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Becoming a Better Editor (but Mostly Human Being) in the New Year

Somehow -- and they might be lying to me about this -- but somehow, the year is over. What I mean to say is that this desk calendar I have is practically useless and I'll be writing the wrong year on my checks until St. Patrick's Day. I know, right? And I hardly noticed the 31st approaching so rapidly except for the usual influx of "year in review" or "resolutions for the new year" posts.

I've said before: I think resolutions are stupid. You're coming off a gluttonous couple of months where you've been feeding yourself whole pies and sitting around watching Netflix all day long, only allowing yourself to do so because when January hits, you'll be back on the wagon, one way or another. New Years resolution! A brand new me! Except no, that's not what's going to happen. Only about 26 percent of resolutions last past the 6 month mark.

But everyone loves to talk about it right now, so I may as well tell you what I think. And I think in the year ahead you could all stand to make some improvements to yourselves as editors and camera operators and producers. No, not just you. All of us. There's always room for improvement, right? Nobody worth a damn would say they don't need to improve.

But here's the thing: I'm not talking about tech and software skills. There's plenty of talk about that and you all know what you know and don't know and need to know. I think that you (and me and all of us, but mostly you) could benefit much more from increased mindfulness in our contributions to the industry.

Like what? Like this.

Think before you blog/tweet/post. Whenever you're going to jump into a conversation or post a thought you had, just consider this for a moment: does this tweet add anything new to the subject? Are you rehashing the same argument? Is your blog post contributing positively to the industry? I don't mean to say you should only post glowing reviews, especially for products that cost real money and affect our livelihoods. But there's a difference between a good bad review and a bad bad review, and I think we need more of the former.

Every time you post something, just think about how it may be perceived. If that's the only thing a person has ever read that you wrote, what kind of impression does it leave?

Reduce your sarcasm. I'm a fan of dry humor in the right context. But sarcasm in text form is hard to decipher. And most of all, it goes with the point above: it's often a weak substitute for a real thought or reaction, and probably doesn't add much to the conversation. Instead of pulling out sarcasm, how about something more sincere, especially when you're in the company of strangers and acquaintances.

Ask someone how you can help them. A lot of the conversation online is someone asking for help. Asking for feedback, testimonial or assistance, maybe here on the COW, on Twitter, or a Facebook group. A lot of the time it's a question that's been asked a lot because it's someone who might be new to the industry or the online community. Instead of the typical "let me Google that for you, invalid", how about you actually help them out, smug-free? Not everyone is in the middle of all this conversation every day, so they may not be up to speed on everything. People come from all kinds of backgrounds. If you can't not be a smug replier, just move along.

Don't complain. Online or in person, I've sometimes found myself in the middle of a conversation that was beginning to skew negative. Sometimes it's the way a project is managed and our frustration gets the better of us. Or it could be negative feedback to something like a software update or the latest Apple computing device (what, that never happens!) Instead of joining in the complaints, change the sentiment. Look for a positive aspect. Call the crowd out for their nonconstructive whining. Or just don't say anything. It's hard to be positive (or even neutral) all the time, but it's also hard to work around a chronic complainer.

For that matter, does everyone always need to know your every frustration or negative thought? It goes back to the first point: if this one thing were the only thing someone ever read from you, what kind of impression does it leave? Are you okay with that?

Be honest, but don't be a jack-ass. I've known some people who thought of their cruel honesty as a badge of honor. They told everyone exactly what was on their mind and if it didn't go over well, too bad. Honesty is important, from big things to small things. Discretion is important too.

Leave things better than you found them. Online or in person, when you enter a place and leave it behind, it should be better than you found it. When it comes to online interactions, this means not leaving a mess of arguments in your wake. In person, set yourself up so that you can always hand over your work with minimal effort. Either way, you don't want your reputation tarnished by someone having to clean up a mess you made, literally or figuratively.

Let things go. Don't hold grudges. If you feel a company or person has done wrong to you, let it go. Don't whine about it, don't tell everyone about your situation, and don't bring it up every single day. Because even if the opposing party is in the wrong, YOU look like the d-bag. And holding on to stuff that happened is a great way to never move on to bigger and better things.

