Writer’s note: My final show as an Online Editor was the Swedish Sauna episode of ‘Indoor Out’ for HGTV in 2009. Looking back there are a lot of things I miss about being an Editor. I remember opening up a timeline and being able to tell who had edited it just by looking at the organization of the video tracks. I remember feeling a ‘oneness with the machine’ and losing myself for hours in the flow of my work. (But I digress) Before I left I wrote the following letter and checklist for the Assistant Editor who had been training to takeover my role. My notes below have stood the test of time and I hope they can be helpful to you.
Notes for Online Editing
It is my goal that these notes can provide a rough idea of: 1) what you are trying to accomplish during each stage of an online edit, and 2) what you need to do at each stage.
Online Editing is the last stage of the post production process. The goal of the online editor is to create a show master according to the network’s unique specifications. Very often the online editor inherits a show from an offline editor, or team of editors. I like to say, “the offline editor gets the show 90% ready for broadcast and the online edit takes it the final 10 percent.” The tasks an online editor performs from time of assumed responsibility until delivery can be divided into 3 broad categories: 1) video work, 2) audio work, and 3) archiving.
Before you get started
Questions to ask yourself:
Do I have the network’s Tech Specs or Exhibit Sheet?
Before you go on a trip, you need to know where you are going. In a very real sense, the network’s specifications instruct you on how they expect the show to be delivered. Every network is different. Scripps has different channel assignments and slate requirements than A&E or Discovery. Also, specifications change all of the time! Bravo is notorious for changing specs every few months. Even within a network a one-hour special may have different requirements than a thirty-minute show. Therefore, always make sure you are working with a network’s most recent spec sheet.
Am I working with the correct project file? And sequence?
Always ask the producer (good), assistant editor (better), or offline editor (best), which sequence is the most up-to-date. Best of all is to have the offline editor come into the online suite and confirm that you are working on the correct cut. The situation you are trying to avoid is working on a sequence that doesn’t have the latest round of changes.
Is my show to time?
Not only is it prudent to make sure that you are working with the current sequence, but it is also a good idea to make sure that your show is to time (refer to your network’s “clock”). The best way to make sure your show is timed correctly is to build your sequence according to the tech specs. If a sequence is not ‘to time’ that could be an indicator that you’re working with the wrong sequence.
Make sure the first segment begins at the one-hour mark (01:00:00:00) and make sure the exact amount of black is in between segments. Make sure the show’s last frame ends where it should as well. I’ve found that the best way to make sure all this stuff is correct is by filling in the required timing sheet. Since you will be required to create one anyway, why not get it over with and ensure that your show is ready for online.
Does my show have any major problems that will affect delivery?
Most online editors will dive right in and start their work and I think that is a huge mistake. Before I get started, I like to watch the show beginning to end in order to assess the condition of the whole show. Is there an issue that could cause additional work or delay delivery? It’s better to know these things in advance so plans can be made beforehand.
Each pass should have a specific purpose.
Finally, I like to work in passes, where each pass has a specific purpose. For example; on my first pass I’ll focus on matching shots within a scene. On a later pass I’ll focus on blurs. On my final pass I’ll look at the text elements like credits, lower thirds, and subtitles. Breaking the work up like this allows you to remain hyper focused on one specific action at a time and to be completely dialed-in to the NLE’s specific controls for that aspect of correction.