Tactical articles for postproduction professionals. Our mission is to create tactical, actionable articles that teach valuable skills. We want to highlight the amazing work that’s being done every day in our industry, but instead of conducting armchair interviews, we dive into the messy details and
show you how it actually works.
Based on the critical success of her short film The Suitcase, Abi Damaris Corbin was heralded as “the next Kathryn Bigelow.”
She and her producing partner Elena Bawiec worked closely with USC Cinema School’s Entertainment Technology Center to develop cutting-edge cloud-based post-production technologies that became SMPTE standards.
How they made a 20-minute short look like a million-dollar+ production by using great tech, but without sacrificing strong storytelling and purposeful direction.
How the humble beginnings of a scholarly wunderkind with an existential perspective after the Boston Marathon bombing paved the way for Abi’s career.
The feature-film future of these powerhouse filmmakers.
Only five women have ever been nominated for Best Director by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). Of them, only one has won: Kathryn Bigelow, for The Hurt Locker in 2010.
So to be hailed as “another Kathryn Bigelow in the making” is kind of a big deal. But at the rate Abi Damaris Corbin is going, no one who works with her would be surprised to see her holding an Oscar someday.
Abi reflects on her past and future in this business.
The South Boston native, who had a master’s degree by the age of nineteen and garnered huge recognition for her 2017 short film The Suitcase, is already busy on her first feature, which she’s both writing and directing.
The Suitcase Trailer - YouTube
As anyone who works in the industry knows, your success is the product of the hard work of a team of people. One of Abi’s best allies is her friend and executive producer on The Suitcase, Elena Bawiec (pronounced BAH-vietz). The two met while at the graduate Cinematic Arts program at USC and are now making their marks as filmmakers in Hollywood.
And they’re doing it by breaking gender stereotypes and busting through barriers on projects that are taking both filmmaking technology and storytelling to the next level.
Lights, camera, ACTION
So, you may be wondering, where does this Kathryn Bigelow comparison come in? In much the way that Bigelow handled the tense battle scenes in The Hurt Locker, yet allowed Jeremy Renner’s character’s biggest epiphany to happen quietly, in a grocery store, Abi directs the taut action with a cool confidence and lets her main character come to his realizations organically and without sentimentality.
The Suitcase is another example of a female director who can make films that matter while busting the “women don’t do action as well as men” myth. It also busts the “women are less techy than men” myth.
It’s worth noting, however, that neither the action nor the tech is gratuitous. Abi’s story demanded the kind of heart-pounding images, split-second editing, and risk-taking sound she used to bring life to this story. As Elena states, “The technology is important in terms of making the production process simpler, which makes it easier to tell the story.”
Following The Suitcase, Elena, too, has worked on her share of action-oriented projects. The recent short proof-of-concept, Megan, directed by VFX wizard Greg Strasz, is set in the Cloverfield universe and has garnered nearly 1.2 million views on YouTube. (The DP for the short was Markus Förderer , ASC, BVK, who shot Independence Day: Resurgence. It was produced by Jean de Meuron, Giuseppe Mercadante, Olcun Tan, and Nic Emiliani).
MEGAN - 'CLOVERFIELD' - PROOF OF CONCEPT - YouTube
Elena and Abi believe in cultivating a team of trusted people who you can count on to both give their all to the production and to offer ideas that may improve the end result. As Abi says, “Bringing in other artists’ voices makes me a lot better.”
The (Suit)case study
As many success stories in this business go, Abi happened to be in the right place at the right time.
“I was sitting in the courtyard and talking to a younger student, who was one of my mentees, and one of the guys at [USC’s ] Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) overheard my conversation about the way I think about tech. He knew that I already had my master’s before coming to USC and said, ‘Hey, we need to hire her. She’s a director and is interested in pioneering technology.’”
At first, Abi declined; she was too wrapped up with directing and being on-set. But after some persuasion, she accepted and is now “very, very grateful that they didn’t let up.”
The ETC is a think-tank and research entity founded by George Lucas in 1993 that includes the participation of The Walt Disney Studios, Warner Bros., Technicolor, and many others.
ENTERTAINMENT TECHNOLOGY CENTER@USC Full Version - YouTube
Established to test emerging entertainment technologies, The Suitcase was designed to be a case study for theC4 (Cinema Content Creation Cloud) technology, which involves using a unique digital media identifier as metadata for all footage. The footage can then be accessed via the cloud throughout the entire workflow, from acquisition through delivery.
Essentially, this meant that every bit of footage was searchable throughout every stage of production and post by anyone who needed to access it. After the production wrapped successfully, C4 became a SMPTE standard, thanks in large part to the efforts of ETC producer Drew Diamond, cinema cloud architect Josh Kolden, and Erik Weaver, global marketing director at Western Digital.
Additional contributors to the project included Arri (the filmmakers primarily used ALEXA XTs) and Technicolor, who helped create an HDR (high dynamic range) workflow throughout the entire process for the most realistic, highest quality images.
The Suitcase was cut on Avid (version 8.4.5) at DNxHD 115, and Technicolor actually transcoded the files on set from a DIT cart. The elaborate pipeline included G-Technology drives for storage, while Amazon Web Services and Google partnered with ETC to distribute to other departments (such as the VFX and DI facilities) via the cloud.
The people behind the technology
But wait. That’s a lot of tech-speak for a film that was largely recognized for the strength of the story and direction. “You can learn the tech on anything,” Abi says. “It’s the people behind the tech who make the difference.”
She and Elena built a large and diverse crew (approximately 100 people), of which only Abi and Elena themselves were students at the time. How did they choose whom to involve? How did they know who the right people would be?
Abi’s short answer: “They cared.”
Elena elaborates. “We couldn’t hire super expensive crew because of the budget. Lots of people say that it looks like a million-dollar film, but obviously, it wasn’t. So we found great people who were professionals, but were maybe starting out in their careers and wanted to work on this.”
Many of those who worked on The Suitcase had been on the indie circuit, honing their crafts and receiving awards and accolades. Editor Chris Witt cut the Oscar-nominated short Kavi. Cinematographer Jon Keng received the award for Best Short Film at the Golden Rooster Awards (China’s Oscar equivalent). And Elena’s co-executive producer, Jean de Meuron’s film La femme et le TGV was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Live Action Short Film category.
Certainly, Abi and Elena got the most out of their crew. They had a brisk production schedule of seven shoot days, some of which took place at an airfield—a difficult location to secure. “I’m a perfectionist,” Abi says, “and I push my team really hard. We all push each other really hard.”
If you’re going to graduate by the age of nineteen, you need to get an early start; Abi began college at fourteen and worked incredibly hard along the way. With four older siblings whose mother was a teacher in the Boston school district, her achievements are her own. It’s a testament to her insatiable appetite for learning and storytelling. Also, she says, “I’m extremely stubborn. I don’t take no for an answer.”
Elena describes Abi as “tenacious, driven, and amazingly creative. She can really ignite the passion in other people.” Elena would know. The two began working together when they were still students at USC, where Abi attended after having earned her first master’s degree in Performance Studies, and Elena attended after leaving her career as a broadcast journalist and theater producer in her native Moscow.
While Abi followed the director’s track, Elena studied producing. Both found in each other a need to tell stories that matter, and to work with people who are as collaborative and right-minded as they are skilled. Thus was a partnership formed.
Inspired by reality
The Suitcase, for those who haven’t seen it, is inspired by true events surrounding the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It follows a day in the life of a young airline baggage handler who steals from a suitcase, only to discover that in it are materials that are part of the terrorists’ plot. What follows is his effort to get the suitcase into the hands of the authorities to prevent the further loss of life, even if that means admitting to the petty theft he committed and putting his career on the line.
