Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Some edit effects are gimmicks, and some shake your chest.  From Bon Iver and Nabil Elderkin, the latter.
We're going away tomorrow to send off the summer, the warmer age.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The cutting room floor

It often happens that you can't use everything you shoot, even if it's cool.  For the last few days I've been editing backwards.  In this sequence, water is doing all the wrong things.  The eye can catch a lot in a miniscule amount of time - droplets flowing in reverse trigger a kind of alternate reality.  Like being in love at a secret swimming hole.  We shot a couple playing in the creek, but I need to end up with a non-provocative version of events.  I sure don't remember conducting many innocent creekwalks for two, but hey.  Sometimes the best way to find the right feel is to go all the way in one direction and try to pull back from there.  I decided to first do an edit of a hotter, maybe more memorable part of the trip, then axe it with the de-sexing delete key.  Shuffled a bit, I think the second one is a tighter edit. You sure hate to lose the mojo though.  See if you can spot the changes.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


The myth of the wild is pervasive, especially in North America.  Everywhere you go, people have been there.  Even on a seemingly uninhabited swath of sand, there are denizens.  There is no virgin land, there is no virgin art.  Everything is a remix.  It's new in your imagination, but only because you can't see the tracks anymore.  The most you can do is discover things new to yourself - and that's a tall enough order.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Life after FCP

Now why would I submit you to some arcane discussion of tools when I've tried so hard to stick to simple stories and keep that kind of stuff off of here?  Simple.  A few reasons.  1) the rumors are true, I'm a dork.  2) maybe you're wondering what I do all day.  3) as an editor, I haven't been spending much of my working life in the real world lately.  Like, 12 months lately.  Since manipulation of image and sound happen in a kind of imaginary electronic space, that's another layer of representation already applied to a layer of representation.  Which (at some point beyond boredom) is a fascinating idea for a dork.

I learned nonlinear video editing in high school, and I've been using the same program for ten years.  To me, learning to use Final Cut Pro at 18 was like understanding how to use a pen or a camera or to drive a car for the first time.  Imagine looking at letters and pictures all your life but having no idea how they were made.  All of a sudden, I could control the story.

Final Cut Pro did that for thousands of other people at around the same time.  Video used to be possible only for big studios and TV stations and companies.  Suddenly anyone with a camera, a cable and a mac full of hard drives could make their own little movies.  Tell that to the millions of teenagers uploading videos to youtube this weekend and nobody cares - but a decade ago, it was unbelievable.

Then, a month ago, Apple kind of dumped FCP by making the newest version essentially useless for professionals.  I'll admit, I was a little heartbroken at first.  I'm plunged straight into learning a new set of tools under a deadline - and I'm surprised and happy to say that's a good thing.  It's forcing me to break some old habits and concentrate again on making a story.  Sometimes breakups are great.

Now I work with about five different programs at a time, all doing different parts of that job - arranging images and sound to tell a story.  There's an endless amount of tweaking to be done with a different tool for each thing. The massive sensor inside the Red One camera generates an enormous amount of information.  Four million points of light every 1/24th of a second - incident photons electrified and stored as raw computer data copied onto dual onboard hard drives.  When I hook up those hard drives to a computer, open RedcineX and start working, this is what I see.

The fact that the data is raw from camera's sensor is significant.  It starts out as flat and honest pixel information, ready for manipulation.  You can do absolutely anything to it.  With FCP, we would then render out these movies and then start editing them.  That's very time consuming.  And every time you change your mind about the look of a clip, you have to render it all over again.  You get to continue sitting in your dark little box watching a bar crawl across the screen lying to you about how it's almost done.  Lame.  Tape has all but disappeared, but we've been living under the shadow of those filmish tape-like habits.  Digital workflows can be the worst of both worlds.  Remember how everyone used to talk about the paperless office and it never happened?  And now you have just as many papers and TPS reports and piles of memos and things you could never make time to care about duplicated in two different electronic and physical landscapes?  Like that.

For me, that is beginning to change.  This is one example.  The great thing about this new set of tools is that no matter how much I distort the image using all those settings, it never messes with the source file.  I can give a clip as many different kinds of looks I want, and it just saves little matadata files.  They're called .RMDs - like a handful of transparent celluloid sheets plopped over the original image, all interchangeable.  And the best part is that in Adobe Premiere, I can cut a whole sequence, then go back to RedcineX, change anything, and it instantly reads the new .RMD and new colors ripple through into the movie with no waiting.  What used to take a roomful of $10 millon machines and lights and 3 specialists and miles of film and hours of tweaking to achieve a single final irrevocable result now can be done in seconds by me alone at a cheap computer - and I can change my mind and redo it tomorrow.

Now, whether that fact alone will destroy all of the time-saving advancements in my digital film workflow... we'll see.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I had a mullet before it had a name

Says Mike Pilcher, a guy I first met years ago at a random Krystal in the Atlanta sprawl.  He was rigging lights to the ceiling tile like some flannelless McGuyver.  Even pulling a 12 hour, 100 degree shoot feels good when the stories start rolling in.

Monday, August 1, 2011

River, time.

Time can drag sweetly, sliding long on moments of endless opportunity.  Sometimes it is swift, unidirectional, unrelenting, intractable.  What was a tree or a forking stream is now a canyoned river, a rudderless boat.  We move like water skimmers, adept and hovering on this thin tension, the present.  No eyes for the enormous flowing body, palps to the ripples at our feet, hope only for luck and the next stride.