Category Archives: Quick Chat

Quick Chat: Monkeyland Audio’s Trip Brock

By Dayna McCallum

Monkeyland Audio recently expanded its facility, including a new Dolby Atmos equipped mixing stage. The Glendale-based Monkeyland Audio, where fluorescent lights are not allowed and creative expression is always encouraged, now offers three mixing stages, an ADR/Foley stage and six editorial suites.

Trip Brock, the owner of Monkeyland, opened the facility over 10 years ago, but the MPSE Golden Reel Award-winning supervising sound editor and mixer (All the Wilderness), started out in the business more than 23 years ago. We reached out to Brock to find out more about the expansion and where the name Monkeyland came from in the first place…

monkeyland audioOne of your two new stages is Dolby Atmos certified. Why was that important for your business?
We really believe in the Dolby Atmos format and feel it has a lot of growth potential in both the theatrical and television markets. We purpose-built our Atmos stage looking towards the future, giving our independent and studio clients a less expensive, yet completely state-of-the-art alternative to the Atmos stages found on the studio lots.

Can you talk specifically about the gear you are using on the new stages?
All of our stages are running the latest Avid Pro Tools HD 12 software across multiple Mac Pros with Avid HDX hardware. Our 7.1 mixing stage, Reposado, is based around an Avid Icon D-Control console, and Anejo, our Atmos stage, is equipped with dual 24-fader Avid S6 M40 consoles. Monitoring on Anejo is based on a 3-way JBL theatrical system, with 30 channels of discrete Crown DCi amplification, BSS processing and the DAD AX32 front end.

You’ve been in this business for over 23 years. How does that experience color the way you run your shop?
I stumbled into the post sound business coming from a music background, and immediately fell in love with the entire process. After all these years, having worked with and learned so much from so many talented clients and colleagues, I still love what I do and look forward to every day at the office. That’s what I look for and try to cultivate in my creative team — the passion for what we do. There are so many aspects and nuances in the audio post world, and I try to express that to my team — explore all the different areas of our profession, find which role really speaks to you and then embrace it!

You’ve got 10 artists on staff. Why is it important to you to employ a full team of talent, and how do you see that benefiting your clients?
I started Monkeyland as primarily a sound editorial company. Back in the day, this was much more common than the all-inclusive, independent post sound outfits offering ADR, Foley and mixing, which are more common today. The sound editorial crew always worked together in house as a team, which is a theme I’ve always felt was important to maintain as our company made the switch into full service. To us, keeping the team intact and working together at the same location allows for a lot more creative collaboration and synergy than say a set of editors all working by themselves remotely. Having staff in house also allows us flexibility when last minute changes are thrown our way. We are better able to work and communicate as a team, which leads to a superior end product for our clients.

Monkeyland AudioCan you name some of the projects you are working on and what you are doing for them?
We are currently mixing a film called The King’s Daughter, starring Pierce Brosnan and William Hurt. We also recently completed full sound design and editorial, as well as the native Atmos mix, on a new post-apocalyptic feature we are really proud of called The Worthy. Other recent editorial and mixing projects include the latest feature from Director Alan Rudolph, Ray Meets Helen, the 10-episode series Junior for director Zoe Cassavetes, and Three Days To Live, a new eight-episode true-crime series for NBC/Universal.

Most of your stage names are related to tequila… Why is that?
Haha — this is kind of a take-off from the naming of the company itself. When I was looking for a company name, I knew I didn’t want it to include the word “digital” or have any hint toward technology, which seemed to be the norm at the time. A friend in college used to tease me about my “unique” major in audio production, saying stuff like, “What kind of a degree is that? A monkey could be trained to do that.” Thus Monkeyland was born!

Same theory applied to our stage names. When we built the new stages and needed to name them, I knew I didn’t want to go with the traditional stage “A, B, C” or “1, 2, 3,” so we decided on tequila types — Anejo, Reposado, Plata, even Mezcal. It seems to fit our personality better, and who doesn’t like a good margarita after a great mix!

Utopic editor talks post for David Lynch tribute Psychogenic Fugue

Director Sandro Miller called on Utopic partner and editorCraig Lewandowski to collaborate on Psychogenic Fugue, a 20-minute film starring John Malkovich in which the actor plays seven characters in scenes recreated from some of filmmaker David Lynch’s films and TV shows. These characters include The Log Lady, Special Agent Dale Cooper, and even Lynch himself as narrator of the film.

It is part of a charity project called Playing Lynch that will benefit the David Lynch Foundation, which seeks to introduce at-risk populations affected by trauma to transcendental meditation.

craigChicago-based Utopic handled all the post, including editing, graphics, VFX and sound design. The film is part of a multimedia fundraiser hosted by Squarespace and executed by Austin-based agency, Preacher. The seven vignettes were released one at a time on Playinglynch,com.

To find out more about Utopic’s work on the film, we reached out to Lewandowski with some questions.

How early were you brought in on the film?
We were brought in before the project was even finalized. There were a couple other ideas that were kicked around before this one rose to the top.

We cut together a timing board using all the pieces we would later be recreating. We also pulled some hallway scenes from an old Playstation commercial that he directed, and we then scratched in all the “Lynch” lines for timing.

