Category Archives: Tips

What you should ask when searching for storage

Looking to add storage to your post studio? Who isn’t these days? Jonathan Abrams, chief technical officer at New York City’s Nutmeg Creative was kind enough to put together a list that can help all in their quest for the storage solution that best fits their needs.

Here are some questions that customers should ask a storage manufacturer.

What is your stream count at RAID-6?
The storage manufacturer should have stream count specifications available for both Avid DNx and Apple ProRes at varying frame rates and raster sizes. Use this information to help determine which product best fits your environment.

How do I connect my clients to your storage?  
Gigabit Ethernet (copper)? 10 Gigabit Ethernet (50-micron Fiber)? Fiber Channel (FC)? These are listed in ascending order of cost and performance. Combined with the answer to the question above, this narrows down which product a storage manufacturer has that fits your environment.

Can I use whichever network switch I want to and know that it will work, or must I be using a particular model in order for you to be able to support my configuration and guarantee a baseline of performance?
If you are using a Mac with Thunderbolt ports, then you will need a network adapter, such as a Promise SANLink2 10G SFP+ for your shared storage connection. Also ask, “Can I use any Thunderbolt network adapter, or must I be using a particular model in order for you to be able to support my configuration and guarantee a baseline of performance?”

If you are an Avid Media Composer user, ask, “Does your storage present itself to Media Composer as if it was Avid shared storage?”
This will allow the first person who opens a Media Composer project to obtain a lock on a bin.  Other clients can open the same project, though they will not have write access to said bin.

What is covered by support? 
Make certain that both the hardware (chassis and everything inside of it) and the software (client and server) are covered by support. This includes major version upgrades to the server and client software (i.e. v.11 to v.12). You do not want your storage manufacturer to announce a new software version at NAB 2018 and then find out that it’s not covered by your support contract. That upgrade is a separate cost.

For how many years will you be able to replace all of the hardware parts?
Will the storage manufacturer replace any part within three years of your purchase, provided that you have an active support contract? Will they charge you less for support if they cannot replace failed components during that year’s support contract? The variation of this question is, “What is your business model?” If the storage manufacturer will only guarantee availability of all components for three years, then their business model is based upon you buying another server from them in three years. Are you prepared to be locked into that upgrade cycle?

Are you using custom components that I cannot source elsewhere?
If you continue using your storage beyond the date when the manufacturer can replace a failed part, is the failed part a custom part that was only sold to the manufacturer of your storage? Is the failed part one that you may be able to find used or refurbished and swap out yourself?

What is the penalty for not renewing support? Can I purchase support incidents on an as-needed basis?
How many as-needed event purchases equate to you realizing, “We should have renewed support instead.” If you cannot purchase support on an as-needed basis, then you need to ask what the penalty for reinstating support is. This information helps you determine what your risk tolerance is and whether or not there is a date in the future when you can say, “We did not incur a financial loss with that risk.”

Main Image:  Nutmeg Creative’s Jonathan Abrams with the company’s 80 TB of EditShare storage and two spare drive.  Photo Credit:  Larry Closs

Nat Geo’s Bertie Gregory shares tips for managing video in the field

Bertie Gregory may be only 22 years old, but he’s already worked at National Geographic magazine, won the 2015 Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year award and is filming Nat Geo WILD’s first online natural history series.

The show, called wild_life, launched on August 3. Each episode finds Gregory (@BertieGPhoto) seeking out wildlife — salmon, black bears, wolves, etc. — to capture with his cameras. We asked this very busy young Englishman about how he manages his workflow during his 18- to 20-hour days in the field.

Here are Gregory’s Top 5 tips:
1) Have a Backup Plan
Before you set foot in the field, find a data backup system that works for you and stick to it. You’re not always going to be at your best when you’re transferring data from one location to another, and you don’t want to make a mistake. Take time before filming to run through your backup procedures so that there are no surprises.

When downloading from my camera, I always make three copies — one to be stored in a separate geographic location and the other two on me. With file sizes being as large as they are now, having a good workflow in place is absolutely essential. I can aspire to be the best tracker or camera operator, but if we don’t have everything dialed in on the back end, then none of that matters.

