In light of my most recent post, receiving video files that are unusable, the following question came to mind:
When delivering video files to an editor or post house, who's responsible for making certain the files are compatible with the NLE being used, the producer/director/cameraman or the editor/post house?
Thanks! Looking forward to the opinions.
As the editor to whom the media will ultimately be delivered,
I always take the initiative and responsibility to communicate
directly with the shooter to make certain the media will be
compatible, and the delivery method will be seamless.
When I worked in post houses, I had producers who handled the
finer details... as a freelancer since 2004, I have no such luxury.
The client is normally clueless (and shouldn't be bothered anyway).
The shooter has enough of their own worries and responsibilities.
I believe this falls into the editor's realm of responsibility.
I have absolutely no experience with such things, but I am fascinated by the concept. It seems to me that Joe has to be right. I don't see how else it would work.
On the other hand, isn't it the responsibility of the editor to be prepared to edit any format from any camera? Or turn down the job if there are formats just too different or advanced for the editors current system? (Or maybe it is time to upgrade, or cross grade?)
I am a mere hobbyist, but you know, sometimes with delusions of grandeur, thinking that someday, maybe, I would be asked to help with a sophisticated project. Or, allowed to help, in any case.
...Or turn down the job if there are formats just too different or advanced for the editors current system?
That's a sure way to take yourself out of consideration for the next job.
The editor's job is to make it work.
I accepted a RED Epic job in CS5, knowing the media was incompatible.
I built in enough lead time to flip everything in RedCine first,
and the shooter / clients never knew the difference.
And, I got paid...
and, they have called back since!
Joe's right - in any production workflow with a known project goal, the specs have to pass upstream (against the direction of delivery). It's impossible for the content creators (camera operator, sound recordist, photographer) to guess what the editor/director/producer wants if they're not on set calling the shots, and in turn the studio needs to ensure what comes out of post is compatible with the client's distribution plan. In the days of film, the DP chose the film stock based on what the director wanted the scene to look like, and the editor cut stuff into strips without caring what was printed on the perforations. With digital there are many things the editor wants to do (grading, keying, etc) that absolutely do not work if the footage is in the wrong format.
The end-point client may not have a clue about the technical details, but their project plan will define things for people further upstream who do know what 4:2:0 means. If you're feelancing for a studio and they don't give you techical shooting schedules, ask for them. This isn't a wedding job where your goal is "take pictures" - if the studio doesn't understand why you're enquiring about the need for ProRes over H.264, you had better have an iron-clad contract in place so any decisions you take upon yourself won't stop them paying for the work!
At studio level if a client gives you a vague spec (and I've had many... "we want a video that we can put on a computer") you absolutely have to hand-hold them through a basic set of questions. There's often no point in asking "do you want 1080i or 720p?" but it's easy to ask them where and how the footage will be used, then explain the options. Such-n-such is cheaper but your film won't look very good on a big TV... whassisname is very expensive but your marketing team can copy still frames and print them on 30ft billboards...
Even shooting for stock, there's no point spending a day cinematically-lighting your kitten and filming glorious 1080i only to find the agency will only accept progressive clips and has banned kitten-related content for the sake of humanity.
I think communication on all sides before work begins will resolve nearly any issue on this front. Problems arise nearly always because someone didn't get the needed information before they did the work.
In a perfect world everyone would freely and fully
communicate with all parties to resolve any and all
potential problems before they arise.
The world is not perfect, and I have learned
to rely on a proactive approach to avoid the
problems you are now having.
I would say the producer is responsible for this since (in theory) they are the glue that binds the whole process together. The editor needs to provide all the necessary information, but it's the producer's job to relay that info to all concerned parties and ensure that it gets done right. Then, when it gets done wrong anyway, it's the editor's job to fix it (usually with a lot of griping and complaining).
Evil Edison wrote:
I would say the producer is responsible for this since (in theory) they are the glue that binds the whole process together.
I agree with this. And a bit that the Editor should either turn down the work if not equipped to handle the format, or get up to speed with it, equipment and knowledge-wise, before the job is delivered. Nothing wrong with learning by doing on a job - that's the way many of us do it; but should be aware of the risk of biting off something bigger than they can chew.
An example would be something like accepting 4 hours of RED RAW footage, while editing on a laptop, and promising an aggressive turnaround. Massively failing on something like that could torpedo your reputation.
As for the role of the Producer...
In the days when I worked in post houses with staff producers,
the media delivery methods were much more limited (2004),
and we worked on standardized systems for which the producer
had all of the preferred media specs laid out for them to ready
to convey to shooters / film xfer houses.
The editor was never in the loop on communicating these tech details,
freeing them to do what they do best... creatively edit.
But... media types and their associated variables have exploded
in the last 5-8 years, making each job a different mix that must
be actively managed to avoid potential problems.
Although I am now a freelancer, I still occasionally DO work
on jobs that require the services of a producer (also a freelancer).
Guess who the producer asks regarding the preferred
method of media type, delivery method, fps, etc, etc....?
The producer doesn't know any more than the shooter
what will make for the smoothest workflow from
the editor's point of view... until the editor tells them.
If you do not accept these absolutely critical pre-production
details as the responsibility of the editor (even with a producer
in the pipeline), you are setting yourself up for the scenario
that Jim Curtis describes (hopefully not from direct experience):
"Massively failing on something like that could torpedo your reputation."
