Archive for the ‘Education’ category

Pre-NAB Editors Lounge

March 1, 2011

Later this month I’ll be participating in the what I hope will be an insightful and provocative Pre-NAB Editors Lounge Panel Discussion, hosted by Terry Curren and his company AlphaDogs in partnership with Key Code Media. The Editors Lounge is a great place to meet other editors, get questions answered, and generally stay current. And the food ain’t bad, either. This event will also feature a demo of Sony’s new OLED production monitor (list price, just $26,000).

Panelists: Debra Kaufman, Lucas Wilson, Mark Raudonis, Michael Bravin, Terry Curren and me.

Date and Time: Friday, 3/25 at 6:15 pm

Location: Key Code Media, 270 S. Flower St, Burbank, CA 91502

Complete Details are Here


Interview Clips

November 2, 2010

Larry Jordan, editor of features and television and the founder of is building a new web site, with lots of interesting content: Hollywood Reinvented. He’s posted six short clips from an interview he did with me recently. Subjects include:

  • How has digital technology changed the style of editing?
  • How does someone learn the craft of editing?
  • How have tools like Final Cut Pro effected the editing craft?

The full interview will go up soon, but you can see the sample clips by registering on the site. You’ll also find a fascinating interview with Avid co-founder Bill Warner covering the company’s very early days.

Editors and Assistants Panel

November 2, 2010

Last month I participated in a well-attended panel discussion on the evolution of the editor/assistant relationship. A nicely edited video from the session has been posted by the sponsor, the post house AlphaDogs. Expertly moderated by Debra Kaufman, the panel included me, Diana Friedberg (co-author of the new book, Make the Cut: A Guide to Becoming a Successful Assistant Editor in Film and TV), and our terrific assistants Peter Mergus and Carsten Kurpanek.

The conventional wisdom today is that it’s much harder to move from assistant to editor than it was when we cut film, but that wasn’t the point of view of this panel. If you’re hoping to move up the ladder, this video (and Diana’s book) should be very helpful. Check out the video here.

Editors Lounge is a wonderful meeting place and resource, hosted once a month in Burbank by AlphaDogs‘ founder Terry Curren.

The Book Arrives

September 19, 2010

Today, I’m pleased to announce the release of my new book, Avid Agility. It’s the culmination of nearly two years of work, and represents a big fraction of what I know about about the Media Composer. Whether you’ve just upgraded to version 5 or or are still using version 4, I would humbly suggest that you need this book. There’s so much in it, so many tips and so much clear explanation, that I’ll wager that whatever your level of expertise, you’ll learn things from it that will be well worth your time. My first book became something of an underground classic in the early days of the nonlinear revolution. I hope this one will, too.

Long time Media Composer users will find detailed discussion of the new features in version 5, along with material about hidden features you may never have heard about. People who are relatively new to the system, or moving to it from Final Cut or Premiere, will find clear, straightforward explanations of basic Media Composer concepts and techniques. Fair warning: it’s not a beginner’s book, and it doesn’t cover everything. But if you’re looking to get more out of Media Composer, you should check it out.

The style is similar to this blog, so if you like the writing here, you’ll feel at home with the book. You’ll find chapters on timeline editing, visual effects, mixing, stereo audio and audio effects, trim mode, multi-camera editing, titles, color correction, film and film lists, settings, workspaces and lots more. Because so much of the MC interface is color-dependent, the book is printed in color. I’m especially proud of the illustrations, all 500 of them. Editors are by nature visual people and the images go a long way toward making the book easy to absorb and use.

In general, if you’re using Media Composer and want to get the most out of the system, this book is for you. It’s available now from the publisher, CreateSpace (a division of Amazon) and will be available through Amazon itself in a couple of weeks. I hope you get as much out of reading it as I did writing it. But most of all, I hope it helps you create work you’re proud of.

