Archive for August, 2010

2010 Emmy Awards for Editing

August 30th, 2010

Congratulations to all winners and nominees. And a big salute to all toil for the tube: assistant editors, editors, sound editors, visual effects editors, music editors, online editors, post supervisors, PAs, and post house personnel.

Here are this year’s winners:

Emmy Statue


Modern Family
Pilot ABC

The End ABC

Temple Grandin HBO

Late Night With Jimmy Fallon
6-Bee (Episode 226) NBC

BILL DeRONDE, Supervising Editor
The 25th Anniversary Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Concert HBO

By The People: The Election Of Barack Obama HBO

Robby A&E

Awards, Television

Looking for assistant editor work – Get this book

August 29th, 2010

Note 1: I will dedicate a future blog or two to job hunting and include advice from all the editors and assistants I interviewed.

My latest interviewee, assistant editor Rachelle Dang, clued me in a program that really helped her career: the A.C.E. internship program in LA for college grads. The editor who mentored her was Lori Jane Coleman. Now Lori has co-authored a book with A.C.E. editor Diana Friedberg, Make the Cut: A Guide to Becoming a Successful Assistant Editor in Film and TV.

Note 2: All italicized sentences are quotes from the book.

The assistant editor is the heart of the cutting room…

Make the Cut BookcoverThis 230 page guide book contains the gospel from Hollywood. If you want a Hollywood career, take heed. If you work in editorial outside of Hollywood, let me know how this differs or parallels your experience and what your advice would be.

Like Gaul (for those who, like me, took Latin and read Caesar’s The Gallic War), the book is divided into three parts. Here’s a synopsis:

Part 1 – Getting Started (titled just like my book!), has nine chapters. The first chapter details how to prep for the interview and the job. The rest address the specific duties of the AE such as supplies to acquire, inputting dailies, best strategies for organizing Avid or FCP bins for drama, documentary, and reality shows, workflows, and the stages of post (dailies, online, etc.)

Part 2 – Protocol, with three chapters, goes over editing room etiquette, the Hollywood pecking order, and surviving cutting room politics.

Being an assistant has its heartaches and rewards. There are long hours, social politics to navigate, career decisions to be made, and jobs to be won or lost.

Part 3 – Make the Cut, composed of three chapters, tells you how to shine (always bolded) as you advance and lists containing job websites. It also advises you on how to advance from freebie to paying non-union jobs to union work and provides a couple of tables. One table shows the pay scale and years to expect to wait for advancement according to the genre trail you choose to follow: feature, TV, doc, and reality. Another table provides a budget for how to invest each week’s [union] pay including saving for those times you’ll be unemployed. Part 3 and the book finish with a chapter consisting of a panel discussion of editors who relate their views on assisting and their career trajectories.

My main negative with the book is the pronoun referring to the editor being he, never she. The time for limiting editors – or any profession – to males – in writing or hiring – is long past. Use your words and hiring practices to include everyone. It’s reality and the fair, right thing to do.

Editing practices, Editor’s role, Technical & process, Television

A day in the life of an assistant editor

August 21st, 2010

After reality editor Adam Coleite’s several references to assistant editors in the last two posts, I decided it was high time to talk to one of these unsung post workers, even more unsung than editors!

I met assistant TV editor Rachelle Dang, fresh from R & R in Hawaii after completing a pilot, in Culver City. Surrounded by LA and home to MGM (now Sony), Lorimar (defunct) and other studios past and present, Culver City’s main artery, Washington Blvd., features a parade of large kiosks remarking on the city’s motion picture past.

At a justifiably popular French eatery, Rachelle summed up her job, “You’re the point person for everyone who touches the cutting room: editor, post supervisor, music editor, sound editor, VFX editor, online editor, producer, etc.”

My journey: Like so many others, I have spent years as an assistant before finally getting the break to editor. And I even assisted afterwards – climbing the ladder isn’t always a linear endeavor.

So, what do assistant editors do? Everything. Here’s a rundown of Rachelle’s responsibilities, in show order:

Beginning of show

  • Create workflow for show (with input from poster supervisor and editor as needed).
  • Organize paperwork: lined script and script supervisor’s report as well as camera and sound reports.
  • Receive synced dailies in bins on hard drive from the post house and copy them into editor’s Avid via Firewire.
  • Prep bins for editor(s) by:
    • Importing script into the Avid so it becomes a bin and shot takes line up according to the script.
    • Adding locators (markers) on pick-ups.
  • Make sure director, producer, etc. receive copies of dailies (via DVD or QT file to server).

