The Art & Technique of Film Editing

Tom Cross

The Art & Technique of Film Editing

Tom Cross
5
8h 14m
45 modules (view curriculum)

 
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  • Total Time:

    8h 14m

Description

Go behind the curtain of Hollywood filmmaking with Oscar-winning editor Tom Cross, ACE as he teaches you the practices that are expected of feature-film editors, as well as the processes and methodologies that have made him one of the leading editors working in the industry today. Over eight hours, Tom's masterclass combines thoughtful lectures with in-depth deconstructions of scenes from many of Tom’s biggest projects including La La Land, First Man, Whiplash and more, making it a must-see for editors and filmmakers of all levels and genres.


Subtitles available: English

Modules

17m

In the first lesson of the course, Tom takes us back to his early days working in New York City as a commercial, documentary, and TV assistant editor. Wanting to get his hands on the brand new AVID non-linear editing system, Tom worked wherever he could, learning from other masters for years before he transitioned to the editor role. Later in his career, he demonstrates how relationships are the key to the filmmaking business, when he called on his AVID reps to loan him an editing suite for a small budget movie he was working on, “Whiplash”, which would ultimately win Tom an Academy Award in Editing.


Subtitles available: English

20m

Every editor develops a preference for the editing room setup, but in this lesson we also learn when an editor might change the layout to suit the needs of the director and producer. Choosing a room with a window or one that is completely dark, how to arrange your speakers, creating a wall calendar for the movie development, to organizing the scenes in a “wall of cards” - these are all considerations for any feature film editor. Tom also describes his infamous “Do Not Disturb” red light that prevents unwanted disruptions when reviewing the latest edits.


Subtitles available: English

17m

It is up to the editor to define precisely how you want your footage. You have the power to ask for what you need, says Tom. That includes the specific codec you’re working in, burned in timecode for the sound editor, the aspect ratio and resolution, the media naming convention, and especially the Frame and Focus Leader. If you don’t ask, the studio might default to the last film they worked on, with completely different technical specifications.


Subtitles available: English

13m

It’s the editor’s responsibility to get as much information as possible about the footage you receive. In this lesson, Tom discusses the typical notes he’ll receive during a feature film shoot, including director’s comments, updates from the script supervisor, and notes from the camera and sound department.


Subtitles available: English

09m

What are wall cards and why are they essential for organizing a movie structure as it’s being filmed? Tom clues us into the typical conventions and also how he personally uses wall cards.


Subtitles available: English

11m

One of the most important jobs of an editor is to know the footage. That means watching every frame that’s been shot, organizing dailies, and creating an inventory of everything. Tom guides us through his process, including the highly time consuming but essential job of script syncing all the footage.


Subtitles available: English

12m

In this lesson, Tom describes the different roles of an editorial crew and how they collaborate on an edit. He also provides advice to assistant editors who want to learn on the job. Lastly, we learn about relying on subject experts when a film needs to be accurate, and when it’s possible to push aside realism to improve the cinematic and dramatic story.


Subtitles available: English

11m

To illustrate the function of film reels, Tom compares an editor to a train dispatcher sending multiple trains out concurrently. On a film, the editor has to task multiple assignments to other departments, such as sound mixing and visual effects. Separating the movie into smaller portions - or reels - has a practical history with film, but it continues to serve a vital role in editing today.


Subtitles available: English

04m

In this lesson, Tom shares his thoughts on non-linear editing systems, including Adobe Premiere, Apple Final Cut, and AVID Media Composer. He emphasizes that while all programs are capable and useful, there’s a few reasons why feature films are typically edited in AVID.


Subtitles available: English

06m

Since the 1950s, movies have been considered a director’s medium, and the editor is hired to execute that vision. But in Tom’s experience, each director has a completely different perspective on the editor relationship. He describes his process with director Damien Chazelle and how they have developed a trust for one another after collaborating on films such as “La La Land" , “Whiplash”, and “First Man”.


Subtitles available: English

03m

Who sees the initial rough cuts? Tom clues us into the intimate, trusted relationship between an editor and director, and the etiquette for showing dailies and rough cuts to a film’s producers and studio representatives.


Subtitles available: English

08m

Before you can tackle an editing project of any size or complexity, you must first answer a series of questions. What is the movie about? What is the theme and tone? The answers will inform the editing style and whether you’re editing for character, story, or theme.


