Archive for June, 2011

What’s in a sound?

June 30th, 2011

Sound editors routinely punch up frightening screams in movies by placing animal growls on tracks underneath and tweaking them. This video demonstrates how you can manipulate natural sounds to produce something entirely different, in this case, ethereal music.

This video demonstrates how you can manipulate natural sounds to produce something entirely different, in this case, ethereal music. There is nothing added to these tracks. No synthesizer was used. Nor human voices. Here’s how it was done in the words of its creator, music composer Frederic DelaRue

  • This recording contains two tracks:
  1. The natural sound of crickets chirping.
  2. The sound of the crickets slowed down to match and mirror the length of
    the average lifespan of a human being.
  • This recording is an extended digitally remixed and mastered version taken from the original 1992 recording entitled “Ballad of the Twisted Hair” from the album “Medicine Songs” by David Carson and Little Wolf Band produced by Jim Wilson and released on Raven Records.

How have you manipulated sounds on your projects? Let everyone here at Joy know.

Editing practices, Sound & music editing

Conan O’Brien’s editors on Final Cut Pro X

June 24th, 2011

The editing world took a giant leap forward this week, according to Apple and many FCP gurus, with the launch of FCP X. There are many great places to learn about this new software: Larry Jordan’s site where you can read about it and download a tutorial,  Phil Hodgett’s site where you can take in its features and issues, and Weynands’ training’s site where you can sign up for a class on it . While the info’s sinking in and you’re waiting for your class or download, here’s a quick, cheap fun way to get and overview of the X’s new features.

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

Transported by Midnight in Paris

June 20th, 2011

I needed a break from prepping the second edition of Cut by Cut: Editing Your Film or Video for delivery next month, hadn’t seen a Woody Allen movie in a couple of years, and am a fan of the “eternal city” (guess I’ll have to like it on FB) so hit the local multi-plex and took in Midnight in Paris. It’s Allen’s love poem to Paris, a city worthy of many love poems. This one was a frilly postcard or sensual poster that you want to place on your wall and jump into as desired.

Midnight In Paris PosterThe movie begins in modern times as Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) a 30-something Los Angeleno tags along on a business jaunt to Paris with his fiancée’s family. Gil’s a writer with a novel in his front pocket who reproaches himself for being a highly successful hack screenwriter. Suffice it to say his goofy, gee whiz character didn’t remind me of any screenwriter I ever met. But he was a likeable, earnest fellow without a mean bone in his body and he worked for this movie.

The heart of the movie – and the heart and soul of the character – is that he’s in love with 1920s Paris. He knows the cast of characters: Gertrude Stein, Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, Djuna Barnes, Hemingway, Dali, etc. and soon he gets to meet them. As he stands on a curvy Parisian street, a vintage Rolls Royce sweeps in and he’s transported back to the period he’s romanticized. It’s a wonderful transition device. What writer wouldn’t want to step into a RR, meet a champagne-swilling literary group including the Fitzgeralds, and arrive at a bar where Hemingway (Corey Stoll) engages you in no-nonsense writer’s talk? I loved the simple but elegant time travel device which bridged fantasy as well as time. It was simply one of the best I’ve seen in movies and will make editing transitions the subject of the next Cut of the Month. But back to the movie.

Midnight in Paris is a sweetly sentimental movie, a bon bon without the usual Allen bon mots. A minor effort, it succeeds majorly because it keeps it simple. Paring down, going for one thought/feeling/concept is a small triumph in these days of big effects, wide 3D screens, and epic films planted on wondrous new planets rooted in clichéd old plots. There were clichés here (fiancée’s a harpy with no profession and boorish Republican parents) but Gil’s desire to escape to an earlier time perceived as a golden era, was a worthy question to ponder. Don’t most if not all of us fantasize about a past era – maybe even in our own lives – and too often, romanticize it? Consider the Civil War re-enactors, the WWII buffs, and all those enchanted with the Titanic. I loved the Gil’s (Allen’s) conclusion: That all eras are tough and fraught when they’re being lived but can seem washed in a golden light when viewed from the perch of history.

