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Little Frog in High Def

Musings of an NLE ronin…
description of the photo

Let’s start off 2013 with a review of a really cool product…the AJA T-TAP.

Until recently when you wanted to send a signal to an external monitor from your edit system, you needed to get an “I/O Device.” I/O meaning “In and Out,” and device being either a card that you installed internally on a tower computer, or an external box…or combination of the two. These devices allowed one to capture incoming video signals (from tape or directly from cameras or switchers), and output video signals (to client and color correction monitors). In the age of tape this was the way to get footage into your system.

But in the current age of tapeless capture, the “I” part of the “I/O” is no longer needed. All we want/need/desire is output to a client monitor…or broadcast color correction monitor. So instead of shelling out $500 to $8000 for an I/O device…you can get the AJA T-TAP for a mere $299.

The device is remarkably simple. It connects to your computer via Thunderbolt (so unfortunately it won’t work on Mac Pro towers or PC towers as they lack this connection type) and then outputs full 10-bit video via SDI or HDMI with 8 channels of embedded audio. And it’s so small, it can fit into a small compartment in your backpack, or in your pocket, and allow your edit system to be very lightweight and mobile. The T-TAP is also very versatile. It is compatible with the three major editing systems: Avid Media Composer 6 and 6.5 (and Symphony), Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 and Final Cut Pro (X and 7). Unlike other options that AJA has, the audio out of this device is only available via HDMI or SDI, so you will have to monitor audio from the client monitor, or patch audio from that monitor to your mixer…depending on the edit software you use. FCP 7 and Adobe Premiere Pro allow you to route audio through the computer speakers, while Avid Media Composer locks the audio output to the device.

The T-TAP supports resolutions from SD (525i NTSC and 625i PAL) all the way up to 2K. Frame rates from 23.98, 25, 29.97, 50 and 59.94.

I ran three real world tests with the T-TAP, and had great success with all three tests.

First…the out of date, end of line Final Cut Pro 7. After I installed the driver I got a call from a client to do changes to a sizzle reel that I had cut in FCP. So I opened it and worked on it for two days. With this option, I was able to play audio out of my computer headphone jack directly into my mixer. The video offset was similar to what I used with the AJA Kona 3 and AJA IoXT. The video output was very clean…similar to what I get from other I/O devices. And I got all the flexibility of output I have come to expect from this…now discontinued software. It worked well.

Next I tested it with Adobe Premiere CS6. For this I used it with a family video project. Now, prior to this I hadn’t used and I/O device with CS6. I had tried to use CS5.5 with the AJA Kona 3, and it was less than solid. You had to use custom AJA settings, and I could see the canvas (program monitor) output, but not the Viewer (preview). I had used CS6 to edit, but not monitor externally. So when I launched it with the T-TAP attached, I was very pleasantly surprised to find that it worked, and worked VERY well. No longer did I need custom AJA settings, the base T-Tap driver and Adobe plugin was all that I needed and I got a solid signal from CS6. Viewer, Canvas…zero latency and no audio drift. No slowdown in performance. It simply worked, and worked well. And like with FCP 7, I could either monitor audio via the T-Tap, or route it through the direct out (headphone jack). It was perfect.

The final test was with Avid Symphony 6.5. And this was a full on, frying pan to fire test. I was hired to do a remote edit…travel to the location to edit footage being shot on location, and turn around the edit in one day. The shoot was tapeless, shot with XDCAM EX cameras. The footage came in, I used AMA to get it into the system, and then edited on my 2012 MacBook Pro, and I monitored externally via the T-Tap and the hotel’s HDTV. For the first part of the edit I didn’t use the device, I did everything with the laptop. That’s because Avid locks the audio output to the AJA T-Tap….meaning that audio followed video, and I’d have to monitor audio via the HDTV. A tad difficult as it was bolted to the dresser. Unlike FCP 7 and Adobe Premiere CS6, I couldn’t choose an alternate output for the audio. So I did the initial edit without the T-Tap, but when it came time to show the client my cut, I connected it to the TV and was able to play back (with zero latency and frame offset) for the client at full quality. All while I was confined to the really small hotel table. My computer, hard drive and T-Tap barely fit…but nothing was really crammed in, there was elbow room. And the edit went smoothly.

