Editing Picture



Make decisions. Make choices. That's the point of having you edit. It's just like acting, see?
Indeed, acting for film requires that you understand editing. If I were the head of a film acting department I'd make all the students edit numerous projects throughout their time in the department. You learn a lot about acting (for camera) when you edit. Much of what you learn is how little your acting matters(!).
But seriously, actors should learn to edit.
And with editing, like acting, you need to make choices. Make some decisions. Commit! If you're wrong, we'll just change what you've done.
We'd rather you be wrong than be wishy - washy.


And additionally, don't overthink things. If there's a problem with the image, go to someone else's reaction. That's probably why we shot the reaction in the first place.
Do you see a boom shadow? Will it be masked by the letterboxing? If yes, then don't worry about it.
Somebody gets his head blown off but the effect of the head blown off doesn't look that great? Go to a reaction shot.

Cheating, lying, stealing

We cheat, we lie, and we steal. If we can't see something because it would have been too expensive to shoot, we look at the other characters' reactions to whatever happened. That's cheating.
Use sound to maximise whatever's happened. If we just see a shadow and the horrible noise of a monster down the hall, we're just lying to the audience that there's a monster down the hall.
If we need a reaction but we don't actually have one from the particular scene in question, we just steal a reaction from a completely different scene.

Final Cut Pro

We use Final Cut Pro as our primary picture editor. If you prefer Avid, get over it. If you prefer some other program, also get over it. There's a variety of reasons we use FCP.

FCP system settings 1

When opening Final Cut Pro, for goodness' sakes man, go to the menu on the top left called "Final Cut Pro" and then go to "System Settings" and make sure the drive that's being used for autosaves and everything is set to the drive of the project you're working on. Please please please don't mess that up.

Until Apple decides to save that information with the danged project we will have to do that step manually. And because we work on more than one movie at a time, you, the editor, must make sure you're working off the correct drive every time.

Also note that when FCP crashes (the computer will say "Final Cut Pro has unexpectedly crashed" as though we'd be surprised or something) it will frequently not reboot automatically to the latest version of whatever you're working on. As a rule, double-check to make sure.


About editing in general.

There are two reasons that Drew isn't editing the picture.

  • Drew is lazy and he hates editing.
  • We actually want your opinions about how the edit should go.

On some occasions Drew will have shot something which needs a very specific way to edit in order to make sense. But those situations aren't that usual. Don't worry about them. He'll frequently go in and make those bits of edit when you're not looking.
Some things can't be edited until the visual effect for them is completed. In most cases this will be some sort of composite which someone will have to make and put in the timeline. Other times shots which will become composites will simply have their footage replaced.

Before Editing
The footage has to be put where it belongs and the audio must by synchronized.
How to put linked clips in a new bin:

Go to file and then "new bin".. A new bin will show up in the browser window. Name that bin something logical like "David's bin".

Open up the sequence with the footage you want. Make sure the "link" button on the top right of the sequence is turned on (the button is next to the "snapping" button.)

Select the video and the synced audio for a clip you would like in your bin. Hit cntl+L to link the video and the synced audio. Then drag the clip into your bin. Feel free to name the clip whatever your heart desires.

Make sure that when you drag your first clip into the sequence that is your act, that you let FCP adjust the settings for that new sequence based on the clip settings.

Where do visual effects go?

Visual effects come in two broad types, effects which are composited inside Final Cut Pro, and effects which are composited inside After Effects. The Data Management page will tell you what you need to know about where things go.

What's the deal with visual effects?

Many simple composites are actually done inside Final Cut Pro instead of doing them in AfterEffects. These effects are the responsibility of the picture editor rather than the CG "department". What kinds of effects are those?

  • Gunshots
  • Bloodsplatters
  • Impacts

We use libraries of 2D effects, usually the Video Copilot(external link) Action Essentials collection which we have on the desktop of the Mac computer.
Here is a typical muzzle-flash composite. Lucy Rayner shoots the head off a dormant zombie:

Lucy composite

The original footage, of course, has no such muzzle flash, so it needed to be added:

Lucy footage

What we typically do is take a muzzle flash we like from the Video Copilot collection and put it on top of the footage. Sometimes we use the "basic 3D" effect in FCP to position the muzzle flash correctly, moving it in space so that it looks more like it's coming from the gun.
Typically the flash has a bit of blur added to it and the opacity is taken down a bit. The blur and the opacity reduction tend to make the flash look like it's in the same place as the gun. The blur imitates the fact that you're typically not focussed on the muzzle flash, and the opacity gives the flash some of the color inherent in the scene.
If you really want to get fancy you might duplicate the original live - action footage and put a bit of "flash" on the shooter's face by using a feathered mask and raising the exposure for just a frame. But we don't actually do that so much. Occasionally it makes the picture work a bit better.

Video Copilot automatic weapon fire

Alpha channels in FCP

Now here's an important tip: Final Cut does indeed handle alpha channels. But you have to set them on clips, FCP doesn't naturally realize that it's suppose to interpret an alpha channel.
Right - click on a clip and hit "item properties" and you'll get this exciting window.

Setting alpha channels on clips

Right-click on the "Alpha" setting (five rows up from the bottom) and select "black" (or "white", depending on the kind of alpha channel you have) from the pull-down menu.

Exporting for Web

Frequently we need to make movies for members of the editorial/producing team to look at.
We will do this at various times in the post-production process. Invariably some people are going to be "remote" and the only way they can look at the picture is on the web. So that's what we do.
Normally we export h264 files at 23.90fps with a 16x9 ratio of 640x360.
Also, normally we upload to Vimeo(external link) and make the video password-protected using a simple password.
Web "test" videos can be especially helpful for seeing how the sound mix and color-correction are working because people will watch on who-knows-what computer with crappy sound. The notes which come back can be very enlightening.
Structure of bins in FCP

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