Mojean Aria stars as Joe Franek, aspiring baggage handler, and unsung hero.
At its heart, this is a story about a young man, with a dream of becoming a pilot, who comes to a crossroad: he risks losing everything in order to do the right thing. It’s a story that’s also very close to Abi’s heart.
The epiphany for the film came after Abi’s mother and her young niece and nephew were at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon, the year of the fatal bombing that killed three and left hundreds others severely wounded (today happens to be the 6th anniversary of that fateful day.)
Fortunately, Abi’s family left shortly before the bombing occurred. But it was an event that shook her to her core and made her want to put good into the world. “I’m very introspective and I always want to grow. This made me realize that life is short. There are a lot of problems in this country. If, as an artist, you’re not going to help, then who will? And if not now, when? Storytelling is my vehicle for helping.”
Like her central character in The Suitcase, Abi knew that she didn’t want her humble beginnings to hold her back from her goals. There’s a scene in the film when the main character, Joe, takes an opportunity to sit in the cockpit when no one is looking, and pretend to be the pilot.
“When I was trying to pay my bills, I got a job at an educational tech center. Walking into that studio for the first time was like when Franek steps into the cockpit. I felt like I was on hallowed ground and I wanted to touch everything and was afraid to all at once,” she says.
The future of these filmmakers
Looking at Abi’s trajectory, you wouldn’t imagine that gender bias has ever been a factor. And, much like the women we spoke to for last month’s article about women in post-production, she doesn’t dwell on it. “There’s always going to be a fence,” she says. “That’s cool. Let’s climb.” She’s also committed to never making it an “us versus them” thing. “It’s about educating men and women to create an atmosphere where both can thrive.”
Elena talks about how there were times when she was, for example, initially learning about post-production and how she was sometimes talked down to by men. “I didn’t let it stop me,” she says. “If I had questions, I kept asking. I didn’t get upset, because I knew that if I wanted to learn I had to be persistent.” That said, she acknowledges that as a woman you do have to “be on your game 100 percent. You can’t afford to make mistakes.”
Abi’s feature project, which she’s just finished writing and will direct, is titled Swatted and takes place in the world of eSports—professional gaming. Will it involve some kind of new or immersive technology? “I’ll have to follow up with you on that,” Abi says with a smile.
Another year, another over-stimulating NAB Show is over. And while we plan to share with you some of the practical advice from all the sessions we held at booth SL2426 (as well as some very cool behind-the-scenes videos), today we just want to share some images and memories.
It’s the NAB show in Las Vegas and we just shared some incredible news in partnership with Blackmagic Design: Frame.io is now natively integrated into DaVinci Resolve 16 Studio.When we say it’s natively integrated, we mean it. Built entirely on our now public API, this is much more than just an integrationㄧFrame.io is a native feature set tightly woven into the fabric of DaVinci Resolve 16 Studio, zero installation required.
This launch has been a long time coming, and we know it’s something many of you have been eager to get your hands on. For years, we’ve supported integrations in the top advanced editing tools, including Premiere Pro and After Effects; and just last Fall, we introduced an all-new workflow extension built into Final Cut Pro X in partnership with Apple.
Today’s announcement marks another significant milestone not only for us, but for the entire professional video community. It’s a major step in pushing the boundaries of cloud video workflows even further so that you can continue to make better video, faster.
Your entire Frame.io workspace in Resolve’s Media Storage
With Frame.io in DaVinci Resolve 16, you’ll have access to all your Frame.io accounts, teams, projects, and folders right in the DaVinci Resolve Media tab, immediately on sign-in. Any Frame.io clips added to the Media Pool are automatically downloaded for use in the project you’re working on—and you can even start cutting while the full resolution file is being downloaded in the background. Resolve will automatically swap the proxy with the full resolution file.
Automatically synced, frame-accurate comments
Frame.io comments, replies, and annotations are automatically synced to your DaVinci Resolve timeline, no import or export necessary. If you leave a comment on your timeline in DaVinci Resolve, teammates and collaborators will see it in Frame.io. If they reply to your comment, their threaded response will show up as a marker right in your timeline. The collaboration synchronization is unlike any other integration we support, you can hold entire conversations between Frame.io and DaVinci Resolve without needing to switch contexts.
Straight-forward media exports—no extra steps necessary
Entire timelines, or just sections, can be rendered, batch uploaded and synced at the same time to Frame.io with ease. Everything happens automatically when exporting your timeline. There’s no further action needed from you.
Frame.io in DaVinci Resolve 16 will be available soon in open beta in the Studio (paid) version only. If you already have DaVinci Resolve Studio, you’ll be able to access Frame.io inside DaVinci Resolve 16 as soon as the new beta is released. If you don’t already have DaVinci Resolve Studio, you can download it here. We hope you love it as much as we do.
Frame.io in DaVinci Resolve Explained
We’ve got a lot more in store
This announcement is just one of many we shared today. You can now use the same API that our new DaVinci Resolve integration is built on to transform your own video workflow. If you’re at NAB, stop by our first-ever Frame.io booth at 2426 in South Lower to hear more about these announcements, and say “Hi” to our team!.
It’s the NAB show in Las Vegas, which means we’re rolling out our biggest announcements yet. Starting today, we’re making our API publicly available to everyone. We’ve teamed up with 9 launch partners―including Zapier and Blackmagic Design―to offer you new ways to streamline your video workflow to fit your exact needs.
No matter what you have in mind, from uploading content to tracking projects, to publishing your video, the Frame.io Developer Platform can help automate and simplify your video workflow. And because it’s the same API Frame.io is built on, it’s backed by the same industry-leading standards as the rest of our product.
Create your ideal video workflow, with Frame.io at the center
The Frame.io Developer Platform is a powerful workbench for professional video that enables your video team, no matter the size, to extend the value you get from Frame.io. Start by planning your ideal workflow—map it out, pick the tools, spot the gaps, and then use the Frame.io API to enhance it. If you’re a developer, you can build custom use cases to further streamline your existing workflow. Check out developer.frame.io to get started.
Add an existing integration to what you already have going
Plug in directly with an existing Frame.io integration built by one of our launch partners. Using the same tools available to everyone, these integrations were built to help organizations expedite offloading, dailies workflows, cloud editing, and more:
DaVinci Resolve: Get access to Frame.io’s collaborative feature set directly in Blackmagic Design’s latest release of DaVinci Resolve, zero installation required. Learn more.
LumaFusion: Access your Frame.io projects in LumaFusion, view real-time frame-accurate comments in your edit, and take action on feedbackㄧall without leaving the LumaFusion timeline.
Kyno:Screen, select, log, and reduce footage on location and submit to Frame.io as dailiesㄧwith metadata and automated transcoding incorporatedㄧfor remote collaborator editing and review.
Silverstack Lab:Get your dailies in faster using Silverstack Lab and Frame.io’s Watch Folders app. Drop markers and comments into Frame.io directly from the set, and add links from Frame.io assets to Silverstack Lab’s local clip library and PDF reports.
Shotput Pro: Move offloaded video, including RAW formats, from ShotPut Pro to Frame.io smoothly and automatically.
SnapStream: Export your SnapStream TV clips directly into Frame.io for video review and collaboration.
GNARBOX: Use GNARBOX hardware and Frame.io to unlock on-the-go upload of camera files and compressed dailies for client feedback, faster than ever before.
Restream: Schedule videos in Frame.io to go live on multiple platforms simultaneously with Restream.
Not a developer? Get started instantly with Zapier.
For video teams who don’t have access to a developer, Zapier can be used to connect Frame.io to all the apps you already use like Trello, AirTable, and 1300+ others—with no code—in an instant. Setting up automated workflows between apps couldn’t be easier.
