Thursday, 20 December 2012

Editing Evaluation

Evaluation: Editing/Post Production - Skills

For this module, there were three different assignments: Non-Sync Drama Editing, Documentary Editing and Comedy editing. In this evaluation, I will discuss each project in detail; about what they entailed, what my contributions were and what skills I gained from this module.

The first project we engaged was to create a 5-minute edit of a Non-Sync Drama called ‘Night Journey’, we were given all the raw footage, voiceover and atmos sounds to work with, and had to create a strong narrative with what we were given. Firstly, we went through the scripts to decide the style of story we wanted to take, and what audio bites we needed to do this. The idea of the audience for this edit was wide-range, because the story follows a cannibal on a train journey, we decided to use this and aim for teenagers and higher, and to do this, added effect to darken the footage of the train to make it slightly more tense and interesting to this particular audience sector.

I feel that this project was quite successful, however there are many features of the finished product I would have changed or worked more on. One of those is the ending, I do enjoy the ending, as my partner and I came up with the idea of making the description of the cannibal’s job drift as the protagonist falls in and out of consciousness, and almost dreams thoughts about what will happen to him. However this ending effects the pacing of the piece, the beginning and middle starts to build up tension and slowly gain pace, however the ending slows right down, almost becoming an anti-climax and making it boring and disappointing from an audience perspective.

I believe that the beginning of the piece however, works really well. My partner and I worked hard on introducing the piece to the audience in a way that would entice them to watch the film, and also after reviewing other colleagues’ work, we wanted a completely different and creative start, as I noticed many had used similar beginnings.

We decided to follow the rules of editing drama by Walter Murch, who stated that ‘Emotion was the most important feature to show through your edit’, and therefore we concentrated on the importance of sound. We spent time taking out pops and clicks in sound files in Soundtrack Pro and re-importing them into Final Cut, as well as choosing parts of script and reconstructing the story to create more drama and empathy for the character from the viewer. I do feel that the sound could have been improved with more time, as we didn’t edit all the sound through Soundtrack Pro, and some of the atmos tracks were rushed at the end of piece. Unfortunately, the atmos tracks we were given weren’t very good quality and needed a lot of time to edit, which, due to bad time management, we weren’t able to achieve to the best of our ability, however we worked with what we had to help create more drama, for example, editing pans and levels on the atmos track of a train passing, to give it more of a realistic and dramatic effect. I feel that if we had created a schedule, we would have managed the project better and approached the project in a more balanced way.     

I believe that both my partner and I contributed to the work evenly; I took more of an editor role, whereas Jessica helped direct the piece and create a narrative.

This project allowed me to learn new skills in Soundtrack Pro, in regard to working on clicks and pops. I also enjoyed working on Non-Sync and problem solving the footage to make it work as a narrative. This project allowed me to learn more about Final Cut Pro, for example shortcuts as well setting up sequences correctly.

I feel this project was successful and we worked well together to make the piece dramatic and creative, and I would spend more time on sound if I had managed my time correctly. 

The second project we were assigned was to take an edit of a Documentary called ‘In A Climber’s Hands’ and edit out all the problems and make it our own. My partner Alli, and myself decided that we were going to create a brand new documentary with the footage, because we prefer to edit with a fresh start rather than sorting through the old one.

The audience for this project was once again a wide range. The idea was to create a documentary that would appeal to people and make them interested in rock climbing, which could be a range of age groups.

Overall, I think our outcome for this project worked well. The first time we presented the project, there were quite a few problems we noticed. For example, the sound design wasn’t very well put together, as we decided to create a song and place it into the montages and intervals of interview, how it make the piece seem disjointed, as the music would appear and disappear merely with fades, however before deadline, we managed to revise the sound design by creating a song that lasts the entire piece, with a range of melodies as well as soft music or beats when the interview occurs. We felt that this made the piece more whole and flowing, and I also like that we chose a range of melodies rather than repeating one all the way through, because it gets boring and almost irritating for the audience.

I think the major feature we struggled with, and could have improved in the future was the sound in general. Some of the interview sound wasn’t very good, however when we tried to edit this, it only made it worse. However I feel with more time we could have researched more into making the interview sound clearer, however I feel that the revision of the sound design made the piece more successful.

