The Best DVD Extras For Film Editors
Personally I love it when filmmakers cram their DVD and Blu-ray releases with as many extras as they can. Unfortunately you’re not often given access in any great detail to the post production department. But every now and then a real gem can be found, if you know where to look.
Here are a few of my favourite DVD extras and Blu Ray special features which focus on film editors, film editing and the full gamut of the post production process.
Most of the time these can only be found on the Special Edition version of the release, and although many of these films are not ‘new’ they’re absolutely worth watching.
Their vintage also makes most of them incredibly cheap to buy!
The two disc DVD release of David Fincher’s cult classic Se7en features four excellent commentaries to choose from:
- Audio Commentary Track with Director David Fincher and Actors Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman
- Audio Commentary Track on Story with Professor Richard Dyer, Writer Andrew Kevin Walker, Editor Richard Francis-Bruce, New Line President of Production Michael De Luca and Director David Fincher
- Audio Commentary Track on Picture with Professor Richard Dyer, Director David Fincher, Editor Richard Francis-Bruce, Director of Photography Darius Khondji and Production Designer Arthur Max
- Isolated 5.1 Music and Sound Effects Cues Track, featuring Audio Commentary by Professor Richard Dyer, Director David Fincher, Composer Howard Shore and Sound Designer Ren Klyce
The best of the commentaries are those with editor Richard Francis-Bruce.
The second disc has the following features, the best of which is the Mastering for Home Theatre colour grading breakdown.
- Deleted Scenes and Extended Takes
- Alternate Endings with Animated Storyboard Exploration
- Exploration of the Opening Title Sequence from Multiple Video Angles with Various Audio Mixes and Two Commentary Tracks
- Multiple Animated Galleries Featuring Production Designs and Stills, Crime Scene Photos Used in the Film, “John Doe’s” Notebooks, Photos and more
Helpfully someone has put the ‘Mastering for Home Theatre’ colour grading featurette online, which features an early colour correction walk through by legendary colorist Stephen Nakamura.
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Extended Edition
Peter Jackson’s Extended Edition of The Lord of The Rings Trilogy is probably the best single behind the scenes DVD box set ever created.
The main featurette focused on editing comes on the 4th disc of the Two Towers film and you get 22 minutes of golden insider information on the stress inducing, deadline stretching edit of the epic trilogy.
Each film was cut by a different editor, here that’s Michael Horton and Jabez Olson working with Peter Jackson for over a year. The ‘Editorial: Refining the Story‘ featurette delivers an intimate look at the process of cutting a feature film – the internal politics, the studio challenges, the re-structuring, the deadlines, interweaving multiple story lines and so much more.
The Audio Demonstration featurette is a brilliant opportunity to individually listen through the various 7 tracks of production audio, foley, three various effects tracks, dialogue, music and final mix, as created for a section of the battle of Helm’s Deep.
Another 22 minute featurette reveals the incredible lengths the sound recording and mixing team went to collect all of the sounds needed for the complex fantasy aural landscape.
All 12 discs of the entire extended edition are well worth the effort, provided you’ve got a spare 60 hours. And that’s just each extended film once through.
Then settle in for four more times for each of the commentaries…not to mention actually sitting down to watch all the other the extra features themselves.
Mad Max: Fury Road – Black and Chrome
Mad Max: Fury Road Black and Chrome edition is an extremely rare opportunity for colorists and editors to see a film, originally released in theatres in colour, in an all new black and white grade.
The video above gives you a really nice direct comparison between the two releases as well as the difference between merely reducing the saturation to zero and the Black and Chrome look.
There are two releases of the Blu-Ray coming on December 6th 2016. The Mad Max High-Octane Collection features all four of the Mad Max films, plus 5 hours of bonus material and the Black and Chrome edition.
For a third of the price the Black and Chrome Blu-Ray edition features both the colour and the black and chrome versions of the film, which director George Miller says is in fact ‘the best version of Mad Max: Fury Road.”
If you want to learn more about black and white colour grading check out this previous post on creating better looking grades in DaVinci Resolve.
