NBCUni 7.26

Category Archives: Editing

IBC 2019 in Amsterdam: Big heads in the cloud

By David Cox

IBC 2019 kicked off with an intriguing announcement from Avid. The company entered into a strategic alliance with Microsoft and Disney’s Studio Lab to enable remote editorial workflows in the cloud.

The interesting part for me is how this affects the perception of post producing in the cloud, rather than the actual technology of it. It has been technically possible to edit remotely in the cloud for some time —either by navigating the Wild West interfaces of the principal cloud providers and “spinning up” a remote computer, connecting some storage and content, and then running an edit app or alternatively, by using a product that takes care of all that such as Blackbird. No doubt, the collaboration with Disney will produce products and services within an ecosystem that makes the technical use of the cloud invisible.

Avid press conference

However, what interests me is that arguably, the perception of post producing in the cloud is instantly changed. The greatest fear of post providers relates to the security of their clients’ intellectual property. Should a leak ever occur, to retain the client (or indeed avoid a catastrophic lawsuit), the post facility would have to make a convincing argument that security protocols were appropriate. Prior to the Disney/Avid/Microsoft Azure announcement, the part of that argument where the post houses say “…then we sent your valuable intellectual property to the cloud” caused a sticky moment. However, following this announcement, there has been an inherent endorsement by the owner of one of the most valuable IP catalogs (Disney) that post producing in the cloud is safe — or at least will be.

Cloudy Horizons
At the press conference where Avid made its Disney announcement, I asked whether the proposed cloud service would be a closed, Avid-only environment or an open platform to include other vendors. I pointed out that many post producers also use non-Avid products for various aspects, from color grading to visual. Despite my impertinence in mentioning competitors (even though Avid had kindly provided lunch), CEO Jeff Rosica provided a well-reasoned and practical response. To paraphrase, while he did not explicitly say the proposed ecosystem would be closed, he suggested that from a commercial viewpoint, other vendors would more likely want to make their own cloud offerings.

Rosica’s comments suggest that post houses can expect many clouds on their horizons from various application developers. The issue will then be how these connect to make coherent and streamlined workflows. This is not a new puzzle for post people to solve — we have been trying to make local systems from different manufacturers to talk to each other for years, with varying degrees of success. Making manufacturers’ various clouds work together would be an extension of that endeavor. Hopefully, manufacturers will use their own migrations to the cloud to further open their systems, rather than see it as an opportunity to play defensive, locking bespoke file systems and making cross-platform collaboration unnecessarily awkward. Too optimistic, perhaps!

Or One Big Cloud?
Separately to the above, just prior to IBC, MovieLabs introduced its white paper, which discussed a direction of travel for movie production toward the year 2030. The IBC produced a MovieLabs panel on the Sunday of the show, moderated by postPerspective’s own Randi Altman and featuring tech chiefs from the major studios. It would be foolish not to pay it proper consideration, given that it’s backed by Disney, Sony, Paramount, Warner Bros. and Universal.

MovieLabs panel

To summarize, the proposition is that the digital assets that will be manipulated to make content stay in one centralized cloud. Apps that manipulate those assets, such as editorial and visual effects apps, delivery processes and so on, will operate in the same cloud space. The talent that drives those apps will do so via the cloud. Or to put it slightly differently, the content assets don’t move — rather, the production apps and talent move to the assets. Currently, we do the opposite: the assets are transferred to where the post services are provided.

There are many advantages to this idea. Multiple transfers of digital assets to many post facilities would end. Files would be secured on a policy basis, enabling only the relevant operators to have access for the appropriate duration. Centralized content libraries would be produced, helping to enable on-the-fly localization, instant distribution and multi-use derivatives, such as marketing materials and games.

Of course, there are many questions. How do the various post application manufacturers maintain their product values if they all work as in-cloud applications on someone else’s hardware? What happens to traditional post production facilities if they don’t need any equipment and their artists log in from wherever? How would a facility protect itself from payment disputes if it does not have control over the assets it produces?

Personally, I have moved on from the idea of brick-and-mortar facilities. Cloud post permits nearly unlimited resources and access to a global pool of talent, not just those who reside within a commutable distance from the office. I say, bring it on… within reason. Of course, this initiative relates only to the production of content for those key studios. There’s a whole world of content production beyond that scope.

Blackmagic

Knowing Your Customer
Another area of interest for me at IBC 2019 was how offerings to colorists have become quite polarized. On one hand there is the seemingly all-conquering Resolve from Blackmagic Design. Inexpensive, easy to access and ubiquitous. On the other hand there is Baselight from FilmLight — a premium brand with a price tag and associated entry barrier to match. The fact that these two products are both successful in the same market but with very different strategies is testament to a fundamental business rule: “Know your customer.” If you know who your customer is going to be, you can design and communicate the ideal product for them and sell it at the right price.

A chat with FilmLight’s joint founder, Wolfgang Lempp, and development director Martin Tlaskal was very informative. Lempp explained that the demand placed on FilmLight’s customers is similarly polarized. On one hand, clients — including major studios and Netflix — mandate fastidious adherence to advanced and ever-improving technical standards, as well as image pipelines that are certified at every step. On the other hand, different clients place deadline or budget as a prevalent concern. Tlaskal set out for FilmLight to support those color specialists that aim for top-of-the industry excellence. Having the template for the target customer defines and drives what features FilmLight will develop for its Baselight product.

FilmLight

At IBC 2019, FilmLight hosted guest speaker-led demonstrations (“Colour on Stage”) to inspire creative grading and to present its latest features and improvements including better hue-angle keying, tracking and dealing with lens distortions.

Blackmagic is no less focused on knowing its customer, which explains its success in recent years. DaVinci Resolve once shared the “premium” space occupied by FilmLight but went through a transition to aim itself squarely at a democratized post production landscape. This shift meant a recognition that there would be millions of content producers and thousands of small post houses rather than a handful of large post facilities. That transition required a great deal more than merely slashing the price. The software product would have to work on myriad hardware combinations, not just the turnkey approved setup, and would need to have features and documentation aimed at those who hadn’t spent the past three years training in a post facility. By knowing exactly who the customer would be, Blackmagic built Resolve into an extremely successful, cross-discipline, post production powerhouse. Blackmagic was demonstrating the latest Resolve at IBC 2019, although all new features had been previously announced because, as director of software engineering Rohit Gupta explained, Blackmagic does not time its feature releases to IBC.

SGO

Aiming between the extremities established by FilmLight and Blackmagic Design, SGO promoted a new positioning of its flagship product, Mistika, via the Boutique subproduct. This is essentially a software-only Mistika that runs on PC or Mac. Subscription prices range from 99 euros per month to 299 euros per month, depending on features, although there have been several discounted promotions. The more expensive options include SGO’s highly regarded stereo 3D tools and camera stitching features for producing wrap-around movies.

Another IBC — done!


David Cox is a VFX compositor and colorist with more than 20 years of experience. He started his career with MPC and The Mill before forming his own London-based post facility. Cox specializes in unusual projects, such as those using very high resolutions and interactive immersive experiences featuring realtime render engines and augmented reality.

Behind the Title: Chapeau CD Lauren Mayer-Beug

This creative director loves the ideation process at the start of a project when anything is possible, and saving some of those ideas for future use.

COMPANY: LA’s Chapeau Studios

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
Chapeau provides visual effects, editorial, design, photography and story development fluidly with experience in design, web development, and software and app engineering.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Creative Director

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
It often entails seeing a job through from start to finish. I look at it like making a painting or a sculpture.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
Perhaps just how hands-on the process actually is. And how analog I am, considering we work in such a tech-driven environment.

Beats

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
Thinking. I’m always thinking big picture to small details. I love the ideation process at the start of a project when anything is possible. Saving some of those ideas for future use, learning about what you want to do through that process. I always learn more about myself through every ideation session.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Letting go of the details that didn’t get addressed. Not everything is going to be perfect, so since it’s a learning process there is inevitably something that will catch your eye.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
My mind goes to so many buckets. A published children’s book author with a kick-ass coffee shop. A coffee bean buyer so I could travel the world.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
I always skewed in this direction. My thinking has always been in the mindset of idea coaxer and gatherer. I was put in that position in my mid-20s and realized I liked it (with lots to learn, of course), and I’ve run with it ever since.

IS THERE A PROJECT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
That’s hard to say. Every project is really so different. A lot of what I’m most proud of is behind the scenes… the process that will go into what I see as bigger things. With Chapeau, I will always love the Facebook projects, all the pieces that came together — both on the engineering side and the fun creative elements.

Facebook

What I’m most excited about is our future stuff. There’s a ton on the sticky board that we aim to accomplish in the very near future. Thinking about how much is actually being set in motion is mind-blowing, humbling and — dare I say — makes me outright giddy. That is why I’m here, to tell these new stories — stories that take part in forming the new landscape of narrative.

WHAT TOOLS DO YOU USE DAY TO DAY?
Anything Adobe. My most effective tool is the good-old pen to paper. That works clearly in conveying ideas and working out the knots.

WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION?
I’m always looking for inspiration and find it everywhere, as many other creatives do. However, nature is where I’ve always found my greatest inspiration. I’m constantly taking photos of interesting moments to save for later. Oftentimes I will refer back to those moments in my work. When I need a reset I hike, run or bike. Movement helps.

I’m always going outside to look at how the light interacts with the environment. Something I’ve become known for at work is going out of my way to see a sunset (or sunrise). They know me to be the first one on the roof for a particularly enchanting magic hour. I’m always staring at the clouds — the subtle color combinations and my fascination with how colors look the way they do only by context. All that said, I often have my nose in a graphic design book.

The overall mood realized from gathering and creating the ever-popular Pinterest board is so helpful. Seeing the mood color wise and texturally never gets old. Suddenly, you have a fully formed example of where your mind is at. Something you could never have talked your way through.

Then, of course, there are people. People/peers and what they are capable of will always amaze me.

NBCUni 7.26

Avid Media Composer now supports ProRes RAW and DNx codecs

Avid has added native support in Media Composer for Apple’s ProRes RAW camera codec and support for ProRes playback and encoding on Windows. In addition, Apple will provide 64-bit decoders for DNxHR and DNxHD codecs within the Pro Video Formats package that is available from Apple as a free download for all users. These integrations will allow content creators and post companies to natively create high-quality ProRes content regardless of their operating system and save time during the creative storytelling process.

ProRes is a high-performance editing codec that provides multistream, high-quality images and low complexity for premium realtime editing. The codec, which will be available to Media Composer users on Windows, supports frame sizes ranging from SD and HD to 2K, 4K and beyond at full resolution with image-quality preservation and reduced storage rates.

In addition, Media Composer for macOS and Windows, which was completely redesigned for 2019, also will add native support for ProRes RAW. ProRes RAW applies ProRes compression to the RAW data from a camera sensor to provide the flexibility of RAW video with the performance of ProRes for editing today’s highest-resolution outputs.

Finally, Avid says the continued availability of Avid’s DNxHD and DNxHR decoders for macOS is a benefit to content creators using Apple and Avid products and will ensure the longevity of content creators’ DNx material encoded in MXF and QuickTime files.

 


Adobe adds Sensei-powered Auto Reframe to Premiere

At IBC 2019, Adobe introduced a new reframing/reformatting feature for Premiere Pro called Auto Reframe. Powered by Adobe Sensei, the company’s AI/machine learning framework, Auto Reframe intelligently reframes and reformats video content for different aspect ratios, from square to vertical to cinematic 16:9 versions. Like the recently introduced Content-Aware Fill for After Effects, Auto Reframe uses AI and machine learning to accelerate manual production tasks without sacrificing creative control.

For anyone who needs to optimize content for different platforms, Auto Reframe will save valuable hours by automating the tedious task of manually reframing content every time a different video platform comes into play. It can be applied as an effect to individual clips or to whole sequences.

Auto Reframe will launch on Premiere Pro later this year. You can watch Adobe’s Victoria Nece talk about Auto Reframe and more from the IBC 2019 show floor.


An editor’s recap of EditFestLA

By Barry Goch

In late August, I attended my first American Cinema Editors’ EditFest on the Disney lot, and I didn’t know what to expect. However, I was very happy indeed to have spent the day learning from top-notch editors discussing our craft.

Joshua Miller from C&I Studios

The day started with a presentation by Joshua Miller from C&I Studios on DaVinci Resolve. Over the past few releases, Blackmagic has added many new editor-specific and -requested features.

The first panel, “From the Cutting Room to the Red Carpet: ACE Award Nominees Discuss Their Esteemed Work,” was moderated by Margot Nack, senior manager at Adobe. The panel included Heather Capps (Portlandia); Nena Erb, ACE (Insecure); Robert Fisher, ACE (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse); Eric Kissack (The Good Place) and Cindy Mollo, ACE (Ozark). Like film school, we would watch a scene and then the editor of the scene would break it down and discuss their choices. For example, we watched a very dramatic scene from Ozark, then Mollo described how she amplified a real baby’s crying with sound design to layer on more tension. She also had the music in the scene start at a precise moment to guide the viewer’s emotional state.

The second panel, “Reality vs. Scripted Editing: Demystifying the Difference,” was moderated by Avid’s Matt Feury and featured panelists Maura Corey, ACE (Good Girls, America’s Got Talent); Tom Costantino, ACE (The Orville, Intervention); Jamie Nelsen, ACE (Black-ish, Project Runway) and Molly Shock, ACE (Naked and Afraid, RuPauls Drag Race All Stars). The consensus of the panel was that an editor can create stories from reality or from script. The panel also noted that an editor can be quickly pigeonholed by their credits — it’s often hard to look past the credits and discover the person. However, it’s way more important to be able to “gel” with an editor as a person, since the creative is going to spend many hours with the editor. As with the previous panel, we were also treated to short clips and behind-the-scenes discussions. For example, Shock told of how she crafted a dramatic scene of an improvised shelter getting washed away during a flood in the middle of a jungle at night — all while the participants were completely naked.

Joe Walker, ACE, and Bobbie O’Steen

The next panel was “Inside the Cutting Room with Bobbie O’Steen: A Conversation with Joe Walker, ACE.” O’Steen, who authored “The Invisible Cut” and “Cut to the Chase,” moderated a discussion with Walker, whose credits include Widows, Blade Runner 2049, Arrival, Sicario and 12 Years a Slave, in which she lead Walker in a wide-ranging conversation about his career, enlivened with clips from his films. In what could be called “evolution of a scene,” Walker broke down the casino lounge scene in Blade Runner 2049, from previs to dailies, and then talked about how the VFX evolved during the edit and how he shaped the scene to final.

The final panel, “The Lean Forward Moment: A Tribute to Norman Hollyn, ACE,” was moderated by Alan Heim, ACE, president of the Motion Picture Editors Guild, and featured Ashley Alizor, assistant editor; Reine-Claire Dousarkissian, associate professor of the practice of cinematic arts at USC; Saira Haider (Creed II), editor; and professor of the practice of cinema arts at USC, Thomas G. Miller, ACE.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Norm for postPerspective, and he was the kind of man you meet once and never forget — a kind and giving spirit who we lost too soon. The panelists each had a story about how wonderful Norm was and they honored his teaching by sharing a favorite scene with the audience and explaining how it impacted them through Norm’s teaching. Norm’s colleague at USC, Dousarkissian, chose a scene from the 1952 Noir film Sudden Fear, with Jack Palance and Joan Crawford. It’s amazing how much tension can be created by a simple wind-up toy.

I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at EditFest. So often we see VFX breakdowns, which are amazing things, but to see and hear how scenes and story beats are crafted by the best in the business was a treat. I’m looking forward to attending next year already.


Barry Goch is a finishing artist at LA’s The Foundation, as well as a UCLA Extension Instructor, Post Production. You can follow him on Twitter at @Gochya


Behind the Title: Bindery editor Matt Dunne

Name: Matt Dunne

Company: Bindery

Can you describe your company?
Bindery is an indie film and content studio based in NYC. We model ourself after independent film studios, where we tackle every phase of a project from concept all the way through finishing. Our work varies from branded web content and national broadcast commercials to shorts and feature films.

What’s your job title?
Senior Editor

What does that entail?
I’m part of all things post at Bindery. I get involved early on in projects to help ensure we have a workflow set up, and if I’m the editor I’ll often get a chance to work with the director on conceptualizing the piece. When I get to go on set I’m able to become the hub of the production side. I’ll work with the director and DP to make sure the image is what they want and

I’ll start assembling the edit as they are shooting. Most of my time is spent in an edit suite with a director and clients working through their concept and really bringing their story to life. An advantage of working with Bindery is that I’m able to sit and work with directors before they shoot and sometimes even before a concept is locked. There’s a level of trust that’s developed and we get to work through ideas and plan for anything that may come up later on during the post process. Even though post is the last stage of a film project, it needs to be involved in the beginning. I’m a big believer in that. From the early stages to the very end, I get to touch a lot of projects.

What would surprise people the most about what falls under that title?
I’m a huge tech nerd and gear head, so with the help of two other colleagues I help maintain the post infrastructure of Bindery. When we expanded the office we had to rewire everything and I recently helped put a new server together. That’s something I never imagined myself doing.

Editors also become a sounding board for creatives. I think it’s partially because we are good listeners and partially because we have couches in our suites. People like to come in and riff an idea or work through something out loud, even if you aren’t the editor on that project. I think half of being a good editor is just being able to listen.

What’s your favorite part of the job?
Working in an open environment that nurtures ideas and creativity. I love working with people that want to push their product and encourage one another to do the same. It’s really special getting to play a role in it all.

What’s your least favorite?
I think anything that takes me away from the editing process. Any sort of hardware or software issue will completely kill your momentum and at times it can be difficult to get that back.

What’s your most productive time of the day?
Early in the morning. I’m usually walking around the post department checking the stations, double checking processes that took place overnight or maintaining the server. Opposite that I’ve always felt very productive late at night. If I’m not actively editing in the office, then I’m usually rolling the footage back in my head that I screened during the day to try and piece it together away from the computer.

If you didn’t have this Job, what would you be doing instead?
I would be running a dog sanctuary for senior and abused dogs.

How early on did you know this would be your path?
I first fell in love with post production when I was a kid. It was when Jurassic Park was in theaters and Fox would run these amazing behind-the-scene specials. There was this incredible in-depth coverage of how things in the film industry are done. I was too young to see the movie but I remember just devouring the content. That’s when I knew I wanted to be part of that scene.

Neurotica

Can you name some recent projects you have worked on?
I recently got to help finish a pilot for a series we released called Neurotica. We were lucky enough to premiere it at Tribeca this past season, and getting to see that on the big screen with the people who helped make it was a real thrill for me.

I also just finished cutting a JBL spot where we built soundscapes for Yankees player Aaron Judge and captured him as he listened and was taken on a journey through his career, past and present. The original concept was a bit different than the final deliverable, but because of the way it was shot we were able to re-conceptualize the piece in the edit. There was a lot of room to play and experiment with that one.

Do you put on a different hat when cutting for a specific genre? Can you elaborate?
Absolutely. With every job there comes a different approach and tools you need to use. If I’m cutting something more narrative focused I’ll make sure I have the script notes up, break my project out by scene and spend a lot of time auditioning different takes to make a scene work. Docu-style is a different approach entirely.

I’ll spend more time prepping that by location or subject and then break that down further. There’s even more back and forth when cutting doc. On a scripted project you have an idea of what the story flow is, but when you’re tasked with finding the edit you’re very much jumping around the story as it evolves. Whether it’s comedy, music or any type of genre, I’m always getting a chance to flex a different editing muscle.

1800 Tequila

What is the project you are most proud of?
There are a few, but one of my favorite collaborative experiences was when we worked with Billboard and 1800 Tequila to create a branded documentary series following Christian Scott aTunde Adjuh. It was five episodes shot in New York, Philadelphia and New Orleans, and the edit was happening simultaneously with production.

As the crew traveled and mapped out their days, I was able to screen footage, assemble and collaborate with the director on ideas that we thought could really enhance the piece. I was on the phone with him when they went back to NOLA for the last shoot and we were writing story beats that we needed to gather to make Episode 1 and 2 work more seamlessly now that the story had evolved. Being able to rework sections of earlier episodes before we were wrapped with production was an amazing opportunity.

What do you use to edit?
Software-wise I’m all in on the Adobe Creative Suite. I’ve been meaning to learn Resolve a bit more since I’ve been spending more and more time with it as a powerful tool in our workflow.

What is your favorite plugin?
Neat Video is a denoiser that’s really incredible. I’ve been able to work with low-light footage that would otherwise be unusable.

Are you often asked to do more than edit? If so, what else are you asked to do?
Since Bindery is involved in every stage of the process, I get this great opportunity to work with audio designers and colorists to see the project all the way through. I love learning by watching other people work.

Name three pieces of technology you can’t live without.
My phone. I think that’s a given at this point. A great pair of headphones, and a really comfortable chair that lets me recline as far back as possible for those really demanding edits.

What do you do to de-stress from it all?
I met my wife back in college and we’ve been best friends ever since, so spending any amount of time with her helps to wash away the stress. We also just bough our first house in February, so there’s plenty of projects for me to focus all of my stress into.


Boris FX beefs up film VFX arsenal, buys SilhouetteFX, Digital Film Tools

Boris FX, a provider of integrated VFX and workflow solutions for video and film, has bought SilhouetteFX (SFX) and Digital Film Tools (DFT). The two companies have a long history of developing tools used on Hollywood blockbusters and experience collaborating with top VFX studios, including Weta Digital, Framestore, Technicolor and Deluxe.

This is the third acquisition by Boris FX in recent years — Imagineer Systems (2014) and GenArts (2016) — and builds upon the company’s editing, visual effects, and motion graphics solutions used by post pros working in film and television. Silhouette and Digital Film Tools join Boris FX’s tools Sapphire, Continuum and Mocha Pro.

Silhouette’s groundbreaking non-destructive paint and advanced rotoscoping technology was recognized earlier this year by the Academy of Motion Pictures (Technical Achievement Award). It first gained prominence after Weta Digital used the rotoscoping tools on King Kong (2005). Now the full-fledged GPU-accelerated node-based compositing app features over 100 VFX nodes and integrated Boris FX Mocha planar tracking. Over the last 15 years, feature film artists have used Silhouette on films including Avatar (2009), The Hobbit (2012), Wonder Woman (2017), Avengers: End Game (2019) and Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019).

Avengers: End Game courtesy of Marvel

Digital Film Tools (DFT) emerged as an off-shoot of a LA-based motion picture visual effects facility whose work included hundreds of feature films, commercials and television shows.

The Digital Film Tools portfolio includes standalone applications as well as professional plug-in collections for filmmakers, editors, colorists and photographers. The products offer hundreds of realistic filters for optical camera simulation, specialized lenses, film stocks and grain, lens flares, optical lab processes, color correction, keying and compositing, as well as natural light and photographic effects. DFT plug-ins support Adobe’s Photoshop, Lightroom, After Effects and Premiere Pro; Apple’s Final Cut Pro X and Motion; Avid’s Media Composer; and OFX hosts, including Foundry Nuke and Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve.

“This acquisition is a natural next step to our continued growth strategy and singular focus on delivering the most powerful VFX tools and plug-ins to the content creation market,”
“Silhouette fits perfectly into our product line with superior paint and advanced roto tools that highly complement Mocha’s core strength in planar tracking and object removal,” says Boris Yamnitsky, CEO/founder of Boris FX. “Rotoscoping, paint, digital makeup and stereo conversion are some of the most time-consuming, labor-intensive aspects of feature film post. Sharing technology and tools across all our products will make Silhouette even stronger as the leader in these tasks. Furthermore, we are very excited to be working with such an accomplished team [at DFT] and look forward to collaborating on new product offerings for photography, film and video.”

Silhouette founders, Marco Paolini, Paul Miller and Peter Moyer, will continue in their current leadership roles and partner with the Mocha product development team to collaborate on delivering next-generation tools. “By joining forces with Boris FX, we are not only dramatically expanding our team’s capabilities, but we are also joining a group of like-minded film industry pros to provide the best solutions and support to our customers,” says Marco Paolini, Product Designer. “The Mocha planar tracking option we currently license is extremely popular with Silhouette paint and roto artists, and more recently through OFX, we’ve added support for Sapphire plug-ins. Working together under the Boris FX umbrella is our next logical step and we are excited to add new features and continue advancing Silhouette for our user base.”

Both Silhouette and Digital Film Tool plug-ins will continue to be developed and sold under the Boris FX brand. Silhouette will adopt the Boris FX commitment to agile development with annual releases, annual support and subscription options.

Main Image: Silhouette


Review: Dell’s Precision T5820 workstation

By Brady Betzel

Multimedia creators are looking for faster, more robust computer systems and seeing an increase in computing power among all brands and products. Whether it’s an iMac Pro with a built-in 5K screen or a Windows-based, Nvidia-powered PC workstation, there are many options to consider. Many of today’s content creation apps are operating-system-agnostic, but that’s not necessarily true of hardware — mainly GPUs. So for those looking at purchasing a new system, I am going to run through one of Dell’s Windows-based offerings: the Dell Precision T5820 workstation.

The most important distinction between a “standard” computer system and a workstation is the enterprise-level quality and durability of internal parts. While you might build or order a custom-built system for less money, you will most likely not get the same back-end assurances that “workstations” bring to the party. Workstations aren’t always the fastest, but they are built with zero downtime and hardware/software functionality in mind. So while non-workstations might use high-quality components, like an Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti (a phenomenal graphics card), they aren’t necessarily meant to run 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. On the other hand, the Nvidia Quadro series GPUs are enterprise-level graphics cards that are meant to run constantly with low failure rates. This is just one example, but I think you get the point: Workstations run constantly and are warrantied against breakdowns — typically.

Dell Precision T5820
Dell has a long track record of building everyday computer systems that work. Even more impressive are its next-level workstation computers that not only stand up to constant use and abuse but are also certified with independent software vendors (ISVs). ISV is a designation that suggests Dell has not only tested but supports the end-user’s primary software choices. For instance, in the nonlinear editing software space I found out that Dell had tested the Precision T5820 workstation with Adobe Premiere Pro 13.x in Windows 10 and has certified that the AMD Radeon Pro WX 2100 and 3100 GPUs with 18.Q3.1 drivers are approved.

You can see for yourself here. Dell also has driver suggestions from some recent versions of Avid Media Composer, as well as other software packages. That being said, Dell not only tests but will support hardware configurations in the approved software apps.

Beyond the ISV certifications and the included three-year hardware warranty with on-site/in-home service after remote diagnostics, how does the Dell Precision T5820 perform? Well, it’s fast and well-built.

The specs are as follows:
– Intel Xeon W-2155 3.3GHz, 4.5GHz Turbo, 10-core, 13.75MB cache with hyperthreading
– Windows 10 Pro (four cores plus for workstations — this is an additional cost)
– Precision 5820 Tower with 950W chassis
– Nvidia Quadro P4000, 8GB, four DisplayPorts (5820T)
– 64GB (8x8GB) 2666MHz DDR and four RDIMM ECC
– Intel vPro technology enabled
– Dell Ultra-Speed Drive Duo PCIe SSD x8 Card, 1 M.2 512GB PCIe NVMe class 50 Solid State Drive (boot drive)
– 3.5-inch 2TB 7200rpm SATA hard drive (secondary drive)
– Wireless keyboard and mouse
– 1Gb network interface card
– USB 3.1 G2 PCIe card (two Type C ports, one DisplayPort)
– Three years hardware warranty with onsite/in-home service after remote diagnosis

All of this costs around $5,200 without tax or shipping and not including any sale prices.

The Dell Precision T5820 is the mid-level workstation offering from Dell that finds the balance between affordability, performance and reliability — kind of the “better, Cheaper, faster” concept. It is one of the quietest Dell workstations I have tested. Besides the spinning hard drive that was included on the model I was sent, there aren’t many loud cards or fans that distract me when I turn on the system. Dell is touting the new multichannel thermal design for advanced cooling and acoustics.

The actual 5820 case is about the size of a mid-sized tower system but feels much slimmer. I even cracked open the case to tinker around with the internal components. The inside fans and multichannel cooling are sturdy and even a little hard to remove without some force — not necessarily a bad thing. You can tell that Dell made it so that when something fails, it is a relatively simple replacement. The insides are very modular. The front of the 5820 has an optical drive, some USB ports (including two USB-C ports) and an audio port. If you get fancy, you can order the systems with what Dell calls “Flex Bays” in the front. You can potentially add up to six 2.5-inch or five 3.5-inch drives and front-accessible storage of up to four M.2 or U.2 PCIe NVMe SSDs. The best part about the front Flex Bays is that, if you choose to use M.2 or U.2 media, they are hot-swappable. This is great for editing projects that you want to archive to an M.2 or save to your Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve cache and remove later.

In the back of the workstation, you get audio in/out, one serial port, PS/2, Ethernet and six USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type A ports. This particular system was outfitted with an optional USB 3.1 Gen 2 10GB/s Type C card with one DisplayPort passthrough. This is used for the Dell UltraSharp 32-inch 4K (UHD) USB-C monitor that I received along with the T5820.

The large Dell UltraSharp 32-inch monitor (U3219Q) offers a slim footprint and a USB-C connection that is very intriguing, but they aren’t giving them away. They cost $879.99 if ordered through Dell.com. With the ultra-minimal Infinity Edge bezel, 400 nits of brightness for HDR content, up to UHD (3840×2160) resolution, 60Hz refresh rate and multiple input/output connections, you can see all of your work in one large IPS panel. For those of you who want to run two computers off one monitor, this Dell UltraSharp has a built-in KVM switch function. Anyone with a MacBook Pro featuring USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports can in theory use one USB-C cable to connect and charge. I say “in theory” only because I don’t have a new MacBook Pro to test it on. But for PCs, you can still use the USB-C as a hub.

The monitor comes equipped with a DisplayPort 1.4, HDMI, four USB 3.0 Type A ports and a USB-C port. Because I use my workstation mainly for video and photo editing, I am always concerned with proper calibration. The U3219Q is purported by Dell to be 99% Adobe sRGB-, 95% DCI-P3- and 99% Rec. 709-accurate, so if you are using Resolve and outputting through a DeckLink, you will be able to get some decent accuracy and even use it for HDR. Over the years, I have really fallen in love with Dell monitors. They don’t break the bank, and they deliver crisp and accurate images, so there is a lot to love. Check out more of this monitor here.

Performance
Working in media creation I jump around between a bunch of apps and plugins, from Media Composer to Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve and even from Adobe After Effects to Maxon’s Cinema 4D. So I need a system that can not only handle CPU-focused apps like After Effects but GPU-weighted apps like Resolve. With the Intel Xeon and Nvidia Quadro components, this system should work just fine. I ran some tests in Premiere Pro, After Effects and Resolve. In fact, I used Puget Systems’ benchmarking tool with Premiere and After Effects projects. You can find one for Premiere here. In addition, I used the classic 3D benchmark Cinebench R20 from Maxon, and even did some of my own benchmarks.

In Premiere, I was able to play 4K H.264 (50MB and 100MB 10-bit) and ProRes files (HQ and 4444) in realtime at full resolution. Red Raw 4K was able to playback in full-quality debayer. But as the Puget Systems’ Premiere Benchmark shows, 8K (as well as heavily effected clips) started to bog the system down. With 4K, the addition of Lumetri color correction slowed down playback and export a little bit — just a few frames under realtime. It was close though. At half quality I was essentially playing in realtime. According to the Puget Systems’ Benchmark, the overall CPU score was much higher than the GPU score. Adobe uses a lot of single core processing. While certain effects, like resizes and blurs, will open up the GPU pipes, I saw the CPU (single-core) kicking in here.

In the Premiere Pro tests, the T5820 really shined bright when working with mezzanine codec-based media like ProRes (HQ and 4444) and even in Red 4K raw media. The T5820 seemed to slow down when multiple layers of effects, such as color correction and blurs, were added on top of each other.

In After Effects, I again used Puget Systems’ benchmark — this time the After Effects-specific version. Overall, the After Effects scoring was a B or B-, which isn’t terrible considering it was up against the prosumer powerhouse Nvidia RTX 2080. (Puget Systems used the 2080 as the 100% score). It seemed the tracking on the Dell T5820 was a 90%, while Render and Preview scores were around 80%. While this is just what it says — a benchmark — it’s a great way to see comparisons between machines like the benchmark standard Intel i9, RTX 2080 GPU, 64GB of memory and much more.

