Category Archives: Digging Deeper

‘Late Night with Seth Meyers’ associate director of post Dan Dome

This long-time editor talks about his path to late night television

By Randi Altman

You could say that editing runs through Dan Dome’s veins. Dome, associate director of post at Late Night with Seth Meyers, started in the business in 1994 when he took a job as a tape operator at National Video Industries (NVI) in New York.

Dome grew up around post — his dad, Art, was a linear videotape editor at NVI, working on Shop Rite spots and programming for a variety of other clients. Art had previously edited commercials for such artists as Kiss and was awarded a gold record for Kiss Alive 2. Dome loved to go in and watch his dad work. “I saw that there were a lot of machines and I knew he put videos together, but I was completely clueless to what the real process was.”

Dome’s first job at NVI was working in the centralized machine room as a tape operator. “I learned how to read a waveform monitor and a vectorscope, how to patch up Betacam SP, 1-inch and D2 machines to linear edit rooms, insert stages, graphics and audio suites. I also learned how to change the timings of the switcher through a proc amp — the nuts and bolts.”

This process proved to be invaluable. “Being able to have an understanding of signal flow on the technical side helped a ton in my career,” he explains. “A lot of post jobs are super technical. You’ve got to know the software and you’ve got to know the computers and machines; those were the fundamentals I learned in the machine room. I had to learn it all.”

While at NVI, nonlinear editing via the Avid Media Composer came on the scene. Dome took every advantage to learn this new way of working. After his 4pm-to-midnight shift as tape op, he would stay in the Avid rooms learning all he could about the software. He also befriended an editor who rented space at NVI. Christian Giornelli allowed Dome to shadow him on the Media Composer and, later, assist on different projects.

After a time, he became comfortable on the Avid. “I was working as a tape operator and editing at night at NVI, cutting promos and show reels. The first professional editing job I had was cutting the Neil Peart Test For Echo instructional drum video. Shortly after editing that video, I left NVI to pursue freelance work.”

A year into freelancing, Dome began doing work for the NBC promo department working on a little bit of everything, including cutting promos for various shows and sales tapes. During this time, freelance work also brought him to Broadway Video, MSNBC, MTV and VH1 — he was steadily building up a nice resume.

Let’s find out more about his path and how he landed at Late Night with Seth Myers...

When you and I were first in contact, you were out in LA working on the Conan O’Brien show on TBS.
Yes. My early work with NBC’s promo department led me to NBC’s post team, and they started booking me on gigs for Dateline, The Today Show and, every now and then, as an editor on Late Night With Conan O’Brien. I developed a great relationship with the writers and the other editors on Conan. When the transition to HD happened, they chose to use in a nonlinear system, Avid DS, which I learned. That helped me work on the first HD season of Saturday Night Live through the 2008 season.

Late Night With Conan O’Brien had two primary show editors and another editor cutting remote packages. I started falling into that group more and more, and close to the time Conan was taking over for Jay Leno on The Tonight Show, two of the editors retired. Myself and another editor ended up seeing Conan’s Late Night off the air.

During that time, I developed a great relationship with the associate director and mentioned that I wouldn’t mind moving out to California if they needed an editor. They did. I started working with Conan on The Tonight Show and continued on when he went over to do Conan on TBS. All in all, I was out in LA for almost five years.

How did you end up back in New York and working on Seth Meyers?
While I did enjoy California, I got a little homesick. I heard that Seth was taking over for Late Night from Jimmy Fallon and threw my hat in the ring for that show.

Let’s talk about Seth’s show. Did you help to set up the post workflow?
Late Night with Seth Meyers was the third show I’d launched as a lead editor — there was Conan’s Tonight Show, then Conan’s show on TBS and then Late Night with Seth. It was great to be at Late Night from the ground up, and now, with the title of associate director/lead editor,

 I worked with our engineers at NBC as far as folder structure on the SAN, what our workflow was going to be, what NLE we were going to use, what plug-ins we needed — we worked very closely on workflow and how we were going to deliver the show to air and the web.

A lot of those systems had already been in place, but there are always new technologies to consider. We went through the whole workflow and got it as streamlined as possible.

You are using Adobe Premiere, can you tell us why that was the right tool for this show?
Well, Final Cut 7 wasn’t going to grow any more, and I wasn’t convinced about Final Cut X. If we went with Avid, we’d need all the Avid-approved gear. We already knew we were going to be on Macs, and we would use AJA Kona cards with Premiere. We based this show’s post model off some of the other shows already using Premiere.

