Tag Archives: Avid Media Composer

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 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.

The assistant editors, Gardner Gould, 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 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.

AJA and Avid intro Avid Artist | DNxIP hardware interface

AJA has collaborated with Avid to develop Avid Artist | DNxIP, a new hardware interface option for Avid Media Composer users that supports high frame rate, deep color and HDR IP workflows. It is a Thunderbolt 3-equipped I/O device that enables the transfer of SMPTE standard HD video over 10 GigE IP networks, with high-quality local monitoring over 3G-SDI and HDMI 2.0.

Based on the new AJA Io IP, Avid Artist | DNxIP is custom engineered to Avid’s specifications and includes an XLR audio input on the front of the device for microphone or line-level sources. Avid Artist | DNxIP uses Thunderbolt 3 to enable simple, fast HD/SD video and audio ingest/output from/to IP networks. It features dual Thunderbolt 3 ports for daisy chaining and two SFP+ cages for video and audio routing over 10 GigE IP networks. The portable, aluminum encased device also supports SMPTE 2022-6 uncompressed video, audio and VANC data over IP, as well as SMPTE 2022-7 for redundancy protection.

“The increased agility and efficiency of IP workflows is a must-have for content creators and broadcasters in today’s competitive climate,” says Alan Hoff, VP of market solutions for Avid. “We’ve collaborated with AJA on the newest addition to our Avid Artist product line, Avid Artist DNxIP, which offers broadcasters and post production facilities a portable, yet powerful, video interface for IP workflows.”

Avid Artist | DNxIP feature highlights include:
– Laptop or desktop HD/SD capture and playback over IP across Thunderbolt 3
– Audio input for analog microphone to record single-channel 16-bit D/A analog audio, 48 kHz sample rate, balanced, using industry standard XLR
– Backwards compatibility with existing Thunderbolt hosts
– SMPTE 2022-6 and 2022-7 I/O
– Dual 10 GigE connectivity via two SFP+ cages compatible with 10 GigE SFP transceiver modules from leading third-party providers
– Two Thunderbolt 3 ports for daisy chaining of up to six Thunderbolt devices
– 3G-SDI and HDMI 2.0 video monitoring
– Audio I/O: 16-channel embedded SDI; 8-channel embedded HDMI; 4-channel analog audio In and 4-channel audio out via XLR breakout
– Small, rugged design suited for a variety o production environments
– Downstream keyer
– Standard 12v 4-pin XLR for AC or battery power

Detroit editors William Goldenberg, ACE, and Harry Yoon

By Chris Visser

Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit is not an easy film to watch. It deals with some very ugly moments in our nation’s history — specifically, Detroit’s 1967 12th Street Riot — and the challenge of adapting that history into a narrative feature film was no easy task. What do you show? What perspective do you give space to, and which ones do you avoid?

I sat down to talk to William “Billy” Goldenberg, ACE, and Harry Yoon, the editors of the film Detroit, to tackle these and other questions related to the film and their careers.

Billy Goldenberg

First, here are some details about the edit: Detroit was cut on Avid Media Composer 8.5.3 using an ISIS 5000 shared storage solution. The film was shot on Alexa Mini in ArriRaw. Dailies were delivered at DNX36 and then swapped for identical DNX115 media at the end of each production week.

In addition to Goldenberg and Yoon, other members of the Detroit editorial team were additional editor Brett Reed, VFX editor Justin Yates, first assistant editor Peter Dudgeon and apprentice editor Jun Kim. The film will be available digitally on November 28 and on DVD/Blu-Ray December 12.

Ok, let’s dig in…

How did this project come about?
Billy: Kathryn called to meet several months before the project started shooting. She sent me the script, but it soon became clear that I wouldn’t be able to start the film because I was still finishing Ben Affleck’s Live by Night. Kathryn said, “Look, let’s bring another editor on until you’re available, and then both of you can finish together.”

I thought of Harry because he had done some great work on The Newsroom, he knew Kathryn, and I knew he was a smart and talented guy. I ran it by Kathryn and she thought it was a great idea. So Harry was able to start the film.