In Resolve 16 Beta 7, I ran multiple tests on the same 4K (UHD), 29.97fps Red Raw media that Puget Systems used in its benchmarks. I created four 10-minute sequences:
Sequence 1: no effects or LUTs
Sequence 2: three layers of Resolve OpenFX Gaussian blurs on adjustment layers in the Edit tab
Sequence 3: five serial nodes of Blur Radius (at 1.0) created in the Color tab
Sequence 4: in the Color tab, spatial noise reduction was set at 25 radius to medium, blur set to 1.0 and sharpening in the Blur tab set to zero (it starts at 0.5).

Sequence 1, without any effects, would play at full debayer quality in real time and export at a few frames above real time, averaging about 33fps. Sequence 2, with Resolve’s OpenFX Gaussian blur applied three times to the entire frame via adjustment layers in the Edit tab, would play back in real time and export at between 21.5fps and 22.5fps. Sequence 3, with five serial nodes of blur radius set at 1.0 in the Blur tab in the Color tab, would play realtime and export at about 23fps. Once I added a sixth serial blur node, the system would no longer lock onto realtime playback. Sequence 4 — with spatial noise reduction set at 25 radius to medium, blur set to 1.0 and sharpening in the Blur tab set to zero in the Color tab — would play back at 1fps to 2fps and export at 6.5fps.

All of these exports were QuickTime-based H.264s exported using the Nvidia encoder (the native encoder would slow it down by 10 frames or so). The settings were UHD resolution; “automatic — best” quality; disabled frame reordering; force sizing to highest quality; force debayer to highest quality and no audio. Once I stacked two layers of raw Red 4K media, I started to drop below realtime playback, even without color correction or effects. I even tried to play back some 8K media, and I would get about 14fps on full-res. Premium debayer, 14 to 16 on half res. Premium 25 on half res. good, and 29.97fps (realtime) on quarter res. good.

Using the recently upgraded Maxon Cinebench R20 benchmark, I found the workstation to be performing adequately around the fourth-place spot. Keep in mind, there are thousands of combinations of results that can be had depending on CPU, GPU, memory and more. These are only sample results that you could verify against your own for 3D artists. The Cinebench R20 results were CPU: 4682, CPU (single-core): 436, and MP ratio: 10.73x. If you Google or check out some threads for Cinebench R20 result comparisons, you will eventually find some results to compare mine against. My results are a B to B+. A much higher-end Intel Xeon or i9 or an AMD Threadripper processor would really punch this system up a weight class.

Summing Up
The Dell Precision T5820 workstation comes with a lot of enterprise-level benefits that simply don’t come with your average consumer system. The components are meant to be run constantly, and Dell has tested its systems against current industry applications using the hardware in these systems to identify the best optimizations and driver packages with these ISVs. Should anything fail, Dell’s three-year warranty (which can be upgraded) will get you up and running fast. Before taxes and shipping, the Dell T5820 I was sent for review would retail for just under $5,200 (maybe even a little more with the DVD drive, recovery USB drive, keyboard and mouse). This is definitely not the system to look at if you are a DIYer or an everyday user who does not need to be running 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

But in a corporate environment, where time is money and no one wants to be searching for answers, the Dell T5820 workstation with accompanying three-year ProSupport with next-day on-site service will be worth the $5,200. Furthermore, it’s invaluable that optimization with applications such as the Adobe Creative Suite is built-in, and Dell’s ProSupport team has direct experience working in those professional apps.


Brady Betzel is an Emmy-nominated online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on shows like Life Below Zero and The Shop. He is also a member of the Producer’s Guild of America. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.

 


Fred Raskin talks editing and Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

By Amy Leland

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is marketed in a style similar to its predecessors — “the ninth film from Quentin Tarantino.” It is also the third film with Fred Raskin, ACE, as Tarantino’s editor. Having previously edited Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight, as well as working as assistant editor on the Kill Bill films, Raskin has had the opportunity to collaborate with a filmmaker who has always made it clear how much he values collaboration.

On top of this remarkable director/editor relationship, Raskin has also lent his editing hand to a slew of other incredibly popular films, including three entries in the Fast & Furious saga and both Guardians of the Galaxy films. I had the chance to talk with him about his start, his transition to editor and his work on Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. A tribute to Hollywood’s golden age, the film stars Brad Pitt as the stunt double for a faded actor, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, as they try to find work in a changing industry.

Fred Raskin

How did you get your start as an editor?
I went to film school at NYU to become a director, but I had this realization about midway through that that I might not get a directing gig immediately upon graduation, so perhaps I should focus on a craft. Editing was always my favorite part of the process, and I think that of all the crafts, it’s the closest to directing. You’re crafting performances, you’re figuring out how you’re going to tell the story visually… and you can do all of this from the comfort of an air-conditioned room.

I told all of my friends in school, if you need an editor for your projects, please consider me. While continuing to make my own stuff, I also cut my friends’ projects. Maybe a month after I graduated, a friend of mine got a job as an assistant location manager on a low-budget movie shooting in New York. He said, “Hey, they need an apprentice editor on this movie. There’s no pay, but it’s probably good experience. Are you interested?” I said, “Sure.” The editor and I got along really well. He asked me if I was going to move out to LA, because that’s really where the work is. He then said, “When you get out to LA, one of my closest friends in the world is Rob Reiner’s editor, Bob Leighton. I’ll introduce the two of you.”

So that’s what I did, and this kind of ties into Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, because when I made the move to LA, I called Bob Leighton, who invited me to lunch with his two assistants, Alan Bell and Danny Miller. We met at Musso & Frank. So the first meeting that I had was at this classic, old Hollywood restaurant. Cut to 23 years later, and I’m on the set of a movie that’s shooting at Musso & Frank. It’s a scene between Al Pacino and Leonardo DiCaprio, arguably the two greatest actors of their generations, and I’m editing it. I thought back to that meeting, and actually got kind of emotional.

So Bob’s assistants introduced me to people. That led to an internship, which led to a paying apprentice gig, which led to me getting into the union. I then spent nine years as an assistant editor before working my way up to editor.

When you were starting out, were there any particular filmmakers or editors who influenced the types of stories you wanted to tell?
Growing up, I was a big genre guy. I read Fangoria magazine and gravitated to horror, action and sci-fi. Those were the kinds of movies I made when I was in film school. So when I got out to LA, Bob Leighton got a pretty good sense as to what my tastes were, and he gave me the numbers of a couple of friends of his, Mark Goldblatt and Mark Helfrich, who are huge action/sci-fi editors. I spoke with them, and that was just a real thrill because I was so familiar with their work. Now we are all colleagues, and I pinch myself regularly.

 You have edited many action and VFX films. Has that presented particular challenges to your way of working as an editor?
The challenges, honestly, are more ones of time management because when you’re on a big visual effects movie, at a certain point in the schedule you’re spending two to four hours a day watching visual effects. Then you have to make adjustments to the edit to accommodate for how things look when the finished visual effects come in. It’s extremely time-consuming, and when you’re not only dealing with visual effects, but also making changes to the movie, you have to figure out a way to find time for all of this.

Every project has its own specific set of challenges. Yes, the big Marvel movies have a ton of visual effects, and you want to make sure that they look good. The upside is that Marvel has a lot of money, so when you want to experiment with a new visual effect or something, they’re usually able to support your ideas. You can come up with a concept while you’re sitting behind the Avid and actually get to see it become a reality. It’s very exciting.

Let’s talk about the world of Tarantino. A big part of his legacy was his longtime collaboration with editor Sally Menke, who tragically passed away. How were you then brought in? I’m assuming it has something to do with your assistant editor credit on Kill Bill?
Yes. I assisted Sally for seven years. There were a couple of movies that we worked on together, and then she brought me in for the Kill Bill movies. And that’s when I met Quentin. She taught me how an editing room is supposed to work. When she finished a scene, she would bring me and the other assistants into the room and get our thoughts. It was a welcoming, family-like environment, which I think Quentin really leaned into as well.

While he’s shooting, Quentin doesn’t come into the editing room. He comes in during post, but during production, he’s really focused on shooting the movie. On Kill Bill, I didn’t meet him until a few weeks after the shoot ended. He started coming in, and whenever he and Sally worked on a scene together, they would bring us in and get our thoughts. I learned pretty quickly that the more feedback you’re able to give, the more appreciated it will be. Quentin has said that at least part of the reason why he went with me on Django Unchained was because I was so open with my comments. Also, as the whole world knows, Quentin is a huge movie lover. We frequently would find ourselves talking about movies. He’d be walking through the hall, and we’d just strike up a conversation, and so I think he saw in me a kindred spirit. He really kept me in the family after Kill Bill.

I got my first big editing break right after Kill Bill ended. I cut a movie called Annapolis, which Justin Lin directed. I was no longer on Quentin’s crew, but we still crossed paths a lot. Over the years we’d just bump into each other at the New Beverly Cinema, the revival house that he now owns. We’d talk about whatever we’d seen lately. So he always kept me in mind. When he and Sally finished the rough cuts on Death Proof and Inglourious Basterds, he invited me to come to their small friends-and-family screenings, which was a tremendous honor.

On Django, you were working with a director who had the same collaborator in Sally Menke for such a long time. What was it like in those early days working on Django?
It was without question the most daunting experience that I have gone through in Hollywood. We’re talking about an incredibly talented editor, Sally, whose shoes I had to attempt to fill, and a filmmaker for whom I had the utmost respect.

Some of the western town stuff was shot at movie ranches just outside of LA, and we would do dailies screenings in a trailer there. I made sure that I sat near him with a list of screening notes. I really just took note of where he laughed. That was the most important thing. Whatever he laughed at, it meant that this was something that he liked. There was a PA on set when they went to New Orleans. I stayed in LA, but I asked her to write down where he laughs.

I’m a fan of his. When I went to see Reservoir Dogs, I remember walking out of the theater and thinking, “Well, that’s like the most exciting filmmaker that I’ve seen in quite some time.” Now I’m getting the chance to work with him. And I’ll say because of my fandom, I have a pretty good sense as to his style and his sense of humor. I think that that all helped me when I was in the process of putting the scenes together on Django. I was very confident in my work when I started showing him stuff on that movie.

Now, seven years later, you are on your third film with him. Have you found a different kind of rhythm working with him than you had on that first film?
I would say that a couple of little things have changed. I personally have gained some confidence in how I approach stuff with him. If there was something that I wasn’t sure was working, or that maybe I felt was extraneous, in Django, I might have had some hesitation about expressing it because I wouldn’t want to offend him. But now both of us are coming from the perspective of just wanting to make the best movie that we possibly can. I’m definitely more open than I might have been back then.

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood has an interesting blend of styles and genres. The thing that stands out is that it is a period piece. Beyond that, you have the movies and TV shows within the movie that give you additional styles. And there is a “horror movie” scene.
Right, the Spahn Ranch sequence.

 That was so creepy! I really had that feeling the whole time of, “They can’t possibly kill off Brad Pitt’s character this early, can they?
That’s the idea. That’s what you’re supposed to be feeling.

When you are working with all of those overlapping styles, do you have to approach the work a different way?
The style of the films within the film was influenced by the movies of the era to some degree. There wasn’t anything stylistically that had us trying to make the movie itself feel like a movie from 1969. For example, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, Rick Dalton, is playing the heavy on a western TV show called Lancer in the movie. Quentin referred to the Lancer stuff as, “Lancer is my third western, after Django and The Hateful Eight.” He didn’t direct that show as though it was a TV western from the late ’60s. He directed it like it was a Quentin Tarantino western from 2019. Quentin’s style is really all his own.

There are no rules when you’re working on a Quentin Tarantino movie because he knows everything that’s come before, and he is all about pushing the boundaries of what you can do — which is both tremendously exciting and a little scary, like is this going to work for everyone? The idea that we have a narrator who appears once in the first 10 minutes of the movie and then doesn’t appear again until the last 40 minutes, is that something that’s going to throw people off? His feeling is like, yeah, there are going to be some people out there who are going to feel that it’s weird, but they’re also going to understand it. That’s the most important thing. He’s a firm believer in doing whatever we need to do to tell the story as clearly and as concisely as possible. That voiceover narration serves that purpose. Weird or not.

You said before that he doesn’t come into the edit during production. What is your work process during production? Are you beginning the rough cut? And if so, are you sending him things, or are you really not collaborating with him on that process at all until post begins?
This movie was shot in LA, so for the first half of the shoot, we would do regular dailies screenings. I’d sit next to him and write down whatever he laughed at. That process that began on Django has continued. Then I’ll take those notes. Then I assemble the material as we’re shooting, but I don’t show him any of it. I’m not sending him cuts. He doesn’t want to see cuts. I don’t think he wants the distractions of needing to focus on editing.

On this movie, there were only two occasions when he did come into the editing room during production. The movie takes place over the course of three days, and at the end of the second day, the characters are watching Rick on the TV show The F.B.I., which was a real show and that episode was called “All the Streets Are Silent.” The character of Michael Murtaugh was played in the original episode by a young Burt Reynolds. They found a location that matched pretty perfectly and reshot only the shots that had Burt Reynolds in them. They reshot with Leonardo DiCaprio, as Rick Dalton, playing that character. He had to come into the editing room to see how it played and how it matched, and it matched remarkably well. I think that people watching the movie probably assume that Quentin shot the whole thing, or that we used some CG technology to get Leo into the shots. But no, they just figured out exactly the shots that they needed to shoot, and that was all the new material. The rest was from the original episode.

 The other time he came into the edit during production was the sequence in which Bruce Lee and Cliff have their fight. The whole dialogue scene that opens that sequence, it all plays out in one long take. So he was very excited to see how that shot played out. But one of the things that we had spoken about over the course of working together is when you do a long take, the most important thing is what that cut is going to be at the end of the long take. How can we make that cut the most impactful? In this case, the cut is to Cliff throwing Bruce Lee into the car. He wanted to watch the whole scene play out, and then see how that cut worked. When I showed it to him, I had my finger on the stop button so that after that cut, I would stop it so he wouldn’t see anything more and wouldn’t get tempted to get sucked into maybe giving notes. I reached to stop, but he was like, “No, no, no let it play out.” He watched the fight scene, and he was like, “That’s fantastic.” He was very happy.

Once you were in post, what were some of the particular challenges of this film?
One of the really important things is how integral sound was to the process of making this movie. First there were the movies and shows within the movie. When we’re watching the scenes from Bounty Law, the ‘50s Western that Rick starred in, it wasn’t just about the 4×3, black and white photography, but also how we treated the sound. Our sound editorial team and our sound mixing team did an amazing job of getting that stuff to sound like a 16-millimeter print. Like, they put just the right amount of warble into the dialogue, and it makes it feel very authentic. Also, all the Bounty Law stuff is mono, not this wide stereo thing that would not be appropriate for the material from that era.

And I mentioned the Spahn Ranch sequence, when for 20 minutes the movie turns into an all-out horror movie. One of Quentin’s rules for me when I’m putting my assembly together is that he generally does not want me cutting with music. He frequently has specific ideas in his head about what the music is going to be, and he doesn’t want to see something that’s not the way he imagined it. That’s going to take him out of it, and he won’t be able to enjoy the sequence.

When I was putting the Spahn Ranch sequence together, I knew that I had to make it suspenseful without having music to help me. So, I turned to our sound editors, Wylie Stateman and Leo Marcil, and said, “I want this to sound like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, like I want to have low tones and creaking wood and metal wronks. Let’s just feel the sense of dread through this sequence.” They really came through.

And what ended up happening is, I don’t know if Quentin’s intention originally was to play it without music, but ultimately all the music in the scene comes from what Dakota Fanning’s character, Squeaky, is watching on the TV. Everything else is just sound effects, which were then mixed into the movie so beautifully by Mike and Chris Minkler. There’s just a terrific sense of dread to that sequence, and I credit the sound effects as much as I do the photography.

This film was cut on Avid. Have you always cut on Avid? Do you ever cut on anything else?
When I was in film school, I cut on film. If fact, I took the very first Avid class that NYU offered. That was my junior year, which was long before there were such things as film options or anything. It was really just kind of the basics, a basic Avid Media Composer.

I’ve worked on Final Cut Pro a few times. That’s really the only other nonlinear digital editing system that I’ve used. I’ve never actually used Premiere.

At this point my whole sound effects and music library is Avid-based, and I’m just used to using the Avid. I have a keyboard where all of my keys are mapped, and I find, at this point, that it’s very intuitive for me. I like working with it.

This movie was shot on film, and we printed dailies from the negative. But the negative was also scanned in at 4K, and then those 4K scans were down-converted to DNx115, which is an HD resolution on the Avid. So we were editing in HD, and we could do screenings from that material when we needed to. But we would also do screenings on film.

Wow, so even with your rough cuts, you were turning them around to film cuts again?
Yeah. Once production ended, and Quentin came into the editing room, when we refined a scene to his liking, I would immediately turn that over to my Avid assistant, Chris Tonick. He would generate lists from that cut and would turn it over to our film assistants, Bill Fletcher and Andrew Blustain. They would conform the film print to match the edit that we had in the Avid so that we were capable of screening the movie on film whenever we wanted to. There was always going to be a one- or two-day lag time, depending on when we finished cutting on the Avid. But we were able to get it up there pretty quickly.

Sometimes if you have something like opticals or titles, you wouldn’t be able to generate those for film quickly enough. So if we wanted to screen something immediately, we would have to do it digitally. But as long as we had a couple of days, we would be able to put it up on film, and we did end up doing one of our test screenings on 35 millimeter, which was really great. It added one more layer of authenticity to the movie, getting to see it projected on film.

For a project of this scope, how many assistants do you work with, and how do you like to work with those assistants?
Our team consists of post production supervisor Tina Anderson, who really oversees everything. She runs the editing room. She figures out what we’re going to need. She’s got this long list of items that she goes down every day, and makes sure that we are prepared for whatever is going to come our way. She’s really remarkable.

My first assistant Chris Tonick is the Avid assistant. He cut a handful of scenes during production, and I would occasionally ask him to do some sound work. But primarily during production, he was getting the dailies prepped — getting them into the Avid for me and laying out my bins the way I like them.

In post, we added an Avid second named Brit DeLillo, who would help Chris when we needed to do turnovers for sound or visual effects, music, all of those people.

Then we had our film crew, Bill Fletcher and Andrew Blustain. They were syncing dailies during production, and then they were conforming the film print during post.

Last, but certainly not least, we had Alana Feldman, our post PA, who made sure we had everything we needed.

And honestly, for everybody on the crew, their most important role beyond the work that they were hired to do, was to be an audience member for us whenever we finished a scene. That tradition I experienced as an assistant working under Sally is the tradition that we’ve continued. Whenever we finish a sequence, we bring the whole crew up and show them the scene. We want people to react. We want to hear how they’re responding. We want to know what’s working and what isn’t working. Being good audience members is actually a key part of the job.

L-R: Quentin Tarantino, post supervisor Tina Anderson, first assistant editor (Film) Bill Fletcher, Fred Raskin, 2nd assistant editor (Film) Andrew Blustain, 2nd assistant editor (Avid) Brit DeLillo, post assistant Alana Feldman, producer Shannon McIntosh, 1st assistant editor (Avid) Chris Tonick, assistant to producer Ryan Jaeger and producer David Heyman

When you’re looking for somebody to join your team as an assistant, what are you looking for?
There are a few things. One obvious thing, right off the bat, is someone who is personable. Is this someone I’m going to want to have lunch with every day for months on end? Generally, especially working on a Quentin Tarantino movie, somebody with a good knowledge of film history who has a love of movies is going to be appreciated in that environment.

The other thing that I would say honestly  — and this might sound funny — is having the ability to see the future. And I don’t mean that I need psychic film assistants. I mean they need to be able to figure out what we’re going to need later on down the line and be prepared for it.

If I turn over a sequence, they should be looking at it and realizing, oh, there are some visual effects in here that we’re going to have to address, so we have to alert the visual effects companies about this stuff, or at least ask me if it’s something that I want.

If there were somebody who thought to themselves, “I want a career like Fred Raskin’s. I want to edit these kinds of cool films,” what advice would you give them as they’re starting out?
I have three standard pieces of advice that I give to everyone. My experience, I think, is fairly unique. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to get to work with some of my favorite filmmakers. The way my story unfolded … not everybody is going to have the opportunities I’ve had.

But my standard pieces of advice are, number one — and I mentioned this earlier — be personable. You’re working with people you’re going to share space with for many months on end. You want to be the kind of person with whom they’re going to want to spend time. You want to be able to get along with everyone around you. And you know, sometimes you’ve got some big personalities to deal with, so you have to be the type who can navigate that.

Then I would say, watch everything you possibly can. Quentin is obviously an extreme example, but most filmmakers got into this business because they love movies. And so the more you know about movies, and the more you’re able to talk about movies, the more those filmmakers are going to respect you and want to work with you. This kind of goes hand in hand with being personable.

The other piece of advice — and I know this sounds like a no-brainer — if you’re going for an interview with a filmmaker, make sure you’ve familiarized yourself with that person’s work. Be able to talk with them about their movies. They’re going to appreciate that you took the time to explore their work. Everybody wants to talk about the work they’ve done, so if you’re able to engage them on that level, I think it’s going to reflect well on you.

Absolutely. That’s great advice.


Amy Leland is a film director and editor. Her short film, “Echoes”, is now available on Amazon Video. She also has a feature documentary in post, a feature screenplay in development, and a new doc in pre-production. She is an editor for CBS Sports Network and recently edited the feature “Sundown.” You can follow Amy on social media on Twitter at @amy-leland and Instagram at @la_directora.

Building a massive editing storage setup on a budget

By Mike McCarthy

This year, I oversaw the editing process for a large international film production. This involved setting up a collaborative editing facility in the US, at Vasquez Saloon, with a large amount of high-speed storage for the source footage. While there was “only” 6.5TB of offline DNxHR files, they shot around 150TB of Red footage that we needed to have available for onsite VFX, conform, etc. Once we finished the edit, we were actually using 40TB of that footage in the cut, which we needed at another location for further remote collaboration. So I was in the market for some large storage solutions.

Our last few projects have been small enough to fit on eight-bay desktop eSAS arrays, which are quiet and relatively cheap. (Act of Valor was on a 24TB array of 3TB drives in 2010, while 6 Below was on 64TB arrays of 8TB drives.) Now that we have 12TB drives available, that allows those to go to 96TB, but we needed more capacity than that. With that much data on a single spindle, you lose more capacity to maintain redundancy, with RAID-6 dropping the raw space to 72TB.

Large numbers of smaller drives offer better performance and more efficient redundancy, as well as being cheaper per TB, at least for the drives. But once you get into large rack-mounted arrays, they are much louder and need to be located farther from the creative space, requiring different interconnects than direct attached SAS. My initial quotes were for a 24x 8TB solution, offering 192TB storage, before RAID-6 and such left us with 160 usable Terabytes of space for around $15K.

I was in the process of ordering one of those from ProAvio when they folded last Thanksgiving, resetting my acquisition process. I looked into building one myself, with a SAS storage chassis and bare drives, when I stumbled across refurbished servers on eBay. There are numerous companies selling used servers that include storage chassis, backplanes and RAID cards, for less than just this case costs new.

The added benefit is that these include a fully functioning Xeon-level computer system as well. At the very least, this allows you to share the storage over a 10GbE network, and in our case we were also able to use it as a rendernode and eventually a user workstation. That solution worked well enough that we will be using similar items for future artist stations, even without that type of storage requirement. I have setup two separate systems so far, for different needs, and learned a lot in the process. I thought I would share some of those details on here.

Why use refurbished systems for top end work? Most of the CPU advances in the last few years have come in the form of increased core counts and energy efficiency. This means that in lightly threaded applications, CPUs from a few years ago will perform nearly as well as brand-new ones. And previous generation DDR3 RAM is much cheaper than DDR4. PCIe 3.0 has been around for many generations, but older systems won’t have Thunderbolt3 and may not even have USB 3. USB 3 can be added with an expansion card, but Thunderbolt will require a current generation system. The other primary limitation is finding systems that have drivers for running Windows 10, since those systems are usually designed for Linux and Windows Server. Make sure you verify the motherboard will support Windows 10 before you make a selection. (Unfortunately, Windows 7 is finally dying, with no support from Microsoft or current application releases.)

Workstations and servers are closely related at the hardware level, but have a few design differences. They use the same chipsets and Xeon processors, but servers are designed for remote administration in racks while workstations are designed to be quieter towers with more graphics capability. But servers can be used for workstation tasks with a few modifications, and used servers can be acquired very cheaply. Also, servers frequently have the infrastructure for large drive arrays, while workstations are usually designed to connect to separate storage for larger datasets.

Recognizing these facts, I set out to build a large repository for my 150TB of Red footage on a system that could also run my Adobe applications and process the data. While 8TB drives are currently the optimal size for storing the most data for the lowest total price that will change over time. And 150TB of data required more than 16 drives, so I focused on 4U systems with 24 drive bays. With 192TB of RAW storage, minus two drives for RAID-6 (16TB) and 10% for Windows overhead leaves me with 160TB of storage space reported in Windows.

4U chassis also allow for full-height PCIe cards, which is important for modern GPUs. Finding support for full-height PCIe slots is probably the biggest challenge in selecting a chassis, as most server cards are low profile. A 1U chassis can fit a dual-slot GPU if it’s designed to accept one horizontally, but cooling may be an issue for workstation cards. A 2U chassis has the same issue, so you must have a 3U or 4U chassis to install full-height PCIe cards vertically, and the extra space will help with cooling and acoustics as well.

Dell and HP offer options as well, but I went with Supermicro since their design fit my needs the best. I got a 4U chassis with a 24-port pass through SAS back plane for maximum storage performance and a X9DRi-LNF4+ motherboard that was supposed to support Windows 7 and Windows 10. The pass-through backplane gave full speed access to 24 drives over six-quad channel SFF-8643 ports, but required a 24-port RAID card and more cables. The other option is a port multiplying backplane, which has a single or dual SFF-8643 connection to the RAID card. This allows for further expansion at the expense of potential complexity and latency. And 12G SAS is 1.5GB/s per lane, so in theory a single SFF-8643 cable can pass up to 6GB/s, which should be as much as most RAID controllers can handle anyway.

The system cost about $2K, plus $5K for the 24 drives, which is less than half of what I was looking at paying for a standalone external SAS array and it included a full computer with 20 CPU cores and 128GB RAM. I considered it a bit of a risk, as I had never done something at that scale and there was no warranty, but we decided that the cost savings was worth a try. It wasn’t without its challenges, but it is definitely a viable solution for a certain type of customer. (One with more skills than money.)

Putting it to Use
The machine ran loud, as was to be expected with 24 drives and five fans but it was installed in a machine room with our rack mount UPS and network switches, so the noise wasn’t a problem. I ran 30-foot USB and HDMI cables to the user station in the next room and frequently controlled it via VNC. I added an Nvidia Pascal Quadro card, a 10GbE card and a USB 3 card, as well as a SATA SSD for the OS in an optional 2.5-inch drive tray. Once I got the array set up and initialized, it benchmarked at over 3000MB/s transfer rate. This was far more than I needed for Red files, but I won’t turn down excess speed for future use with uncompressed 8K frames or 40GbE network connections.

Initially, I had trouble with Windows 10. I was getting bluescreen APCI bios errors on boot, but Windows 7 worked flawlessly. I used Win7 for a month, but I knew I would need to move to Win10 within the year and was looking at building more systems. So I knew I needed to confirm that Win10 could work successfully. I eventually determined that it was Windows Update — always been the bane of my existence when using Win10 — which was causing the problem. It was automatically updating one of the chipset drivers to a version that prevented the system from booting. The only solution was to prevent Win10 from accessing the Internet until after the current driver was successfully involved. The only way to disable Windows update during install is to totally disconnect the system from the network. Once I did that everything worked great, and I ordered another system.

The second time I didn’t need as much data, so I went with a 16-bay 3U chassis… which was a mistake. It ran hotter and louder with less case space, and it doesn’t fit GPUs with top-mounted power plugs or full-sized CPU coolers. So regardless of how many drive bays you need, I recommend buying a 24-bay 4U system for the space it gives you. (The SuperMicro 36 bay systems look the same from the front, but have less space available since the extra 12 bays in the rear constrain the motherboard similar to a 2U case.) The extra space also gives you more options for cards and cooling solutions.

I also tried an NVMe drive in a PCIe slot and while it works booting is not an option without modding the BIOS, which I was not about to experiment with. So I installed the OS on a SATA SSD again, and was able to adapt it to one of the 16 standard drive bays, as I only needed 8 of them for my 64TB array. This system had a pass through backplane with 16 single port SATA connectors, which is much messier than the SFF-8643 connectors. But it works, and it’s simpler to mix the drives between the RAID card and the motherboard, which is a plus.

When I received the unit, it was FAR louder than the previously ordered 4U one, for a number of reasons. It had 800W power supplies — instead of the 920W-SQ (Super-quiet) ones in my first one — and the smaller case had different airflow limitations. I needed this one to be quieter than the first system, as I was going to be running it next to my desk instead of in a machine room. So I set about redesigning the cooling system, which was the source of 90% of the noise. I got the power supplies replaced with 920SQ ones, although the 700W ones are supposed to be quiet as well, and much cheaper.

I replaced the 5x 80mm 5000RPM jet engine system fans with Noctua 1800RPM fans, which made the system quiet but didn’t provide enough air flow for the passively cooled CPUs. I then ordered two large CPU coolers with horizontally mounted 92mm fans to cool the Xeon chips, replacing the default passive heatsinks that us case airflow for cooling. I also installed a 40mmx20 fan on the RAID card that had been overheating even with the default jet engine sounding fans. Once I had those eight Noctua fans installed, the system was whisper quiet and could render at 100% CPU usage without throttling or overheating. So I was able to build a system with 16 cores and 128GB RAM for about $1500, not counting the 64TB storage, which doubles that price, and the GPU, which I already had. (Although a GTX1660 can be had for $300, and would be a good fit in that budget range.) The first one I built had 20 cores at 3GHz, and 128GB RAM for about $2,000, plus $5000 for the 192TB storage. I was originally looking at getting just the 192TB external arrays for twice that price, so by comparison this was half the cost with a high-end computer tossed in as a bonus.

Looking Ahead
The things I plan to do differently in the future include:
Always getting the 4U chassis for maximum flexibility,
making sure to get quiet power supplies ($50 to $150) and
budgeting to replace all the fans and CPU coolers if noise is going to be an issue ($200).

But at the end of the day, you should be able to get a powerful dual-socket system ready to support massive storage volume for around $2,000. This solution makes the most sense when you need large capacity storage, as well as the editing system. Otherwise some of what you are paying for is going to waste.


Mike McCarthy is an online editor/workflow consultant with over 10 years of experience on feature films and commercials. He has been involved in pioneering new solutions for tapeless workflows, DSLR filmmaking and multi-screen and surround video experiences. Check out his site.

Behind the Title: Element EP Kristen Kearns

NAME: Kristen Kearns

COMPANY: Boston’s Element Productions

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
Element has been in business for 20 years. We handle production and post production for video content on all platforms.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Executive Producer / COO

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
I oversee the office operations and company culture, and I work with clients on their production and post projects. I handle sales and bidding and work with our post and production talent to keep growing and expanding their creative goals.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
I wear a lot of hats. I think people are always surprised by how much I have to juggle. From hiring employees, approving bills, bidding projects and collaborating with directors on treatments.

WHAT TOOLS DO YOU USE?
We love Slack, Box and Google Apps. Collaboration is such a big part of what we do, and we could not function as seamlessly as we do without these awesome tools.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
The people. I love who I work with.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
When we work really hard on bidding a project and we don’t win. I understand this is a competitive business, but it is still really hard to lose after you put so much time and energy into a bid.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE DAY?
I love the mornings. I like the quiet before everyone comes in. I get into the office early and take that time to think through my day and my priorities. Or, sometimes I use the time to brainstorm and think through business challenges or business goals for the overall growth of the company.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
I am a bit obsessed with The Home Edit. If you don’t follow them on Instagram, you should. Their stories are hilarious. Anyway, I would want to work for them. Crazy lives all wrapped up in tidy cabinets.

Alzheimer’s Association

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
We recently launched a project for a local bank that featured a Yeti, a unicorn and a Sasquatch. Projects like this are what keep my job interesting and challenging. I had to do a bunch of research on costumes and prosthetics.

