Archive for March, 2011

The predictability of news editing

March 30th, 2011

You’ll snicker, you’ll snort, you’ll multi-task, you’ll sigh with recognition at this spot-on commentary on how TV news stories are edited – even if it’s old news to you. Wince and enjoy this April Fool’s day warm-up! Cut of the month, which appears the first of each month, will spread some more April foolishness.

Fun & games, Television

Your Cutting Room View

March 27th, 2011
  • Andika Duncan

Andika Duncan, shooter-writer-preditor, Dallas, TX.

How Andika describes her work

I specialize in Internet marketing videos. I create online marketing videos for mostly small business websites. My latest project was a real estate agent’s profile video. I help with script writing, film the shots, and edit the video.

What Andika says about her work

I am passionate about helping people succeed in their small businesses. You have to know what triggers people to buy or to do business with an individual or a company. Video is the perfect tool to create credibility, showcase your talent and distinguish yourself from the competition.

I like the creative side of video making. I am still learning new things every day and that is what keeps me going. Also, I enjoy making new connections and meeting new people from all kinds of backgrounds.

Contact Andika at: 646-9ANDIKA

Twitter: @Andiqa

Your cutting room view

Time lapse video of editing a TV drama

March 22nd, 2011

In case you ever wondered how a 1-hour TV drama gets cut, here’s a time lapse video of a typical 14-day schedule, starting with the first day of dailies. It shows the editor progressing through the editor’s cut, the director’s cut, adding sound and music, and finishing with the network cut.

Also, take the time to check out the comments following this video, which constitute a mini-history of TV editing – at the link:

Editing practices, Fun & games, Technical & process, Television

Boys just want to make Foley

March 15th, 2011

In the Marilyn Monroe days in Hollywood, as the story goes, Jack Foley – the SFX editor and inventor of the stage subsequently named after him – and other guys donned heels to record Marilyn and other actresses’ footsteps. While women routinely work in Foley pits these days, it often remains a boys’ bastion. So sit back and enjoy seeing how the Motown boys do it in this short video by Ric Viers, author of The Sound Effects Bible: How to Create and Record Hollywood Style Sound Effects.

Editing practices, Sound & music editing, Technical & process

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Editor

March 11th, 2011

I’ve always been concerned when editors get awards and directors don’t. It seems wrong to me because without the material we can’t do a thing. We are only interpreting what we’re given. We are the dream repairmen. That’s what we do. We repair other people’s dreams.

Jim Clark, from Dream Repairman: Adventures in Film Editing

Jim Clark

UK editor Jim Clark entered the cutting room at age 20 in 1951 and in 2010, at 79, turned in Made in Dagenham, Mike Leigh’s latest film, released this year. (See January 27th post: I loved this film.)  In case you’re not familiar with this work, here’s a partial list of his credits: Vera Drake, The Jackal, Marvin’s Room, Copycat, Nell, The Mission, The Killing Fields (for which he won the Oscar), Marathon Man, The Day of the Locust, Charade…the list goes on.

Dream Repairman coverBut what I want to talk about today is Clark’s book, Dream Repairman: Adventures in Film Editing, written with the help of John H. Myers and debuting in 2009. There’s a lot of years and a lot of life to cover and Clark does it as succinctly as possible in 300 pages. He worked at the famed British studios – Ealing, Pinewood, Shepperton – and many across the pond: WB, Columbia, Universal, etc. Clark talks about the stars, the directors, and the producers along with the hits and the duds, which he puts in, he says, “simply because their progress to the movie graveyard is memorable.”

Clark also mentions the tools. He started when the medium was nitrate film and cutting rooms prohibited smoking, fearing the picture would go up in smoke before being exhibited and Outdated Editing System Avid Systemgoing down in flames. He started with British editing tools including the Compeditor, Acmade’s pic sync (pictured on left), Robot joiner which made hot cement (glue) splices, and, the Moy inkcode machine, where he, like  a lot of assistants, coded many a movie before ascending the next step on the ladder. He moved on to the Moviola, the KEM, the Steenbeck, Lightworks, and finally, Avid (pictured on right).

Survivor: Editor

Clark is in good company with his memoir, following Ralph Winters’ A Few Cutting Remarks, Bobbie and Sam O’Steens’ Cut to the Chase, and Ralph Rosenblum and Roberts Karen’s When the Shooting Stops…the Cutting Begins. What sets Clark’s book apart is the sheer length of his career as an A-list editor and his frankness. Most editors, by nature and in order to survive, are taciturn with producers, directors, and other powers-that-be, unless there is a helluva a lot of trust. Clark does his share of lip biting in the face of the attitude [my words], “What do you know? Just cut the damn picture and shut up.” Like the rest of them and us, he also stands up for the footage – even when it’s indefensible – trying to pull the best piece out of the pile of rubbish by cutting scenes in many different ways, suggesting re-cuts, and  even re-writing the script on one movie.

