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.