Cinnafilm 6.6.19

Category Archives: Tips

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.

From artist to AR technologist: What I learned along the way

By Leon Hui

As an ARwall co-founder and chief technology officer (CTO), I manage all things relating to technology for the company. This includes overseeing software and technology development, designs, engineering, IT, troubleshooting and everything in-between. Launching the company, I solely developed the critical pieces of technology required to achieve the ARwall concept overall.

I came into augmented reality (AR) as a game development software engineer, and that plays a big role in how I approach this new medium. Stepping into ARwall, it became my job to produce artistic realtime graphics for AR backdrops and settings, while also pursuing technological advancements that will move the AR industry forward.

Rene Amador presents in front of an ARwall screen. The TV monitor in the foreground shows the camera’s perspective.

Alongside CEO Rene Amador, the best way we found to make sure the company retained artistic values was to bring on highly talented artists, coders and engineers with a diverse skill set in both art and tech. It’s our mission to not let the scales tip one way or the other, and to focus on bringing in both artistic and tech talent.

With the continuing convergence of entertainment and technology, it is vital for a creative technology company to continue to advance, while maintaining and nurturing artistic integrity.

Here is what we have learned along the way in striking this balance:

Diversify Your Hiring
Going into AR, or any other immersive field, it is very important that one understands realtime graphics.

So, while it’s useful for my company to hire engineers that have graphics and coding backgrounds — as many game engineers do — it’s still crucial to hire for the individual strengths of both tech and art. At ARwall, our open roles could be combined for one gifted individual, or isolated with an emphasis on either artistry or coding, for those with specialties.

Because we are dealing with high-quality realtime graphics, the ARwall team would be similar to the team profiles of any AAA game studio. We never deviated from an artistic trajectory — we just brought technology along for the ride. We think of talent recruitment as a crucial process in our advancement and always have our eyes out for our next game developer to fill roles ranging from technical, environment, material and character artist to graphics, game engine and generalist engineer.

Expand Your Education
If someone with a background in film or TV post production came to work in a new tech industry, like AR, they would need to expand their own education. It’s challenging, but not impossible. While my company’s current emphasis is on game developers and CG artists, the backgrounds of fellow co-founders Rene Amador, Eric Navarrette and Jocelyn Hsu sit in ad agencies, television digital development, post production and beyond.

Jocelyn Hsu on an XR set, a combination of physical set pieces with the CG set extension running in the background.

There are a variety of toolsets and concepts left to learn, including: the software development life cycle; Microsoft Project or Hansoft; Agile methodology; the definition of “realtime graphics” and how it works; the top-dog game engine tools, including Unity and Unreal Engine 4; and digital asset creation pipelines for game engines, among others.

The transition is largely based on ones game development background but, of course, there is always a learning curve when entering a new industry.

Focus on the Balance
We understand that the core of a “technology company,” as we bill ourselves, is still the foundational technology. However, depending on the type of technology, companies need staffers that have a high-level mastery of the technology in order to demonstrate its full potential to others. It just happens that with AR technology there is an inherently visual aspect, which translates to a need for superior artistry in unison with the precise technology.

In order for AR technology to showcase and look more appealing, high-quality artistry is very much needed. This can be a difficult balance to maintain if focus or purpose are lost. For ARwall, we aim to hire talent that excels at art or engineering, or both.

ARwall expanded its offerings to stake its claim as a technology company, but built on each founders’ roots as artists, engineers and producers. Tech and art aren’t mutually-exclusive; rather, with focus, education and time to search for the right talent, technology companies can excel with invention and keep their creative edge, all at once.


Leon Hui brings to the team 20+ years of technical experience as a software engineer focusing on realtime 3D graphics, VR/AR and systems architecture. He has lead/senior technical roles on 15 AAA shipped titles as a veteran of top developers including EA, Microsoft Studios, Konami Digital Entertainment. He was previously TD at Skydance Interactive. ARwall is based in Burbank. 

 

Cinnafilm 6.6.19

How to use animation in reality TV

By Aline Maalouf

The world of animation is changing and evolving at a rapid pace — bringing photorealistic imagery to the small screen and the big screen — animation that is rendered with such detail, you can imagine the exact sensation of the water, feel the heat of the sunshine and experience the wilderness. Just look at the difference between the first Toy Story film, released in 1995, up to Toy Story 3’s release in 2010.

Over 15 years, there is a complete world of difference — we progressed from 2D to 3D, the colors are poignant, we visualize changes from shadows and lightness and the sequences move much more quickly. The third film was a major feat for a studio, and now either years later, the technology there is already on the cusp of being old news.

Technology is advancing faster than it can be implemented — and it isn’t just the Pixar’s and Disney’s of the world who have to stay ahead of the curve with each sequence released. Boutique companies are under just as much pressure to continually push the envelope on what’s possible in the animation space, while still delivering top results to clients within the sometimes demanding time constraints of film and television.

Aline Maalouf

Working in reality TV presents its own set of challenges in comparison to a fully animated program. To start, you need to seamlessly combine real-life interaction with animation — often showcasing what is there against what could be there. As animation continues to evolve, integrating with emerging technology, such as virtual reality, augmented reality and immersive platforms, understanding how users interact with the platform and how to best engage the audience will be crucial.

Here are four ways using animation can enhance a reality TV program:

Showcasing a World of Possibilities
With the introduction of 3D animation, we are able to create imagery so realistic that it is often hard to define what is “real” and what is virtually designed. The real anchor of hyper-realistic animation is the ability to add and play with light and shadows. Layers of light allow us to see reflection, to experience a room from a new angle and to challenge viewers to experience the room in both the daylight and at nighttime.

For example, within our work on Gusto TV’s Where To I Do, couples must select their perfect wedding venue — often viewing a blank space and trying to envision their theme inside it. Using animation, those spaces are brought to life in full, rich color, from dawn to the glaring midday sun to dusk and midnight — no additional film crew time required.

Speeds up Production Process
Gone are the days where studios are spending large budgets resetting room after room to showcase before-and-after options, particularly when it comes to renovation shows. It’s time-consuming and laborious. Working with an animation studio allows producers to showcase a renovated room three different ways, and the audience develops an early feel for the space without the need to see it physically set up.

It’s faster (with the right tools and technology to match TV timelines), allows more flexibility and eliminates the need to build costly sets for one-time use. Even outside of reality TV, the use of greenroom space, green stages and GCI technology allows a flexibility to filming that didn’t necessarily exist two decades ago.

Makes Viewers Part of the Program
If animation is done well, it should make the viewers feel more invested in the program — as if they are part of this experience. Animation should not break what is happening in reality. In order to make this happen, it is essential to have up-to-date software and hardware that bridges the gap between the vision and what is actually accomplished within each scene.