At the beginning, half of the time I was at an editing room for Live by Night down the hall from the editing room for Detroit. I would sort of run back and forth throughout the day cutting and doing the stuff for both films. We did that for two months, and then I came onto Detroit full time. We did the rest of it together up until the end of the director’s cut. I finished the film from there.

Harry Yoon

How did you guys approach tackling the project together?
Harry: We had our key assistant Peter Dudgeon — who had worked in Billy’s cutting room on Live by Night and on a couple of other projects — there to prep dailies for Billy. It was fortunate because the way Billy likes to organize his bins and media is very, very akin to what I like as well.

In the mornings we would get dailies, and Billy and I would talk about who would take different scenes. Sometimes Billy wanted to really work on a particular sequence. Sometimes, I did. We would split scenes in the morning, and then go off and do our work. In the evening we’d come back together. This was my favorite part of the day because we would watch each other’s scenes. I would learn so much by seeing what he’d done and how he would approach the material. Getting critique and feedback from someone like Billy was like a master class for me.

I was also impressed that as Billy was working, he would ask the opinion of not just me, but the assistant as well. To have somebody be so transparent in his process was not only incredibly instructive personally, but really helped us to have a consistent style and approach to the material as we were working day by day. That consistent approach is apparent, especially during the entire Algiers Motel sequence in the film. It was one of the most visceral and emotionally draining things I’ve ever seen.

When I saw the film for a second time, I timed that sequence at 42 minutes. Seeing it the first time, I remember thinking that the sequence felt realtime. It felt like you were living through 42 minutes of these people’s lives. How did you approach something of that magnitude?
Billy: They shot that in sequence order, for the most part, for about three weeks. But they did shoot sections at a time that ultimately had to be mixed together. We got everything cut individually and then sat down together and decided how to work all the simultaneous action. We used the benefit of having two heads as opposed to one and talked about where things should be. What we would see and what we wouldn’t see. How to make this all feel simultaneous, but at a certain point, it’s just a feel thing.

Harry: One of the interesting challenges of this segment was that because Kathryn was shooting in realtime, and because the annex building was an actual building — it wasn’t a stage — camera people would be positioned in areas of overlapping action because Kathryn really wanted to make sure that the actors were in the moment every step of the way.

We would often finish a scene but then get new material for that scene that we could mine for better moments. Or, it might make sense to use the new coverage instead of the coverage from the day before to better show which character was where at what time. It was like having a puzzle and you would keep getting new pieces for the puzzle every day. It was definitely difficult, especially as the scene started to take shape. It was impossible not to feel a kind of resonance with everyday events that we were seeing on the news or on YouTube. I think it was tough to grapple with, but at the same time incredibly motivating for both Billy and Kathy and I — really everybody involved with the project — to say, “We have to get this right.” But, also, you’re adapting history. This is historical fiction; it’s not a documentary.

At the end of the film it says, “No one knows fully what happened. This has been pieced together through testimonials and interviews.”
Billy: I don’t know that I’m objective about what happened, obviously, but I did feel like I was just trying to portray the events as they occurred. And, Kathryn and Mark [Boal, Detroit’s screenwriter] did extensive research. They had police reports and ballistic reports, and this is what happened to the best of anybody’s recollection.

I tried to tell it as it happened and not bring my own feelings to it. We wanted people to experience that hallway sequence and the film, as a whole, in a way so they could draw their own conclusions. Let the audience experience it and understand this is why attention needs to be paid to this kind of violence.

Harry: Our conversations with Kathryn were critical throughout that process. She and Mark did extensive interviews with eyewitnesses. So, I think she was relying upon them for some of the factual elements, or at least what they remembered. But, I think any time where there was some ambiguity we tried to be true to that to a certain extent. We checked in with her about what to show and what not to show through that process.
As Billy said, what we didn’t want was to try to be manipulative for cinematic effect. The nature of events were so tragic and so brutal that it was still a very difficult thing to go through. Even though we tried to be as measured as possible while we were putting it together, it was a tough balancing act.

