Most people who are not involved in the television or motion picture industry- and even some who are- don't understand what an editor does, (arrange a series of images and sounds in an entertaining fashion that provokes thought or influences decisions and most importantly, evokes emotional response) much less the difference between on-line and off-line editing. As an on-line editor, I generally don't get to decide what images and sounds are used in a show or a sequence - although I do get to reject some and I am often asked simply to "fix this" or "make that work" or "do something here".
     But mostly, those determinations are made by the off-line or "creative" (heh,heh) editors in conjunction and friendly cooperation with the writers, directors, network executives, attorneys, accountants, agents, managers, talent coordinators, public relations agencies, sponsors, advertisers, music publishers, graphic artists, composers, narrators, on-camera talent, photographers, videographers, cinematographers, producers, executive producers, supervising producers, associate producers, line producers, post-producers... and virtually anyone else who has sufficient influence on any of the above people to "leave their artistic thumbprint" on the production. This, at times seemingly endless procession of ideas or "input", can sometimes change the "creative" (hah!) editor's original vision into something nearly unrecognizable to him. This transformation takes place through the course of many revised versions of the project (or cuts) that must be created, then distributed to and screened by most, if not all, of the aforementioned "contributors" for their approval or more likely, their "notes" (lists of things that need to be added, omitted or re-arranged in the next revision for sometimes inscrutable reasons).
     These off-line cuts are usually generated using low-resolution digitizations of copies (workprints) of the original camera and/or stock footage masters and often even temporary images and sounds culled from a DVD, a CD, a VHS tape, a computer file or a hastily recorded still photograph or voice-over. In many instances, off-line editing involves using (or being instructed to use) whatever appropriate image or sound one can create or locate, regardless of the source or the feasibility of its ultimate inclusion in the end product due to legal, financial, technical or aesthetic hindrances. Needless to say, these off-line edits are not suitable for air, even in the latest stages of their development.
     Then... (ideally) once a concensus of the creative contributors on the final content of the program has been reached (but usually long before) and once all the electronic graphic elements have been designed, rendered, rejected, re-designed and re-rendered (but usually long before) and once all the necessary video and audio components have been acquired in the highest quality formats available and legally cleared and contracted for use in a telecast (but usually long before) ...the on-line editor begins his work.
     On-lining essentially entails duplicating (but altering and embellishing where necessary) the outcome of the entire off-line process using the original master source materials, thereby preparing the video portion of the program for broadcast, the audio portion for the mixing session and while adhering to the broadcasters requirements regarding formatting and technical specifications, ultimately ensuring that the end result of the weeks, months or even years of pre-production, production and post-production ends up being visually and aurally pleasing to you,
the home viewer.



Post Production House Director Needed
A quickly expanding post production house is seeking a manager/slash editing director to head up projects and direct our editors and graphic designers to meet project deadlines efficiently and effectively. Payment is well met with industry standards. We will not go into duties required to meet this position. Instead we wish you, the potential candidate, to tell us what duties you think are required for this position and how you can excell at fullfilling these responsibilities. We want the best of the best, not an employee he simply tells us he or she can meet the duties that we require. Your in depth explanation of what you will accomplish will assure us that you know what your doing. A minimum of 3 years experience with a post production house is a must however. In addition, we have a figure in mind for the annual salary paid for this position. But again, instead of telling you what we think you should earn, you tell us what you deserve for your services. Our budget is extensive and everything is negotiable. Our company believes in great rewards to those who deserve and demand it.

  • Location: Orange County
  • Compensation: Negotiable
  • Principals only. Recruiters, please don't contact this job poster.
  • Please, no phone calls about this job!

