Archive for July, 2011

FCP X Update

July 25th, 2011

Just as I was finishing up the second edition of Cut by Cut: Editing Your Film or Video to send off to my publisher, the long heralded FCP X hit the streets. Then took its almighty fall. I quickly updated several chapters in the book. Now, as the controversy around the release of FCP X continues to roil, here are the firsthand updates I have obtained.

LAFCPUG – June meeting

My fly-on-the-wall-editor-friend who attended the FCP Users Group meeting in LA reported that the “anger in the auditorium was palpable. People felt abandoned.” My friend, who uses FCP exclusively in his business worried for all the professionals who make their living using FCP and now appear left in the lurch. He told me that editors who were fervent FCP’ers were planning to jump to Avid and Adobe Premiere Pro once the support for FCP 7 was gone. Apple at first discontinued this pre-X version but due to the immediate hue and cry, changed its mind.


This animated video sums up the issues.

The main issue is that X supports only a tapeless workflow and Apple has no plans to change this as it considers file based workflows the way of the future. Sure but the present now requires editors – and therefore editing systems – to interface with tape and film and no one sees these formats disappearing overnight. The future will require systems to talk to these mediums – legacy tape formats are still routinely used. So X appears to be a giant leap back to a prosumers who don’t touch tape or film and iMovie users. The speed (64Mb), the magnetic timeline, and all the annotative, new wave features don’t compensate for the lack of X’s ability to interface with the gamut of third party plug-ins editor regularly use or to allow for hand offs to others such as colorists in the post production food chain.

Conclusions for now

Those of us who have edited on film and tape as well as digital systems are used to systems being up, down, in, and out. I always say, a better mousetrap – or at least one that’s more popular and accessible – is always around the corner. It’s not about rejecting change; it’s about rejecting what is not workable for creating films or videos. Also, it would be much appreciated if  Jobs and his minions thought more about jobs and less about Jobs’ profits.

Editing practices, Editor’s role, Technical & process

One Brit’s take on editing reality TV

July 16th, 2011

Following up on the last post on constructing reality, here’s a terrific piece from the UK. Journalist and comedy writer Charlie Brooker hosts “Screenswipe” a weekly broadcast where he looks at TV subjects from an incisively knowing and humorous perch. In the video on editing reality TV below, toward the end he also unwittingly provides a modern proof of the Kuleshov experiment. If you don’t know about Kuleshov, read after the video and view the video of the actual experiment.

Kuleshov and the Juxtaposition of Shots

Lev Vladimirovich Kuleshov was a scientist and founder of the Moscow School of Cinema in 1919, the world’s oldest film school. Russian cinema came of age with the 1917 revolution.  Steeped in Marxism and supported by the state, it was also influenced by the plight of the economy after the revolution which caused a scarcity of film and film equipment. Kuleshov made use of leftover film of a popular White Russian actor who had fled the revolution for France to put together a scene and create the basis of his famous experiment.

He began the scene with a shot of a bowl of soup. To it, he spliced a close-up of the actor.  Then he added a shot of a young girl. Again he cut to a close-up the actor. The last edit he made was to a dead woman in a coffin before ending on the actor. Here’s what purports to be the video of Kuleshov’s experiment; the girl is a woman so this is suspicious but it gives you the idea:

Viewer reaction to Kuleshov’s scene

The audience made a connection between each pair of cuts.  They told Kuleshov that the man was hungry when he saw the soup. They believed that the girl was his daughter whom he was delighted to see and that the woman in the casket was his mother for whom he was grieving.

The trick

Kuleshov filmed the shots of the soup, girl, and dead woman at different times in different locations. For the cutaways of the actor he reproduced the same shot for the same length several times. The experiment proved what we all know now; that shots edited together affect each other: The audience makes a connection across the joining of the shots and read different emotions into each reaction shot of the actor even though he was reacting exactly the same way each time. The Soviets aligned this effect of the juxtaposition of shots with Marxist theory and built their cinematic theories on it. Since then this juxtaposing has received a host of other names such as collision editing and relational editing.

What are your experiences juxtaposing shots?

Editing practices, Editor’s role, History/research, Television

Reality Frankenbites

July 16th, 2011

I grazed this subject when I wrote up my interview of reality editor Adam Coleite last August. Today I’ll sink my teeth into the controversy around Frankenbite a.k.a. Frankenbyte editing that’s providing another reason to snap at reality shows.

What’s in a Frankenbite?

I would define it as two or more dialogue lines or parts of lines from an interviewee pieced together to tell Frankenstein the story on a reality TV program. Editor Lisa Hendricks, in her guest article on Diana Weynand’s’s blog defines it as “…different sound bites pieced together to create a storyline or dialogue that was never intended by the speaker.” Expanding on Hendricks in his article “’Frankenbytes’ and the integrity of your edit,” writer-filmmaker Edward J. Delaney opines, “The term is relatively new, and mainly comes out of the great oxymoron of the last decade – “Reality” shows, which are conceived, cast, choreographed and cut until even a shred of reality is gone.”

Barbara Nicolosi, a writer on four reality shows, blogs about how and why Frankenbites are created. “Let’s say a vegetarian isn’t “vegetarian-enough.” Or a minority isn’t “sassy enough.” Or a Christian isn’t “born again-y.” The story department simply tells the editors that they need a franken-byte—a sound byte pieced together from hundreds of hours of interviews. Hidden under B-roll footage, the editors can create a sentence that never came out of the person’s mouth.”