We also just wrapped on a short film for the Alzheimer’s Association. Giving back is a really important part of our company culture. We were so moved by the story of this couple and their struggles with this debilitating disease. I was really proud to be a part of this production.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
I am proud of a lot of the work that we do, but I would say most recently we worked on a multi-platform project with Dunkin’ that really stretched our producing skills. The idea was very innovative, with the goal being to power a home entirely on coffee grounds.

We connected all the dots of the projects, from finding a biofuel manufacturer to the builder in Nashville, and documented the entire process. The project manifested itself into a live event in New York City before traveling to the coast of Massachusetts to be listed as an Airbnb.

Dunkin

NAME PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
I recently went to Washington, DC, with my family, and the National Museum of American History had an exhibit “Within These Walls.” It highlighted the evolution of one home, and with it the changing technology. I remember being really taken aback by the laundry exhibit. I think we all take for granted the time and convenience it saves us. Can you imagine if we had to spend hours dunking and ringing out clothes? It has actually given us more freedom and convenience to pursue passions and interests. I could live without my phone or a television, but trap me with a bucket and a clothesline and I would lose my mind.

DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK?
I grew up in a dance studio, so I actually find that I work better with some sort of music in the background. The office has a Sonos system, so we all take turns playing music.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
Immersing myself in art and culture. Whether it is going to a museum to view artwork, seeing a band or heading to a movie to truly appreciate other people’s creativity. It is the best way for me to unwind as I enjoy the talent and art of others.

Harbor expands to LA and London, grows in NY

New York-based Harbor has expanded into Los Angeles and London and has added staff and locations in New York. Industry veteran Russ Robertson joins Harbor’s new Los Angeles operation as EVP of sales, features and episodic after a 20-year career with Deluxe and Panavision. Commercial director James Corless and operations director Thom Berryman will spearhead Harbor’s new UK presence following careers with Pinewood Studios, where they supported clients such as Disney, Netflix, Paramount, Sony, Marvel and Lucasfilm.

Harbor’s LA-based talent pool includes color grading from Yvan Lucas, Elodie Ichter, Katie Jordan and Billy Hobson. Some of the team’s projects include Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, The Irishman, The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, Maleficent, The Wolf of Wall Street, Snow White and the Huntsman and Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Paul O’Shea, formerly of MPC Los Angeles, heads the visual effects teams, tapping lead CG artist Yuichiro Yamashita for 3D out of Harbor’s Santa Monica facility and 2D creative director Q Choi out of Harbor’s New York office. The VFX artists have worked with brands such as Nike, McDonald’s, Coke, Adidas and Samsung.

Harbor’s Los Angeles studio supports five grading theaters for feature film, episodic and commercial productions, offering private connectivity to Harbor NY and Harbor UK, with realtime color-grading sessions, VFX reviews and options to conform and final-deliver in any location.

The new UK operation, based out of London and Windsor, will offer in-lab and near-set dailies services along with automated VFX pulls and delivery through Harbor’s Anchor system. The UK locations will draw from Harbor’s US talent pool.

Meanwhile, the New York operation has grown its talent roster and Soho footprint to six locations, with a recently expanded offering for creative advertising. Veteran artists on the commercial team include editors Bruce Ashley and Paul Kelly, VFX supervisor Andrew Granelli, colorist Adrian Seery, and sound mixers Mark Turrigiano and Steve Perski.

Harbor’s feature and episodic offering continues to expand, with NYC-based artists available in Los Angeles and London.

Digital Arts expands team, adds Nutmeg Creative talent

Digital Arts, an independently owned New York-based post house, has added several former Nutmeg Creative talent and production staff members to its roster — senior producer Lauren Boyle, sound designer/mixers Brian Beatrice and Frank Verderosa, colorist Gary Scarpulla, finishing editor/technical engineer Mark Spano and director of production Brian Donnelly.

“Growth of talent, technology, and services has always been part of the long-term strategy for Digital Arts, and we’re fortunate to welcome some extraordinary new talent to our staff,” says Digital Arts owner Axel Ericson. “Whether it’s long-form content for film and television, or working with today’s leading agencies and brands creating dynamic content, we have the talent and technology to make all of our clients’ work engaging, and our enhanced services bring their creative vision to fruition.”

Brian Donnelly, Lauren Boyle and Mark Spano.

As part of this expansion, Digital Arts will unveil additional infrastructure featuring an ADR stage/mix room. The current facility boasts several state-of-the-art audio suites, a 4K finishing theater/mixing dubstage, four color/finishing suites and expansive editorial and production space, which is spread over four floors.

The former Nutmeg team has hit the ground running working their long-time ad agency, network, animation and film studio clients. Gary Scarpulla worked on color for HBO’s Veep and Los Espookys, while Frank Verderosa has been working with agency Ogilvy on several Ikea campaigns. Beatrice mixed spots for Tom Ford’s cosmetics line.

In addition, Digital Arts’ in-house theater/mixing stage has proven to be a valuable resource for some of the most popular TV productions, including recording recent commentary sessions for the legendary HBO series, Game of Thrones and the final season of Veep.

Especially noteworthy is colorist Ericson’s and finishing editor Mark Spano’s collaboration with Oscar-winning directors Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim to bring to fruition the Netflix documentary The Great Hack.

Digital Arts also recently expanded its offerings to include production services. The company has already delivered projects for agencies Area 23, FCB Health and TCA.

“Digital Arts’ existing infrastructure was ideally suited to leverage itself into end-to-end production,” Donnelly says. “Now we can deliver from shoot to post.”

Tools employed across post are Avid Pro Tools, D Control ES, S3 for audio post and Avid Media Composer, Adobe Premiere and Blackmagic Resolve for editing. Color grading is via Resolve.

Main Image: (L-R) Frank Verderosa, Brian Beatrice and Gary Scarpulla

 

Cabin adds two editors, promotes another

LA-based editorial studio Cabin Editing Company has grown its editing staff with the addition of Greg Scruton and Debbie Berman. They have also promoted Scott Butzer to editor. The trio will work on commercials, music videos, branded content and other short-form projects.

Scruton, who joins Cabin from Arcade Edit, has worked on dozens of high-profile commercials and music videos throughout his career, including Pepsi’s 2019 Grammy’s spot Okurrr, starring Cardi B; Palms Casino Resort’s star-filled Unstatus Quo; and Kendrick Lamar’s iconic Humble music video, for which he earned an AICE Award. Scruton has worked with high-profile ad agencies and directors, including Anomaly; Wieden + Kennedy; 72andSunny; Goodby, Silverstein & Partners; Dave Meyers; and Nadia Lee Cohen. He uses Avid Media Composer and Adobe Premiere.

Feature film editor Berman joins Cabin on the heels of her successful run with Marvel Studios, having recently served as an editor on Spider-Man: Homecoming, Black Panther and Captain Marvel. Her work extends across mediums, with experience editing everything from PSAs and documentaries to animated features. Now expanding her commercial portfolio with Cabin, Berman is currently at work on a Toyota campaign through Saatchi & Saatchi. She will continue to work in features as well. She mostly uses Media Composer but can also work on Premiere.

Cabin’s Butzer was recently promoted to editor after joining the company in 2017 and honing his talent across many platforms, including commercials, music videos and documentaries. His strengths include narrative and automotive work. Recent credits include Every Day Is Your Day for Gatorade celebrating the 2019 Women’s World Cup, The Professor for Mercedes Benz and Vince Staples’ Fun! music video. Butzer has worked with ad agencies and directors, including TBWA\Chiat\Day; Wieden + Kennedy; Goodby, Silverstein & Partners; Team One; Marcus Sonderland; Ryan Booth; and Rachel McDonald. Butzer previously held editorial positions at Final Cut and Whitehouse Post. He studied film at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He also uses Media Composer and Premiere.

Blackmagic: Resolve 16.1 in public beta, updates Pocket Cinema Camera

Blackmagic Design has announced DaVinci Resolve 16.1, an updated version of its edit, color, visual effects and audio post software that features updates to the new cut page, further speeding up the editing process.

With Resolve 16, introduced at NAB 2019, now in final release, the Resolve 16.1 public beta is now available for download from the Blackmagic Design website. This new public beta will help Blackmagic continue to develop new ideas while collaborating with users to ensure those ideas are refined for real-world workflows.

The Resolve 16.1 public beta features changes to the bin that now make it possible to place media in various folders and isolate clips from being used when viewing them in the source tape, sync bin or sync window. Clips will appear in all folders below the current level, and as users navigate around the levels in the bin, the source tape will reconfigure in real time. There’s even a menu for directly selecting folders in a user’s project.

Also new in this public beta is the smart indicator. The new cut page in DaVinci Resolve 16 introduced multiple new smart features, which work by estimating where the editor wants to add an edit or transition and then applying it without the editor having to waste time placing exact in and out points. The software guesses what the editor wants to do and just does it — it adds the inset edit or transition to the edit closest to where the editor has placed the CTI.

But a problem can arise in complex edits, where it is hard to know what the software would do and which edit it would place the effect or clip into. That’s the reason for the beta version’s new smart indicator. The smart indicator provides a small marker in the timeline so users get constant feedback and always know where DaVinci Resolve 16.1 will place edits and transitions. The new smart indicator constantly live-updates as the editor moves around the timeline.

One of the most common items requested by users was a faster way to cut clips in the timeline, so now DaVinci Resolve 16.1 includes a “cut clip” icon in the user interface. Clicking on it will slice the clips in the timeline at the CTI point.

Multiple changes have also been made to the new DaVinci Resolve Editor Keyboard, including a new adaptive scroll feature on the search dial, which will automatically slow down a job when editors are hunting for an in point. The live trimming buttons have been renamed to the same labels as the functions in the edit page, and they have been changed to trim in, trim out, transition duration, slip in and slip out. The function keys along the top of the keyboard are now being used for various editing functions.

There are additional edit models on the function keys, allowing users to access more types of editing directly from dedicated keys on the keyboard. There’s also a new transition window that uses the F4 key, and pressing and rotating the search dial allows instant selection from all the transition types in DaVinci Resolve. Users who need quick picture picture-in in-picture effects can use F5 and apply them instantly.

Sometimes when editing projects with tight deadlines, there is little time to keep replaying the edit to see where it drags. DaVinci Resolve 16.1 features something called a Boring Detector that highlights the timeline where any shot is too long and might be boring for viewers. The Boring Detector can also show jump cuts, where shots are too short. This tool allows editors to reconsider their edits and make changes. The Boring Detector is helpful when using the source tape. In that case, editors can perform many edits without playing the timeline, so the Boring Detector serves as an alternative live source of feedback.

Another one of the most requested features of DaVinci Resolve 16.1 is the new sync bin. The sync bin is a digital assistant editor that constantly sorts through thousands of clips to find only what the editor needs and then displays them synced to the point in the timeline the editor is on. The sync bin will show the clips from all cameras on a shoot stacked by camera number. Also, the viewer transforms into a multi-viewer so users can see their options for clips that sync to the shot in the timeline. The sync bin uses date and timecode to find and sync clips, and by using metadata and locking cameras to time of day, users can save time in the edit.

According to Blackmagic, the sync bin changes how multi-camera editing can be completed. Editors can scroll off the end of the timeline and keep adding shots. When using the DaVinci Resolve Editor Keyboard, editors can hold the camera number and rotate the search dial to “live overwrite” the clip into the timeline, making editing faster.

The closeup edit feature has been enhanced in DaVinci Resolve 16.1. It now does face detection and analysis and will zoom the shot based on face positioning to ensure the person is nicely framed.

If pros are using shots from cameras without timecode, the new sync window lets them sort and sync clips from multiple cameras. The sync window supports sync by timecode and can also detect audio and sync clips by sound. These clips will display a sync icon in the media pool so editors can tell which clips are synced and ready for use. Manually syncing clips using the new sync window allows workflows such as multiple action cameras to use new features such as source overwrite editing and the new sync bin.

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera
Besides releasing the DaVinci Resolve 16.1 public beta, Blackmagic also updated the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera. Blackmagic not only upgraded the camera from 4K to 6K resolution, but it changed the mount to the much used Canon EF style. Previous iterations of the Pocket Cinema Camera used a Micro 4/3s mount, but many users chose to purchase a Micro 4/3s-to-Canon EF adapter, which easily runs over $500 new. Because of the mount change in the Pocket Cinema Camera 6K, users can avoid buying the adapter and — if they shoot with Canon EF — can use the same lenses.

Speed controls now available in Premiere Rush V.1.2

Adobe has added a new panel in Premiere Rush called Speed, which allows users to manipulate the speed of their footage while maintaining control over the audio pitch, range, ramp speed and duration of the edited clip. Adobe’s Premiere Rush teams say speed control has been the most requested feature by users.

Basic speed adjustments: A clip’s speed is displayed as a percentage value, with 100% being realtime. Values below 100% result in slow motion, and values above 100% create fast motion. To adjust the speed, users simply open the speed panel, select “Range Speed” and drag the slider. Or they can tap on the speed percentage next to the slider and enter a specific value.

Speed ranges: Speed ranges allow users to adjust the speed within a specific section of a clip. To create a range, users drag the blue handles on the clip in the timeline or in the speed panel under “Range.” The speed outside the range is 100%, while speed inside the range is adjustable.

Ramping: Rush’s adjustable speed ramps make it possible to progressively speed up or slow down into or out of a range. Ramping helps smooth out speed changes that might otherwise seem jarring.

Duration adjustments: For precise control, users can manually set a clip’s duration. After setting the duration, Rush will do the math and adjust the clip speed to the appropriate value — a feature that is especially useful for time lapses.

Maintain Pitch: Typically, speeding up footage will raise the audio’s pitch (think mouse voice), while slowing down footage will lower it (think deep robot voice). Maintain Pitch in the speed panel takes care of the problem by preserving the original pitch of the audio at any speed.

As with everything in Rush, speed adjustments will transfer seamlessly when opening a Rush project in Premiere Pro.

Bluefish444 adds edit-while-record, REST API to IngeSTore

Bluefish444, makers of uncompressed UltraHD SDI, ASI, video over IP and HDMI I/O cards, and mini converters, has released IngeSTore version 1.1.2. This free update of IngeSTore adds support for new codecs, edit-while-record workflows and a REST API.

Bluefish444 developed IngeSTore software as a complementary multi-channel ingest tool enabling Bluefish444 hardware to capture multiple independent format SDI sources simultaneously.

In IngeSTore 1.1.2, Bluefish444 has expanded codec support to include the popular formats OP1A MPEG-2 and DNxHD within the BlueCodecPack license. Edit-while-record workflows are supported through both industry standard growing files and through Bluefish444’s BlueRT plug-in for Adobe Premiere Pro and Avid Media Composer. BlueRT allows Adobe and Avid NLEs to access media files as they are still being recorded by IngeSTore multi-channel capture software, increasing production efficiency via immediate access to recorded media during live workflows.

Masv now integrates with Premiere for fast file delivery

Masv, which sends large video files via the cloud, is offering a new extension for Adobe Premiere. The extension simplifies the delivery of data-heavy video projects by embedding Masv’s accelerated cloud transfer technology directly within the NLE.

The new extension is available for free at www.massive.io/premiere or the Adobe Exchange.

The new Masv Panel for Premiere reliably renders, uploads and sends large (20GB and higher) files that are typically too big for conventional cloud transfer services. Masv sends files over a high-performance global network, exploiting users’ maximum Internet bandwidth.

“Today’s video professionals are increasingly independent and distributed globally. They need to deliver huge projects faster, often from home studios or remote locations, while collaborating with teams that can change from project to project,” says Dave Horne. “This new production paradigm has broken traditional transfer methods, namely the shipping of hard drives and use of expensive on-prem transfer tools.

“By bringing MASV directly inside Premiere Pro, now even the largest Premiere project can be delivered via Cloud, streamlining the export process and tightly integrating digital project delivery within editors’ workflows.”

Key Features:
• The new Masv extension installs in a dockable panel, integrating perfectly into Premiere Pro CC 2018 and higher (MacOS/Windows)
• Users can upload full projects, project sequences, files and folders from within Premiere Pro. The Masv Panel retries aggressively, sending files successfully even in poor networking conditions.
• Users can render projects to any Adobe Media Encoder export preset and then send. Favorite export formats can be stored for quick use on future uploads.
• When exporting to Media Encoder, users can choose to automatically upload and send after rendering. Alternatively, they can opt to review your export before uploading.
• Users can monitor export and transfer progress, plus upload performance stats, in realtime.• Users can distribute transfer notifications via email and Slack.
• Deliveries are secured by adding a password. Transfers are fully encrypted at rest and in flight and comply with GDPR standards.
• Users can set storage duration based on project requirements. Set a nearer delete date for maximum security or longer for convenience.
• Set download limits protect sensitive content and manage transfer costs.
• Users can send files from Premiere and then use the Masv Web Application to review delivery status, delivery costs and manage active deliveries easily.
• Users can send terabytes of data, at very fast speeds without having to manage storage or deal with file size limits.

Masv launched a new version of the service in February, followed by a chain of significant product updates.

Review: FXhome’s HitFilm Pro 12 for editing, compositing, VFX

By Brady Betzel

If you have ever worked in Adobe Premiere Pro, Apple FCP X or Avid Media Composer and wished you could just flip a tab and be inside After Effects, with access to 3D objects directly in your timeline, you are going to want to take a look at FXhome’s HitFilm Pro 12.

Similar to how Blackmagic brought Fusion inside of its most recent versions of DaVinci Resolve, HitFilm Pro offers a nonlinear editor, a composite/VFX suite and a finishing suite combined into one piece of software. Haven’t heard about HitFilm yet? Let me help fill in some blanks.

Editing and 3D model Import

Editing and 3D model Import

What is HitFilm Pro 12?
Technically, HitFilm Pro 12 is a non-subscription-based nonlinear editor, compositor and VFX suite that costs $299. Not only does that price include 12 months of updates and tech support, but one license can be used on up to three computers simultaneously. In my eyes, HitFilm Pro is a great tool set for independent filmmakers, social media content generators and any editor who goes beyond editing and dives into topics like 3D modeling, tracking, keying, etc. without having to necessarily fork over money for a bunch of expensive third-party plugins. That doesn’t mean you won’t want to buy third-party plugins, but you are less likely to need them with HitFilm’s expansive list of native features and tools.

At my day job, I use Premiere, After Effects, Media Composer and Resolve. I often come home and want to work in something that has everything inside, and that is where HitFilm Pro 12 lives. Not only does it have the professional functionality that I am used to, such as trimming, color scopes and more, but it also has BorisFX’s Mocha planar tracking plugin built in for no extra cost. This is something I use constantly and love.

One of the most interesting and recent updates to HitFilm Pro 12 is the ability to use After Effects plugins. Not all plugins will work since there are so many, but in a video released after NAB 2019, HitFilm said plugins like Andrew Kramer’s Video CoPilot Element3D and ones from Red Giant are on the horizon. If you are within your support window, or you continue to purchase HitFilm, FXhome will work with you to get your favorite After Effects plugins working directly inside of HitFilm.

Timeline and 3D model editor

Some additional updates to HitFilm Pro 12 include a completely redesigned user interface that resembles Premiere Pro… kind of. Threaded rendering has also been added, so Windows users who have Intel and Nvidia hardware will see increased GPU speeds, the ability to add title directly in the editor and more.

The Review
So how doees HitFilm Pro 12 compare to today’s modern software packages? That is an interesting question. I have become more and more of a Resolve convert over the past two years, so I am constantly comparing everything to that. In addition, being an Avid user for over 15 years, I am used to a rock-solid NLE with only a few hiccups here and there. In my opinion, HitFilm 12 lands itself right where Premiere and FCP X live.

It feels prosumer-y, in a YouTuber or content-generator capacity. Would it stand up to 10 hours of abuse with content over 45 minutes? It probably would, but much like with Premiere, I would probably split my edits in scenes or acts to avoid slowdowns, especially when importing things like OBJ files or composites.

The nonlinear editor portion feels like Premiere and FCP X had a baby, but left out FCP X’s Magnetic Timeline feature. The trimming in the timeline feels smooth, and after about 20 minutes of getting comfortable with it I felt like it was what I am generally used to. Cutting in footage feels good using three-point edits or simply dragging and dropping. Using effects feels very similar to the Adobe world, where you can stack them on top of clips and they each affect each other from the top down.

Mocha within HitFilm Pro

Where HitFilm Pro 12 shines is in the inclusion of typically third-party plugins directly in the timeline. From the ability to create a scene with 3D cameras and particle generators to being able to track using BorisFX’s Mocha, HitFilm Pro 12 has many features that will help take your project to the next level. With HitFilm 12 Pro’s true 3D cameras, you can take flat text and enhance it with raytraced lighting, shadows and even textures. You can even use the included BorisFX Continuum 3D Objects to make great titles relatively easily. To take it a step further, you can even track them and animate them.

Color Tools
By day, I am an online editor/colorist who deals with the finishing aspect of media creation. Throughout the process, from color correction to exporting files, I need tools that are not only efficient but accurate. When I started to dig into the color correction side of HitFilm Pro 12, things slowed down for me. The color correction tools are very close to what you’ll find in other NLEs, like Premiere and FCP X, but they don’t quite rise to the level of Resolve. HitFilm Pro 12 does operate inside of a 32-bit color pipeline, which really helps avoid banding and other errors when color correcting. However, I didn’t feel that the toolset was making me more efficient; in fact, it was the opposite. I felt like I had to learn FXhome’s way of doing it. It wasn’t that it totally slowed me down, but I felt it could be better.

Color

Color

Summing Up
In the end, HitFilm 12 Pro will fill a lot of holes for individual content creators. If you love learning new things (like I do), then HitFilm Pro 12 will be a good investment of your time. In fact, FXhome post tons of video tutorials on all sorts of good and topical stuff, like how to create a Stranger Things intro title.

If you are a little more inclined to work with a layer-based workflow, like in After Effects, then HitFilm Pro Pro 12 is the app you’ll want to learn. Check out HitFilm Pro 12 on FXhome’s website and definitely watch some of the company’s informative tutorials.


Brady Betzel is an Emmy-nominated online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.

Biff Butler joins Work as editor, creative partner

Work Editorial has added Biff Butler to its roster as editor and creative partner. Currently based in Los Angeles, Butler will be available to work in all of the company’s locations, which also include New York and London.

Originally from the UK, Butler moved to Los Angeles in 1999 to pursue a career as a musician, releasing albums and touring the country. Inspired by the title sequence for the movie Se7en cut by Angus Wall at Rock Paper Scissors (RPS), he found himself intrigued by the craft of editing. Following the breakup of his band in 2005 Butler got a job at RPS and, as he puts it, RPS was his film school. There he found his editorial voice and satiated another interest — advertising.

(Check out an interview we did with Butler recently while he was still at RPS.)

Within a couple years, he was cutting spots for Nike, Microsoft, Lexus and Adidas, and in 2008 he made a breakthrough with the Emmy Award-winning will.i.am video Yes We Can video by then-presidential candidate Barack Obama. By 2012 his clientele spanned across both coasts and after moving to New York, he went on to collaborate on some of the era-defining work coming out of the US at the time, with Wieden +Kennedy NY, Anomaly and BBDO amongst others. Perhaps, most notably, was his involvement in the Derek Cianfrance/Dicks Sporting Goods campaign that defined a style in sports commercials.

“I’ve always had an interest in advertising and the process,” says Butler. “I love watching a campaign roll out, seeing it permeate the culture. I still get such a kick out of coming out of the subway and seeing a huge poster from something I’ve been involved with.”

Butler has been recognized for his work, winning numerous AICE, the Clio and Cannes Lion awards as well as receiving an Emmy for the six-part documentary Long Live Benjamin, which he edited and co-directed with creative director Jimm Lasser.

Work founding partner Jane Dilworth says, “I have always been aware of Biff and the great work he does. He is an editor with great feeling and instinct that not only works for the director or creative but what is right for the job.”

Review: Western Digital’s Blue SN500 NVMe SSD

By Brady Betzel

Since we began the transfer of power from the old standard SATA 3.5-inch hard drives to SSD drives, multimedia-based computer users have seen a dramatic uptick in read and write speeds. The only issue has been price. You can still find a 3.5-inch brick drive, ranging in size from 2TB to 4TB, for under $200 (maybe closer to $100), but if you upgraded to an SSD drive over the past five years, you were looking at a huge jump in price. Hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. These days you are looking at just a couple of hundred for 1TB and even less for 256GB or 512GB SSD.

Western Digital hopes you’ll think of NVMe SSD drives as more of an automatic purchase than a luxury with the Western Digital Blue SN500 NVMe M.2 2280 line of SSD drives.

Before you get started, you will need a somewhat modern computer with an NVMe M.2-compatible motherboard (also referred to as a PCIe Gen 3 interface). This NVMe SSD is a “B+M key” configuration, so you will need to make sure you are compatible. Once you confirm that your motherboard is compatible, you can start shopping around. The Western Digital Blue series has always been the budget-friendly level of hard drives. Western Digital also offers the next level up: the Black series. In terms of NVMe SSD M.2 drives, the Western Digital Blue series drives will be budget-friendly, but they also use two fewer PCIe lanes, which results in a slower read/write speed. The Black series uses up to four PCIe lanes, as well as has a heat sink to dissipate the heat. But for this review, I am focusing on the Blue series and how it performs.

On paper the Western Digital Blue SN500 NVMe SSD is available in either 250GB or 500GB sizes, measures approximately 80mm long and uses the M.2 2280 form factor for the PCIe Gen 3 interface in up to two lanes. Technically, the 500GB drive can achieve up to 1,700MB/s read and 1450MB/s write speeds, and the 250GB can achieve up to 1700MB/s read and 1300MB/s write speeds.

As of this review, the 250GB version sells for $53.99, while the 500GB version sells for $75.99. You can find specs on the Western Digital website and learn more about the Black series as well.

One of the coolest things about these NVMe drives is that they come standard with a five-year limited warranty (or max endurance limit). The max endurance (aka TBW — terabytes written) for the 250GB SSD is 150TB, while the max endurance for the 500GB version is 300TB. Both versions have a MTTF (mean time to failure) of 1.75 million hours.

In addition, the drive uses an in-house controller and 3D NAND logic. Now those words might sound like nonsense, but the in-house controller is what tells the NVMe what to do and when to do it (it’s essentially a dedicated processor), while3D NAND is a way of cramming more memory into smaller spaces. Instead of hard drive manufacturers adding more memory on the same platform in an x- or y-axis, they achieve more storage space by stacking layers vertically on top — or on the z-axis.

Testing Read and Write Speeds
Keep in mind that I ran these tests on a Windows-based PC. Doing a straight file transfer, I was getting about 1GB/s. When using Crystal Disk Mark, I would get a burst of speed at the top, slow down a little and then mellow out. Using a 4GB sample, my speeds were:
“Seq Q32T” – Read: 1749.5 MB/s – Write: 1456.6 MB/s
“4KiB Q8T8” – Read: 1020.4 MB/s – Write: 1039.9 MB/s
“4KiB Q32T1” – Read: 732.5 MB/s – Write: 676.5 MB/s
“4KiB Q1T1” – Read: 35.77 MB/s – Write: 185.5 MB/s

If you would like to read exactly what these types of tests entail, check out the Crystal Disk Mark info page. In the AJA System Test I had a little drop off, but with a 4GB test file size, I got an initial read speed of 1457MB/s and a write speed of 1210MB/s, which seems to fall more in line with what Western Digital is touting. The second time I ran the AJA System Test, I got a read speed of 1458MB/s and write speed of 883MB/s. I wanted a third opinion, so I ran the Blackmagic Design Disk Speed Test (you’ll have to install drivers for a Blackmagic card, like the Ultrastudio 4K). On my first run, I got a read speed of 1359.6MB/s and write speed of 1305.8MB/s. On my second run, I got a read speed of 1340.5MB/s and write speed of 968.3MB/s. My read numbers were generally above 1300MB/s, and my write numbers varied between 800 and 1000MB/s. Not terrible for a sub-$100 hard drive.

Summing Up
In the end, the Western Digital Blue SN500 NVMe SSD is an amazing value at under $100, and hopefully we will get expanded sizes in the future. The drive is a B+M key configuration, so when you are looking at compatibility, make sure to check which key your PCIe card, external drive case or motherboard supports. It is typically M or B+M key, but I found a PCI card that supported both. If you need more space and speed than the WD Blue series can offer, check out Western Digital’s Black series of NVMe SSDs.

The sticker price starts to go up significantly when you hit the 1TB or 2TB marks — $279.99 and $529.99, respectively (with the heat sink attachment). If you stick to the 500GB version, you are looking at a more modest price tag.


Brady Betzel is an Emmy-nominated online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.

Quick Chat: Robert Ryang on editing Netflix’s Zion doc

Back in May, Cut+Run’s Robert Ryang took home a Sports Emmy in the Outstanding Editing category for the short film Zion. The documentary, which premiered at Sundance and was released on Netflix, tells the story of Zion Clark, a young man who was born without legs, grew up in foster care and found community and hope in wrestling.

Robert Ryang and his Emmy for his work on Zion.

Clark began wrestling in second grade against his able-bodied peers. The physical challenge became a therapeutic outlet and gave him a sense of family. Moving from foster home to foster home, wrestling became the one constant in his childhood.

Editor Ryang and Zion’s director, Floyd Russ, had worked together previously — on the Ad Council’s Fans of Love and SK-II’s Marriage Market Takeover, among other projects — and developed a creative shorthand that helped tell this compelling, feel-good story.

We spoke with Ryang about the film, his process and working with the director

How and when did you become involved in this project?
In the spring of 2017, my good friend director Floyd Russ asked me to edit his passion project. Initially, I was hesitant, since it was just after the birth of my second child. Two years later, both the film and my kid have turned out great.

You’ve worked him before. What defines the way you work together?
I think Floyd and I work really well together because we’re such good friends; we don’t have to be polite. He’ll text me ideas any time of day, and I feel comfortable enough to tell him if I don’t like something. He wins most of the fights, but I think this dialectic probably makes the work better.

How did you approach the edit on the film? How did you hone the story structure?
At first, Floyd had a basic outline that I followed just to get something on the timeline. But from there, it was a pretty intense process of shuffling and reshaping. At one point, we tried to map the beats onto a whiteboard, and it looked like a Richter scale. Editor Adam Bazadona helped cut some of these iterations while I was on paternity leave.

How does working on a short film like this differ — hats worn, people involved, etc. — from advertising projects?
The editing process was a lot different from most commercial projects in that it was only Floyd and me in the room. Friends floated a few thoughts here and there, but we were only working toward a director’s cut.

What tools did you use?
Avid Media Composer for editing, some Adobe After Effects for rough comps.

What are the biggest creative and technical challenges you faced in the process?
With docs, there are usually infinite ways to put it together, so we did a lot of exploration. Floyd definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone in prescribing the more abstract scenes, but I think those touches ultimately made the film stand out.

From Sundance, to Netflix, to Sports Emmy awards. Did you ever imagine it would take this journey?
There wasn’t much precedent for a studio or network acquiring a 10-minute short, so our biggest hope was that it would get into Sundance then live on Vimeo. It really exceeded everyone’s expectations. And I would have never imagined receiving an Emm, but am really honored I did.

Review: The Loupedeck+ editing console for stills and video

By Brady Betzel

As an online editor I am often tasked with wearing multiple job hats, including VFX artist, compositor, offline editor, audio editor and colorist, which requires me to use special color correction panel hardware. I really love photography and cinematography but have never been able to use the color correction hardware I’m used to in  Adobe’s Photoshop or Lightroom, so for the most part I’ve only done basic photo color correction.

You could call it a hobby, although this knowledge definitely helps many aspects of my job. I’ve known Photoshop for years and use it for things like building clean plates to use in apps like Boris FX Mocha Pro and After Effects, but I had never really mastered Lightroom. However, that changed when I saw the Loupedeck. I was really intrigued with its unique layout but soon dismissed it since it didn’t work on video… until now. I’m happy to say the new Loupedeck+ works with both photo and video apps.

Much like the Tangent Element and Wave or Blackmagic Micro and Mini panels, the Loupedeck+ is made to adjust parameters like contrast, exposure, saturation, highlights, shadows and individual colors. But, unlike Tangent or Blackmagic products, the Loupedeck+ functions not only in Adobe Premiere and Apple Final Cut Pro X but in image editing apps like Lightroom 6, Photoshop CC, and Skylum Aurora HDR; the audio editing app Adobe Audition and the VFX app Adobe After Effects. There’s also beta integration with Capture One.

