Tag Archives: Tips

Tips for inside —and outside — the edit suite

By Brady Betzel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips for Editors: How to get the job

By David Jasse

As a veteran editor and video producer, I’ve held many different positions since I started in the industry — I’ve been the hired help and I’ve been the one doing the hiring. Looking back on these experiences has put me in a good position to share my wisdom. Some of these might seem super-obvious, but they are all based on my recent experience interviewing editors for job openings at my studio…

1. Do your homework about the company you’re meeting with, and think about the client first. Before you tell them where you became really good at your craft (which you should do at the right time) and certainly before you tell them that you’ve been making films since you were five years old, talk about their needs first and read the ad carefully. Research the company and the work they do before you go. Help them make the connection between your skill set and what they do. Sounds obvious, but it’s scary how many editors show inappropriate work for what we do here.

2. Know the software. Go beyond intuitive editing. A lot of people can cut around the timeline. Do you know the shortcuts? Do you have your own personal settings? Maybe you don’t even know what personal setting are. It’s frightening to see people who call themselves professional editors need three key strokes to do something that should take one. Learn the software not just how to edit.

3. Know templates. If you want to be a professional editor, you should leverage templates out there and practice using them. It’s important to employers that you give them a polished look without having to pay for an expensive graphic artist. On the other hand if you’re the storyteller, predator type and you know how to create good content while being the editor, then its fine stick to that – your ability for graphics is irrelevant. I highly recommend becoming expert at templates, whether they be for show opens, lower thirds, or just throughout the video.

4. Living things must grow. Show that you too are growing and advancing. Do you read books? Do you do online tutorials? Do you get to seminars? Software changes all the time. Are you keeping up and advancing?

5. Be tech savvy. You should know how to use a computer and get around the keyboard and Internet. Sounds incredibly obvious, but when an editor sits down at the computer it only takes about 10 seconds to know if they are comfortable. Also, keep your hands on the controls when at a computer or edit station. Take your hands out of your pockets and be ready to edit. It’s like a PA on a set with their hands in their pockets. It’s bad set etiquette… the same goes for editing. Be ready to make changes in the edit.

6. Be prepared to show your work. The “Oh wait, I just have to download it” doesn’t impress.

In addition to the above here are some more general tips:

  • Don’t dress like a slob. Sure you’re creative, and maybe you can work your way to slob once you have the job, but when you come in for the first time dress respectively. Some people get grossed out by bad personal grooming, so don’t rub the person the wrong way with something that later on won’t matter. Look presentable.
  • Stay in touch. When I interview you, I’m immersed in you and getting to know you. Once you’re out the door I’m focused on things that make me money. I don’t remember everybody who comes in the door. There’s a good chance I might forget you, no matter how friendly and engaged I was when you were in my office. If you think you’re a good fit, stay in touch and send work from time to time.
  • Ask questions. I expect candidates to have questions for me, just not ones like this: “Do you pay for my train ticket?” I’m expecting you to ask about what is required of the position, and typical turnaround times, not about your days off and if I will I pay for this or that for you. Ask about advancement in the company, maybe performance-based raises.


David Jasse is the owner and creative director of New York-based DMJ Studios.

Directing: My Top 10 career-ending mistakes

By Trevor McMahan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 5: Efficiency tips for your health and editing environment

By Brady Betzel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simple tips that will help you work more efficiently

By Brady Betzel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Zack Arnold

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everyday tips for editors

By Brady Betzel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tips from an experienced shooter/editor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David Jasse editing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips: What I know now but didn’t then

By Brady Betzel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jonathan Moser shares tips for Media Composer users

Long-time video editor Jonathan Moser, who has worked on such shows as Deadly Sins, American Gladiators, Dateline NBC and Making The Band, was recently kind enough to share some tips that he employs while cutting on Avid’s Media Composer. While also versed on Final Cut Pro, Moser calls Media Composer home.

1) When coloring clips in a bin for identifying, right/alt click on the color icon in the bin (which will open up the full range of the color palette rather than the measly 16 choices you get with the drop down Edit/Set Clip Color.)

2) I use an email folder called Avid to keep various iterations of clip formats with labels with all my tracks given specific names: ie: Audio 1 is NATSOT1, Audio 2 is NATSOT2, Video track 3 might Continue reading

Five ways to turn ‘good’ into ‘great’ when working with clients

By Chad Hutson

Over the years, I’ve been asked several times about what makes a project “great.” Oftentimes the clients are especially nice and organized folks, though others may be a bit harder to handle despite their excellent creative thinking. But even apart from how easy or difficult a person can be, the consistent smoothness of projects comes down to processes, which you have the ability to implement and control.

Instead of leaving your next project to fate, try establishing some practices that ensure everyone follows the script (with a little improv when necessary). Here are five of my favorites:

1. Set the stage for collaboration
Of course, if you’re renovating your bathroom, you probably have a vision for what you want to achieve — which is a solid start. But the wisest of us seem to understand that hiring a Continue reading

So you want to be a music video director?

By Alex Topaller

So you want to be a music video director? That’s a terrible idea. No, really. Don’t do it.

Stop right now and choose something else while you can, before we find ourselves discussing this very moment in two years when I can pompously say, “See! I was right! Now you understand that it’s more of a complicated love affair than a career!”

Are you still here, dear reader?

You are? Huge mistake, but oh well. Since I can’t change your mind, I can at least fulfill my civic duty by arming you with a few pointers before sending you into the reverberating tunnels of Continue reading

Top five assistant editor life skills

By Brady Betzel

This piece is going to be a bit different for me. It’s the first time I’ve ever written something to be published that wasn’t a review. I was asked to share some tips and experiences from when I was an assistant editor. I thought, “Why not?”

During college I started as an intern on a Fox talk show called On Air with Ryan Seacrest, where I was able to make some very important contacts — some of whom I’m still in contact with 10 years later. Once we were told the show wasn’t renewed people started to flee and find work elsewhere (which happens a lot). It was the perfect time for me to swoop in and get at least a few months of real work under my belt before the show went officially dark.

I was lucky. They asked me to be a tape coordinator, and thus my post-production career was born. Truth be told I didn’t do much more than make sure tapes went to set for a news Continue reading