2) Choose Reliable Equipment
There are many storage manufacturers competing in the market right now, which has been great for consumers, but be sure that you’re choosing equipment not only based on its price, but also its reliability and durability. There’s plenty of bargain-basement hardware out there that might cost a fraction of their higher-quality counterparts, but they’re likely to let you down exactly at the wrong time.

Between being stuffed in a backpack and overzealous airport baggage handlers, my equipment can really take a beating, so I tend to invest in equipment that might be a bit more expensive initially, but will easily save me significant amounts of time, money and effort over the long-term.

My equipment list:
Cameras:
– Red Dragon
– Canon C300
– Sony FS7
– Multiple GoPros
Computer:
– MacBook Pro

Storage:
– 20TB LaCie 5big Thunderbolt 2
– Multiple 4TB LaCie Rugged RAID drives

3) Choose Speed
I shoot a lot of footage — more than 500 GB on some days — and there’s nothing more soul-crushing than wrapping up 15 hours of filming and realizing that you still have hours of work ahead of you just to back up your data. When I get finished with a day’s shooting, all I want to do is get horizontal as fast as possible. That means I need fast transfer speeds. Look for backup storage devices that use Thunderbolt or USB 3.0 interfaces, and which also incorporate RAID technology to improve both speed and reliability.

4) Get Rid of Distractions
Making one mistake can ruin an entire day’s worth of time, money and effort when you’re backing up your footage. When I’m downloading, I do it in a quiet location without distractions. Just like with everything else in life, you’re going to do a better, quicker job if you have your full attention on the task at hand. Admittedly, this is easier to do in the wilds of Canada than in an office somewhere, but quiet places do exist, even in the modern office.

5) Keep With Your Plan
When you have the right equipment, people and plan in place, you’re ready to go — as long as you keep to that plan. But with the long days, the thankless nature of backing up your data and the strains that being in the field can put on you, it can be very easy at some point down the road to just not keep with the plan.

“Oh, I’ll just do it tomorrow” becomes, “Eh, I can do it this weekend,” which becomes, “Wait, when was the last time I backed up my data?” And while you may get lucky and not suffer a mishap while your data is vulnerable, you’re playing with fire every time you put off backing up your data. Keep to your plan, follow your backup schedule and you won’t ever have to worry.


Check out more on wild_life on Nat Geo Wild.

Dell 6.15

Editor Jesse Averna shares words of wisdom, encouragement

Let’s face it, post production can be hard, and sometimes our social networks can get a tad negative. In the midst of that, LA-based editor Jesse Averna (@dr0id) recently shared some positivity and shed some light on how to navigate in the complex world of the post professional by offering some advice and encouragement through a series of tweets.

Averna is an editing veteran who has five Emmy Awards and an additional nomination for his work on Sesame Street. Many of you might know him as one of the founders of the Twitter group #postchat. Check these out. It just might leave you feeling a bit better about your job, your industry and yourself.

– Wisdom. If you commit to a project, give it 110%. It doesn’t matter if it deserves it. Your reputation does.

– Disliking movies doesn’t make you a more competent filmmaker. Ask yourself what you would do differently and why they didn’t.

– Excuses don’t help you. Even if they are real. Try to have none. Just get it done.

– If you always focus on your insecurities and shortcomings, so will everyone else. Don’t let them define you.

– If someone needs advice, a connection or a gig, give them a hand. Someone gave you one. Doesn’t matter if they’ve “earned” it.

– You can learn something from anyone. Don’t miss the opportunity.

– You can be on time. You can work hard. You can even have a great attitude. Doesn’t matter what software you’re using.

– Focused on the tech? You’re probably missing the story. Ignoring the tech? You’re probably not telling the story as well as you could.

– Commiserating can be bonding, but it can also be poison. Make positivity your habit. It will be contagious.

– You might have to climb down a ladder and start at the bottom of another to work on something you love. No matter how high you got.

– It’s 40% being good and 60% being someone people want to work with. If you’re a pain, you’d better be damn good. (Don’t be a pain)

– If you’re making a living in post production, if you’re paying your bills making art, if your editing feeds your kids, you are lucky.

– Support your fellow post peeps. See their films. Retweet them. Congratulate them. Be happy when someone else is doing well.

– Always keep working on your voice. Be proud of it. Yes, even as a post pro you have one. Nail the tech down and keep building the artist.

—–
Jesse Averna tweets from a personal account and in no way speaks for or represents the companies he works for.


