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Editing Today - another Philippic

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Simon Ubsdell
Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 22, 2015 at 3:19:24 pm

The Focus discussion has thrown up a number of really interesting topics but because the focus has been Focus, it's been hard to disentangle some really good ones.

Here's an old-fashioned view of where editing is now and where it has come from.

In the pre-NLE days, directors and their editors just didn't cut very often.

At some level, this was because every cut was painful to execute, but at another level it was because every cut was considered.

Today, there is no question that most mainstream movies are infinitely more "cutty" but there is a definite question mark as to whether that greater number of cuts makes for better story-telling.

It is a point worth dwelling on that many of the world's greatest film-makers still cut very infrequently. Michael Haneke cuts very rarely, so do the Coen brothers, Iñárritu's Birdman pretends that it has no cuts. I'm sure you can think of many more examples.

One of Tarkovky's late films (Nostalghia?) is supposed to have had as few as 100 cuts. For Eisentstein, the cut had to have dialectical value - it wasn't just there to push the story along. Often, when a film-maker cuts rarely, the moment of the cut has enormous potency.

In Hollywood today and increasingly around the world, most movie are shot multicam. The aim is to maximise coverage, so as to be able to bring the maximum number of options into the cutting room - where the editing process has become all about glueing together everyone's favourite bits. The notion that the edit is the final stage in honing an original vision is increasingly being lost. There is a blind terror of not having enough coverage and not enough editorial options.

The consequence of the rise of multicam is that directors less and less stage their action in interesting ways - they simply grab the coverage and hope for the best. Classic techniques like composition in depth are now rarely seen. The notion of staging a scene so it can play within a single shot has now been reduced to individual trick travelling shots - which jump out of the fabric of the movie wearing their garish party hats.

Multicam and blanket coverage have been facilitated by the inexorable rise of the NLE and digital acquisition and a cutting "style" has evolved that leans heavily on these developments.

Film editing has now regressed to the level of vision mixing and in consequence many movies now look much more like TV. Intriguingly the best TV is going in the opposite direction - great shows like Mad Men and Breaking Bad put a great deal more thought into staging the action and cutting far less often, and in consequence feel far less like TV and more like what we used to think movies were.

Cutting is also often the enemy of performance - actors are not just mannequins speaking lines, they are capable of delivering an ineffable magic, and when they do, the best thing the film-maker can do is get out of the damn way and simply let that magic unfold ... and not cut away from it, because there hasn't been a cut for the last three seconds.

The other performance related issue is that many film-makers now simply pick their each of favourite line readings and glue them together in the hope that that's going to be the best rendering of the scene. In days gone by, directors and editors recognised that the actor had given you the "spine" of the scene (because they just darn well understand this stuff instinctively), and this hodge-podge jigsaw puzzle method was largely eschewed.

I think what I'm saying, citizens of Rome, is that "more cuts" doesn't equal "better cuts" doesn't equal "a better film".

A lot of us have the need for editing solutions that allow us to turn things around in a matter of hours -and thank goodness we have them. Whether feature film-makers really need them is a different story.

There is a final point to be made here and that's about "wearing out the material" - there is simply no question that the more iterations of an edit you watch, the more precipitous the decline in your ability to evaluate better from worse. Anyone who has ever cut comedy will know that a gag is only ever funny about the first three times - if you're really lucky. When you're on version 36 of the gag, there isn't a chance in hell of you being able to make a useful decision about it - all you can hope to do is remember that you or someone else might have laughed when they first saw it. From that point of view is is quite obvious that endless cutting and recutting is a slippery slope.

Hal Ashby was legendary for the length of time it took him to finish editing (not least because he was notorious for throwing everything out of sync!) but it was mostly time spent thinking (and smoking) and finding fresh (and often psychedelic) ways to look at the material - rather than grinding through endless mechanical iterations. I'm not sure a super fast NLE would have helped him make better movies.

Maybe you made a lot fewer cuts on that old, despised flatbed - but maybe they were just plainly and simply better cuts.

Simon Ubsdell
tokyo-uk.com


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Bill Davis
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 22, 2015 at 4:41:33 pm

So perhaps it's useful to get extremely granular and examine why we cut at all?

Often, the simple answer can be reduced to "we cut to consolidate." If you don't need to stop something or remove something from your narrative flow, there's no need to cut. Because the fundamental idea of cutting is to compress information flow, usually so that we can efficiently pack more concepts into a fixed period of time.

Then the question becomes how much do you need to consolidate?

My career has primarily been as a corporate and business program editor. When I started, I made a whole lot of money producing 40-90 minute training videos for corporate use. 40 to 90 MINUTES! Want to guess how long it's been since someone commissioned a 40 minute corporate business video from me?

A decade. At least.

Why?

Because it's simply NOT how people want information delivered anymore. The market wants focused, targeted small information chunks that people can access as they require them. NOT huge indulgent productions that require them to suspend their on-going lives in order to consume information.

Only in sit down theatrical movies and the artificial world of 30 & 60 minute TV standard ad based forms is this still the norm. But that's not the editing universe. It's a sub-segment of the editing universe.

Yes, there's much more room for stately, thoughtful and evocative work in the theatrical realm - but even there, audiences typically buy a lot more tickets to heavily cut Michael Bey films than stately Merchant Ivory work - with exceptions, of course.

I've noted it before, but it bears repeating. My son often can be found watching TV - while simultaneously browsing an iPad and texting on his phone. You want HIS attention?

Follow the seminal editing mantra...cut to the chase.

If you want to discuss "editing today" - you HAVE to also discuss consuming editing today. And the way that's being done has changed massively. So I believe editing had better understand and react to that reality and keep audience needs firmly in mind.

IN that context, the idea of "too much cutting, these days" - may be nothing more than acknowledging that it's precisely what the audience requires in order fit the information rich content consumption pattern they desire - into their increasingly busy lives.

My 2 cents.

Know someone who teaches video editing in elementary school, high school or college? Tell them to check out http://www.StartEditingNow.com - video editing curriculum complete with licensed practice content.


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Simon Ubsdell
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 22, 2015 at 5:03:03 pm

[Bill Davis] "Because the fundamental idea of cutting is to compress information flow, usually so that we can efficiently pack more concepts into a fixed period of time."

Hi Bill,

Thanks for chiming in.

But I'm afraid I just can't buy the notion that "compressing the information flow" is "the fundamental idea of cutting".

That's one tiny aspect of what editing can achieve - and probably the least important in a narrative context. (Let's not forget that in narrative you often want to expand "the information flow" rather than speed it up - it's a very commonly used tactic for dramatic, comedic, emotional effect - you only have to consider the use of slow-motion for this same purpose.)

Sure it's important when we're simply bashing together assemblies of material, but in terms of "telling a story" (that much overworked phrase), it just isn't that relevant in the great scheme of things.

I can see why you want to elevate it to a fundamental principle since it supports your worldview of what Apple have done with FCP X, but I really do think you're missing the bigger picture here.

[Bill Davis] "If you want to discuss "editing today" - you HAVE to also discuss consuming editing today. And the way that's being done has changed massively. So I believe editing had better understand and react to that reality and keep audience needs firmly in mind."

This is just a lowest common denominator argument and I don't think it stands up. Your favourite folks at Apple don't give the public what they ask for - they give them what Apple think they should be consuming. Why should film-makers be any different?

More to the point, lots of cuts don't necessarily engage your audience better than the right number of cuts, or even perhaps fewer cuts. One can point to countless examples where movies have been overcut and it alienates the viewer rather than contributing to engagement. Action sequences are especially prone to this fault, to the point where you just have to zone out because even basic stuff like the line of action becomes hopelessly blurred.

At the end of the day, engagement is the one and only thing anyone creating anything for an audience needs to consider - you can create engagement far more successfully by surprising rather than pandering.

I think ...

Simon Ubsdell
tokyo-uk.com


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Bill Davis
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 23, 2015 at 3:29:02 am
Last Edited By Bill Davis on Mar 23, 2015 at 3:55:29 am

[Simon Ubsdell] "That's one tiny aspect of what editing can achieve - and probably the least important in a narrative context. (Let's not forget that in narrative you often want to expand "the information flow" rather than speed it up - it's a very commonly used tactic for dramatic, comedic, emotional effect - you only have to consider the use of slow-motion for this same purpose.)"

I believe you're misunderstanding me.

Explain please, how you can do any of the above without CUTTING the flow.

That's all I'm saying.

To change real time (or place) to an alternate time or place to maintain, accelerate, or slow the flow of information to the viewer, we cut. And when we cut, we, by necessity - interrupt. If the interuption makes sense and is done with grace, the viewer doesn't notice.

But an interruption, it is.

That IS editing.

And your line:

Sure it's important when we're simply bashing together assemblies of material, but in terms of "telling a story" (that much overworked phrase), it just isn't that relevant in the great scheme of things.

I'll put aside the implied insult.

And respond with the assertion that sometimes STORY, too, isn't all that relevant in the great scheme of things. If I need to know how to properly inject a patient with insulin, I will gladly eschew the STORY for clear, proper linear instruction. Something that a video video can do and, perhaps, save lives in the process.

I LOVE stories. I just don't think they're the exclusive holy grail of every single editing project that the world needs to see.

Narrative filmmaking is ONE form of the practice of storytelling. To argue everything as if that is the ONLY form worthy of anyones interest, training or practice is like arguing that since only OPERA involves singing, acting live performance and the arts of stagecraft - then OPERA alone is the highest expression of human art. Some people are obsessed with Opera. And others are NOT.

And so to an Opera-obsessed person "CINEMA" may fall into the Vulgar arts and is therefore common and silly.

These very arguments were made against "cinema" at the dawn of the form.

Now you're making the same assertions about "cinema" verses simple "video" as if practitioners of the latter are somehow, de facto, incapable of understanding the finer points of the form.

And it's depressing to see these debates framed in a form where theatrical movies and long form television editing is the ONLY editing worth anyone's attention.

It's as silly a view as my doggerel about Opera above.









Know someone who teaches video editing in elementary school, high school or college? Tell them to check out http://www.StartEditingNow.com - video editing curriculum complete with licensed practice content.


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Jeff Markgraf
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 23, 2015 at 8:12:01 pm

As usual, I think there's a middle ground. Or maybe several different grounds.

To Bill and Simon's points:

Well, yes, for some situations, editing is about compressing things. If we're discussing corporate or informational or promo or other of these kinds of projects, then the demands of editing are similar. Compression of time and/or ideas is really useful and important. The audience and the needs of the project require a certain technique. Nothing wrong with that. Some industrial/corporate pieces from years ago seem painfully slow. Because they were. "Modern" editing techniques can certainly improve upon these kids of pieces, as long as the "form" doesn't get in the way of the "function."

"Art" pieces, for want of a better encompassing term, have different needs. I would completely agree that modern editing styles kind of suck and do more harm than good for most newer movies. And don't even get me started on TV! But in order to realize a more considered editing approach, the material has to support that approach. What passes for direction today often can only be made watchable through aggressive editing. And that's a real shame.

Editing does not live separately from direction, which does not live separately from writing, and so on down the line. I'd LOVE to cut something staged and blocked and shot by a Spielberg or Scorcese or DePalma or Siegel or Polanski. Bay, Abrams, Disney's hack-of-the-week, not so much. Yet some of the masters conceive and shoot sequences designed for aggressive editing, yay for cuts!

I think it's also relevant to consider modern audiences and modern tastes. I happen to like British films from mid-last century. But they sure are slow, even ponderous, to a modern audience. (Relatively) modern films like Barry Lyndon, Somewhere in Time, Days of Heaven...they're not to everyone's taste. But then I kinda like popcorn movies like Transporter. Even the dreadfully over-shot and wildly over-cut Bourne films have their own charm. I can't imagine Bourne cut like Casablanca. Or Lawrence of Arabia cut like Pretty Woman. Why would anyone do that?


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Herb Sevush
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 23, 2015 at 8:41:46 pm

Bill -

Simon's opening post was clearly talking only about feature films. You are hijacking this thread, however unwittingly.

Herb Sevush
Zebra Productions
---------------------------
nothin' attached to nothin'
"Deciding the spine is the process of editing" F. Bieberkopf


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Bill Davis
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 24, 2015 at 3:26:47 am

Perhaps, herb. But I prefer to see it as preserving the threads relevance for the 90% of the editors reading this who will never do more than "discuss" editing a major feature film. I'm one of those guys. So whenever the view collapses down to "here's how the 'real pro editors' have to view this" I enjoy yanking the tether a bit. Keeps the discussion more grounded, perhaps?

Know someone who teaches video editing in elementary school, high school or college? Tell them to check out http://www.StartEditingNow.com - video editing curriculum complete with licensed practice content.


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Herb Sevush
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 24, 2015 at 12:28:03 pm

[Bill Davis] " I prefer to see it as preserving the threads relevance for the 90% of the editors reading this who will never do more than "discuss" editing a major feature film. I'm one of those guys"

So am I, but I don't feel slighted by the discussion, nor do I feel the need to make everything about me.

Herb Sevush
Zebra Productions
---------------------------
nothin' attached to nothin'
"Deciding the spine is the process of editing" F. Bieberkopf


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Bill Davis
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 25, 2015 at 6:37:24 am

[Herb Sevush] "So am I, but I don't feel slighted by the discussion, nor do I feel the need to make everything about me.
"


It's not being "slighted" in the least. It's keeping true to the forum banner.