As a review and collaboration hub, Frame.io is uniquely positioned at the center of video workflows; and through our platform and API, your video team can rely on us as you scale. Start using our API today, and reach out to our platform team at developer.frame.io with any questions. We’re here to help.
We’ve got a lot more in store
This announcement is just one of many we shared today. If you’re at NAB, stop by our first-ever Frame.io booth at 2426 in South Lower to hear more about these announcements, and say hi to our team!
Editor’s Note: a couple of weeks ago we released a major upgrade to Frame.io that delivered some great new features. Our friends and partners at LumaForge created a very useful video illustrating how they use Frame.io, Jellyfish, and Kyno to power a kick-ass remote collaboration workflow. This article gives a little more detail and context. Power up!
I work at a company that makes collaborative editing servers called the Jellyfish, and I firmly believe that the best collaboration happens in person. That’s why we created Jellyfish, an easy-to-use, plug-n-play workflow server to empower post-production teams at one location to work together more efficiently.
But in today’s globally connected world, we realize there are many situations that call for post-production teams to work in physically different spaces. In the past, this has meant shipping hard drives, or passing footage back and forth via some cloud service that doesn’t know anything about media. That has changed significantly in the last few years, and Frame.io has been a powerhouse for remote collaboration.
This became obvious to me at the Final Cut Pro X Creative Summit in 2018. The team at Apple had just announced Workflow Extensions for FCP X. Frame.io was one of the first to bring an FCP X panel to market. Oddly enough, I taught a class on collaboration in Final Cut Pro X during the Creative Summit. For some reason, a sizable portion of the Frame.io team showed up. Beyond my better judgment, I decided to show a few tricks inside the Frame.io extension during the class. Being that I’d only had a few minutes with it since its launch, I only had a cursory knowledge of what it could do.
Mid-demonstration, someone from Frame.io suggested I right-click on a clip and select Import. Suddenly, a dialogue appeared that allowed me to select whether I wanted to import the original file or a proxy. And it wasn’t just one proxy. I had multiple resolutions from which to choose. At that moment, I realized that remote editing wouldn’t ever be the same.
Okay, so here is where I tell you that we’ve secretly started using remote collaboration at LumaForge. Yes, the company that makes shared storage for local collaboration, also works with remote editors. We’ve actually found a very cool way to do this—and Frame.io is a big part of it.
We have about 3 years of archival footage from a plethora of tutorials, case studies, presentations, commercials, behind-the-scenes videos, and vlogs. This comes as a benefit when we’re working on a new project. We don’t have to reshoot the same things over and over. Rather, we can go back and find the right footage from a previous shoot.
Just using Final Cut Pro X, Premiere Pro CC, or DaVinci Resolve to siff through all of that footage would be a pain. Instead, we use a media management software called Kyno (rhymes with rhino)—an easy-to-use, media management solution that gives you a host of features for ingesting, discovering, playing back, and distributing media.
You’re probably thinking, “Okay, so you’ve got an archive. What’s this got to do with collaboration?” Well, about two videos ago, we brought in a freelance cameraman/editor to help catch us up in post. We spent about 2 hours shooting and copying over the talking-head for the video. We ran out of time before we could shoot any b-roll. So he took the talking-head footage home on an external hard drive. But I still needed to get him the right b-roll.
So, I jumped into Kyno, and started looking on our Jellyfish for possible b-roll options. Kyno made this very easy. However, finding the footage and getting it to my editor were two very different things. Thanks to Frame.io, I knew we could use a proxy workflow in Final Cut Pro X to help save download time on his end.
But what about getting the footage up to Frame.io? I didn’t want to have to jump from Kyno to Finder to drag the footage over. And a lot of it was RED footage, so it wasn’t super easy to upload. Thankfully, Kyno just released an integration with Frame.io that allows you to select footage and upload the original directly. However, 4.5K RED Raven footage can take up a lot of space in the cloud. Thankfully, Kyno has a built-in transcoder. You can actually select a range of clips, select Deliver To>Frame.io, and then optionally transcode.
We ended up transcoding at full resolution to H.264. This made our uploads and downloads of full resolution much faster. And because Kyno supports RED Raw natively, we were able to apply a simple color grade to the RED footage in REDCINE-X that was baked into the transcoded footage before sending to Frame.io. We also made sure to name the transcodes exactly the same as the originals. This would enable re-linking to the camera originals at the end.
Using the Frame.io Extension in Final Cut Pro X, our editor was able to select the desired clips, right-click, and import. The import dialogue gives you the option of either downloading the original file, or a proxy. You can always change to a different quality later if necessary (just right-click the clip in the Frame.io Extension, then select Change Quality.)
At the end, our editor exported a master in Final Cut Pro X. We then used Frame.io’s review tools to do a few rounds of notes. Since the uploads were full-quality, I was able to download the approved cut and immediately distribute. Had we wanted to re-link to the RED Raw for color grading, all he would have needed to do was send an FCPXML of the timeline. I could have then re-linked to the RED media and graded the footage.
So, is this the best way to work with a remote collaborator in Final Cut Pro X? We think so. The Jellyfish allowed us to store years’ worth of footage in one centralized place. While the editor was at our office, we were able to collaborate in full-resolution with fast updates. Once offsite, Kyno made it easy to find the footage we needed. And Frame.io made it easy to share footage in both original and proxy forms. These tools make quite the trio for remote editing.
At Frame.io, we believe anyone can be an artist. That’s why we’re excited to announce our most ambitious project to date, in partnership with one of the largest tech companies on the planet; something we know will be a game-changer.
Today, we are proud to introduce our newest integration: Frame.io for Microsoft Paint and Windows Movie Maker.
If you thought our image review feature was amazing, wait until you see what’s possible in MS Paint!
Growing Up Sucks
For many of us here at Frame.io, our early artistic expression began in MS Paint and Windows Movie Maker. Whether it was doodling pictures at school or editing home movies to share with friends, these programs opened up the world of creativity to all of us.
But there was a problem. Getting feedback on YahooMail and AOL Instant Messenger was just too slow and too confusing to be practical. As children, we could only dream of a better solution.
But now that we’re grown-ups, we have the power to make that dream a reality. We’ve been working in close collaboration with Microsoft to build this first-of-its-kind integration, that couples the collaborative workflow of Frame.io with the power, precision, and simplicity of MS Paint and Windows Movie Maker.
Our engineering and development teams have invested more than 2 weeks of semi-dedicated work to make this vision technologically possible.
As creative professionals, you have to use a lot of complicated tools, and sometimes you probably wish life could be easier and you could go back to these nostalgic hold-outs. But, you undoubtedly love working with Frame.io, so you are in a quandary. Not anymore.
Forget the FCPX vs Premiere vs Avid vs DaVinci Resolve vs [insert-your-favorite-NLE-here] debate. We’re betting on Movie Maker to “change the game” how we think about and make movies. #gamechanger.Frame.io for MS Paint and Windows Movie Maker marks the first time these cutting-edge applications will be opened up to professional creative teams. Just like with our other award-winning integrations for FCP X, Avid Media Composer, and Adobe CC Premiere Pro and After Effects, these new integrations allow you to get real-time feedback on all your creative projects from directly inside Paint and Movie Maker. And of course, we make it easy to share your projects with collaborators and clients, no exports or round-tripping required.
Here are just a few of the awesome features you can expect:
Instantaneous syncing of comments and annotations, even on dial-up connections
Integration of your favorite MS Paint tools, like the spray paint can and paint bucket, inside the Frame.io web interface.
One-click export presets for RealPlayer, MySpace, and LiveJournal.
