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Tuesday, 30 August 2011 18:03

Commercial Cuts

Written by  Valentina I. Valentini
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It takes a special breed of talent to edit commercials. Specialty editors in the world of 30-second commercial spots describe it as fun and fast with a turnaround of a few days to a week. “You’re not on something for months; you’re on it for a few days,” says Matthew Wilson, the in-house editor for danAppelcreative in Los Angeles, Calif.

commercialediting_matthewwilson_byjackieglennveryhighres.jpgsfwAs part of this special breed, editors get the creative liberty to veer from the uniform workflow necessary in most aspects of production. One commercial editor may watch the footage a hundred times over to look for the best rhythm to tell the 30-second story, while another may watch it only three or four times instinctively choosing selections. Neither way is right or wrong but both take a very specific skill: the ability to find and interpret a storyline. “I enjoy figuring out the puzzle ─ figuring out how to get the most effective response from the spot,” explains Graham Turner, editor at Final Cut Los Angeles (no relation to Apple Final Cut Pro). So even if you are the most gifted techie and know all of the editing software out there, you still need the skills to cut spots for biggies like Ford, Cheerios and Nike like Turner and Wilson possess. 

Wilson, whose top clients include LG, Home Depot, Ford, Cheerios and Sears, feels that his creativity is a big part of linking the story together, but it’s a very different type of creativity than is required on feature films or episodic TV. “On a feature, the director has so much control over the vision,” Wilson explains. “Commercials have so many hands involved that they’re pretty much approved before they get to me.”

commercialediting_graham-turner-by-ben-mccambridge-2-300.jpgsfwOn the equipment side of the process, Wilson says that some clients are actually requesting Final Cut Pro (FCP) over the less-prosumer system that Avid offers. “I didn’t ask those clients why, but I’m assuming it was because of the codec they were using or the film they were shooting on,” offers Wilson. “They may have wanted to use Apple ProRes in conjunction with FCP, since Avid has been known to have problems handling it.”

Turner prefers FCP over Avid, as it’s more intuitive with his workflow. “With everything being shot on the RED and [ARRI] ALEXA and other file-based systems nowadays, we get the files from the production daily and convert them over to usable files for editing purposes,” he states. “My assistant then makes markers where necessary, puts things in sequence and generally makes things easier for me to go through and assemble my selects.”

Turner has edited spots for a Best Buy campaign, an Audi web-companion for the Super Bowl and a beautiful action-sports night shoot for a Nike campaign, and he admits that his job is the only thing he’s ever really wanted to do. “My high school had a TV program and as soon as I found that out, I was in there every day,” he recalls. “Staying after school, tape-to-tape editing, assemble editing, making little videos [and] knowing that I could do anything I wanted with the footage really made me gravitate toward the career.”

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