Archive for October, 2009

Celebrating Halloween and Sound Effects Designers

October 29th, 2009

In honor of All Hallows Eve and sound makers, here are few places to go to learn about the special sounds that make this holiday. Treat yourself to all the tricks of scaring the s***t out of people without filling a paper bag full of poop and setting it on fire!
October 29, Motion Picture Academy in Beverly Hills: A sound designer discusses how Sound Effects make the Horror show. Cheap!

If you live out of the area, read this article about sound effects editing on horror movies called Editing a Horror Movie.

Find out about how sound effects were done on Hitchcock’s The Birds by reading The Sound of one Wing Flapping.

Here’s an article on the SFX for Blair Witch 2 called Final Cut – Blair Witch 2.

These last two links/articles are from the primo sound editing site, created by and featuring top sound designers:

Their site features many more articles on horror movies and other film genres as well as wealth of links and articles on sound editing topics. I’ve listed this site permanently in Resources.

Sound & music editing

She who must be obeyed in the editing room or R-E-S-P-E-C-T find out what it means to me

October 26th, 2009

In addition to The Editor’s Prayer by moi, we now have the editor’s 21 commandments, as listed by Joy Moeller, a Kansas City editor. I don’t know if her gig here as a stand-up comedian is a one-off but I say she could do more stand-up.

Joy Moeller – EditQuette from Art+Copy Club of Kansas City on Vimeo.

Editing practices, Fun & games

Your Cutting Room View

October 22nd, 2009

Ed Abroms, Burbank, CA, on location in Lowell, MI.

Latest projects: The Genesis Code (movie) and Eureka (TV series). Creating a webisode series with post supervisor/wife Terra Abroms.

Editor's Guild Magazine CoverEd is an independent picture editor who has cut using Skype and Sync View who considers himself “…lucky to be employed in these times!” Read more about him in the current issue of The Editor’s Guild Magazine.

Contact Ed at:
Web site:

Your cutting room view

From Paprika to Ponyo

October 20th, 2009

Frame from PonyoWhile writing my most recent book, Film Editing: Great Cut Filmmakers and Movie Lovers Must Know, a Gen Y nephew introduced me to a Japanese anime movie, Paprika, which made me hunger for more. I’ve watched a few on DVD but decided to give Ponyo, the latest well-reviewed anime, the full screen treatment. So off we went the other night to Westwood.


Ponyo was more of a kids’ movie than I would have liked, there were a few plot turns that weren’t explained (e.g. who made the sea rise, why did Ponyo – [main girl character] have only sisters and no brothers) and the eco message was diluted (yes, I love puns).


Frame from PonyoThe visuals, as anticipated, delivered. I will long remember the rising jellyfish at the start of the movie, the roiling ocean during the storm, and the people living on spots of land trying to co-exist with the sea. Also, Ponyo is a modern movie: The boy and girl roles – Sosuke (main boy character) – and Ponyo – could have been reversed. Each was a resourceful caretaker who needed to be rescued of at times and had their own personality.

Editing Animation

On an animated movie like Ponyo, the editor is hired during preproduction, not during production or post production as usual and is a storyteller extraordinaire, helping shape the storyboards in great detail before principle shooting begins. There are no handles (extra frames before or after the precisely filmed action) on animated movies as each frame is costly. So preplanned storyboards are a vital necessity.

Frame from PonyoIn an interview of the editing crew on the 3D animation movie Monsters vs. Aliens in the March/April edition of the Editors Guild magazine editor Joyce Arrastia stated, “I started out in live action, and when I would hear about animation editing, I used to think that it was just a process of assembling.  But it’s much more complicated than live action.  In live action, you get handed film that came out of the camera.  You have your choices on which takes to choose.  But the animation editor also has to put together the storyboards in a way that appears to be live-action footage.  It’s all about just the right amount of frames, adding a lot of temp sound effects and dialogue and music, and just polishing it in a way that it plays like a real scene.  And only then can the directors sit back and look at it and judge if it works or not.”

