Tag Archives: Avid Media Composer

Editor Wyatt Smith talks Mary Poppins Returns, Marvel Universe

By Amy Leland

Wyatt Smith’s career as an editor is the kind that makes for a great story. His unintended path began with an unusual opportunity to work with Mariah Carey and a chance meeting with director Rob Marshall. He has since collaborated on big musicals and action films with Marshall, which opened the door to superhero movies. His latest project — in which he was reunited with Marshall — saw him editing a big musical with a title character who is, in her own Disney way, also a superhero.

Smith’s resume is impressive: Doctor Strange, Into the Woods, 300: Rise of an Empire, Thor: The Dark World, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. When I had a chance to talk with him about Mary Poppins Returns, I first had to ask him how his fascinating journey began.

Wyatt Smith at the Mary Poppins Returns premiere.

Can you talk about what led you to editing?
Some things just happen unexpectedly. Opportunities arise and you just have to hear the knock and not be afraid to open the door. When they were building the now-closed Sony Music Studios in New York City, I knew a lot about computers. Avid was first coming in, and there were all these video engineers who weren’t as savvy with Macs and things like that because they were used to linear, old-school tape editing. I worked in the maintenance department at the studio, servicing online editing suites, as well as setting up their first Avid Media Composer and giving people some tutorials on how to use that.

Then a very odd circumstance came up — they were working on a Mariah Carey concert video and needed an additional editor to work at her house at night (she was working during the day with another editor). My father is in the music business and had ties to Mariah — we had met before — so they thought it would be a comfortable situation. It came out of nowhere, and while I certainly knew, technically, how to edit, creatively I had no idea.

That was my first opportunity to edit, and I never went back to anything else. That was the day. That was it. I started to edit music videos and concerts and little music documentaries. Years and years later that led me to work with Rob Marshall on a music project.

The Tony Bennett American Classic special?
Exactly. I had known the Bennett family and worked with them since Tony Bennett’s “Unplugged.” When Rob was brought on to direct an NBC special celebrating Tony’s career, he wanted to bring his whole film team with him, but the TV network and the Bennett family wanted somebody who knew the music world, and that style of deadline, which is quite different from film.

I was brought in to interview with Rob, and we had a wonderful experience making that show. When it was done, he said, “Next time I make a film, I want you to come along.” To be completely honest, I didn’t believe him. I thought it was very kind of him, and he is a very nice man, but I was like, yeah, sure. In 2008, I think it was the Friday before they started shooting Nine, he called and said, “You gotta get to London.” I immediately quit my job and got on a plane.

I’m guessing the music world was a heavy influence on you, but were you drawn toward movies as well?
I have always been a movie junkie. At an early age, I saw a lot of the big epics, including David Lean’s films — Lawrence of Arabia, A Passage to India — which just transported me to another place and another culture. I loved that.

That was back in the early VHS days, and I had just about every Bond film that had been released. I watched them obsessively. In high school, my closest friend worked in a video rental store, so we constantly had movies. It was always a huge thing for me, but never in my life did I dream of pursuing it. The language of film was never anything I studied or thought about until I was kind of thrust into it.

What was it like coming into this film with Rob Marshall, after so many years of working with him? Do your collaborations now feel different from when you first started working together?
The most important part is trust. When I first met Rob, aside from just not having any confidence, I didn’t remotely know what I was doing. We all know that when you have your actors and your sets if something’s not quite right that’s the time to bring it up. But 12 years ago, the thought of me going to Rob and saying, “I don’t know if that really works, maybe you should grab a shot like…” I’d never, ever. But over the years we’ve developed that trust. I’m still very cautious with things like that, but I now know I can talk to him. And if he has a question, he’ll call me to set and say, “Quickly put this together,” or, “Stay here and watch this with me,” and he’ll explain to me exactly what he’s going for.

Then, once we reach post, unquestionably that relationship changes. We used to cut everything from scratch and start re-watching all the material and rebuilding the film again. Now we can work through existing cuts because I kind of know his intentions. It’s easier for me to see in the scene work what he’s going for, and that only comes from collaborating. Now I’m able to get the movie that’s in his head on screen a lot faster.

Mary Poppins Returns

You were working with complex animations and effects, and also combining those with elaborate choreography and live action. Was there more preplanning for this than you might normally have done?
I wasn’t really involved in the preplanning. I came in about a month before shooting to mostly to catch up with the schedules of the second unit, because I’m always going to work closely with them. I also went through all the storyboards and worked with visual effects and caught up on their look development. We did have a previz team, but we only really needed to previz two of the sequences in the film — the underwater bath time and the balloon sequence.

While previz gives you methodology, shot count, rough lenses and things, it’s missing the real emotion of the story because it is a video game and often cut like a music video. This is no disrespect to previz editors — they’re very good — but I always want to come in and do a pass before we start shooting because I find the timings are very different.

Doctor Strange

Take a film like Marvel’s Doctor Strange. So much of it had been prevized to figure out how to do it. When I came into the Doctor Strange previz cuts early on, they were exciting, psychedelic, wild and really imaginative, but I was losing actors. I found that something that was running at four minutes wasn’t representing any of the dialogue or the emotional content of the actors. So I asked them to give me stills of close-ups to cut them in. After putting in the dialogue, that four-minute sequence becomes seven minutes and you realize it’s too long. Before we go shoot it, how do we make it something that’s more manageable for the ultimate film?

Were you on set during most of the filming?
There were days where Rob would pull me onto set, and then days or weeks where I wouldn’t even see him. I did the traditional assembly process. Even the film I’m cutting right now, which has a very short schedule, four days after they were done shooting I had a cut of the film. It’s the only way for me to know that it’s working. It’s not a great cut, but I know that the movie’s all there. And, most importantly, I need to know, barring the last day of shooting, that I’ve seen every single frame of every take before they wrap. I need the confidence of knowing where it’s all going. I don’t want to discover any of that with a director in post.

On a project this complex, I imagine you must work with multiple assistants?
When I worked on the second Thor movie, The Dark World, I had a friend who was my first assistant, Meagan Costello. She has worked on many Marvel films. When Doctor Strange came up — I think it was almost a year before shooting that I got the call from the director saying I was in —within five seconds, I called Meagan because of her experience, her personality and her incredible skill set. Toward the end of Doctor Strange, when the schedule for Poppins was starting to lock in, she said, “I’ve always wanted to live in New York, and I’ve always wanted to work in a music hall.” I said, “We can make that happen.”

Thor: The Dark World

She is great at running the cutting room, taking care of all of my little, and many, prima donna bugaboos — how things are set up and working, technically, cutting in surround, having the right types of monitors, etc. What’s also important is having someone spiritually and emotionally connected into the film… someone I can talk to and trust.

We had two second assistant editors on Mary Poppins once we were in post — two in the US and two in London. It’s always interesting when you have two different teams. I try to keep as much consistency as I can, so we had Meagan all the way through London and New York. For second assistants in London, we had Gemma Bourne, Ben Renton and Tom Lane. Here in the states we had Alexander Johnson and Christa Haley. Christa is my first assistant on the film I’m currently doing for Focus Features, called Harriet.

On huge films like these, so much of the assistant editor’s time is dealing with the vast deliveries for the studio, the needs of a huge sound and music team as well as a lot of visual effects. In the end, we had about 1,300 hundred visual effect shots. That means a lot of turnovers, screenings and quality control so that nothing is ever coming in or going out without being meticulously watched and listened to.

The first assistant runs the cutting room and the stuff I shouldn’t be thinking about. It’s not stuff I would do well either. I want to be solely focusing on the edit, and when I’m lost in the movie, that’s the greatest thing. Having a strong editorial team allows me to be in a place where I’m not thinking about anything but the cut.

Mary Poppins Returns

That’s always good to hear. Most editors I talk to also care about making sure their assistants are getting opportunities.
When I started out, I had assistants in the room with me. It was very much film-style — the assistant was in the room helping me out with the director and the producers every day. If I had to run out of the room, the assistant could step in.