This project taught me a lot of skills on a range of programs and topics. For this assignment, I researched documentary editing and found out the different styles of film there are, and how to make each of them effective. I used this research to organise what we had to do, as it taught me that Structure and Style were very important, as well as Story Arc and the characters. Even though I’ve watched documentaries in the past, the editing process is very complex and I’ve learnt that editors have to take apart interviews or sound bites and create a narrative, which could be completely different from the original interview, however, also stated that ‘the footage must stay true’, meaning you shouldn’t change people’s views by editing their words.

It also taught me a lot about sound design, and matching sound to video. I’ve barely used Garageband in the past, so with my partner’s help, I was able to learn the key features I needed to create a song and export it for my project. We spent time matching the beats of the music to the change in shot on screen, which I found really effective. Also, I learnt more about soundtrack pro when it came to trying to edit the interview sound bites.

When it comes to teamwork, I feel Alli and I worked great together. We’d always meet and contribute to the work evenly; we’d plan together and discuss our ideas. It was a very equal and fair production, and was also very enjoyable. I feel however, as a team, we could have managed our time better. We’d spend time together doing things one of us could have done while the other spent time on progressing something else. So in the future, we should work together, but also independently to bring the project together.

I feel this project was successful, it taught me a lot about sound design and documentary editing and also my skills in teamwork, and editing programs.

The third and final project we were given was to edit one or two scenes from a Comedy called ‘Out O Date’. We were given all the raw footage and we’re asked to pick and perfect a scene. I chose a scene that was quite short, so ended up creating an edit with two different scenes. The intended audience, because it’s a comedy, is once again quite wide ranged. The aim is to make the audience laugh and therefore this could appeal to anyone.

I enjoyed working on this project, because it was the first one I got to complete from start to finish on my own. This means that if I ran into any problems, only I could solve them, and I can work with my ideas, however working alone does have it’s downside, when you need advice for example or are stuck on a particular skill or feature, luckily I managed to complete this project without too many problems.

I feel that the finished comedy is successful. The jingle I created for the beginning gives a comical feel straight away; therefore the audience know it’s a comedy as soon as the scene unfolds. The edit, to me, seems to flow well, changing from a shot of a character speaking to the reverse shot of the other character’s reaction. I learnt through online research that it was important to balance this type of shot to allow the audience to feel for both characters. I think that the visual edit is quite strong, but I did struggle with some of the sound.

First of all, some of the interview sound isn’t as good as other sections, so I spend some time trying to edit them, by changing levels, however some still appear to be more quiet so in the future I’d spend more time on that. Some of the clips were cut quiet quickly in shoot, so there were times were there wasn’t any atmosphere in the background, and this was very noticeable, however I managed to solve this by editing previous atmosphere into the section and using cross fades to blend them in, I believe some of these worked very successfully, however others could have been improved.

As this was an individual project, I was in charge of everything – choosing which scene(s) to edit, the editing process itself as well as sound design. I enjoyed this challenge because with more responsibility on myself, I feel I worked more effectively, and was able to interpret the work in my own way. It also allowed me to work on my skills in sound as well as my editing skills in final cut pro.

This project allowed me to learn more about the programs. I learnt more about Final Cut Pro features and shortcuts, which made editing easier, and more time efficient. I also learned more basics of Garageband and created a jingle to use and export. As I chose to use some sound from different clips, I also spent more time learning to sync these with shots, which was very helpful.

I also learnt about the ideas behind editing comedies, for example ‘how important timing is, using reaction shots as well as ensuring the audience are in on a joke beforehand’

Overall I enjoyed working on this project and feel I’ve approached it successfully. I was able to manage time better because it was individual work, however still feel I could have done more to the sound design if I had more time. I’ve learnt a lot about different styles of editing as well as the different programs I’ve used throughout the module. I feel that the module has taught me many new skills in regard to editing which have already benefited me with recent work done. 

References: Murch, W., In The Blink Of An Eye, 2nd Edition (2001) 
                      Silman-James Press, U.S
                      Peters, O.,  Article: Documentary Editing Tips (2011)

Word Count: 1967

REVISION | Documentary Editing

After completing my Comedy Assessment, I decided to use the feedback we gained for our Documentary to revise the edit we'd created. Alli & I met up and went through the feedback and started to make changes on the work accordingly.

