Fantastic Avid Sound Tutorials

27 02 2008

Harry Miller, over at the A.C.E. blog, has created two fantastic tutorials on using Avid for sound.

One talks about several of the Audio Suite Tools and gives instructions on how to use them and samples. The other talks about how to use the Audio Tools to get a great mix, including live mixing.

Harry is a long time editor who has been working for A.C.E. for a long time and now brings his expertise and smooth voice to teaching others what he knows. These two screencasts are hopefully the beginning of many. The Final Cut community has long been great about posting really great tutorials for the user community. It would be great if users of other NLEs could do the same.

[No, don’t look at me.]

Top 10 Avid Tricks and More

26 02 2008

Scott Simmons, in his usually informative blog THE EDITBLOG, has an especially useful posting today entitled “Top 10 Avid Media Composer Tips“. He describes each one in valuable detail, along with some really useful screen shots.

For those of you who can’t wait, here are his tips. For the details, you’ll have to go to the blog itself (I wouldn’t want to give it all away Scott!).

  1. Colors (both in bins and in the timeline)
  2. Colored locators
  3. ScriptSync
  4. Toggle Source/Record in the Timeline
  5. Center Duration
  6. Avid Calculator
  7. Option + C
  8. Media Tool
  9. Sync Point Editing
  10. Trim Mode

While most Avid editors will know most of these tips, I have to say that I always forget one or two of them. I never remember the Avid Calculator, for instance. And while I have the Center Duration in my User Settings, I never remember Option+C.

Check out the posting, if you edit on Avid. If you don’t, check out the entry on Trim Mode.

In a related posting, Tim Leavitt (owner of the new blog “View From The Cutting Room Floor”, a blog from a working assistant editor) posted a list of a few of his keyboard shortcuts.  Well worth the trip.

Oscar Cynicism

25 02 2008

Cintra Wilson, over at posted a snippy (and, often, funny) review of the Oscars which takes the odd stance that, because people are still hating each other from the writer’s strike, we all went out and voted for foreigners to win the acting awards. Aside from the odd notions that:

  1. there are no foreigners in the Academy,
  2. American-born members can’t recognize value wherever they find it,
  3. we are some huge monolithic block that tends to vote in lock-step, and
  4. the Academy is an American-only instituion

    this completely ignores the fact that most of the other categories went to American born writers, directors, editors, etc. (well, not all of course, but Dante Ferretti can take home this and any future Oscars that we give out — he’s that good).

    However, she did get a funny dig about a fictional meeting between “Hollywood power brokers in $6,000 Brioni suits” as they… oh, hell, I’ll let her tell it.

    It must have been grim at that academy meeting, just a few weeks ago. No writers, just a bunch of liminal Hollywood power brokers in $6,000 Brioni suits sitting glumly around a large obsidian table in one of the Carrara-marble, earthquake-proof bunker-vaults deep in the ground under CAA, too depressed even to eat their grilled seafood salads.

    “Editors,” someone finally said, the idea light bulb suddenly reflecting off his hairless scalp.


    “Fuck the writers. They’ll all eventually eat each other like the Donner party. We have editors. This Oscars? We break new territory.”

    Eyes peer up hopefully through $3,000 Japanese glasses frames made of hammered titanium and hand-carved wood.

    “This year? All new: all old. We just montage the living shit out of it. Wall-to-wall montages of Oscar footage recycled from the last 80 years.”


    “Thank God.”

    “Let’s go home.”

    Actually, I’m sure lack of writing time accounted for the preponderance of mind-numbing montages that were presented last night. (Though I should point out that even the more written stand-up routines often felt… well… unwritten. Or, at least, not written very well. But at least they beat most of Jon Stewart’s ad libs.)

    To, once again, quote Wilson:

    For nearly every major award, there was a montage of all 79 other winners from the past. In short: This year, Oscar honored the heart-touching magic of the film industry’s celebration of life by sucking every possible ounce of spontaneous life, marrow and energy out of the event by waterboarding it to the point of gag-reflex failure with canned montages.

    Wilson then veers off into strained argument, self-parody of liberal American, about how we all are self-hating Oscar voters.

    Not that anybody asked me, but I found that I almost yearned for the day of atrocious bloated staging of the Best Song nominees. Aside from the earnestness of the song from ONCE, the other four songs suffered the twin disadvantages of being both too glitzy and too boring.

    My biggest diappointment, however, is that ATONEMENT wasn’t completely shut out.

    YouTube And The News

    23 02 2008

    Map of KosovoFor those of you who haven’t been following it, following the secession of Kosovo, there’s been rioting in the streets of Belgrade.

    A cinematographer named “gvantanamo” shot two young girls looting at a store in Slavija Square. As he puts it in his “About This Video” section, he “was astonished by their persistence on getting new clothes on a 100% off sale.”

    He posted the video on YouTube and it is now a sensation. You can check it out by clicking here.