Software and hardware go hand-in-hand in creating high-quality animations. If the software is up to date and not the hardware, the work will be compromised as the rendering process will not be able to support the full project scope. One ripple in the wave of animation and the viewer is reminded that what they’re seeing doesn’t really exist.

Opens Doors to Immersive Experiences
Although we have scratched the surface of what’s possible when it comes to virtual reality, augmented reality and generating immersive experiences for viewers from the comfort of their living rooms, I anticipate there will be a wave of growth in this space over the next five years. Our studio is already building some of these capabilities into our current projects. Overall, studios and production companies are looking for new ways to engage an audience that is exposed to hours of content a day.

Rather than just simply viewing the animation of a wedding venue, viewers will be able to click through the space — guiding their own passage from point A to point B. They become the host of their own journey.

Programs of all genres are dazzling their audiences with the future of animation and reality TV is right there with it.


Aline Maalouf is co-founder/EVP of Neezo Studios, which has produced the animation and renderings for all six seasons of the Property Brothers and all live episodes of Brother vs Brother, in addition to other network shows.


AlphaDogs’ Terence Curren is on a quest: to prove why pros matter

By Randi Altman

Many of you might already know Terence Curren, owner of Burbank’s AlphaDogs, from his hosting of the monthly Editor’s Lounge, or his podcast The Terence and Philip Show, which he co-hosts with Philip Hodgetts. He’s also taken to producing fun, educational videos that break down the importance of color or ADR, for example.

He has a knack for offering simple explanations for necessary parts of the post workflow while hammering home what post pros bring to the table. You can watch them here:

I reached out to Terry to find out more.

How do you pick the topics you are going to tackle? Is it based on questions you get from clients? Those just starting in the industry?
Good question. It isn’t about clients as they already know most of this stuff. It’s actually a much deeper project surrounding a much deeper subject. As you well know, the media creation tools that used to be so expensive, and acted as a barrier to entry, are now ubiquitous and inexpensive. So the question becomes, “When everyone has editing software, why should someone pay a lot for an editor, colorist, audio mixer, etc.?”

ADR engineer Juan-Lucas Benavidez

Most folks realize there is a value to knowledge accrued from experience. How do you get the viewers to recognize and appreciate the difference in craftsmanship between a polished show or movie and a typical YouTube video? What I realized is there are very few people on the planet who can’t afford a pencil and some paper, and yet how many great writers are there? How many folks make a decent living writing, and why are readers willing to pay for good writing?

The answer I came up with is that almost anyone can recognize the difference between a paper written by a 5th grader and one written by a college graduate. Why? Well, from the time we are very little, adults start reading to us. Then we spend every school day learning more about writing. When you realize the hard work that goes into developing as a good writer, you are more inclined to pay a master at that craft. So how do we get folks to realize the value we bring to our craft?

Our biggest problem comes from the “magician” aspect of what we do. For most of the history of Hollywood, the tricks of the trade were kept hidden to help sell the illusion. Why should we get paid when the average viewer has a 4K camera phone with editing software on it?

That is what has spurred my mission. Educating the average viewer to the value we bring to the table. Making them aware of bad sound, poor lighting, a lack of color correction, etc. If they are aware of poorer quality, maybe they will begin to reject it, and we can continue to be gainfully employed exercising our hard-earned skills.

Boom operator Sam Vargas.

How often is your studio brought in to fix a project done by someone with access to the tools, but not the experience?
This actually happens a lot, and it is usually harder to fix something that has been done incorrectly than it is to just do it right from the beginning. However, at least they tried, and that is the point of my quest: to get folks to recognize and want a better product. I would rather see that they tried to make it better and failed than just accepted poor quality as “good enough.”

Your most recent video tackles ADR. So let’s talk about that for a bit. How complicated a task is ADR, specifically matching of new audio to the existing video?
We do a fair amount of ADR recording, which isn’t that hard for the experienced audio mixer. That said, I found out how hard it is being the talent doing ADR. It sounds a lot easier than it actually is when you are trying to match your delivery from the original recording.

What do you use for ADR?
We use Avid Pro Tools as our primary audio tool, but there are some additional tools in Fairlight (included free in Blackmagic’s Resolve now) that make ADR even easier for the mixer and the talent. Our mic is Sennheiser long shotgun, but we try to match mics to the field mic when possible for ADR.

I suppose Resolve proves your point — professional tools accessible for free to the masses?
Yeah. I can afford to buy a paint brush and some paint. It would take me a lot of years of practice to be a Michelangelo. Maybe Malcolm Gladwell, who posits that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master something, is not too far off target.

What about for those clients who don’t think you need ADR and instead can use a noise reduction tool to remove the offensive noise?
We showed some noise reduction tools in another video in the series, but they are better at removing consistent sounds like air conditioner hum. We chose the freeway location as the background noise would be much harder to remove. In this case, ADR was the best choice.

It’s also good for replacing fumbled dialogue or something that was rewritten after production was completed. Often you can get away with cheating a new line of dialogue over a cutaway of another actor. To make the new line match perfectly, you would rerecord all the dialogue.

What did you shoot the video with? What about editing and color?
We shot with a Blackmagic Cinema Camera in RAW so we could fix more in post. Editing was done in Avid Media Composer with final color in Blackmagic’s Resolve. All the audio was handled in Avid’s Pro Tools.

What other topics have you covered in this series?
So far we’ve covered some audio issues and the need for color correction. We are in the planning stages for more videos, but we’re always looking for suggestions. Hint, hint.

Ok, letting you go, but is there anything I haven’t asked that’s important?
I am hoping that others who are more talented than I am pick up the mantle and continue the quest to educate the viewers. The goal is to prevent us all becoming “starving artists” in a world of mediocre media content.


Tips for music sourcing and usage

By Yannick Ireland

1. Music Genre vs. Video Theme
Although there are no restrictions, nor an exact science when choosing a music genre for your video content, there are some reliable genres of music for certain video themes.

For example, you may have a classic cinematic scene of lovers meeting for the first time. These visuals could be well complemented by a more orchestral, classical production, as generally there is a lot of emotive expression in this sort of music.

Another example would be sports video paired with electronic music. The high-adrenaline nature of electronic genres are a match made in heaven for extreme sports content. However, I would like to echo my first sentiment about there being no restriction —you may well choose to use something so unconventional that it creates a shock reaction, which may indeed be the desired effect.

But if you want subconscious acceptance from your viewers that the music really suits your imagery and that they were meant to be together, do some research of successfully similar content and from there you will be able to analyze the genre and attempt to replicate the successful marriage yourself.

2. Instruments for Feelings
Now let’s go a little deeper with the first tip and single out the instruments themselves. Two tracks of the same genre may have completely different instrumentation within their construction, and this could be relevant to your production.

