Notes From The Editing Cave: The Mike Staniforth Edition

Mike Staniforth

Currently working on Shelter: a look at Manchester’s homeless, the trailer is here

I’ve been a professional editor now for 5 years. Starting off in Sport, moving into corporate work and now working on my own personal documentary projects. I was trained on Final Cut at University and I have been using Final Cut X since it came out. Although I use AVID MC daily with my full time job, my software of choice is now Final Cut X along with After Effects.

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

I think the obvious characteristic one needs to be a successful editor is patience. Beside waiting for render times and the obvious amendments from the client, you need to be patient in your own ability as an editor because every little detail matters, all down to a single frame.
You need a keen eye for detail, spotting the little details that most people overlook, makes all the difference.

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

In my mind the biggest mistakes that editors make come down to trying to make all the decisions by themselves. And believing they are all the correct decisions too. What you think is a good decision/edit, might not be the best one for the client, so working closely with and having a good relationship with the producer/director/client is very crucial.
The client is always right is hard thing to swallow when you first start out, even though they may not be, they are the ones who are paying your bills and putting food on your table.

What’s your biggest pet peeve when editing?

Bad camera work. Shaky camera footage is my nemesis. Editors have a knack for making anything look great, but if you get bad footage from someone who doesn’t know 100% what they are doing with a camera, you’re screwed. But on the other hand, this is where you can really show your worth and turn something bad into something else. Swings and roundabouts.

What do you most enjoy about editing?

My favourite part of the editing process is when your vision of the edit starts to come into it’s own. When you can really see things coming together and the footage and edit looks good, it makes the hairs on my arms stick up, you can’t beat that feeling knowing you have created this. The output is what you are working toward but enjoying the ride to it is what it’s all about.

Any advice for someone just getting started in editing?

Just edit. Seriously it’s the best way to get better. Even if it’s bad you can learn something from it.

What is the biggest challenge you face as an editor?

Time. You are alway’s working against time. Get used to the late nights because you will be in each others company for as long as you edit.

There is also so much competition out there for every job now, you have to really stand out from the crowd when looking for work. Expecting to walk into a full time editing job straight out of education just isn’t going to happen anymore. So with this knowledge you also have to stay ahead of the game with technology. Dismissing new editing software and sticking to the only one you know makes you a one trick pony. I started using FCX almost immediately, not because I thought it was amazing but because in a few years when more doors have been opened with the software, this is the direction we will be heading, and not getting a job because somebody younger, faster and cheaper can use software you can’t just isn’t an option.

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

Having to chew through aluminium foil to get to the T-bone steak inside.

Most annoying editing trend since barn door wipes?

Computer gameplay montages on YouTube. Go away.

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

At the end of some of my edits I like to throw in a few dissolves here and there, watch it through then get rid of them telling myself at least I gave them a shot.
They have their purpose, but I don’t use them much.


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