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When I tell fellow post-production professionals that I edit animation, the most common question I get is, “So, do they just give you handles on everything?” It’s an understandable question for anyone working in the live-action world, but it’s a sign that the role of animation editors isn’t well understood.
Ken Schretzmann, editor of Toy Story 3 and Cars (among many other animated features), once described it this way: “In live-action, you shoot first and edit later. In animation, you edit first and shoot later.” And he’s absolutely right. Compared to live-action editing, animation editing is upside down.
Before the first frame is even drawn, animation editors are already deeply immersed in the process of cutting their stories. Of course, live-action editors often go to work before shooting begins, but the art of animation editing is unique in its own right.
In this article, we’ll explore the three main stages of editing animation, and see why animation workflows are so unique in the film and television industry.
Editorial of an animated production generally begins after the voice actors record the script. In some cases, each actor records their lines individually, but there are also “cast records” where all the voice actors are in the studio together.
Toy Story 3 (2010) Voice Actors Behind The Scenes | Recording Sessions - YouTube
In my experience, cast records produce the best results. Being in the same room lets lead actors play off of each other’s energy and improvise in ways that aren’t possible when they’re alone in a soundproof room. It is sometimes a challenge to get high-demand talent together in the same room, especially if the production has a fast-paced schedule, but it can produce some of the most memorable performances and relationships in animation.
After all the audio is recorded, I start by editing the radio play, an all-audio version of the script. It consists mostly of the dialogue with a few key sound effects and music. And in order to get an accurate runtime, non-dialogue actions are also slugged in.
Beyond simply relying on instinct and experience to estimate how long an action should take, it’s often necessary for animation editors to act out the scenes of the story. For example, my colleagues and I have choreographed fights, vocalized tire screeching sounds, and generally behaved like kids in the pursuit of accurate timing. It’s a necessary task that adds quite a bit of fun to the process.
But the real work comes with crafting actor performances. This is an essential function for any editor, of course, but in the world of animation an editor’s options are next level. Without the constraints of continuity and jump cuts, anything and everything that’s been recorded is fair game. Seldom do animation editors choose the “best take” in its entirety. We comb through all recorded material in search of the best sentence, word, or grunt, all the way down to a single breath, in order to piece a line together.
How To Train Your Dragon 2 B-ROLL - Cast ADR (2014) - Animated Sequel HD - YouTube
The radio play serves as the basis for the storyboard team’s subsequent work, which is why I consider it one of the most important foundational steps to launching an animated production. It’s the point in the process where you’re working with story, performance, and timing in their raw forms and can really evaluate the best deliveries from the actor(s).
Pixar Storyboarding Mini Doc - YouTube
It’s also the easiest place to make story or plot changes, in that anything can be rewritten and recorded—before the animation has started. The further an animated show gets into the production process, the more changes ripple down into other departments.
When preparing a radio play for storyboarding, it’s really important for the editor to hone the timing as closely as possible. Removing excess content helps prevent the storyboard artists from wasting time creating drawings or elements that will never make it to the final cut. Cutting an extra second from the radio play can save subsequent teams hours of unnecessary work.
Of all the stages of production, animatics come with the largest variety of names. Storyboards, story reels, boardomatics, and leica reels are all synonyms for what I’ll just refer to as an animatic.
The animatic is essentially the rough cut of the story that the animation will be based on. Camera blocking, character action, and design are all explored in these rough drawings. It’s a period of boundless creativity where nearly every visual element of an animated production is experimented with and ultimately decided on by the team.
Up "Married Life" | Pixar Side by Side - YouTube
In general, storyboard artists create the drawings with the director, typically using a program called Storyboard Pro. This program is a favorite in animation circles, as it allows artists to roughly time out action as they draw new storyboard panels.
Those images are then delivered to editorial as JPEGs with an XML file that lets me start my edit with the storyboard artist’s timing already in place. On average, I expect to receive about 2000 separate JPEGs per ten minutes of content. Below you can see an image of a timeline encompassing one minute of a standard animatic.
Timing and pacing are everything when editing an animatic. You’re not just editing in and out points of a shot, but also determining the flow of action in between.
Because animatics are simply a guide for animators to begin their work, aesthetics are less important. The goal is to always create an animatic that, in addition to providing a roadmap for the animators, also enables flexibility in post-production. To ensure this, here are a few rules I always follow:
Have every line of dialogue delivered on screen. Even if I plan on using L cuts or overlapping edits, I generally save those for post-production, because if you build them into the cut prior to animation and decide to adjust them later, you might find that you don’t have the necessary frames. The same goes for dissolves, wipes, or post effects like camera push-ins.
Edit at a slower pace than seems natural. Animatics are simple. Your eye quickly absorbs all the content on screen. But as those scenes move through the animation process you’ll notice each extra layer of detail appears to speed up the pace of your edit. To compensate for this, I like to leave just a little extra time on everything, knowing I can cinch things up in post-production. Generally speaking, I try to leave four frames at the head and tail of any shot with dialogue, and never less than two seconds for an establishing shot.
Rely on SFX and music as much as visuals for story and timing. Sound effects and music can reinforce actions or feelings in a storyboard and even help fill in detail. Animation editor Judith Allen highlighted this unique process in animation by pointing out, “In live-action filming, every action on set is accompanied by the corresponding sound. Often these are replaced or enhanced, but the sound is there and used within the rhythm of the cut whether consciously or unconsciously.”
With a locked animatic and all designs complete, animation begins. There are many interim stages between animatic and final animation, but the editor’s involvement may vary.
After each shot is animated and delivered to editorial, post-production kicks off. Many of these steps mirror that of traditional live-action with picture locking, scoring, and even color correction, but there are some animation-specific twists.
Editing Animated Footage
On every project, I’ve edited there is at least five percent more footage that’s fully animated beyond the intended run time. The extra footage provides the flexibility to further refine the content through editing. Just as you’d expect in any editorial process, unnecessary shots and lines of dialogue may be cut. And I can go back to all those edits I may have kept a little looser in the animatic phase to perfect the pacing of every scene. But where animation editing truly departs from live-action is the editing within a shot.
Animated footage is actually more malleable than you might expect. The basic concept of animation you have to understand to unlock this potential is what I’ll refer to as animating on 1s, 2s, and 3s. Those numbers refer to the frame rate at which the action moves. A character that’s animated on 1s means that there is a distinct drawing (or CG animated frame) for every frame of their action. On 2s, there’s one drawing that’s held for two frames; on 3s, each drawing is held for three frames. All end up looking acceptable to viewers, so the editor can shift between them for stylistic effect. For example:
Lifting every other frame of a character on 2s makes the action look faster. Similarly, you can even pull every other frame of an action animated on 1s to speed up the action.
Conversely, taking an action animated on 1s and duplicating every frame makes the action slower without the interpolated motion look of a slow-motion filter.
There’s also a way to create eases and acceleration. Key-framed animation tends to move linearly, meaning a constant rate of motion between the start and end position. This type of movement isn’t always natural, though. Pretend you’re waving goodbye to someone. Your arm doesn’t move linearly throughout the action. It gradually speeds up, moves faster in the middle of the motion, and then eases into rest momentarily before beginning the sequence again.
By applying this concept to animation, an editor can introduce more natural movements to a shot that’s already been animated. An action animated on 2s can be edited to 1s in the middle of an action, to imitate the ramp-up. An action edited on 1s can be slowed down to 2s at the beginning and end to give the illusion of easing from a start or to a stop.
All of these techniques are extremely helpful when creating a consistent rhythm for actions moving across multiple shots. The reality is that animators often work on a single shot at a time. A car chase could be animated by as many people as there are shots in the scene. By using these techniques, the editor can create a flow and rhythm that might not have been in the original animated frames.
Above is an example of applying these editorial techniques to an animated shot. The original shot is animated entirely on 2s. For the edited version, transitional motions up and down have been run on 1s. The foot at the top and bottom of the motions has been run on 3s. A slight camera shake has also been added to indicate the engine firing up. What this leaves us with is a more dynamic pedal action and a livelier shot. You’ll also notice that the overall run time of the shot hasn’t been affected. The changes are subtle, but these kinds of small details are where an editor can really improve the final result.
In retakes, we modify the animation for any number of reasons. Revising character animation, fixing technical errors, and adding new lines of dialogue can all occur at this stage. Despite going through a thorough animatic process, it’s hard to know what you have until you see it all together. Very rarely are the shots you see in an animated film or television show the first pass the editor gets.
That’s why I find it helpful to keep every version of a shot on my timeline until after it’s been finaled. Keeping track of countless iterations of each shot requires obsessive detail, but actually speeds up my workflow. I can easily compare versions of shots to see exactly what’s changed or improved. If there are better parts in different versions, I can combine them to create the best version. Here’s an example of what one of my timelines might look like throughout the retakes process:
A unique role
It takes hundreds of specialized artists and technicians to complete an animated project. Many of those people pour their great talents into a very focused, hyper-specific portion of a production.
Editors who work in animation occupy a unique role, however. The editor is one of the few individuals whose job it is to consider every element within the context of the complete episode or movie, to observe how all the pieces fit together, and to use them to create the best possible final product.
And that’s the big difference between animation and live-action editors. We don’t work in a separate “editorial department” of the production. We’re part of the core team responsible for the story months or years before production even begins.
People can be eager to compare movies and TV shows to Alfred Hitchcock or the paranoia thrillers (The Conversation, The Parallax View) of the 1970s, but it’s rare those comparisons are earned. Sam Esmail’s Homecoming, about a mysterious health center that claims to help soldiers acclimate to civilian life, is worthy. Esmail made a name for himself as the visionary creator behind another popular television with a mysterious plot, Mr. Robot.
With its unique style – split screens, score, flashback-heavy structure – Homecoming has proven to be one of the best drama series in recent memory. No small feat, given its competition these days.
Homecoming Season 1 - Official Trailer 2 | Prime Video - YouTube
We spoke with the three editors who split duties on the ten episodes: Rosanna Tan, Justin Krohn, and Franklin Peterson. They told us about how they like their cutting rooms set up, the unique way that Sam Esmail likes to work, and why sound was so important to Homecoming.
The Technical Specs
All ten episodes of Homecoming were shot on the Panavision DXL 2 camera in REDCODE RAW 8K at 6:5 Anamorphic with a 5:1 Compression Ratio. The footage was then edited offline on Mac Pro trashcans, in Avid DNxHD 36 in 1920 x 1080.
The cutting room set ups were made up of two computer monitors in front of the editors, a client monitor to the right, and a wall-mounted TV above for directors and producers to see cuts. Because sound is incredibly important to Sam Esmail (more on that later), sound designer Kevin Buchholz also came in to properly balance the room for optimum audio quality.
Within that arrangement, Tan, Krohn, and Peterson had their individual preferences too. For example, Krohn likes his monitors to be 27” but watches initial cuts on the couch, looking at the TV. “This gets me away from my desk and Avid and watching the scene just as an audience member,” he says.
