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nateboston
Literature
on May 15, 2007 at 2:34:01 pm

Hello,

Lemme run a scenario by you....actually less of a scenario and more of my life as an editor....

So I've always pictured myself as an editor - I taught myself how to use all the tools - FCP, After Effects, Photoshop, Mac's, Camera's, Decks, etc etc etc. I can make motion graphics, I can load footage, I can color correct. Generally I take a project when the story has been cut, and I do the fine cutting on it. I understand the difference between a well told story, a good cut, a bad cut, and everything else in between. I realize when a scene works well, and I can see when a scene just "doesn't feel right." I know when the flow isn't working or when a shot just isn't working. I get all of that.

What I don't get however, is the art of cutting together that initial story. Lately I've been taking on both roles of offline editor and online editor. The offline is intimidating. I look at hours of raw footage and get overwhelmed. I try to visualize the edit in my head before I start cutting. I write down notes, ideas, and story flow, then I tackle the actual edit. But I've been finding this extremely challenging. Challenging to the point that I will edit something, think it's great, then look at it and think it's garbage.

Now I know there are not steadfast rules of editing, and that editing is clearly an art. However, I was wondering if there were any literature about the subject? This board is great - I just found it this morning and have been reading several of the posts. But is there something published? Like a "Best Editors in the World Share Their Insights" kind of book out there? Something that will take me away from the technical aspect of editing, and help me understand the story telling side of it? I feel saturated in the technical side - editing is more mechanical for me than organic. I want to switch that. I want to flip that. I want to focus on the organic. Any thoughts?

Nate


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Pixel Monkey
Re: Literature
on May 15, 2007 at 4:04:23 pm

[nateboston] "I want to focus on the organic. Any thoughts?"

Yes, one thought.

Spent much of the free time in my twenties playing rhythm guitar in bands. Mostly original music - everything from rock to funk. Was pretty good too, until Carpal made me choose between the Les Paul and the Avid. (The Paul is now in an oak, glass-front gun rack.) Absolutely, positively the best tunes we made were ones that WE made - collectively. The "lone creative genius" is very hard to reproduce again and again. Having five people sharing the same brain kept the "mission" (if you will) of the music consistent.

Same holds true for editing. Without question, of all the films and programs I've churned out over the years the best are ones that nurtured a strong collaborative environment. The producer or director sitting next to me, arguing, clawing, molding footage, trying, failing, trying again, succeeding...

Literature on both theory and techncial advancements have helped the career about 10% total. The rest is by trial/error and collaboration. I'm a huuuuge advocate for aprenticeship editing. Find an editor who is more experienced. Even if he/she makes your skin crawl. Sit and learn. Load tapes, make coffee, get paid nothing, and watch. If he/she doesn't actively teach you anything, at least you'll learn passively. Actually I think that makes up more than half of how I've learned - by formulating my own opinions while watching others, and quietly saying "wow how stupid, I would do it differently."

The rest of my learning has been the opposite - kids I've taught that tell me I've done a 12-step process when it could've been done in only eight.



______
/-o-o-
`(=)`/...Pixel Monkey
`(___)

A picture says 1000 words. Editors give them meaning.



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debe
Re: Literature
by
on May 15, 2007 at 4:42:33 pm

Have any of you watched the new Food Network show, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives?

(I have no offical connection to it, other than two of the guys I assisted 15 years ago when I officially got into the business are working on it now, so I don't know much more than what I'm about to share...)

That's truly a "collective effort" show, according to the editor I last spoke to about it. When they start out, there's no real script. You can't script a show like that. Up to three editors work on one show, one segment at a time. The producer takes the editor's first cut and noodles with it more, making creative changes, and gives it back to the original editor for "smoothing out". Then a completely different guy does the finishing, I think. (We didn't talk about that part at all.)

So far, according to the guy I was talking to, it's currently the highest rated show on the Food Network after only 3 episodes. (He acknowledges that whether it can hold that is yet to be seen.) It's even doubled the fabled "South Park" rating. Apparently South Park has a very stable, very consistent rating. If your show can match it, you have a chance to get picked up or renewed. If you don't match it, you may have troubles. Diners, Drive-ins and Dives DOUBLED it.

If just one guy was doing that show, I doubt it would have the same impact. Everyone working on that show has a hand in the success. If one guy was doing it, he'd probably already be dead.

The moral of the story....I say get a partner! Get a producer! I don't think I've ever seen a book or anything that can really teach you how to find the story. Every one is so different, I don't think there's a way to encapsulate it into "teaching materials". It really just is experience.

debe


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Pixel Monkey
Re: Literature
on May 15, 2007 at 4:49:24 pm


Nice debe.

Nateboston - but to answer the literature question (sorry got off-track):
http://www.amazon.com/When-Shooting-Stops-Cutting-Begins/dp/0306802724/ref=...



______
/-o-o-
`(=)`/...Pixel Monkey
`(___)

A picture says 1000 words. Editors give them meaning.



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Pixel Monkey
Re: Literature
on May 15, 2007 at 4:59:06 pm

Hmmmm... interesting.