It works via USB 2.0 connection on Windows 10 and Mac OS 10.12 or later. In order to use the panel and adjust its keys, you must also download the Loupedeck software, which you can find here. The Loupedeck+ costs just $249 dollars, which is significantly less than many of the other color correction panels on the market offering so many functions.

Digging In
In this review, I am going to focus on Loupedeck+’s functionality with Premiere, but keep in mind that half of what makes this panel interesting is that you can jump into Lightroom Classic or Photoshop and have the same, if not more, functionality. Once you install the Loupedeck software, you should restart your system. When I installed the software I had some weird issues until I restarted.

When inside of Premiere, you will need to tell the app that you are using this specific control panel by going to the Edit menu > Preferences > Control Surface > click “Add” and select Loupedeck 2. This is for a PC, but Mac OS works in a similar way. From there you are ready to use the Loupedeck+. If you have any customized keyboard shortcuts (like I do) I would suggest putting your keyboard shortcuts to default for the time being, since they might cause the Loupedeck+ to use different keypresses than you originally intended.

Once I got inside of Premiere, I immediately opened up the Lumetri color panels and began adjusting contrast, exposure and saturation, which are all clearly labeled on the Loupedeck+. Easy enough, but what if you want to use the Loupedeck+ as an editing panel as well as a basic color correction console? That’s when you will want to print out pages six through nine of the Premiere Pro Loupedeck+ manual, which you can find here. (If you like to read on a tablet you could pull that up there, but I like paper for some reason… sorry trees.) In these pages, you will see that there are four layers of controls built into the Loupedeck+.

Shortcuts
Not only can you advance frames using the arrow keypad, jump to different edit points with the jog dial, change LUTs, add keyframes and extend edits, you also have three more layers of shortcuts. To get to the second layer of shortcuts, press the “Fn” button located toward the lower left, and the Fn layer will appear. Here you can do things like adjust the shadows and midtones on the X and Y axes, access the Type Tool or add edits to all tracks. To go even further, you can access the “Custom” mode, which has defaults but can be customized to whichever keypress and functions the Loupedeck+ app allows.

Finally, while in the Custom mode, you can press the Fn button again and enter “Custom Fn” mode — the fourth and final layer of shortcuts. Man, that is a lot of customizable buttons. Do I need all those buttons? Probably not, but still, they are there —and it’s better to have too much than not enough, right?

Beyond the hundreds of shortcuts in the Loupedeck+ console you have eight color-specific scroll wheels for adjusting. In Lightroom Classic, these tools are self-explanatory as they adjust each color’s intensity.

In Premiere they work a little differently. To the left of the color scroll wheels are three buttons: hue, saturation and luminance (Hue, Sat and Lum, respectively). In the standard mode, they each equate to a different color wheel: Hue = highlights, Sat = midtones and Lum = shadows. The scroll wheel above red will adjust the up/down movement in the selected color wheel’s x-axis, orange will adjust the left/right movement in the selected color wheel’s y-axis, and yellow will adjust the intensity (or luminance) of the color wheel.

Controlling the Panel
In traditional color correction panels, color correction is controlled by roller balls surrounded by a literal wheel to control intensity. It’s another way to skin a cat. I personally love the feel of the Tangent Element Tk panel, which simply has three roller balls and rings to adjust the hue, but some people might like the ability to precisely control the color wheels in x- and y-axis.

To solve my issue, I used both. In the preferences, I enabled both Tangent and Loupedeck options. It worked perfectly (once I restarted)! I just couldn’t get past the lack of hue balls and rings in the Loupedeck, but I really love the rest of the knobs and buttons. So in a weird hodge-podge, you can combine a couple of panels to get a more “affordable” set of correction panels. I say affordable in quotes because, as of this review, the Tangent Element Tk panels are over $1,100 for one panel, while the entire set is over $3,000.

So if you already have the Tangent Element Tk panel, but want a more natural button and knob layout, the Loupedeck+ is a phenomenal addition as long as you are staying within the Adobe or FCP X world. And while I clearly like the Tangent Elements panels, I think the overall layout and design of the Loupedeck+ is more efficient and overall more modern.

Summing Up
In the end, I really like the Loupedeck+. I love being able to jump back and forth between photo and video apps seamlessly with one panel. What I think I love the most is the “Export” button in the upper right corner of the Loupedeck+. I wish that button existed on all panels.

When using the Loupedeck+, you can really get your creative juices flowing by hitting the “Full Screen” button and color correcting away, even using multiple adjustments at once to achieve your desired look — similar to how a lot of people use other color correction panels. And at $249, the Loupedeck+ might be the overall best value for the functionality of any editing/color correction panel currently out there.

Can I see using it when editing? I can, but I am such a diehard keyboard and Wacom tablet user that I have a hard time using a panel for editing functions like trimming and three-point edits. I did try the trimming functionality and it was great, not only on a higher-end Intel Xeon-based system but on an even older Windows laptop. The responsiveness was pretty impressive and I am a sucker for adjustments using dials, sliders and roller balls.

If you want to color correct using panels, I think the Loupedeck+ is going to fit the bill for you if you work in Adobe Creative Suite or FCP X. If you are a seasoned colorist, you will probably start to freak out at the lack of rollerballs to adjust hues of shadows, midtones and highlights. But if you are a power user who stays inside the Adobe Creative Cloud ecosystem, there really isn’t a better panel for you. Just print up the shortcut pages of the manual and tape them to the wall by your monitor for constant reference.

As with anything, you will only get faster with repetition. Not only did I test out color correcting footage for this review, I also used the Loupedeck+ in Adobe Lightroom Classic to correct my images!


Brady Betzel is an Emmy-nominated online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.

Behind the Title: Spot Welders’ editor Matt Osborne

After the time-consuming and sometimes stressful part of doing selects and putting together an assembly alone, I enjoy sitting in a room with the director and digging into the material.

NAME: Matt Osborne

COMPANY: Spot Welders

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
Spot Welders is a creative editorial company.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Offline Editor

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
I take all the footage that production shoots, make selects on the best shots and performances, and craft it into a cohesive narrative or visually engaging film. I then work with the director, agency and client to get the best out of the material and try to make sure everyone is happy with the final result.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
Probably the amount of footage that editors get these days. The average person might think we just cut out the bad bits or choose the best takes and string them together, but we might get up to 30 hours of footage or more for a single 60-second commercial with no storyboard. It’s our job to somehow make sense of it all.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
I love working with directors. After the time-consuming and sometimes quite stressful part of doing selects and putting together an assembly alone, I really enjoy sitting in a room with the director and digging into the material. I like making sure we have the best moments and are telling the story in the most interesting way possible.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Sitting for long hours. I really want to try out one of those standing desks! Also, trying to wrangle 100 different opinions into the edit without butchering it.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST PRODUCTIVE TIME OF THE DAY?
Probably the morning after sleeping on an edit. There’s something about coming in with fresh eyes and marveling at your wondrous edit from the previous night. Or, conversely, crying about the disaster you have in front of you that needs immediate fixing. Either way, I find this is the best time to get in the flow with new ideas and work very quickly at improving the edit.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
After high school, I spent about five years working at various ski resorts in Australia and Canada and snowboarding every day, so I guess I’d still be doing that.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS PROFESSION?
It sounds cheesy but in hindsight I was probably destined to be an editor. I was always drawn to puzzles and figuring out how things go together, and editing is a lot like a giant puzzle with no correct answers.

I made skate videos with two VHS decks as a teenager, and then I realized a few years later that you could do it on a computer and could get paid to basically do the same thing. That’s when I knew it was the job for me.

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
Audi, Nike, BMW and a couple of very cool passion projects, which will hopefully be released soon.

DO YOU PUT ON A DIFFERENT HAT WHEN CUTTING FOR A SPECIFIC GENRE?
Not really. It almost always comes down to storytelling. Whether that’s narrative or purely visual, you want to make the viewer feel something, so that’s always the goal. The methods to get there are usually pretty much the same.

Cayenne

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
Commercially, probably the Porsche film, Cayenne, with Rob Chiu at Iconoclast. It was a big project for the global release of a new car. They shot in amazing locations, and the footage was incredible, so I felt a lot of pressure on that one I’m really pleased with how it turned out.

Personally, the Medicine music video I did with Salomon Ligthelm and Khalid Mohtaseb was a humbling experience and something I’m very proud of. It’s actually more of a narrative short film than a music video and tells the fictionalized story of a real-life couple, in which the wife is blind.

It was a very sensitive story, shot beautifully and using non-actors. It might be the only time I’ve cried watching the rushes. I think we successfully managed to instill that raw emotion into the final edit.

Medicine

WHAT DO YOU USE TO EDIT?
I grew up on Final Cut Pro. I taught myself to edit back on Version 2 by reading the manual while working in a factory packing carrots. I was pretty upset when they ditched it but moved over to Avid Media Composer and haven’t looked back. I love it now. Well, maybe except for the effects tool.

ARE YOU OFTEN ASKED TO DO MORE THAN EDIT?
Yes, it’s sometimes expected these days that the offline will look and sound like the final product, so color grading, sound design, music editing, comping, etc.

Personally, if I have time, I’ll try and do some of these things on a basic level to get the edit approved, but it’s all going to be taken over by very talented professionals in their own craft who will do a much better job than I ever could. So I prefer to focus on the actual nuts and bolts — am I using the best shots? Am I telling this story in the most compelling, engaging and entertaining way possible? But sometimes you’ve got to throw a whoosh in to make people happy.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
iPhone, Garmin, MacBook. Although I spent a couple weeks on beaches last year and learned we don’t really need any of it, well, at least while you’re on the beach, and not working!

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
I’ve gotten completely addicted to running the past couple of years. I find there’s nothing better than a run at 5am to clear the mind.

Editing Roundtable

By Randi Altman

The world of the editor has changed over the years as a result of new technology, the types of projects they are being asked to cut (looking at you social media) and the various deliverables they must create. Are deadlines still getting tighter and are budgets still getting smaller? The answer is yes, but some editors are adapting to the trends, and companies that make products for editors are helping by making the tools more flexible and efficient so pros can get to where they need to be.

We posed questions to various editors working in TV, short form and indies, who do a variety of jobs, as well as to those making the tools they use on a daily basis. Enjoy.

Cut+Run Editor/Partner Pete Koob

What trends do you see in commercial editing? Good or bad?
I remember 10 years ago a “colleague,” who was an interactive producer at the time, told me rather haughtily that I’d be out of work in a few years when all advertising became interactive and lived online. Nothing could have been further from the truth, of course, and I think editors everywhere have found that the viewer migration from TV to online has yielded an even greater need for content.

The 30-second spot still exists, both online and on TV, but the opportunities for brands to tell more in-depth stories across a wide range of media platforms mean that there’s a much more diverse breadth of work for editors, both in terms of format and style.

For better or worse, we’ve also seen every human being with a phone become their own personal brand manager with a highly cultivated and highly saturated digital presence. I think this development has had a big impact on the types of stories we’re telling in advertising and how we’re telling them. The genre of “docu-style” editing is evolving in a very exciting way as more and more companies are looking to find real people whose personal journeys embody their brands. Some of the most impressive editorial work I see these days is a fusion of styles — music video, fashion, documentary — all being brought to bear on telling these real stories, but doing it in a way that elevates them above the noise of the daily social media feed.

Selecting the subjects in a way that feels authentic — and not just like a brand co-opting someone’s personal struggle — is essential, but when done well, there are some incredibly inspirational and emotional stories to be told. And as a father of a young girl, it’s been great to show my daughter all the empowering stories of women being told right now, especially when they’re done with such a fresh and exciting visual language.

What is it about commercial editing that attracted you and keeps attracting you?
Probably the thing that keeps me most engaged with commercial editing is the variety and volume of projects throughout the year. Cutting commercials means you’re on to the next one before you’ve really finished the last.

The work feels fresh when I’m constantly collaborating with different people every few weeks on a diverse range of projects. Even if I’m cutting with the same directors, agencies or clients, the cast of characters always rotates to some degree, and that keeps me on my toes. Every project has its own unique challenges, and that compels me to constantly find new ways to tell stories. It’s hard for me to get bored with my work when the work is always changing.

Conoco’s Picnic spot

Can you talk about challenges specific to short-form editing?
I think the most obvious challenge for the commercial editor is time. Being able to tell a story efficiently and poignantly in a 60-, 30-, 15- or even six-second window reveals the spot editor’s unique talent. Sometimes that time limit can be a blessing, but more often than not, the idea on the page warrants a bigger canvas than the few seconds allotted.

It’s always satisfying to feel as if I’ve found an elegant editorial solution to telling the story in a concise manner, even if that means re-imagining the concept slightly. It’s a true testament to the power of editing and one that is specific to editing commercials.

How have social media campaigns changed the way you edit, if at all?
Social media hasn’t changed the way I edit, but it has certainly changed my involvement in the campaign as a whole. At its worst, the social media component is an afterthought, where editors are asked to just slap together a quick six-second cutdown or reformat a spot to fit into a square framing for Instagram. At its best, the editor is brought into the brainstorming process and has a hand in determining how the footage can be used inventively to disperse the creative into different media slots. One of the biggest assets of an editor on any project is his or her knowledge of the material, and being able to leverage that knowledge to shape the campaign across all platforms is incredibly rewarding.

Phillips 76 “Jean and Gene”

What system do you edit on, and what else other than editing are you asked to supply?
We edit primarily on Avid Media Composer. I still believe that nothing else can compete when it comes to project sharing, and as a company it allows for the smoothest means of collaboration between offices around the world. That being said, clients continue to expect more and more polish from the offline process, and we are always pushing our capabilities in motion graphics and visual effects in After Effects and color finessing in Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve.

What projects have you worked on recently?
I’ve been working on some bigger campaigns that consist of a larger number of spots. Two campaigns that come to mind are a seven-spot TV campaign for Phillips 76 gas stations and 13 short online films for Subaru. It’s fun to step back and look at how they all fit together, and sometimes you make different decisions about an individual spot based on how it sits in the larger group.

The “Jean and Gene” spots for 76 were particularly fun because it’s the same two characters who you follow across several stories, and it almost feels like a mini TV series exploring their life.

Earlier in the  year I worked on a Conoco campaign, featuring the spots Picnic, First Contact and River, via Carmichael Lynch.

Red Digital Cinema Post and Workflow Specialist Dan Duran

How do you see the line between production and post blurring?
Both post and on set production are evolving with each other. There has always been a fine line between them, but as tech grows and becomes more affordable, you’re seeing tools that previously would have been used only in post bleed onto set.

One of my favorite trends is seeing color-managed workflows on locations. With full color control pipelines being used with calibrated SDR and HDR monitors, a more accurate representation of what the final image will look like is given. I’ve also seen growth in virtual productions where you’re able to see realtime CGI and environments on set directly through camera while shooting.

What are the biggest trends you’ve been facing in product development?
Everyone is always looking for the highest image quality at the best price point. As sensor technology advances, we’re seeing users ask for more and more out of the camera. Higher sensitivity, faster frame rates, more dynamic range and a digital RAW that allows them to effortlessly shape the images into a very specific creative look that they’re trying to achieve for their show. 8K provides a huge canvas to work with, offering flexibility in what they are trying to capture.

Smaller cameras are able to easily adapt into a whole new myriad of support accessories to achieve shots in ways that weren’t always possible. Along with the camera/sensor revolution, Red has seen a lot of new cinema lenses emerge, each adding their own character to the image as it hits the photo sites.

What trends do you see from editors these days. What enables their success?
I’ve seen post production really take advantage of modern tech to help improve and innovate new workflows. Being able to view higher resolution, process footage faster and playback off of a laptop shows how far hardware has come.

We have been working more with partners to help give pros the post tools they need to be more efficient. As an example, Red recently teamed up with Nvidia to not only get realtime full resolution 8K playback on laptops, but also allow for accelerated renders and transcode times much faster than before. Companies collaborating to take advantage of new tech will enable creative success.

AlphaDogs Owner/Editor Terence Curren

What trends do you see in editing? Good or bad.
There is a lot of content being created across a wide range of outlets and formats, from theatrical blockbusters and high-end TV shows all the way down to one-minute videos for Instagram. That’s positive for people desiring to use their editing skills to do a lot of storytelling. The flip side is that with so much content being created, the dollars to pay editors gets stretched much thinner. Barring high-end content creation, the overall pay rates for editors have been going down.

The cost of content capture is a tiny fraction of what it was back in the film days. The good part of that is there is a greater likelihood that the shot you need was actually captured. The downside is that without the extreme expense of shooting associated with film, we’ve lost the disciplines of rehearsing scenes thoroughly, only shooting while the scene is being performed, only printing circled takes, etc. That, combined with reduced post schedules, means for the most part editors just don’t have the time to screen all the footage captured.

The commoditization of the toolsets, (some editing systems are actually free) combined with the plethora of training materials readily available on the Internet and in most schools means that video storytelling is now a skill available to everyone. This means that the next great editors won’t be faced with the barriers to entry that past generations experienced, but it also means that there’s a much larger field of editors to choose from. The rules of supply and demand tell us that increased availability and competition of a service reduces its cost. Traditionally, many editors have been able to make upper-middle-class livings in our industry, and I don’t see as much of that going forward.

To sum it up, it’s a great time to become an editor, as there’s plenty of work and therefore lots of opportunity. But along with that, the days of making a higher-end living as an editor are waning.

What is it about editing that attracted you and keeps attracting you?
I am a storyteller at heart. The position of editor is, in my opinion, matched with the director and writer for responsibility of the structural part of telling the story. The writer has to invent the actual story out of whole cloth. The director has to play traffic cop with a cornucopia of moving pieces under a very tight schedule while trying to maintain the vision of the pieces of the story necessary to deliver the final product. The editor takes all those pieces and gives the final rewrite of the story for the audience to hopefully enjoy.

Night Walk

As with writing, there are plenty of rules to guide an editor through the process. Those rules, combined with experience, make the basic job almost mechanical much of the time. But there is a magic thing that happens when the muse strikes and I am inspired to piece shots together in some way that just perfectly speaks to the audience. Being such an important part of the storytelling process is uniquely rewarding for a storyteller like me.

Can you talk about challenges specific to short-form editing versus long-form?
Long-form editing is a test of your ability to maintain a fresh perspective of your story to keep the pacing correct. If you’ve been editing a project for weeks or months at a time, you know the story and all the pieces inside out. That can make it difficult to realize you might be giving too much information or not enough to the audience. Probably the most important skill for long form is the ability to watch a cut you’ve been working on for a long time and see it as a first-time viewer. I don’t know how others handle it, but for me there is a mental process that just blanks out the past when I want to take a critical fresh viewing.

Short form brings the challenge of being ruthless. You need to eliminate every frame of unnecessary material without sacrificing the message. While the editors don’t need to keep their focus for weeks or months, they have the challenge of getting as much information into that short time as possible without overwhelming the audience. It’s a lot like sprinting versus running a marathon. It exercises a different creative muscle that also enjoys an immediate reward.

Lafayette Escadrille

I can’t say I prefer either one over the other, but I would be bored if I didn’t get to do both over time, as they bring different disciplines and rewards.

How have social media campaigns changed the way you edit, if at all? Can you talk about the variety of deliverables and how that affects things?
Well, there is the horrible vertical framing trend, but that appears to be waning, thankfully. Seriously, though, the Instagram “one minute” limit forces us all to become commercial editors. Trying to tell the story in as short a timeframe as possible, knowing it will probably be viewed on a phone in a bright and noisy environment is a new challenge for seasoned editors.

There is a big difference between having a captive audience in a theater or at home in front of the TV and having a scattered audience whose attention you are trying to hold exclusively amid all the distractions. This seems to require more overt attention-grabbing tricks, and it’s unfortunate that storytelling has come to this point.

As for deliverables, they are constantly evolving, which means each project can bring all new requirements. We really have to work backward from the deliverables now. In other words, one of our first questions now is, “Where is this going?” That way we can plan the appropriate workflows from the start.

What system do you edit on and what else other than editing are you asked to supply?
I primarily edit on Media Composer, as it’s the industry standard in my world. As an editor, I can learn any tool to use. I have cut with Premiere and FCP. It’s knowing where to make the edit that is far more important than how to make the edit.

When I started editing in the film days, we just cut picture and dialogue. There were other editors for sound beyond the basic location-recorded sound. There were labs from which you ordered something as simple as a dissolve or a fade to black. There were color timers at the film lab who handled the look of the film. There were negative cutters that conformed the final master. There were VFX houses that handled anything that wasn’t actually shot.

Now, every editor has all the tools at hand to do all those tasks themselves. While this is helpful in keeping costs down and not slowing the process, it requires editors to be a jack-of-all-trades. However, what typically follows that term is “and master of none.”

Night Walk

One of the main advantages of separate people handling different parts of the process is that they could become really good at their particular art. Experience is the best teacher, and you learn more doing the same thing every day than occasionally doing it. I’ve met a few editors over the years that truly are masters in multiple skills, but they are few and far between.

Using myself as an example, if the client wants some creatively designed show open, I am not the best person for that. Can I create something? Yes. Can I use After Effects? Yes, to a minor degree. Am I the best person for that job? No. It is not what I have trained myself to do over my career. There is a different skill set involved in deciding where to make a cut versus how to create a heavily layered, graphically designed show open. If that is what I had dedicated my career to doing, then I would probably be really good at it, but I wouldn’t be as good at knowing where to make the edit.

What projects have gone through the studio recently?
We work on a lot of projects at AlphaDogs. The bulk of our work is on modest-budget features, documentaries and unscripted TV shows. A recent example is a documentary on World War I fighter pilots called The Lafayette Escadrille and an action-thriller starring Eric Roberts and Mickey Rourke, called Night Walk.

Unfortunately for me I have become so focused on running the company that I haven’t been personally working on the creative side as much as I would like. While keeping a post house running in the current business climate is its own challenge, I don’t particularly find it as rewarding as “being in the chair.”

That feeling is offset by looking back at all the careers I have helped launch through our internship program and by offering entry-level employment. I’ve also tried hard to help editors over the years through venues like online user groups and, of course, our own Editors’ Lounge events and videos. So I guess that even running a post house can be rewarding in its own way.

Luma Touch Co-Founder/Lead Designer Terri Morgan

Have there been any talks among NLE providers about an open timeline? Being able to go between Avid, Resolve or Adobe with one file like an AAF or XML?
Because every edit system uses its own editing paradigms (think Premiere versus FCP X), creating an open exchange is challenging. However, there is an interesting effort by Pixar (https://github.com/PixarAnimationStudios/OpenTimelineIO) that includes adapters for the wide range of structural differences of some editors. There are also efforts for standards in effects and color correction. The core editing functionality in LumaFusion is built to allow easy conversion in and out to different formats, so adapting to new standards will not be challenging in most cases.

With AI becoming a popular idea and term, at what point does it stop? Is there a line where AI won’t go?
Looking at AI strictly as it relates to video editing, we can see that its power is incrementally increasing, and automatically generated movies are getting better. But while a neural network might be able to put together a coherent story, and even mimic a series of edits to match a professional style, it will still be cookie-cutter in nature, rather than being an artistic individual endeavor.

What we understand from our customers — and from our own experience — is that people get profound joy from being the storyteller or the moviemaker. And we understand that automatic editing does not provide the creative/ownership satisfaction that you get from crafting your own movie. You only have to make one automatic movie to learn this fact.

It is also clear that movie viewers feel a lack of connection or even annoyance when watching an automatically generated movie. You get the same feeling when you pay for parking at an automated machine, and the machine says, “Thank you, have a nice day.”

Here is a question from one of our readers: There are many advancements in technology coming in NLEs. Are those updates coming too fast and at an undesirable cost?
It is a constant challenge to maintain quality while improving a product. We use software practices like Agile, engage in usability tests and employ testing as robust as possible to minimize the effects of any changes in LumaFusion.

In the case of LumaFusion, we are consistently adding new features that support more powerful mobile video editing and features that support the growing and changing world around us. In fact, if we stopped developing so rapidly, the app would simply stop working with the latest operating system or wouldn’t be able to deliver solutions for the latest trends and workflows.

To put it all in perspective, I like to remind myself of the amount of effort it took to edit video 20 years ago compared to how much more efficient and fun it is to edit a video now. It gives me reason to forgive the constant changes in technology and software, and reason to embrace new workflows and methodologies.

Will we ever be at a point where an offline/online workflow will be completely gone?
Years ago, the difference in image quality provided a clear separation between offline and online. But today, online is differentiated by the ability to edit with dozens of tracks, specialized workflows, specific codecs, high-end effects and color. Even more importantly, online editing typically uses the specialized skills that a professional editor brings to a project.

Since you can now edit a complex timeline with six tracks of 4K video with audio and another six tracks of audio, basic color correction and multilayered titles straight from an iPad, for many projects you might find it unnecessary to move to an online situation. But there will always be times that you need more advanced features or the skills of a professional editor. Since not everybody wants to understand the complex world of post production, it is our challenge at Luma Touch to make more of these high-end features available without greatly limiting who can successfully use the product.

What are the trends you’re seeing in customer base from high-end post facility vs. independent editor/contractor?
High-end post facilities tend to have stationary workstations that employ skilled editor/operators. The professionals that find LumaFusion to be a valuable tool in their bag are often those who are responsible for the entire production and post production, including independent producers, journalists and high-end professionals who want the flexibility of starting to edit while on location or while traveling.

What are the biggest trends you’ve been seeing in product development?
In general, moving away from lengthy periods of development without user feedback. Moving toward getting feedback from users early and often is an Agile-based practice that really makes a difference in product development and greatly increases the joy that our team gets from developing LumaFusion. There’s nothing more satisfying than talking to real users and responding to their needs.

New development tools, languages and technologies are always welcome. At WWDC this year, Apple announced it would make it easier for third-party developers to port their iOS apps over to the desktop with Project Catalyst. This will likely be a viable option for LumaFusion.

You come from a high-end editing background, with deep experience editing at the workstation level. When you decided to branch off and do something on your own, why did you choose mobile?
Mobile offered a solution to some of the longest running wishes in professional video editing: to be liberated from the confines of an edit suite, to be able to start editing on location, to have a closer relationship to the production of the story in order to avoid the “fix it in post” mentality, and to take your editing suite with you anywhere.

It was only after starting to develop for mobile that we fully understood one of the most appealing benefits. Editing on an iPad or iPhone encourages experimentation, not only because you have your system with you when you have a good idea, but also because you experience a more direct relationship to your media when using the touch interface; it feels more natural and immersive. And experimentation equals creativity. From my own experience I know that the more you edit, the better you get at it. These are benefits that everyone can enjoy whether they are a professional or a novice.

Hecho Studios Editor Grant Lewis

What trends do you see in commercial editing? Good or bad.
Commercials are trending away from traditional, large-budget cinematic pieces to smaller, faster, budget-conscious ones. You’re starting to see it now more and more as big brands shy away from big commercial spectacles and pivot toward a more direct reflection of the culture itself.

Last year’s #CODNation work for the latest installment of the Call of Duty franchise exemplifies this by forgoing a traditional live-action cinematic trailer in favor of larger number of game-capture, meme-like films. This pivot away from more dialogue-driven narrative structures is changing what we think of as a commercial. For better or worse, I see commercial editing leaning more into the fast-paced, campy nature of meme culture.

What is it about commercial editing that attracted you and keeps attracting you?
What excites me most about commercial editing is that it runs the gamut of the editorial genre. Sometimes commercials are a music video; sometimes they are dramatic anthems; other times they are simple comedy sketches. Commercials have the flexibility to exist as a multitude of narrative genres, and that’s what keeps me attracted to commercial editing.

Can you talk about challenges specific to short form versus long form?
The most challenging thing about short-form editing is finding time for breath. In a 30-second piece, where do you find a moment of pause? There’s always so much information being packed into smaller timeframes; the real challenge is editing at a sprint, but still having it feel dynamic and articulate.

How have social media campaigns changed the way you edit, if at all? Can you talk about the variety of deliverables and how that affects things?
All campaigns will either live on social media or have specific social components now. I think the biggest thing that has changed is being tasked with telling a compelling narrative in 10 or even five or six seconds. Now, the 60-second and 90-second anthem film has to be able to work in six seconds as well. It is challenging to boil concepts down to just a few seconds and still maintain a sense of story.

#CODNation

All the deliverable aspect ratios editors are asked to make now is also a blossoming challenge. Unless a campaign is strictly shot for social, the DP probably shot for a traditional 16×9 framing. That means the editor is tasked with reframing all social content to work in all the different deliverable formats. This makes the editor act almost as the DP for social in the post process. Shorter deliverables and a multitude of aspect ratios have just become another layer to editing and demand a whole new editorial lens to view and process the project through.

What system do you edit on and what else other than editing are you asked to supply?
I currently cut in Adobe Premiere Pro. I’m often asked to supply graphics and motion graphic elements for offline cuts as well. That means being comfortable with the whole Adobe suite of tools, including Photoshop and After Effects. From type setting to motion tracking, editors are now asked to be well-versed in all tangential aspects of editorial.

What projects have you worked on recently?
I cut the launch film for Razer’s new Respawn energy drink. I also cut Toms Shoes’ most recent campaign, “Stand For Tomorrow.”

EditShare Head of Marketing Lee Griffin

What are the biggest trends you’ve been seeing in product development?
We see the need to produce more video content — and produce it faster than ever before — for social media channels. This means producing video in non-broadcast standards/formats and, more specifically, producing square video. To accommodate, editing tools need to offer user-defined options for manipulating size and aspect ratio.

What changes have you seen in terms of the way editors work and use your tools?
There are two distinct changes: One, productions are working with editors regardless of their location. Two, there is a wider level of participation in the content creation process.

In the past, the editor was physically located at the facility and was responsible for assembling, editing and finishing projects. However, with the growing demand for content production, directors and producers need options to tap into a much larger pool of talent, regardless of their location.

EditShare AirFlow and Flow Story enable editors to work remotely from any location. So today, we frequently see editors who use our Flow editorial tools working in different states and even on different continents.

With AI becoming a popular idea and term, at what point does it stop?
I think AI is quite exciting for the industry, and we do see its potential to significantly advance productions. However, AI is still in its infancy with regards to the content creation market. So from our point of view, the road to AI and its limits are yet to be defined. But we do have our own roadmap strategy for AI and will showcase some offerings integrated within our collaborative solutions at IBC 2019.

Will we ever be at a point where an offline/online workflow will be completely gone?
It depends on the production. Offline/online workflows are here to stay in the higher-end production environment. However, for fast turnaround productions, such as news, sports and programs (for example, soap operas and reality TV), there is no need for offline/online workflows.

What are the trends you’re seeing in customer base from high-end post facility vs, independent editor. How is that informing your decisions on products and pricing?
With the increase in the number of productions thanks to OTTs, high-end post facilities are tapping into independent editors more and more to manage the workload. Often the independent editor is remote, requiring the facility to have a media management foundation that can facilitate collaboration beyond the facility walls.

So we are seeing a fundamental shift in how facilities are structuring their media operations to support remote collaborations. The ability to expand and contract — with the same level of security they have within the facility — is paramount in architecting their “next-generation” infrastructure.

What do you see as untapped potential customer bases that didn’t exist 10 to 20 years ago, and how do you plan on attracting and nurturing them? What new markets are you seeing.
We are seeing major growth beyond the borders of the media and entertainment industry in many markets. From banks to real estate agencies to insurance companies, video has become one of the main ways for them to communicate to their media-savvy clientele.

While EditShare solutions were initially designed to support traditional broadcast deliverables, we have evolved them to accommodate these new customers. And today, these customers want simplicity coupled with speed. Our development methodology puts this at the forefront of our core products.

Puget Systems Senior Labs Technician Matt Bach

Have there been any talks between NLE providers about an open timeline. Essentially being able to go between Avid, Resolve, or Adobe with one file like an AAF or XML?
I have not heard anything on this topic from any developers, so keep in mind that this is pure conjecture, but the pessimistic side of me doesn’t see an “open timeline” being something that will happen anytime soon.

If you look at what many of the NLE developers are doing, they are moving more and more toward a pipeline that is completely contained within their ecosystem. Adobe has been pushing Dynamic Link in recent years in order to make it easier to move between Premiere Pro and After Effects. Blackmagic is going even a step further by integrating editing, color, VFX and audio all within DaVinci Resolve.

These examples are both great advancements that can really improve your workflow efficiency, but they are being done in order to keep the user within their specific ecosystem. As great as an open timeline would be, it seems to be counter to what Adobe, Blackmagic, and others are actively pursuing. We can still hold out hope, however!