Lightning-fast Frame.io web app support for Netscape Navigator
Ultra-fast transfer of .wmv and MPEG-2 media files
Cross-platform compatibility across all versions of Paint and Movie Maker, from Windows ME to Windows 10
These new features will enable your team to work faster, smarter, and across more devices than ever before, whether they’re running the latest versions of Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or still on an old version of Navigator on Windows 98. Frame.io has you covered.
What’s Old is New Again
Our mission at Frame.io is to radically transform the way video is made. Since we launched in 2015, our mission has been focused on professionals. But as of today, our mission extends to all of the billions of MS Paint and Windows Movie Maker users around the globe.
Whether you’re a kindergartener learning how to draw, a student making a mandatory video project for class, or even an engineer who just doesn’t know how to use Photoshop or Premiere Pro, this integration is for you.
We’ve brought the core of the Frame.io experience right into everyone’s first and favorite creative applications. Any user can draw in MS Paint or edit video in Windows Movie Maker. Therefore anyone can be an artist. If you can think it, you can dream it.
Download the all-new Frame.io integration for MS Paint and Windows Movie Maker on LimeWire today.
I used to shop at a budget grocery store. The grass-fed beef was affordable, they had organic produce and cheap snacks. But when I made recipes at home, the meals tasted bland and boring. I thought I was a terrible cook. Fast forward a few months, and a fancy grocery store opened up down the street. I thought, “Why not give it a try?” When I made my first meal, I was shocked. The flavors popped out and my digestion was better. It was a revelation! It was the same ingredients, the same recipe, but the results were so much better.
What does any of this have to do with the headline of this article? Well, I’m glad you asked.
What is Conforming
Conforming can be a difficult concept to understand but it’s similar to the example above. Except instead of food, we’re talking about video:
Conforming is the process of replacing lower-quality media in an edit or a shot with higher-quality media, usually camera-original files.
In my goofy example above, shopping at a budget grocery store is like the editing process. You’re using low-quality sources (ingredients) to make your edits (recipes).
But when you conform, you’re shopping at the fancy grocery store for the same meal. You have the same list of ingredients (shots), you’re following the same recipe (edit), but this time with better-quality sources, so the end results looks and tastes better.
In most post-production workflows (even for big-budget hollywood productions), editors typically work with lower-quality files, called proxies. These files are much easier to edit and require much less storage than top-quality original camera files. Essentially, it’s just cheaper and quicker to edit proxy files, similar to our grocery example above.
Once an edit is finished or locked, that exact recipe needs to be sent to someone else so that they can recreate it in another program. This time better-quality source files will be used instead of the low-quality files. And usually a more powerful computer will be used to re-create this tasty recipe. (Ok, enough with the food analogies. I promise.)
Conforming makes your edits smooth and simple, but still delivers the best quality results.
Now that we’ve established what conforming is, let’s talk about why it’s important.
Early on in your career, you might be able to get away with doing everything yourself in one program like Adobe Premiere or Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve. Maybe you edit, create graphics, and color yourself all in one program and don’t need to conform anything.
While it’s great if you can do everything yourself in one program, the more you advance in your career and the bigger the projects, the more you’ll need to hand off edits to other artists for conforming.
Most professional projects have tight deadlines and budgets involving multiple artists using different pieces of software. The project might have CG vendors, colorists, a motion graphics team, and Flame artists involved.
All of these factors mean that files will need to be parsed out, conformed, re-conformed back into edits and managed properly. It’s important to understand exactly what conforming will mean for the project that you’re working on.
Conforming For Collaboration
Conforming is an important process to understand, but the term itself can be confusing. Many different scenarios involve conforming. And you always conform in order to do a specific task. It isn’t just the task itself, if that makes sense.
You conform FOR color grading. You conform FOR finishing. You conform FOR CG. All that means is that you replace low-quality files with the best quality files you can to make sure you’re getting the most out of your camera.
If you have an edit with a shot that needs to get sent to a CG vendor for example, you will want to conform that low resolution shot to a higher resolution files, in a codec and bitrate that is best for CG work, before sending to the vendor.
If you have a sequence that is ready for color, a colorist will need to conform the original camera files to the edit sequence before coloring.
When the colorist is finished, she might render out files and send them to an online artist to conform the colored files to the edit. Usually during the online stage, the editorial effects, graphics and audio are all added back to the sequence for final mastering.
As an added example, in more advanced workflows, your source shots might be high resolution DPX files or even OpenEXR. Some film studios transcode all the original camera files to high-quality mastering files like these to make sure the color and VFX pipeline is smooth.
This process maintains the maximum quality of the camera source files, but also makes it easier to maintain a color pipeline with multiple vendors through the post production process.
All About Communication
The first step of any conform process is communication. An editor or assistant, a producer or post supervisor, and the artist or vendor doing the conforming need to communicate about workflow.
If you need to send shots to a CG company, jump on a conference call with them. You’ll need to know how to prep the files, what type of files they’ll need, how you’ll get the files back, etc. Sometimes you might need to conform yourself when preparing files for external vendors.
Today, a great tool for conforming is DaVinci Resolve. In Resolve, it’s a simple process to match edits back to source files and spit out whatever formats, color spaces, and resolutions are needed.
Once all of the players are on the same page about the needs of a particular project, you can start to move forward.
Most Common Conform Scenarios
To give you a better idea of common conform scenarios, I’ve listed a few common color and online workflows below. These are very general workflows that cover a wide range of potential projects:
Color and shots
An edit sequence is prepared without effects, just shots end to end.
The colorist conforms and colors source shots.
Individual shots are rendered with handles from color.
Online and sequence
An edit sequence is prepared with all effects.
An online artist conforms to the colored shots.
Graphics, audio, and all the pieces from offline are cut back in.
Online and shots
An edit sequence is prepared with all effects.
Online artist conforms source shots
Conformed shots are rendered out for CG or VFX
Sequence is rendered out for color
A conformed sequence with baked in effects is imported
Color or assistant notches or cuts up the edit
Color and render back sequence to Online
Best Practices for Conforming in Resolve
DaVinci Resolve is a free program that is very flexible to use for many different workflows. It can handle many different types of source files and render out high-quality files very easily.
Resolve is a good place to start when learning about conforming. Below I’ll walk you through some best practices for conforming an edit in Resolve.
Prep for Conform
When you start the conform process, you’ll need three things from the editor or assistant editor:
An offline reference QuickTime from the edit with burn-ins (burn-ins use text, like timecode or file names, that is “burned-in” to the edit during export.)
A matching XML/EDL/AAF of the edit
High-resolution source files
Offline Reference QuickTimes
The offline reference QuickTime is like your bible for the edit. To go back to our recipe analogy (I know I promised I was done!) it’s like the picture of your final recipe that shows you how the food should look like.
The reference QuickTime will be used as a guide to match every shot and effect that was created during the edit.
When you export a reference QuickTime from the edit, a good rule of thumb is to make a timeline-resolution ProResLT or DNxHD 36 file. Both of these codecs are common editorial formats. They are ideal to use as references because they playback easily while retaining good quality.
Before exporting, it’s also very helpful to add burn-ins to your reference QuickTime for conforming. The three most helpful burn-ins to add to the reference QuickTimes are:
Source file name
Text overlays describing unsupported timeline effects like stabilizes (resizes and timewarps should come across in the XML/EDL/AAF below)
In Resolve, you can import the reference QuickTime as an offline reference in the Media tab. After you’ve imported XML/EDL/AAF, you can link your offline reference to the XML sequence to compare with the high resolution media.
An XML/EDL/AAF is a text file exported from an edit sequence that describes the file names, source and record timecode, and effects of the source files. They are used to re-create timelines or relink shots in different software.
Today, XMLs and AAFs have eclipsed EDLs as the preferred format for conforming. XMLs and AAFs can contain more information about effects and multiple timeline layers which is really helpful with complicated edits. All of the major NLEs today can export some flavor of XML, EDL or AAF.
