ASE Issue 8 - October 1996
Index to ISSUE 8 - October 1996
Editor: Matthew Tucker
Upcoming are two important events for ASE members, the AGM and the EDITORS NIGHT OF NIGHTS in Sydney. Read Henry's column for more information on these events!
"Contracts: Forget About Theory, What About Reality?" is the title of Richards Silverton's new article and covers some basic forms of Letter of Agreement and Deal Memorandum.
We've another Shame File to publish, this time an assistant editor gets a pretty raw deal.
The Avid Filmtech '96 was held last month and was a day of extraordinary information, from both local practitioners and Avid-endorsed experts from the USA.
Technical articles this month relate to new tricks with Shotlister and Pipedream, and Cindy Clarkson's writeup of the Neg Matching & EDL Seminar held in Melbourne is useful reading as well. Speaking of useful reading - in this issue we publish a bibliography of editing related resources, also an extract of a university paper by Michael Brandt on the effect of nonlinear editing technology on editing styles.
The AFTRS also announces new courses to be held soon in Sydney and Melbourne.
Newsletter editor Matthew Tucker is taking a break from doing these Newsletters until next year but gets an article on Broadcast Quality.
Annual General Meeting 1996
When and Where
The Annual General Meeting of Australian Screen Editors Inc. is to be held at 2.00 pm on Saturday, November 9th at the Harold Park Hotel, Glebe, Sydney. On the agenda for the meeting: The annual report and financial statements for 1995/96. A motion to change rule 3.11 will be put to the meeting. The election of the committee for 1997 will be held. Please make every effort to attend this meeting!
1996 ASE ELECTIONS
It's that time of year again. Election fever!
The committee of the A.S.E. is calling for nominations of office bearers and committee members to form the new committee for 1997. Go on, be brave, be brazen. Nominate yourself or one or two of your multi-talented friends.
Positions to be filled are
All nominations to be received no later than Friday 25th October 1996. All nominations should be accompanied by a 3 - 4 line biography and addressed to the Returning Officer, A.S.E., PO Box 6, St Leonards, NSW 2065.
The nominees will be announced the following week by mail. The election will take place at the Annual General Meeting.
If you can't attend the AGM you can still have your say. You may appoint a proxy to vote on your behalf, provided you complete a proxy form and give it to your proxy to present at the meeting.
Those who live outside the Sydney area will automatically receive a postal voting form. Otherwise, postal and proxy voting forms are available on request.
If there is only one nomination for an office bearer's position that person will be endorsed by the meeting and considered elected. If there is more than one nomination for a position a secret ballot will be taken and the person who receives the greatest number of votes will be considered elected.
Likewise, if there are more than nine nominations to fill the committee members positions, a secret ballot will be held. The first nine members to receive the greatest number of votes will be considered elected.
Amendment to Rule 3.11
Notice is hereby given of a special resolution to change the rules of the Association.
It is proposed that rule 3.11 which states:-
An entitlement to Full membership will require one professional screen credit as an editor or assistant editor.
be changed to read
An entitlement to Full membership will require one professional screen credit as an editor or an assistant editor.
The effect of this change is intended to clarify that editors whose work is not normally credit on-screen (such as news editors and commercial editors) are eligible for Full membership. There was never any intention to exclude such editors from Full Membership; it is simply a case of clarification.
From the President
Since the last newsletter, things have been quiet in Sydney.
A number of the committee members are locked away in cutting rooms busy editing their films and some have been travelling overseas (But they didn't send us a postcard!!).
However the Melbourne mob have been busy as usual.
In Sydney there are three events planned for the the remainder of the year.
Another creative editing workshop is planned at the ABC using their Avids
The end of year party on Saturday 30th November.
End of Year Party!
Lifetime Achievement ...
He has edited approximately 30 features, as well as a number of documentaries, series and a multitude of newsreels. Some of the features that he has cut include: 40,000 Horseman, Jedda, Red Sky at Morning and The Glenrowan Affair.
