Adobe Tech Day 2019


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, 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


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.”

ACE Luau 2019


4th Qtr, 2019

Allan Holzman, ACE, who conceived ACE’s annual “Invisible Art, Visible Artists” preAcademy Awards® series, received the society’s Heritage Award during the ACE Board Installation Luau, Aug. 27 at Toluca Lake-based Ca Del Sole.

Presenting the award, ACE president Stephen Rivkin, ACE, noted that in addition to IAVA, Holzman suggested that ACE team up with a publicist, and both efforts have helped to raise awareness of editing and of ACE. He described Holzman as a “filmmaking chameleon, working in narrative, documentary, big budget and independent, genres from comedy to drama, action to musical.”

Rivkin also gave special thanks to outgoing Vice President, Alan Heim, ACE, who chose not to run for re-election after more than 25 years on the board. “He will always be an inspiration to the ACE board, and we hope you don’t stay away too long,” he said. Heim served four terms as president and four as vice president.

During the luau, Rivkin announced the results of the board elections. Carol Littleton, ACE, was named vice president and Stephen Lovejoy, ACE, was named treasurer. Elected Directors were Maysie Hoy, ACE; Bonnie Koehler, ACE; Mary Jo Markey, ACE; and Kevin Tent, ACE. Anita Brandt Burgoyne, ACE, was elected to a one-year term, taking over Littleton’s director seat. Jacqueline Cambas, ACE, was elected life member. Kate Amend, ACE; Dana Glauberman, ACE; Mark Helfrich, ACE; and Andrew Seklir, ACE, were given associate board seats. On behalf of ACE, Rivkin thanked Pivotal Post, which hosted the event.

EditFest LA 2019


4th Qtr, 2019

This year’s sold-out EditFest LA – described by one attendee as “Burning Man for indoor people” – featured a one-on-one conversation with two-time Oscar® nominee Joe Walker, ACE, as well as panels titled “Reality vs. Scripted Editing,” “From the Cutting Room to the Red Carpet” and “The Lean Forward Moment,” which was held in memory of the late Norman Hollyn, ACE. Held Aug. 24 at The Walt Disney Studios, EditFest attracted a sold-out crowd of editors, assistants, students and post professionals.

The event began with a short look at DaVinci Resolve 16.1, hosted by Platinum Sponsor Blackmagic Design, before moderator Margot Nack of Adobe introduced the “From the Cutting Room to the Red Carpet” panel that featured Cindy Mollo, ACE (Ozark), Robert Fisher, Jr., ACE (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), Nena Erb, ACE (Insecure), Heather Capps (Portlandia) and Eric Kissack (The Good Place). Kissack addressed what he sees as a change in comedy and how his inspiration for getting into the business came from movies like Airplane! and TV shows like Saturday Night Live. “I got into comedy thinking that it was easier than drama,” said Kissack, who started in comedy features, having cut films like Daddy’s Home, Bruno and The Dictator before becoming disillusioned and moving into TV. “There’s something broken about comedy movies right now. No one can put their finger on why.” Kissack said that working on television now affords him more opportunities to direct.

“Nowadays striking the right balance between comedy and drama can be challenging, but ultimately more fulfilling,” he said. This led him to his current role on The Good Place as an editor, director and producer. “There are scenes in some comedies where you’re trying to figure out how to salvage a joke. “On [The Good Place], the cast is so talented that every take works and it’s hard to choose one.”

One of the most innovative films to grace our screens of late is Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Editor Robert Fisher, Jr. described the creative process along with the challenges involved in shaping an animated film. Fisher explained that in the scene during which Miles gets his powers and emerges as Spider-Man, the montage originally played out as individual scenes running concurrently, which didn’t have the same impact.

“The trick we discovered was to get inside his head while showing what was going on,” he said, adding that once they decided to move the story forward in both timeframes simultaneously, the story came together and enough tension was added to give the sequence the impact it needed. Capps talked about the cartoonish universe that her show, Portlandia, exists in. “Portlandia consists of individual sketches with a through line.

On this show, the rhythm is all over the place. Sometimes we’ll even throw the joke under the bus in the edit.” The modular format of the show sometimes allowed Capps and the other editors to switch out meatier sketches between shows to help with pace and timing.

Later, the issue of pigeonholing took center stage. Capps described an interview during which she was told that she couldn’t edit drama. “You can change their mind but their preconcep- tions are usually set in stone. You probably don’t want to work with them anyway.” Sometimes pigeonholing can work for you. Erb related that she was brought onto the BET drama Being Mary Jane because the writers and producers were retooling the show to make it lighter and saw her comedy background as an asset. Mollo noted that even though most of her work has been in the drama space, her early career featured some single-camera comedy pilots. She advised up-and-coming editors, “Take any opportunity you can to start in comedy editing as the transition to drama is easier.”