With AI becoming a popular idea and term, at what point does it stop?
There are definitely limitations to what AI is capable of, but that line is moving year by year. For the foreseeable future, AI is going to take on a lot of the tedious tasks like tagging of footage, content-aware fill, shot matching, image enhancement and other similar tasks. These are all perfect use cases for artificial intelligence, and many (like content-aware fill) are already being implemented in the software we have available right now.

The creative side is where AI is going to take the longest time to become useful. I’m not sure if there is a point where AI will stop from a technical standpoint, but I personally believe that even if AI was perfect, there is value in the fact that an actual person made something. That may mean that the masses of videos that get published will be made by AI (or perhaps simply AI-assisted), but just like furniture, food, or even workstations, there will always be a market for high-quality items crafted by human hands.

I think the main thing to keep in mind with AI is that it is just a tool. Moving from black and white to color, or from film to digital, was something that at the time, people thought was going to destroy the industry. In reality, however, they ended up being a huge boon. Yes, AI will change how some jobs are approached — and may even eliminate some job roles entirely —but in the end, a computer is never going to be as creative and inventive as a real person.

There are many advancements in technology coming in NLEs seemingly daily, are those updates coming too fast and at an undesirable cost?
I agree that this is a problem right now, but it isn’t limited to just NLEs. We see the same thing all the time in other industries, and it even occurs on the hardware side where a new product will be launched simply because they could, not because there is an actual need for it.

The best thing you can do as an end-user is to provide feedback to the companies about what you actually want. Don’t just sit on those bugs, report them! Want a feature? Most companies have a feature request forum that you can post on.

In the end, these companies are doing what they believe will bring them the most users. If they think a flashy new feature will do it, that is what they will spend money on. But if they see a demand for less flashy, but more useful, improvements, they will make that a priority.

Will we ever be at a point where an offline/online workflow will be completely gone?
Unless we hit some point where camera technology stops advancing, I don’t think offline editing is ever going to fully go away. It is amazing what modern workstations can handle from a pure processing standpoint, but even if the systems themselves could handle online editing, you also need to have the storage infrastructure that can keep up. With the move from HD to 4K, and now to 8K, that is a lot of moving parts that need to come together in order to eliminate offline editing entirely.

With that said, I do feel like offline editing is going to be used less and less. We are starting to hit the point that people feel their footage is higher quality than they need without having to be on the bleeding edge. We can edit 4K ProRes or even Red RAW footage pretty easily with the technology that is currently available, and for most people that is more than enough for what they are going to need for the foreseeable future.

What are the trends you’re seeing in customer base from high-end post facility vs. independent editor, and how is that informing your decisions on products and pricing?
From a workstation side, there really is not too much of a difference beyond the fact that high-end post facilities tend to have larger budgets that allow them to get higher-end machines. Technology is becoming so accessible that even hobbyist YouTubers often end up getting workstations from us that are very similar to what high-end professionals use.

The biggest differences typically revolves not around the pure power or performance of the system itself, but rather how it interfaces with the other tools the editor is using. Things like whether the system has 10GB (or fiber) networking, or whether they need a video monitoring card in order to connect to a color calibrated display, are often what sets them apart.

What are the biggest trends you’ve been seeing in product development?
In general, the two big things that have come up over and over in recent years are GPU acceleration and artificial intelligence. GPU acceleration is a pretty straight-forward advancement that lets software developers get a lot more performance out of a system for tasks like color correction, noise reduction and other tasks that are very well suited for running on a GPU.

Artificial intelligence is a completely different beast. We do quite a bit of work with people that are on the forefront of AI and machine learning, and it is going to have a large impact on post production in the near future. It has been a topic at conferences like NAB for several years, but with platforms like Adobe Sensei starting to take off, it is going to become more important

However, I do feel that AI is going to be more of an enabling technology rather than one that replaces jobs. Yes, people are using AI to do crazy things like cut trailers without any human input, but I don’t think that is going to be the primary use of it anytime in the near future. It is going to be things like assisting with shot matching, tagging of footage, noise reduction, and image enhancement that is going to be where it is truly useful.

What do you see as untapped potential customer bases that didn’t exist 10-20 years ago, and how do you plan on attracting and nurturing them? What new markets are you seeing?
I don’t know if there are any customer bases that are completely untapped, but I do believe that there is going to be more overlap between industries in the next few years. One example is how much realtime raytracing has improved recently, which is spurring the use of video game engines in film. This has been done for previsualization for quite a while, but the quality is getting so good that there are some films already out that include footage straight from the game engine.

For us on the workstation side, we regularly work with customers doing post and customers who are game developers, so we already have the skills and technical knowledge to make this work. The biggest challenge is really on the communication side. Both groups have their own set of jargon and general language, so we often find ourselves having to be the “translator” when a post house is looking at integrating realtime visualization in their workflow.

This exact scenario is also likely to happen with VR/AR as well.

Lucky Post Editor Marc Stone

What trends do you see in commercial editing?
I’m seeing an increase in client awareness of the mobility of editing. It’s freeing knowing you can take the craft with you as needed, and for clients, it can save the ever-precious commodity of time. Mobility means we can be an even greater resource to our clients with a flexible approach.

I love editing at Lucky Post, but I’m happy to edit anywhere I am needed — be it on set or on location. I especially welcome it if it means you can have face-to-face interaction with the agency team or the project’s director.

What is it about commercial editing that attracted you and keeps attracting you?
The fact that I can work on many projects throughout the year, with a variety of genres, is really appealing. Cars, comedy, emotional PSAs — each has a unique creative challenge, and I welcome the opportunity to experience different styles and creative teams. I also love putting visuals together with music, and that’s a big part of what I do in 30-or 60-second… or even in a two-minute branded piece. That just wouldn’t be possible, to the same extent, in features or television.

Can you talk about challenges specific to short-form editing?
The biggest challenge is telling a story in 30 seconds. To communicate emotion and a sense of character and get people to care, all within a very short period of time. People outside of our industry are often surprised to hear that editors take hours and hours of footage and hone it down to a minute or less. The key is to make each moment count and to help make the piece something special.

Ram’s The Promise spot

How has social media campaigns changed the way you edit, if at all?
It hasn’t changed the way I edit, but it does allow some flexibility. Length isn’t constrained in the same way as broadcast, and you can conceive of things in a different way in part because of the engagement approach and goals. Social campaigns allow agencies to be more experimental with ideas, which can lead to some bold and exciting projects.

What system do you edit on, and what else other than editing are you asked to supply?
For years I worked on Avid Media Composer, and at Lucky Post I work in Adobe Premiere. As part of my editing process, I often weave sound design and music into the offline so I can feel if the edit is truly working. What I also like to do, when the opportunity presents, is to be able to meet with the agency creatives before the shoot to discuss style and mood ahead of time.

What projects have you worked on recently?
Over the last six months, I have worked on projects for Tazo, Ram and GameStop, and I am about to start a PSA for the Salvation Army. It gets back to the variety I spoke about earlier and the opportunity to work on interesting projects with great people.

Billboard Video Post Supervisor/Editor Zack Wolder

What trends do you see in editing? Good or bad.I’m noticing a lot of glitch transitions and RGB splits being used. Much flashier edits, probably for social content to quickly grab the viewers attention.

Can you talk about challenges specific to short-form editing versus long-form?
With short-form editing, the main goal is to squeeze the most amount of useful information into a short period of time while not overloading the viewer. How do you fit an hour-long conversation into a three-minute clip while hitting all the important talking points and not overloading the viewer? With long-form editing, the goal is to keep viewers’ attention over a long period of time while always surprising them with new and exciting info.

What is it about editing that attracted you and keeps attracting you?
I loved the fact that I could manipulate time. That hooked me right away. The fact that I could take a moment that lasts only a few seconds and drag it out for a few minutes was incredible.

Can you talk about the variety of deliverables for social media and how that affects things?
Social media formats have made me think differently about framing a shot or designing logos. Almost all the videos I create start in the standard 16×9 framing but will eventually be delivered as a vertical. All graphics and transitions I build need to easily work in a vertical frame. Working in a 4K space and shooting in 4K helps tremendously.

Rainn Wilson and Billie Eilish

What system do you edit on, and what else other than editing are you asked to supply?
I edit in Adobe Premiere Pro. I’m constantly asked to supply design ideas and mockups for logos and branding and then to animate those ideas.

What projects have you worked on recently?
Recently, I edited a video that featured Rainn Wilson — who played Dwight Schrute on The Office — quizzing singer Billie Eilish, who is a big-time fan of the show.

Main Image: AlphaDogs editor Herrianne Catolos


Randi Altman is the founder and editor-in-chief of postPerspective. She has been covering production and post production for more than 20 years. 

Editing for Short Form

By Karen Moltenbrey

Unlike features or even series, short-form projects such as commercials give the editor the opportunity for a fresh start with each new job. Indeed, some brands have a specific style that they adhere to, but even so, there is a good deal of creative flexibility placed in the hands of the editor.

The challenge here is to condense a story into 30, 60 or 90 seconds. And more and more, there are other deliverables associated with a job aside from the traditional commercial, as editors also may be asked to provide social media spots, cinema spots and more. And as some editors point out, it’s no longer enough to excel at solely working with video; today, it is helpful to have a wider range of skills, such as audio editing and basic animation, to support the workflow.

Here we examine the editing work on a trio of spots and the approach each editor took to deliver a compelling piece.

Nespresso: The Quest
George Clooney has been the brand ambassador for coffee-machine maker Nespresso since 2006, and his commercials have been featured in Europe and around the world. In a recent spot airing in North America, Clooney embarks on a quest for the perfect cup of coffee, and does so with true Hollywood flair.

In The Quest, the actor plays a medieval knight who throws the head of a dragon he has just slain at the feet of his queen. Thankful, she asks what he desires as his reward. He pauses, then steps through a movie screen and enters the modern world, where he wanders the streets in his armor until he finds a coffee shop and his long-sought-after cup of Nespresso coffee. Satisfied, he heads back, walks down the theater aisle, through the movie screen once again and is back in the medieval world. When the queen asks if he has enough coffee for the kingdom, the actor gives a sheepish look, and soon we see the queen and court riding in a double-decker city bus, merrily on their way to get their own cup of Nespresso coffee.

Clooney’s producing partner, Grant Heslov, directed the spot, which was filmed against greenscreen on a backlot in Los Angeles. The background plates were shot in New York City, and compositing was done by VFX supervisor Ryan Sears from Big Sky Edit. The spot was edited by Chris Franklin, who launched New York-based Big Sky Edit in 1992.

Chris Franklin

“Ryan and I were working as a team on this. As I’m cutting, he’s compositing scenes so we can really get an idea of what everything looks like, and then I properly sound-designed it,” says Franklin. “He dealt with everything in terms of George on the movie screen and popping out of the screen and walking through New York, while I dealt with the sound design and the editing. It helped keep the job efficient, so Grant could come in and see everything pretty much completed.”

Having the various departments under one roof at Big Sky Edit enables Franklin to show work to clients, agencies or directors with effects integrated into the cut, so they do not have to rely on their imaginations to visualize the spot. “They’re judging the story as opposed to the limitations of the footage if effects work isn’t done yet,” he explains.

This is not Franklin’s first Nespresso ad, having worked on the very first one for the US market, and all of them have been directed by Heslov (who also directed Clooney in the Hulu series Catch-22). “He has shorthand with George, so the shoots go beautifully,” Franklin says, noting there is also a feeling of trust with everyone who has a responsibility on the post side.

When asked to describe the editing style he used for The Quest, Franklin was hard-pressed to pinpoint one specifically, saying “sometimes you just go by instinct in terms of what feels right. The fact that this was a movie within a movie, you’re kind of looking at it like an epic. So, you deal with it as a bigger type of thing. And then once [the story] got to New York, we were feeding off the classic man-on-the-street vibe.” So, rather than using a specific editing style on the spot, Franklin says he concentrated on making sure the piece was put together well, had a good storytelling aspect and that everything clicked.

The footage was delivered to Big Sky Edit as transcoded dailies, which were downloaded overnight from LA. Franklin cut the spot on an Avid Media Composer, and the completed spot was delivered in standard HD for 60- and 30-second versions, as well as pullouts and social media material. “There are so many deliverables attached to things now, and a job tends to be longer than it used to be due to all the elements and pieces of content you’re delivering to finish the job,” Franklin says. While time-consuming, these demands also force him to tell the story in different ways for the various deliverables.

Franklin describes his general workflow as fairly straightforward. He will string the entire shoot together – “literally every piece of film that was exposed” — and go through the material, then whittle that down and review it a second time. After that, he starts breaking it down in terms of sequences for all the pieces he needs, and then he starts building the edit. Without question, this process takes a substantial amount of time on the front end, as it takes an editor roughly four hours to go through one hour of footage in order to screen it properly, learn it, understand the pieces in it, break it apart, label it and prepare it — all before any assembly can be done. “It’s not unusual to have 10 or 12 hours of footage, so it’s going to take 40 hours to go through that material and break it down before I can start assembling,” he says.

As Franklin points out, he does his own sound design — his favorite part of the process — while editing. In fact, he started out as an audio engineer years ago, and doing both the audio and editing simultaneously “helps me see the story,” he says. “If I wasn’t doing sound design while I am working, I would get totally lost.” (Tom Jucarone at Sound Lounge mixed The Quest.)

Franklin has edited features, documentaries and even short films, and his workflow remains fairly constant across the genres. “It’s just longer sometimes. You have to learn the footage, so you’ve got to watch everything. It’s a lot of watching and thinking,” he notes. “Deadlines give you an end that you have to shoot for, but you can’t rush things. It takes time to do the work properly.”

Despite his experience with other genres, commercials have been Franklin’s bread and butter for the past 30 years. He says he likes the challenge of whittling down 10 hours of footage into 30 or 60 seconds of storytelling.

M&M’s ‘Hazelnut Spread’ Campaign
Over the years, audiences have been treated to commercial spots featuring the various spokescandies for Mars Incorporated’s M&M’s, from the round-bodied regular flavored character to the egg-shaped yellow peanut character. And, there have been other new flavor characters, too. Most recently, the company introduced its latest addition: hazelnut spread M&M’s. And helping to launch the product is PS260 owner/editor Maury Loeb and assistant editor Sara Sachs, who “divided and conquered” on the campaign, which features three spots to promote the new flavor and the ever-popular M&M’s chocolate bar, which came out in 2018.

The first spot, New Spokescandy, is currently airing. The two other spots, which will be launching next year, are called Injury Attorney and Psychiatrist. Sachs focused on the latter, a comical session between a therapist and the yellow M&M, who is “feeling stuck.” The therapist points out that it’s because he is stuck in a chocolate bar. “We played around a lot with the humor of that moment. It was scripted with three progressively wider shots to ultimately reveal the candy bar, but in the edit, we decided the humor was more impactful if it was just one single reveal at the end,” says Sachs.

Helping to unite the three spots, aside from the brand’s humor and characters, is a consistent editing style. “The pacing is consistent. M&M’s as a whole doesn’t really do very music-heavy spots; they are more real-world in nature,” Sachs notes.

At PS260, the editors often collaborate on client campaigns, so as ideas are being worked out and implemented in one suite, revisions are made in another, allowing the clients to move from space to space to view the work progression.

Sara Sachs

To edit the spot, Sachs worked primarily in Adobe Premiere, using After Effects and Photoshop for some of the quick graphics, as PS260’s graphics department did the heavy lifting for the bigger moving elements, such as the M&M’s characters. The biggest challenge came from getting the tonality of the actor just right. “When a person is talking on camera to an empty couch or stage, you really have to think about both sides of the emotion,” she explains. “VO talent comes in after you have a cut in place, so even though these things are recorded a month apart, it still needs to feel like the characters are talking to each other and come across emotionally true.”

Having to do some minor graphics work is not so unusual these days; Sachs points out that editors today are becoming multitalented and handling other aspects of a project aside from cutting. “It’s not enough to just know the edit side; you also need a base in graphics, audio fine-tuning and color correction. More and more we try to get the rough cut closer to what the final picture will actually look like,” she says. “In this campaign, they even took a lot of the graphics that we applied in the rough and used them directly for air.”

Most of Sachs’ experience has come from commercials, but she has also done shorts, features, documentaries, music videos, promotional and internal videos, pitch and instructional videos, web series and so on. Of those, she prefers short-form projects because they afford her the opportunity to painstakingly watch every frame of a video “900 times and put some love into every 24th of a second,” she adds.

That level of focus is usually not practical or applicable on longer-form projects, which often require scene-to-scene organization with 15- and 30-second spots. “Shorter content maintains the same basic project structure but tends to get more attention on the little things like line-by-line sequences, which are every time a character says something in any situation,” she explains.

Nike Choose Phenomenal
Charlie Harvey recently finished a unique spot for Nike Korea for the South Korean market titled Choose Phenomenal, an empowering ad for women created by Wieden + Kennedy Tokyo that has over 10 million views on YouTube. The spot opens on a young girl dressed in traditional Korean clothing before evolving into a fast-paced, split-screen succession of images — video, animation, graphic elements, pictures and more, mainly of women in action — set to an inspiring narration.

“The agency always wanted it to be split-screen,” says Harvey of Whitehouse Post, who edited the spot. The DP shot the majority of the “moments” in a few different ways and from different angles, giving her the ability to find the elements that complemented each other from a split-screen standpoint. Yet it was up to Harvey to sort through the plethora of clips and images and select the most appropriate ones.

“There’s a Post-it note moment in there, too. That’s a big thing in South Korea, where people write messages on Post-its and stick them on a wall, so it’s culturally significant,” Harvey explains. Foremost in her mind while editing the spot was that it was culturally significant and inspiring to young women, resulting in her delving deep into that country’s traditions to find elements that would resonate best with the intended audience.

Charlie Harvey

Harvey initially began cutting the spot in Los Angeles but then traveled to Tokyo to do the majority of the edit.

In fact, when Harvey began the project, she didn’t have an opportunity to work one-on-one with the director – something that would always be her preference. “I always want to create what the director has envisioned. I always like to make that [vision] come to life while adding my own point of view, too,” she says.

Working with split screens or multiple screens is always trickier because you need to work with multiple layers while maintaining the rhythm of the film, Harvey says. “Making what seems like a small change in one shot will affect not only the shot that comes before and after it, but also the shots next to those. It’s more a puzzle you are solving,” she adds.

The visual element, however, was just one aspect of the project; here, like on many other projects, finding the right music accompaniment is not easy. “You end up going around and around trying to find exactly what you are looking for, and music is always a challenge. If you find the right track, it makes all the difference. It elevates a spot, or impacts it negatively,” Harvey points out. “Music is so important.”

In addition, the split-screen concept forced Harvey to concentrate on both sides of the screen – akin to concentrating on two shorts playing at the same time. “You have to make sure they work together and they link to the next page, where you have another two shorts,” she explains. “You need that harmonious relationship, and there needs to be a rhythm. Otherwise, it could get choppy, and then you are looking at one side or the other, not both together in unison.”

Indeed, dealing with the multiple split-screen images was difficult, but perhaps even more daunting was ensuring that the spot respected the culture of the young women to whom it was directed. To this end, Harvey incorporated as much reference as she could that would resonate with the audience, as opposed to using more generic references geared for audiences outside of that country. “I’m sure it meant a lot to these girls,” she says of the inspirational spot and the effort put into it.

Harvey performed the edit on an Avid system, preferring the simplistic interface to other systems. “It has everything for what I want to do,” she says. “There are no extra tabs here and there. It’s just really easy to use, and it’s very stable and steady.”

For the most part, Harvey sticks with shorter-form projects like commercials, though she has experience with longer formats. “I think you get into a routine with commercials, so you know you have a certain number of days to do what you need to do. I know where I need to be at certain points, and where I need to get to by the time I see the director or the agency,” she explains. “I have a very specific routine. I have a way that I work, and I am comfortable with it. It works for me.”


Karen Moltenbrey is a veteran writer/editor covering VFX and post production.

Tribeca: Emily Cohn on editing her own film, CRSHD

By Amy Leland

At this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, I went to a screening of the college comedy CRSHD, a feature film by first-time feature writer/director Emily Cohn. CRSHD tells the story of a group of college freshman trying to gain entry to an invitation-only “crush” party, in order to accomplish a pledge one of them made to lose her virginity before the end of the year. The story is told in part through dramatization of their social networking activity in unique and creative ways I hadn’t seen before. She also edited the film.

While I had initially set out to write something about editors working on feature films edited with Adobe Premiere, Emily turned out to be an interesting story all on her own.

Emily Cohn

A fairly recent college graduate, this enterprising and incredibly talented young woman managed to write her first feature, find a way to get it produced and handle the bulk of the post production process herself. I needed to know more about how she navigated all of this and ended up with a film that looked like far more than a first-time, small-budget indie.

You wrote, directed, edited and produced this film. What was it like bringing your baby to life?
While it’s been so much work, I never really saw it that way. When I look back at it, I’ve loved every step of the process, and I feel so grateful that through this process, I’ve had the most extreme film school boot camp. I was a creative writing major in college, but this was beyond any prior film experience I had, especially in post. I didn’t understand the full process of getting a feature through post.

When I was in high school and was part of the Film Fellows program at the Tribeca Film Institute, I thought that I wanted to be an editor. So that’s something that I really took to.

But on this film, I learned all about OMFs for sound deliverables, and XMLs and all of that. I couldn’t believe I had never heard of all this, because I’d been editing for a while. But for short films or web series, you don’t have to do the back and forth, the round tripping, you don’t have to worry about it as much.

Did that play a part in your decision to edit in Premiere?
Choosing Premiere was definitely a strategic decision. I learned editing on Final Cut, and then I was editing on Avid for a while. I was an assistant editor on a feature doc, doing transcoding and organizing the files in Avid. There was a big part of me that thought, “We should just use Avid,” but it’s an indie film, and I knew we were going to have to use a lot of After Effects, so Premiere was going to be the most streamlined. It was also something that I could operate on my laptop, which is where 90 percent of the editing happened.

What did you shoot the film with?
We had an equipment sponsorship from Canon, so we shot on the C100 with some really nice Prime lenses they gave us. The big question was, “Do we try to shoot 4K or not?” Ultimately, we didn’t because that meant I didn’t have to spend as much money on hard drives, and my laptop could handle the footage. Obviously, I could’ve transcoded it to work with the proxies, but this was all-around much easier and more manageable.

You used a lot of VFX in this, but nothing where having the extra resolution of 4K would make a huge difference, right?
It probably would have been better if we had shot 4K for some of those things, yeah. But it was manageable, and it’s … I mean, it’s an indie film. It’s a baby film. The fact that it made it to Tribeca was beyond cool to say the least.

You said something during the Q&A at Tribeca about focusing on the people using social media versus showing screens —you didn’t want to show technology that would look out of date as fast. That was smart.
I’ve done a lot of reading on it, and it’s a subject I’m very interested in. I’ve been to many filmmaker Q&A panels where the question was, “What makes you want to set it in the ‘90s?” and the answer was, “Because there are no cell phones.” That feels so sad to me.

I’ve read articles that say rom-coms from the ‘90s, or other other older movies, wouldn’t exist if they were set in the 2000s because you would just get a text, and the central conflict would be over.

Some people talk about issues editing long form. Some complain that the project becomes too bloated, or that things don’t perform as well once the project is too long. Did you have any issues like that?
I organized the project carefully. I know a lot of people who say the bin system in Avid is superior to Premiere’s, but I didn’t find that to be a problem, although I did have a major crash that I ended up solving. I do wish Adobe had some sort of help line because that would have helped a lot.

CRSHD was shot with a Canon 100.

But that was toward the beginning, and essentially what it came down to was that I’m still running the 2017 OS on my laptop with no upgrade, because when I upgraded my OS, Premiere started crashing. It just needed it all to stay where it was, which, now I know!

In addition to After Effects, what other post tools did you use on the film?
We used After Effects for the VFX, Resolve for color and Avid Pro Tools sound. My cousin Jim Schultz, who is a professional music editor, really held my hand through all of that. He’s in LA, but whenever I had a question, he would answer it. Our whole post sound team, which included Summit Post, also in LA, was amazing and made Crshd feel like a real film. I loved that process.

Did you still keep everything grounded in Premiere, and roundtrip everything out to Resolve or Pro Tools, and then bring it back?
Yeah, I onlined everything in Premiere myself.

I’m so overwhelmed thinking about you doing all of this yourself.
I didn’t know any other way to do it. I think it would be a lot easier if I had a bigger team. But that’s also something that’s been really funny with the sales agents (which we secured through the Tribeca Film Festival). They’re like, “Can your team do that?” and I’m like, “No, that’s all me. It’s just me.”

I mean, I have a colorist and a really great sound team. But I was the one who onlined everything.

When the festivals are saying, “We need a cut like this,” you are probably the one pushing all of those exports and deliverables out yourself.
Yeah. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

During that whole process, did you have any parts where you were happy you did it in Premiere, or things that were frustrating?
The film is really funky. We have some YouTube clips in there, a lot of VFX and other types of footage. There were so many moments where I needed to test things out quickly and easily. In Premiere, you don’t have to worry about transcoding everything and different file formats. That was definitely the best in terms of accessibility and how quickly you can play around with your timeline and experiment.

My least favorite thing is, as I said, there is no real help line for Premiere. I was asking friends of friends of friends about a weird exporting glitch that I had. The forums are fine but, yeah, I wish there was a help line.

This film is your baby, but you did collaborate with some others in post. How did that process go?
I feel really lucky. I had an amazing post team. When I watch the movie, I’m happiest about all the things everyone else added that I never would’ve added myself.

One of the sound designers, Taylor Flinn — there’s a moment where our comical security guard character leans forward in his car, and Taylor added a little siren “whoop” sound. It’s so funny to me, and I like it more because I’m not the one who did it. It’s the one moment I always laugh at in the film now, even after seeing it hundreds of times. We had an amazing animator as well, Sean Buckelew. That was another portion of post for us.

I just didn’t realize how long it was going to take. We finished shooting in August 2017, and I was like, “We’re going to submit in December 2017 to Tribeca!” And then it was a full other year of insanity. I did a first cut by September 2017, did a lot of test screenings in my apartment and kept hammering away. I was working with another co-editor, Michelle Botticelli, for about six weeks leading up to submissions, and she was also giving her opinion on all of the future cuts and color and sound.

Any updates on where the film is heading next?
I hope we get distribution. It was at the Cannes marketplace, and we have sales agents. They came on as soon as we got into Tribeca. Tribeca recommended them, and I’m learning as I go.

What’s next for you?
I have a pilot and a show bible for the TV version of CRSHD. Then I have another rom-com that I’m writing. I’m still editing, and since making the movie, I’ve been doing a ton of other side work, like camera operating. But, ultimately, I hope to be writing and directing.


Amy Leland is a film director and editor. Her short film, “Echoes”, is now available on Amazon Video. She also has a feature documentary in post, a feature screenplay in development, and a new doc in pre-production. She is an editor for CBS Sports Network and recently edited the feature “Sundown.” You can follow Amy on social media on Twitter at @amy-leland and Instagram at @la_directora.

Tips for inside —and outside — the edit suite

By Brady Betzel

Over the past 15 years, I’ve seen lots of good and bad while working in production and post — from people being overly technical (only looking at the scopes and not the creative) to being difficult just for the sake of being difficult. I’ve worked on daytime and nighttime talk shows, comedies, reality television, Christmas parades, documentaries and more. All have shaped my editing skills as well as my view on the work-life balance.

Here are some tips I try to keep in mind that have helped me get past problems I’ve encountered in and out of the edit bay:

No One Cares
This one is something I constantly have to remind myself. It’s not necessarily true all the time, but it’s a good way to keep my own ego in check, especially on social media. When editing and coloring, I constantly ask myself, “Does anyone care about what I’m doing? If not, why not?” And if the answer is that they don’t, then something needs to change. I also ask myself, “Does anything about my comment or edit further the conversation or the story, or am I taking away from the story to draw attention to myself?” In other words, am I making an edit just to make an edit?

It’s an especially good thing to think about when you get trolled on Twitter by negative know-it-alls telling you why you’re wrong about working in certain NLEs. Really, who cares? After I write my response and edit it a bunch of times, I tell myself, “No one cares.” This philosophy not only saves me from feeling bad about not answering questions that no one really cares about, but it also helps improve my editing, VFX and color correction work.

Don’t be Difficult!
As someone who has worked everywhere and in all sorts of positions — from a computer tech at Best Buy (before Geek Squad), a barista at Starbucks, a post PA for the Academy Awards, and assistant editor, editor, offline editor, online editor — I’ve seen the power of being amenable.

I am also innately a very organized person, both at work and at home, digitally and in real life — sometimes to my wife’s dismay. I also constantly repeat this mantra to my kids: “If you’re not early, you’re late.”

But sometimes I need to be reminded that it’s OK to be late, and it’s OK not to do things the technically “correct” way. The same applies to work. Someone might have a different way of doing something that’s slower than the way I’d do it, but that doesn’t mean that person is wrong. Avoiding confrontation is the best way to go. Sure, go ahead and transcode inside of Adobe Premiere Pro instead of batch transcoding in Media Encoder. If the outcome is the same and it helps avoid a fight, just let it slide. You might also learn something new by taking a back seat.

Sometimes Being Technically Perfect Isn’t Perfect
I often feel like I have a few obsessive traits: leaving on time, having a tidy desktop and doing things (I feel) correctly. One of the biggest examples is when color correcting. It is true that scopes don’t lie; they give you the honest truth. But when I hear about colorists bragging that they turn off the monitors and color using only Tektronix Double Diamond displays, waveforms and vectorscopes — my skeptical hippo eyes come out. (Google it; it’s a thing).

While scopes might get you to a technically acceptable spot in color correction, you need to have an objective view from a properly calibrated monitor. Sometimes an image with perfectly white whites and perfectly black blacks is not the most visually pleasing image. I constantly need to remind myself to take a step back and really blend the technical with the creative. That is, I sit back and imagine myself as the wide-eyed 16-year-old in the movie theater being blown away and intrigued by American Beauty.

You shouldn’t do things just because you think that is how they should be done. Take a step back and ask yourself if you, your wife, brother, uncle, mom, dad, or whoever else might like it.

Obviously, being technically correct is vital when creating things like deliverables, and that is where there might be less objectivity, but I think you understand my point. Remember to add a little objectivity into your life.

Live for Yourself, Practice and Repeat
While I constantly tell people to watch tutorials on YouTube and places like MZed.com, you also need to physically practice your craft. This idea becomes obvious when working in technically creative positions like editing.

I love watching tutorials on lighting and photography since so much can be translated over to editing and color correcting. Understanding relationships between light and motion can help guide scenes. But if all you do is watch someone tell you how light works, you might not really be absorbing the information. Putting into practice the concepts you learn is a basic but vital skill that is easy to forget. Don’t just watch other people live life, live it for yourself.

For example, a lot of people don’t understand trimming and re-linking in Media Composer. They hear about it but don’t really use these skills to their fullest unless they actively work them out. Same goes for people wanting to use a Wacom tablet instead of a mouse. It took me two weeks of putting my mouse in the closet to even get started on the Wacom tablet, but in the end, it is one of those things I can’t live without. But I had to make the choice to try it for myself and practice, practice, practice to know it.

If you dabble and watch videos on a Wacom tablet, using it once might turn you off. Using trimming once might not convince you it is great. Using roles in FCPX once might not convince you that it is necessary. Putting those skills into practice is how you will live editing life for yourself and discover what is important to you … instead of relying on other people to tell you what’s important.

Put Your Best Foot Forward
This bit of advice came to me from a senior editor on my first real professional editing job after being an assistant editor. I had submitted a rough cut and — in a very kind manner — the editor told me that it wasn’t close to ready for a rough cut title. Then we went through how I could get there. In the end, I essentially needed to spend a lot more time polishing the audio, checking for lip flap, polishing transitions and much more. Not just any time, but focused time.

Check your edit from a 30,000-foot view for things like story and continuity, but also those 10-foot view things like audio pops and interviews that sound like they are all from one take. Do all your music cues sting on the right beat? Is all your music panned for stereo and your dialogue all center-panned to cut up the middle?

These are things that take time to learn, but once you get it in your head, it will be impossible to forget … if you really want to be a good editor. Some might read this and say, “If you don’t know these workflows, you shouldn’t be an editor.” Not true! Everyone starts somewhere, but regardless of what career stage you’re in, always put your best foot forward.

