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The Editor's Job
What does an editor do? Some say an editor's job is to simply take out the slow parts. Others say it's to follow the wishes of the director and to string together the best takes. Ask an editor what the job entails, and he or she will say it's to breathe life into a film or video or to find and expose its heart and soul. Ask that same editor at the end of a long and difficult project, and you'll probably hear, "It's to make everyone else look good." All are true, and yet none comes close to capturing the critical role the editor plays in any production.
There are thousands of tasks involved in editing a film or video, and thousands of decisions must be made along the way. And all of them are important. Which take is best? Are the lighting and composition better in this shot or that? Is the pacing of these shots too fast? Will cutting out the character's entrance make the scene more or less confusing?
Although the editor's primary job remains the same, the manner in which an editor works was transformed during the 1990s by the development of computer-based nonlinear editing systems (NLEs). The Avid was one of the earliest NLEs, and it is perhaps the best known system in the world.
Today, the transformation from analog editing machines to computer-based editing systems is complete. Compared with analog devices, computer-based systems make the editor's job much easier and faster, yet these systems can also make an editor's job harder and take a lot longer to complete. It may seem like a paradox, but it's true.
Editing on a computer is much easier and faster than on an analog machine because nearly every task is executed with a single keystroke or the push of a button. Yet, there is a price for all this speed. The Avid and the other popular computer-based systems are much more difficult to master than analog film or a video system. Today, when you buy an Avid, it comes with nearly 1500 pages of documentation. And, because the Avid comes with so many sophisticated tools, the editor is supposed to do things that were once handled by scores of other people. In the past, someone else designed and shot the titles, there was a team of sound and music editors, and a highly trained group of talented individuals created all the special effects. Now a single editor is often the entire post-production team!
Today's NLE editors are expected to be computer savvy while possessing video engineering skills. Often, an editor must set up, connect, and troubleshoot an incredible array of video decks, operating systems, audio drivers, and FireWire® cards. So, while it's true that a computer can make an editor's job easier and faster, it can also make the job longer and more difficult.
An editor's job has gotten more difficult and complex, but the rewards and satisfaction are greater as well. You, the Avid editor, have far more creative control over the project than at any time in the history of editing. You may have more to do, but you don't need much help getting the job done, and you can make sure everything looks and sounds just the way you want it.
Loading Your Avid Software
Of the two main players in the NLE sweepstakes—Final Cut and Avid—only the Avid is a cross-platform system, meaning it runs on both Macs and PCs, either laptops or workstations. The Avid website maintains a list of qualified computers that are approved for the Media Composer family. Go to www.avid.com/products/media-composer/ and click on Tech Specs to check out the qualified computers and their specifications.
Assuming you've got a qualified computer, running the correct operating system, loading the software is fairly straightforward. Put the SafeNet® dongle that comes in the pink bubble wrap into a USB port and insert the Media Composer DVD disk that comes in the box you got when you purchased the software. Double-click on the DVD, and you'll see contents similar to Figure 1.2.
Open the README.pdf and note if your specific computer system has any issues that you may need to address. These README documents provide way too much information for the beginner, but you should read over the section "Before You Install the Editing Application."
Now, open the Other Installers folder and load the EDL Manager first. Then load the contents of the Goodies folder, and, last, install the Avid Media Composer software. It should take about five to ten minutes to install the software.
The tricky part is that you should now go to the Avid website and download the latest version. Yeah, I know, you just bought the software, but that DVD has been sitting in the box for several months and problems that could cause you headaches may have been fixed since that DVD was shipped. Go to www.avid.com/support/downloadcenter/ and scroll down the page to "Additional Support Updates." Find your Media Composer application. Pick the Mac or PC. Make sure there is a newer version and select it. The problem is you have to reinstall the whole Media Composer software, and it's a big file to download from the web. Be patient, and you'll soon have the latest version up and running.
The Many Parts of Your System
Whether you have a Mac or a Windows PC, make sure it is running the correct Operating System version—Leopard, Vista, or whatever the site says. All Macs and PCs have system drives or internal hard drives. On a Windows computer it's the C: drive, and on a Mac it's the Macintosh HD (hard drive).
As incredible as it sounds, your computer should have at least 4 GB of system RAM.
Your computer must have IEEE 1394 FireWire® or i.Link™ to bring in both video and audio digital formats. All Macs and most PCs are sold with IEEE 1394 ports already installed. If your system doesn't have such a port, you can usually add one via an add-in card.
In the past, all media drives were external to the computer, but today many computers have large internal drives that store media efficiently. Whether you store your media on an internal or external drive, make sure you have 160GB or more. But, even if your computer comes with 160GB or more of storage, it's often a good idea to store your project and media on an external FireWire® drive. That way you can carry your media to another Avid if your computer goes down or is needed elsewhere. How large should your external storage device be? Here, size does matter. You can store only about 4 hours of DVCPro® high-definition (HD) footage on a 160GB drive. Many people start with 320GB and go up from there.