Unfortunately I did not test this with FCP-X, as I do not have that on my system. However, I do know that it works with FCP-X, and the latest update of FCP-X and the T-TAP drivers make external viewing very solid.

Bottom line is…the AJA T-Tap is amazingly simple, and simply works. It’s great no-fuss no-muss video output for the major editing systems. The simplicity, the price point, small footprint and the flexibility of this little box make it a must have in my book. It works with any Thunderbolt equipped Mac and it perfect for low cost, high quality video output monitoring. AJA has a reputation, and track record, for compatibility and stability…and that tradition is carried on with the AJA T-TAP.

(NOTE: The T-Tap review unit was returned to AJA after a 4 week test period).

Well, I’m done with A HAUNTING.  I sent off my last episode a couple weeks ago. The good news is that the ratings started out good, and only got better and better. So that means that another season is a strong possibility.  Although if it happened it might not be for a while…pre-production and writing and then production.  But now I’m getting ahead of myself.

If you want to see the episodes I edited, they can be found on YouTube.  Dark Dreams and Nightmare in Bridgeport.  My favorite episode that I cut as yet to air.  It airs on Friday, December 7 on Destination America.

The show was fun to work on. Cutting recreations that were more like full scenes with interviews interspersed throughout…instead of using them as b-roll over VO and interviews.  This was more like cutting narrative, which I really enjoy cutting.  I had scripts that were short, so I had cuts that came in a minute short…and then needed to struggle to not only find the extra minute, but the other 4:30 for the international “snap ins.”  I also had scripts that were 20 pages long, and thus my cuts were 20 min long. This presented it’s own issues…sure, I now had plenty of footage for snap ins, but with that much extra, I’m faced with cutting really good scenes, and often cutting scenes that help tie the whole story together.

We did use a lot of Boris Continuum Complete effects…and I relied a lot on the Paint Effect tricks I learned years ago.  We did have an editor who was an effects wiz, so he made some presets we could drop onto clips..and that really helped. Tweaking those effects allowed me to familiarize myself with Boris a bit more.

On the technical side, I started the show cutting on Avid Symphony 6.0 on my MacPro Octo 3.0Ghz tower (with AJA Kona 3), but then almost immediately began beta testing of Avid Symphony 6.5 and resorting to the new MacBook Pro 2012 non-retina with AJA IoXT…and the ability to have more “voices” of audio so I could layer in more audio into my temp mix.  And the AAFs exported perfectly to ProTools.  I also needed to resort to working in my bedroom, as my home office is my garage, and it isn’t insulated. And we had two very hot months here in LA.

The only issues I had with Symphony 6.5 was a Segmentation Fault error when I tried exporting H.264 QT’s after working for a while on a project. It would export fine if I just opened and then exported.  But work for a while, and export…I’d get that error.  And during the entire time I used Symphony 6.5…including the two month beta testing period…I only crashed twice.  Pretty stable system.  As opposed to the current Avid 6.0.3 system I am editing with on my current gig.  Shared Storage setup running EditShare, on an iMac.  Crashed 2-3 times a day…segmentation faults that would cause Avid to quit.  Updating to 6.0.3.2 helped greatly…now I only crash once a week.

So yes, I’ve moved onto my next show. In an office with multiple editors and assistants.  Shared projects and shared storage.  I’ll be working on Act 4 of show 103 on day, then Act 2 of show 105 the next, then re-arranging show 106 for the rest of the week.  Reality show, so I’m getting my toes wet in that field again.

Denise Juneau and the Montana Native American Vote

Last week I was enlisted to help edit a news package for Native American Public Telecommunications (NAPT) that would also end up on the MacNeil Lehrer NewsHour.  This was a rush job, as it pertained to the 2012 election, and that was in less than a week.  We had to work quick to get this done in order to air.  Very typical for news…but something I hadn’t done before.  It was a whirlwind edit.

First off…the story.  Click on the link above to watch the end result.  Basically it is about how important the Native American vote is to the elections in Montana.  While we did showcase one candidate (who was the first Native American to be voted into a statewide post), the main story had to be about the vote itself.  Because if you make a piece about one candidate, and air that, you need to provide equal air time to the opposing candidate.  So we had to do this properly.