In 1961 he was producer, director and co-editor of the Anzac Series which won a Gold Logie for best documentary series. His contribution to the Australian film industry and to film editing over the years has been immense.
Alex now lives in Port Macquarie and is 80 years old.
- Henry Dangar. ASE President
Contracts: Forget About Theory,What About Reality?
- Richard Silverton
I had intended in this edition to start examining the more important terms or "deal points" which editors should think about when negotiating their agreements with production companies. However, this is best left for the first edition next year. More pressing now is the need to discuss the practicalities of entering into a written agreement and how this might be achieved.
The message from the previous article is pretty clear - put it in writing! Since writing that article I have had the benefit of speaking with several editors all of whom have confirmed that most editors do in fact provide their services on a casual "handshake". This prompted me to ask why this was such an accepted practice and how might the "sounds nice in theory" suggestion of putting it in writing be achieved in the real world of film and television post-production.
It was suggested that the consistent failure to record professional relationships in writing was a cultural development which over time editors had accepted as common place in the industry. Some of the reasons given for editors' preparedness to work without certainty in their terms and conditions included thinking a written contract was simply unnecessary as the parties had a good relationship at the time of commencing the work, or not wanting to request a contract because the boss was a friend, or perhaps the budget of the film did not justify it.
I assume, due to the ongoing demand for information on contracts in this publication, that the tide is now shifting in the industry in relation to the necessity for the parties to enter into a written contract. Clearly the sentiment amongst the members of the ASE is that it is necessary. However, the difficulty seems to be with how best to achieve this in view of industry practice, the close relationships often held with production companies and the often low or tight budgets of the projects and organisations for which the services are rendered.
Obviously, the situation is sensitive. It would be impractical to expect or even require large amounts of time and resources to be allocated to the drafting of contracts. Naturally, if you are working on a large budget film which requires your services for a considerable period of time and you are to receive a hefty fee, there may be both a need and a justification for paying more attention to detail. However, it is fair to say that this is probably the exception rather than the rule. In most cases, budgets are tight and editors, being keen for the work, tend to avoid making demands on the production company. However, there are ways in which this status quo can be maintained while still achieving a minimum level of protection for editors. A long form contract is not necessarily required.
Either a letter of agreement or a deal memorandum would be adequate from a legal point of view and would be unlikely to insight resistance from the production company. Both documents are relatively simple yet will provide an improved level of certainty in the working relationship when compared to the current industry practice.
Letter Of Agreement
A letter of agreement is the most informal method of entering into binding relations with another party. This takes the form of a letter addressed to the other party and simply sets out in plain english confirmation of the proposed relationship. The addressee would be required to sign at the foot of the letter to indicate acceptance of the terms of the letter. The sending of the letter constitutes the offer and the signing of the letter by the addressee the acceptance. The intention to enter binding relations is evident from the sending of the letter and the subsequent signing by the addressee. The letter must identify benefits for both parties in order to provide the necessary consideration. The four elements of a contract would then be made out. If you were sending the letter to the production company, one way to open such a letter would be as follows:
"Dear ......... [Film Title]
This letter serves to confirm my agreement to provide my services as editor on the above film. As consideration for you paying me $........., I agree to provide my services to you on the following terms and conditions: ............"
Naturally, an agreement in the form of a letter is relatively informal and tends to err on the side of brevity. While in many cases it may provide the necessary protection, in other cases it may be more prudent to contract by way of deal memorandum. The use of a deal memorandum is common for contracting directors and producers on short films and documentaries.
A deal memo (as they are commonly referred to) is a short form agreement that identifies the parties to the agreement at the head of the document and has sign-offs by both parties at the foot of the document. It sets out the terms of the agreement in the body, however unlike a long form agreement, relies to a large extent on accepted industry terms and knowledge to restrict the length and complexity of the document. Usually, the key terms are listed by way of subheading and then expanded upon briefly. As with the letter, there is inevitably a degree of trust and good faith required to give meaning to the document as the parties are only identifying the broad terms of the deal. Nevertheless, the use of such documents would offer a substantial improvement on the current situation.
