Fighting Sex Trafficking With Filmmaking

Editing With A Cause – Taken Photodocumentary

Taken Photodocumentary Ebook

Taken, a photodocumentary ebook, launched last week and available on iPads everywhere from the ibooks store, is out to help fight sex trafficking through a mix of gripping photography and engaging film content. It’s a tough subject matter, gracefully handled by photojournalist Hazel Thompson, a regular shooter for the New York Times and other national outfits, who has spent the last 11 years returning to Mumbai to expose the horrific true stories of the women and children trapped in prostitution.

Editing the Taken Documentary Films

I had the privilege of working on this great project thanks to a connection through a mutual friend of ours, director Roy Petersen, for whom Hazel shot a quirky short documentary about a 102 year old jazz musician and his young, toy shop owning friend, which I later edited. Hazel liked what I’d done and asked me to cut the three short films for this project, which follow the trajectory of the book.

Due to a scheduling conflict I had to cut Taken in every spare evening and weekend I had going over the summer. Working two jobs was gruelling but it always felt well worth it when I finally collapsed in bed after inching the edit forward each night. There was about 24 hours of raw footage to cut down into three, 3-5 minute short films, and thanks to Hazel’s courageous filming effort, an embarrassment of riches to work with.

As a result of all the great source material, plus Roy’s superb interview with Hazel about the making of the book, I ended up creating eight other short making of films, plus the trailer to help promote the book.

Trying to Make A Difference With My Craft

Taken Ebook

Working on Taken was one of those hard, but satisfying gigs where you get to feel like what you have to offer the world, the skills you use every day, can actually be valuable and help to make a difference where it matters most. So I’m really thankful for the opportunity to have edited the films. If you’ve got an ipad, check out the free sampler on the ibooks store and if you feel motivated, buy the book too. All the profits go to help rescue more and more women and children from a slow death in the hellish streets of Mumbai’s Red Light district.  The work Jubilee Campaign and Bombay Teen Challenge do is incredible and well worth supporting.

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Improve Your Edit – Insights on the Craft of Film Editing

Improve Your Edit – Film Editing Fundamentals

Developing your craft as a film editor means taking the time to study and truly understand what make an edit better. Some of editing can be learned by gut feel, but applying yourself to breaking down the film editing techniques at your disposal, especially if you’re just starting out, will really help you improve your work. To that end here is a quick round up of some editing fundamentals.

Editing for Rhythm and Pace

In this video lecture Kurt Lancaster shares his thoughts on editing for pace and rhythm through comparing two documentary films about free climbers. Great insights into the entire filmmaking process and the stylistic differences of a news or poetic aesthetic.

Cutting Rhythms - The Craft of Film EditingFor a book all about the intricacies of the rhythmic side of editing grab a copy of Karen Pearlman’s in-depth investigation of the subject Cutting Rhythms, originally her Phd thesis.

I’ve thumbed through the copy on my shelf and it looks like a fascinating read for any film editor serious about understanding the elements at play in the heart of their craft. It’s also a rare opportunity to read about a side of film editing, which is covered much less often than the technical ‘how-to’ side of being a film editor.

Buy it on |

Working With Temp Music

In this brilliant interview snippet director Christopher Nolan and Director Richard Donner share their thoughts on working with Temp music. I’ve also blogged about how to avoid the temp music trap over on Premium Beat.

Editing Action Sequences

Editor Vashi Nedomansky shares some great tips for creating action sequences on a low budget through some smart editing tricks. Check out the video above and the supporting blog post on his site. For another perspective on editing action sequences check out these great video lectures from Jim Emerson breaking down The Dark Knight, Salt and The French Connection.

Click through for even more film editing tips

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The Making of Gravity

Behind The Scenes on Gravity

buy gravity on amazon

Director Alfonso Cuarón’s heart stopping Gravity is causing critics to say that they’re finally seeing a film where 3D is no longer a gimmick and that the best way to experience this film is in immersive IMAX 3D. This round up of production, post and visual effects behind the scenes insights will take you into the film’s gripping world.

For a simple 5 minute tour of the film’s production and post production you could simply watch this EPK before jumping into some of the more detailed articles.

