Ladies and gentlemen, dust off your keyboard and calibrate your mouse. It’s time for a “View from the Cutting Room Floor” pop quiz.

Like the Native American windtalkers in World War II, post production professionals often speak in code only intelligible to other members of our “tribe.” To evaluate your level of submersion into television post culture, define the following terms by picking the multiple choice answer that is most appropriate to the profession.

1. Supertease

  1. The flashy montage at the beginning of a reality show (usually in the first episode) that informs the viewer of the premise of the show and what to expect from the rest of the season
  2. A men’s hair product that was forced out of business by Vitalis in the 1950’s
  3. The guy or girl in high school that flirted with you all the time but always had “other plans” on Friday and Saturday night (more…)
Avid command palatte

Once you’ve been working on Avid for awhile, you begin to internalize the steps needed to perform a certain series of actions. Eventually, you will find yourself thinking faster than the Avid can keep up, especially when working on a slow machine. It can be frustrating to hit a button, wait several seconds, and then press the next button.

Fortunately, Avid is designed to remember a series of commands, even as it is performing another function. This allows you to press keys as fast as you can think of them while the computer does something else.

For example, when I’m tweaking an effect in Effect Mode, once I start the render, I immediately hit the “Source/Record Editing” key, click on a spot prior to the effect in my timeline, and hit “Play”. While I’m checking my e-mail, Avid will finish rendering the effect, jump back to the appropriate place in the timeline, and begin playing, which cues me to start paying attention to make sure the effect plays correctly.

Test out your own keystroke combinations, and save yourself some valuable e-mailing/texting/reading time!

One of the most talked-about features of the new Avid Media Composer 3.0 is its ability to create real-time timecode burn-ins with no rendering necessary. For those of you still dealing with outrageous render times on an ancient Meridien system, I feel your pain. One of my fellow assistants recently introduced me to a nifty way to create a real-time timecode effect that takes a little while to set up but can save you countless hours of time down the road. It is most useful for tracking the running time of a sequence (as opposed to source timecode), since it relies on re-using the same timecode each time. As my example, I will be working in a 30i NTSC project with drop-frame timecode, but the steps can be modified easily based on the needs of your project. Ready? Here we go. (more…)

I’m a realist. Long ago I abandoned my dream of becoming a writer/director. It was around the time I realized I couldn’t pen a single sentence of meaningful dialogue or instruct an actor with any degree of confidence. Sometimes it’s best to be honest with yourself. But one thing I found myself drawn to in editing was how you could manipulate images and sounds to construct a perceived reality that was almost totally different from the conditions in which the material was recorded.

Any hack can string a bunch of images together; but as anyone with a real filmmaking sense knows, it takes a skilled artist to be able to control the numerous unseen factors that come into play when telling a story through images. Aside from the photographic decisions of camera placement and frame size that the editor takes into account, there are certain elements – emotion, tone, rhythm, pacing – that are more intangible and flexible when it comes to storytelling. (more…)

I’ve recently been working part-time uprezzing an hour-long series for Animal Planet, which involves a ton of batch digitizing. When you’re staring at a computer screen for hours on end, waiting for the Capture Tool to do its thing, it’s very easy to get annoyed at little deficiencies in the software that would make my job easier and maybe even save a lot of time. I have no idea if the Capture Tool is undergoing any changes in the new version of MC, but here is my list of gripes that seem like they could be fixed without too much effort.

  1. For the love of God, please allow me to abort the capture at any stage of the process, rather than just when it’s in the middle of digitizing a clip. Whenever the deck keeps searching and searching for a timecode I know it won’t find, I have to switch the deck into Local mode to confuse the Avid into asking for the next tape. Nothing else seems to work. (more…)

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

Here are some more organizational tips to improve your assistant editing workflow.

7. Color code your clips and sequences.

Select the items you want colored in your bin, and choose “Set Clip Color” from the “Edit” menu. In general, avoid red (save it for indicating offline clips), but you can assign virtually any color to your clips and sequences (there are more options available than just the primary colors by selecting “Pick…”). There’s a lot of room for creativity here. You can use different colors for source clips, acquired footage, clips that need aspect ratio formatting, sound effects, music, sequences to output, or however else you see fit. If you select “Source” under “Clip Color” in the Timeline hamburger menu, the clips will show their colors within your sequence. (more…)

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

Here are some more organizational tips to improve your assistant editing workflow.

4. Store all imported files in a folder on your desktop.

Usually all of the graphics and logos I’m given are on their own CD, and the stack piles up pretty quickly. When it comes time to re-import everything at full resolution for your uprez, you’ve got to hunt through all of the CD’s to find each file. If you copy all of the files to a folder on your desktop first and import them from there, not only will they all be in one convenient place; Media Composer should remember their location and automatically re-link from the Batch Import main window. How convenient! Putting everything in one folder will also help you avoid the mistake of accidentally naming two files the same thing, leading to confusion down the line. If you’re conforming the show on a different system, you can easily burn a CD or DVD of the files in your desktop folder to take with you. (more…)