Hey, it’s me, Alan, the Supporter-in-Chief of Support Our #creatives, and the blog master here! I am going to tell you a story from my youth, and place it in the context of what occurs in the post-production phase of a film.
Let’s go back a long time ago (1970/1971) when I was in college, and TVs had vacuum tubes, and I had lots of patience, and was as nerdy as I am today.
I was just thinking about how I used to edit TV shows. What does that mean? Umm, no, I did not work in the Industry, but I was certainly interested in it. I recorded shows using an audio cassette recorder (no VCRs in those days) by placing its microphone next to the TV. My goal was to edit the content by literally slicing and splicing the audio tape in the cartridge. Scissors, and Scotch Magic Tape (registered trademark of the 3M Company) worked very well!
This took a lot of planning prior to the first slice. I had to log the entire episode, keeping track of the characters in each scene, length of each scene, what transpired during each scene, the timestamp of transition between scenes, the amount of commercial time and the timestamps of the start and end of commercials. This was very time-consuming, as I had to replay the tape repeatedly. The purpose of the exercise was to cut out content to allow for extra commercial time. The challenge was to cut out story time but still maintain the continuity of the plotline; with as little disruption as possible.
I was emulating, using the crude tools at my disposal, what networks used to do when episodes of a primetime sitcom would be repeated in the daytime. The daytime version would have more commercial time, and would actually be shorter in overall length (due to longer “station breaks” between programs). What I did not have at my disposal was the capability to do a clean repackaging where a smooth transition could be made (both visually and audio scoring) where material had been edited out.
I had previously recorded a “commercial reel”, consisting of 2 hours of commercials, allowing me to pick some commercials to insert into my project. Therefore, I had to physically transfer a length of tape (30 seconds or one minute, whatever) from the commercial reel to the reel with the TV show. This required TWO audio cassette players. It also helped to have a unit where the cassette could be played while the protective “door” was open!
I wish I still had these tapes. They are long gone. By the way, the show I recorded and edited was from Family Affair, “Class Clown“, Season 5, Episode 11, originally broadcast on CBS, November 26, 1970.
Logging in Post-production
So what happens today in an actual production? We are talking about activities performed in the post-production phase of a project.
The post-production supervisor works closely with the film producer to maintain the vision of the project, and supervises all phases of post-production including editing, mixing, graphics design, final composite, and delivery of the final master to the end user, client, or broadcaster. Among the many duties performed or supervised by them is logging.
My rudimentary logging as described above emulated what is in reality a vital part of the post-production activities of projects. The official terms are screening log and paper cut. The post-production supervisor usually performs (or supervises) these activities. Each shot must be accounted for:
- Which camera (for a project with multiple cameras)
- Reel (or SD card) #
- Descriptive information
- Scene/take #
- Start/end timestamps (actually called a timecode) within each shot for each piece of activity being captured
A screening log and paper cut contain pretty much the same information, but log from differing perspectives. This is important because material is often shot out-of-sequence across multiple reels/SD cards.
Consider this example: A scene is filmed using multiple cameras, and the actors must repeat lines as the action is captured from different camera placement/angles (e.g., two-shot, over-the-shoulder shot) or field size (e.g., close-up, long shot) . Each shot making up the scene is “documented” in the screening log.
Then, the paper cut proposes how the scene will appear to a film viewer, by laying out how the shots (or portions of shots) should be serially “sliced and spliced” together. Not all the footage documented in the screening log will be used. It is a “proposal” because the actual editing has not yet been done.
These logs are of great importance to the editor, as it provides guidance to them when the actual editing is performed. Continual discussion between the editors and producers will occur.
Physical slice and splice is not often done today. Editing is mostly electronic. Even material shot on actual film is transferred to digital media for editing purposes.
Without knowing it, back in the 70s I was performing an activity done in real life on a production. My interest in the entertainment industry was strong even in those days, and now I am working in it!
Please provide your thoughts and questions in the comments. I would really enjoy hearing from you. If you have a topic in mind you would like me to cover, please let me know.
Reference: Cathrine Kellison, Dustin Morrow, Kacey Morrow, Producing for TV and New Media, 3rd Edition, 2013, Focal Press
Disclaimer: Mention of any company or its product does not imply an endorsement by the author of this post. The author is not being compensated by any company.