Simon is essentially arguing that a tool like X is a reflection of a trend where editing is becoming infected by a "too much cutting" and that's somehow bad for content creation.

I'm pointing out that there are oceans of other use cases OUTSIDE of feature films that make the ability to compress visual flows efficiently EXTREMELY VALUABLE for an editor.

And I'm arguing that if you view FCP X "exclusively" from a feature film mentality - then you're missing the big picture TWICE. Once about what the actual market for ALL editing software might be heading. And a second time by constricting the judgement of the tools utility to just a particular niche of the practice.

I make these points a lot. BECAUSE I feel they're both relevant AND easily lost when the group swings into the "big use and facility editors are the ONLY editors that really count."land.

Look, I have nothing AT ALL against big use folks. I want X to succeed in Hollywood as much as anyone. Because I honestly LOVE the tool - and anything that's good for the development of the tool is great for me. But I also don't want it to suffer from the type of feature bloat that lots of long time software can incorporate - after the tools that have concentrated for so long on being all things to every possible type of user that the entire interface grows bloated and complex. (my opinion only)

It happens that I was just trying to learn some simple masking refinements in Photoshop via Lynda.com earlier tonight and landed on a tutorial on simple SELECTING and DESELECTING stuff that made me chuckle. Even the TRAINER kept forgetting to target the proper layers and had to re-do his actions two and three times to get what he wanted to do done. Maybe that was on purpose to show the students typical "it doesn't work if you do it this way" examples? (God knows it's certainly every bit as easy to forget a basic step like targeting something before an action in X, to be fair) But it's also true that the way PS has developed, even the very basic stuff can be dauntingly complex. Specially when you can't even rely on stuff like the simple layered UNDO conventions that have been working on Macs for 30 plus years!

It's probably just me.

I'll likely feel less cranky after I get my next video delivered and can chill a little. It's been a really, really busy month.

Know someone who teaches video editing in elementary school, high school or college? Tell them to check out http://www.StartEditingNow.com - video editing curriculum complete with licensed practice content.


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Andrew Kimery
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 25, 2015 at 7:23:30 am

[Bill Davis] "Simon is essentially arguing that a tool like X is a reflection of a trend where editing is becoming infected by a "too much cutting" and that's somehow bad for content creation. "

[Bill Davis] "I make these points a lot. BECAUSE I feel they're both relevant AND easily lost when the group swings into the "big use and facility editors are the ONLY editors that really count."land. "

I don't understand the defensive posture, Bill. Simon is very obviously talking about feature films (not content creation in general) and the stylistic impact of using multiple cameras and NLEs (not specifically FCP X) have had on feature filmmaking.

Yes, the world is bigger than just feature films but that doesn't mean we can't have a conversation about just feature films.


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Jeff Markgraf
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 25, 2015 at 5:51:40 pm

I think Bill's defensive posture stems more from the by now de rigeur tongue lashing from Herb than from anything else.

Nothing wrong with trying to broaden the discussion. Special in this forum.


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Herb Sevush
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 25, 2015 at 12:55:22 pm

[Bill Davis] "Simon is essentially arguing that a tool like X is a reflection of a trend where editing is becoming infected by a "too much cutting" and that's somehow bad for content creation."

No, Simon was talking about how "too much cutting" was affecting FEATURE FILM content. he couldn't have been more specific. Nowhere, not once, did he take the focus off narrative films. You tried to make the thread about "content creation."

[Bill Davis] "I also don't want it to suffer from the type of feature bloat that lots of long time software can incorporate - after the tools that have concentrated for so long on being all things to every possible type of user that the entire interface grows bloated and complex. (my opinion only)"

Not that I haven't beaten you over the head with this too much, but that was your exact reasoning why you didn't want FCPX multicam to deal with more than 8 angles. It's only "bloat" when your not using a particular feature, when you're using that feature it's a fantastic tool, so be careful what you wish for.

[Bill Davis] "I'll likely feel less cranky after I get my next video delivered and can chill a little. It's been a really, really busy month."

That's always a good thing to be complaining about.

Herb Sevush
Zebra Productions
---------------------------
nothin' attached to nothin'
"Deciding the spine is the process of editing" F. Bieberkopf


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Bill Davis
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 26, 2015 at 1:13:41 am

[Herb Sevush] "Not that I haven't beaten you over the head with this too much, but that was your exact reasoning why you didn't want FCPX multicam to deal with more than 8 angles. It's only "bloat" when your not using a particular feature, when you're using that feature it's a fantastic tool, so be careful what you wish for."

Go back and re-read my writing about that 8 angle thing ( I actually mentioned 4 angles in my iBook, IIRC. I was CRYSTAL clear that I felt that *I* couldn't make sense out of 16 moving multicam clips and still make qualitatively correct decisions about which of those angles was the best one to cut to. I never said that nobody could.

I also said I was delighted to learn that in the X multicam implementation, there was no reason for me to have to do that, since the way it was conceived, anyone doing their multicam switching in an "after the event" environment could take their time and do additive passes - concentrating on a subset of the display first, then cutting in additional angles as required. It was, from day one, an excellent implementation of giving someone dealing with many angles a way to make the best editing decisions with ease.

And, of course, it implies absolutely nothing about how many times an editor actually chooses to switch angles. So you can certainly "cut" just as slowly in multicam as you can in single stream editing.

So the point kinda falls flat, to my thinking.

But whatever.

Know someone who teaches video editing in elementary school, high school or college? Tell them to check out http://www.StartEditingNow.com - video editing curriculum complete with licensed practice content.


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Herb Sevush
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 26, 2015 at 9:23:14 pm

[Bill Davis] "Go back and re-read my writing about that 8 angle thing"

From the time capsule

[Herb Sevush] "Multi-Cam essentials

1) The ability to create a multi-clip with a minimum of 25 angles, no limit would be better. "

Wow.

I'm gonna argue directly against this idea. I don't want to turn my laptop into your idea of a multi-cam monster. At ALL.

To me, 25 angles is at LEAST 17 too many. - at least until Thunderbolt fully implements the all optical roadmap.

Anyway, I personally I don't want the dev team to spend a minute coding in stuff that only a tiny fraction of the users will ever really need.


https://forums.creativecow.net/readpost/335/18336

Herb Sevush
Zebra Productions
---------------------------
nothin' attached to nothin'
"Deciding the spine is the process of editing" F. Bieberkopf


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Bill Davis
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 27, 2015 at 6:03:22 pm

[Herb Sevush] "I'm gonna argue directly against this idea. I don't want to turn my laptop into your idea of a multi-cam monster. At ALL.

To me, 25 angles is at LEAST 17 too many. - at least until Thunderbolt fully implements the all optical roadmap.

Anyway, I personally I don't want the dev team to spend a minute coding in stuff that only a tiny fraction of the users will ever really need. "


OK. I's ME. With the 2011 view from my firewire centric suite, managing 25 angles seemed WAY too complex.

Just remind me of the date of that post? How long after X was released did I post this gem?

Cuz if the point is that some of the thinking I had when I was first learning X has ---- well, insufficient? Then I'll plead absolutely guilty.

I've learned a bit - AND my thinking has evolved since then. (Tho I did kinda peg my opinion to the ability to USE multicam streams affordably with the Thunderbolt reference, something we actually have now that we didn't back then.)

So again, mea culpa. I made a woeful and ill conceived post.

Thanks for brining it to my attention.

Or as Jackson Browne sang "don't remind me of my failures - I have not forgotten them."

In my case, I guess I have.

Ces't la vie.

You win.

Know someone who teaches video editing in elementary school, high school or college? Tell them to check out http://www.StartEditingNow.com - video editing curriculum complete with licensed practice content.


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Herb Sevush
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 27, 2015 at 6:21:56 pm

[Bill Davis] "Ces't la vie.

You win."


I was as wrong as anyone back then. I thought FCP7 would not survive new OSX updates. I didn't believe Apple would stick to their white paper promises. I didn't believe that Apple would build a new Mac Pro.

My reason for the post was to advise against the habit of telling coders to stop coding for things that you don't need ... yet.

Software "bloat" is often software that you don't fully use. I find After Effects to be bloated beyond comprehension, but I realize it's mostly because I don't use it much. I don't think Aindreas or Walter finds it bloated, they probably have a list of features they wish were added. Same with editing software - it's bloat till you need it, then it's a feature.

On the other hand, I will take the "win."

Herb Sevush
Zebra Productions
---------------------------
nothin' attached to nothin'
"Deciding the spine is the process of editing" F. Bieberkopf


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Bill Davis
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 27, 2015 at 6:26:45 pm

[Herb Sevush] "On the other hand, I will take the "win.""

If you're doing NAB this year, I'll even pay off with a beer.

Let me know.

Know someone who teaches video editing in elementary school, high school or college? Tell them to check out http://www.StartEditingNow.com - video editing curriculum complete with licensed practice content.


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Herb Sevush
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 27, 2015 at 6:33:57 pm

[Bill Davis] "If you're doing NAB this year, I'll even pay off with a beer."

Would love to take you up on that, but I'm chained to my Mac. Finishing up post on season 15 and then straight into shooting season 16. Life is good. You'll have to drink for the both of us.

Herb Sevush
Zebra Productions
---------------------------
nothin' attached to nothin'
"Deciding the spine is the process of editing" F. Bieberkopf


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Andrew Kimery
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 27, 2015 at 11:21:20 pm

[Herb Sevush] "Would love to take you up on that, but I'm chained to my Mac. Finishing up post on season 15 and then straight into shooting season 16. Life is good. You'll have to drink for the both of us."

In honor of Herb's accomplishment I will gladly accept his beer for him at NAB. ;)


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Bill Davis
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 28, 2015 at 5:38:40 pm

[Andrew Kimery] "In honor of Herb's accomplishment I will gladly accept his beer for him at NAB. ;)"

Done. Your interest payment will be your needing to bring a sharpie and small label to print "Herb's Beer" on it - and post a pic here of the result. I'd practice an "I'm really enjoying this, Herb" face in the mirror if I were you Andrew, since the result will be famous.

(Maybe we can do it in one of the watering holes at the Rivera to commemorate the coming implosion?)

See you all in Vegas.

Know someone who teaches video editing in elementary school, high school or college? Tell them to check out http://www.StartEditingNow.com - video editing curriculum complete with licensed practice content.


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Jeff Markgraf
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 28, 2015 at 6:02:50 pm

Hey Bill -

Sorry for the thread hijack. Is there an informal COW meet & greet this year? Last time I remember was a few years ago...you and Walter and a couple of others. Or is everyone just planning to see and be seen at the FCPWorks events?


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Bill Davis
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 28, 2015 at 11:18:36 pm

Hi Jeff,

I haven't heard anything Cow specific. I'm arriving Saturday. Once again, I'm vaguely covering NAB for DVInfo.net so I like to pop into the perhipheral events like the classes and keynotes and write up something about the overall feel of the Conferences each year. The big themes and ideas that come up in the first few days.So if anyone's about on Sat or Sun, that's the easiest for me to schedule since it's pre-show.

Monday, I typically do the BlackMagic Press Conference - and obviously I'll be at the FCPWorks events mostly all day after that.

If you haven't heard yet, the original FCP X Or Not event on Monday right after lunch was scrubbed - not quite sure why, although I suspect that somebody may have figured that there's little point in acknowledging that OR NOT is even a viable option. I can understand that. That ship has kinda sailed. Plus, for FCPWorks business - their focus has always been on large workflow expertise. Noah Kadner, who's in charge of the schedule asked me to consider a substitute topic for a presentation - but although I pitched a few ideas, I suspect this late in the game I'll just be attending like everyone else. I imagine I'll be in the suite a good bit this year.

Then the invitation only FCP Guru's meeting at the Hard Rock is Mon Night will replace my Media Motion Ball slot, and late that night I'm due at Chris Hurds Party for the DVInfo crew.

Tues day, more FCPWorks - then Tues PM is the Supermeet, where I'll be semi-MC ing and helping Mike and Dan put the show on as usual. Anyone who wants to say HI, that's the best place, since I'm easy to find. And the doing the raffle at the end is something I look forward to every year!

Wed is possible for a meet up of some kind. Perhaps at lunchtime? Depending on how well we all fare the first 72 hours, this year. If anyone wants to do something OR NOT, just let me know.

It's going to be a jam packed NAB this year from a FCP X perspective.

Know someone who teaches video editing in elementary school, high school or college? Tell them to check out http://www.StartEditingNow.com - video editing curriculum complete with licensed practice content.


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TImothy Auld
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 30, 2015 at 1:30:40 am

Happy to meet if circumstances allow. If I'm not on the floor (or at the Supermeet) you can find me in the coffee shop at the Peppermill. Other than that let me know where and I'll do my best to get there.

Tim


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tony west
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 22, 2015 at 5:07:43 pm

A good post Simon.

[Simon Ubsdell] "Today, there is no question that most mainstream movies are infinitely more "cutty" but there is a definite question mark as to whether that greater number of cuts makes for better story-telling.
"



Is this do to people's lack of attention span these days?

I am a fan of films that some would call "slow"

I prefer to have shots stay on the screen sometimes a little longer, but I admit, I always wonder if the multi tasking world will get bored watching.

Like when someone is in the middle of a conversation and they start looking at their phone.
The conversation is not enough for them.