Unfortunately, the way the world has evolved, with digital post, the assistant editor and editor positions have diverged massively. The skill sets are very different. I don’t think I could do a first assistant editor’s job, but I know they could do my job. Also, the extra level of material keeps them very busy, so they’re not with me in the room. That makes for a much harder path, and that bothers me. I don’t quite know how to fix that yet, but I want to.

This industry started with apprentices, and it was very guild-like. Assistants were very hands on with the editor, so it was very natural to become an editor. Right now, that jump is a little tricky, and I wish I knew how to fix it.

Even if the assistants cut something together for you, it doesn’t necessarily evolve into them getting to work with a director or producer. With Poppins, there’s certainly a scene or two in the film that I asked Meagan to put together for that purpose. Rob works very closely in the cutting room each day, along with John DeLuca, our producer and choreographer. I was wondering if there would be that moment when maybe they’d split off, like, “Oh, go with Meagan and work on this, while I work on this with Rob.” But those opportunities never really arose. It’s hard to figure out how to get that door open.

Do you have any advice for editors who are just starting out?
I love the material I’m working on, and that’s the most important part. Even if something’s not for you, your job is not to make it what you want it to be. The job is to figure out who the audience is and how you make it great for them. There’s an audience for everything, you just have to tap into who that audience is.


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

Review: Picture Instruments’ plugin and app, Color Cone 2

By Brady Betzel

There are a lot of different ways to color correct an image. Typically, colorists will start by adjusting contrast and saturation followed by adjusting the lift, gamma and gain (a.k.a. shadows, midtones and highlights). For video, waveforms and vectorscopes are great ways of measuring color values and are about the only way to get the most accurate scientific facts on the colors you are manipulating.

Whether you are in Blackmagic Resolve, Avid Media Composer, Adobe Premiere Pro, Apple FCP X or any other nonlinear editor or color correction app, you usually have similar color correction tools across apps — whether you color based on curves, wheels, sliders or even interactively on screen. So when I heard about the way that Picture Instruments Color Cone 2 color corrects — via a Cone (or really a bicone) — I was immediately intrigued.

Color Cone 2 is a standalone app but also, more importantly, a plugin for Adobe After Effects, Adobe Premiere Pro and FCP X. In this review I am focusing on the Premiere Pro plugin, but keep in mind that the standalone version works on still images and allows you to export a 3dl or cube LUTs — a great way for a client to see what type of result you can get quickly from just a still image.

Color Cone 2 is literally a color corrector when used as a plugin for Adobe Premiere. There are no contrast and saturation adjustments, just the ability to select a color and transform it. For instance, you can select a blue sky and adjust the hue, chromanance (saturation) and/or luminance of the resulting color inside of the Color Cone plugin.

To get started you apply the Color Cone 2 plugin to your clip — the plugin is located under Picture Instruments in the Effects tab. Then you click the little square icon in the effect editor panel to open up the Color Cone 2 interface. The interface contains the bicone image representation of the color correction, presets to set up a split-tone color map or a three-point color correct, and the radius slider to adjust the effect your correction has on surrounding color.

Once you are set on a look you can jump out of the Color Cone interface and back into the effect editor inside of Premiere. There you can keyframe all of the parameters you adjusted in the Color Cone interface. This allows for a nice and easy way to transition from no color correction to color correction.

The Cone
The Cone itself is the most interesting part of this plugin. Think of the bicone as the 3D side view of a vectorscope. In other words, if the vectorscope view from a traditional scope is the top view — the bicone in Color Cone would be a side view. Moving your target color from the top cone to the bottom cone will adjust your lightness to darkness (or luminance). At the intersection of the cones is the saturation (or chromanance) and when moving from the center outwards saturation is increased. When a color is selected using the eye dropper you will see a square, which represents the source color selection, a circle representing the target color and an “x” with a line for reference on the middle section.

Additionally, there is a black circle on the saturation section in the middle that shows the boundaries of how far you can push your chromanance. There is a light circle that represents the radius of how surrounding colors are affected. Each video clip can have effects layered on them and one instance of the plugin can handle five colors. If you need more than five, you can add another instance of the plugin to the same clip.

If you are looking to export 3dl and Cube LUTs of your work you will need to use the standalone Color Cone 2 app. The one caveat to using the standalone app is that you can only apply color to still images. Once you do that you can export the LUT to be used in any modern NLE/color correction app.

Summing Up
To be honest, working in Color Cone 2 was a little weird for me. It’s not your usual color correction workflow, so I would need to sit with the plugin for a while to get used to its setup. That being said, it has some interesting components that I wish other color correction apps would use, such as the Cone view. The bicone is a phenomenal way to visualize color correction in realtime.

In my opinion, if Picture Instruments would sell just the Cone as a color measurement tool to work in conjunction with Lumetri, they would have another solid tool. Color Cone 2 has a very unique and interesting way to color correct in Premiere that acts as an advanced secondary color correct tool to the Lumetri color correction tools.

The Color Cone 2 standalone app and plugin costs $139 when purchased together, or $88 individually. In my opinion, video people should probably just stick to the plugin version. Check out Picture Instrument’s website for more info on Color Cone 2 as well as their other products. And check them out on Twitter @Pic_instruments.


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.

Crazy Rich Asians editor Myron Kerstein

By Amy Leland

When the buzz started in anticipation of the premiere of Crazy Rich Asians, there was a lot of speculation about whether audiences would fill the theaters for the first all-Asian cast in an American film since 1993’s Joy Luck Club. Or whether audiences wanted to see a romantic comedy, a format that seemed to be falling out of favor.

The answer to both questions was a resounding, “Yes!” The film grossed $35 million during its opening weekend, against a $30 million budget. It continued going strong its second weekend, making another $28M, the highest Labor Day weekend box office in more than a decade. It was the biggest opening weekend for a rom-com in three years, and is the most successful studio rom-com in nine. All of this great success can be explained pretty simply — it’s a fun movie with a well-told story.

Not long ago, I had the great fun of sitting down with one of its storytellers, editor Myron Kerstein, to discuss this Jon M. Chu-directed film as well as Kerstein’s career as an editor.

How did you get started as an editor?
I was a fine arts major in college and stumbled upon photography, filmmaking, painting and printmaking. I really just wanted to make art of any kind. Once I started doing more short films in college, I found a knack for editing.

When I first moved to New York, I needed to make a living, so I became a PA, and I worked on a series called TV Nation one of Michael Moore’s first shows. It was political satire. There was a production period, and then slowly the editors needed help in the post department. I gravitated toward these alchemists, these amazing people who were making things out of nothing. I really started to move toward post through that experience.

I also hustled quite a bit with all of those editors, and they started to hire me after that job. Slowly but surely I had a network of people who wanted to hire me again. That’s how I really started, and I really began to love it. I thought, what an amazing process to read these stories and look at how much power and influence an editor has in the filmmaking process.

I was not an assistant for too long, because I got to cut a film called Black & White. Then I quickly began doing edits for other indies, one being a film called Raising Victor Vargas, and another film called Garden State. That was my big hit in the indie world, and slowly that lead to more studio films, and then to Crazy Rich Asians.

Myron Kerstein and Crazy Rich Asians actor Henry Golding.

Your first break was on a television show that was nothing like feature films. How did you ultimately move toward cutting feature films?
I had a real attraction to documentary filmmaking, but my heart wanted to make narrative features. I think once you put that out in the universe, then those jobs start coming to you. I then stumbled upon my mentor, Jim Lyons, who cut all of Todd Haynes’s movies for years. When I worked on Velvet Goldmine as an assistant editor, I knew this was where I really needed to be. This was a film with music that was trying to say something, and was also very subversive. Jim and Todd were these amazing filmmakers that were just shining examples of the things I wanted to make in the future.