Give back. We're lucky that we get to do this work every day, even if some days are annoying. Get some perspective by giving back to the industry in any way you can. Become a mentor, go to a high school or college, or make regular appearances in Basics forums to help out people who are just getting started. Volunteering your time to better the community improves everyone's attitude -- especially your own.

Try it for a day, a month. A daily affirmation. Think about your affect on the video production industry and ask yourself: is what I'm about to say, do, or type going to positively contribute to the conversation? You might be surprised at the things you don't tweet and how much happier you are each day.

Or you might compartmentalize all that negativity and go bananas on me in six months, in which case I'm going to say bring it because it was worth the effort.


Posted by: Kylee Peña on Dec 26, 2013 at 12:33:10 pm video editing, new years resolutions

Five Video Editing Tips – from Writers

I like writing. I always have, and I've always been okay at it. It makes a lot of sense to me when editors also write -- blogs, scripts, whatever -- because the tasks are so similar. It mostly comes down to constructing a story of some kind, and the same pitfalls seem to apply more and more as I keep editing and writing stuff.

Since I'm sufficientish (or maybe proficientish? I don't know words) at writing and I want to be AWESOME, I did the obvious and looked up advice from famous authors so I could copy off...er...attempt to emulate their success in small ways. I got hooked into a bunch of articles by awesome writers talking about being awesome a couple months ago. Since then, I've been noticing more parallels between good editing and good writing. Story stuff is story stuff, but it's been interesting to apply tips meant for writers to editing video -- unscripted or narrative, or whatever you might be cutting.


Don't go into great detail describing places or things. - Elmore Leonard

In unscripted stuff particularly, I've seen a tendency for editors to use a whole bunch of b-roll at the beginning to describe a place. It's kind of like the editorial equivalent of four pages of describing the weather and town instead of actually getting to the story. It's so much better when a place or thing is built through a character experiencing it.

Every sentence must do one of two things - reveal character or advance the action. - Kurt Vonnegut

If a cut isn't revealing character or advancing the action, then why is it there? This has been especially interesting to me while cutting narrative. I'm not just assembling a scene. I'm editing a script, after the fact.

Your story will always be stronger if you just show the physical actions and details of your characters and allow your reader to do the thinking and knowing. - Chuck Palahniuk

Palahniuk goes on to talk about the differences between two kinds of passages. In one, the main character is described as anxious about missing a bus. In the other, the circumstances of the main character's anxiety are laid out. You're in her head and getting a sequence of events that leads you to feel anxious FOR her, but the text itself doesn't say "X was anxious."

In editing, I've seen something like this: you're following a protagonist who is about to embark on a scary adventure after a restless night. In one version, you dip to black, put up a descriptive title slide, then move onto the action of the next day. In another version, you find key bits in the b-roll (maybe even in different parts of the day or from another day) that build the anxiety of the night leading into the action of the day. Easier said than done -- you often don't have the b-roll -- but some creativity and intent is sometimes all it takes to help suck the audience in a little bit more.

Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted. - Kurt Vonnegut

In the subjective world of writing and editing, it's hard to please everyone. And that's not what this is about. Tell the best story you possibly can with what's been provided to you. Don't be lazy, don't cut narrative corners, and don't assume your audience are imbeciles (unless that's your target, I guess.) If someone feels their time was wasted by watching your story, that's their problem. 

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. - Elmore Leonard

If it looks like editing, edit it differently. This is the one I've had on my mind the most over the last couple of months. Sometimes I come into contact with sequences cut by people I don't know and have the opportunity to examine them closely. So often I'll find that a good opportunity for an invisible edit is squandered by a flash to white or unnecessary speed ramp. Style over content.

The footage is good. The right music change, natural sound, and arrangement of cuts would be sufficient to end a thought (or paragraph) and go to the next one. This bit is more than just an inability to transition: cuts that are too clever or on the nose or perfectly to music, unintentional jump cuts, star wipes (eh) -- any kind of edit that reminds a person that editing has happened. 