My Response:

     My name is Ray Wolf. I've worked in post-production, in one capacity or another, for the past 17 years. It's a bit difficult to determine exactly what your company might require from a one-sentence description of such a position, so let me begin by outlining some of the things I've done in the past.
     My previous employer was an independent television and film production company that required me to fill the pivotal position in the post-production process. In pre-production, I would meet with the producers and offline editors to help determine materials acquisition and workflow. When footage was shot in the field or in studio, or graphics elements were received from outside contributors, I was responsible for evaluating, duplicating and tracking the various media. I worked with composers and music suppliers to acquire audio elements in the proper formats and in the most efficient manner and in some cases supervised the production and recording of music, voice-overs and effects.
     I was also instrumental in evaluating stock footage and archival elements and in transferring them from whatever media was available to formats that were useable in both offline and on-line editing. The transition from offline to on-line was also my responsibility, including the generation of EDL and OMFI files, the conversion of digital video to time-coded tape formats and the management and execution of the producers’ notes.  
     As an on-line editor, I've designed or composited numerous text and graphic elements and integrated them into the final programs. (I've created several main titles, dozens of end credit sequences and inserted thousands of lower thirds.) In conjunction, my duties also included proofreading copy and making corrections to spelling, grammar, usage and terminology.
     I’ve on-lined hundreds of hours of programming of nearly every kind, from multi-hour network specials and series to concise presentations, promotional reels, press kits and commercials. In so doing, I’ve developed a keen sense for color correction, visual effects and the overall quality and continuity of the on-screen image. I'm thoroughly familiar with broadcast technical specifications, as well as general formatting and delivery requirements. As the last link in the chain of production, I have been responsible for the ultimate and final quality control of the video and audio components of all of this programming, most of it proceeding directly from me to air.
     Even before I became an accredited Pro Tools operator, I supervised the entire audio mixing process from laydown to lay-back, working closely with the mixer to ensure that all notes and revisions were addressed before final screenings with the producers. My musical background gives me the knowledge and ability to produce insightful and precise music editing and as a post-production mixer I have generated audio mixes that include the 5.1 surround matrix.
     I have also accrued an empirical technical understanding of editing systems, signal routing, tape machines and recording technology, having played a key role in the design, installation and implementation of the studios and hardware systems that I’ve utilized. Machine maintenance and systems troubleshooting have been necessary parts of my day-to-day duties. (Although I’m not actually an engineer, I’ve had to pass for one on many occasions; I know how to hook things up and make them work.)
     I believe that my broad and varied experience in broadcast post-production has provided me with the qualifications and expertise to help execute, manage and direct the realization of nearly any type of programming project from concept to delivery. I urge you to visit my website to download my resume and review some of my credits and examples of my work.   
     In closing, let me describe some of the attributes that I think your ideal candidate will engender. You will need someone with excellent communication skills who can develop amicable, professional relationships with clients, contributors and suppliers simply through the use of phone calls and e-mail, if necessary. You will need someone with unique interpersonal skills who can instill confidence in the clientele and nurture a spirit of camaraderie and teamwork among the staff, yet inspire a sense of respect. You will need someone who has first-hand knowledge of the skills and the amount of time required to perform all of the various processes involved in producing whatever kind of project that may come through the door. You will need someone who can organize these processes to be executed in the proper order, so that none of them are hindered due to lack of materials or shortage of resources. You will need someone who is also flexible, open-minded and has the ability to improvise... because things often do not go as planned or scheduled in this business. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you will need someone who knows what a well-finished product is supposed to look and sound like. I believe that I possess these attributes.

     I must say, this is the darndest job application I've ever filled out. I hardly believe that anyone will actually read it. But it seems to be what was asked for, so if you have gotten this far, I've told you an awful lot about myself. I think, if it should come to that point, I'll let you tell me how much you think I might be worth. I appreciate your consideration.

my regards,
Ray Wolf

A Brief History Of Time (Code)