Do you use other parts of the Adobe suite?
The entire post team is using Creative Cloud. I edit, and I have an editor, Devon Schwab, and an assistant, Tony Dolezal. We’re primarily working in Premiere, Audition and Media Encoder. Our graphics artists are in Illustrator, Photoshop and After Effects. Every now and then we editors will dip into After Effects if we need to rotoscope something out, or we’ll use Mocha Pro for motion tracking when something in the show has to be censored or if we are making mattes for color grading.

You guys are live-to-tape — could you walk us through that?
We shoot the show live-to-tape between 6:30pm and 7:30pm. During the first act I’m watching the show as well as listening to the director, the production AD and the control room from my edit suite. If there are camera ISO fixes that need to be addressed, I’m hearing that from the director. If there are any issues with standards, like a word has to be bleeped or content has to be removed, I’m getting those notes from the producers and from the lawyers.

Tony, Dan and Devon.

Tony, Dan and Devon.

As soon as the first act is done, my assistant stops ingest and then starts it back up again, so now I have act one: seven ISO cameras and one program record. The program record file has the show as it’s cut for the audience, so all the graphics are already baked into it, and it’s a 5.1 mix coming from our audio rooms. I bring those eight QuickTime files into Premiere through an app called Easy Find and start laying the show out.

I try and finish all that needs to be done in the first act by the time second act of the show is done being ingested. Once all six acts are done, we’ll have a good idea if the show’s over or under in time. If it’s over, we figure out what we are going to cut. If it’s a little bit under, let’s say 20 or 30 seconds, then we may decide to run credits that night.

So taping is done by 7:30?
Yes. At that point the director, the show producers, segment producers and writers come down. We start editing the entire the show together for air. At that point I’ve already built the main project for the show to be edited. I then save a version of my project for my editor and my assistant editor and assign acts for them to edit.

How many do you cut personally?
I’ll usually end up doing three out of the six acts. My editor will do two interview acts, and my assistant will do one, usually the musical act. As the show is being put together for air, I keep track of the show time on an Excel spreadsheet. There’s a lot of communication among us during this time.

Once I do have the show close to time, I start sending individual acts to the Broadcast Operations Center at NBC, so they can start their QC process. That’s between 8:00pm or 8:15pm. As they are getting the six acts and they’ve begun to QC them, I release my timing sheet so they can confirm the show is on time. It’s 41 minutes and 20 seconds, and they get it ready to go to what they call a “composite” after QC. They composite the show between 10:30pm and 11:30pm with all the commercials put in. I’m completely done for the night when the show hits the air at 12:35am… if there have been no emergencies.

Taking a step back, how do you cut the pre-packaged bits?
Usually those go to my editor Devon. He will be editing, mixing audio and I will be doing the color grade — all within Premiere. If it’s a two- or three-camera shoot, I’ll get a look established for the A, B and the C cameras and have the segment director give notes on the color grade. Once the grade is approved, Devon can then just apply the color to the finished piece. Sometimes we are finessing pre-tapes right up until show record time at 6:30pm.

One recent color grade I did, that Devon edited, was a pre-taped piece called Reasonable Max, which was about Seth’s deleted scenes from the film Mad Max: Fury Road.

Anything you want to add before we wrap up?
I feel very lucky to have had all these experiences in the TV business. I want to thank my dad for introducing me to it and all the people who helped me get where I am today. The most talented people in the business staff all the shows that I have been lucky enough to work on. Watch Late Night With Seth Meyers, weeknights at 12:35 on NBC!

Digging Deeper: Endcrawl co-founder John ‘Pliny’ Eremic

By Randi Altman

Many of you might know John “Pliny” Eremic, a fixture in New York post. When I first met Pliny he was CTO and director of post production at Offhollywood. His post division was later spun off and sold to Light Iron, which was in turn acquired by Panavision.

After Offhollywood, Pliny moved to HBO as a workflow specialist, but he is also the co-founder— with long-time collaborator Alan Grow — of Endcrawl.com, a cloud-based tool for creating end titles for film and television.

Endcrawl has grown significantly over the last year and counts both modest indies and some pretty high-end titles as customers. I figured it was a good time to dig a bit deeper.

How did Endcrawl come about?
End titles were always a huge thorn in my side when I was running the post boutique. The endless, manual revision process is so time intensive that a number of major post houses flat-out refuse to offer this service any more. So, I started hacking on Endcrawl to scratch my own itch.

