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what makes a good editor?

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Andrea Mino
what makes a good editor?
on Nov 4, 2008 at 5:14:27 pm

Hi all,

as i'm starting to get involved with projects a bit more complex and starting to deal with directors, i start wondering what makes a good editor. I understand that a good editor is somebody that with every cut, every transitions, tells/adds everytime something more to the story, it makes it move forward visually. But now i'm working editing commercials with directors that have already a storyboard before shooting and at the moment of editing it's just a matter of following that storyboard, i feel that editing is reduced to cutting and pasting, and having a sense of the rhythm of the story, which i do believe is very important, but aside that i don't find it as creative as it's supposed to be. So, it's there something else to add to editing when working with commercials or anything that has a strong storyboard where there's no room for improvisation?


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Charlie King
Re: what makes a good editor?
on Nov 4, 2008 at 5:40:34 pm

There are many aspects of editing commercials and many levels of editors. There are the button pushers, that take the storyboard and follow with no input just follow what the director tells you. There are more creative editors that will make suggestions to the director of cuts that might work better, or sometimes even change order of shots if you feel it would flow better. The main thing is to not just cut scenes together but make those cuts transparent, feel every cut has a purpose, and how that cut is done to make that purpose feel right. If a cut doesn't work for you, suggest an alternative, give input. Nothing ever storyboarded that I ever cut was set in stone til after I chiseled a little of it. Never feel you have no input.
Don't go so far as to argue your point, see if the director is responsive, if not then he deserves what he gets. If he is responsive and just doesn't agree, then you have done your part.
I made a career of editing commercials and I loved it. Long forms were not my favorite, because I don't have an attention span long enough for them. I reach a point where I start thinking I'm going to be doing this project for the rest of my life.

I hope this helps you to feel better about yourself.

Charlie

ProductionKing Video Services
Las Vegas, Nevada
Charlie@proking.net


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Timothy J. Allen
Re: what makes a good editor?
on Nov 4, 2008 at 6:28:07 pm

Like Charlie said, just because there's a storyboard doesn't mean there's no room for improvisation or improvement. What makes a good editor is being able to suggest and demonstrate suggestions for improvement quickly and with a helpful (even altruistic) attitude.

Being well-organized goes a long way towards this. Being on top of latest trends and techniques is another. Build a lexicon for watching other spots and - when you don't have clients - spend some time emulating the ones you like, or the ones you think are unique. If you can emulate the spots that you like, you will be ready to put your own touch on it when the right situation presents itself.

Above all, it's about attitude and trust. The longer I work with an Editor, and the more that trust is built, the more input I give them on the final edits. As a Producer, it's our job to visualize the final spot - working within the confines set by the client. That said, the best Producers really value an Editor that can diplomatically bring creativity to the project. Just make sure it still hits the deadline. ;-)



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mark harvey
Re: what makes a good editor?
on Nov 5, 2008 at 12:09:14 pm

I cut commercials and promos for a living....I have done so for the past 10 years. I understand what you are going through in questionning what makes a good editor, as I have been there. As Charlie, long form is not my thing.

As many have said, what makes a good editor is the ability to help the cut. Offer suggestions of how to get around bad cuts, bad shooting, and things like continuity issues. Also being able to suggest and change things to make the spot work better.

I have worked with directors who use a storyboard religiously, but there is no harm in performing their cut, and then asking them to get a coffee while you duplicate the sequence and try a recut. Most directors i have met appreciate this. I guess in some respects I am very lucky, as I am a staff editor at a broadcaster and most of the directors will give me quite a bit of lattitude....also i have found that the external clients will give me creative freedom when they see what i am capable.

Being able to put the client at ease allows you more freedom. a director can sense when editor knows his craft, and of course the machine he is performing the work on. I have had the odd director who stands by his/her storyboard and does not want change. I do make suggestions, but when I see that he/she is not open, then I concentrate on the trimming and colour correction/treatment.

A lot of times, because my schedule has me starting early, directors leave me e-mails and ask me to get started. I always ask for their concept, how they saw the spot in their mind (treatment, colour etc) and their music. If there are special spots that have to go with a part of the Voice over, then I also need to know about that....usually with this information i can get a good start on the spot without them showing up.

One more thing about being a good editor, in my opinion, is the ability to be able to find the right shot. To be able to find the exact frames that convey the emotion or message, and also the right frames that will transition you into the next shot.

Hope this helps

Mark

Mark Harvey
Senior Editor
Le RĂ©seau des sports


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Mike Cohen
Re: what makes a good editor?
on Nov 6, 2008 at 10:34:36 pm

In my case, I am an editor not just of picture and sound, but of content. For example, when cutting surgery, it is my job to not just make edits to tell the story, but also to make cuts to make the surgeon look good. This means knowing enough about what you are looking at to know when to cut something out, such as a dropped suture.

For those just starting out, it helps to learn the relationship between shooting and editing. Working full time as editor, you probably won't be shooting what you edit, but knowing how to edit should make a better shooter, and vice versa.

Knowing your tools certainly helps, but you need a craft that is separate from the tools. A woodworker should be able to build an end table without a nail gun. The nail gun does not make the table - the knowledge of making the table makes the table.