How did I get this job? Well, the producer is a Native American producer out of Idaho, and I have a lead into that community on several fronts.  Mainly because I too am Native American (1st generation Salish descendant, part of the Flathead Nation in northwestern Montana).  But also because the camera operator runs Native Voices Public Television, and I was an intern there in college. And he is my stepfather…but that’s besides the point.  I’m a decent shooter and good editor (so I’m told), and they wanted my talent.  So on Tuesday I flew from LA to Great Falls…a trip that took 11 hours, mainly due to the layovers in Portland and Seattle.

I tried to pack light.  I packed my 2012 MacBook Pro, AJA IoXT, mouse, assorted cabling and 500GB portable hard drive and clothing into my backpack.  And then in the camera bag I packed my Canon 7D, GoPro, headphones and various accessories.  Then a pelican case with a 2TB CalDigit VR.  All perfectly sized for carry on…nothing needed checking. The camera operator was bringing along a Sony HDCAM camera…tape based (one reason I was bringing my IoXT…to capture the tape)…as well as an audio kit with shotgun mic, wireless and wired lavs, Lowell lighting kit and a Sachler tripod.  While he was slated to be the main camera guy, I brought along my 7D and GoPro to shoot extra stuff.

Now, while I was landing and staying in Great Falls, we needed to go to Havre Montana…120 miles away.  So we were up early and headed out.  I mounted the GoPro on the roof of the car to get driving scenics, and shot a bit out the window as we drove with the 7D.  When we arrived we needed to go to a few locations to get  some interviews before the rally that evening.  I’ve never worked in news, but because I have seen a few reports, I noted that often they have a wide shot of the reporter talking to someone before the interview, or a second camera shooting the interview, so I did the same.  Shooting a wide of the interviews to use as intros or cutaways. Between getting interviews and the rally, we also got as much b-roll as possible: campaign signs, scenics, town shots, as well as the reporter/producer standup.  I was glad that I was there with the 7D, as pulling over to get a quick shot of a sign or a poster was really easy…a lot easier than pulling out the big HDCAM camera and sticks.

When we got to the rally I was relegated to audio duty.  Handed a boom mic and the wired lav and a small mixer, and charged with getting the audio, and riding the levels.

The rally wrapped at 7PM and we needed to get back to the hotel.  While we drove back I offloaded the 7D and GoPro cards to my portable hard drive (loving the SD card slot in my laptop now), and then transcoded them into Avid Symphony.  The vehicle we were in had an DC outlet so I didn’t have to worry about power. I was very glad to have this “down time” to transcode the footage.

When we got back to the hotel we ordered pizza and set up my remote edit station.  I connected the camera to the IoXT via SDI, and that to my MBP via Thunderbolt.  Then the CalDigit was connected via Firewire 800…fine for capturing and playing back DNxHD145 (1080i 29.97).  I was lucky enough to have an HDTV in the room, so I used that as the “client monitor,” connecting it to the IoXT via HDMI.  We watched the tapes as we captured, and then the producer wrote the story (he had to write a print version, a radio version and a web/broadcast version). We did have the first part of the story written, he did it as a stand up in the field.  The rest of the story he recorded as temp with a Snowball mic and Garageband.  And then he and the camera guy went to bed…long exhausting day.  I edited a “radio cut,” just audio stringout of the standup, narration and interview bites.  That took about an hour for a 5:30 run time.  Then I too hit the sack at 12:30.  We agreed to meet at 6:30 AM to finish the rest of the cut.

At 6:30 met in my room, drowned ourselves in coffee and continued to edit.  After an hour we had the piece done, with a run time of 5:17.  I did a quick audio pass to even things out, very rudimentary color pass using the HDTV…and then compressed a file and posted it for the clients (NAPT) to review and give notes.  We hoped to have it delivered by that day, but since the Exec Producer was traveling too, they didn’t get a chance to see it until later.  So, I packed everything up, backed up the media onto the external drive and the CalDigit VR (redundancy!) and headed to the airport (11:30 AM flight).  I received notes while on the road, and when I landed (9:55) I got home, set up the drive on my main workstation, addressed the minimal notes, did a proper audio pass and color correction using my FSI broadcast monitor…and compressed it for YouTube per the clients request. I had that uploaded to their FTP by 1AM, and it was online by 6AM…YouTube, NAPT website and Facebook.