Peterson likes using older Pioneer or Panasonic plasma with their deep blacks, and because they have less issues with motion stutter and banding. He’ll also have his monitors professionally calibrated, or will research how to do it himself. “I need to feel confident that the image I am showing is as close as possible to what the DP intended,” he explains.
Homecoming Season 1 - Behind The Scenes: Visual Style Explained | Prime Video - YouTube
Managing the Crossboarding
When the editing room is ready to go, work can begin. With Homecoming, the bin and dailies process was by Esmail’s atypical approach to TV production. Instead of shooting episode by episode, he crossboards whole seasons as if shooting a movie. Everything is shot at once, as determined by location or actor availability. He does it for both logistical reasons, and creative oversight. “I think for him it helps him to feel like this is the most cost-effective way to shoot at location, shoot our actors, and also to provide himself with this sort of sense of ultimate control,” Peterson explains.
Homecoming Season 1 - Behind the Scenes with Julia Roberts | Prime Video - YouTube
The result was sometimes a unique challenge for the editors, because they were never working with a fully-finished episode until the end of production. So, they would have to work with whatever materials were coming, and adjust their work-in-progress episodes accordingly. “The second you get that [new] scene, will it change the whole episode’s shape? Will it make you feel suddenly that the pacing feels off? And how much are we having to rework other elements in the episode prior?” Peterson says, summarizing some of the considerations they had to factor into their constantly updating episode work.
However, the process had benefits the editors appreciated. Notably, they would have more time with the materials they did have. So, they were able to sit with footage longer, tinker with it, and perfect it, all with considerably less stress and pressure.
Organizing the Dailies
Daily footage coming in that covers multiple episodes requires good organization. The editors each have their own methods. “I like things categorized, clearly labeled and dated,” says Tan. “There’s never an unnamed bin, file or sequence.” Peterson likes stripped down bin organization. “All material shot for a scene is present along with wild lines and placed into one long sequence. This is often referred to as a KEM roll,” he says.
Krohn gives each scene its own bin. He explained to us exactly what that looks like. “If there’s a large amount of setups that were shot for a particular scene, I’ll make multiple scene bins, naming them, for example, Sc. 7pt1, Sc. 7pt2, etc. I’ll then determine which setups were used for each part of the scene and organize which setups go into which bin from there.
“For example, if the 7A, 7B, and 7E setups are covering the first part of the scene, they will go into the Sc. 7pt1 bin. This helps me to mentally breakdown the scene & never feel overwhelmed if there’s a large amount of footage shot for a scene or sequence.”
He adds, “I have the bin set to thumbnail view and then each camera setup will have its own row. With group clips (when they’re shooting an A&B camera), I’ll have the A&B camera have it’s own row, with the group clip in the row below underneath, typically under the A cam. Then I have my assistant editor choose the best frame that represents the setup & poster frame it, so that when I open up a dailies bin I have a quick visual representation of how the scene is covered.”
Making Selects and Starting the Cut
When it comes to actually watching the daily footage, Peterson likes to be comprehensive. “How I view dailies [is] I always make sure to include every frame shot in case there is anything that can prove useful even if that wasn’t it’s intended purpose,” he says. “I look at every frame, everything before they say action, everything after they say cut, every piece I can think of.” Tan also watches everything, making sure to take her time as she does.
Krohn prefers to start by watching the last take of every set up. “I just want to get a visual idea of what the scene is, how to construct it, and my first impression. Then I will just start going through all the takes [to decide] ‘Okay I want to start here,’” he says.
As for how they make their selects and start cutting, Peterson does a lot of marking. “I basically create a select reel that has just locators out the ass.” He makes those selects based on a lesson he learned from editor Robert C. Jones at USC: you only get to see dailies once, so trust how you initially react to the material. “I basically go by my first response to the material,” Peterson says, and notes that he’ll write down his thoughts as he goes. “As I keep watching take after take, I start to sculpt in my head like, ‘Okay this is how I’m going to put it together.’”
Tan does something similar. “Once I have a blueprint down of how I want to cut the scene, then I go back, and I go back,” she says. She can be hard on herself doing that process. “My assistant will usually see my comments to myself in the bins and say ‘Oh my gosh it’s so negative,’” she says. “I’ll write, ‘Rough, terrible, rough, horrible.’ But then slowly I’ll go over it and start removing that ‘terrible.’”
Peterson likes to preserve many options for himself as he goes along. “I build a particularly complicated timeline full of layers on layers on layers, where I know this take is my first choice, this is my second choice take, or I have alt versions of things I can sometimes embed in my own timeline,” says Peterson. He does that, in part, to give Esmail options. “If he starts to question something I can say, ‘I’ve got an alt for you right now.’”
Krohn likes to dive in as quickly as possible. “I want to get through it and get it on its feet so I can see what the scene is,” he says. “I’ll get through my first cut, and then I’ll usually move on to another scene. I’ll move on and try to do something else really quickly and just get a break from it and come back and look at it later in the day or first thing in the morning. Because I just want to get away from all the challenges you get in your head about. I probably will typically work a scene three or four times before I would consider it my cut, where I want to show it.”
The Collaboration Process
Throughout their work on Homecoming, the editors collaborated closely with their assistants, Zachary Dehm (Tan’s assistant), Matthew Barton (Peterson’s assistant), and Chris Guiral (Krohn’s assistant). While the assistants provide the lead editors with organization and technical details, the lead editors also like to provide their assistants with something: being involved in the creative process.
“I think it’s really important to try to get your assistants to cut as much as possible,” says Krohn. “There’s a responsibility on editors to mentor their assistants and help encourage them as much as possible to cut, and to learn about the creative process – not just the technical stuff.”
For Krohn, that meant letting Guiral co-edit the fifth episode with him. Peterson likes to sit down and watch a constructed episode with Barton and talk about it. “I want his opinion. Not just on an episode level, but on a scene level. I’ll say, ‘Do you get this? How does this feel to you? Is this working?’”
Scene from episode 5, “Helping”. Contrary to usual tropes, it’s the “flash forward” scenes which have a more retro and confined aspect ratio.
They both believe that level of involvement goes a long way. “It keeps them really engaged creatively in the project,” Krohn says. “The more you can get your assistant editor doing that, there’s more of an investment in the project, and there’s just a better team atmosphere. Everyone feels like they have skin in the game.”
The collaborator with the most skin in the game is Sam Esmail, of course. The way the editors work with him is that Esmail gets shown selected scenes and sequences during production and provides feedback. “He wants to see things every week or every two weeks,” Tan says. (Note: some imagery used in this video could be slightly spoilery.)
Making Homecoming: A Conversation Between Sam Esmail and Matt Zoller Seitz - YouTube
In between, he largely trusts his editors add their initiative in the early stages. “There’s no, ‘I want you to do this.’ Nothing like that. He wants to see what we come up with and then when he sees it, he’ll react to it. And then he’ll give us his notes,” says Tan.
Before showing Esmail anything, however, one essential element has to be in place.
Sound & Music From Top to Bottom
“His fixation on sound is so important. It’s something where my assistant was very aware that we’re starting to sound design right away,” says Peterson. “He sits in once I’ve had a chance to do a full editor’s cut with complete sound design.” Says Krohn, “If things are off, there’s maybe a stray sound that shouldn’t be there that got in, or maybe it’s a glitch, it really throws him off.”
The sound design process was meticulous. “I’d worked with Sam before, but I had not got to this level of sort of care with the sound design that we did,” Peterson says. “We never had fewer than 24 tracks.”
He has a reasoning for that. “He wants to feel when he watches the first cut, he’s watching it as an audience member,” says Krohn. Tan adds, “It’s like you’re almost watching a final product.”
Take, for example, the many phone call split screens in the show. “He wanted it sound designed from top to bottom, on both sides. Then he wanted everything to sound as if it’s coming through a phone. Then he wants to decide which elements pop. It’s like you’re basically building from scratch, everything as if you were ready to go to… sort of put it on a sound page right away,” Peterson says.
It wasn’t just sound design either. “Working for Sam, we’re music editors as well,” says Tan. Homecoming was unique in that there was no composer. Instead, it used pre-existing scores. The editors were often left to seek out good music selections on their own. We basically we had to find albums, and what we want to try, and then once we presented the scene, Sam would tell us right away,” Tan says. “We have to find the right score for the mood and it has to hit all these beats. It was tough to find a sound and tone for the right scenes.” (The opening scene from episode 1 uses the score from Brian DePalma’s “Dressed to Kill,” music composed by Pino Donaggio).
Quite often filmmakers will use scores from past films to use as a filler or inspiration for the film’s own original score. But as Esmail shared with Vulture in the above-referenced video, he didn’t want to ask a composer to ape some other composer’s work. So he made the creative decision to just go ahead and use the music from past films that he liked.
The soundtrack for “Homecoming” includes scores from such thriller classics as “Dressed to Kill,” “Vertigo,” and “The Amityville Horror.”
But that comes with its own challenges. Tan continues. “We would show each other things, and then say ‘Oh my gosh, that was great.’ And then find out we couldn’t clear it,” Tan says. Or they would have to consider the budget. “Then there’s also the budget. Because to use all these scores, you have to pay the AFM fee. We’d send it back to the music supervisor and her team, and then she would send it back and say, ‘You can only use two minutes and 35 seconds of this, you can’t go over it, because then it’ll hit the next tier.’”
But all their efforts were worth it. The work of editors is always a central component of any show’s success, but with Homecoming so much of what makes it unique – its split screens, its aspect ratio changes, its “score,” its telephone conversations – has the visible fingerprints of its editors on it. Which means watching one of the best TV shows of the year, you can’t help but think: “This is one of the best-edited TV shows of the year.”
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Back in May of 2017, we ran an article about a young editor from Nebraska who took the initiative to contact a music video director whose work she admired. Not only did Taylor Walsh land an internship with directorHannah Lux Davis, she was hired on as a staff assistant editor at London Alley, the Los Angeles production company that reps Davis. There, she honed her skills and went on to edit music videos for artists like Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato, Ed Sheeran, and Pharrell Williams.
Taylor left London Alley to freelance in 2017. She continued to work on high-profile music videos, but in July 2018 she accepted a new staff position, this time at editorial houseCabin Editing.
Why did Taylor decide to go back to a staff position and how has it helped her career? (Hints: it was an amazing opportunity, and a lot.)
To freelance or not to freelance
Sure, freelancing gives you a certain control over your life and your career, and (at least in theory) the ability to pick and choose your projects. Why the qualification? Because you only have that kind of freedom of choice if you have sufficient work to turn down projects you’re not that interested in doing. If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably worked on your share of projects that weren’t exactly reel-worthy so you could pay the rent.
And yes, in theory, you can set your schedule and take time off when you like, but you might also find that the dream project you’ve been offered collides with the trip you planned months ago—a freelancer’s conundrum.