Final Analysis

So I appreciated the movie for all the work that went into it as well as its message, characters, and most of all, its visuals.

Other interesting Ponyo facts

  • Ponyo was written, directed, and animated by the wondrously prolific Hayao Miyazaki, who created, Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle and many other animated movies.
  • Film contains 170,000 separate hand drawn images.

The editor, Takeshi Seyama, also cut Paprika.

Editing practices, Joy goes to the movies

New Editing Course Syllabus…and a Challenge

October 15th, 2009

I am writing a syllabus for a course on editing theory, practice, and history to accompany my new book, Film Editing: Great Cuts Every Filmmaker and Movie Lover Must Know. I will post it on my website under “Free” as soon as I’m done.

What course is/is not

This is not a hands-on class like the syllabus I’ve already posted where students edit scenes and learn some editing theory and history too. This new course is a compliment to that course – the non-lab part.

And it’s a standalone course. It could also work as  a series of lectures aimed at the general public and students who want to learn more about the history of editing and how it’s practiced today but don’t want to edit themselves.

What I’m finding…

projectorThere is no book on the history of editing. There are many excellent books on the history of movies – Gerald Mast’s substantial A Short History of the Movies comes to mind- that include editing – and I am a fan of Ken Dancyger’s The Technique of Film and Video Editing, History, Theory, and Practice . And then of course there’s Karel Reisz’s and Gavin Millar’s classic from the 1950s, Technique of Film Editing.

But no book focuses solely and completely on the story of editing. If you know of one, let me know.

There is a terrific documentary, Wendy Apple’s The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Film Editing, which does an unparalleled job of threading the history of editing through the contemporary practice as told by Hollywood star editors and directors.

But there needs to be a definitive text.


Key Points

October 13th, 2009

In August a creature I never saw bit my foot when I dipped it into a salt water estuary at in the Florida Keys. The episode contained all the elements of an action drama:

Accident scene with spurting blood, a vivacious Good Samaritan with her parents and kids, a burly female sheriff, and two paramedics.

Highway scene as the ambulance headed north toward the ER in Miami and was halted by a fatal motorcycle accident on the Keys highway.

Hospital scene with male and female nurses and doctors, and surgical and social challenges: Would the surgeon be able to fix the tendon, ligament, and nerve damage? Would the hospital personnel recognize my same-sex marriage partner and give her updates and access? Would I be able to walk, dance, hike, and do all the things I love to do?

It was my personal version of My Left Foot crossed with Jaws 3D.

So this relates to editing, how…?

There were fades to black as I lapsed in and out of conscious from the anesthesia, flashbacks to the bite brought on by the sudden tightening of the anti-blood clot cuff on my “good” leg, and the blurry superimposition of hospital workers buzzing my room at all hours.

Also, when I tell my tale – as I have many times now – I change the POV to include others (surgeon, my partner, kid-bystanders, etc.). As time goes by, I compress or lengthen the story by judging the level interest of my audience. So yes, the accident also relates to editing by how clearly I communicate the story, the order in which I tell the events, the weight (time) I give each event, and the way I end the story.

Speaking of endings…

The surgeon was able to fix most everything and determined the perp was a barracuda (not a small alligator or a shark – the prime suspect). The Floridian medical personnel provided tip top treatment to me and my spouse. The Good Samaritan was a director /producer who is shooting her own videography and she snapped a photo of the scene with her cellphone so now have footage (Did I mentioned I love puns). And, in time, I will be able to walk and, as the medical saying goes, “resume all activities.”


In editing as in life: Tell your tales well; put them in the order that makes most sense, use the POV(s) that the filmed material demands, and create the ending that best and most truly completes the story.

Editing & life

In Honor of National Coming Out Day

October 11th, 2009

Here is the trailer for On These Shoulders We Stand, a 75 minute doc documentary about 11 people who came to LA and changed history starting in the 1960s. If Glenne McElhinney’s movie is as moving and well-edited at the trailer, we’re in for a great contribution to U.S. and GBLT history.

What McElhinney says about her hopes for the film and it’s future*.