This certainly was a down and dirty edit.  And I’m sure it took longer than most news stories do.  I also know that the ability to edit at least the tapeless formats native would have sped things up, but I did have time to transcode as we drove back.  Although, if we shot entirely tapeless, I’m sure I could have had the rough cut done during the trip back.  And I know that using another NLE, say Adobe Premiere, would allow me to edit the formats native and save on transcode time. But I needed solid tape capture, and Avid with the IoXT gave me that.  Yes, I could have captured with the AJA tool as ProRes and brought that into Premiere (I say, anticipating y0ur comments).  I used Avid as that is what I was used to and it’s best to use what you know when you have a quick turnaround.  One of these days I will learn that app better.

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.

The forty second episode of THE EDIT BAY is now available for download.

This one is about…stealing.

To play in your browser or download direct, click here.

To subscribe to this podcast in iTunes, CLICK HERE.

Sorry, I’ve really let this blog, and my podcast, fall to the wayside. I’ve fallen behind on stuff I’ve wanted to write and podcast about. If you would like to know why, here’ a great article from Kylee Wall on the Creative Cow about being a post production dad.

The short of it is that I’m working 12-15 hours a day on A HAUNTING to get it done before it starts airing. And I’m setting aside the remaining time to be with my family, so they don’t forget what I look like.

SOON! Soon though. I have a great blog post I want to write about going from Rough Cut phase to Fine Cut phase. And a podcast about borrowing ideas from other people. So… soon. In the meantime, read that blog post by Kylee.

This is very interesting…given my current situation.  Production company in Virginia…production happening in Virginia.  Post being a mixture of Virginia and Los Angeles.  Really curious how this would handle long form shows.

One thing I find myself doing very often while editing remotely…me in L.A., the production company in Virginia…is exporting Quicktime files of my project for my producers at “home base” to watch.  I will do this on an Act by Act basis…when I finish an act, I’ll export it, upload to their FTP.

Now, like most, if not all of you, I don’t like to sit and wait for a long time while this process happens.  I have stuff to do. So I want this to go fast.  And I have found a formula that makes it not only go fast, but keeps the file sizes small too.  Without making the video look too crappy.

First off, I want to note, this is REVIEW quality. Meaning, you watch it for content, not quality.  The outputs aren’t high res, they aren’t high quality.  They are OK quality.  This is how I keep the file sizes small, and export times fast.  How fast?  Real time fast.  A 48 min sequence exports in about 50 min. OK, a little SLOWER than real time.  But what if I told you this includes a timecode window? One that I didn’t render before exporting?  Yeah, that impressed me too.

OK, so the first thing I do is highlight all my tracks, and from start to finish on the timeline.  Then I do an EXPERT RENDER…meaning, “render all effects that aren’t real time effects.”  Since I render as I edit, this often takes little to no time…but some stuff slips through the cracks.  Then, I make a new blank layer, and drop on my Timecode Generator effect.  And then, without rendering again (if you did another expert render, it would want to render that timecode…for the entire length of the sequence)…I simply choose FILE>EXPORT.  A window pops up asking for export type, and location of where the file should go.  From there I click on the drop down menu and choose EXPORT TO QT MOVIE, and set my destination, and file name.  Then I use the following settings.

1) This is the main export window.  I’m not going to repeat all the settings you see here, I only want to point out that I use 640×360, as I am editing a 16:9 sequence, and I make sure it is chosen in both the WIDTH AND HEIGHT section, and the DISPLAY ASPECT RATIO section.  This frame dimension must be consistent in all export window options. Oh, and USE MARKS means that the IN and OUT points I set are the range that will be exported. I will have my full timeline up, but only want to export one Act, so I mark IN and OUT for the act I want to export. Make sure that is checked, otherwise it’ll export the whole sequence.

OK…moving on.