If a filmmaker is working on something cinematic, then pieces of music with an instrumental solo could be invaluable for the feeling you are trying to convey. There have been scholarly articles on this subject with a more psychological investigation for the reasoning behind how certain emotions are triggered by certain instruments… but let’s keep it simple for now. For instance, music box sounds, xylophones and bells have always invoked the feeling of youth or enforced a child-like context in a production, especially as single instruments.

But remember, just because you have decided on a genre for your theme does not mean any good quality track will do. Listen to its makeup and content. Does it fulfill your intention?

3. Keep it Simple
A relatively easy, yet extremely important tip: don’t get an overly congested or epic-sounding track. Going orchestral and epic is fine for a similarly grand moment in your film, but when pairing any audio to video there is always a great danger of drawing the viewer away from the production itself due to overly intrusive music or audio.

Music is supposed to aid and complement your production, not draw you away from it. So even if the track sounds amazing and full at first listen, be aware of its potential to ultimately be detrimental overall.

4. Does the Track Change With Your Content?
Video productions generally change throughout their linear journey, and maybe your music should too. The obvious example of this would be the audio and video both reaching a crescendo together at the production’s conclusion.

In music, there is not always the formula of starting at “A” and finishing at “B,” because modern electronic and instrumental productions have very different middle eights or bridges. The fact that the music may switch up somewhere within the middle may be ideal for your video’s timeline, so perhaps you want to break the mold and change the vibe or content somewhere in the middle of the project. Certain tracks could help you do that seamlessly.

I would like just to suggest you think past the ideal genre and instrumentation, and that you really think about how the track is executed and if it is the best option for your production. The right music can enhance a video project more than anticipated and filmmakers should really get the most out of their audio.

5. Get a Second Opinion
Even working under certain guidelines and being prompted to think a certain way when sourcing music, it is always worth getting a second opinion to see if your experiences with the music are shared. Odds are that with a little extra time, you will find something much better than you may have done choosing something that sounded “good enough.” But never devalue a quick opinion check with your peers.

So, What’s Next?
Now that you know what to consider when browsing music and what potential
attributes to look for (and what to avoid), the next question is, “Where do you get your audio?”

So let’s say you have an ideal, familiar track in your head that would perfectly suit your production. The problem is maybe that’s a famous artist’s track that would cost thousands of dollars to license. So that’s a non-starter. But don’t you fret. Fortunately, there are now affordable and quality alternatives thanks to royalty free music libraries — essentially stock music.

Video editors, filmmakers and content creators of all kinds can visit these libraries to not only buy the track they need, but also get an automated license provided to them immediately with the purchase. There is no contacting artists or record labels, no complications on royalty split or composition and recording terms – it’s simple and consolidated.

The good news is there are plenty of these libraries around, but do your due diligence – and make sure the audio is high-quality and the pricing structure is simple.

High-quality music is incredibly important for all creative video productions. Now it is abundantly available and, not at extreme costs.


Yannick Ireland (@ArtisoundYan) is a musician, music producer and founder of Artisound, which is based in London.


Directing: My Top 10 career-ending mistakes

By Trevor McMahan

Okay, so this is probably a really bad idea… but I’m about to list the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made as a director. It’s ironic, because when I told my super-rep Susanne I was going to write a tips piece for postPerspective, she was all like, “Yeah, this will be a great opportunity for people to see what smart/insightful/great/awesome director you are!” So much for that plan.

The silver lining is that none of the following career-ending mistakes has actually ended my career, and even though it may sound like it here, I’m not ALWAYS making career-ending mistakes – just sometimes. And I’m lucky to be busy enough to provide myself ample opportunities to make them, which means I must be doing something right. Right?

Anyhow, here goes. I hope you enjoy these mistakes more than I did!

1. Thinking a mistake could be career ending
Boom. I could end the list here and I’d feel like it was worth it because this mistake is the greatest mistake of all. To be clear, there are, of course, massive mistakes one could make to actually bring your career to a halt, but most of us simply aren’t making those.

Once I freed myself of the fear of making mistakes, I was able to produce more creative work, to explore ideas and shots and scenes in more unexpected ways and generally push toward stronger storytelling. And when you inevitably do make a mistake, use that experience as a reminder that there’s always a better way to do something — it’s an incredible way to grow and learn and push forward. And if my words don’t ring true here, take it from the really cheesy motivational poster of mossy boulders dotting through a pond that declares, “Mistakes are the stepping stones to success.” Sage advice from the fantastic folks over at Successories.

2. Thinking one not-great project spells T-h-e  E-n-d
One “miss” used to feel like it was a death knell, so I avoided “missing” at all costs, and missed a handful of solid opportunities in the meantime. But I quickly realized just how much growth and learning can come from even the least expected places. I’ve swung to the opposite end of the spectrum – eager to shoot and learn and improve as much as I can. Some of the best work I’ve done has come as a result of those opportunities and relationships, and while not every project is going to be a grand slam, you’ve got to swing.

3. Aiming for perfection
There’s nothing worse than pressure associated with targeting perfection, and it has led to moments where a scene just doesn’t feel believable or a project falls flat and predictable. I’ve since learned to embrace the process of discovery and it has made for an incredibly expansive process. I even like to work with creatives and crew to embed a sense of imperfection and idiosyncrasy into our filmmaking — from little imperfect reflections of light and little flaws in the production design to wardrobe that feels unplanned and actors’ performances that feel unrehearsed. It’s when things start to feel like they’ve not been designed that I start to believe them.

4. Thinking an agency’s storyboards are what they want the commercial to look like
There are so many reasons agency boards look the way they do, but what they aren’t is a blueprint of the only predetermined way to tell a story or film sequence. But that didn’t stop me from leaning too heavily on them, and ending up in an excruciatingly awkward series of conversations about why I made those choices. Them wondering why I’d locked into their boarded angles, and me not really having a reason behind the choices. The aim, I’ve found, is to see the idea through the client-friendly illustrations — to “read between the boards” and gauge where a campaign wants to go. Once you have that core, translating it into shots becomes something you can stand behind.

5. Telling an agency what they want to hear
Tell the agency exactly what you think they want to hear to land a job? Wrong. Regurgitating an agency call in a treatment, or pitching them a film they’d already pitched me, just doesn’t win the job. I take great pride, now, in not going into a pitch aiming to win it, but aiming to make the film the best it can be (with the belief, of course, that they’ll agree). The most “creative” creatives I’ve met and worked with over the years have proved quite keen to be challenged and to be shown where and how the work can improve. It’s important to work with collaborators who are aiming for great, not just good enough. Architect Daniel Burnham said, “Make no little plans, they have no magic to stir men’s blood.” I couldn’t have said it better.

