Category:souvenir (november 2001)

Editing, Day ??: I've lost count. Is it as tedious to read about editing day-to-day as it is to experience editing day-to-day? Since it consumes every one of my 20 waking hours/day, I'm left with little else to write about, though...


Jonah locked almost all the CD (formerly Mini-Disc) audio tracks to the clips used in the rough cut. This, after a long night and early mornings searching for an automatic way to synch up the video and CD audio. Basically, I think it comes down to this: If you have a lot of media, synch AFTER you make a rough cut, and then just synch the clips you use in the cut. If you have a lot of edits in that rough cut, though (and with the kids and the MTV, who doesn't have a lot of quickfire edits these days?), take a pass through your raw material, whittle it down to a small-medium sized batch that you're likely to use, and SYNCH IT BEFORE YOU EDIT.

Some metrics for you schedule-building filmmakers out there:

  • it took about 3 hours to cross-reference and capture 35 CD tracks into Final Cut Pro.
  • we missed another 6 tracks, which we captured ad hoc as we found out we missed them.
  • it took film school grad and intermediate/advanced FCP user Jonah about 5 hours to match up the CD audio to the 12 video clips (which you accomplish by making a new sequence, fyi, which doesn't include ANY of the in/out, subclip, speed, filter, sizing, or other editing data that you may have already spent a couple of weeks putting together).
  • it's taken novice "Can I borrow your user manual?" FCP user Greg 4 hours to re-place the CD-laden clips throughout the intricately woven rough cut. That, for about 25-30 individual cuts and subclips.
  • Even so, it's only about 75-80% done.


    Wednesday is the last 20%, tightening the edit down (gotta get down from 20 min. to 15, remember?), and sound editing/effects (i.e., taking out extraneous sounds, laying down background noise, adding phone rings, Charlie's Angels-style speakerphone effects, etc.)[note: that Angels link is about the movie, not the TV show, and it's slow to download. Oh, and it's in Vietnamese. Hey, Google, recommended it. What can I do?]


    Other: On a positive scheduling note, the Cannes Film Selection Committee said it'll be alright if our tape arrives Tuesday, since Monday is a holiday. No need to bring the tape to the office in person, then (the seemingly excessive backup plan). We now have until Friday, and I save $1700 or 80,000 frequent flyer miles. But I was looking forward to that 6-hour sleep on the plane, though...

  • Editing: Finished the (second?) rough cut, re-editing the middle scenes and editing the final ones (the crater and the memorial), which had previously been only barely sketched out. Learned how to do dissolves. Picked up the Mini-Disc audio, now transferred to CD, which Jonah's going to start laying down tonight. As soon as I generate a list of all the CD tracks he needs to load onto the hard drive. To do this, we created what's called an Edit Decision List, or EDL, which contains all the clips--and their corresponding information, like in and out frames-- and effects in the project/sequence. Check it out. If one is doing final editing on a different editing system, this code-like information would direct the editor (or the system) precisely how to do each shot and cut. It's sort of like the source code of the movie. Huh. I'd better write that down somewhere...


    Other: The production company under which this movie will live is now called First Sally, and I just created a placeholder page for it. The name comes from Cervantes, ostentatiously enough. Don Quixote's journeys were chronicled as "The First Sally," "The Second Sally," etc. At least, they were in the edition I read. (I got it online at Project Gutenberg.) And by naming my company after a famously deluded misfit, I'll be a step ahead in the "manage expectations" department. Much like Philip Johnson calling himself a whore before anyone else got the chance.


    The illustration is the earliest known depiction of Quixote, from an edition printed in Paris in 1618, a choice made for 1) aesthetic and 2) copyright reasons (I wanted something more linear and spare than illustrative, something more logo-like. An early 20th century edition of Don Quixote was one (as yet unfound) possibility, and then Picasso's dorm poster doodle version is good, but see reason #2 above...


    A casual browse, a refreshing visit through the Cannes website yielded some helpful information: the deadline for submissions is BEFORE April 1, not BY April 1. Good to know. That shaves two days off our calendar, and I rebooked my ticket to deliver the tape Thursday night instead of Monday. Also, the other two Cannes competitions, Directors' Fortnight and Critics' Circle have their own registrations. Also good to know. Moral: Scroll down to the bottom of the page. Scroll early and often.

    Editing: Jonah got about one third through the rough cut. That puts us in good standing for the LA Film Festival deadline Friday. Sound won't be done by then, obviously, but LA's down widdat. One thing we're sure of, though, is the need for some quick reshoots. In the NY location has it already been a month?], you may recall, there was a buzzing sound caused by grounding problems with the Mini-Disc player. Turns out we needed the cuts that were unusable. We'll crank it out pretty quickly, though (as if we have a choice). AND we need to shoot some more insert cuts of searching the web. Right now, it's a little rushed.