How to get hired, and how to get hired again

By David Jasse

Over the last 15 years, I’ve interviewed many potential job candidates — full-time and freelance — for my post and production company DMJ Studios… and I’ve seen it all! You should know, I’m a people person. I always look for the best in people, but to be honest, some of the folks who have come in for interviews have left me speechless.

For example, I asked one woman who was applying for a production manager position, “What exactly did you do on that particular production?” She squirmed in her seat, never answered and then left. Another person came for an edit position and got mad at me for testing him on the software. He said I should have warned him that I was going to test him!

I thought this list might be useful in helping those looking for work or hoping to stay employed long-term.

1. Be a professional. Come early. Stay late if needed.
2. Acknowledge mistakes and weaknesses. Don’t make excuses. Tell the truth.
3. Know how to wear a producer hat. In other words, if you’re asked to do something you can’t do, find someone who can.
4. Say little, but do a lot.
5. Do not text or talk on the phone on company time. Do it on breaks or ask permission.
6. Know the software like a professional. Be an expert, take classes and stand out.
7. Go the extra mile — wash a dish, change a bulb, make coffee… don’t just stand there.
8. If you can’t make it in then send a friend/freelancer.
9. Submit fair, one-time, accurate billing.
10. Be familiar with the work of the company you’re applying to/working for.

Employing just a few of these simple tips might help make you an even stronger candidate/employee.

David Jasse is a director and owner of Long Island-based DMJ Studios. Jasse opened DMJ in 1992 after gaining network experience at CNN, MTV, CBS and Fox. Among his company’s most recent achievements is editing and designing graphics for Emmy Award-winning Born to Explore With Richard Weise for ABC.


Location tips for indie filmmakers: John Schneider and Alicia Allain

Actor/writer/director John Schneider owns JSS Studios in Louisiana with producer Alicia Allain. As part of an on-going series with postPerspective, the pair will be sharing monthly tips on indie filmmaking and post production.

JSS is located 45 minutes from the Baton Rouge airport, 50 minutes from the New Orleans airport, and sits on 58 acres of land. It features a river, lake, swamp, baseball field, expansive fields and an Olympic size swimming pool, as well as a full five acres of Southeast Asia-like giant bamboo sitting on the Tickfaw River. They have two post suites currently, with a plan to build out.

We hope you enjoy our first John and Alicia video, which they shot while driving back from the Roswell Film Festival in New Mexico.


Top 5: Efficiency tips for your health and editing environment

By Brady Betzel

Sometimes in the edit bay, I find myself feeling sluggish because I haven’t moved from my chair in four or eight or more hours. Usually, I can fix this by working out for a half hour before I leave for work, and I try to get in some kettlebell swings and battle rope maneuvers along with bodyweight stuff like push-ups and pull-ups.

With two kids, I sometimes feel guilt about not being home every second I can, and this very often leads me astray and causes me to forget to do a few little things to keep my mind right.

With that in mind, I’d like to offer up my top five tips for enhancing efficiency when being stuck in a chair all day.

1. Move Around
The number one thing an editor can do to cause laziness and stagnation is literally being lazy. Sitting in your chair all day — drinking coffee and not water — staring at pixels for 12 hours will not get that mind in gear to edit creatively. If possible, take a five-minute walk around the block. If not possible, do push-ups — you have the equipment with you at all times. I try to hit my age as a goal, for example I will try and do 33 pushups within an hour, even doing this once a day will dramatically help you out.

If you are searching for some exercise tips I suggest checking out www.onnit.com/academy, specifically https://www.onnit.com/academy/training/bodyweight, which focuses on bodyweight exercises. It’s free and is updated regularly with fun and unique workouts.

2. Meditate, Pray, Zone Out… Whatever
Give yourself five minutes of peace and quiet. No podcasts, no Pantera, no Taylor Swift — just sit in a quiet room with all of your monitors powered off, if possible, and clear your head. Sometimes, if I can’t stop my mind from working, I will try to focus on little things like breathing at a consistent pace or how I can be nicer to people and myself.

2. Drink Good Coffee AND Lots of Water
If you believe in drinking coffee like I do, find yourself a good batch of coffee and brew it in something nice like a French press or an AeroPress. My number one rule when downing espresso and coffee is to not forget to drink tons of water too, otherwise I will get angry and dehydrated. This is one I constantly have to remember.

