Archive for October, 2010

Editing and The Social Network

October 29th, 2010

This week I took in The Social Network – the movie. I give it a rave for four main reasons: acting, pacing of the editing, writing, and social commentary. The movie reminds us how fast and furiously Mark Zuckerbergthe times are-a-changing as it turns the recent emergence of Facebook into instant history. And his story; the tale of the intellectually (and now financially) well endowed Mark Zuckerberg. At 19, while at Harvard, he created this new institution cum communication device that so many of us scoff at yet jump on every day.

Why the praise?

It’s always wonderful to see a character-driven movie, especially one about a brilliant but impatient, imperious, socially inept and off putting character: Main character Zuckerberg, as acted by Jesse Eisenberg, Savarin and  Zuckerbergwho invents friending, is, by the end of the movie, friendless. Zuckerberg’s friend, Eduardo Savarin, played by Andrew Garfield, serves as the film’s conscience. Even as he sues, doubts, and distrusts Mark, Eduardo wants to believe him.

It’s a tribute to Aaron Sorkin’s script that all the major characters are complex – sympathetic and not so sympathetic and ultimately human. Even the minor characters – which include all the female characters – are complex except for the party girls and boys. I liked the woman who when flamed online by Zuckerberg, does not let him off the hook; if only Zuckerberg could figure out to apologize, he might stand a chance.

No ordinary flick

In keeping with the latest social, technological trends, the film (guess we should drop that term) was shot digitally on a RED camera, actually two to three cameras for each scene.

This picture is also unique because it is driven by dialog. Unbelievable but true, especially in a male-centered film. The action scenes, such as the crew race, are puffery and lead to the weighty action scenes as Jesse Eisenberg playing Zuckerbergopposed to the typical action film where the dialog is poor and serves as set-up for the heavy duty action sequence. The scenes are taut, the characters interesting (men only, except for one woman), and the dialog and yes, social interactions move it along.

I always remember what Carol Littleton, A.C.E., (The Other Boleyn Girl, Tuesdays with Morrie, ET and many more), once said: “One-to-one dialogue scenes are difficult because it’s literally about the very thin connection between two people and that connection can’t be violated. You have to be aware of it all the time. They may be connecting or not connecting emotionally, but you have to be aware of what’s happening between them the whole time.”

In the last post I talked about the power in actors’ eyes: Notice the intensity in Eisenberg’s.

Angus Wall, half of the pair of editors on The Social Network along with Kirk Baxter, says in an interview by Oliver Peters(who pens Digital Post, a helpful, technical editing blog), “From the start, Kirk and I cut the scenes very tightly, using faster performances and generally keeping the pace of the film high. When the first assembly was completed, we were at a length of 1 hour 55 minutes – actually a minute shorter than the final version. Unlike most films, we were able to relax the pace and put some air back into the performances during the fine cut.”

However, in reading Peters’ interview, I found out there was more to creating the movie than being deft at dialogue and story.


Yes. According to Baxter, who edited The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, “there are about 1000 effects in The Social Network.” Two major characters, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, are identical twins played by two different actors. Baxter reports that the movie “has a lot of digital matte paintings, but there is also face replacement much like in Button…there are two characters who are twins, but in fact the actors aren’t, so a similar process was used to turn one of the actors into the twin of the other. Although the story isn’t driven by the same sort of visual effect, like the aging technique that was a dramatic device in Benjamin Button, it still has a lot of effects work.”

Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss
Editor as magician

Did you notice the room switch? Baxter reveals the The Social Network, “was very well scripted and directed, so not a lot of storytelling issues had to be resolved in the edit. In fact, there were a number of scenes that were great fun to put together. For example, there’s an early scene about some of the legal depositions. It takes place in two different boardrooms at different times and locations, but the scene is intercut as if it is one continuous conversation. David [Fincher, the director] gave us lots of coverage, so it was a real joy to solve the puzzle, matching eyelines and so on.”

Editors’ POV

Wall gives his and Baxter’s point of view: “This is a movie about the birth of a major online power, but what happens on the computer is a very minor part. For us, it was more important to concentrate on the drama and emotions of the characters, and that’s what makes this a timeless story. It’s utterly contemporary…but a little bit Shakespearean, too. It’s about people participating in something that’s bigger than themselves, something that will change all of their lives in one way or another.”