The darker definitions expose the controversy: When an editor manipulates an interviewee’s utterance into something unintended, unsaid, or worse, the editor has indeed made a monster of reality. While there is no Hippocratic oath of filmmaking, the editor has also most certainly crossed an ethical line. Nicolosi and others worry that this will spread to other non-fiction forms, namely documentary. I agree. Don’t confabulate stories. You sell out the material, your interviewees, your profession, and yourself. If you’ve been pressured to do this, let Joy know.

What’s kosher?

Cheating dialogue is nothing new for editors. We do it reflexively on all genres of fiction and non-fiction Man strapped to table shows. Not all reality editors cross the ethical line. Coleite told me that “tons of cheating goes on,” in reality show editing. And explained this occurs “Because you’re paying attention to the veracity and continuity of the story.”

The late, great sound supervisor Kay Rose once told me that the sound editor on Some Like it Hot pieced Marilyn Monroe’s ukulele performance together syllable by syllable to make it sing. (Notice how much of the song is played on her back).

What have your experiences been? Let Joy know.

Comic ending

For his first movie, Woody Allen famously fabricated a whole movie out of falsely dubbed words to make What’s up Tiger Lily? Allen explains the set-up and lets the movie do the rest of the talking:

Editing practices, Editor’s role, Television

Getting work: Job tips from editors and others
Part 3 of an ongoing series.

July 12th, 2011

The last post in this series talks about getting that first job and all that follow. It again intersperses tips and advice from editors that I interviewed.

First job

Don’t give up. Be open minded. Realize that it’s harder to find work than to do the work.

Barry Cohen, online editor

You’re afraid you’ll never get started but there are actually some advantages to your position. You are no threat to anyone — you don’t know enough to compete. This means that people will try to help you. People feel good helping someone get a job. And someday you’ll pay it forward yourself.

The flip side is that you can be taken advantage of. Many of us have had that job from Hades, mostly because in our eagerness and need to succeed we let someone push us around. I hope this doesn’t happen to you. If you do find yourself in a bad situation, evaluate if it’s worth staying. If it isn’t, get out as gracefully and wholly intact as possible. Chances are they probably already have a bad rep and leaving won’t hurt you. If you do decide to stay, focus on something positive: the credit on your resume, future contacts, skills learned, getting in the union, or the paycheck.

Places to contact

These are places you should be tracking down:

  • Corporations with in-house production and postproduction departments
  • Government film agencies
  • Networks
  • Post houses
  • Production companies (independent, large and small)
  • Special effects and title houses
  • Studios

Type of jobs to start with

If you get a job as an apprentice or assistant editor, volunteer to cut anything: scenes, promo, gag reel, teaser, bumper, the director’s wedding video, etc. It will not only give you knowledge and confidence but it may be worthy of putting on your reel and resume as examples of things you’ve edited. (If your work is not used in the show, do not pretend it was.)

Since digital systems allow infinite versions, play away and practice cutting to your heart’s content. Show your work to other assistants, to the editor, to anyone who will give you good feedback. And who knows, you may get to cut part of the show or a director or producer will take a shine to you and hire you for another project. I’ve seen it happen. At the very least, you’ll improve your editing skills and system knowledge.

Type of project to start on

I took every single job I could find. I probably edited 50-60 reels of film hair stylists. I would do anything.

Dean Gonzalez, music video editor

Anything. Just get hired. There are so many types of editing projects: animation, awards shows, commercials, corporate films, documentaries, educational films, features, government films, infomercials, IMAX movies, music concert shows, music videos, promos, PSAs, trailers, and training films. Not to mention television and its many types of programming: cartoons, game shows, MOWs, news, reality shows, series, sitcoms, soaps, and talk shows. Working at post house, audio or VFX facility or other company that serves postproduction is also a good way to get experience.

Whatever you get hired on, remember: It’s editing, it’s experience, and it will help you wherever you end up. You never know when having worked on a music video, commercial, or documentary may land you the job on a new drama because the director wants a slick commercial, documentary, or music video feel. Conversely, your dramatic experience may get you that docu-drama job because the producers want someone with drama experience. Job by job you will build experience and a life in editing.

Let Joy know how it goes for you. And best of luck!


Sometimes no cutting is needed

July 4th, 2011

I thought this was a fitting Fourth of July blog. What could be more American than a large Midwestern town executing an upbeat music video to an iconic pop tune with the help of a few corporations? The amazing feat of this boisterously camouflaged ad is the fact that it’s shot single camera in one take. It’s composed of a master that runs for eight minutes. This is longer than any other shot I can think of including the famed three minute master that snakes around Venice, CA at night to get Orson Welles’ sinister Touch of Evil off to an extraordinary start.

Yes. There are no cuts in this video! The post production work required here I assume was in perfecting the music and most likely doing some color correcting. This should inspire us as filmmakers and as a nation. Yes we can pull together when we put our hearts and minds to it. So let’s do it! Let’s push this country forward. There’s lots to celebrate and lots yet to be done to realize a true democracy.

Editing practices, Sound & music editing