You were on set. Can you talk about why and what the benefits were for the director and you as an editor?
My job on the set was to have our reference movie at the ready and make sure we were matching timing, framing, lighting, etc. Sandro would often check the reference to make sure we were on track.

For scenes like the particles in Eraserhead, I had the DP shoot it at various frame rates and at the highest possible resolution, so we could shoot it vertical and use the particles falling. I also worked with the Steadicam operator to get a variety of shots in the hallway since I knew we’d need to create some jarring cutaways.

How big of a challenge was it dealing with all those different iconic characters, especially in a 20-minute film?
Sandro was adamant that we not try to “improve” on anything that David Lynch originally shot. Having had a lot of experience with homages, Sandro knew that we couldn’t take liberties. So the sets and action were designed to be as close as possible to the original characters.

In shots where it was only one character originally (The Lady in the Radiator, Special Agent Dale Cooper, Elephant Man) it was easier, but in scenes where there were originally more characters and now it was just Malkovich, we had to be a little more creative (Frank Booth, Mystery Man). Ultimately, with the recreations, my job was to line up as closely as possible with what was originally done, and then with the audio do my best to stay true to the original.

Can you talk about your process and how you went about matching the original scenes? Did you feel much pressure?
Sandro and I have worked together before, so I didn’t feel a lot of pressure from him, but I think I probably put a fair amount on myself because I knew how important this project was for so many people. And, as is the case with anything I edit, I don’t take it lightly that all of that effort that went into preproduction and production now sits on my shoulders.

Again, with the recreations it was actually fairly straightforward. It was the corridor shots where Malkovich plays Lynch and recites lines taken from various interviews that offered the biggest opportunity, and challenge. Because there was no visual reference for this, I could have some more fun with it. Most of the recreations are fairly slow and ominous, so I really wanted these corridor shots to offset the vignettes, kind of jar you out of the trance you were just put in, make you uneasy and perhaps squirm a bit, before being thrust into the next recreation.

What about the VFX? Can you talk about how they fit in and how you worked with them?
Many of the VFX were either in-camera or achieved through editorial, but there were spots — like where he’s in the corridor and snaps from the front to the back — that I needed something more than I could accomplish on my own, so I used our team at Utopic. However, when cutting the trailer, I relied heavily on our motion graphics team for support.

Psychogenic Fugue is such an odd title, so the writer/creative director, Stephen Sayadin, came up with the idea of using the dictionary definition. We took it a step further, beginning the piece with the phonetic spelling and then seamlessly transitioning the whole thing. They then tried different options for titling the characters. I knew I wanted to use the hallway shot, close-ups of the characters and ending on Lynch/Malkovich in the chair. They gave me several great options.

What was the film shot on, and what editing system did you use?
The film was shot on Red at 6K. I worked in Adobe Premiere, using the native Red files. All of our edit machines at Utopic are custom-built, high-performance PCs assembled by the editors themselves.

What about tools for the visual effects?
Our compositor/creative finisher used an Autodesk Flame, and our motion graphics team used Adobe After Effects.

Can you talk about the sound design?
I absolutely love working on sound design and music, so this was a dream come true for me. With both the film and the trailer, our composer Eric Alexandrakis provided me with long, odd, disturbing tracks, complete with stems. So I spent a lot of time just taking his music and sound effects and manipulating them. I then had our sound designer at Brian Lietner jump in and go crazy.

Is there a scene that you are most proud of, or that was most challenging, or both?
I really like the snap into the flame/cigarette at the very beginning. I spent a long time just playing with that shot, compositing a bunch of shots together, manipulating them, adjusting timing, coming back in the next morning and changing it all up again. I guess that and Eraserhead. We had so many passes of particles and layered so many throughout the piece. That shot was originally done with him speaking to camera, but we had this pass of him just looking around, and realized it was way more powerful to have the lines delivered as though they were internal monologue. It also allowed us to play with the timings in a way that we wouldn’t be able to with a one-take shot.

As far as what I’m most proud of, it’s the trailer. We worked really hard to get the recreations and full film done. Then I was able to take some time away from it all and come back fresh. I knew that there was a ton of great footage to work with and we had to do something that wasn’t just a cutdown. It was important to me that the trailer feel every bit as demented as the film itself, if not more. I think we accomplished that.

Check out the trailer here:

G-Tech 6-15

Checking In: HPA Lifetime Achievement Award honoree Herb Dow

The HPA Lifetime Achievement Award, which will be handed out at the HPA Awards ceremony in Los Angeles tonight, is intended “to give recognition to individuals who have, with great service, dedicated their careers to the betterment of the industry.” That sentence perfectly describes this year’s honoree, Herb Dow, ACE.

Not only a hands-on editor with an impressive resume — including cutting episodes of such classic series as Fantasy Island and WKRP in Cincinnati — Herb has spent much of his career helping to build community within the post production world, whether at his roasts during NAB, his now bi-weekly Friday lunches in LA or with his Website postproductionpro.com, a sort of LinkedIn for the post world.

We recently reached out to Herb to ask him about how he got started in the industry, trends he’s seen over the years, and so much more.

