ASSISTANT EDITOR (VFX), AUSTRALIA
MATRIX: What does it mean to be an Assistant Visual Effects Editor?
BRIDGETTE: My day is basically consumed by database work, downloading, and cutting QuickTimes into the edited sequences to make sure they match what John Gaeta is looking for and his requirements. So it’s a lot of checking and also looking to see that the vendors have done exactly what the Producers and Directors have requested.
MATRIX: How do you check that a vendor has done what has been requested?
BRIDGETTE: The VFX Editor and VFX Producers have review meetings with the Directors, and they’ll sit down with the Editor and go through the different shots and come up with ideas of what they want in a particular shot. Notes from those meetings are cycled between our department and the Visual Effects Department, so I have an idea of what they’re looking for. Also, the vendors all have a list of the things that they’ve done on the head slate of a QuickTime, so a lot of the job is just checking to make sure that there are no problems — that there are enough handles so it fits the cut.
MATRIX: Handles — what does that mean?
BRIDGETTE: Handles just means to make sure there’s enough room on each side of the shot in case the Editor moves the cut around slightly. When you’re adding VFX to a shot you might want to change something slightly to get more of a rhythm, a flow, or to emphasize something. The standard we’re working with is at this stage is four frames on each side. Obviously when you get right to the end things will be locked off, so then it’ll be pretty standard and exact, but at this stage we need a little room. Besides that I do a lot of database work where I’m cross-referencing film outs and QuickTimes; so far we’re up to nineteen thousand.
MATRIX: With the cross-referencing there’ll be a shot number, there’ll be a QuickTime number; what other numbers could there be that you have to track?
BRIDGETTE: There are version numbers. We might have been working on one particular shot over a long period of time where we get the vendors to make tweaks, so we could have various versions of the one shot, and that often happens. It’s very important to be very careful about keeping the numbers straight because there could be just a slight difference. Like for example a version number could be SV_1_102_5, and one number difference could be a different shot.
MATRIX: What do you find the most interesting in your job?
BRIDGETTE: Jody [VFX Editor] will sometimes throw some comping work my way, and that’s obviously the work we like doing the best, where we get to play with shots. We’ll comp shots together to give the vendors an idea of what the Editor likes. Usually they know what they want to do, but when you work on something in editing things change slightly. That’s when we’re given frames to play with, usually from the vendors.
A good example: recently we had a very big scene called Super Burly Brawl where we actually had to comp numerous elements — up to eight elements. That was basically checking for the vendors to make sure that they got what was shot and that it all fitted together. So they would take our comp and do the professional work based on our AVID [digital editing suite] comp because the AVID is a very simple tool and limited in terms of VFX.
MATRIX: So you actually took the eight different elements and meshed them together?
BRIDGETTE: Yes, we can do all sorts of things on the AVID, although obviously it doesn’t quite equal a VFX program that costs several hundred thousand dollars. But it certainly gives you a good idea, and you can play around and get lots of really interesting things out of it.
I exported the shot as a QuickTime and since security is very high on these films, the vendor came in — he was in Sydney at the time — we went over a few things, indicated exactly what the Directors wanted, and the QuickTime stayed here.
When the producers and the vendors have a shot in mind they’ll go and shoot the elements that they require to make the whole shot work. And the reason why we got this one together is because we were using encoded lightning and speed changes with numerous elements. So it was a way of checking that the encoding went off on all cameras at the same time, and that they got exactly what they wanted, so when they put all those elements together they’re not going to have any surprises. They know what they want, that’s why they shoot in a particular way.
MATRIX: You mentioned the term “locked off” — could you elaborate on what that means?
BRIDGETTE: Locked off means when there are no more changes. When something is set in concrete and ready to go.
MATRIX: How do you make sure that everything is kept together that is needed to be kept together? At some point someone will want to see version 2 even though you’re up to version 7; how do you keep it all straight?
BRIDGETTE: We keep everything, so every QuickTime of every version that comes in we actually keep within our projects, and we have a way of setting up a library in our AVIDs so we can check through every version. Also, whenever there’s a review of material, notes are made at that stage by all involved and we’ll put that into the AVID so we can track the progression. Because we’re cutting in the most recently approved version, that also keeps us up to date, so we know where we are all the time. We have a three-way management system: the visual, the written information, and the meetings, so everyone knows.
MATRIX: The AVID actually takes written information as well?