2) I click on FORMAT OPTIONS to get the above menu.  I make sure to enable AUDIO and VIDEO here. Even though I might have it chosen to do video and audio in the previous menu, if it isn’t chosen here, you won’t get it. Gotta to it in both places.  Click on AUDIO…choose 44.1 and 16-bit stereo. If you want smaller QT files, make it mono, or 22.0 and mono.  I don’t do this. Because audio is very important. If the picture quality sucks…fine.  People can see past that. But if the audio sucks, is noisy…then the QT is unwatchable.  This is the one area I keep the settings in the GOOD range.

OK, click on VIDEO and you get:

3) A couple things to mention here.  At first Avid defaults to SORENSON 3.  So click on the drop down menu and choose H.264.  If you leave the DATA RATE on AUTOMATIC, that allows you to adjust the slider.  If you type in a number, RESTRICT TO, then you can’t. I generally keep it on AUTOMATIC and put the quality at MEDIUM.  For smaller files, you can restrict to 1000 or 1500 kbps.  I just find MEDIUM to be a good middle ground. Another important thing to do, is change the encoding from BEST QUALITY, where it defaults, to FASTER.  This is the key to the fast export times.

Click OK.  Click OK again..the other OK, in the MOVIE settings.  Then click SAVE AS…and name it whatever you will.  This way you don’t need to redo your settings.  Just choose the preset you make and you are ready to go.

Then watch it progress in real time.

Now, if you want fast encoding of QT H.264 files…also in real time. Then look at the Matrox solutions. Compress HD is a PCIe card that fits in the MacPro computers. And then there are the MAX versions of their hardware IO devices.  If you use the Matrox H.264 option, that will trigger these devices to kick in and aid the encoding process. Making high res H.264s in real time.  Chew on that.

(NOTE: I am working with footage from the Canon C300…accessed via AMA and consolidated, not transcoded. So our footage is XDCAM 422…a GOP format. And GOP formats don’t allow for SAME AS SOURCE exports. So I can’t do that and use, say COMPRESSOR and add the TC burn there. If your footage was DNxHD in any flavor, you’d be able to do that. But I wonder if doing that, then taking into Compressor or Sorenson and compressing is any quicker than the real time, direct output from Avid that I have laid out here.)

OK, so I’ve been bad about blogging lately. I blame work.  Long hours are bad for bloggers.

ANYWAY…so that you all don’t go into withdrawl, I’ll link to a great post by my friend Jon Chappell over at digitalrebellion.com.  His post on Avid AMA best practices is one that anyone who uses and Avid must read.  Not “should” read…but MUST read.  This is required reading.  There will be a pop quiz.

The forty first episode of THE EDIT BAY is now available for download. This one is about the dangers of going above and beyond .

To play in your browser or download direct, click here.

To subscribe to this podcast in iTunes, CLICK HERE.

I’m going to avoid the tech in this post, and try to concentrate on the creative.  Because to tell the truth, there isn’t a lot of tech involved, just editing.  Yes, can say things like the trim tool in Avid make cutting this show very easy, as the trim tool, in my opinion, is one of the best tool for cutting narrative.  It allows me to nuance the scenes better than I could with FCP.

Oh, sorry, I’m talking tech.  I’ll stop.  I’ll stop saying things like I’m doing my temp mix on the timeline without the audio mix tool open, I’m using keyframes. Not chopping up the audio tracks and lowering/raising levels in the mixer and adding dissolves, like I always have done in the past.  I’ll skip saying that.

I guess I could say that I’m sticking to traditional editing, and not relying on a lot of fancy transition effects.  Well, I’m using ONE, and only as a transition between scenes that denote a passage of time. It’s a simple film leak that’s super imposed between the cuts, with speed ramps for 4-5 frames on either end to make it look like a camera starting and stopping.  Other than that, it’s all straight cutting.

