Category Archives: Editing

Editing… The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo


Walter Murch discussers Final Cut Pro X

Creating Motion Trails and Pan and Zoom Effect for Time-lapse in Post

Editing Tips

*Re-Blogged* ©2011 Oliver Peters 

1. Consider the continuity of actors in their positions on set. In many scenes, actors are blocked to walk to a part of the set, pick up some prop and deliver the dialogue. For example, an actor opens a car door and then has an exchange with another actor in the scene. In all too many productions, the continuity folks and the director don’t keep an eye on this. Sometimes the line is delivered before the door is opened – sometimes afterwards.

As an editor this may limit your options. Maybe the best delivery is on the master shot when the door is closed, but the best version of the medium shot is with the door open. You need to pay attention to these conditions and try to make them work. Either use only takes where items match – or use the best performances where continuity doesn’t match – but then figure out a way to cut around these errors so the audience doesn’t notice.

2. “Stammering” and forgetting dialogue. Actors all have little devices to help remember lines or to cover up when they forget a line of dialogue. Sometimes this takes the form of a hesitation, an “um” or an “ah”, a small stammer of a word or two, or the repeat of a phrase or a line. Your job as an editor is to help make the actor look believable as that character. As such, you need to be aware of these tricks and mistakes and take them out whenever necessary. Of course, sometimes they are an intended part of the acting, so make sure you don’t edit out the wrong thing. Removing these means covering the edit with a reaction or another angle, but this is all part of shaping a performance.

3. Expanding or contracting scene pacing. Editing has to do with pacing, but this is more then just setting a rhythm. Pacing has to do with adding tension or speed. Removing or reducing empty pauses in the dialogue between two characters – even overlapping lines – adds a sense of agitation or excitement. Inserting extra pauses between lines adds a sense of tension between the actors. Each long pause becomes slightly uncomfortable as would be the case in a painful conversation in real life.

4. Remove “shtick”. Often actors will be allowed to ad lib scenes or the director decides to inject some humor into a scene. Sometimes this works, but it typically comes across as overacting – especially when the film isn’t a comedy. Be judicious, but it’s often better to go with the understated performances, because they appear more genuine.

5. Motivation for actions. When an actor listens for something or looks in a certain direction, the audience needs a cause for motivation. This could be an off-camera sound, like a car horn honking, or it could be an insert shot of what the character sees. It’s important to try to find these shots or to ask that the director shoot them. In the case of sound, pull temporary sound effects to place into the edit.

6. Profanity.  Often when actors are allowed to ad lib lines, they’ll toss in a few expletives for emphasis. Some folks see this as normal language and others as offensive. If you have an editorial choice, opt for the take without the profanity, unless that’s what the director specifically wants in the cut. If you can edit it out, do so. Sometimes, it’s possible to use the line, but cut it as a split-edit, so the expletive is delivered over a cutaway.  In other words, you don’t see the actor actually delivering the word. This makes it easier to remove at some point in the future, should a “sanitized” version be required by the producers.

7. Intercutting parallel character action in a scene. A scene is often more interesting when you see what the rest of the actors are doing. As you review the takes, notice the performance each actor is bringing to the scene during the parts where he or she isn’t delivering the main dialogue lines. Try to incorporate some of these as reactions and cutaways to spice up a scene where appropriate.

In other cases a character must move from one part of the scene to another. If they are integral to the scene, it helps to include a few shots that let the audience know what is happening. For example, you don’t want a character to apparently pop into the foreground to suddenly deliver a line, when the last time the audience saw them was still inside a car at the beginning of a scene. You need to include a few shots, as the scene progresses, that clarifies to the audience that the character exited the car and started moving closer to camera. Then it’s natural when they deliver their line.

8. Intercutting transitional action. Sometimes scenes, as written, don’t transition well between each other when cut into a movie. For example, you might have two scenes back-to-back, in which each scene is a driving shot with a different set of characters talking to each other in a car. If Scene 1 ends and abruptly cuts to another similar scene in a car again, this won’t feel smooth. Instead, pay attention to transitional elements – for example, additional footage of driving or a POV from the car. These can be used to open time between the two scenes, just to give the audience a moment to breathe and make the mental switch.

Another technique in this situation could be to intercut the two driving scenes, so that sections of Scene 1 and Scene 2 are interleaved into a single scene going back and forth. Again, POV shots and general driving B-roll, plus some openness between the two situations, helps the audience make a seamless transition between these two disparate elements.

9. Use all the pieces. When you cut together a scene, don’t simply rely on the selected take as your best and only choice. Perhaps the “circle take” was only noted because it’s the only complete take where the actor got all the way through the scene with a moderately good performance. Possibly Take 1 had the best opening lines and another take the best middle and yet a different take had the strongest ending. As an editor, your job is to mold the scene by using all the elements at your disposal – in order to put on screen what the script writer and director intended. This includes reaction shots and cutaways to bridge the edits that are necessitated by such a patchwork of performances. Yes, it’s called editing, but in reality you are constructing, not merely removing.

