Tag Archives: Ron Howard

Editing for Features and Docs

By Karen Moltenbrey

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

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

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

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

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

Phyllis Housen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creating the 3D stereo version of Ron Howard’s Solo: A Star Wars Story

At Stereo D, a company that converts 2D theatrical content into stereoscopic 3D imagery, creating 3D editions of blockbuster movies takes hundreds of people working under the leadership of a dedicated stereo producer and stereographer team. For Solo: A Star Wars Story, the studio’s Tim Broderick and Yo Aoki talked to us about their collaboration and how they supported Ron Howard’s 3D vision for the film.

Yo Aoki

Can you talk about how your partnership works to produce a 3D version of every frame in a feature film?
Tim Broderick: Think of it this way — Yo is the artistic lead and I’m the one trying to give him as much of a runway as possible. My job entails a lot more of the phone calls to the client, setting up schedules and our pipelines and managing the material as it comes over to us. Yo’s focus is mainly in the theater and working with the stereo supervisors about his approach to each show. He homes in on what the style will be, analyzes each scene and builds a stereo plan for each.

Tim Broderick

Yo Aoki: Then we come together with the clients and all talk through the work… what they’re going for and how we can add to it using the 3D. We both have our strengths in the room with the clients and we play off each other very well and comfortably, which is why we’ve been doing this together for so long.

Did your collaboration begin at Stereo D?
Aoki: Yes. My first major project at Stereo D was James Cameron’s Titanic, but my history with Tim began with Godzilla and Jurassic Park 3D, where Tim was our production supervisor. Then we worked together with Tim serving as stereo producer on Jurassic World, followed by The BFG, Rogue One, The Mummy, Ready Player One and Solo.

So, you’re not the team that leads the 3D on the Star Wars episodes?
Broderick: Lucasfilm thought it made more sense to assign a dedicated team to the stories and another to the episodes as a practical matter since the schedules were overlapping.

How do you describe the aesthetic that applies to the 3D of Solo: A Star Wars Story compared to Rogue One?
Aoki: For Rogue One, Gareth Edwards and John Knoll preferred realism, while in Solo, Ron Howard and Rob Bredow preferred to make the 3D fun and comfortable. Different approaches and both worked for the experience each film offered.

Can you explain the difference between 3D realism and 3D fun and comfortable?
Broderick: Sure, for “realism” we take more of an analytical approach, making sure objects are correct in their spatial relationships. Is that rock the correct size in perspective to K2? No. It needs to be pushed positive so it’s larger. Whereas in “fun and comfortable,” we certainly keep things realistic, but the analytical approach is more Yo putting himself in the audience’s shoes and looking at each shot and asking 1) What can we do with this shot to make it just a little more of a fun ride for the audience? And 2) Is it comfortable? What do we need to sacrifice in terms of realism to help that?

What kind of guidance did director Ron Howard provide to inform your approach to the 3D?
Aoki: Take the Kessel Run sequence, which is a wild flight through fog and debris crashing into the ship as the team runs from TIE fighters and a giant monster. There was discussion early on about playing the sequence very shallow to avoid miniaturization of the Falcon and keep it to actual scale, but by doing that you lose the fun of the 3D tunnel effect of the environment they’re in, so Ron said to cheat the reality and make it more fun. There are also rocks and debris flying past the window, which Ron wanted to pull closer to the ship for more drama. The scale is unconventional, but it’s a lot more fun playing it this way. It adds to the impact of the scene.

You’ve worked with some pretty amazing directors — Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, James Cameron — what’s the best part of the job?
Aoki: It’s been great. After each show we walk away with more ideas to offer the next filmmaker to use in their 3D storytelling.

Broderick: Definitely one of the most fun parts of what we do is spending time with filmmakers learning what they’re going for, presenting how we can aid that story in terms of 3D and having the creative flexibility to see it through.

The A-List: Director Ron Howard discusses National Geo’s Genius

By Iain Blair

Ron Howard has done it all in Hollywood. The former child star of The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days not only successfully made the tricky transition to adult actor (at 22 he starred opposite John Wayne in The Shootist and was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar), but went on to establish himself as an Oscar-winning director and producer (A Beautiful Mind). He is also one of Hollywood’s most beloved and commercially successful and versatile helmers.