And that’s what I want to really get into…the cutting. The way I approach the cutting. This show is an interesting cross of interviews, narration and recreations.  That makes it a bit of a challenge to cut.  See, I can’t just cut it like a narrative show, just cut the scenes as scripted. I need to make sure that the narration fits, and that interview bites fit. See, I have to have the scenes driven mainly by the sound bites, with the audio from the scenes to be lowered to make room for them, and only have it break through at certain points so that story points are made in the narrative.  It’s a balance…a tough one.  Because the dialog of the actors will be the same as the interview, so the interview audio needs to go over the acting, but then punctuate the scenes with audio from the scenes.  And still allow for space for narration to fill in the gaps.

Now, while they did take a lot of this into account when they shot, there are still moments where I have more narration than I do scene, so I need to recut the scene after I add the interview and VO so that I can cover what is being said. It can be tough at times, but it can also allow me to find reactions to emphasize what is being said.  It’s a challenge, and all this does add time to the edit. I’m not cutting a doc with VO and sound bites that I just need to fill in with b-roll and music…nor am I cutting straight narrative, where I can rely on performance to carry the story. I need to blend both.  And moreso than previous shows I have cut that had recreations, like Andrew Jackson and the Mexican American War.  Those relied mainly on VO and interview bites, and all the recreations were basically backdrop to those.  Very few sound ups were had.  But this show has a 60/40 split, leaning towards performance over interview.

OK, with the story part cut, I need to also address audio.  I tend to cut the story and the interviews and VO first, and then go back and add music and sound design. And yes, I mean sound design. More on that in a second.

MUSIC

This show will have a composer, and the temp tracks we are relying on are from previous shows and other cues in their library.  The music will all be redone, so what I am doing is just temp, but it needs to sound like the final to make the scenes work…to sell it to the producers and network. So a good amount of time is taken on the music. And as what always happens with music, the timing of the scene changes slightly when I add music, and add sections where the music punctuates the action.

SOUND EFFECTS

Well, I have to say “sound design.” No, I am not an audio mixer, but I still need to do quite a bit of sound design. I need to layer music, and small hits, rises, impacts…scary SFX cues and demon breaths and all sorts of audio to make the scary parts work. I mean, you should see them without the scary music or effects. They are creepy, sure. But add the SFX and it REALLY sells it. Audio can get pretty thick…16 tracks of audio, and more than a few are stereo tracks. Go down to the WEEKS 3-4 post and see what my timeline looks like. I might have 3 tracks of video, because I might layer a couple shots, have a layer for transitions, and another for titles. But that’s it.  AUDIO? 16 tracks…the most I am allowed for real time playback. Audio is by far more involved than video.

But again, this adds time. A lot of time.  Hunting through music cues for the right one, one that you didn’t use before. And wait, what was that one I heard when looking for something in that last act? Where is that one, it will work great here.  And then listening to all sorts of WHOOSHES and IMPACTS and ghostly audio again and again to see what might work, and what just sounds cheesy.

So I delivered the rough cut of my first episode…and it was 58 minutes long. It needs to be 48 minutes for international distribution, with 5 minutes taken out for domestic. So it’s a tad long.  I’m awaiting notes on that one. In the meantime, I’m in the middle of Act 4 of my second episode (of 6 acts) and making headway. Just today I cut 2:48 of finished, fully mixed and sound designed video.  A little slower than usual, I try to get 4-5 min done a day. But today I was working on a scene that was full of dramatic tension buildup, and ghostly encounter, so it took a little time. I expect notes on my first episode tomorrow, so when that happens, I’ll stop work on episode 2 to address those so we can get that off to the network.  Then back to finish up the rough cut to get that to the producers. And by then my drive with the next episode will arrive.

No rest until it’s over.  #postdontstop

The fortieth episode of THE EDIT BAY is now available for download.

This one is all about how you need to leave the editors alone when the tackle the initial edit…the rough cut.

To play in your browser or download direct, click here.

To subscribe to this podcast in iTunes, CLICK HERE.

After a long hiatus, the Edit Bay podcast is finally back. The thirty-ninth episode of THE EDIT BAY is now available for download.

This one is all about how the stuff I watch on TV doesn’t look nearly as good as when I color corrected it in my edit bay.

To play in your browser or download direct, click here.

To subscribe to this podcast in iTunes, CLICK HERE.