Trust Your Instincts
I have always had confidence in my instincts, and I have my parents to thank for that. But I have noticed that a lot of up-and-coming production and post workers don’t want to make decisions. They also are very unsure if they should trust their first instinct. In my experience, your first instinct is usually your best instinct. Especially when editing.

Obviously there are exceptions to this rule, but generally I rely heavily on my instincts even when others might not agree. Take this with a grain of salt, but also throw that salt away and dive head first!

This notion really came to a head for me when I was designing show titles in After Effects. The producers really encouraged going above and beyond when making opening titles of a show I worked on. I decided to go into After Effects instead of staying inside of the NLE. I used crazy compositing options that I didn’t often use, tried different light leaks, inverted mattes … everything. Once I started to like something, I would jump in head first and go all the way. Usually that worked out, but even if it didn’t, everyone could see the quality of work I was putting out, and that was mainly because I trusted my instincts.

Delete and Start Over
When you are done trusting your instincts and your project just isn’t hitting home — maybe the story doesn’t quite connect, the HUD you are designing just doesn’t quite punch or the music you chose for a scene is very distracting — throw it all away and start over. One of the biggest skills I have acquired in my career thus far seems to be the ability to throw a project away and start over.

Typically, scenes can go on and on with notes, but if you’re getting nowhere, it might be time to start over if you can. Not only will you have a fresh perspective, but you will have a more intimate knowledge of the content than you had the first time you started your edit — which might lead to an alternate pathway into your story.


Brady Betzel is an Emmy-nominated online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.

Editing for Features and Docs

By Karen Moltenbrey

When editing a feature film, the cutter can often feel as if he or she is assembling a puzzle, putting together a plethora of pieces, from the acting, to the lighting, to the production design, and turning those raw elements into a cohesive, comprehensive story. With so much material to sort through, so many shots to select from and so many choices to be made overall, the final cut indeed is reflective of these many choices made by the editor over a significant period of time.

Here, we examine the unique workflow of two editors, one who worked on a drama with an up-and-coming director, and another who cut a documentary with a director who is very well known throughout the film world.

Clemency
The feature film Clemency will be released at the end of the year, but already it commanded attention at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and beyond, taking home the Grand Jury Prize. The drama, directed by Chinonye Chukwu, stars Alfre Woodard as prison warden Bernadine Williams, who’s preparing for the execution of another inmate and struggling with the emotional toll that task has taken on her. The film was edited by Phyllis Housen.

As is often the case, while cutting Clemency, the editing style evolved organically from the story being told. “That happens all the time, unless it’s a very specific genre piece, like a thriller or horror film,” Housen says. For this film, she describes the style as “deliberate.” “There is no racing through the day. We feel the time pass. In prison, time stretches and changes, and we wanted to recreate that feeling of time. Often you don’t know if it’s night or day,” she says.

Also, the director wanted the film to feel as though the audience was there, living inside the prison. “So, there is a lot of repetition. We visit and revisit some of the routines of daily life like the prisoners do,” Housen adds.

Phyllis Housen

According to Housen, the film looks at what it is like for the warden to have a day-to-day relationship with the inmates on the ward as well as what happens when the warden, ultimately and occasionally, has to perform an execution. “By creating the routine of daily life, we would get to know how the prisoners live and experience that through them,” she explains.

The focus in the film turns to one prisoner in particular, Anthony Woods, a convicted felon on death row. “You get attached to these people, and to him,” Housen points out.

For instance, there is a good deal of walking in the movie, as the camera follows the warden while she sets out from her office and through the prison hallways, passing prisoners all the way to the death row ward, which is separated from everything and everyone — even the general population of prisoners. “You feel that length and distance as she is walking. You get a sense of how far away — literally and figuratively — the death row prisoners are,” Housen explains.

Housen (Cargo, the I, Witness TV documentary series and much more) cut the film at Tunnel in Santa Monica, California, using Adobe Premiere Pro, after having migrated from Apple Final Cut Pro years back. She says she finds the Adobe platform very intuitive.

In terms of her workflow, Housen believes it is fairly consistent across all projects. She receives dailies that are transcoded from raw footage, an assistant organizes all the footage for her, then she starts putting scenes together, maybe one or two days after principal photography begins so there is some footage to work with. “I am thinking of the footage as if I am building a house, with the scenes as the bricks,” she says. “So, I might get footage from, say, scenes 12, 84 and 105 on the first day, and I start lightly sketching those scenes out. I watch the dailies to get a feeling of what the scenes might eventually become. It takes longer than it sounds! And then the next day, four more scenes might come in, and the day after, seven. You’re always getting a bit behind the eight ball during dailies, but you sketch as best you can.”

Once Housen begins building out the scenes, she starts creating what she calls “reels,” an assembly of the film in 20-minute segments — a habit from the days of working with film in the predigital age. “Once you create your reels, then you end up, when they are done shooting, with a rather long, but not paced, assembly of the film that serves as a blueprint,” she says. “When post begins, we roll up our sleeves and start at Scene 1 and dig in.”

Housen finds that on an independent film, there isn’t a lot of time to interact with the director while the film is being shot, and this held true for Clemency; but once they got to the cutting room, “we were there every day together, all day, attached at the hip,” she says.

Clemency was the first time Housen had the opportunity to work with Chukwu. “She’s a very bold director, and there are some very bold choices in this film,” Housen says. She points out that some liberties were taken in terms of pacing and editing style, especially toward the end of the film, which she believes really pays off. However, Housen stops short of revealing too much about the scenes prior to the film’s release.

“It is a very heavy film, a difficult film,” Housen continues. “It’s thought-provoking. For such a heavy movie, we had a light time making it. We laughed a lot and enjoyed the process very much. I was just so pleased with [Chukwu’s] vision. She is a young and up-and-coming filmmaker. I think we are going to continue hearing a lot about her.”

Pavarotti
In the documentary Pavarotti, in limited release starting June 7, director Ron Howard tells the story of the opera legend Luciano Pavarotti through an assemblage of unique footage, concert performances and interviews. The film was edited by Paul Crowder, ACE.

Director Ron Howard and editor Paul Crowder take a selfie at the Pavarotti premiere.

As Crowder notes, it seemed logical to approach the story of Pavarotti in the format of an opera. His art and his life lent themselves to a natural three-act arc: The tenor starts his career as an opera singer and becomes successful. Then there is a period of self-doubt, followed by the meteoric success of The Three Tenors, his philanthropic period and then his marriage to a much younger woman. “You have these dramatic moments in his life story like you do in an opera, and we thought if we could use Pavarotti’s music and operas, that would tell the story, so we gave the documentary an operatic feel,” he says.

A musician himself, Crowder well understood this unique dimension to the documentary. Still, approaching the film in this way required careful navigation in the editing suite. “It’s not like editing pop music or something like that. You can’t just drop in and out of arias. They don’t come in four-bar sections or a middle-eight section,” he points out. “They’re all self-contained. Each section is its own thing. You have to select the moments when you can get in and out of them. Once you commit to them, you have to really commit to a degree, and it all becomes part of the style and approach of the editing.”

Crowder edited the film on an Avid system at his home studio. “I am an Avid Media Composer guy and will be to the day I die,” he says. “I was brought up on Avid, and that will always be my go-to choice.”

The biggest editing challenge on the documentary was dealing with the large mix of media and formats, as the film integrates footage from past concerts and interviews that took place all over the world at different points in time. In all, music was pulled from 22 different operas – not opera pieces, but different operas themselves. The footage was digitized in Avid using native frame rates “because Avid is so adept at dealing with multiple frame rates on a single timeline,” he says, noting that his assistant, Sierra Neal, was instrumental in keeping all the various media in check.

Nevertheless, dealing with various frame rate issues in the online was tough. Everyone has a way to do it, Crowder says, but “there is no definitive excellent way to go from standard def to HD.”

The mixed frame rates and formats also made it difficult to spot flaws in the imported footage: The overall transfer might look good, but there might be a frame or two that did not transfer well. “We kept spotting them throughout the online in the same clips we had already fixed, but then we’d find another flaw that we hadn’t seen,” Crowder says.

The film was built in pieces. The first section Crowder and writer Mark Monroe built pertained to Pavarotti’s children. “It was a leaping-off point for the film. We knew the girls were going to be in it and they would have something fun to say,” he says. He then worked forward from that point.

Crowder praises the research team at Pavarotti production company White Horse Pictures with assembling the tremendous amount of research and documentation for the film, organizing the various content and clips that made it easier for him and Neal to locate those with the best potential for particular scenes. “Still, it was essential to really look closely at everything and know where it was,” he adds, “Otherwise, you don’t know what you might miss.”

In fact, Crowder has something he calls his “hip pocket,” interesting material that hasn’t been placed yet. “It’s just a bin that contains material when I need something strong,” he says. On this project, footage of Pavarotti’s trip to the Amazon in 1995 is in that bin. And, they found an ideal place for it in the opening of the film.

“The film always talks to you, and sometimes you can’t find something you’re looking for but it’s staring you right in the face,” Crowder says. In this case, it was the Amazon footage. “It was vital that we hear Luciano’s voice at the opening of the film. If you don’t hear him sing, then there’s no point because it’s all about his voice. And everything we are going to tell you from that point on comes off the back of his voice.”

While he has worked on series as well as other kinds of projects, Crowder prefers films — documentaries, in particular. Series work, he says, can become a little too “factory-esque” for his taste — especially when there is a deadline and you are aware of what worked before, it can be come easy to get into a rhythm and possibly lose creative drive. “With a film, you lead audiences on an emotional journey, but you can take it to completion in one sitting, and not drag it out week after week,” Crowder says.

And, how did the editor feel working alongside famed director Ron Howard? Crowder says it was a fantastic experience, calling Howard very decisive and knowledgeable. “A wonderful and generous person to learn from. It was a great working relationship where we could discuss ideas honestly.”

Another bonus about this project: Crowder’s mom was an amateur opera singer, a soprano, while his grandfather was an amateur tenor. “I wanted to work on the film for my mom. She passed away, unfortunately, but she would have loved it.” Surely others will as well.


Karen Moltenbrey is a veteran writer/editor covering VFX and post production.

Editing for Episodics

By Karen Moltenbrey

Consistency is important when editing series. Initially, the editor may collaborate with the director and DP on the style of the show, and once it is set, the focus is on supporting that direction, reflecting the essence and feel of the show and the performance of the characters.

However, not every series is the same, and editors adapt their editing pattern and pacing based on the project’s genre. For instance, the pacing of a comedy should elevate the punchline, not detract from it, whereas with a drama, choosing the best performance that fits the story is paramount. Additionally, the use of music and sound design can heighten the emotion or tension far more than, say, in a comedy.

Here we look at two very different series — a comedy and a drama — and examine how the editors approached the cut on their respective shows.

Insecure
Life is complicated, especially for the main characters of HBO’s Insecure, which focuses on two African American women as they navigate modern-day life in Los Angeles. Best friends since college and now in their late 20s, they are trying to find their footing both personally and professionally, with Issa Dee working at a nonprofit school and living with her longtime boyfriend, and Molly Carter finding success as a lawyer but less so in her dating life.

The comedy has been renewed for a fourth season, which will be released sometime in 2019. The series debuted in 2016 and is created by Issa Rae — who plays the main character Issa Dee — and Larry Wilmore. A number of people have directed and served as DP, and there have been four editors, including Nena Erb, ACE, who came aboard during Season 3.

“The series is built around [Issa’s and Molly’s] experiences as they try to find their place in the world. When I approach a scene, I do so from their point of view,” says Erb. “South LA is also portrayed as a character in the series; we do our best to incorporate shots of the various neighborhoods in each episode so viewers get a flavor of the city.”

According to Erb, the composition for the series is cinematic and unconventional from the typical television series. “The editing pattern is also not the typical start with a master, go to medium shots, close-up and so forth,” she says. “Having unique composition and coming up with interesting ways to transition in and out of a scene give this series a distinct visual style that’s unlike other television shows out right now.”

Nena Erb

Scenes wherein Issa is the focus are shot mostly handheld. The shots have more movement and convey a sense of uncertainty and flux, which is in keeping with the character, who is trying to find herself when it comes to her career. On the other hand, Molly’s scenes are typically locked-off to convey steadiness, as she is a little more settled in her career as an attorney. For example, in “Fresh-Like” (Season 3 Episode 4), Molly has a difficult time establishing herself after taking a job at a new law firm, and things are not going as smoothly as she had hoped. When she discusses her frustrations with her therapist, the scene was shot with locked-off cameras since it focuses on Molly, but camera moves were then added in the edit to give it a handheld look to convey she was on unsteady ground at that moment.

Erb edits the series on an Avid Media Composer, and temp effects are done in Adobe Photoshop and After Effects.

Erb’s workflow for Insecure is similar to other series she has edited. She reads the script a few times, and before starting dailies, will re-read the scene she is working on that day, paying particular attention to the screen direction. “That is extremely helpful in letting me know the tone of the scene. I like having that fresh in my mind when I watch the dailies,” says Erb. She also reviews all the circle as well as non-circle takes — a step that is time-consuming but ensures she is using all the best performances. “And sometimes there are hidden gems in the non-circle takes that make all the difference, so I feel it’s worth the time to watch them all,” she adds.

While watching the dailies, Erb often jots down notes while cutting it in her head. Then she sits down and starts putting the scene together in the actual edit.

When Erb signed on to do the series, the style and tone were already established, and the crew had been together since the beginning. “It’s never easy to come into a show like that,” she says. “I was the new kid on the block who had to figure out team dynamics in addition to learning the style of the show. My biggest challenge was to make sure my work was in the language of the series, while still maintaining my own sense of style.”

Insofar as social media has become a big part of everyone’s life, it is now turning up in series such as Insecure, where it has become a recurring character — although in the episode titled “Obsessed-Like,” it is much more. As Erb explains, Insecure uses social media graphics as elements that play on the screen next to the person texting or tweeting. But in that episode, the editor wanted the audience alongside Issa as she checks on her new love interest Nathan and used social media graphics in a completely different way than had been done previously on the show.

“I told my assistant editor, Lynarion Hubbard, that I wanted her to create all these graphics in a way that they could be edited as if they were dailies. Doing so enabled me to use them full-screen, and I could animate them so they could crash-zoom into the shot of this woman kissing Nathan and then tilt down to the caption, which is when you realize the woman is his mom, as she delivers the punchline, ‘Oh, it’s your mom. She looks young for 50,’” says Erb.

“I felt the graphics made me more invested and allowed me to experience the emotional roller coaster with Issa as she obsesses over being ghosted. It was a risk to use them that way because it wasn’t in the language of the show. Fortunately for me, the producers loved it, and that episode was nominated for an ACE Eddie Award earlier this year.”

Erb might be new to Insecure, but she feels a personal connection to the series: When she and her family first immigrated to the US, they settled in Ladera Heights, and she attended school in Inglewood. “I remember this awkward girl who didn’t speak a word of English, and yet the neighbors welcomed us with open arms,” she recalls. “That community will always be special to me. The series pokes fun at Ladera Heights, but I think it’s great that they are highlighting a part of South LA that was my first connection in the US.”

Erb predominantly edits television series, but she has also edited feature films and documentaries. “I’d say I am drawn to powerful stories and captivating characters rather than a genre or format. Performance is paramount. Everything is in service of the story and the characters, regardless of whether it’s a series or a film,” she states.

On a series, “it’s a sprint to the finish, especially if it’s a series that has started airing while you’re still shooting and editing the later episodes. You’ll have anywhere from one to three days after the last day of dailies to do your editor’s cut, and then it’s off to the director, producers, the studio and so forth,” Erb explains. Conversely, with the features she has done, the schedule has offered more wiggle room – more time to do the editor’s cut and more time for the directors’ involvement. “And you have the luxury to experiment and sit with the cut to make sure it is working.”

In addition to Insecure, Erb has worked on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Being Mary Jane and Project Greenlight, to name a few. And each has its own recipe. For instance, Crazy Ex has music videos in each episode that run the gamut from the ’50s to present day, from a Fosse-inspired number to ’80s rock, ’90s hip-hop and three decades of the Beach Boys. “In an industry where it is easy to get pigeonholed, being able to work on a show that allows you to challenge yourself with different genres is rare, and I loved the experience.”

Ozark
At first glance, the Ozarks seem to be a tranquil place, a wholesome, idyllic location to raise a family. But, looks can be deceiving, especially when it comes to the Netflix family crime drama Ozark, which will be starting its third season sometime this year.

The series follows financial planner Marty Byrde, who relocates with his family from Chicago to the summer resort area of Osage Beach, Missouri, in the Ozark Mountains. The move is not voluntary. To make amends for a scheme that went awry, he must launder millions of dollars belonging to a Mexican drug cartel through the Ozarks. Soon he becomes entangled with local criminals.

Jason Bateman, who plays Marty, directed some of the episodes in Season 1 and 2, with other directors filling that role as well. Editing the series since it began is Cindy Mollo, ACE, and Heather Goodwin Floyd, who have a longtime working relationship. Goodwin Floyd, who was Mollo’s assistant editor for many years, started on both seasons of Ozark in the assistant role but also edited and co-edited episodes in each season.

Cindy Mollo

When Mollo first met with Bateman to talk about the project, they discussed the series as being akin to a 10-hour feature. “He wanted to spend time in moments, giving time to the performances, and not be too ‘cutty’ or too manipulative,” she says. “There’s a tendency with someone like Bateman to always be looking for the comedy and to cut for comedy, but ours is a dramatic show where sometimes things just happen to be funny; we don’t cut for that.”

The show has a naturalistic feel, and many scenes are shot outdoors, but there is always a lingering sense of threat, played up with heavy shadows. The look, as the humor, is dark, in a figurative and literal way. And the editors play into the suspense. “By letting moments play out, it helps put you in the head of the character, figuring things out as you go along. So, you’re not ever letting the audience get ahead of the character by showing them something that the character doesn’t see,” explains Mollo. “There’s a little bit of a remoteness in that, so you’re not really spoon-feeding the audience.”

On Ozark, the editors make sure they do not get in the way of the material. The writing is so solid, says Mollo, and the performances are so good, “the challenge is to resist the temptation to impose too much on the material and to just achieve the goals of the scene. Doing things simply and elegantly, that is how I approach this series.”

Goodwin Floyd agrees. “We support the material and let it speak for itself, and tell the story in the most authentic way possible,” she adds.

The series is set in the Ozarks but is filmed outside Atlanta, where the dailies are processed before they are sent to editorial. Assistants pull all the media into a Media Composer, where the cut is done.

Heather Goodwin Floyd

According to Mollo, she and Goodwin Floyd have four days to work on their cut. Then the directors have four days per episode to work with them. “We’re cross-boarded, so that ends up being eight days with the director for two episodes, for the most part,” she says. After that, the producers are brought in, and as Mollo points out, Bateman is very involved in the edit. Once the producers sign off, the final cut is sent to producer Media Rights Capital (MRC) and Netflix.

The first two seasons of Ozark were shot at 4K; this season, it is shot at nearly 6K, though delivery to Netflix is still at 4K.

Both editors have a range of experience in terms of genres. Goodwin Floyd started out in features and now primarily edits TV dramas. Mollo got her start in commercials and then migrated to dramatic series, with some TV movies and features, as well. “I love the mix. Honestly, I love doing both [series and films]. I have fun when I’m on a series, and then it seems like every two years or so I get to do a feature. With everyone editing digitally, the feature process has become very similar to the television process,” she says. “It’s just a little more director-focused rather than producer/writer-focused.”

For Goodwin Floyd, she’s drawn more to the content as opposed to the format. “I started in features and at the time thought I wanted to stay in features, but the quality of series on television has evolved and gotten so great that I love working in TV as much as in features,” she says.

With the rise of cable, then premium movie channels and now streaming services, Mollo says there is a feeling that the material can be trusted more, that there is no longer the need to feel like you have to be cutting every couple of seconds to keep the audience excited and engaged. For instance, when she worked on House of Cards, the MRC and Netflix executives were very hands-off — they wanted to have a fantastic opening episode every season and a really compelling cliffhanger, and for everything in between, they trusted the filmmakers to take care of it.

“I really gravitated toward that trend of trusting the filmmakers, and it is resulting in some really great television,” says Mollo.

In as much as we are in a golden age of television, Mollo also believes we are in a golden age of editing, where people understand more of what an editor does and appreciates the results more. Editing is basically a final rewrite of the script, she says. “You’re the last line of defense; sometimes you need to guide the story back to its original direction [if it veers off course].”


Karen Moltenbrey is a veteran writer/editor covering VFX and post production.

LumaFusion mobile filmmaking editing app updated

Luma Touch has updated LumaFusion, its video editing application for iOS. Created by video editing industry veterans Chris Demiris and Terri Morgan, LumaFusion Version 2 introduces new features and a new UI, and effectively doubles the number of audio/video tracks supported to 12 tracks, with six video tracks supporting 4K video in realtime.

The UI now features all-new vector icons streamline editing, with new track headers for locking, hiding and muting all tracks, and an overview of the timeline that lets users jump to any location in your edit with a single touch.

Keying

Additional updates include:
• New Timeline Overview:, which makes it quick and easy to see your whole project and jump to a specific location in your edit
• New Shuttle Control: Press-and-hold the Play button to scrub at different rates to find the right frame
• Track Headers with track link/unlink, track locking, hide and mute
• Flexible Editing: Video and audio clips on the primary (anchor) track let users to edit the way they want
• External Display: Users can view their video on the large screen and get more room for your timeline and library with new UI layouts
• Support for Gnarbox 2.0 SSD, as well as improvements for supporting Gnarbox1.0
• Dozens of editing and media management improvements

Ryan Connolly is a filmmaker, writer, director and creator of the YouTube channel, Film Riot. He has been testing LumaFusion 2.0. “LumaFusion is surprisingly fast and fluid, and is also perfect for doing previs on location scouts.”

LumaFusion Version 2  is available now on the App Store for $29.99, but the company is offering a discount of 50% until June 27, 2019.

Lenovo intros next-gen ThinkPads

Lenovo has launched the next generation of its ThinkPad P Series with the release of five new ThinkPads, including the ThinkPad P73, ThinkPad P53, ThinkPad P1 Gen 2 and ThinkPad P53s and P43s.

The ThinkPad P53 features the Nvidia Quadro RTX 5000 GPU with RT and Tensor cores, offering realtime raytracing and AI acceleration. It now features Intel Xeon and 9th Gen Core class CPUs with up to eight cores (including the Core i9) up to 128GB of memory and 6TB of storage.

This mobile workstation also boasts a new OLED touch display with Dolby Vision HDR for superb color and some of the deepest black levels ever. Building on the innovation behind the ThinkPad P1 power supply, Lenovo is also maximizing the portability of this workstation with a 35 percent smaller power supply. The ThinkPad P53 is designed to handle everything from augmented reality and VR content creation to the deployment of mobile AI or ISV workflows. The ThinkPad P53 will be available in July, starting at $1,799.

At 3.74 pounds and 17.2mm thin, Lenovo’s thinnest and lightest 15-inch workstation — the ThinkPad P1 Gen 2 — includes the latest Nvidia Quadro Turing T1000 and T2000 GPUs. The ThinkPad P1 also features eight-core Intel 9th Gen Xeon and Core CPUs and an OLED touch display with Dolby Vision HDR.

The ThinkPad P1 Gen 2 will be available at the end of June starting at $1,949.

With its 17.3-inch Dolby Vision 4K UHD screen and mobility with a 35% smaller power adaptor, Lenovo’s ThinkPad P73 offers users maximum workspace and mobility. Like the ThinkPad 53, it features the Intel Xeon and Core processors and the most powerful Nvidia Quadro RTX graphics. The ThinkPad P73 will be available in August starting at $1,849.

The ThinkPad P43s features a 14-inch chassis and will be available in July starting at $1,499.

Rounding out the line is the ThinkPad P53s which combines the latest Nvidia Quadro graphics and Intel Core processors — all in a thin and light chassis. The ThinkPad P53s will be available in June, starting at $1,499.

For the first time, Lenovo is adding new X-Rite Pantone Factory Color Calibration to the ThinkPad P1 Gen 2, ThinkPad P53 and ThinkPad P73. The unique factory color calibration profile is stored in the cloud to ensure more accurate recalibration. This profile allows for dynamic switching between color spaces, including sRGB, Adobe RGB and DCI-P3 to ensure accurate ISV application performance.

The entire ThinkPad portfolio is also equipped with advanced ThinkShield security features – from ThinkShutter to privacy screens to self-healing BIOS that recover when attacked or corrupted – to help protect users from every angle and give them the freedom to innovate fearlessly.

Behind the Title: Live Nation Entertainment Editor Hillary Lewis

This Indiana-based editor uses Avid Media Composer at work, Adobe Premiere for personal projects and After Effects for both.

NAME: Indianapolis-based Hillary Lewis

COMPANY: TourDesign Creative/Live Nation Entertainment

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
We are the post house for all Live Nation artists creating their broadcast, online, print, radio and advertising for concert tours, nationally and internationally.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Editor

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
Using the approved ad materials from our art department and approved radio materials from our audio department, we create TV and online commercials using concert footage and/or music videos, adding motion graphics, transitions, color grading, etc. With the approved commercial, we localize and deliver for each market (city) where the tour will perform.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
The editors here are jacks-of-all-trades. We don’t have colorists, assistant editors or other post positions that you’d normally find in TV/film post houses. We truly do it all from start to finish.

One of the things that still surprises me is working with artist management teams that give you unusable footage. Whether it be terrible camera work, aspect ratio differences, low resolution, baked-in logos, etc.

A good majority of artist management teams don’t keep a sufficient archive of raw, uncompressed footage of their artist performances. This inevitably backs us into a corner and we’re tasked with finding and ripping usable footage off of YouTube. The humanity!

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
When I have the most possible time to be creative on a new spot. When I can work on one of my favorite artists or bands. And when I can learn new things and put them in my bag of tricks.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Having to put my name on something I’ve created that I’m not proud of, but that was completely out of my control. For example, a commercial spot that I artistically and creatively didn’t call the shots on.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST PRODUCTIVE TIME OF THE DAY?
For me, there’s a difference between when I’m most productive and when I’m the busiest. We tend to be busiest in the afternoons — from 3pm to 6pm — because we cater to our smaller office on the West Coast. This means the majority of my work is done right before I leave for the day, which often means staying late. But I’m truly more productive in the mornings when the office is less chaotic and when there’s time to be most creative, rather than sacrificing creativity to push a product out in the late afternoon.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
Two things. I’m obsessed with Vox’s explainer videos and would be making similar highly designed, motion-graphics-based content on broad topics such as film/TV, music, FAQs, food, travel, etc.

Or, I’d be a phenomenal post production coordinator/supervisor in film/TV.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
I entered college as a business major and knew pretty early on it wasn’t going to be a fulfilling career path for me. I happened to take a new media course to fill elective requirements, and it resonated with me so much I switched my major to new media arts and sciences and have been on the post production path ever since. It hasn’t been easy making a name in this industry, but I’ve never once looked back or had any regrets.

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
The most recent artist tours created by TourDesign: Cardi B, Madonna, Khalid, Live Nation $20 National Concert Week, Lewis Black, MasterChef Junior Live!, Mary J. Blige/NAS, Dave Matthews Band, The Head and the Heart… I could go on.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
Not a specific work project, but several accomplishments through my side hustles. I’ve also been a panelist at recent conferences speaking on topics like the gender pay gap, post workflow and new trends in AI and machine learning.

Being an integral part of the media production industry and building a vast network of pros through my travels is something I’m extremely proud of.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
Our Avid Nexis server at work, my stand-up desk and my AirPods.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
The Blue Collar Post Collective on Facebook. I’m also a member and volunteer. BCPC is a nonprofit supporting emerging talent in post by providing mentorships, networking and funding to attend major industry events for pros who make less than the median income of the state they live in. I was one of the recipients of that funding and it was life-changing for me.

Hillary Lewis on panel at NAB for Gals N Gear.

If anyone reading this has questions about the program, reach out to me on Facebook
or Instagram @hillary.dillary. I follow other Facebook pages like I Am a Female Editor!, Avid Editors of Facebook, Post Chat, I Need an Editor, Austin Digital Jobs (I’ll be moving there soon).

DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK? 
If I listen to anything at work it’s either keeping up with current events from talk shows like The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, The Daily Show With Trevor Noah, Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, etc. or Vice News. Or strictly entertaining things like GoT recaps/fan theory videos, SNL, Vox, Funny or Die.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
It is extremely high stress! I have to keep my body active during the day, using my stand-up desk in intervals and stretching. I can’t be in the right state of mind if my body feels stiff or sore.

Going to the gym at least two to three nights every week also helps me sleep better, which makes me fresher mentally the next day.

Cooking is a great stress reliever for me as well as a creative outlet. I can try new things and be risky with it. Even if I make a meal that tastes horrible, I know I’ll eventually improve that meal and make something that tastes good. It reminds of something a wise man on Queer Eye once said “Failure is not the opposite of success, it’s a part of it.”

I also love a good beer at the end of the day.

RPS editors talk workflow, creativity and Michelob Ultra’s Robots

By Randi Altman

Rock Paper Scissors (RPS) is a veteran editing house specializing in commercials, music videos and feature films. Founded by Oscar-winning editor Angus Wall (The Social Network, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo), RPS has a New York office as well as a main Santa Monica location that it shares with sister companies A52, Elastic and Jax.

We recently reached out to RPS editor Biff Butler and his assistant editor Alyssa Oh (both Adobe Premiere users) to find out about how they work, their editing philosophy and their collaboration on the Michelob Ultra Robots spot that premiered during this year’s Super Bowl.

Let’s find out more about their process…

Rock Paper Scissors, Santa Monica

What does your job entail?
Biff Butler: Simply put, someone hands us footage (and a script) and we make something out of it. The job is to act as cheerleader for those who have been carrying the weight of a project for weeks, maybe months, and have just emerged from a potentially arduous shoot.

Their job is to then sell the work that we do to their clients, so I must hold onto and protect their vision, maintaining that initial enthusiasm they had. If the agency has written the menu, and the client has ordered the meal, then a director is the farmer and the editor the cook.

I frequently must remind myself that although I might have been hired because of my taste, I am still responsible for feeding others. Being of service to someone else’s creative vision is the name of the game.

What’s your workflow like?
Alyssa Oh: At the start of the project, I receive the footage from production and organize it to Biff’s specs. Once it’s organized, I pass it off and he watches all the footage and assembles an edit. Once we get deeper into the project, he may seek my help in other aspects of the edit, including sound design, pulling music, creating graphics, temporary visual effects and creating animations. At the end of the project, I prep the edits for finishing color, mix, and conform.

What would surprise people about being an editor?
Oh: When I started, I associated editorial with “footage.” It surprised me that, aside from editing, we play a large part in decision-making for music and developing sound design.

Butler: I’ve heard the editor described as the final writer in the process. A script can be written and rewritten, but a lot happens in the edit room once shots are on a screen. The reality of seeing what actually fits within the allotted time that the format allows for can shape decisions as can the ever-evolving needs of the client in question. Another aspect we get involved with is the music — it’s often the final ingredient to be considered, despite how important a role it plays.

Robots

What do you enjoy the most about your job?
Oh: By far, my favorite part is the people that I work with. We spend so much time together; I think it’s important to not just get along, but to also develop close relationships. I’m so grateful to work with people who I look forward to spending the day with.

At RPS, I’ve gained so many great friendships over the years and learn a lot from everyone around me —- not just in the aspect of editorial, but also from the people at companies that work alongside us — A52, Elastic and Jax.

Butler: At the risk of sounding corny, what turns me on most is collaboration and connection with other creative talents. It’s a stark contrast to the beginning of the job, which I also very much adore — when it’s just me and my laptop, watching footage and judging shots.

Usually we get a couple days to put something together on our own, which can be a peaceful time of exploration and discovery. This is when I get to formulate my own opinions and points of view on the material, which is good to establish but also is something I must be ready to let go of… or at least be flexible with. Once the team gets involved in the room — be it the agency or the director — the real work begins.

As I said before, being of service to those who have trusted me with their footage and ideas is truly an honorable endeavor. And it’s not just those who hire us, but also talents we get to join forces with on the audio/music side, effects, etc. On second thought, the free supply of sparkly water we have on tap is probably my favorite part. It’s all pretty great.