Taylor also noticed that since she became known as a music video editor, she wasn’t getting the opportunity to work on other sorts of projects. One of the dangers of becoming known for just that one thing you do is that it becomes more difficult to branch out creatively. Unless, that is, you love that one thing so much that you have no desire to do anything else—in which case, go ahead and take a victory lap!
Timing isn’t exactly everything—hard work counts
But that was just part of what was problematic for Taylor. The bigger factor was that she found freelancing isolating. As a young editor, she craved the kind of mentorship that working with other editors provides.
As luck would have it, the EP from London Alley was doing a project at Cabin Edit and suggested that they talk to her. “I went in for a meeting,” Taylor says, “thinking I was just going to be meeting them and then they’d maybe keep me in mind for the future. Instead, it went on for four hours and at the end they offered me a full-time job!”
It’s worth noting here that Taylor had done great work at London Alley and had maintained a cordial relationship with them, which compelled her former employer to give her an unsolicited recommendation. Yes, the timing was fortuitous, but her hard work and good attitude earned her that recommendation.
Taylor claims that she took some time to think about the offer, “but I pretty much knew when the meeting was over that I would say yes.” And why wouldn’t she? If you watched the Super Bowl this year, you’d have spotted Cabin’s Pepsi commercial featuring Steve Carrell, Lil Jon, and Cardi B, edited by Graham Turner, one of the partners. They’re also known for their work for clients like BMW, AT&T, and Mercedes Benz, along with music videos by Hannah Lux Davis (among others) for some of the same artists Taylor had already worked with in the past.
Pepsi: Steve Carell, Lil Jon and Cardi B in hilarious Super Bowl advert - YouTube
“I started at Cabin as a junior editor and assistant, depending on the project,” Taylor says. “If I’m doing a music video, I’ll be the lead editor. But if I’m working on a really big ad campaign, then I’ll assist the lead editor.”
The move turned out to be a perfect fit for her. As a kid with a musical theater background, she loved to make her own commercials and music videos. Her father, a long-time IT guy, would bring home the castoff computers from his office for her. “One day he gave me a CD-ROM that he’d bought at Walmart for Video Studio Pro (or something like that). And that was it. I would go down into the basement and stay up until three a.m. learning how to edit.”
“I never went to film school and watched all the movies,” Taylor says. “But I loved to write and tell stories. My form of storytelling was always in short content, so I’m really where I want to be now.”
From music videos to commercials
It could be said that music videos are, effectively, commercials that sell the artist as the brand. On the other hand, for commercial editors, music videos allow them to flex their creative muscles in different ways. It’s only since Taylor has been working on commercials that she’s come to understand the ways in which they’re similar and different.
“One thing I’ve learned is that if the song is good, the video will be good, too,” Taylor says. “Although it’s slightly older, Demi Lovato’s “Sorry, Not Sorry,” still holds up. People still come up to me and tell me how much they love that video and how they love dancing to it.” The proof? Nearly 400 million views on YouTube.
Every editor has their own way of approaching a music video and Taylor shares hers. “The very first step is listening to the song. If I can, I like to be able to see the director’s treatment, too,” she says.
“I have a background in dance, and so I like to look at the footage to find motion that I can cut on to let the motion kind of make the sound. And then I like to look for intimate moments when the artist is looking at the camera—sometimes it’s just when the camera’s rolling before the director calls ‘Action.’ They may have their guard down and do something really genuine.”
Because she worked her way up in the industry with a director who is working at the top of the field, she’s been able to build an impressive reel. Her most recent work includes Ariana Grande’s “7 Rings,” directed by Hannah Lux Davis, and “Blast Off,” the collaboration between Gesaffelstein and Pharrell Williams.
As is the case with many music videos, they can have fairly aggressive post schedules.
The “7 Rings” video, for example, went down “hot and fast,” Taylor says. “I loaded in on day one and pulled selects. Hannah and I sat together on the second day and did the rough. Ariana came in on the third day, and we were locked by day four or five.”
Not unlike music videos, commercials often have compressed post schedules and high financial stakes. At Cabin, she’s worked on a number of big commercial campaigns for such clients as Starbucks and Adidas, as well as on a T-Mobile campaign on which she was lead editor. It aired for the College World Series, and “it was very exciting to see it on TV and realize that lots of other people were watching it, too!”
“Commercials have a lot more structure,” Taylor says. “They’re shot very intentionally and you don’t have as much extra or unplanned footage. In that regard, creating a rough cut is a bit easier, but there’s also less flexibility in how you tell the story. Being able to be the junior editor has really helped me learn how to form the emotion behind an ad. You can help guide the client into a place that’s a bit more experimental or human.”
The staff advantage
Freelancing isn’t for everyone. Not only do you have to be good at what you do, you have to be good at promoting yourself and staying calm when you’re between projects.
Taylor prefers the stability of a staff position, which allows her to focus more on the work itself, rather than on the business of getting work. “When I was freelancing, my nerves were frazzled and I was always anxious,” she says.
The day-to-day responsibilities of being a freelance vs. staff editor are different, too. When she was freelancing, she functioned as her own assistant. That meant not only ingesting the footage and prepping it for herself, it also meant that she was responsible for prepping the offline for color correction, VFX, online, and audio mixing.
Taylor had a lot of experience doing that from her time at London Alley, where she functioned as both an assistant and a post supervisor. But as a staff editor at Cabin, she doesn’t always perform those tasks for herself.
“I actually like to be my own assistant in some ways,” she says. “But sometimes, if I get booked on another project that starts right away, I have to give up the control and let someone else prep it for me.”
It’s part of what’s good about the collegial atmosphere she’d been craving. In a staff environment, there’s more depth and teamwork. Even better? “The lead editors here ask for opinions. They’re very open to us sharing our work and getting feedback from the other editors. I love being part of a community of editors.”
Lessons learned from freelancing
Stability and creative opportunities aside, there were some valuable tidbits Taylor took with her from her freelance experience.
Freelancing made her more confident in terms of making creative decisions and being more than a button pusher. It also helped her learn to manage her time and projects, and how to be efficient with both time and money.
“Because I was responsible for understanding the whole post process, it’s helped me be aware of what kinds of creative decisions can result in extra costs for clients,” she says. “For example, if there’s a shot that might require VFX or cleanup, I’ll look for a different take that doesn’t need extra work.”
And then there are the client skills she learned. When you’re a freelancer, you often don’t have anyone (like a producer or post supe) looking out for you or your well-being. “It definitely gave me thicker skin,” Taylor says. “I learned how to handle client notes and how to balance fighting for my creative choices with client feedback.”
Freelancing also made Taylor aware of how important it is to take initiative if you want to progress in your career. “Hard work is vital, but even more than that is learning how to make yourself more valuable by going the extra mile,” she says.
After all, it was her initiative to contact Hannah Lux Davis that got her from Nebraska to Los Angeles. “When I started at Cabin, I hadn’t been working on Avid (she was a Premiere Pro editor—and used Frame.io “all the time”). So whenever I had any time, rather than waiting to be tasked, I spent it practicing with old projects that were on the server.
I remember that on one of my first project breakdowns for a senior editor, I first organized the footage. But instead of stopping there, I decided to cut a :60 and pull selects. He was so surprised and grateful. I wanted to show him that I’m here to contribute and be a valuable asset to the team.”
A formula for longevity
Despite the fact that commercials and music videos can, as noted, come with huge demands and compressed schedules, one of the things Taylor values is that the partners at Cabin are committed to making sure that their staff has a work-life balance.
Obviously, there are crunch times, but Taylor says they encourage all of their editors to do things like have dinner with their families or, in her case, go hiking with her husband and dog. “They know that we’re all really hard workers and very dedicated, but they’re also really conscious of us having a life.”
It’s another of the advantages of working in an environment that’s committed to keeping its staff healthy and creative. And it’s a winning combination for everyone—senior editors can mentor younger editors and groom them to take on bigger projects without fear of them burning out and leaving.
As for Taylor, she’s thrilled to have landed in such a creatively challenging and nurturing place. “I am where I want to be. I’m pushing to excel in commercials and want to work my way up to lead editor, to work with major agencies and big campaigns. I feel like there’s longevity and opportunity for growth. I’m really thankful for what I have here.”
Given her work ethic, initiative, and creative growth, the partners at Cabin are probably pretty thankful that she accepted their job offer, too.
There once was a time when viewing other people’s amateur videos was the kind of thing that you came up with cheesy excuses to avoid—like having to do your taxes or your laundry.
But when mounted to anything from a motorcycle to a mountain bike, GoPro cameras helped people who may never have come close to a professional-quality camera create compelling videos.
Introduced in 2002, GoPro has helped redefine what it means to record an experience. Light, easy to use, relatively inexpensive, GoPro makes it possible to not only capture images of some of the most incredible and indelible moments life has to offer, but to also communicate the essence of those experiences.
GoPro: 2 Billion Views with YOU - YouTube
With the release of every new camera, GoPro makes a wild promo video capturing amazing moments that seem to defy reason and reality. This time, they decided to invite the customers who’ve made them a success to shoot the videos themselves. For the launch of the HERO7 Black, they created the Million Dollar Challenge (MDC). The prize? Yup. One million dollars, to be shared among the winners.
No surprise, they received over 25,000 submissions for a video with a TRT of just over two minutes. How did they manage the volume and the workflow? This installment of Made in Frame breaks it down.
GoPro Awards: Million Dollar Challenge Highlight | HERO7 Black - YouTube
The sky’s the limit
Maybe the most important feature of the GoPro is that there are virtually no limits to what you can capture. From swimming with dolphins to extreme parkour stunts to the smile of a little girl nuzzling her chicken, GoPros are there to memorialize moments that’ll take your breath away—or to breathe life into the simplest and most intimate ones.
But as simple as it may be to acquire awesome images, the process of reviewing, culling, and cutting together the final product was as athletic a feat as some of the stunts captured in the video.
Josh Currie, Associate Creative Director, and Ben Froke, Manager of Studio Technology, took us through the process of the MDC, from its intentions and aesthetics to its technical complexities.
The biggest challenge of the MDC
GoPro’s highlight videos are typically made by in-house creatives who storyboard and plan what the narrative or message will be and how the footage will be shot. That way, when they get to the edit, there’s already a blueprint in place for how the pieces will fit together.
But when you’re holding a contest and have no idea what you’ll receive, creating a cohesive whole from so many disparate pieces takes extra work. Josh and his team had to evaluate footage not only based on its inherent quality, but also how it worked within the context of the larger piece.
“What made this video different is that we didn’t know, going in, what the piece was going to look like and how the story was going to come together,” Josh says. “What we did know is that we come out with this particular highlight asset each year and it gets millions and millions of views.”
Josh also knew that this project was both unique and important to GoPro because it was the first time that they, as a brand, put this asset in the hands of the community, so it needed to feel special. “I wanted it to feel more like a thank you to our community, like we’re celebrating that we’re part of a big family.”