… “little of our West Coast LGBT history is known to popular audiences,” [and she] hopes to continue shedding light on Los Angeles’ contribution to California and national LGBT history through touring the state’s classrooms, community centers and historical societies with a multimedia presentation using clips from films, interviews and archival footage.

“I will also go back to doing oral histories of Californians across the state and eventually set up more on camera interviews where the footage may be used in future documentaries,” she says.


Joy views your film

Georgia and Frida on my mind

October 9th, 2009

I usually avoid MOWs (Movies of the Week – movies made for television, not theatrical release).  I’ve worked on enough MOWs and watched enough and usually been disappointed. Last night I made an exception. I watched Lifetime’s biopic, Georgia O’Keefe. Two weeks before I finally caught Frida, initially created for theatrical release, on TV.

Similarities between Films and Artists

Both movies had talented casts, ample budgets and not cheap locations in different states (and countries in Frida’s case.) Both women achieved international fame with their art and married male artists who advocated their groundbreaking art and were incurable womanizers. Each woman created unique paintings that pioneered powerful images of female sexuality.

I have been to their hang outs (O’Keefe’s Taos, Abiquiu, and Lake George and Kahlo’s Casa Azul) and seen their art in museums, postcards, and. I admire both women for their outstanding art and inspiring words and lives. I realize a biopic speaks to contemporary times as much as it tries to illuminate the life of its subject.  Frida comes alive in her movie; Georgia deserves a do-over.

Show, Tell, See
Georgia OKeefe Painting
Why does an editor make a cut? The golden rule of editing is that every cut must be motivated – have a reason – to be made. You can’t just make a cut because you like the shot or the director/producer/client told you to (well sometimes for job survival you have to do the latter). Every cut must advance the story in some way: Give more information about a character, location, or plot or add to the suspense. It’ best if the editor cuts so that s/he is ahead of even with the audience. When the audience is ahead of the story it loses interest.

In his seminal book, In the Blink of an Eye, Academy award-winning editor and editing philosopher Walter Murch talks about what makes for an “ideal” cut. He ranks six criteria. Emotion – what the audience feels – get the highest rank: 51%. Murch believes that what the audience finally remembers is “…not the editing, not the camerawork, not the performances, not even the story-it’s how they felt.”*

She was robbed

The story of Georgia O’Keefe was not felt in the editing, performances, or script. In Frida we got Kahlo’s physical anguish, heartbreak, tenderness, and out and out aliveness due the lighting and cinematogrpahy, and performances – all supported by editing with its pacing and focus on Frida and the people she cared about intereacted with most.  In Georgia O’Keefe I never felt the woman or the artist and the relationship between her and Stieglitz and the other characters was hackneyed and in intursion.
Georgia O'Keefe Painting
I didn’t want to hear in a letter how Georgia sunbathed nude with Mabel Dodge and her entourage, I wanted to see Georgia go out in the New Mexican mountains and plains she so loved and get down with them in nude body and soul.  I wanted to feel what it was like to first paint an overtly female, vaginal flower. I wanted to really understand her relationship with Mr. Stieglitz. For the first time, I felt Jeremey Irons created a caricature, hiding behind bushy eyebrows and a moustache, not a character.

Make your movies show and tell, and above all, let them make us feel and want to relate them to others.

*page 18, In the Blink of an Eye, by Walter Murch.

Editing practices, Joy goes to the movies

A great site for editors & academics by editors & academics

October 7th, 2009

Art of the Guillotine

  • Tech tips
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Editing practices, Editor’s role, Joy goes to the movies, Technical & process

Your Cutting Room View

October 5th, 2009

David Mallory

David Mallory, Bellingham, WA in his home office.

Latest project: Wife After Death, shot on RED ONE in 4k and edited using Sony Vegas Pro software.

“It was a 48-hour film competition which meant if something could go wrong, it did,” David wrote. “But being involved in every step of the process – from brainstorming on initial story ideas, to assisting on-set, to working with the director on edits – was fantastic.”

Contact David at

Your cutting room view