Editing on Location
To say that the world of digital technology has dramatically changed the way in which movies and TV shows are made is an understatement akin to a classic line in The Wizard of Oz: “Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
Old-school film editors had to wait for the footage from each day’s shoot to come back from the lab to view dailies as well as get their hands on work prints (usually in black and white), which meant there was at least a day or two before they could begin a rough assembly edit. And if a production was on location outside of a major production center, there would be another two day or more delay to fly the footage to the nearest lab for processing.
Needless to say, advancements in editing technology have been a huge boon for industry professionals. Mike Wech is an up-and-coming indie filmmaker who likes having a hand in as many production roles as possible, with a current emphasis on editing and postproduction supervision. His editing credits include episodes of the Investigation Discovery TV series “FBI: Criminal Pursuit,” and the films The Moment After II: The Awakening, Dead Drop Sugarcane and South Dakota. Scheduled for release in 2013, Dead Drop Sugarcane is a low-budget indie that was shot in Mexico with two RED EPIC cameras and a RED SCARLET. Wech was on location for the entire shoot at the request of Director R. Ellis Frazier. This was their second collaboration after Wech did some work on Frazier’s Across the Line: The Exodus of Charlie Wright, where things went so much “quicker and better” when Wech was on set.
During the Sugarcane shoot, Wech would go back to the production’s base camp where he had a full-blown Apple Final Cut Pro edit system with a six-core processor, 16GB of RAM, dual 27-inch Apple Cinema displays and a RAID setup that could handle and inject RED files. Since this system didn’t have the RED Rocket module, transcoding wasn’t done on location. Instead, Wech’s editing services focused on checking the footage to make sure that Frazier had the needed coverage and image quality. Wech also used a MacBook laptop on set with a pair of G-Technology G-RAID external drives to check all the media and make sure it was there for the DIP work. “There was nothing like color correction that needed to be done on set because we knew we were already in the latitude that we wanted,” Wech explains, “so we didn’t need to have a special calibrating color monitor on location with us.” He adds that, because of the tight shoot, there wasn’t enough time to put together a rough assembly while on location: “I would just go into REDCINE to make sure everything was there [to answer the questions] ‘Did we get all the angles? Is all the media there and not corrupted? Did we miss something or was any data missing?’”
One of the challenges of shooting Sugarcane in Mexico was that the production kept getting access to better locations. While there was a clear visual payoff at these new locations, it meant that the crew needed to be that much more flexible during production because there was virtually no prep time available for the new locales. “We got caught a couple of times as the sun was going down and decisions had to be made about coverage,” Wech recalls. “[And] it came in handy to have me there because I was already seeing the way the scene would be edited and what footage I needed to make it work.” According to Wech, having an editor on set with new technology saved Frazier and the crew a tremendous amount of time, especially since the production had so little time to spare.