The topic of pigeonholing also entered the next panel, which was intent on demystifying the differences between reality and scripted editing. Panelists Tom Costantino, ACE (The Orville), Molly Shock, ACE (Naked and Afraid), Jamie Nelsen, ACE (Black-ish), and Maura Corey, ACE (Good Girls), discussed their experiences in both genres and frustration at the industry’s reluctance to hire unscripted editors. “There’s a misperception that if you cut scripted, you can’t cut reality and vice versa,” said Corey. “All of us have worked in both worlds and we know it isn’t true.” “We’re all storytellers and we like to work,” agreed Shock. “We as editors have valuable skills that can transfer.” Nelsen related that her time as an editor on reality drama Intervention informed her work in scripted comedy. “It was all about psychology and following the emotions, motivations and intentions of each character.” Costantino added that he’s now seeing a little less prejudice toward unscripted editors as some producers are starting to notice that other experience can pay off. “Everything in your toolbox has value. Every single job you do, you’ll take a piece of that with you and that will make you a better editor.” The panelists agreed that when all is said and done, it comes down to luck. “You can’t manufacture luck, however, you can probably manufacture access to luck,” said Costantino.

Next up, film historian Bobbie O’Steen took to the stage for a oneon-one chat with Joe Walker, ACE, who earned Oscar nominations for 12 Years a Slave and Arrival. London-born Walker’s love for film began when he started playing 8mm Keystone Cops films (bought with his paper route money) over his father’s old Wagner records.

He trained as a classical composer and learned the craft of editing in the BBC’s Film Department at Ealing Studios in West London, where he cut everything from classical music documentaries to police dramas to children’s television which he later described as “varying his diet.” Walker recalled an experience early in career by where he was able to cut a scene together; coverage consisted of one wide, one cutaway and singles.

After spending an afternoon putting the scene together using all of the available coverage, his mentor watched the scene and said, “Not bad. Show me the wide shot.” The wide had all of the movement and body language that the scene needed, so they went with it instead. The important lesson that Walker learned that day was that just because they shot it, doesn’t mean you have to use it. O’Steen also brought up the topic of landscaping the cut.

“It’s manipulating pace to your advantage. [Editing] is kind of like a striptease act,” Walker said. “Arrival is showing an ankle. You see a puff of smoke, and bit by bit you discover more about these creatures. But you’re constantly trying to work out where the audience is and you better not disappoint them.” O’Steen joked that “time is [Walker’s] superpower.” “I should probably have a T-shirt made [of that],” mused Walker.

The event ended on a bittersweet note with EditFest’s annual “Lean Forward Moment” panel. The term was coined by the late Norman Hollyn, ACE, who was the inaugural recipient of the Michael Kahn Endowed Chair in Editing at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. Hollyn was a treasured friend and mentor to those of us in the editing community, and he moderated the “Lean
Forward Moment” panel at EditFest for many years, during which he and the speakers would discuss those pivotal moments in a cut. This year’s panel was made up of former USC students and teaching colleagues who shared memories of Hollyn before continuing his tradition of screening ‘lean forward moments’ from their favorite films.

Moderated by Alan Heim, ACE, the speakers were former teaching assistant Ashley Alizor, advanced editing student Saira Haider and USC editing faculty members ReineClaire and Thomas G. Miller, ACE. Heim recalled his 40-plus year friendship with Hollyn, saying, “I think of him; I miss him. He’s done so much for the editing community, bringing new people into it, mentoring people, teaching people and this (panel) is a sampling of a lot of the different things he’s done.” “His loss was a tough one,” Heider said. “but I still use the things that he taught in our class to this day.”

Added Miller, “He loved to talk. He loved to share his knowledge. He was always interested in what we were doing.” “I learned more about people from Norm than I did about editing,” Alizor said. Miller and Reine-Claire commented on working with Hollyn and his teaching philosophy. “Norman always liked for us to teach some things that were theoretical and some that were practical, but always something emotional,” Miller said.

“Whatever got the best story and had the most emotion was what he wanted us to teach.” It was announced during the session that in Hollyn’s honor, his former office at USC will be transformed into a communal meeting space for students and faculty members. “He was always in the moment,” Reine-Claire said. “You could walk into his office, he would drop everything and start a conversation with you.

You would remember that conversation forever.

EditFest London 2019


3rd Qtr, 2019

A stellar cast of editing talent headlined by Lee Smith, ACE, shared tips, knowledge and experiences during a sold-out EditFest London.