GoPro’s editorial setup
GoPro’s largest editorial setup is based at their San Mateo, CA, headquarters, where they have 15 edit bays. There are eight more bays at their Carlsbad location, as well as four in Munich and one in Shanghai.
Editors primarily work in Adobe Premiere Pro and DaVinci Resolve (both of which have Frame.io integrations) running off of Mac Pro cylinders. In addition to cutting, the editors also do some shooting, and color correct their own work.
GoPro designed a custom portal to accept submissions for their various competitions. The portal allowed them to check the metadata to confirm that it was actually shot on the HERO7 (users can add personalized information to the metadata but can’t change what comes out of the camera).
Out of the 25,000 submissions from 25 countries, the final video contained 66 clips from 56 winners (four of whom were first-time GoPro users).
As you might imagine, not only did Josh and his team receive a huge variety of subject matter and situations, they also had to deal with an equally wide range of frame rates and resolutions.
“As far as format goes, the camera always spits out an MP4,” Josh says. As the hands-on editor, he adds, “Because the only requirement was that they shoot on the HERO7 Black and send us the raw footage, we had to keep in mind that we were going to be working with everything from 4K at 6fps to 720p at 240fps, with aspect ratios from 4:3 to 16:9. There are a ton of different frame rates and aspect ratios, and we got pretty much all of them.”
They did a straight online edit in Premiere Pro using the H.264 codec and editing in 1080p. “We did not use proxies because our footage was all over the place so it would have made the process more difficult to manage,” Josh explains. They went with a 29.97 frame rate because “we’ve noticed that most people are shooting either in 30, 60, 120, or 240fps, so it’s a clean way to use all those frames without getting any skipped or jumped frames.”
Given that the HERO7 supports shooting in 16:9, it might surprise you to learn that GoPro actually encourages their users to shoot in 4:3. “If you’re wearing a camera it’s harder to frame up your shot perfectly, so if they shot in 4:3 we could either frame it the way we wanted in post by sliding it up or down, or we could stretch it,” Josh says. Their plugin of choice? Andy’s Free Elastic for Premiere.
Making the cut
The core three-person team spent time each day reviewing new material and organizing it into categories. From the categories, they’d pick the best clips, along with the “maybes,” and the group would have a weekly round table where representatives across the departments involved (approximately 10-20 people at any given time) would watch the edit via Frame.io to further cull the submissions.
Once the clips were selected, Josh downloaded them from the portal to their internal server and pulled them into Premiere Pro to begin the process of stringing the piece together.
“We had contestants ranging in age from kids to adults. We had people jumping off of cliffs and kids holding chickens. So we had to find something that gave the video a sense of fluidity,” Josh says. “I was always looking for clips that spoke to emotions, like seeing people’s faces and their smiles. Or I’d look for settings and colors or lighting conditions that were bright and made you want to get up and go outside.”
Josh also looked for clips that had complementary action or content to make visual connections. “We found a wakeboarder nailing a 720 and a (snow) skier doing a similar trick. They’re two different activities, but they’re more or less doing the same thing. By using both of them, it helps make the connection and create a uniform voice throughout,” he explains.
Even though the group screenings happened on a weekly cadence, new footage was coming in every day, which meant that Josh had his hands on the project daily throughout the entire editorial period, which spanned three months.
“My goal was to have a new version every week while the contest was ongoing because the tone of the piece kept changing,” Josh says. “The emotion, the energy—it was always changing as the clips came in. The iterations from the first version all the way until the final were much different.”
There was, however, one clip that made it from the very first cut to the final. “It was the one with the two little girls running in slow motion toward the sun at sunset,” Josh says. What made it so special? “I loved the energy of them running, their age, their diversity, and the beauty that the sun flare added. They were running at full speed, but it was shot at 240fps. It just really spoke to me.”
The Frame.io hub
We used Frame.io daily—if not multiple times a day—especially as we got closer to the launch.
~ Josh Currie, Associate Creative Director
In addition to receiving submissions from around the world, the editorial team and stakeholders needed to receive and share feedback from far-flung locations. With Josh in San Diego, the head of GoPro Studio in San Mateo, and colleagues in Munich, Frame.io kept the project moving forward.
“We used Frame.io daily—if not multiple times a day—especially as we got closer to the launch,” Josh says. “We were getting new clips and footage in by the minute and the edit was constantly changing so we needed to catalog, organize, and send out versions cross-functionally to the teams involved.”
But wait…there’s more. Beyond the main piece, they also had to cut multiple lifts. Frame.io allowed them to accurately share and track the current versions which, while saving them time, saved them “the headache of having outdated edits in circulation” while keeping their material centralized, easily accessible, and secure.
A heroic outcome
The contest officially launched on September 20, 2018 and submissions were accepted until December 9 at 11:59 pm. On December 14, 2018, the completed video went live. In between, there were lots of pizza-fueled nights as the editorial team kept up with their part of the challenge.
The outcome? Each winner received $17,857.14, while GoPro earned a Shorty Award for Best User-generated Content. The video was translated into 12 languages and in only six-weeks’ time they exceeded three million views across social media.
By enabling people to share stories that immerse viewers in someone else’s experience—whether they’re doing extreme sports or simply holding hands and running toward the sun—GoPro is not just in the business of selling cameras. They’re also in the business of democratizing art.
And if you think about it, that’s what we do at Frame.io, too.
BTS with three winning creators
We had an opportunity to dig a little deeper into the thought processes and backgrounds of some of the winning entries.
David Freiheit of Montreal, Quebec, Canada
The lawyer-turned-YouTuber with the “heart of a creator” has been hooked on GoPro since 2014, when his video of a squirrel stealing a GoPro and taking it up a tree went viral. Since then, he’s used GoPro as “a substantial part” of his content creation.
A squirrel nabbed my GoPro and carried it up a tree (and then dropped it) - YouTube
His love of nature and family is evident in the clip of the small boy pointing at the ocean, a video “that celebrates the beauty of life.” His approach? “I’m a strict 80-20 rule adherent,” he says. “I focus on capturing the moment rather than on details of video quality and stats.” He thinks he shot this piece at 1080p “because 4K is too heavy for editing,” and finds that the biggest challenge he faces is only in deciding what moments to capture. The rest, he says, is purely organic.
Austin Keen of Dana Point, CA
A professional action sports athlete, Austin specializes in skimboarding and wakesurfing. As a promoter of brands he loves, he’s been creating content with GoPro since the HERO2 was introduced, and has worked his way through the HERO line, until the built-in HyperSmooth stabilization feature of the HERO7 made it a must-have.
Shot at 60fps in 4K, Austin’s contribution to the MDC is a nearly unbelievable one-in-a-million clip—a sweet video of him using sub wings while wakeboarding in Turks and Caicos—with his new pal, JoJo the dolphin, cruising along happily behind him. “My goal was to capture ‘the million-dollar shot,’ but I was expecting it to be some type of trick,” he says. It’s a total proof of concept moment that if you have the right gear to get the shot, magic can happen.
Kyle Wicks of Chatham, Ontario, Canada
When not tending the grounds at the Links of Kent Golf Course, Kyle spends his time being in, and photographing, nature. As a GoPro user since 2014, he’s been working toward a professional career in photography and videography.
Using a GoPro Karma drone with his HERO7, he captured his footage of Snow Geese in the marsh at Lake St. Clair at 60fps in 16:9 at 2.7K resolution in order to allow room for the footage to be slowed down while maintaining high resolution. It took the intrepid photographer “quite a few attempts” to get to the location, where he was skunked several times by high winds, cold temperatures, and poor lighting conditions. The end result, however, was well worth the effort.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could deliver high-resolution dailies to your entire crew within minutes of the director yelling “cut”
That’s exactly what the team at LumaForge has achieved with their cutting-edge 8K dailies workflow.
8K Frame.io Dailies Workflow in Final Cut Pro X - YouTube
After LumaForge sent us the video, we simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to find out more. So we sat down with Lead Editor and Producer, Patrick Southern, to bring you the inside scoop on how they developed this impressive workflow.
Director Vincent Masciale on the set of “Faith Based.”
Faith Based follows two sophomoric friends who attempt to make “buckets of cash” by producing a fake Christian film. This satirical take on the movie industry is reminiscent of Mel Brooks’ hilarious portrayal of Broadway in The Producers, and aims to make a big splash in the festival circuit this fall.
Given the film’s fast-approaching debut, time pressure has been a key factor in production planning from the very beginning. However, since this is an indy film, budgets didn’t allow the typical solutions you might see in larger productions with tight turnarounds.
These logistical constraints meant it was critical to get things right on set, as there simply was not time or resources for redoing scenes. That’s why Patrick and his team decided to go all-in and build their own dailies workflow from scratch.
“Traditionally, a DIT or post house is employed to create dailies. On Faith Based, we had neither, and with the camera systems we were using, we knew our previous workflows wouldn’t be enough,” Patrick told us.
The film is being shot on a pair of 8K RED Helium cameras, so there weren’t any solutions available that could handle the massive size of the footage, while also being fast, and light enough to run on the mobile computers the team is using. “Our editing team had to get scrappy, so we built our own solution,” Patrick says.
The RED Helium camera can record footage ate bitrates up to 300MB/s, or over 18GB per minute.
“The footage coming off these cameras is just massive. So we had to start with a storage solution that was big enough, but also had the performance to tackle the huge bitrate. Luckily enough, we make one”
The team dumped camera cards to a Jellyfish Mobile editing server, while also backing up everything to a RAID. At first glance, transferring footage might seem like a simple drag-and-drop operation, but there are a number of technical issues that can arise during the process. Files can be mislabeled, misplaced, or even corrupted, none of which is favorable to a tight turnaround.
“We used an app called Hedge for file transfers. It allowed us to easily copy data from the camera cards to multiple destinations all at once. And since we were shooting RED, we were able to record proxy media files in camera. This really was the key to pulling off the whole deal. We didn’t have to do any transcoding, which saved us a ton of time.”
The team used Kyno to directly import the proxies into Final Cut Pro X. This meant that full-resolution 8K video files were ready for editing only a matter of minutes after a card was pulled from a camera. And since these were proxy files, they could be viewed on the laptops they were using on set.
“Of course, we were recording external audio, so we also needed a way to quickly sync the proxies to the sound. For that, we used Sync-N-Link X, which made the syncing process pretty painless.”
After everything was synced, the editorial team started the process of delivering dailies to the director and production crew. They batch exported the synchronized clips from Final Cut Pro X to a Frame.io Watch Folder, which automatically synced all the files into the cloud.
But as we already established, 8K files are enormous. In order to maximize the number of files they could keep in the cloud at once, Patrick’s team created a custom export preset in Compressor that reduced the resolution and data rate of the files. This allowed them to keep the more files available for review, longer, without ballooning the amount of necessary cloud storage.
