Training and Lack Thereof

24 03 2008

Scott Simmons has a pretty powerful posting over at studiodaily in which he talks about a decided lack of basic training for editors and assistants, some of which he attributes to the DIY nature of Final Cut Pro.

He talks about the idea of doing everything yourself (I have railed against that as well, though more from the director/writer/editor syndrome) and how that has decreased the feeling among many that there’s no need to do an online, for instance.

What used to be the online process of taking low resolution footage (AVR 3 anyone?) and recapturing to high resolutions isn’t necessary with P2 media, Pro Res, and even DV. But there’s more to an online that high-rezing footage. There’s quality control with video levels, color correction and color grading, formatting, graphics, masters and sub-masters, audio lay-back, and SD down conversion among a lot of other things.

As someone who has a much greater story sense than a color sense, it never made sense to me that I should rely on my own talents to color correct something that I had worked on. I’m really good with music (having been a music editor on such films as THE COTTON CLUB and SOPHIE’S CHOICE) so I trust my own instincts in editing the music for my films. But, I’d much rather someone with more talent than I actually mix and sound design the films I edit.

The expression “jack of all trades, master of none” is a cliché for a reason. It is true. And I’d rather have someone else, with greater talents than I, write the music, color correct, split tracks and smooth out backgrounds, shape motion graphics, etc. etc. etc. There is a panoply of things that I cannot do as well as others. For those things, I’d rather that others do them. My films will be so much better.

Along another line, Scott complains about sloppy assistantship.

If the young editor does know how to generate an EDL (it is only a menu pull down after all) they very often don’t know how to check its integrity or even read the numbers that the EDL generates for that matter. Continuing in the offline to online vein, there is often no knowledge of why you would want to collapse your video layers down to a single track to avoid capturing a lot of unused media that is never seen on video track 1.

I tend to agree. The number of times that I’ve walked through the editing rooms at USC and seen student editors who have their cuts in the same bins as their footage, who have their edits named “Untitled Sequence.01” and “Untitled Sequence.02”, who have named their clips “WS flowers opening” instead of 23A-1 (even when they’re going to do an EDL or a cut list), who have…. oh, never mind, you get the point.

I have to admit, I accidentally encourage some of this. I find that the hardest thing for DIY filmmakers to grasp is to think like an editor. As a result, I have spent countless hours trying to help student editors to see how footage needs to be re-molded to tell the story better. And that requires that we talk about identifying story (my upcoming book, THE LEAN FORWARD MOMENT is all about this, by the way). In the process of attempting to teach the grammar and the thought process of editing, it’s all easy to leave media management and workflow issues aside. At USC, we’ve tried to deal with that by having separate Avid or Final Cut modules. But most people in our profession learn by doing, and so the real teaching can only come when they’re working on a project. And, frankly, there’s not enough time in the world to teach every detail of the NLE interface and assistant editing practices.

I don’t have the answers, of course. Everyone learns at a different pace and has different requirements. So, we do the best we can. But Scott’s blog does properly point out some of the downsides of a culture in which the democratization of media doesn’t come along with a Best Practices Manual. (That is, ironically, the book that I want to write after LEAN FORWARD, sort of the fourth edition of my first book — THE FILM EDITING ROOM HANDBOOK. But that is another story.)

In the meantime, surf on over to Scott’s blog. And don’t forget to read the many fascinating comments on the entry. This is all excellent reading.



One response

25 03 2008

Hi Norman.
Thanks for the words on the Studio Daily article. I hope it wasn’t too “ranty” but a job I got into the room last week was the straw that broke the camel’s back! I had been toying with the article for a while and now we have it. I look forward to your new book LEAN FORWARD as the HANDBOOK has been a companion of mine for years. You never know so much that you can’t learn anything new.

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