Charles Carter on the Tech of Editing and Post Production

Charles Carter on the Tech of Editing and Post Production

Many different varieties of tech have been advancing rapidly since the 1980s, but we tend to only pay attention to the specific advances that directly impact our own lives and professions.

This makes it all the more interesting to look beyond our own tech boundaries at some of the advances impacting others.

Today, we will examine the tech crucial to video editing today, with the assistance of professional editor Charles Carter, who recently gave us an interview.

Carter’s editing pedigree reaches across genres and includes notable and award-winning films such as ‘Single,’ ‘My War,’ ‘The History of Monsters,’ and ‘Feral State.’

Over the past year, Carter, like many editors and post production professionals, has had to adapt to a remote workflow, and this has only emphasized the importance of the software and hardware that makes editing possible under these conditions.

Please enjoy our interview with Carter, found below.

Do you think specific industry-standard editing programs offer features or workflow that are superior to others, or is it a matter of preference?

Carter: On the whole, I think it’s a matter of preference and what you’re used to. Some editors  swear by a particular system and don’t want to move away from what they’re comfortable with while others can switch between various systems and adapt to what they are working on.

In terms of functionality, most NLE’s are reasonably similar and therefore the most important question to consider when selecting a particular system is: will it give me, the editor, the freedom to be creative and ensure that the workflow can be utilized efficiently by all the departments in post?

There are pros and cons to all systems, but I believe that Avid Media Composer is still the leading editorial software for major shows and feature films because its toolset offers a host of dependable features for working on such large projects. The way it deals with the acquisition of media, its robust media management system, precision with its advanced trimming tools and exceptional collaborative features are what make Avid the preferred program.

A program like Premiere Pro, on the other hand, has a different advantage with its Creative Cloud Suite where most all of the programs in the suite can communicate with each other in real time, making it an incredibly efficient way of jumping between workflows. For example, being able to edit an element in your Premiere Pro timeline with another Adobe program and seeing those changes appear instantly in that same timeline is a time-saver.

Personally however, I love the fact that Avid demands organization through its complex and advanced interface, requiring you to be precise in your decisions from media management to the actual editing. In my opinion, other programs are not as robust or precise as the advanced media management and infrastructure Avid offers. As an example, though other NLE’s allow you to link directly to media files, they don’t allow you to work with transcoded media in the way Avid does, with its complex database and media management features.

This database component is exclusive to Avid, it’s what makes Media Composer a standout, and gives multiple editors the ability to work in the same project at the same time on a shared network. This is not to say that other programs don’t have their own advantages. Premiere Pro, for example, is fantastic for short form projects with quick turnarounds as it offers speedy workflows, with its ability to jump between programs, and its user friendly interface. While you can work off a shared network, the workflow for larger teams, I think, is a bit more cumbersome with Adobe’s suite.

FCP-X takes this approach further with even more user-friendly features, and allows you to spend more time editing with minimal set up, making editorial fluid and fast. It’s important to remember, with any NLE or editorial process, a defined workflow is key, and I happen to prefer the organizational media management features of  Avid. All in all, it comes down to how comfortable you are with the system you’re working on and if it’s navigation is second nature to you. If it’s unfamiliar, then it inevitably slows down the creative process.

On the whole, editing software has become more accessible to more people, especially in its design. From your perspective, is this a positive change?

Carter: Of course, this is a developing landscape and the competition between different editing software is ultimately a good thing as it sparks innovation. For example, Avid’s latest iteration is a hybrid system that sits between their existing program and Premiere Pro, perhaps to broaden its user base. Fundamentally, it is a positive change as greater accessibility in editing software makes it easier to move quickly through a cut and deliver a project with great turnaround.

However, there is a downside to accessibility. Program features that were originally designed for accuracy and precision but were time-consuming may have been removed to prioritize speed. A good example of accessibility in editing software is the ability to use the drag and drop technique where you can literally hold  a picture and drag it into your timeline and ‘Presto!’ you have made your edit. This has made it easier to complete an edit quickly in contrast to the more conventional three-point editing where an editor makes precise IN and OUT marks on a source clip and ‘splices’ that portion into their main timeline.

Three-point editing allows for more precision, whereas drag and drop perhaps sacrifices this for greater accessibility and speed. From acquisition, to editing, to delivery, the process needs to be meticulous and if you begin to edit too quickly and leapfrog the stages, then you are potentially making trouble for yourself down the line. In the end, accessibility can be a double-edged sword, so I think there should be a balance. It’s still up to the editor or user to pay attention to the necessary details.

