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Editing Digital Film: Integrating Final Cut Pro, Avid, and Media 100

by Jaime Fowler, Focal Press, $29.99 US, 187 Pages By Charlie White
Editing Digital Film by Jaime FowlerWritten from a video editor's perspective, Jaime Fowler's Editing Digital Film is intended for experienced editors who want to edit motion pictures using an nonlinear editing system (NLE). He's also included sections for DV shooters who want to transfer their projects to film for showing in theaters. This book could also be a big help for film editors who want to learn how film and NLEs work together.

Film editing has changed very little since the 40s; its labyrinthine process of shooting and editing is something that many video editors find alien and completely mystifying. Rightfully so -- it's enormously complicated. Fowler takes you through every aspect of this process, explaining in fine detail all the paperwork, various prints of film and so forth that are involved in the process. When I was reading this, I could only wish that the day film is replaced by high-resolution video would come sooner rather than later. What a thicket of ancient technology, made even more convoluted when you mix all the machines and cutting tools with digital video technology. That's why he wrote this book, mind you, and he does a workmanlike job of laying it all out for you. The only thing I could think while reading it, though, was that it might scare away anyone who might aspire to edit a film on an NLE.


Never fear, though, because Fowler comes through with some great explanations of this collision of two worlds. For example, I like his characterization of linear vs. nonlinear editing, where he writes that linear editing is like building a brick wall that starts at the bottom and works its way up, and if one of the bricks on the bottom is too short, you have to tear the whole wall down and start over again. Editing film, and by extension, nonlinear editing is like building a sand castle, where you start building a basic shape and then through slow trimming and sculpting the thing turns into a magnificent sculpture. Fowler is quick to point out, too, that the sculpture won't be too magnificent if you don't have any idea what you're doing, or if you don't have any talent. I like that.

Along with these cogent explanations, the author offers useful descriptions of aspect ratios of film, the different types of film, and incredibly detailed discussions of edge numbers, key numbers and lots of other film conventions. It's just a spaghetti bowl of detail about film, and at times you wonder if this is a film class or a book about editing film digitally. But these detailed explanations of the tools of the film editor, I suppose give us some needed background for editing digitally, so we swallow our medicine and follow along.

Then we get a trip through the workflow of a big-budget film, medium budget and then low-budget project, with descriptions of each job to be done in each kind of production. Importantly, the author also sheds light on which jobs can be eliminated because of budget constraints and which jobs would only be eliminated by the foolhardy. I especially like Fowler's assessment of editors, and how they usually fall into one of three categories: the mechanic (button pusher), the cutter (creative type, sees film as audience see it) and the miracle worker (can get director out of any jam, come up with better solutions to problems). I've noticed these three types of editors myself. I also like the way the author explains the drop-frame system in video, likening it to the way hotel floors are numbered -- even though there are 13th floors in most hotels, they're not numbered that way.

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Related Keywords:Digital Video Editing, Book review, Editing Digital Film, Integrating Final Cut Pro, Avid, Media 100, Charlie White, Jaime Fowler, NLE

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