Any other filmmakers or editors whose work influenced you as you were starting out?
In addition to Todd Haynes, directors like Gus Van Sant and John Hughes. When I was first watching films, I didn’t really understand what editors did, so at the same time I was influenced by Spielberg, or somebody like George Romero. Then I realized there were editors later who made these things. Ang Lee, and his editor Tim Squyres were like a gods to me. I really wanted to work on one of Ang’s crews very badly, but everyone wanted to work with him. I was working at the same facilities where Ang was cutting, and I was literally sneaking into his edit rooms. I would be working on another film, and I would just kind of peek my head in and see what they were doing and that kind of thing.

How did this Crazy Rich Asians come about for you?
Brad Simpson, who was a post supervisor on Velvet Goldmine back in the ‘90s when I was the assistant editor, is a producer on this film. Flash forward 20 years and I stumbled upon this script through agents. I read it and I was like, “I really want to be a part of this, and Brad’s the producer on this thing? Let me reach out to him.” He said, “I think you might be the right fit for this.” It was pretty nerve-wracking because I’d never worked with Jon before. Jon was a pretty experienced filmmaker, and he’d worked with a lot of editors. I just knew that if I could be part of the process, we could make something special.

My first interview with Jon was a Skype interview. He was in Malaysia already prepping for the film. Those interviews are very difficult to not look or sound weird. I just spoke from the heart, and said this is what I think makes me special. These are the ways I can try to influence a film and be part of the process. Lucky enough between that interview and Brad’s recommendation, I got the job.

Myron Kerstein and director Jon Chu.

When did you begin your work on the film?
I basically started the first week of filming and joined them in Malaysia and Singapore for the whole shoot. It was a pretty amazing experience being out there in two Muslim countries — two Westernized Muslim countries that were filled with some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. It was an almost entirely local crew, a couple of assistant editors, and me. Sometimes I feel like it might not be the best thing for an editor to be around set too much, but in this case it was good for me to see the setting they were trying to portray… and feel the humidity, the steaminess, the romance and Singapore, which is both alien and beautiful at the same time.

What was your collaboration like with Jon Chu?
It was just an organic process, where my DNA started to become infused with Jon’s. The good thing about my going to Malaysia and Singapore was we got to work together early. One thing that doesn’t happen often anymore is a director who actually screens dailies in a theater. Jon would do that every weekend. We would watch dailies, and he would say what he liked and didn’t like, or more just general impressions of his footage. That allowed me to get into his head a bit.

At the same time I was also cutting scenes. At the end of every day’s screening, we would sit down together. He gave me a lot of freedom, but at the same time was there to give me his first impressions of what I was doing. I think we were able to build some trust really early.

Because of the film’s overwhelming success, this has opened doors for other Asian-led projects.
Isn’t that the most satisfying thing in the world? You hope to define your career by moments like this, but rarely get that chance. I watched this film, right when it was released, which was on my birthday. I ended up sitting next to this young Asian boy and his mom. This kid was just giggling and weeping throughout the movie. To have an interaction with a kid like that, who may have never seen someone like himself represented on the screen was pretty outstanding.

Music was such an important part of this film. The soundtrack is so crucial to moments in the film that it almost felt like a musical. Were you editing scenes with specific songs in mind, or did you edit  and then come back and add music?
Jon gave me a playlist very early on of music he was interested in. A lot of the songs sounded like they were from the 1920s — almost big band tunes. Right then I knew the film could have more of a classy Asian-Gatsby quality to it. Then as we were working on the film together, we started trying out these more modern tunes. I think the producers might have thought we were crazy at one point. You’re asking the audience to go down these different roads with you, and that can sometimes work really well, or sometimes can be a train wreck.

But as much as I love working with music, when I assemble I don’t cut with any music in mind. I try not to use it as a crutch. Oftentimes you cut something with music, either with a song in your head, or often editors will cut with a song as a music bed. But, if you can’t tell a story visually without a song to help drive it, then I think you’re fooling yourself.

I really find that my joy of putting in music happens after I assemble, and then I enjoy experimenting. That Coldplay song at the end of the film, for example… We were really struggling with how to end our movie. We had a bunch of different dialogue scenes that were strung together, but we didn’t feel like it was building up to some kind of climax. I figured out the structure and then cut it like any other scene without any music. Then Jon pitched a couple songs. Ironically enough I had an experience with Coldplay from the opening of Garden State. I liked the idea of this full circle in my own career with Coldplay at the end of a romantic comedy that starred an all-Asian cast. And it really felt like it was the right fit.

The graphic design was fascinating, especially in the early scene with Rachel and Nick on their date that kicks off all of the text messages. Is that something that was storyboarded early, or was that something you all figured out in the edit and in post?
Jon did have a very loose six-page storyboard of how we would get from the beginning of this to the end. The storyboard was nothing compared to what we ended up doing. When I first assembled my footage, I stitched together a two-minute sequence of just split screens of people reacting to other people. Some of that footage is in the movie, but it was just a loose sketch. Jon liked it, but it didn’t represent what he imagined this sequence to be. To some extent he had wondered whether we even needed the sequence.

Jon and I discussed it and said, “Let’s give this a shot. Let’s find the best graphics company out there.” We ended up landing with this company called Aspect, led by John Berkowitz. He and his team of artists worked with us to slowly craft this sequence over months. Beginning with, “How do we get the first text bubble to the second person? What do those text bubbles look like? How do they travel?” Then they gave us 20 different options to see how those two elements would work together. Then we asked, “How do we start expanding outward? What information are we conveying? What is the text bubble saying?” It was like this slowly choreographed dance that we ended up putting together over the course of months.

They would make these little Disney-esque pops. We really loved that. That kind of made it feel like we were back in old Hollywood for a second. At the same time we had these modern devices with text bubbles. So far as the tone was concerned, we tried percussion, just drumming, and other old scores. Then we landed on a score from John Williams from 1941, and that gave us the idea that maybe some old-school big band jazz might go really well in this. Our composer Brian Tyler saw it, and said, “I think I can make this even zanier and crazier.”

How do you work with your assistants?
Assistants are crucial as far as getting through the whole process. I actually had two sets of assistants; John To and David Zimmerman were on the first half in Malaysia and Singapore. I found John through my buddy Tom Cross, who edits for Damien Chazelle. I wanted somebody who could help me with the challenges of getting through places like Malaysia and Singapore, because if you’re looking for help for your Avid, or trying to get dailies from Malaysia to America, you’re kind of on your own. Warner Bros. was great and supportive, and they gave us all the technical help. But it’s not like they can fly somebody out if something goes wrong in an hour.

On the post side I ended up using Melissa Remenarich-Aperlo, and she was outstanding. In the post process I needed somebody to hold down the fort and keep me organized, and also somebody for me to bounce ideas off of. I’m a big proponent of using my assistants creatively. Melissa ended up cutting the big fashion montage. I really struggled with that sequence because I felt strongly like this might be a trope that this film didn’t need. That was the debate with a lot of them. Which romantic comedy tropes should we have in this movie? Jon was like, “It’s wish fulfillment. We really need this. I know we’ve seen it a thousand times, but we need this scene.”

I said let’s try something different. Let’s try inter-cutting the wedding arrival with the montage, and let’s try to make it one big story to get us from us not knowing what she’s going to show up in to her arrival. Both of those sequences were fine on their own, but it didn’t feel like either one of them was doing anything interesting. It just felt like we were eating up time, and we needed to get to the wedding, and we had a lot of story to tell. Once we inter-cut them we knew this was the right choice. As Jon said, you need these moments in the film where you can just sit back and take a breath, smile for a minute and get ready for the drama that starts. Melissa did a great job on that sequence.

Do you have any advice for somebody who’s just starting out and really wants to edit feature films?
I would tell them to start cutting. Cut anything they can. If they don’t have the software, they can cut on iMovie on their iPhone. Then they should  reach out to people like me and create a network. And keep doing that until people say yes. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people.