“We really got a lot of use out of the Frame.io macOS app. The Watch Folders were configured to organize files into folders based on their shooting day. It kept everything neat and orderly, but helped the production crew stay oriented when trying to remember what scenes were shot when. And as always, the uploads were fast. Frame.io’s speed is pretty remarkable.”
Not just dailies, hourlies
Once files made their way to Frame.io, the director was able to watch dailes on his iPhone from anywhere, at any time, as long as he had a connection.
But it was the ability to review dailies on set that really proved the value of this new workflow.
“Faith Based relies heavily on actors improvising, so making sure their performances match and deliver on the humor is key. That makes this sort of rapid review invaluable.”
Patrick says the director, cinematographer, and even actors appreciated the speed and quality at which dailies could be delivered.
Director Vincent Masciale was able to review takes with the cast and crew only minutes after shooting.
“Wardrobe decisions were made because of dailies. Jokes and scenes were re-written based on performances. We had the ability to immediately see what was captured on set, with synchronized audio, which was a huge benefit to the entire creative process, not just editorial.”
Patrick says they learned several cool workflow tips and tricks from this project, but the dailies had the biggest impact by far.
“It’s great to see that a tradition based on film has taken on a new life with digital video production,” Patrick says. “With film, you used to send off the negative to get developed, and hopefully the next day you would have the footage to watch back on a big ol’ projector in a single room, with everyone who needed to see it crammed in there. But these days, dailies can be watched from a laptop, tablet, or a phone from basically anywhere, and any one. It’s really exciting.”
Now that LumaForge has proven and refined this workflow, it should be relatively easy for other productions to adopt this system. Of course, you don’t need to be shooting on ultra-high-end 8K cameras to add these technical and creative benefits to your production, but it’s good to know that these tools leave you of flexibility for the future.
What do you want what Patrick and his team come up with next? Let us know in the comments.
In this article series, we’re exploring how large-scale organizations build out digital asset management systems (DAMs) for their video workflows.
We’ve reached out to some of the top experts in the field, with deep experience working with highly complex video workflows. In the first installment, we interviewed Scale Logic about planning out a DAM system. For today’s article, we’re happy to welcome Robert Krüger from Lesspain Software, the makers of Kyno, as he guides us through the ins and outs of DAM strategy.
Media Asset Management and Kyno - YouTube
As you’ll learn below, media management is already forced upon everyone working in professional video production, whether they are aware of it or not. It can become a matter of economic survival for larger projects and organizations, and the topic is complex enough to fill entire books.
This article will provide a simplified yet practical bird’s eye view on media asset management, including the fundamental core concepts. We’ve also made some checklists and guidelines of what to watch out for when introducing new media management strategies and tools into your organization.
DAM, MAM, PAM, and Media Management
To start with a hefty dose of confusion, there simply is no universally accepted definition of these terms with any practical relevance. The terms are used interchangeably quite often, sometimes even in the same sentence. Welcome to the terminology jungle.
“Digital asset management” (DAM), “media asset management” (MAM) or just “media management” are all concerned with the life cycle of digital assets, typically video, audio and image files, and what can be done with them in an organized fashion.
Production asset management (PAM) is a term typically used to describe a subset of systems focused on managing the editing process. Tools like our program Kyno are specifically geared towards work like this.
Screenshot of Less Pain’s “Kyno.”
To fully understand these concepts, we also need to parse out the terminology “life cycle.” An asset’s life cycle includes everything from the creation of a file/asset (in a camera or piece of software), to that file’s deletion or archiving, and everything in between. Some of the most common steps in an asset’s life cycle are:
Verification – Was the file really copied correctly into the system without data errors?
Quality checks – Is the image/sound “OK” (however that is defined)?
Metadata management – Extract, enter, or update information about what is actually in the file and its business relevance (e.g. who owns which rights)
Organization – Categorize, rename, store in folders (depending on the type of system this overlaps with metadata management)
Retrieval – Find assets based on all available criteria
Format conversion – e.g. convert from acquisition format to a “house format” or a format suitable for editing or delivery
Export – Export the entire file, selected subclips or still frames for use in editing projects or other channels such as social media
Delivery – Send assets or renditions of them to a person or a system, e.g. for further processing or distribution
Archiving – Store large files on less expensive long-term storage such as LTO
As you can see, “life cycle” encompasses most every step in a post-production workflow. So, anyone performing any of these operations is definitely already performing “media management,” even if they are not using dedicated software for the task(s). Of course, you can do almost all of these tasks using a simple setup, perhaps just a single hard drive, your file browser, and a few general tools. This is digital asset management, though with some limitations.
Single system DAMs can be powerful for small teams, but limited in scalability.
However, dedicated DAM, MAM, and PAM systems are a combination of hardware, software, and infrastructure that offer a comprehensive environment for these life cycle operations. These systems come in all shapes and sizes, cover different levels of specialization and scope, and can be equipped for small teams of a few individuals up to large enterprise teams of a few thousand. Consequently, larger systems generally have higher performance and much larger feature sets.
But even more than the hardware and software you use in your DAM system, the most important tool at your disposal is metadata.
Since it is such a crucial aspect of digital asset/media management, here’s a small digression that anyone familiar with the topic can safely skip.
Simply put, metadata is data about your content. It contains information like the format of a video, its duration, resolution, and just about every other aspect of the file. This is called technical metadata. But there is another type of metadata, called descriptive metadata. This type of metadata can tell you things like what is actually contained in the footage (what’s on screen) and information like ownership and rights.
Technical metadata is normally extracted automatically from your files. Descriptive metadata is typically manually entered by people, though automated tools are becoming more common (which we will cover later).
Metadata becomes important as soon as you have large amounts of content. When answering questions like “do we have 4k drone footage of a canyon” or “do we have footage of Mayor Jones in a press conference” requires having someone go through 200 hours of footage in a video player, you have a problem. It should only be a few clicks for you to find these shots, and that’s exactly what metadata enables.
Metadata can come in the form of tags for a whole clip (like “b-roll,” “interview,” or “drone”) or so-called “time-based” metadata that lets you annotate specific time ranges in your content with descriptive metadata (like “mayor Jones sneezes at this point in the interview”). Once the metadata is entered, you can sort files by basically any technical or descriptive value you want.
Note that in many cases, metadata is lost, either because it was never captured in the first place, or it was removed/overwritten during a file conversion or transfer. The only way to get it back is to recreate it down the line, which comes at a very high cost. Any information about your material that is collected early in the life cycle (perhaps on location during or after a shoot) is relatively cheap, because it only takes a few minutes. When the people who actually know what happened in the shot or at the shoot are still accessible, they only need to make a few annotations, provided they have a suitable tool. But if the information is lost, it will take a lot more work to reconstruct it later (by people who were not on location) or it will just remain lost.
Using metadata tagging apps on set can save time and expense in post-production.
The role of “artificial intelligence” (AI) for metadata
AI is a label applied to a wide range of technologies and many of them yield incredible results today. For example, AI-based software can diagnose skin cancer from photos with much higher accuracy than the most experienced doctors. And some of these technologies are entering the video world, and are utilized in video metadata process. Imagine the time savings for your workflow if a machine could find key points of interest in clips, like shots from a soccer game where a goal is scored, or all shots of specific players from all the games in a season. These tasks can (and are) be automated.
Turner Sports' Anne Graham on Experimenting With AI and Automation for Metadata - YouTube
Does AI satisfy all video metadata needs? Probably not if you need it any time soon. People are still far superior in the majority of tasks that a content editor typically does, like deciding on the mood of a scene or image according to a vocabulary standardized in your organization (imagine teaching a machine what should be tagged as “spectacular” or “romantic”).
AI will probably not replace humans in all metadata process for a few years (save some tremendous technological breakthrough), but it’s a good idea for organizations that could benefit from these tools to look at the developments coming down the road. As more real-world testing is completed, it makes sense to see how you can start using these tools sooner, so that your team can focus on more important workflow tasks.
Media management in video production and how we got here
In video productions, if an organized media management strategy isn’t set out in the beginning, the benefits of having one often become apparent too late, even in relatively small projects. As the production unfolds, bottlenecks become apparent, which then leads to a “we need to fix this” mentality. Even simple tasks like searching for (or even losing) content can unearth compatibility/technical problems in the workflow, which quickly become a massive productivity killer. This is why having a clear DAM strategy is so beneficial—it saves time, which saves money.
The simplest measures for DAM usually start at the bottom of the workflow, for example using an organized folder structure, standardized naming conventions and editing formats, and repeating processes the same way for each new project. This is more or less the definition of a “workflow,” but of course, we can go deeper.
Good file naming conventions are a good first step to DAM strategy, but it’s just a start.
The need for some kind of organized approach grows exponentially with the amount of footage and team size. Larger productions and organizations have larger DAM needs. But there have been several developments in the media production industry and its drivers over roughly in the past ten years that have further increased the need for effective DAM strategy.
Let’s make another quick digression to look at these developments:
The move from film- and tape-based to file-based work made film/video production a more light-weight and flexible process.
Advances in hardware and software technology made video editing accessible to millions more people.
The digital camera revolution, i.e. cameras costing only a few hundred dollars that can produce an image quality suitable for professional TV and cinema productions. The lower system costs made it easier to capture more image variety and more angles, and thus more footage.
The demand for more and more video content exploded with social media.
The ubiquity of video in marketing for large and also smaller companies added to that. This resulted in more pressure to produce more content faster and for less money.
On top of that, another trend has made huge waves in the industry—traditional media organizations in the big broadcast networks and film studios have begun to adopt some of the lightweight production methods of new up-and-coming media stars, like YouTubers and run-and-gun filmmakers. Those smaller players, on the other hand, have become more professional in their production quality (because of the trends mentioned above).
The film industry today | Frank Smith | TEDxChapmanU - YouTube
Since the technologies and methods used by large and small production environments now have a massive overlap, they’re all dealing with the same task of managing their ever-growing volumes of media, which has increased demand for DAM tools that are more universal and easier to adopt. This convergence has also opened up a whole new world of industry-wide DAM best practices, with input from across the industry.
All this to say—it’s now easier, cheaper, and faster to implement a DAM strategy that matches your organization’s needs than ever before.
Finding the right DAM strategy
So then how should you formulate your DAM strategy? To start, here are a few things you’ll need to assess for your current and future production needs:
Volume of Material – As camera systems continue to evolve at breakneck speed, more material from more sources will undoubtedly have to be dealt with. Not only does this influence how much storage you need, but it also means other processes, like quality-checking, will take longer. It also means there will be more potential for compatibility problems (“What camera did that freelancer shoot with? Why doesn’t the footage play/import in my software?”).
Metadata Requirements – The more material you have, the more important the organization of metadata will become. If finding the right material takes a long time, it will cost you more further down the production chain. A few minutes of metadata logging in the beginning is worth many hours of searching later on.