If you see the movie and have more insights about its editing, chime in here.

Editing practices, Joy goes to the movies

Getting work: Job tips from editors and others
Part 2 of an ongoing series

June 14th, 2011

Here’s the wisdom from editors I interviewed and from my experience.

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know

This industry adage is as loathsome as it is ungrammatical. I think both are true: It can be what you know and/or whom you know. And know-how. You can be hired off a resume by strangers who like your work (it’s happened to me) or lose work because they’ve taken on an unskilled nephew (it’s also happened to me). At first you probably won’t know anyone, but the more you work, the more people will want to work with you. Soon you will get jobs from knowing people. Always continue to make new contacts as the old ones frequently change or fade away. If you happen to be a niece or a nephew, a girlfriend or a boyfriend, feel lucky! Everyone has to get in somehow. Just make sure you want the job and that you’re up to it. Few people begrudge anyone who does their job and work well with others.

People to call

It’s all about meeting people, connections, relationships. You want to work with people and they want to work with you.
Adam Coleite, reality TV and doc editor

These are people who will know about jobs, leads, places to look, or be able to hire you. Keep after them!

Here’s a list ordered by the most helpful:

  • Picture and sound editors, assistant editors and apprentice editors
  • User group contacts
  • Heads of postproduction at studios
  • Instructors and managers on digital systems or at colleges
  • Directors, associate producers, line managers, postproduction supervisors
  • Post house personnel

Maintain a mental rolodex of people so when you run into them again you can speak enthusiastically and intelligently. I’ll leave the last word to director/writer/dialogue editor Victoria Rose Sampson who has been a dialogue editor on beaucoup features, Scream 4, the Fighter, and Sex in the City II being her most recent. Vickie told me, “You can have a great resume but if no one knows you, no one hires you.”

Next post will cover getting that first job and all those that follow. In the meantime, let Joy know your experiences.


Getting work: Job tips from editors and others
Part 1 of an ongoing series.

June 9th, 2011

I always remember the Woody Allen line from his movie Crimes and Misdemeanors: “Show business is… worse than dog-eat-dog. It’s dog-doesn’t-return-other-dog’s-phone-calls… It doesn’t matter where you are in your career, looking for work is one of the not-so-fun aspects of being an editor. A year ago I interviewed fifteen LA-area editors for the second edition of my book Cut by Cut: Editing Your Film or Video, due out in spring or summer 2012. Here’s what they said along with a lot of comments of my own.

Be pleasantly persistent.
Editor Kathleen Korth, Fly Girls, IMAX films, E.T. (assistant editor) and others.

Be clear about what job you want to pursue and what you can do. Keep a file or notebook with your stated goal, the contact info of people and companies to call on, and a record of when you emailed, called, and visited them. Get in touch with everyone you know, contact everyone they know, follow every lead, climb every stairway. Every time you call someone and they don’t have anything, inquire when you can phone them again. Mark down the date and dial! Persistency pays!

Get around. Get on the radar of people who make the shows you like. It doesn’t matter if you’re technically good: Show them you’re in their world.
Steve Rasch, A.C.E., Important Things with Demetri Martin, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Spin City.

Follow every path you know and then some. Knock on doors, make cold calls — get out there! Put yourself in the employer’s position: What are they looking for? Roam studios, cutting rooms, post houses. Roam with respect and friendliness, don’t stalk! Use the excuse that you’re dropping off your resume. Then say “Oh, if Chris (the person you spoke to on the phone and the one who could hire you) happens to be free, I’d love to say “hi” and put a name and resume with a face.”

Drop off your resume instead of emailing, mailing, or faxing it. This way you can check out the place. You never know who you may run into — a helpful stranger or an old friend who’s aware of a job. Yours truly got her first Hollywood job as a result of roaming the Twentieth Century Fox lot and approaching someone she’d never met or received a referral to.

