February 2008


Frustration

Assistant editors: ever find yourself stuck doing the same mind-numbing action over and over ad nauseum for hours? For instance, sometimes I will be in a situation where I need to play through one long clip in a sequence and add edits at numerous points along the way. Instead of moving my fingers off the “J-K-L” keys and across the keyboard to hit the key for “Add Edit” every time I want to do so, I came up with an alternative. Under the “Settings” tab of the project window, highlight your keyboard setting. Hit Apple-D (or Control-D on a PC), and it duplicates the setting. You can rename it “Temporary Keyboard” or “Add Edit Keyboard” or whatever you want. Now remap the “Add Edit” command to the semi-colon key or “H” key (or wherever you want it that’s more handy than where you usually keep it), and whenever you need to add an edit, you can simply slide your finger over one position and hit the key without moving your hands. This allows you to switch back and forth between multiple commands at lightning speed, without even really having to think about it. When you’re done with the whole process, simply go back into the “Settings” tab and click the check mark onto your main keyboard setting, and everything is mapped back to how you normally like it.

An alternate keyboard can be useful for any sort of repetitive task. For actions that require a whole string of commands, you can even map them to consecutive keys (I use the number keys on the top row of the keyboard) and hit them all in a row over and over, without searching across the keyboard for the right buttons. I do this when I am multigrouping footage that is synced in a timeline, and it saves me a ton of time. As an alternative, you can use an external program that records your keyboard strokes and mouse clicks into a macro and play it back in a loop at warp speed, while you cross your feet on your desk and watch the computer do your work for you. Now that’s a time saver.

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Christopher Rouse

Christopher Rouse won the “Best Film Editing” Oscar last night for his brilliant work on “The Bourne Ultimatum.” I avoided serious embarrassment in front of my friends by correctly predicting his win. Among the clips shown yesterday at the “Invisible Art, Visible Artists” panel (see my earlier post on the subject), Rouse’s showed the best mastery of story, character, and pacing. While I had already seen several of the nominated films, it’s always good to re-watch parts of them with the sole purpose of analyzing the editing; usually when you’re watching for the first time, the story and characters (hopefully!) demand most of your attention, and the editing is something you feel without thinking about it. The “Bourne” clip showed Desh the assassin stalking Nicky through the streets and rooftops of Tangiers, with Bourne in hot pursuit, culminating in an intense mano-a-mano battle. The suspense that Rouse created by expertly intercutting Nicky’s frantic escape with the emotionless, methodical stalking of a trained assassin sent chills down my spine. While many viewers have complained that Paul Greengrass’s trademark handheld, action-packed close-ups can be disorienting and sickening, it takes tremendous skill to be able to weave half-second fragments of these shots into a coherent scene with logical pacing. There are so many possible combinations of shots that a weaker editor could miss the mark entirely. (more…)

Blu-ray

Today Toshiba announced that they are abandoning their HD DVD format, meaning that Sony’s Blu-ray will take over as the industry standard for disc-based high definition home entertainment. All I can say is, it’s about time! Consumers have been suffering for several years now, unable to purchase either format without worrying that it might become obsolete at any moment. Technology changes at a fast enough rate that most of our electronics already become dated in 3 or 4 years. And who wanted to buy a $600 player that could only play half of the titles available in HD anyway? Until just recently, the studios were split evenly as to which format their titles would be released on.

With the improvement of Blu-ray technology and HD television signals finding their way into more and more U.S. homes these days, the initial overhead cost of being able to watch movies in HD is falling steadily. For a few hundred dollars’ investment, people who already own HDTV sets can experience the crisp detail, color, and sound of films the way they were meant to be seen. Every time I walk into a Best Buy and see a demo movie in 1080P (“full HD”), I am absolutely blown away by the quality.

Until digital distribution becomes the standard for buying and renting video content (I’m confident we’re at least a few years away), it will be nice to have a single, large-storage-capacity (50 GB!) DVD format. Now let’s just hope the studios use the technology to it’s full potential, educating the public about the differences between HD and SD (many are still clueless), and packing each disc with a multitude of extra content and features that standard definition discs cannot handle. Until they do that, the majority of consumers will be reluctant to replace their existing home theater equipment.

Oscar and Eddie

The A.C.E. Eddie Awards were held last night at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills. I would have attended if not for the $200 price tag and the fact that a tux would have set me back another Benjamin or two. Maybe once I’m rich and famous (and nominated?) I will make it an annual tradition. “Best Edited Feature Film (Dramatic)” went to Christopher Rouse, A.C.E. for “The Bourne Ultimatum,” beating out “No Country for Old Men,” “Into the Wild,” and “There Will Be Blood” – all 4 of which are also up for “Best Film Editing” Oscars this weekend. You can view the complete list of nominees and winners here.

This Saturday is the Invisible Art Visible Artists panel, which I look forward to every year (this will be my third time attending). It is a free event where this year’s Oscar-nominated editors screen a scene from their films, talk about the editing process of that scene and the film as a whole, and answer questions from moderator Alan Heim (president of A.C.E.) and members of the audience. The event is always popular enough that you have to get in line extra early to make sure you get a seat, but it’s still intimate enough that you can usually squeeze in a one-on-one question or handshake with your favorite editor afterwards (Thelma Schoonmaker signed my DVD of “The Departed” last year). While I have seen aspiring professionals slipping their business card to the nominated editors, I do not recommend this approach, and I think it will get you laughed at instead of hired. Anyway, here are the details of the event; maybe I’ll see you there. (more…)

Welcome to the blog. I thought I’d start things off with a few Avid keyboard shortcuts that I have added to my settings in the last few months that make my life exponentially easier. As you well know, there are infinite combinations of how to set up your keyboard, and based on what functions you do the most, you will have different shortcuts you want to have in certain handy places. However, I picked a few keys from my settings that I think will be useful for almost everybody, as they are frequently used commands with complicated default keystrokes or mouse-clicks that I have remapped to convenient and easy-to-remember places:

Avid keyboard shorcuts

1. I’ve seen so many other AE’s using the awkward two-key “More detail” and “Less detail” commands or the imprecise slider at the bottom of the timeline window to zoom in or out on their sequence. I’ve very simply mapped these commands to the “Page Up” and “Page Down” keys, conveniently located next to the “Home” and “End” keys that also pertain to navigating through your sequence. You can easily double- or triple-tap these keys to zoom in or out on your playhead quickly. It can also be useful to press the keys immediately once, one after the other, to center your playhead as an alternative to hitting the “Focus” button. As an added convenience, I’ve mapped “Show Entire Sequence” to both “Page Up” and “Page Down” with the “Shift” button depressed. This makes zooming in and out of my sequence a breeze.

2. This one I discovered just a couple weeks ago, and it’s a huge time saver. Sick of always hitting “Apple-Shift-A” every time you want to deselect all the tracks in your timeline or clips in a bin? Simply map “Deselect All” to the “S” key and map “Select All” to the “A” key (I moved the “Go to Next Edit” and “Go to Previous Edit” keys to “Shift-S” and “Shift-A”). Yep, it works in bins and the timeline! (more…)