So. The winner of the Random Acts of Free as detailed in the previous post, goes to… Katy from Cerritos, California. Congrats!! She will indeed be hooked up with Free Stuff from Editmentor.com, as can YOU, when you get on board with the Random Acts of Free that come down the line.
The Old Dead Guys in question, with their respective works: from medieval Italy, Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, known as Michelangelo for short (and why not… talk about a mouthful – sheesh…), and his masterwork David.
From 19th and early 20th century Paris, the one and only François-Auguste-René Rodin, generally known simply as Rodin… and his mammoth, uncompleted Gates of Hell, which included miniatures of some of his most well-known works, including the most famous sculpture of all time, The Thinker.
So what does sculpture have to do with understanding editing? You might be surprised.
Sculptors who work in marble or granite start with a block of stone, or sometimes an entire mountainside, and remove everything that is not the work of art. Michelangelo took that 20’ tall block of marble and removed everything that was not David. Gutzon Borglum’s crew of workers dynamited away all parts of the mountain that were not Mount Rushmore.
Editors often find themselves in positions where they start with mostly finished content and finesse it down to the final piece. Many times this process takes less effort on the editor’s part, and – in a professional situation – is generally given a fairly short time to finish.
The show in question could be a sitcom (which typically shoots with 3 or 4 cameras), a game show, or a reality show elimination scene (think Rose Ceremonies from The Bachelor or Tribal Councils from Survivor). Even as I write this, I’m cutting a reality show that has contestants driving stunt cars through obstacle courses that require up to 14 cameras to cover it all.
Wanna know a dirty little secret? Editors who cut sitcoms – though admittedly no longer nearly as popular as they once were – have one of the easiest gigs on the planet. They have a preset script that the actors follow, 4 cameras shooting the same thing (no continuity issues), and a few takes of each scene. It’s like falling off a log. Now granted, good sitcom editors have a finely tuned sense of comedic timing, which is critical… still, their job editing is a freakin’ cakewalk.
The times that aren’t nearly so easy are when you have, as I did within the last year, a gameshow shot live to tape that ended up needing to be cut down from an hour-long show to a half-hour. I had to work with the producers to figure out which sections to keep or drop, build an intricate graphics package since the show relied heavily on graphics for keeping score, and then nip and tuck the living daylights out of those multicam clips to get the show down to time and STILL make it feel “live” as if that’s the way everyone always intended it. That’s a whole other skillset by itself, especially when you’re under a tight deadline.
Most editing falls more into additive editing, the category of editing that is more like Rodin twisting together pieces of wire-frame skeleton for the pieces of clay to be added and shaped into astonishingly life-like pieces of art.
To make the comparison more accurate, one might imagine Rodin pacing around his workshop surrounded by 74 different kinds of clay in dozens of differently-sized blocks of clay situated all over his workspace. He builds the wire or metal framework. He takes a piece of clay here, a chunk of clay there, pokes and prods, works it back and forth, smoothes and roughs up different sections, goes out for some absinthe with his buddies, hallucinates about green fairies (they’re telling me to cut my ear off – ehh, never mind), repeats the process over the span of 6 months, and ends up with a highly finessed piece of work that consists of a multitude of individual initial parts and still presents itself as a cohesive whole.
You’re a documentary editor. You’re cutting a 90-minute feature doc, and you have 150 different sources. Some of them are transcribed, some aren’t. Some of them were shot decades ago on VHS, some were shot on dazzlingly lit 35mm film. Your job is to tell a story that is clear, compelling, and works visually. Good luck with that.
You’re cutting a single-camera-styled feature film. Except it’s 1979, and you’re one of the team of editors cutting Apocalypse Now, which takes an entire 2 years to edit, splice by painstaking splice. Francis Ford Coppola, the director, literally shot a million feet of film. Choosing the best take from the best camera is one thing, choosing how to arrange the scenes of the film and which ones to leave in, take out, or reorder is quite another. You are now officially allowed to smoke a joint, drop some acid, or have a nervous breakdown. Or all the above. Good luck with that.
Modern day: you’re the one editor responsible for a half-hour reality episode showing a group of biker dudes building a pimped-out motorcycle. The kicker: there’s no script, no field notes, no story producer, and 100 HOURS of footage for a 23 MINUTE show. And we need it done in 3 weeks. Good luck with that.
All these jobs take bits of picture here, pieces of sound there, work them, add some music, sound effects – oh yeah, sound effects… maybe you cut 6 channels of them or a team of editors cuts 200 channels of them – and end up with a compelling, polished piece of television or film. Sometimes it feels easy, and sometimes it’s more like a visit to the dentist and getting three root canals at once.
No matter whether you edit by removal (subtractively) or search for the proverbial needle in the haystack by editing additively from a multitude of different sources, we’re all telling stories through editing. And we can all improve our skills for doing that. That’s why Editmentor exists – to help you improve your storytelling skills. And we’re stoked you’re here.