The Edit

Editing TV commercials - the essentials: Part 2

Two men edit a TV commercial


Last week, Jody shared his first four tips for editing TV commercials - if you missed them, check them out here.

5) Make sure you know which country the commercial is being broadcast in

And make sure that the data image technician (DIT) knows too. Now that everything is shot digitally, most shoots have an on-set DIT. Their job is to look after all the rushes, check the footage for any digital errors, and back them up on separate drives. Sometimes the DIT’s roles are more detailed and include converting the footage from its 'native' (original) very high quality format and resolution (online) to a lower resolution Quicktime (offline) for the editor to work with immediately.

For a couple of commercials I’ve worked on recently, these Quicktime movies were provided at 25fps. The live action was being cut in the U.S. at 24fps so I needed to be very confident in our maths to make sure I ws cutting to the correct frame length. Ultimately, the number of frames you have to work with is what is governing your final duration. This was a 10 second cut but at 24fps rather than 25fps, so I had 240 frames to work with - not 250. So the clever people at the Framestore - where the online edit and visual effects were happening - suggested that I produce an edit that lasted nine seconds. When it was converted to 24fps, it ended up being 10 seconds.

Understandably, when I sent my edits and offline material to the U.S., it confused the hell out of them because my 25fps Quicktime movie was one second short. Of course, when dropped into their editing system, it ended up being the right length. It wasn't the DIT's fault but better communication could prevent this.

6) Be on set and and be at the colour correction

This way, you know the director’s, agency's and client's preferred takes; hopefully they all agree but sometimes they don't. You also need to know if they need to be specially treated. Generally, it's the last or penultimate takes that are the preferred. Why would they continue filming once they’ve got a shot they’re happy with? Maybe they’d shoot another take just to be safe.

7) Keep tabs on your cuts

Name all your cuts precisely, keeping track of which ones are going down well and what they like about those cuts. Some agency producers don’t even look at what you’re sending them, they just send the cut to the creative and client and pass on their feedback. You will be asked to do countless versions and then, at the end, they might combine one of the earliest cuts you did with one of your latest. I name them by day and then a, b, c, d, or v1, v2, v3 etc. I think the furthest I've got in one day is the letter ‘n’ and that was for a four second edit. That said, my way of attaching a letter confuses everyone else apart from me and most use the 'v' system. As I say, be prepared to be asked for umpteen different versions over several days or weeks only for them to come back to their original storyboarded version.

8) Be aware that some directors are more hands-on than others

Some directors like to work very closely, going through all the rushes, selecting takes and bfore handing it over to you. Some give you all the rushes and the script and say, "I'm off to Barbados -  I look forward to seeing what you come up with."

9) The most frequent brief you'll get is: 'It needs to be cool' 

Be bold and try things out and then be prepared for them to go with the safest, most obvious thing. This particularly applies to music selection.

And finally...

10) Don’t burn bridges

All my best, most lucrative and high-end jobs have come out of my first job at HANraHAN and the network of people I met there.

Follow Jody on Twitter @jodyvandenburg


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