6. Pushing way too far
Yep, guilty of that, too. And believe me, it’s not pretty. If you do push to far, those treatments end up in the bottom drawer.

7. Not listening
With all that said… it can be tempting to go whole hog in a particular direction, and I have! But if that’s not the direction they’re headed, there’s only pain and anguish. So, really listening and hearing out an agency and client is invaluable to unearthing the reason they’re spending all this money, and how to best direct those resources.

8. Thinking I needed to do other people’s jobs
In my mind, there used to be an expectation that the director should know (and often do) all. But to be honest, I found that I’d get stretched thin dealing with budget issues, wrinkles in the calendar or the how the on-set effects team was working out a rig… and to a degree that the storytelling would suffer. I still am involved with all of those things (and always will be), but I do find relief realizing I’m working with an incredible crew of filmmakers and craftsmen, who kick ass at their jobs and whose art I respect. Simply letting them do their jobs, then, frees me up to do mine — part of which is to bug them about their work. So, I probably didn’t lay off long, but it’s a start. Baby steps.

9. Waiting around for boards
Waiting around for boards won’t help more boards to come in, and I’ve never felt so close to the guillotine than when I was just waiting. As soon as I stopped waiting and started producing — shorts, music videos, even video tests and experiments, all of a sudden I was busier than ever. Work certainly begets work, and the more you do the more will come.

10. Writing an article about all the worst mistakes I ever made
Then there was that one. Let’s hope it’s not the last.


Trevor McMahan is a director at Rocket Film. This commercial and film production house has offices in New York and Los Angeles.


What you should ask when searching for storage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Check out more on wild_life on Nat Geo Wild.


Editor Jesse Averna shares words of wisdom, encouragement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to get hired, and how to get hired again

By David Jasse

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

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

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

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

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

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

Location tips for indie filmmakers: John Schneider and Alicia Allain

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

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

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

Top 5: Efficiency tips for your health and editing environment

By Brady Betzel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simple tips that will help you work more efficiently

By Brady Betzel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Production Rendering: Tips for 2016 and beyond

By Andrew C. Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By David Jasse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Zack Arnold

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A rebrand pep talk (go get ’em, tiger)

By Drew Neujahr

It’s beginning to look a lot like rebranding season. New logos are glistening, graphic packages are getting packaged and, of course, brand positioning in the marketplace is being refined to be more representative of the needs of a shifting consumer demographic that has far more content offerings than ever before. So there’s that.

With so many new voices in the media landscape and so many platforms for content delivery, media outlets and networks are more frequently in need of reinventing themselves to stay relevant. Like politicians who change their stance on an issue as their base fluctuates, networks, too, need to adapt to the changing viewing habits, motivated by a new generation of young parents, maturing Gen X-ers, the elusive Millennials and the crazy Gen Z-ers with their new-fangled tech-immersive upbringing.

TVland 1

At Roger, we’ve had the privilege of participating in two major network branding projects this year: the rebrand of TV Land (right) and the brand launch for Canada’s Family Jr. network. Both projects were very different, yet we employed the same design process: research, brainstorming, experimentation and execution.

Every branding project comes with its own set of challenges and solutions. We certainly don’t have all the answers, but we try our best and along the way we’ve gained a lot of insight.

Here are five things to keep in mind when embarking on a rebrand.

1) Have A Voice
A brand isn’t a Pantone color and a fancy swooshy logo. It’s an identity, a mission statement, a subculture, a voice. A rebrand should be a redirection of that voice. Just like your conservative aunt, who’s come around to accepting marriage equality, brands can evolve. It’s important to revisit who your audience is and what you want them to know about you. If you’re going through the hassle of rebranding, you might as well avoid baby steps and “go for broke.”

As Ian MacKaye from Fugazi once said, “You can’t be what you were, so you better start being just what you are.”

2) Don’t Pander
No one wants to think of themselves as one of the dumb ones, but we all know they’re out there. As a network or non-traditional media outlet, you want to drive and accelerate culture, not be dragged along by its lowest common denominator. As they say in basketball, you want to “dictate the pace of the game.” Don’t shy away from clever thinking just because it might ruffle a few feathers. No one ever won an award for being mediocre; no one’s still water-cooling about Leave It To Beaver reruns.

Roger's work on the Family Jr. rebrand.

Roger’s work on the Family Jr. rebrand.

3) Be Functional
We’ve all seen a lot of carts placed before horses, and they always make for a bumpy ride. It sounds obvious, but knowing what your needs are before you attempt to fill them is generally sound advice. Experimentation is welcome in a design phase, but the elements of a brand’s image are ultimately tangible from a logo to a website to a produced marketing campaign. Don’t set yourself up to fail by not understanding where and how these elements will function, and how they’ll need to be expanded upon in the long term.

4) Have A Flexible Game Plan
Do you know how sometimes you’re watching “the sports” and in the first quarter, things aren’t going so well for the good guys, so they make adjustments? It’s the same players, they have the same uniforms, but they’re trying some new things and it’s working.

A brand strategy shouldn’t be so rigid that you can’t adjust when changes occur. Who knows if one of the stars of your show is going to say something racist or decide to run for president? Who knows if Flickr is going to update their capabilities and make Instagram irrelevant?

Have a strategy that works on any platform. Today’s world is all about being nimble and fast enough to react to trends. Make sure the brand strategy you’re fostering is one that allows for adaptability. People are buying new clothes all the time, so why does your brand have to have a Steve Jobs wardrobe?

More of the TV Land rebrand.

5) Be Compelling
There are so many talented artists and designers in the world. There is no reason to turn towards traditional references for inspiration in your research. It’s not just about out-of-the-box thinking for the sake of being different. Attention spans are at an all-time low and no one wants to see the same old approach with a different logo in the middle.

Whether or not you have a direct competitor in the same market or you’re carving out a specific niche, you want to be the trusted source for the themes you’re projecting and your brand voice is your calling card, so make it compelling.

Drew Neujahr is director of business development at LA-based Roger. They provide design, animation, original content, brand IDs, live-action production and post production.

Everyday tips for editors

By Brady Betzel

I started in this industry as an intern, worked my way up to assistant editor and am now a full-time video editor. Getting here took some time, but I learned some valuable lessons along the way. Here are just a few tips for those of you who might be wondering what it takes to be successful over the long haul, and how to be part of the team — a creative asset — not just a tool by which to get the work done.

1) Learning to not be too nice was key… basically help others, but don’t forget to promote yourself. It’s walking that fine line — being a real person versus promoting yourself is hard, and I learn every day how to keep my “soul” in all my discussions/edits/personal conversations. It’s a constant learning process, much like life!

2) Don’t be too good at your job. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying you should do a bad job, but if you are really good at being an assistant editor, make sure you are super-duper clear about your long-term goals. Being an assistant editor isn’t the only thing you could be great at, so let them know that.

