How To Edit Good

31 12 2007

Okay, that’s a snarky title.  But there are two video clips from the creators of the movie HORRORS OF WAR, that talk about editing on action, overlap editing, etc.  These are things that most of us take for granted but it’s always good to remind ourselves, as editors, that not everyone knows what we know.

Tip #1 (cutting on action) — there’s one cut in here that doesn’t look right to me, the cut from the wide shot of the soldier with his rifle, to the closer shot.  Of course, this is personal taste, but I’ve always found that it’s better to cut at the beginning of a piece of action (I call it on the energy of the start of the action) rather than in the middle of the action.  Actors rarely match their speed exactly and, besides, even if their action is at the same speed, it’s going to look slower in a wide shot than in a tighter one.  You need to go for the perceived energy, not the exact energy.

Tip #2 (Split Edits or “L-cuts”) — They talk using these edits to make the edit invisible, which is only a small part of the story.  However, the directors correctly mention that half of a film’s power is about how people react to information.  Of course, there’s a lot more to this than what can be discussed in two minutes.  You really want to choose the exact words where you cut away to the second shot.  I often cut in the “afterbreath” of a word which makes the cut less noticeable.

Another short film from the same people discusses Music and Effects tracks, and has a funny bit where the move from the mixed English language tracks to the music and effects only track to the Japanese dubbed track.  Cool.

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24 — In 1994

30 12 2007

Thanks to Mike Curtis over at HD For Indies, for pointing me to this fantastic parody of the series 24, shot as if it took place in 1994 — with early Internet and printer technology.

Click here and be prepared to laugh.

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iTunes video and the future of distribution

30 12 2007

Ira DeutchmanTwo recent news items and a fascinating podcast interview with Ira Deutchman have combined to get me thinking about how Steve Jobs and Apple can have a role in the future of filmmaking rather than tagging along on the sidelines.

The Financial Times had an article a few days ago about an about-to-be-signed deal between News Corporation and Apple in regards to renting Fox Films through the iTunes store.

In a deal struck between the maker of the iPod gadget and News Corporation, the parent company of The Times and owner of Fox, consumers will be able to rent the latest Fox DVD releases by downloading a digital copy from Apple’s iTunes platform for a fixed period.

It is understood that Apple has been trying for months to persuade Hollywood studios to sign up to a digital rental model, in which subscribers would be able to download and view films for a set period, but until now no studio has agreed to a deal. Studios are understood to have had concerns over issues such as pricing and piracy.

I would assume, by the way, that Disney is soon to follow.

I’m going to omit any discussion on how this reflects a change in Apple’s business model that’s been a-long time comin’. Most people don’t want to own films. The main reason why they buy DVDs and download films for storage is so that they can watch them whenever they want without a trek to a video store. But that ground has been over covered by many bloggers much better than I. Instead, I’d like to combine it with another news story, one from last month. In an interview with George Sirois on 411Mania, among a zillion others, Ed Burns described how he was releasing his new film, PURPLE VIOLETS, directly to iTunes, rather than take any number of half-assed theatrical releases.

We got a couple of half-assed theatrical offers, but the last couple films I’ve done I’ve done that and, you know you do all this publicity and then the movie’s released in New York and LA, and maybe Chicago and San Francisco, and if you’re anywhere outside of those four major cities, your audience can’t find it. So, we’re gambling and we’re gonna be the first film that is released exclusively through iTunes. It’ll be available for four weeks exclusively, and the idea is we’ll promote it the same as you would a theatrical release and we’ll see what the numbers are. If the attendance, if the downloads, which we expect to be a much higher numbers than the attendance, I think it’ll be the way I would go in the future for small movies like this. You know, and then we’ll do more festivals than you might normally, so you can hit kinda smaller markets for the theatrical experience, but for everyone else it’s available, kinda like what people do…

Then, just this morning, I was listening to a fantastic interview with Emerging Pictures CEO Ira Deutchman on the usually interesting TCIBR (This Conference Is Being Recorded) from The Workbook Project, a really interesting website which has, as its slogan, “An Open Source Social Experiment for Content Creators.” Deutchman, who is somewhat of an articulate visionary in regards to distribution, makes a number of really great points about what is broken with theatrical distribution today, much of which has been said before. On the other hand, he talks about the things that Emerging is doing to move in new directions. With digital distribution, his company has set up a series of monthly screenings of films that play simultaneously in all of the 40 theatres that they have deals with, called “Undiscovered Gems” in which unreleased films are run. Deutchman also is interested in creating “events” for distribution, allowing press to get excited about a film that would normally disappear into the vast morass of unreleased or small released projects.

But What If We Put Them All Together?

We know that Apple has now accepted the idea of a rental model for some of its films. We also know that they distribute music and movies for free, when prompted. If you look at podcasts, for instance, most of them are free I would note that they have worked with studios to allow free downloads of episodes of “The Office” and others for TV Academy members and readers of the Hollywood trade newspapers. All we needed was a passcode.