Since making his directorial debut in 1977 with Grand Theft Auto (when he was still on Happy Days), he’s made an eclectic group of films about boxers (Cinderella Man), astronauts (Apollo 13), mermaids (Splash), symbologists (The Da Vinci Code franchise), politicians (Frost/Nixon) firefighters (Backdraft), mathematicians (A Beautiful Mind), Formula One racing (Rush), whalers (In the Heart of the Sea) and the Fab Four (his first documentary, The Beatles: Eight Days a Week).

Born in Oklahoma with showbiz in his DNA — his parents were both actors — Howard “always wanted to direct” and notes that “producing gives you control.” In 1986, he co-founded Imagine Entertainment with Brian Grazer, a powerhouse in film and TV (Empire, Arrested Development) production. His latest project is the new Genius series for National Geographic.

The 10-part global event series — the network’s first scripted series — is based on Walter Isaacson’s book “Einstein: His Life and Universe” and tracks Albert Einstein’s rise from humble origins as an imaginative and rebellious thinker through his struggles to be recognized by the establishment, to his global celebrity status as the man who unlocked the mysteries of the cosmos with his theory of relativity.

But if you’re expecting a dry, intellectual by-the-numbers look at his life and career, you’re in for a big surprise.

With an impressive cast that includes Geoffrey Rush as the celebrated scientist in his later years, Johnny Flynn as Einstein in the years before he rose to international acclaim and Emily Watson as his second wife — and first cousin — Elsa Einstein, the show is full of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.

We’re mostly joking, but the series does balance the hard-to-grasp scientific theories with an entertaining exploration of a man with an often very messy private life as it follows Einstein’s alternately exhilarating emotions and heartlessness in dealing with his closest personal relationships, including his children, his two wives and the various women with whom he cheats on them.

Besides all the personal drama, there’s plenty of global drama as Genius is set against an era of international conflict over the course of two world wars. Faced with rising anti-Semitism in Europe, surveillance by spies and the potential for atomic annihilation, Einstein struggles as a husband and a father, not to mention as a man of principle, even as his own life is put in danger.

I talked recently with Ron Howard about directing the first episode and his love of production and post.

What was the appeal of doing this and making your scripted television directorial debut with the first episode?
I’ve become a big fan of all the great TV shows people are doing now, where you let a story unfold in a novelistic way, and I was envious of a lot of my peers getting into doing TV — and this was a great project that just really suits the TV format. Over the years, I had read various screenplays about Einstein but they just never worked as a movie, so when National Geographic wanted to reach out to their audience in a more ambitious way, suddenly there was this perfect platform to do this life justice and have the length it needed. It’s an ideal fit, and it was perfect to do it with National Geographic.

Given that you had considered making a film about him, how familiar were you with Einstein and his life? How do you find the drama in an academic’s life?
I thought I had some insight, but I was blown away by the book and Noah Pink’s screenplay, and everyone on the team brought their own research to the process, and it became more and more fascinating. There was this constant pressure on Einstein that I felt we could work with through the whole series, and that I never realized was there. And with that pressure, there’s drama. We came very close to not benefiting from his genius because of all the forces against him – sometimes from external forces, like governments and academic institutions, but often from his own foibles and flaws. He was even on a hit list. So I was really fascinated by his whole story.

What most surprised you about Einstein once you began delving deeper into his private life?
That he was such a Lothario! He had quite a complicated love life, but it was also that he had such a dogged commitment to his principles and logic and point-of-view. I was doing post on the Beatles documentary as we prepped, and it was the same thing with those young men. They often didn’t listen to outside influences and people telling them it couldn’t be done. They absolutely committed to their musical vision and principles with all their drive and focus, and it worked — and collectively I think you could say the band was genius.

Einstein also trusted his convictions, whether it was physics or math, and if the conventional answers didn’t satisfy his sense of logic, he’d just dig deeper. The same thing can be said for his personal life and relationships, and trying to find a balance between his career and life’s work, and family and friends. Look at his falling in love with his fellow physics student Mileva Maric, which causes all sorts of problems, especially when she unexpectedly gets pregnant. No one else thought she was particularly attractive, she was a bit of an outcast as the only female physics student, and yet his logic called him to her. The same thing with politics. He went his own way in everything. He was a true renaissance man, eternally curious about everything.

In terms of dealing with very complex ideas that aren’t necessarily very cinematic, it must have helped that you’d made A Beautiful Mind?
Yes, we saw a lot of similarities between the two. It really helped that both men were essentially visualists — Einstein even more so than John Nash. That gave us a big advantage and gave me the chance to show audiences some of his famous thought experiments in cinematic ways, and he described them very vividly and they’re a fantastic jumping-off point — it was his visualizations that helped him wrap his head around the physics. He began with something he could grasp physically and then went back to prove it with the math. Those principles gave him the amazing insights about the nature of the universe, and time and space, that we’ve all benefitted from.