3) Have an opinion. No one ever got mad or looked down on me — as far as I know — for having an opinion. I made sure I was never obnoxious about expressing my thoughts, and I made sure those opinions would add to the conversation as opposed to being unhelpful or negative. I like to hear other people’s ideas and opinions, whether or not I agree with them. It’s how you grow as an editor and a person.

I definitely believe that people I’ve worked with, and for, in the past still keep in contact with me because I have an educated opinion and because I’m not boring. Sitting in a room with me for hours at a time will not put anyone to sleep…. at least I hope not.

4) Being part therapist is definitely part of being a good editor, although a lot of editors just sit there and listen. While this might help some of the time, it won’t help all of the time. This goes back to having the confidence to have an opinion. Therapy in the edit bay is definitely about listening, but offering solutions and alternate views will go a long way in making the client feel better.

5) Don’t let yourself get taken advantage of… monetarily and idealistically. Walk the fine line of a good opinion versus being obnoxious, and talk about yourself and your particular assets.

For the first eight years of my career, I was completely on board and willing to help others because I believe that goodwill will eventually come back to you. Although I’ve been proven wrong on occasion — some people are takers — don’t let a few bad apples ruin the bunch.

Brady Betzel is an online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood. Previously, he was editing The Real World at Bunim-Murray Productions. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter, @allbetzroff.

 

Tips from BCPC’s ‘Best Practices’ event

By Chelsea Taylor

A couple of years ago I was in an edit putting the finishing touches on the first episode of a short web series with the producer. While we were waiting for it to export, we discussed the problems we ran into so the producer could adjust for her next shoot.

My suggestions? “Next time, get more b-roll of the location, don’t let the talent ramble off topic and watch their eye line after a response.”

The producer made these small adjustments and saw the difference it made in time and efficiency. She began to spend more time in the edit understanding what I do and why, and she began consulting with me during pre-production. As a result, our workflow got smoother, we were able to get ahead of most problems and she became a better producer.

This past July, I posted a question on Facebook, asking post pros, “What’s the one thing you wish more producers knew”? It drew over 100 responses. The Blue Collar Post Collective (@BCPCollective) — a grassroots initiative supporting emerging talent in post production — decided to help me take the discussion offline, and turn it into an educational, town-hall style panel discussion in New York City featuring working pros from various areas of post.

The goal of the event was to demystify post workflow and, more importantly, to start a conversation with other departments about how they can save time and money if they think of post early on in the process. We called the event “Fix it in Post: Essential Knowledge and Best Practices,” and The Studio-B&H came on board to support us.

2

I moderated the discussion, and our panel featured workflow specialist Boon Shin Ng, editor Julia Bloch, finishing artist/colorist Michael Hernandez and post producer Sabina-Elease Utley.

Valuable Take-Aways
1. Do a test! Test your whole workflow! Is your drive fast enough? Test it out! Run through your whole workflow both picture and sound.

2. Communicate with your entire team on workflow and creative. Communication is key to staying on the same page and executing the vision on time and within budget. Communicating well and working hard builds trust and strengthens your team. One person’s standard way of doing something might be different than the next, so a short conversation can always save you in the long run.

3. Don’t try to save on necessary positions. An assistant editor and a script supervisor are essential roles that can help speed up post workflow. Unfortunately, often times these are positions that some productions think they can eliminate to cut costs. Don’t try to save money by not hiring one or you will be spending more on your editor’s rate!

4. Plan everything you can! The more you plan the more you can try to solve problems before they happen. This will save time and money in the long run. Unspecific deadlines don’t work — be clear and work out a realistic schedule.

5. Manage your expectations. Camera and frame rate matter! Don’t expect your image to be crisp if you are doing a lot of conversion. What are your deliverables?! Specs are important to know from the beginning. It’s okay if you aren’t completely sure where your project will end up; consulting a workflow specialist or experienced post producer will help you make decisions about what deliverables to expect.

6. Know when to say no! We think we can never say “no” in this business. There are lots of diplomatic ways to say “no,” and don’t be afraid to do it when needed. Clients will ask a lot of you sometimes, so be upfront and honest about what you are capable of within a given budget and timeframe.

7. Clients choose you, but you are also allowed to choose your client. Clients are like personal relationships; you have to know when to give up if it’s not working. Even in an interview, make sure you ask the right questions so you can determine if it will be a partnership and environment for you to succeed in.

8. Stick with your team. There is nothing worse than staying all night and watching everyone leave. Good producers protect the talent. We are a team. Producers should check with talent (editors, machine operators, finishing artists) to make sure to give accurate timeframes. Trust your team to do their jobs.

9. What makes a “kick ass” producer? Managing expectations, communicating, being understanding/ realistic, looking out for your team, enforcing deadlines and making your team feel appreciated.

10. What makes a great AE? An assistant editor is the editor’s second set of eyes, so they want someone who is great at prepping projects, is organized, who takes charge and asks questions. Other qualities our panel of experts mentioned were: being a great problem solver, being logistically sound and being a great communicator.

The Bottom Line
The panelists agreed that communication with your team is the single most important way to save time and money in post. Being up front about creative, budget, schedule and final deliverables ensures that everyone is on the same page and that there are fewer surprises later on. Of course, the unexpected happens but the more you prepare for what can go wrong the more ready you are to deal with problems and solve them

This was the first educational event that the Blue Collar Post Collective produced, and they plan to do many more in 2016 based on significant online discussions amongst the wider post community.


Chelsea Taylor (pictured in our main shot, far right) is a New York based editor and story producer who currently works in-house at Viacom creating a wide range of content for MTV, VH1 and LogoTV. including branded content, promos and TV specials.

Tips from an experienced shooter/editor

DMJ Studios’ David Jasse is an editorial and production veteran with over 20 years in the industry. Jasse opened DMJ in 1992, after gaining experience at CNN, MTV, CBS and Fox. Among his company’s most recent work was editing and designing graphics for Emmy Award-winning Born to Explore With Richard Weise as seen on ABC.

We asked him to share some tips for shooting and editing, and he obliged….

Shooting
1. Don’t blame the gear — you have to position yourself. Don’t worry about having a zoom lens.

2. “Dirty the lens,” as the pro’s call it. Don’t be afraid to frame your shot with tree branches obscuring or framing the shot. The same goes for fences, backs of chairs, poles. It’s great, especially if you can do a side-to-side dolly and reveal your subject, with our without a slider.

3. Be sure to change focal lengths. The normal 50mm DSLR lens is what your eye sees, but your videos may not look exceptional although, and while it’s not about the gear, the gear helps. Try a 200mm to really blur out backgrounds. Try a 14mm extreme wide, just before distortion for a different look. The 14mm is great for a cheap man’s steadicam for dolly shots. Be sure to get in very close to your subject and fill the lens.

