Inside A Professional Edit Suite

Inside A Professional Edit Suite

If you’ve ever wondered what a professional edit suite looks like then this round up of photos, videos and edit suite design tips should give you a great insiders look! And if you want to be able to look even closer, check out this popular round up of editor’s timelines.

Here, the first few photos come from Ron Howard’s edit suite on his current film In The Heart of The Sea.

Not all edit suites as are as comfortable looking as Ron Howard’s – here’s Darren Aronofsky cutting Noah, standing up in his (seemingly) make-shift suite.

In these last two images you can check out documentary editor’s Shane Ross and Steve Audette’s edit suite set ups. Check out the next section of this post for Shane’s write up of his suite.


PBS Frontline documentary editor Steve Audette, kindly took the time to email a detailed breakdown of the gear in his suite. Speaking of Steve, if you’ve not seen his excellent lecture on documentary editing, then you’ve been seriously missing out.

Behind my head on the wall are important documents for durations and deadlines. Also you can see the “ten commandments of typography”and a motivational graphic of the 7 minute workout. Maybe I need to spend more time with that one.

Wacom Cintiq 13 inchTo continue left to right.  My desk has my laptop with a small Wacom Cintiq for fine Photoshop or After Effects work as needed; stuff I do close up and with a delicate hand. Mostly all this work is all on my Big Mac Pro (silver tower: 10.8.5 – 2×2.4ghz 6 core Xenon with 32 gig ram) but the laptop is there to do second shift work as needed. The laptop also where FinalDraft scripts are kept. 

Above the laptop is a plasma client monitor – I have two in my room this one is for me, the other is down way out of picture. Then my bin monitor and my composer monitor these are old NEC 24 inch that need replacing as they have ghost images. Below the bin monitor is the router (which I hardly use now with file based media) a telephone, a track ball and keyboard. 

Makie Studio MonitorsUp in the top corner there, you can see the Makie HR824 monitor. Not Blue Sky monitors by any means but they work ok. The bass trap on the wall behind me is matched with a few others in the room, but I am not sure they really work – still has too much bass. What do you expect with parallel walls. the speakers are also not set up for mixing so my producer/director has a heavy right mix and I have a heavy left mix. We cope and look forward to the mix. 

Tucked under my client monitor is an 01v mixing board. Again, I hardly use that now as I do all initial mixing in the Avid Media Composer for both rough cuts and fine cuts. Final mixing goes to the protools system upstairs. Back in the day I would work with 8 direct outs of audio and compress the narration channel and main interview channel on the O1v, now I do thaplumb bobt in the Media Composer using RTAS tools. So all that is left for this board is to record  narration – soon I will move to a USB solution and the board is gone. More space for coffee cups. (Funny but the elevated shelf for the computer monitors was set by the height of a BetaSP tape – when was the last time I saw one of those.)

Finally up in the upper right of the photo, there is the Plumb Bob. Homage to telling the straight line of a story and not wavering to the pull of some sequence off the narrative. Keep the line, like the Plumb Bob straight and true. 

If you have any questions ask me on Twitter or Facebook. Now back to my nap…

Anatomy of an Edit Suite

In this excellent three part video series, editor Walt Biscardi builds on one of his most popular blog posts ‘Anatomy of an edit suite‘ by updating things and going into a bit more detail on all the core components of a professional edit suite, including the chair, desk, mice and tablets, monitors, standing desks etc. Walt has also written up an post on designing a suite around an iMac, which is worth a look too.

Anatomy of an edit suite

Editor Shane Ross has also helpfully written up a detailed description of how he transformed his suite from one based around at 2008 Mac Pro to one based around a 2012 non-retina Macbook Pro – making the most of all those Thunderbolt peripherals to expand his edit suite.

The MacPro has a Kona 3 card, and I happen to have an AJA IoXT (and BMD Ultrastudio Mini Monitor) that connect to the laptop via Thunderbolt. So that part is covered. The IoXT has Thunderbolt loop through, so I am able to then connect a Thunderbolt to DVI adapter and have a second monitor. That leaves me with a Firewire 800 port and a USB 3 port for connecting hard drives (I use one USB port for a keyboard and mouse).

Shane Ross Edit Suite

If you’re after more details on the best Thunderbolt devices for film editors check out these two extensive previous posts:

Thunderbolt Peripherals for Film Editors

Thunderbolt 2 RAIDS for Film Editors

In this last video, which I previously posted in this Avid Media Composer 7 post, you can check out all the gear that editor Leo Mahoney uses in his suite. It’s a really interesting mix of analogue and digital gear connected together.

Edit Suite Montage

Over the past 10 years or so I’ve edited in a multitude of places including, pubs, airplanes, the back of a truck, church crypts, bedrooms, hotel rooms and many other places besides around the world. Hit the photo above to jump through for a closer view!

Tips for Designing a Professional Edit Suite

Designing a professional edit suite If you are looking to design (or re-design) your own edit suite there are a few more resources you might want to check out.  Firstly Oliver Peters has some DIY edit suite design tips which covers a lot of the same ground as Walter’s video series but also offers some great thoughts on details like power needs and the actual layout of your suite.

The current trend in small suite design is to build a room that’s very client-friendly and not intimidating. Usually this involves a workstation with one or two displays, near field audio monitors, a small mixer (mainly for volume control) and one or two video monitors. I like to work with dual displays (like two Apple 20” LCDs), but a single, larger monitor, like a 27” or 30” is also quite functional.

building an edit suite

Editor Noam Kroll has also written up a lengthy description of his edit suite re-build after moving from Toronto to Los Angeles, and offers some really useful tips.

Let’s start at the back of the room where one of the most important elements to the room is installed – the Curtains. Yes the curtains. Simple, but they are extremely important. If there are only two things you ABSOLUTELY need in an editing room (besides a computer) they are: a door on the room and light control. The light control is paramount to ensure that if you do any color/vfx work, you have an optimal viewing condition for making color critical decisions. Even if you aren’t a colorist or VFX artist, the light control is a must as glares on your screen can affect your ability to work properly. So make sure to get some blackout blinds or curtains that will kill any light spilling through the windows.

If you’re looking for some inspiration from some seriously swanky edit suites then you could check out the portfolio of AKA Design, an edit and grading suite design and construction company based here in London.

Expensive edit suite designAnd lastly if you’re having to start entirely from scratch and looking to build a complete post production facility from the ground up, then Kenny Miracle’s excellent post ‘Adventures in Building a Post-Facility‘ will take you through his process step by step. A valuable read! Here is a quick before and after photo…

Edit suite before

Edit suite after construction

About Jonny

Jonny Elwyn - A freelance film editor, living and working in London.
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4 Responses to Inside A Professional Edit Suite

  1. These are some very nice workspaces. I’m gonna try some of this. First thing on the list: Raising my monitors!

  2. Pingback: Editors Timelines – More #timelinetuesday action! | Premiumbeat.com

  3. Pingback: Understanding Avid Media Composer 8 | Jonny Elwyn - Film Editor

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