3. Keep Your Area Clean
I find that editors come in two forms: messy and obsessive compulsive. I know it’s hard to always be tidy, but who wants to see a messy editor bay or desk in the office? It makes my skin crawl when I have to wade through other people’s junk just to get my Wacom pen or fader on the mixer. I know when my area is clean my mind is usually more focused.

4. Force Yourself to Be Pleasant
I often find myself in a dark room, plugging away at keyframes and bezier curves, and forgetting to smile. It’s crazy what can happen if you force yourself to smile, and it is contagious. Try it out, even if people laugh at you and say what is up with happy face — you just made them think twice about being happy. It will really make your day better.

Brady Betzel is an online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff. Brady was recently nominated for an Emmy for his work on Disney’s Unforgettable Christmas Celebration.


Simple tips that will help you work more efficiently

By Brady Betzel

Recently, I was asked to share some best practices surrounding the editing process… little things that can make doing your job that much easier and more efficient.

Get Comfortable With Your Equipment
Whether you are using a Wacom tablet, Razer mouse, Premiere Pro keyboard, Palette controls or Tangent Element panels, knowing how they work will make you money. If you are on a salaried job and you are fast and efficient (most likely if you work at a decent place) you will be able to leave early when the job is done. When I first learned my Wacom tablet I spent some time just using the hot keys on the side and discovering how I could use them to my benefit. Sometimes I would set up macros on them just to see how far I could go.

Learn Something New Every Day
If time allows, I try to watch one tutorial a day on YouTube, Lynda.com or another place that can make me smarter. Whether I am learning audio tips, After Effects scripts, Avid Effects tips or something unrelated to video and editing, I always gain something.

Even if the tutorial is taught by an eight-year-old on an iPad — if it looks better than anything I’ve ever done, I’m seeing a new viewpoint or discovering a tip I’ve never seen before — you never know where inspiration will come from. So keep on learning… it will not only make you smarter, you will probably work faster too.

Get in Some Exercise
While I try to workout before I go to work a few days a week, it isn’t always possible. I try to get at least a few sets of push-ups in during my workday. This helps to get my blood going. An easy game to play is to try and hit your age in pushups in an hour. While it won’t get you in crossfit box jumping shape, it will get your blood circulating and your mind thinking clearer.

Learn What Someone Else’s Job Entails
When I do have spare time, I like watch other people doing their job. On my way up the professional ladder, I always learned from watching people I admired; whether it was a producer, editor or production assistant. Lately, I like to watch the guys and gals in the machine rooms. Just the other day, I learned how ISDNs were patched and what codecs were used in transmission. While it doesn’t relate directly to my job, it really makes my mind keep thinking of different things and find new perspectives on my own work.

Set Yourself up for Success
This is a terrible cliché, but it really has staying power. There is value in being prepared. For example, when I was a kid, my dad always taught my sister and I to be aware of the closest exit, no matter where we were — one of the perks of growing up in earthquake prone Southern California.

At home, I always learned to keep my play area clean, so when I needed to I could sit down and use it without having to wade through a mess. As a side note this might have also led me to be super obsessive compulsive about a clean workspace, or my need for a color-organized closet (sorry to my wife), but still it will only help your efficiency if you can just sit down and work.

Find your exit or path to working fast and efficiently. Whether it’s a tidy desktop on your computer, literally a clean desktop where you work or a bin with all of your preset plug-ins at the ready for when you need them. It can’t hurt to be prepared.

Brady Betzel is an online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff. Brady was recently nominated for an Emmy for his work on Disney’s Unforgettable Christmas Celebration.


Production Rendering: Tips for 2016 and beyond

By Andrew C. Jones

There is no shortage of articles online offering tips about 3D rendering. I have to admit that attempting to write one myself gave me a certain amount of trepidation considering how quickly most rendering advice can become obsolete, or even flat-out wrong.

The trouble is that production rendering is a product of the computing environment, available software and the prevailing knowledge of artists at a given time. Thus, the shelf life for articles about rendering tends to be five years or so. Inevitably, computing hardware gets faster, new algorithms get introduced and people shift their focus to new sets of problems.