One of the best things I saw on TV in years was that one take scene in True Detectives last year.


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Simon Ubsdell
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 22, 2015 at 5:24:30 pm

[tony west] "One of the best things I saw on TV in years was that one take scene in True Detectives last year."

Yes, I think we share the same tastes - that was a really great shot.

And all the cutting in TD was super slow - I don't think that put the audience off and I'm pretty sure it was one of the reasons it worked so well. Great actors were just allowed to do their thing while we watched - it seldom gets better than that!

Simon Ubsdell
tokyo-uk.com


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Steve Connor
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 22, 2015 at 7:16:28 pm

[tony west] "One of the best things I saw on TV in years was that one take scene in True Detectives last year.
"


"Breaking Bad" "House of Cards", "Better Call Saul" all great shows that keep the cuts to a minimum and are no less engrossing for it


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Simon Ubsdell
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 22, 2015 at 8:09:14 pm

[Steve Connor] ""Breaking Bad" "House of Cards", "Better Call Saul" all great shows that keep the cuts to a minimum and are no less engrossing for it"

Yes, Breaking Bad is a fantastic example.

Because of the deep compositional staging of so many of the scenes, they print an indelible image on your memory - so many of the really great scenes play in wide shots, sometimes incredibly wide shots when we're talking about the desert, so that the environment becomes a character within the story.

The interior of the White residence is clearly a character that undergoes its own transformation - and a lot of that is down to the fact that so many of those interiors play out in beautifully planned wides, where the spaces between the actors are pregnant with meaning. (And we're not randomly "jumping in for the close-up", or whatever.)

Haven't yet seen Better Call Saul - can't wait to binge on what looks like an amazing follow-up.

And yes, House of Cards is not so dusty either. Again, great composition which so many times eliminates the need for cutting,

Simon Ubsdell
tokyo-uk.com


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Mathieu Ghekiere
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 22, 2015 at 6:32:52 pm

Interesting post, Simon, although I don't think it has anything to do with FCPX.

I'm a big fan of long shots. Spielberg is one of my Favorite directors and watching The staging and pacing of his long camerashots always feels like The best film school anyone could ask for.


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Simon Ubsdell
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 22, 2015 at 6:51:32 pm

Yes, sorry this is very off topic - but then everything is probably on topic on this forum now!

I totally agree about Spielberg - he's superb at staging which is why his films are also so visually engrossing and immersive.

There's so much compositional depth you really feel you're inhabiting the world rather than just looking through a window onto it.

I don't think he cuts very often either but I'd have to go back and look ...

Again he's a director who you feel doesn't just rely on coverage so that he can find the movie later in the cutting room - you know that he's entirely previsualised (in his head, not in the technical sense) how the movie is going to come together and shoots it that way.

Very old school!

Simon Ubsdell
tokyo-uk.com


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David Mathis
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 22, 2015 at 10:11:11 pm
Last Edited By David Mathis on Mar 23, 2015 at 4:17:29 pm

Thanks for posting this. I have seen bad edits in movies and good edits. To me it is not so much the quantity of edits but rather the quality. Sometimes the quality of the edit just passes by, never noticed unless it is bad. In that situation, it stands out like a sore thumb.

I have to agree some shots should be on a bit longer. Too much fast paced cutting is an eyesore and makes my head hurt trying to figure out what just happened. The biggest problem with NLE vs film is that the computer makes it way too easy to make any number of changes. That leads also to some weird transitions being added. Film requires more discipline both in principal photography and in editing. Less eye candy to muck things up. Digital feels sterile and distant. Film grain, scratches, and dirt add a sense of "warmth" to the movie. Guess that makes me an analog lover.

* EDIT *

By quantity or quality, I don't mind how many edits there are as long as the transition is appropriate. Just a bunch of random edits and random scenes are a bit annoying unless that is what is intended for your audience. Editing is subjective and often subjective at the same time. So there is not right or wrong response here, just an opinion. Feel free to disagree.

The magnetic timeline, it's magnetic-o-matic!



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Mathieu Ghekiere
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 23, 2015 at 12:26:33 pm
Last Edited By Mathieu Ghekiere on Mar 23, 2015 at 12:32:00 pm

Spielberg has talked about it a lot. He said he likes to make scenes where in a way, the audience does their 'own' cutting.
I don't agree with it completely, because his staging is as such that he really draws your attention to stuff.

If you haven't seen this already, you really are gonna like these videos:






This last video, check it out at 2.55, the long shot from Jurassic Park. Check the timing of those movements. When Tim says to the Sam Neil Character: I'm gonna be in YOUR car. How the movement of the camera, really gives you this FEELING about the change in Sam Neil's feeling.
That shot is amazing because it's subtle but genius at the same time. He really is one of my biggest inspirations, Spielberg :-)


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Simon Ubsdell
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 23, 2015 at 1:02:38 pm

[Mathieu Ghekiere] "If you haven't seen this already, you really are gonna like these videos: "

Yes, those videos are a really good examination of this - especially the point that instead of being flashy, bravura set-pieces which are designed to draw attention to themselves (and take you out of the movie), Spielberg's "long takes" are "designed to be invisible".

It's fascinating to see how much cutting is avoided using this technique.

Of course, we shouldn't suggest that Spielberg is doing something radical here - this is just good old-fashioned movie staging that you see perfected in so many classic films.

Related to this, Tim has a great article on Gregg Toland that explores deep focus and composition - an excellent read.

Simon Ubsdell
tokyo-uk.com


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Mathieu Ghekiere
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 23, 2015 at 5:20:36 pm
Last Edited By Mathieu Ghekiere on Mar 23, 2015 at 5:21:16 pm

Indeed. You see it back in a lot of classic movies. I think it's just because he grew up with those and those were his inspiration.
But his work is now an inspiration for a lot of us :-)

Thanks for the article, I read it. Big fan of Citizen Kane, btw. One of those movies of which I felt the hype was very deserved.


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Andrew Kimery
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 23, 2015 at 3:22:15 am

I don't think the number of edits has any inherent link to the quality of the final product. Are Russian Ark and Timecode a pair of the best movies of all time because they both were done in a single, unedited take?

More edits, less edits... I think it's up to the filmmakers and how they want to tell their story.

Editing, lighting, camera moves, score, grading, etc.,... all run the gambit from a little to a lot and I don't think there is any one universal/right answer about how much is too much or how little is too little.


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Michael Aranyshev
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 23, 2015 at 5:05:50 am

I don't feel that way. There are always a couple of badly cut movies every year but overall it's great. I mean the level of the craft today is very high. You may get different impression if you run into something amateurish like Whiplash and then some mess by Michael Bay but if you watch a dozen current movies in a row you'd feel most of them are pretty well done. And performances today are amazing.


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TImothy Auld
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 23, 2015 at 8:41:42 pm

Let me know when you win an Academy Award for Best Editing.

Tim


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Michael Aranyshev
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 23, 2015 at 9:00:30 pm
Last Edited By Michael Aranyshev on Mar 23, 2015 at 9:10:49 pm

OK, Whiplash's got an Oscar so apparently some people thinks it's competent job. But do you feel like this too?


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TImothy Auld
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 23, 2015 at 9:11:40 pm

Yes, I do. Anyone care to challenge that?

Tim


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Michael Aranyshev
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 23, 2015 at 9:26:57 pm

If they were giving editing Oscar for saving bad footage it'd be a different story. There are many very weird cuts throughout the whole film which can only be explained as fixes to cover staging/continuity mistakes. All cuts to detail feel like they were shot in different set than the scene they are inserted into, which they probably are. So it is clearly another case of "We can't judge the editor because we have no idea how bad the footage was." We can however make a wild guess: usually when the story is bad and too short for a feature and both antagonist and protagonist are complete jerks the chance of blocking and staging errors for some reason increases.


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TImothy Auld
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 23, 2015 at 9:28:47 pm

So I'm guessing you didn't like the movie?

Tim


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Michael Aranyshev
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 23, 2015 at 9:30:38 pm

No, I didn't. The music was fine though.


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TImothy Auld
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 23, 2015 at 9:35:04 pm

Anyone who uses the phrase "complete jerks" has to be - in my considered opinion - a complete jerk. If you have a problem with this Academy Award Winner then please, attack him on the merits, which I do not see you doing.

Tim


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TImothy Auld
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 23, 2015 at 9:39:22 pm

Wait, I have to recuse myself. You did not in any way refer to the editor as a "jerk." But still, I think this guy did a hell of a job. And I do not see why you don't.

Tim


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Michael Aranyshev
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 23, 2015 at 9:46:12 pm

He probably did. It probably was a complete disaster. Now it is somewhat watchable. That's the tragic part of our profession. No matter how hard you try if it wasn't written, performed and shot well you can't make it really good.


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TImothy Auld
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 23, 2015 at 9:56:57 pm

I do not have even the slightest idea what you are talking about.

Tim


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Jeff Markgraf
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 23, 2015 at 11:30:25 pm

Well...

"usually when the story is bad and too short for a feature and both antagonist and protagonist are complete jerks the chance of blocking and staging errors for some reason increases."

I would say he is suggesting that films in which both the protagonist and antagonist are unpleasant people ("jerks") one tends to find more poor blocking and staging than in films with non-"jerk" main characters. Add in a bad story and a less-than-feature length running time, and the chances for bad blocking and accompanying odd editing choices increases.

Not sure I agree with the premise, but it seems pretty clear what Michael is saying here.


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Michael Aranyshev
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 24, 2015 at 12:26:42 am
Last Edited By Michael Aranyshev on Mar 24, 2015 at 12:29:22 am

Thanks Jeff.

It all has to do with general misunderstanding of how people react to a movie. People do try identify themselves with the protagonist but the caveat is if you give them a character similar to them: a thick-skinnned, lazy, selfish conformist with a bit of mean steak they'd feel uncomfortable. They want an idealized version. Same with blocking and staging. The principles of placing characters and camera are based on some hard-wired things in our brains.

So if you know it would spoil the reaction to you work why would you do it. Because you don't know it would spoil the reaction to your work.


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Scott Thomas
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 23, 2015 at 6:22:43 am

I don't mind cuts, I don't mind quantity over quality, but I hate cuts when there's not a thought behind them.

Case in point, news promos. I work in a shop where a lot of them are made. Sometimes an editor will start throwing in a bunch of cuts of images and they don't lead anywhere. They're just a bunch of images being thrown at you and it starts feeling like someone hitting you over the head with a hammer. Sometimes they don't even follow a soundtrack.

I like when a cut is crafted. A cutaway to a different angle, different framing, directing focus, leading you somewhere.


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Jeremy Garchow
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 23, 2015 at 5:01:50 pm
Last Edited By Jeremy Garchow on Mar 23, 2015 at 6:09:28 pm

The only problem I have with these discussions is that it makes it seems that all of a sudden, every celluloid movie pre1990 or so, whether shot on film or edited on a flatbed, is suddenly more crafted and therefore by default better, and every film that was digitally crafted from acquisition to delivery, is worse.

There is a wealth of really sh*tty movies that were shot and edited in the "old school" way. I take it no one has watched Look Who's Talking Too?

Film as culture, and the tools used to create those reflections on the culture, amount to a snapshot of the times. If you look behind the scenes, you can find out what was going on in the culture, sometimes politically, most of the time industrially (meaning the technology available to those people, at that place, at that time).

If any one of the directors that have been mentioned in this thread started from where we are starting today, do you think they would use the same process that was used from the 30s to the 90s? My guess would be an emphatic, "hells naw!".

In today's VFX heavy movies, I feel like sometimes the editing done is practical to save on VFX costs. The Avengers, which I found to be a really entertaining movie, had some odd and quick cuts because I think if the shots were longer, or more grand, the movie' budget literally would have had to have been an order of magnitude higher, from an already really high budget. I imagine as Producer, you have to pick your battles, or pick your battle scenes as it were.

So, while we can complain about the state of certain accepts of movie making, I do think some of these choices are extremely practical, in that, they are made due to the technologic and logistical limits of the times, just like every other movie ever made since the advent of film.


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David Lawrence
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 23, 2015 at 6:42:54 pm
Last Edited By David Lawrence on Mar 23, 2015 at 6:43:25 pm

[Jeremy Garchow] "In today's VFX heavy movies, I feel like sometimes the editing done is practical to save on VFX costs. The Avengers, which I found to be a really entertaining movie, had some odd and quick cuts because I think if the shots were longer, or more grand, the movie' budget literally would have had to have been an order of magnitude higher, from an already really high budget. I imagine as Producer, you have to pick your battles, or pick your battle scenes as it were."

Speaking of The Avengers (a film I also really enjoyed), check out the newest installment of Tony Zhou's amazing series Every Frame a Painting.

Akira Kurosawa - Composing Movement from Tony Zhou on Vimeo.



_______________________
David Lawrence
art~media~design~research
propaganda.com
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vimeo.com/dlawrence/albums


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Jeremy Garchow
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 23, 2015 at 7:08:00 pm

[David Lawrence] "Speaking of The Avengers (a film I also really enjoyed), check out the newest installment of Tony Zhou's amazing series Every Frame a Painting. "

Ha! Perfect!


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Simon Ubsdell
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 23, 2015 at 7:19:48 pm

That says it all really ...

When you shoot "coverage" and bolt it together in the cutting room, you get something that works just fine.

