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Ned Bastille – In Memoriam

On behalf of American Cinema Editors, it is with great sadness I announce the passing of fellow member and friend, Edward “Ned” Bastille (66). He passed away on December 21.

He was diagnosed with a stage 4 glioblastoma in February, and fought it powerfully, at home, with his wife Helena at his side. He will be deeply missed.

Adobe Tech Day 2019

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4th Qtr, 2019

The ACE Tech Day featuring Adobe was attended by the curious: Many were editors who hadn’t seriously used or had experimented only briefly with Premiere Pro. And their curiosity was rewarded. Held Sept. 7 at Raleigh Studios, Tech Day had many from Adobe’s team in attendance, including Mike Kanfer (Principal Strategic Development Manager), Meagan Keene (Senior Product Marketing Manager), Michael Phillips (co-inventor and designer of Avid’s Media Composer and general all-around very smart guy) and several others.

Adobe always brings a full team to events such as this. The day was led by Van Bedient (Head of Strategic Development) and presented by Karl Soule and Matt Christensen.

First up was an exclusive sneak peek extended scene – previously shown only at the 2019 Comic Con panel – for Terminator: Dark Fate. Directed by Tim Miller, edited by Julian Clarke, ACE, they are the team that used Premiere Pro and connected applications on Deadpool. It was a very entertaining start for the day. One couldn’t tell how Premiere was used, but it looked great and certainly isn’t a bad advertisement for the editing software. Next was a video presentation featuring the many productions that have used Premiere Pro. These included the Coen brothers’ The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, David Fincher’s Mindhunter and FX series Atlanta. Next was a look at Premiere Pro.

The main focus of the presentation was a new workflow to facilitate editors sharing on a network. It’s called Premiere Pro Productions. A Production is the umbrella project you would create for a film, documentary or episodic TV show. Within that you’d create folders and bins for editors and assistants to work.

Part of the Production workflow includes a new data model for tracking clips and sequences which eliminates any instances of duplicate clips which previously could occur. The point of a Production is to organize bin locking, where several editors can share a Production and lock bins (dailies, sequences) while they are working. Once locked, no one else can alter anything within that bin.

There is no chance you could open a locked bin, do a lot of your best editing work, then lose it because it can’t be saved. Soule demonstrated as he and Christensen locked and unlocked bins. They also showed off the Freeform bin arrangement, where picture tiles in a bin can be up to four different sizes and can be placed anywhere in the bin’s work area. It is an impressive new feature.

Then some magic started happening. Adobe has been investing resources into Artificial Intelligence that is applied in different tools, which they term Sensei. Premiere Pro now uses what’s called ‘Content Aware Fill for Video.’ They showed a shot of a couple in a field. As it pans, a boom operator comes into the shot. By drawing a mask around the boom operator, the computer figures out the pixels needed to replace him with the background. It is very similar to the Mocha Pro plugin from BorisFX. It was very impressive.

Then Richard Zhang took the podium. He is researching AI for Adobe, and showed not only how deep learning can create deep fakes, i.e. a person saying something different from what they actually said, but also how deep fakes can be exposed. One great example of manipulating media through AI had a ballet dancer modifying the behavior of a standing person – to becoming a person mimicking the ballet dancing. Funny. And scary.

After lunch Vashi Nedomansky, ACE, and director/editor Todd Douglas Miller discussed the making of the CNN Films documentary Apollo 11. Adobe is intent on having a place in the Hollywood editing community. They have an edit suite in Santa Monica designed for training. They offer free one-on-one training for ACE members. They have seminars at the Motion Picture Editors Guild. And they have a direct email address for ACE. I’ve used it, and got an immediate answer to my comment.

And Adobe is open to collaboration with other developers. Bedient made the point that Adobe works with about 320 partners who write add-ons or extensions to Premiere Pro. One example is Frame.io, which has a system for remotely getting notes from a director that can be placed directly in your timeline.

So, these curious editors may have gotten inspired to kick the tires on Adobe Premiere Pro on their own. There was certainly enough in the Tech Day presentation to pique their interest.

IBC 2019

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4th Qtr, 2019

The IBC (International Broadcasting Convention) has always been a showcase for the latest products and developments for content creation but this year’s event doubled down by attracting a number of established artists to present masterclasses or public interviews. Chris Dickens, ACE, an Oscar® and ACE Eddie winner for Slumdog Millionaire, shared insights into how he helped Dexter Fletcher’s biographic musical Rocketman about shy piano prodigy turned international superstar Elton John.

