How To Become A Commercials Editor

How To Become A Commercials Editor – Interview with a Pro

James Rosen is a sought-after commercial’s editor working at boutique editing house Final Cut, in the heart of London. James and I sat down for a long conversation about how a commercial comes together and his own journey from starting as a runner at Final Cut through to being a senior editor today.

how to become a commercials editorThe full interview can be found in the second edition of Art of The Guillotine’s excellent, and free, The Assembly, which you can download free on Android, OSX and as a PDF here. I’ve previously posted about the first edition of The Assembly here.

So, read that first and then pop back here for several spill-over questions that couldn’t fit into The Assembly, but hopefully still make for interesting reading! Scattered throughout are several of James’ favourite commercials from his reel.

JE – How do you personally manage the internal thing of the dance of going from: “I’m making this the best I possibly can, and so taking ownership to it’s actually their film and their brand.” And often towards the end I sometimes feel like I don’t really care – it’s your film, I’ll do whatever you want. Yet at the beginning I care about this cut because I think it works. How do you navigate that transition?

JR – No it never gets easy. It’s really difficult part of the job. Because your job is to be creative and put something together in a creative way, and the only way you can do that is to really care about it and to feel like you’re doing the right thing and what feels right to you , and then suddenly you’re told to do something that doesn’t feel right to you. It’s really hard.

You always start off with what you feel it’s right, and then – the goal post analogy is what it’s really about.

At first your goal posts are put where ever you want to put them because you’re on your own. And from the footage and the project you know where they should be at that particular time. You’ve got free reign over everything, so you’ll naturally gravitate towards the footage that you feel works the best for whatever reason you feel is important.

What we do is focused on communication isn’t it – ideas and making sure a particular idea is communicated in the best way. We’re not necessarily thinking about it in the same way a director would for example, who might be much more focused on their own particular intentions, along with solving the hundreds of issues that come up during the production process. We see things away from all that noise.

But I think for us (editors) I think that alone time is about trying to make decisions on behalf of everyone else before they come in and work on it together – trying to communicate those ideas in the best way possible. So you try to get to the point where you feel you’ve got it. Testing it on people. I often grab people in the office. Anyone who hasn’t seen anything or doesn’t know anything about what I’m working on.

Then the director will come in – and then it’s about you and the director. So you work on what you both feel is the best. The best you can possibly do with what you’ve got. Then the director will start to move the goal posts based on what they want to achieve.

So lets take a very simple situation, where you’ve chosen one take you feel is the best one, the director feels like another take is the best one. Then the creative discussions begin, which is great fun.

You might suggest why you feel it’s the best one. I mean the ‘best’ is starting to get subjective/objective nightmare. So you have to try and stick to what’s the best for the idea. Balance that against your own personal preferences.

The director will also explain why. You know it’s the director’s project and at the end of the day you do have to be loyal to that. After all, you are serving their needs, serving the needs of the project, the people making the project. So you have to kind of be fairly subservient to all that stuff – try and understand what is needed or wanted and do the best with that. But at the same time you can’t be an effective tool in that process, unless you have an opinion.

JE – One of the directors I work with calls it loyal opposition. Loyal to their side, but provide a bit of push back that you believe in. But not so much pushing your agenda. Being an effective voice in that dynamic.

JR – And sometimes I may not have understood what they mean. And I may not have got it and I want to know. I want to know what it is they want, why do they feel that take is better. There’s always a really good and important reason which can be used to move things forward.

I do like to challenge people but it’s about understanding, making sure your reasons for choosing a take are understood.

Once that’s done, I’m totally happy for someone to say “I get it. I’ve heard why you think that. But I don’t want that take, I want this take.’’ I’m like ‘ok’. Then it’s like how do I use that take in the best way possible. Again they’ve moved the goal post a little bit.

You work with the director and you get to the point where you’ve got something the director is happy with. Then you take that to the agency and then the group opens up. And then three more people step in the process of getting this thing working the best it can.

