When Avid announced that they were assisting editing professionals shift to remote workflows by offering 90 licenses I was hopeful. But after reading the details, all Avid did was make a difficult situation harder.
Avid is only offering temporary duplicate licenses. I manage a team of 18 people, so this is what I’d have to do to take advantage of Avid’s ‘help’:
Get everyone on my team to sign up for a “My Avid” Account.
Gather everyone’s account user names into a spreadsheet.
Coordinate which license each user is using with my Post House.
Email all of this information to Avid.
Wait for Avid to do whatever it does.
As if I didn’t have enough to do pivoting our team to remote.
The ‘Right’ Solution
Instead of creating more work for their users, Avid could simply make their software free for 90 days. Period.
There are two powerful software applications that every Post Producer should know about: OmniOutliner and OmniGraffle. Both of these apps can help you communicate your ideas with more clarity and help you manage the creative process more effectively.
OmniOutliner is for writing with structure. What it brings to the table are a unique set of tools for organizing, visualizing, and styling
your text with ease. Writing with structure is especially important
when you are trying to communicate complex ideas that multiple parties
need to ‘buy into’; like your show’s post production workflow.
What I like about outlining is that it imposes a structure on my writing. In my example above the process forced me to consider the entire workflow. In effect it influenced my thinking and made sure I was covering all aspects. The advantage of using OmniOutliner is that it enables the user to move things around quickly and create more readable documents.
If a picture is worth a thousand words then a good diagram is worth two or three thousand at least! OmniGraffle is a tool for creating diagrams.
One of a Post Producer’s most important responsibilities is communicating problems clearly. In my experience teams default to wordy emails too often. When things get challenging you’re often better served by turning to high bandwidth form of communication like in-person or phone calls. If you have to send an update via email, a good illustration can often explain things much more clearly then a dozen paragraphs.
Earlier in my career one of my shows had a dubbing problem. After uncovering the problem with the Posthouse’s Tech, I had to explain the cause of the problem to the EIC. I spent hours agonizing the best way to explain why the audio and video didn’t match on the DVD dubs. It seems obvious in retrospect, but explaining what specific wiring issue transpired proved to be challenging, until I remembered ‘the Graffle‘.
The creative process is messy by design. Creating something new isn’t a linear exercise. It’s filled with false starts and wasteful explorations. Managing the chaos is a Post Producer’s job and the best way to do that is through more effective communication.
There are two things that have made this the book for me. First, Automate starts at the beginning and building a solid foundation. For example: most of the other resources I’ve tried (and I’ve tried many in the past) don’t explain the difference between the Interactive Shell and the Launcher. Or how to even check that you’re running the most current version of Python in the Command Line. Maybe it’s so basic that most resources just assume that the reader will know how to do this. But this starting from the beginning approach has made the world of difference for me.
I also like the practical aspect of the book. It’s not working towards abstract computer theory, it’s building towards enabling you to use a computer as the most powerful tool mankind has even invented. In other words: how to stop wasting your time repeating unnecessary tasks.
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.
Axe’s advice about networking and resuming writing in part 5 is solid. If you’re looking for work I’d highly recommend that you pay particular attention to what he says about timing.
For all of my enthusiasm about artificial intelligence in the edit suite, Axe’s interview is a sobering reminder that we have a long way to go. Just read his detailed description of his organizational tasks:
If there’s dialogue for a scene we’d make a “line string”, where we take each individual line of dialogue from every take and cut them back to back in a sequence. This allows the editor and director to quickly review alternates for each line with uninterrupted playback, rather than scrolling through all the takes manually.
We’d add a marker for each line and write out the dialogue in the comments column, and have each setup on a different labelled track in the timeline. Then we can see at a glance what dialogue each setup covers. For example, while looking for a close up for a particular line you can jump straight to the marker for that line, scroll to the close-up, and play the readings back-to-back to find the best one. Think of it like ScriptSync but timeline-based.
The “algorithm” is there. You just read it. But the execution is just awfully complex.