You began your career as a film editor. Can you talk about what you loved most about the job and how you got started?
My entry into the business was marrying a film editor’s daughter 51 years ago. My wife’s father, Robert Swanson, was cutting Mannix at Desilu and he recommended me for an apprentice position in commercial integration on the lot. I spent eight years there moving up to Group 1 — back then the joke was you could go to medical school and be cutting brains faster. I loved editing. Putting together stories on film is a great career, and I still miss that aspect of my life.

Can you tell us some of the projects you worked on, and what you were cutting on when you started?
My first editing job was at MGM on a show called Lucan about a guy who turned into a wolf and solved crimes. It lasted seven episodes. I worked on 12 different series (none of which were picked up beyond the original order), but out of eight pilots, seven were picked up for series. I also cut MOWs and a few features.

You are considered a pioneer in nonlinear editing. How did you get involved in the development of the Ediflex system?
I had spent four years working at Culver Studios with a first floor cutting room. It had big picture windows, a beach mural on the wall that made it look like I was cutting on the beach, and speakers hanging from the ceiling playing loud rock music. Then I went over to Universal to cut on a show called Street Hawk. No windows, small room and not a great show.

I went to the head of post and said that I would finish the episode, but I was leaving and my assistant could take over. He asked why and I said no windows, etc. He said they were starting a new series at the Oakwood apartments on Pass and that it had a new-fangled electronic editing system and there were windows.

I went over and met Adrian Ettlinger. He created the CMX 600, the very first nonlinear system. The system was called Vidicut and had six VHS decks all with the same material and a Commodore 64 controlled with a light pen. I jumped at the chance to work on it and cut 24 episodes of Still the Beavers while helping Adrian modify the system to work for editors like myself. We formed a company with Milt Forman, Andy Maltz, Adrian and me called Cinedco. Then we renamed the system to Ediflex.

How has the world of nonlinear editing changed over the years?
Not much has changed since Avid came on the scene 30 years, aside from the computers getting faster. The big change is what I am involved in now, BeBop Technology  — editing in the cloud, which gets rid of all the machines.

What are the most significant changes you’ve seen in production and post over your time in the industry?
HD and 4K were substantial. The growth of the business has been astronomical, with many more content providers and outlets. There are a lot more jobs in post.

Looking forward, where do you see the post industry heading?
Well, I might be prejudiced, but I think using the cloud environment for post will change the industry dramatically. Freeing artists to work from anywhere they want with faster processors and no machinery to worry about is going to change our world of post.

Herb at one of his industry gatherings.

What does being given the HPA Lifetime Achievement Award mean to you?
I am so proud to be awarded this honor in my 50th year in post. I was mentored by a lot of wonderful men and women in this industry, and it really is a thank you to all of them for helping me with my career.

You have always been involved in fostering relationships with pros in the industry, from your Las Vegas roasts to your Friday lunches. Why is this so important to you?
It has always been about the people. I love the fraternity/sorority I belong to. My roasts and lunches are a way to be among more of these people all the time. I love them.

You’ve accomplished so much over the years. What is your proudest moment?
No question, it was the Ediflex changing the art form as we knew it. That was an incredible moment for me. And, actually, getting to do it all again with BeBop at the other end of my career is a gift from the gods.


Quick Chat: Wipster’s Rollo Wenlock on Slack integration

By Randi Altman

Cloud-based review and approval tool Wipster, which lets you upload your latest edit, share it with clients and colleagues and have frame-accurate conversations directly on the video, now offers integration with Slack, allowing for realtime team messaging.

Wipster CEO/founder Rollo Wenlock says, “Now you can get your Wipster notifications directly in your team Slack channel, making it super-easy for the whole team to instantly see where a review is at.”

I reached out to Wenlock to find out more about Wipster, the Slack integration and what it means for users.

wipster-slack-comment-streamHow old is Wipster now, and can you describe how it works?
Wipster was born in 2013. Wipster is a content review and approval platform for creative teams and their stakeholders to rapidly iterate video projects by sharing work-in-progress for realtime pin-point comments right on the content. Teams speed up their production by up to 60 percent and get closer creative collaboration with their workmates, thus enhancing the work. We like to say that Wipster is the “Google Docs of video.”

How has the tool evolved over the years?
In the beginning we were very focused on creating a very specific user experience to prove people wanted to share work-in-progress and talk all over it. Wipster only worked for single users, only certain types of video could be uploaded, and at the very start, when comments were made, you had no way of knowing who made them!

Now Wipster works for multiple integrated teams, comments are realtime, with replies, added imagery and social “likes.” All commentary becomes automatic to-do lists, and you can have the whole Wipster experience right inside Adobe Creative Cloud.

What types of pros have been taking advantage of Wipster?
In the early days it was freelancers and small studios working for large agencies and brands. Now we have the large agencies and brands as customers as well. Companies like Red Bull, Delta Airlines and Intel. We have every type of creative team using Wipster every day to enhance their creative work.

There are many review and approval apps out there these days, what makes Wipster different? Is it suited to a particular workflow?
Since our launch there have been a number of other apps launch, some doing a great job, others not quite getting the user experience right. The reason why brands and studios are coming to Wipster is our relentless focus on making the review experience work seamlessly between the creative and the stakeholder.