I bring this up not only to save myself some embarrassment five years from now, but also as a reminder that computer graphics, and rendering in particular, is still an exciting topic that is ripe for innovation and improvement. As artists who spend a lot of time working within rigid production pipelines, it can be easy to forget this.

Below are some thoughts distilled from my own experience working in graphics, which I feel are about as relevant today as they would have been when I started working back in 2003. Along with each item, I have also included some commentary on how I feel the advice is applicable to rendering in 2016, and to Psyop’s primary renderer, Solid Angle’s Arnold, in particular.

Follow Academic Research
This can be intimidating, as reading academic papers takes considerably more effort than more familiar kinds of reading. Rest assured, it is completely normal to need to read a paper several times and to require background research to digest an academic paper. Sometimes the background research is as helpful as the paper itself. Even if you do not completely understand everything, just knowing what problems the paper solves can be useful knowledge.

Papers have to be novel to be published, so finding new rendering research relevant to 2016 is pretty easy. In fact, many useful papers have been overlooked by the production community and can be worth revisiting. A recent example of this is Charles Schmidt and Brian Budge’s paper, “Simple Nested Dielectrics in Ray Traced Images” from 2002, which inspired Jonah Friedman to write his open source JF Nested Dielectric shader for Arnold in 2013. ACM’s digital library is a fantastic resource for finding graphics-related papers.

Study the Photographic Imaging Pipeline
Film, digital cinema and video are engineering marvels, and their complexity is easily taken for granted. They are the template for how people expect light to be transformed into an image, so it is important to learn how they work.

Despite increasing emphasis on physical accuracy over the past few years, a lot of computer graphics workflows are still not consistent with real-world photography. Ten years ago, the no-nonsense, three-word version of this tip would have been “use linear workflow.” Today, the three-word version of the tip should probably be “use a LUT.” In five more years, perhaps people will finally start worrying about handling white balance properly. OpenColorIO and ACES are two recent technologies that fit under this heading.

Otto_theLetter.01726    BritishGas_NPLH1
Examples of recent renders done by Psyop on jobs for online retailer Otto and British Gas.

Study Real-World Lighting
The methodology and equipment of on-set lighting in live-action production can teach us a great deal, both artistically and technically. From an aesthetic standpoint, live-action lighting allows us to focus on learning how to control light to create pleasing images, without having to worry about whether or not physics is being simulated correctly.

Meanwhile, simulating real-world light setups accurately and efficiently in CG can be technically challenging. Many setups rely heavily on indirect effects like diffusion, but these effects can be computationally expensive compared to direct lighting. In Arnold, light filter shaders can help transform simplistic area lights into more advanced light rigs with view-dependent effects.

Fight for Simplicity
As important as it is to push the limits of your workflow and get the technical details right, all of that effort is for naught if the workflow is too difficult to use and artists start making mistakes.

In recent years, simplicity has been a big selling point for path-tracing renderers as brute force path-tracing algorithms tend to require fewer parameters than spatially dependent approximations. Developers are constantly working to make their renderers more intuitive, so that artists can achieve realistic results without visual cheats. For example, Solid Angle recently added per-microfacet fresnel calculations, which help achieve more realistic specular reflections along the edges of surfaces.

Familiarize Yourself With Your Renderer’s API (If it Has One)
Even if you have little coding background, the API can give you a much deeper understanding of how your renderer really works. This can be a significant trade-off for GPU renderers, as the fast-paced evolution of GPU programming makes providing a general purpose API particularly difficult.

Embrace the Statistical Nature of Raytracing
The “DF” in BRDF actually stands for “distribution function.” Even real light is made of individual photons, which can be thought of as particles bouncing off of surfaces according to probability distributions. (Just don’t think of the photons as waves or they will stop cooperating!)

When noise problems occur in a renderer, it is often because a large amount of light is being represented by a small subset of sampled rays. Intuitively, this is a bit like trying to determine the average height of Germans by measuring people all over the world and asking if they are German. Only 1 percent of the world’s population is German, so you will need to measure 100 times more people than if you collected your data from within Germany’s borders.

One way developers can improve a renderer is by finding ways to gather information about a scene using fewer samples. These improvements can be quite dramatic. For example, the most recent Arnold release can render some scenes up to three times as fast, thanks to improvements in diffuse sampling. As an artist, understanding how randomization, sampling and noise are related is the key to optimizing a modern path tracer, and it will help you anticipate long render times.