What kind of prep work was involved in this for you?
Billy: A lot of movies in my career are based on true events and true stories. With the first couple, I did a tremendous amount of research, and it seemed to get me into a little bit of trouble. I would start to think, “Well, it really happened like this, or it really went like that. How come we’re not using this part of the book or that part of the book?” It took my mind away from the story we were telling. So, I’ve learned over the years to do just enough research to where I feel like I have an understanding of the subject at that time in history.

But with the specific events of the Algiers, because they’re disputed somewhat, I tried to learn as much as I could about that time in history in 1967. What was happening in the country, and how we got there. In terms of the specific events, I tried not to learn too much. I relied on Kathryn and Mark’s research to have gotten it as close as they could get it. It’s not a documentary, I was still trying to tell the story. It’s a little bit of a balancing act in these types of movies.

Harry: I agree with Billy, it’s best to not focus on research for the particular story at hand, but to understand the context. One thing that impacted our editorial process was we received several reels of stock footage from the Michigan Film Archive. It was a lot of news footage from that time — aerials of fires, street-level shots of the National Guard stopping people, store fronts and things like that. That was really inspiring to see because it just felt so real in the feel of things and felt very of the moment. This led us into an additional hunt for material that took us through YouTube and a lot of period films, including documentaries that were done either during or right after the rebellion that focused on questions of, “How did this happen?”

It was a really wonderful way to sort of deep dive into that moment. We actually ended up using some footage from those documentaries throughout the film. Not just adding original film from the archives, but using it as source material as well. It was a great way for us to sort of hear the voices and see the footage of the time versus through the distance of history.

Let’s pivot away from the film a little bit. Let’s talk about mentorship. What does it mean to you? How has both being a mentor and a mentee been beneficial for your careers?
Billy: I assisted Michael Kahn, Steven Spielberg’s editor, for four years. To say that he was my mentor is sort of short-changing it. He was like my graduate professor. Being his first assistant, taught me almost everything that I needed to know about editing and how to be an editor. Obviously, he couldn’t give me talent, but he made me realize I had talent. At least he thought I did. He taught me how to handle myself politically, how to take criticism and how to approach scenes. If it wasn’t for his mentorship, I certainly wouldn’t be where I am right now.

He saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. I’ve in turn tried to help others. Brett Reed has been with me for 17 years. He started out as my PA and has been my first assistant for about 11 years. He just got his first job as a film editor, so I’m losing him. I hope that I’ve done for him what Michael did for me.

At the end of my assistant career with Michael, he called up Phil Gersh of the Gersh Agency and said, “You know, you should sign this guy. He’s going to be a really talented editor.” He signed me when I was still an assistant. I was able to do the same thing for Brett at ICM. They signed him without him ever having cut a film. It makes me so happy that I was able to do something for somebody that worked so hard and deserved it. Brett made my editing better. He’s smart and he was able to be a bit more objective sometimes since he wasn’t the one working with the footage all day long.

The people I have working for me are really good at running the room and prepping the dailies, But I also picked them because they have a lot of creative talent and they help me. Harry touched on it earlier about me having the generosity of having other people in the room. Well, it’s a little generosity, but it’s also a lot that I value their opinions and it makes my editing better to hear other smart, talented people’s opinions. It really is a give-and-take relationship I don’t think that there’s ever been a more important relationship in my professional life than the editor/assistant mentorship one.

Harry: After a couple of years working here in LA, I was lucky enough to be part of a mentorship program called, “Project Involve” at Film Independent. I was paired up with Stephen Mirrione. To be able to speak to someone of his level and with his dedication to the craft — and his understanding of not just the hard skills of editing but also the people skills — was an amazing introduction. It gave me a very vivid picture of the kind of things that I needed to learn in order to get to that place. And consistently through my career, I’ve been given timely, incredible advice from people that I’ve sought out to be my mentors, including Troy Takaki and Lisa Lassek and, most recently, Billy. We worked as colleagues, but he modeled every day.

