Oh man, you know what’s almost as bad as lighting? Editing.
Editing is terrible because doing it reminds you that the film industry is maybe 30% glamorous movie stars acting out tightly written scripts on lavish, professionally built sets and 70% fat sweaty nerds sitting in dark rooms full of computers, eating Cheetos and stitching the whole thing together with cross dissolves and color filters.*
*In the case of movies like Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow or Avatar it’s more like anywhere between 90 and 110 percent sweaty nerds in dark rooms with Cheetos.
While shooting the 60-second project for my Intro to Electronic Media class was a daunting task because it required me to manage actors, put together equipment, and light the damn scene, it was the editing room that really frightened me. Because once you’re editing, the cameras are put away and the actors have gone home. What you’ve shot is basically all you’ve got to work with, and no amount of George Lucas wipes and audio effects can help if you’ve made something terrible.
That was my main concern – finding out once I’d reviewed all my footage that I’d screwed up in the filming process. Because there’s a lot of stuff you need to remember when you’re shooting – you’ve got to focus basically every time you move the camera, and white balance so that the camera knows what color everything should be, and make sure all the legs of your tripod are the same length so you don’t wind up shooting everything at some weird angle. This is a lot to ask of somebody like me, who frequently forgets biological necessities like eating breakfast.
Fortunately, I’d shot everything correctly, but the potential pitfalls didn’t stop there. Between the camera and the computer there are all kinds of disasters waiting to befall your hard-recorded footage.
Dropped frames are one. A relic of the days when film was physically cut with an actual razor on a reel to reel machine, a dropped frame would occur when one of the necessary frames would get inadvertently cut and then dropped onto the floor, where it would presumably get lost among all the other unwanted materials. In the era of digital recording, it happens when a piece of sophisticated and expensive equipment decides to stop doing its job for a fraction of a second and not record, which creates timecode kerfuffles galore in the editing room later.
Also, the tapes we use don’t necessarily do us any favors. Back during the Writers days, Mike and I had one of our tapes actually split into two pieces, forcing us to, in a moment of desperation and supreme desire to not spend any more time on Writers than necessary, (Scotch) tape our (MiniDV) tape back together so that we could stick it into the tape deck to upload the footage to the computer. As it turns out, tape decks only want one kind of tape in them at a time and tend to break if you don’t respect their wishes, a discovery which very nearly cost us a few hundred dollars.
It was experiences like these that worried me as I sat down in the editing bay earlier in the week to put together my 60-second piece. In my previous experiences with Final Cut, I had always had someone better qualified right there with me to make sure I didn’t screw anything up. But now, flying solo, who would guide me through the sea of options and menus that is Final Cut Pro?
That’s just it – I’m not a pro, and I didn’t feel qualified to use a professional program such as that. After all, everybody says that Final Cut is an incredibly powerful program that can do just about anything; what if I accidentally clicked the ‘Blow Up Journalism School’ button, or checked the box next to ‘Go Back In Time And Help Nazis Win World War 2’? Somehow setting fire (digital fire) to my footage was the least of my concerns.
Fortunately, most of the rest of my Intro to Electronic Media class was in the editing lab at one time or another, and together we formed a shaky support network for one another. It takes a village to raise a child, and it also takes a village to edit 60 seconds of video footage. Ideally, though, people raising a child aren’t looking for tips on how to cut him into pieces and rearrange them in a more dramatic or aesthetically pleasing way.
Once I got going, though, I was surprised by how quickly I was able to put everything together, and how little help I needed throughout the process. Final Cut was always my go-to excuse for not doing more multimedia stuff – “Oh, man, I totally would, but I don’t know how to use Final Cut!” Now the curtains have been pulled back, and I realize that it’s actually a pretty simple program when you get right down to it.
I’m going to need to find a new excuse not to go out and start making movies.
Truman Capps wishes he didn’t have to edit in a room full of people, because it makes it far harder to yell profanity at the computer when it moves too slowly.