Subtitles available: English

07m

The style of an edit includes many variables, including rhythm, pace, timing, shot selection, and inserts. In his perspective, Tom says sometimes you want the edit to be invisible, and other times you want viewers to notice the editing. He illustrates edit style with a look at “JFK”, which mixes in archival footage in a unique way.


Subtitles available: English

27m

In this illustrative lesson, Tom guides us through his favourite scenes in a number of classic films, including “Heat”, “The French Connection”, “Raging Bull”, “Lawrence of Arabia” and more. We learn about rhythm, parallel cutting, and contrast, as well as editing for impact.


Subtitles available: English

06m

Through the example of the New York City Subway, Tom describes the appropriate time and place for conveying information in a movie, in order to guide viewers rather than overwhelm them.


Subtitles available: English

01m

In this module, Tom shares an editing style he’s learned from Tim Squyres, editor for director Ang Lee (Life of Pi, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon).


Subtitles available: English

11m

As an editor, you may not have the luxury of watching all the footage more than once, so you have to make it count. Tom reveals his own process for selecting favorite shots and placing them in initial sequences.


Subtitles available: English

16m

Using the script as a guide book, Tom takes us through his approach to the first assembly. With notes from the director and script supervisor, along with your own intuition and process, there are multiple ways to tackle the first pass through of a film edit.


Subtitles available: English

09m

The face, and particularly the eyes, are the window to a character. Using examples from Hitchcock, Tom gives us an insight into his approach to a scene with multiple characters, and how we use the gaze to determine a scene’s geography and character focus.


Subtitles available: English

05m

In this lesson, Tom discusses the importance of serving the story and characters, rather than imposing your own ego and style to an edit.


Subtitles available: English

03m

To what extent should you follow the storyboards or animatics provided to you as an editor? Tom presents a few different perspectives on storyboards, and why for his films he prefers to cut based on the actors’ performances rather than following a strict storyboard.


Subtitles available: English

04m

Blow ups, reframes, repositions, speed changes, morphs, flops - these are all types of opticals, which are simple effects used by editors to help the story. You can get away with a lot of image alterations, but they have to be done purposeful.


Subtitles available: English

02m

In order to speed up an actor’s performance, you may have to use a morph effect, where you blend together images of the actor’s face as seamlessly as possible. While it’s an essential tool, the morph effect has to be used with precision to ensure the audience doesn’t notice it.


Subtitles available: English

06m

Some editors believe editing should be invisible, but using the example of “Whiplash”, Tom reveals how director Damien Chazelle wanted the edit to become its own character in the film. By capturing a variety of inserts - or close up details of objects - Chazelle ensured that he had enough little pieces to create a rhythm in the edit.


Subtitles available: English

04m

Who gets to see your rough cuts? Do you seek feedback? How much do the opinions of friends, family, and even your editorial crew inform or change your own beliefs on the film direction? In this lesson, Tom discusses the important considerations when you open your rough cuts to screenings.


Subtitles available: English

22m

As he walks us through the beginning to the movie “Hostiles”, Tom clues us into his editing decisions with selling stunts, how to use sound prelaps for transitions, and how to purposefully disorient viewers before bringing all the pieces together. Most importantly, he emphasizes his philosophy on favoring faces - especially if they’re familiar movie star faces like Christian Bale.


Subtitles available: English

35m

In this sweeping lesson, Tom takes us through the short film version of “Whiplash”. Using the language of editing, we see how the viewer experiences extreme discomfort and dizzying fear in only a few short minutes. We see how inserts and closeups, editing rhythm and contrasting pace, and the use of the character’s gaze all work in tandem to put us inside the world of a jazz drummer.


Subtitles available: English

16m

Get a behind-the-scenes look into the film that earned Tom Cross an Academy Award in Editing, as well as nominations for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. Now that you’ve seen the making of the short film, in this lesson Tom shows us how he and director Damien Chazelle had to revise their approach when they edited the feature-length version.


Subtitles available: English

10m

With the classic Martin Scorcese film “Raging Bull” as a guide, Tom shows us how he borrowed editing styles from action and sports films to set the tone for “Whiplash”.


Subtitles available: English

05m

To accentuate the different sequences in “Whiplash”, Tom recounts how he chose to contrast the pace, rhythm and speed from scene to scene.