Users groups

Many editing systems have users groups that meet monthly. FCP has quarterly Supermeets around the country; Avid often has big shindigs when introducing new products and software versions. These are great places to meet people, learn, and maybe win a raffle! Be prepared with your card, what you plan to tell and ask people, and get out there. No matter how depressed or pessimistic you feel, put yourself out and you’ll be surprised at what you learn and whom you connect with: Old friends and associates as well as new. Act like you’re ready to start tomorrow and it will happen.

Websites and social network site

Frequent the internet for jobs: Craig’s List,, and other sites list film jobs.. Use Facebook and Twitter to get connected and put the word out. If you’ve made or participated in a professional video that’s on the ‘Net, let people know. Create a website for your projects if that will help you and your work shine.


Learn the latest version of a system’s software, brush-=up on software you haven’t learned in awhile, or take on a new tool. You will need to do this whether or not you’re employed so take advantage of your down time. Go out to lunch with your classmates and keep up with them. You never know when someone will respond with a gig for you.

Guides, magazines, and directories

There are plenty for big film towns like Chicago, LA, and NYC which list post companies, ancillary companies, production companies, and shows starting production.

Informational interviews, mentors, and professional societies

To find out more about the type of job you’re interested and how to get it, take someone to lunch or out for coffee who’s doing it or done it. In this situation, be clear that you’re not going to hit them up for a job but simply interview them about their professional life: How they got to where they are, what they do and like about it, and how a person should go about getting a job.

If the situation is right, or you there’s a program near you, you may find a mentor who can give you advice. And of course sometimes these situations lead to work, but your approach should be eager and informational. And before you meet the person (and this goes for any company you’re interested in) find out as much as you can about them. IMDb will have their professional credits: It’s always a good ice breaker if you loved a project they worked on. Lastly, there are groups like Women in Film that help their members and offer internships, mentors, and other entry-level assistance.

Two more tips: Show up on time and properly dressed for these meet-ups. And continue them once you land a job. Lunching with people is a way to have friends in the biz and land future jobs.

Bulletin boards

Every college film department — named something different at every school — will have a board with jobs listed. It doesn’t always matter if you’re a student at that the school or anywhere else. The job may be menial and unpaid but it can lead to experience, knowledge, and future contacts.

How do you find work? Joy and other readers would like to know your tips and secrets so send ‘em in.


Listen to the Sounds of Silence

June 2nd, 2011

I’ve been talking a lot about sound editing lately and here’s another significant component: silence. It can be very powerful in movies, showing up as a requiem in the middle of a battle, a transition, a snowy day or following a gripping scene with a cacophony of sounds. Sound designers, directors, and TV producers often plan for soundless sections. This year’s season finale of Glee had the camera spinning around Rachel and Finn. There was no singing, no dancing, no dialogue as they kissed. MOS. It was a climactic moment and silence made it work.

No show is entirely silent as there is always ambient sound. If you drop out all sound, you risk viewers’ hostile glares at the projection booth or channel surfing. But it sure sounds that way.

One scene that attests to the power of silence occurs in 1997’s Contact. After an intense scene in a space capsule with lots of shaking and noise as she goes through a couple of wormholes, Dr. Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster) lands on another planet. Notice how silence and slo mos, combined with minimal sound effects and dialogue combine to make this scene believable and affecting. The audience feels they are there, in the experience with Ellie.

Dorothy A similar scene occurred 58 years earlier when a certain Kansan first hits Munchkinland. She bumps down and then all sounds disappear, save the effect of a door opening as she exits her Midwestern domicile. The silence continues as she and the audience take in the place until the famous song seeps in.

What movies have you seen that use silence effectively? Be mindful as you watch shows on tube and screen. And observe silences in your films as part of their rhythms and power. You will have the audience living and breathing with your show.

Editing practices, Sound & music editing