What’s the hardest part of the job?
Oh: For me, the hardest part of our job are the “peaks and valleys.” In other words, we don’t have a set schedule, and with each project, our work hours will vary.

Robots

Butler: I could complain about the late nights or long weekends or unpredictable schedules, but those are just a result of being employed, so I count myself fortunate that I even get to moan about that stuff. Perhaps one of the trickiest parts is in dealing with egos, both theirs and mine.

Inevitably, I serve as mediator between a creative agency and the director they hired, and the client who is paying for this whole project. Throw in the mix my own sense of ownership that develops, and there’s a silly heap of egos to manage. It’s a joy, but not everyone can be fully satisfied all the time.

If you couldn’t edit for a living, what would you do?
Oh: I think I would definitely be working in a creative field or doing something that’s hands-on (I still hope to own a pottery studio someday). I’ve always had a fondness for teaching and working with kids, so perhaps I’d do something in the teaching field.

Butler: I would be pursuing a career in directing commercials and documentaries.

Did you know from a young age that you would be involved in this industry?
Oh: In all honesty, I didn’t know that this would be my path. Originally, I wanted to go into
broadcast, specifically sports broadcasting. I had an interest in television production since
high school and learned a bit about editing along the way.

However, I had applied to work at RPS as a production assistant shortly after graduating and quickly gained interest in editing and never looked back!
Butler : I vividly recall seeing the movie Se7en in the cinema and being shell-shocked by the opening title sequence. The feeling I was left with was so raw and unfiltered, I remember thinking, “That is what I want to do.” I wasn’t even 100 percent sure what that was. I knew I wanted to put things together! It wasn’t even so much a mission to tell stories, but to evoke emotion — although storytelling is most often the way to get there.

Robots

At the same time, I was a kid who grew up under the spell of some very effective marketing campaigns — from Nike, Jordan, Gatorade — and knew that advertising was a field I would be interesting in exploring when it came time to find a real job.

As luck would have it, in 2005 I found myself living in Los Angeles after the rock band I was in broke up, and I walked over to a nearby office an old friend of mine had worked at, looking for a job. She’d told me it was a place where editors worked. Turns out, that place was where many of my favorite ads were edited, and it was founded by the guy who put together that Se7en title sequence. That place was Rock Paper Scissors, and it’s been my home ever since.

Can you guys talk about the Michelob Ultra Robots spot that first aired during the Super Bowl earlier this year? What was the process like?
Butler: The process involved a lot of trust, as we were all looking at frames that didn’t have any of the robots in — they were still being created in CG — so when presenting edits, we would have words floating on screen reading “Robot Here” or “Robot Runs Faster Now.”

It says a lot about the agency in that it could hold the client’s hand through our rough edit and have them buy off on what looked like a fairly empty edit. Working with director Dante Ariola at the start of the edit helped to establish the correct rhythm and intention of what would need to be conveyed in each shot. Holding on to those early decisions was paramount, although we clearly had enough human performances to rest are hats on too.

Was there a particular cut that was more challenging than the others?
Butler: The final shot of the spot was a battle I lost. I’m happy with the work, especially the quality of human reactions shown throughout. I’m also keen on the spot’s simplicity. However, I had a different view of how the final shot would play out — a closer shot would have depicted more emotion and yearning in the robot’s face, whereas where we landed left the robot feeling more defeated — but you can’t win them all.

Robots

Did you feel extra stress knowing that the Michelob spot would air during the Super Bowl?
Butler: Not at all. I like knowing that people will see the work and having a firm airdate reduces the likelihood that a client can hem and haw until the wheels fall off. Thankfully there wasn’t enough time for much to go wrong!

You’ve already talked about doing more than just editing. What are you often asked to do in addition to just editing?
Butler: Editors are really also music supervisors. There can be a strategy to it, also knowing when to present a track you really want to sell through. But really, it’s that level of trust between myself and the team that can lead to some good discoveries. As I mentioned before, we are often tasked with just providing a safe and nurturing environment for people to create.

Truly, anybody can sit and hit copy and paste all day. I think it’s my job to hold on to that initial seed or idea or vision, and protect it through the final stages of post production. This includes ensuring the color correction, finishing and sound mix all reflect intentions established days or weeks ahead when we were still fresh enough in our thinking to be acting on instinct.

I believe that as creative professionals, we are who we are because of our instincts, but as a job drags on and on, we are forced to act more with our heads than our hearts. There is a stamina that is required, making sure that what ends up on the TV is representative of what was initially coming out of that instinctual artistic expression.

Does your editing hat change depending on the type of project you are cutting?
Butler: No, not really. An edit is an edit. All sessions should involve laughter and seriousness and focus and moments to unwind and goof off. Perhaps the format will determine the metaphorical hat, or to be more specific, the tempo.

Selecting shots for a 30- or 60-second commercial is very different than chasing moments for a documentary or long-form narrative. I’ll often remind myself to literally breathe slower when I know a shot needs to be long, and the efficiency with which I am telling a story is of less importance than the need to be absorbed in a moment.

Can you name some of your favorite technology?
Oh: My iPhone and all the apps that come with it; my Kindle, which allows me to be as indecisive as I want when it comes to picking a book and traveling; my laptop; and noise-cancelling headphones!

Butler: The carbonation of water, wireless earphones and tiny solid-state hard drives.

Using editing to influence the tone of a spot

By Maury Loeb

We all have a basic understanding about what editing consists of. In the simplest terms, editors stitch together raw footage to create a cohesive and coherent story. But one of the most vital features of a “good edit” is the establishment of tone. Tone is the aspect of a piece that describes its particular mood, character, atmosphere and flavor. Dictating the proper tone of an ad is a deceivingly sophisticated endeavor that goes beyond the simple mechanics of a few well-spliced shots. Editors need to tell a cohesive story, but we also have to tell the right story.

While some commercials can be ill-conceived and fundamentally “tone-deaf,” trying too hard to project “cool,” the best commercials make viewers feel connected to something. Wieden + Kennedy’s original Go Forth work for Levi’s is a great example. It’s a hipster anthem, but one that makes bold tonal choices in the edit to unique and memorable effect.

Another is the hilarious It’s a Tide Ad, which so precisely and successfully recreates the tonal doppelgangers of existing ads that it’s actually deceiving at first. The ability to produce a very specific, intentional flavor from disparate, raw ingredients is what elevates editing from a craft into an art. The script might be the script, and the footage might be the footage but creating the right tone for a spot not only honors the vision of the ad, but also enhances and elevates the finished piece.

This requires an editor’s technical skill of manipulating and synthesizing their raw ingredients, but more importantly, it relies on an editor’s taste, creativity and sensibility. In the commercial world, offline editors are uniquely positioned to get the first crack at establishing the tone of a spot and the opportunity to shepherd a spot through its finishing, making sure that the intended tone of the ad is realized at the end. It takes the brilliance of talented colorists, sound designers, musicians and animators to achieve a polished finished product, but a good offline editor can sketch out a comprehensive “tonal roadmap” for a spot.

Sound, picture and pace are the most fundamental determinants of tone. Editors manipulate these elements by employing an infinite arsenal of weapons in order to achieve the intended tone of a commercial.

Sound
Sound and our emotions have a primal relationship. Sound is essentially a form of “invisible touch” that is processed in the same part of our brains that processes emotion and perception, making it an ideal parameter of tone. Music is probably the most effective, immediate and raw influencer of tone. It is quite literally a construct designed to create an emotional response. Throw three different pieces of music against the same footage and you will walk away with three entirely different experiences. As far as weapons in an editor’s arsenal go, its standard issue for a reason. Would ASPCA ads be as iconic with any other track besides Sara McLachlan’s “In the Arms of the Angel” even if they were equally as cloying and maudlin?

A thousand different tracks could have complemented Sony’s famous Balls spot, but would it have had the same impact without Jose Gonzalez’s dreamy, slightly unexpected version of “Heartbeats”? Tone can be equally dictated by an editor’s approach to sound design. Google Chrome’s “Speed Tests” dynamically toggled between hyper-real and overtly stylized sounds, creating a piece that’s both observational and awe-inspiring. The result is a unique tonal voice that is utterly engaging with just the right amount of cheekiness.

Color
Editors can inform the tone of a spot beyond the images initially captured in the camera. Manipulating the color palette of the film colors the character of a spot in profound ways. Editors can dial through a range of emotions as they dial through the color spectrum, capitalizing on a color’s ability to elicit specific emotions — from the isolation and melancholy found in blue tones and the menace and danger found in greens to the welcoming warmth of rich reds and golds. A film’s light and dark tones can telegraph an impressive amount of information to an audience as well. Consider the flat palette of Skittles commercials and the way it helps enhance their awkward, comedic tone. Or the way crunchy contrast and saturated colors can make a tabletop spot look punchy and appetizing.

Pacing
Editors also set tone by the pace at which a commercial is cut, both in the tempo of the edits and the speed of the footage itself. The tonal adrenaline of Nike’s Write the Future is due in large part to its dynamic edit as it jerks the audience through kinetic bursts of flurried cuts and pregnant lulls of over-cranked shots. Likewise, Ikea’s Lamp wouldn’t feel nearly as sad if it weren’t for the deliberately paced, measured editing. Nike’s Michael Jordan ad Frozen moments played out in real time would feel like a trite highlight reel, but the deftly handled ramping between super slow motion and real time creates an epic grandeur that amplifies the message of the spot.

Double Duty
Commercials have the unique role of being little films in the greater service of advertising something while also representing a particular brand. In commercials, an editor’s sensibility is key. Is the tone of a particular spot congruous with its message? Does its tone align with the sensibility of the brand? Commercial editors have the dual duty of approaching their task as both stewards of the filmmaking process and stewards of the brand itself. Our role is crucial in making sure the end result both conveys the intended message of an ad in a way that jibes with how a brand wants to be perceived.

Editors are crucial at establishing tone in broad-strokes, but also on a granular level, understanding how a particular line is delivered or graphics are placed can have an impact on the overall tone and experience of a spot. It’s important that brands and agencies see editors as more than just craftspeople who know how to cut footage together using certain programs. Good, experienced commercial editors are tonal specialists who understand how to influence the tone of an ad and make it just feel right.


Maury Loeb is the co-founder of and editor at PS260 , a creative editorial company in New York City, Boston and Venice, California. Check out his reel here.

Cutters Studios promotes Heather Richardson, Patrick Casey

Cutters Studios has promoted Heather Richardson to executive producer and Patrick Casey to head of production. Richardson’s oversight will expand into managing and recruiting talent, and in maintaining and building the company’s client base. Casey will focus on optimizing workflows, project management and bidding processes.

Richardson joined Cutters in 2015, after working as a producer for visual effects studio A52 in LA and for editorial company Cosmo Street in both LA and New York for more than 10 years. On behalf of Cutters, she has produced Super Bowl spots for Lifewtr, Nintendo and WeatherTech, and campaigns including Capital One, FCA North America (Fiat, Dodge Ram, and Jeep), Gatorade, Google, McDonald’s and Modelo.

“I’ve been fortunate to have worked with some excellent executive producers during my career, and I’m honored and excited for the opportunity to expand the scope of my role on behalf of Cutters Studios, and alongside Patrick Casey,” says Richardson. “Patrick’s kindness and thoughtfulness in addition to his intelligence and experience are priceless.”

In addition to leading Cutters editors, Casey produced the groundbreaking Always “#LikeAGirl” campaign, Budweiser’s Harry Caray’s Last Call and Whirlpool’s “Care Counts” campaign that won top Cannes Lions, Clio, Effie and Adweek Project Isaac Awards.

The editing and tech behind Netflix’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

This interactive film’s editor talks challenges as well as how Netflix’s Branch Manager tech made it all possible.

By Karen Moltenbrey

In any film, or web/television series for that matter, the final presentation is the culmination of many choices. The director’s, the scriptwriter’s, the editor’s… just about everyone’s but the viewers. However, Netflix changed that with Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, a special interactive TV movie during which viewers are prompted to make selections that affect the decision-making and, ultimately, determine the fate of the main character: a young video game programmer.

Alas, while the viewer is tasked with making certain decisions at various intervals in the movie, that certainly did not mean the workload was any less for those on the project. In fact, they had to devise a plethora of paths that could be selected — so many, in fact, that a new tool, called Branch Manager, was devised and integrated into the workflow to maintain order and elegance to what could easily have become a tangled web on so many fronts.

Black Mirror, a British science-fiction series of stand-alone stories, mostly focuses on the consequences of new technologies. It was created by Charlie Brooker, who serves as showrunner along with Annabel Jones. The very first episode debuted in late 2011, and after four “series,” the pair introduced the interactive movie Black Mirror: Bandersnatch on December 28, 2018, in which reality and fantasy merge together for programmer Stefan Butler (Fionn Whitehead) as he adapts a choose-your-own-adventure type novel into a video game. Soon Butler’s life begins to resemble that of the tragic author, and he begins to break down mentally, slipping further down the rabbit hole as he tries to make a seemingly impossible release date for the game.

Within this storyline, viewers are tasked with making certain decisions, each leading them along various paths in the narrative. In addition, there are a number of possible story endings. Viewers have 10 seconds to make decisions or one is made for them. But, once a play-through ends, viewers can go back and make a different choice. According to Netflix, the average viewing time for the movie is 90 minutes.

Tony Kearns

With 150 minutes of unique footage divided into 250 segments, just about every aspect of production was impacted in some way, perhaps none more so than editing. And that task was given to Tony Kearns, a veteran editor who calls Bandersnatch “the biggest challenge of my editing career” thus far. In terms of production, Kearns estimates the shoot to have been two to three weeks longer than a regular Black Mirror episode, and the edit took five to seven weeks longer than a show of similar duration, lasting 17 weeks.

“When we started working on Bandersnatch, we realized we were doing something that none of us had done before by making an interactive movie — especially one of such complexity,” says Kearns. “I think everyone who had a major role in the production grasped quite early on the need to be very organized and to get our heads around the structure of the script and the segments, as well as the implications of a nonlinear storytelling based on viewers’ choices at every choice point.”

Then, as the group worked through the movie and began getting more footage in the can, “it was obviously clear we had to work out a way of keeping track of things and getting the right results from the edit and how we were constructing it,” he continues. “Having the Branch Manager software [developed in-house by Netflix] enabled us to watch the movie with the various choices, and while making them, seeing the implications for editing — particularly at the end of a segment and when starting another. That’s because you weren’t moving to just one thing; you were going to two things, and both had to work. Some of the segments had six variations, so you had to make sure they all worked. It was a novel experience and very intense. We had to be on our toes all the time.”

Bandersnatch is not Netflix’s first interactive show. In fact, the company has experimented with more simplified interactive, or “branching narrative,” children’s shows since 2017. However, Bandersnatch marked the first time it has done so for live action and for an adult audience — and to resounding success based on audience reaction. On the heels of that success, Netflix has followed up with the live-action interactive show You vs. Wild, putting viewers into the tracks of adventurer Bear Grylls as they make decisions for him while he tries to survive an adventure in the wilderness.

For Kearns, though, Bandersnatch was his first interactive “adventure.” (He is currently editing the Netflix drama The End of the F***ing World, Season 2.) He found the process “very, very different from a linear experience.” Making things even more daunting was the level of interactive complexity that was introduced in Bandersnatch. “We had no idea how it was going to be received. Would people become too frustrated, or would the emotional aspects of the story come through within all the choices?”

One of the biggest considerations was in terms of structure — making sure there weren’t too many recaps and that they balanced out with the story’s complexity, lest viewers give up on the movie. Another big focus was ensuring that the performances within this structure maintained the empathy, or humanity, that would keep viewers engaged and invested in the characters and story.

As a result, the nonlinear process fostered closer communication among the group, with script supervisor Marilyn Kirby and assistant director Jay Author invaluable on set, and a particularly crowded editing room. “That prevented us from going mad while trying to get our heads around things,” says Kearns.

While the editor and director always work closely on projects, at times director David Slade, executive producers Brooker and Jones, producer Russell McLean, assistant editor John Weeks and VFX editor Will Howden were all working together in the cutting room. “Everyone was contributing. It wasn’t that it made things difficult; it was essential and made things more interesting and exciting,” says Kearns.

New Workflow
As Kearns points out, a typical TV show, drama or film has a main cut and that’s it. Not so for Bandersnatch, which had segments that at times had upward of 14 cuts, all of which had to be tracked and organized.

The script was divided into eight sections, and each segment in those sections was assigned a four-character alphanumeric number, along with the corresponding variant. “The workflow was based on keeping track of the segments. We knew by the number which section of the script it belonged to,” Kearns explains. “The workflow was dependent on us keeping a record, spreadsheets. While editing, we had to know which was the latest version, or cut, because they were constantly being reworked. And the latest one went into Branch Manager to be viewed on our laptops. That was an important part of the workflow.”

Using Branch Manager, however, required some technical savvy, and helping the editing team navigate the software was assistant editor John Weeks, who just happened to be an experienced coder and worked his magic with the QuickTime files for each segment and ingested them into Branch Manager. “He was able to be so proactive and communicate with the engineers and developers at Netflix. He really took to this like a duck to water,” Kearns says. “I know it took up a lot of his time, but it ended up being essential for us in terms of making decisions for the edit and structure.”

Kearns would receive footage to a particular segment after each day of filming, do an assembly and then integrate it into the system. Then he would work on further edits as the segment progressed and as the structure was reworked and aspects re-aligned. “The numbering system for each segment was kind of the spine of the process and helped us keep track of what we were doing,” he adds. “You have to be prepared to pull things apart and reassemble them because the experience is different.”

For the movie, Kearns edited on Adobe Premiere, since it allowed him to open more than one sequence at a time. “It was essential to have more than one segment edit up at a time and switch between them just to see how [the segments] flowed,” he says. He also used Adobe Premiere for the VFX work.

Branch Manager
The big star in terms of software on the project, though, was Branch Manager, developed by Netflix, which enabled the editing team to play with various options, choice points and timing, to ensure that the viewer was presented with the correct next segment based on the selection he or she had made. “You have a viewer’s experience, rather than looking at it on the edit system,” Kearns says of using the software. “We could view the movie in an interactive way on our laptops. We could see how the segments were working with each other, which was very useful.”

Carla Engelbrecht

He explains: “We’d basically do a pass and watch it, make notes and adjust the edit accordingly, because sometimes you see things in isolation and think, ‘Oh, they’re working,’ and then using Branch Manager, we were able to see that, well, maybe they aren’t working so well. It was an essential platform. It made the process more fluid and creative, and easy to understand the structural and editorial aspects. We wouldn’t have been able to do this movie without it.”

According to Carla Engelbrecht, Netflix director of product innovation, her team met with Brooker and Jones in May 2017 and introduced them to the interactive storytelling technology, which, at the time, enabled Netflix to tell various interactive stories. A few months later, the pair returned with what would be the beginnings of Bandersnatch, “and we could see this was going to be a much more complex story than what we had previously done for our interactive titles for kids, which contained simple maps with just 15 or so choices, and each often led to maybe three different endings,” she says.

Not so with the plans for Bandersnatch. “The complexity of the stories Charlie [Brooker] wanted to tell, as well as the complexity of the stories adults can tackle in general, was partly what really drove us to create Branch Manager.”

Initially, the Bandersnatch scriptwriters began their process using Twine, an open-source interactive fiction engine, but it was easy to see that would not be sufficient for the planned complexity of Bandersnatch. This prompted Engelbrecht’s group to begin developing its own software. Moreover, production teams were developing their own mapping systems, often using spreadsheets for the interactive content. “We knew we could smooth this out and make the process easier for everyone by creating a common language so we could all be on the same page,” she explains.

As Engelbrecht notes, Branch Manager is a visualization tool that is used throughout the production process, from viewing an outline to creating a flowchart of the story structure, within which pieces of the outline are embedded as a script is formed. During the shoot, rough (or even fine) cuts are added to the software. “Then you can start watching it and experiencing all of the pieces, whether for continuity or choices.”

After a few months, the software was up and running and ready to be migrated over for use on the project. “That become the ongoing tool, as we used it during the rest of scriptwriting through the actual production and even into post production,” she says. “We were sort of beta-testing it on the fly [with Bandersnatch]. As we got script deliveries, we would also get notes on Branch Manager and on other features they wanted us to add.”

Engelbrecht points out that for some in production and post, the new workflow was seamless, involving “just more” — in essence, one big linear file. (She estimates that the final file ingested into the system is approximately five hours long due to the various options.) But for others, like the DP and actors, scenes had to be reshot with slightly different takes, and editing had to track and assemble those different options. “Throughout development and beyond, we had conversations and tried to be mindful of where problems could occur at the various stages. We wanted the software to be as minimally disruptive [to the production workflow] as possible, given what we were doing.”

While Netflix hasn’t specifically quantified the time-savings that Branch Manager brought to Bandersnatch, Engelbrecht notes that it was significant and allows for the telling of much more complex interactive stories.


Listen to Netflix and Black Mirror execs discuss how Branch Manager helped drive Bandersnatch’s production and innovation.

An Interactive Future
Kearns attributes the project’s success to the group carefully considering how it would approach the movie and managing to avoid major “teething” problems by making the right decisions along the way. He notes it was important, as well, to stay on top of what was going on at any given moment in terms of how a particular segments of story. “There were so many dimensions that, mentally, it was really taxing, but exciting as well,” he says. “I had to be able to recalibrate my editing brain to not think of the story overall, but rather from the point of view of individual segments, and keep them coherent.”

Looking to the future, Kearns expects an uptick in interactive projects but believes the key to their success — as evidenced with Bandersnatch — is to develop good scripts that suit the format, rather than trying to do it as a gimmick. He warns: “You really need people in important roles to be at the top of their game. It’s not for the faint of heart. And, you have to be prepared to make those tough decisions, which are made even tougher due to the nature of the interactive structure.”

He adds, “No matter how difficult your next job is, it is going to be so easy after Bandersnatch.”

Meanwhile, Engelbrecht’s team is working on improvements to Branch Manager. “On Bandersnatch, we were building the airplane as we were flying it,” she says. “We’re now moving into Version 2, better integrating the software with external tools to make the work even more seamless. We’re also looking to improve the onboarding experience to make the learning curve shorter, so it’s not like learning a new programming language. We want it to feel more drag-and-drop.”

For instance, the group has made Branch Manager compatible with Final Draft screenwriting software, enabling a script to be imported directly into Netflix’s tool. The team is still working on the interface. “We have a long wish list just pertaining to the visualization experience with the tools. And, we’re working on how to better integrate it on the other end, so when we ingest files into the system, the metadata flows from Branch Manager directly into our [production] system, whereas right now we still have to create a spreadsheet to negotiate part of the process.”

Thanks to Branch Manager, the team on Bandersnatch was able to negotiate a complex web of shifting directions. So, too, for the executives at Netflix, who are able to explore and more easily navigate new directions for content.


Karen Moltenbrey is a veteran VFX and post writer.

FXhome, Vegas Creative Software partner on Vegas Post

HitFilm creator FXhome has partnered with Vegas Creative Software to launch a new suite of editing, VFX, compositing and imaging tools for video pros, editors and VFX artists called Vegas Post.

Vegas Post will combine the editing tools of Vegas Pro with FXhome’s expertise in compositing and visual effects to offer an array of features and capabilities.

FXhome is developing customized effects and compositing tools specifically for Vegas Post. The new software suite will also integrate a custom-developed version of FXhome’s new non-destructive RAW image compositor that will enable video editors to work with still-image and graphical content and incorporate it directly into their final productions. All tools will work together seamlessly in an integrated, end-to-end workflow to accelerate and streamline the post production process for artists.

The new software suite is ideally suited for video pros in post facilities of all sizes and requirements — from individual artists to large post studios, broadcasters and small/medium enterprise installations. It will be available in the third quarter, with pricing to be announced.

Meanwhile, FXhome has teamed up with Filmstro, which offers a royalty-free music library, to provide HitFilm users with access to the entire Filmstro music library for 12 months. With Filmstro available directly from the FXhome store, HitFilm users can use Filmstro soundtracks on unlimited projects and get access to weekly new music updates.

Offering more than just a royalty-free music library, Filmstro has developed a user interface that gives artists flexibility and control over selected music tracks for use in their HitFilm projects. HitFilm users can control the momentum, depth and power of any Filmstro track, using sliders to perfectly match any sequence in a HitFilm project. Users can also craft soundtracks to perfectly fit images by using a keyframe graph editor within Filmstro. Moving sliders automatically create keyframes for each element and can be edited at any point.

Filmstro offers over 60 albums’ worth of music with weekly music releases. All tracks are searchable using keywords, film and video genre, musical style, instrumental palette or mood. All Filmstro music is licensed for usage worldwide and in perpetuity. The Filmstro dynamic royalty-free music library is available now on the FXhome Store for $249 and can be purchased here.

Behind the Title: Editor and colorist Grace Novak

One of her favorite parts of the job is when she encounters a hard edit and it finally clicks and falls into place.

NAME: New York-based Grace Novak

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Editor and Colorist

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
I work with directors/clients to make their project come to life using an editing program. Then during the color process, I bring it even closer to their aesthetic vision.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
It can include a lot of not-so-creative work like troubleshooting and solving technical problems, especially when doing assistant color/edit work either for myself or for someone else.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
I love the great moment when you push through a hard edit and it finally clicks. I also love getting to collaborate with other great creators and filmmakers and working one-on-one in the editing room. I find it to be a great learning experience.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
When nothing works and I don’t know why. But, luckily, once I figure it out (eventually, hours later sometimes) I’ve learned to solve a new issue.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST PRODUCTIVE TIME OF THE DAY?
Definitely the mornings once I’ve had some coffee. I’m a morning person who is most active around the hours of 8-11. Once lunch hits, it can be hard not to want to take a good midday nap.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
When I was younger, for some reason, I told everyone I wanted to be a barber. I think that’s because I liked using scissors. Seriously, though, I’d probably be working with kids in some way or as an educator. I still hope to teach down the road.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS PROFESSION?
I knew I wanted a job where I could be creative, and with editing I can also be technically proficient. I love the combination of the two.

Dissonance

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
I always knew I wanted to be involved with film, probably since I was 12. I remember starting to edit on Windows Movie Maker and being enamored with the effects. I especially liked the really awful and gaudy one that went through a gradient of colors. Don’t worry, I would never use something like that now.

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
I’m working on a lot of short indie films right now including Dissonance, Bogalusa and Siren. I’m also an assistant editor on the feature film The Outside Story.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
Dissonance, a short experimental film that is currently in color right now (with me), is probably the most proud I am of a project purely because of how far it pushed me as an artist, editor and collaborator.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
I follow a lot, but in the post world that includes postPerspective, BCPC and Jonny Elwyn.

DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK?
If I can, I like to listen to podcasts. That’s probably my primary podcast listening time besides at the gym. Obviously, I can only do this during my color work. For music, I like tunes that aren’t too upbeat and more relaxing. For podcasts I like to listen to either comedians or Reply All, Blank Check and Reveal.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
I like to read and play video games. I also started to do cross-stitch recently and it’s nice to find a way to use my hands that doesn’t involve a computer or a controller. I make sure to exercise a lot as well because I find that helps my stress levels like nothing else can.

Review: CyberPower PC workstation with AMD Ryzen

By Brady Betzel

With the influx of end users searching for alternatives to Mac Pros, as well as new ways to purchase workstation-level computing solutions, there is no shortage of opinions on what brands to buy and who might build it. Everyone has a cousin or neighbor that builds systems, right?

I’ve often heard people say, “I’ve never built a system or used (insert brand name here), but I know they aren’t good.” We’ve all run into people who are dubious by nature. I’m not so cynical, and when it comes to operating and computer systems, I consider myself Switzerland.

When looking for the right computer system, the main question you should ask is, “What do you need to accomplish?” Followed by, “What might you want to accomplish in the future?” I’m a video editor and colorist, so I need the system I build to work fluidly with Avid Media Composer, Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve and Adobe’s Premiere and After Effects. I also want my system to work with Maxon Cinema 4D in case I want to go a little further than Video Copilot’s Element 3D and start modeling in Cinema 4D. My main focus is video editing and color correction but I also need flexibility for other tools.

Lately, I’ve been reaching out to companies in the hopes of testing as many custom-built Windows -based PCs as possible. There have been many Mac OS-to-Windows transplants over the past few years, so I know pros are eager for options. One of the latest seismic shifts have come from the guys over at Greyscalegorilla moving away from Mac to PCs. In particular, I saw that one of the main head honchos over there, Nick Campbell (@nickvegas), went for a build complete with the Ryzen Threadripper 32-core workhorse. You can see the lineup of systems here. This really made me reassess my thoughts on AMD being a workstation-level processor, and while not everyone can afford the latest Intel i9 or AMD Threadripper processors, there are lower-end processors that will do most people just fine. This is where the custom-built PC makers like CyberPower PC, who equip machines with AMD processors, come into play.

So why go with a company like CyberPowerPC? The prices for parts are usually competitive, and the entire build isn’t much more than if you purchased the parts by themselves. Also, you deal with CyberPower PC for Warranty issues and not individual companies for different parts.

My CustomBuild
In my testing of an AMD Ryzen 7 1700x-based system with a Samsung NVMe hard drive and 16GB of RAM, I was able to run all of the software I mentioned before. The best part was the price; the total was around, $1,000! Not bad for someone editing and color correcting. Typically those machines can run anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000. Although the parts in those more expensive systems are more complex and have double to triple the amount of cores, some of that is wasted. And when on a budget you will be hard-pressed to find a better deal than CyberPower PC. If you build a system yourself, you might get close but not far off.

While this particular build isn’t going to beat out the AMD Threadripper’s or Intel i9-based systems, the AMD Ryzen-based systems offer a decent bang for the buck. As I mentioned, I focus on video editing and color correcting so I tested a simple one-minute UHD (3840×2160) 23.98 H.264 export. Using Premiere along with Adobe’s Media Encoder, I used about :30 seconds of Red UHD footage as well as some UHD S-log3/s-gamut3 footage I shot on the Sony a7 III creating a one-minute long sequence.

I then exported it as an H.264 at a bitrate around 10Mb/s. With only a 1D LUT on the Sony a7iii footage, the one-minute sequence took one minute 13 seconds. With added 10% resizes and a “simple” Gaussian blur over all the clips, the sequence exported in one minute and four seconds. This is proof that the AMD GPU is working inside of Premiere and Media Encoder. Inside Premiere, I was able to playback the full-quality sequence on a second monitor without any discernible frames dropping.

So when people tell you AMD isn’t Intel, technically they are right, but overall the AMD systems are performing at a high enough level that for the money you are saving, it might be worth it. In the end, with the right expectations and dollars, an AMD-based system like this one is amazing.

Whether you like to build your own computer or just don’t want to buy a big-brand system, custom-built PCs are a definite way to go. I might be a little partial since I am comfortable opening up my system and changing parts around, but the newer cases allow for pretty easy adjustments. For instance, I installed a Blackmagic DeckLink and four SSD drives for a RAID-0 setup inside the box. Besides wishing for some more internal drive cages, I felt it was easy to find the cables and get into the wiring that CyberPowerPC had put together. And because CyberPowerPC is more in the market for gaming, there are plenty of RGB light options, including the memory!

I was kind of against the lighting since any color casts could throw off color correction, but it was actually kind of cool and made my setup look a little more modern. It actually kind of got my creativity going.

Check out the latest AMD Ryzen processors and exciting improvements to the Radeon line of graphics cards on www.cyberpowerpc.com and www.amd.com. And, hopefully, I can get my hands on a sweet AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX with 32 cores and 64 threads to really burn a hole in my render power.


Brady Betzel is an Emmy-nominated online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.

Sugar Studios LA gets social for celebrity-owned Ladder supplement

Sugar Studios LA completed a social media campaign for Ladder perfect protein powder and clean energy booster supplements starring celebrity founders Arnold Schwarzenegger, LeBron James, DJ Khaled, Cindy Crawford and Lindsey Vonn. The playful ad campaign focuses on social media, foregoing the usual TV commercial push and pitching the protein powder directly to consumers.

One spot shows Arnold in the gym annoyed by a noisy dude on the phone, prompting him to turn up his workout soundtrack. Then DJ Khaled is scratching encouragement for LeBron’s workout until Arnold drowns them out with his own personal live oompah band.