    Now, this isn’t a political entry.  I studiously avoid doing those.  No, this is one of a series of entries that I’ve posted about the changing face of distribution.  The YouTube distribution of this poorly shot, but horrifyingly effective, video could never be run on your evening news.  It’s just not polished enough.  But, up there in the poor quality Flash environment of YouTube, it not only is extremely noticeable, but it’s extremely popular.  It’s not “news” in that “fair and balanced” sort of way (HA! I’d say, but I’m studiously avoiding political commentary), but it certainly fills in the gaps that the news does present.

    [Map courtesy of]

    Hyper Kinetic Editing — Part Two

    23 02 2008

     Elizabeth Shoemaker comments on my post on Hyper Kinetic Editing by asking:

    How do you feel about the use of multiscreen images to propel stories in television (i.e. CSI MIAMI). And, do you think that audiences will just adapt to the hyperkinetic editing? I had an experience years ago watching the classic “M.” Many in the group thought it was too slow. And I had to wonder if it’s because audiences are so much better at making leaps in story that it made them impatient for the movie to “move on.”

    Personally, I think that picture-in-picture/split screen/multiple screen editing can be quite effective if it is used to tell the story properly.  Split screen was used very early on to show two people on a phone conversation (much like 24 does today, though slightly less kinetically).  It seemed to take off in the Sixties, after Dupont, IBM and a number of other companies used it in the films they showed at the New York’s World Fair (1964-1965) — films directed by Charles and Roy Eames, and Francis Thompson (who I worked for in the late seventies, by the way).

    Check out the original THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR, for instance, to see a use of split screen that isn’t about telephone conversations.

    So, it’s not the fact that there is split screen but the fact that it’s used more energetically than before that creates the difference.

    On Elizabeth’s second point, there is no doubt in my mind that this rapid style of editing is both influenced by and has an influence on the culture that we live in.  It has long been pointed out that editing changed with the advent of MTV.  It has also been noted that the number of edits per 2000 foot film reel (about 22 minutes of film) has gone up since the introduction of digital non-linear editing.  It is also obvious to me that experimental filmmakers like Ed Emshwiller, Kenneth Anger, Michael Snow, and Stan Brakhage created a filmmaking style that made it possible for kinetic editing to move to the mainstream.  But I think that it is far from clear which is the chicken and which is the egg.

    I had an M type experience like yours.  A few years ago I decided to rewatch THE FRENCH CONNECTION, with the intent of using its famous car chase underneath the elevated train tracks in an editing class of mine.  However, when I took a look at Friedkin’s direction and Jerry Greenberg’s editing on it, while it still blew me away as amazing, it no longer seemed to be the frenetic, nausea-inducing editing style that caused many viewers to complain that they couldn’t watch it.  It had been too much of an experience.

    Culture changes and experimental cinema generally is in the forefront of that change.  Commerical film, on the other hand, always lags behind.  So, now that frenetic editing seems to be in every film short of a Shakespeare adaption, the audience is used to it.  But, in my opinion, it’s not because film is changing our sensibilities.  It’s because film is following our evolving sensibilities.

    If you take a look at many movies from the 30s, you’ll notice that there’s a lot of shoe leather — shots of people walking or driving from one place to another.  A character will say “I’m going home now.”  And then he will turn and walk away, open the door, go out into the hallway, get into the elevator.  We’ll watch the floor indicator descending, and then see him get out of the elevator and walk through the lobby to his car (always conveniently parked right in front of the building — were there always convenient spots in that era?) .  He’ll get in, start the car and take off.  After a shot or two (with a wipe between them) of the car driving, it will pull up in front of the house.  The man will shut off the engine, get out of the car and walk to the front door.  He’ll open it, step inside, and we’ll cut to him walking into the living room.  “I’m home,” he’ll announce.

    Here, in 2008, we’ll hear him say “I’m going home” and there’ll be a cut to him stepping into the living where he’ll announce “I’m home.”

    Audiences change.  Film eventually changes with them.

    What Does An Editor Do?

    22 02 2008

    Mark Helfrich, an accomplished editor himself (X-Men: The Last Stand , Rush Hour 2, Red Dragon, Scary Movie, etc.), does a video for Slate Magazine, which talks about what makes the five nominees for this Sunday’s Best Film Editing Oscar worth looking at. Those of you who edit for a living won’t find anything surprising here, but for those who don’t work in editing, or in the film business at all, will find some of this discussion quite interesting.

    Of THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY, Helfrich takes a scene where Jean-Do, the paralyzed lead of the film, is watching a speech therapist. Because the film is shot, at that point, from the point of view of Jean-Do’s only good eye, every time the character blinks, the screen goes dark for a half a second. Helfrich notes that this enables the editor, Juliette Welfling, to cut from one take of this camera set-up to another (enabling her to stitch together the best complete performance from a number of performances) as well as to cut from one size shot to a tighter one.