Update: The DVD and Blu-ray of Gravity has now been released. Nominated for 10 Academy Awards and winner of 7, if you’ve not yet seen the film – seriously, what are you waiting for?!   Buy on Buy on


Light Box during making of Gravity

With a movie like Gravity it’s hard to define exactly where pre-production, production and post production delineate and so the ways in which I’ve split all these resources up, might feel a little arbitrary.

Update: For an enjoyably anecdote laden write up on the making of Gravity this excellent article from DazedDigital is a great read.

To simulate free floating space cadets, Cuarón enlisted the help of automobile manufacturing technology. These robots usually deal in autos, which meant toting around a 5 foot 7 Sandra Bullock was effortless. They also have the precision of movement (hence the pre-vis and pre-programming) that even the steadiest grip couldn’t replicate for camerawork. “The night before we started shooting, nothing was working. The night before, we had a dummy there doing a test and the robot just went through the head like paow!”

This post from The Wrap offers some good quotes and insights into the making of the film which stretched over 4 and a half years and pushed the available technology to the limit, while the team wrestled with just how to achieve Cuarón’s ambitious vision.

They also constructed something called the “light box.” The 10 foot by 10 foot space was outfitted with more than 4,000 LED lightbulbs and functioned as a giant television screen. It allowed the effects team to play any computer graphics image they wanted in order to get the light from the sun, the stars and other celestial adornments just right. Roughly 60 percent of the film was shot in the box.

how they shot gravity

Cinematographer Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki, ASC, AMC is interviewed on his ground-breaking work on the film in this short but meaty American Society of Cinematographers article. Extensive coverage of Gravity is available in the November edition of the ASC magazine which you can read here. Including an excellent breakdown of the file based workflow.

“On Gravity, a big part of my collaboration was to do the virtual lighting,” says Chivo. “I was lucky to be included in the movie that way. And virtual lighting is not more or less than the more conventional light we have always done. But it is every bit as important. And I think we are going to be doing more and more virtual lighting.”

For some great behind the scenes photographs check out this collection from and for an long read on the inside story of the films production sit back and enjoy this superb article from Variety.

In the end, those behind the scenes agreed that the technology and prep succeeded in one crucial respect: It let the filmmakers — and the movie — zero in on Bullock’s performance, which is already being buzzed about.

“The shoot for me was those Eureka moments,” says Cuaron, recalling one particularly absorbing closeup of Bullock as Stone when the character is talking about her daughter. “You’re cool that the light actually worked this time?” he asked Lubezki. “Was everything in sync?” he queried Webber.

“The two of them said, ‘Of course. Forget about that. Do you see what just happened?’ Suddenly, with all that weight of technology, we were capturing a great performance. … It was those moments in which everything came together for what was the point of this film, the experience of a human up there.”

Behind the scenes on Gravity Click through for tons more behind the scenes insights

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Tutorials for DaVinci Resolve Round Up

A Round Up of  Tutorials for DaVinci Resolve

DaVinci Resolve short cutsThere are plenty of great places online to learn more about DaVinci Resolve, and in this round up I’ve gathered together plenty of new gems for your colour grading consumption.

To kick off this post jump over to I Love Hue and download the updated DaVinici Resolve 9.15 shortcut cheat sheet to keep yourself update with all the latest keyboard commands.

DaVinci Resolve How To Tutorials

In this short tutorial colorist Jesse Borkowski demonstrates how to use dynamic and static keyframes in Resolve 9.1 and the differences between the two types of keyframe.

Jesse reveals how to force conform a clip if your XML handover doesn’t quite happen as it should. In the tutorial below Andrew McKee demonstrates how to use the conflict resolution dialogue to solve a similar problem.

Colorist Matt Scott walks through grading a shot from a RED Scarlet-X, covering topics like Red color science, gamma curves, reading a waveform scope, using qualifiers, masks and more. A great introductory tutorial if you’re new to Resolve and grading RAW footage.

Click through for tutorials on creating looks in Resolve & Workflow how-tos

Posted in AVID, Colour Grading, Creativity, DaVinci Resolve, Free download, RED, Tutorials, Workflow | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Colour Grading Resources Round Up Part 3

Round Up of Resources for Colorists Part 3

Colour grading is one of those creative skillsets that requires as much artistic and creative imagination as it does technological knowledge and inventiveness. These resources, gathered from all corners of the web, should help you improve both the art and science of your colour grading.