Editors who are members of MEAA should note that there is a standard crew agreement which applies to editors. The standard agreement incorporates, as a minimum, the terms of the Theatrical Employees (Motion Picture Production) Award (Crew) 1988.
In the next edition, I will commence discussion on some of the terms which you should look out for when negotiating.
Richard Silverton is now practising with Gilbert and Tobin.
For more information on Gilbert & Tobin and Richard you should check out the award winning G&T website located at
On Coming To The Party ...
When an editor recently offered me a 10 week assistants position on a "very low budget" feature (3 week shoot, cut on film) I wasn't bothered by the fact that I would be working for a lower rate because the chance to work with this editor, and the chance to work, full stop, meant that I would "come to the party".
When I rang the production office to negotiate my fee I was suprised to find all they had budgeted for was 50 hours of an assistants time under the category "synching rushes", for $1500. Now thats a pretty healthy hourly rate, but 50 hours synching rushes on a 3 week shoot?.
The editor was equally astonished and demanded an assistant for the full 10 week cutting period. The production office came back with an offer of an unnegotiable weekly salary which equated to roughly half the standard feature fee for an assistant for an unspecified number of hours per week. All things said and done this turned out to be less than $10/hour.
What is interesting here is, what happened between the original 50 hours/ $1500 offer and the final offer? Am I worth $30/hour, as originally offered, or $10/hour? Obviously some error was made in budgeting, which is understandable - budgeting is a complex process - but not excusable.
The end result was that the editing department paid for this mistake. This looks suspiciously like post production budgets as contingency for production errors.
- name withheld
Editor's Note: Assistant Editors on a feature film usually earn between $A1000 and $1400 per 50-hour week.
Avid FilmTech '96
At the end of August, Avid Technology held the second of their yearly seminars - "Filmtech". The ASE was a grateful recipient of ten free tickets (at very short notice!) which were used by editors, assistants and committee members. It was a day full of extraordinary information, from both local practitioners and Avid-endorsed experts from the States.
Michael Phillips is an editor who is also developing Film products for Avid . He discussed processes wherebye he editor is able to send files back and forth from Avid to an SGI system, enabling special effects to be tested and previewed without duplicating information or losing time. He also explained the development of a system of interactivity between the script and your edited sequence which would allow the editor to select sequences from the script which would then play on the Avid. Magic releases which will "be available in the spring".
There was a lot of heartlifting discussion on editor involvement from pre-production through to post, with systems in place where the editor can have an active involvement in the pre- visualisation of special effects and therefore an active say in how shots are created.
Rob Kolbrin gave an example of a fight he had with the director of "Alaska" who was going to shoot helicopter shots using rear screen projection as part of the main shoot. Rob realised that until the cut was under way, he would not know exactly where he would need the helicopter shots, what size shot would be best etc and that things could change radically. So he convinced the director to just get some still snapshots of a helicopter in flight at various angles and shot sizes against a bluescreen.
These he cut into the film, using Photoshop to put in suitable backgrounds to determine what shots were required where in the film. The helicopter shoot was then done after the assembly with the correct backgrounds for the sequences (which had changed greatly from the original storyboarded ideas). This resulted in a 20% saving on the shoot and the director got what he wanted (so did the Editor!)
Rob also discussed using the Cinemaestro system, along with Mediashare on the Film Composer where rushes are logged automatically using barcode, a database is created with ink numbers, keycode and timecode enabling rushes to be sunc up once they are in the Film Composer at a rate of 2,000 feet per hour !!! Again the major discussion was based on using the system to eliminate the duplication of work, and maximise automation of processes. (There does seem to still be a role for the assistant in all of this!)
Julius Chan, a local freelance sound editor discussed more goodies to go into the editors basket. He gave a very clear description of the sound paths that are being used at present, and the changes we are looking forward to. He discussed the transfer of files using the OMFI Medianet, allowing sound editors to come on board at the rushes stage to give input and plan ahead on the basis of existing sound.
