From the Guild
ACE @ HD Expo
ACE @ HD Expo:
Tomorrow’s Challenges on Today’s Releases
By Bill Stetz
The ACE Panel at HD Expo, from left: Paul Hirsch, A.C.E.; Terilyn A. Shropshire, A.C.E.; Myron Kerstein; Nancy Richardson, A.C.E.; and moderator Carolyn Giardina.
Photo courtesy of HD Expo
On October 30 at the Burbank Marriott Hotel, the Fall edition of HD Expo played host to an ACE-sponsored panel, titled “See What’s Coming—Meet the Editors of the Hottest Upcoming Releases.” Moderated by industry journalist Carolyn Giardina, the panel gathered four editors—Myron Kerstein (Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist); Nancy Richardson, A.C.E. (Twilight); Terilyn Shropshire, A.C.E. (The Secret Life of Bees); and Academy Award winner Paul Hirsch, A.C.E. (Love Ranch)—who provided some widely differing insights into the art and craft behind these new releases. Following is a digest of their remarks.
Carolyn Giardina: On Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist, you were editing reshoots on a laptop on the set. How did that work?
Myron Kerstein: There’s something really nice about using new technology in Guerilla-style filmmaking; I think a lot of people talk about using new technology in the big-budget world, but here’s a tiny little movie using technology in a really cool way. I used an iPhone as a portable little monitor, and it was nice be able to go to the DP or the gaffer when they were trying to match a shot and say, hey, take a look at this storyboard.”
Paul Hirsch, A.C.E., makes a point as Terilyn A. Shropshire, A.C.E., and Myron Kerstein look on.
Photo courtesy of HD Expo
CG: You had to do this out of budgetary necessities, but now that you have done it, did you find these techniques efficient?
MK: Absolutely. I don’t know if it’s always so great to be editing on set, but in this instance it was a good thing because the reshoots were trying to redress problems and it was nice to be able to go from the storyboard stage to actually be on the set replacing the shots to see if they actually work. A lot of people don’t want to watch movies on iPhones, but there is something to be said about using them as a tool. I’m a big fan.
CG: Nancy, When you were cutting Twilight, what did you have to anticipate in terms of visual effects?
Nancy Richardson: When I started Twilight, there were supposed to be just 97 visual effects shots; by the time it finished there were 450; but I haven’t worked that much overall with VFX. Oddly enough it didn’t make that much difference to me. I just cut these scenes so that they worked. We had a fantastic visual effects team. I couldn’t believe how early in the process that they would want to see my edits so they could pre-plan the effects; sometimes before the director had seen them. I had to tell them “no,” until I got the director’s feedback first.
CG: How extensive was your involvement with the effects?
NR: A lot of the effects were just about fixing problems. We had a lot of weather. It rained. It snowed, and then the sun would come out; all this would happen in the course of one day. We did a lot of sky replacements to match shots within a scene, which didn’t really affect the way I cut it. I did a lot of speed ramping to make the actors look more athletic than they were. At my insistence, there was lots of shooting at 144 fps, and footage shot at 48 fps that we played back at 24, so we used a lot of these types of effects throughout the film.
CG: Terilyn, talk about the effects in The Secret Life of Bees.
Terilyn Shropshire: On its surface, The Secret Life of Bees doesn’t seem like it would be a tool or technique-heavy movie, with its human and sentimental themes. It doesn’t have robots or sky replacements. But we ended up having over 200 visual effects on this film; everything from adding bees where bees did not exist, “bee enhancements,” river extensions and fixing camera and lab issues. This film was shot for $11 million and it was supposed to be summer in South Carolina; they shot it in the middle of winter, so we had issues with seeing the actors’ breath coming from their mouths, supposedly in the middle of summer. Grass is not always as green as you’d want it to look in the middle of winter, trees don’t always have leaves on them where you want them. And bees don’t like the cold. Ultimately for me, the challenge was that when audiences see this film, they wouldn’t notice any of that. That was a directive that was passed onto everyone who worked on the production. It became a challenge for us to organically and naturally bring these elements to the screen in a way that you would never see.
CG: How do you all feel about the way digital cameras and all the new formats will impact your jobs as editors?
Paul Hirsch: The last several pictures that I have done, I have worked in a way that I have not worked before. Innovations from four years ago were replaced by innovations of three years ago, and these were replaced by innovations of two years ago, so work is about constantly adjusting to new situations. Love Ranch was shot in HD and we had issues with the Adrenaline system. The autosave function would interrupt work for short periods of time and sometimes when we hit stop on playback, the system would keep going, a problem caused by moving such huge files around. So in the middle of the process, they switched me to a Nitris system and it was fantastic, because it is designed to quickly handle those file sizes, and the autosave is very quick and almost invisible. AVID even markets the Nitris as having a workflow similar to older AVID systems, which I think is better for the work.
Paul Hirsch, A.C.E.
Photo courtesy of HD Expo
NR: Twilight was, if you can call something traditional these days, a pretty traditional workflow. It was shot in 35mm and telecined to HDCAM for dailies viewing. We decided to not edit it in HD; instead, we did a downconvert to DVCAM, which is pretty standard, and cut on Adrenalines.
TS: We’re making feature films that are going to be seen on large format screens. And for me, when I am looking at dailies, I want to see my dailies projected. I don’t want to see them on a TV. Projection may be gone, but not forgotten. For me, having HD dailies was incredibly important, not only for preview purposes but also for detail purposes, and the importance of that is becoming lost today. I would like to see labs putting in HD screening rooms where footage can be reviewed for detail.
PH: For my entire career, I was looking at prints struck from the original negative, which is the best quality that you can get from film. What you’re saying Terry, is exactly right. There is no telling if a shot is in focus or not, if you can’t see the detail. But I have to say that HD is extraordinary because when I edit, I’m looking at a 42-inch monitor that occupies as much of my field of vision as a screen in a projection room might. It is the best image I have looked at in my entire career. And the other advantage of HD is when we go to a screening, all we have to do is lay off a tape and it’s done. It’s really kind of great.
Note: Upcoming HD Expo events will be March 5, 2009 at the Universal Hilton in Universal City, CA; June 11 at the Chicago’s Navy Pier, and September 17 in New York City. For more information, go to www.hdexpo.net.
Bill Stetz is a photographer, producer and the art director of Editors Guild Magazine. He may be reached at email@example.com.