Scalability and Flexibility – Workflows are changing, and they won’t stop. Your DAM strategy will need to be dynamic and adaptable, and not rely on strict (or proprietary) processes. Anticipate more changes as the pace of new technologies or media channels continues to increase.
Legal Review – For some organizations, managing the legal aspects of each piece of content is a crucial and time-sensitive challenge. You ensure that your legal review needs fit within the dynamic nature of your production processes, especially when different types of contributors are involved at every point. No one likes getting a project 99% to completion, only to have a lawyer say “we can’t do that, I should have seen this earlier.”
Data Storage Cost – 4K is here and 8K is on the way. Plus 10-bit footage is becoming standard, while RAW footage is that wonderful tool we love to have but hate to pay for. Bitrates are increasing, so more and more storage will always be necessary. But storage costs money, and that means the cost of mismanaging media is only going to increase. Just imagine the cost of having unnecessary file duplicates, using inefficient storage infrastructure, or keeping unusable footage. It all adds up.
Process Acceptance – Fast turnaround times for productions often make it difficult to enforce standards and processes, especially if they are perceived as burdensome. So, it’s critical that all team members (including freelancers and external production partners) buy in to a process, and have the appropriate training to use it effectively. This is a key factor to DAM strategy success, but can be one of the most difficult to manage.
Content Reusability – As more distribution channels become available, each with their own specialized formats, it can be advantageous to adapt the same material to these disparate platforms. To ensure the maximum economic return for your organization’s DAM strategy, you will want to ensure it enables this sort of quick and flexible content reuse.
Security and Survivability – Accidentally losing/deleting digital files is much easier than losing tapes. Your DAM strategy needs to encompass multiple aspects of redundancy, failure mitigation, and long-term stability. The added cost of these features is much smaller than the costs of redoing entire shoots, or replacing the revenue of lost contracts. On top of this, your DAM strategy needs to be future-oriented. Any data you capture now needs to survive well into the future. DAM systems have limited useful lifespans, so your strategy should address the minimum requirements necessary to move your organization’s data to the next system.
Once you’ve considered these aspects of DAM strategy, you’re well on your way to making an informed decision about your DAM system. However, there are a number of hidden costs that can really spiral out of control if they are not managed well. But to focus on the bright side, let’s think about the benefits of getting these right:
Better DAM performance means more goals met. If your team has to waste less time on workflow processes, they can spend more time being creative.
Better DAM reliability means less last-minute panic and long-term tension. No one likes losing material or clients. In general, up time correlates positively with team happiness.
Better DAM organization means more room to grow. Teams and organizations can only scale as well as their processes and tools allow. Organized and robust DAM can set your team up for success.
Better DAM flexibility allows you to adapt in the future. Making sure your processes are agile can help your organization sustain value for your clients, even as technology and media changes.
Requirements – what do you really need to do?
Requirements can vary wildly depending on your typical productions, your staff and what you do with the content later on. If you are building a large stock library, potentially even to monetize it, to become the next Getty Images, your requirements in terms of metadata management and searchability are typically very high. If all you want is an efficient team production process and to ensure that the project can be opened again if a client requests a new version, then those requirements are typically much lower because the main scope of media management tasks is just the individual project.
Getting requirements analysis right is key. If you choose an approach (and thus a system) that is overly complicated, you pay a price in higher costs getting simple things to work in a complicated environment. This also risks low acceptance by your staff. On the other hand, if you aim too low, you will find yourself building workaround after workaround, which at some point is likely to hit a wall. Looking at your needs should always encompass some scope into the future, so that you can meet future challenges. But beware, trying to cover too many bases can lead to scope creep, which will add more capacity at the cost of your timeline, budget, and end usability.
As file sizes and internet speeds continue to increase, it’s critical that computer storage and networking infrastructure keep pace—especially in the midst of a high-performance media production workflow. Any hiccup in the process can cause delivery delays, cost overages, and unhappy clients, team members, or advertisers).
5 THINGS: on Asset Management (Episode 204) includes workflow, DAM, MAM, PAM, how to choose & cost! - YouTube
So how can large-scale media producers build out a digital asset management system (DAM) that’s set up to scale easily as the demands upon it grow? We decided to let the experts weigh in.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve reached out to a number of companies working with clients at the highest and most complicated levels of media asset management and/or video production. We want to provide you an inside look at how they do what they do in hopes that you can take-aways some tips and insights that will help your own enterprise-level organization.
One of the companies we interviewed was Scale Logic, a mid-west-based provider of enterprise-level media management solutions. We invited their Chief Technology Officer, Daryl Heinis, to take us through their approach to building DAMs for some of their larger clients, and to give our readers insights into the various factors IT pros need to consider when spec’ing and purchasing equipment.
Building or updating a digital asset management system can be chaotic in today’s ever-changing environment, but the founders of Scale Logic have been at it for over 20 years. In that time, they’ve served large-scale clients across all major industry sectors, especially media and entertainment companies.
IABM TV Interview Scale Logic - YouTube
Understanding large-scale challenges
When most people think of DAMs, they focus on archiving and storage. The fact is that DAMs also enable work to flow smoothly and reliably between directors, editors, producers, and the numerous stakeholders in the media production continuum. It’s just the first of many reasons why it’s important for IT teams to work with professionals who understand not just your business paradigm—but also the ways in which it’s likely to change over time.
Planning for DAM also has to consider the ways your business interfaces and interacts with other infrastructure setups. Does your business have departments or offices in various locations—whether within the same complex or on different continents—that maintain their systems locally and function as autonomous “islands”? Do you frequently do business with outside vendors or contributors, such as VFX creators, who need to exchange large files on a regular basis? Or is your business distributing or broadcasting time-sensitive material?
Bowstring Studios talks about HyperFS and the Genesis Unlimited - YouTube
Creating a meaningful blueprint
The term “future proofing” gets tossed around a lot, and while it’s challenging to achieve a truly future-proof solution (because you can never totally predict what the next big technological game-changer will be), a solid plan can certainly help avoid the kinds of klugey systems that set you up for future headaches.
It’s why DAM planning should always start with an overall assessment of your organization’s workflow needs. That way, you can start out with a thorough technical blueprint that guides your team toward the hardware and software solutions that meet your needs best. Of course, a good blueprint does more than just provide a current solution—it also serves as the foundation for long-term growth.
In general, enterprise organizations share several common pain points. Most are dealing with some combination of many collaborators and stakeholders, all of whom need quick access to assets. This is further complicated when they are spread across a number of locations and have to deliver material securely, while sticking to tight deadlines. And then, of course, you need the space to store it long term.
But no two organizations are alike and each has its own set of specific requirements.
As the world’s largest retailer, Walmart was just beginning to recognize its needs as a media creator in 2004. The company’s rapid growth presented significant storage challenges for of its in-house production and broadcasting operation: Walmart Event Solutions.
Upgrading the company’s media asset management (MAM) solution was also a key priority that was addressed in tandem with the hardware and storage refresh. An experienced team worked together, melding existing assets and metadata with new storage and data transfer technology using Cantemo Portal.
Today, Walmart Event Solutions has six of Scale Logics Genesis RX2 systems split between two different sites, connected by 96-port and 48-port Brocade switches (each switch can handle over 16gbps of network capacity). Later this year, the company will bring two more sites online, one for Sam’s Club and the other for Walmart. Scale Logic is currently working with Walmart Event Solutions to add another switch to connect the new locations.
As internet speeds get faster and as the cloud becomes even more reliable and seamless to use in corporate environments, Walmart Event Solutions will now be able to upload all of their projects on site during shooting, and then be able to edit those proxy files locally (they shoot at 4K and edit in ProRes 1080p). This allows their creative teams to work at top speed, with fewer technology-related delays.
But the technical challenges of scaling a DAM vary wildly across industries, especially as ever-increasing resolutions demand more and more performance from workflow infrastructure. The technical needs of enterprise-scale video keep changing, and so a sustainable DAM must be able to change at the same pace.
For example, most broadcasters are now looking for uncompressed data, which at UHD resolution at 30fps requires a bitrate of nearly 3Gb/s. Media storage and management solutions can’t be slow, weak, or unreliable: too much depends on maximum uptime, with even a small amount of downtime costing thousands in lost productivity and missed deadlines that can jeopardize client relationships.
The key to an efficient media management process is working with the right tools and vendors. Ask them questions and make sure they understand your current environment. When considering performance, looking at your current infrastructure is a necessary first step in assessing bottlenecks.
One organization that did just that is Turning Point Ministries, a US-based religious organization with TV and radio content that reaches millions of viewers around the world.
Given the quantity of content they produce—their online editing system contains up to 1.2PB of media—Turning Point required core storage infrastructure with an 8-10 year lifespan and high aggregate throughput for a minimum of 10-15 simultaneous editing systems (both Mac and PC using Avid Media Composer).
They also needed the solution to integrate with a variety of applications that were central to their production pipeline (programs like CatDV, Telestream Vantage, Archiware) and a manufacturer agnostic primary SAN, HyperFS running on an enterprise Genesis DS block RAID. By building the SAN this way, they ensured their infrastructure would be highly scalable well into the future.
With their new DAM system in place, Turning Point was able to eliminate the daily workflow slowdowns that plagued their approval deadlines. This is exactly what a well-engineered solution for storage and file management can achieve. Editors are no longer confined to rigid file structures, technical resources aren’t taxed as heavily keeping up with the workload, and project overhead is greatly reduced for stakeholders and collaborators.
Advice from the experts
One additional point to consider when choosing a partner to design and spec a DAM is the partner’s own vendor network and relationships. In general, “vendor neutral” partners can provide the best solutions for any given customer. It’s also a good idea to seek out customized support services for manufacturers of your network and storage infrastructure (Dell, Isilon, NetApp, etc). It is advisable that you arrange this support with your DAM partner, so that your organization has full access to support through a single contact.
If you’re looking for a partner to help build your DAM, here are some things that will increase the long term value of your system, and decrease the unexpected twists and turns of your growing workflow needs.
Work with seasoned tools and vendors. Always ask them questions related to your particular needs, and make sure they understand your current environment and the direction your industry is heading.
When considering performance, look at your current infrastructure and its limitations, and make fixing the bottlenecks a priority for DAM planning.
Be sure to assess the key factors of your archiving strategy that will change as your workflow grows and scales to your future needs.
It is imperative that you implement data protection from the very beginning. One of the most common ways to minimize downtime and lost productivity is to implement failover protocols. You DAM must have robust capabilities in this regard
The key takeaway
Because enterprise organizations make significant investments in their DAMs, it’s important for them to partner with a company who understands their business model and has proven expertise in their sector of the industry. A poorly planned system that seems cost-effective in the short term will inevitably lead to extra expenses downstream. Many have tried to cut corners on cost, and they almost all inevitably regret that decision.