Julius mentioned the collaboration between sound and picture editors, with the example of ADR being fed directly into the Avid so that editors can work on that during the edit. He also discussed the fact that mixing studios will need to look to updating to Random access.
The day include food not just for the brain, but for the tummy as well with some well needed breaks from info overload.
Chris Chitty from Robotechnology gave a hilarious talk where he showed us a lot of tricks used in the creation of models for films and television series. We were treated to sheep frames used for Babe, where the models started to collapse because the engines overheated inside the woolly structures, so they had hoses pumping air up their bottoms. Nevertheless the models were convincing enough for real sheep to use bully tactics, pushing them out of the way in order to get the good grass they were hogging.
Chris showed us tapes of full sized whales created for "Ocean Girl" and convincingly real sharks being tested in public swimming pools - to the dismay of the locals! He threw balls at the audience to show true reflex and how there is a ripple effect through the audience. He gave us stories of a precocious childhood which showed an early leaning towards a life of inventiveness and striving for perfection when dealing with a dummy.
There was a discussion on Render Farming using SGI Softimage from the Kiss Corporation based in Melbourne which advocated sending effects rendering to them rather than have effects rendering overnight on your system only to find that they don't work. They have rooms full of Onyx's which can render effects in minutes that could otherwise take up to 12 hours. They gave an example of a 75 frame effect which depending on circumstances could take between 2 & 96 minutes to render on their system, multiply those times by 12 and that is how long it would take on your single system.
This discussion was nicely countered by Peter Moyer who runs a small company called Digital Filmworks in the States. He said at this stage it is still cheaper to do titles and dissolves optically than digitally, so save your money for the essentials and truly tricky stuff. He renders all his own effects overnight and does not see the time wasted.
He showed how they regrained 2000 frames of scratches on Lonesome Dove, created a hospital out of a building at the end of the only T-junction in Vancouver by matting in windows from office buildings, signs from real hospitals, painting out sign posts, adding exploding trucks and leaving in a sandbag accidentally left by the crew. He also showed us a shot from Viper which had a continuity problem where a pilot was wearing a headset in one shot and not in another.
As he said "I am an artist, and I do not draw, but I do steal," So he stole an ear from another actor and supered it over the headset & no one can tell the difference.
The day was one where there was a lot to learn, but tempered with humour. It leant towards collaboration, editor involvement through the whole process from pre production to final finish. The food was fabulous and the contact with the experts in the (substantial) meal breaks were full of information, stories and advice.
"The Experts" were also surprised and impressed with the sophistication of the industry here and our approach.
- Fiona Strain. AFTRS
Recutting From Digital Online Masters
With digital tape formats offering virtually no degradation, some editors want to use Shotlister Non-Linear to edit a cutdown version of a program, and produce an EDL that refers to the onlined master, not the source tapes.
Copy the Reel of the onlined version using Reel/Manage.
Open that Reel and add a spare Track.
Use Reel/Key in Master to create a shot the same duration as the program in the spare Track.
Now whenever you drop a section, the same amount gets taken out of the spare Track. Using Wedge will open a gap in the spare track. Extra shots edited from tape will only be captured on the 'live' video and audio tracks. When the cutdown version is approved, use Block/Swap to add the extra shots to the spare track, then patch that track to Video and make an EDL of just that Track.
Locating Archival Footage
If you have logged your Shotlister source or master reels, you can use Pipedream (ver 3) to give a neat and detailed printout of all the drops from each archival source, and automatically tot up the durations.
Make sure your Master reel is fully picked- up/described by Shotlister.
Select SHOW REELS - this gives a list of all the reels in the project. Select your final Master Reel (eg: 906) Type the description of the first archival source into the text box (eg: NFSA ). Don't worry about case.
A whizz and a flash later, Pipedream will display a list of all the shots that match the search text. If there are bits in there that are not part of the archive reel, select only those shots that are with CTL-CLICK. As you click you will see that the duration of all the selected shots is updated.