Based on where editing tech stands today, do you think most editors would be able to work from home for extended periods of time?

Carter: I feel this is already happening as the world heads to more of a remote workflow. It has been going in this direction for the last couple of years and the pandemic has accelerated that process as the industry has been forced to find solutions to the challenges so that everyone can keep working.

The foundations, in terms of accessibility, were already there. If you have the software and an adequate system that can handle the scope of the project as well as having a shared storage system of drive delivery then working from home is completely feasible.

The advent of software like TeamViewer and the leading remote post production EverCast have changed the landscape and when the pandemic ends, editors will partially stick with it as an effective workflow as long as it is robust enough to meet the needs of post production. However, internet speeds can still be a hurdle as not all at-home workflows can have consistent or even adequate speeds to meet those needs.

Do you ever feel that render times get in the way of an efficient workflow?

Carter: I personally don’t think render times affect efficient workflow. An efficient workflow would incorporate render times into whatever potential workflow you had. Renders have always been around in NLE space, and in fact, the times have become quicker with faster systems and advancing editing software.

The change from tape to a tapeless workflow has changed the nature of post-production reducing render times even more. Current workflows have become more consolidated and have removed steps to accommodate the changing landscape of post production. Today a YouTuber can upload 4k video to their channel in record time, whereas five years ago it would have been a technical feat.

Efficient workflows are about scheduling and this is where a post supervisor is paramount in keeping everything on course and building in enough leeway to allow you to deliver on time. In post you will always hit bumps in the road, and those have to be factored in. However, if in the future render times became faster that would be really beneficial to editorial tech.

How much time do you typically devote to colour grading when you’re working on a short film?

Carter: When I first started editing there were certain projects that required me to do a color grade because of budgetary limitations. However, for the past three years I’ve worked with some fantastic cinematographers who like to work on the color grade and correction themselves with a dedicated colorist.

I can do a basic grading but their training makes them better qualified to oversee it with the colorist, especially as they shot the footage and know what the intentions were for any particular scene.

When you were first introduced to editing software, what was the biggest hurdle to overcome, if any?

Carter: Whenever you’re starting out, the biggest hurdle is how to get the editorial idea you have in your head onto the screen via the software. All the editorial programs have enormous capabilities and can achieve most of what you want. It’s the time spent learning how to navigate the system that can send you down blind alleys. A lot also depends on what you’re trying to achieve and how complex that might be. If you’re dealing with less familiar software you have to pick up the inherent limitations of a system pretty quickly, but you better be a fast learner because time is a precious commodity in the edit room. 

Are there any advances to editing tech that you would like to see in the near future?

Carter: The advancement I would like to see in editorial tech is more accessible interchangeability between different editing software. It has become a growing trend for multiple editors to have a presence on different platforms, so to find a way to work fluidly between, for example, Avid and Premiere Pro or any other programs would be enormously beneficial.

In my opinion, Avid tends to be slower at updating their software but they are dependable in their advancements and work at a legacy system where they build in small increments upon their previous updated system. Whereas, I think Adobe is constantly updating and advancing the whole software at a greater rate, which is why Adobe tends to catch the flack for errors and crashes.

They are improving but I think the error rate is still high, which causes issues when implementing a successful workflow. Another advancement which is happening now is quicker render and export speeds. In an expanding world of more powerful yet reasonably priced tech, it isn’t unrealistic for an editor to be able to work with the ever growing demands of high aspect ratios and bitrates, and this ability will allow editors to render and export with relative ease. However, if your tech is’t ready to handle these higher rates, such as 4k, 8k and even 12k, exporting these types of aspect ratios and high bitrates can block out a day and this can put a lot of pressure on you when there is an impending deadline.

Of course this should be implemented in the schedule, however when you are on a show which is on a fast turnaround they don’t always have the luxury of turnaround times. However, we are moving towards a landscape where offline editing is slowly becoming a thing of the past and we’ll arrive at a place where we can cut and deliver an entire hi-res project without jumping through a number of different software programs.

Cristina Macias
Cristina Macias is a 25-year-old writer who enjoys reading, writing, Rubix cube, and listening to the radio. She is inspiring and smart, but can also be a bit lazy.