So much of what you don’t know is the soft skills. You can be a good editor in front of your Avid, or whatever system, but so much of what determines success is how you are in a room… your people skills, your work ethic.  Understanding when to speak and when not to. When is it appropriate for you to give a note? How to read the dynamic going on in a particular room. These are things that are probably as critical or more critical than whether or not you can make a good cut.

I could listen to you guys talk all day, but I want to be respectful of your time. Anything you want to leave our audience with?
Billy: I know this sounds cheesy, but I think it’s how lucky I feel getting to work with someone like Kathryn on Detroit. Or to work with some of the directors I’ve gotten to work with, and I put Katherine at the top of that list.  I can’t believe how fortunate I have been to have the career that I have.

Harry: What that speaks to in relation to Detroit is what I’ve seen consistently in the people that I’ve been mentored by, and whose careers I’ve most admired — how important it is to continue to love the craft. I find it inspiring and endlessly fascinating. What I see in people is they’re motivated by this sense that there’s always more to learn. The sequence could always be better. The scene can always be better. That’s something that I definitely saw in Billy through this process.


Chris Visser is a Wisconsin kid who works and lives in LA. He’s currently an assistant editor in scripted TV, as well as the VP of BCPCWest, the Los Angeles-based chapter of the Blue Collar Post Collective. You can find him on Twitter (@chrisvisser)

Red Giant Universe 2.2 gets 11 new transitions, supports Media Composer

Red Giant is now offering Universe 2.2, which features 11 new transition tools — 76 transitions and effects in total — for editors and motion graphics artists. In addition to brand new transitions, Red Giant has made updates to two existing plugins and added support for Avid Media Composer. The Universe toolset, and more, can be seen in action in the brand new short film Hewlogram, written and directed by Red Giant’s Aharon Rabinowitz, and starring David Hewlett from the Stargate: Atlantis series.

The latest update to Red Giant’s collection of GPU-accelerated plugins, Universe 2.2’s transitions range from Retrograde, which creates an authentic film strip transition using real scans from 16mm and 8mm film to a Channel Surf transition that creates the effect of changing channels on an old CRT TV.

This release brings the complete set of Universe tools to Avid Media Composer, which means that all 76 Red Giant Universe effects and transitions now run in eight host applications, including: Adobe Premiere Pro CC, After Effects CC, Apple Final Cut Pro X, Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve and more.

Retrograde

Brand-new transition effects in Red Giant Universe 2.2 include:
• VHS Transition: A transition that mimics the effect that occurs when a VCR has been used to record over pre-existing footage.
• Retrograde Transition: A transition that that uses real scans of 16mm and 8mm film to create an authentic film strip transition.
• Carousel Transition: A transition that mimics advancing to the next slide in an old slide projector.
• Flicker Cut: A transition that rapidly cuts between two clips or a solid color, and which can invert the clips or add fades.
• Camera Shake Transition: A transition that mimics camera shake while it transitions between clips.
• Channel Surf: A transition that mimics the distortion you’d get by changing the channel on a cathode ray tube TV.
• Channel Blur: A transition that blurs each of the RGB channels separately for a unique chromatic effect.
• Linear Wipe: A classic linear wipe with the addition of wipe mirroring, as well as an inner/outer stroke with glow on the wipe border.
• Shape Wipe: A transition that uses an ellipse, rectangle or star shape to move between 2 pieces of footage. Includes control over points, size, stroke and fill.
• Color Mosaic: A Transition that overlays a variety of colors in a mosaic pattern as it transitions between 2 clips.
• Clock Wipe: A classic radial wipe transition with feathering and the option for a dual clock wipe.

Updates to existing effects in Universe 2.2 include:
• VHS: This update includes new VHS noise samples, VHS style text, timecode and function icons (like play, fast-forward, rewind), updated presets, and updated defaults for better results upon application.
• Retrograde: This update includes a small but valuable addition that allows Retrograde to use the original aspect ratio of your footage for the effect.

Existing Universe customers can download the new tools directly by launching Red Giant Link. Universe is available as an annual subscription ($99/year) or as a monthly subscription ($20/month). Red Giant Universe is available in Red Giant’s Volume Program, the flexible and affordable solution for customers who need five or more floating licenses.

