Lesson #12

November 17, 2008

Added Material

Assignments for Next Week

Handouts for this Week

Lesson for This Week


Watching Dailies
Post-Production Supervising

Crimson TideNow that we've moved into our final editing project, you are beginning to look at footage with more choices and more subtlety. This is good for our learning curve but it does present problems in internalizing the footage. This week, we begin our final assignment -- we will be editing a long segment from the 1995 film CRIMSON TIDE (directed by Tony Scott, written by Michael Schiffer, and edited by Chris Lebenzon). We will begin editing a simple scene which sets up the action that is to follow, a scene in which a potentially submarine is first detected in the sonar room. Though it is a simple scene, running about 4/8ths of a page, it is covered with six piece of coverage with multiple takes. (Over the next several weeks you'll see footage for several more scenes, as well as receive dailies for inserts and cutaways, and music and sound effects.)

A question arises -- how can you make sense of all of the footage that you are going to be getting on these scenes? It will come as no surprise to you that my answer is about "Going back to the story." As I've mentioned countless times in class -- once you understand the overall story of the piece, then you can figure out what the individual scene is about and then figure out who changes and how. Once you do that, you can identify the "lean-forward" moments and help to determine a cutting pattern.

So... what IS this movie about? For those of you who haven't seen the film yet (and I don't want any of you watching it in the next several weeks, as we cut the sequence; I'd like to keep you as fresh as possible) here is an approximation of a logline:

In the near future, faced with a potential threat from a possible nearby Russian submarine, old-school, gruff submarine Captain Frank Ramsey decides to take a very aggressive retaliatory policy, which could lead to a possible nuclear attack on the perceived enemy and all-out nuclear war. This decision wories and angers his second-in-command, the more intelligent and measured Lt. Commander Ron Hunter, who tries to steer Ramsey to a more moderate course. This conflict, escalates into a mutiny as the two struggle for control of their submarine, a struggle which ends only when Hunter is able to retrieve a missing message asking them to stand down, averting catastrophe.

The first question you will ask yourself is how this scene plays into that logline (you are free to find a better logline for the film, if you know it). Then you'll have to sift through the footage and see where it supports your scene analysis and where it does not. Then, and only then, can you figure out how to edit the scene.

One of the tricks that an editor (and, to a great extent, a director) must learn is how to internalize all of the varying footage that he or she gets over the course of a film. The first idea is to be able to know the footage. This is different for every editor but, for me, it involves watching the footage many times. I'll watch it the first time as soon as my assistant has sunk it up. I'll sit down at the KEM and take a look at all of the dailies for that day. I want to do that before anyone else sees them so, if there are any problems, I can try and find a solution before the dailies screening. It's always more reassuring for the director to know, before he watches dailies, that the scratch he sees that evening exists only on the print.

Though I'm going to watch the dailies a few more times before I start cutting (once at the dailies screening with the director and then again before I start cutting the scene), another major tactic that I use to internalize the footage is to take a lot of notes every time I watch the dailies. To that end, I have a piece of paper which lists every take of the dailies, divided up by scene numbers. These Editors' Dailies Notes are set up with enough room for me to take copious notes the first time I watch them, as well for each subsequent viewing. Later on that day I normally sit down in a screening room with much of the production crew and watch dailies in a screening room -- often the lab's free screening room. There, using a light pen, I take notes again, but this time they are the things that the director tells me. I write them in a different color right in the same areas where I wrote my first set of notes.

I take a third set of notes when I watch the dailies again right before I cut each scene, in yet a third color. Though I will often go back and add new notes to them, as I or the director see different things, it is these notes which form the basis of my "sense memory" of what I felt when I first saw a particular piece of a take, when I first heard an actor/actress say a line, when I first saw a camera move, etc. etc. These note pages are at the heart of that process. Walter Murch uses Filemaker Pro. I use the good, old fashioned, hand-written note pages.

Finally, we will also take a look at the post production process workflow for a typical feature film. Be aware that this is now changing with the advent of DI's and alternate finishing methods. However, the stark truth is that when post schedules fail (especially here at USC) they do so for two big reasons -- they are unrealistic or they aren't detailed enough. Your struggle as an editor, a post supervisor, a producer, or a responsible director, is to realize that you can get a better film from your footage when you aren't continually racing to keep up with a post schedule that was made without adequate time or detail. We will discuss this in more detail tonight.


CRIMSON TIDE Sc. 80 Editors Dailies Notes (PDF File)
Tonight we are going to watch the dailies for Scene 80 as part of our in class exercise. We will be taking dailies notes to help us in the editing process. This handout is a sample of the Dailies Notes that my assistant will generally prepare for me, before I watch the dailies for the first time. Use them as we screen today.
Post Production Scheduling
We handed out a number of post schedule last week for you to look at in preparation for this week.
Script pages for CRIMSON TIDE (PDF file)
This is PDF file of the pertinent pages of the shooting script for CRIMSON TIDE that we handed out last week. You're going to notice a number of things about this script, largely that it differs in some great ways from the footage you are going to be working with. This is fairly normal on a film, in particular a big action film. Mark the differences on the script.

Assignments For Next Week

crimsontide_washingtonEdit Scenes 80-81 from CRIMSON TIDE (this means recutting Scene 80)
You will now be introducing our two major characters into the edit, for the beginning of their struggle with each other. Think about the transition from your recut of Scene 80 into the new Scene 81. Are there shots that you might want? Is the bridge scene close to the communication area or not? What are the pace changes? In fact, think about the two scenes as one complete scene, and find your lean-forward moment within the entire scene. As for last week, you are free to use whatever temp music and sound effects that you would like to make your point

Added Material

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Peggy Archer's Movie Blog
Peggy Archer has a blog in which she talks about her life as an electric on movie and television crews. It's usually a fascinating look into the dynamics of a film crew. In a recent entry (linked to above) she talks about what happens when a film crew slows down shooting on a set. She talks about everyone staring at the electric crew because their equipment went bad on them, holding up production.
Movie Cliche List
Ever wonder why phones are always answered after only three rings in film? Or why bad guys in film always lurk around on a corner until their presence is revealed by a flash of light -- or a car's headlamp? The answer to these questions are that "these are movie cliches!!" This is a hilarious list of cliches about money, alcohol, answering machines, heroes, and much much more.

Though I've tried to accomodate other browsers THIS SITE IS DESIGNED FOR BEST USE WITH IE for the PC, SAFARI for the Mac, and FIREFOX for both the PC and the Mac. It also looks reasonably good on the iPhone. Lucked out on that!

All material, except where noted, ©1999-2013 by Norman Hollyn. Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Send me an e-mail at my office
Last Modified - October 15, 2013