Presented by ACE, the July 29 event at the British Film Institute on London’s South Bank featured a keynote conversation by Smith and panels on episodic dramas, reality programs and feature films.

There are few editors who have enjoyed a greater run of critically-acclaimed hits as Smith – who during his conversation shared clips from his longtime collaboration with Christopher Nolan, including Inception, Interstellar, The Dark Knight, and his Oscar®- and Eddie-winning Dunkirk. He also screened a clip from Peter Weir’s Master and Commander: The Far Side of  the World, as well as the opening sequence to Sam Mendes’ Spectre which was designed to look like a single uninterrupted take with subliminal edits. “My father was an optical-effects supervisor, my uncle ran a small optical lab, my aunt was a neg cutter and my brother an animator so I guess I didn’t have a choice,” the Australian-born editor said of his early career.

Smith described Weir as a “very organic” filmmaker. “Some directors rely on storyboards and arrive on set with a very accurate plan of what they will shoot. Peter just responds to what he sees on the set and will change tack on the day when he realizes something is not working.”

Nolan, by contrast, “has precision knowledge of how he is going to shoot. The edit is built into how he shoots. He knows what he wants and gets what he wants. He’s a force of nature.”

Smith has also collaborated with director Sam Mendes on projects including the in-production period drama 1917. “He will abandon a scene in the middle of shooting if he intuitively feels it’s not working. Doing that requires conviction and the budget to back it up.”

Audience test screenings are the scariest part of the process, he said. “You can’t make any excuses. If the audience doesn’t understand it then you have a problem. But they can’t tell you how to fix your film. The studio will come up with a blueprint for repairing your movie. It is never right. “For example, the third act could be pitch perfect but maybe you’ve brought the weight of a slack second act coming into the third act. There will be lots of people running around in a panic wanting reshoots but you have to take a pause and be confident enough to look again.” Smith added, “You don’t work any less hard on an also-ran movie than on a cinematic masterpiece. You gain experience on every film but if the DNA of a film is simply not there then there’s nothing much you can do.”

How A-list editors managed to get their big break is of perennial interest to aspiring editors and assistants, and this was covered in the feature panel. Turns out you typically need to endure frustration and multiple bad jobs before seizing the moment when it comes along. You also need a lucky break. For Tom Cross, ACE, that was meeting director Damien Chazelle. “We found we liked a lot of the same movies and then made a short version of his script for Whiplash which did well enough to secure finance for a feature,” Cross related.

“The new financiers didn’t want any crew from the short film apart from Damien but [producer] Couper Samuelson wanted me to do it and assured them that he had a more prominent editor in the wings in case there was any problem.” Cross went on to win an Eddie and Oscar for the film. Jeremiah O’Driscoll cheerfully related how he “planned to be the world’s oldest assistant but got foiled in that plan.” Like Cross, he found it a struggle to be trusted to edit solo even by Arthur Schmidt, ACE, for whom O’Driscoll assisted over 11 years. “It was Bob Zemeckis who turned to me on Contact and asked me to cut the opening audio montage,” he said. “Later, when Artie couldn’t work on The Polar Express, I thought Bob would go hire an A-lister like Michael Kahn (ACE) but he asked me. I’ve stuck with Zemeckis ever since.”

He added, “You really have to suffer or put yourself in at the deep end or basically lie like I did to get yourself in the door.” Paul Machliss, ACE, also had to climb the ladder to the top. “I was a runner at a facility in Melbourne when Sony UK asked if I would do some demos for them of equipment at trade shows.

Aged 23, I turned up at Heathrow with a suitcase knowing no one and that it would be my fault if it all went wrong.” A decade later with experience editing comedy shows he met director Edgar Wright, for whom he most recently cut Baby Driver. Machliss described their current project, Last Night in Soho, as “Edgar’s love letter to a place which is rapidly disappearing.”

He told the audience, “Luck is when timing meets preparation and when that moment occurs, if you are ready, you can grab it.” Virginia Katz, ACE, candidly admitted her route to the cutting room was via her father, editor Sidney Katz, ACE, but faced a different kind of struggle. “Dede Allen [ACE] aside there were very few women editors, but I learned from some of those rare and strong women about being a woman in this business. I’ve also been fortunate in assisting editors who give you a chance to gain experience. I give my assistants scenes to cut since really the only way you can make it as an editor is by getting your hands dirty.” Elliot Graham, ACE, (Milk) says he pestered Mark Goldblatt, ACE, with letters and phone calls until he agreed to meet for a coffee. “Out of that, by circuitous route, I ended up assisting for director Steve Norrington who was cutting The Last Minute at James Cameron’s Lightstorm.

