Sometimes the clearest perspective on today's digital production challenges comes from the bottom of the production funnel. This year's annual Editors Roundup asked editors from many walks of life what they would like our industry to come up with to help their post-production process. The results, as usual, were creative and bountiful.
Oscar-nominated editor, Saar Klein is currently working on Terrence Malick's next film, "Tree of Life" on his own Avid Media Composer. He is communicating with the remote shoot site by FedExing hard drives accompanied by e-mail notes. Having won an Eddie from American Cinema Editors for "Almost Famous" in 2000, he also keeps busy cutting commercials at Lost Planet in Santa Monica, Calif. Klein says with editing projects getting ever more elaborate, he could use more space on his screen for the timeline.
"If you are working with 10 or 12 audio tracks, we really need a separate monitor just for the timeline," Klein said. "It would also be incredible if it could be a touchscreen, too, so we would not be solely dependent on mouse clicks or a keyboard."
Simplicity tops Jason Diamond's "wish list," co-founder and editor at MBS Productions, a post house in Manhattan where they specialize in feature film and TV productions shooting with a pair of Red One cameras among others. While editing his projects with Avid NLE's on Mac platforms, Diamond would like developers of new production formats to be required to meet a certain baseline of interoperability so they could be adopted by different edit systems more readily.
"We need a standardized interchange file format so NLE's would not be hung up trying to access every new proprietary file type that comes along," Diamond said. "Someone has to come up with open guidelines so that, at least for simple applications, the contents of any file could be dragged into any NLE using a directly linked 'path point' without having to go through elaborate conversion processes."
Isaac Anderson, a producer/editor of feature length documentaries at Vision FilmWorks in Laguna Beach, Calif., with the help of his Adobe Premiere Pro system wants to cut through the jungle of burgeoning delivery codecs.
"An NLE could have several different compression output options for YouTube, HD, cell phone, DVD, etc.," he said. "If I could just check several boxes at export that would meet the standard for the various distribution outlets and delivery formats and then walk away, I'd be a happy camper!"
As senior editor at WTHR-TV, the NBC affiliate in Indianapolis, Brian Mulligan cuts everything from promos to feature news packages on his Autodesk Smoke system.
"We are a tapeless facility using P2 for acquisition, but all of our master HD files are huge," Mulligan said. "Despite our gigabit Ethernet network it is hard for us to push all that data around the facility when every client or producer needs their project in a different format. So what I would like is a magic wand that would give everyone in the production chain a better understanding of the formats they are requiring. It would be kind of like going back to the days when everyone used Betacam tape. Sufficient for everyone's needs, it let us all play in the same ballpark."
Out in the wilds of Pahrump, Nev., Vernon Van Winkle has installed three NewTek SpeedEDIT systems for his editors to cut stories for the news department of his KPVM-TV (SD 41/HD 46/Cable 12) micro broadcast station, playing out to air through a VT desktop television control room. Van Winkle would like an edit system to be able to spit out an AVI stream or Flash file simultaneously with an NTSC or digital video version without having to render either one separately.
"I've had to create a micro broadcast station here in Pahrump out of my own pocket," Van Winkle said, "so anything that can save a step is a big advantage for us."
Matt Johnson is the Quantel iQ editor at Post Logic Studios, a facility specializing in DI creation and HD mastering in Hollywood.
"One challenge I often face when working on independent features is dealing with constant revisions right up to and beyond print time," Johnson said. "What I need are tools that streamline the re-cutting process. Yes, I get offline EDL's and can compare 'change lists,' but often the editing crew has been replaced by the time the final version gets to me. In addition, the improvements I've made while creating the DI are not included in the master list. Since in addition to sometimes re-arranging shot sequences these can encompass everything from color tweaking and frame blow ups to timecode offsets, I need a system that tracks all the changes made to a project, no matter where or at what level they were done. That would make my life a lot easier."
Matthew Johnson In Astoria, N.Y., Juan Carlos Pineiro Escoriaza just completed the feature documentary, "Second Skin," about online gamers that premiered in the opening night of the South by Southwest Film Festival. He runs an Adobe Premiere Pro NLE at Pure West Films, a feature film and Web design company, but would like someone to come up with a practical online Internet-based editing system.
"If people could collaborate in real time online over the Web instead of having to exchange physical A/V files, our workflow would be much faster," Pineiro Escoriaza said. "That way we could add remarks on a virtual timeline, and cooperate on a project with immediate interaction. I'd also like to have a touch-sensitive console that would let me manipulate video the way a music DJ can craft audio mixes on the fly. That would let you edit video almost as a performance, giving you tactile feedback on what you are creating."
Jim Peeler cuts the news stories he also shoots for KWTX-TV in Waco, Texas on a Sony Vegas Pro, and he's come up with an idea that would be a boon to all editors no matter which system they are flying.
"Editors sometimes know more about their own editing software than they do about their family," Peeler said, "because they spend more time with it."
What he would like is a way to cut the learning curve.
"We need a universal graphic user interface that any editor could simply plug into any edit system and work they way they are accustomed to," he said. "With a universal GUI, editors could go from one NLE to another and get the functionality they need on a given project. Sure, it wouldn't be able to take advantage of each system's unique capabilities, but a universal GUI would let you access the basics with the skills you already know. That way we could spend more time at home getting to know our families."
Who knows? Maybe we'll see some of these wish list items on display at the upcoming 2009 NAB Show. I'll let you know.
Jay Ankeney is a freelance editor and post-production consultant based in Los Angeles. Write him at 220 39th St. (upper), Manhattan Beach, CA 90266 or atJayAnkeney@mac.com.
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