When the first cut is delayed by four days because the editor is
scrambling to transcode a media type they didn't expect...
everyone's eyes are justifiably on the editor.
Good post, JBP! Coordinating with the Editor in pre-pro is always a good idea. However, if you're in the post biz, there will be times when a client will come with projects that are "in the can," and you will be in the position I described of making a choice of whether or not to accept a challenge in unfamiliar waters. This is almost certain, since new codecs and formats are released more or less continuously.
I don't know about you all, but I rarely get a call from the DP asking if I can handle their format. It has happened. But, most of the time, those guys are making a choice of formats based on what they've seen in "shootouts," word of mouth, or what's compatible with gear they already own, or for reasons having to do with other alliances. I did a web series released at 640 x 360 that was shot on RED 4K. Why? The DP had never shot RED 4K before.
Luckily, I haven't had my reputation torpedoed; and thanks for the concern, JBP. But, I have taken on jobs with unfamiliar formats. I just make it a policy to not commit to unrealistic deadlines under those conditions. And I adjust my rate to reflect what my invoice would have been if they'd brought me the project after being fully expert on it. Because, that's fair. Best to underpromise and overdeliver.
Jim your points are well taken.
What you described is exactly what just happened to me. I was not consulted, just sent files after the fact. After much testing and trial and error, I can only presume the files are corrupted in some way. On one of the 90-minute clips, the audio drops out at the 1-hour mark.
Guess who the producer asks regarding the preferred method of media type, delivery method, fps, etc, etc....? THE EDITOR.
That's exactly what I'm talking about. Communication between all parties - before work begins.
hmmm. interesting question.
law and order used to shoot film , panaflex, 35mm. Going to digital ( panasonic ) saved the producer $20,000 per episode from the telecine.
The DP, directors, everyone involved below exec producer had no input on this decision... including line producer. It is what it is.
Most shows and movies rent cameras that make sense to the exec producer based on costs and delivery... if you can get a good deal on one camera vs another ...and it fits the scheme... that is what is used.
So I would say it's the producers job to make sure the editor he chooses can handle the stuff he gives them. This is usually done by word of mouth and yappin on phone with the salesperson of the editing house ( rep ). All those particulars about dailies, sharing files ( via graid or whatever in digital world ) and so on is worked out waaayyy before shooting starts. In a way you could say " the job is done already...now it has to be made ".
Of course, in the world I now live in, which is NOT on the scale and level of movies and episodic TV with motion picture mechanics, local 600, local 800 , etc... everything is a bit more of a buddy system where the responsibilities are spread out and the exact responsibilities are way more fluid. In that way JB is right about doing the best to communicate right off the bat. And being able to solve problems ( as editor ) is also important.. at least to the extent you can say definitively 'why' something is not up to par or working right.
But anyway, in the end it's not about placing blame on why something doesnt work, it's about doing everything possible to make something work well.. so that's the real focus, even if you have to give to someone else to do it...at least let them know what's up ...and help them as much as possible.
The DP, directors, everyone involved below exec producer had no input on this decision... including line producer. It is what it is.
That's fine, so long as the guy who did make the decision made sure the change would still be viable throughout the work flow. If he made the call and problems arose later because he didn't check, then those problems are his fault. Being the EP, he might well not care, but such an attitude wouldn't eliminate him and his failure to communicate as the cause of the issue.
I agree - first, the editor should provide necessary specs., whether to shooters, or folk doing preliminary editing, say with dalies.
When I contracted work out, I was always very specific on what I wanted, and how to deliver it. Without my agreement to any change, the contract was null and void - my way, or the highway. It always worked well, and most suppliers greatly appreciated the instructions. As I did quite a bit of work with contractors on Mac's, I felt that my instructions were very important, as many Mac folk seemed to want to do things in proprietary, Mac-only formats, unless specifically instructed NOT to. In some cases, it almost seemed to be a passive-aggressive move. Do not know if it existed going the other way, as I never used a Mac. When sending my work out to a Mac-house, I always wanted to be 100% positive that what I delivered worked perfectly on the Macs, so sought THEIR instructions in great detail.
The same holds true for people in the production lineup, for graphics work too, though one often has to ask for those specs., whether from a printer, a sep house, or an artist in the workflow. I always communicated with all of MY suppliers, and always asked for complete instructions from the person/company, that was the "next step." I was often amazed how lackidasical some sep houses and printers could be, when specs. were requested, and I always took that as a bad sign. As most of the choices of others in the chain were usually hired by my client, I just saw it as a red flag, and would push for specifics, and ask for them in writing, either a PDF, or FAX to me, just in case something ever went wrong. [Side note: if anything DOES go wrong, ALWAYS attend the "post-mortem" meeting, as all blame will fall on the "empty chair."]
I also learned to never trust any specs. that a client furnished, as they usually were not well versed in the terms and requirements of production, and would loosely translate things, getting many wrong - sort of like the parlor game "Telephone." I would always contact the next in line, and get the instructions myself, as I knew what to ask for, and could speak the "lingo."
Good luck to the OP.
I have taken on jobs with unfamiliar formats. I just make it a policy to not commit to unrealistic deadlines under those conditions.
Words to live by. Nothing wrong with a bit of R&D, so long as that is built into the production schedule.
In a few instances, I have been handed cans of worms, and my first question was usually along the lines of, "you want this when?" If that question yielded a realistic deadline, then it was usually fun, and informative to do that R&D. If the deadline was unrealistic, I would respectfully decline the assignment.