I assume you began integrating post and all the VFX very early on?
Right away, in preproduction meetings in Prague, in the Czech Republic, where Einstein lived and taught early in his career. We had our whole team there on location, including our VFX supervisor Eric Durst and his team, DP Mathias Herndl, our production designers and art directors and so on. With all the VFX, we stayed pretty close to how Einstein described his thought experiments. The one that starts off this first episode is very vivid, whereas the first one he has as a 17-year-old boy is done in a more chalk-board kind of way, where he faints and can barely hang on mentally to the image. All the dailies and visual effects were done by UPP.

Where did you do the post?
We did all the editing and sound back in LA.

Do you like the post process?
I love it. I love the edit and slowly pulling it all together after the stress of the shoot.

It was edited by James Wilcox, who’s done CSI: Miami and Hawaii Five-O, along with Debby Germino and J. Kathleen Gibson. How early was James involved and was he on set?
Dan and Mike weren’t available. It’s the first time I’d worked with James and he’s very creative and did a great job. He wasn’t on the set, but we were constantly in communication and we’d send him material back to LA and then when I got back, we sat down together.

The show constantly cuts back and forth in time.
Yes, I was fascinated by all those transitions and I worked very closely with my team to make sure we had all that down, and that it all flowed smoothly in the edit. For instance, Johnny Flynn plays violin and he trained classically, so he actually plays in all those scenes. But Geoffrey doesn’t play violin, but he practiced for several months, and we had a teacher on set too. Geoffrey was so dedicated to creating this character.They both looked at tons of footage of Einstein as an older man, so Johnny could develop aspects of Einstein’s manner and behavior as the younger one, which Geoffrey could work with later, so we had a real continuity to the character. That’s a big reason why I wanted to be so hands-on with the first episode, as we were defining so many key aspects of the man and the aesthetics and the way we’d be telling the whole story.

Can you talk about working on the sound and music?
It’s always huge to me and adds so much to every scene. Lorne Balfe wrote a fantastic score and we had a great sound team: production sound mixer Peter Forejt, supervising sound editor Daniel Pagan, music editor Del Spiva and re-recording mixers Mark Hensley and Bob Bronow. For post production audio we used Smart Post Sound.

The DI must have been important?
It was very important since we were trying to do stuff with the concept of time in very subtle ways using the camera work, the palette and the lighting style. This all changed subtly depending on whether it was an Einstein memory, or a flashback to his younger, brasher self, or looking ahead to the iconic older man where it was all a little more formal. So we went for different looks to match the different energies and, of course, the editing style had to embody all of that as well. The colorist was Pankaj Bajpai, and he did a great job.

What’s next?
I plan to do more TV. Remember, I came out of TV and it’s so exciting now. I’m also developing several movie projects, including Seveneves, a sci-fi film, and Under the Banner of Heaven which is based on the Jon Krakauer bestseller. So whatever comes together first.

Industry insider Iain Blair has been interviewing the biggest directors in Hollywood and around the world for years. He is a regular contributor to Variety and has written for such outlets as Reuters, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe.

The A-List: Mike Hill on editing ‘In the Heart of the Sea’

By Randi Altman

Herman Melville’s novel, Moby-Dick, is a classic tale of man versus whale. The famously long book — commonly used as a metaphor for fighting one’s demons — is known for its obsessed protagonist Captain Ahab and its famous first line, “Call me Ishmael.” What people might not know is the book was based on the true story of a whaling ship called, the Essex, which in 1820 was attacked by a giant whale, leaving the crew fighting the elements, starvation and this monster of the sea.

In the recent film by director Ron Howard, In the Heart of the Sea, viewers get to know the story that Moby-Dick was based on. To help tell the tale, Howard called on veteran editor and long-time collaborator Mike Hill, who has edited 23 films for the director and collaborated on about 30.

L-R: Ron Howard, Dan Hanley, basketball's Steve Nash and Mike Hill, who worked together on Iconoclasts.

L-R: Ron Howard, Dan Hanley, basketball’s Steve Nash and Mike Hill, who worked together on the “Iconoclasts” documentary series.

For Arri Alexa-shot In the Heart of the Sea, Hill once again worked with long-time editing partner Dan Hanley, with whom he shares multiple “Best Editing” Oscar noms and a win for Apollo 13. Hill was kind enough to talk to us about the process of editing and the challenges and joys of cutting Warner Bros.’ In the Heart of the Sea, as well as working with director Howard.