10. Let your assistants cut. Unfortunately, I’ve rarely had the opportunity of working with assistant editors who were more than media loaders. On this recent project, I had a very sharp assistant who was also capable of editing. I wasn’t under a tight schedule and we were cutting as they were shooting, so the director was away on location. This provided an ideal opportunity to let my assistant cut a few scenes. I’d review and suggest tweaks, but the scenes were his. In the end, this will give your assistant a chance to grow, but better yet, it gives you as the editor an additional perspective as to how someone else sees that scene.

©2011 Oliver Peters 



A.C.E. Editor Chris Nelson talks editing

Colouring Game of Thrones

One of the TV season’s brightest new arrivals was HBO’s medieval fantasy series Game of Thrones, an adaptation of the popular novels by author George R.R. Martin. The TV series, created for HBO by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, debuted April 17th and was honored as Outstanding New Program at the 27th annual Television Critics Association’s TCA Awards in Los Angeles. The series was also picked up for a second series two days after its premiere episode aired.

Shot mainly in Northern Ireland as well as Malta, Game of Thrones made extensive use of digital effects including massive digital set extensions, all created by BlueBolt Ltd in London; Screen Scene Post Production in Dublin, Ireland also did half the visual effects for the series. Also key to the series’ look was production designer Gemma Jackson, art directors Paul Inglis, Thomas Brown, Ashleigh Jeffers, Tom McCullagh and Steve Summersgill; set decorator Richard Roberts and costume designer Michele Clapton.

The main cinematographers for the show were Alik Sakharov and Marco Pontecorvo who did camera and grading tests with colorist Gary Curren at Screen Scene Post Production, who used the Nucoda Film Master. The grading tests were not only used to help the cinematographers choose set-ups, but also influenced HBO executives to pick the ARRIAlexa camera, for its image quality and, in part, because of the camera’s tight integration with the Nucoda Film Master.

To handle an intense workflow of constantly updating visual effects, Screen Scene created a workflow based on itsRorke SAN. Linked to the SAN was an Avid DS system for online finishing as well as the Nucoda. The Alexa 4:4:4 material was captured to HDCAM SR tape; the Screen Scene crew received an EDL, loaded up the tapes and pulled footage as DPX files to the SAN. Next, they shot-checked on the Nucoda Composer and then handed off the resulting EDL to Curran who relinked to the same media, pulling it from the SAN, for grading.

With regard to the use of HDCAM SR tape, Curran notes that production took place before the tsunami. “Once we got into post, tape did get scarce, but we had enough in reserve to keep going,” he says. Curran also notes that Season 2 of Game of Thrones will go tapeless. “What happened with the Sony factory pushed them in that direction,” he says.

In this scene, Lord Eddard Stark (portrayed by Sean Bean) must behead a deserter. He, himself, takes the task on because he believes that the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword.

In this scene, Lord Eddard Stark (portrayed by Sean Bean) must behead a deserter. He, himself, takes the task on because he believes that the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword.

Color correcting Game of Thrones was initially a process of trial-and-error. “They were keen to differentiate the world because the show jumped among them,” says Curran. “They wanted a look that would tell when you’re in Winterfell or Dothraki. So, initially we started with strong, bold looks for each world. But when we came back to look at it with fresh eyes, it was too over-the-top and to the detriment of the show. We were losing details in the costumes and a lot of the subtleties in the production design. So we brought it back and made it less extreme. We found actually that the palette that was already there in the art direction and production design, which worked in differentiating the worlds. We didn’t have to push it further. Color correcting became more about enhancing and embellishing what was there.”

King Robert Baratheon, a fierce warrior jaded by years of loss, over-indulgence and court intrigue, has no heart for the games required to keep politics under his absolute control. In King's Landing, colors are warm, rich, and vibrant, verdant with foliage in shades of strong greens, and deep reds and golds.

Curran describes the palette that differentiated the worlds. “Winterfell is a very controlled palette, with lots of cyans, blues and grays and some earthy tones as well,” he says. “It was a de-saturated palette in that world. Dothraki was warmer and richer, but also sort of an arid look, like the desert, so it looked parched with use of ochres. King’s Landing was rich and verdant, with lots of foliage and strong greens, rich reds and golds.”

The centralized SAN workflow particularly came in handy for working with the constantly evolving visual effects shots. “In the early episodes, I worked with very rough temps of the shots,” he says. “We had a drop folder system so any time they pushed the latest version of a particular shot, it automatically came straight into my timeline. So I actually found it easy to keep up to date. I could just hit the refresh button and I’d have all the latest shots. A producer could sign off on a shot and by the time he walked downstairs, it would be on my timeline with the grade applied.”

