Saturday, May 29, 2010


I was doing a documentary for a NYC company in textiles, that wanted a look at the cotton industry.  What was interesting was that the advances they've made in farming have been phenomenal-- what one person can do today, took ten people twenty or thirty years ago.  It used to be that one bale of cotton per acre was a good solid yield.  Now they're getting three and sometimes four bales per acre.  This is due to technology.

Makes me think about the parallels in the film industry.  For eighty or ninety years, the camera used to create most movies remained mechanical unchanged.  But now, technology has enabled the filmmaker to do a lot more with a lot less.  I think about my own feature film career.

Ten years ago this September, I was shooting "The Keyman" starring Adam Baldwin.  We shot 35mm film and I edited it on an Avid... and that's a bit misleading because it was an offline.  The film was sent to a lab in LA and transferred to BetacamSP tapes.  I was given a 3.5" floppy disk with the files so that I didn't have to build any clips-- I just put it all in and did a batch capture, at a terrible resolution (maybe 4 to 1 or even the really bad 10 to 1 back then?).  I cut the movie over several months then generated a Cut List for the negative cutter in Burbank.  She went to work cutting the negative to assemble the picture.

One thing that caught me by surprise-- when we went to color that original negative, there was a scene with a big scratch down the middle that we never saw on the BetacamSP.  The Colorist argued that's why people still watch dailies on the big screen.

Then for my second feature, "A Promise Kept" shot at the end of 02 and beginning of 03, things were still the same.  I cut the movie on the same Avid Media Composer, using the same negative cutter.

But by 2005 and Striking Range, things were finally starting to change in Hollywood.  For instance, the previous movies, I still had to give the ADR company a 3/4" tape of the reels for doing looping.  By now, they would let me send quicktimes.  Also, instead of BetacamSP, I had them send me the footage on DVCam for offlining.  I had a new Avid Express Pro and a DSR10 deck.  Also, instead of dailies on VHS, this was the first time to get them on DVD.  2005.  H'Wood was pretty late.

Now, with my fourth and fifth movie done on HD, we could skip some costly steps.  Now I could "online" the movie.  And I moved from the buggy Avid on a PC to Final Cut Pro on a Mac.  (That Avid Express Pro is sitting in a storeroom at my office and hasn't been turned on for two years).  No negative cutter.  The last film, Rising Stars, shot on the Red at 4K, was totally onlined at our facility.

But H'Wood still wants tape deliver (HDCamSR or other expensive tape formats) so that they can take the tape and digitize it into the computer.  I'm trying to talk them into taking the already digitized files so we don't have to go through the cost and trouble of going out to tape and back in to computer, but we'll see.

BTW, I still have a few seats for the Edit Workshop this coming Thursday Night.  Go to for info and registration.  Only $39 and I provide the dinner!


  1. Really am enjoying reading this blog! I would like to be at your Edit workshop but just can't make it to Ft. Worth on that date. Thanks for all the good info and insights in the blog.