Both you and your co-founder Alan are working media professionals. Can you talk about how this affected the tool and its evolution?
Most filmmakers aren’t hackers; most coders never made a movie. As a result, many of this industry’s tools are built by folks who are incredibly smart but may lack first-hand post and filmmaking experience. I’ve felt that pain a lot.

Endcrawl is built by filmmakers for filmmakers. We have deep, first-hand experience with file-based specs and formats (DCI, IMF, AS-02), so our renders are targeted at these industry-standard delivery specifications. Occasionally we’re even able to steer customers away from a bad workflow decision.

How is this different than other end credit tools in the world?
For starters we offer unlimited renders.

Why unlimited renders?
This was a mantra from day one. There’s always “one last fix.” A typical indie feature with Endcrawl will keep making revisions six to 12 months after calling it final. That’s where a flat rate with unlimited do-overs comes in very handy. I’ve seen productions start with a $2-3k quote from a designer, and end up with a $6-10k bill. That’s just for the end credits. We’re not interested in dinging you for overages. It’s a flat rate, so render away.

What else differentiates Endcrawl?
Endcrawl is a cloud tool that’s designed to manage the end titles process only — that is its reason for being. So speed, affordability and removing workflow hassles is our goal.

How do people do traditionally do end titles?
Typically there are three options. One is using a title designer. This option costs a lot and they might want to charge you overages after your 89th revision.

There are also do-it-yourself options using products from Adobe or Autodesk, and while these are great tools, the process is extremely time consuming for this use — I’d estimate 40-plus hours of human labor.

Finally, there are affordable plug-ins, but they deliver, in my opinion, cheap-looking results.

Do you need to be a designer to use Endcrawl?
No. We’ve made it so our typography is good-looking right out of the box. After hundreds of projects, we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what does and does not work typographically.

Do you have tips for these non-deisgners regarding typography?
I could write a book. In fact, we are about to publish a series of articles on this topic, but I’ll give you a few:

• Don’t rely on “classic” typefaces like Helvetica and Futura. Nice on large posters, but lousy on screen in small point sizes.

• Lean toward typefaces with an upright stress — meaning more condensed fonts — which will allow you to make better use of horizontal space. This in turn preserves vertical space, resulting in a smoother scroll.

• Avoid “light” and “ultralight” fonts, or typefaces with a high stroke contrast. Those tend to shimmer quite a bit when in motion. Pick a typeface that has a large variety of designed weights and stick to medium, semibold and bold.

• Make sure your font has strong glyph support for those grips named Bjørn Sæther Løvås and Hansína Þórðardóttir.

Do people have to download the product?
Endcrawl runs right in your web browser. There is nothing to download or install.

What about compatibility?
Our render engine outputs uncompressed DPX, all the standard QuickTime formats, H.264 and PDFs. By far the most common final deliverable is 10-bit DPX, which we typically turn around inside of one hour. The preview renders come in minutes. And the render engine is on-demand, 24/7.

 

How has the product evolved since you first came to market?
Our “lean startup” was a script attached to a Google Doc. We did our first 20 to 30 projects that way. We saw a lot of validation, especially around the speed and ease of the service.

Year one, we had a customer with four films at Sundance. He completed all of his end titles in three days, with many revisions and renders in between. He’s finished over 20 projects with us now.

Since then, Alan has architected a highly optimized cloud render engine. Endcrawl still integrates with Google Docs for collaboration, but that is now connected to a powerful Web UI controlling layout and realtime preview.

How do people pay for Endcrawl?
On the free tier, we provide free and unlimited 1K preview renders in H.264. For $499, a project can upgrade to unlimited, uncompressed DPX renders. We are currently targeting feature films, but we will be deploying more pricing tiers for other types of projects — think episodic and shorts — in 2016.

What films have used the tool?
Some recent titles include Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq and Oliver Stone’s Snowden. Our customers run the gamut from $50K Kickstarter movies to $100 million studio franchises. (I can’t name most of those studio features because several title houses run all of their end credits through us as a white-label service.)

Some 2016 Sundance movies this year include Spa Night, Swiss Army Man, Tallulah and The Bad Kids. Some of my personal favorites are Beasts of No Nation, A Most Violent Year, The Family Fang, Meadowland, The Adderall Diaries and Video Game High School.

What haven’t I asked that is important?
We’re about to roll out 4K. We’ve “unofficially” supported 4K on a few pilot projects like Beasts of No Nation and War Room, but it’s about to be available to everyone.

Also, we have a pretty cool Twitter account @Endcrawl, which you should definitely follow.

Dell 6.15