Sorry, it has been a LONG while since I posted anything about A HAUNTING. I was going to get into the FINE cut stage of the process when I was on my first episode, but then I got buried in things like the fine cut for that episode, beginning the rough cut of episode 2…prepping other episodes for audio mix and online. This show took a lot of my time. One big reason is that, while the show needed to be 43:30 for the domestic version…and 48:00 for the international cut (an extra 4:30 of material called SNAP INS that we put at the end of the sequence to be added by someone later…cut into the show). Anyway, the schedule we had was for cutting shows of that length. However, some of the scripts were a little longer and the rough cuts ended up being 62 min for my first episode, and 68 minutes for my third. That means that I needed to take extra time to cut that extra footage. I average about 3-4 minutes a day (pushing 10-12 hours a day) so that is a few days more of work. Which is fine….gives us options to cut, and options for snap ins.
My second episode? Yeah, that was a tad short. 42:50 for the rough, so I had to extend scenes and draw out moments to make it to time, and for one long edit session, my producer and I (she moved back to LA after production wrapped, so it was nice to have her in my cutting room…er…garage) figured out the extra four and a half minutes of program time for the international cut.
So now I want to talk about the FINE cut process. This is what happens after the producer gives me notes…although if it is my segment producer that might just end up being the second rough cut, and when the EP (executive producer/show runner) gives notes, THAT is the fine cut. And that is what we send to the network.
The Fine Cut is one of my favorite parts of the editing process. Because that is where I can go back and finesse the scenes, add moments, tweak the cut, do any special transitional effects that the networks love. See, for me, the rough cut can be a chore. I have to take this pile of footage and assemble it into something that makes sense. Look for the best parts, put them together in some semblance of order. Sure, I do try to finesse the scenes so they work, but I don’t spend a lot of time on this as I need to just get the cut out for the producer/director to see. “Git ‘er done” as Larry the Cable Guy would say.
Then I get notes…and can start on the fine cut. I can go back, look for better shots or angles (since they tend to ask, “isn’t there a better angle or take for this line?”)…mine the footage for something I might have missed. Spend time making the cut better. Tweak the music better, add more sound design to make it sound richer, or to sell the cut (or in this case, the scary moments) better. That’s the phase I just finished up now…on my third episode. And it’s one of my favorite parts because I can go back and look at the other options…find great looks or moments to add to the cut to make it better. Where the rough cut might have you hacking at the block of wood to get the general shape, the fine cut allows you go go in with finer carving tools and add more detail, smooth out some edges (to use carving as a metaphor).
This is also the part of the post production phase where we settle in on the VFX shots we will be using, and then I prep those for the VFX guy. We have had some issues with a few VFX shots, in the way they were set up, that were difficult to pull off given the budget of the show. But most of those were dealt with in cutting the scenes differently to make them work better, to lighten the load on the lone VFX guy plugging away in his VFX cave. For this part, since we were working at full res, we’d export out Quicktime movies of the footage, with handles when we could manage, and reference quicktimes of our often pathetic attempts in temping them (If only you saw how rough some of my VFX attempts are. Yeah, not my forté).
And then we send this off to the network…and hopefully their notes won’t cause too much pain.
OH…and one note on the last episode I am working on. I have been using Avid Symphony 6.5 pretty much since the start of the series, as I was beta testing it since June. And it allows more “voices” of real time audio…basically more tracks of audio. I still get 16 tracks, but instead of them all being MONO, and needing to use two tracks for much of my audio like SFX and music…I can modify them to stereo tracks and thus they only take up one track on the timeline. This gave me more options when I did the sound design. Which it turns out I spend most of my time doing. Sure, I cut the picture, but a lot of the scare that happens, in my latest episode at least, is due to audio hits and cues. Relying on what you hear more than what y0u see to sell the scare. To me, it works a lot better than seeing the ghost…flashing it and then hinting at what people see tends to work better. On the first two episodes I did I used mono tracks…but because I found myself very limited in what I could do, I tested using 7 mono tracks (1 for narration, two for interview, 4 for on camera audio) and then 9 stereo tracks (2 for music, 7 for SFX). I sent an AAF to the post mix house and they said it came into Protools easily, so for the last show, I had more audio tracks for sound design goodness.
All right, that does it for this episode of…A HAUNTING, the post process.