Editing film is really a combination of instinct and experience with a lot of experimentation thrown in.

Jim Clark, from the Foreword to Dream Repairman: Adventures in Film Editing

Where Clark goes that no editor memoir has gone before, is to a higher level of frankness about his profession, those he worked with – many in the grave – and the cost to his family. Bravely, he inserts letters from his wife and his daughter where they strongly and lovingly ask why he is in Hollywood in a nightmarish post that is taking him away from them indefinitely. About the job – his one high-flying foray into being an administrator – he writes, “In spite of my sophisticated title as a Columbia executive, my real job was studio mortician. When I received these films they were dead and, though I couldn’t bring them to life, I could touch up the corpse. That what I was doing, touching them up so they would be releasable.”

Fade out

I don’t really have a definite style. Each project brings with it a new set of challenges that must be met.

Jim Clark, Dream Repairman: Adventures in Film Editing

Most of us won’t have stratospheric careers like Clark, but the long hours, the lack of fresh air and exercise, the frustration, dare I say it –  the resentments and the feelings of futility – as well as the time we take away from our loved ones are the same. This is why I titled this post “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Editor.” You’ve got to have stamina, an insane and true love of puzzling together shot material – and being called and desired to do this – to make it in the long run. The nominations, awards, and compliments are fleeting. It’s what you create of yourself and your life and whom you love and loves you that’s important.

Buy this book to learn about the editor’s life, to dip into editing history, and to spend time with a superb cutter who brought us all some important and memorable films. I’ll leave the last words to Clark who ends the book with this: “It’s not always the hits that one remembers fondly. As this story has indicated, I had fun working on them all. It [his grandson’s asking why Day of the Locust wasn’t more appreciated] did get me thinking. Perhaps my life has not been entirely wasted after all. When I look at my family, I know it hasn’t.”

Editing & life, Editing practices, Editor’s role

What’s in a name?

March 6th, 2011

[File naming] is an incredibly UNDERVALUED issue. If you can’t find a file, you can’t work… period.

Mark Raudonis, VP of Post Production, Bunim-Murray Productions

Labeling and logging is like locking and loading: Skip it and fuggedabout locating shots easily or editing efficiently. Your show may not be a huge enterprise like Star Wars or Star Trek but you will have an increasing pile amount of footage to keep track of as the days go by.

How you label reels depends on the type of show you work on. Newsrooms label stories differently from feature filmmakers who use different naming conventions from documentarians. If you are archiving footage – which all newsrooms and mainstream episodic TV shows do – labeling is crucial. You want to have system that allows for quick and easy searches of footage.

So how do you label source reels? Here are some guidelines but I’d like to hear what you do!

Reel names rules

No matter what type of project you work on, there are three rules:

  1. Give everything a unique name that clearly and succinctly describes what it contains.
  2. Keep a master log of all reels and their contents. Keep a master file in your computer and a hard copy in a notebook.
  3. Make sure your naming system is clear to all who touch the project: Other editors, post house, archivists, VFX house, other shows where you’re working (hopefully you all use the same system), etc.

How many characters in a file name?

As the world moves toward file-based workflows and deliverables, the number of characters you can use to describe a reel parallels computer file name restrictions. As of this writing this means sticking to 32 characters (or less) and using numbers and letters only: no dots, dashes, or symbols.

Most editors assign six characters or less as practically, 32 are characters are way too many to read. More importantly, older online and offline systems can’t decipher more than six characters and will simply cut off the label so that every reel will read the same e.g. reel00, instead of reel001 or reel002 or reel003 as intended. To solve this problem, label reels R001, R002 or better, just 001, 002, etc.

Typical naming conventions

If you inherit a naming system, follow it to the letter – and number! If you get to devise your own scheme, here are a few conventional naming systems to consider:

Simple system

For reels 1, 2, 3… use 001, 002, 003…

Documentary systems

There are many systems for non-fiction shows, from the simple system outlined above to a more detailed system when there are multiple series, shows and/or segments being edited. Starting with the less complicated: Many label by the location of the footage e.g. Jer10 for Jerusalem reel 10. They also label by the name of the person being interviewed e.g. Madonna Intvw and the type of footage e.g. B roll oil spill or Inserts cats juggling. A more detailed system includes the date, camera load, and show ID: 1127B2IRTwould denote November 27, B camera, second load, Ice Road Truckers.

Episodic TV systems

Since every series will have the same reel numbers, each show is given a number. Then the episode number and reel number are tacked on to it. For example if the series is assigned 79, the episode number is 112, and the reel number is 5 the name would be: 79112R5. Many series streamline it to 105R01 for Episode 105, Reel 1.  On multiple camera shows – sitcoms and music videos – it’s important to append the camera name e.g. 01A for Reel 1 Camera A, 01B for Reel 1 Camera B, 01C for Reel 1 Camera C and so on.

Let’s hear how you do it and why! And please provide us with an example or two. Thanks a lot!

Editing practices, Editor’s role, Television