Smart DX – Tracking Takes and Creating Markers Live

I’ve been working on a several animated projects in the past few years (Tron: Uprising, Kung Fu Panda 3, an upcoming feature produced by Paramount Pictures among others) and one thing that has always been difficult is the manual process of breaking down dialogue. I’ve learned to become very fast at it, but it’s still very time consuming and always seems to happen when there is already a crunch going on in editorial.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to streamline the process and I grabbed some friends and colleagues and have come up with this application called Smart DX. It helps you track takes while you are in the recording session and lets you change marker colors (circle takes vs. false starts vs. producer picks) as you go.

I’ve created a KickStarter page for the project. I’ll post some tutorials in the next coming weeks as to how this can be useful for one man band shops, small companies and bigger budget features. Take a look at the project and if you the project would help you, reserve your copy.

Cutting Neil’s Puppet Dreams

Today I wanted to eat up some time by writing about my experience cutting Neil’s Puppet Dreams for the Nerdist channel and Henson Alternative. So here goes nothing. I have been curious about how other people get their jobs, how they work to cut their pieces and how it all comes together as I have been learning and cutting more and more so I hope this does someone a benefit.

Getting the job to edit Neil’s Puppet Dreams started about a year before I got the footage on a drive. That’s because it started with a connection I already had. My producer from Yo Gabba Gabba! felt that because of my experience in cutting notes with directors over e-mail, having my own system (I cut at home for YGG now so I could come home and put my kids to bed) and my “OCD” nature with handing shots off to VFX people (I kind of went over the top and made a google doc for each episode, treating each shot respectively and while it was over the top, we got the job done)..(take a breath sorry for this huge sentence)… that I would be a good fit for this project. While we had Neil Patrick Harris, it wasn’t a large blockbuster project. While it wasn’t a free project, it wasn’t a union project, but I like to do projects for the experience and because they are fun when I can pay the bills.

Rita sent me the scripts to the shorts without telling me who was attached to the project and I read them through to make sure it was a project I was interested in doing. I think she did this to see if I could do it for passion over profit. I accepted and we moved forward. It was when I read the scripts that I finally figured out that it was Neil Patrick Harris so I then decided to go for it and commit, as it would help my reel in terms of “star power” and cutting narrative shorts with a good amount of VFX.

When is a spec a good idea?

Taking on a spec piece can be really troubling. It can also be rewarding.

I find it really awkward. I’ve only had a few decent experiences with spec ads that have led to more work or a better relationship.

I’m not going to tell you whether to accept them or to not, but I will give you a few experiences I’ve passed through since graduating college.

Experience A:

Avoiding Cutting Boredom

I will be the first to admit that I don’t always work on some exciting stuff. Every once in a while we’ve all had to fill in the cracks, pay the bills, call it what you want. I get pretty bored in the middle of these edits sometimes. I start to daydream of the last project I was on or surf the internet or twitter or end up watching all SNL Digital Shorts known to man to avoid cutting. When it comes down to it, they need to get done though.

How do I fight this boredom? How do I get past the edits staring at me? I do two things.

1) Breakdown the Edit.

Duplicate Frames Save the Day

duplicateframesI was in the middle of getting a cut ready for a client and realized I had not implemented the last feedback she had given me. Oops.

I had sent her 8 min worth of selects and takes I liked and she sent me notes on the ones she didn’t really like. Forgetting about those notes, I felt like I was in the rhythm of things and made another cut. I sent it on to her and realized while sending the e-mail I had not made those changes. Oops again.

I quickly wrote her an e-mail reminding her that I would fix those cuts quickly, taking them out asap. I did it with duplicate frames on Final Cut Pro.

Shots I’d Use: The Killers Live at the Royal Albert Hall

In the off chance that a DP asks me before he goes off to a shoot what kind of footage I would like, I always answer lots of coverage and points of view that I wouldn’t be able to see with my own eyes. I think this is the difference between a DP that can bring quality to your video and one that can’t. It’s easy to shoot what we can see with our own eyes, but the ones that can find something else, something we don’t see or normally notice, those are the ones I love to work with.

An example I will use is from The Killers new Blu-Ray/DVD from the 2nd track “This is Your Life.” The video is directed by Dick Carruthers, who has a great background of live concert DVDs. It is a fantastic live concert, I’d highly recommend in for your HDTV setup and Blu Ray collection. Some of the shots are a tad fast for me, I end up wanting more. That may be because I’ve been to a couple of The Killers shows though.