Inside Colour Grading Breakdowns

Colorist Charles-Etienne Pascal has a great site called on which he recently posted this grading breakdown, with a node by node reveal of how he created the look.

Charles also has some great blog posts on matching shots, grading wide shots and the importance of art direction in color grading.

Skin tone look in resolve

In this great post from the Lift Gamma Gain forum, colorist Juan Melara details how he achieves specific skin tone looks using curves, qualifiers and pushing reds into the shadows.

Printer Point Controls for colour gradingIn this quick tip editor and colorist Aaron Williams shares how to use printer point controls mapped to keyboard shortcuts to quickly re-balance and image and remove bad white balance colour casts.

Since they affect the whole image (not a tonal range), they are fantastic for fixing bad white balance, which also generally affects the whole image. During my internship at EFILM, the colorists would have their color assistants go though the show before them, balancing and matching shots (essentially doing a rough primary correction) using only printer points.

Editorial to colour

In a pair of ‘cross-published’ posts colorist Robbie Carman (from Mixing Light) posts over on PVC, while editor Scott Simmons (from PVC) posts over on Mixing Light. Both posts cover the journey from editorial to colour grading but from the pairs differing perspectives, which provides plenty of great insights. One of the clearest things to come out of both posts is how essential good communication between editorial and color is for a smooth handover although both provide plenty of technical specifics too.
Click through for even more colorist resources

Posted in Colour Grading, DaVinci Resolve, Editor's Tools, Interview, Tutorials, Workflow | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

A Filmmaking Masterclass From David Fincher

Filmmaking Insights from Director David Fincher

Filmschoolthrucommentaries is one of my favourite sites, partly because I love every and any behind the scenes extra and especially commentaries from the cast and crew.

Here’s a round up of all of the best filmmaking insights direct from director David Fincher’s film commentaries, thanks to Filmschoolthrucommentaries hard work.

Click through for more insights from David Fincher

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Film Editor Andrew Weisblum A.C.E In Conversation

Film Editor Andrew Weisblum In Conversation

In this series of videos from the Manhatten Edit Workshop film editor Andrew Weisblum A.C.E. discusses his work with Bobbie O’Steen, covering a wildly diverse range of films like The Wrestler, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Black Swan, Darjeeling Limited and Moonrise Kingdom. Fantastic insights into his process and craft!

Click through for four more fantastic film editing gems

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5 Books About Ideas To Shape Your Creative Thinking

5 Books On Ideas To Expand Your Creative Thinking

From time to time on my blog I write up a list of 5 books or so on different topics. There’s been two posts on The Best Books on Film Editing 1 & 2, Books on Storytelling, Books for Creatives, Books on Avid, Books on Marketing and more. This time I thought I’d share some of my favourite books on ideas, which are guaranteed to get your mind whirring and generate some fresh creative thoughts!

Where Good Ideas Come From – Steven Johnson

Where Good Ideas Come FromWhere Good Ideas Come From is a brilliantly readable book and if you want a good taster for it you can simply watch Steven Johnson’s TED talk, but if you don’t want to spoil it all just grab and copy and prepare to be inspired.

Essentially the book takes you through seven key principles that can facilitate the generation of really good ideas, from which you can draw out some very practical pointers such as the importance of writing everything down, and being connected to as many people and stimuli as possible, and sticking with slow hunches.

“Chance favours the connected mind.”

That makes it sound all very simplistic but Johnson’s narrative approach uncovers tons of fascinating insights based on characters as diverse as Charles Darwin and Tim Berners-Lee. A very enjoyable and valuable read.

Buy on | Buy on

The Decisive Moment – Jonah Lehrer

“I was flying a Boeing 737 into Tokyo Narita International Airport when the left engine caught on fire.” If you’re looking for an opening line that will grab your attention you can’t do much better than that! So begins Jonah Lehrer’s insightful and intriguing The Decisive Moment, which is all about how we make decisions and how we can learn to make better ones.