Subtitles available: English

06m

Using the dinner scene from “Whiplash” as an example, Tom shows us how to setup classical geography around a table, build up tension with the pace of the cuts, and push character development within one scene.


Subtitles available: English

30m

The last scene should be the best scene in the movie, says Tom Cross, describing his shared philosophy with director Damien Chazelle. In this lesson, Tom recalls all of the initial attempts at ending “Whiplash”, before focusing on the essential and most dramatic elements. Through the process of syncing music and drum shots with the emotional character performances, we see how Tom built up the film’s closing scene in a way that resembles the blood bath in “The Wild Bunch”.


Subtitles available: English

11m

Originally, the opening of “La La Land” had an old fashioned overture with screen credits before the first musical dance number. But when it didn’t seem to work, Tom illustrates how thinking outside the box with a visual effect enabled the film to blend a single shot sequence with an introduction to our main characters on the Los Angeles freeway.


Subtitles available: English

07m

A one-shot sequence doesn’t leave much room for editing, but Tom shows us how this musical scene was greatly improved with hidden cuts, morphs and speed changes to sync with the music, and a composited background from different takes.


Subtitles available: English

09m

To signify the passing of time and an emotional shift in Emma Stone’s character, we see the clever use of dissolves and collages in a montage love letter to Hollywood.


Subtitles available: English

08m

A short lesson in sound design, Tom shows us how Emma Stone’s simple night time walk through Hollywood is enhanced with ambient and footstep sounds.


Subtitles available: English

04m

Through the grammar of cinematic language, the audience is introduced to Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling with parallel sequences. The similarities in shot rhythm allows viewers to feel the similarities between the two characters.


Subtitles available: English

04m

Morph edits play an important role in “La La Land”, enabling Tom to remove line flubs and errors in what appears to be unbroken shots.


Subtitles available: English

09m

With the musical nature of “La La Land" the rhythm and pacing of shots and sequences play an important part in the story’s flow. Tom also describes how background music takes on a different level of detail with director Damien Chazelle, who is a musician and has a strong belief in the significance of musical timing.


Subtitles available: English

05m

While walking us through a scene in “La La Land”, Tom illustrates the use of contrasting style and pace when flowing from one scene to another. This particular scene, where Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling perform a live piano duet in a single take, also depends on careful timing and morph effects. Finally we learn why the scene utilizes a heavy green cast, as a reference to Hitchcok’s “Vertigo”.


Subtitles available: English

11m

In a reference to the montage in “Citizen Kane”, which signifies the passing of time and a change in relationship, Tom walks us through the parallel scenes that show Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling’s characters growing apart. When they arrive at the scene of John Legend’s performance, the rapid cuts and eye glances build up a crescendo resulting in a decisive ending.


Subtitles available: English

18m

According to “First Man” director Damien Chazelle, the last scene should be your best, but the first scene should be your second best. Tom walks us through the gripping opening sequence aboard an Apollo spacecraft, as we hear and see small details from the character’s point of view that puts us into the center of the action.


Subtitles available: English

16m

To create a contrast in the story of Niel Armstrong, Tom describes how he balanced the mission and space scenes with the earthbound Neil and his family. “The Moon and the Kitchen Sink” is how they referred to the two juxtaposed storylines in the film, and we see how a cinema verité camera style for the home scenes sets up a different style when we’re aboard the space vessel.


Subtitles available: English

08m

Inspired by NASA archival footage and documentaries from the 1960s-70s, many of the scenes in First Man were covered with multiple cameras, in a documentary, cinema verité style. To the cinematographer’s surprise, Tom actually used many of the shooting imperfections which are the byproduct of this documentary style, such as rack focuses and snap zooms. The effect creates dramatic moments and transitions in scenes, giving them a flair of truth above the emotional effect.


Subtitles available: English

10m

In this final lesson, Tom walks us through the chaotic scene in “First Man” where Niel Armstrong crashes during a lunar training flight. The scene is based on real footage of the crash, but director Damien Chazelle wanted to throw the audience headfirst into the action. We see how the use of inserts, sound fragments, and rapid cuts build up to the ultimate pay off - Niel Armstrong, played by actor Ryan Gosling, ejecting from the aircraft at the final moment before it explodes.


Subtitles available: English

About the Educator

Tom Cross is an Oscar and BAFTA-winning film editor, best known for his collaborations with Director Damien Chazelle, including "Whiplash", "La La Land" and "First Man".

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