With you, the director and the agency, the discussions start again. You all move together – hopefully – with what you all feel is the best possible outcome. Then you take that to the client. And then they step in.

It’s like a constantly widening circle, a widening circle of participants in this process. And obviously the more people there are, the more complicated it can be. Often with different agendas being balanced. But I always think understanding what’s needed for editors, helps you to let go of things, because sometimes there is a particular favourite shot, that might be hard to get rid of, but if you know it’s just not right. You get rid of it.

JE – What made you want to get into editing and how did you get to where you are now?

JR – How far back do I go? I mean I’ve always been quite interested in the creative process. So I did an art and design foundation course, went to Art School. I just loved making stuff.

I found I wasn’t particularly good at drawing – so I gravitated towards photography. So I was quite into compositional, photographic medium.

I did my first editing at the Art and Design Foundation course, for their end of year show, cutting two cameras, one up on the balcony and one at the front of the stage. And I instantly fell in love with it. I just thought there was something quite exciting, about cutting. Instantly jumping position. A very unique art form. There’s nothing like it.

Choosing where you are going to force the viewer to watch from. The privilege of seeing the raw footage. And the executive decision making about where we’re going to make a cut and what you are forcing the viewer to see. There’s something quite interesting in that. Every cut I made I just got a thrill out of. It felt like I was making a movie! When really I was just covering the show from two angles.

That stayed with me. I did a media production degree. Where I was able to try pretty much everything. Lots of different art forms – from fine art, installations, typography, graphic design, video, sound design…

And just found myself very excited about the prospect of sitting in front of a video machine editor and cutting stuff together. I also really enjoyed sound design. Loved being in a suite. At that point we were still using two machine video editing.

JE – Which is the hardest type of video editing there is!

JR – Yeah ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous. I can’t understand how anything was done with them. It’s linear. Film is non-linear. So if you want to make a change at the end. You’ve got to re-record everything back.

So I just tried to make sure what I was doing was right the first time! Which is probably quite a good discipline to get into, really thinking about what you’re doing. Auditioning it and getting the audition right and then actually pressing recording and laying it down to tape.

I also worked on 16-track magnetic reel, sound studio, which was great fun as well.

So I just tried lots of post production, found myself happily staying through the night to get something done. Just absolutely loved it. That’s when it started to become what was intended in the first place. I found that a very thrilling part of the filmmaking process.

It felt like the most important part of the process, maybe I’m biased, but to me it felt like the single moment where it became everything that it was supposed to be. Or maybe it didn’t become what it was supposed to be, but that was like the moment of truth, quite a nerve-wracking stage.

And then I pursed that and did a video production post-graduate diploma as well. Where I was able to do more digital work. Worked on proper NLE and digital editing and digital sound design.

JE – What were your first editing apps?

JR – Optima, which was on the Acorn Archimedes. Which was pretty good actually. I was able to work with just 1 hour of footage, on Jazz drives. And yeah, it introduced me to the trim tools, in/out. It was all there.

And then sound design was on Soundscape. Which I’ve seen is used in the industry a lot. A pro tools-like program. Non-destructive audio editing.

And then I graduated and through researching the industry – through the courses that I was doing. For some of the essays that we had to write, we had to interview professionals.

So I already knew I had to start as a runner. That’s the first thing I did, got a job as a runner. I worked at various companies for a year in London. I was very lucky to live at home as I grew up in London. And my parents were able to support me while I was basically earning no money. An incredibly lucky position to be in.

I worked in various companies, felt like I was en-route to work in Flame and the finishing side, which I was also very interested in – visual effects. That’s where I found myself, and thought I’d stick this out and see where it takes me.

And then I got a call from a company called Final Cut, who offered me a job as a runner and I thought yeah, actually editing was always the preferred choice, so I took that. And I started again.

And I have been there for 15 years. Worked up through assistant editing to editing.

And it was at Final Cut that I was trained in the art of commercials editing, because that’s what they did there. As with most things, you get better at what you do most.