To print this information, select FILE/OUTPUT and choose PRINTER as the destination. Select the options to print either source or master reel/timecode, and either ALL the shots displayed - or just the ones you highlighted. Run to the printer and retrieve the page! Repeat the above process for all the archival reels.
Your producer will love you forever!
The Neg Matching & EDL Seminar
10th October 1996
- Cindy Clarkson
On a hot balmy night 31 pairs of eyes were pleasantly tantalised by the video that Sioux Currie filmed and edited - a promo about what happens when the neg gets into Warwick and Wendy's negmatching hands at ComputAmatch. In between snippets of Warwick explaining the negmatching process we bopped along to Synchronicity by the Police as the video seamlessly slipped in and out of music clip style. Needless to say Warwick was wrapt with the promotional vid. Classy piece Sioux!
After a very brief hello from Seth Lockwood, Warwick Driscoll launched into the territory of EDL negmatching. To help with the process a handout of the different negmatching paths for non-linear and workprint features, and tips to make the neg matchers life easier was passed around. It became clear very quickly that neg matchers are a paranoid breed. A very necessary trait - I certainly wouldn't want the responsibility of cutting neg without knowing I've double checked, cross referenced, and consulted the Oracle before snipping.
Once its cleaned, Warwick or Wendy checks the timecode start mark provided by the telecine chain and creates a tail sync mark on the first frame of the tail coloured leader. Warwick then sends this info back to the telecine chain to double check that the timecode correlates. That's his involvement until the project is finished and the EDL is handed to him.
The software his company uses, converts the final EDL to a CMX 340 list, then to film edge numbers.
The shots are pulled from camera start to camera stop and numbered. If it's for a television commercial a roll of selected takes in shot order is assembled and sent off to the online. If its a feature Warwick prays that the producer had the foresight to budget for a pos conform. (Where the selected takes are workprinted and sent to the cutting room where an assistant gets to match the workprint to the timecode fine cut. Happy! Happy! Joy! Joy!)
Using a pos conform, the negmatcher has a constant reference to the workprint as he cuts the neg. A scary thing is cutting a feature with an EDL only. A Kine of the non-linear fine cut is not 100% reliable and costly. A video of the fine cut is handy but both the video or kine would act as a guide only.
When involved with a project that will use more than 23 hours worth of timecode it's vital that care is taken that duplicate numbers don't turn up. This is where 'user bit' numbers are important to avoid having six reels of neg assigned with one hour timecode.
If the project will involve material other than film source ie graphics or effects, designate a timecode number especially for them. It is extremely useful for the neg matcher to be given a list breaking down what the VTR source tape numbers represent what form ie animation, 16mm/35mm neg, graphics, titles etc. This saves several phone calls.
A common problem that occurs is that frames are not left for the neg matcher to destroy forever when creating the cement splice in a A & B roll situation. This happens more with workprint than non-linear but it's always a good idea to remember the neg matcher and leave at least one frame, preferable two or three so they can do their job with a smile.
After a quick break for a breath of fresh air, and refreshments Seth then introduced Wayne Hyett to talk about online, and what happens with the EDL. Most importantly Wayne stressed the need to know what hardware the online suite has so that the editor comes with the correct EDL. Then with time savings in mind he mentioned that if you're working with multilayering, each video layer has it's own EDL, and you must know which sort mode you want to use.
EDL SORT MODES
A mode sorts the EDL by master timecodes. The assembly will start at the beginning of the program and progress sequentially to the end. This is used mainly for commercials and short corporates.
Modes B to E are optimised or minimise reel change EDLs and are used for long form work, often saving the paying customer about two to three hours in online. Wayne was quite excited by a new technique known as preread, available for some digital recorders, which eliminates the necessity of a Master B roll and second source machine - which again saves time. During an effect, preread effectively reads the information from the master, mixes it with the layer from the source input, and rerecords it onto the same master! The disadvantage is when you need to change effects, as you have to change all the layers rather than just the latest one. A preread EDL is essentially an A- mode EDL.