Also don’t be afraid to be an assistant editor. As much as they want to cut, as they should, they also need to learn the process of editing from others. Be willing to stick with it, even if that means years of doing it. I think you’d be surprised how much you learn over the course of time with good editors. I feel like it’s a long bridge. I’ve been doing this for 20 years, and it took a long time to get here, but perseverance goes a long way in this field. You just have to really know you want to do it and keep doing it.


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

Presenting at IBC vs. NAB

By Mike Nuget

I have been lucky enough to attend NAB a few times over the years, both as an onlooker and as a presenter. In 2004, I went to NAB for the first time as an assistant online editor, mainly just tagging along with my boss. It was awesome! It was very overwhelming and, for the most part, completely over my head.  I loved seeing things demonstrated live by industry leaders. I felt I was finally a part of this crazy industry that I was new to. It was sort of a rite of passage.

Twelve years later, Avid asked me to present on the main stage. Knowing that I would be one of the demo artists that other people would sit down and watch — as I had done just 12 years earlier — was beyond anything I thought I would do back when I first started. The demo showed the Avid and FilmLight collaboration between the Media Composer and the Baselight color system. Two of my favorite systems to work on. (Watch Mike’s presentation here.)

Thanks to my friend and now former co-worker Matt Schneider, who also presented alongside of me, I had developed a very good relationship with the Avid developers and some of the people who run the Avid booth at NAB. And at the same time, the Filmlight team was quickly being put on my speed dial and that relationship strengthened as well.

This past NAB, Avid once again asked me to come back and present on the main stage about Avid Symphony Color and FilmLight’s Baselight Editions plug-in for Avid, but this time I would get to represent myself and my new freelance career change — I had just left my job at Technicolor-Postworks in New York a few weeks prior. I thought that since I was now a full-time freelancer this might be the last time I would ever do this kind of thing. That was until this past July, when I got an email from the FilmLight team asking me to present at IBC in Amsterdam. I was ecstatic.

Preparing for IBC was similar enough as far as my demo, but I was definitely more nervous than I was at NAB. I think it was two reasons: First, presenting in front of many different people in an international setting. Even though I am from the melting pot of NYC, it is a different and interesting feeling being surrounded by so many different nationalities all day long, and pretty much being the minority. On a personal note, I loved it. My wife and I love traveling, and to us this was an exciting chance to be around people from other cultures. On a business level, I guess I was a little afraid that my fast-talking New Yorker side would lose some people, and I didn’t want that to happen.

The second thing was that this was the first time that I was presenting strictly for FilmLight and not Avid. I have been an Avid guy for over 15 years. It’s my home, it’s my most comfortable system, and I feel like I know it inside and out. I discovered Baselight in 2012, so to be presenting in front of FilmLight people, who might have been using their systems for much longer, was a little intimidating.

When I walked into the room, they had setup a full-on production, along with spotlights, three cameras, a projector… the nerves rushed once again. The demo was standing room only. Sometimes when you are doing presentations, time seems to fly by, so I am not sure I remember every minute of the 50-minute presentation, but I do remember at one point within the first few minutes my voice actually trembled, which internally I thought was funny, because I do not tend to get nervous. So instead of fighting it, I actually just said out loud “Sorry guys, I’m a little nervous here,” then took a deep breath, gathered myself, and fell right into my routine.

I spent the rest of the day watching the other FilmLight demos and running around the convention again saying hello to some new vendors and goodbye to those I had already seen, as Sunday was my last day at the show.

That night I got to hang out with the entire Filmlight staff for dinner and some drinks. These guys are hilarious, what a great tight-knit family vibe they have. At one point they even started to label each other, the uncle, the crazy brother, the funny cousin. I can’t thank them enough for being so kind and welcoming. I kind of felt like a part of the family for a few days, and it was tremendously enjoyable and appreciated.

Overall, IBC felt similar enough to NAB, but with a nice international twist. I definitely got lost more since the layout is much more confusing than NAB’s. There are 14 halls!

I will say that the “relaxing areas” at IBC are much better than NAB’s! There is a sandy beach to sit on, a beautiful canal to sit by while having a Heineken (of course) and the food trucks were much, much better.

I do hope I get to come back one day!


Mike Nuget (known to most as just “Nuget”) is a NYC-based colorist and finishing editor. He recently decided to branch out on his own and become a freelancer after 13 years with Technicolor-Postworks. He has honed a skill set across multiple platforms, including FilmLight’s Baselight, Blackmagic’s Resolve, Avid and more. 

Editor Paul Zucker on cutting Hotel Artemis

By Zack Wolder

The Drew Pearce-directed Hotel Artemis is a dark action-thriller set in a riot-torn Los Angeles in the not-too-distant future. What is the Hotel Artemis? It’s a secret members-only hospital for criminals run by Jodie Foster with the help of David Bautista. The film boasts an impressive cast that also includes Sterling K. Brown, Jeff Goldblum, Charlie Day, Sofia Boutella and Jennie Slate.

Hotel Artemis editor Paul Zucker, ACE, has varied credits that toggle between TV and film, including Trainwreck, This is 40, Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, Girls, Silicon Valley and many others.

We recently reached out to Zucker, who worked alongside picture editor Gardner Gould, to talk about his process on the film.

Paul Zucker and adorable baby.

How did you get involved in this film?
This was kind of a blind date set-up. I wasn’t really familiar with Drew, and it was a project that came to me pretty late. I think I joined about a week, maybe two, before production began. I was told that they were in a hurry to find an editor. I read the script, I interviewed with Drew, and that was it.

How long did it take to complete the editing?
About seven months.

How involved were you throughout the whole phase of production? Were you on set at all?
I wasn’t involved in pre-production, so I wasn’t able to participate in development of the script or anything like that, but as soon as the camera started rolling I was cutting. Most of the film was shot on stages in downtown LA, so I would go to set a few times, but most of the time there was enough work to do that I was sequestered in the edit room and trying to keep up with camera.

I’m an editor who doesn’t love to go to set. I prefer to be uninfluenced by whatever tensions, or lack of tensions, are happening on set. If a director has something he needs me for, if it’s some contribution he feels I can make, I’m happy, able and willing to participate in shot listing, blocking and things like that, but on this movie I was more valuable putting together the edit.

Did you have any specific deadlines you had to meet?
On this particular movie there was a higher-than-average number of requests from director Drew Pearce. Since it was mostly shot on stages, he was able to re-shoot things a little easier than you would if we were on location. So it became important for him to see the movie sooner rather than later.

A bunch of movies ago, I adopted a workflow of sending the director whatever I had each Friday. I think it’s healthy for them to see what they’re working on. There’s always the chance that it will influence the work they’re doing, whether it’s performance of the actors or the story or the script or really anything.

As I understand it from the directors I’ve worked for, seeing the editor’s cut can be the worst day of the process for them. Not because of the quality of the editing, but because it’s hard in that first viewing to look past all the things that they didn’t get on set. Its tough to not just see the mistakes. Which is totally understandable. So I started this strategy of easing them into it. I just send scenes; I don’t send them in sequence. By the time they get to the editors cut, they’ve seen most of the scenes, so the shock is lessened and hopefully that screening is more productive

Do you ever get that sense that you may be distracting them or overwhelming them with something?
Yes, sometimes. A couple of pictures ago, I did my normal thing — sending what I had on a Friday — and the director told me he didn’t want to watch them. For him, issues of post were a distraction while he was in production. So to each his own.

Drew Pearce certainly benefitted. Drew was the type of director who, if I sent it at 9pm, he would be watching it at 9:05pm, and he would be giving me notes at 10:05pm.