Since the film required me to work seven days a week, 18 hours a day, I ended up literally living in the edit bay for two months. Since I had access to the Avid all night, I went ahead and cut some scenes without telling anyone. Steve ended up recommending me to Bryan Singer for X-Men 2.” Graham underlined, “You can assist as much as you want but it is essential that you cut.”

In a conversation moderated by CinemaEditor’s international editor, Adrian Pennington, another panel of editors spoke on the topic TV drama and agreed that television and series content has reached a Golden Age with more and more talent from the feature world taking part.

“We have an Oscar [nominated] director,” said Pia Di Ciaula, ACE, of working with Stephen Daldry on The Crown, which she called “a perfect example of treating a series like a feature film.” She also showed a clip from A Very English Scandal – another such example as it was directed by Oscar-nominated Stephen Frears and stars Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw. “I had brilliant performances,” she said, adding that the editing challenge was “keeping the viewer informed of time” with flashbacks.

Tony Kearns, editor on Netflix’s interactive drama, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, agreed that a growing number of A-listers are getting involved with the rising number and range of new content outlets. He welcomes services such as Jeffrey Katzenberg’s new shortform mobile content platform, Quibi, with its 10-minute format, saying of these new models that they will work “as long as the story is compelling and fits the format.”

“It will make binge-watching a shorter experience; we won’t be up until 6am,” he quipped. Of the potential of interactive content such as Bandersnatch, he said, “I don’t think it will replace anything. I think it will be an adjunct.” He advised of working on interactive content, “You need to understand coding. … [Audiences] are not viewers; they are users. And you have to be super organized. It’s a really different experience. It’s technical; it’s daunting; it’s a tremendous experience.”

Terilyn Shropshire, ACE, described her work on Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us, the Netflix drama about the Central Park Five. “When I read the script, the interrogation scene was a linear structure,” she explains, noting that when she and DuVernay got to the edit, it was decided to crosscut between the different boys and their individual interrogations. “You needed to understand that the boys didn’t know one another … and you see the detectives using coerced testimony to implicate the others.”

There were three editors cutting different episodes of the four-part miniseries and collaborating. They were Shropshire, Spencer Averick, ACE; and Michelle Tesoro, ACE. “When we pared [an individual episode] down, we had to make sure it wasn’t something that would be needed later in the story,” she explained. “It was extremely helpful to have that collaboration. Our footage was cross-pollinating.” Editor Cheryl Potter showed an action scene from Amazon series Hanna, on which she worked with director Anders Engstrom. That challenge, she explained, “was setting up that title character Hanna (Esme Creed-Miles) is in danger and the geography of the action.”

Rounding out the panel was Gary Dollner, ACE, who showed the opening of BBC-produced series Killing Eve, which begins as Villanelle (Jodie Comer) locks eyes with and imitates a child in an ice cream parlor. He related that the challenge was intro- ducing a new series in a scene with no dialogue. “The scene was about mimicry, which is a big part of what she does, she observes and regurgitates.” Also during the day, Job ter Burg, ACE, NCE (Elle) moderated a panel on “Cutting for Truth and Finding the Story.”

Editor Anna Price shared a clip from The Trial of Ratko Mladic, which examines the trial of a general convicted of war crimes during the Bosnian War. The challenge, she related, was to “make the political personal. … to get across the historical information about the war in the trial of this one person … also to get the emotional story of the lawyers trying to convict this person, and the victims.” She admitted, “It was a very difficult film to organize.”

Will Gilbey showed his work on After the Screaming Stops, which follows the band, Bros. He described how the clip involved steadily building an argument between the band’s Matt Goss and Luke Goss. “They didn’t have cut approval,” he added.

Also featured was Three Identical Strangers, the story of triplets that were adopted by separate families and learn that each other existed at age 19. Editor Michael Harte, ACE, explained that he wanted to make the film feel like the eras during which they happened.

Elements included archival footage and music. In his clip, he showed the wedding of one of the brothers, Eddy, to his wife Brenda. Harte related that he and director Tim Wardle wrote a letter to Billy Joel asking permission to use “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,” Joel’s ‘70s classic whose lyrics tell the story of a ‘Brenda and Eddy.’

The Bachelorette’s Sharon Rennert, ACE, shared a tearful scene during which a contestant tells the bachelorette that he is bowing out. “We are mostly on her face; it’s the discovery of  her realizing what’s happening to her,” Rennert explained, calling the cut “deceptively simple” while saying she “cut from the gut and followed her instincts … less is more, and it was addition through subtraction.”