How early in the process did you get involved in this one?
Basically, from the first day of shooting, which was back in the fall of 2013 over in England.

So you were near set?
Yes, we were at Warner Bros. Studio, which is north of London in Leavesden. It’s an old Rolls Royce factory, and they built a big water tank and a replica of the ship, the Essex. Our editing rooms where close by in one of their production buildings.

You and editor Dan Handley have partnered on many of Ron Howard’s films. Was he in London as well?
Yes. He got there earlier and set everything up so we were ready to go.

What about your assistant editors?
Our first assistant was Simon Davis. He is a Brit who we have worked with on several projects. He’s excellent and a very important part of the process. We had some other British second assistants as well, including Jeremy Richardson and our apprentice was Rob Sealey. Back in the States, Simon continued as first assistant but Carolyn Calvert came on as second assistant and Alec Johnson was our apprentice.

Heart of the Sea

Simon pretty much runs the cutting room and the technical aspects of the edit. He’s in charge of all the assistants and oversees everything. He is a wizard at all of that… very knowledgeable, technically oriented and computer savvy. This is a big help, since I’m not much of a computer guy. It’s great to have people like that behind you who let you focus on the job at hand.

This was Ron Howard’s second digitally-shot film?
Yes. Rush, which was about Formula One racing, was the first one he shot with digital cameras. But in terms of editing, we’ve been working digitally since 1996. Ransom was our first film on the Avid Media Composer. Prior to that, we had cut on film, the old-fashioned way.

How does the film being shot digitally affect your edit?
There are a lot of big differences regarding workload and the approach. On film, I developed a discipline — you really had to think about every cut you made and plan things ahead. We tended to let things play a little longer because it’s easier to trim than to put back. That was always our philosophy.

When we started using the Avid, it allowed us to instantly make changes without worrying about cutting into the work print, so you really didn’t have to worry about that so much. We learned that you could be a lot more experimental and try a lot of things without any problems. So that was a big difference.

Mike HIll

You started your career cutting on film. Now that you are editing digitally, are you still instinctually working on that first cut, or does having the ability to try different things change the way you edit?
That’s a good question. The way I approach editing a scene, hasn’t really changed because the way I learned is so engrained in me. But you can try out new ideas and if it doesn’t work you can just get rid of it. I do try those things, but my initial instincts, for the most part, are what end up in the film. Sometimes what you try is crazy and silly and you’re hoping to find something almost by accident, but that doesn’t happen often.

Did it happen at all while editing In the Heart of the Sea?
I don’t recall anything like that. Rush was a little more conducive to that because we had so many different images and angles to work with. We were trying to make it flashy. This film is a more old-fashioned; an old sea epic adventure which is more traditional. It didn’t lend itself to a lot of crazy, flashy editing.

How do you, Dan and Ron work together?
We are a well-oiled machine and have developed a real short hand that doesn’t require much dialogue in most cases. What’s great about working with Ron is he is the kind of director that doesn’t really need or want to be hovering over your shoulder when you’re working. He gives us a lot of freedom.

During the shoot, when he’s on the set, we don’t see him very often, but he might drop in on a break or at night or on the weekend. When he does, he’ll want to see some scenes that have been cut, but for the most part he leaves us alone. Ron gives us some very simple notes from the set sometimes about takes he might like or moments he likes; this is helpful because I use this to guide me along when I start a scene. That’s really all I need.

What about after the shoot?
When he’s done shooting, we try to keep up with the demand in terms of getting the scenes cut together. So by the time the shooting is done, we can show him the entire film within about a week or so. After that we will spend two to three weeks — or whatever it takes — with him and go through the entire film from beginning to end, scene by scene. We get all of his notes and reactions and then he’ll leave us alone again. We’ll dive into those notes and do those, then show it to him again. The process just continues like that — we’re whittling away, improving it, changing some takes, and this goes on for several months. After we start to screen it for audience for reactions, we get a whole other set of notes and adjustment requests.


Considering how often you Howard’s films are there less notes over time?
(Laughs) No, I think it’s more now because he knows that we have the Avid. If there is a certain scene that might have some problems, Ron will give us an idea of what he wants and we’ll try different versions. This all increases the workload. I would say it’s a curse and a blessing all at the same time (laughs again).