When you shoot an idea, you get something amazing.

Tony Zhou is just great - he makes you want to go back and watch every movie he talks about. So inspiring.

Simon Ubsdell
tokyo-uk.com


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David Lawrence
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 23, 2015 at 8:06:18 pm

[Simon Ubsdell] "Tony Zhou is just great - he makes you want to go back and watch every movie he talks about. So inspiring."

Absolutely! Just love his work. So good.

_______________________
David Lawrence
art~media~design~research
propaganda.com
publicmattersgroup.com
http://lnkd.in/Cfz92F
facebook.com/dlawrence
twitter.com/dhl
vimeo.com/dlawrence/albums


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Mark Suszko
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 23, 2015 at 4:37:24 pm

Simon:

http://img.pandawhale.com/28643-Citizen-Kane-Orson-Welles-appl-xIlv.gif


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TImothy Auld
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 23, 2015 at 8:17:34 pm

In my capacity as an editor I have always looked at my job as not to fix what happened in production, but to enhance what happened in production.

Tim


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Jeff Markgraf
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 23, 2015 at 8:52:43 pm

Timothy -

I wish I were as lucky as you seem to have been. Many of the editing jobs I have been hired for did require me to fix much of what happened in production. I would hazard a guess that more feature editing is about fixing than most people would suspect. But I grant others have had other experiences.

BTW, if I didn't mention it before - don't get me started on TV! ;-)


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TImothy Auld
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 23, 2015 at 9:10:40 pm

Luck has nothing whatever to do with it. It is just what I have always understood my job to be. Just like in Gumball Rally. "What's behind you don't make no difference."

Tim


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Jeff Markgraf
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 23, 2015 at 11:05:24 pm

So, to clarify -

As an editor, you've never had to fix a poorly shot or staged scene? And there was no luck involved, I guess, because you've been able to choose films that had no poorly shot or staged scenes? Or you've edited films with poorly shot for staged scenes but did not fix them? Again, not a matter of luck.

Or perhaps fixing a poorly shot or staged scene is part and parcel of editing to enhancing a scene. In which case, we'd be saying essentially the same thing.


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TImothy Auld
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 23, 2015 at 11:08:00 pm

I don not have the slightest idea what you are talking about.

Tim


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Jeff Markgraf
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 23, 2015 at 11:45:19 pm

Then I'll try to spell it out.

In response to a post I made about often having to fix material in the editing, you said, "I have always looked at my job as not to fix what happened in production, but to enhance what happened in production."

I replied that I thought you were lucky not to have had to deal with (paraphrasing here) "fixing it in post."

You replied, "Luck has nothing whatever to do with it."

So I wanted to clarify the ways in which your experience has been different from mine, and specifically why luck was not a factor. I further wondered if perhaps, "enhancing what happened in production" might automatically include sometimes "fixing" poorly shot or staged footage.

Hope that helps.


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TImothy Auld
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 24, 2015 at 12:28:04 am

Luck is nonsense. It is an illusion. Luck is not a thing in the real world. You are either working for the success of your current project or you are not. I am really not sure what you are doing.

Tim


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Jeff Markgraf
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 24, 2015 at 1:34:13 am

OK, let's try again.

- General discussion of cutting style, specifically choosing not to cut as often vs. today's over-cut style.
- Bill suggests editing is about compressing and directing focus and pacing.
- Several say "hey, we're talking films here, not industrials."
- I chime in with points on both "sides" of the issue, expressing a preference for a slower pace, but pointing out that badly shot or staged material must sometimes be "fixed" in the editing.

Perhaps in response to that, or a responding the the discussion in general, you said, "In my capacity as an editor I have always looked at my job as not to fix what happened in production, but to enhance what happened in production." Your choice of "not xxx, but yyy" implies an either/or viewpoint. Not "fix," but "enhance."

So let's take "luck" out of the discussion. Your post implies you don't have to "fix" material you work on. I point out that I often do have to "fix." I wondered how you're able to avoid the kind of jobs where fixing is needed. Since your response only dealt with dismissing luck as a "thing," I asked for clarification.

Now we get to the "I have no idea what you're taking about" part. I attempted to rephrase and clarify my question.

Your response: "Luck is nonsense. It is an illusion. Luck is not a thing in the real world. You are either working for the success of your current project or you are not. I am really not sure what you are doing."

So I'm still trying to understand your initial post, setting up a choice between "fix it" or "enhance it." I'm asking how you have apparently been able to work only on projects that require only enhancing and no fixing. I am further asking if, perhaps, fixing is actually part of enhancing. In which case, the either/or of your initial post may not accurately describe the work you or I do.

Let's just agree to ignore the insult implicit in "I am really not sure what you are doing."


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Jeff Markgraf
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 24, 2015 at 10:22:57 pm

I guess he's taken his ball and gone to play with Aindreas.

Anyone else feel like weighing in on "fixing" vs "enhancing" and whether they're one and the same?


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TImothy Auld
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 24, 2015 at 10:56:51 pm

Because I do not respond to you immediately does not mean that I have, as you say, taken my ball elsewhere. We have a perception problem here. Or, as in Cool Hand Luke, a "failure to communicate." When functioning as an editor I regard my job as doing my utmost to tell the story in the best way possible using what resources I have at my disposal. I do not think of my job as fixing other peoples mistakes. A philosophical difference. You seem to want me to break down and admit that I spend all my time fixing what others have screwed up. And my point, from the very beginning, is that that is not the way I approach the job.

Tim


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Jeff Markgraf
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 24, 2015 at 11:52:57 pm

Easy there, tiger. Just an easy opportunity to poke a little fun at Aindreas. Having a little fun is all.


[TImothy Auld] "You seem to want me to break down and admit..."

No, I don't "want" you to do anything in particular.


[TImothy Auld] "A philosophical difference."

Now we're getting somewhere. As I've said a couple of times now, my initial question stemmed from the way you phrased your initial point, which seemed to me to set up an either/or view of editing. "I don't fix, rather I enhance," to paraphrase. I suggested my experiences were different, and that perhaps they were actually same thing. Then the dialogue turned into a discussion of "luck," which is a completely different topic and got no one anywhere.

I think not so much a philosophical difference here - more of a semantic difference. But certainly relevant to Simon's point/argument.

All seem to agree (at least in discussing cinema) that well-staged scenes require less cutting and tend to yield more satisfying artistic results. Save the cuts for when they mean something, etc. While Bill's counterpoint had more to do with non-cinematic projects, he at least indirectly raised the question of how to handle material that was not as well conceived and shot, or might need to be changed or refocused for any number of reasons.

I certainly consider cutting a traditional master/closeup/closeup scene in such a way as to either remove pauses to tighten or add pauses to loosen performances to be fixing a scene. Choosing a cutaway can be either an artistic choice or a practical choice (such as covering a distracting continuity error). It's not necessarily a negative thing, just something that editors often have to do in order to "tell the story in the best way possible." Sometimes it is a case of fixing something that someone else screwed up. Sometimes it's enhancing a scene. Sometimes it's just a matter of personal taste. That said, I would think I'd be less likely to need or want to mess with a performance by a great actor or second guess an A-level director. But let's be honest - most movies have neither. That goes double for TV.

So perhaps we mostly agree, after all.


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TImothy Auld
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 25, 2015 at 10:13:33 pm

No, we do not.

Tim


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Jeff Markgraf
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 25, 2015 at 10:29:05 pm

LOL. No. Of course not.

What an absolute delight.


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James Culbertson
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 25, 2015 at 12:10:25 am

[Jeff Markgraf] "Anyone else feel like weighing in on "fixing" vs "enhancing" and whether they're one and the same?"

Merely two different opinions. In practice, we are just editing and trying to tell a story the best we can with the material we are given. Later we may assign labels to what we have done; others may assign different labels. All philosophy (aka, explanation) is secondary to the experience it tries to describe.


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James Culbertson
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 23, 2015 at 8:07:52 pm

The best NLE is the one a couple of inches behind the eyes and between the ears (to paraphrase the famous Photographic maxim). So I guess the debate is over. :-)


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Herb Sevush
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 23, 2015 at 8:34:08 pm

Simon -

While I'm sure the NLE has had some impact, it is my observation that an increase in the speed of cutting is the one constant in the history of movies. The silent films of the 20's were faster paced than silent films before 1910, the films of the 50's were faster than movies in the 30's and 40's. The cutting pace of the 70's and 80's were faster than what you would generally find in the 60's. Watching an older movie with a teenager the thing that is most off-putting to them is the pace -- "old fashioned movies" just seem too slow for them. I think a lot of this is because we have always over estimated how much information you need to give someone to tell a story. Every decade we prove that you can get away with a little less detail, tell the story in a more fragmented way, and the audience will adjust and accept.

As with most things human, this positive concept has led to some fairly terrible results, but I don't think it's particularly the fault of the NLE. Individual directors have broken these trends in both directions - your not going to find much faster cutting than in the opening and closing shoot-outs in The Wild Bunch - and conversely Peckinpah shot many of his conversational scenes multi-camera, and this was almost 50 years ago.

I absolutely agree that there is an aesthetic decline in the quality of studio movies, even as they become more technically polished, especially in the areas of sound and EFX, but I think the reasons lie outside the realm of any single technology. I can't imagine any studio allowing a director to hold a single shot the way David Lean did when Omar Shariff appeared to come out of the sun in Lawrence of Arabia. I believe the audience would stand for it, but not the studio execs.

Herb Sevush
Zebra Productions
---------------------------
nothin' attached to nothin'
"Deciding the spine is the process of editing" F. Bieberkopf


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Simon Ubsdell
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 23, 2015 at 9:28:40 pm

[Herb Sevush] "Every decade we prove that you can get away with a little less detail, tell the story in a more fragmented way, and the audience will adjust and accept."

Yes, in a broad sense this is true. But let's not forget that the best TV is now very clearly staging a backlash and it is getting slower and espousing many more of the qualities of classic cinema.

My point, which has got slightly lost, was more about the overall picture rather than about counting cuts.

Multicam plus NLE technology means that a huge proportion of the movies now made are shot with a view to piecing something together in the cutting room.

This is simply poles apart from movies that are made with a clear vision of what each shot is meant to deliver.

Coverage is the great enemy in my view. It makes every film feel like TV, because instead of giving you the freedom not to cut, it imposes cutting as an imperative.

Most contemporary films, with obvious, striking and incredibly powerful exceptions, are in slave to this tyranny - and they look as they they have been vision-mixed from the gallery.

How could it be any different under the circumstances?

But this has nothing really to do with changing tastes - it has to do with market forces, lack of ambition, enslavement to technology and a host of other tiresome factors.

Simon Ubsdell
tokyo-uk.com


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Herb Sevush
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 23, 2015 at 10:03:07 pm
Last Edited By Herb Sevush on Mar 23, 2015 at 10:07:18 pm

[Simon Ubsdell] "Coverage is the great enemy in my view. It makes every film feel like TV, because instead of giving you the freedom not to cut, it imposes cutting as an imperative."

Agree totally. The equivalent in music production is where musicians are told to play without dynamics so that the final performance can be crafted in the mix.

One of my favorite John Ford anecdotes is about the wedding scene in "How Green Was My Valley" where you see Walter Pidgeon in the far background looking on as Maureen O'Hara drives off on her wedding day. Supposedly the DP asked Ford if he wanted to get a close up of Pidgeon and Ford said, "Lord no. If we shot it some idiot would probably use it."







As a minor note I will mention that Ford used a wind machine to get the wedding veil to move that way at that spot - which is why they called him John Ford.

Herb Sevush
Zebra Productions
---------------------------
nothin' attached to nothin'
"Deciding the spine is the process of editing" F. Bieberkopf


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Simon Ubsdell
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 23, 2015 at 10:05:57 pm

[Herb Sevush] "One of my favorite John Ford anecdotes is about the wedding scene in "How Green Was My Valley" where you see Walter Pidgeon in the far background looking on as Maureen O'Hara drives off on her wedding day. Supposedly the DP asked Ford if he wanted to get a close up of Pidgeon and Ford said, "Lord no. If we shot it some idiot would probably use it.""

I love it - I'd heard that line before but never knew who said it and in what context.

Great stuff! Can't really argue with Ford.

Simon Ubsdell
tokyo-uk.com


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Jeremy Garchow
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 23, 2015 at 11:59:05 pm

Again, I think we need to start comparing apples to apples.

You're comparing GOATs with average and citing a lack of ambition?


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Herb Sevush
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 24, 2015 at 2:45:20 am

[Jeremy Garchow] "You're comparing GOATs with average and citing a lack of ambition?"

It's an old man's privilege to decry the modern, especially when he's right. If you want an example of a not so great you should look at "Unbreakable" by M. Night Shyamalan, definitely not a GOAT. The first half of the movie is composed almost entirely of beautifully staged one shot scenes. But that was so 2000.

Herb Sevush
Zebra Productions
---------------------------
nothin' attached to nothin'
"Deciding the spine is the process of editing" F. Bieberkopf


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Jeremy Garchow
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 24, 2015 at 4:06:18 am

[Herb Sevush] "It's an old man's privilege to decry the modern, especially when he's right. If you want an example of a not so great you should look at "Unbreakable" by M. Night Shyamalan, definitely not a GOAT. The first half of the movie is composed almost entirely of beautifully staged one shot scenes. But that was so 2000."