Platinum sponsor Blackmagic Design kicked off the day by hosting a presentation by Patrick Hall, head of post and editor at Liverpool-based LA Productions, who talked about the company’s toolset that includes Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve. “We have been using Resolve for finishing for the last three years,” he said, noting that projects have included 10-episode prison drama Clink for U.K. Channel 5, which required a fast turnaround. The series was delivered within 20 weeks – two weeks per episode. “In terms of Resolve, the beauty was it’s incredibly fast,” he said, describing a collaborative and creative workflow.

The day concluded with a reception. ACE would like to thank EditFest London sponsors, including platinum sponsor Blackmagic; gold sponsors Avid, Adobe, Ignite Strategic Communications and Motion Picture Editors Guild; silver sponsors Evercast and FotoKem; media partners Editjockeys, Master the Workflow, Optimize Yourself and Televisual; and trade partners BECTU and

NAB 2019


2nd Qtr, 2019

An estimated 500 attendees filled the auditorium for a program on the editing of Spider-Man: Into the SpiderVerse, presented by American Cinema Editors at the NAB Show, which this year took place April 6-11 in Las Vegas.

Editor Robert Fisher, Jr. and assistant editor Sarah Cole, along with director Peter Ramsey, screened clips from the Oscar®-winning animated feature and discussed the two-year collaboration, detailing how the editing shaped protagonist Miles Morales’ transition to Spider-Man.

Creating multi-dimensional animated characters with heart was crucial to the success of the story and one of their greatest challenges, explained Fisher, who earlier this year won an ACE Eddie Award for Spider-Verse.

Of the turning point at which Morales gains his confidence and becomes Spider-Man, Fisher said, “I wanted to start the sequence with what Norman [Hollyn, ACE] called ‘the lean-forward moment.’ It’s the moment you make the audience lean forward and say, ‘Whoa, what’s that?’”

The discussion of the lean-forward moment – a term created by Norman Hollyn, ACE, who died just a few short weeks before NAB (see obituary, p. 46) – was a poignant one for the panelists and those in the audience who knew Hollyn.

From its launch, the annual ACE-NAB session had been moderated by Hollyn and this year’s program had already been prepped by the editor and USC professor. This year’s program opened with a moving tribute video to Hollyn, produced by his friend and editor, Sharon Smith Holley. Carolyn Giardina introduced the tribute and stepped in to moderate, guided by Hollyn’s preparations.

New Tools
Cloud-based production workflows and artificial-intelligence/ machine-learning (AI/ML) tools were widespread on the NAB exhibition floor. Among them were AI/ML applications including facial and object recognition, speech-to-text and enhanced metadata tagging, from companies such as Avid, Adobe and Blackmagic Design.

The Avid Connect customer event – featuring speakers including John Ottman, ACE, who recently won an Oscar and Eddie for Bohemian Rhapsody – opened with the unveiling of a ‘redesigned and reimagined’ Media Composer. Said Avid CEO Jeff Rosica, “Media Composer 2019 is both evolutionary and revolutionary. It maintains what longtime users know and love while giving them more of what they need today – and what they will need tomorrow.”

According to Avid, the software can handle high resolutions including 4K and 8K, HDR, Interoperable Mastering Format (IMF), and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ ACES (Academy Color Encoding System). A new distributed-processing module was introduced to speed up post by sharing media processing. “Tasks that previously took hours can now be done in minutes,” asserted Avid.

It also sports a “customizable role-based user interface” in which the bins have been redesigned and the software features task-based workspaces, showing only the things the user might need for that task.

Avid also announced Avid NEXIS Cloudspaces which effectively extends local offline storage into the cloud using Microsoft’s Azure platform. Instead of resorting to NAS or external drives when budgets are tight, Avid NEXIS Cloudspaces offers a way to offload projects and media not currently in production.

Adobe’s updates are intended to speed up workflow with the power of AI. One of the biggest announcements around Premiere Pro is the support for dual GPUs to further increase performance while rendering high-resolution video.

Adobe shared stats claiming a performance increase being up to 13x when handling mask and motion tracking in a 4K timeline based on a test system running dual Nvidia Quadro M4000 cards. Other notable updates for Premiere Pro include “Freeform” organization of the project panel to help arrange assets visually and save layouts for shot selects, production tasks, brainstorming story ideas and assembly edits.

It also claimed a more streamlined way of creating motion graphics. In After Effects there’s a content-aware fill option that allows the editor to essentially cut holes in a piece of video to remove items such as boom mics, signs or logos and even people from footage and fills in the pixels with neighboring pixel data to complete the scene – all automatically driven by Adobe’s Sensei AI.

Auto ducking of audio tracks in audio production is aimed at reducing the amount of time a mixer/editor spends creating keyframes to properly fade in or fade out audio. This function now also works with tracks designated as ambient audio.