It is far costlier to reinvent a whole new system than it is to expand one that has an intelligent foundation. And, as we all know, enterprise businesses typically don’t have the luxury of time to reinvent and reinstall a new system and retrain their many users. When a DIY approach isn’t an option, working with an experienced team of experts might be your best strategy.
We at Frame.io believe in recognizing the contributions to the art and craft of cinema by those in disenfranchised communities, be they based on race, gender, or sexual identification. This Pride month, we wanted to formally say “thank you” to those in the LGBTQ+ community who have moved the needle in spreading awareness, acceptance, and elevating this craft we all love.
Cinema hasn’t always been generous to the LGBTQ+ community. For most of its history, cinema would either perpetuate stereotypical caricatures or overlook the community entirely. Given the persuasive power of the movies, that narrative treatment could leave an entire segment of the population unable to see themselves represented on screen, and unable to receive greater acceptance in society as a whole.
Nonetheless, there are still examples of films that succeeded in being cinematic oases that not only did justice to LGBTQ+ issues, but made an impact on the community and individuals within it. Here are six of them.
1. Boys in the Band
The Boys In The Band (1970) Trailer | William Friedkin - YouTube
William Friedkin’s 1970 adaptation of Matt Crowley’s stage play revolves around a party. Michael is hosting a party for his gay friends, when an old—and straight—friend named Alan stops by unexpectedly.
When Michael tries, but fails to hide his sexuality from Alan, the party takes a turn as Michael tries to prove Alan is in the closet. As a result, the party starts to expose resentments, hurts, and possible secrets that all reflect the difficulty the characters have living with their sexuality.
At the time of its release, Boys in the Band stood out for having a cast of predominantly gay characters enjoying each others company without (mostly) hiding who they are, while addressing many gay topics in ways that were uncommon in film at the time. That had an impact, Friedkin has said: “I hear from guys all the time that this was the film that helped them come out of the closet … It gave them the courage not to be ashamed.”
Not that the film received a completely glowing reception from the LGBTQ+ community. There were complaints about the lack of visible physical affection, as well as a somewhat bleak portrait of gay life through the film’s often self-pitying and loathing characters. Nonetheless, Boys in the Band’s representation mattered, for better and worse, and it has become, and remained, a significant milestone in LGBTQ+ cinema.
2. Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Hedwig and the Angry Inch Trailer - YouTube
John Cameron Mitchell’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch is more widely known now (thanks, in part, to an elaborate Broadway revival starring Neil Patrick Harris), but it can be easy to forget that 18 years ago, his play-turned-film bombed when it hit theaters. It was, perhaps, not a surprise. A story about a German punk rock singer who undergoes a failed sex-change operation and recounts his life wrestling with his fluid sexuality, through song, was likely never destined for mainstream success. Even if it deserved it.
It was, however, a hit with the LGBTQ+ community where its honest exploration and musical celebration of gender fluid expression had rarely been seen in a movie. It made an impact. The film went on to inspire Rocky Horror Picture Show-style sing-a-long screenings, but it also put into the world a cinematic lighthouse to guide those exploring their sexuality; or just looking for proof that they weren’t alone in their experiences. Even if they weren’t German punk rock singers.
3. Paris is Burning
Paris is Burning - Trailer - YouTube
Released in 1991, Jennie Livingston’s documentary looked at the lives of New York City drag queens involved in ball culture, gatherings where people competed against each other through dance, fashion, and shade. But it also depicted the struggles the LGBTQ+ community faced in the late 1980s in New York City, including discrimination, AIDS, poverty, as well as the houses (like surrogate families) that formed to provide a shelter from the storms.
You need only watch a season of RuPaul’s Drag Race to see the influence Paris is Burning has had. The impact of Paris is Burning wasn’t just that it introduced ball culture to a wider audience (including its own community) but it also depicted drag culture in a way that was free from the mocking, or shallow, way drag is often treated in mainstream films.
Reflecting on the film’s intentions to the New York Times, director Jennie Livingston nicely summarized its impact and influence: “I also made the film for people who want to think about how race, class, gender, white supremacy, capitalism, and AIDS influence each other—and how those things shape who we’re supposed to be, and who we’re not allowed to be. It’s so important to consider the film’s legacy of usefulness and meaning to individuals, but also to activists and activist movements.”
Philadelphia (1993) - Movie Trailer - YouTube
Jonathan Demme’s Philadelphia wasn’t the first movie to deal with the HIV/AIDS crisis. Films like Longtime Companion and Parting Glances got there first. But Philadelphia was certainly the biggest, and most mainstream attempt to tackle the subject matter, with two of the 1990s biggest stars and a $26 million budget. As Tim Teeman wrote for The Daily Beast, “If you were around at that time, gay, and politically engaged, you went to see Philadelphia at your local cinema with bated breath.”
Philadelphia did positively depict much that hadn’t been seen in a Hollywood movie before. Now, because of its mainstream nature, it does often take a safer route to its subject matter, whether it’s an arguably tame depiction of the relationship between Tom Hanks and Antonia Banderas’ characters, or foregoing commentary on institutional failings on the U.S. government’s part to do more for the AIDS crisis.
Still, representation does matter, and the movie’s willingness to depict homophobia, professional discrimination, and a loving gay relationship still proved to be an act of unprecedented exposure and awareness raising within Hollywood. All the more so when the film grossed over $200 million worldwide, and two Oscars.
5. Sunday Bloody Sunday
Sunday Bloody Sunday Official Trailer #1 - Maurice Denham Movie (1971) HD - YouTube
It still seems somewhat hard to believe that a film was released in 1971 that depicted a love triangle with a man, a woman, and their bisexual lover. And yet, Sunday Bloody Sunday did just that, exploring how a divorced woman falls for a bisexual artist, who is also involved with a successful middle-aged doctor. It wasn’t, however, just the subject matter, but the treatment of it that was so unconventional for its time.
None of the gay or bisexual characters are caricatures or tortured souls. They are accepting of their sexuality, or sexual arrangements, and live well-adjusted lives with romances that are treated with complete matter-of-fact normalcy. It was that element that made the film so significant then—and now—in the LGBTQ+ community.
As Kathi Wolfe put it in The Washington Blade, “back in the day, Sunday Bloody Sunday was as life-changing and exhilarating as the advent of penicillin or seeing an astronaut on the moon. Watching its queer characters (who weren’t sinners, sad, confused or crazy) kiss, love, and live their lives just as the straight characters lived and loved, brought many of us out of our guilt-ridden closet.”
6. The Times of Harvey Milk
THE TIMES OF HARVEY MILK Trailer (1984) - The Criterion Collection - YouTube
The impact of Harvey Milk, who became the first openly gay elected official in 1978, on gay and human rights can’t be understated. In life and death, after he was assassinated the same year he was elected, he is a beacon of hope. A beacon that The Times of Harvey Milk managed to bottle up in cinematic form.
The documentary, which tells the story of Milk’s life, and the trial of his killer, achieved notable success on its own accord – winning the Special Jury Prize at the first Sundance Film Festival, and winning Best Documentary Feature at the Oscars (where the director thanked his partner). But it’s scope extends beyond that. It was among one of the first films to address gay life in America, while at the same time presenting Milk’s message to a wider audience, as well as contemporary and future generations of the LGBTQ+ community. The importance of Harvey Milk has never faded, and so, neither can the impact of The Times of Harvey Milk.
What do you think of our list? Which films representing the LGBTQ+ community do you feel had a profound impact, either on cinema itself, or the community as a whole. Share in the comments, or let us know on Twitter and Facebook.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably gotten comfy with your everyday keyboard shortcuts, so you might not have added anything new to your finger-fu for a while. This is particularly common if you work remotely, as you miss out on the over-the-shoulder tips that tend to happen in a collaborative workspace.
Sometimes, it helps to break out of that path dependency, so here are some of the lesser-known shortcuts that I use to make my compositing work a bit faster. You may already know some of them, but I’m confident that you’ll find something new in here, regardless of your experience level. (Or, if you consider yourself a shortcut sifu, you can score yourself based on how many of these you already know and use.)
Caveats apply: I’m a PC guy, so I’ll be listing my choices with the Alt / Ctrl key modifiers. Mac users should just swap Alt to Option and Ctrl to Cmd. This article also assumes that you’re using a Latin-based keyboard with a US layout. I also use the term CTI (current time indicator) because that’s what Adobe calls it. You might know it as ‘playhead’.
The accent grave key lets you maximize/restore the panel beneath your cursor.
` (accent grave)
This key is particularly useful when you’re working on complex comps with a lot of layers, or if you’re stuck with a single-screen setup and need to temporarily make some room. Tapping the accent grave key (`) maximizes the panel beneath your mouse cursor. (It’s usually found under the Esc key and also has the ~ tilde symbol on it.) Tap it again to reverse.
Ctrl+` (accent grave)
Once you’ve found the accent grave key, you can add a Ctrl modifier to it. This will reveal all the properties for the currently selected layer(s). But, if you only want to view the properties that you’ve keyframed, then tapping U will do the trick.
Ctrl+Shift+A or F2
Everyone knows Ctrl+A for “select all,” but most people tend to deselect by clicking somewhere else, and that can move screen focus to where you don’t want it. The alternative is to hit Ctrl+Shift+A, or just F2. Not a big deal, just a bit tidier.
This shortcut simply brings up the composition settings. Note that you either need to have the composition selected in the Project panel, or in-focus in the Timeline panel for this to work.
Similarly, Ctrl+Shift+Y opens the Properties panel for the solid or null that’s either open in the Timeline or selected in the Project panel.
Using search modifiers with the Timeline Find tool can be extremely powerful.
You’ll already know Ctrl+F as the Find shortcut. In After Effects, you can use this in both the Project or Timeline panels, and what makes this particularly powerful is using search terms like “missing” to find missing assets, fonts and plugins. If you’re in the Timeline panel, you can view the values for properties on all layers by adding a search modifier for things like scale, transparency, position, etc.
After Effects leaves a trailing frame on out-point trims. This can lead to Bad Words Spoken.
Alt+[ or Alt+]
This is AE’s trim shortcut. Select the layer(s) in the Timeline view you want to trim and use the shortcuts to trim and out points at the current CTI (current time indicator or playhead) position. Just be aware that the behavior of Alt+] has always been to leave a single frame after the CTI position, which has caught me out more than once. Usually post-render.
One of the most useful tools to have at your disposal, Ctrl+Shift+D lets you split the selected layers at the CTI (current time indicator). And it doesn’t have the extra frame issue of the trim tool, so you could use it as a simpler alternative by deleting the unwanted layer it creates.
I and O
With a layer selected in the Timeline panel, hitting I or O will move the CTI to the beginning (in) or the end (out) of that layer.
Shift+Pg Up or Pg Dn
You should already know that the Pg Up and Pg Dn keys will advance/rewind your CTI in single-frame increments. (You might be using Ctrl+Left Cursor / Right Cursor, instead.) Holding down Shift for either of these options will advance in 10-frame increments.