Are you doing temp color and things like that?
Absolutely. I do as much as the footage I’m given requires. On this particular movie, the cinematographer, the DIT and the lab were so dialed in that these were the most perfect-looking dailies I think I’ve ever gotten. So I had to do next to nothing. I credit DP Chung-Hoon Chung for that. Generally, if I’m getting dailies that are mismatched in color tone, I’m going to do whatever it takes to smooth it out. Nothing goes in front of the director until it’s had a hardcore sound and color pass. I am always trying to leave as little to the imagination as possible. I try to present something that is as close to the experience that the audience will have when they watch the movie. That means great color, great sound, music, all of that.

Do you ever provide VFX work?
Editorial is typically always doing simple VFX work like split-screens, muzzle-flashes for guns, etc. Those are all things that we’re really comfortable doing.

On this movie, theres a large VFX component, so the temp work was more intense. We had close to 500 VFX shots, and there’s some very involved ones. For example, a helicopter crashes into a building after getting blasted out of the sky with a rocket launcher. There are multiple scenes where characters get operated on by robotic arms. There’s a 3D printer that prints organs and guns. So we had to come up with a large number of temp shots in editorial.

Editor Gardner Gould and assistant editors Michael Costello and Lillian Dawson Bain were instrumental in coming up with these shots.

What about editing before the VFX shots are delivered?
From the very beginning, we are game-planning — what are the priorities for the movie vis-a-vis VFX? Which shots do we need early for story reasons? Which shots are the most time consuming for the VFX department? All of these things are considered as the entire post production department collaborates to come up with a priorities list.

If I need temp versions of shots to help me edit the scene, the assistants help me make them. If we can do them, we’ll do them. These aid in determining final VFX shot length, tempo, action, anything. As the process goes on, they get replaced by shots we get from the VFX department.

One thing I’m always keeping in mind is that shots can be created out of thin air oftentimes. If I have a story problem, sometimes a shot can be created that will help solve it. Sometimes the entire meaning of a scene can change.

What do you expect from your assistant editors?
The first assistant had to have experience with visual effects. The management of workflow for 500 shots is a lot, and on this job, we did not have a dedicated VFX editor. That fell upon (my co-editor) editor Gardner Gould.

I generally kick a lot of sound to the assistant, as I’m kind of rapidly moving through cutting picture. But I’m also looking for someone who’s got that storytelling bone that great editors have. Not everybody has it, not every great assistant has it.

There is so much minutiae on the technical side of being an assistant editor that you run the risk of forgetting that you’re working on a movie for an audience. And, indeed, some assistants just do the assistant work. They never cut scenes, they never do creative work, they’re not interested or they just don’t. So I’m always encouraging them to think like an editor at every point.

I ask them for their opinions. I invite them into the process, I don’t want them to be afraid to tell me what they think. You have to express yourself artistically in every decision you make. I encourage them to think critically and analytically about the movie that we’re working on.

I came up as an assistant and I had a few people who really believed in me. They invited me into the room with the director and they gave me that early exposure that really helped me learn my trade. I’m kind of looking to pay back that favor to my assistants.

Why did you choose to edit this film on Avid? Are you proficient in any other NLEs?
Oh, I’d say strictly Avid. To me, a tool, a technology, should be as transparent as possible. I want to have the minimum of time in between thought and expression. Which means that if I think of an edit, I want to automatically, almost without thinking, be able to do a keystroke and have that decision appear on the monitor. I’m so comfortable with Avid that I’m at that point.

How is your creative process different when editing a film versus a TV show?
Well first, a TV show is going to have a pre-determined length. A movie does not have a pre-determined length. So in television you’re always wrangling with the runtime. The second thing that’s different is in television schedules are a little tighter and turnaround times are a little tighter. You’re constantly in pre-production, production and post at the same time.

Also, television is for a small screen. Film, generally speaking, is for the big screen. The venue matters for a lot of reasons, but it matters for pacing. You’re sitting in a movie theater and maybe you can hold shots a little bit longer because the canvas is so wide and there’s so much to look at. Whereas with the small screen, you’re sitting closer to the television, the screen itself is smaller, maybe the shots are typically not as wide or you cut a little quicker.

You’re a very experienced comedic editor. Was it difficult to be considered for a different type of film?
I guess the answer is yes. The more famous work I’ve done in the last couple of years has been for people like Lena Dunham and Judd Apatow. So people say, “Well, he’s a comedy editor.” But if you look at my resume dating back to the very first thing I did in 2001, I edited my first movie — a pretty radical film for Gus Van Sant called Gerry, and it was not a comedy. Eternal Sunshine was not a comedy. Before Girls, I couldn’t get hired on comedies.

Then I got pulled on by Judd to work on some of his movies, and he’s such a brand name that people see that on your resume and they say, “Well, you must be a comedy editor.” So, yes, it does become harder to break out of that box, but that’s the box that other people put you in, I don’t put myself in that. My favorite filmmakers work across all types of genre.

Where do you find inspiration? Music? Other editors? Directors?
Good question. I mean… inspiration is everywhere. I’m a movie fan, I always have been, that’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do. I’m always going to the movies. I watch lots of trailers. I like to keep up with what people are doing. I go back and re-watch the things that I love. Listening to other editors or reading other editors speak about their process is inspiring to me. Listening and speaking with people who love what they do is inspiring.

For Hotel Artemis, I went back and watched some movies that were an influence on this one to get in the tone-zone. I would listen to a lot of the soundtracks that were soundtracks to those movies. As far as watching movies, I watched Assault on Precinct 13, for instance. That’s a siege movie, and Hotel Artemis is kind of a siege movie. Some editors say they don’t watch movies while they’re making a movie, they don’t want to be influenced. It doesn’t bother me. It’s all in the soup.


Zack Wolder is a video editor based in NYC. He is currently the senior video editor at Billboard Magazine.  Follow him on Instagram at @thezackwolder.

Avid adds to Nexis product line with Nexis|E5

The Nexis|E5 NL nearline storage solution from Avid is now available. The addition of this high-density on-premises solution to the Avid Nexis family allows Avid users to manage media across all their online, nearline and archive storage resources.

Avid Nexis|E5 NL includes a new web-based Nexis management console for managing, controlling and monitoring Nexis installations. NexislE5 NL can be easily accessed through MediaCentral | Cloud UX or Media Composer and also integrates with MediaCentral|Production Management, MediaCentral|Asset Management and MediaCentral|Editorial Management to help collaboration, with advanced features such as project and bin sharing. Extending the Nexis|FS (file system) to a secondary storage tier makes it easy to search for, find and import media, enabling users to locate content distributed throughout their operations more quickly.

Build for project parking, staging workflows and proxy archive, Avid reports that Nexis | E5 NL streamlines the workflow between active and non-active assets, allowing media organizations to park assets as well as completed projects on high-density nearline storage, and keep them within easy reach for rediscovery and reuse.

Up to eight Nexis|E5 NL engines can be integrated as one virtualizable pool of storage, making content and associated projects and bins more accessible. In addition, other Avid Nexis Enterprise engines can be integrated into a single storage system that is partitioned for better archival organization.

Additional Nexis|E5 NL features include:
• It’s scalable from 480TB of storage to more than 7PB by connecting multiple Nexis|E5 NL engines together as a single nearline system for a highly scalable, lower-cost secondary tier of storage.
• It offers flexible storage infrastructure that can be provisioned with required capacity and fault-tolerance characteristics.
• Users can configure, control and monitor Nexis using the updated management console that looks and feels like a MediaCentral|Cloud UX application. Its dashboard provides an overview of the system’s performance, bandwidth and status, as well as access to quickly configure and manage workspaces, storage groups, user access, notifications and other functions. It offers the flexibility and security of HTML5 along with an interface design that enables mobile device support.

Pacific Post adds third LA location servicing editorial

Full-service editorial equipment rental and services provider Pacific Post has expanded its footprint with the opening of a new 10,000 square-foot facility in Sherman Oaks, California. This brings the total locations in the LA area to three, including North Hollywood and Hollywood.