BRIDGETTE: Yes, you can write notes; it’s very manageable like that. The AVID is a computer and it works on two levels, which is the written information that you put in and the media that’s attached to that clip information. We also have a color coding system so we know what are film outs, what are QuickTimes, what are temp shots, what are comps, etc.
MATRIX: How many different vendors are you working with?
BRIDGETTE: Numerous, I think at the moment we’ve got about five, which will probably grow. The really cool thing about it is that our vendors are not from one country; they’re from all over the world. That is the really cool thing about technology and visual effects; you may never meet a person, which in our case has happened. Jody [Rogers, Visual Effects Editor] has been having conversations with people in this industry for about four or five years that she has never met but they’re like old mates, and it’s the same for me.
MATRIX: What is your background?
BRIDGETTE: My background is actually editorial so I usually work as the 1st Assistant. Last year I got offered a job as a Visual Effects Assistant on a film called Queen of the Damned and I loved it, it was a really good experience, so I decided from that point that I would like to do visual effects editing. I’ve been fortunate enough to be taken on this film, which has been great.
MATRIX: As someone who has been an assistant in both editing and VFX editing could you talk about some of the key differences between the two?
BRIDGETTE: Basically I would be doing what Allison [Gibbons, Assistant Editor] and Jenny [Hicks, Assistant Editor] are doing here; working with drama and rushes and on that level of the editing process. Where this role differs is that I’m dealing with visual effects vendors and producers.
It’s a different side of the same coin; essentially we all deal with the rushes, but in a very different manner. Where they’re interested in certain things, Jody and I are interested in others. So Jody’s database will be full of what we’re doing with the shot, what the lens is, how many frames it is and who it’s going to, whereas they’re interested in it from an editing point of view, which is what are the key codes, what is the coverage like and whether the sound is OK, etc.
The reason why I’m more interested in this side is because I like comping; I like playing with shots and creating something out of a single shot. That’s what really appeals to me rather than drama editing.
MATRIX: What sort of hours do you find yourself working?
BRIDGETTE: Well it depends on the film. This job has been really good to me for so many reasons and the hours are part of that. I’m contracted to a standard sixty hour week, so I get to go home, sleep, and have a little bit of a life, which is great. That’s not necessarily the case on other films, it really depends how many people they’ve got doing the job. We’re very fortunate on this one that we actually have enough people to do the work. That’s not to say that we don’t do overtime, and at the moment we’ve got a third unit going so that has put a bit more stress on everybody, but I think we’re handling it quite well. We still get sleep!
MATRIX: Have you had the opportunity to read the scripts?
BRIDGETTE: No, they’re very much kept under lock and key. I know as much as I need to as I go on. When I’m working with a particular scene I understand what that’s about and the shots that are involved in that, but on a whole I haven’t read the two scripts.
MATRIX: Is what you need to know for a particular shot communicated to you verbally, or with a page in a script?
BRIDGETTE: Usually verbally. A bit of a difference between being an Assistant Editor versus being a Visual Effects Assistant Editor is that they’re dealing with scenes on a whole in terms of drama and the shots involved, whereas we spend a lot of time looking at frames in one shot. We study the shot making sure it’s got all the elements and connects up with the other shots. Because we are concerned with the effects on individual shots we get to know the film incredibly intimately on that level.
I can’t wait to see the finished films, which is another reason why I haven’t read the scripts – I don’t want to know everything. I want to walk into the theater and be surprised. It’s going to be hard because obviously through the process of working on it I’ve got to know most things anyway without reading the script, but I still think that there are going to be surprises in terms of drama and scenes that aren’t associated with visual effects.
On Queen of the Damned they went back to the States for about four to six months after I’d finished working on it in Australia, and when I went and saw the film it was grand. I sat there going “Ah! So that’s how that turned out! Cool! So that’s what they ended up doing!”
MATRIX: Do you think you’ll stay in the VFX editing area?
BRIDGETTE: I really, really hope so. At this stage, as an Australian, there’s not that many visual effects films being made in this country, and a lot of them are coming from America, which is really, really good because I get more work that way. But I’d also like to think that maybe one day I’ll get to be the VFX Editor. So that’s my hope. It’s a job that is becoming popular in terms of there being more demand for Visual Effects Editors.
MATRIX: Thank you so much, Bridgette.
Interview by REDPILL