Oftentimes, these people have never worked together before, and creating a very easy and memorable experience heightens their relationship. For our customers, Wipster is a new way of working, which takes them 100x beyond the process they had before, which usually involved a disconnected collection of social video apps and email.

Can you talk about your Slack integration? What does it offer users that they didn’t have before? How does it enhance the process?
We talk to our customers every day, multiple times a day — and they tell us about all the apps and workflows they already have, and what they would like them to do with Wipster — which is insanely helpful.

Our customers want to use Wipster as their “pre-publish” platform, and anything we can do to make their lives simpler and more enjoyable is top of our list. Thousands of our users are working in Slack every day, so it was a no-brainer that we create a Wipster activity channel for them to access right inside Slack.

When using Slack and Wipster together, you can access all your Wipster activity right inside a Slack channel in realtime. This means people in your team can see when videos have been uploaded and shared. You can see when teammates and clients have viewed work, and made comments. You can even see what frame of the video they commented on, with a green dot showing you where they had clicked. This workflow is just another way we are rapidly speeding up the process in which creatives and stakeholders can work together.

Main Photo Caption: Rollo Wenlock (far right) and the Wipster team.


Checking in With Mammal Studios

LA-based Mammal Studio is a full-service VFX house providing CG and 2D visual effects for feature film, television, commercials and music video. They opened their doors in the summer of 2013 and have some pretty high-profile work on their resume, including the films The Shallows, The 5th Wave, Concussion, Joy and Hardcore Henry.

Let’s find out more from Mammal’s partner/VFX supervisor Gregory Liegey.

What types of projects do you work on?
We mainly work on feature films, which is our team’s most extensive experience base. Nonetheless, with the freedom we have as a small independent house, we’re taking opportunities to fit in some smaller projects for TV, music video and commercial clients. Early on in our history, we did a few sequences for Eminem’s Rap God video, which was especially exciting because it was nominated for an MTV Video Music Award.

We also find TV and commercial work refreshing in the sense that they allow a greater contribution of creative input. Not everything is as extensively planned out and previously discussed as it is for features. The opportunity to help shape the look and ideas of the work is a welcome experience for us — allowing our senior team to draw upon their experience working directly for productions.

But studio features still occupy the bulk of our schedule. In the fourth quarter of 2015, we expanded our team and infrastructure to work on an independent feature set to release this year, and two studio-based Christmas releases: Concussion for Peter Landesman at Sony Pictures and Joy for David O. Russell at Fox.

Hardcore Harry

What is your typical workflow?
More and more of our projects start these days with pre-production meetings about concept and design. From there, one of our senior supervisors will attend the shoot to work with the director and other department heads. When the edits are roughed together, we’ll start to get plates. We ingest the plates into our servers and publish them to Shotgun using a custom tool written by our in-house developer Janice Collier.

Once everything is loaded into Shotgun, the supervisors and leads create the list of tasks needed for each shot and start assigning those jobs out to our artists. The artists use the Shotgun Pipeline Toolkit to run Maya, Mari, Nuke, etc. Shotgun’s Toolkit, with a bunch of custom modifications, helps us keep track of the assets and outputs from all the artists.

Our supervisors use Screening Room to review the artists’ work and enter notes into Shotgun for reference. This is a streamlined and efficient process for getting the artists the feedback they need. Thanks to Screening Room’s tight integration into Shotgun’s database of previous versions, cut sequences, concept artwork and original scans the supervisors deliver much-higher-quality direction. The supervisor notes are prioritized so the artist need only concentrate on the task at hand without worrying about larger issues of scheduling and workload — those issues are managed by the production team.

Once the artists’ work is approved for client review, we go back to the Shotgun Toolkit to process and export the shots as deliverable QuickTimes. A proprietary process uses Shotgun shot data to grab the per-shot color corrections needed to match Editorial sequence color and sends a Nuke job to our Deadline queue to render an Avid QuickTime in the client-requested framing and format.

What about delivery?
We deliver the client QTs (or 2Ks) using Shotgun’s Delivery request system, which keeps a record of what has been sent and where. Then we wait for client feedback.

You mentioned working on Joy. What was your workflow like on that film?
We ended up working on over 200 shots concurrent with another active show. Shotgun helped us keep track of the many editorial changes made during the run of the show. The artists would learn instantly of changes to the footage of their shots and could turn around those new versions quickly. That ability to accurately track editorial changes gave the production confidence that we could take on more and more work.

In addition the tools you mentioned earlier, what else do you call on?
We also use Modo, the Adobe Suite, Phoenix and Krakatoa for FX, and a few different Maya plug-ins for specialized tasks.  Deadline is our render queue.

The VFX industry has been in a weird place over the last few years. How are you guys succeeding in such a tough marketplace?
In strategic terms, we have what boils down to a two point plan: we aim to exceed the clients’ expectations and we work efficiently. Luckily, by being efficient, we give directors more options to choose from and more time to polish the work despite the shorter schedules and leaner budgets. So, point number two helps us consistently achieve point number one. Directors are happy to have more creative choices. Producers are happy to have competitive bids from a company who can be relied upon to deliver.