M. Night had potential for a while though, didn't he?

I understand the, how shall I say, 'the privilege of the old man's decree', and I too think that there's bad movies out today, and that technology can force certain indecisions in the name of more decisions, but surely there has to be at least a few movies from the last few years that are ambitious (good?) even though they aren't Kurosawa?

Inversely, there had to have been some really sh*tty movies in the 40s, 50s, and 60s?

Less cuts doesn't mean better?


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Herb Sevush
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 24, 2015 at 12:21:45 pm

[Jeremy Garchow] " but surely there has to be at least a few movies from the last few years that are ambitious (good?) even though they aren't Kurosawa?"

Yes, but they are almost always low budget indie films. Beasts of the Southern Wild was a fantastic film. The World's End is my other favorite film of the last few years. Neither would ever be made at a big studio nowadays.

[Jeremy Garchow] " there had to have been some really sh*tty movies in the 40s, 50s, and 60s?"

Sturgeon's Law stipulates that 90% of everything is shit and since movie production was at it's height in those years it's safe to say that more bad movies were made then than at any other time. More good movies as well. And the good movies were often popular and big budgeted items, something that is not true today. Vertigo, which today would have been released by Sony Classics and at a budget pretty close to what it cost to produce in the 50's, was a big hit with a major movie star - go figure.

[Jeremy Garchow] "Less cuts doesn't mean better?"

Absolutely not. The cut is what distinguishes movies as an art form - it creates time, it creates space, it creates meaning. It is to movies what silence is to music - and it needs to be employed with the care and consideration of it's status.

Herb Sevush
Zebra Productions
---------------------------
nothin' attached to nothin'
"Deciding the spine is the process of editing" F. Bieberkopf


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Jeremy Garchow
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 25, 2015 at 9:52:03 pm
Last Edited By Jeremy Garchow on Mar 25, 2015 at 10:47:06 pm

[Herb Sevush] "Yes, but they are almost always low budget indie films. Beasts of the Southern Wild was a fantastic film. The World's End is my other favorite film of the last few years. Neither would ever be made at a big studio nowadays.
"


Herb-

First, I missed both of those movies, and second, thanks so much for clarifying your position. I do agree with your sentiments. Personally, I am at an odd time in my life with movies. Most of it has to do with not having enough time to go to the theater since I have a little one, so the movies I do watch are for the most part, used for a bit of escapism. My little guy is a constant grounding force, I'm sure you know the feeling. He is the closest thing to the greater notion of 'life' than I have ever experienced. It is absolutely awesome.

Which means movies have to sometimes be a throw away. A relatively quick moment in time that literally lifts me off of the ground, and takes me away for a little while. Movies I would have scoffed at a few years ago, I now look at and say my self that I had a pretty good time. I am not ashamed to admit it, but I liked Michael Bay's Pain and Gain. Yep, it's like that.

I think that some of the big budget modern movies are handling escapism in spades. I really enjoyed The Edge of Tomorrow. From a writing, therefore directing, therefore acting, therefore editing standpoint, that movie could have been handled nearly a million different ways. I thought the movie that was delivered was a great way to handle all of the possible combinations, and the performances were pretty damn decent. Most of all, the timing of the editing was spot on, and I enjoyed it a lot, and the theme definitely took cues from video games. I'm also a fan of dry humor. It was also a big budget movie released by a big studio. I heard Tom Cruise talk about it on a podcast, and he was commenting about how you basically have a weekend, maybe two, to really recoup your costs on these big budget features. That is an immense amount of risk for a studio to take on, and I think probably relates to yours and Simon's greater points of view. The financial risks are so big, that it's harder to take riskier choices in blocking/directing/whatever you want to assign it to.

Another modern movie that I enjoyed very much was End of Watch, which was an indie-ish flick. I think it did a great job of capturing observed vantage points of modern technology. Everything from surveillance camera, helicopter/drone views (that also tie in to more of a video game style), video chat, to very wide and very close angles (think GoPro) and combining all of the footage in to a commentary on modern policing, as well as a dramatized effect of drug enforcement/war on drugs. It's a modern movie with modern sensibilities and really good performances, and I think, represents a very contemporary point of view of how people see the world and how the world sees it's people. It also took cues from video games.

And perhaps Simon is right. Perhaps there isn't enough ambition, or perhaps there's no enough Kurosawa background rain in movies these days, but I don't think all is lost. There's some highly thoughtful and entertaining film making happening, even in the modern day.

What I have never liked, even though I like the show, is the editing on Mad Men. The two character office dialogue always feel weird to me, like the reaction shots happen just a few beats too late, and sometimes the reaction shots are voiceless and not very well acted. This happens over and over, so it must be some sort of directorial device. It doesn't stop me from watching and liking the show, though.


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Simon Ubsdell
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 24, 2015 at 3:07:01 pm

[Jeremy Garchow] "surely there has to be at least a few movies from the last few years that are ambitious (good?) even though they aren't Kurosawa?"

Hi Jeremy,

Although I was doing my grumpy old man act, I wasn't really railing at the degeneracy of contemporary movies!

You don't have to look as far back as Kurosawa to see what I'm talking about being done well - Mathieu (above) rightly pointed out that Spielberg (who is still making movies although with grey hair now, but they're still super-commercial rather than arthouse) is a master of a shooting style that eschews cutting.

Somehow this has become a discussion about counting cuts, which although I brought it up, wasn't really the crux of my argument. I have to declare that I love cutting - how could I not, having spent most of my working life as trailer editor!? - and most of all I love adventurous, surprising cutting. Seeing a Godard movie for the first time was one of the most exciting things I can remember - and clearly Steven Soderbergh (and legions of others) had the same revelatory experience.

What I really don't have much time for is "functional cutting", which is the staple of most modern movies.

Really what I'm getting at very specifically is the distinctly modern, technology-driven (cameras and NLEs) trend to shoot multicam and assemble something passable in the cutting room. This technique seems to me to be the polar opposite of the kind of film-making that Spielberg embraces so fully and magnificently.

If your game plan is to shoot multicam, it's never going to involve planning the kind of developing shots that have always created the most engaging type of cinema - by the way, the camera doesn't have to move to deliver a developing shot, as you can do a lot of the same things with creative blocking, so that a close-up can become a wide or vice versa without the need for cutting.

It should be obvious that a developing shot is always going to be more immersive than the same scene covered in cuts - developing shots create a perfect identity between the camera and the viewer (as Tony mentions in another post in relation to True Detective).

One of the things that strikes me as extraordinary is how pedestrian and clunky even something as basic as a two character dialogue scene has become - virtually all we ever see is shot-reverse shot accompanied by a 2-shot that is a flat-on side angle. There are of course a multitude of interesting and far more dynamic ways of blocking this kind of scene - they're in the textbooks, for goodness sake! But we almost never see them anymore. (Compare the amazing dynamism and economy of the lift scene from Minority Report in Tony Zhou's Spielberg piece.)

And the reason is I think in very large part down to the tyrannous domination of multicam. Multicam makes very scene from every movie slot into a rigid and tired formula.

The irony of course is that multicam is meant to generate more coverage more quickly, but in reality a well-planned developing master is far quicker to execute on the day. Directors like Spielberg who use this latter technique tend to wrap their movies a lot faster than the other guys.

Yes, really complex, bravura "long takes" require a ridiculous amount of set-up time, although they still manage to deliver a lot of screen time for a lot less shooting time. But "long takes" have become a degraded currency and they are isolated set pieces in movies that are largely shot just like old-fashioned vision-mixed TV.

There is a lot of difference between the exhibitionist "long take" (you have to blame Touch of Evil for this enduring directorial fad!), and the functionally economical developing take which dramatically reduces both set-up and shooting time.

So the enemy for me is not faster cutting - it's multicam and the NLE technology that makes multicam editing so much easier than it's ever been before.

I should end by saying that there's nothing more exciting for me in the right context than fast editing that generates a sense of visceral excitement - - but that's really not what I'm talking about here.

Simon Ubsdell
tokyo-uk.com


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Simon Ubsdell
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 24, 2015 at 9:06:01 pm

The other point I mean to add to this Jeremiad against multicam is that it makes for compromised camera positions - as is only too obvious if you think about it.

One of the main results of this is that you can often get really poor eyelines ... I know very few people seem to care about that stuff anymore but it bugs the heck out of me when I see it.

Simon Ubsdell
tokyo-uk.com


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Steve Connor
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 24, 2015 at 9:25:42 pm

I'm not saying that this is the wrong place to have this discussion but it would be a great thread to have over on "the Art of The Edit" forum. Tim?


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Simon Ubsdell
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 25, 2015 at 2:46:04 pm

[Steve Connor] "I'm not saying that this is the wrong place to have this discussion but it would be a great thread to have over on "the Art of The Edit" forum. Tim?"

No, but it does belong here - what I'm saying is that I'll be turning my back on all this NLE nonsense and going back to my Steenbeck.

http://www.tvtechnology.com/Portals/4/james4_022112.jpg

So it's very much on topic.

;-)

Simon Ubsdell
tokyo-uk.com


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Jeff Markgraf
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 24, 2015 at 10:21:14 pm

Simon -

I agree with most of your points. One question, though.

If I understand correctly, you believe multicam shooting and NLEs are the major factors contributing to the loss (for want of a better word) of good staging and composition, ala Spielberg, et al. I wonder if the rise of multicam and the modern style of over-cutting are the symptoms, rather than the cause. Perhaps TV and lower-budget, faster-turnaround movies have created more pressure to save time and money, resulting in more frequent (and unnecessary) use of multiple cameras. Certainly the time pressures inherent in series television tend to steer a director away form inventive staging and into basic coverage. Add into this the seemingly unstoppable devaluing of history and craft (in all disciplines), and you have the current state of most cinema and virtually all television.

Thoughts?


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Simon Ubsdell
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 25, 2015 at 2:06:03 pm

Yes, I'd agree that budgets are likely to be a contributing factor to the change in style (although I'd dispute that TV is always responsible for lowering standards, especially when the best TV shows now exhibit cinematic qualities of direction well in excess of many theatrical movies).

The irony though, as I've already suggested, is that well-thought out classical staging, blocking and camera movement can, when used correctly, dramatically reduce the time it takes to shoot an equivalent number of pages when compared to techniques that rely heavily on coverage.

And of course it also means less time in the cutting room because you've already made many of the choices in camera.

Not always but sometimes ...

So maybe the real decline is in directorial technique?

Simon Ubsdell
tokyo-uk.com


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Herb Sevush
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 25, 2015 at 2:55:27 pm

[Simon Ubsdell] "So maybe the real decline is in directorial technique?"

Yes.

Herb Sevush
Zebra Productions
---------------------------
nothin' attached to nothin'
"Deciding the spine is the process of editing" F. Bieberkopf


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Jeff Markgraf
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 25, 2015 at 5:40:40 pm

Lowering of directorial standards. Yes.
Lowering of editorial standards. Yes
Lowering of cinematography standards. Yes.

To be fair, as Jeremy has pointed out, quite a few truly awful movies were made in the "Golden Age" of Hollywood. So this isn't really a new thing.

Regarding TV:

I don't think TV is responsible for the lowering of standards. Instead, by virtue of it's sheer volume, it reflects and magnifies trends. TV has time and budget pressures far in excess of most movies. So any way to cut time/cost becomes the norm. And with several generations being raised on TV, they naturally bring their background with them onto the set and into the edit bay.

Another thing to keep in mind with TV is the extent to which producers run the show. TV directors really can't be compared to film directors, even those working on non-network shows. Case study: Newsroom, Aaron Sorkin's show for HBO. Even with a name creator/writer/producer, the network suits manage to exert their influence. Examples: "not enough cuts - add more" was an actual note. The show even added "shaky cam" effects in post production to the material already shot on a tripod or with a Steadicam. Can't blame the directors or the editors. Blame some nameless MBA executive who thinks he's qualified to tell the creatives what to do.

This, in a nutshell, is American television. That anything interesting gets on the air is amazing.


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Jeremy Garchow
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 25, 2015 at 10:33:39 pm

[Simon Ubsdell] "So the enemy for me is not faster cutting - it's multicam and the NLE technology that makes multicam editing so much easier than it's ever been before."

I see what you're saying now, and yes, perhaps you're right. Thanks for making that more clear.

It is easier than ever to stick more cameras everywhere, and they don't even necessarily need a crew of people to operate the one camera. A very small crew of people can operate a larger number of cameras. Also, the cost has come down as you don't have film tools to shoot, develop, and transfer.

And I also agree with you about the 2 shot conversation, I just noted that in my last post! :) This is definitely an art that sometimes gets forgotten.

There's a scene, in Hitchcock's North by Northwest which, for me, really highlights the art of conversation. I remember watching this scene before I really started editing, and was stuck by the number of camera positions in this one conversation that involves mostly three people (with appearances from a few more) and how much the different characters move around the room (and switch their position, therefore their posture), and how natural it all feels.







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Claude Lyneis
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 27, 2015 at 12:48:40 am

From what I know of Hitchcock. He had his scenes very carefully laid out and story-boarded with each shot included and then shot them exactly that way. At least from an example of the Birds, that is how it went. Not a lot of room for editing and extra cuts.

I hate the Bourne movies with shaking camera and super fast cuts to simulate drama in the fight scenes.

Great discussion above.