MAKING GOOD EDLS
Start the EDL timecode at 00:01:30:00 otherwise time is wasted adjusting (rippling) the timecode to accomodate the 1:30 start.
Wayne then touched on the Flex file format which had be specifically created for non-linear systems by DaVinci in the US, and the responsibility of the online editor to get an audio EDL off to the sound post production houses that are working on the feature, tv drama, documentary, or corporate.
The thing that was stressed by Warwick was the more diligent you can be with the EDL from telecine stage to the final EDL the less chance there is for a mistake to occur. For Wayne the more prepared you are when you walk into the online suite the more time is saved which saves money and wasted time. Always a bonus.
With jargon swimming around in our heads some of us wandered down to the pub where ComputAmatch very kindly set up a tab, much to the appreciation of the crowd that nattered on into the later hours of the night exchanging stories and laughs.
A HUGE thanks must go to Warwick Driscoll, Wayne Hyett, Seth Lockwood and Sioux Currie for their willingness to donate their time to enlighten those that were there. By the size of the turnout there are quite a few of us trying to wrap our heads around the whole EDL deal!
A BIG thanks goes to our sponsors for the evening: AAV Business Communications, AVID Technology (who also provided spot prizes), ComputAmatch and The Cutting Room for providing the facilities to create the Neg matching video.
Last but not least, thanks to the tireless efforts of Cordelia and the training subcommittee: Andrew Brimsmead, Sioux Currie, Warwick Driscoll, Seth Lockwood, and Sophie Merrick for getting the event up and running so quickly after the last one.
What's next guys?!
The next Victorian Commitee meeting is the 7th of November. As always please feel free to contact any of the commitee if you wish to have any issues raised at the meeting. Alternatively, if you want to come to the meeting and contribute or even join a sub-commitee please ring Cordelia at The Cutting Room to find out where and what time. We are always happy to have new enthusiasm join the table.
The Kino Cinemas will discount tickets from the standard $11 to $8 for a dazzling smile and a flash of theASE card. The Kino can be found at 45 Collins Street downstairs in Collins Place. 9650 2100.
Read all about it! - Books on Editing
The following information is reprinted courtesy of Michael Chaskes, a Los-Angeles based editor, whose WWW site can be found at: http://www.loop.com/~chaskes/
Some of these publications may be available at the AFTRS library, and almost certainly through the branches of Cinestore.
Introduction to Film Editing by Bernard Balmuth (much the same scope as Hollyn's book, but in a less accessible, textbookish-style)
Film Editing Nutz & Boltz by Film Guy (another popular technical manual; I've not read it, but it's highly recommended by my friend, sound and assistant Avid editor Gary Mairs). This book's website is in itself an excellent editing resource, featuring excerpts from the book and Film Guy's editing question-and-answer column.
Film Editing Handbook: Technique of 16mm Film Cutting by Hugh B. Churchill (recommended by Bill Paton, who cites its "practical methods of dealing with 16mm film editing, such as use of the gang synchonizer, organization and more. Also includes sample forms and charts")
The Art and Principles of Film Editing
On Film Editing by Edward Dmytryk (somewhat outdated, and not quite in line with my own view of the editor's importance, but not without worth)
When The Shooting Stops... The Cutting Begins by Ralph Rosenblum (a fascinating memoir of a great editor's career, with lots of insight into creative editing processes)
In the Blink of An Eye by sound and picture editor Walter Murch (interesting personal recollections and some fascinating editing theory; thanks to film editor Lee Unkrich for recommending it)
Conversations With Film Editors (author unknown; per Lee Unkrich, "a fantastic collection")
Cinemeditor, "the official periodical of the American Cinema Editors, Inc." (available at Christy's Editorial Supply in Burbank, Calif., or send $15 for one year's subscription to American Cinema Editors, 1041 N. Formosa Ave., West Hollywood, CA 90046)