4. Think like an editor. Cover yourself with cutaways. It’s fundamental, but folks forget. Get a wide, establishing, move in for the two shot, then singles, then reversals. Don’t forget that extreme close-up and, of course, the over the shoulder.

5. Don’t center your shot… it’s blah. Amateurs typically see the focus cross hairs in the center and think they’re aiming at their subject. You’re not aiming for a bulls-eye — you’re composing. Divide the frame into thirds, put talking heads way off to the side, leaving lead room.

6. Once you know the rules then you can break them. Know them first before you try a shaky-cam, a hand-held look or swish pans.

7. Spend time editing your own material. Until you try cutting it yourself, you’ll never know if the speed of your pans is good, or if you’re holding your static shots long enough.

David Jasse editing.

Editing
1. I learned by editing by number. This is coloring by numbers, but for editing. I’ll explain: Find a video with editing you respect, then cover it with your own materials replacing their shots to the frame. Edit within the editor’s cuts. You’ll learn about two-frame edits, editing to the beat, and you’ll get some great ideas.

2. Be organized. It’s good for you and it’s a must for people who are going to work at a company. People are going to need to retrace  your steps and find what you do. Date your edited sequences and don’t name it “final,” because there are likely to be five “final” cuts.

3. Take an editing class; learn the software. Many programs are very intuitive today, and folks think they are professional editors because they have cut a lot of nice work. A real editor, one who is marketable, knows the shortcuts and the software, not just how to come up with a nice cut. Professionals who know the software are much faster and come in to save the day when the film has to get out and you need that person who can find that bug that won’t let you output your sequence.

4. Basic color correction. Pretty much all software today has the automatic white balance. Find white in the shot — could be the eyes, the teeth, the wall, the shirt — and, at least, white balance. For a pro, there’s no excuse for green images, and I see a lot of them.

5. Templates. Everything has been done today for the most part, so why reinvent the wheel? Most of us don’t have network budgets for graphics; even networks don’t always have them. Find a Motion or After Effects template you and your client like, then modify it. Any average editor can use Motion, for example, but, once again, learn the software on your own using YouTube videos for help, and then go take a class. Your value will increase out there in the market.

6. Cut first, think later. Some of my best edits over the years happened by mistake, so don’t be afraid to experiment.

7. Tell stories with your cuts. Your film should look good without sound. Remember a video is worth a thousand words. Instead of having someone explain the matter at hand, show it with nice visuals that make sense… that tell the story. Too often you see videos with very random B-roll, not telling a visual story.

Jake Kluge’s Tips: How to be a successful audio engineer

Audio editor/mixer Jake Kluge has worked at Dallas’ Charlieuniformtango for over 14 years. This audio vet knows a thing or two about how to succeed in this business. His recent work includes spots for Fiat and Home Depot out of The Richards Group, as well as a project for Universal Orlando via TM Advertising.

This busy pro was kind enough to share his wisdom with postPerspective.

Collaborate
If you’re the type of engineer that works with a client sitting behind you, as many of us are, your middle name should be Collaboration. You’re working for your clients. Their word is final. But, there is a reason they come to you — you’re good at this “sound thing.” So it’s ok to ask, ”What if we tried something like this?” It’s even more ok to ask, “What were you hoping to hear for this area?”

THD_Bucket
Kluge recently collaborated with The Richards Group for Fiat and Home Depot.

Your Ears: Take Care of Those Money Makers Inside the Studio
Monitor at a reasonable level. You’re going to be using your ears to make a living. You’ll probably even use them when you get home from work. Do not monitor at 90dB. Do not monitor consistently at 85dB. Use your judgment, but keep it down to a reasonable level. The rule is, if your ears are ringing after a session, that’s bad. Don’t do that.

Your Ears: Take Care of Those Money Makers Outside the Studio
Carrying over from the last tip. Those ears of yours — moneymakers — are pretty darn important to your career. Wear earplugs at concerts. Wear earplugs at band practice. Wear earplugs during fireworks. Just wear earplugs. Buy some good ones and keep them with you at all times. You won’t regret it.

Change Your Mouse/Trackball/Tablet Every So Often
I’ve been track balling for 15 years solid. Recently, I have experienced what I am assuming is carpel tunnel syndrome in my wrist. It’s not bad, and if I switch from my trackball (old faithful) to a mouse, my wrist feels better. So my conclusion is, switch it up every once in a while. Oh, and stop slouching, you slob.

Other People Have Good Ideas Too
If you’re lucky enough to have other audio people working with you, pick their brains about everything. “What’s another good search word for “whoosh?” “Why is my master fader clipping so hard?” “Do these pants make me look fat?” That kind of stuff.

Fortune Favors the Bold
It’s true. Go out and get the big job. Try out crazy ideas in your sound design or mix. Ask out that girl/guy you’ve been crushing on…. send me the wedding picture.

Jake Kluge is an audio editor and mixer at Charlieuniformtango (@CUTango) in Dallas. You can reach him at jake@charlietango.com.

Tips: What I know now but didn’t then

By Brady Betzel

I’ve passed my 10-year anniversary working in TV — specifically post production — and it’s really pretty crazy. When I started, I was an eager beaver willing to listen and do (almost) anything the “important” people told me I should do. Now, while I still like to think I am eager, I like to feel like I am a very informed beaver, albeit a pretty skeptical one.

The following are some myths about building a career based on my personal experience.

The Need to Say Yes to Everything
This one is a little polarizing because it touches on the working for free topic, which I don’t actively support. To me you aren’t working for free if you are able to develop a skill or use the project for your own benefit. Short term it might be “free” but the long-term benefits will pay off if you are able to learn and grow technically and/or creatively.

That being said, you don’t need to say yes to everything. Take this with a heavy dose of common sense, but if someone tells you to do something and your gut is saying the opposite, lean toward your inner voice. People tend to respect that more than if you always say yes, no matter the job. I learned this first hand when I was offline editing — sometimes editors are tasked with showing the client what they say they want, but they may think one thing and then end up with a completely different end product.

I edited a sizzle reel — a cheap way of making a pseudo-pilot where the content is not fully flushed out but may have a spark of an idea that editors sometimes cover in fancy light leaks and sparkles. The client said it would be easy (it wasn’t and never is), and they had a story producer that would give me editing points for a five-minute sizzle reel. Long story short, the story producer had a completely different (and frankly boring) story in mind for a sizzle reel.

As I watched all 12 hours of “awesome” material, I found about 30 seconds of real story… I thought. So while I edited their version, I also edited mine. Eventually they thought the whole thing needed to be re-done. I then sent them my version and they took it. They had a couple of notes but their five-minute already done sizzle reel turned into a completely different story in three and a half minutes. The moral of this story is don’t always be a 
“yes” person.

