About a month ago, Shane asked me to join the Elite Team as his editor. There’s an old saying: “I may be dumb but I’m not stupid.”…I said yes. To be on the cutting edge of this new era in filmmaking, I’m privileged to get my hands on Shane’s footage that, regardless of camera, is always stunning and a joy to cut.
Once the shooting is done, my job begins.
My choice of NLE is Adobe Premiere CS 5.5 (you can find the 30-day trial here). I’ve been running it nonstop for the last couple of months. Since coming out, I was on CS 5 and wanted to compare the two. I was excited to see what the new Final Cut Pro X was going to give us.
I won’t delve any deeper into the option of using Final Cut Pro X but to say that it does not fit into my workflow and too many professional options are missing. What I want to focus on in this blog is the little things in PP CS 5.5 that make a big difference.
My last post concentrated on the creative process and editing aesthetics, so, this time around let’s geek out on tech and spec stuff that’s new in CS 5.5.
I like things in lists, so here’s mine for new features that help me work faster and better.
1. Search Keyboard Shortcuts
I like to do as much work from the keyboard and shortcuts as possible. I hate digging through menus and submenus to do one little thing a keystroke can do.
Under the Premiere Pro tab is Keyboard Shortcuts. Last time, I mentioned it has an FCP 7 and Avid MC 5 template and both are updated with the newest configurations of the host program.
The little change that rocks is the Search Bar above the shortcuts. You can now enter the function you’re looking for and as you type… those matching functions and preset shortcuts pop up.
In CS 5, you had to hunt for the function (that may be named something different than what you are used to) and this caused a couple of “accidental” catastrophic failures to my mouse. It flew across my edit suite into a wall.
2. Maximize Panels Quickly
The accent (`) key that I mentioned last time (I called it tilde last time but I’ve been since informed by a prickly fellow editor that it’s actually the accent (`) key) makes the active frame maximize to full screen.
Now, you can hit “SHIFT+`“ and it will maximize the panel your cursor is hovering over and you don’t have to select that panel before maximizing. That’s one less keystroke you probably use thousands of times a day.
I personally make the MAXIMIZE UNDER CURSOR my (`) shortcut instead of MAXIMIZE FRAME.
3. Video and Audio Transitions
I like to set the Keyboard shortcut “Q” to be my default video transition and “W” to be my default audio transition. They’re bunched together at the top left of the keyboard and I don’t use them for “go to in point” and “go to outpoint” as the default in FCP.
CS 5.5 doesn’t have the right-click apply video transition or audio transition option but I prefer using a keyboard shortcut for this anyway. This brings me to a new addition to CS 5.5… the FILM DISSOLVE transition.
4. FILM DISSOLVE vs. CROSS DISSOLVE FILM DISSOLVE
Film Dissolve versus Cross Dissolve Film Dissolve is a new transition that I make my default instead of CROSS DISSOLVE. (CMD+Q makes any transition you highlight in your video transition folder the default.)
The technical explanation of the difference is that FILM DISSOLVE has a linear light response. Someone told me that. Then they said gamma, highlights, 32-‐bit, curve, log, and pixel. Somewhere in there is the answer.
All I know is that FILM DISSOLVE gives a more organic transition that deals with the highlights better. Usually, in CROSS DISSOLVE the highlights fade away quickly and turn a fake grey muddy color for a second… translation UGLY.
Here’s an example. In the first shot, I used CROSS DISSOLVE over the lead actor and an overlay of clouds.
In the second shot, I used FILM DISSOLVE and it maintains more of the cloud layer as the whites carry over.
It’s easier to see in motion, but I prefer the FILM DISSOLVE look over CROSS DISSOLVE.
Another keyboard shortcut essential for quick navigation is to set “Z” to zoom into the timeline and “X” to zoom out of the timeline. That way, I can plow deep into the timeline or back off quickly without activating the Zoom tool and then deactivating it.
It falls in line under “Q” and “X” on the keyboard and is easy to find and remember. I don’t know about other editors, but I always end up tapping the “A” key numerous times after making an edit or change to something.
Pressing “A” gets me back to the selection tool and out of any other mode I was in. It’s kind of like a nervous tic for me to tap it A LOT so as not to suddenly slip or move a clip one frame and not catch it until I’ve delivered the project.
6. New UNLINK
UNLINK is a feature that will be a boon for many editors dealing with DSLR projects. Once you select one or several clips in the timeline…you can right-‐click and choose UNLINK. This was available in CS 5, but the new little thing that means a lot in CS 5.5 is that the audio clips are unselected as well as unlinked.
This means you can move the video clips, which are still selected, out of the way without dragging the audio. Or lasso the audio and hit the delete key without deleting the video. On import and dialog synching, this can take days and days for features or TV shows.
A big thank you to the assistant editors out there that this job often falls upon. It is brain-numbing and soul-crushing but essential. What really sucks is that you have to turn off Pandora during this, as you need your ears to be frame accurate.