One of the main things we needed to change was our sound design. It was completed to a rough standard and wasn't mixed very well, so we decided to recreate the sound design (the music for the piece) completely, and make it one long track of different sound bites and blend them together, rather than creating several different pieces and trying to blend them into the interview with no background atmos or music. I think this approach makes the work sound and flow much better. 

Here are some screenshots of our Garageband track for our music design. We decided to play with different styles this time, something not to heavy but also add a change so the audience don't get bored of a specific sound if it's played continuously throughout the piece. Below, is where we started to work with the video file (which we exported and brought into Garageband) to see where we needed music, where we needed background atmos and therefore, what we needed to change in regard to levels, and where in the soundtrack this needed to be done. 

We spent quite of few hours on re-creating the soundtrack (shown below), we used a range of sounds and decided that this approach might allow the piece to have better rhythm throughout. So, after finishing the edit (we revised the ending after importing it back FCP because it didn't work), we took the sound design back into our project file and started editing any shots or timings to make them fit better with the design we'd created.

We also took the time to sort out our interview sound. When we first presented the work, we realised that some of the interview audio we edited sounded terrible on the speakers, so we decided to use the original because it would be better than editing it (this time).

I'm glad we went over this project. I really like our revised version and think we spent more time on the sound design this time, so the rhythm works a lot better for the piece throughout.

Comedy Editing: Fine Cut

After creating a jingle and bringing into the Final Cut Project, I started on my fine cut. I went through each shot, making sure that it was the right choice (and when it wasn't, revising the shot to make the piece better) in regard to the sound and shot. I chose to do this scene by scene (since i'd chosen two to edit due to the time ratio we needed for assessment). I also included a title, as I thought it would be a nice way to separate my two scenes.

My fine cut was helpful because some of the sound edit wasn't set up correctly, it would sometimes be out of sync with the different shots i'd chosen, or the levels would be completely different, so allowing myself to do this edit made me see mistakes I made in the rough cut and edit them precisely to fit and flow with each other. I also had some sections in my rough cut which had no sound at all, which meant there was atmospheric sound, then there wasn't. So I needed to find some way of allowing some atmospheric sound to appear where there wasn't any, which was a good problem solving issue. I found a piece of atmosphere from the same set up and brought it into the section where there was no sound, then used Cross Dissolves and changed the levels to allow it to flow from one shot to another without a jolt in sound.

Overall I enjoyed this process. Since it was the first time I had to edit everything on my own I found it quite challenging but interesting at the same time.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Comedy Editing: Creating A Jingle

For the scene I'd chosen to edit, I noticed that at the beginning, there is a big section with no dialogue, and the atmospheric sounds weren't interesting at all, so I thought that I would include a comedy 'jingle' within my piece to add to the comical atmosphere as well as keep the piece enticing.

Firstly, I looked at Royalty Free Music websites, because I am not very skilled when it comes to creating music and sounds and thought it would be easier in the time I had. However I didn't find any I liked and decided to try give it a go to find one and make my own.

It wasn't very difficult because it wasn't very long, and only needed one sound from Garageband. I chose this specific jingle because it's soft and flowing with a comical edge, it's not too heavy at the beginning of the film, so the audience can be introduced with ease.

After finding the right sound and the right length I needed the piece to be, I exported the sound from Garageband to create an .aif file, which would import into Final Cut Pro, and could then put into my project. Above, shows the imported jingle. I then decided to take my rough cut and start fine cutting the piece. 

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Comedy Editing: Rough Cut

After creating a complete assembly for this scene, I continued by creating the rough cut. By splicing the shots I'd chosen in the assembly, and cutting them down to show a conversation through shot-reverse-shot and other techniques. I enjoyed this process for this scene, it was enjoyable to choose which shot to keep for certain areas - for example the speech or the reaction of the other character. I noticed through the rough cut that this scene alone wasn't going to be long enough for the assessment, so decided to start creating a rough cut for the House Scene.