As editor cuts show

  • Input SFX and MX (at beginning and as show progresses and new sounds and music are needed).
  • Render and help create VFX.
  • Make outputs of cuts for director, sound and music editors, producers, studio, and network.
  • Back up metadata regularly to an external drive which she takes home. On a series she’ll occasionally back sup SFX and MX since they’re used regularly, but not picture media.
  • Make outputs for post supervisor for promo purposes.
  • Keep the cutting room running technically, e.g. media share, and secure help when things break down.
  • Check email (on home and work computer) for messages from editor, other assistant, producer, etc.

Once show locks

  • Build (formats) show to network specs.
  • Create bin with final, formatted cut for online editor and VFX data on an EDL so temp VFX can be rebuilt.
  • Provide sound editors with data and materials such as:
    • A “chase” cassette of show with burnt-in timecode with tracks split according to their specs.
    • OMF and EDL of show.
  • Output a DVD or file for music editors with dialogue track on Channel 1 and temp mix on Channel 2.

An hour show will typically shoot for 7 days with a 2:3 assistant to editor ratio.  While the old union ratio of 1:1 has disappeared, Rachelle has her own editing system for her work. Still, she says, serving the editor is less than 50% of the job.

What’s her advice to managing all these facets of the editing room? Rachelle asserts, “Ask, ask, ask. You won’t know everything on any show so don’t to be afraid to ask.”

Editing practices, Editor’s role, Technical & process, Television

The reality of cutting reality: Interview with editor Adam Coleite – Part 2

August 16th, 2010

Going into the interview with Adam I was aware that editors of reality shows often are under the gun to plow through tons of crap, er, footage, to pluck out the proverbial pony.  Over the course of lunch he opened my eyes to a couple of aspects that I hadn’t thought of.

For instance, here what Adam had to say about the appeal of reality shows:

“We’ve been conditioned to understand that when the camera’s shaky, stuff doesn’t match, the dialogue’s not so audible and there are strange cuts that it’s real. We allow more leeway for mistakes, for messiness, because they seem more real.” He continued, “Reality and nonfiction TV don’t have to have production values because people [viewers] assume it’s real and forgive more.”

Role of a reality editor

Adam stated, “I’m not just putting shots together; it’s a lot more creative. I’m telling a story that didn’t exist before I started.” He reflected, “I am much more the storyteller because I’m creating the story as I’m cutting it.”

My conclusion: The reality or non-fiction editor plays the same role as a fiction editor or any other editor – story teller.

Being a reality editor

I like reality because I’m not tied to continuity – to temporal or space continuity. I can jump cut, for example when someone pulls up to a house and knocks on the door I can take time out.”

He added, “Reality frees you up to think about a scene and put a scene together differently. How you start a scene and how you end a scene. I can start on a line and not worry about what people are wearing or where they are.”

In the examples below, from two series Adam edited on, see how true his words are.

Example 1

In this first scene, notice how the editing freely jumps around to move the story quickly and make the points clearly.

Crime 360,

Example 2

See how the pacing differs in this scene.

Last American Cowboy

Editing practices, Editor’s role, Technical & process, Television

The reality of cutting reality: Interview with editor Adam Coleite – Part 1

August 11th, 2010

Third in a series of interviews with working editors in and around Hollywood

I connected with Adam Coleite after putting out a call for reality editors to interview on Facebook. We met up at a restaurant of his choice – a Corner Bakery in Burbank. A genial 30-something, he gave me a rundown on the logistics and challenges of editing reality (love the double entendre) as well as some insightful comments on audience perceptions of the genre and his own take on it.

Setting up the show

It takes five weeks from start to finish to edit an hour show, Adam explained. Editorial begins with the assistant editors, (AEs), who set up each show as a project on the Final Cut Pro. They prep the bins, log the footage, and put in markers when there are multiple takes. Ordinarily the AEs set up show one of two ways: They stack takes on the timeline or multi-clip it. This entire set-up process consumes 3-4 days as reality shows are as renowned for having tons of footage as they are for being shot on the cheap.

Starting to edit

“There’s a lot of useless, unusable footage,” Adam reports. “Because there’s a lot of footage and not many good script supervisors on set, sometimes I have to look through an hour of footage to find a moment or a response. There are a lot of needle in the haystack moments.”  He sums it up, “There are more options and poor notes.”