    For sound, I'm meeting with a former colleague who has moved to Elias Arts, a sound design and branding firm. It'll be good to scope out the sound mixing/editing job we face and see if another set of hands (and ears, I guess) will be helpful.


    Music: Bjork's out. I think I have to agree with Jonah that the music is just too emotionally laden. After all, this isn't a piece on Public Radio (at least not until we get the publicity machine rolling). When we were talking about Antonioni and the Caetano Veloso song I heard (called "Michelangelo Antonioni") and tracked down for the soundtrack, Jonah suggested the soundtrack from Antonioni's epic failure, Zabriskie Point. Specifically, Pink Floyd's opening track, "Heart Beat, Pig Meat," which is all but cemented for our opening scene at the airport. It's got an amazing, light keyboard and a faint, moaning vocalist, with an undercurrent of bongo drums. In the film version I downloaded from Gnutella, there are clips from TV shows, commercials, and overheard conversations interspersed throughout. It's awesome.


    Other Stuff: I've been working on the press kit and on completion of the festival submission form information. I'm going ahead with WithoutABox registration, a festival submission service. So far so good. Anyone have any experience with them? Please let me know.

    March 18, 2002

    !!! LOSE 6 LBS IN

    !!! LOSE 6 LBS IN *30 MINUTES** !! Guaranteed*



    *Note: those 30 minutes are the duration of your movie, spread out across 10 days of editing. Also, if you were to position a mini-fridge near your editing station, you are guaranteed to gain 6 lbs instead. (I *have* lost 6lbs by sitting, nearly inert, for 10 days, BTW. At a final fitting yesterday it was noticeable enough to provoke concern from the tailor. TMI, I guess.)


    Back to the movie: The rough cut is now complete, rough apparently translating to, "twice as long as it's supposed to be." Jonah, Alice and I tried to watch it last night on his iMac, but the program was temperamental; I brought the hard drive home to debug and check the filepaths, settings, etc.


    It's slightly daunting, the idea of having to cut half the movie out, although that's a somewhat false crisis; on the last three scenes, I left in almost entire takes, easily 5-8x longer than we'd ever use. That should mean an easy 7-8 minutes, leaving a hard 7 minutes to cut. Figure half of that will come from overall tightening; that means cutting out 3-4 minutes of script. Can it be done? Yes. Will it be done by Friday? I hope so. The submission deadline for the IFP/West LA Film Festival is Friday.

    March 17, 2002

    Editing: When I went to

    Editing: When I went to bed last night, I thought the village montage was nearly done. But watching it this morning, I wasn't satisfied at all, so I recut the whole thing. Now, at least the raw material for a strong montage of village residents is in place. Most of the afternoon was spent stumbling over the crater. There were strong dialogue scenes with the caretaker and emotional scenes at the crater itself, but no real logical way to sequence them. AND, since the guy didn't set out looking for a crater, there's basically no context for the audience; what's this got to do with anything? why is this guy there, seeing as how no one's ever mentioned it before? and so on.


    Well, a really simple, straightforward solution presented itself, and I've been flying through the scene for the last hour; everything seems to fall right into place. The audience should get information about the crater (and in a powerful way) and the guy's reaction to it is actually set up and enhanced by the way it's cut. Or at least it will/should be, once it really gets cut. That leaves only Thiepval for tomorrow morning. Nearly on schedule.


    Not to turn this into a Soderbergh shrine or anything, but I'm sorry, I was at Sundance in 1989 (and managing the foreign film program at my university); I've been influenced. On Avid's site, Soderbergh talks about editing his films, including Ocean's Eleven and Traffic. A "radical" change editor Stephen Morrione made to one scene in Traffic illustrates the potential power of editing. [scroll down to "Half a Step Ahead"]. I felt that tonight. (Although so far, the closest I've gotten to Traffic is scoring one of the promo t-shirts that's wrapped like a brick of cocaine.)


    Tonight, I've been editing to TCM's showing of All Quiet on the Western Front, the 1930 war/anti-war classic, directed by Lewis Milestone. Milestone was a lion of filmmaking, starting way back in the silent era (remember, sound movies only really came out three years before AQOTWF) and continuing into the sixties. His second to last film? The original Rat Pack version of Ocean's Eleven. Hey, I don't make this stuff up; it just happens.

    Editing: Met with Jonah today to review the rough cut. As it stands, there are really only the two last scenes remaining to do, and I'm going to finish them tonight and Saturday (repeat after me: "loooozah"). Sure enough, Jonah showed me some quick/instant tricks that made things sing: slowing down a cut by even 10% to smooth it out, subtle enlargement of the image to crop out vignetting, and rapidly executed cuts and changes in the rhythm of scenes that made them work better than before. Once I get the rough cut to him Sunday, he'll have quite a bit of liberty to fashion the whole thing.


