Archive for December, 2010


December 30th, 2010

Editors are often called story tellers and the last re-writers on the show. This struck me anew as I have been putting together a picture album of my new house for my parents. I won’t always be there to tell them about each photo so reflexively I began arranging the photos as if a phantom narrator was talking about each one. Putting together an album or a slide show or a PowerPoint is telling a story, relating the picture (or content) before to the picture (or content) afterwards, one page or slide at a time.

My parents live in a retirement community beautifully situated on the Hudson River in NY where they are well taken care of. My father, 86, devotedly takes care of my mother, mother, 84, who has dementia and macular degeneration to the point where she can no longer read. I miss the intellectual essence that has departed yet I marvel at the mother essence which remains intact. I am awed by her ever upbeat attitude and continue to learn from her: She values life, loving her family and friends, listening to books on tape, and determined to enjoy what she can and not focus on what is gone.

The album is for her as she will never be able to visit my new home. And for my father, who hopefully will, and will be able to go over it with her.

So this is my holiday wish for you: As you mingle with your family, friends, and strangers – in shops, airports, bus stations, places of worship, soup kitchens, etc. – listen to their tales and be aware of how you are telling your own. And do so with as much honesty, tenderness, and caring as you can muster. This will assure you the best possible holidays for everyone. And let’s carry this truthful, compassionate story telling into the next year and beyond as editors and people on this earth.

Editing & life, Editor’s role

Computer dating

December 26th, 2010

The other day I had a couple of memory flashes:

1) Seeing a phalanx of abandoned CMX 6000s in the storage room of a post facility, all at attention, as if they were waiting for Wallye to salvage them.

2) Walking past a line of heaped up Moviolas and parts pushed up against a wall in the hallway of a former lab, looking like a wayside Guernica memorial.

I found myself ruminating on all the editing systems I’ve worked on over the years, from film to video to digital. What do you remember?

Below is a partial list of obsolescent editing tools. Granted, not all of these are strictly computers but most had some computer or digital elements. RIP. We remember many of you fondly:


Lucasfilm created only 30 EditDroids, an NLE which stored A & V on laserdiscs. EditDroid roamed the galaxy before the term “media” was used and external hard drives were invented.


Cinema Elastic

CMX 50

CMX 6000

ECS 90





Film Composer





Media 100






Reality Media Suite Pro



Xpress DV

Xpress Pro

Xpress Pro Studio HD

Editing & life, History/research, Technical & process

The Way of Story

December 21st, 2010

Einstein was wrong. The world is made up of stories, not atoms. I think that story is not only the root of film, theatre, literature, and culture but of the life experience itself.

Catherine Ann Jones, The Way of Story

Way of StoryAs editors, we understand writing because, like writers, we shape material – images and sounds instead of words – into compelling stories, be they webisodes, commercials, dramas, comedies, reality shows, documentaries, etc. So this book struck me as both a writer and an editor and an occupant of the planet.

If you’ve ever wanted to write with words and/or need a holiday gift for yourself or someone else, look into this well wrought guide book from a successful scriptwriter. I love its title and cover, and more importantly, author Catherine Ann Jones’ approach to writing. She steers writers, both new and seasoned, strongly and soulfully through the shoals, eddies, and other treacherous waters of creating compelling tales.

Confession: I have briefly crossed paths with Ms. Jones at my publisher’s (Michael Wiese Productions) annual summit of authors. Our crossing of paths was brief however, and I know her primarily from this book.

Jones includes a lot of well thought out exercises in The Way of Story to ease you into writing as she focuses successively on story visualization, structure, theme, characters, dialogue, and how a writers’ group can be helpful.

To hear from the author herself go here:

The book is directed at screenwriters but could help editors and writers who want to write in other genres. She’s also gives workshops to help you on your way. There’s more info at her site:

You can order the book on Amazon, Google books, and elsewhere, but here’s a direct link to our publisher:

Editing & life, Editor’s role

Holiday gift

December 17th, 2010

Here’s a couple of surprise holiday presents: In addition to being available on Kindle and iPad and retail and virtual stores, Santa has brought my two books on editing to Google books. You can get an extensive preview – over 10% – of each of my two books: Cut by Cut: Editing Your Film or Video and Film Editing: Great Cuts Every Filmmaker and Movie Lover Must Know. Google books then allows you to order from wherever you’d like: Amazon, B & N, etc. as well as directly from my publisher Michael Wiese Productions.

Editing practices, Editor’s role

With 12 days left until Xmas, here are the 12 hours of editing

December 13th, 2010

Thanks to Mark Suszko in central Illinois for this.

On the twelfth hour of editing, my client brought to me:

12 Different versions
11 Logo updates
10 Tapes of B-roll
9 File transfers
8 Art directors
7 Crummy Jpegs
6 Liquid lunches
5 Notes from legal
4 Past-due bills
3 New tracks
2 Updated fonts
…and a deadline of quarter to threeeee…….

