Reality Television Editors Sound Off on the Craft

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Some of the best reality television editors sat to chat on a panel at this year’s Sight, Sound and Story in NYC. Here are a few highlights of the talk.

Reality TV editors Alanna Yudin (Ink Master, Mob Wives), Joe Schuck (Alaskan Bush People, Best Funeral Ever), and Julie “Bob” Lombardi (Teen Mom, Town of the Living Dead) spoke with Gordon Burkell of AOTG.com as part of Sight, Sound and Story’s annual New York City event presented by Manhattan Edit Workshop on June 13th. Here’s some of what they talked about. Reality Television Editors: Ink Master
Image from Ink Master

Gordon: How do you handle the amount of footage that comes in?

Julie: I always watch the raw footage. I make the time. I like the producers kind of telling me what the scene is about, but then you just dive in and watch it all. If you’re on season three it’s a lot easier to know what you’re looking for.

Alanna: Yeah, I’m the same way. I’ll use the producer’s selects just as a guideline, but then go back and find what you need.

Julie: Editors are used to manipulating footage. Some producers don’t know how to watch footage and how you can manipulate it, so they cut something because they think it doesn’t work. Or they might not give you a great piece of audio because it’s off camera and they don’t know you can cheat it. But you have to look at all of the footage. That way you have all the pieces to the puzzle to make the best picture.

Alanna: Ultimately it does end up saving time. If three hours have been shot for a two-minute scene, well, I have three hours.

Julie: And when you have notes you already have the answers.

Alanna: I think the difference in the way producers or people who don’t edit look at the footage is as one ongoing scene with no cuts. But as an editor we watch every second and every frame, every piece of audio, as its own entity.

Julie: You’re looking for glances, looks, smirks, any piece to make the story more believable or more dramatic. So if the camera catches somebody giving the stink-eye to the producer or the audio guy or whatever, you can always use that to manipulate the edit, which is so important.

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Insights from Several Top Television Editors

This article was originally published on PremiumBeat’s blog.

Three top television editors sat on an insightful panel at this year’s Sight, Sound and Story in NYC. Here’s a bit of what was discussed.

TV editors Fabienne Bouville (American Horror Story, Masters of Sex), Sidney Wollinsky (Ray Donovan, The Sopranos), and Jesse Averna (Sesame Street, Monica’s Mixing Bowl) sat with Michael Berenbaum (The Americans, Sex and the City) in conversation as part of Sight, Sound and Story’s annual New York City eventpresented by Manhattan Edit Workshop on June 13th. Here’s some of what they talked about.

Television Editors: American Horror Story
Image from American Horror Story

The State of the Television Industry

Michael: What’s luring viewers to TV today?

Fabienne: The quality of shows has gotten a lot better, but because there’s this pressure on films to want to please everybody, in TV you can find a niche more easily. The format of TV is more conducive to really digging into characters, so that’s super appealing.

Sidney: The change in subject matter is one of the factors. People’s tastes have changed, the tolerance for obscenity or sex has changed over the years. Movies have gotten, in general, less interesting. It feels like there are fewer movies about people and more about superheroes. And television is doing things with the former where you can really relate to it.

Michael: Is binge watching a good or bad thing?

Sidney: I don’t know if I’d sit there for twelve hours watching an entire season, but it’s nice to see two shows in a row. A season is essentially one long feature film, and it’s interesting to be able to start and stop it, like a book, rather than having to wait the next week for the next installment.

Fabienne: Remember when you had to leave to catch a show? “Oh, it’s 8 o’clock, my show’s on, bye!”

Sidney: The networks are now following. NBC has a show called Aquarius where they released all twelve episodes at the same time on demand. I thought that was amazing.

Jesse: I was happy that House of Cards was released all at once. Some of the storylines and character names, if you weren’t binge watching, it became confusing if you stepped away from it. It was hard to get back into it. I feel like I already was binge watching. I think the networks caught up to us.

Sidney: As far as the workflow for editors, if they’re putting all twelve episodes up at once, it means you’re not working against air dates. With something like a Netflix show, it gives you a lot more time in the cutting room, often with the director. They don’t kick the director out after four days, which is the Director’s Guild time allotment. They often give you longer to put your cut together before you show the director. The producer will also typically take longer to work on the show and ultimately get a better product.

Michael: On those network shows where you’re racing on air dates, they catch up to you over the course of the season. So later in the season the air dates get closer and closer, and you’re rushing like crazy by the end.

Sidney: The producers often don’t understand the value of time. I heard years ago an editor say, ‘the idea you get on day 16 you just can’t get on day 2.’ Your ideas evolve as you’re working on a show, and if you have enough time you can get those ideas but if you don’t, you work with the ideas you get in that short period of time.

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DaVinci Resolve Workflow: How to Prep for a Color Session

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Be prepared! When you’ve got a color session looming, do yourself a favor and take these steps to set yourself up for success!