“The film is about Elton’s battle with himself and moving away from who he was as a child,” Dickens said. “In one scene he swims underwater and is confronted with himself as a boy but by the end of the film he has come to terms with who he is.” Presenting clips including a sequence that appears early in the film accompanied by John’s “The Bitch is Back,” Dickens described the script as a heightened version of reality. “It had two sides, this real-life drama and a fantastical story of his success with musical sequences which tell his life through song.

It gave us a license to play around visually but I couldn’t quite unify the two dramatic tensions in my head. The biggest challenge was finding a way to combine all the elements to give the film tonally the same feel all the way through.”

Elsewhere, there were sessions devoted to the VFX behind Avengers: Endgame and insider looks at the cinematography and grading of Netflix series Mindhunter and Black Mirror interactive episode “Bandersnatch.” Attendees were treated to a special showing in Dolby Vision and Atmos of Game of Thrones’ season 8 episode “The Long Night,” the episode which landed Tim Porter, ACE, the Emmy® for Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Drama Series.

HBO executive producer Greg Spence and Steve Beres, HBO’s senior vice president of Media and Production Services were on hand to talk about the show’s production. The virtual production of Jon Favreau’s The Lion King was another highlight as explored by cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, ASC, and VFX supervisor Rob Legato, ASC.

New ways of working were also a theme on the exhibition floor. Aiming to find new ways to create, produce and distribute content on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform, Avid announced its participation with Disney in a five-year partnership with Microsoft. The partnership will be run through The Walt Disney Studios’ StudioLAB, Disney’s technology hub, and will be aimed at delivering cloud-based workflows for production and postproduction or from ‘scene to screen.’

Microsoft has an existing strategic cloud alliance with Avid and the companies have already produced several media workflows running in the cloud, including collaborative editing, content archiving, active backup and production continuity.

“By moving many of our production and post-production workflows to the cloud, we’re optimistic that we can create content more quickly and efficiently around the world,” said Jamie Voris, CTO, The Walt Disney Studios. “Through this innovation partnership with Microsoft, we’re able to streamline many of our processes so our talented filmmakers can focus on what they do best.”

The announcement was separate but related to a wider move by major studios to rethink production workflows in the cloud. During the IBC conference session titled “Hollywood’s vision for the future of production in 2030,” tech bosses from Paramount, Sony, Universal, Disney and Warner Bros. gathered to discuss a 10-year blueprint for the process, as outlined by non-profit research initiative MovieLabs.

“There’s been a massive increase in content production and brand extensions, and we need faster production cycles and more rapid iterations,” said Universal CTO Michael Wise. The MovieLabs report suggests assets need to be created and ingested straight into the cloud. Any tools used on content assets in this new workflow must come to the cloud, rather than the  other way around. “We need the entire industry to come together on this,” said Bill Baggelaar, senior vice president of technology, production and postproduction technologies at Sony Pictures Entertainment.

“We don’t want to build our own tools to manage cloud solutions but would require the ability to plug into our own preferred vendors.” MovieLabs is working toward the creation of a standard, a big part of which will be security.

A common ID system would be critical to identify the thousands of workers interacting with studios’ content, the speakers related. “This would also formalize protocols for crew members who wish to use their own devices or plug their own kit into studios’ production networks,” noted Daphne Dentz, senior vice president, mastering & production technology, Warner Bros.

Adobe used the IBC platform to unveil Auto Reframe, a new feature for Premiere Pro that uses the company’s Adobe Sensei artificial intelligence and machine-learning platform. Slated for availability later this year, Auto Reframe is developed to reframe and reformat video so that the same project can be published in different aspect ratios, from square to vertical to 16:9 versions, the company said.

Like Content-Aware Fill for After Effects, which was introduced in the spring, Auto Reframe is designed to “accelerate manual production tasks, without sacrificing creative control. “For broadcasters, or anyone else who needs to optimize content for different platforms, Auto Reframe will help you get there faster,” Adobe writes in its blog, citing tools designed to “analyze, crop and pan footage to prioritize the most compelling parts of your video.” The company also demonstrated new Best Practices guides, which include ones for working with native formats, using project templates, using Motion Graphics templates; mixing audio with the Essential Sound Panel, exporting video and using third-party tools with Adobe tools.

Blackmagic announced Blackmagic RAW 1.5, a new software update with support for Premiere Pro and Media Composer, plus Blackmagic RAW Speed Test for Mac, PC and Linux,  so customers can work on a wider range of platforms and editing software with their Blackmagic RAW files. Blackmagic RAW 1.5 is now available for download. “Blackmagic RAW is now available for editors working on all major professional nonlinear editors,” said CEO Grant Petty.

“You can now edit native Blackmagic RAW files in Premiere Pro and Media Composer and then finish them in DaVinci Resolve without needing to create proxy files.”