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tony west
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 24, 2015 at 2:50:10 pm

Thanks for posting this amazing scene Herb.

I had never seen it.


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tony west
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 24, 2015 at 2:17:43 pm

[Simon Ubsdell] "But this has nothing really to do with changing tastes - it has to do with market forces, lack of ambition, enslavement to technology and a host of other tiresome factors."


I agree here Simon.

Getting back to that True Detective scene we liked so much. I remember after watching it I felt blown away, like I had been physically pulled into the scene. It took me a minute to figure out why.

I think it was so real because if you had been actually there that is how your eye would have scene what was happening. We don't see in cuts in real life, we see continuously. So when I saw that scene it felt like I was in it. Because if I were, I would see it just like that.

When he comes into the house and looks out the window to see the guys standing there looking back at him. They could have cut to an outside shot but it was way more effective looking over his shoulder and through the window at them.


It takes so much time to plan something like that out and execute it. Time is money.


Compare Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to Kill Bill

Yeoh and Ziyi were very skilled and Lee could stay on wide shots longer to show the beauty of their talent, as opposed to Lucy Lue who was was not skilled or athletic. They had to cut around those women in KB to make it work. They wanted those Hollywood ladies so they had to make it work.

I much preferred Tiger : )


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Herb Sevush
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 24, 2015 at 2:36:57 pm

[tony west] "We don't see in cuts in real life, we see continuously."

While I like long continuous takes where appropriate, I have to disagree with this statement. I'm not arguing that the scene you talked about in TD wasn't fabulous, I just don't think it was fabulous because it more closely resembled "real life."

Look straight ahead at something for a few seconds, now turn your head and look to the left - you've just made a cut. Unless your consciously trying to notice it your mind eliminates the whip pan. The brain throws out all sorts of unimportant material in our daily lives and while we live moment to moment the information between the moments is often discarded. In a well edited scene that is aiming for a feeling of continuous time the audience is totally unaware of the cuts precisely because this kind of continuity is so similar to real life.

Long continuous moving takes build tension because your vision is restricted to a singular point of view - the audience becomes more present in the scene as they identify with the camera's point of view and they become unnerved by what they are not seeing all around them. This is not particularly true of real life because you control where you want to look - when watching a long take you are prisoner to the camera's point of view and the longer this lasts the more the tension can build when used for that purpose.

Herb Sevush
Zebra Productions
---------------------------
nothin' attached to nothin'
"Deciding the spine is the process of editing" F. Bieberkopf


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Shawn Miller
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 24, 2015 at 5:04:28 pm

[tony west] "Yeoh and Ziyi were very skilled and Lee could stay on wide shots longer to show the beauty of their talent, as opposed to Lucy Lue who was was not skilled or athletic."

I think that had more to do with choreography and how Kill Bill was shot than Lucy Liu's talent. Look at her work in Ecks vs. Sever (terrible movie BTW) and Shanghai Noon (still not good). I think she was every bit as skilled as Ziyi Zhang, and definitely more so than Chow Yun Fat (who I really respect as an actor). But I think that goes to your overall point. Camera work, staging and editing can make a world of difference given similar material.

Shawn



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tony west
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 24, 2015 at 5:19:07 pm

[Shawn Miller] "I think that had more to do with choreography and how Kill Bill was shot than Lucy Liu's talent."

I guess it's hard to know right Shawn, because we didn't see her talent.

You would think if she had some they would have used it.

That final fight scene in KB was very weak compared to Tiger

If I get some time later I will post both side by side


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Shawn Miller
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 24, 2015 at 6:36:28 pm
Last Edited By Shawn Miller on Mar 24, 2015 at 6:44:25 pm

[tony west] "[Shawn Miller] "I think that had more to do with choreography and how Kill Bill was shot than Lucy Liu's talent."

I guess it's hard to know right Shawn, because we didn't see her talent."


Choreography can hide a lot... even talent. Check out Jackie Chan's fight under the train in Legend of the Drunken Master. It takes an expert to pull off choreography that refined and complex. But then check out his fight scenes in The Protector... just about anyone could have done those. If you only saw JC in The Protector, you might never know how good he really was. Same with LL, not saying that she was anywhere near JC's level. But the basics are there, strength, focus, posture, refined movement.

[tony west] "You would think if she had some they would have used it."

You might be surprised. A lot of the time, directors just don't know how to get the best out of the performers they work with. Kill Bill was an interesting revenge story and a nostalgic look back at classic martial arts films... but as a martial arts movie, I don't think it was that great. I mean, you have Gordon Liu AND Sonny Chiba in the same film... but they fight Uma Thurman and Darryl Hanna? WTF?! Further, why not throw Samo Hung in the mix and let them do what they do best?

[tony west] "That final fight scene in KB was very weak compared to Tiger"

Yup, completely agree! I think it was just weak... I thought Chloë Grace Moretz was worlds more entertaining as Hit Girl in the first Kick Ass... then again, it was choreographed, shot and edited better. :-)

Shawn



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Richard Herd
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 23, 2015 at 8:45:14 pm

I will quote Rilke:

Works of art are of an infinite solitude, and no means of approach is so useless as criticism. Only love can touch and hold them and be fair to them.”


― Rainer Maria Rilke


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Winston A. Cely
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 26, 2015 at 5:42:45 pm

OK, I'm going to read all the replies eventually, but I've got a class of high school seniors working on their major senior project (shooting, editing, etc) in about 15 minutes, so forgive me if I state something that's already been said.

When it comes to editing, the only thing that matters is the story and the emotion you're trying to get. If you're a filmmaker, and you don't know your story well enough, or don't have a clear idea of what you are trying to express to your audience, those tools will at least get you something competent looking. It will, most likely, be forgotten with everything else that it looks like, but at least it won't look like a Youtube video. However, I love the idea of these tools being available to a filmmaker who know's what they want, shoots for it, but has the option later to discover something they didn't know they had on the day of the shoot. That's amazing!

I think back to a remembrance of Stanley Kubrick (I think by Spielberg) of when Kubrick was so excited that he could, through the use of technology, cut bits and pieces of dialogue together and get a performance that either better matches what he had intended, or through the wonder of experimentation, could get him something better. This is awesome!

Of course, you're going to have people out there who, for any number of reasons, are not clear on what they want. They'll use these multicam shoots and massive edits just tonsure that the story is told, let alone why it's told in that manner. But isn't that how it is with technology in general? AS new tech comes out, there is always of flood of people who get their hands on it, industry professionals cry that it's the end of their job or how their job is done, then - because that flood of people, make a flood of crap - things normalize and the true professionals and visionaries use the tools in a way that is truly magical.

Having said all of this, I have been wondering lately... Who are the new auteurs? We have a few old ones left, Scorsese, Spielberg, Allen, Coppola, and even those guys aren't necessarily producing at the level we may imagine their older works are at. But Who's the next Kubrick? Kuroaswa? Bergman? Fellini? I don't know. It's certainly hard to tell when it's hard to make a movie and get it into theaters that isn't about a superhero...

As an high school instructor, trying to get my students the tools to work in our field, I try to hammer it home: story, story, story.
Me - "Whatever you want to do, does it make sense in the context of your story?"
Them - "I don't know..."
Me - "Don't you think you should?
Them - "Um, OK."
Me - "You have to know your story and your emotion for every frame of your movie before you shoot. I don't care where you put the camera, I don't care where you edit as long as you did it for a specific reason. That's what counts. You made the image, the edit, the complete production a certain way because of specific intent that helps communicate your story to the audience; not just because it was easy."

Winston A. Cely
Editor/Owner | Della St. Media, LLC

17" MacBook Pro | 2.3 GHz Intel Core i7
4 GB RAM | Final Cut Studio 3 | FCPX | Motion 5 | Compressor 4

"If you can talk brilliantly enough about a subject, you can create the consoling illusion it has been mastered." - Stanley Kubrick


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Winston A. Cely
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 26, 2015 at 7:25:35 pm

I can't believe I forgot the Coen Brothers, who edit all their own movies. My hero's on writing, directing, and editing.

Winston A. Cely
Editor/Owner | Della St. Media, LLC

17" MacBook Pro | 2.3 GHz Intel Core i7
4 GB RAM | Final Cut Studio 3 | FCPX | Motion 5 | Compressor 4

"If you can talk brilliantly enough about a subject, you can create the consoling illusion it has been mastered." - Stanley Kubrick


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Tim Wilson
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 29, 2015 at 6:51:03 am
Last Edited By Tim Wilson on Mar 29, 2015 at 4:59:22 pm

I'm eventually going to have to go back up the thread to reply to many of the GREAT points up there, but for now, I have a couple of observations.

First, I think Simon is absolutely correct. The ease of nonlinear editing enables laziness of a sort that was previously impossible. I also agree that lazy editing enables lazy filmmaking. "Fix it in post" is no longer seen by producers as the solution to a problem. You've all seen it yourselves. For post wizards like you, again and again, the attitude of "Fix it in post" is the PROBLEM.

Fortunately most of you are more than up to the task. But I think among our arguments about the monkey work of pushing buttons, it's worth talking about the toll our wonderful, amazing tools have taken on the classic cinematic arts, regardless of the time in which they're being practiced.

To me, the watchword of cinematic anything -- features, TV, videos, trailers, spots -- is "INTENT." Storyboarding isn't where preparation for the implementation of cinematic intent begins. It's where it ENDS. The vision expressed in cinematic intent starts long before that.

The details of the first creative spark are beyond the scope of a post even as ridiculously long as this one, but again, I think Simon is right. A discussion about cinematic editing presupposes some things about "cinematic cinematography" if you will, which extend backwards through lighting to staging. That's where I think the visual aspect of cinematic intent begins.

To make my first invocation of film theory, the basic building block of cinematic intent isn't "the shot." It's the FRAME. That's what was so powerful about filmmakers like Fritz Lang, and cinematographers like Gregg Toland. Every single frame of their films could have been used as a publicity photo, because every frame was composed as a FRAME.

Which is to say, we can skip over the whole depth of field argument. We can skip grain, spherical lenses, the flicker of the shutter in the projector. Go straight to INTENT. An example of what happens when everything is composed INTENTIONALLY is that the actor has to hit every mark, or there's nothing to fix in post. There's no frame.

Look at something like Birdman. It looks loosey goosey, and there appears to be a lot of improvised camera movement. But I think that the movement had much narrower parameters than there appeared to be. You can only create an illusion if you control every element. Otherwise, you can see the cards up the sleeve, the knotted hankies in the pocket, the rabbit in the hat.

We know that the ILLUSION of Birdman was REALIZED in post, but it wasn't FIXED in post. Things had to happen on the set and on the street in a predictable fashion.

At least that's my guess. LOL Fortunately, I'm right about the rest. LOL Think about what's required for a tracking shot like the one in Children of Men -- far more moving pieces than in the also-marvelous tracking shots in Goodfellas and The Player, although for any of them, it's almost impossible to conceive how many things needed to happen at exactly the right time, in exactly the right way.

To that end, I don't know how deeply the laziness in shooting and editing is rooted in multicam per se but, again, I think Simon is absolutely correct that aspects of modern tools enable new kinds of laziness.

That is, there's a fine line between "flexible" and "wobbly."


[Winston A. Cely] " Who are the new auteurs? We have a few old ones left, Scorsese, Spielberg, Allen, Coppola, and even those guys aren't necessarily producing at the level we may imagine their older works are at. But Who's the next Kubrick? Kuroaswa? Bergman? Fellini? "

I don't know about all these guys. I wasn't a fan of Kubrick, Fellini gave me a headache, I have LESS than no use for Woody, etc. Not that I'd want to persuade anyone else about any of that, or argue that any of them weren't auteurs (of course they are) but my point in mentioning some of the auteurs today is that I don't think that any of the masters you mention would acknowledge a conflict between "movies" and "films."

Okay, maybe Bergman would. LOL



Here's my short list of guys working today who deserve to be considered somewhere in that general group.


Wes Anderson. Has there ever been a filmmaker for whom you can more definitively look at a single frame and say, "It HAS to be his. It can't be anyone else." I personally don't think so. And of course, hyper-literate scripts, fantastic art design, and stylized editing to match.


Alejandro Iñárritu. It happens that a lot of his best work is in Spanish, but still.


Not to put the Mexican guys in a clump, but Alfonso Cuarón is amazing. I haaaaaaaated Gravity, omg, I hated it so much, but Children of Men features not only one of the best handfuls of tracking shots in movie history, but it's a work of art from stem to stern. Don't you DARE leave off Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban from his list of marvels, another bravura piece of filmmaking from a modern master.


I swear I'm not meaning to do this on purpose, but gol dang, I'm insane for Spain's Pedro Almodóvar, who I think of as today's Fellini, minus the headache. LOL Fully embraces absurdity, art, and populism.


Christopher Nolan. I don't care for his Batman pictures AT ALL, but Memento, The Prestige, Inception, Interstellar? Wow. Not all of them are 100% winners, but wow.


Steven Soderbergh. He uses assumed names for shooting and editing, but he does in fact shoot and edit. Even if his career stopped with Sex Lies & Videotape, Kafka, Out of Sight (I really love this), The Limey, Traffic, Erin Brokovich, and Oceans 11, that's straight-up legit.


