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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.

2 thoughts on “Checking In: HPA Lifetime Achievement Award honoree Herb Dow

  1. Ben Benedetti

    Yay Herb – so well deserved! You’ve been a mentor and a mench for most of my career! I am so glad to have you as a friend and someone I can trust. Thank you for blazing the way for me as well as the rest of the Hollywood post community!

    Reply

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