All images from Blackmagic Design

Prepping for any color session entails optimizing elements from one piece of software and translating them over to another platform for further work in the post pipeline. For most jobs, once the offline edit has been locked, the editor must prep the timeline for the colorist. How files are prepped for color can make a huge difference in how much work the colorist must perform before he can actually begin grading the project. If the prep has technical issues, it can add time to debugging, extending the session time, or leaving less time for the creative aspects of the job. Let’s discuss the elements that make a good color prep.

colorist-at-work

1. Before anything else, it’s necessary to duplicate your timeline. Since you’ll be simplifying the sequence, which means destructing it, you’ll need a way to get back to the original edit in case there are revisions or you need to create other outputs and preps. The original timeline can also be used to create a reference movie for the colorist.

2. Remove any unused clips that won’t be graded. Often, editors work loosely and have lots of extraneous clips scattered across the timeline. Many editors also toss extra clips at the end of the timeline. Delete all of them.

3. Remove the audio tracks. Most of the time, audio will not be an aspect of a color session, unless I play a rough cut for a client for their reference. Having audio tracks come in with the XML is a distraction to the colorist and they are most often removed right away.

DaVinci Resolve: Prepping for a Color Session

4. Simplify the timeline by moving all of the video clips down to the base video layer as much as possible. Sometimes you’ll need multiple video layers, but the XML format can support this.

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Film Editing Lessons from Oscar-Winner William Goldenberg

This article was originally published on PremiumBeat’s blog.

Feature film editor William Goldenberg’s panel chat at the annual Sight, Sound and Story event was full of fantastic insights and anecdotes. Here’s some of the highlights.

Feature film editor William Goldenberg sat with Bobbie O’Steen as part of Sight, Sound and Story’s annual New York City event presented by Manhattan Edit Workshop on June 13th. William Goldenberg has a storied career, with film editing credits including Argo (for which he won an Oscar), The Imitation Game, Zero Dark Thirty, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Seabiscuit, Pleasantville and Miami Vice, just to name a few. He had tons to say about his experienceworking with directors and other editors, as well as the craft in general. Here are some highlights:

“It’s taken me a whole career for me to gain confidence. I think my insecurities, wanting to make everything perfect, are what makes me good at editing. It seems with every film I’m as terrified as I was when I started 22 years ago. Every film creates its own set of problems unique to that film. Often, there are sequences in films where you don’t know how to put it together. When I look at all the footage for a scene sometimes, I think, ‘Where do I even start?’ You get that anxiety feeling that never really goes away.”

On apprentice editing on The Breakfast Club, where he observed editor Dede Allen at work…

Film Editing Lessons: The Breakfast Club

“I was around her long enough to get a lot of pearls of wisdom, like how she conducted herself, the things she said, how she took charge of the film and bent it to something she wanted it to be. She laughed at the ‘rules’ of editing. She’d make a cut and you’d say that that broke the rules and she’d laugh like it was the funniest thing in the world. It was a huge deal when I got credit on The Breakfast Club, because she wouldn’t tend to give apprentices credit. The first cut of the film was three hours and forty minutes long and she cut it down basically by herself.”

On working with veteran editor Michael Kahn…

Film Editing Lessons: Alive

“It was like free graduate school at the highest level. He really took it upon himself to help me. He used to say, ‘You don’t know you’re talented. I do.’ When somebody like that says that to me, I couldn’t believe it. He taught me his methodology, how he approached scenes, how to handle myself politically, how to take criticism, which is probably the most important thing I learned because it can be painful when people don’t like things that you’ve done. When I was working on a scene from Alive he gave me all these notes. He made me recut it something like twenty times. He just kept giving me more and more changes, and I finally said to him, ‘I just don’t think I’m very good at this. I’m clearly not getting this right. You always have notes and I’m not making you happy.’ And he said, ‘It has nothing to do with the scene you’re cutting. I’m just trying to get you to learn how to take criticism.’ It was the most valuable thing I ever learned. Criticism is about the film, not about you. You have to take criticism with a smile, say it’s a great idea, and hope it sparks another great idea. Take it in a positive light, even though it may feel soul crushing at times.”

“He would say things like, ‘If you want to go faster, slow down,’ meaning don’t worry about all the footage or the budget and how much pressure there is. Worry about the cut that’s in front of you, worry about what you’re doing. Shut the rest of it out. Lose yourself in the footage. When I listen to that those are the best days I’ve had.”

On collaborating with Michael Mann…

Film Editing Lessons: Heat

“When I was working on Heat, my heart was pounding as I sat there in the editing bay on the first day, so hard I couldn’t even work. I thought I was going to hyperventilate and pass out. But then I started to lose myself in the footage and I cut the first scene, and Michael gave me some notes, and I recut it and showed it to him again. At the end all he did was bang his hand on the table and say, ‘That’s just what I wanted!’ and he walked out of the room. And then I didn’t see him for four days. So I thought, ‘I guess I’m done?’ After a few days I ran into him in the hall and asked him if there was anything else he wanted done. He said, ‘oh yes, yes,’ as if he had forgotten I was there. I gradually inherited a lot of the film, but it was a strange beginning.”