The new location offers 25 Avid suites with 24/7 technical support, alongside a writer’s room and several production offices. Pacific Post has retrofitted the entire site, which is supported by Avid Nexis shared storage and 1GB of dedicated Fiber internet connectivity.

“We recently provided equipment and services to the editorial team on Game Over, Man! for Netflix in Sherman Oaks, and continued to receive inquiries from other productions in the area,” says Pacific Post VP Kristin Kumamoto. “The explosion we’ve seen in scripted production, especially for streaming platforms, prompted our decision to add this building to our offerings.”

Kumamoto says a screening room is also close to completion. It features a 150-inch screen and JVC 4K projector for VFX reviews and an enhanced, in-house viewing experience. Additional amenities at Pacific Post Sherman Oaks include MPAA-rated security, reserved parking, a full kitchen and lounge, VoIP phone systems and a substantial electrical infrastructure.

We reached out to Kumamoto to find out more.

Why the investment in Avid over some of the other NLE choices out there currently?
It really stems from the editorial community — from scripted and non-scripted shows that really want to work in shared project environments. They trust the media management with Avid’s shared storage, making it a clear choice when working on projects with the tightest deadlines.

How do you typically work with companies coming in looking for editing space? What is your process?
It usually starts with producers looking for a location that meets the needs of the editors in terms of commute or the proximity to studios for executives.  After that, it really comes down to having a secure and flexible layout along with a host of other requirements.”

With cutting rooms in North Hollywood/Universal City and in Hollywood, we feel Sherman Oaks is the perfect location to complement the other facilities and really give more choices to producers looking to set up cutting rooms in the San Fernando Valley area of LA.

A Sneak Peek: Avid shows its next-gen Media Composer

By Jonathan Moser

On the weekend of NAB and during Avid Connect, I found myself sitting in a large meeting room with some of the most well-known editors and creatives in the business. To my left was Larry Jordan, Steve Audette was across from me, Chris Bovè and Norman Hollyn to my right, and many other luminaries of the post world filled the room. Motion picture, documentary, boutique, commercial and public broadcasting masters were all represented here… as well as sound designers and producers. It was quite humbling for me.

We’d all been asked to an invite-only meeting with the leading product designers and engineers from Avid Technology to see the future of Media Composer… and to do the second thing we editors do best: bitch. We were asked to be as tough, critical and vocal as we could about what we’re about to see. We were asked to give them a thumbs up or thumbs down on their vision and execution of the next generation of Media Composer as they showed us long-needed overhauls and redesigns.

Editors Chris Bové and Avid’s Randy Martens getting ready for the unveil.

What we were shown is the future of the Media Composer, and based on what I saw, its future is bright. You think you’ve heard that before? Maybe, but this time is different. This is not vaporware, smoke and mirrors or empty promises… I assure you, this is the future.

The Avid team, including new Avid CEO Jeff Rosica, was noticeably open and attentive to the assembled audience of seasoned professionals invited to Avid Connect… a far cry from the halcyon days of the ‘90s and 2000s when Media Composer ruled the roost, and sat complacently on its haunches. Too recently, the Avid corporate culture was viewed by many in the post community as arrogant and tone deaf to its users’ criticisms and requests. This meeting was a far cry from that.

What we were shown was a redefined, reenergized and proactive attitude from Avid. Big corporations aren’t ordinarily so open about such big changes, but this one directly addressed decades of users’ concerns and suggestions.

By the way, this presentation was separate from the new NAB announcements of tiered pricing, new feature rollouts and enhanced interoperability for Media Composer. Avid invited us here not for approval, but for appraisal… for our expertise and feedback and to help steer them in the right direction.

As a life-long Avid user who has often questioned the direction of where the company was headed, I need to say this once more: this time is different.

These are real operational changes that we got to see in an open, informed — and often questioned and critiqued — environment. We editors are a tough crowd, but team Avid was ready, listening, considering and feeding back new ideas. It was an amazingly open and frank give and take from a company that once was shut off from such possibilities.

In her preliminary introduction, Kate Ketcham, manager of Media Composer product management, gave the assembled audience a pretty brutal and honest assessment of Media Composer’s past (and oft repeated) failings and weaknesses —a task usually reserved for us editors to tell Avid, but this time it was Avid telling us what we already knew and they had come to realize. Pretty amazing.

The scope of her critique showed us that, despite popular opinion, Avid HAS been listening to us all along: they got it. They acknowledged the problems, warts and all, and based on the two-hour presentation shown through screenshots and demos, they’re intent on correcting their mistakes and are actively doing so.

Addressing User Concerns
Before the main innovations were shared, there was an initial concern from the editors that Avid be careful not to “throw out the baby with the bathwater” in its reinvention. Media Composer’s primary strength — as well as one of its most recognized weaknesses among newer editors — has been its consistency of look and feel, as well as its logical operational methodology and dependable media file structural organization. Much was made of one competitor’s historical failure to keep consistency and integrity of the basic and established editing paradigms (such as two-screen layout, track-based editing, reasonably established file structure, etc.) in a new release.

We older editors depend on a certain consistency. Don’t abandon the tried and true, but still “get us into this century” was the refrain from the assembled. The Avid team addressed these concerns clearly and reassuringly — the best, familiar and most trusted elements of Media Composer would stay, but there will now be so much more under the hood. Enough to dynamically attract and compel newer users and adoptees.

The company has spent almost a year doing research, redesign and implementation; this is a true commitment, and they are pledging to do this right. Avid’s difficult and challenging task in reimagining Media Composer was to make the new iteration steadfast, efficient and dependable (something existing users expect), yet innovative, attractive, flexible, workflow-fluid and intuitive enough for the newer users who are used to more contemporary editing and software. It’s a slippery and problematic slope, but one the Avid team seemed to navigate with an understanding of the issues.

As this is still in the development stage, I can’t reveal particulars (I really wish I could because there were a ton), but I can give an overview of the types of implementation they’ve been developing. Also, this initial presentation deals only with one stage of the redesign of Media Composer — the user interface changes — with much more to come within the spectrum of change.

Rebuilding the Engine
I was assured by the Avid design team that most of the decades-old Media Composer code has been completely rewritten, updated and redesigned with current innovations and implementations similar to those of the competition. This is a fully realized redesign.

Flexibility and customization are integrated throughout. There are many UI innovations, tabbed bins, new views and newer and more efficient access to enhanced tools. Media Composer has entirely new windowing and organizational options that goes way beyond mere surface looks and feels, yet it is much different than the competition’s implementations. You can now customize the UI to incredible lengths. There are new ways of viewing and organizing media, source and clip information and new and intuitive (and graphical) ways of creating workspaces that get much more usable information to the editor than before.

The Avid team examined weaknesses of the existing Media Composer environment and workflow: clutter, too many choices onscreen at once; screens that resize mysteriously, which can throw concentration and creative flow off-base; looking at what causes oft-repeated actions and redundant keystrokes or operations that could be minimized or eliminated altogether; finding ways of changing how Media Composer handles screen real estate to let the editor see only what they need to see when they need it.

Gone are the windows covering other windows and other things that might slow users down. Avid showed us how attention was paid to making Media Composer more intuitive to new editors by shrinking the learning curve. The ability for more contextual help (without getting in the way of editing) has been addressed.

There are new uses of dynamic thumbnails, color for immediate recognition of active operations and window activation, different ways of changing modalities — literally changing how we looked at timelines, how we find media. You want tabbed bins? You want hover scrubbing? You want customization of workspaces done quickly and efficiently? Avid looked at what do we need to see and what we don’t. All of these things have been addressed and integrated. They have addressed the difficulties of handling effect layering, effect creation, visualization and effect management with sleek but understandable solutions. Copying complex multilayered effects will now be a breeze.