The ads were produced and directed by longtime Schwarzenegger collaborator Peter Grigsby, while Sugar Studios’ editor Nico Alba (Chevrolet, Ferrari, Morongo Casino, Mattel) cut the project using Adobe Premiere. When asked about using random spot lengths, as opposed to traditional :15s, :30s, and :60s, Alba explains, “Because it’s social media, we’re not always bound to those segments of time anymore. Basically, it’s ‘find the story,’ and because there are no rules, it makes the storytelling more fun. It’s a process of honing everything down without losing the rhythm or the message and maintaining a nice flow.”

Nico Alba and Jijo Reed. Credit: David Goggin

“Peter Grigsby requested a skilled big-brand commercial editor on this campaign,” Reed says. “Nico was the perfect fit to create that rhythm and flow that only a seasoned commercial editor could bring to the table.”

“We needed a heavy-weight gym ambience to set the stage,” says Alba, who worked closely with sound design/mixers Bret Mazur and Troy Ambroff to complement his editing. “It starts out with a barrage of noisy talking and sounds that really irritate Arnold, setting up the dueling music playlists and the sonic payoff.”

The audio team mixed and created sound design with Avid Pro tools Ultimate. Audio plugins called on include Waves Mercury bundle,, DTS Surround tools and iZotope RX7 Advanced.

The Sugar team also created a cinematic look to the spots, thanks to colorist Bruce Bolden, who called on Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve and a Sony BVM OLED monitor. “He’s a veteran feature film colorist,” says Reed, “so he often brings that sensibility to advertising spots as well, meaning rich blacks and nice, even color palettes.”

Storage used at the studio is Avid Nexis and Facilis Terrablock.

Sight, Sound & Story focuses on editing, June 13 in NYC

The Sight, Sound & Story: Post Production Summit will take place at the NYIT Auditorium Theater on Broadway in New York City on June 13.

This year’s line-up features editors Mary Jo Markey, ACE (Star Wars — Episode VII: The Force Awakens, Star Trek, Mission Impossible III, Charlie’s Angels), Kate Sanford, ACE (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, The Deuce, The Wire), Carla Gutierrez, ACE (RBG, La Corona, Chavela), Leo Trombetta, ACE (13 Reasons Why, True Detective, Mad Men) Jean Tsien, ACE (The Apollo, Dixie Chicks: Shut Up & Sing), moderator Bobbie O’Steen (author of “Cut to the Chase” and “The Invisible Cut”), moderator Jeremy Workman (Magical Universe, The World Before Your Feet) and moderator Gordon Burkell (AOTG.com).

Following the event is a networking/tech party sponsored by the American Cinema Editors, including light food, drinks and sponsored giveaways. Event admission is $49. You can register here. (Use Code: POSTPERSPECTIVE and save $20 off of your registration.)  

Boris FX will provide all attendees a free one-month subscription to Sapphire, Continuum & Mocha Pro.

Wacom updates its Intuos Pro Small tablet

Wacom has introduced a new Intuos Pro pen and touch tablet Small model to its advanced line of creative pen tablets. The new Intuos Pro Small joins the Intuos Pro Medium and Intuos Pro Large sizes already available.

Featuring Wacom’s precise Pro Pen 2 technology with over 8K pen pressure levels, pen tilt sensitivity, natural pen-on-paper feel and battery-free performance, artists now can choose the size — small, medium or large — that best fits their way of working.

The new small size features the same tablet working area as the previous model of Intuos Pro Small and targets on-the go creatives, whose Wacom tablet and PC or Mac laptops are always nearby. The space-saving tablet’s small footprint, wireless connectivity and battery-free pen technology that never needs charging makes setting makes working anywhere easy.

Built for pros, all three sizes of Intuos Pro tablets feature a TouchRing and ExpressKeys, six on the Small and eight on the Medium and Large, for the creation of customized shortcuts to speed up the creative workflow. In addition, incorporating both pen and touch on the tablet allows users to explore new ways to navigate and helps the whole creative experience become more interactive. The slim tablets, also feature a durable anodized aluminum back case and come with a desktop pen stand containing 10 replacement pen nibs.

The Wacom Pro Pen 2 features Wacom’s most advanced creative pen technology to date, with four times the pressure sensitivity as the original Pro Pen. 8,192 levels of pressure, tilt recognition and lag-free tracking effectively emulate working with traditional media by offering a natural drawing experience. Additionally, the pen’s customizable side switch allows one to easily access commonly used shortcuts, greatly speeding production.

Wacom offers two helpful accessory pens (purchased separately). The Pro Pen 3D, features a third button which can be set to perform typical 3D tasks such as tumbling objects in commonly used 3D creative apps. The newly released Pro Pen slim, supports some artists ergonomic preferences for a slimmer pen with a more pencil-like feel. Both are compatible with the Intuos Pro family and can help customize and speed the creative experience.

Intuos Pro is Bluetooth-enabled and compatible with Macs and PCs. All three sizes come with the Wacom Pro Pen 2, pen stand and feature ExpressKeys, TouchRing and multi-touch gesture control. The Intuos Pro Small ($249.95), Intuos Pro Medium ($379.95) and Intuos Pro Large ($499.95) are available now.

ACE announces new Eddie Awards timing

American Cinema Editors (ACE) has set the 70th Annual ACE Eddie Awards, which recognize outstanding editing in film and television, for Friday, January 17, 2020 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills. That date is almost three weeks earlier than usual as the truncated awards season landscape — ignited by the Oscars moving up to Feb. 9, 2020 — takes shape.

The television categories eligibility dates have also changed — television contenders must have aired between Jan. 1, 2019 and Nov. 1, 2019. Feature film eligibility remains the same with contenders having to be released between Jan. 1, 2019 and Dec. 31, 2019.

The black-tie awards ceremony will unveil winners for outstanding editing in 11 categories of film and television including:

Best Edited Feature Film (Drama)

Best Edited Feature Film (Comedy)

Best Edited Animated Film

Best Edited Documentary (Feature)

Best Edited Documentary (Non-Theatrical)

Best Edited Drama Series for Non-Commercial Television

Best Edited Drama Series for Commercial Television

Best Edited Comedy Series for Non-Commercial Television

Best Edited Comedy Series for Commercial Television

Best Edited Miniseries or Motion Picture for Television

Best Edited Non-Scripted Series

Three special honors will be handed out that evening including two Career Achievement recipients presented to film editors of outstanding merit and the Golden Eddie Filmmaker of the Year honor presented to a filmmaker who exemplifies distinguished achievement in the art and business of film. Honorary award recipients will be announced later this year.

Submissions for the ACE Eddie Awards open September 13 and close on November 1. For more information or to submit for awards consideration beginning September 13, visit the ACE web site.

Key dates for the 70th Annual ACE Eddie Awards are:

September 13, 2019 Submissions for Nominations Begin

November 1, 2019 Submissions for Nominations End

November 18, 2019 Nomination Ballots Sent

December 9, 2019 Nomination Ballots Due

December 11, 2019 Nominations Announced

December 16, 2019 Final Ballots Sent

December 20, 2019 Deadline for Advertising

January 5, 2020 Blue Ribbon Screenings (Television categories)

January 6, 2020 Final Ballots Due

January 15, 2020 Nominee Cocktail Party

January 17, 2020 70th Annual ACE Eddie Awards

 

Review: Avid Media Composer Symphony 2018 v.12

By Brady Betzel

In February of 2018, we saw a seismic shift in the leadership at Avid. Chief executive officer Louis Hernandez Jr. was removed and subsequently replaced by Jeff Rosica. Once Rosica was installed, I think everyone who was worried Avid was about to be liquidated to the highest bidder breathed a sigh of temporary relief. Still unsure whether new leadership was going to right a tilting ship, I immediately wanted to see a new action plan from Avid, specifically on where Media Composer and Symphony were going.

Media Composer with Symphony

Not long afterward, I was happily reading how Avid was taking lessons from its past transgressions and listening to its clients. I heard Avid was taking tours around the industry and listening to what customers and artists needed from them. Personally, I was asking myself if Media Composer with Symphony would ever be the finishing tool of Avid DS was. I’m happy to say, it’s starting to look that way.

It appears from the outside that Rosica is indeed the breath of fresh air Avid needed. At NAB 2019, Avid teased the next iteration of Media Composer, version 2019, with overhauled interface and improvements, such as a 32-bit float color pipeline workflow complete with ACES color management and a way to deliver IMF packages; a new engine with a distributed processing engine; and a whole new product called Media Composer|Enterprise, all of which will really help sell this new Media Composer. But the 2019 update is coming soon and until then I took a deep dive into Media Composer 2018 v12, which has many features editors, assistants, and even colorists have been asking for: a new Avid Titler, shape-based color correction (with Symphony option), new multicam features and more.

Titling
As an online editor who uses Avid Media Composer with Symphony option about 60% of the time, titling is always a tricky subject. Avid has gone through some rough seas when dealing with how to fix the leaky hole known as the Avid Title Tool. The classic Avid Title Tool was basic but worked. However, if you aligned something in the Title Tool interface to Title Safe zones, it might jump around once you close the Title Tool interface. Fonts wouldn’t always stay the same when working across PC and MacOS platforms. The list goes on, and it is excruciatingly annoying.

Titler

Let’s take a look at some Avid history: In 2002, Avid tried to appease creators and introduced the, at the time, a Windows-only titler: Avid Marquee. While Marquee was well-intentioned, it was extremely difficult to understand if you weren’t interested in 3D lighting, alignment and all sorts of motion graphics stuff that not all editors want to spend time learning. So, most people didn’t use it, and if they did it took a little while for anyone taking over the project to figure out what was done.

In December of 2014, Avid leaned on the New Blue Titler, which would work in projects higher than 1920×1080 resolution. Unfortunately, many editors ran into a very long render at the end, and a lot bailed on it. Most decided to go out of house and create titles in Adobe Photoshop and Adobe After Effects. While this all relates to my experience, I assume others feel the same.

In Avid Media Composer 2018, the company has introduced the Avid Titler, which in the Tools menu is labeled: Avid Titler +. It works like an effect rather than a rendered piece of media like in the traditional Avid Title Tool, where an Alpha and a Fill layer worked. This method is similar to how NewBlue or Marquee functioned. However, Avid Titler works by typing directly on the record monitor; adding a title is as easy as marking an in and out point and clicking on the T+ button on the timeline.

You can specify things like kerning, shadow, outlines, underlines, boxes, backgrounds and more. One thing I found peculiar was that under Face, the rotation settings rotate individual letters and not the entire word by default. I reached out to Avid and they are looking into making the entire word rotation option the default in the mini toolbar of Avid Titler. So stay tuned.

Also, you can map your fast forward and rewind buttons to “Go To Next/Previous Event.” This allows you to jump to your next edits in the timeline but also to the next/previous keyframes when in the Effect Editor. Typically, you click on the scrub line in the record window and then you can use those shortcuts to jump to the next keyframe. In the Avid Titler, it would just start typing in the text box. Furthermore, when I wanted to jump out of Effect Editor mode and back into Edit Mode, I usually hit “y,” but that did not get me out of Effects Mode (Avid did mention they are working on updates to the Avid Titler that would solve this issue). The new Avid Titler definitely has some bugs and/or improvements that are needed, and they are being addressed, but it’s a decent start toward a modern title editor.

Shape-based color correction

Color
If you want advanced color correction built into Media Composer, then you are going to want the Symphony option. Media Composer with the Symphony option allows for more detailed color correction using secondary color corrections as well as some of the newer updates, including shape-based color correction. Before Resolve and Baselight became more affordable, Symphony was the gold standard for color correction on a budget (and even not on a budget since it works so well in the same timeline the editors use). But what we are really here for is the 2018 v.12 update of Shapes.

With the Symphony option, you can now draw specific regions on the footage for your color correction to affect. It essentially works similarly to a layer-based system like Adobe Photoshop. You can draw shapes with the same familiar tools you are used to drawing with in the Paint or AniMatte tools and then just apply your brightness, saturation or hue swings in those areas only. On the color correction page you can access all of these tools on the right-hand side, including the softening, alpha view, serial mode and more.

When using the new shape-based tools you must point the drop-down menu to “CC Effect.” From there you can add a bunch of shapes on top of each other and they will play in realtime. If you want to lay a base correction down, you can specify it in the shape-based sidebar, then click shape and you can dial in the specific areas to your or your client’s taste. You can check off the “Serial Mode” box to have all corrections interact with one another or uncheck the box to allow for each color correction to be a little more isolated — a really great option to keep in mind when correcting. Unfortunately, tracking a shape can only be done in the Effect Editor, so you need to kind of jump out of color correction mode, track, and then go back. It’s not the end of the world, but it would be infinitely better if you could track efficiently inside of the color correction window. Avid could even take it further by allowing planar tracking by an app like Mocha Pro.

Shape-based color correction

The new shape-based corrector also has an alpha view mode identified by the infinity symbol. I love this! I often find myself making mattes in the Paint tool, but it can now be done right in the color correction tool. The Symphony option is an amazing addition to Media Composer if you need to go further than simple color correction but not dive into a full color correction app like Baselight or Resolve. In fact, for many projects you won’t need much more than what Symphony can do. Maybe a +10 on the contrast, +5 on the brightness and +120 on the saturation and BAM a finished masterpiece. Kind of kidding, but wait until you see it work.

Multicam
The final update I want to cover is multicam editing and improvements to editing group clips. I cannot emphasize enough how much time this would have saved me as an assistant editor back in the pre-historic Media Composer days… I mean we had dongles, and I even dabbled in the Meridian box. Literally days of grouping and regrouping could have been avoided with the Edit Group feature. But I did make a living fixing groups that were created incorrectly, so I guess this update is a Catch 22. Anyway, you can now edit groups in Media Composer by creating a group, right-clicking on that group and selecting Edit Group. From there, the group will now open in the Record Monitor as a sequence, and from there you can move, nudge and even add cameras to a previously created group. Once you are finished, you can update the group and refresh any sequences that used that group to update if you wish. One issue is that with mixed frame rate groups, Avid says committing to that sequence might produce undesirable effects.

Editing workspace

Cost of Entry
How much does Media Composer cost these days? While you can still buy it outright, it seems a bit more practical to go monthly since you will automatically get updates, but it can still be a little tricky. Do you need PhraseFind and/or ScriptSync? Do you need the Symphony option? Do you need to access shared storage? There are multiple options depending on your needs. If you want everything, then Media Composer Ultimate for $49 per month is what you want. If you want Media Composer and just one add-on, like Symphony, it will cost $19 per month plus $199 per year for the Symphony option. If you want to test the water before jumping in, you can always try Media Composer First.

For a good breakdown of the Media Composer pricing structure, check out KeyCode Media  page (a certified reseller). Another great link with tons of information organized into easily digestible bites is this. Additionally, www.freddylinks.com is a great resource chock full of everything else Avid, written by Avid technical support specialist Fredrik Liljeblad out of Sweden.

Group editing

Summing Up
In the end, I use and have used Media Composer with Symphony for over 15 years, and it is the most reliable nonlinear editor supporting multiple editors in a shared network environment that I have used. While Adobe Premiere Pro, Apple Final Cut Pro X and Blackmagic Resolve are offering fancy new features and collaboration modes, Avid seems to always hold stabile when I need it the most. These new improvements and a UI overhaul (set to debut in May), new leadership from Rosica, and the confidence of Rosica’s faithful employees all seem to be paying off and getting Avid back on the track they should have always been on.


Brady Betzel is an Emmy-nominated online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.

Jesse Averna: A veteran editor shares some wisdom

You work hard in a tough industry in challenging times. It can be easy to get bogged down with the expectations you’ve set for yourself and your career. If you’re in need of a dose of perspective and positivity, then take a moment to step away from your timeline, grab a coffee and meditate on a series of recent tweets by LA-based editor Jesse Averna (@dr0id).While they might not be strictly post production tweets, per say, it’s nice to hear some encouragement from a fellow post pro.

Caricature of Jesse Averna:  by Kevin Deters.

Averna is an editing veteran who has five Emmy Award wins with two additional nominations — all for his work on Sesame Street. You can currently find him working away at Walt Disney Animation Studios in Burbank, where he’s been awarded an Annie nomination for his most recent work on Ralph Breaks the Internet. Many of you might know him as one of the founders of the Twitter group #postchat.

Every so often he will Tweet out words of wisdom, hope and inspiration. We wanted to share those with you.

Passion:
If you have a passion for something, pursue it. We only get to do this life once. I’m just an idiot kid from Albuquerque who’s doing my dreams. Please go for it. You can get there. Believe in yourself. Work hard. Be kind. Ask for help.

You’re not wasting your time:
It all counts. Everything you have worked on will educate your next project and work ethic. Don’t get down if you aren’t working on the type of material you want to be working on at the moment. Squeeze everything you can out of it. Take it with you to the next gig. It all counts.

Good news:
Here’s some good news — it doesn’t matter what you think you should have accomplished by now. You’re not competing with anyone else. Your timetable doesn’t matter. It doesn’t even matter how many times you’ve failed. YOU MATTER. You are valuable regardless of your accomplishments.

A high tide raises all boats:
The only way to survive this industry is to support your friends, cheer them on, celebrate their victories, mourn their losses, help when asked. Give when you can.

You’ve already made it:
Look at what you’ve achieved. What you’ve overcome. Where you are now. Sure, you are looking at the road ahead and where you feel that you need to be. But, for today, be proud of what you’ve done.

Jesse

Be the change:
We’ll spend our whole lives being judged by others and ourselves. The issues and the problems. But there are wonderful, unique, powerful aspects to you. Know your weaknesses, but also know that you can change lives. You can impact the world around you. Your kindness can do that.

Know your value:
Value. If you don’t value your worth, you can’t expect others to. You are valuable. And I’m not talking about money. You’re worth more than that.

Your uniqueness:
You are the only YOU in this world. That’s a big deal. Let’s not waste it measuring ourselves to other people. You’ll never be them, only yourself.

Take a deep breath:
It seems important right now, but it’s most likely not as important as you think it is.

No matter how you feel tonight, there’s always tomorrow. Feelings pass. You are more valuable than you know. Today does not define you.

Perspective:
You are valuable. You are loved. You are missed. You are important. You are thought about.

Kindness:
There is no “them.” Only “us.” And we need to love our way through this moment in history. People need you. People need help, kindness, love, advice, mentoring, an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on. You are important and NEEDED right now.

If you’d like to hear Averna’s professional advice and some additional encouragement, check out our last article with him.


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

Behind the Title: Exile editor Lorin Askill

Name: Lorin Askill

Company: Exile (@exileedit)

Can you describe your company?
Exile is an editorial and finishing house based in NYC and LA. I am based in New York.

What’s your job title?
Editor

What does that entail?
I take moving images, sound and other raw materials and arrange them in time to create shape and meaning and ultimately tell stories. I always loved the Tarkovsky book title, sculpting in Time. I like to think that is what I do.

What would surprise people the most about what falls under that title?
Probably how much of an all-encompassing creative process it is. As well as editing picture, I source and edit sounds, I experiment with music, I create rough comps and block compositions for VFX, I play with color and place titles. At its best, editing is not only finding the best pieces of footage and ordering them to tell a story, an editor is crafting the whole visual-aural world that will be carried through to the finished piece.

Hyundai

What’s your favorite part of the job?
I love watching the first cut! When you’re excited about a project, you’ve found the gems and assembled your favorite pieces, solved some challenging problems, fudged together some tricky stunt or effects moments (and it’s already working!). Then you put a piece of music under it that (which you know you can’t actually use), and you feel like it has a good shape and runs from start to finish — usually very over length. It’s so much fun getting to this stage, then sitting back, turning the volume up, pressing play and watching it all together for the first time!

What’s your least favorite part?
My least favorite part is then going through and destroying that first cut with boring realities like running length and client requirements… JOKING. I also love the process of tightening and honing a cut to hit all the right notes and achieve the ultimate vision. But there is nothing like watching the first assembly of a project you love.

What is your most productive time of the day?
Probably first thing when I’ve got fresh eyes and I’m solving problems that seemed impossible the day before. Also the very end of the day when you’re in a little delirious zone and you’re really immersed and engrossed. When I’m cutting a music video, I like to pull up the project late at night and give myself the freedom to play because your brain is definitely functioning in a different way, and sometimes it’s really creative.

If you didn’t have this job, what would you be doing instead?
I think I’d photograph landscapes and spread environmental awareness while having food pop-ups in my garden.

Why did you choose this profession? How early on did you know this would be your path?
Ever since I got my first iMac in high school and started speeding up, slowing down and reversing footage in iMovie. I was addicted to it. I was manipulating time and creating stories with images and sound, and it felt like a beautiful combination of visual art and music, both of which I loved and studied. When I realized I could make a living being creative, and hopefully one day make movies. It seemed like a no-brainer.

Sia

Can you name some recent projects you have worked on?
Most recently I’ve been editing a passion project. It’s a short film directed by my brother. It’s a proof-of-concept for a film we’ve been writing together for a long time. Before that I was working on a bunch commercial projects while also cutting musical sequences for a feature film directed by Sia.

What do you use to edit?
I grew up on iMovie and then Final Cut Pro. Now I use Adobe Premiere Pro and find it does exactly what I need it to do.

Name a few pieces of technology you can’t live without.
I hate to say my phone, but it’s undeniable. My laptop for edits on the run. Good headphones. My Hasselblad from the ‘60s.

What do you do to de-stress from it all?
I get into nature whenever possible, and I cook.

NAB 2019: postPerspective Impact Award winners

postPerspective has announced the winners of our Impact Awards from NAB 2019. Seeking to recognize debut products with real-world applications, the postPerspective Impact Awards are voted on by an anonymous judging body made up of respected industry artists and pros (to whom we are very grateful). It’s working pros who are going to be using these new tools — so we let them make the call.

It was fun watching the user ballots come in and discovering which products most impressed our panel of post and production pros. There are no entrance fees for our awards. All that is needed is the ability to impress our voters with products that have the potential to make their workdays easier and their turnarounds faster.

We are grateful for our panel of judges, which grew even larger this year. NAB is exhausting for all, so their willingness to share their product picks and takeaways from the show isn’t taken for granted. These men and women truly care about our industry and sharing information that helps their fellow pros succeed.

To be successful, you can’t operate in a vacuum. We have found that companies who listen to their users, and make changes/additions accordingly, are the ones who get the respect and business of working pros. They aren’t providing tools they think are needed; they are actively asking for feedback. So, congratulations to our winners and keep listening to what your users are telling you — good or bad — because it makes a difference.

The Impact Award winners from NAB 2019 are:

• Adobe for Creative Cloud and After Effects
• Arraiy for DeepTrack with The Future Group’s Pixotope
• ARRI for the Alexa Mini LF
• Avid for Media Composer
• Blackmagic Design for DaVinci Resolve 16
• Frame.io
• HP for the Z6/Z8 workstations
• OpenDrives for Apex, Summit, Ridgeview and Atlas

(All winning products reflect the latest version of the product, as shown at NAB.)

Our judges also provided quotes on specific projects and trends that they expect will have an impact on their workflows.

Said one, “I was struck by the predicted impact of 5G. Verizon is planning to have 5G in 30 cities by end of year. The improved performance could reach 20x speeds. This will enable more leverage using cloud technology.

“Also, AI/ML is said to be the single most transformative technology in our lifetime. Impact will be felt across the board, from personal assistants, medical technology, eliminating repetitive tasks, etc. We already employ AI technology in our post production workflow, which has saved tens of thousands of dollars in the last six months alone.”

Another echoed those thoughts on AI and the cloud as well: “AI is growing up faster than anyone can reasonably productize. It will likely be able to do more than first thought. Post in the cloud may actually start to take hold this year.”

We hope that postPerspective’s Impact Awards give those who weren’t at the show, or who were unable to see it all, a starting point for their research into new gear that might be right for their workflows. Another way to catch up? Watch our extensive video coverage of NAB.

Behind the Title: PS260 editor Ned Borgman

This editor’s path began early. “I was the kid who would talk during the TV show and then pay attention to the commercials,” he says.

Name: Ned Borgman

Company: PS260

Can you describe your company?
PS260 is a post house built for ideas, creative solutions and going beyond the boards. We have studios in New York, Venice, California and Boston. I am based in New York.

What’s your job title?
Film editor, problem solver, cleaner of messes.

What does that entail?
My job is to make everything look great. Every project takes an entire team of super-talented people who bring their expertise to bear to tell a story. They create all of the puzzle pieces that end up in the dailies, and I put them together in such a way that they can all shine their best.

Facebook small business campaign

What would surprise people the most about what falls under that title?
I think it would be the sheer amount of stuff that can become an editor’s responsibility. So many details go into crafting a successful edit, and an editor needs to be well-versed in all of it. Color grading, visual effects, design, animation, music, sound design, the list goes on. The point isn’t to be a master of all of those things, (that’s why we work with other amazing people when it comes to finishing), but to know the needs of each of those parts and how to make sure every detail can get properly addressed.

What’s your favorite part of the job?
It’s the middle part. When we’re all in the middle of the edit, up to our necks in footage and options and ideas. Out of all of that exploration the best bits start to stand out. The sound design element from that cut and the music track from that other version and a take we tried last night. It all starts to make sense, and from there it’s about making sure the best bits can work well together.

What’s your least favorite?
Knowing there are always some great cuts that will only ever exist inside a Premiere Pro bin. Not every performance or music track or joke can make it into the final cut and out into the world and that’s ok. Maybe those cuts are airing in some other parallel universe.

What is your most productive time of the day?
Whenever the office is empty. So either early in the morning or late at night.

If you didn’t have this job, what would you be doing instead?
Probably something with photography. I’m too attached to visual storytelling, and I’m a horrible illustrator.

Why did you choose this profession? How early on did you know this would be your path? 
I’ve always been enamored with commercials. I was the kid who would talk during the TV show and then pay attention to the commercials. I remember making my first in-camera edit in third grade when I was messing around with the classroom camcorder set up on a tripod. I had recorded myself in front of the camera and then recorded a bit of the empty classroom. Playing it back, it looked like I had vanished into thin air. It blew my eight-year-old mind.

Burger King

Can you name some recent projects you have worked on?
Let’s see, Burger King’s flame-broiled campaign with MullenLowe was great. It has a giant explosion, which is always nice. Facebook’s small business campaign with 72andSunny was a lot of fun with an amazing team of people. And some work for the Google Home Hub launch with Google Creative Labs was fun because launching stuff is exciting.

Do you put on a different hat when cutting for a specific genre? 
Not exactly. Every genre has its specific needs, but I think the fundamentals remain the same. I need to pay attention to rhythm, to performances, to music, to sound design, to VO — all of that stuff. It’s about staying in tune with how all of these ingredients interact with each other to create a reaction from the audience, no matter the reaction you’re striving for.

What is the project that you are most proud of?
I grew up obsessed with practical effects in movies, so I’d have to say Burger King “Gasoline Shuffle”. It has a massive explosion that was shot in camera and it looks incredible. I wish I was on set that day.

What do you use to edit?
Adobe Premiere Pro all the way. I like to think that one day I’ll be back on Avid Media Composer though.

What is your favorite plugin?
I don’t have one. Just give me that basic install.

Are you often asked to do more than edit? If so, what else are you asked to do?
Sure. I’ll often record the scratch VO when there’s one needed. My voice is…serviceable. What that means is that as soon as the real VO talent gets placed in the cut, everyone’s thrilled with how much better everything sounds. That’s cool by me.

Name three pieces of technology you can’t live without.
My iPhone, my Shure in-ear headphones, and an extra long charging cable.

This is a high stress job with deadlines and client expectations. What do you do to de-stress from it all?
Change some diapers. My wife and I just had our first kid last August, and she’s incredible. A game of peek-a-boo can really change your perspective.

NAB 2019: First impressions

By Mike McCarthy

There are always a slew of new product announcements during the week of NAB, and this year was no different. As a Premiere editor, the developments from Adobe are usually the ones most relevant to my work and life. Similar to last year, Adobe was able to get their software updates released a week before NAB, instead of for eventual release months later.

The biggest new feature in the Adobe Creative Cloud apps is After Effects’ new “Content Aware Fill” for video. This will use AI to generate image data to automatically replace a masked area of video, based on surrounding pixels and surrounding frames. This functionality has been available in Photoshop for a while, but the challenge of bringing that to video is not just processing lots of frames but keeping the replaced area looking consistent across the changing frames so it doesn’t stand out over time.

The other key part to this process is mask tracking, since masking the desired area is the first step in that process. Certain advances have been made here, but based on tech demos I saw at Adobe Max, more is still to come, and that is what will truly unlock the power of AI that they are trying to tap here. To be honest, I have been a bit skeptical of how much AI will impact film production workflows, since AI-powered editing has been terrible, but AI-powered VFX work seems much more promising.

Adobe’s other apps got new features as well, with Premiere Pro adding Free-Form bins for visually sorting through assets in the project panel. This affects me less, as I do more polishing than initial assembly when I’m using Premiere. They also improved playback performance for Red files, acceleration with multiple GPUs and certain 10-bit codecs. Character Animator got a better puppet rigging system, and Audition got AI-powered auto-ducking tools for automated track mixing.

Blackmagic
Elsewhere, Blackmagic announced a new version of Resolve, as expected. Blackmagic RAW is supported on a number of new products, but I am not holding my breath to use it in Adobe apps anytime soon, similar to ProRes RAW. (I am just happy to have regular ProRes output available on my PC now.) They also announced a new 8K Hyperdeck product that records quad 12G SDI to HEVC files. While I don’t think that 8K will replace 4K television or cinema delivery anytime soon, there are legitimate markets that need 8K resolution assets. Surround video and VR would be one, as would live background screening instead of greenscreening for composite shots. No image replacement in post, as it is capturing in-camera, and your foreground objects are accurately “lit” by the screens. I expect my next major feature will be produced with that method, but the resolution wasn’t there for the director to use that technology for the one I am working on now (enter 8K…).

AJA
AJA was showing off the new Ki Pro Go, which records up to four separate HD inputs to H.264 on USB drives. I assume this is intended for dedicated ISO recording of every channel of a live-switched event or any other multicam shoot. Each channel can record up to 1080p60 at 10-bit color to H264 files in MP4 or MOV and up to 25Mb.

HP
HP had one of their existing Z8 workstations on display, demonstrating the possibilities that will be available once Intel releases their upcoming DIMM-based Optane persistent memory technology to the market. I have loosely followed the Optane story for quite a while, but had not envisioned this impacting my workflow at all in the near future due to software limitations. But HP claims that there will be options to treat Optane just like system memory (increasing capacity at the expense of speed) or as SSD drive space (with DIMM slots having much lower latency to the CPU than any other option). So I will be looking forward to testing it out once it becomes available.

Dell
Dell was showing off their relatively new 49-inch double-wide curved display. The 4919DW has a resolution of 5120×1440, making it equivalent to two 27-inch QHD displays side by side. I find that 32:9 aspect ratio to be a bit much for my tastes, with 21:9 being my preference, but I am sure there are many users who will want the extra width.

Digital Anarchy
I also had a chat with the people at Digital Anarchy about their Premiere Pro-integrated Transcriptive audio transcription engine. Having spent the last three months editing a movie that is split between English and Mandarin dialogue, needing to be fully subtitled in both directions, I can see the value in their tool-set. It harnesses the power of AI-powered transcription engines online and integrates the results back into your Premiere sequence, creating an accurate script as you edit the processed clips. In my case, I would still have to handle the translations separately once I had the Mandarin text, but this would allow our non-Mandarin speaking team members to edit the Mandarin assets in the movie. And it will be even more useful when it comes to creating explicit closed captioning and subtitles, which we have been doing manually on our current project. I may post further info on that product once I have had a chance to test it out myself.

Summing Up
There were three halls of other products to look through and check out, but overall, I was a bit underwhelmed at the lack of true innovation I found at the show this year.

Full disclosure, I was only able to attend for the first two days of the exhibition, so I may have overlooked something significant. But based on what I did see, there isn’t much else that I am excited to try out or that I expect to have much of a serious impact on how I do my various jobs.

It feels like most of the new things we are seeing are merely commoditized versions of products that may originally have been truly innovative when they were initially released, but now are just slightly more fleshed out versions over time.

There seems to be much less pioneering of truly new technology and more repackaging of existing technologies into other products. I used to come to NAB to see all the flashy new technologies and products, but now it feels like the main thing I am doing there is a series of annual face-to-face meetings, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Until next year…


Mike McCarthy is an online editor/workflow consultant with over 10 years of experience on feature films and commercials. He has been involved in pioneering new solutions for tapeless workflows, DSLR filmmaking and multi-screen and surround video experiences. Check out his site.