OK, this has been an odd couple weeks, as I took half a week off to vacation up at Lake Arrowhead, and then I had a tight tight deadline to get this show done.  But I’ll keep this short and sweet too.  I’ll mention the obstacles I faced, and how I solved them.

OBSTACLE #1: The heat.

Yes, it was getting hot in LA.  In the 90’s in the valley where my office…er…garage…is located.  And my garage lacks one major component…insulation.  So while I did buy a 12,000 BTU air conditioner, it really didn’t cool the office down at all.  And that made working out there intolerable, and dangerous for the equipment.  So, I did the only thing I could do at the time…moved into the house.  I set up a small table in my bedroom and set up my new 2012 MacBook Pro (non-retina) along with one of my Dell 24″ monitors and a speaker so that I could continue editing in a nice cool setting. I brought in my nice chair, bought a Griffin laptop mount to get the computer up to a reasonable height to match the Dell, connected the hard drive and was ready to go.  This setup helped with obstacle #2.

OBSTACLE #2: Slow computer

Even though it is a tower with loads of RAM (if you think 16GB is loads) and a nice graphics card (Nvidia 285GT) with a Kona 3 card…Avid Symphony seemed to struggle. I would get beach balls periodically that would last about 30-45 seconds, then finally go away. The system would lag behind my keystrokes, meaning I’d hit 5-6 keys…then wait two seconds for the Avid to catch up to me.  And I would get consistent FATAL IO ERRORS…related to the Kona.  And this horrid “K” key bug where I’d press “K” to pause playback, only it wouldn’t, it just slowed playback down until I released it…in which case it resumed at full speed.  I’d need to his the spacebar to stop.  That happened periodically.

So in moving into the house, I began using my laptop to edit.  And let me tell you, most of those problems went away. By most I mean the “K” key issue persisted, and I got one FATAL IO ERROR…but only after I installed the AJA IoXT box to the system.  And then it only happened once in two weeks. And I didn’t use the IoXT all the time, as my reference monitor had to be left out in the office/garage, as I have no room on my bedroom setup for it.  Ah well.  But overall, the laptop performed a lot better than my tower.  Even encoding an H.264 with TC burn was faster on that laptop.  My 2008 MacPro is showing it’s age.

OBSTACLE #3: lots of footage, lots of scenes, music to be added…

Basically…time.  I was running short on time, and I had a lot of footage to cut.  In the end I went a couple days over my deadline, and ended up with a 57 min rough cut.  The cut should be in the 48 min range for international, with three minutes removed for domestic.  So I am 10 minutes long.  No biggie, that just means that the episode will have to be attacked with a machete to cut out enough stuff to get me to time.  It took me longer than usual as I had a small library of music that I needed to choose from, and I’m a bit too much of a perfectionist when it comes to music editing and temp audio mixing.  It’s a blessing, and a curse. My cuts sound good…but take longer to do.  It turned out to be fine, as the producers were still focused on the first episode that another editor cut…so I had some breathing room.  Still, it took eighteen 12-14 hour days to get this cut done.  3 days more than I was allotted for this.  I hope the next episode will go smoother.  I think it will.

OBSTACLE #4: other things

Yes, other things needed my attention.  I was on vacation, so was busy trying to work and pack at the same time. Then trying to work with the kids constantly coming in because they heard some cool moment they wanted to see, and they wanted to watch me edit (at that point I switched to using headphones so they couldn’t hear things), and I was trying to deal with two onlines for MSNBC that needed tweaks here and there (Defending Casey Anthony and Ted Bundy: Death Row Tapes.  Casey already aired).

All in all I like my cut.  I will need to go back and “fancify” things…rock and roll it a little.  Add speed effects and cool transitions and the like.  I did a bit while I was doing the rough after seeing what the first cut had, I had to try to keep the same style, and make it “not boring.” I did mainly focus on the story, but also wanted to have SOME cool things to make it stand out.  And that cool stuff takes a while.  I wonder how long the editors of AMERICAN HORROR STORY get to cut a show?  I’ll see if the assistant editor Misha comments here and lets us know.  He follows me on Twitter, and we’ve had pizza together…so I hope he might.

OK…the cut is done, and I’m off to eat dinner and watch a movie with my family.  Here’s a picture of my timeline: