Archive for the ‘ Education/Training ’ Category

Studying Cinematography to Study Editing

Well, I’ve been quiet.  Things have been hectic, as I’m getting ready to switch jobs and transfer to full-time work in NYC.  Not as an editor yet, but I’m hoping the move will give me a chance to get more into the game.  I’m also starting to amass quite a nice library of books on all aspects of production and post thanks to my classes, recommendations from my Twitter contacts, and others.  The one thing I’m finding very helpful in increasing my vocabulary of what makes good edits and good films is to study cinematography.  Because I can manipulate a shot to a degree, by tweaking the color, punching in a bit, or applying a filter, I’m spending a decent amount of time learning what makes a good shot when it’s captured on the camera so I can try to recreate them in post if a scene calls for it.

I’m getting 2 books that I’m hoping will help me learn a bit more about cinematography, both recommended to me by The Independent.

1.) Master Shots: 100 Advanced Camera Techniques to Get an Expensive Look on Your Low-Budget Movie

2.) The Five C’s of Cinematography: Motion Picture Filming Techniques

When I’m working with Scott Napolitano on Issues, I’m usually on set, and in the past, I haven’t felt like I could accurately describe what I thought would make a good shot.  This is an attempt to solve that problem, and broaden my idea of what makes a good shot, and what sets up a good cut.  If you’re in a similar boat, try reading up on Cinematography.  It may improve your communication with both the director and the DP, if you have a chance to interact with them before production is wrapped.  Once I have the books, I’ll post an idea of how they’ve helped me.  I’m also reading The Invisible Cut, which was assigned to me by one of my professors this semester.  It’s a wonderful book that breaks down scenes from famous movies to teach you some of the basics of editing and how to do it well – that is, how to make it invisible to the audience.  Feel free to check them all out!

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Challenge Yourself

As you know, I’m in a bit of a lull with Issues still in development for the second season.  I’ve been getting incredibly bored recently, with nothing to edit.  Sure, I’ve been working on the new software a lot, but you can only do that for so long before needing a break.  What I need is a project.

So, to that end, I’m making some work for myself.  I’m determined to make Issues stand out more in it’s second season with transitions, titles, and effects that fit our show.  In particular, I’m taking pages from two shows, Captain Blasto, and Beautiful Jones, who have used similar tricks on their shows.  The big challenge is to design new opening credits for Issues that are more than just pictures fading in and out.  The existing credits were created on-the-fly because we were ready to release, and there had been no direction on what kind of credits to use.  So I scrambled something together in a few minutes, and stuck with it through the rest of the absolutely chaotic post-production/release season.

Now that I have some downtime, I’ve developed a concept of what a good opening sequence would look like for the show.  It will NOT be easy to make.  It requires a lot of graphics work, which I can do, but am not very practiced in, and may end up requiring some work in Motion/AfterEffects.  However, when I get tired of practicing new software and want to return to a project, I now have my opening credit concept to return to.  My hope is to make it the opening credits for all subsequent releases from the show.

In addition to keeping me entertained, it’s also forcing me to work on skills I’m not as good with, and to learn entirely new ones.  It’s something I’m undertaking of my own volition, because I know it’s difficult and will be a complete pain in the ass.  But then after it’s done, I can go back and refine the process, and really integrate those skills.  So my challenge to anyone who has some time to kill:  Design a project for yourself that you know is going to be difficult.  And do it.

Using Job Postings to Inform Your Training

(A recap of last night’s BigScreen, LittleScreen is coming tomorrow.  Felt this was more important to post tonight.)

I’ll admit that I’m frustrated that it seems like video editors aren’t advertised in most of the places I’m looking for a job.  However, I’m still making sure that I’m moving in the direction I need to in order to be a valuable editor for any team I work with.

I’m reading job postings for top jobs in post-production – not to apply for the jobs (which I am in no way qualified for without a wealth more experience), but to see what they’re demanding of their applicants.  Why?

Because in today’s economic climate of higher unemployment and more job seekers, employers can be more demanding.  They’re out looking for the perfect applicant for the role, and they’re describing these roles in detail.  Even though I know exactly 1 person at NBC and no one at HBO, I can tell you that NBC uses Final Cut Pro for their editing, while HBO uses Avid, but is also interested in Final Cut, as an example.  I know what kinds of experiences their looking for, which will influence the kind of work and projects I will seek out.  In short, I’m using these extremely demanding job postings to make myself the top person.

I’ve recently completed my quest to create a monster of a computer by ordering the last piece of software necessary – AfterEffects.  My notebook now runs Final Cut Studio 2, Avid Media Composer 3.5, Adobe CS4 Design Premium, and Adobe CS4 AfterEffects.  I can train myself to be a very talented editor now, and can prioritize in the way that meets my needs most immediately, because I have all the software at my fingertips.  Avid and AfterEffects are the two big programs I’m learning to master now.  I’m also working on Soundtrack Pro to improve my audio editing.  Although, I must say, I’m a bit disappointed by what Adobe deems to be advanced editing in AE – I learned about particle emitters and replicators in my second lesson in Motion over 2 years ago.

In short, if you’re an editor looking for work and the jobs you’re seeing are beyond your reach, don’t just ignore them.  Use them to figure out what employers are looking for and run with it.

Students, Take Advantage of Your Resources

I stopped by my old undergrad. alma mater today to meet some of my friends there for lunch.  One of them happened to be my old boss, who was in the process of upgrading the video editing suites to some nice, new, dual-processing Mac Pros (instead of the old G5s).  What’s sad is that most of the students that use those machines are never even going to scratch the surface of what it can do.

Students, if you’re earning a degree in media, film, or communications, and you’re focusing on any kind of post-production, you need to understand something big:  YOU ARE THE ONE ULTIMATELY RESPONSIBLE FOR DEVELOPING YOUR SKILLS!

The Mac Pros down in the old editing suites I used to call home have Final Cut Studio equipped on them, and one will be running Avid Media Composer as well.  Most of the students who use those computers will never get beyond Final Cut Pro because that’s as far as the post-production class they sign up for takes them.  Take that path, and while you may be good at Final Cut, you’re going to find that you’re not equipped to handle what’s going to be asked of you in the field.  (Take it from me, I learned that the hard way.)  You should learn as much as you can about that software.  It will make life much easier in the future.

If your school has a suite of programs like Final Cut Studio, knowing 1 of the 5 key programs isn’t good enough.  If you had to learn two more, I’d say they should be Soundtrack Pro and DVD Studio Pro, so you can edit your picture and sound well, and get it out onto a well designed DVD.  (Because that killer demo. reel you make has to be on DVD for those who ask for it!)  You’re school doesn’t offer classes in those programs?  Use any tutorials that the program might have come with (like Motion), or invest the $35-$50 in your skill set and buy a training book in the program.  Load up the media to your external drive and book some time in the suite to really put the program through it’s paces.  (Just be sure that the programs you’re using are the same generation as the files that are with your book.  If the files are newer than the program, they won’t work.)

That’s why I developed this summer of intensive self-directed study.  I know that I’m a great Final Cut Pro editor, but my audio editing skills left a good deal to be desired.  So I’m going to fix that.  I’m going to diversify myself and learn a new editing platform.  I’ve gotten better at still manipulation by practicing in Photoshop.  I’m going to emerge from this summer as a force to be reckoned with in post-production.

Know why?  Because it’s a buyer’s market right now in the employment world.  And the buyer’s (those that would hire you) are using that as an opportunity to truly seek out the best talent they can.  So prove to them that you can really meet their needs.  They’re not going to hire a separate person for video and audio editing in a market like this.  They’re going to hire someone who’s good at both.

So make sure that you’re not just coasting through your degree program.  Work hard, and push yourself even harder than your professors push you.  It should be your goal to be that shining star in your department.  Make sure that you have the skills employers are looking for.  And make sure that you’re taking advantage of the wide range of resources that are at your disposal.

