Thursday, April 14, 2005

The Flatbed Editor

I started editing as soon as I got my film back from the lab, but before I could get creative I had to first begin the mundane chores of logging shots, and syncing up the footage. This is time consuming, and sometimes can be quite tedious. But it was something that had to be done. I should have also gotten my film and mag track coded after I sync up the footage. Coding is when numbers are printed on your workprint & magnetic track so that after you cut the slate from the picture you can sync up your footage by matching the numbers from the film to the mag track. I didn't and so I sometime had to sync by eye, and later found out in some shots that I was off synch by a frame or two. If this was done in video I be dead, but since I was doing it in film the out of synch footage didn't look that bad. Of course when editing on my Moviola Flatbed editor I oly saw a small image on the view screen. To get a better sense of how in synch you are one should see it projected. You'll know right away if you are out of synch or not. Remember your magnifying your footage so any defect will be seen as big as day, so if you do it my way then have it coded, and or after syncing up the footage show the footage through a projector and make notes. Why go this route? At the time I did not have access to video editing, or a non-linear editor, so this was the easiest. I acquired a Movieola Flatbed from a filmmaker here in Philly. I paid $2,500 for the flatbed which was in excellent condition. Getting the Flatbed to my apartment was another feat that I did again when we moved. One thing a flatbed editor is is heavy. I took it apart and got the person who I bought it from and my uncle to help me get it into the apartment. It was a tight fit, but we managed. I then moved it again only this time two BIG movers helped put it in my office where it now resides. The Flatbed is an archaic piece of equipment that really works. I've had to change the lightbulb socket, and had to tighten some belts in the five or 6 years I've owned it. So again I had to steep myself in knowing how the flatbed ran, and how I should maintain it. My electronic background helped. Renting a flatbed was out of the question. It cost too much, and for the price of rental I bought one instead.

Again this is not what I would do today, and I seriously don't think I'll do it again that way. First of all there are only a few labs that still develop a workprint for you, and transfer your sound to mag track. Don't get me wrong. There are a number of labs that still do this, but now it's develop the negative, and layback the audio to tape which costs money. But getting your footage to tape is getting cheaper and cheaper, and since you'll ultimately produce a DVD of the film you might as well go this way. After all if the film is successful then a distributor can take your digi-beta tape, and produce a print for projection then.

I had a great time editing my film. I loved the tactile sensation of running film through my fingers, and seeing an image on the print. It's something I recommend a filmmaker do at least once in their career. After all you'll appreciate editing more after going this route just by doing so many labor intensive procedures. You'll never complain about digitizing footage again. Okay maybe a little, but it isn't as bad as rolling up film, and changing reels, and winding down a reel to get to the footage you need. I heard Walter Murch the sound editor for films like "Star Wars", & "Apocalypse Now" edited standing up instead of seated, and half the time I did the same. Murch raised the flatbed up on two by fours, and edited that way. He says that editing standing up seemed the only way to go, and he is right. The above picture is of me and my assistant Jack the cat. I usually sat while watching the footage I had just cut. But while editing I uually stood, and Murch is right. It does feel right because editing on a flatbed you're constantly doing something, and your hands are between the film footage, the splicer, the mag tracks, and your film bin, so standing is a natural way of editing on a flatbed editor.

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