    One thing that I was unsure about was how to really make jump cuts well, a technique I wanted to use, especially in the town sequence, where the man finds out about the town's role in the war as he asks several people for directions. Then tonight, as I was capturing a few remaining clips, I turned on The Sundance Channel, and Steven Soderbergh's film, The Limey was on. Terence Stamp had a scene where he's telling it like it is to some DEA agent or something sitting at a desk. The monologue/diatribe was such a massive series of jump cuts, executed so well, that it was a shot in the arm. The cuts set a rhythm in the speech, subtly causing the viewer to stay on edge, waiting to see what the next cut is going to be. Even though every one is of Stamp, in the near center of the frame, the cuts keep the viewer's attention pinned to the speech, whereas a long, single cut--or intercutting with an unmoving/nonspeaking agent--could cause viewers' minds to wander. Interesting. Here's a Google cache of an EditorsNet.com interview with Sarah Flack, the editor on The Limey. About halfway down, she talks about this exact scene. Very interesting.

    Editing: Finished the gas station scene and the third conversation in the car. that means I've got it blocked out to scene 35, which is more than halfway through. Three major scenes remain: the village of Albert; the crater at La Boisselle; and the memorial in Thiepval.


    It's going a lot faster, though, when I can actually edit. Unfortunately, I lost time today because the townhouse across the street had two (2) jackhammers going in tandem, almost non-stop for four hours. I'd been prepared for the Sex and the City shoot that's been going on next door since 7AM (the ol' slip a dvd to Sarah Jessica Parker routine, you know), but not the jackhammers. Hmmm, wonder if it's like those leafblowing extortionists I've heard about who stalk production locations in LA...[does no link mean it's an urban legend?]


    Music: Not an urban legend, but a legend nonetheless. Bjork's concert in Stuttgart on 11 September took place only a couple of hours after the attacks in NYC (do the time zone math). She went ahead with it, and from all accounts, it was an extremely emotional, moving experience. Turns out she performed a song by Meredith Monk, "Gotham Lullaby," which I'd found on another concert album. Ladies and gentlemen, we may have found our Bjork selection for the soundtrack...

    Editing: Finished the third sequence this afternoon, the 2nd conversation between the couple. It went much faster than the other one. Rewatched the first one, which I know now is at least 1 min. too long. That's good, because while I was/am determined to beat the 1 minute/page rule of thumb (after writing a 22-page script for a 15-minute movie, whaddya gonna do?), right now it's almost exactly 1 min/pg. Damn you, years of experience in the filmmaking industry...


    And I worry that having Baraka on in the background while editing will only make everything twice as long. (It's one looong, meditative scene or hypontic pan/zoom after another, with wall-to-wall mystical music.) Ah, Sundance giveth and The Sundance Channel taketh away.

    Editing: Finished a second sequence, the first conversation 1:41 in the car and in NYC. The dialogue scene has roughly four times as many cuts, with four layered video/audio tracks as the airport scene, even though it's less than half as long. Then I wasted several hours trying to connect my mac and pc via infrared so I could upload the quicktime drafts. If I had an hour for every hour I wasted on tech stuff, I'd, well, I'd break even, time-wise.

    Editing: Built my first sequence in Final Cut Pro today, 3:45 at the airport (the opening scenes of the movie). I must say, it's too long, and there are some cheats in it, but I kind of like it. If I could get my infrared working on the Powerbook, I'd post the draft version. But as I'm finding out (the hard way), what I don't know about Mac connectivity can fill several books (and costs me precious time).


    Exposure and lighting from cut to cut is a huge factor, or at least it's very distracting to me right now. I'm hoping we'll be able to finesse some of it away with color balancing and other post effects. In the mean time, I'm just trying to assure at least some kind of complementarity, if not actual continuity, in the light of abutting cuts.


    Music: Once again, SoMa FM proves a great editing companion. This morning they streamed LTJ Bukem's Inward Journey, a drum-and-bass CD set that has a couple of really chill, contemplative tracks on it. What I didn't know about ambient, jungle, and drum-and-bass could fill... etc., etc.


    What else happened today: My friends' newly renamed memorial to the World Trade Center went live tonight. We watched from the Hudson River as the switch was thrown. From our first angle, the two beams overlapped almost perfectly. From other points, though, including Canal and Greenwich Streets, 6th Avenue & West 4th, and other stops on my way home, the beam were perfectly delineated. John et al had paid special attention to the proportional spacing and the crisp edge between the towers, and the lights communicate that amazingly well. In fact, I just found Gustavo's comments on Slate: "...in effect, we're not rebuilding the towers themselves, but the void between them."


    And while there was a sense of sadness building up before the lighting, I surprise myself by how comforting it is to see something again in the skyline. That something there--again, still--could be an unexpected solace for people who worried that only the buildings themselves are being remembered.

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    Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

    Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

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