The Avid comes with a special key on a chain, called a dongle. You attach it to the CPU by inserting it into one of the USB ports. Without the dongle, you can't launch your Avid software. The dongle prevents software piracy and enables certain functions, or extras, you may have purchased.
It used to be that the Media Composer was designed to work with two computer monitors and the Xpress was designed for one. Now it's your choice. Some people switch back and forth. When they are on the road, they use a portable computer with its single monitor, and when they are back home or at the office, they hook up a second monitor.
Sound is a critical part of any film or video, and having good external speakers is of utmost importance. If you are putting your own system together, don't try to save money here. Plan on spending about $100 for a speaker system.
The Client Monitor
A monitor is helpful no matter which system you cut on. With digital video footage, a monitor may seem less critical, because you can't alter the image coming into the system. But, you can change it once it's in the Avid, and knowing how the signal will look on a television monitor once you put it back out to tape is important. The monitor has long been called a "client monitor" because it's the one the client is supposed to look at when the editor hits Play. With widescreen LCD screens dropping in price, they're a good choice because they can handle high- and standard-definition projects. You can pay over $25,000 for a top-of-the-line model, but smart shoppers can get a quality HD or SD monitor for under $1500.
When you spend thousands of dollars on a computer, you should consider buying an electrical backup device called a UPS (uninterruptible power supply). Because your work is important and because you can't run a computer without electricity, common sense suggests that you plug the CPU, the computer monitor, and the media drives into this backup system, which provides a stable electrical current and will keep everything running in case of a power failure. The idea is not that you keep editing, but rather that you use the backup power to save your work and then shut down your system. If you do not get a UPS, at least get a surge protector.
Many people use their cameras to capture tapes into their Avid system using a single FireWire® cable. This is especially true with HDVTM cameras. Although an added expense, a deck becomes a necessity whenever the camera is needed elsewhere. The Avid website maintains a list of supported devices that work well. Go to the page that lists specifications: www.avid.com/products/mediacomposer/. If the page moved (as they often do), search Avid's website (www.avid.com). For capturing mini-DV and DVCAM tapes, I really like the Sony DSR-11 deck, which can handle NTSC and PAL DV tapes.
Avid sells external interfaces such as the Nitris DX and Mojo DX. Both allow you to capture and play uncompressed HD signals. The Nitris DX is shown in Figure 1.6. It offers sophisticated HD compression and decompression, together with a huge variety of In/Out connections so you can connect your computer to digital and analog audio and video recorders. You can record to and from just about any deck, including VHS, S-Video, Beta SP, DigiBeta, and high definition decks.
The Mojo DX is designed to bring in standard-definition digital signals via its serial digital interface (SDI) connections, as well as uncompressed high-definition signals, via its HD SDI connections. In order to connect to Avid's Mojo DX and Nitris DX hardware boxes, your computer must have either an available PCI Express slot or an Express Card port.
A Word About Timecode
All NLE systems, the Avid included, are based on the videotape tracking system called timecode. As sound and pictures are recorded onto the videotape by means of a camera or deck, unique numbers, the timecode, are placed onto the videotape as well. There are approximately 30 frames of video per second, and each frame has its own timecode number. Whereas film numbers are based on the length of the film, timecode is measured in time. The first frame on the videotape is designated as 00 hours:00 minutes:00 seconds:00 frames, or 00:00:00:00.The next frame is 00 00:00:01. Since video is based on 30 frames per second, after 00:00:00:29 the next frame would be 00:00:01:00. Because each frame has its own unique address—its timecode—it's easy to keep track of them. Computers are good at numbers, so it is through timecode that the Avid keeps track of your pictures and sound.
Avid Editing Workflow
Editing a project with lots of different elements requires a great deal of organization.
Gather Tapes, Files and Drives
First, gather together all the picture and sound elements that form the source material for your project. These may include:
Video tapes—HDVTM, HD, DVCAM, DVCPro®, or miniDV
Memory cards—Used by many cameras, such as the Panasonic HVX200, to store pictures and sound
Optical discs—Such as the Sony blue-laser discs, which can be recorded over hundreds of times and have a much longer shelf life than tape formats
Excerpted from Avid Editing by Sam Kauffmann Copyright © 2009 by Samuel H. Kauffmann. Excerpted by permission of Focal Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
The Project Window
A Few Editing Tips
Saving Your Work
Keeping in Sync
Importing and Exporting
Digital Filmmaking at 24P
HD and HDV
Shooting on Film, Finishing on Film
Present and Future
Posted April 22, 2000
We used an early release copy of this book in my film editing class. It was easy to follow. You could read it at home the night before your editing session and then be editing the next day.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.