“When he watches the dailies he dictates notes into a tape recorder which are then transcribed. So there might be seven takes of an angle, and he’ll just say ‘great, good’ and you sort of have to figure out what he means. If you did everything he said in the notes the scenes would be a mess. I mean, a lot of what he mumbles into the tape recorder is unintelligible. There are five to six binders of notes on cut footage at the end of the movie that are all five inches thick. So you’ll have a screening and there will be twenty pages of notes, and then another screening with another twenty pages of notes. Even near to the end the notes never get less.”

“Michael’s like a scientist. He has to look at everything from every possible point of view and angle and try every possibility. That translates into a million hours. There were many, many twenty-four hour days on Heat. My last ‘day’ was forty-six hours, but at the time it didn’t bother me because I was single and it was such a huge break. He shoots a tremendous amount of film and he has everyone working those hours.”

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Tips for Coloring Talking Head Interviews in DaVinci Resolve

This article was originally published in PremiumBeat’s blog.

Talking head interviews are a great place to sharpen color grading skills. Let’s take a look at some ways we can push and improve upon this common setup in DaVinci Resolve.

Any working colorist will likely encounter their fair share of talking head interviews. It’s a great idea to use these projects as opportunities to up your skills. Here are a few quick and easy tips to consider when applying your magic to interview footage.

Pick an Identifying Frame

Choose a frame where the subject’s eyes are open and acknowledging the camera or the interviewer off-camera. This will help us engage with the speaker, allowing us to judge exposure and color tints with better acuity. Picking a moment when the talent doesn’t look their best will hinder our ability to color them in the best possible way.

It’ll be easier to engage the subject if they’re engaging you.

Tips for Coloring Talking Head Interviews in DaVinci Resolve: engage-subject

Initially, Focus on a Single Correction

Rather than creating multiple nodes to grab skin tones and other features in the shot right away, try to accomplish as much as possible in a single correction. This will enable us to correct for exposure and color shifts with the simplest, cleanest method before working on other aspects of the shot.

Matching Two Angles

Matching close and wide shots is easier if both cameras are identical models and are calibrated with similar settings, but this will be the exception rather than the rule. Many filmmakers will choose their best camera for the wide and a comparatively inferior one for the closeup due to various shooting constraints. This means matching shots may be more difficult since the cameras are not only shot differently but inherently contain different sensors and characteristics.

First, perform the best possible grade on the wide shot. When switching to the closeup, grab a still of the wide and put it next to the closeup shot by selecting Play Still. Often, the two angles will frame the interviewee in the same quadrant, so don’t be afraid to move the closeup over using the Sizing tab so you can clearly see the subject in both frames.

Here, the close and wide are framed similarly, which isn’t optimal since part of the talent is covered.

Tips for Coloring Talking Head Interviews in DaVinci Resolve: match-angles-squish

The Sizing tab allows us to move one angle aside to reveal the pertinent parts of both shots.

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Everything You Need to Know About the OxygenTec ProPanel

This article was originally published on PremiumBeat’s blog.

The new OxygenTec ProPanel is aimed at the traveling colorist or the beginning colorist on a budget. Is it the right device for you? Let’s take a look.

 Top image from icolorist

The new OxyenTec ProPanel’s relatively simple interface comes with the most important features for a control surface: the triple rings and dials for controlling shadows, midtones, and highlights. These are commonplace to every single control surface out there, including Blackmagic’s premium surface, which features all the bells and whistles. At only around $800, OxygenTec’s panel is definitely a cheaper alternative to the JL Cooper Eclipse, the Avid Artist Color, the Tangent Element and even the older Tangent Wave model.

OxygenTec ProPanel

The ProPanel is available now and integrates natively with DaVinci Resolve, connecting via USB. Aside from the main dials and trackballs, several buttons line the top of the control surface. From left to right, you have commands for:

  • Undo
  • Redo
  • Grab Still
  • Play Still
  • Previous Node
  • Next Node
  • Start Dynamic
  • Mark for Keyframing
  • Base Memory (resets just the node you’re on)

 

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DaVinci Resolve Tip: Emulating Photoshop’s Vibrance

This article was originally published on PremiumBeat’s blog.

Photoshop can be a source of techniques and inspiration for color grading. Learn how to emulate the software’s vibrance effects in DaVinci Resolve!

One Photoshop parameter that always seems to improve the image is the Vibrance slider inside the Camera Raw settings. Vibrance adds saturation to only the least saturated colors, leaving objects with already high saturation alone. While there’s no doubt that Photoshop’s algorithms are quite sophisticated, let’s try to emulate the action in DaVinci Resolve.

The original image when it was imported into Photoshop using Camera Raw.

DaVinci Resolve Tip: Emulating Photoshop’s Vibrance - original-1


 

Photoshop’s Vibrance function at work, set at 68.

DaVinci Resolve Tip: Emulating Photoshop’s Vibrance -68-2


 

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