On the rare occasion I am editing with a client, I agree it is good to be able to demonstrate that you are in control of your faculties. The best feedback is:

Me "How's this?"

Client "I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes."

Me - blush

Mike Cohen


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grinner hester
Re: what makes a good editor?
on Nov 6, 2008 at 1:37:03 am

Confidence is ingredient one. It's required because your job is to take something somebody paid a lot of money and time to shoot and throw it on the cutting room floor over and over again.
The ability to see the finished show when the client walks in with opening remarks is the kay to being a story-teller. If you can't see the end of the story before you start, your gonna mess it up. This is where the confidence comes in. No hesitation.
we have multiple undos nowadays. No reason for second quessing anymore.



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cowcowcowcowcow
TJ McCormick
Re: what makes a good editor?
on Nov 6, 2008 at 6:23:07 pm

I'm relatively new at this (10 years for fun, three years doing it for money), but here's my nickel's worth.

Skills and tools. Learning new skills for me is a two step process. I learn how to use my tools, and then I make sport of increasing my speed and efficiency using these tools. I especially love to show my clients their ideas in real time. When I show them I can perform, then I build on the trust they place in me.

When I can't do something, I have a contact list of those who can. I am fortunate to be in a video production union, filled with engineers, camera operators, and editors, so I know a few people who can help me if I get stuck.

I also keep track with my "legacy" editor buddies, guys who did it "old skool." I was fortunate to edit on A/B roll systems back in the 80s, with old U-Matic decks. Also, I have worked with several award-winning producers and editors. All this experience really helps my NLE skills, especially with organizing my work flow.

Confidence. Chances are, I'm not the best editor for the job which now sits in front of me -- but for my client, at this moment, I'm the best man for the job!

I learned Sony Vegas by capturing and editing event videos, like a snowboard/ski event, weddings, interviews, and corporate meetings. A lot of these videos stunk. I learn more by doing. I now cut promo spots, and freelance an occasional event. I started my editing career when I felt like I could match or outdo others doing the same thing -- but not before I hit the woodshed and made a bunch of crummy videos.

When my confidence in my skills and tools was marketable, I launched into the production world. Note, I didn't say, "When my skills and tools were marketable." Big difference.

I try to develop my confidence with continuous improvement. I aspire not to be ashamed of ignorance and inability to do something -- but if I need to know how to do this "something," then I try to learn how.

Have fun, y'all!

from the Flamingo Las Vegas,

TJ McCormick


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Charlie King
Re: what makes a good editor?
on Nov 6, 2008 at 8:42:15 pm

TJ,
Glad to see you in the Cow. Hey guys this is my replacement when I retired. Treat him nice, he learns fast.

Charlie

ProductionKing Video Services
Las Vegas, Nevada
Charlie@proking.net


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grinner hester
Re: what makes a good editor?
on Nov 6, 2008 at 11:55:20 pm

then welcome, brother. You have some shoes to fill.
I've seen your dungeon.
enjoy the ride.



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John Davidson
Re: what makes a good editor?
on Nov 7, 2008 at 2:24:19 am

Here's a list of traits I love in great editors. Forgive my redundancy.

Come to work with an open mind and be prepared to have fun. If I feel comfortable with you, we'll be able to experiment and that storyboard will merely be the launching pad to something great.

Know everything. Know where the good sound effects are in the enormous library. Know how to make an amazing edit. Know how to mask things out to make a shot just a little prettier. Take initiative to be an authority so that when you tell me something, I know it's the truth. Surfing the cow and learning all the tutorials here is an excellent place to start. Kudos!

AUDIO. Make great mixes. Just because you're an offline editor doesn't mean your spots have to sound like it. So many times I get approved because we take the time to add a little sfx to a graphic, ride up the music in a vo gap, etc.

Don't be afraid to color correct a shot, even if it's just for offline purposes. Make each shot as pretty as it can be and don't send in something that looks bad just because you know it's going to be finished somewhere else, later.

Take notes. Learn how to burn dvd's, understand web codecs, be able to post a spot to a nice website (even on iweb), and understand the little details around what you do.

Know every shot - know each take - know how to pick the best one. Use common sense. If common sense isn't working for you, ask why something is done. A good producer will recognize that you're trying to understand the nuances of logic that sometimes seem conflicting.

Learn your quick keys. Speed is invaluable. Build macros, automation, etc. into your work flow.

Anticipate needs and be prepared for last minute emergencies.

Know little tricks that enhance edits. E.G., a reverse cymbal into a hit/music dropout adds a bit of flair to a boring edit and causes viewers to take notice.

Know how to pick out a great track of music. Know the libraries you're using. Having a few unused tracks that are awesome in your pocket can literally save a spot from being killed.

Get slates right - always. Develop a process of check and balances to help you get them right always.

That's all I have time for now. I think these are great traits for my editors to have.

Good luck!



John
Magic Feather Inc.


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Stephen Smith
Re: what makes a good editor?
on Nov 10, 2008 at 9:58:58 pm

I think the Passion for the job makes an editor great. Ron wrote a great article on Passion in Creative COW magazine that I recommend to everyone. Check out Issue #5



Stephen Smith
Salt Lake Video

Check out my DVD Money Making Graphics & Effects for Final Cut Studio 2


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