energies. Elisa Tron designed it for her Master’s thesis.

Visual FX editing

A Veteran Sound Editor Sounds Off and
Imparts a Terabyte of Filmmaking Knowledge from Development to the Mix

August 6th, 2012

Sound editor Vickie Sampson was the featured speaker at LAFPUG* recently which has posted her edited talk. This 34-minute video is a must see for anyone entering the biz, wishing to make their own film, or wanting to learn more about planning for sound and editing it. Vickie is a long time sound editor on many illustrious films, starting with New York, New York and continuing through both Sex in the City movies. (How’s that for getting caught between the moon and NYC!)

What Vickie knows about sound and filmmaking is worth listening to.

She’s human, entertaining, and instructional as she’s done it all: Directed and written her own films, commercials, and shorts in addition to her sound work. She also is a consummate teacher, giving regular sources at Video Symphony in Burbank. But this lecture is free. And worth your time.

The last thing I want to say before turning you over to the video: Vickie has been a long time friend and resource for both editions of Cut by Cut: Editing Your Film or Video books. She kindly wrote the Foreword to the current (second) edition.

So I am very happy to introduce you the intrepid, inimitable Vickie!

*Los Angeles Final Cut Pro Users Group

Editing & life, Editing & screenwriting, Editing practices, Editor’s role, Sound & music editing, User groups & meetings, Visual FX editing