Post-production on End of Nights began on the 20th March 2013 as soon as I received all of the Redcode Raw files from the DoP – total file size was 251GB. My initial thoughts were on the Red workflow on my Windows machine but I was told by the DoP by Adobe Premiere (my editing program of choice) handled the red files natively with no conversion needed, so editing was going to be as easy as working with DSLR footage. Placing the first file onto the timeline was exciting, and after clicking play the footage played smoothly at ¼ the resolution (since REDCODE is a wavelet codec, the files contain several lower resolution versions of the video, which means the 4k file supplies 1080p footage also). The footage looked stunning. As if I was looking into a portal into the past and seeing the events unfold as I did on the day, the quality was simply unparalleled. Whilst there are a number of different 4k resolutions (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4K_resolution) the one I decided to work at (sequence setting too), as well as having most of the footage shot at, was “4K Ultra high definition television” at 3840 × 2160. This allows me to scale the footage down to 1080p effortlessly (mathematically too). Support for 4k projection and playback is still obviously poor domestically (only cinemas can afford these projectors), so 1080p was the best and only choice.
I love editing, it brings all the separate footage that you have to life. I believe that the editor has the biggest power of the telling story through his edits; he can make it fast paced or slow and drag on the shots for as long as he likes. This process was going to last around 2 months, all the way up to hand in – I was sure to give myself enough time to make the standard as high as possible.
Editing was relatively straight forward using traditional techniques of continuity editing (majority of the film) with instances of montage editing (nightclub dance scene), jump cuts, with L-cuts and J-cuts for dialogue. Me and fellow editor worked very closely on the first rough cut – we edited scene by scene in separate sequences on Premiere to keep everything as organised as possible. After the assemble edit I took over the project personally from the rough cut leading all the way up to the final edit; I was a perfectionist and wanted the edits to flow as authentically, cinematically and professionally as possible – every detail was important. This had to be my best work.
Whilst it may seem to be a controversial choice, but we edited the video first with absolutely no audio guidance. This helps a great deal because you want to see the video flow first with no distraction or the temptation of constraining to the audio. Once we saw the video flow, only then I could start to sync up the audio. This is perhaps an editing preference but you learn so much over the course of 3 years media production you find the more comfortable and professional ways of working. Of course there are little *incredibly annoying* errors in continuity that you have to work around (heads turning differently, hands in different positions, etc). Nevertheless we managed to avoid them every single time whilst keeping up that incredibly high standard of editing; but unfortunately there was just one we could not avoid – and it had to be in the very first scene of the film. Half way through the councillor takes the phone and holds it with 1 hand, and in the next shot she’s holding it with 2 hands. There was nothing we could do about it. HOWEVER, trials of the rough edit established that out of 30 people no-one noticed this error. I tried to lessen the flaw by cropping the shot a little more, it’s still there, but thankfully less visible.
I made sure a rough edit was available to show to the crew members and cast on the final day of shooting (scene 9) so that I could get some feedback. I managed to get two very important pieces of feedback.
1) The conversation from around 1:38-2:44 needed to cut to something else, otherwise it just looked like one massive long take, I decided to cut to their backs. At first I did at times when they were not looking but it looked out of place, so I carefully edited it based on continuity, e.g. when they looked at each other, as well as trying to mask the very shaky camerawork (the shake was intentional but I wanted less of it).
2) In the very original cut (earlier than the rough cut) When Ted gets hit by a can and rushes off to the bar it seems as if he gets to the bar unusually fast. I was given advice to cut back to a few seconds of dancing at that stage and then cut to him getting to the bar, I followed this and it did naturally look better.
Once these issues were rectified and my fellow editor was happy with it I was able to export a rough cut out to Vimeo. The first issue however took far longer to sort because I want perfection at the stage so it was only up till the final edit I was finally happy with it.
I was very secretive with this film and refused to show it to anyone other than the team who made it – this is because I can trust these people professionally. NO, they are not just my ‘friends’ they are people who want what’s best for the film. They are a dedicated team who want to see this film succeed. Why would I get strangers or even worse, the students/people of Coventry to give ME feedback? They probably want to see me fail so it is more than likely their advice will be poor or of a low standard. Furthermore I want most people to see the completed film from the first viewing to get hit by the full power of the film’s message. My editing is my strong point so I know what I am doing; when spending so much time with the film you start to see what exactly needs fixing, work and tweaking. You know what you can and cannot do. I want my own style to it and no-one else to interfere.