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Behind The Scenes on Interstellar

Behind The Scenes on Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar

Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar is probably my most anticipated film of 2014, and one that I will enjoy seeing in 70mm film print at the IMAX in London.

Please note some of these links contain spoilers so watch the film first if you want to avoid being spoiled.

In these interviews and articles you can take a much deeper look into Nolan’s filmmaking process. In this ‘long-read’ from the Guardian (which you can listen to below if you wish!) you get insights from several different voices of the crew, at various stages of productions. And I know some colorists were riled by Nolan’s reported conversation with colorist Walter Volpatto.

“You know, when you left yesterday, I felt like I had maybe been a little rude to Walter,” Nolan told me the next day. “I haven’t worked with him before. He doesn’t know my sense of humour yet. He was trying to please me and I was like, yeah, you’re lying to me. That is my sense of humour. But I went in this morning to finish up, and he said to me, ‘Oh, I looked at the projector, and it was brighter.’ When he analysed it in terms of light output – because he is a very sharp man, Walter – it was exactly one point.”

In this Indiewire blog post you can read a short interview with Nolan’s long-time collaborator, production designer Nathan Crowley.

An even bigger challenge was the primary ‘bot, TARS, puppeteered and voiced by Bill Irwin. Partially inspired by the iconic monolith from “2001,” and with a more snarky personality than supercomputer HAL 9000’s, TARS started out simply as a block of metal. Why not start all over from the beginning?

“[Nolan] thought about the scissor effect. In between that, I was a fan of minimalism and [the late architect] Mies van der Rohe. We started with a monolith and divided it into four. Then we came up with mathematical divisions of four for something more sophisticated with the block breaking down into three pins and four legs. It was continuously matching divisions of itself.”

Click through for even more videos and interviews

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How To Be A DIT – Part 11

How To Be A DIT – Part 11 – The Basics

This is the 11th instalment of How To Be A DIT, but really a lot of the knowledge and resources in these posts is also extremely valuable for editors, camera operators or the plain technologically curious. In this 11th instalment I’ve rounded up some great resources for understanding the basics of working proficiently with digital video files.

To check out all other posts tagged with DIT (45 posts), check out the DIT category on the right. Here too is a link to all the other parts of this series if you want to have a rummage in the past.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10

What A DIT Does

Digital Workflows

If you’ve ever wondered what it actually is that a DIT does on set these interviews with professional Digital Image Technicians should give you a good feel for their day to day life.

In this extensive workflow breakdown, extreme sports photographer Lucas Gilman, shares some of his preferred workflow processes and equipment choices, most of which are good standard practices.

“Each member of the drive pair is then geographically separated at the end of every day. I’ll usually give one to my assistant. If we go to dinner, I get robbed, all my stuff’s gone, at least my assistant has the extra set. They’re basically never in the same place at the same time. Meanwhile, I also have the original master on the CF or SD cards as a third backup.”

DIT on set 3d

In this short interview with AOTG.com DIT Duck Grossberg shares a few details of how he managed the on-set 3D workflow for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

Q: How did you determine your digital tools for your on­set work?

A: I met with DP Michael Seresin to discuss the myriad issues associated with the complexity of a 3D film, such as shooting with the Arri Alexa M; using 3ality rigs; managing a ton of data, and the workflow needed for working with hundreds of thousands of native files. We both agreed on a straightforward approach to dealing with so much equipment and data.

My primary role was to do the live color grade on-set. I was also responsible for loading the cameras and doing a QC to ensure that all systems would work.

Review of Scratch Play

In this review of Scratch Play – the same tool Duck Grossberg is using on set, DIT Von Thomas shares his own on-set workflow as well as a few thoughts on that latest version of Scratch Play. Scratch Play is free to download here, or for $5 you can get it ad-free.

I find that the major part of my work is reviewing and applying a color-correction or LUT to the clips. That is the creative part, and the one I love the most. A program (Scratch Play) that will handle just about any file type I throw at it (yes, raw too), and play it back, plus throw a look on, or a pre-established LUT or CDL, is a tool I will use over and over.