Last word to Zuckerberg

Vanity Fair dubbed Zuckerberg “our new Caesar” in its October issue and ranked him #1 power broker, ahead of Steve Jobs, Oprah, and others. In The Face of Facebook, an article about the man and the movie in The New Yorker on September 20th, journalist Jose Antonio Vargas reports that in the bio section of his FB page Zuckerberg states, “I’m trying to make the world a more open place.”

In light of the popularity of FB, its recurring privacy issues, and Zuckerberg’s powers and plans, we’ll see how it turns out.

Editing practices, Editor’s role, Joy goes to the movies, Visual FX editing

Barbara and June

October 25th, 2010

A lot has been said about June Cleaver – her pearls, her words, her silky-warm voice, her impossible world. While she is no longer believed to be the “ideal” mom that women should measure themselves against, she is appreciated, I think, as a kind, loving person who did the best she could for her kids, husband and everyone else in the fictitious city of Mayfield, Ohio in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. She was, simply, a 1950s style middle class housewife who didn’t have a room of her own or friends of her own but whose whole house was her work place.

Enter the woman behind the character: Barbara Billingsley, who died on October 16 at age 94. Barbara Billingsley I was fortunate to work on The New Leave it to Beaver series in the late ‘80s when all the original actors (except Hugh Beaumont, “Ward Cleaver” who had died) were reconvened to play an updated version of themselves. Widowed, June now had the house all to herself, was taking college classes, asked The Beav and Wally to clean up their own messes (literal and figurative) and remained a kind, loving person. She had become the quintessential wise, loving older woman.

The way we feel about a character as long-lasting and full of goodness as June Cleaver is in large part due to the actress behind the mask. The true essence of the character – unconditional love – shows in her eyes. I can tell you from working with her that Barbara was like June. She was a kind, warm person who was totally professional, inquisitive, observant, and giving. She served her own birthday cake to everyone at the wrap party that coincided with her birthday. I never heard her say an unpleasant word about anyone. When the core crew was sent to Orlando for six months to create the final season of the series, she invited the women principals out for a “hen party” as she phrased it. Hate the expression but the intent was there and I was sorry to miss the company and the sumptuous luncheon at a fashionable hotel that she treated everyone to.

Thinking about Barbara and our Beaver “family,” which has stayed in touch intermittently over the years, brings me to one of my beliefs about actors and editing: It’s all in the eyes. They make us laugh, cry, get angry, etc. They make dialogue scenes work. They make us believe. “The eyes are the window to the soul” is truism that is never truer on screen. The actors that stand out, whether on sitcoms or Academy award winning dramas, are the ones whose eyes we trust to tell the truth. So be wise, watch the eyes when you’re cutting and RIP Barbara. June Cleaver and your jive talk in Airplane live on.

Editing & life, Television

Guest Writer

October 22nd, 2010

Script Journal bannerThe Script Journal invited me to blog on their site. The requester prefaced the post with a personal note since her father was an editor. So here’s the latest iteration of my article on writing for editing:

And here’s a link to the journal:


Editing & screenwriting, Editor’s role

Trick or Treat: A comic look at editing reality TV

October 20th, 2010

This fun web video tells a good story and makes good use of VO while talking editing reality. Still can’t say “editing reality” without thinking of editing my own life. What would you edit if you could edit your life reality?

Anyway, enjoy the video. My only quibble: Why did they leave in the green screen background in some parts?

Reality TV Production:
How To Spot Reality TV Editing Tricks: Creating Conflict

Editor’s role, Fun & games

Your Cutting Room View: Shedding light on editors for over a year

October 13th, 2010

“I see you.”

Neytiri in Avatar

I want to see you – here! If you’re do any kind of editing – picture, sound, assisting, VFX, negative – on any kind of piece – student, infomercial, feature, doc, drama, etc. – I would love to post a photo of you in your cutting room, wherever it is. Feel free to send any kind of photo:  professional, arty, funny, etc. Here’s an example:

  • David Mallory

David Mallory, Independent editor, Bellingham, Washington.

Contact him at:

My intent here is to bring us editors out of the shadows. What better way to bring editors out from the shadows than to throw a light on us in our cutting rooms? See past entries in the right hand column on this page. The most current photo stays on top until I post the next entry which occurs immediately. When I get a flurry of photos I hold off for a 2-3 weeks so each person gets a good amount of time at the top of the scroll.

It’s a good way to promote yourself as you can list your email, website, etc. Send in your photo and info by clicking here or clicking on the hyperlink under Your Cutting Room View on the right at any time.