After exporting a reference QuickTime, it’s a good idea to duplicate that sequence to prepare the XML/EDL/AAF. It will greatly help the conform process to delete unused layers, collapse shots down to one layer if possible, remove un-used shots, and delete audio tracks.
The more you can do to clean up your edit sequence before exporting an XML, the simpler the conform process will be.
Organization from Editorial to Find Source Files Easily
When you’re conforming, finding the right source files can be difficult, especially if they aren’t all in one place. By default, Resolve will often look for the same files that were used in the edit.
Since that’s the case, it’s really helpful if an editor or an assistant can point you to the exact location of your high-resolution sources. If they’re really great, they might even organize the files and folders so that all of your source files are in one location, ready to be conformed.
If your source files are all over the place or in the same subfolder as your high-resolution sources, Resolve will have a difficult time choosing the right high-resolution sources to conform.
If source files can’t be moved to one location, having an assistant or editor send file paths is another option. That way the person conforming can navigate to the files easily without having to dig through many folders and files blindly.
Importing High-Resolution Media
There are three ways to import the source media into Resolve:
1. Point Resolve to the media when importing the XML. It will automatically import the media that it adds to the timeline.
2. Import the XML without connecting it to media yet. Use the XML to navigate manually to the files on the drive and import them.
3. Navigate to the files manually in the Media Hub and import all of the high resolution source files. Then import the XML and point it to the files imported.
Each of these options have their strengths and weaknesses based on the context of your situation. For example, if the source files on the drive are unorganized and in multiple folders, it might be a better idea to find all the files you want Resolve to look at and import them first.
The more you can do to guide Resolve into finding the correct files, the easier it will be to do the conforming.
The Secret to Automatic Conforming
When you start conforming, things may not go well and you might not know why. Resolve does a lot under the hood that is not always clear. There are four general reasons why conforming goes smoothly or not:
1. Matching source timecode
Timecode is like a train track: it tells you where you are at a given moment in time. Matching source timecode is the number one reason that conforms work or not. Timecode essentially tells Resolve which part of the clip to use for a particular shot. Embedded in most clips is a timecode track.
If you have clips that don’t have timecode in the edit or clips that have offset timecode between the edit files and source camera files, Resolve won’t know which part of the clip to use for any particular shot. For a long piece, not having matching timecode can be a huge time-suck and capsize a project.
Pro-tip: If you have source clips that you know don’t contain timecode, or if there are multiple frame rates that you want to conform to one, you can use Resolve to make two sets of files before editing. You can render to lower res versions of ProRes like LT and higher res versions of DPX files or ProRes444. Resolve will embed new timecode into the files. One set of files can be used for editing and the other set can be used for grading and finishing. Also, as long as the file names match identically and are unique, Resolve will be able to conform them properly to the high-resolution set. Keep the files separate and clearly label them.
Most of the time, cameras that don’t record timecode aren’t recording very high-quality video, so you won’t lose any information transcoding them to something like ProRes444 for grading and finishing.
While source timecode tells Resolve which part of the clip to use for a particular shot, file names tell Resolve which clip to use in that shot. Resolve has to parse through a collection of shots to find the right one. The XML/EDL/AAF contains the file names from editorial.
While file names can work for conforming, sometimes there are slight discrepancies between the file names used in editorial and the source high-resolution files.
In Resolve, the edit file names need to match the source file names exactly, character for character, to find a match. If the names don’t line up exactly, Resolve won’t be able to link the correct files.
Reel names provide a much more robust way of maintaining a link between edit files and source files, but they need to be embedded before editorial begins.
Reel names in Resolve are a hold-over from the tape days. A reel name was used to determine which tape a file was from so you would always know how to track back the clip to a physical piece of media.
While tape-based workflows are more and more rare, reel names are still probably THE most important, underused part of conforming.
The great thing about reel names is that if they are embedded during proxy/dailies generation for editorial, they can’t be modified. The link between the source files and the edit files will be unbroken by any file manipulation.
Reel names need to be embedded in a proxy or dailies file before editing begins. Then they become a part of the file even if an editor changes the file names. When it’s time to conform, the Resolve can use the reel name to find the right match easily.
Resolve has great tools for pulling reel names from source files for any type of source file whether it’s embedded within the file, from a folder name or a few other options.
“If you want to use reel names in your workflow, open up Resolve’s project settings. Under General Options there is an option to Assist using reel names from the. Select Embedding in source clip file. That is the most common type of reel name.”
If you can find a way to incorporate reel names into your conform workflow, they can save you a ton of time.
4. Effects Translation
XML/EDL/AAFs contain information about resizes and time warps. Depending on the edit and NLE, some of these effects will import correctly and some won’t.
It’s important to understand how Resolve is translating the effects information from one..
If there were such a thing as a king or queen of the box office, it would undoubtedly be the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Captain Marvel, the 21st entry in the franchise, is the latest to add to the over $7 billion dollar haul the Avengers and their allies have pulled in. But while it follows in the footsteps of other Marvel films, it stands on its own in one notable regard: it’s the first female character-led entry in the MCU.
Marvel Studios' Captain Marvel - Official Trailer - YouTube
Making a Marvel film is no easy feat. These are big movies. And much like Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) spends much of Captain Marvel trying to piece together the life she can’t remember, the creative team behind the film expend a lot of effort piecing together her life for us to see on screen.
With that in mind, we spoke with veteran MCU editor Debbie Berman about her editorial approach to selects, finding the heart of Captain Marvel in one scene, and why Marvel executive producers sing “Let It Go” to her.
Photos courtesy of Debbie Berman.
Editors and Dailies Assemble
Considering it takes a large team of heroes to regularly save the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s appropriate that it also takes a large team to create the MCU. For Captain Marvel, Berman worked with co-editor Elliot Graham, as well as a roster of first assistants (Jessica Baclesse, Kimberly Boritz), second assistants (Basuki Juwono, Christos Voutsinas), assistant editor (Joe Galdo), finishing editors, music editors, four visual effects editors, and more.
Berman appreciates having a large team supporting her because it frees her to narrow in on the creative, not technical, side of editing. “If those other things are taken off your plate, your focus can be where it needs to be, which is telling a story and finding the best version of the film,” she says.
Berman began looking for that best version of Captain Marvel early by diving into the dailies footage, which were shot on the Alexa 65 in 6.5k ARRIRAW open gate at 1.9:1 aspect ratio (for the IMAX scenes; per IMDb, additional scenes were at 2.39:1). They edited on Avid in DNxHD 115, 1920 x 1080, using Apple computers, Black Magic hardware, and Blue Sky boxes for 5.1 audio.
Behind the scenes of the set of “Captain Marvel” during filming at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. To ensure an accurate depiction of military service, filmmakers and actors immersed with Airmen from across the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kenji Thuloweit)
“I like to watch every second of the dailies,” Berman says.“If you’ve got the footage, you should watch every frame of it because you don’t know what gems are buried there and what information you can find to make it a better film,” she says.
She kept up with them regularly during production, too. “The bins were organized based on dailies, editors’ work bins, scenes cut, and then we would make reels bins. All of the master bins of the original material were organized by the assistants in its own master folder, which also applied to the sound rolls,” she says.
Staying on top of the footage is useful, if not essential, for a project like Captain Marvel. Not just because MCU films typically have hard release dates to hit, but because they’re (understandably) full of action scenes which produce days of non-chronological footage. Watching and assembling as footage comes in allows her to always be up on the footage and, eventually, the early cut.“They’ll shoot something one day, you’ll have that footage the next day, and then you can pretty much get it done by that day,” she says.