Everything we were shown answered long-tolerated problems we’ve had to accept. There were no gimmicks, no glitz, just honesty. There was method to the madness for every new feature, implementation and execution, but after feedback from us, many things were reconsidered or jettisoned. Interruptions from this critical audience were fast and furious: “Why did you do that?” “What about my workflow?” “Those palette choices don’t work for me.” “Why are those tools buried?” This was a synergy and free-flow of information between company and end-users unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

There was no defensiveness from Avid; they listened to each and every critique. I could see they were actively learning from us and that they understood the problems we were pointing out. They were taking notes, asking more questions and adding to their change lists. Editors made suggestions, and those suggestions were added and actively considered. They didn’t want blind acceptance. We were informing them, and it was really amazing to see.

Again, I wish I could be more specific about details and new implementations — all I can say is that they really have listened to the complaints and are addressing them. And there is much more in the works, from media ingest and compatibility to look and feel and overall user experience.

When Jeff Rosica stopped in to observe, talk and listen to the crowd, he explained that while Avid Technology has many irons in the fire, he believes that Media Composer (and Pro Tools) represent the heart of what the company is all about. In fact, since his tenure began, he has redeployed tremendous resources and financial investment to support and nurture this rebirth of Media Composer.

Rosica promised to make sure Avid would not repeat the mistakes made by others several years ago. He vowed to continue to listen to us and to keep what makes Media Composer the dependable powerhouse that it has been.

As the presentation wound down, a commitment was made by the Avid group to continue to elicit our feedback and keep us in the loop throughout all phases of the redevelopment.

In the end, this tough audience came away optimistic. Yeah, some were still skeptical, but others were elated, expectant and heartened. I know I was.

And I don’t drink Kool-Aid. I hate it in fact.

There is much more in development for MC at Avid in terms of AI integration, facial recognition, media ingest, export functionality and much more. This was just a taste of many more things to come, so stand by.

(Special thanks for access to Marianna Montague, David Colantuoni, Tim Claman, Randy Fayan, and Randy Martens of Avid Technology. If I’ve missed anyone, thank you and apologies.)


Jonathan Moser is a six-time Emmy winning freelance editor/producer based in New York. You can email him at flashcutter@yahoo.com.

A Conversation: Veteran editor Lawrence Jordan, ACE

By Randi Altman

Lawrence Jordan’s fate was essentially sealed upon birth. His father and his grandfather made a living working in post and film editing in New York City.

He grew up around it; it encircled him. His path became pretty clear at a very young age. “I was very fortunate to be born into a film editing family. The running joke is that a trim bin was my first playpen,” he laughs.

Even with his rich family history, Jordan wasn’t handed a job. He started the way many did, as a runner. “I learned all the things that someone in that job learns about the cutting room — while trying to hone editing skills in my spare time. I then got into the union and became very focused on feature film editing.”

Some of those feature films include Jack Frost, Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, Riding in Cars With Boys, Fallen and Are We There Yet? He also embraced dramatic television series such as NYPD Blue and CSI Miami. He most recently cut a feature for Netflix, called Naked.

Naked

Not long ago, we threw some questions at Jordan, about his love for editing, how he evolved with the technology of industry and his online class, Master the Workflow.

What was your path to editing?
My father, Morton Fallick was a film editor who started Cinemetric, one of the first integrated commercial post companies in New York in the 1960s. He followed in the footsteps of my grandfather, a projection and sound engineer, who helped organize the unions in New York. He worked for CBS News for many years. Because of this history and my love of movies, I knew I wanted to work in film from a very young age.

Many of the film editors who I ended up really admiring came out of my father’s shop. They were young guys who wanted to get into film, and his commercial house was one way to learn the craft. People like Richard Marks, Barry Malkin, Craig McKay and Evan Lottman — they went on to become some of the most respected feature film editors of the ‘70s, ‘80s and beyond.

My first job was as an apprentice in the Warner Bros. film library. Soon after that I got a job as an apprentice sound editor working on a picture the legendary Dede Allen was cutting. It was called Mike’s Murder directed by James Bridges. I worked directly for supervising sound editor Norval Crutcher.

How has editing evolved since you started in the industry?
I started back in the days of 35mm film. It was a completely different industry. The editing community was incredibly small back then. I think there were only about 1,000 or 1,500 people in the entire guild, and we all edited on Moviolas or flatbed machines like the Kem or Steenbeck. Back then, editing was a much slower and more deliberate process. Things were done by hand and ideas were executed at a different pace.

I saw videotape becoming a popular means of editing. Videotape annoyed me because it seemed that it had a lot to do with punching numbers into a keyboard and timecode. Kind of ironic isn’t it? I wasn’t particularly fond of that way of approaching editing. I liked the visceral and physical feeling of handling the actual film. And with the exception of experiments by Francis Coppola, back then, nobody else was cutting features on videotape, so I focused on working in 35mm.

But as time went by, I couldn’t really avoid the technological change. New systems were being developed that used multiple videotapes to approximate the nonlinear nature of editing on film. Then there were systems that worked off of laserdisc, but I was building a career as an assistant in features and none of these new systems really seemed like they were “there” yet.

Then, in 1991, while I was working as additional editor on Jodie Foster’s directorial debut, Little Man Tate, I got a call from my dad who said, “They’re editing off of hard drives now!” He went on to tell me about the Avid Media Composer and how it was being used in commercials. This was very exciting to me because I had started to get into computers in my personal life, and in those days we were all awed by the power of even the most rudimentary computer systems.

I went down to the Avid offices in Burbank and got a demo of Media Composer. I think there were maybe four or five of us in the room, and when I saw the demo, I was floored by the power and simplicity of digital editing. I knew this was what my future was going to be if I was to continue to pursue a career as a film editor.

I spent a year learning everything I could about the Avid system and digital video — the hardware, software and compression algorithms. At the same time, an editor friend of mine, Steve Cohen, who was also into nonlinear editing, asked if I’d be interested in doing a show on the Montage Picture Processor. It was a hybrid/digital version of their multi-deck Betacam system, and just not up handling the demands of a feature-length project. About a week into dailies we decided to make the switch and cut on the Avid. That project was Teamster Boss: The Jackie Presser Story.

How did that change the way you worked as an editor?
With the speed and flexibility of digital, editors were soon expected to do many of the tasks that traditionally were given to other departments. More complex sound editing was first. On films, temp dubs were prepared by the sound department, but this became something you could do pretty well on the Avid. As digital editing evolved and CPU speeds accelerated, it became more common for the film editor to rough-out visual effects. The way it is now, the spectacular VFX that are being done with CGI and the like still have to be subbed out to the VFX team. But you can do an awful lot, especially for temp in the offline.

Today, directors, producers and studios all expect these tasks to be accomplished in the offline. Although you can execute ideas much faster, there’s a ton more work. Additionally, with digital cinematography, editors are getting more footage than ever before. Whereas an average-budget feature might have had 200,000 or 300,000 feet of film on 35mm, now that same project — not even one of the large tent-poles films — could easily have a million feet of dailies. Think about it. By comparison, it took Francis Coppola three years to shoot a million feet of dailies on Apocalypse Now!

Do you have a particular editing philosophy?
If I did, it would be that I let the dailies speak to me. I say this because, of course, we’ve all read the script and talked to the director about his or her vision, but once you actually get the dailies —for any number of reasons — you could be looking at something totally different from what you expected.

This could be affected by whatever the conditions were on the day of production. Or whatever discussions might have gone on between the actors and the director in terms of how they approached a scene or interpreted the script.

So I let the material in front of me dictate how I’m going to make my initial cut on a particular scene. Then it’s a process of looking at the film as a whole and going back to the script and finding the best way to tell the story with the material you have.

You have worked on TV and film. Do you wear a different hat depending on what you are working on?
In television you’re dealing with much tighter schedules. The workflow is highly structured, and although you don’t get as much film every day, you really need to bang scenes out quickly. TV is also a writer/producer’s medium. You only get to work with the director of each episode for a few days and then the producers come in and give you their notes. All of this is usually done in a few weeks’ time.

