Notes from The Editing Cave: The Adam Pranica Edition

Adam Pranica

Website/Blog: http://www.dorsiafilms.com

Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/dorsia

I’ve been an editor for about 8 years, using the current version of Final Cut Pro in all that time. My editing time is evenly split between live music performances and corporate video.

What personality traits or characteristics do you think it takes to be a successful editor?

It takes a great amount of self-discipline to be a successful editor. Because the work is solitary, the editor is in charge of using their time productively. No one’s going to tell you to stop playing Skyrim and get back to work, you’ve got to do that yourself.

In your mind what is the biggest mistake most editors make?

I think an editor’s goal should be to make their work invisible – the craft of editing is about deferring attention from themselves and into what is really important: the subject, to the actor/talent, to the story. An editor fails when their work takes the viewer’s attention away from those things by being flashy or incompetent.

What’s your biggest pet peeve when editing?

The biggest editing frustration I have is editing poorly shot footage from ostensibly good shooters. I think this is becoming more and more common with the popularity of DSLRs, because a lot of photographers are shooting video now, and maybe that’s my fault for getting my hopes up when I work with really good photographers. The skillset for a good composition is the same for a photographer and a videographer, but a photographer often has no idea how long to hold on a subject before changing their shot. Edit a multi-camera shoot where one of the shooters is a photographer and their footage will stand out, every time. It’s one of the reasons I think every shooter should also be an editor, or at least have editing experience. It’s difficult to convince a shooter of how critical it is to hold a shot unless they have had to edit two hours of 3 second clips.

What do you most enjoy about editing?

I like the solitude. I also like the idea if taking the raw materials of something and turning it into something better. The satisfaction feels like cooking a good meal or making a great cocktail. And as much as it’s true for writing a screenplay, the edit is where the craft of storytelling really happens. It’s an under-appreciated craft, but I love it.

Any advice for someone just getting started in editing?

I’ve learned more about editing by doing it than in any courses or books. If I get stuck, there’s a lot of how-to videos on Vimeo and YouTube available that have saved my ass a time or two.

What is the biggest challenge you face as an editor?

Editing is a time-consuming process, and the ratio between edit time and footage/production/final cut time is often unbelievable to a client. Managing those expectations in the beginning can be a challenge, but that’s often mitigated by a great first cut. Show the client where the time/money is going, and they’ll understand next time around.

If you had to compare editing to something else what would it be and why?

Editing is the most like building a puzzle. Whether it’s one of those stupid Thomas Kinkade paintings or a couple of kitties playing with yarn, the craft is the same, mechanically. You have the picture on the box of what it should look like from a client, and hopefully the production team has made sure all the pieces are there. From that point it’s putting together the frame and then filling in all the spaces between.

Most annoying editing trend since barn door wipes?

Wait, we aren’t supposed to use those anymore? Huh. Awkward…

Your thoughts on dissolves? Is it just a crutch? Does it ever actually serve a purpose?

An editor has great power over dictating the pace of a story or the intensity of a moment. Dissolves serve a purpose in storytelling for moments that require them. A lot of times I’ll use a 2 or 3 frame dissolve to soften hard cuts; a dissolve that short is mostly imperceptible, a sort of rounded corner that can subtly do the job without waving a big soft c$#k around like a regular 12-24 frame dissolve would.


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