Alan Holzman, ACE Heritage Award

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4th Qtr, 2019

The Invisible Art, Visible Artists (IAVA) seminar has become one of ACE’s annual flagship events. The wildly-popular program takes place every year at Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood and offers a rare opportunity to hear that year’s Oscar®-nominated editors talk shop. Interestingly enough, the man behind it all – prolific editor/director Allan Holzman, ACE – conceived of the idea while recovering from the flu. “It was quite a beautiful story actually,” says Holzman.

“My favorite children’s book is Miss Rumphius, which I’ve read in my daughter’s third-grade class. It’s a story about a young girl who assists her grandfather in making paintings of the ships in a harbor. Her grandfather says to her, ‘I want you to do three things in life: Live by the ocean, travel the world and do something to make the world more beautiful.’ About 20 years ago, I came down with a nasty flu. I felt like I wouldn’t live another day. The first day I felt well enough to go outside, I took a walk and reminisced about that book. I thought, ‘I’ve traveled the world. I live by the ocean.

But what have I done to make the world a more beautiful place?’ IAVA would my contribution to the world.” He explains, “Have a seminar the day before the Academy Awards®. All the nominees have to be in town. Have it in the morning so it doesn’t conflict with any other event.

Make it free and open to the public. Make it so you wouldn’t have to see the movie to appreciate it, but have it be more about the artistic process: How do you work dailies? How do you work with the director? How do you cut a scene? How do you work with music? Everyone answers the same questions so you don’t have a moderator trying to psychoanalyze the movie.

You have a discussion about the creative process. That’s all I wanted to communicate: the creative experience of editing.” By the time IAVA got off the ground, Holzman had already been in the business for over two decades as one of the premier documentary editors in town. He had earned two Emmys® for his work on Steven Spielberg’s Survivors of the Holocaust and an Eddie Award for the critically-acclaimed Old Man River. Not bad for a Baltimore kid who developed a noticeable stutter early in childhood. His stutter became something that he learned to embrace rather than overcome or use as an excuse to fade into the background.

He chronicles his journey in an autobiographical documentary called C-C-Cut: Autobiography of a Stuttering F-F-Filmmaker. The self-proclaimed storytelling stutterer cut his filmmaking teeth in Roger Corman’s camp. He soon went on to direct and/or edit a number of B-movie gems like Forbidden World, Out of Control, and Crazy Mama.

Around the time he met his future wife, composer Susan Justin, he began to add documentaries to his roster. This pivot would offer Holzman a new playground for his creative storytelling abilities.

One of his hallmarks on all of his documentaries is the lack of narrator to drive the story along. “I don’t like using a narrator in movies,” admits Holzman. “I have often tried using the speaker saying the same thing in multiple settings. It makes it more of a feature film because it is unpredictable and emotional. You’re not telling the story in a conventional way. You’re tying it through characters and characters are told through story. It’s really a way to keep the stories going and you can jump time.

The great thing about telling history through characters is it becomes a circular way of discussion. You don’t have to catch people up to where you were. You’re constantly experiencing the depth of the story in one way or another. You’re communicating culture. You’re not communicating facts. You’re communicating an experience, and scenes are the key to keeping people engaged because you can’t lose them for a second when you don’t have a narrator. The pressure is really intense to hold your audience.

Music is your narrative guide. A song is about three minutes and so is a scene. If the composer is into song structure you really can develop a beginning, middle and end in a scene.” It’s this passion for storytelling that led him to become one of the driving forces behind ACE’s Heritage Brunch. The first incarnation took place at a yacht club in Los Angeles over a decade ago where editors were invited for food, drink and a little gab session in front of the camera.

Holzman realized there was a whole class of editors who were assistants during 1940s and ‘50s who were unable to find work in film after completing their eight years as assistant editors. The editors who had trained them were still alive, working, and few had retired.

However, there was work in television. This group became the first great TV editors on shows like I Love Lucy and Mission: Impossible. They conducted 33 half-hour interviews in one day. Holzman recalls, “It was a very fun event. I couldn’t have done that or IAVA without Jenni McCormick [Executive Director of ACE]. She’s an amazing advisor, organizer and totally devoted.”

Even after nearly 50 years in Hollywood, Holzman has yet to slow down. He shares, “Four decades ago, I wrote a book on the art of editing that is about to be published. I wanted to reveal the art behind B-movie editing. The book is called Celluloid Wars: Lessons Learned from Making the Movie “Battle Beyond the Stars.” It will be followed by part two on directing.

Both books are based on daily journals I kept while working for Roger Corman on that film and Forbidden World (aka Mutant). He’s also working on a new fourscreen installation based on Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech for Columbia, and penning his own memoir eloquently titled The Storytelling Stutterer.