Of course, all of the above would be impossible without a crew of dedicated artists and technical support staff.  Their teamwork and creativity are the essential ingredients in all of our projects.

 

NAB 1/17

Quick Chat: Lost Planet editor Federico Brusilovsky

By Randi Altman

Buenos Aires native Federico Brusilovsky works as an editor at Lost Planet’s Los Angeles office, leading efforts on campaigns for Cadillac, Dodge, Heineken and HP. He joined Lost Planet’s New York studio four years ago as an intern, with production and assistant editorial experience already under his belt. From there, he worked his way up, learning from experienced editors, including the company’s Oscar-nominated editor and owner Hank Corwin (The Big Short).

Cadillac

We reached out to Brusilovsky, who studied film at New York’s City College after coming to the US, to talk about his path, the way he likes to work and tips for those just starting out.

How long have you been editing?
That’s a tough question. I guess my first experiences editing were all in-camera when I was shooting movies on VHS as a kid. Working in that linear format taught me a lot, especially how to recognize happy accidents: those coincidences and subconscious decisions that end up being some of the cooler parts of a film.

Once I was in college, I was working with Super 8 and 16mm and cutting with a guillotine. Working with your hands with such delicate materials teaches you a lot, too. There’s a craftsmanship to physically altering and moving around film that requires really sophisticated organization and patience. Those experiences are important to me now that I edit using digital, nonlinear systems. So, the short answer is probably “as long as I can remember.”

How did you get started in this business?
I was lucky to know editor Julie Monroe (Lolita, The Patriot), who offered me the chance to intern on the film she was working on, Mud. From there, Julie introduced me to Saar Klein (The Bourne Identity, Almost Famous), who introduced me to the studio that he’s on roster with, Hank Corwin’s Lost Planet.

After joining Lost Planet as an intern, it was easy stay focused on my goal of becoming an editor. I knew an internship wouldn’t naturally evolve into a lucrative editing career. I did lots of technical training on my own, so that the moment they needed me to step into a more challenging role, I would already have the skills.

Heineken

Heineken

How early did you know this would be your path?
I didn’t recognize it as a path early on, even though it was in front of me for a while, and I was always editing one way or another. It wasn’t until after meeting and talking to a bunch of feature editors that I was able to see it.

Was it much of a transition in terms of editing moving from Argentina to the US?
Speaking strictly in the commercial world, the biggest difference between the US and Argentina (and I guess most other countries as well) is the role of the editor and the director. For some reason, directors in the US are not as involved from start to finish as they are abroad. They tend to shoot and walk away, not always because they want to but because they have to.

Although we work with them at the beginning of the process, a lot of decisions that may be directorial end up in the hands of the editor. Which is great for me from a creative standpoint.

Overseas, directors are a good deal more involved in post production, and editors in production, which can be an advantage for strong collaborations but a disadvantage for editing objectively. It’s fun to get a feel for each shot while it’s happening on set, then work closely with the director in post, but that experience can make you married to footage that you would otherwise toss out in the edit room.

What system do you use?
Mostly Avid Media Composer. It’s the least user-friendly piece of software, probably because it pre-dates functions like drag-and-drop being available in every single app. But, with patience and the right training, it’s the most robust and attractive piece of non-linear software out there.

What’s your favorite shortcut?
CMD+Z (or CTRL+Z for the Windows crowd). Not only is “undo” possibly the most useful hotkey on a technical level, it has huge symbolic importance. Undo is a digital safety net. Knowing that I’m never more than two keys away from reverting to a previous version gives me the freedom and efficiency to take risks and experiment with different styles.

Cadillac

Cadillac

Do you use plug-ins?
With Avid I try not to, unless a specific project calls for it. If I’m using plug-ins, that means I’ve probably moved to After Effects.

What are some recent projects you have worked on?
Heineken’s “Soccer is Here” and Cadillac’s “CT6 Forward” are my two most recent campaigns. Cadillac was fantastic to be a part of. The material I had to work with was so rich and delicate. Each individual shot was successful on so many levels — color, light, movement, composition and so on. Some projects require a bit of strategy in the edit so high quality shots don’t call attention to less successful ones, but not with this project. It was like playing chess with a board full of queens and no pawns.

Do you have a favorite genre? If so, why?
Comedy. I know it’s a cliché to say that it’s my favorite because it’s the hardest genre to work in, but that’s probably why. One unique challenge to comedy is that the margin for error is so wide compared to other genres. The impact of a not-so-exciting fight scene is much less than the impact of a not-so-funny joke. Getting an audience to laugh is one of the biggest challenges in the industry, and so satisfying when you’re successful.

It’s also easy to get caught in an echo chamber of bad comedy in a writers’ room or on set. When you’re working with comedic premises and characters, trying out concepts and laughing with your coworkers, you can easily lose objectivity and convince yourself something is funny when it definitely isn’t.

I read somewhere that on the set of Sydney Pollack’s Tootsie, there was a real sense of seriousness and tension, despite it being one of Dustin Hoffman and Bill Murray’s funniest movies. Maybe that’s a secret to great comedy… approach it seriously.