     It is widely known that, in general, one second of video contains 30 frames or that one second of film contains 24 frames. But the way in which these numbers are applied to editing is changing radically due to the digital revolution in video production.
     In the early twentieth century, the only way to capture a moving visual image was to use a motion picture film camera- essentially, a device which "took" a rapid series of photographs, strung together sequentially on a strip of celluloid that was passed at a steady rate in front of the lens. Of course, the earliest cameras were hand-cranked; so that rate was often not-so-steady and in fact, could vary drastically from film to film, operator to operator, scene to scene- even second to second. If you've ever wondered why the action in old silent films looks quirky and sped-up, it's actually because a good camera operator always cranked slower rather than faster so that upon projection, which had a more controlled speed, it wouldn't result in slow-motion movements of the actors. This would not appear at all realistic.
     But even back then, a reel of film (obviously) contained a finite number of these photographs, which became known as frames, and they could be counted and marked in order to locate various action or designate takes and edit points.With the advent of motorized film transports, this "frame rate" became standardized and the action in front of the camera was captured much more authentically. This also led to the most important breakthrough in motion picture history, to that point, the "talkie". Film cameras - even today - do not record audio. And though early filmmakers had the technology to record sound separately, there was no way to assure that its playback would be "in time" with the action on the screen.
     Enter: time code. The organization that eventually became known as the Society Of Motion Picture And Television Engineers (SMPTE) developed a system to coordinate the frame rate of the film camera and projection device to the speed of the audio recorder and playback system. Then, picture and sound could be (almost) perfectly synchronized (most of the time) and the era of the silent film was over. Unfortunately, this put a lot of piano players (and even some actors) out of work.
     When television and eventually videotape were invented, SMPTE time code came to include a frame rate of 30 frames per second. (Video color-framing and new digital technology actually allow for several variances in this standard, but that’s a whole different topic.) In simple terms, time code is an audio signal, a pulsed sound at a constant specific interval that can be recorded on a designated track of either an audio or video tape machine. This allows every frame of video and/or audio to be “counted” and assigned a specific number. When a videotape recorder captures images, it assigns these frame numbers randomly, although consecutively, unless it is instructed to start at a pre-set point. A time code generator enables the designation of this point beginning with the desired hour from 0 through 23. For example, most broadcasters require that programs begin at exactly hour 1 of the time code on the tape. This is shown as 01:00:00:00 with each set of digits separated by colons specifying hours, minutes, seconds and frames respectively. Every frame that follows on the tape is assigned the next sequential number, thereby allowing the machine to “read” the code and locate any point on the tape.
     Obviously, this has been an invaluable tool for editing, even back in the days when videotape edits were done by actually cutting and splicing the tape itself. The invention of computer controlled tape decks did away with that practice, as two machines could then be rolled in synchronization with each other and one of them switched into (and out of) record mode at specified frame numbers.
     But another basic, yet crucial, aspect of time code is the ability it provides to make an exact duplicate of a tape with precisely the same image and sound at precisely the same frame location as the original. This single critical fact allows for the exchange of information between editors (or anyone working with these tapes) and between editing systems. Since most off-line editing takes place using copies of the master tapes, if those workprints do not contain the correct matching time code, the edits performed with them will be incorrect (or at the least, inexact) when the on-line editing is done using the masters.
     With digital non-linear editing systems, even when the time code on the tape is correct, if it is not captured properly, problems can easily result. And because these systems and their operators don’t directly use the time code on an edit-by-edit basis once the content is captured, these problems may not be readily recognized.
     Now, with so many new ways to acquire content, these problems can be compounded by the divergence of the different media’s specifications. The digital videotape formats DVCAM and mini DV can use SMPTE code but also utilize another type of time designation termed DV Time. The newest acquisition method is direct to drive (or disc) recording, in which the camcorder actually creates digital video files that do not necessarily even use time code in the conventional sense. And of course, digitally created video, graphics and animation for instance, have no inherent SMPTE time code other than what is assigned for use in their placement in the editing software’s timeline.
     Due to all of this revolutionary new technology, a surprising number of editors who work with “desktop video” do not really have an understanding what SMPTE time code really consists of, other than numbers on a screen; or know that it is something that can actually be heard and seen on a tape recording. More than one university broadcast school graduate has winced when I first introduced them to its shrill song.
     Many people are forecasting the disuse and demise of magnetic recording tape altogether. But until high capacity digital storage is made crash-proof and safe for archival purposes and until the major networks and other broadcasters start accepting delivery of their on-air programming on HD-DVD or some other type of media, tape and time code will continue to play an integral role in the world of video production.