Raising money and awareness for childhood cancer via doc short

Pablove One Another is a documentary short film produced by Riverstreet and directed by the company’s co-founders Tracy Pion and Michael Blum. The film explores Pablove’s Shutterbug program for children undergoing cancer treatment and its connection to the cancer research work that Pablove funds.

Blum and Pion spoke with us about the project, including the release of its title track “Spark” and the importance of giving back.

How did you become involved in the project?
Pion: We have known Pablove’s founders Jo Ann Thrailkill and Jeff Castelaz, for almost 11 years. Our sons were dear friends and classmates in preschool. When Jeff and Jo Ann lost their son Pablo to cancer eight years ago they set out to start a foundation named Pablove in his honor. We’ve been committed to helping Pablove whenever we can along the way by doing PSAs and other short films and TV spots in order to help raise awareness for the organization’s mission, including the Shutterbugs program and research funding.

Michael Blum, Mady and Tracy Pion.

What was the initial goal of the documentary?
Blum: The goal was always about awareness and fundraising. It first debuted at the annual Pablove Foundation gala fundraiser and helped raise over $500,000 in an hour. It continues to live online and hopefully it inspires people to connect with Pablove and support its amazing programs.

Beyond the amazing cause, why was this project a good fit for Riverstreet?
Pion: At the core of what we do — campaigns, commercials, interstitials, network specials — is emotionally-driven storytelling. We do development, scripting, design, animation, live-action production, editorial and completion for a variety of brands and networks and when possible we try to apply this advertising and production expertise to philanthropic causes. Our collaboration with Pablove came out of a deeply personal connection, but above and beyond that, we think that our industry has an obligation to use our resources to help raise awareness. Why not use our power of persuasion for the betterment of others?

How did you decide on the approach and the interweaving of stories?
Blum: The film tells the Pablove story from three experiences: a young girl who is being treated for cancer who is part of Pablove’s Shutterbug photography program; an instructor with Shutterbugs who is a cancer survivor; and a researcher whose innovation is supported in part by Pablove’s grants. We thought it was important to tell the human impact of the work of the Pablove Foundation through different vantage points to reflect the scope of what they do. We worked with a fundraising expert (Benevon) who advised Pablove and Riverstreet on how to design the film from a high-impact standpoint.

What were some unexpected or unique moments in the production of the film?
Pion: Well, for us it was a couple of things. Firstly, the power of the kids’ photos really caught us, especially those by Mady, who we were featuring. When she pulled out her “Light the End of the Tunnel” image we were doubly struck by the simple power of the image and its obvious meaning for her, and, as filmmakers, we knew we had our ending. We were also grateful of how sensitive our crew was with the Mady and Miles. Everyone was working for hardly any money and yet they didn’t want to be anywhere else. It was a moment of gratitude for the amazing crews that we have gathered together over the years.

What were some of the editing challenges to the above?
Pion: We had several hours of footage, and some very emotional interviews with our subjects, so it was a real but familiar challenge: how to pick the most salient footage and how to weave the threads together and how to capture the emotion.

What was the documentary edited on?
Pion: We use Avid Media Composer on an ISIS server.

How did the song come to be?
Blum: While working on the film, we were looking for a music track that would effectively unite these interweaving stories. We heard a girl singing on our daughter’s phone — a classmate — and thought, wouldn’t it be great to have a young teenager’s voice on a spot that is a for and about children. The Bird & The Bee’s “Spark,” paired with the luminous voice of Gracie Abrams, perfectly carries through the message of the Foundation’s impact on the lives of children through creativity and research funding. Written by Inara George and Greg Kurstin, the music production was handled by composer/producer Rob Cairns, who has worked with Riverstreet on numerous projects.

Pion: At the fundraiser, people were buzzing about the song, trying to Shazam it. We loved the song, and thought it was amazing for the film, but this reaction made us stop and consider, “Is there something more we can do with it to help Pablove?” Fortunately, everyone who worked on it felt the same way, and agreed to release the track with proceeds going to Pablove Foundation.