Any tips for new editors just starting out?
Listen! Not listening is a classic rookie mistake. Also, it’s more important to be in the right place than to be doing the most glamorous or rewarding tasks. Better to be low on the totem pole for a good film with good people than at the top directing for a bad film. Try to be around companies and projects you admire, then work hard to grow in those communities.

NAB 1/17

Quick Chat: Wildchild editor Richard Cooperman

By Randi Altman

As a young man, Wildchild editor Richard Cooperman loved watching movies, so much so that he decided to study film at Toronto’s Ryerson University, where he focused on direction and shot composition. It wasn’t until he was interning at a post house, which housed a music video company, that he became fascinated with the creative process of editing. “Watching directors edit… I was amazed how selecting a shot, its length and placement could evoke so many different emotions,” explains Cooperman.

He called editing his first project “a joyous, rewarding experience” and from that moment on he knew he had found his calling. “I would go on to edit hundreds of music videos and collaborate with major artists. That same sense of style, design, rhythm and experimentation would carry me over into the commercial world.”

Cooperman cut this spot for Thierry Mugler.

Cooperman is known for his distinctive storytelling style, whether it’s high-end fashion and beauty work, music videos or car commercials. We decided to throw some questions at Cooperman to find out more.

How has editing changed since you started in the business?
As far as technology, I’ve seen it go from tape to Avid to Final Cut and now to Premiere. I think the biggest change for editors is the increasing amount of footage we look through since production companies started shooting digital over film. What was once five to seven hours of dailies can now be 10 to 30 hours. That, coupled with tighter deadlines, has made the selecting process more challenging.

You have a diverse resume, working in music videos, fashion and car spots. Can you talk about how you approach each? Do you have a favorite type of project to work on?
My first step is always about organization. Watching and selecting, while not the sexiest part of the process, might be the most important. It’s like the painter, assembling all the colors on the palette. Even though I do work in different genres, I don’t tend to categorize the music videos/commercials I work on as fashion/beauty or automotive, but find a commonality between them — a visual/audio assault on the senses.

Lexus

Lexus

Two great examples of this can be found in spots for the Lexus IS brand (via Team One) that I had the pleasure of working on. The launch video Changing Lanes, directed by Melina Matsoukas (AICE winner for Best Editing), sees the IS as powerful, raw and sexy. Images of the car intercut with rapid, multilayered fashion/art/music video imagery are combined with aggressive title design and intense sound design. In Crowd, directed by Jonas Åkerlund, we see the IS car elegantly romanced in a succession of edits that seductively brings together the young hero lovers. Each edit is designed to intensely separate them from the crowd as they bask in a glowing light of beauty and luxury.

One of the many benefits of working in music videos was the opportunity to collaborate with so many visionary and talented music video directors that crossed over into commercials, bringing their unique styles and sensibilities. Such was the case with the ethereal Thierry Mugler Alien perfume ad, directed by Floria Sigismondi. This one depicts the awakening of a sun goddess.

Dove

Fashion and beauty sensibility can be applied to many brands, as in my recent collaboration with director Karina Taira on the latest campaign for Dove Chocolates out of BBDO. Shot on location in Chile, Taira captured stunning landscape visuals coupled with beautiful photography of a woman enjoying the most sensual chocolate experience.

How early do you like to get involved in the project?
I like to get involved as early on in the creative process as possible to hear everyone’s thoughts and ideas. This way I can start thinking about a mood and how music and sound design will shape the piece.

What’s your ideal collaboration with a director/client?
The ideal is to have a strong collaborative relationship with the director. To build a shorthand and to forge a trusting relationship. It’s been the basis of most of my creative projects.

What is your editing system of choice? Do you work on different systems?
I started on Avid, but I am always looking for ways to enhance the process, so I learned Final Cut, which proved to have many helpful tools for my style of editing. Recently, I started editing on Adobe Premiere, which is quite similar to Final Cut.

Favorite plug-ins?
My favorite tool is not a plug-in, but the composite mode, which can be found in Final Cut Pro and Premiere. It lets you quickly see different composites of the same shot without any rendering or keying. I use it a lot to create multi-layered graphical imagery.

Do you have any tips/advice for some young editors starting out in the business?
Being from Canada, I always say be polite! (Laughs). In all seriousness, stay true to your style and point of view. It is the reason they are choosing to work with you. Develop your own voice and constantly strive to push and learn new techniques. Watch a lot of films. Classic films. You will find they craft scenes in unexpected ways. It still inspires me. Always strive for excellence!

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You can check out Cooperman’s reel here.


Quick Chat: Reel FX’s EP/head of production Jim Riche

By Randi Altman

Industry veteran Jim Riche has witnessed the evolution of visual effects in his over 30 years in the business. He has seen the march from film to digital, many large VFX houses fall by the wayside, work leave the country, a crop of smaller VFX boutiques pop up and VFX houses diversifying with other services. The latter category fits Santa Monica- and Dallas-based Reel FX, where Riche recently has hung his hat as head of production for the studio’s commercial division. He brings with him experience in production management and consulting for feature films, commercials, visual effects, live action, dark ride production and design/graphics.