If you use Ctrl+Home, remember that it works off the anchor point, so text will look off-center.
This will center your selected asset(s) to the frame. Just bear in mind that it works off the anchor point of the selected asset, so elements like text will not be visually centered. If you need to adjust this, tapping A will reveal the anchor point properties for the selected layer(s).
This is AE’s fit to composition tool, and it’s super-useful for quickly fitting imported stills or clips to the frame size. (You’d have to open the Layers-Transform-Fit to Comp menu option to get to it, otherwise.) Just be aware that it will not respect aspect ratio, so keep an eye open for unwanted image stretching.
Ctrl+Shift+Plus or Minus
While we’re on the topic of resizing, if you want to nudge the scale of a selected layer up and down by 10 percent, then this lets you do just that.
Ctrl+Alt+Plus or Minus
And similarly, this shortcut lets you nudge the opacity of the selected layer up and down by ten percent. Alternatively, if the layer selected is a Light, then this will increase the Intensity property.
Ctrl+V is universal for pasting copied assets. Adding the Alt modifier changes the default behavior to paste the assets at the CTI instead of at the beginning of the timeline.
If you want to adjust the duration of a piece of footage, this shortcut enables the time-remapping tool on the select layer(s) and adds a keyframe at its in and out points, which you can then drag to the required position. Obviously, you don’t need to apply this to still assets, as these can be retimed by just dragging the in and out points of the layer.
This is an immediate way to remove all the effects from the selected layer(s). To be honest, I’d prefer this to be a function that toggles all the effects on and off, but you can use Ctrl+Z / Ctrl+Shift+Z after this shortcut to achieve the same goal.
Ctrl+Shift+Up Cursor or Down Cursor
If you have a layer selected in the Timeline panel, this shortcut will let you select the layers above or below it. Repeatedly tapping the cursor keys will add further layers to the selection. (And don’t forget the F2 key for deselect all.)
Holding down Alt and dropping an asset on top of another will instantly replace it with properties intact.
Alt+Drag and Drop
This is another super-useful tool. If you hold down Alt while you drag a file from the Project panel and drop it onto a layer in the Timeline panel, it’ll replace the existing asset with your new one. But the most important part is that all your existing effects and keyframes will be maintained.
This one opens the Interpret Footage panel for a selected file. This is where you’ll find properties for color management, timecode, PAR, frame rate, etc. More importantly, it’s where you’ll find the option to loop the selected clip, rather than duplicating it on your timeline a dozen times.
I’ve tried to steer away from four-key finger wrangles, but I use this one regularly as it applies the most recent effect to the selected layer(s).
Double-click the Hand, Shape, Rotate, and Selection buttons
Have you tried double-clicking these buttons? You really should. Each one has a unique response to this action.
The Hand button will center and re-size the current composition in the Composition panel.
The Shape button will create a new mask on the selected layer that corresponds to the current Shape option (Ellipse, Star, etc.)
The Rotate button will reset the primary Rotation property of the selected layer to zero.
The Selection button will reset the Scale property of the selected layer to zero.
Hold down Alt to switch off all Solo layers except for the one you want.
Alt-click Solo switch
If you want to isolate a layer so that you can get a better look at what you’re working on, you just toggle the layer’s Solo switch in the Timeline panel, and you can set as many layers to Solo as you need. Holding down Alt while you click on the Solo switch will turn off Solo for all layers before turning it on for only the current layer.
Similar to the Alt-click Solo tweak, this shortcut lets you turn off the Visibility switch for the selected layers. To achieve the opposite, you can use Ctrl+Alt+Shift+V. (That’s the last of the four-fingers, I promise.)
Fancy creating your own custom shortcuts? Go right ahead…
Ctrl+Alt+’ (single quote)
And finally, you can’t really write a piece on keyboard shortcuts without including the one that brings up all the keyboard shortcuts. If you need to remind yourself what does what, or prefer to bake a custom set that works the way you do, then you’ll find it all here. Go nuts. And remember that you can save your preferences in the Adobe Creative Cloud so that they’re available across your machines.
These were my favorite time-saving shortcuts, but I’m always happy to hear more. And, if you think that my finger-fu is weak, then feel free to challenge me in the comments below.
VICE Media produces hundreds of hours of content across multiple media outlets, including daily news broadcasts and other time-sensitive programming.
Frame.io has helped them significantly streamline their review and approval processes which involve 36 offices across the globe and hundreds of team members and collaborators.
The “aha!” moment for VICE? Eliminating the legal review bottleneck for programming with same-day airings.
VICE calculates that using Frame.io has helped them save roughly 100 eight-hour business days per year.
As we continue our series of behind-the-scenes articles spotlighting Frame.io’s enterprise clients, we look at another of our largest-scale content creators, VICE Media.
VICE: Season 1: What Is VICE? Featurette | HBO - YouTube
Like BuzzFeed, whose workflow we featured last week, VICE faces many of the same challenges: highly complex workflows involving contributors from all over the world, the need for securely sharing footage, and short deadlines—particularly with news-based content that airs same-day.
For VICE, however, Frame.io became an indispensable part of their workflow and infrastructure when they discovered that it allowed them to standardize and streamline their legal review process. Once they started using it for one of their daily programs, they discovered more ways to integrate it into their organization—and found that it’s saved them hundreds of hours over the course of a single year.
The way they were
Founded in 1994 as VICE Magazine, VICE Media has grown to include a news division, a documentary film division, a TV channel, and numerous online properties.
VICE News, dedicated to the kind of immersion journalism one rarely sees in the mainstream media, produces 30-minute programs that air on HBO four nights a week. With correspondents covering stories from the front lines on the Syria-Lebanon border to the attempted coup in Venezuela, streamlining their process is essential to timely delivery.
Best of VICE News: War and Conflict - YouTube
Beyond that, their television channel, VICELAND, regularly produces original shows that run from 30-60 minutes in duration. Along with hundreds of additional “micro pieces” that run on their websites and on social media, they produce more than 200 hours of original programming per year.
With 36 offices across the globe and 400 team members with approximately 1,600 external collaborators, VICE Media’s biggest challenge was to optimize their workflow processes. And with subject matter that is both cutting edge and timely, their need for speed and accuracy drove them to embrace Frame.io as their cloud-based video review and approval platform.
Raffi DerGhazarian, Director of Post-Production, and Dee Wassell, Director of Media Operations, took us inside their workflow in a Frame.io presentation at our booth during NAB 2019.
Both agree that although they “got a lot done” prior to implementing Frame.io, they wouldn’t wish to return to the way things were. A “mish-mash” of different tools and applications made their process “messy,” according to Raffi. Security was an issue with so many external collaborators, and they experienced severe bottlenecks when producing content that aired on the same day.
The aha! moment
A particular pain point for VICE was waiting for legal approvals, especially on shows that were at once time-sensitive and contained “hot-topic” material. Their “aha!” moment came in 2016 when Desus & Mero, a four-night-a-week talk show covering everything from politics to pop culture with a decidedly freewheeling style, needed to get speedy legal approvals to comply with standards and practices guidelines prior to airtime.
Dee explains: “The legal review process was a real time-killer. The show was a combination of archival footage and these two guys who were commenting on it—and they tended to go off on expletive-filled tangents. And we’re a place that’s not afraid of expletives. You might not believe it, but we only get five “f**ks” per episode. So it was about getting each segment into Frame.io and having legal review it.”
The Desus & Mero team’s proof that Frame.io could help them meet their airtimes led them to use it across all VICE programming for legal review and archival clearances.
VICELAND’s newest show, Dark Side of the Ring, a documentary series about infamous events from professional wrestling history, uses approximately 250 archival assets per episode, which means that the legal and archival departments needed to work together to review footage in order to get clearances, and they had to work fast. Using Frame.io, they were able to easily see how the archival footage was being used, find the duration of the clips, and get timely approvals.
DARK SIDE OF THE RING (Trailer) - YouTube
Heading into the cloud with Frame.io
Today, VICE uses Frame.io as their overall post-production platform across all of their offices. Company-wide, they have 35 TB of active projects in the cloud totaling 16,000 hours of content, with 333,000 total assets uploaded and 45,000 review links created.
As was the case with BuzzFeed, the Asset Lifecycle Management feature, which automatically deletes old assets on a user-defined cadence, makes it easy for admins and team managers to set limits on the number of days an asset will remain in Frame.io, ensuring efficient storage usage.
Frame.io has also made it easy for team managers to control users and permissions, which has solved the access and security problems VICE used to have. Frame.io was the first vendor entirely built on AWS to be assessed by the Trusted Partner Network (TPN), which is a recent joint initiative between the MPAA and the CDSA. The TPN’s mission is to create a new global standard for content security. Frame.io is SOC 2 Type 2 compliant, as well.
Building toward the future
Dee streamlined VICE’s infrastructure by defining who in the production workflow is assigned to perform the various tasks. At the top is the Frame.io administrator, who directly oversees the media tech coordinator. The media tech coordinator is responsible for managing the global shared space and users.
Team managers approve who has access and manage the users within their teams. Those include the post-production coordinator and assistant editor (who are both VICE team members). The post coordinator manages links, assets, and team-member access. The assistant editor uploads cuts for review and approval.
The collaborators (often freelancers) include the editor and producer. Editors have permission to upload cuts for review and approval, and exchange and address review notes. The producer, however, is unable to upload cuts, but has permission to review, make notes, and approve cuts.
Having improved their processes significantly by implementing Frame.io, VICE is continuing to customize the platform to make additional improvements to their cloud-based studio by:
Implementing local watch folders on the desktop for exports to directly upload to Frame.io so they can eliminate the need to drag-and-drop into the web UI.
Sub-clipping content to help show legal/licensing how a bit of archival footage was being used in context, which would result in even faster response times.
Using the Frame.io API to automate standards and practices notes.
Integrating with caption and transcription vendors to make those processes more seamless.
Using the resource management platform to create and archive projects and task resources with necessary action items.
Dee and Raffi have witnessed the difference in their production process since Frame.io’s implementation. The bottlenecks in same-day airing workflows have been markedly reduced, and the legal review process has been standardized. There’s now one centralized place for review and approval across all 36 offices. And the team finds the interface simple to use, with minimal onboarding for collaborators.
Dee did a little math. If each VICELAND episode needs to go through four feedback versions and they save one hour on each episode over 200 episodes per year, that means that since VICE Media implemented Frame.io, they’ve saved roughly 100 eight-hour business days a year.
But VICE’s favorite thing about Frame.io? Being able to bring all collaborators together to keep the work moving forward quickly and more efficiently. What was once chaotic is now unified into a functionally improved effort that better enables them to deliver the kind of cutting-edge content that defines their uniquely adventurous brand of journalism and entertainment.
As everyone who administers a large-scale ecosystem knows, saving time translates to saving effort, which ultimately translates to saving money.