Occupy the Edit Suite (Don’t Just) 11/21/11
I still remember it like it was yesterday: June 21, 2011
It’s 5 months to the day since Apple released FCP X and editors worldwide released their fury.
Was I furious? No, more like disillusioned and very concerned. I’ll admit it: I was worried that the low price for FCP X ($299) would devalue my skillset and drive down my day rate. There, I said it.
I know, I know, it seems very paranoid and reactionary now but not only is there precedent (traditional matte painters vs Photoshop) the industry wide decline of project budgets has been well documented.
But if I’m really honest, I would have to say that the primary reason for my pessimism was that the timing couldn’t have been worse for me. Sure, I had been on a big out of town gig for most of the winter but after I returned, things had slowed down.
To a crawl.
What’s the phrase? – ‘out of sight, out of mind’?
I guess so, because the phone wasn’t ringing. And being a freelancer, I’m used to up and down swings but this seemed to go on longer than usual.
But that was ok, right? I knew I was going to need to work around the clock to plan and build this site in time for NAB. So that’s what I did, spending late winter and early spring hunched over my keyboard. I often put in 12 – 15-hour days, mainly because of the research necessary for the detailed, step-by-step workflows for my Hacks section. So I guess in that sense not doing client work was a good thing. Um…right?
Anyway, the site launches in April without a hitch thanks to the guys over at Pixelated Arts. Then I go to NAB and meet a ton of people in post-production that I’ve been following for years. People like Scott Simmons, Philip Hodgetts, Walter Biscardi, Alex Lindsay and Larry Jordan.
I also met some of the posterchilds of the new media revolution like Nick Vegas, Taz Goldstein and Leo Laporte.
And like hundreds of other editors, I was there at the controversial unveiling of FCP X later that week. The day after, I wrote about the Lollapalooza-like experience and the implications the price of X could have on our industry. I saw it as an inflection point for post-production and a signal to recommit ourselves to ‘talent over tools’.
After reading the thoughtful post “The Future of Technology is You” by Art Adams on Pro Video Coalition last month, I can see those concerns are still with us.
Luckily, things picked back up considerably for me but I keep thinking back to that period in my life. It’s hard not to, considering the continued sour economy and the current worldwide protest it has produced.
And it’s from this protest that I more fully understand the solution to not ending up as industry casualty goes beyond creativity and technical mastery. Simply put:
Don’t just occupy the edit suite.
This means learning how to become of REAL value to your employer/clients. How? I like to divide what we do into 3 categories: creative, technical and organized. The first 2 things are obvious:
creativity is how we conceptualize and technical proficiency is how we actualize.
Of the 3 categories, these first 2 are what we commonly focus on.
We always know what software and hardware we need to get better at using. Sites like yousuckatphotoshop.com are always one click away from reminding us of that.
What’s not as obvious is how we can become more organized.
How can we become more efficient with the management of our media, our tools, our time and ultimately even our thoughts? I’m not trying to go all ‘Obi Wan Kenobi’ here, but I think we can all agree that the process of creating content is getting more complex not less.
And implementing an editorial workflow is just the first step. It must be documented and continually monitored, adjusted and optimized. This means doing things like timing processes, journaling observations throughout the day and doing post-analysis at the end of the project. You may even want to think about creating a project wiki or eventually create a company knowledge-base.
If this is done consistently, what you’ll find is that your projects will go smoother and be more responsive to the unpredictable fluctuations of the production cycle.
Granted, during this process you’ll likely find workflow inefficiencies that originate outside of the edit suite. Pick and choose your battles for sure, but if you do decide to address an important concern with your superior, do it in a way that is respectful and empathetic. It will go over better than you think and show your boss that you care enough about efficiency to stick your neck on the line.
Why go through all this trouble?
Because, quoting from Philip Hodgetts on last weeks episode of the Digital Production Buzz:
“At the very least an editor is in the visual storytelling business, but beyond that, anybody who seeks to serve somebody else’s need is in one business and one business only: you are in the business of making money for somebody else. You need to make somebody else more money than you cost them. And if you don’t do that, you don’t have a business…And of course, if you make money for somebody else, then you are gonna make a lot of money for yourself”.
Hiring managers understand: inefficiencies swell project budgets. The degree to which you convince them that your approach is more efficient than your peers is the degree to which you will become of REAL value to them.
The result will be more work, plain and simple.
But the key is to take an active approach to every project that comes your way, no matter how small. Put the same creative zeal into your spreadsheets that you normally reserve for your timelines. And put the same effort in your project’s infrastructure as you do in your project’s story structure.
Now more than ever, we’ve got to re-evaluate our roles and re-define what post has become and what it will evolve further into. We’ve got to do everything but
occupy the edit suite.
(Big up to @torinstefanson for being the first to get #OccupyTheEditSuite into the Twittersphere.)