Moving Up the Ladder Quickly
Here is another that has bugged me for a long time, and I still struggle with it. I was an assistant editor for four years, and I feel my rise to editor should have come faster. I always saw assistants moving up quickly around me, the commonality (usually) was that they weren’t that good at their job. It seemed counterintuitive, but then I realized that just because you move up quickly in rank, doesn’t always mean you are qualified for the job — your boss may just want you out of their hair.

In the assistant editor world, that could mean that you are messing up tons of stuff that other people are fixing without you knowing (not that I experienced that or anything like that). So if you aren’t moving up the ladder quickly don’t stress about it. Be assertive, but don’t be rude.

You Must Know Editing, Color, Mixing…
There is nothing like real-world experience. There is nothing like sitting in a color grading session with the colorist powering DaVinci Resolve color panels, or being in a audio mix stage for the first time and hearing how powerful different mixes are.

However, you don’t always get the luxury of being mentored while sitting next to the colorist. You don’t always get to play with the lift, gamma or gain without worrying about messing up. Don’t be afraid to watch tutorials on YouTube, Lynda.com, RippleTraining.com or other paid or free training sites. When I do get a free moment, I often watch tutorials on YouTube and learn techniques I would never have thought of before. It doesn’t matter if you watch a 10-year-old teaching After Effects expressions or Mocha tracking Big Bird into a scene, if you become a master wireframe remover thanks to YouTube videos, you may very well earn the same paycheck and work on just the same films as someone who learned at USC.

Partying Vs. Networking
I firmly believe that you don’t need to live in Hollywood and go to the Chateau Marmont weekly to become an editor, or whatever post position you want to achieve. I live an hour and 20 minutes outside of Hollywood in an avocado orchard, and work on shows that millions of people watch each week. I rarely go to parties or events, and I still get jobs. My work speaks for itself.

However, I also feel that if I was more of a social person I may have different opportunities. So while partying isn’t always necessary, maybe take a middle road: do some networking (in-person and via social media) but also take some time away from the hustle and bustle of Highland.

Interning
I started my career as an intern on the show On Air with Ryan Seacrest, so this may be a little weird, but bear with me. I see a lot of people who work in TV turn their noses up when they hear people that haven’t interned before get jobs. I have to admit I was one of those people until I realized you don’t need a college degree, internship or any formal training for that matter.

If you know how to make an opening title graphic in Cinema 4D better than someone with a Master’s Degree in communication, the fact is that you just do. Don’t be ashamed and don’t feel like you don’t deserve a job over someone else. Just go for it.

Keep in mind that doesn’t give you an excuse to be complacent and uninformed about your job description and duties.

Obviously, all of these tips are to be taken with humility and common sense, but in the end if you have the talent, drive and fortitude to stand up for your ideas, then you can make it in post production, even if it means taking a few extra years to become a quality audio mixer, sound designer, visual effects artists, motion graphics maniac or whatever.

Brady Betzel is an online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood. Previously, he was editing The Real World at Bunim Murray Productions. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter, @allbetzroff.

Tips on working practically with CG

Many recent big action films — Jurassic World, Tomorrowland, Transformers: Age of Extinction and Pacific Rim, to name a few — feature practical effects created by the team at 32Ten Studios  in San Rafael, California, in the space where Kerner Optical once was.

Practical effects add touches of reality to scenes created with CG. Over the years, artists at 32Ten Studios (@32tenstudios) have designed, built and occasionally blown up all sort of models and miniatures, as well as filmed environmental effects like fire, water, smoke or dust.

32Ten Studios’ COO/producer, Greg Maloney, is an industry veteran and ILM alum. He joined the storied VFX studio in 1989 doing line-up. “Basically, it was the task of the line-up person to create the film rolls and instructions for the optical printers,” he explains, adding that he transitioned to CG around 1992, starting as a compositor and then moving up to compositing supervisor. He left ILM in 2007 to work for Image-Movers Digital as a stereographer. When they closed, he and some colleagues started Stereobox. In 2011 he, along with his partners, established 32Ten Studios at the one-time location of Kerner Optical.

Greg Maloney with an Optimus Prime head, of course!

Greg Maloney (L) with an Optimus Prime head, of course!

So Maloney has a perfect mix of film, digital, CG and practical effects experience. Here he offers his perspective on what makes a successful practical-effects shoot — ensuring that the VFX team has what it needs to build a memorable scene. Enjoy…

Understand the Shot
One of the first things we do when we get a previs from the VFX supervisor is to look for exactly what the camera is going to see. Once we know that, we build and polish the parts that are going to show up on screen.

Do the Homework
Then we start mapping out the shot by getting detailed information. For instance, we’ll need to know how the camera moves during the shot, the scale of the shot, the camera’s speed, if it’s being shot on film or digitally, where the sun was during the original shoot and if we’re going to shoot in front of a bluescreen or a greenscreen. We’ll ask for the original plate so we can match the sun angles. Also, we lay every shot out using Autodesk Maya to make sure we have everything set up correctly when we film.

Ask Questions
We have on-going dialog with the VFX team to make sure we’re delivering the pieces that will work during their compositing sessions. Our ultimate goal is to make it look like the final image was recorded in a single camera, on a set, in one take.

32Ten's crew on Jurassic World shoot.

32Ten’s crew on Jurassic World shoot.

Practice, Practice, Practice
The beauty of practical, especially when we’re doing an explosion or something like that, is the sense of serendipity. We can control much of what happens, but there’s always something magical that happens that adds to the reality. That said, we don’t shoot anything without a ton of rehearsal. This way, the effects we’re shooting match what the VFX supervisor and director want for the scene.

Adding the Human Touch
We shoot a lot of extras in front of a greenscreen, which pushes a CG scene over the top. Our experience is that we need to be really organized with our schedule, making sure the actors are in wardrobe with make up applied and on the set right when we need them.

When I first saw Raiders of the Lost Ark, the last scene when the clerk is pushing the Holy Grail through that warehouse, I wanted to go to that warehouse. It felt real because of that person with the cart. My first desk at ILM was directly in front of the matte painting of that warehouse. It was the first big “wow” of my career.

Ultimately, the benefit of using practical effects with CG is that practical elements adhere to the laws of gravity and nature. The effects look correct because they are real. We like to think that practical creates an emotional connection and experience.

That’s what we try to do on every shoot.

10 fun editing how-to’s from Sean Stender

Cut+Run’s Sean Stender has been a working editor for nine years, but that wasn’t the professional path he initially set out on.  After graduating college, his goal was to be a director of photography.

“I always had a fascination with photography, but never took it seriously or really studied the craft until I was in college,” he explains. “I worked for Clarimont Camera as a sales assistant while a student, and I was able to leverage those contacts to get my foot in the door at various commercial production companies.”

