Sunday, July 21

Film technology joins cutting edge

Film technology joins cutting edge

UCLA purchases Avid equipment to quicken movie-editing

By Lael Loewnstein

Daily Bruin Contributor

Not long ago, editing a movie was a tedious process involving
cutting and splicing reels of film. Almost any editor who has ever
worked on a flatbed or Moviola has horror stories to recount: film
trims were lost or destroyed and antiquated machines went haywire,
spewing yards of film like angry dragons. Editors wore their
sticky, calloused fingers and tired, myopic eyes as the ambivalent
badges of their profession.

Now all that has changed. The industry has been revolutionized,
thanks to Avid Technology which has facilitated nonlinear digital
editing. Avid uses a video process through which film is
transferred to a computer hard drive. It allows an editor to
manipulate film much like a student can edit a paper on a word

"It’s changed everything," says Richard Marks, editor on
"Assassins," "Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead," "Apocalypse
Now" and dozens of other films. "It’s simply a much better tool in
that it enables you to experiment fully."

Marks will be discussing the merits of Avid technology in
tonight’s panel discussion "The Evolving Director/Editor
Relationship in a Digital World" at Melnitz Theater. He’ll be
joined by director Richard Donner ("Lethal Weapon") and several
esteemed director/editor teams, including Jon Avnet and Debra Neil
("Up Close and Personal), Gilbert Cates and Millie Moore ("I Never
Sang For My Father") and John Frankenheimer and Paul Rubell ("The
Manchurian Candidate").

Timed to coincide with the dedication of three new Avid Editing
Suites at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television, the panel
will cover the ways in which new electronic technology has affected
the industry, specifically the post-production process.

According to Donner, the new technology has "forced an editor to
be honest. It has posed immediate alternatives and solutions to
problems and the magic of editing has now become an open

Specifically, Avid – and its competitor Lightworks – have
enabled editors to insert, delete, and copy material, as well as
add advanced effects which they would not have been able to do in
their own editing rooms. Opticals – dissolves, titles, fades, image
flopping – were previously processed in a lab.

The obvious merit to digital editing is that a process that took
months can be whittled down to weeks. Instead of the laborious
cutting and splicing to try different takes, it can all be
accomplished with the click of a mouse.

Yet even Avid’s advocates admit there are potential hazards.
"The danger is that the studio and producers think that because
it’s an experimental piece of equipment and because it allows you
to work more easily and quickly that the post-production schedule
should be severely shortened," says Marks, who teaches editing at
UCLA and was instrumental in bringing the equipment to the film

"What they’re not taking into account is the thought process
that goes into post-production, what we call the thinking

Though the current is running heavily in favor of digital
technology, there are a few holdouts for the old system. A case in
point is Tim Robbins’ "Dead Man Walking," which proudly announces
in its credit sequence, "This film was edited using old-fashioned

Lisa Churgin, editor on "Dead Man Walking," explains that it was
primarily the director’s choice. Originally Robbins had wanted to
hold weekly screenings as he had on "Bob Roberts," his first
feature, which is impossible through electronic editing.

"Tim felt that at times when you edit electronically there are
too many options. Sometimes the lines tend to get blurry." Yet
Churgin adds that though she hasn’t learned to edit on Avid, she’s
"chomping at the bit. I can’t wait to get my hands on one of those

Whenever new technology comes along, there is a generation of
craftspeople that may be out of a job. But Donner insists this is
only progress, progress that tonight’s panel hopes to display and
explore as UCLA’s Film school joins the cutting edge.

"It’s archaic not to go with the flow," Donner says. "This has
become the industry standard. Some people may have resisted it at
first, but don’t forget, they also said the airplane wouldn’t

EVENT: "The Evolving Director/Editor Relationship in a Digital
World." Tonight, 7:30 Melnitz Theater. Limited seating available.
Free. For more info, call 825-6127.Comments to
[email protected]

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