Although not strictly about DIT work I thought this article on the secure encryption and security precautions required for the post-production work on Edward Snowdon documentary Citizen Four proved for a fascinating read.

After I came back from meeting Snowden in Hong Kong, I went back to Berlin and I just put my cell phone away. I figured it just wasn’t a good thing for me to have for a number of reasons. It’s a microphone and it’s also a tracking device and I just thought…I’m just not going to broadcast it. So I stopped using a cell phone while I was editing, but now I’m in here doing distribution and I need to talk to people so I’ve got a cell phone again.

Click through for a huge amount of essential DIT knowledge and tools

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Free Training for DaVinci Resolve 11.1

45 Minutes of Free DaVinci Resolve 11 Training

Patrick Inhofer and the boys from Mixing Light.com have recently released a huge new training series of 131 individual lessons lasting over 14 hours! You can read all about it on the Mixing Light Davinci Resolve 11 Deep Insights page. If you’ve never heard of Mixing Light.com, it is a subscription membership site for colorist’s of all skill levels and I’ve previously reviewed it here.

With the launch of the Deep Insights training they are giving away 45 minutes of free training from the tutorial series which you can enjoy below. If you want to download Resolve 11.1.1 (out this week) then you can grab it from blackmagicdesign.com.

With so much paid for training available online how do you know which one you should invest in with not only your money, but your precious time?

I’ve been in touch with Mixing Light, Ripple Training and FXPHD to get hold of review copies of all of their DaVinci Resolve tutorial packages, which they have all generously supplied and once I get through them all, I’ll be posting an extensive review on the blog, so stay tuned for that or sign up for my free weekly newsletter to not miss it.

Free DaVinci Resolve 11.1 Training

Even though the tutorial series has been months in the making, Patrick has created a smaller series of tutorials for the details of  important updates in the recent release of DaVinci Resolve 11.1. Click through for many more freebies!

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The Best After Effects Training on Lynda.com For Editors

The Best After Effects Training for Film Editors

As an editor the one program that I’ve historically lost work by not knowing is After Effects. Back in my FCP7 days I didn’t even own After Effects so it wasn’t that big a deal to me – plus I was know for my focused editing abilities. But now with the move for a lot of editors (myself included) to the Adobe Creative Cloud suite of applications and Premiere Pro CC specifically, the need to know how to get stuff done in After Effects feels all the more pressing.

There is a lot of free training for After Effects available online (and I’ll pull a post together of some of the best at some point soon!) but I wanted to point to some paid training first because if you want learn something properly, you need to be a bit more thorough, and committed, than ransacking Youtube.

For more training from Lynda.com check out this previous post covering a whole host of other topics from narrative scene editing and documentary editing to colour grading and more.

There are 137 results when you search for After Effects on Lynda.com, and even with the handy 7 day free trial, you won’t get through that much of it. Here is a quick run down of where you might want to start…

Learning After Effects as a Film Editor

Probably the best jumping off point for a complete beginner would be After Effects CC Essentials by Ian Robinson, this course is 11 hours long and covers everything from understanding the UI to creating animation, rotoscoping, tracking and even simple 3D work. If you have the time this would be excellent foundation for the next few courses.

Tracking and Stabilising Footage in After Effects – If David Fincher is happy to stabilise, polish and conform Gone Girl inside After Effects then it’s plenty good enough for me too. In this shorter After Effects Guru tutorial series from Richard Harrington you can learn how to track camera movement and then make use of it to add something else to the scene, or to smooth out the motion. Even though you can use Warp Stabiliser inside Premiere Pro using it in After Effects will give you a greater degree of control and precision. Click through for more After Effects Training

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Video Editing With Logitech G-13 Keyboard

Video Editing with Logitech G-13 Keypad

Logitech G13 for video editing

Buy on Amazon.com | Buy on Amazon.co.uk

I recently purchased a Logitech G13 after hearing how Editor Alan Bell A.C.E. uses one in combination with his Wacom tablet as his primary film editing devices. It sounds like a slick way to work and as an editor who is locked in to using keyboard shortcuts as often as possible and finds it a joy to memorise or devise new ones, I snapped up a G13 to give it a go myself.