Richard Linklater. He's another who could have ended with Slacker, Dazed and Confused, and Before Sunrise, and he'd make my cut. A very distinctive voice. Add a couple of others from his filmography like Waking Life, School of Rock, Bernie (what? You didn't see this? DO!) and Boyhood, and you're in pretty rarified air.


Neill Blomkamp. It's too easy to dismiss genre guys, but District 9, Elysium and the not-great but undeniably HIS Chappie reveal the firm hand of a man with a vision. Very unusual for a guy to put this strong a stamp on his work this early in his career...unless it's Anderson, Linklater, Soderbergh, Tarantino....never mind. LOL BUT STILL.


An older guy of course, but I don't think James Cameron gets enough credit. Terminator, The Abyss, Aliens, Titanic, that blue cartoony kind of thing -- what was the name of that again? In any case, as strong an imprint as any director has made, ever, and he wrote them as well as directed them. A deep visual palette for sure, and superlatively edited.


It astounds me that Spike Lee isn't mentioned more often on a list of modern auteurs. It's also amazing to me that the guy can do Oscar-nominated work, and still has to go to Kickstarter to raise money for his pictures.

Here's 8 movies in 8 years:
  • She's Gotta Have It
  • School Daze
  • Do the Right Thing (if I was teaching a film criticism class, I think this would my third movie on the syllabus)
  • Mo' Better Blues
  • Jungle Fever
  • Malcolm X
  • Crooklyn
  • Clockers


I don't think any other director on this list made 8 movies in a row this good.

Then later of course He Got Game, Summer of Sam, Get On the Bus, 4 Little Girls, When The Levee Broke, and the sorely underrated (imo) Inside Man.

I included a couple of documentaries for Spike, because I think his authorial stamp on them is clear. But let's add


Errol Morris. He won an Oscar for The Fog of War of course, which falls in line with a couple of others of his in particular, notably The Thin Blue Line, Standard Operating Procedure, and The Unknown Known -- but within his work, you can also group Vernon Florida, Gates of Heaven, Fast Cheap & Out of Control, Tabloid, and, honestly, A Brief History of Time.

Those are staggering feats of editing. They're also staggering feats of connection to his subjects, without parallel in the history of film, I think.


And of course, if we're talking about an auteur documentarian, we might as well count the dude who's got an editing technique named after himself, Ken Burns. He really did rewrite the rules of Looooooong forum documentary, including the use of voiceover for primary sources, and I think at least as much, music. Watch what he does in 9 hours of his baseball documentary series with ONE SONG. ("Take Me Out To The Ballgame.")

But he really is kind of sui generis, yes? How long does it take to peg a work as undeniably Ken Burns? Surely not 90 seconds? Maybe 60 seconds? 30?


Does Quentin Tarantino qualify as an auteur? Me, I think so, but it's getting hard to remember. Make some more movies, son!


And of course, Tyler Perry's auteur-dom extends from film into television. His shows on Oprah's network get higher ratings than Oprah does.

(You know what? I really like the guy as an actor too. I'm sorry his Alex Cross picture tanked, but it's a genuine mystery to me how nobody has taken someone with this amount of charisma, intelligence, and yes, I'll say it, good looks, and found something better to do with him than put him in a dress. God bless him for blasting his way into opportunities though. More power to him.)


Before I go further into television, though, lemme make a quick observation. Nolan is 44, Perry and Anderson are 45. Blomkamp is 35. Besides Cameron, Burns, Almodóvar and Morris in their 60s, the rest are in their 50s. Yes, Quentin Tarantino is in his 50s. Spike turned 58 last week.


What I don't see today is the guys who are as bold in their 20s as THESE guys were in THEIR 20s....but, apart from that, I honestly do think that the health of auteur-dom is as sound today as ever.


TELEVISION
I agree with what other folks have said, that a lot of the most intent-laden, cinematic work is being done on television, where you can again point to some real auteurs... although, interestingly to me, they are typically more often writer-producers than directors.

This is not unlike traditional Nashville, where writer-producers have historically held much more sway than singer-songwriters. Willie Nelson had to leave Nashville to become a singer-songwriter-PERFORMER.

But the whole French critical movement to define "auteur" was to ask, who is the "author" of the film? The French are the ones who turned their focus to the director, but when it comes to TV, can we concede that among the "authors" of a TV series is...the AUTHOR?


Let's start with Vince Gilligan, who's also supremely interested in LOOKS, both as a writer and director, but before Breaking Bad and calling Saul, I think you have to start with the 49 episodes he wrote on The X-Files, plus the two he directed....plus the six episodes he wrote of The Lone Gunmen. You KNOW which episodes are his when you see them. One of you has surely built a playlist with them at Neflix or IMDb.

(If not, then get to work, you lazy bastards.)


David Simon: Homicide Life on the Street, The Corner, The Wire, Treme. Wow.


Bryan Fuller. I don't think he gets nearly the credit he deserves, because his work is so quirky. Wonderfalls, Dead Like Me, Pushing Daisies, Hannibal - complete auteur-ishness.


Shonda Rimes. Full stop.


Joss Whedon, whose TV auteur-dom of course extends forward into films. (He's actually a 3rd-generation TV writer. His grandfather wrote for Donna Reed; his father for Electric Company and Golden Girls.)

I pity anyone who dismissed Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel as genre shows for teens. Fortunately, this is easily remedied through a number of streaming resources. Firefly, leading to Serenity, 'nuff said.

It was especially interesting to see him put his stamp on Much Ado About Nothing. It was 100% unaltered Shakespeare, while undeniably being a Joss Whedon picture. And he was the best part of The Avengers, imo.


Add JJ Abrams to my list of guys I don't think get enough credit. It's hard to imagine three shows more different, yet more genetically related, than Felicity, Alias, and Lost (he only did the first season, but still). He certainly put his auteur-y stamp on Fringe as well.

I also really enjoyed Cloverfield and the first Star Trek reboot...and talk about an auteur's stamp! He probably single-handedly forced ARRI to develop spherical lenses for Alexa.

And no kidding, if there was a better movie in 1994 than the first 2 hours of Lost, I sure don't remember what it was.


To bring this back around to the actual topic of EDITING WITH INTENT, I submit to you all the ne plus ultra of auteurs working today: DAVID FINCHER, Y'ALL.

(Also in his 50s, btw.)

(Like me, btw.)

(Yes, I'm exactly like David Fincher.)

Several things strike me about him, particularly with respect to editing.

First, he was the first director I'm aware of who has heavily relied on reframing in post as an additional vector for directorial intent. He's done this from the days of shooting Girl With The Dragon Tatoo in 4K, and then Gone Girl in 6K. (I think that was his first 6K, but my point is the same.)

Not that he tells his DPs to shoot any old thing. But that as his story emerges, he can use reframing, or even movement within the frame, as part of EDITING WITH INTENT, to enhance storytelling that's still evolving organically in post.

I don't need to mention his movies by name, do I? My personal favorite is Fight Club, by a country mile, but really, take your pick. Don't forget Alien3 or House of Cards.

What strikes me even more is the extent to which he places every kind of editing at his disposal, for every kind of work.

What's the most frequently annoying, haphazard, seizure-inducing, pile of poo medium ever created? The one that's most responsible for the rotting of the hearts and minds of America's youth, indeed, destroying the moral fabric of American society?

Music videos.

Oh yeah, and responsible for killing rock and roll.

But music videos.

Fincher did "only" 60 of them, and they were all really good. Half of them are outstanding. A handful of them are not only among the best videos ever, but the most visually compelling short films of all time.


There's Aerosmith, Janie's Got A Gun, featuring a stunning turn by Leslie Anne Warren, realizing the truth about her daughter's nightmare. CLASSIC Fincher, and one of his earliest runs at getting a strong performance from an ACTRESS, who's there strictly to act, and not at all part of the musical proceedings.

This is a stunner. I definitely dropped what I was doing whenever it came on.





Don Henley, "The End of The Innocence." Not a "story" video, but beautiful imagery. What blows me away about this one is the absolutely gorgeous camera movement working together with the editing. Classic, classic Fincher, and a stellar example of CINEMATIC INTENT.




Bourgeois Tagg, "I Don't Mind At All." I absolutely adore this. Not one of his most famous videos, but one of the most beautiful. Gleaming classical musical elements via Todd Rundgren (for the record: Todd iz Godd), very clever use of mirrors and panes of glass in motion by Fincher, lit like a dream.

Absolutely gorgeous grown-up pop music, too. Wonderful, wonderful stuff, in every way. As much as you'll be glad you watched this, you'll be glad you heard it.




Say, remember when Paula Abdul was one of the biggest pop stars in the world? Not that she didn't have the goods for a while there, but four videos by Fincher played a HUGE role. "It's Just The Way That You Love Me," "Straight Up," "Cold Hearted Snake," and this one, "Forever Your Girl." I like it a lot, but it's also highly unlikely (what? CHILDREN? SMILING?), and it's really witty. Still looks like Fincher.






To me, Fincher's true muse was Madonna, for whom he made what I think are three of the greatest music videos ever. I'd put all three in my top 5, for sure.

Madonna, "Oh Father." Almost never gets talked about as one of her songwriting pinnacles, and perhaps her most emotional performance -- a powerful story built around the death of her mother when Madonna was 5. The story is how Madonna's father shattered with his wife's passing at age 30 -- Madonna's age when she did this video -- and the price his daughter paid for his pain. She's not ready to empathize with him yet, but can finally imagine a day when she might. Strong stuff, to say the least.

Some of the most powerful images -- notably, her mother in state with her lips sewn shut -- come directly from Madonna's memories, but a stunning (very) short from Fincher at his very, very, VERY best.

Opening reference to Citizen Kane, too, except instead of his mother signing young Kane away as we watch him playing in the snow through the lower pane of a window, we see young Madonna playing in the snow, through the lower pane of a window, as the sheet is pulled over her mother's face.

No kidding, this is Maximum Fincher, and an absolutely devastating song.





Some days that you'd ask me, that's my favorite video of all time, by any artist. Other days, it's this one, Madonna, "Express Yourself." Some VERY playful references to Fritz Lang's Metropolis.

Wait, there's a black cat and a girl pouring the cat's bowl of milk onto a shirtless dude's face in Metropolis, right?

In any case, THIS was the video that turned me into a David Fincher fan back in 1990. After this, I worked my way back through his filmography, so to speak, which I have to tell you, in the days before the internet, was really, really hard.

After this, watching every single thing David Fincher did became a compulsion. FANTASTIC work.

"Come on girls, do you believe in love?"




There are a million lists of David Fincher's best videos floating around the interwebs, because this is always a conversation worth having. I can't overemphasize the extent to which these videos made me fall in love with David Fincher for life.

I fell in love with everything about him, including his adorable goatee.

I have to say two things about this final video, which is the one that most often tops the aforementioned lists of David Fincher videos.

First, you only THINK you remember how stunning this is. I'm not kidding, it's the cinematic equal of anything Fincher has done since, and an absolute gamechanger for popular music.

The second thing I have to say: "Strike a pose."




I have so, so much else to say on the topics of auteurs and CINEMATIC INTENT, including its expression through editing, but this is probably enough for the next year. It might take you until next year to finish reading it.

Even if you have no interest in watching the videos, at least watch the first 10 or 15 seconds of each. I think you'll be hooked, but I think you'll also be impressed with the power of editing, cinematography, direction, and, above all, CINEMATIC INTENT in an under-discussed corner of David Fincher's world.


PS. I adore the word PHILIPPIC. The best thing about this thread besides David Fincher's goatee.



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Simon Ubsdell
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 29, 2015 at 1:20:33 pm

Fantastic post/article - I've got a lot of viewing to catch up on now!

Simon Ubsdell
tokyo-uk.com


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Jeremy Garchow
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 29, 2015 at 2:29:05 pm
Last Edited By Jeremy Garchow on Mar 29, 2015 at 3:29:04 pm

This is like, the post to end all posts. We can zip up Creative Cow and leave this post on the outside of the duffel bag for everyone to read and discover.

[Tim Wilson] "It astounds me that Spike Lee isn't mentioned more often on a list of modern auteurs. It's also amazing to me that the guy can do Oscar-nominated work, and still has to go to Kickstarter to raise money for his pictures.

Here's 8 movies in 8 years:
She's Gotta Have It
School Daze
Do the Right Thing (if I was teaching a film criticism class, I think this would my third movie on the syllabus)
Mo' Better Blues
Jungle Fever
Malcolm X
Crooklyn
Clockers


I don't think any other director on this list made 8 movies in a row this good.

Then later of course He Got Game, Summer of Sam, Get On the Bus, 4 Little Girls, When The Levee Broke, and the sorely underrated (imo) Inside Man."


I have always wanted to be a fly on the editing room wall of a Spike Lee Joint, with Spike and Barry Brown at the helm. I just want to hear those conversations.

Totally agree about Inside Man. I enjoy Spike a lot.

But you also skipped two of my favorites: 25th Hour and Miracle at St. Anna. In 25th Hour, Mr Lee's post 9/11 homage to New York and the people of New York, is nothing short of masterful.

And Miracle at Saint Anna presents a point of view that many filmmakers, historians, and cultures simply ignore, don't understand, or perhaps don't want to tell. That movie was absolutely slammed by critics. A shame. I find it to be a great piece of historical fiction.

I also really liked his take on OldBoy. I understand that's controversial, but I found it to be full of pretty good performances.