Because everyone who owns a $399 Dell computer can be an editor at home nowadays, I wonder if the professional future of nonlinear editors will be based greatly on their ability to strive in a collaborative environment. There's a whoooooole lot of folks out there that can't make collaborative criticism work for their creative outlet.

Probably will be based on the nature of the gig, huh? More so for the motion picture industry - like Pirates of the Caribbean, and less for ad agency or low budget indie films.



______
/-o-o-
`(=)`/...Pixel Monkey
`(___)

A picture says 1000 words. Editors give them meaning.



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debe
Re: Literature
by
on May 15, 2007 at 6:38:19 pm

I just read a very interesting interview with Mr. Murch. He says "... any editor knows that the only way you really learn how to edit is to do it. It


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Arniepix
Re: Literature
on May 15, 2007 at 5:21:10 pm

[Pixel Monkey] "(The Paul is now in an oak, glass-front gun rack.)"

I see something very ironic & poetic about that. Especially if there are some real guns in there with it!

BTW, I have an SG with soapbar pickups sitting in it's case in the closet. It may be time to drag it back out... Or the arch-toped Gretch...

Arnie

Now in post: Peristroika, a film by Slava Tsukerman

http://www.arniepix.com/blog


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nateboston
Re: Literature
on May 15, 2007 at 6:19:03 pm

I think you're right about the collective. However, I've been deliberately trying to sway away from that. I sort of feel like I need to prove myself as an editor right now, and to do that I need to be able to cut great things on my own. My boss (great editor btw) always tells me of a former editor that worked for him. In his words - "I could hand off footage to Former Editor and it would come back better than I could have imagined."

That's what I'm striving for - making it better than expected. However, lack of experience is a factor here, and bringing in others looks like it might be the most beneficial. As hard a pill that is to swallow....


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Pixel Monkey
Re: Literature
on May 15, 2007 at 6:54:35 pm

[nateboston] "I sort of feel like I need to prove myself as an editor right now, and to do that I need to be able to cut great things on my own."

Ah, got it now.

You won't be able to achieve this status of "holy cow, how did you come up with that idea" in the documentary world without knowing your footage back-to-front. Doc editing is intriguing because it is only ever as good as its editor. Heavily scripted work (motion pictures, TV sitcoms and so on) has a set agenda which has to be achieved by the editor. A doc can seriously be "Here's 100 tapes. See you in two months. Make sure it turns out good."

The best thing to research - book wise - is organization of the footage. As un-glamorous as it sounds, the best storytelling for a doc happens when you can access the footage as quickly as your brain thinks-up an idea.

Look at the chapters on logging and scene cards in Walter Murch's "Behind the Seen" book. Since anyone can take 52 weeks to cut together a doc, research ways you can maximize your familiarity with the footage so you can do so in 12. It'll take time. I used Murch's scene card method on my last doc, and although it added about 4-5 days to the "logging" schedule, I estimate it subtracted about 15 days from the actual offline edit... all because I found an organization method that allowed me to access exact moments on the tapes that supported the direction the story was heading.

My 2


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nateboston
Re: Literature
on May 15, 2007 at 7:03:19 pm

Funny you should bring up the oganizational part of this. As I said in another response on here, I think I've been thinking about this too much. I would say I have about 20 hours of footage, and I spent the greater part of last week just watching, taking notes, and labeling. I also color-labled the clips that had "really good stuff." Now I'm sitting down to cut, and I sort of know where to go, but it hasn't been flowing the way I'd like.

But reading your last post leads me to believe I'm on the right track. I just need to relax a little now and cut :-)

Thanks for the words of wisdom!


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Arniepix
Re: Literature
on May 15, 2007 at 5:15:26 pm

[nateboston] "But is there something published? Like a "Best Editors in the World Share Their Insights" kind of book out there?"

There are several. Walter Murch (Appocolypse Now, The Godfather, Cold Mountain, Jarhead) has written a couple of books. He not only cuts great films, he writes about it very well, & he likes to postulate theories about film editing. I just did 2 quick searches on bn.com for "film editing" (614 hits) and "documentary editing" (102 hits). Do a search & peruse the results. Order a few books, & enjoy reading them.

[nateboston] "The offline is intimidating. I look at hours of raw footage and get overwhelmed."

I had some drinks 2 weeks ago with a sound editor that I'm friendly with. He asked me, point blank, how do I cut a scene? Do I do the classic wide, medium, close? Do I start in close & move out to wide? Do I have some other, special idiosyncratic method?

I answered, as honestly as I could, that I try not to think about it too hard. I try to be more intuitive and less intellectual. I try to let the material & the scenes around it dictate how I start & how the scene flows. I often start with the establishing or master shot, but often start with a CU instead. Especially if we can bridge from the last scene with a matching CU, or if we have a good reason (pressing need?) to jar the audience.

With documentary material, of course, it's a little different. You don't always have a script to work from. you have to let the narrative emerge from the material that you have. IMO I think it's even more important to not think about it too much and let the material speak to you, then find visuals to bridge whatever gaps you wind up with.