 
I suppose it's extremely obvious to compare writing and editing since it's all storytelling, and often as an editor you actually ARE rewriting a thing someone said. Plus, how many times have you been searching for editing jobs online and found a bajillion copy editor gigs instead? Story is story and editing is editing, but some timeless wisdom has served me well in the edit suite lately.


Posted by: Kylee Peña on Oct 13, 2013 at 7:46:55 pm video editing, writing

Successes & Failures in Editing with a Wacom Pen Tablet

USE THE PEN.

From the moment I stepped in the door at BCM, that's all I heard from Walter. It was like a nerdier version of Obi Wan Kenobi. (Is that possible?) My work station is equipped with a Wacom Intuos 4 (I think) -- which is very nice, both the product and the fact it was sitting there.

(And note to Walter: it was LIKE Obi Wan, I didn't say you actually ARE Obi Wan.)

But man, talk about tablet-challenged. The first time I picked up a pen and tried to do anything, I was dragging crap all over and misclicking and things were catching on fire. NO. WHY. STOP. Adjusting to a new job and state and like I don't know LIFE IN GENERAL is hard enough without taking away my mouse, my most basic human comfort. I bailed.

Seriously, what's so fab about it?



Two months later, this week, I decided to give it a fair shot. I asked for advice on Twitter for getting a handle on...handling it. The most useful tip came from Shane Ross.



Turns out there are a lot of you tablet editors lurking out there. Who knew asking about editing on a Wacom would bring all you geeks out of hiding?







So this past Monday morning at 9:30AM, I loaded up my project in Premiere Pro CC, put my mouse aside, and committed to pen only existence for a whole week.

At about 9:45AM, I had irreversibly screwed up my workspace in Premiere. I have no idea what I did -- probably dragged something somewhere somehow -- but my stuff went all bananas and I spent 15 minutes getting it back the way I wanted it.

By afternoon, I was getting the hang of it. Sorta. It wasn't frustrating me to the point of throwing it, but I was swearing quite a bit as I acclimated to its sensitivity. It ended up feeling more natural more quickly than I had anticipated, to be honest. I use the keyboard very heavily for everything and when my right hand isn't doing anything, it sits on my mouse. Hangs out there, chillin. With the pen, I avoid having it sitting in an awkward position for an extended period. I also don't have to put down the pen to do what my right hand does. I would show you my Premiere keyboard, but the keyboard shortcuts are seemingly impossible to share. It's very Avid-y with a strong dose of FCP7.

A thing I struggled with occasionally was dragging sliders in the effects window, or dragging graphics in the timeline. I grab and move around lower thirds and stuff all the time in my sequence, and just use snap to get them where I need them. When I "let go" of a graphic or something, the pen is so sensitive that it doesn't land where I want it to go, but a few frames to the left or right. So that's incredibly irritating. But at the same time, snapping stuff with a mouse in Premiere is also frustrating. I don't think it would be an issue so much in Media Composer, at least not with the stuff I usually cut in there. Plus, selecting trim points is different, so a lot of those issues wouldn't be relevant.



I expected this to be a fairly colorful blog post with a lot of censored swear words and hilarity about accidentally deleting entire volumes of work, but unfortunately for you (and fortunately for me) this was not the case. By Wednesday I wasn't having much of a problem. My brain was starting to deal with the oddities of the tablet and pen and compensate for them. I even did some cutting with a producer alongside without swearing at the pen AT ALL. Or doing anything stupid.

I know, huge accomplishment. For me, anyway.

A stupid thing I keep doing is putting the pen down and losing it. It's black, the desk is black, and it's dark. GREAT. Another stupid thing I keep doing is reaching for the mouse. That's some difficult muscle memory to break. I'm reaching for a mouse with a pen in my hand. More stupid muscle memory: getting use to putting the pen down and being in that part of the screen, rather than the motion of mousing your mouse to the area you want to go. All ridiculous when you write it down, but shut up, you try it and you'll see what I mean.