When editing a film the second most important thing other than continuity is the flow & pace of the film itself. Each edit has to be paced correctly. It is very hard to describe, but you cannot draw out certain shots for too long or short, but with others you can, you have to make a creative decision each time for the exact length of a shot before cutting to the next. The art of film editing. Of course there are various edits and techniques, but overall it is not something that can be fully taught, but something you learn from experience.
I received enough feedback from the assemble edit and first rough edit so it was more than enough to lead me onto locking the final edit. It was now my task to fine tune every single edit as well as crop the footage, make it adhere to the 2:35:1 cinemascope aspect ratio and eventually colour correct and grade it.
https://vimeo.com/64468259 – Rough cut
2:35:1 is the most traditional cinematic aspect ratio (and my favourite) so I was very determined in releasing the film at this format so I had to find out how!
After a bit of old fashioned research I found a very good tutorial on how to do it here: http://whoismatt.com/cinemascopetutorial/ the only problem was that my footage was 3840 and the math was henceforth slightly different. I calculated that 1920×816 is the resolution that I would need to export to and that 132 pixels would need to be cut from top and bottom of 1080p footage, this meant that 264 (simply doubling that worked) needed to be cut from top and bottom of 3840px footage – I made my own black bars overlay on Photoshop and imported them into premiere for guidance.
The key is to edit at this aspect ratio because you need to reposition every single shot to how you want the audience to see it, with the black bars working as an overlay to aid my repositioning I was easily able to adjust the motion setting on Premiere to make the shot position relative to the aspect ratio. Voila, beautiful 2:35:1 and professional too.
Without bars – (top right) Motion position adjusted to make the shot look right once black bars applied
Throughout the rough cut feedback people were expressing that more close-ups were required and the long shots should have been even close, perhaps to the point of medium shots. I was a little annoyed that we sometimes did not get that range of close-ups so I wondered what I could do to fix that problem. This was remedied with the ‘crop’ effect on Premiere. Some very simple and subtle cropping is very powerful because I am effectively moving the audience closer into the action and pivot points of various scenes. With 4k footage you get the power and ability to crop with minimal quality loss, the image is so damn big in the first place so have the ability to crop everything to 1080p at the very minimum. This occurred in some parts of the film, from the councillor scene bringing the medium shot closer and tidying up some bits of the gang – some is not even noticeable.
Initially we worked up a rough cut of the dance scene, fast montage style edits whilst trying to tell the story at the same time. Everyone is dancing, everyone is having a great time, yet Ted is still reluctant to dance because he is a coward. This is the one of the most exciting parts of the film and I wanted the edit to stand out, be special. After listening through hundreds of creative commons (a slight better quality in music than completely free music) tracks on Soundcloud.com we eventually decided on a specific track for the dance scene Karel Craft – Three Elements by Bake The Break [NETLABEL]. It was incredibly fast-paced and had a great beat that I could sync the video to the audio. I wanted the viewer to mentally dance to the music or at least head nod to the tune. They need to realise how pathetic Ted is, great song, it’s his opportunity to GET the girl, but he doesn’t. A shame. A variety of close-ups and medium shots were used and edited in very fast succession to the beat in the song to give the impression of an insane club atmosphere. Final result is something that I am incredibly proud of.
Scene 9 was shot on a Canon 5D. I’m not sure but one may start to see some loss in visuals. The 5D footage looks really poor in comparison with everything else; it feels like it has no depth whatsoever, it was however, suitable for this one scene when the Red could not be afforded. To put it bluntly, red footage looks like film footage, 5D footage looks like DSLR/slightly-improved-camcorder footage. You can make 5D footage look more film-like but it will never come close to the Red.
Since 50% of the film is sound I decided to pass the audio editing to a top sound designer, who was also the sound mixer on set (he used a 744T to mix). After I had synced all of the audio tracks to the video and locked the edit I exported the OMF file to him so he could use his professional editing software. He was probably the most ‘genuine’ professional person on set and when I was asking him to be careful with a certain track in the edit he replied, “Don’t worry, I’m a surgeon” that phrase alone echoes his incredibly high level of understanding. He sent me the first draft shortly and I was able to give him feedback for improvement, same for the second draft. He was very easy to get along with and knew his area well. All the way until I was perfectly happy with his sound design.