When working with Dan, how do you guys decide who gets what scene or sequence?
It’s pretty random. The first scene that comes in, either he’ll take it or I’ll take it. Then the other one of us gets the second scene, and so on. The one thing we try to do throughout is identify the big scenes — the difficult ones and divided those equally between us, making sure that one guy isn’t doing all of the most difficult scenes.

Are you guys cutting in the same space logistically?
We’re in separate rooms, usually on opposite ends of the hallway with our assistants in the middle. What’s nice is every once in awhile if I’m stuck I call Dan in and have him look at something with a fresh eye and perspective. It’s a big help to have a guy you trust help you out like that.

For In the Heart of the Sea, was there a scene that was particularly difficult to cut?
For me there were two big ones. One was the scene where the whale attacks the ship and sinks it. That was shot sporadically throughout the entire schedule because some of it was shot in the tank in London and some was done in the Canary Islands, where they were for the final month and a half of the shoot.

They shot a lot of scenes pertaining to the attack, and I never got a complete set of dailies. I had to keep going back to the scene, adding in more material. It’s one of those scenes that had many different elementmains to it, plus the fact that the whale is all CG, and we really didn’t have temp shots, instead we would print out a storyboard still and use that as a representative cut. It’s one of those situations where you use your imagination to figure out the length of shots because there was really nothing to work with visually. Even though I enjoyed working on this bit, I’m not overly fond of these kinds of scenes because of the guesswork required. To me, the most interesting stuff to edit is the acting.

The other difficult scene was the second whale hunt, which leads up to that moment before Moby Dick attacks. The whales come in a huge pod and are frenzied and agitated. I didn’t have a lot to work with at first; the material would dribble in sporadically. Those are the two big ones that come to mind.

Anything else about the film that stands out?
It might surprise the viewer, but the most difficult sections was probably when they set sail and ran through a storm. Dan dealt with most of that, which I was thankful for. It was difficult because it was hard to set the tone. We needed to get the movie off to a good start, but for some reason it wasn’t quite working the way we wanted. We did solve it eventually; it’s just one of those things. You never know where your problems are going to come from sometimes.

Why was it so difficult?
There’s a lot of activity in those scenes. It was hard to get it all to work, and technically it all had to be correct. We had to have advisors come in and look at it because we didn’t know anything about sailing and there were the certain kind of sails that needed to be set.


Why do you like using the Avid?
The instant access to any of the takes is great and gives us the ability to experiment. It’s so much more civilized than running your film through sprockets and a Moviola, which is the way I learned. Even the KEM flatbeds seem primitive now compared to the Media Composer. It’s a nice, clean way to work.

Finally, what’s next for you project wise?
I won’t be in the edit suite anytime soon I’m afraid. I’m actually retired, and living in Omaha, my hometown.

Retired?! So that’s it?
Well, I won’t say absolutely not ever, I suppose after some time an irresistible script could suck me back in, but I’m not working on Ron’s current film Inferno, which is now in post. My spot was filled by Tom Elkins, a good friend who lives in Omaha as well. Tom has worked with us over the years as an assistant and then became an editor on some Wes Craven films.

Are you missing it at all?
I’m not missing it yet. Editing can be really rewarding, but at the same time incredibly tedious. I’m 66 now, and on Heart of the Sea I just started to feel like the time had come to ride off into the sunset and live life on my own schedule for a while.  So far it really feels good to slow down a bit and enjoy this new stage of life.

ArsenalFX provides VFX for three short films


SANTA MONICA – ArsenalFX (www.arsenalfx.tv), a visual effects and post studio, recently produced visual effects featured within three celebrity-directed short films. These films, which were directed by Eva Longoria, Jamie Foxx, and Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, have just been presented as part of the 2013 Canon/Ron Howard “Project Imagination” Film Festival, both in New York and Los Angeles.

2 And She Was My Eve

And She Was My Eve

ArsenalFX’s creative director Lauren Mayer-Beug was the VFX on-set supervisor during physical production of all three films.

This is the second year in a row for which ArsenalFX has provided visual effects support to this project, which is presented by Ron Howard and Canon. This year, the company contributed VFX to Eva Longoria’s film Out of the Blue (pictured, top, Jamie Foxx’s film, And She Was My Eve, and Stone’s film, Evermore. ArsenalFX produced approximately 80 VFX shots for each of the three films. The company also provided the graphics, titles, and credits for each film as well.



According to executive producer Ashley Hydrick, ArsenalFX called on Autodesk’s Flame, Lustre and Maya, Maxon’s Cinema 4D, Adobe’s After Effects and Photoshop, and Pixel Farm’s PF Track.