Purchase Avid Agility Here

Techniques and Tips Book Redux

June 17, 2009

As some of you know, I’ve commenced work on an update to my venerable “Avid Media Composer Techniques and Tips” book. The original version began life way back in the mid-90s, when I was working closely with the Avid engineers, helping them design an interface and feature set that would work for people like me. The software was changing very rapidly, and much of what we were doing wasn’t getting documented. So I put together a short, one-page cheat-sheet of hidden Avid commands for my friends. That list eventually grew to over 100 pages, with screen shots for everything. Assuming that I couldn’t interest a publisher back then, I published it myself, and ended up selling thousands of copies to people all over the world. Many editors have told me that it fundamentally changed the way they work.

The Media Composer has evolved a lot in the intervening years and so, prodded by friends, I’ve decided to update the book. The project has turned out to be much bigger than I’d imagined (among other things, all 350 illustrations had to be redone), but I’m well on my way to finishing. All kinds of new material has been included, and it’s now about twice as long as the original. A few friends have been reading it and I’ve been surprised and gratified by how much they’re getting out of it. It’s now tentatively called “Avid Agility.”

Stay tuned — I hope to make it available to you all soon.

An Interface That’s Easy to Learn

May 19, 2009

When I helped start the editing program at the American Film Institute, the idea of teaching post production in an academic setting seemed a little nutty. But the idea that students would someday enter the program already familiar with digital tools? Had it occurred to us, we would have thought that was ridiculous.

Today, most film students enter graduate school with knowledge of several digital media applications, not just one, and Final Cut is usually among them. That’s partly because it’s cheap, easy to pirate, and you get the suite. But it’s also because it follows a drag-and-drop, desktop-publishing approach to editing. For young people, that makes the learning curve less steep. But it doesn’t necessarily provide the best toolset for professional editing. What I’m hearing from faculty at AFI and USC is that after a few months, most students end up preferring Media Composer. They like the precise trimming, the media management and the effects interface among other things. (Chris Hocking recently blogged about FCP vs. MC and came to some of the same conclusions.)

When Avid’s segment mode debuted in the early ’90s very few editors had ever touched Pagemaker or Quark, but there was still an internal debate in Tewksbury about whether drag and drop should be the foundation of the UI. The question comes down feedback. Every computer application has to supply feedback to the user, has to show you what you’ve done. The more responsive, fine-grained and intuitively presented that feedback is, the more control you have.

Imagine that as you typed in a word processor, the text arrived on the screen a second or two after you keyed it in. Even that small delay would drive you crazy, because it would interrupt the feedback loop. Regardless of your medium, if the controls are intuitive and feedback is fast and precise the interface seems to disappear, letting you think about creating and shaping the material rather than the machine itself.

Drag and drop offers good visual feedback, but it’s only telling you about the size and shape of little rectangles on the screen. I would argue that in editing, it’s more important to provide feedback about the film itself. You want to get the editor as close to the film as possible and permit him or her to make every editorial decision based on moving video. That’s why in the MC you see frame images in segment mode, why you trim with JKL, why you can slip and slide with JKL, as well.

An easy learning curve is important, sure, but it’s not equivalent to power, nor does it help you use the system all day in the trenches without fatigue. Fast and precise often means “some training required.” There’s a lot of overlap between FCP and MC — both give you JKL trimming, both let you drag and drop clips in the timeline. But the finesse with which they do it — the tightness of the feedback loop and the elegance of the controls — makes a big difference. There’s still plenty of room for improvement and each can learn from the other. Media Composer Version 3 included much faster timeline performance as recently as last year, something editors tend to notice almost instantly.

Avid has done a lot of internal work lately, and people are starting to notice. Apple will presumably hit back soon. I’m as eager as anybody to see what they have in store for FCS3, but while we wait for the Cupertino marketing juggernaut to ramp up it’s wise to remember that a good UI is many things, some of which are pretty subtle and hard to explain in marketing materials. It takes time in front of a system to find its power, and it takes many iterations to refine an interface.