Monday, December 5, 2011

What is an online editor?

Recently, I was invited to audit an online editing session for one of the shows I've worked on.  Online editing is one of the final steps before broadcast.  It takes place after picture lock and is a crucial time for the look and feel of a show.

It's important to understand that throughout the offline editing process, the footage that editors and story producers work from has been digitized into the editing system at a low resolution because that much high resolution footage would be prohibitive.  Once a show has gone through all its rounds of network notes, it's cut to time, and everybody is happy with it, the show is considered "picture locked."  This means just what it sounds like, that the picture will not be changing from here on out.  At this point, the footage is "up-rezed" (there's a million ways people spell that) which means that the source material is redigitized at full resolution, using only the clips that are in the sequence.  This means only exactly the footage that is actually in the show, usually with three-second "handles" on each end, just in case there are emergency issues during the online session.

During that process, an assitant editor will keep a video mixdown of the edit on one of the video layers to refer back to and make sure that all shots have remained the same as the editor intended.  This video mixdown track is also provided to the online editor to inform his work.

An online editing session is incredibly expensive, largely due to the skill of the online editor himself.  He is responsible for the look of the show, color timing and balancing, carefully executing blurs or resizing to address legal notes, formatting and sexifying graphics and fonts--basically anything visual about the show!  Usually the online editor takes a pass at the show on his own, adjusting color and contrast and using a set of timecoded notes to create blurs when necessary.  As you can see above, he is viewing the show in full  HD on a high rez flatscreen and often using a waveform monitor to assist in his decisions.  These careful adjustments can make a big difference in making a show feel sexier, warmer, colder, happier, sadder and on and on and on.  In this case, we were working on a show that is late in its second season, so the look and feel of this show is well known territory to our online editor.  Thus, his solo pass knocked out all the heavy lifting.

Once the online editor has made his pass, usually a producer from the show will watch with the online editor.  For my screening, I was joining the show's Supervising Editor, Line Producer and Post Supervisor.  They watch the show through, taking notes but not stopping.  This helps get a feel for the overall show for the first time in HD.  Then begins a very subjective notes process where individual shots are pored over and adjusted until everything is satisfactory to whoever is the highest-ranking individual in the room.

These changes are made and the show is prepped for final sound mix...