In Blackmagic news, the company announced DaVinci Resolve 16, a new version of its software combining tools for editing, color correction, visual effects and audio post. The main focus of version 16 is a cut-page tool aimed at speeding up the cutting of commercials and other fast-turnaround projects.

For example, instead of searching for the right clip in a bin with hundreds of files, users click on a ‘source tape’ button and all the clips in the bin appear in the viewer as a single long ‘tape.’ The cut page also features a dual timeline with both in permanent view to avoid having to zoom in or out. One always shows the whole timeline. The other shows a zoomed-in view. Both permit users to move and trim clips in whichever timeline is most convenient.

The company is also using AI/ML in an aim to boost efficiency. The DaVinci Neural Engine uses ‘speed warp motion estimation’ for retiming, and has features for upscaling footage, auto color and color matching and facial recognition. The latter can be used to automatically sort and organize clips into bins based on people in the shot. The regular edit page is still available.

You can switch between edit and cut in the middle of a job. Also in the exhibition hall, AJA had several software updates for post-production including HDR Image Analyzer v1.1 firmware (developed with Colorfront) and Desktop Software v15.2 for AJA’s KONA and Io products. While there’s only a tiny amount of 8K currently in use, AJA president Nick Rashby noted that KONA 5 “provides all the necessary performance, functionality and dependability for demanding workflows including the ability to support 8K 60p.”

Invisible Art/Visible Artists 2019


2nd Qtr, 2019

While the Invisible Art, Visible Artists (IAVA) panel, held annually at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, is always a sell-out, this year it was an especially coveted ticket.

In an awards season that seemed beleaguered by one surprising headline after another, few scandals drew as much unified and immediately widespread ire as an announcement from the Academy that they would be presenting four awards, including Film Editing, during commercial breaks in favor of an editeddown version later in the broadcast.

The Academy reversed their decision only a week before IAVA, but the large crowd lined up outside the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood continued to debate the intention and judgment behind having even suggested it. “The tremendous outpouring of support on our behalf and the remarks by prominent filmmakers, industry leaders and directors was astounding,” said ACE President, Stephen Rivkin, ACE, as he welcomed the audience. “It really did confirm the undeniable truth that editing is one of the backbones of the filmmaking process. Ironically, this served our purpose in raising the awareness and perception of the craft.

So, we are very thankful that the Academy had the wisdom to reverse their decision and that all awards will be aired in their entirety.” Moderator Alan Heim, ACE, was joined by each of the 2019 Oscar®-nominated editors; Barry Alexander Brown, ACE (BlacKkKlansman), John Ottman, ACE (Bohemian Rhapsody), Yorgos Mavropsaridis, ACE (The Favourite), Patrick J. Don Vito, ACE (Green Book), and Hank Corwin, ACE (Vice). Ottman and Mavropsaridis had each won Best Edited Feature Eddie Awards earlier in the month with Bohemian Rhapsody winning for Drama and The Favourite for Comedy.

Brown met his longtime collaborator, Spike Lee, while Lee was still a film student at NYU, and Brown was working on the follow-up to his documentary, The War at Home, for which he received an Oscar nomination, aged just 19 years old. “We were all young and broke, helping each other on projects,” said Brown.

“My friends, like Spike and Mira Nair (Salaam Bombay!), thought I could edit and so they hired me, over and over and turned me into an editor. Those first few films I really expected somebody to walk into the editing room and say, ‘What’s he doing here? You’ve got a real budget, you can’t hire your buddies to cut your movies.’ Right up until about Malcolm X I really expected someone to come in and say, ‘Alright, buddy, come on,’ and wave me out the door. I just didn’t see myself as an editor.”

Ottman, who met director Bryan Singer at USC where they codirected a short film, Lion’s Den, served as both editor and composer on the Freddie Mercury biopic, as he has done regularly before. “Music was a hobby after I graduated from USC, so I started rescoring some of my friends’ student films,” said Ottman.

After he and Singer had Public Access accepted into Sundance, their composer dropped out at the eleventh hour and Ottman ended up scoring it. “When The Usual Suspects came together I said I just wanted to write the score for that and Bryan said, ‘You’re never writing the score for me unless you’re the editor,’ so that’s how I ended up doing the scoring and the editing together on so many films.”

Ottman had the unique experience of being left to edit Bohemian Rhapsody largely without a director after Singer’s removal from the film during production. “It was different, but not too different,” said Ottman. “Bryan tends to go away for a while in editorial to let me do the cut. He always says that he likes to maintain objectivity over his own material so he would go away for two months or so while I put a cut together and he’d come back saying he’d forgotten what he’d done so he could feel moved in a certain way. He never wanted to taint a discovery that could be made by having his own preconceived idea of what he’d intended in mind. He derives joy from seeing something he didn’t expect.”