Learn What Your Renderer Does Not Do
Although some renderers prioritize physical accuracy at any cost, most production renderers attempt to strike a balance between physical accuracy and practicality.

Light polarization is a great example of something most renderers do not simulate. Polarizing filters are often used in photography to control the balance between specular and diffuse light on surfaces and to adjust the appearance of certain scene elements like the sky. Recreating these effects in CG requires custom solutions or artistic cheats. This can make a big difference when rendering things like cars and water.

Plan for New Technology
Technology can change quickly, but adapting production workflows always takes time. By anticipating trends, such as HDR displays, cloud computing, GPU acceleration, virtual reality, light field imaging, etc., we not only get a head start preparing for the future, but also motivate ourselves to think in different ways. In many cases, solutions that are necessary to support tomorrow’s technology can already change the way we work today.

Andrew C. Jones is head of visual effects at NYC- and LA-based Psyop, which supplies animation, design, illustration, 3D, 2D and live-action production to help brands connect with consumers. You can follow them on Twitter @psyop 


Some do’s and don’ts for your job hunt

By David Jasse

As the owner of a small, but growing, production and post company, I’ve interviewed many potential candidates over the years. I have found there are some simple steps that those looking for work might take to help increase their chances of landing the job they have applied for.

1. Put your reel at the top of your response. When I’m hiring a shooter, editor or producer, I want to see the work first. You’d be surprised how often the links are hard to find.

2. Keep it relevant. When you’re applying for a job, look at the company who listed the opening and send only links that make sense.

3. Research the company you’re applying to. Comment on their work, and look up the person you’re applying to/interviewing with.

4. Be professional! While this might be a casual and creative industry, we are all still professionals. You’d be flabbergasted at the less than professional responses I’ve gotten when starting a dialogue. Be sure you’re in a good mood when you respond, or at least learn to fake it.

5. Go to LinkedIn and connect. While not everyone would agree, I don’t mind. We’re open and honest with folks, and the more we know about each other the better.

6. Persevere. If, for whatever reason, you can’t respond to the ad when it’s placed, feel free to reach out later on. A great time to apply is when there is no ad running. We have more time to give you.

8. Do not take credit for work you didn’t do. You’d be surprised how often this happens.

9. Don’t be late for the interview. You would think this could go without saying.

10. Don’t give up. It’s easy to get overlooked when the person doing the hiring is sifting through a hundred resumes. Don’t take it personally — try and try again.

11. Be careful on social media! Potential employers will look at your Facebook page to learn more about you. You should know that. I also look for other work that you might not present in your reel. I look at the entire package online, not just the links you send.

12. Answer the ad. We put specific requirements in our ads, respond to them.

David Jasse is owner and creative director of DMJ Studios, which he opened in 1992 after working at CNN, MTV, CBS and Fox. DMJ recently edited and designed graphics for ABC’s Emmy Award-winning Born to Explore With Richard Weise.

Five ways to knock your new editing gig out of the park

By Zack Arnold

Congratulations! You’ve been killing yourself to land your next gig — the endless networking, the cold calls, the résumés and all those interviews have finally paid off. A director or producer has decided that you are the best fit to edit their next project. So you’re done, right? Wrong.

Once you have landed your next gig, your job has only just begun — this is where the hard work really begins. When I land a job, my focus is on building a long-standing relationship with my director and producers so they hire me back time and time again. The larger the pool of people that want to work with you, the less you have to look for work in the future. Landing my job editing the TV series Empire didn’t even require an interview; the gig was handed to me by the showrunner, Ilene Chaiken, based on our previous working relationship.

Here are five things I do after landing a job to ensure I knock it out of the park:

1. Method Editing
Method Editing is a phrase I coined that means immersing yourself in the genre of whatever project you are working on and allowing the tone and rhythm to become second nature… before day one of dailies. The first thing I do is try to get into the brain of the director and understand his (or her) intentions by asking what five to 10 films or TV shows inspired their approach to the material.

Keep in mind, this isn’t just about editing, it’s about the approach to cinematography, performances, music choices, preferred type of score and, most importantly, tone and pacing.