Curran notes that he spent much of his time with associate producer Jonathan Brytus, who was post-production supervisor, and co-producer Greg Spence. “They were fantastic to work with,” he says. “They were the engine of the show.”

Most challenging, says Curran, was keeping focus as he jumped from episode to episode. “Once the looks were established, it was just about keeping it consistent,” he says. “But there were so many changes, I constantly jumped between episodes and worlds. “Keeping my energy up and keeping focused and consistent was the challenge,” he says. “But it was an awesome experience working on the show and with the team from HBO.”

HBO has not yet announced where the show will post for Season 2.

Re-blogged from here

Broken Glass (Music Video)

Music Video – “Broken Glass” was written and performed by Brett Davies. Filmed

Music Video – “Broken Glass” was written and performed by Brett Davies. Filmed and edited by Aaron Williams.

About the song: “It’s a song about my life; following my heart, following my dreams and not giving up.” Brett.

Shot on a Canon EOS 7D in South Wales, this film was first edited in FCP7 as a rough cut. It was then transfered to Premiere Pro via XML to take advantage of the programes dynamic link with After Effects. The trimming, colouring and final cut were then all done in Premiere and After Effects (for stabilizing). Colouring was helped by Red Giants Magic Bullet Looks plugin.

Singer/Songwriter: Brett Davies
Actress: Kelsi Farrington
Camera and Editor: Aaron Williams

Editing 2.0


(Taken from HD Magazine)

The arrival and subsequent feeling of disappointment with FCP X has left a vacuum in the editing world, who can fill it?When Apple called a hurried press conference at this year’s NAB Broadcasting Conference in Las Vegas there was the usual feeling of excitement over an Apple announcement but also a question over the impromptu style of a major editing product launch – the announcement had to be to do with the next version of Final Cut Pro. When FCP X was finally shipped a couple of months later and received so badly by so many professional editors Apple’s editing competitors must have felt that their moment had arrived.

Competitors like Adobe and AVID who both very quickly conjured up ‘unheard of before’ conversion discount deals from FCP to their editors Premiere Pro and Media Composer. They also both made comments directly referencing the FCP X product release. Canny and charming Adobe General Manager Jim Guerard was perhaps making a slight reference to the unhappiness with FCP X from the industry when he said, “We are hearing from video professionals that they want pro level tools that address cutting edge work but also allow them to use legacy footage and workflows”.

The Adobe deal is that if anyone wanted to switch from any version of FCP they would be eligible for a 50% saving on CS5.5 Production Premium or Premiere 5.5. The UK price of Premiere Pro 5.5 is around £700 against £199 for FCP X and Avid Media Composer 5.5 at around £1800. Making Premiere Pro 5.5 with discount in reaching distance of Apple FCP X.

AVID were more picky and only offered a deal if you hadn’t bought FCP X. But the discount was much more. You were and still are able to buy Media Composer 5.5, with the Production suite and free online training for £699! About 60% discount. Paul Foeckler, vice president, creative professionals products and solutions for Avid commented, again referencing the Apple release. “Users who may be facing uncertainty now also have access to a Mac OS native industry-leading editing solution from Avid – a company that is dedicated to listening to their needs through our commitment to openness, collaboration and innovation in professional editing workflows.” Ouch!

If you read Adam Garstone’s review of FCP X you can see what is missing from the software from an experienced film editor’s point of view. But Apple aside, is this the moment Adobe’s Premiere Pro migrates in to the number one editor for professionals? There’s no doubt in Adobe’s mind that this is the case. Their supremacy in the editing field has been planned as long as five years ago, Bill Roberts is video product manager for Adobe, “A lot of people started out with Media Composer and went to FCP and are now wondering what to do next. Basically with FCP X they have forced upon the industry a re-learning. Even if you wanted to stay with Apple the paradigm is different enough to make people think of jumping ship. We see this as a good opportunity for us, not that it’s a ‘flash in the pan’ moment, the guy driving our division, Jim Guerard, set the course for Premiere to be number one five years ago. There was a lot of work to do with the product to get the feature set but we think with 5.0 we have got to the point when we can ask Hollywood to look at this stuff. That process started at the end of 2009.”

Adobe already have a shoe-in big budget feature film to use as further evidence of their ascendancy with the new Godzilla film directed by one man band film maker Gareth Edwards who used the entire Adobe suite of programmes to make the hit Monsters and will again with the new adaptation of the classic monster film.

Anybody who has bought Adobe software knows that their pricing encourages you to buy the suite of software and not just the individual software products. This is where Adobe might have missed a trick as many post production creatives feel that a copy of After Effects is a pre-requisite for working in the industry and so they buy the video package which includes AE and Premiere Pro, but they never open up the editor. Adobe has recently had an event in Hollywood called ‘Dances With Films’ where Premiere Pro was the editing platform of choice where FCP had always been favourite before. Out of the 13 editors that were taking part in the event eight of them had Premiere Pro on their machines but had never opened it, apparently these editors were very impressed with what they found. Perhaps since the Apple announcements there has been more virgin launching of an editor that up until now hadn’t been used at all.