Filmmaker IQ: One-Stop Shopping for Education and Training

By now, you’ve probably noticed that most of what I tend to write about relates to training.  Given that this is the summer in which I’m beginning the process of completely revamping my skills set, it’s what I can speak about most effectively right now.

Today, I’m presenting a site that I’ve used frequently myself, and that the Issues team uses even more frequently in our work with the show.  It’s usefully for all stages of a project, from sitting down to right, to executing that distribution plan I know you made before you started actually taping (right?).  The site is called Filmmaker IQ, and it is heaven for anyone working in independent moving pictures (be it film, video, or pure digital).  The featured articles on their homepage at the moment are: 155 Screenplay Formatting Tutorials, 404 Avid Tutorials, 505 Behind the Scenes Videos, 111 Free Filmmaking Tools, and 588 Free Film Contracts and Forms.  And those are just the 5 most recent before hitting the scroll down button.

Avid happens to be the most recent post-production tool they’ve compiled a mind-numbingly large list of tutorials and resources for.  Scrolling down the full set of featured articles, similar lists can be found for Final Cut Pro, Blender, Premier Pro, Maya, AfterEffects, and Veags.  There’s also an equally impressive lists of plug-ins for AfterEffects in there.  And to reiterate, those are just the featured articles, mostly filtered by me to present results for post-production.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of this site yet, and I’ve visited it several times.  All the resources they present are free to use, so it’s valuable to anyone.  I strongly recommend taking a look over there whether you’re ready to dive into a new piece of software, or if you’ve been banging your head against a wall trying to figure out how to create a light-saber effect in Vegas.  An absolutely amazing resource for everyone, for free.

I can’t even begin to think of a way to thank the people over at that site for all the help they’ve provided to me and everyone else I know who has used their site.  Be sure to check them out.

Three Important Non-Tech Skills for an Editor

In a change up from the technical elements that I’ve written about in the last couple posts, this time I’m going to talk about three skills that I think any editor needs if he or she aspires to eventually lead a whole team of editors – which is my goal.  Those three skills are public speaking, leadership, and project management.

Whether your speaking to 5 people or 500, you need to be able to have a commanding presence when you talk to people.  This is especially true if you are advocating for yourself or your team.  If you know how to present yourself and your arguments/thoughts in a professional and engaging manner, you’re more likely to be taken seriously.  I count the two main reasons for my heavy involvement in Issues as my personal relationship with the director (an undergraduate colleague) and my ability to make professional, logical, and convincing points when we discuss the show.  And I don’t even count myself as an amazing public speaker.  It’s one of many skills I’m working to improve.

Leadership should be obvious for anyone seeking any kind of managerial work.  If you can’t lead a team,  you’re not management material.  Right now I consider my leadership skills marginal.  My skills of empathizing and listening are top notch, which helps build good relationships with people I work with.  However, I’m not good at translating that into leadership capital.  This skills is probably even more important to me than public speaking.  After all, as a former public school teacher, I’ve had to do a great deal of public speaking.  It just wasn’t ideal circumstances, and I need to broaden my options.  Part of why I am no longer a teacher is because I substantially lack leadership skills at this point in time, which is a nightmare when attempting to manage a class of 20-25 high school students who would rather be anywhere but in your class.  (History teachers aren’t popular, what can I say?)

Finally, project management.  I’ll admit that right now project management is a nebulous concept to me.  To be clear, I’m not talking about project management as a profession in and of itself.  There are people who do make that their profession, and they excel at it.  But if you’re going to be anything more than an assistant editor, you’re going to have to navigate your team through projects.  And on an independent production like Issues, if you’re on the set, you may well be managing much more than just your area.  Over the course of our first season, I managed editing, the website, scheduling, and wardrobe.  It was quite an experience, and as such, I’ve discovered that I like doing a blend of pre- and post-production.  It makes me much more conscious of the needs of the project as a whole.  But as someone who seeks to be  a team leader, I need to have some definite project management skills.

