Notes on syncing and slating from an editor

The film slate. It's one of the big symbols of film-making. But... there's a point to it. And that point is understood to a greater or lesser degree throughout the industry.

But for an editor, it can be essential communication. We're usually not on set (we're editing the previous day's shots), and the less time we need to spend figuring information out, the more time we can spend being creative. 

Here are some notes based on some past difficulties I've encountered when syncing video and audio. A lot of it isn't necessarily intuitive if you haven't spent any time ingesting dailies, so I thought I'd get some general thoughts written down. They essentially form my wishlist of what I'd like to see when I get a new set of dailies.

Other editors may disagree with some points or prefer other solutions, but this is what I am happiest with. Regional variations may apply; almost certainly in terminology.

 

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Inheriting Final Cut Pro 7 projects

I find myself in an interesting situation.

I am currently looking at a documentary project which has been started on by another editor, with a view to give feedback and possibly take some days to work on it myself. The work done so far has been in Final Cut Pro 7.

My current FCP system is 6 (Studio 2). I have had no real need until now to upgrade to Studio 3/ FCP7. Firstly I couldn't afford it, and then I was in a long-term contract (well, 1 2/3 years counts as long term in this business) elsewhere - by which point they brought out a new "update".

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Working with the edit department (from the outside)

A few months ago I rather rapidly acquired a new job - my first on a feature, a stereoscopic stop-motion animation. But I'm not working in the editing department. They've been in place now for some time. I'm working in Previs and VFX. On an Avid.

Now, this was a rather contentious point. In fact, it still is. The previs reviews bring in a number of changes to the edit, where the editor isn't even present. As an editor, you become used to people making changes to the shots that you've selected - even not being present at the decision and therefore not being able to argue your case is something you have to live with on occasion. But this involves entire sequences being shaped away from the department. And is, understandably, somewhat frustrating.

I'm in a rather unique position on it all. I sympathise entirely with the editor's wish to be the one in control of these decisions. But from the previs perspective, the sequences need to be viewable at our reviews with the director. It was one of the reasons I was hired in the first place - to be able to tidy up sequences and show the director different possibilities within reviews without the entire thing having to go into the main edit suite and involve about twice as many people. But with the massively hectic schedule we have, the added complications of dialogue selects coming back on a near-daily basis, sequences being updated in edit with incoming shots and newly recorded/approved dialogue whilst they're being updated in previs to solve issues with sets, models, actions.... well, it's impossible to request the editor to attend all of our reviews, and impractical for previs notes to be given within edit reviews when there are so many feedback sessions required per sequence before they're approved.

The upshot of it all is that our approval workflow is changing on a monthly basis, as we sort out what's working and what isn't for our relative departments as well as the overall production. The meetings are vastly interesting as we all get to say what would work best for us, and then hear what that would imply for the others further down the line. It's a masterclass in communication and adaptation. And it's actually pretty damn enjoyable.
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