If you talk to Adobe about AVID’s Media Composer they will say that it perhaps is behind the times as far as where editing is happening right now, Bill again: “AVID’s model was built in the day when editing was a specific room in the media enterprise, today just look at how many more devices capture video. If you look at that as a macro-economic driver, editing has to be pervasive and more and more editing will be done on content which isn’t professionally captured and you’re going to have to have a whole suite of tools to solve the problems.”

But it seems as if AVID are listening as well, a recent user group in LA showed a sneak peek of a new user interface. Avid’s Paul Foeckler also showed off  the DNxHD codec  working in 4:4:4 RGB. They also announced  64-bit support; the ability to work in larger than HD frame sizes, such as 2K, 4K and higher; and more third-party support video I/O from AJA, Blackmagic, Bluefish 4:4:4 and others for I/O solutions. Showing your hand with a new UI too must have been in response to the damp response FCP X got from the industry.

Jason DeRose, one of Novacut’s founders and its lead developerSo where do editors go from here, well there is another option, the open source route. Everyone knows that Lightworks, the original NLE, is now owned by EditShare and is now a free open sourced product. Check their web site for their roadmap and progress which includes porting to OSX sometime this year. Their platform had a huge boost last year with the Oscar winning film The King’s Speech being cut by Tariq Anwar on Lightworks. The platform should gain hugely from that, but there is another open source editor that you may not have heard of, that is Novacut.

Novacut has already been in development for a year and has been part of the Kickstarter project which attracts investors to fund further development. Tara Oldfield explains where Novacut is coming from: “We’re developing for pro video editors. During the next phase of development will be the UI design and implementation. We’re all about identifying how video editors naturally want to organise the stories they want to tell, as well as the unnecessary steps that their editing software of choice forces them to take. Once time suckages are identified, we’ll delve into iterating different designs for the same problem, employing usability testing throughout this process to find the most intuitive, user friendly design in the bunch.

“Our first development iteration will concentrate solely on finding the most time-efficient design for cutting and organizing clips, and then implementing this design into a cohesive, usable product. Multi-cam editing will come soon after the cutting iteration, mainly because we see multi-cam shooting as an absolute imperative in saving directors and actors time on the set; plus shooting from multiple perspectives makes for a much more visually rich story. Shooting from the hip in terms of a time estimate for release, we hope to have a working beta in about six months and a smooth working, market-ready product in one year. In the future, we’d also like to integrate with Blender (the free 3D animation software option).”

Novacut’s video editing software will be free of charge. Their business model is based on its distribution platform, not its editing software. Along with the video editor, they’re creating a central hub where artists can distribute their full length narrative features, web serials, animated shorts, documentaries, etc., while simultaneously crowd funding their work. Novacut will take a cut of the revenue artists make to pay developers, maintain their cloud, etc.

“Right now, we’re developing for HDSLR users, mainly because they seem to be the artists making the type of direct-artist-to-fan productions we want to see flourish on our distribution platform. Down the road, we hope to support other cameras. But for now, we’re keeping our development focus narrow so that we can better serve the needs of independent artists making quality entertainment with HDSLRs, on a shoestring budget. “

From Novacut’s own research it seems like a large portion of the independent filmmaking community and university film students use Final Cut Studio 3. “FCP X isn’t backward compatible to Studio 3 and Apple is no longer selling Studio 3. So what do all of these artists do when they need a new workstation in the middle of a project? They’re pretty much up a creek without a paddle! Editors need more software choice! More to the point, they need software choice that’s shaped by their needs, as opposed to the ‘needs’ of a publicly traded company’s share-holders.”

Of course publicly traded companies allow continuous funding for editing products but Novacut with it’s ‘cloud computing’ philosophy may have turned up at the right time especially when so many people feel let down by their editor of choice.

Because most people aren’t going to jump on to another editing platform in the middle of a job the shock waves from this turn in the editor’s story might not be felt until next year. But that is maybe forgetting that Apple might be stung in to action and turn this product around and put in all the things that they have taken out.


Broken Glass

Music Video – “Broken Glass” was written and performed by Brett Davies. Filmed and edited by Aaron Williams.

Shot on a Canon EOS 7D in South Wales, this film was first edited in FCP7 as a rough cut. It was then transfered to Premiere Pro via XML to take advantage of the programes dynamic link with After Effects. The trimming, colouring and final cut were then all done in Premiere and After Effects (for stabilizing). Colouring was helped by Red Giants Magic Bullet Looks plugin.

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