These clips from the Black and Chrome release give you a sense of the final look of the film.
The Social Network
The Social Network is another fine Fincher film and this DVD also has many excellent special features.
The best of these from an editorial point of view is the interview with Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall on their process for keeping up with David Fincher’s epic mountain of rushes, given his propensity to shoot endless takes.
There is also an excellent feature-length making of the film which includes thoughts from Angus Wall, Kirk Baxter and sound designer Ren Klyce on the post process.
There is also some great stuff on the emotional intricacies of crafting the story, flow and working with a director as demanding and meticulous as Fincher.
As a quick aside there’s tons of great posts on this blog which include insights from David Fincher and his post production team.
Swingers is a really great film. Not only for it’s bromance wit and quotable lines (”You always double down on 11″) but also for the fact that the special edition DVD comes with two commentaries and a whole host of making of featurettes:
- Audio commentary by Doug Liman and editor Stephen Mirrione
- Audio commentary by stars Vince Vaughn and Jon Favereau
- Five deleted scenes
- Art Imitates Life: Writing The Story featurette
- Life Creates Art: Getting Swingers Made featurette
- Art Creates Life: Life After Swingers featurette
- Life Imitates Art: Swingers Culture featurette
- Swingblade – short film
The commentary that made me buy it though, was the excellent pairing of director Doug Liman and supremely talented editor Stephen Mirrione.
Mirrione has cut a huge raft of brilliant films including Traffic, 21 Grams, The Ides of March, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and many, many more.
It’s great hearing him describe all of the ways he had to ‘break the rules’ to make a low-budget first feature work. Well worth a listen for any editor.
Panic Room 3 Disc Special Edition
David Fincher’s Panic Room, is not his best film, but I love it’s tone and aesthetic. In the three disc special edition DVD there is a treasure trove of filmmaking behind the scenes treats.
The bonus discs include:
- Original camera and lighting tests from DP Conrad Hall
- Practical effects test footage
- Pre-vis breakdowns
- An hour long documentary on shooting the film
- 20 Visual effects breakdowns
- Sound Design featurette and more
On top of that there are three feature length commentaries with director David Fincher, an actor’s commentary and a commentary from writer David Koepp who is joined by screenwriter William Goldman.
Panic Room is also the ‘most pre-vis’d’ film in history (up to it’s production date that is!) and you get to sit in on a pre-vis review session as Fincher re-works his shots.
If you’re a fan of David Fincher you need to check out this for some seriously great behind the scenes movie making gold.
Editor Vashi Nedomansky has helpfully uploaded the Fincher commentary from Panic Room to YouTube.
All of the extras on writer director Gareth Edwards inspiringly small production, Monsters, are definitely worth a watch.
The video above is from a British TV show but they give you a good sense of Gareth’s style and how he pulled off the film.
Packed full of no nonsense, no guff, practical film making insight, there are three excellent featurettes on the DVD covering the shooting, editing and visual effects.
These are absolute gold for any filmmaker looking to make their first feature film and break the mould of ‘what’s possible. It helps that Gareth could do all the visual effects work from his bedroom.
Possibly one of director Steven Soderbergh’s best films the Criterion 2 disc dvd and blu-ray release of Traffic features:
- Commentary by director Steven Soderbergh and writer Stephen Gaghan
- Commentary by producers Laura Bickford, Edward Zwick, and Marshall Herskovitz and consultants Tim Golden and Craig Chretien
- Commentary by composer Cliff Martinez (with two music cues not included in the film)
- 25 deleted scenes with optional commentary by Soderbergh and Gaghan
- 30 minutes of additional footage featuring multiple angles from scenes at the El Paso Intelligence Center and the Washington D.C. cocktail party.
- Film processing demonstration: a step by step look into the film processing technique used to achieve the sun-blasted look of the Mexican scenes
- Editing demonstration narrated by editor Stephen Mirrione
- Dialogue editing demonstration with sound editor Larry Blake
These are some brilliant extras to have at your finger tips, especially the dialogue editing and editing demonstration from editor Stephen Mirrione. You can’t ask for better than that!