What would happen if they moved just slightly further and started looking towards sliding scale rentals? In fact, what if they decided to become the corporate sponsor of something like Emerging’s “Undiscovered Gems” or took on that task themselves. In a flash, Apple could become a film distributor for films that don’t have other distribution channels. In short, they could become a broadcaster. Singlehandedly, they could become a viable channel for all types of popular and niche films and television. We wouldn’t have to disguise them as video podcasts anymore (and house them on our own servers). In one bold stroke, Apple could become the dominant force in independent (for now) film distribution. Rather than simply being a retailer (the way they are with the record, film and television distributors) they would be a distributor.

And maybe that’s where it’s all going anyway — back to the days when the film distributor and retailer were one and the same (until the Paramount Consent Decree of 1948 outlawed the ownership of movie theaters by the studios).

And that, my friends, is probably studios like NBC/Universal are out to kill iTunes That is a future that they don’t like at all.



Paris Paris Paris

28 12 2007

Moulin Rouge in ParisI miss Paris. I’m not one of those Americans who think that all French hate Americans (I’ve never ever found that). I don’t think they’re cowards, or that they’re snobby, or that their culture is inferior to ours because they talk funny.

I would move there tomorrow if I could earn a living there. And learn the language better.

So, in the absence of actually travelling to France anytime soon, I will have to live with this article from Focus Feature’s new web site FilmInFocus, in which blogger Kevin Conroy Scott goes to Paris landmarks made famous in two recent films — MOULIN ROUGE and AMELIE and Truffaut’s much earlier 400 BLOWS (he also visits Truffaut’s grave).

This reminds me that there’s a great scene in Julian Schnabel’s extraordinary THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY, where the lead character remembers getting a new car and driving it out of the city. The up angle shots of the city, its cinematography, and the music, all are designed to remind us of 400 BLOWS and other seminal French films of the 60s, like Godard’s BREATHLESS. Not only does the film qualify as one of the best films of 2007 for me, but it also qualifies as a mood piece on cinema history.

And not in a bad French way, either. Okay?



Sundance Panel — Low-Budget Films with High-Budget Values

28 12 2007

I’m going to be giving a talk at Sundance with Michael Phillips about a film which he and I co-edited (long distance, I might add) last year called JACK IN THE BOX, which should come out in 2008.  Our talk, entitled “Creating A Low-Budget Film with High Production Values” will be given on the first Friday of the festival — January 18th, at 4:30 pm, in the newly redesigned New Frontier On Main space.  Click below for the page in the Sundance catalog which describes that, and a bunch of other, panels that will be given in that space over the course of the festival.

Sundance 2008 Panel Listing



The Digital Storm

28 12 2007

Mike Flynn, over at B-Scene Films blog, echoes something I said earlier today about the demise of the traditional distribution model, in a post called “The Digital Storm: An Editorial” (I can’t find the pingback URL, so you’ll have to hunt for it).  Talking about the low cost of entry to production, he asks what a studio might be good for in today’s world.  His argument goes:

So, if we reduce the cost of creating blockbuster entertainment to the point that it no longer requires the financial wherewithal of a major studio to produce it, what then are the studios bringing to the table in order to remain viable in the future?

Financing
Production resources (stages, backlots, post, studio facilities etc).
Expertise in production
Distribution

He quickly dismisses the first three as viable jobs for studios (personally, I think that with the audience still flocking to big VFX and big star vehicles, someone has to finance those exorbitant costs — studios are a handy middleman to the banks in this case). In regards to distribution, he starts to knock it down by, first, talking about digital distribution lowering the costs.  He then talks about home theatre systems — concluding that they pose a real threat to the studios’ stranglehold.

In other words — they’re sunk.  The studios cannot survive.

What I, as a consumer, wants: I would like to have digital delivery of HD content directly to my living room. I want the model to be a subscription model. A flat fee for a specific number of monthly downloads. Much the same way that we have with services like Netflix. I do not want to have to ever buy and store media like DVDs. I just want to be able to watch what I want, when I want.

For those of you who’ve read my earlier comments on Distribution (click on the dropdown to the right to see them) it will come as no surprise that I agree with Mike on most of this.  Where I cynically disagree is in one big thing — I have complete faith in the ability of the big companies to buy out other distribution methods.  THe distribution models of 2010 won’t include television stations as we know them, and may not include large movie theatres in the way we’re used to — but you can bet that no matter what they look like, they all will be owned by some variation of the major companies that we see today.  NBC may have, by then, merged with Google.  Warner Bros may have bought out Netflix.  But you can bet that it will be the same twenty white guys, in their same corporate offices, who will try and determine what we see.

That’s why the Net Neutrality forces need to prevail. Our only hope is to push the bottom of the envelope (hmmm, I don’t know if that image really works).  Niche distribution, not mass distribution, is where indie forces can congregate.  My hope is that it will be cheap and easy enough to find a market that sustains the relatively small number of people who will be making media in this world.



