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Interviewed about Post Production

Back at the beginning of September I was contacted by a student in Jonquière, Quebec (I had to look it up, too) who was studying “Production et Postproduction télévisuelle” (roughly translated, tv/broadcasting). She contacted me through Production Ottawa and asked if she could interview me about post-production (specifically, video editing). I said sure, and we tried to connect while she was in town but couldn’t so we ended up doing it electronically. I figured why not post some of the answers here.

What do you feel are the most important requirements to succeed in a post production job?

Being able to keep track of a lot of different pieces at once. Especially on bigger projects it’s crucial for an editor to know and keep track of every clip he has access to and to be able to figure out in your head an idea of what should go where – and to think of all the different possibilities you have. Particularly when something you think should work isn’t working is when you need to remember that “oh, I have this other clip somewhere else that might work” or “don’t I have this scene in another angle?” (This is also useful in most everything else I do.)

Do you think there’s a certain attitude (personality trait) you need to do post production as job?

Being willing to put up with a degree of repetition and tedium. Editing is a lot of doing things over and over and over. You’ll sometimes need to watch clips dozens of times in a row just to find out where a cut should go or whether a cut is working or where and in what order to place the clips in the first place. Sometimes you’re just listening and not watching. Sometimes you’re watching and not listening – because the two sides make a very different experience.  (And yes, 1/30th of a second can make a huge difference so take out a frame and try it again.)

Also, curiosity. What happens if I try this instead of this? You need to be willing to spend an hour and a half trying to put a scene or clip together all the while, being ready to throw it out and try something else later.

Interviewed about Video Editing.

A screen capture from the edit for Prelude to Wonderland. The bottom gives you an idea of just how many clips had to be strung together and how many different cuts had to be made just right. The top shows the difference colour correction can make.

Did you go to school for editing?

Not really. I started doing post production as a side effect to other video work I was doing (directing/producing). I learned everything I know thanks to a combination of learning from a couple of friends, teaching myself, trial and error, and practice. In school, I’ve done computer programming, business management, and scriptwriting.

Do you take a lot of notes during the production to make post-production easier?

The first movie we did, we didn’t take notes at all. Which made it a bit hard sometimes to tell what was different between some takes. If the director asked for something done a bit differently, it wouldn’t always be obvious. Since then, we usually take pretty detailed notes about things like that. What parts of the scene are in each take and what the shot is and what the director is asking for. It helps quite a bit.

Of course, the rules are different on smaller projects and promotional type videos. It all depend what and if you need to keep track of your clips or if it’s easy to figure out in post.

Can you describe your typical day?

There’s no typical day, really. Video editing is only one of many, many things I do and so my days are all different. Sometimes it’s a lot of meetings, sometimes it’s going out to record and do media for plays, other times it’s a lot of sending emails. And sometimes I write things down. I’m all over the place.

(And anybody who knows me knows that video editing is on most days far from my favourite job to be doing.)

What software do you use?

I use Final Cut Pro 7. Assuming Apple doesn’t change it’s mind and put that line of software back into development, I suspect Adobe Premier will become a thing at some point in the next few years. But right now, FCP does the trick.

(Fortunately, my interviewer spoke enough English to do the interview that way. I’m technically bilingual and understand French well enough but my spoken/written French is lapsed enough that I’ve have hardly been eloquent.)

Any editors out there want to chime in? Would your answers be the same or different. Join the discussion in the comments below.