As small as this UNLINK feature may be, it saves much time and many keystrokes. After you unlink… it’s time to drop in the good audio, synch, and then use…
7. MERGE CLIPS
Merge Clips is another new feature that specifically applies to all dual sound system projects. Every no/low/indie budget seems to be shooting DSLR for the amazing visual impact and small form factor (not just razor-‐thin DOF please!) and attractive price.
Once you synch the new audio (up to 16 tracks) with video, right-‐click and choose MERGE CLIPS. This creates a new clip in the Project panel that says “MERGED” at the end of it. You can also drag the clips you want to merge directly into the Project panel. But that is just plain awkward and scary looking when 16 audio tracks float across the screen.
8. Subtract and Divide Blend Modes
OMG! Subtract and Divide blend modes added under the OPACITY tab so you can… ummm… hmmm… make your own “2001” eye-blink time travel scene? Hey if you need them, there they are.
I’m sure someone will send me a clip with killer usage of them and I will eat crow. But hey, it’s better to have more options than fewer.
9. The Mercury Playback Engine CUDA (GPU)
This now supports many more graphics cards to give better real-‐time playback of video and effects. Here’s a link. CS 5 could only handle 4G of VRAM while CS 5.5 can handle 4+, so go crazy!
Anything that helps me get my day done quicker so I can get out of my cave and frolic in the sunshine is cool for me.
10. AUDITION for MAC
Bundled into CS 5.5 is the powerful audio software AUDITION that is finally available to MAC users. Editors are expected to do more and more audio work on the front end so the clients get a better idea of what the final product will sound like.
I think it behooves all editors to spend as much time as possible in becoming Audio Gurus to complement their video editing skills. It’s amazing how much smoother your edit looks/plays when audio is addressed as you go.
Nothing looks worse than the new BMW M9 uber-turbo 800hp roadster drifting around a corner and there is no audio bed. Export your sequence to Audition by…
Drop in some screaming engines, squealing tires, whooshes, low-end rumble, and Kenny Loggins’ Danger Zone (optional). The built-in preset tab has an impressive collection of commonly used FXs that I used to build from scratch.
Roundtrip back to PP CS 5.5 and your client will thank you because your picture now rocks.
11. Adobe Media Encoder
This is updated for CS 5.5 as well. It’s wicked fast and has a cleaner interface than any other encoder. Even a monkey can kick out pristine files. But don’t trust monkeys… just believe me on that one. With all rough cuts, reels, short films, teasers, and client review files being posted online or shown on iPads, Media Encoder has added specific new templates to address this.
New Vimeo and iPad presets guarantee the best quality versus size for these and most other platforms. Nothing screams amateur more than funky aspect, pillar-boxed, low-rez Youtube videos. Also, I love the After Effects chime signaling the encode is done. It’s the little things, right?…
If you have read this far, I thank you. It may not be the most exciting information but if my NLE and workflow are optimally set up to my liking, I can slay the material and get it to a good spot much faster. You may not even realize how many little things you do in such repetition that wear you out.
Fatigue is a common byproduct of editing…both mental and physical. We’ve all left the edit bay after 12 hours of sitting down all day cutting and your body feels and smells like a bucket of Spam. Dialog and songs wake me at night, days after the spot is done.
Analyze your most common edit techniques and see if there’s a way to do it simpler.
Dig into the keyboard shortcut menus and even if you have a set‐up you like, I’m sure you will find a new shortcut to enhance your bag of tricks. If you have any questions or have any projects that need a sneaky Czechoslovakian editor…feel free to contact me. Thanks again to Shane for having me on the Elite Team and I hope everyone gleaned at least a couple of nuggets of goodness from my post.
Ciao for now…
Looking for mentorship in the film industry? Schedule a 1-on-1 meeting with editor Joaquin Elizondo (Narcos: Mexico) today! This is where you can get expert advice from an industry professional on your career or a particular project.
Joaquin Elizondo has over 20 years of experience as an editor and currently works in the world of scripted television shows in Hollywood. His most recent editing credits include Narcos: Mexico (Netflix), The Hot Zone: Anthrax (NatGeo), and Dark Winds (AMC) and is currently working on Griselda, a new Netflix limited series starring Sofia Vergara. Before arriving in Los Angeles, Joaquin worked in unscripted television for several years in New York City where he edited content for HBO Sports, NBC, and Telemundo, and was the lead editor on Bravo’s late-night talk show Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen.
Joaquin majored in Film & Video Studies at the University of Michigan and grew up in the San Diego-Tijuana border region, where he began his career cutting a wide range of projects that included news, promos, commercials, and documentaries. As someone who has sought out and benefited from mentoring, Joaquin is now taking on the role of mentor by helping aspiring editors and assistants in navigating the path to achieving their career goals. He created the Hollywood Editing Mentor Program and Podcast to provide guidance and support for those trying to break into or advance their careers in post-production.