So, as usually I’ll share some tips with you.  I’m hoping to evaluate my local Toastmasters branch to get a feeling for their communication and leadership programs.  It’s extremely cost effective ($20 new member fee and $27 in dues every 6 months) and very local – thus very easy to get to.  It also presents an opportunity to get to know people in my town.  To give you an idea of how isolating living in one town, working in a second, and attending school in a third is, the only person in town that I know is my next door neighbor.  That’s compared to the one-stop shop of undergraduate life, where I easily had a network of over 50 1st degree contacts, and hundreds of 2nd and 3rd degree contacts.

Project Management is a bit trickier.  It’s much harder to find training in it without talking to people who do it as a profession.  I’m currently looking at budgeting for some courses from the Project Management Institute, although I don’t know that I’d pursue a formal accreditation in it at this point in time.  It’s certainly a handy skills set to have in any field, so I consider it work at least thinking about.

What are your thoughts?  Are these important skills for an editor?  Any other skills that aren’t directly editing-related that you think an editor today should have?  Feel free to leave a comment and we’ll get a conversation going on this!

Checking In: Training Update and A New Network Resource

First of all, apologies for my long absence.  The past month can best be described as living, eating, and sleeping at my day job, as 1 member of our small 5 member team was out for weeks on end for an unspecified reason.  Everything has just gotten back to normal, and I’m back to my summer of intense professional development.  Appropriate, as summer as only just begun, technically.

So what have I accomplished thus far?

Well, to start, I’m finished with the first 3 lessons in Soundtrack Pro, which means I know now to eliminate background noise, beeps, pops, and (more importantly), hums from faulty audio equipment.  I’ve also discovered that SP’s spectrum view makes sound look absolutely beautiful.  I’ll continue with Soundtrack as soon as I get a few hours on my own to record some dialogue in a quite apartment.  Although, to be honest, it has more to do with feeling embarrassed about talking into a microphone when there are other people around.  From there, I’ll move on to dialogue replacement.

I’ve also more or less maxed myself out on Photoshop for the time being.  The remaining lessons I haven’t completed are on some of the new heavyweight features like 3-D imaging.  I don’t need those features at this point in time, so I’ll count my thorough understanding of the tools and how they work, and a solid grasp on masks and layers, and how to manipulate both, to be a firm foundation on which to start making some stellar images.

I’ve now moved on to Avid.  It took most of the month, but I finally got the editing of the Avid training book that is made to match up with my system.  Although technically speaking, past editions of Avid books can be used on the newest systems, when you’re already thoroughly confused by the interface you find yourself staring at, it’s usually best to find the book that will most closely match what you’re working with.  Now that I know the simple little tricks to the basic editing functions, I can assemble a rough cut in Avid quite easily.  I have little doubt that I’ll find myself becoming comfortable with the system quickly.  After all, I’m not building a foundational knowledge of editing, rather, I’m learning how to do the same things on a different system.  All looks to be on track to start talking about the heavy stuff once the fall semester begins.

Where will I go from here?  The next two programs I’ll pursue will be DVD Studio Pro and Color.  They are a fitting combination.  Final Cut Pro aside, DVD Studio Pro is the part of Studio that I know the most about, and Color is the part of studio I know the least about.  I don’t foresee being able to start those two until the fall.  I think that the current course that I’ve set myself on will keep me busy for the next few months.  My goal is to cut the next several videos for Issues on Avid, rather than on Final Cut.

In parting, a nice new networking find to let you know about.  If you’re in the NY area and have gone to any film events at NYU recently, you’ve probably heard of a group by the name of Massify.  It’s part sounding board, part job board, part filmmaker resource.  I’ve been building a profile over there for the last week, and as soon as my most recent video clips finish converting, I believe I’ll be ready to submit for some work in the NY/NJ area.  I find the layout to be really smooth and easy to navigate.  If you join up or are already a member, feel free to come find me.  I’m looking to build a network of people interested in the stuff I do (which, once I got it all on one screen, is a lot of editing in a bunch of different areas.)