We all look forward to seeing you.

Your cutting room view

All the news that’s fit to edit – and then some more!

October 6th, 2010

Second part of interview with KABC news editors Carol Mike, Liz McHale, and Ryan Byrne.


News editors are part of NABET (National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians). The union has been fighting a losing war with the networks and there have been many changes for the worse. The editor used to choose the footage, now the writer picks the clips and indicates them on the script. The upshot? Many editors (and others) have broadened their scope and become hyphenates. Common hyphenate jobs are: photographer-editor a.k.a. shooter-editor, photographer-editor-transmitter, reporter-editor, and writer-editor. Liz is a writer-editor and Ryan mainly manages media and edits.

Editors have also lost their jobs and had to migrate to other types of jobs. Carol’s job cutting promos was eliminated but luckily she was able segue to cutting teases as well as news.

Additionally, like other broadcast employees, editors have lost work with the automation of certain functions. Computer systems, such as ParkerVision, have robotosized in-studio cameras, doing away with camera ops, and can transmit graphics, multiple audio channels etc., reducing the number of techs needed.

NAT: Natural audio on the field tape that is either sync sound and/or wild sound.

SOT a.k.a. voice SOT or VO SOT: Sync on tape or Voice Over Sync on Tape: Reporter’s voice recorded on the field tape, performing an interview and/or telling the story.

VOT: Voice on Tape: Audio written and written and recorded in studio by the reporter after returning from the field.

Editing process

The editor receives the script from the writer. Then “we cut the footage as it comes in,” Liz reports. “We lay down the pieces [pictures] and mark ins and outs on the fly, one clip at a time.” The timeline (on the digital editing system) can mix HD and SD and auto-converts if mixed to HD.

The editor then cuts in the NAT sound and the voice SOT. Next, any VOT is added. If the editor is also the reporter, the VOT may be recorded and the pictures cut to it. Routinely, editors slo mo or speed up shots to fit the VO SOT. Sometimes anchors talk live to a story during a broadcast. When this is scheduled, the editors add up to 21 extra seconds of picture – enough to cover a slow talking anchor.

Occasionally the editor may have the “luxury” of one to three days to put together a package — a precut story of timely human interest. They enjoy this because they get to show more of their editing chops.

Another routine responsibility is sending clip reels (additional material) along with graphics to the news truck which is covering breaking news. This way the shooter-editor-transmitter can cut a hot story right in the truck and air it.

That’s all for now, folks. Back to you for any questions or comments.

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

All the news that’s fit to edit – and then some!

October 2nd, 2010

Another interview in a continuing series of editor interviews.

Cutting news is a special type of editing due to its relentless daily deadlines to “make air” as well as its unique lingo, schedules, staff titles, and workflow. Editors have to be fast and flexible, ready to switch or update stories as priorities shift with the daily ebb and flow of news.

I caught up with Carol Mike, Liz McHale, and Ryan Byrne – three extra-congenial, knowledgeable editors – at the café of the Gene Autry museum located near KABC in Glendale where they all work. They obligingly gave up part of their Sunday to answer my questions and de-mystify their process.

Here’s the rundown:

News footage sources

Material arrives in the news editing room from two main sources on a variety of formats:

1) Inside sources:

– include footage shot in-house by KABC photographers as well as footage from the KABC archive.

– Typically arrive on P2 cards or tape from XD cams.
2) Outside sources:
– Encompass footage from all non-in-house photographers and archives and includes news feeds.

– Can be on any tape format.

– If on film (rare) are transferred to tape.

Getting material in

Ryan explains that all material is uploaded to their “ginormous” server.  Then the editors download the material for each story to their Grass Valley Aurora editing system, cutting in hi-res HD.

Getting material out

The producers start the day by stacking the show, meaning ordering the stories for broadcast. News is stacked 1-2 hours ahead. Once they’re done editing, the editors upload their stories to the server. If there are updates to a story or changes to the stacking, they can easily re-cut them.


You can imagine with all the daily footage coming in and stories being broadcast that there is a tremendous amount of material to store. “We live and die by our archive,” Ryan admits. At KABC they store stories as broadcast for legal reasons as well as for future source material but delete the raw footage due to space limitations. To conserve space, material is archived low res, but when restored, it automatically downloads hi-res.

I will continue this subject in another post. Part II will reveal more details about a day in the life a news editor.

In the meantime, what are your questions about news editing? Let me know and if I can’t answer them, I’ll contact the experts

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