“He who shall not be named,” joked Brown, in reference to the largely absent use of Singer’s name, which was common throughout the awards season for all of the Bohemian Rhapsody nominations. “There were hard parts, of course,” elaborated Ottman, “when you have to go into your inevitable debates with the studio over test screening results and have creative battles. You can count on a director to wage your wars for you, but I didn’t have that, so I had to be the bad guy. Everyone is a creative partner, of course, but you inevitably have to fight for what you want.”

Heim shared his own experience with losing his director on a film and the resulting struggles to bring it to fruition with the studio. “I did a film where the star had someone else come in, with my permission, to make some changes (to the edit) for the star,” said Heim. “There were 10 awful changes made and the director walked off the movie. We had two screenings on the same night and their cut scored a point higher, both of which were lower than my original cut, so I had to decide whether to leave with my director or to try and get back some of the material that had been … just kind of mutilated. I sat down with the head of production and we spent the morning looking at the movie and she gave me five of the 10 changes back. I felt very good about that, but it’s an awkward position to be in. I don’t think the director has ever seen it to this day.”

Mavropsaridis and director Yorgos Lanthimos, another collaborative team that has spanned several years and films, have their own unique workflow. “Yorgos shoots all of his films in linear order,” said Mavropsaridis. “He respects the continuity of time and space at all times, so when we come to assembly, we first do the rough cut, then we work a lot on the scenes and inside the scenes. Then comes the time when we try this and try that.”

However, speaking of the pivotal sequence when the new favorite, played by Emma Stone, is moving into position with the Queen, Mavropsaridis noted, “we created an interplay between the one character, [Lady Sarah, played by Rachel Weisz] falling out of grace and the new favorite moving into place with a montage sequence that supported the basic idea of the script, but used cinematic language instead of using the scenes in linear order.”

They also stand out in not relying on ADR during post. “Yorgos doesn’t like, I don’t like,” said Mavropsaridis. “It’s the old aesthetic morality that we don’t separate the actor from their voice. We have a very good sound designer, Johnnie Burn, who always succeeds in keeping the original.”

They were also the only team to not use VFX on their nominated film. When Heim inquired about the many rabbits used in the film, Mavropsaridis offered that “there was no CG; they were all around and we just cleaned up the mess they made on the floor!”

Don Vito, on the other hand, noted that they had over 400 visual effects in Green Book some of which involved Kris Bowers, the film’s composer, serving as body double for star Mahershala Ali. “We put Mahershala’s head on Kris Bowers’ body,” said Don Vito. “Mahershala studied for three months to get the right positioning, stance and posture, and then we shot them both, but ultimately we just cut with Bowers and picked pieces where we put Mahershala’s head on there.”

Even in the car, where much of the movie takes place, Don Vito noted that almost 80 percent of those shots have VFX. “They got the car last minute, like three days before we began shooting, and it had a tear in the material of the roof and one of the hooks was rusty, but it was supposed to be a brand-new car so the VFX [team] was cleaning up tedious stuff like that.

Then in the DI we’re seeing all the other work we needed to do that we hadn’t seen before – like when they’re walking out of the YMCA and we saw a handicapped sign – which they didn’t have in 1962.” If Don Vito’s challenge was making the edit and VFX as invisible as possible, Corwin’s editorial challenge was in breaking up the enormity of Vice’s dialogue.

“I was fascinated with the silences in the dialogue scenes and the lack of editorial,” said Corwin. “If you know anything about the work I’ve done, I’m generally associated with frenzy and frenetic scenes. I love the fact that in film you can move around time and space, and you can get into different layers of the way your main characters are thinking. I think this film demonstrates just how quietness and cuts that don’t join together seamlessly actually create tension.

Many times, when you have seamless editing, you lose tension.” Speaking directly to the audience, Corwin offered, “Vice, emblematically, was just people talking to each other. That’s pretty much what was going on, so I had to create different layers of reality and different layers of how people were thinking.

As prospective editors out there, what you have to do is see where editing should be visible – where you can launch people into different layers of reality.” Our thanks to Blackmagic Design, Adobe, Avid, MPEG and NAB for another year of generous support and sponsorship that allows us to bring such a panel of talent together year after year.

Cinema Eye Honors


1st Qtr, 2019

Going into this year’s Cinema Eye Honors awards, I was told by an editor friend that I’d have a good time. Not only did I have a good time – I had an incredible time. In his final hosting gig for Cinema Eye Honors – the annual event that recognizes nonfiction filmmaking, held Jan. 10 at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, N.Y.