Alan Edward Bell ACE - Logitech G13

In this post I thought I’d put together a fairly comprehensive ‘quick-start’ guide to anyone looking to use a G13 in their post production workflow. It really is a very versatile device and would speed up any creative working in After Effects, Premiere Pro CC, FCPX, DaVinci Resolve, Avid Media Composer etc. (or all of them!) There really are no limits to what you could use the G13 for, with a bit of imagination.

Headline Features of G-13

Video editing with Logitech G-13

Map each of the 22 G Keys to any keystroke, system shortcut, function key, macro, keystroke combination, alisas and mouse move you wish. Each profile contains three sets of mappings giving you 66 keys, plus the joystick and joypad buttons give you 7 more buttons to map in each set, totalling 87 programmable keys.

Customise the backlighting colour of each set of keyboard mappings, with three colours per profile, to help you visually keep track of what mapping you are in.

The LCD display will also toggle through several ‘applets’ which by default include profile selection, time and date, countdown/stopwatch, CPU and RAM usage as %, RSS Feed updates and email notifications.

You can also save up to 4 Profiles to the internal memory of the G13 to take them with you wherever you go. You can also export and import them via a simple XML too. Read on for a video tour and tips on editing with the G13

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Lightworks 12 on Mac – The Free NLE

Free Training For Lightworks 12 on Mac

Lightworks 12 on MacLightworks 12 for Mac OSX is now out of beta (as of two weeks ago) and freely available it’s Free and Pro versions and, now, across all three major operating systems; Windows, Mac OSX and Linux. But the development team aren’t resting on their laurels and the next 12.0.1 beta is already available if you want to be cutting on the bleeding edge!

Lightworks is available for free as well as in three payment options of £14.99/month, £99/year and a ‘buy outright’ price of £249.99 which means you’ll have to pay for up grades. The free version is far more limited than the Pro, with 720p H.264 as the maximum export resolution and codec.

If you’ve never heard of Lightworks before you might not know of it’s vintage heritage, or it’s modern day feature film pedigree, but Wolf of Wall Street was cut on Lightworks, so it can handle the complexities of media management and visual effects heavy workflows.

If you watch this two minute breakdown of a visual effects based commercial, where-in the 3D was created in Blender and all the editing, compositing and rendering were performed in Lightworks, you can get a sense of it’s capabilities.

Editor Brady Bretzel has posted a review of Lightworks over on Post Perspective.com which gives you a sense of how a working editor takes to using the software for the first time.

In the end, Lightworks is a standard professional-level NLE package. It is resolution, format and codec independent, it features a standard multi-channel audio mixer, realtime waveform and vectorscope, and even a library of color correction and effects. It has an in-depth metadata management search feature and even the ability to edit audio down to the ¼ frame, which is a really awesome feature to be packed into such an aggressively priced, full-featured NLE.

For even more free tutorials and useful resources check out the entire Lightworks category.

Getting Started with Lightworks 12

If you’ve never used Lightworks before then you’ll definitely want to check out the huge number of in-depth tutorials created by the Lightworks team, as well as the downloadable User Guide, Hints and Tips and other assorted fact sheets available from their site. Click through for over 20 more tutorials

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Learn Film Editing From Master Film Editors

Learn Film Editing From Master Film Editors

Before the internet I really have no idea how you would have the opportunity to learn as much, and in as much detail, as you can from excellent resources like these. In this post you’ll get a chance to learn from the editors of Star Wars, Super 8, Saving Private Ryan, Raiders of the Lost Ark and many more.

In the top video you can enjoy an hour long masterclass with Bad Robot editing duo Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey as they showcase scenes from Super 8 and Star Trek Into Darkness as well as a discuss the intricacies of their craft.