In addition to a set-up show on the system, Adam gets a transcript of interviews marked by the loggers who can be in-house or outsourced. He also receives a story outline from the story producer. But this is just a starting point. “A lot of the work is figuring out the show as you go. At first I don’t know what I’m looking for,” Adam reveals.

Part of the job

Adam cuts out the curses or bleeps them if unavoidable. Pick-ups may be necessary from the original people in the show and/or the narrator, often at the network’s request. Most shows shun re-creations a.k.a. re-enactments or alert the audience to them with a caption.

“There’s tons of cheating [of shots] that goes on,” Adam relates. Why? Because “you’re paying attention the veracity and continuity of the story,” he explains.

He does all sound and music work and adds VFX, graphics, and titles as well. There’s a lot of rendering of VFX which take time as he cuts everything hi res.

Adam screens the cut on the system with the show producer, after which the two of them work together to redo the outline and he re-cuts the show.

Subsequent cuts may be viewed by the showrunner, network executive, and possibly the president of the production company.


Once locked, the AEs sort out the audio tracks and send an OMF to the mixer. They sort out the video files and send them to the colorist. They also send these files to the online editor who QCs to meet broadcast specs the show and may add more VFX. The final show is sent to the network for broadcast.

Coming up in Part 2: Hear what Adam has to say about cutting reality and compare scenes from two shows that he edited on.

Editing practices, Editor’s role, Technical & process, Television

You’ll laugh, you’ll curse, you’ll want to click it off

August 6th, 2010

What do you do when someone buttonholes you with “My son wants to get into editing. Can you help? How hard can editing be?” This new, short animated video, So You’re An Editor, describes what editors do and provides some ammunition.  Consisting of static, talking heads done in nauseating Necco wafer pastels, it involves a union TV editor but applies to all editors.

Warning: Video includes a short rant on the virtues of Avid, guaranteed to po Final Cut Pro users.

Editing & life, Editor’s role, Fun & games, Television

Editing and Life Transitions

August 4th, 2010

What kinds of transitions do you make between scenes? Do you plunge right into the next scene with a smash cut or jump cut? Descend thoughtfully into it with a long dissolve or super? Or just plain cut? Chances are you’ve made all these kinds of transitions and many more as you’ve paced out scenes as well as individual edits.


boxI’ve been thinking about transitions as I’ve made a major life move from LA to northern CA as part of setting the stage for the third act of my life. Scoring boxes has underscored my transition. First I drove to various locations in LA: a floral shop for gangster boxes good for shipping bazookas (or sculptures and wrapping paper in my case); a grocery store, a friend’s house and that of a relocated couple.

Recently I’ve been on the other end: recycling the boxes. We advertised on Craig’s list and five people – all women – showed up, each with her own story of transition.

#1, in her mid 30’s showed up in a VW camper and paid $40 for as many boxes and wrapping paper as we could stuff in. Naturally, we made conversation about where we’d moved from and where she was moving to. She told us she was getting divorced and stifled a sob with “It’s all for the best.”

#2, in her mid 30’s the first of the four who responded to the updated entry stating “free boxes,” drove a big, late model truck owned by her ex-boyfriend’s business. Her dogs bared their teeth at us as she related how she was downsizing to another city and on her way to a job interview where she stood a good chance to get a job that she was way overqualified for that paid slightly more than her unemployment which was running out next week.

#3, in her early 60s, appeared in a borrowed pick-up and turned out to be PhD in psychology. She had always worked contract as a corporate consultant but now, to get her son through college, was taking an in-house job at Lawrence Livermore lab. She works with engineers and loves it, helping them to communicate and succeed in a corporate environment. I took her card and referred her to a friend who is writing a self help book for geeks who need to pick up on social cues to better their work life.

#4, mid-50s came directly from teaching Bible school. As we efficiently crammed most of the remaining picture boxes into her Passat wagon, she divulged that she and her husband were headed back to Texas after 20 years in CA to watch over family members.

#5 The last boxer showed up in a Camry and was around my age.  She’d attended the same college I had in the same major around the same time. We didn’t know each other then but we have friends in common now. So who knows, we may see her again. A semi-retired MFT, she is moving to a town she loves that has good schools as she is raising her grandson.

So these are my latest tales of transitions. What are yours, in or out of the cutting room?

Editing & life, Editing practices