The Film’s First Audience
Berman is a strong believer in the importance of the editor during the transition from production to post-production. “You’re the first audience of the film,” she says. “You have the chance to give a completely different perspective to the scene as the only person who’s really seen all that footage without being there while it was being recorded.”
Berman likes to first orient her perspective around the director while making selects. “I usually watch the last take of every set up first, because that’s clearly something, directorially, they’ve been building toward. At some point they must have felt good enough about it to stop shooting,” she says. “It’s not necessarily the take I will use, but it’s the take that, blocking- and performance-wise, probably is in alignment with where we’re ultimately going.”
Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson on set during filming at Edwards Air Force Base (U.S. Air Force photo by Kenji Thuloweit)
“I do want to be in tune with the filmmakers and what they’re going for. I might not agree with the intention and I might decide to go another way, but it’s helpful to understand what the intention was and then make a decision about whether to follow it or not,” she says.
With that reference point as an anchor, she goes through the remaining takes in reverse order, selecting “anything that speaks to me or feels like it could be a usable moment.” That can include actors’ facial expressions before “Action!” is yelled. Sometimes it may include a type of eavesdropping on the directors. “I’ll hear what they whisper to an actor like, ‘Oh, have a pause and consider this.’ Then I think, ‘Okay, that was important to them,’” she says. “In the take, I’ll then look out for that moment and think, ‘The actor did nail that note the director very specifically gave them, I think it works, and I should give it proper consideration.”
Once the selection process is done, she’ll put that material in her timeline to create a rough assembly with every clip she likes. “Then I slowly watch it over and over and do a reductive process where I see which take survives the pass. Watching it, removing things, refining things, and just slowly carving out what I feel is the best version of that scene.”
Alternates and Collaboration
While Captain Marvel co-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck would visit Berman during production once a week to check in, the movie’s 11-month post-production process didn’t properly begin until a week after the film wrapped.
Co-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Flack answer questions during a round table at the Pentagon. The media round table was one of many events held as an outreach event targeting Air Force families, congressional representatives, and select organizations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)
Berman starts by showing Boden and Fleck what she’d been working on in the meantime. Then she likes to hear what they have to say. “When the directors come in, they can state what their intention was, but also consider, ‘Oh, there’s this other way it was done,’” she says. She facilitates that with a method of editing she uses to enhance the range of options. “I used to think, ‘Okay, I’m the editor. I have to choose which is the best way to go.’ I would force myself to just do the version I thought was best. Now that I have a little more experience, I’ll cut two or three versions, and go with the one that feels good, but still show the directors the other versions.”
Inevitably, the versions get discarded, but the work isn’t wasted. “You might realize several months later, ‘Now, with this version in the film, that one I did a long time ago actually fits better’ and revisit it and bring it back to life,” she says.
The nature of collaboration with Boden and Fleck varied. “Sometimes we’ll just have a discussion of what the ideas are for next pass and then I’ll work on it alone and show them. Sometimes we’ll have a working session and play with things together and say, ‘Alright, come back in two days. I’m going to try some stuff.’ Sometimes we’ll sit together,” she says. “It really just depends on what the scene calls for.”
Co-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Flack give remarks during a screening in Washington, D.C. The screening was held to highlight Air Force collaboration with Disney and the inspiration behind the main character’s warrior ethos: “higher, further, faster.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)
The work distribution between Berman and co-editor Elliot Graham was slightly different. “Sometimes we’d all sit together and discuss big picture stuff. But, for the most part, we were dividing and conquering,” she says.
Graham, for example, handled many of the action sequences, but not because Berman, having edited previous Marvel projects, had a problem with cutting action.“On Spider-Man: Homecoming, I really wanted to prove that a woman could cut action sequences. So, in Spidey, I did most of the action,” she says. But with Captain Marvel, her priorities were different. “Because it was Marvel’s first female-led film, and I felt like I’d proven that a woman can cut action scenes, I felt it was more important for me to focus on the heart, and the humor, of this film,” she says.
One sequence was especially important for Berman to focus on. “Louisiana really is the heart of the film,” Berman says of the section of Captain Marvel where Carol Danvers goes to visit her former best friend, Maria, who may be able to help her overcome her amnesia regarding her past. It’s a “slow” sequence, with a large emphasis on the chemistry and connection between Carol and Maria.
Berman knew it could be a risky sequence, especially because it comes after a lot of action. “You don’t want to lose all the momentum of a story. You’re in the middle-ish of the film, so you don’t want people to get bored,” she says. However, the sequence was vital in order for the audience to better immerse themselves in Danvers’ emotional journey, not as a superpowered being, but as a human being whose past has been taken from her. “You’ve got to spend the time building that so it’ll pay off later,” Berman says. “If you’re connecting emotionally, then I think it’s okay to slow down, and to feel the heart and the soul of the story.”
Louisiana was that to the filmmakers, as well. And Berman enhanced it with examples of how the impact of a scene can be substantially affected by the “little” things an editor does.
For example, there’s a moment where Maria’s daughter, Monica, shows Danvers old photos of them all together in order to jog Danvers’ amnesiac memory. “That was shot in a very linear fashion where she’d show a photo and explain the story behind the photo,” Berman explains. “I decided to try and make that more emotional by condensing all those moments and showing the photos one on top of the other. Instead of hearing every story separately, you hear the voices build, the stories build and echo over each other, to make it feel more emotionally overwhelming.”
Her intention was to immerse the audience in Danvers’ perspective so they felt it too. “You’re hearing all these voices echoing into each other and merging and feeling like, ‘Wow, this is my life, and I don’t even remember it. And there are all these stories that I don’t recall, ’” Berman says.
Another example is during an extended conversation between Danvers and Maria sitting across from each other at a kitchen table—which lives in the theatrical version almost entirely as it did in Berman’s first editorial pass.
However, in order to amplify it slightly, “I held one wide shot for a really long time,” she says. “It’s not something that you normally see in a film of this genre, but I thought, ‘I’m interested in just hanging out on this wide and watching both of these characters interact at the same time.’ It’s almost creating a small distance so we can build to more intimacy later in the scene.” She credits Marvel for letting her do it. “I always thought they would make me go into coverage quicker, but they didn’t. Everyone liked being able to just rest and settle and watch.”
The Louisiana sequence wasn’t the only moment that received some breathing room courtesy of Berman. An eleventh-hour change was made to the post-credit sequence where Goose the cat coughs up a “hairball” onto Nick Fury’s desk. “We had pretty much finished the film, and they were print mastering the film,” she explains. But then she had a creative epiphany.
Originally, the shot opened on Fury’s desk, and the cat jumped up immediately. “I realized if we just pause and sit on that empty desk for a while, it’s going to build a lot more anticipation and make that scene a lot funnier. I said, ‘We need a four-second pause there!’ Everyone gave me a look, because I have been accused in the past of not letting go of the films and of trying to make it better right up to the last second,” she says.
Nonetheless, everyone realized she was right. “I ran back to the edit suite, extended the shot, and quickly spoke to several departments to get special permission to change the film at that point. Everyone got mad for a second but then agreed,” she says. “But you know what? I think it’s better.”
Which Goose the Cat is Real? | Making Marvel Studios' Captain Marvel - YouTube
It wasn’t an unusual situation for Berman. “I’m a big believer in trying to make the film better right up until they drag me away,” she says. Sometimes she’ll even be teased about it. “Executive producer Victoria Alonso always sings Let It Go from Frozen to me when we’re at the end of the process, and I still have a hundred more notes,” Berman laughs. “I respond, ‘Oh, that’s such a nice song. How sweet of you to sing it.’”
Berman’s belief that a film can be improved up until the last minute is why, like many actors, she mostly can’t watch her films after she’s finished a project. “Even if I love the film, I don’t watch them again,” she says. “Part of it is probably that I just know I’m going to have notes.”
