Monday, May 14, 2012

On the subject of Editing.

I've recently been doing some editing for some friends. Not writing editing but actual video editing. I use a software program designed for Macs called Final Cut Pro (nickname FCP) and started using it back in 2002. 

The screen above is my project for Emperor of Mars, very simple as FCP goes, I had photos and some artwork and narration. The blue areas are the photos and the 2 green lines are the audio. Excuse the sunlight reflecting on the screen.

My editing experience started back in 1970 at a local TV station in Windsor, across the river from Detroit. Back then everything was 16mm film for the station; movies, commercials and some TV shows were all used and reused until they were either out of date or had so many scratches from being run in the projectors that they  had to be replaced.

There was video but it was limited to local TV shows we produced. News stories were all filmed on 16mm black and white film.

Going back to the first edit jobs, I would take 16mm commercials and insert them into a TV show or movie by hot splicing. That involved cutting the film and gluing the commercials, sometimes as many as 4, into the movie.

Editing, like filming and writing and probably acting, is a creative process. Splicing commercials was hardly that, but I learned how to find the places in a movie, for example, to best put the commercials.

In later years, I was more of a writer/producer/director at all the TV stations I worked at and didn't really edit myself, rather a technician would make all the cuts on video, sometimes actually cutting the tape to join to another piece of tape.

It wasn't until 2002 that I started to edit again, with FCP, which was slightly higher than consumer video editing softwares, it cost $1200 and I needed to buy a Mac besides having a PC laptop.

My first experiences were revolutionary to me, I could actually cut and edit and add music and effects. Really amazing stuff. But the hardest part was learning it, and it took a good 2 years to figure out the software to my liking.

One of the biggest problems with digital editing is that there are many ways to do it and many ways to mess it up. That's where I came into conflict with technology again. I came from film editing which, technologically was simple; you had an editing machine that had 4 functions; forward/fast forward and reverse/fast reverse.

With FCP you have dozens, maybe hundreds of different functions and dozens of ways to screw it up. Today, to edit features or just family movies, you have to know how digital works. To my credit, I'm okay on the tech side, but much more creative on the artistic side.

And those don't always get along with each other.

I remember working with a tech video guy at a TV station; he was editing, I was telling him what to add or cut. Kind of like my dad teaching me to drive. Lots of arguing.

At one point, I was looking at the color on one monitor and the tech was looking  at his tech screens filled with scales and lines. I said the color on my picture monitor was off, he said, looking at his screens, that it was perfect.

I was looking at people, he was looking at lines.

What's the point? Well, I have found that creativity and technology don't always go together. 

Example; I recently edited a demo reel for my director friend Paul. It consisted of TV shows he had directed when copies were made from 1" video tape. Now I was putting them on digital. And that meant having to translate the old video to digital video. Not an easy thing to do and I had to enlist the many FCP forums to help me.

That's another thing about digital editing; it always has problems. There are 125,000 people using FCP (probably more but that's the number on the official Mac site) who are having problems. Every day. And there are at least a dozen different help sites including Youtube.

When we edited film, there were only those 4 functions I described above. And sometimes you had to change the light bulb in the screen.

Now you have to be the editor, the engineer and at least a dozen functions that were done by other individuals. If you wanted an optical effect, say a fade to black, you had to get the lab printer to do that and it cost money.

Now I just make a single click and there's the fade to black. All of 2 seconds. 

And that brings into question this; if I can do almost any kind of optical visual by myself then what is happening to the people who used to do this?

For on example, I sometimes go to a dubbing company that makes copies of dvds, etc. They had 3 different offices in LA. A month ago I called for a pricing on a video and they now have 1 office. What happened? 

Guys like me happened, people who can do practically everything by themselves.

It's an odd situation, knowing that I and thousands of others are taking away jobs from people. FCP now costs $299 as compared to the $1200 it used to cost.

As the saying goes, "good news is that everyone can now make a movie--- bad news is that everyone can now make a movie. 

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