Film Editing Long Distance

9 11 2007

Matt Feury interviews editor/producer Phillip Neel, long time editor on shows such as “Moonlighting”, Twin Peaks, Ally McBeal and Boston Legal, in one of the recently released Avid Podcasts and there’s some fascinating bits of info within this fascinating talk.

Neel talks about how he uses the laptop editing systems to work with his directors on “Boston Legal” long distance. He generally works at his editing rooms in the South Bay opf Los Angeles. But often, he says, he needs to work with a director on the director’s cut of a show who is prepping another show far away from his editing rooms. Neel then brings them to his house where he has both an Avid Xpress system on his G5 Mac, as well as on a laptop. They edit the show there (Phillip mentions that, since he is wireless at his house, his directors can also surf the net while he’s making his changes) and, when they’re done, he simply emails the show’s cutlist/EDL/project files to his assistant back at his main editing rooms for his assistant to quickly add sound effects and music, output and present to the producers.

He also talks about dailies — which Complete Post syncs and then digitizes for them. They then drop it onto a high speed transfer line so all of the dailies are already on their LanShare shared storage system by 6am with no assistant editor syncing necessary.

Two interesting points there, that could really coalesce into one. As the Internet 2 and other high speed web replacements come into our lives, it isn’t far-fetched to believe that more and more editing will be done long-distance. Dailies can be dropped onto one server and accessed from anywhere that the editor/director/producer/studio exec has a high-speed connection. We may find ourselves editing with media that is housed across the world, rather than down the hall or on a Firewire drive on our desk.

Last year I co-edited a film long distance. The other editor and the director were back in Massachusetts and I was in Los Angeles. I had a firewire drive with most of the media on it and edited on either an Avid Xpress system on my laptop or a Media Composer Soft on a G5 (now that I’ve got my MacBook Pro, I’d make it MCSoft on both platforms) and email the timelines/project files back to the East Coast as I needed to. There was some housekeeping to keep both of our cuts and we never fully worked out a system that checked automatically on a daily basis for updated media files (such as when I added a sound effect, music, or a rendered effect) though there are known methods for doing this. But the major problem with the long distance editing was really my inability to sit with the director and have a great interchange.

We were planning on, but were never able to, test a great product called Syncvue, which sits on top of Skype and allows up to ten people sitting at computers anywhere i the world, to individually control the same Quicktime video, while having a Skype chat. This points the way to some ways of helping the personal disconnect.

However, the experience pointed the way to a future where it will eventually be as easy as walking down the hallway. And, amazingly, it will be as easy and accessible for a low budget film as a high budget television series like Phillip Neel’s.

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