Whenever non-industry people used to ask me what it meant to be an assistant editor, I would fumble to come up with a succinct answer that they could understand. Over time I boiled it down to the following description: “Anything that goes into or comes out of the Avid is my responsibility: digitizing footage; importing graphics; making tapes, DVD’s, and EDL’s; etc. I am also responsible for helping the editor locate or organize any of the material already in the Avid to make his or her job easier.”

Fundamental to all of these tasks is one underlying responsibility: organization. The better organized you are as an assistant editor, the better you will be at your job, and the more you will be appreciated by your editor(s) and bosses. If you’re like me, and you’re borderline obsessive-compulsive about how you organize things in your everyday life (the money in my wallet is always organized in order of bill size; my mp3’s are all tagged and named in the same exact manner), then this sort of thing will be almost second-nature. Everyone has his or her own organizational style, but I thought I’d share a few systems I’ve used to simplify my job and make life easier for everyone I work with. Remember, a few extra organizational steps can save you major headaches down the road.

1. Keep a binder full of tips and tricks, technical specs, and notes.

Tim\'s assistant editor binder

I have a 1.5″ 3-ring binder full of all sorts of paperwork that I’ve collected over time. I have separate tabs for the following categories:

  • Contacts – You never know when you might need to call a fellow assistant editor you worked with ages ago to ask a quick technical question.
  • Post production schedule – Always make sure you’re aware of upcoming deadlines.
  • Important e-mails regarding the current project I’m working on
  • Technical specs – Here are a few of the things I keep in this section: screen grabs of import and export settings, data bitrates and resolutions of various codecs and file formats, a list of Avid-supported HD decks, common OMF and EDL specs, and a cheat sheet on how to work the router
  • Tips – This section mostly contains various Avid tutorials that I’ve stumbled across on Avid forums and at various blogs like this one. GeniusDV has some particularly helpful how-to’s that I use a lot.
  • Notes – Jot down any important information during your work day – a to-do list, important telephone numbers, a timecode you need to remember…
  • Keyboard settings – I have a print-out of my keyboard in the transparent front cover of my binder (see above photo) – this is helpful when I’m rebuilding my settings at a new work station or if I forget where one of my rarely-used commands is located.

I occasionally weed out dated material that doesn’t seem important anymore, but you never know when you’ll be stuck with a minor problem that you have a solution for buried in your binder from months ago. I can’t tell you how many times my improvised “assistant editor Bible” has saved me in a tough spot.

2. Own a FlashDrive.

Tim\'s FlashDrive

I keep mine in the “5th pocket” of my jeans whenever I’m at work and use it all the time to transfer files between Avids or between my Avid and my laptop. It’s much faster and easier than trying to burn a CD or DVD every time you want to e-mail an EDL to someone or import a new graphic that someone e-mailed to you. I also store blank document templates that might come in handy for future gigs, as well as my Avid settings (I keep a separate copy for all of the different operating systems and Avid versions I’ve ever worked on, for compatibility reasons – Meridien vs. Adrenaline, Mac vs. PC, etc.). FlashDrives are practically a dime a dozen nowadays, and you can put 2 GB in your pocket for less than $40.

3. Organize your Avid bins into folders by category.

Nothing slows down your workflow more than having to hunt through your project for a bin that is named something easy to forget and difficult to guess. Organizing your bins into folders of similar material (shot tapes, music, graphics, outputs, editor working bins, etc.) and even sub-folders, if necessary, will minimize the confusion. To pick a custom order for your bins to appear, preface the folder names with sequential numbers (i.e. “01 – Shot Tapes”). On those occasions where you remember the name of a bin, but not where it’s located, jump into “Flat View” (located under the project hamburger menu directly underneath the “Bins” tab); every bin will be listed alphabetically with no folder structure.

This post is part 1 of a series. For part 2, click here.  For part 3, click here.