Fun & games

Choosing a digital editing system

December 10th, 2010

As I announced last summer, I am updating my first book, Cut by Cut: Editing Your Film or Video to include the technological advances and changes to editing room practices that have occurred since the book came out in December 2004. How do you decide which system to cut on? Let me know. In the meantime, here’s the updated section from the new book:

Digital Editing System

To select a system, ask these seven questions:

  1. Finishing format & workflow
  2. Does the system allow me to finish on the format(s) I need using the workflow I’ve designed? Does is have the codecs to match the camera being used?

  3. Effects
  4. Does my project require the editor to make a lot of VFX other than the normal dissolves and fades? If so, choose a system that allows you to create the effects you desire or is compatible with the effects software you intend to use.

  5. Compatibility
  6. Do I need to network with other systems, work with certain plug-in software, import graphic, animation, internet, sound, or other types of files? Does my project necessitate uploading or downloading cuts or media to or from servers?

  7. Budget
  8. Does the cost to buy or rent the system fit my budget? It’s worthwhile to visit several post houses and contact more than one seller to see their different price quotes and packages. Make sure you understand the full range of options and what happens should you add something or make a change after the system is set up. When picking a post house, you always want to pick someone who will calmly and deftly shepherd you through no matter how roughly or smoothly your project goes.

  9. Get advice
  10. What do your peers know? Talk to cohorts and other editors about your project’s needs to get their feedback and recommendations.

  11. See the system in action
  12. How do you like working on the system? As you narrow down your choice, get your hands on the system. Check out a demo or better, take a class on the system and visit an editing room where it’s being used. In other words, ask a million questions and become an expert before picking your system.

  13. Last word
  14. Be clear on your project’s requirements and rent or buy the system that does what you need — no more and no less.

Technical & process

Editing, Actually

December 6th, 2010

In my Web meanderings this week, I came across a site that gives a good ride through Hollywood movies. honors filmmakers of all types (actors, editors, directors, etc.) as well as all genres (horror, comedy, sci-fi etc.) Written and edited by Senior Editor and Film Historian Tim Dirks who launched the site in 1998 it now runs it under the auspices of American Movie Classics (AMC). Dirks does a great job detailing each movie for plot and whatever subject he’s concentrating on so it’s worth dropping by the site periodically. I enjoyed re-viewing old movies and learning about ones that I never got around to seeing.

Editing example

Here’s an edited version of Dirks’ intro to a 10-part series surveying editing sequences with interjections from moi.
Best Editing Sequences
This survey of the best examples of feature film editing stretches back to the earliest silent films. The very first films were called actualities – they were short, single-shot films with a stationary camera, viewing a scene (a train pulling into a station, workers leaving a factory, etc.), without editing of any kind.

Dirks lists a series of classic scenes which exhibit masterful editing:

  • Film-within-a-film dream sequence of Sherlock, Jr. (1924) [As an editor and former projectionist I’ve always loved this film and cheer his choice.]
  • Chariot race in Ben-Hur (1959)
  • Crop-dusting chase sequence in North by Northwest (1959)
  • Shower scene in Psycho (1960)
  • Phone booth bird attack scene in The Birds (1963)
  • “Ballet of blood” ambush in Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
  • Subway chase scene in The French Connection (1971)
  • Dawn workout sequence in Rocky (1976)
  • Death Star battle scene in Star Wars (1977)
  • Rolling boulder sequence in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Example from Part 10 of Dirks’ series on best film editing sequences

Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Ellipses indicate where I have edited Dirks’ commentary.
Best Editing Sequences
This unforgettable anti-drug cautionary tale was composed of many inventive, rapid and stylistic jump-cuts (called a “hip-hop” montage), split-screens, extreme close-ups, assaultive audio, and distorted images in the unrated (originally rated NC-17) film’s tense and final 15 minutes (assembled together in a montage) to illustrate how lives were utterly shattered and affected by diet pills and stronger drugs…

…. the independent film had about three times the number of edits (2,000) when compared to an average film (600+), especially during the ending when each of the shots were shortened and then presented in an intensely-rapid pace along with a memorable soundtrack.

This is a film I missed and his commentary definitely makes me want to see it. My only quibble is that once again, when talking about the editing, Dirks, like so many other film commentators, fails to mention the editor. He lists only the director, Darren Aronofsky, overlooking Jay Rabinowitz, the editor.

Other areas of commentary

Here are some other subjects Dirks explores. Click to go to any of them.

Editing practices, Editor’s role, History/research, Joy goes to the movies

EditShare sheds light on Lightworks

December 2nd, 2010

Lightworks System Two weeks ago I wrote about how I emailed EditShare, the new owner of the Lightworks digital editing system and didn’t hear back. I wanted to know, and let you know, about how the opportunity to register for free Lightworks software as it appeared closed.

I have now heard back from Managing Director James Richings. Apparently there was some email snafu as I never got his original reply. (For his full reply, see Comments under November 20 blog post).

EditShare brings early holiday gift

The GOOD NEWS is that you can still register for the free Lightworks software. Visit and go to the Lightworks area at the top right.
I also heard from reader Martin Taylor who offered a direct link: ?

And another reader with the handle pancakeroll provided this direct link to the download:

I don’t know if there are any limits on how many people can download the software but I’d do it soon. The free download started on November 29.

So register and download away and let Joy know how using the software works out for you. Lightworks lives! And it’s a very good thing.

Technical & process