After working as freelance camera assistant for a couple years, Stender (@smstender) soon realized that being on set wasn’t right for him. Shortly after, he took a job at production company Reactor Films as a vault manager. This is where he started cutting his teeth as an editor — he started cutting director’s cuts for Steve Chase, Chris Applebaum, Warren Kushner and Thom Higgins. A few years later he decided to make the jump to post, and the managing director of Cut+Run, Michelle Eskin, brought him on board in 2008, where he has been editing ever since.

Levis_5-2
Levi’s and XO Mints

Over the years Stenger, who is based at Cut+Run’s LA studio and uses an Avid Media Composer, has cut projects for Neato Robotics, ARCO, Starbucks, Levi’s, Fiat and XO Mints, among other humorous commercial campaigns. During this time he picked up some valuable experience, and is sharing it here as lighthearted tips. Enjoy…

How to break a creative block…
Pull your assistant into the bathroom for a mid-stream brainstorming session.

How to get a break after 12 hours behind the screen…
Pound on the keyboard and walk out of the room while yelling for your assistant to come in to re-start the Avid because it “crashed.”

How to work through lunch…
Order a smoothie with a long straw (hands free).

How to successfully pull off the all-nighter…
Berocca, hand sanitizer and lots of PG Tips (wonderful British tea).

How to keep smiling in difficult situations….
Make sure your desk is facing a wall.

How to nudge your client down the right creative path…
Break out the Blueberry Kush.

How to help your family forget the holiday(s) you missed…
Adopt a puppy.

How to keep cutting great creative work…
Surround yourself with amazing talent.

How to end a project on a high note….
Nobu.

How to succeed in life….
Work hard and be nice to everyone.

A little more about Sean Stender: His favorite show is PBS’ California’s Gold and his podcast queue includes WTF With Marc Maron and Freakonomics. In his spare time he can be found at Dodger Stadium, behind a still camera or hanging out with his French bulldog named Sammy Davis Jr. 

Jonathan Moser’s Myths of Editing

Veteran New York-based video editor Jonathan Moser shares some common editing myths, along with a few rants, and educates us in the process

We Can Fix It in Post
We CAN’T fix bad shooting, bad directing, bad acting, bad lighting, bad planning, bad screen direction, bad conception, bad continuity, bad sound. Not totally. What we can sometimes do is distract the viewer and draw attention away from these mistakes and flubs that shouldn’t have happened in the first place. On even rarer occasions (see article on Annie Hall) we can
completely overhaul a badly conceived project, but it’s painful. If you’re doing a project, don’t
rely on the editor to save your ass. Do it as right as possible while filming.

Editors Make Final Decisions

If only! Early on, editing was usually a collaboration of an editor and a director or producer. In today’s oversaturated, over-suited TV landscape, there seems to be dozens of levels of approval. First the producer/director, then the production company, then the network. It seems almost anyone can put in their two cents… in some cases, family members of the producers can provide input that can create hours or reworking for an already overburdened editor. And in many cases, after all these changes, things can revert back to the editor’s first cut. It has happened to me.

Anyone Can Edit
Well, it seems that way today. Desktop and nonlinear tools have democratized a profession that once was the rarified realm of the top guns of broadcasting in the linear days. It took a lot to get into a million-dollar edit room in the ‘70s, ’80s and ’90s. Superior technical knowledge allowed for understanding of video standards, knowing how to patch and troubleshoot black boxes like ADOs, sync generators, distribution amplifiers, character generators, signal routing and dozens of other sub-specialties. Skills like running switchers, programming e-mems, GPIs, knowing how to run software to clean up edits from multigenerational versions was invaluable.

That was then. Now, for much less than a grand and a few college courses, just about anyone can push the buttons, drop a filter to create effects and get stuff on Youtube or even television. But there still is no substitute for hard-fought experience. Just ask any editor who has had to clean up the mess left by inexperienced and often underpaid rookies who seem to grow on trees today.

Editing is the Easy Part
All we do is “cut out the bad parts” some wrongly believe. Just like a sculptor chips away at the granite to reveal the art underneath — you betcha. Being a good editor is part artist, part problem-solver, part puzzle-master. Being able to find the logic, drama, humor and nuance in often the most meager material. Creating the “beats,” sifting through sometimes hundreds of hours of footage for the subtle glance, the nod, the head turn… stealing moments from other moments that have nothing to do with the original intention: this defines patience, perseverance and creativity.

Daily, we find needles in haystacks, create moments that never existed and alter reality to tell a story not ever shot. There are tons of bad parts, and our job is to reinvent, salvage and make magic — even while being called “technicians” and seeing others take credit for hours spent in the chair. Ironically, many editors refuse to be called ”artists” as if it’s a bad thing. I am not one of those editors.

Editors Are Antisocial Geeks
Think about this: we’re locked in a dark room anywhere from eight to 24 hours a day, often with a producer or director or PA who is having a nervous breakdown for one reason or another. Maybe they’re emotionally and physically exhausted, worried about losing their job or maybe they have just broken up with a girlfriend or boyfriend. Maybe they’re worried that the show just won’t work or that they’ve lost the touch. But we’re locked in there sharing cell time (for better or worse) and trying to get through the grueling hours — away from our own loved ones, without strangling the person next to us or being victimized by them in turn. We’re therapists, confidants, captives. I’ve spent more time with overwrought producers going through angst than most shrinks. Sometimes it’s a great experience, sometimes it’s awful, but we DO get through it. Geeks, maybe. Antisocial? Never.

Editors Are Specialists and Not Multifaceted
More and more, job postings require the editor to have specialization in one particular genre. “Must cut crime reenactment” or “must cut documentary” or “must cut food competition” or “must cut docu-reality” or “must cut blind fighting Siamese cats.” Ok, the last one was fake, but you get my meaning.

This specificity is an insult to any good editor and usually indicates the ignorance of the posters or fear of losing their job from a bad hire. Any editor worth his or her salt can cut ANYTHING under the sun. There is no magic formula that says you must have done it before in order to know how to do it. We pride ourselves on versatility, flexibility and challenges. Please stop limiting us…and yourselves.

Producer: ‘This Will Be the Final Cut’
It’s locked… I promise. And the check is in the mail, too.

I want to thank the many members of the esteemed New York Editor’s Collective for their contributions to this article. Among others, Ben Slatkin, Barry Gliner, Jason Pollard, Chris Erdman, Ellie Guapo, Jon Vesey, David Varga. Paul Viskup, Tom Patterson and many others.

Jonathan Moser is an editor/producer out of NYC. He can be reached at flashcutter@yahoo.com and is open for business. Follow him on Twitter @flashcut100.