In terms of ACTUAL challenges besides the sensitivity being too sensitive at times, I found that OS X (and I'm sure every other operating system) isn't really conducive to a tablet. The clicking areas are very tiny and the dock is on the edge of the screen which kind of sucks. I navigate a lot of OS X with the keyboard as well -- command-spacebar to Spotlight to apps to launch, for example. I've always been kinda 50/50 on switching apps, doing it the hard way (click in the dock), but actually using the keyboard shortcut has become vital with the Wacom. It's a pain to go click in the dock. Command-tab brings up the app switching thingy so you can tab over to the app you want to jump to. It's so much faster and less annoying.

But being in the Finder itself is kinda crappy. Bringing in files via the Media Browser in Premiere is definitely the way to go most of the time anyway, but especially with the tablet. Big chunky squares begging to be clicked.

So alright, I guess I'm committing to the thing, I should figure out what these function buttons and stuff actually do, right? I've remapped the everloving hell out of my keyboard settings in all my NLEs to make myself more efficient, so mo' buttons mo' problems.

I found



. Unfortunately, it seems to have been designed by someone who has never actually been an editor in their entire lives. Yo, Wacom, look at all these psychopaths that literally PREACH THE RELIGION of the pen. Why don't you ask one of them to make you a video that editors can learn stuff from?

So I turned to Twitter to see what the hivemind likes. There's actually very little consensus about how to use the various buttons. Everybody is different. Paul Conigliaro (@conigs) had a very helpful and cute little gif instructing me in my grip to switch between pen and keyboard rapidly.

And a lot of people had other things to say.









A thing I learned about the Intuos4 was that it introduced Precision Mode, which seems to have solved my issues with moving around things with frame accuracy. Grab something, hit precision mode, drag, let go, hit precision mode. It's a little bit to get used to, but in some ways gets even more precise than the mouse. I can imagine that drawing masks with the thing gets straight up cray. I actually WANT to mask something and try it out. Eh. Kind of.



Additionally, I got a few tips from Dan Wolfmeyer who is in Media Composer on the Intuos 3.




But then I wonder if coming to rely on a tablet setup is wise. What if you end up in an edit room without a mouse, on a freelance gig or something? Will you adapt so closely to a pen that mousing will send you back to the stone ages in terms of efficiency? Will using a mouse after all this tablet Wacom pen junk turn your hand into a CLAW?

Kidding aside, I think this is a valid concern for people. Especially those who aren't particularly adaptable by nature. Is it possible to be tied too closely to a specified way of pointing around?

(I've been told that freelancers take their tablets with them from job to job with no issue, so there you go. I guess if you're in a corporate environment where they don't like new things or don't want you to change edit rooms, that might be a minor issue, but for the most part it's not a thing.)



Obviously I'm not too worried about it.

Anyway, here's where my tablet settings have ended up after a week of usage. I actually have double click and precision mode on the pen itself. I'm too used to control-clicking to right click anyway, so there's no point in trying to retrain some serious muscle memory when my left hand is on the keyboard anyway. On the tablet itself, somewhat untouched button arrangement. The wheel is mapped to J and L, and also left arrow and right arrow and zoom. I did end up with snap, hand tool, application switching, and right click. All of those things are done by my left hand on the regular, but I figured if I'm in an instance where I'm using the wheel heavily, it might not be terrible to not have to return to the keyboard for something. I'm not sure I ever will though. I'm like a trained monkey on the keyboard.




I guess I'll keep it up and see what happens. I've been known to get severe muscle cramps in my mouse hand, so I'm looking forward to not having cramps in my mouse hand. There's still a lot I don't know, especially about different tips (EH?).




And of course, if anyone has any suggestions or advice about this matter, please throw it in while my mind is still impressionable. There's a small window where I can train myself, know what I mean? So here's what I learned so far:

1. My hand doesn't hurt. It didn't really before, but it doesn't now either.
2. I am capable of learning new ways to point and click.
3. I'm going to lose the pen a lot.

I can't say it makes me any faster, but it doesn't seem to be slowing me down and it makes me LOOK a lot cooler, which we all know I desperately need.



(Only partially related note I accidentally found while Googling something else: Wacom is a Japanese portmanteau: Wa for "harmony" or "circle", and Komu for "computer". THAT'S SO CUTE.)


Posted by: Kylee Peña on Aug 9, 2013 at 4:13:48 pmComments (8) wacom pen tablet, video editing



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