Here are a couple of gems from the BAFTA Guru Editing Archive.

Spielberg’s Editor Michael Kahn on Film Editing

It’s hard to think of a filmmaker who has shaped cinematic history more than Steven Spielberg and in these short clips you get to hear Spielberg’s editor Michael Kahn share his thoughts on various techniques involved in some of cinema’s most memorable scenes. Click through for a ton more videos!

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How To Become A 2nd Assistant Film Editor

How To Become A 2nd Assistant Film Editor

How to become a 2nd Assistant Film Editor

2nd Assistant Film Editor Robert Sealey’s various post credits include Star Wars: Episode VII, Mission Impossible 5, Heart of the Sea, Edge of Tomorrow, Jupiter Ascending and World War Z. Oh, and he’s only 23 years old. So he’s obviously doing something right!

I met Rob at the recent Edit Fest London 2014, and he kindly agreed to answer a few interview questions over email, which he graciously found time for in his hectic schedule working on Star Wars: Episode VII here in London, although he’s recently moved over to working on Mission Impossible 5 too!

If you’re looking to find your way into the film industry I hope you’ll find Rob’s insights both encouraging and inspiring. My favourite quote from Rob?

Don’t be intimidated by the film industry…” Great advice.

Interview With Rob Sealey – 2nd Assistant Film Editor

2nd Assistant Editor on Star Wars VII

What is your film background?

I previously had no background in the film industry. None of my family has ever been a part of the film industry so I came into it fresh with no previous links other than my love and passion for film. 

What was your strategy to get into the film industry?

When getting started I began looking for jobs as a runner in a post production house as I knew that editing and post production was what I was most interested in. Once I was into a postproduction house I met assistants from a TV background who had worked in features. From their experience they suggested that I go on IMDB pro and email as many Editors, First Assistants, Second Assistants and Post Production Supervisors as possible.

I have heard a lot of people say they are worried about going freelance. My advice to that is don’t worry, get yourself out there. Being freelance is probably the best move I made for my career. From that point onwards I sent a personalized email to each person containing my CV out to about 20/30 people a day.

I looked on IMDB for people on every film I had watched. It was only a matter of time before I got a positive response. I got responses from nearly every person that I emailed (even if they couldn’t help me out) and then got the phone call about World War Z after a month of emailing! Click through for the rest of the interview

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The Making of Gone Girl

Inside the Gone Girl Post Production Workflow

David Fincher’s Gone Girl seems to have created the perfect storm for post production geeks (like me!) who are both excited by the prospect of a great Fincher film as well as a groundbreaking editorial workflow. Gone Girl is the first major Hollywood feature to be edited in Adobe Premiere Pro and conformed in After Effects.

This also means there are plenty of great making of articles, interviews and technical details to be digested. What’s most exciting is hearing that the Adobe team worked so closely with the Gone Girl post team, which hopefully transfers into a better piece of software for everyone.

Kirk Baxter on Editing Gone Girl

Kirk Baxter Gone Girl

In this 30 minute interview editor Kirk Baxter shares his process on working with David Fincher and his particular methodologies, as well as some of the intricacies of cutting particular scenes and moments. If you’re not seen the film yet you might want to wait to watch it first as there’s a fair amount of ‘spoiler’ detail in the interview. But it’s well worth a watch over on Moviola.com.

Post Perspective has a really focused interview with Kirk that covers a lot of the ‘craft’ elements involved in the editing of Gone Girl.

Variety’s Justin Chang says, “Kirk Baxter cuts the picture to within an inch of his life, while still allowing individual scenes and the overall structure to breathe.” What do you think he means by that? 
My interpretation of that quote is that it’s at an unrelenting pace. David and I are always on a constant quest to reduce screen time without reducing content. During that process I sometimes break it, but the nature of editing and the environment that I have with David, it’s not a problem because you just go back in and fix it. You find the sweet spot from the constant back and forth.

Click through for much more on editing Gone Girl in Premiere Pro

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