On feature films, it’s completely different because you’re the head of the department. And even if you’re working with an additional editor, you are communicating directly with the director on a regular basis. A feature film can often go in many more directions than a television show. In the case of comedy, there can be all kinds of improvisation and you are dealing with different situations each day.

When cutting a feature, you’re much more intimately involved in the DNA of the film because you’re living with it for a much longer period of time.

Then, of course, you get into the director’s cut period, which usually lasts around 10 weeks. During this time, you’re typically developing tone, and not only with the story, but in terms of sound effects, music and visual effects. Depending on the situation, the editor is often much more involved in the final mix, color correction and delivery. That level of involvement just doesn’t happen for editors in television.

Do you have a preference in how you work? On-set, near-set?
I guess cutting on-set is happening more often these days, but if I had my preference I’d be in a cutting room near the set. As an editor it’s always nice to have the luxury to be in a quiet space where you can really take in and sort through the material. We want to give it as much thought as possible and have the maximum amount of uninterrupted time to solve whatever problems may come up. I do know that more editors are being asked to edit on-set in real-time. And I guess that’s a necessity for certain films.

During my initial cut, I try to keep it as simple as possible. I’m focusing on two things: story and performance. I try to fill-out my cut with as much sound and music as possible, and as many temp visual effects as necessary. In regard to music, most films nowadays have music supervisors who can be of great help pulling material. Because source cues can be expensive, often they’ve had discussions with the director, even before the editor comes on board.

What system do you work on? Are there any plugins that you use regularly?
I work on the Avid Media Composer. As I said, I was involved with its introduction into feature filmmaking and television in Hollywood, and it’s still the primary tool for 99 percent of all feature films and television shows for studios and networks today.

I know that there are other pieces of software out there, and I’ve had some experience with them, but the longer you work on a tool, the more ingrained it becomes in your muscle memory. With the Avid, the speed at which I can execute ideas is much faster using software that I’ve been working with going on 25 years now.

As far as peripheral software and additional tools, I do like to use Adobe After Effects to work with temp visual effects. It’s a very powerful program. It does have its limitations in terms of getting metadata in and out of the system, but I can create temp comps and the like relatively quickly with it. Of course, there’s Photoshop. I’ve also used Boris FX pretty extensively, and their Mocha tracking tools are pretty amazing.

What are you working on now?
I just finished a feature for Netflix called Naked, starring Marlon Wayans. It’s a comedy that has a tremendous amount of improv. I worked with a great director named Mike Tiddes, with whom I had worked previously on another feature called Fifty Shades of Black.

We had a lot of fun. It was crazy, because for an editor, improv comedy is always challenging —sometimes you’re literally creating stuff that wasn’t shot! It was also exciting because it was for Netflix. Although it didn’t have a theatrical distribution, it was an original film for them and was distributed in 180 countries on the same day.

The power and possibility with the new streaming networks just amazes me. These production companies have tremendous resources and are really giving the film and television production world a shot in the arm — it’s a real boost for employment opportunities for editors and assistants. I think it holds tremendous promise for our industry in general.

How do you work with your assistant editor? Do you give them a chance to cut?
Because I spent 10 years as an assistant, I really have a lot of respect for what they do. Assistants are essentially the glue that holds the editorial process together. Without an assistant who is at the top of their game — focused, organized and generally passionate about what their role is in the process — an editor can really find himself/herself in a pickle.

Today, much of the assistant’s job has become a metadata manager. There are so many different types of media. It’s the same media that we used to have, but it is delivered digitally and in so many different formats.

I always try to give my assistants a shot at cutting at least a scene, if not a couple of scenes, on every project I do. There really is no other way to learn the editing craft, besides having it handed down to you by an editor. To me, this was something that existed when I was coming up and was essentially at the core of the apprenticeship nature of our craft from the time it started. This was how we learned to do our job.

It’s pretty much still the same way, but it’s the proverbial Catch-22. You can’t learn the actual nuts-and-bolts of the job in a cutting room, unless you have a job in a cutting room. You can’t learn this in theory while in film school. They don’t really teach the sort of inner workings of the feature film workflow, or even television workflow in film school. It’s much more of a macro approach — an overview to how the work is done. I’m not aware of any film programs that teach the job of the assistant editor.

NYPD Blue

Now, of course, there are certification courses and specialized schools, but unless you’re working on the front lines on a feature film or television show you’re really not going to get an understanding of the full spectrum of what the job entails.

So, yes, I do try to give my assistants a chance to cut. I also solicit their opinions on scenes that I have cut. I ask for their ideas. I ask for their feedback. I ask whether they remember anything in the dailies that I might have missed. That’s the nature of our work. It’s a collaborative process, and it helps me do my best work.

I hear you are doing something called Master the Workflow. Can you explain what that is?
Yes, Master the Workflow is something my assistant Richard Sanchez and I came up with on our last film, Naked. Richard had developed a comprehensive database in FileMaker that tracks all of the media and metadata created on a feature film. It made me realize how much the job of the assistant editor has changed from when I was an assistant. With the explosion of digital production and post, I thought that it would be of tremendous benefit to detail the critical role that the assistant editor plays in the editorial process.

We decided to create an online education course and named it Feature Film Assistant Editor Immersion 1.0. It takes a potential assistant editor from their initial meeting with their editor through final delivery of a finished film. I felt strongly about creating something like this, primarily because we wanted to show a way for people to learn what goes on in a cutting room in the way it used to be learned.

As I mentioned earlier, there has been an apprenticeship model in post and film editorial throughout its history, but because of digital technology, the editor and the assistants have become somewhat siloed. An assistant doesn’t get to sit in the room with the editor as they are creating the cut as much anymore. So the craft is not being handed down as it was traditionally.

The course is a detailed view of what takes place in the editing environment. For example, we discuss how you deal with the director, how an assistant deals with his editor, how to navigate the sometimes touchy political nature of dealing with producers and studios. Things as simple as when to express your opinion, and when not to.

We wanted to impart all of these things to a new generation of filmmakers and make it available online so that those who might not otherwise have the opportunity to get inside a cutting room and learn how the job is done could learn those skills. We’ve already had our first session with 50 students. They’ve been very, very positive with their feedback and we’re excited to see where it goes.

Stitch cuts down 200+ hours of footage for TalkTalk Xmas spot

Can you feel it? The holidays are here, and seasonal ads have begun. One UK company, TalkTalk — which provides pay television, telecommunications, Internet and mobile services — is featuring genuine footage of a family Christmas. Documenting a real family during last year’s holiday, this totally unscripted, fly-on-the-wall commercial sees the return of the Merwick Street family and their dog, Elvis, in This is Christmas.

Directed by Park Pictures’ Tom Tagholm and cut by Stitch’s Tim Hardy, the team used the same multi-camera techniques that were used on their 2016 This Stuff Matters campaign.

Seventeen cameras — a combination of Blackmagic Micro Studio 4K, a remote Panasonic AW-UE70WP and Go Pros — were used over the four-day festive period, located across eight rooms and including a remote controlled car. The cameras were rolling from 6:50am on Christmas Eve and typically rolled until midnight on most days, accumulating in over 200 hours of rushes that were edited down into this 60-second spot.

In lessons learned from the last year’s shoot, which was shot continuously, this time video loggers were in place to to identify moments the rooms were empty.

“I think we had pretty much perfected our system for organizing and managing the rushes in Talk Talk’s summer campaign, so we were in a good position to start off with,” explains editor Hardy, who cut the piece on an Avid Media Composer. “The big difference this time around was that the whole family were in the house at the same time, meaning that quite often there were conversations going on between two or three different rooms at once. Although it did get a little confusing, it was often very funny as they are not the quietest of families!”

Director Tagholm decided to add a few extra cameras, such as the toy remote-controlled car that crashes into the Christmas tree. “This extra layer of complexity added a certain feel to the Christmas film that we didn’t have in the previous ones,” says Hardy.