He comes to Reel FX from Blur Studio in Los Angeles, where he came up with a well-used and well-thought-of a bidding, cost-tracking and accounting structure. He also consulted on some big-name projects, including the VFX for Deadpool. Prior to that, he was working as a freelance VFX supervisor, VFX producer and VFX consultant for a number of post studios, handling top projects and strategies.

We reached out to Riche, who will be based in the company’s Dallas office, to find out more.

Reel FX Dallas

Why Reel FX, and why now?
I have known of Reel FX for many years and have always admired their work. The company is unique in today’s market in that it offers a full-service studio. Reel FX can work in commercials, features, interactive, live action and virtual reality. I have CG designers, designers, editors, Flame suites and audio suites, as well as a full team of development, interactive and virtual reality artists. I am intrigued with the possibilities of combining these disciplines to offer clients a complete media solution.

The days of the big VFX/animation companies in LA have slowly gone away. We have lost a number of the big shops to bankruptcy and to offshore tax incentives. Reel FX offers me all of the advantages of a big company and in a city where life and production is so much more affordable. I have been in this business for a long time, and Reel FX has put me in a position that will take advantage of my skill set.

What are some things you hope to accomplish in your new role?
My goals here are to grow the commercial division and to bring in clients from NY and LA. I have a wealth of talent here and I plan on attracting more creative leaders from the coasts. The addition of Colin McGreal from New York has shown the desire to grow this division. I feel I am the piece that has been missing. I’m the veteran that can bring this all together.

The offices at Reel FX Dallas

You have a pretty rich history in VFX. How have you seen the industry change over the years?
I got into this business well before digital technology came into the field. I started doing VFX when we did it all on film. So, you can say I have seen the complete evolution from film to CG and digital technology. I pride myself on the fact that I was interested in the latest technology and able to keep up with it. And I still do to this day.

Not only has the technology changed, but the commercial production industry has changed as well. Commercials are no longer a 30-second spot to run only on TV. They encompass all media— social media, interactive, user experience and much more. At Reel FX we are able to address all of the new platforms and take advantage of our capabilities to fulfill all of our clients needs. That is the biggest way I have seen the industry change. It’s all in the breadth of what commercial advertising means.

I know you’ve been involved with adjusting bidding practices. Do you intend to implement that at Reel FX as well?
Reel FX has a very strong system and certainly has a lot of experience and a strong support staff in this area. I will be bringing my experience to this team and together we will be making some changes in the process. There is always room for improvement that will benefit both Reel FX and our clients.

Hilton Barbados

Hilton Barbados

What projects are in the pipeline?
We’ve got lots of great projects wrapping up in the next few weeks, including Gold Bond (31,000 ft), Western Union (McGarry Bowen), Shinola (direct) and content for the Cleveland Cavaliers. On the VR front, we recently delivered a really cool experience for Hilton (GSD&M).

Finally, how was the move from LA to Dallas? I’m assuming Dallas is more laid back, in work and in life?
The move has been good. Dallas has a very large arts community, and that is very important to us. The city has the vitality of a large city and the demeanor and feel of a smaller town. Even in a city as large as Dallas, is it is much easier to exist than in LA or NYC. The highways are far less congested and the people are much more relaxed. The tempo is not that much different — it’s the personality of the people that takes the edge off and makes them appear less crazy.


Quick Chat: SGO CEO Miguel Angel Doncel

By Randi Altman

When I first happened upon Spanish company SGO, they were giving demos of their Mistika system on a small stand in the back of the post production hall at IBC. That was about eight years ago. Since then, the company has grown its Mistika DI finishing system, added a new product called Mamba FX, and brought them both to the US and beyond.

With NAB fast approaching, I thought I would check in with SGO CEO Miguel Angel Doncel to find out how the company began, where they are now and where they are going. I also checked in about some industry trends.

Can you talk about the genesis of your company and the Mistika product?
SGO was born out of a technically oriented mentality to find the best ways to use open architectures and systems to improve media content creation processes. That is not a challenging concept today, but it was an innovative view in 1993 when most of the equipment used in the industry was proprietary hardware. The idea of using computers to replace proprietary solutions was the reason SGO was founded.

It seems you guys were ahead of the curve in terms of one product that could do many things. Was that your goal from the outset?
Ten years ago, most of the manufacturers approached the industry with a set of different solutions to address different parts of the workflow; this gave us an opportunity to capitalize on improving the workflow, as disjointed solutions imply inefficient workflows due to their linearity/sequentiality.

We always thought that by improving the workflow, our technology would be able to play in all those arenas without having to change the tools. Making the workflow parallel and saving time when a problem is detected avoids going backwards in the pipeline, and we can focus moving forward.

I think after so many years, the industry is saying we were right, and all are going in that direction.

How is SGO addressing HDR?
We are excited about HDR, as it really improves the visual experience, but at the same time it is a big challenge to define a workflow that can work in both HDR and SDR in a smooth way. Our solution to that challenge is the four-dimensional grading that is implemented with our 4th ball. This allows the colorist to work not only in the three traditional dimensions — R, G and B — but also to work in the highlights as a parallel dimension.