When I land a job on an existing TV show, I devour every previous episode. For example, I watched three straight seasons of Burn Notice — twice — before I even had my interview. Needless to say I landed the job and ended up editing the final four seasons.

This process may take you some time, but the quality of your first cut will be leaps and bounds above other editors your director has worked with in the past, and this will instantly move you to the top of their list.

An example of the Trello structure map for an old episode of Empire.

2. Analyze And Break Down The Script
If the job I’m working on is a narrative project, the next step is breaking down the script. I learned much of my process from Walter Murch, and have since updated the workflow with modern technology. What I used to do is have my assistant print out large index cards of every scene (color coded by story arc) with key scene descriptions and the characters involved. Then I would build a giant wall of those cards so I could visualize the structure of the entire film (and often destroy it by the end of the editor’s cut). Now I use a tool called Trello and build a digital structure map that essentially serves the same purpose.

When you start to hit a point of fatigue and you are cross-eyed trying to figure out where your story is and isn’t working, having this tool is invaluable. If you really want to impress your director or producer, share your digital structure map with them and watch their eyes bulge in amazement.

3. Prepare Your Media and Project Workflows
Once I understand the creative approach to the material and have broken down the script, I will work with my assistant to build our media and project workflows. In Episode 54 of the Fitness In Post podcast, my assistant and I go into every nitty-gritty detail about our workflow at Empire, but the basic gist is that you need a clear organizational system for your media partitions — how you organize raw media and how you organize bins and media files within your project. You also need to come up with a project management system to make sure all tasks and stages of the process can be tracked down to every minute detail. Again, we do all of this in Trello.

The key to getting repeat jobs in this business is being fast, and the easiest way to become a faster editor is to become an organized editor.

4. Establish Clear Communication Guidelines
While I’ll admit this step isn’t as sexy as coming up with cool ways to organize your media or building your digital structure map, I’ll argue that communication guidelines are equally important. You need to establish how (and when) you are going to communicate with your team, because when the bullets start flying, poor communication can lead to errors, missed deadlines and mistakes that cost real money.

I avoid email like the plague, so I clarify with my assistant that any task-related communication will be done via our project management system in Trello. Any simple requests or chit chat can happen via Gchat. I also establish guidelines about when it’s okay (or not okay) to knock on the door. I use the Pomodoro Technique to manage my time, meaning I edit in focused blocks of 50 minutes at once. So I’ve made it known that if my door is closed, unless there is a pressing matter, I would like to receive any correspondence via chat or Trello.

Clear communication guidelines allow you to meet your deadlines quicker with no mistakes along the way, and there’s nothing directors and producers love more than reliability.

5. Prepare Your Mind And Body
This is by far the most important step. Even if you know your director inside and out, you’ve broken down the script to a “t,” your workflow is bulletproof and your communication is flawless, none of that matters if you have no energy and are burned out. I treat any new gig like an athletic event.

Every successful athlete on the planet trains for hours, weeks or months before a game or event, and editing is no different. You may spend weeks or months working long, arduous days in a dark room, but if you want to focus on demand and have the energy to sit with a director or producer for 10 to 14 hours per day, you better have built the routines in advance to take care of yourself.

Here are some routines and habits to develop to ensure you have the stamina to survive:
•    Park as far away from the entrance as possible. Take the stairs and not the elevator. You’re not going move a ton during the day, so get activity in while you can. If you struggle to stay active and you’re tired of sitting all day, here are 10 ways you can stay active all day at work without needing to find additional time to exercise.
•    Establish morning and evening routines to ensure you get proper sleep every night.
•    Create personal guidelines for how you are going to manage your diet. If your office provides lunch and/or dinner, I suggest planning your own meals most of the time so you’re not stuck eating Chinese take-out four nights a week. Nothing will derail your focus and creativity more than crappy food.

Editing is a marathon, not a sprint. You are the most valuable tool in your arsenal, and you need to begin treating yourself as such. There is nothing that will make directors and producers want to hire you again more than always showing up with plenty of energy and having the ability to focus on demand.

If you institute these five steps before starting your next gig, I guarantee you’ll be more prepared than 99 percent of the editors you are competing with for the next job. And if your director and producer love working with you and want to hire you again, you’ll no longer have to compete.

Zack Arnold is a veteran editor currently cutting Fox’s Empire. He also runs the Website Fitness in Post.