After assembling the rough house assembly, I continued working on the rough cut of the first scene:

Comedy Editing: Assembly

After labelling the footage I wanted to use, I started on an assembly. I created a new sequence (and ensured they were set to the correct settings this time to avoid the problems I faced in the non-sync drama project). And placed particular shots and sound bites in the order I wanted them to show on screen. Some over-lap, showing reverse-shots of conversation as well as cutaways, which will take affect within the rough cut of the edit.

I noticed some problems with the footage, for example some scenes weren't continuous when the shot was changed - a character would have a hat on in the close up and off in the long shot, so I thought it would be interesting to work through this and work out how I was going to make the edit work without making the edit 'visible' through discontinuity.

Comedy: Editing Tips

Four Principles of Comedy Editing
I found this information online when looking for inspirations and ideas behind comedy editing, the full text can be found here:

1. Timing is key.
Timing refers to the choice, control or judgment about when something should be shown, cut to, or cut away from. Here I’m not only referring to a single cut or image, but to the internal pacing of a whole sequence. When you listen to a person who tells a joke well, or watch a comic who’s perfected his or her routine, you can see this principle at work. There’s set-up, rhythm, build-up, delivery—all executed with precision, suggesting that the act has been engineered and timed for a certain effect. Great comedians have mastered this principle, even going so far as to build in pauses for audience laughter and reaction.

When working with comedic material, an editor must simultaneously be both comedian and audience. If the performers themselves are funny and have great comedic timing, the job is easy. If the comedian or actor blunders a bit or the timing is off the mark, the editor then has to find opportunities to enhance the humor or create humor where no humor really exists. In that case, using his or her best judgment, the editor must select moments with the potential for humor and construct a sequence that an audience will hopefully find amusing, figuring out when and where to cut, and crafting a rhythmic, temporal dynamic of shots that will succeed in getting the biggest laugh. Achieving this is harder than it seems. While everyone has an individual sense of timing, you know great timing when you see it—when the joke hits the mark, coming not a split-second too soon or too late.

2. Use the right reaction shot.
The shot-reverse-shot sequence (for example, a person is shown observing something, then a reverse angle shot reveals the object being looked at, and finally a return to the person observing) is one of the most powerful and frequently used building blocks of film storytelling. When a character in a comedy says or does something funny, the film cuts to a reaction from another character, and then returns to the first character.
While the art of comedy lies in the juxtaposition (and timing) of these elements, I find that the right reaction shot is essential. Right doesn’t mean “correct”, but rather the most appropriate. An actor can give you ten different reactions, all of them “correct,” but what’s the most appropriate reaction shot to use in order to elicit the response you desire from the audience? Are you going for subtlety? Looking for affirmation of the joke or situation in the reaction shot, or playing against the joke and the expectations of the audience? Are you going for a giggle, a snicker, or an outright guffaw? How will you craft this joke or moment in relation to what came before and what comes after? All of these questions help to determine the right reaction shot to use. I frequently find that while there are technically many “correct” choices, there’s usually only one right one.

This viral video I edited shows these two principles in action. Promoting a new mouthwash, but also spoofing the hit show 24 in a mockumentary style similar to The Office, the timing quickens the pace and brings out the humor, while priceless reaction shots amplify the impact of the jokes. As in The Office, showing one character’s ridiculous over-the-top antics, followed by a cut to another character’s deadpan reaction almost always succeeds in making the humorous antics even funnier.

(The Office meets 24 in this spoof for SmartMouth.)
3. Let the audience in on the joke beforehand.
Sometimes it pays to let the audience know a key piece of information first. Hitchcock mastered this principle for suspenseful effect: By showing viewers important information (for example, a ticking time bomb) before his characters found out, he created a feeling of tension in the audience. Action and horror films today rely on this time-tested technique; when the killer is in the house and you find yourself screaming at the screen because the character is clueless, you’ll know this principle is at play.

But the same strategy can be used superbly in comedy. In an oft-cited hypothetical example from a Laurel and Hardy film,* the great editor-turned director David Lean advises using the old comedy maxim: “Tell them what you’re going to do. Do it. Tell them you’ve done it” to get the biggest laugh out of the sequence. This means suggesting to the audience what is about to happen in advance of the gag.

