Here’s Looking At You!

4 04 2008

Right now I’m involved in an international project called RIVERS, which is one of the more interesting films I’ve edited in the last buncha years.

The premise is this — five film crews, from five different cities, will each shoot and create one short film about the people who live and work around their rivers: the Danube, Mississippi, Rio Grande, Amazon and the Ganges. As they are shooting (on the Panasonic AVX200, using P2 capture technology) they are also sending the footage back to me in Los Angeles so that I can create a “meta movie” with all five rivers. This film will highlight the similarities and differences among the lives of the people who live around the five rivers, as well (I hope) give some personality to the rivers themselves.

It’s a great project, but here’s the other interesting thing — virtually everyone who I’m working with on this project is in a different city. I’m crafting a film without the ability to look into the eyes of my collaborators. I’ve often said that more than 50% of what I do as an editor has nothing to do with my ability to make a cut. Most of it revolves around my ability to let my collaborators know that the film that I’m making is the same one that they want to make. It’s about looking into each others’ eyes and knowing that we have each others’ backs.

And that’s much harder to do when we can’t see each other.

Last year I worked on a film called JACK IN THE BOX, about which I’ve spoken in the past. What I didn’t mention in those earlier posts was that the film was cut long distance, with my co-editor and director on the East Coast, while I was cutting away here in the city of Lost Angels. We were quite successful (thanks to the talents of Michael Phillips) at exchanging edits and material so that we could keep current on each other’s work. What was much harder was the experience I get from sitting next to my director and feeling how he or she feels about the work that we are doing together. I often describe my job as “crawling up inside the head of my director,” something which is really necessary if I’m going to be editing long distance.

I think that we’re going to be seeing this more and more as we move content distribution to the web. I’m not saying that companies will be outsourcing their editing, but we’re going to seeing more situations where the director wants to work with a particular editor who may not be in the same city. Even here in Los Angeles, with traffic so horrible that it can take me an hour to drive five miles, there will be advantages to, occasionally, allowing the director or producer to view and collaborate from a different part of town.

As soon as non-linear editing came along, I found that I was taking advantage of my ability to output a cut of a scene or sequence and bring it down to the director on set while he or she was shooting. We’d sit in the trailer and watch the cut, and I’d watch his or her face to get their first reactions. It was a great way to climb inside the director’s head, and I’m glad I could do it that way.

Now, with digital dailies being streamed to offices and homes using Internet or off-Internet technologies, the number of films that have nightly screenings of their dailies is getting perilously low. So, how can I communicate with you, without looking at you.

One technology that I’m going to try on this film is SyncVue, a program which sits on top of Skype and allows up to ten people to view and control a Quicktime movie, as well as to carry on a Skype conversation at the same time.  Combine that with a program such as Audio Hijack Pro, which would allow me to record the conversation for later playback, and I’ve got some tools to start learning about how my collaborators view each part of each version of their film.  Many films use iChat Video to collaborate, though it doesn’t have the control and commenting features of SyncVue.

The point is this: we are increasingly going to be working at distances — whether that is the distance from one continent to another, or from a shooting stage to an editing room.  We may be working crosstown or cross-continent.  Right now, the ability to replicate human interaction is horrifyingly bad.  And while I don’t think that we’re ever going to get to the place where remote access to another human will completely replicate immediate visual access, the advances in bandwidth and display technology are going to narrow that gap appreciably.

This is one of the reasons why I was enthusiastic about Avid’s new CEO — Garry Greenfield.  He comes from companies who have done long distance server technology.  The people and companies who move rapidly and enthusiastically into this “space space” are going to lead us into the real possibilities for a connected world.



3 responses

4 04 2008
Mike Greenberg

Not a project goes by where Audio Hijack is not used, at least for me. Good post, keep us updated on new distance tools!

PS– I moved my blog to my site, Could you update the link? 🙂

4 04 2008

If you like syncVue, try this cineSync.

5 04 2008
Kevin B.

Glad to hear you’re using syncVUE. I definitely want to hear more about your experiences. I’ve heard some great stories from major film makers (Don Cheadle’s new film) where syncVUE really saved them. Definitely blog your experience…thanks!

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