What about VR?
VR pieces together all the requirements of the most demanding 3D with the requirements of 360. Considering what SGO already offers in stereo 3D production, we feel we are well positioned to provide a 360/VR solution. For that reason, we want to introduce a specific workflow for VR that helps customers to work on VR projects, addressing the most difficult requirements, such as discontinuities in the poles, or dealing with shapes.

The new VR mode we are preparing for Mistika 8.7 will be much more than a VR visualization tool. It will allow users to work in VR environments the same way they would work in a normal production. Not having to worry about circles ending up being highly distorted ellipses and so forth.

What do you see as the most important trends happening in post and production currently?
The industry is evolving in many different directions at the moment — 8K realtime, 4K/UHD, HDR, HFR, dual-stream stereo/VR. These innovations improve and enhance the audience’s experience in many different ways. They are all interesting individually, but the most vital aspect for us is that all of them actually have something in common — they all require a very smart way of how to deal with increasing bandwidths. We believe that a variety of content will use different types of innovation relevant to the genre.

Where do you see things moving in the future?
I personally envision a lot more UHD, HDR and VR material in the near future. The technology is evolving in a direction that can really make the entertainment experience very special for audiences, leaving a lot of room to still evolve. An example is the Quantum Break game from Remedy Studios/Microsoft, where the actual users’ experience is part of the story. This is where things are headed.

I think the immersive aspect is the challenge and goal. The reason why we all exist in this industry is to make people enjoy what they see, and all these tools and formulas combined together form a great foundation on which to build realistic experiences.

Quick Chat: Cut + Run’s Jay Nelson on editing ‘The Bronze’

Who doesn’t like the story of someone overcoming a physical injury in sport and succeeding? (Think Curt Schilling’s bloody ankle during the 2004 World Series.) It’s how legends are made, but what happens after the applause has stopped and the reporters stop requesting interviews? Well this is the premise of the new comedy, The Bronze, by Bryan Buckley.

The film focuses a light on gymnast Hope Ann Greggory (Melissa Rauch), whose performance on a ruptured Achilles during the Olympics clinched a bronze medal for the US team — but things went downhill from there. In the years since capturing the medal, she’s still living in her father’s basement, still wearing her Team USA gym suit and sporting some crazy bangs, a ponytail and a scrunchie. She spends most days at the mall enjoying her minor celebrity while being unpleasant and rude. All of that changes when she is asked to coach her hometown’s newest gymnastics prodigy.

Jay Nelson

Jay Nelson

Director Buckley called on Cut + Run’s Jay Nelson to edit The Bronze, from Sony Pictures Classics. We reached out to LA-based Nelson, who used Avid Media Composer on the film, to find out more about the workflow and how he collaborated with the director.

How did you get involved in the film?
I had been working with Bryan for a couple of years, and he had been developing the idea with Melissa and Winston Rauch for about six months and he asked me if I’d want to be involved. He gave me the script, but I didn’t really need to read it — if Bryan asks if you want to do a film with him, you do it. Then I read the script and I thought it was hilarious and bold.

What are some things you enjoy about working with Buckley?
He is always available for you, no matter how busy he is. Also, he covers exactly what I need to make an edit great, which makes my job a heck of a lot easier. We have a really amazing shorthand with each other. We have the same taste in comedy. But my favorite part about working with Bryan is that I am constantly learning from him, and not just about filmmaking… about life. And we laugh a hell of a lot

Can you talk about any challenges during the editing process?
The approval process was very long. We had to answer to a lot of masters. I showed an edit a week after they finished shooting, then we spent six months revising that cut. The hardest part about the revisions was shaving the last four minutes out of the film. It was a very painful process getting it to 90 minutes.

How was it to premiere at Sundance?
Exhilarating. I’ve submitted four films to Sundance over the years and none of them ever made the cut for one reason or another. It’s always a roll of the dice; there are so many factors that contribute to a films success with their review process. To finally be there after all these years and experience seeing a first run of the film with a massive crowd was truly incredible. And to see lines of people just to be on the waiting list to get in was total vindication for all the work we put into it.

What’s the biggest lesson you learned?
The lessons I learned on this film weren’t so much about the process of making a film, but rather the process of bringing a film to market. Just making a great movie doesn’t mean a film is going to have success. It was almost 16 months from the time we premiered at Sundance to the final release of The Bronze, and a lot of stuff happened during that time. Relativity went out of business, then Sony Classics rescued the film, and then there were several delays pertaining to the release date.

I say it on every film I do — there are no guarantees. If you’re going to do a film, you gotta be willing to do it for the love of making a picture. Success is not imminent. In the end, I’m really proud of The Bronze, and proud we were able to share it with a wide audience. I think it’s going to have a great long life down the road. I think that sex scene alone will be kept in a hall of fame of some sort (laughs). That is the great thing about making movies: you have the opportunity to create something that can stay around after your gone.

If you could compete in the Olympics, your sport would be?
I always dreamed of winning a gold in hockey. It certainly wouldn’t be gymnastics. After sitting in an editing chair for as long as I have been, maybe I’d be better off pursuing curling or something like that.

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Check out The Bronze’s trailer.