Anyway, great post Tim. We could sit here and talk about this post and everything in it for the rest of 2015.


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Tim Wilson
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 29, 2015 at 4:41:59 pm

Thanks for the kind words, fellas!

[Jeremy Garchow] "But you also skipped two of my favorites: 25th Hour and Miracle at St. Anna. "

Holy COW! I missed both of those! Thanks! It's a measure of how deep his filmography is that I can be a fan and still let a couple slip past me. I'll definitely add 'em to the list!


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Herb Sevush
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 29, 2015 at 5:04:55 pm

Tim -

You did leave out the Cohen Brothers, not that I'm overly fond of them, but they certainly belong on this list. And if Cameron is on it than certainly Peter Jackson should be there as well - the two masters of CGI movies.

On the Indie side I would invite you to consider
Edgar Wright - Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim vs the world, Hot fuzz and The World's End
Thomas McCarthy - Station Agent, The Visitor, Win Win
Jason Reitman - Juno, Thank You for Not Smoking, Up in the Air

And for TV you somehow left out the single most prominent writer/producer of our time - Aaron Sorkin, Sports NIght (my favorite) West Wing, Newsroom - who writes every single script for every episode on all his shows as well as screenwriter - A Few Good Men, The American President, Moneyball, the Social Network - and playwright - The Farnsworth Invention. There is no more consistent voice in American pop culture.

Herb Sevush
Zebra Productions
---------------------------
nothin' attached to nothin'
"Deciding the spine is the process of editing" F. Bieberkopf


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Tim Wilson
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 29, 2015 at 6:16:51 pm

[Herb Sevush] "You did leave out the Cohen Brothers"

I did, but only because they'd already been mentioned. My post was more a "for your consideration," and not an attempt to cover everyone.

I COMPLETELY agree with you about the indie guys, though. Edgar Wright came thiiiis close to winding up in my post, and I still can't believe that anyone made three movies as distinctive as McCarthy did. They're like three hymns to character actors. Giamatti had already established himself at the top of the game, I'm a huge, huge fan of Richard Jenkins who'd done a lot of terrific "there's THAT guy" work, but Dinklage was barely on the radar before "The Station Agent."

The first time I noticed him was in "Living in Oblivion" by Tom DiCillo. He was actually my next in line, but I decided I had to stop adding to the list at SOME point. LOL This really wasn't meant as anything more than a conversation piece, but if it was an article, he would DEFINITELY have made my cut.

But McCarthy would have to be there too.

I consciously left off Jackson is that I only love three of his movies. LOL I like the first Hobbit picture too, but I don't LOVE it.) But the reason why I perhaps should have put him on is, talk about intent! The features on the extended LOTR editions are better than film school, and a lot more entertaining. The care that he took with every detail of fabrics, physical objects (like deer fur instead of feathers on arrows), and so much more -- astonishing.

But compared to Cameron, across both of their careers, not even vaguely in the same league I'm afraid.


[Herb Sevush] "And for TV you somehow left out the single most prominent writer/producer of our time - Aaron Sorkin"

You're right. A complete lapse on my part. The perfect guy to span TV and movies, and an auteur whose cinematic intent begins on the page.

In my slight defense, that post was pretty stream of consciousness. I didn't take time to think about ANY of it. Once I hit the "post direct" button, I only went back to fix punctuation.

But you're right, Sorkin deserves to be closer to the top of my head.


[Herb Sevush] "There is no more consistent voice in American pop culture.
"


The one guy I'd add as a writer, although much more limited in scope, is David Mamet.

Again off the top of my head, I'd call it exactly three guys -- Sorkin, Whedon, and Mamet, in that order -- whose LANGUAGE as writers is immediately distinctive, and who use that voice as the starting point for their authorial imperative as producers...but the gap between Sorkin and the other two is pretty wide...and I'd put Mamet higher than Whedon if he just did more stuff, in more venues.

You know who else also made my list is Michael Bay. There are a lot of reasons people don't like his stuff, but he's an auteur in spades, espeically around the idea of CINEMATIC INTENT at the intersection between shooting (hahaha! Michael Bay! Shooting!) and editing.

I also think that even people who hate his movies would love his TV show, "The Last Ship" on TNT. I loved the first season, and can't wait for it come back around this summer.

But no kidding. I wasn't "thinking" about this all. I was just riffing.

An article, or even a post, focused on answering the question of "who's an auteur," would have been considerably different.

I may have let that part of the post get away from me, but in my mind, the "auteur" part was strictly secondary to the consideration of CINEMATIC INTENT at the intersection of cinematography and editing, so I tried to focus on auteurs along those lines.

Which is why I put Wes Anderson first. I'm not especially a fan, but I can't imagine any list along these lines that he wouldn't deserve to top.

Which actually might should have dropped Linklater off the list, and maybe a couple of others. Auteurs, but the visual elements of their style aren't their long suits, which is all I meant to talk about.

If I'm being really, really honest with myself, once I started replying to Simon's observations at all, I had starting teeing up Fincher's music videos in my mind. LOL Some of the best examples of the intersection of cinematography and editing to express CINEMATIC INTENT ever made.

In fact, I've been meaning to write up a proper consideration of the filmmaking aspect of those, and not just a couple of sentence of capsule intro. I'll put it on my list of things to do again.

Frankly, should probably add a proper consideration of auteurs to the list. I love a lot of the debate about this in the critical community since the French critics introduced it, in ways much richer than I think we tend to treat the idea now.

And where else to have a proper debate than THIS forum? LOL

Again, great points, Herb.


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Herb Sevush
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 29, 2015 at 7:15:23 pm

[Tim Wilson] " "Living in Oblivion" by Tom DiCillo."

One of my favorite movies-about-making-movies; actually it would be interesting to post a list of movies-about-making-movies -- on another day.

[Tim Wilson] "I consciously left off Jackson is that I only love three of his movies."

I don't love any movies by Wes Anderson, but I recognize that he should be on this list. Speaking of which,Paul Thomas Anderson should be on this list too, and I loathe most of his movies. This list is about directors that you can care about one way or another - most film's directors are immaterial, despite the possessory credit.

[Tim Wilson] "compared to Cameron, across both of their careers, not even vaguely in the same league"

True.

[Tim Wilson] "Sorkin, Whedon, and Mamet, in that order -- whose LANGUAGE as writers is immediately distinctive, and who use that voice as the starting point for their authorial imperative as producers...but the gap between Sorkin and the other two is pretty wide...and I'd put Mamet higher than Whedon if he just did more stuff, in more venues."

"Isn't it just like a dago to bring a knife to a gunfight."
Most people would put Mamet way ahead of the other two - even if you don't consider his theatrical work. Though an excellent screenwriter Mamet is a pretty bad film director - I think "State and Main" is his best film work as director and could be included in that list of films-about-making-films I mentioned earlier. He wrote a book "On Directing Film" that is not very insightful about directing but rather a great book on screenwriting. He has another book, "Three Uses of the Knife," which is the most interesting book on dramatic structure I've ever come across - I can no longer talk about the act of writing without paraphrasing it.

While I like Whedon - loved Serenity and Firefly - I don't put him that high up the ladder.

[Tim Wilson] "I may have let that part of the post get away from me, but in my mind, the "auteur" part was strictly secondary to the consideration of CINEMATIC INTENT at the intersection of cinematography and editing,"

Intent is not confined to art direction. John Cassavete's movies looked awful, sounded worse, and had no narrative flow whatsoever, yet were marked by a fierce directorial point of view and intent.

Herb Sevush
Zebra Productions
---------------------------
nothin' attached to nothin'
"Deciding the spine is the process of editing" F. Bieberkopf


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Tim Wilson
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 29, 2015 at 9:17:30 pm

[James Culbertson] "The ultimate master of the frame was Andrei Tarkovsky."

Absolutely agreed. The Russians got an awful lot of things right. They believed there was a political imperative to get everything right, to which *I* would add that's a moral and spiritual imperative...even if they wouldn't.

I'd include a number of cinematographers who've mastered the frame, too. Toland is at the top of my list (Welles shared a credits card with him on Kane, something I don't think is even allowed anymore), but I'm crazy for Caleb Deschanel and a few other guys.

Although I certainly acknowledge auteur-ial visions that don't emphasize composition.

[Herb Sevush] "Intent is not confined to art direction. John Cassavete's movies looked awful, sounded worse, and had no narrative flow whatsoever, yet were marked by a fierce directorial point of view and intent.
"


The perfect example.

If I was writing that stream-of-consciousness post about the actual point I was trying to make -- CINEMATIC INTENT at the intersection of cinematography aned editing -- I would have left off half those guys.

I did, and do, reserve the right to leave anyone that I don't like enough to include. Paul Thomas Anderson -- I acknowledge your mastery as I point you to the door.

Auteurs in general, Cassavetes is sure way up the list. Mike Leigh had NO scripts, but it's hard to imagine anyone more "intentional."

He was given a Lifetime Achievement BAFTA this year, btw. I could have imagined that, as a maverick, he'd have scoffed at it. Instead, he was obviously, visibly delighted. He did everything but giggle. Maybe he even giggled a little.

I'd also put Lars von Trier way WAY up the list of auteurs.

David O. Russell is my favorite of the guys I left off the list. Other than Three Kings, though, I don't know that I'd include visual mastery as one of his long suits.

My second favorite of the guys I left off is Terry Gilliam. I love love LOVE his work, and it's wall-to-wall CINEMATIC INTENT of the highest visual order. He may even be my favorite.

On the side of people whose INTENT is expressed visually, I should DEFINITELY have included Tim Burton. My favorite example is Sleepy Hollow, where the visuals drove storytelling without elbowing other important elements out of the way. His too-hidden gem.

Except, again, that's the only movie of his I actually enjoyed, so I comfortably left him off.

This vector would also put Tarantino way WAY up the list, especially because of his superlative collaboration with Sally Menke, as strong an author-director / editor collaboration as there's ever been. I loved how much Quentin loved it, too. Here's a great clip of people on the set of Inglorious Basterds saying hello to Sally, knowing that she'd see the greetings in the edit suite.




Steve McQueen was an actual gallery artist, and I think he brings the same visual intensity -- note the relation to INTENT -- to his work. Hard to believe that 12 Years A Slave is only his third feature, after Hunger and Shame, all worth the time of anyone looking for exceptional execution of visual authorial intent.

I believe that Terence Malick belongs on the same list, but I haven't seen enough of his work to say anything about it.

Same with Reitman, btw. I understand that he's working at a very high level, but I've only seen Juno, which I loved.


Werner Herzog is absolutely on my list of favorite auteur documentarians, but entirely misses the cut on the visual count.

Wim Wenders would be on a list, for both documentary and narrative filmmaking. He's tried to push what's visually possible as much as anyone working today.


I talked about Fincher and music videos. Spots belong on there somewhere. Ridley Scott would never have had the opportunity to direct a single film if his spots hadn't been so amazing. His most-seen work is surely his Apple "1984" spot.

Not only are spots some of Errol Morris's best work, he sees them as absolutely integral to what he does, and wouldn't want to imagine a world where's not doing both.

His two Oscar shorts are among my favorite anythings ever. LOL

2002: The Movies




2006: The Nominees, which is also a fantastic overview of creativity...and joy. "But I don't believe in a hula hula joy."




But see, this is the problem with lists like this. I've enjoyed kicking around some favorite names and movies, and will surely add plenty more, but ultimately, trying to make complete lists is the opposite of helpful.

Reading my original post again, my error was not establishing MY authorial intent, which was actually very very narrow. My list was easily 30% too LONG. It would have been clearer what I was trying to accomplish if I had FEWER names on the list.

Such is the nature of type-type-typing away in the middle of the night.

Editing. What a concept. LOL

So, if I take some of the suggestions I've received and turn it into an article, I'll do some actual research and come up with something shorter, and hopefully more sensible....


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James Culbertson
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Mar 29, 2015 at 7:20:22 pm

The ultimate master of the frame was Andrei Tarkovsky.


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Aindreas Gallagher
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Apr 1, 2015 at 8:33:33 pm

Lord what an utterly cracking post. Seriously - as a friend of mine would say - that was aces. loved looking back over the fincher videos as well.

http://vimeo.com/user1590967/videos http://www.ogallchoir.net promo producer/editor.grading/motion graphics


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Simon Ubsdell
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Apr 1, 2015 at 8:35:03 pm

Agreed.

As Jeremy said, this was almost the post that could close down the COW forever.

Which I'm pretty sure was not what Tim had in mind.

Simon Ubsdell
tokyo-uk.com


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David Lawrence
Re: Editing Today - another Philippic
on Apr 7, 2015 at 6:39:17 am

Took a while but was finally able to catch up on this thread. Wow! Great stuff, Tim.

So there one name (who's in the news these days) I'm surprised didn't make your list - David Lynch.

I've loved David Lynch's work since seeing Eraserhead as a teenager. It played weekly at The Roxy here in SF and after a while, I'd go just to watch the reaction of friends seeing it for the first time. Big fun. The Guild Navigator in Dune? That's Eraserhead's baby, all grown up! LOL.

Here's one of my favorite Lynch pieces ever - the short film he did for Lumière & Company. This DVD is uneven but the good stuff makes it worthwhile. Then there's Lynch's piece, where he takes the possibility of the Cinematographe to a totally different level. One take, one shot, pure CINEMATIC INTENT :)







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