Arnie

Now in post: Peristroika, a film by Slava Tsukerman

http://www.arniepix.com/blog


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nateboston
Re: Literature
on May 15, 2007 at 6:13:43 pm

I appreciate your suggestion about literature. I guess my original question wasn't so much about reading the answers in a book, but more "how do YOU do it?"

I should have also clarified that my work is mainly documentary style. I've been watching down footage and finding common "themes" within different scenes, then trying to stitch them together and get something that just feels right. Your line "I try to be more intuitive and less intellectual" really just hit home with me. I think I'm thinking about it too hard. lol, you know?

I guess you could call this "editors block".



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Arniepix
Re: Literature
on May 15, 2007 at 6:16:57 pm

[nateboston] "I think I'm thinking about it too hard."

That's really what I wanted to say, but I didn't want to sound arrogant or offensive. :)

Arnie

Now in post: Peristroika, a film by Slava Tsukerman

http://www.arniepix.com/blog


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nateboston
Re: Literature
on May 15, 2007 at 6:20:25 pm

LOL, oh no it's really okay! I'm a big fan of honesty! You can tell me I'm over thinking it! How else will I learn?


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Chaz Shukat
Re: Literature
on May 16, 2007 at 6:26:26 pm

I think the problem is that you are approaching offlining from an onlineing methodology. Offlineing is not mathematical. It's a CREATIVE PROCESS! Keeping your objective in mind, you have to review the material you've got, react to it and subclip or mark the parts you think are impactful, important, relavant, etc., then play with those parts. Start grouping them in different ways, then rearrange them, then tighten them, then don't work on it for a while and come back and watch it with fresh eyes, then make more adjustments until you have what you wanted. Sometimes, in a doc, you may not have what you originally wanted, but you do have something else, and that may be what it winds up being. But, it's a trial and error process. But it's easier now with non-linear editing to be able to experiment. I generally like to find something in the material that really gets my juices going, cut that, and then work the rest of the material around it, working up to it or from it. That's a way for me to find a starting point, especially if I'm stuck or lacking motivation. Remember, it's a creative PROCESS. It's an adventure. You can have a map, but the road you planned on taking may be washed out and you'll have to take a detour. Just keep working it. I'm sure you know that there is never just one way for the material to go together. There are infinite ways, so keep trying until you've got one that make you happy.

Chaz S.


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nateboston
Re: Literature
on May 17, 2007 at 12:27:28 pm

thank you thank you thank you! all of you, but def this post too! my editing methods are mechanical - thought out - organized - I need to throw that stuff out the window and approach editing from a story telling perspective. looking at raw footage, finding the actual story, then going back and trying to piece it together so the audience gets it. that has been my downfall so far. i'm realizing now that i really need to step outside of the box and find the story, and worry less about the details and more about the overall picture.

i'm glad i'm figuring this out now, and not 10 years from now when it will matter to my living :-) thanks for all the insight guys! much appreciated! I'm sure I'll be back for more!


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Chaz Shukat
Re: Literature
on May 17, 2007 at 2:24:50 pm

Excellent. I think you've had a major break through in your editing therapy. Now I want you to listen to "Unwritten" by Natasha Bedingfield, take 2 asperin and call me in the morning. :)

Chaz S.


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nateboston
Re: Literature
on May 18, 2007 at 12:49:29 pm

lol, you got it buddy!


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boydmcc
Re: Literature
on May 19, 2007 at 4:34:37 am

I think Chaz nailed it.

The books you should be looking at are not "editing" books, even those by Walter Murch. You should be reading books about storytelling and scriptwriting. Often the analysis that needs to be made is about the story elements - you really need to approach it as a writer. The only difference is that one's tools are pen and paper, the other's is moving pictures and sounds.

The other books to read are reflected in the title of this post - Literature. Read good novels and then reread them with an eye informed by what you've read on the craft of writing. It might not be a bad idea to take a creative writing class or two. That may do more to help then just editing - you can write quite a few short stories in less time than editing a doc.

For your project, you may want to get away from the edit bay and write it out in story form. Or practice telling the story verbally to friends - so when you say, "hey, I'm working on this doc," and they say, "what's it about?" you answer then becomes the narrative structure for the film you edit.

It's funny, editors often talk about being "storytellers" but often neglect working on that aspect of the craft. Just compare the time we spend on that with the time writers spend. Not even close. I just picked up a book by Robert McKee called "Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and The Principles of Screenwriting." He described a storyteller as a "life poet". Writers will often sit for hours at a time, just watching the world around them. Do we as editors do this as well? I dunno, but we probably should...

just my $0.02.


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Ben Scott
Re: Literature
on Jun 5, 2007 at 10:02:37 pm

I have found this book to be interesting

the technique of film editing (focal press)
by karel reisz

taking a while to read though

each chapter is relevant to different formats of moviemaking, getting better at each of these types seems to need more practice than reading a book.

- - - - - - - - -
Check my podcast at http://cowcast.creativecow.net/final_cut_pro/index.html
or my site at
http://www.benscottarts.co.uk/ - - - - - - - - -


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