In Lean’s example, Laurel and Hardy are running down the street and Hardy slips on a banana peel and falls. Rather than cutting the sequence simply for smooth editing values (for example, Laurel and Hardy running in a full shot, cut to a close-up of the banana peel as his foot enters the frame and steps on the peel slipping, then cutting back to Hardy crashing down on the ground) which would no doubt elicit audience laughter, prime the joke by showing the banana peel well in advance. So Lean’s version of the scene would look like this:

1. Medium-shot of Laurel and Hardy running along the street.
2. Close-up of banana skin lying on the pavement. (You have told your audience what you are going to do and they will start to laugh.)

3. Medium shot of Laurel and Hardy still running. (The audience will laugh still more.) Hold the shot on for several seconds of running before Hardy finally crashes to the pavement. (The odds are that the audience will reward you with a belly laugh. Having told them what you are going to do, and having done it, how do you tell them you’ve done it?)

4. A close-up of Laurel making an inane gesture of despair. (The audience will laugh again.)

As Lean shows, by giving the audience a heads up to the visual comedy, you set the joke up to be even funnier, eliciting multiple laughs and prolonging the audience’s amusement. We have an idea of what’s going to happen, and when it does and is performed well and edited for the right effect (notice shot 4 is a reaction shot from Laurel), the comedic impact is more powerful than if Laurel and Hardy were running and Hardy surprisingly slipped on an unseen banana peel. Why settle for just one comedic incident eliciting a single collective chuckle when you can build up to the big joke with a rich set-up, foreshadowing close-ups, and funny reaction shots that will have the audience chuckling all the way through and roaring by the time the gag is pulled off?

A less obvious but still illustrative example of this principle can be seen in part one of a viral video series I edited for Consumer Reports, in which a wiry goof, Brandon, challenges a low-key Consumer Reports test driver, Jake, to a car race. Jake’s mild-mannered personality is a great foil for Brandon, who comes across as a classic smartass. Timing and reaction shots are integral to the humor as usual, but the principle of letting the audience in on the joke beforehand is at work as well. Like the Laurel and Hardy example, where the audience gets a hint of the joke in advance by seeing a shot of the banana peel well before Hardy slips on it, we flash a quick shot of the Dodge Viper peeling out not long after Brandon announces he’s going to race Jake. When we see that Brandon will be driving a tiny, super fuel-efficient capsule called the Smart Car and Jake, by stark contrast, gets the muscled Viper, we already know what’s going to happen. Take a look at the video to see how the “let ‘em in on the joke beforehand” principle is used to dramatize the race and ramp up the humor:

(Consumer Reports Video 1: Dodge Viper vs. the Smart Car.**)
4. Less is More
As I discovered when editing the Rolling Stone video featuring Aziz Ansari, sometimes cutting things out and showing less amplifies the humor. This made me curious about how other comedic material is edited to see if the editors on a TV show, for example, would employ the same principles. Because I was amused by Aziz, but hadn’t seen him in anything prior to editing the video for Rolling Stone, I decided to check out the first season of Parks and Recreation.
Set in the world of local politics (the Parks and Recreation Department of Pawnee, Indiana), the show is the brainchild of Greg Daniels and Michael Schur, the duo behind the American version of The Office. Amy Poehler, from Saturday Night Live plays the lead character, Leslie Knope, an ambitious but bumbling mid-level bureaucrat at whose expense everyone gets a laugh. Aziz plays office slacker, Tom Haverford, Leslie’s self-serving (and irrepressibly horny) colleague. Poking fun at the absurd complexities of small town bureaucracy, the show abounds with all the ignorance, idiocy, stupidity, hypocrisy and general buffoonery that we’ve come to expect from both versions of The Office. Executed in the same, frequently understated mockumentary style, Parks and Recreation throws jabs at citizens and bureaucrats alike, revealing how petty and unnecessarily complicated local politics can be—especially when every player has his or her own personal agenda.

I thought this page was really helpful for me to find what styles of shots I need to work with to make it work as a comedy. I like the idea of shot-reverse-shot reactions being needed and shown cleverly between a conversations. I will definitely use these ideas within my work.