Moving Channels of Distribution

28 12 2007

I had an interesting conversation last night with a director/producer friend of mine who was speculating on just how far away the “wired household” really is. We are, he said, still so far away from ubiquitous Internet penetration, that the idea of television shrivelling away while online viewership takes over, is just laughably distant.

Today, however, comes this word from the Hollywood Reporter:

About 38 percent of U.S. consumers are watching TV shows online, 36 percent use their cell phones as entertainment devices and 45 percent are creating online content like Web sites, music, videos and blogs for others, according to a new-media survey from Deloitte & Touche.

The article, as described on Yahoo today, reported that this is an increase from 24 percent just eight months ago. That’s an astonishing 50% up in less than a year. That’s fifty percent for those of you who like their exclamatory statements in words rather than numbers. The survey said that consumers 13-to-24 years old used the phones about 62% of the time for entertainment. Gen X’ers were up to 47% from 29% (an astonishing 46%).

Among the study’s other findings:

— 54 percent of consumers said they socialize via social networking sites, chat rooms or message boards, and 45 percent said they maintain a profile on a social networking site.

— 85 percent of consumers still find TV advertising to have the most impact on their buying habits, but online ads are second best, with 65 percent of consumers saying they have the most impact, beating out magazines at 63 percent.

The really interesting things about these numbers are the high percentage of people who are creating online content. Nearly one-half. My guess is that those numbers are higher than at any point in human history. I’m trying to imagine the percentage of people I knew when I was growing up in the 70s who created media for mass consumption. I’d venture a guess at — practically none, at most 5%. With numbers like these, the “wired household” (and the demise of the traditional television distribution models) can’t be far away.

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The Value of Editing

28 12 2007

David Prior, who was one of the original directors at and a co-founder of AIP Distributing (from the 80s and 90s, not the one from the 60s as Gregory Conley’s comment below points out — in my original post I incorrectly referred to the 60s company with the same initials), is interviewed by Your Video Store Shelf website. He talks about how naive they were when they started and then answers a question about what the biggest thing they learned was:

There were three of us in a partnership at that time. We didn’t know. None of us had gone to film school. We did none of these things. But the biggest lesson … we didn’t have any money to pay an editor. So basically that job went to me. I rented a flatbed, an editing table, from a rental house and when I ordered it I didn’t even know what I was ordering. I just told them I had 35mm film. That was probably my biggest learning lesson because that’s what taught me everything I did wrong on that movie. When you’re trying to cut something together that’s when you find out what doesn’t work — when angles aren’t right and screen directions aren’t right. You really, really learn. Ever since that happened was my advice to young filmmakers has always been to edit first.

[The first part of the two-part interview begins here. The editing quote appears in part two.]

I’ve often felt that, as an editor, that I have to learn about all aspects of filmmaking. It’s part of my job. Cinematographers don’t have to know about editing very well, but I can’t supervise a color timing session if I don’t know how they’ve tried to shape the light. Costume designers don’t have to know about all of the other crafts, but I hear about it if I cut in a shot where the character has a shirt unbuttoned (remind me to tell you the FAME costuming story one time). In fact, at dailies, I find that the people who are concerned about everything up on the screen — as opposed to their individual departments — are always the producer, the director and me — the editor.

As such, I learn. And not just about angles and screen direction. I learn about everything.

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Interesting Sound Experiment

26 12 2007

Andy Rector, in his film study blog KINO SLANG, has an interesting piece today which presents two You Tube videos of different female singers. He calls the post The Word. Not very interesting on the surface.

But he’s got instructions below them — “to be played simultaneously at equal volumes.” And when you do that, you get a very interesting new piece, more interesting than either of the two by themselves.

In a funny way, that’s evocative of what I call “The Rule of Threes” — that the impact of a single shot, or scene, is directly effected the shot or sequence that comes before it, and will effect the shot of sequence that comes after it.



Editing Theory

26 12 2007

chained to the cinematheque has part one what I can only assume will be a multi-part series dealing with image context today (with a bow to the Visceral Realists and Crimen Falsi). There are some interesting discussions in it, but one really cool thing is it has a clip from an interview with Alfred Hitchcock talking about editing. He posits that there are three types of editing ( he refuses to call it “cutting”, choosing to call it assembly instead): assembling a complex series of shots to give the illusion of an action (he uses the shower murder in PSYCHO to illustrate that), the assembling of disparate shot sizes (he uses PSYCHO’s scene of the killing of Martin Balsalm to illustrate that), and then the assembling of shots to create emotion (for which he puts together his own footage). This last is what we know as the Kuleshov effect or what I choose to call “The Rule of Threes” in my class.

To see this great piece, click on its YouTube link.

There is a great discussion about ambiguity and the work of Antonioni. I’m going to have to give this one some real going over before I talk about it, but I wanted to give you the link and requote Antonioni from Luminous Landscape on Framing Art:

“We know that behind every image revealed there is another image more faithful to reality, and in the back of that image there is another, and yet another behind the last one, and so on, up to the true image of that absolute, mysterious reality that no one will ever see.”

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