She does, however, make an exception for premieres or early screenings. “I love watching it with an audience because that’s what you do it for. You do it to feel people loving and enjoying that adventure you helped create,” she says. “There’s nothing greater than just sitting and watching a movie with an audience, and your edit evokes a strong emotional reaction in them that makes them cheer. For me, that’s why I love making movies.”
It’s also a reminder of what all the work is for. “Sometimes certain sections fall together naturally and there are other things that you had to really work hard at to transform into their final version, and you’ve really put a lot of, for lack of a better term, blood, sweat, and tears into it. Then to see that it works? That’s when you think, “Alright, I fought for that one, and we nailed it.’”
It’s March, which means that not only are we caught up in college basketball madness, we also find ourselves celebrating National Women’s History Month. A full year after Frances McDormand used her Oscar acceptance speech to champion inclusion riders, and with the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements still in the forefront of the conversation, we thought this would be a good time to check in on the progress women have made in the editorial and post-production sector of the industry—and to see what some of the women working today think about our future in it.
Looking at the statistics compiled by Women and Hollywood, in behind-the-scenes roles among the top-grossing 300 films from 2016-2018, only 15.5% of the editing jobs were held by women. The breakdown: 14.4% of the positions were held by white women, with just 1.1% held by non-white women. Obviously, we still have a long way to go for parity with our male counterparts, as well as for increasing opportunities for women of color.
Women Ruled the Early Days of Post
Did you know that in the early days of the movie industry, women were employed in the editorial departments as negative cutters because they were considered to be better suited for repetitive tasks that required an attention to detail—like sewing?
Not until Margaret Booth explored the creative possibilities of cutting film, and edited Mutiny On The Bounty in 1935, did film editing become recognized as an important creative endeavor—at which point men, as the great Anne V. Coates said, “elbowed women out of the way.”
The History of Female Editors - Everything You Need to Know - YouTube
Sure, there have been a number of women editors who’ve had some of the longest and most fruitful director-editor relationships in film history: Thelma Schoonmaker and Martin Scorsese; Quentin Tarantino and Sally Menke; Woody Allen and Susan E. Morse. Other notable women working in the 1960s and ‘70s include Dede Allen, Verna Fields, and Suzanne Baron, who cut some of the most iconic and groundbreaking films of those decades.
Martin Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker editing Goodfellas - YouTube
But the industry seemed to grow more male-centric again in the 1990s as editing on digital NLEs took the place of cutting on film. As one of the participants in this article has speculated, “Working on computers was seen as more of a scientific field, and men were more encouraged to pursue it than women were.”
And yet, we found seven women from different sub-sectors of the post-production world, to tell us their stories and to provide some insights into the kinds of obstacles they’ve faced, how they’ve coped with gender-related challenges, and how they’ve built satisfying careers.
What did we learn? It’s still complicated. But what do our participants in this article think? You might be surprised.
Our Magnificent Seven
Our participants’ paths to their careers have been as varied as the kinds of projects they’ve worked on. Some attended film school and focused on editing, while others became attracted to video or film production during their college years. Some took detours into other areas of the business before finding their way to post-production. And one even started as an editor in the Israeli military.
Julie Harris Walker, producer and host of “The Other 50%” podcast (which focuses on women in behind-the-scenes industry jobs) came through production and finance at studios and networks. As “often the only, or one of the few women in the room,” the detours in her career led her to find her passion for “gender and diversity equality and the power of storytelling.”
Kathryn Hempel has a journalism and art background, and found during a video arts class that editing also engaged her in different and exciting ways. After doing a variety of jobs from designing jewelry to working in master control switching programs at WHA-TV in Wisconsin, she found her way into freelance production assistant work and then into an assistant editor position at Cutters in Chicago, where she’s now a partner and has worked as an award-winning commercial editor for nearly thirty years.
Melissa Lawson Cheung started working as an assistant editor at San Francisco’s TechTV while she was still in film school. After becoming an editor there, she decided to take a step back to assisting in the industry sector she was most attracted to—scripted content—a shrewd choice that paid off. She recently edited the Mark Wahlberg action thriller Mile 22 and is currently working on season four of Mr. Robot, starring Oscar winner Rami Malek.
Sabrina Plisco, ACE began her career on a low-budget feature for which she learned to use one of the first NLEs. That skillset got the attention of an editor who hired her as an assistant, and with whom she worked until making the leap to editing movies for television. Since then, she’s edited numerous features ranging from Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow to the two Smurfs movies, the latter of which together grossed nearly a billion dollars worldwide.
Shiran Amir, who wanted to study the least science-intensive subject possible, began her career in high school with a media studies class. She quickly fell in love with editing and learned Premiere, which led her to serve her two-year mandatory military stint as an Avid editor for the Israeli Air Force filming unit. Shortly after her discharge, she moved to LA and worked her way through assistant gigs in reality TV to scripted TV, championed by Iron Man editor Dan Lebental, ACE. Back to being a full editor, she worked on Z-Nation for Syfy Channel and recently completed the indie film Lupe, directed by Andre Phillips and Charles Vuolo, which premiered earlier this month at Cinequest Film Festival (and on which they used Frame.io!).
Susan Lazarus began her career before film schools were nearly as commonplace as movie theaters. Starting out as a still photographer for the Guggenheim Museum in New York, she hoped to find a path to cinematography as a camera apprentice or in camera repair, but “the culture was not welcoming.” She was able, however, to find apprentice editor work, which led to her working on Reds with none other than Dede Allen, and The King of Comedy with Thelma Schoonmaker. With additional experience cutting sound and as a documentary producer, Susan found that she enjoyed having the logistical overview, scheduling, and dealing with the film/sound labs. This led her to becoming one of the first post-production supervisors in the New York film community. Most recently, she served as post-production supervisor on Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman.
Susan Lazarus career spans dozens of films, including being production manager on Inside Man and post-supe on BlacKkKlansman.
Taylor T. Walsh began her journey as a corporate video editor in Nebraska. Aspiring to work on music videos, she took a chance writing to a director she admired and offered her services as an intern. After making the move to LA and working hard, she earned the opportunity to cut music videos for artists like Ariana Grande, Ed Sheeran, and Demi Lovato. She’s currently at editorial house Cabin Edit, where she primarily edits commercials and music videos.
Taylor and a collage of music and corporate videos she’s edited.
Obstacles to Overcome?
How much time do you have? Of course, there are the endless stories of women who have had to overcome overt sexual harassment and accept lower pay. It’s so pervasive in our lives and in our newsfeeds that it’s probably more newsworthy to find a woman who hasn’t experienced one or the other at some point in her career.
Emma Stone on Equal Pay & Harassment of Women in Hollywood | Close Up With THR - YouTube
Then there’s the kind of gender bias that results in how long it takes women to move from assistant to editor, and influences which projects they’ll be considered for.
Shiran recounts, “One show creator who interviewed me told me afterward that if I were a guy I’d have been cutting already.” Another editor we spoke with (who wished to remain anonymous) reported that she had been told that she was too valuable as an assistant to be promoted to editor.
Shiran and Melissa may have made their way into the action and sci-fi genres, but most of the women we spoke with confirm that it’s far easier to get hired on the kinds of projects that are geared toward a female audience: wedding or makeover reality shows or kids’ programming or soap operas. “My biggest challenge has been trying to compete for feature films in the action genre,” Sabrina reports. And that’s with a résumé that includes Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and Dr. Strange.
Sabrina Plisco with Dr. Strange co-editor Wyatt Smith.
There are the subtler aspects of gender bias that force women to be aware of how they dress, hold themselves when they speak, and modulate their tone of voice (because you don’t want to be accused of being aggressive or shrill).