The Hobbit Trilogy Extended Editions
Another Peter Jackson epic trilogy you can feast your eyes on is his re-telling of The Hobbit. One book in three parts. The online production diaries (above) do dip into post-production work as well.
This is the only one on the list that I don’t yet own, so I’m having to go off of the Amazon listing, but from what I tell it’s a pretty similar effort to the LOTR masterclass. So it’s on my to buy and explore list!
The DVD features 15 discs on the extended edition (9 on the Blu Ray), replete with filmmaker commentaries and a smorgasbord of ‘appendices’ covering all aspects of production and post.
You can even buy it in similar packaging to your LOTR box sets for total DVD shelf synchronicity!
Cold Mountain’s making of documentary (70 minutes) featuring a good amount of legendary editor Walter Murch talking about his process and the craft of film editing in general.
Speaking of Walter Murch one of the best books you can buy on the process of cutting a feature film is ‘Behind the Seen‘. This tracks in intimate detail, editor Walter Murch using Final Cut Pro for the very first time on a Hollywood feature film, Cold Mountain.
The book includes numerous interviews with Murch, journal excerpts and much more.
Peter Jackon’s incredibly long and mostly OK – King Kong, has a superb collection of 35 unique post production diaries recorded over the final 33 weeks of post-production.
These meticulously cover all aspects of the post work for the film including:
- filming pick ups
- visual effects
- motion capture
- sound design
- scoring and much more
2 hours and 40 minutes of post production fun!
On the Insomnia DVD when you listen to the commentary from director Christopher Nolan, he takes the interesting approach of showing the movie in its production schedule order.
By viewing the film in the order in which it was shot you get a better sense of what an editor might experience working through the rushes, which helps give a different angle on the editorial process.
I’ve not heard of another filmmaker giving you the option to watch the film in this way!
Director Christopher Nolan’s first film, The Following, demonstrates all of his creativity and interest in criminality.
The commentary track from Nolan is a masterclass in independent filmmaking and a must listen to anyone trying to bring their film to life.
Natalie from Mentorless has put together an excellent post detailing many of the things she’s learned from Nolan discussing his process in writing and directing the film.
It’s a great insight into the kind of things you can learn from Nolan.
The film was rehearsed for about 6 months, just as if they were doing a play. Actors knew the whole film in advance.Each Saturday, depending on the location secured, Nolan would tell them: ‘We are doing X scene’, and they were prepared to make it happened in one take.
I’m a big fan of Paul Thomas Anderson and his entire filmmaking repertoire.
The 2 disc edition of the masterful Magnolia contains a feature length making of documentary that provides pretty much unfettered access to PTA and many of the other cast and crew.
There are some great moments with PTA discussing scenes with the actors, as well as production insights like how late in the day PTA actually wrote the content for the TV show within the film.
Although not strictly about post-production, it is a great lesson in filmmaking from one of America’s master filmmakers.
The English Patient
I have a lot of respect for The English Patient. Not only is it a brilliant film but the editing is probably some of Murch’s best (if you can judge such a thing!).
‘A conversation’ with Walter Murch‘ is a sampling of short interview material with Murch, focusing on his relationship with director Anthony Minghella but also the technical process of putting the film together.
There is plenty of other good stuff on the Special Edition DVD too.
Memento is really the film that made Christopher Nolan and it’s well worth repeat viewings, especially with his audio commentary.
The special edition dvd also affords the opportunity to watch the film in chronological order, which does help to make it make a lot more sense, but that sort of takes the fun out of it.
Still a great lesson in creative film structure.
Erin Brockovich is a personal favourite and another of Soderbergh’s best films. It’s also edited by legendary editor Anne V. Coates.
Although the extras aren’t the best you can find, there is a deleted scenes commentary (and an odd ‘music only’ audio option) with director Steven Soderbergh that provides some useful insights into what to chop out when you’ve got to get the movie down to time.