Jonah Lehrer The Decisive Moment

Lehrer writes in a similarly anecdotal style to Johnson or Gladwell (though not as brilliantly as the later) whilst drawing on a detailed understanding of neuroscience to weave together a gripping book about the power and process of decision making. One of my favourite parts of the book is Lehrer’s analysis of the stock market and his proposal for a relatively fool-proof investment strategy: “Since the market is a random walk with an upward slope, the best solution is to pick a low-cost index fund and wait… Don’t buy or sell a single stock.” In doing so Lehrer reckons you can out perform the average ‘active’ investor by nearly 10 percent. Entertaining, informative and a mind expanding read.

Buy on | Buy on

Click through for 3 more great books to enhance your creative thinking

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How To Be A DIT – Part 6

Resources for DITs

Keeping up to date with the latest developments in digital imaging capture, storage and transfer is a vital part of any DITs role. Hopefully these resources will help to do just that. If you’ve never heard of a DIT and are wondering what they do, check out the DIT category or this fairly decent explanation.

DIT Tech Update


An important part of being a DIT is understanding the full journey the image will take. With the emergence of 4K, the bandwidth for moving all those bits around needs to increase too. This handy primer on 6G-SDI from Wolfcrow has some good info on the standard. Although he does caution “Only opt for 6G-SDI for 4K RAW data transfer. If you’re not shooting RAW then it is pointless.” There is also a handy chart demonstrating what the different standards will allow you to handle in each case.

HDMI 2 is another update to an existing standard that actually blows past the capabilities of even 6G-SDI with a whopping 18Gbps, which would allow you to handle 4K streams at up to 60fps. According to this report from No Film School you won’t even have to upgrade your cables as the standard will work with existing Category 2 cables. For a fuller run down on HDMI 2.0 check out Gigaom’s excellent summary.

Update: This twitter conversation between colorists Tom Parish and Juan Salvo sheds some disappointing light on the format.

What is the cost of 4k?

While we’re on the subject of 4K, if you’re thinking about moving into that territory then it would be worth checking out Able Cine’s post on the mounting cost of working in 4K, calculating the extra cash you’ll be spending from acquisition to archiving. If you haven’t already guessed it is more expensive, but not impossibly expensive.

DIT Software: Scratch Play

Assimilate recently launched Scratch Play, a free app that will allow you (or your producer/director/client) to play almost any camera file on their Mac or PC. Another than a handy free app, it is clearly Assimilate’s goal to get you used to the features and workflow of Scratch itself, in the hopes that maybe you’ll upgrade to Scratch or Scratch Lab. The app borrows the CONstruct and alot of the colour correction features from Scratch itself, so you can have a good play with your images, although you can’t actually export an files from Scratch Play. Download it free or ad-free for $5.

SCRATCH Play supports a wide range of media formats. From cinematic RAW files (RED, Arri, Sony, Canon, Phantom, etc) to DSLR RAW files (Canon 5D, Nikon N600, etc) to Editorial formats (MXF, WAV, etc) to pro VFX/still formats (DPX, EXR, etc). Even web-based media (QuickTime, Windows Media, MP4, H.264, etc) and still image formats (TIFF, JPG, PNG, etc).

The Diamond Brothers helpfully supply a nice promo/case study for both Assimilate Play and Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablet in the video above. Read the full Surface post here.

Click through for loads more DIT resources including video lectures, webinars, free downloads and more!

Posted in Adobe Premiere Pro, Arri Alexa, DIT, Editor's Tools, FCP-X, Free download, RED, Workflow | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Amsterdam Supermeet Videos 2013

Amsterdam Supermeet Videos 2013

The 2012 Amsterdam Supermeet was a great event for seeing and hearing all about many new developments in the production and post world. Particularly note worthy was Michael Cioni’s talk “Evolution or Extinction” about the demise of film and the rise and rise of digital and its new workflows. As you can see this year’s presentations were no different! Huge thanks must go to Gert Kracht for recording and uploading them.

Larry Jordan on FCPX – Ready for Professionals?

DaVinci Resolve 10 Beta – James Tonkin

Alexis Van Hurkman – Behind the Scenes with Smoke

Rescuing Bad Audio – Mike Thornton

Posted in Colour Grading, Compositing, Craft, Creativity, Editor's Tools, FCP-X, Smoke, Sound Design, Tutorials, Visual Effects, Workflow | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment