Syllabus for CTPR 535

 Instructor: Norman Hollyn T.A.: Dipesh Jain
 Office: 310-821-2792 Phone:

 E-Mail: nhollyn [at]

E-Mail: dipeshjain007 [at]

Academic Integrity
Class Format
Class Requirements
Course Description
Office Hours
Postponement of Classes
Presentation of Edited Materials
Recommended Reading
Students With Disabilities

Class Meetings: Tuesdays, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. (may go longer)

Location: Lucas 210


Editing is much more than putting images together.  At its best, it is the successful evocation of all of the nuances and styles of the original script.  In this class you will learn how to read a script, analyze the shot footage, and put it all together to fulfill the director's vision (whether that director is you or someone else).

This course will focus on the brain processes that make the difference between picture editing and great picture editing.  It will cover both the theory and the technique of editing.  You will edit or re-edit, nearly every week, a series of scenes which are designed to gradually expand the types of editing experiences that you have.  The accumulation of these editing experiences should give you an overview of the complete process -- aesthetic and the practical, -- teaching you to how to make informed editing choices.

To prepare you for the very real possibility that you will, once you're out in The Real World, be forced to edit your own films, you will be given a working knowledge of how to organize an editing room and operate the various tools -- both film and electronic -- that you need to make your editing decisions.  The bulk of your hands-on Avid editing tutoring will be given by Richard Blankinship during his Avid labs.  This Lab is now a mandatory part of 535 classes and is given on Thursday evenings, from 6:00pm until 9:00pm.  After an initial four weeks of mandatory weekly attendance, you will be required to attend every other class.  You will start out in these Lab classes learning all of the technical aspects that you will need for this class.  As the semester continues you will begin to learn skills that may take you beyond what you do in this class, but are essential if you are to work in any capacity in an editing room today.

Projects will be edited using a non-linear digital editing machine, in this case the AVID Media Composer.  During part of the semester you will also learn how to match back your edit to film.  You will be given a background in some assistant editor techniques  -- synching (in the Avid), film handling, digitizing and organizing in the both the film and digital realm.  In addition to the nuts and bolts techniques of how to prepare your footage for editing, you will learn how to prepare mentally for editing, how to look at a scene for optimum editing in order to best bring out your artistic ideas. You will discover editing principles and aesthetics that you can use no matter which format you edit with and what format your project is intended for (television, feature, documentary, etc.).

During your time in this class you will be working in pairs, learning as many techniques as possible in order to prepare you to undertake the editing process in other USC courses and in your post-school careers, on films directed either by you or by others.  You will be expected to edit your projects outside of class time and bring them into the class to present and discuss with others.

Because of the amount of material we need to cover, the 14 week (15 weeks including the final half-class) time period for our classes will get pretty intense. Be prepared for classes to go about 20-30 minutes past the official 9:30 finish.


The first week will be an introductory week in which I will discuss a large variety of topics including how the class will work, the process of editing, the nuts and bolts of the editorial process, and present a few pieces of film for examination.

After that, our weekly meetings will generally start with one student who will examine a scene from a favorite film of theirs, emphasizing the editorial choices made in the creation of that scene.  I will then discuss different aspects of editing, using film clips to illustrate the topics.  Over the course of the semester, these talks will provide a more or less complete discussion of the thought processes and techniques of the editing process, from picture editing to sound and music across a wide spectrum of projects.  There is a possibility that we might have a guest speaker during one or two weeks.  No promises but, if they don't cancel out on me, you should have some interesting opportunities for discussion with working professionals besides me.

I will also be distributing several handouts at each class.  Some of these will elaborate on our class discussion, some will be preparation for the following week's class, and others will be interviews with filmmakers about the process of editing.

At least half of each class will be devoted to the screening and critiquing of the scenes that you will have edited, in pairs, during the preceding week.  I will often give you re-editing notes and you will return to the editing room during the next week for a second cut.  During parts of the semester partners will take on alternating roles as editor and director in order to provide each student with the varied experience that exists in the "real world".  If necessary, we will meet once or twice in the Avid editing rooms where you and I will get some hands-on experience together.

A final component of our classes will be a discussion of the politics of editing -- from working closely with directors and writers, to interactions with the studios and the preview process.

Just like movie theatres and playhouses, I'm going to ask every one of you to turn off all pagers and cell phones before coming to class.  Ringing phones and buzzing pagers are really disruptive in class and just plain rude to me and your fellow classmates.

A more detailed, though ever changing, breakdown of what each class will be covering is available on my web site at

Click on the entry for Overall Class Plan in the navigation bar at the left or under the Extra Resources drop-down menus at the top

During all phases of the class I encourage questions and comments.  We all need to be challenged.  That includes me.



Beginning with the second week, you and your partner will be required to edit or re-edit a scene every week.  You will present it at the next class, and accept criticism from myself and your classmates so you can re-edit the scenes for another screening during the following week, if necessary.  My comments will be given verbally during the class.  You won't get a written critique.

At least once during the semester, you will be required to choose a short scene from a movie you admire, and analyze it from the point of view of its editing -- style and content.  You will then screen the scene in class and present that analysis following the screening, both written and orally.  You will be expected to bring a copy of the film to class along with your typed report on the date it is due.  We will have the availability of both a VHS and a DVD machine, of varying quality.  If you need a laser disk player or some other format, please talk to Cory to see what is possible.  Once again, my comments will be given verbally during the class.  You won't get a written critique.

Three times during the semester you will be required to create a log line for a film (don't worry, we'll talk about what this means when the assignment is given out).  You will be expected to hand in this log line at the beginning of the following class.  Failure to do so will be reflected in your grade.

You will be required to attend the Avid Labs every week for the first several weeks of the class, and on alternating weeks after that, on Thursday nights, from 6pm to 9pm.  While there you will learn not only the techniques that good editors and assistant editors need to know but also be able to ask questions that arise during the editing of your own scenes, though you will not necessarily work with your own material there. Attendance will be taken there and passed along to me.

You will be required to purchase one book at the beginning of the semester, The Film Editing Room Handbook, written by yours truly.  This book is a nuts and bolts discussion of how to set up an editing room.  As such it is a complement to our discussions in class.  Though many of you will not want to become professional editors, many of you will end up editing your own films at the beginning of your careers.  Many of you will begin your careers in the editing rooom, whether you plan on ending up there or not.  These readings will help prepare you for that time.  Reading will be assigned from this book that, in many cases, will take the place of class discussion.  As a result, you should read these sections before the following class.

Near the end of the semester you will have a written quiz that will deal primarily with the hard technical skills you have been taught in regards to editing room procedures on film and Avid.  The quiz will comprise topics that you've (hopefully) learned in class, read in the text, or covered in the Avid Lab.  Right now, I've tentatively planned that quiz for either the class of Nov 25th or Dec 2nd.

At the end of the semester, in lieu of a written final, you will assemble all of the scenes of a film that you will be editing into one long sequence with music and sound effects.  At the final class on May 7th you will hand in that tape.  I will provide you with written notes later that week when you get your tapes back.  I expect you to attend that final class, even though it is during the final exam period, since there will be some discussion.  This final class is normally a half-class.  In previous semesters, one of our guest speakers attended that evening.

Students will be required to attend and participate in all classes.  ATTENDANCE WILL BE TAKEN AT EVERY CLASS and AVID LAB.  Written explanations will be necessary in advance for all excused absences.  Unexcused absences will be reflected in the course grade.  In addition, students will be expected to be at class on time; lateness will also be reflected in your grade.  Please make use of my e‑mail address or phone service number above if you have an unavoidable problem. If you cannot make the class or will be late, let me know by the evening before the class.  [Sorry for all of the bold facing, underlining and italics, but this section cannot be emphasized enough.]

Since film editors are judged on their ability to complete their work in a timely manner, you will likewise be responsible for completing each stage of every project on time and in a professional manner.

I am also highly recommending your purchase of another book -- Gabreilla Oldham's  First Cut: Conversations with Film Editors.  This is an incredible series of interviews with some of the top, most thoughtful, editors around.  I will often refer to these interviews in class.  It would be most helpful if you could read the complete interviews.

As mentioned above, I will usually provide several handouts at each class.  These should be kept with you at all times (well, no, not when you're sleeping). I will post most of these on my web site, but I'm not going to be able to guarantee to post ALL of them, so don't count on getting them outside of class.


The surest way to drive me absolutely up a tree is to bring film and tapes to class that aren't prepared properly, so we get to watch you fiddle with out-of-sync film, or tapes with bad audio.  All material must be properly prepared for screening in class.  It will be your responsibility to make sure that your videos are complete, with sound, and in viewable condition.  You should check your videotapes before leaving the Avid editing station.  Videotapes must be rewound to the beginning of the edited scene.  Film must be properly leadered with sync start marks, and wound to the head.

I will occasionally ask to take your tapes home with me to view or review.  As a result, all videotapes should be properly identified. This means your name, our class number (CTPR 535), and the name of the scene.  A date is handy also.


This Web Site is constantly evolving as I get better at it.  You can find it on the Web at the following URL:

Nearly all of the course materials will be loaded up to the Web the day that each class meets.  This usually includes many of the handouts (in cases where the handouts are excerpts of longer pieces I will often post or link to the complete article), some script pages, a short description of the contents of each class, and a list of the homework assignments for the next week.  On the class home page I will try (given enough time) to post articles and links that you might find of use -- festival announcements, special offers and screenings, as well as class announcements.  I encourage you to use the resources on the site.

Note that this copy of this syllabus will always be available on the site.



Because of the demands of my work during the day, there may be an occasional class that will need to be rescheduled. I will try to keep those days to an absolute minimum. I will usually warn you ahead of time if there is a possibility of a postponement. In those cases, please check my service on the class day for updates.


The bulk of your training in AVID will be supplied in Richard Blankinship's Avid labs. In addition, you will need to have some basic training on 16mm film. This will be provided by Joshua and/or myself during non-class times. We will try and schedule two training sessions in the week of your first project on any new media.


I expect to have my office hours on Monday (10-12). My office is in room 126 at the Marcia Lucas Post building (that’s one of the outside rooms) and my office number is 213/821-2792. I am, however, available by appointment at many other times. I will also return phone message in a more-or-less prompt manner. The best way to reach me is my email address --


Any student requesting academic accommodations based on a disability is required to register with Disability Services and Programs (DSP) each semester. Please be sure that the letter is delivered to me or Cory as early in the semester as possible. DSP is located in STU 301 and is open 8:30am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. Their phone number is 213/740-0776.


The School of Cinema-Television expects the highest standards of excellence and ethics from all of you. It is particularly important that you avoid plagiarism, cheating on our quiz, submitting any work that you or your partner have not done, and looking into the soul of the person next to you (**Sorry, that was an old Woody Allen joke.**). Violations of this policy will result in a failing grade and be reported to the Office of Student Conduct. If you have any questions or doubts about these policies, consult "Scampus" and/or confer with Joshua or me.


In addition to the required textbook the following books are good sources for aesthetic and technical information about editing. I will occasionally refer to them.

If you want to purchase the book through the Net, click on the picture of the book (or the book title) and you'll be taken to's page for that book where you can order it.