    There are some editors who believe that it is best to try and preserve one entire performance/take from a character. These editors will try and avoid editing from one performance to another. For other editors, myself included, all that we want is to preserve the feeling of a continuous performance. I don’t care if the performances come from 12 different takes, so long as they combine into one fluid performance. In fact, I assume that if the director printed a take, that it’s fair game for me to use.

    I’ve worked with actors whose performance doesn’t vary from take to take, and others who tried something different each time, and all of the variations in between. As an editor, we are always trying to get a performance to tell a story, and these variations are sometimes helpful and sometimes unhelpful. Regardless of where Helfrich falls on the one performance/one take question, his discussion of what the five nominated films have done in their approaches to editing is informative and well worth a viewing.

    Editors Panel at LA Film School

    20 02 2008

    A.C.E. has some interesting videos posted documenting a panel discussion about editing that was held at the LA Film School in early 2007. Panelists included editors Stuart Bass, A.C.E., Tchavdar Georgiev, and Stephen Rivkin, A.C.E. along with assistant editors Andrew Charlton, Meagan Keane, and Alan McCurdy. It was moderated by Harry Miller, A.C.E.

    The videos of the panel are divided up into four parts. A breakdown is as follows (each line links to the mentioned video):
    Part One is about getting started in the business.

    Part Two discusses Collaboration in the Editing Rooms

    Part Three discusses Creativity and the Use of Technology

    Part Four contains audience Q&A with Career Advice

    One of the assistant editors, Meagan Keane, was a student of mine at USC and speaks rather well about the involvement of assistants with collaborative editors.

    Hyper Kinetic Editing

    20 02 2008

    A post at The Reel Addict complains about the frustration they feel about overly-hyper edited films and complains that:

    It drives me nuts. I didn’t pay $12 dollars to wait an entire film for a culminating final battle, only to have my eyes be unable to process so many subsequent images at once, leaving me seeing nothing but blurs.

    It’s a well reasoned piece, provoked in part by JUMPER (directed by BOURNE ULTIMATUM‘s director, Doug Liman). The complaint here is where editing overcomes story. Years ago, editing was about story, and the use of editing to fulfill stylistic needs was very low down on the priority list. Now editing is often more about emotion than story and that’s the issue that this post raises.

    I remember hearing a story (perhaps apocryphal) about Michael Bay, after walking out of an early screening of THE ROCK. Rumor has it that he looked at his editors and said (I’m paraphrasing here) “Phew, it certainly seems cuttier on the big screen than it does on the TV.”

    Clearly, we’re out of that phase and, now, filmmakers are consciously choosing frenetic editing styles to boost energy. Sometimes that’s done out of a legitimate story need, sometimes it’s done to cover up lousy story or faulty filmmaking, and sometimes its done out of nervousness and mistrust of the natural pace of the film. But we clearly know what’s going on with an audience when we make that choice.

    There are definitely films that take it too far for many audiences. In this case, the writer takes issue with JUMPER’s use of it:

    It’s meant to make you feel like you’re involved in the scene, and there through get you more pumped up about it. The quick editing makes it seem like more things are happening at a more frantic pace, and therefore the events become more exciting, right? Wrong. I appreciate the creative ambitions behind the editing, but I’d rather see what’s going on then have to settle for misplaced artistic ambitions in an action film.

    For me, it all goes back to story. In TERMINATOR 2, the filmmakers took the time to cut in a shot of a gas tank leaking during the big chase scene in the L.A. River. Did they need to do that? If you think about whether the energy level would have been diminished without the shot, or whether the audience would have bought the explosion without it, the answer has to be — absolutely not. But they took the time to do it.

    Storytelling is all in editing. That’s what it’s about — not flashy cuts.

    Best Gazillion Movies of All Time

    18 02 2008

    I mentioned this back a hundred years ago, in the first incarnation this blog, but I thought it deserved another mention.

    USC apparently sends a list of movies that they would like incoming students to have seen and Mike Gerber published the list. It’s actually a pretty impressive list and I wondered how many all of you have seen. As for me, I’ve seen many of them (the films I haven’t seen are in italics — go ahead, razz me now):

    A Hard Day’s Night
    African Queen
    Alice in the Cities
    All About Eve
    American Friend, The
    American Grafitti
    Annie Hall
    Apartment, The
    Apocalype Now
    Apu Trilogy, The
    Band of Outsiders
    Band Wagon, The
    Barton Fink
    Battle of Algiers
    Being John Malkovich
    Bicycle Thief, The
    Big Lebowski, The
    Black Orpheus
    Blade Runner
    Blue Velvet
    Bob le Flambeur
    Bonnie and Clyde
    Boyz ‘n the Hood
    Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

    Read the rest of this entry »

    How to Use The Avid Stabilize Effect

    18 02 2008

    Steve Cohen, Avid maven and source of all knowledge, put together a great video tutorial on How to Use The Avid’s Stabilize Effect. It’s a really great tool and the tutorial is short and effective. The link is to Steve’s account, but you can also read a description of it on Steve’s blog, Splice Here.