Two-time Oscar®-nominated documentarian Steve James knocked it out of the park in his trademark breezy style, making the evening even more impactful. Nominated for an Oscar last year for his film, Abacus: Small Enough to Jail – but losing out to the similar sounding Icarus – James kicked off the evening with an anecdote: “I have a theory,” he began, slightly resentfully, “Icarus won only because people meant to vote for Abacus and they accidentally voted for Icarus.”

At one point during James’ opening monologue, a security guard’s radio went off. James paused and woefully peered out at the giddy crowd finding it thoroughly amusing. They eventually quieted. “That’s sad that that was the funniest moment of the evening,” he deadpanned. The crowd exploded.

Clearly making stirring documentaries isn’t the only thing James has in his tool belt. Minding the Gap, director Bing Liu’s autobiographical portrait of friendship, won best debut feature film, outstanding achievement in direction, and best editing for Joshua Altman and Liu. With seven total nominations for the evening, the film tied the record for most nominations in Cinema Eye Honors history.

The award for outstanding achievement in nonfiction feature filmmaking went to Hale County This Morning, This Evening.

Free Solo snagged the trophy for best achievement in production, best cinematography (Jimmy Chin, Clair Popkin and Mikey Schaefer), as well as the Audience Choice Prize. As she clutched her statue with husband and co-director Jimmy Chin in tow, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi put the crazy ride in unique perspective: “You know, we would never have asked him (Alex Honnold, the star of the film) to free solo. We couldn’t. We just had to wait and be ready.” After Vasarhelyi and Chin walked off stage, James squeezed in this zinger: “What they did with that greenscreen in that film was amazing.”

Best nonfiction film for broadcast went to Baltimore Rising. Outstanding achievement in an original music score went to Ishai Adar for Shirkers. Additionally, the film won for outstanding achievement for graphic design or animation. The Spotlight Award went to The Distant Barking of Dogs. Director Simon Lereng Wilmont walked up flanked by Oleg Afanasyev, the 10-year-old star of the film. “I owe everything to this little guy and his grandmother,” is all he said before walking off stage.

Host James won for best drone footage, and for best nonfiction series for broadcast, for his docu-series, America to Me. The Heterodox Award – recognizing work that blurs the line between fiction and nonfiction – went to American Animals.

Eyes on the Prize – the affecting 1987 PBS television series about the Civil Rights Movement in the United States – took home the Legacy Award.

My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes won for best achievement in nonfiction short filmmaking.

ACE Holiday Party 2018


1st Qtr, 2019

More than 500 guests kicked off the holiday season at the annual ACE Holiday Party, Dec. 8 at Herscher Hall and Guerin Pavilion at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles.

During the festivities, ACE President Stephen Rivkin, ACE, welcomed attendees and presented new member plaques to Miranda Yousef, ACE; Mark Strand, ACE; John Valerio, ACE; Roger Ghaman, ACE; Andrea Bailey, ACE; Terel Gibson, ACE; Kelly Matsumoto, ACE; Jason Savage, ACE; Kenn Kashima, ACE; Ron Patane, ACE; Scott Stevenson, ACE; David Lebowitz, ACE; Keith Reamer, ACE; Hilda Rasula, ACE; and Arthur Tarnowski, ACE.

Also receiving his member plaque was longtime special member Norman Hollyn, ACE. New affiliate member Rachael Wax Taber was also recognized.

During the presentation, Troy Takaki, ACE, recognized the past and present members of the ACE Diversity Mentorship Program in attendance. “The future of ACE is bright. The future of ACE is colorful. And the future of ACE is full of estrogen,” he said.

Guests included ACE Vice President Alan Heim, ACE; Secretary Lillian Benson, ACE; last year’s career achievement award recipients Mark Goldblatt, ACE, and Leon Ortiz-Gil, ACE; and last year’s Oscar® nominees Tatiana S. Riegel, ACE (I, Tonya) and Sidney Wolinsky ACE (The Shape of Water).

Guests with recently-released movies included Tom Cross, ACE (First Man); William Goldenberg, ACE (22 July); Joi McMillon, ACE, and Nat Sanders, ACE (If Beale Street Could Talk); Eddie Hamilton, ACE (Mission: Impossible – Fallout); Hank Corwin, ACE (Vice); and Adam Gough (Roma).

During the evening, guests enjoyed live music, a buffet and a full bar sponsored by Tribeca West Kilroy Realty.

ACE held a new toy collection for Spark of Love and a raffle benefitting the ACE Educational Fund. Raffle prizes included a DaVinci Resolve Micro Panel donated by Blackmagic Design, two Adobe Creative Cloud one-year subscriptions (all apps), a Media Composer donated by Avid and numerous other prizes generously donated to ACE.