Julie, who has interviewed nearly 200 women behind the scenes on her podcast, says that some report even “thinking about their natural facial expressions in order not to be accused of having ‘resting bitch face.’”
EP9 Cynthia Kanner - YouTube
And then there’s the challenge of being a mother.
Anyone who works in the industry knows how hard it is to balance the demands of the job with being a parent. The hours are long and unpredictable, and last-minute changes (particularly if you work in post) are inevitable—and usually happen at truly inconvenient times.
But being a woman with kids is even more complicated. It’s hard enough to leave a baby or young child to return to work. It’s harder still when you’re missing dinner with them, or getting home after they’re already asleep. There are projects that require traveling that you can’t even consider taking.
The Challenges of Being a Female Hollywood Producer - YouTube
There’s also the bias against women who work while their husbands are the stay-at-home parent. One editor shared the story of asking her employer for a raise. “If you need more money, why doesn’t your husband get a job?” they countered.
Which is not to say that there aren’t women who successfully manage to handle the demands of the industry while raising families.
Susan says, “I decided to hope for the best. Amazingly, when my baby was twelve weeks old, I was hired by a team with a woman director and editor, and male and female producers who allowed me to be flexible with my hours. From then on, I managed my freelancing strategically to raise my son.” She also cites that the formidable Dede Allen raised a family while earning Oscar nominations for movies like Dog Day Afternoon and Wonder Boys.
Melissa, while working 6-day weeks toward the end of Mile 22, would sometimes leave at the end of the day to go home and put her daughter to bed, then return to the office to work for a couple of hours if necessary. “Although it’s always a struggle to find balance as a parent with the demanding schedule of the entertainment business,” Melissa says, “I’ve been lucky to establish a few relationships throughout my career with people who understand my family needs but also know that they can depend on me and that I will always go above and beyond for them.”
Kathryn has raised two children, finding that staying with a company who values her talents and respects her choices has helped make it possible. “I’m still a student in learning to master the work/life/art balance,” she says.
And when Sabrina was a new mother, she worked on television movies. “It was a great place for me to be while my daughter grew up,” she says.
Their keys to success? Building relationships with understanding collaborators, a give-and-take approach to their work, and strategic compromises that allow them to do creative work while raising families.
Reasons for Optimism
One particularly striking revelation was that some of the editors we talked to actually don’t feel as though they’ve been marginalized for being female.
“I’ve faced challenges, but I wouldn’t say that it’s because of my gender,” Taylor states. “In the past, if I have felt like my opinions or creative decisions are disregarded, I think it’s more the nature of being a young creative. I’ve found that if you stick up for yourself and can defend your point of view, you’re usually met with understanding and respect.”
Melissa concurs. “There were times when I felt there was no room for me at the creative table, but experience and confidence gave me the strength to take my place.”
And herein lies, perhaps, the biggest surprise.
All of the women we spoke with agree that it’s more important to focus on doing the work than on being a woman in the industry. In fact, there were some women we contacted who declined to participate in this article because they feel that calling attention to women in the industry only contributes to the “othering” of women.
“The collaborative nature and social aspect of editing may influence clients to consider my gender,” Kathryn says. “It feels good to be hired based on the quality of my work and character, so that’s what I try to strengthen.”
“I love the crews I work with and treat them with respect and joy,” Susan says. “I just persisted in doing my job in the best way I knew, respecting the parameters of each situation.”
Shiran has never spent a lot of time dwelling on being a woman in the industry and owes her success to her tenacity, while also generously acknowledging the men who have mentored and supported her. Coming from a background in which her mother was the business person and her father was the primary parent, she advises, “Don’t focus on your womanhood. Instead, focus on your editor-ness.”
Shiran editing while in the Air Force. Photo courtesy of Shiran Amir.
Which may still involve working harder or being thicker-skinned than a man in the industry. As Julie points out, “If you see a woman at the top of this profession, you can bet it’s because she’s extraordinary. Women don’t ‘fail up’ to get where they are.”
Taylor feels as though there are no hard barriers keeping women from entering in the commercial and music video sectors. “The industry is definitely going in a positive direction,” she says. “I feel like there are so many powerful, award-winning female editors, colorists, VFX artists, and business owners who are getting recognition and appreciation.”
Kathryn notes that she feels encouraged by the recent attendance of the AICP Camp Kuleshov entrants. “Many (female) assistant editors and sound engineers created winning submissions.”
“Because the awareness that there should be equality in the workplace is getting out there, there seems to be a more conscious effort by producers and directors to hire women if they have the opportunity,” Sabrina adds. “I’ve had friends recently say that they’re enjoying a more balanced number of men and women on series staffs.”
Not to do a complete 180 here, but perhaps one sign that things are changing is the fact that some of the women we spoke with had no hesitation about embracing the value of bringing a feminine perspective to their work.
When we interviewed Melissa about Mile 22, she shared this anecdote: “There was one sequence in particular in which the female lead, a CIA-trained fighter, pretends to cry, acting as if she’s a damsel in distress. And I felt strongly that we should wait a beat to start her crying so that she had the time to think of this plan, so it’d feel more calculated.”
Mile 22 | “Badass Women” Featurette | Own It Now on Digital HD, Blu-Ray & DVD - YouTube
Kathryn agrees. “I understand that women don’t all share the same traits, but I came to the realization that sensitivity is a strength and can aid the creative process in many ways.”
Navigating the Way Forward
Some of the powerful women at the top in Hollywood are making sure they roll down the ladder so their talented and hardworking..
Nearly four years ago Frame.io came to market with a vision to change the way filmmakers collaborate. We’ve rolled out hundreds of updates along the way, but today, we’re excited to release 10 features we’ve been dying to ship since day one. From must-haves like @mentions to multi-page PDF support, this release has something for everyone and represents many of the top requested features we hear from customers.
Collaborate on a whole new level with these new features
Multi-page PDF support: You make video but that means working with all types of creative assets. Our new multi-page PDF support allows you to review scripts and storyboards, just like video. Check out how Berklee College of Music has been using this new feature to improve how they collaborate:
Enhanced version management: You can now reorder and remove versions from a stack, all from one simple place.
Private comments: Do you routinely create separate review links for internal teams to gather feedback you don’t want your client to see? Now you can separate your internal team conversations from your client conversations.
@mentions: Finally! With @mentions, you can tag anyone on a project to quickly grab their attention when it’s needed most.
Archival storage (beta): Archive is a new, low-cost storage tier. Free up more account storage by archiving projects. Your original files will be archived but your low-res preview files stay online and searchable so you never have to wonder which backups are where. Comment, compare, share—all the Frame.io magic still applies to archived projects. Originals can be restored within a few hours. [Note: this feature is currently in beta and is not yet widely available. If you have an existing Frame.io account and would like to request access, please fill out this form to request early access.]
Redesigned iPhone app: Have you been using our Apple award-winning iPhone app to review and comment on the go? It just got a design overhaul. You can now enjoy a cleaner and all-around improved interface.
Reel player: Want more ways to showcase your final deliverables in presentation mode? You can now drop all assets into a filmstrip format for easy, laid-back viewing. Complete with built-in autoplay. Fox Sports Marketing adopted the reel player presentation format, and they’re already seeing success:
Updated review pages (beta): Our all-new review pages have a simpler interface that makes it easier for clients to leave feedback—no login required.
Short links: Our share URLs used to be really long. But with our new f.io shortlink, your share URL’s are now significantly more friendly and easy to use.
Account switching: For those of you with multiple accounts, we’ve now made it super simple to switch between accounts via our new account switcher.
When we say these were top requested features, we mean it. We speak to thousands of customers through our support channels, dedicated customer feedback sessions, and trade shows.