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Working Freelance or for a Production Company?

Working as a film industry professional certainly has its ups and down. One of the early decisions an editor must make is whether to work as a freelancer or to work for a production company. When I first started in the industry I worked at several production companies, mostly helping out as an assistant, learning the ropes and being mentored. However, as I progressed in my career, I decided to branch out and work as a freelance video editor. After a few years of being “out on my own”, I decided work for a production company again, a video production San Francisco agency had approached me and it was a unique opportunity that I couldn’t turn it down. It’s been an extremely interesting journey and I’ve outlined some of the pros and cons of freelance versus production company work.

Working As A Freelance Editor

video production san francisco edit roomWorking as a freelance certainly has its fair share of pros. For one, I was completely in control of my schedule and the amount of work I would take on. I also had the luxury of being my own boss and working either at home, here in San Fran, or in other states. I was also completely free to take as much time off as possible, if I wanted to leave and have a 2 month vacation, I could. This also means that some times I didn’t have a much of a choice. If work was slow or I could’t find clients to work with, I wouldn’t have an cash coming into my bank.

Working As A Editor In a Company

Working for a production company gives you job security and a solid pay cheque week in and week out – something that was hard to come by when working for myself. Working for a company is great because you only need to focus on your creative work, dealing with business, client manage and final deliveries is someone else’s responsibilities. This lets your really hone your craft and become a true expert. You also get to work with like-minded individuals day in and day out. This can also be one of the downsides to working in a company, you are locked down to one particular place. You also don’t have the flexibility to take a break whenever you want.

These two types of working environment certainly have their upsides and downsides. One is not better than the other, they just both cater to different lifestyles and experiences.

Image provided by http://www.marketmevideo.tv

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Getting A Job As An Editor – Where To Start

If you’re looking at getting a job as an editor you may be surprised at how many options there are available to you.

post productionOne of the best places to get a job would be at a post production house. These companies specialize in editing, special effects, sound design, etc. If you don’t have any experience many companies will take you on as an assistant editor, or a visual effects editor. As an assistant you will be responsible for working with the editor to prepare the footage. This means labeling, organizing and sorting the footage in a way that makes the editing process quick and painless. Visual effects editors work with the visual effects team to make sure the the visual effects are cut into the film at the appropriate length and with the correct content. Some VFX editors will also be responsible for creating temporary visual effect shots that the editor can use to get an idea of the pacing. This will also be used as a foundation for the final visual effect.

Sometimes the competition is still quite stiff and getting a job with no experience can still be quite difficult. However, many companies will still take on interns for a 3 to 6 month trial period. Interning as a film editor is great way to “get your foot in the door”. Being in an industry environment, meeting people and most importantly learning the trade are invaluable skills. As I mentioned before, during my time film editing at MarketME video production San Francisco, we had many interns come and go, I still speak to a number of them and they have found success in the SF film and television industry.

If working in an office isn’t your style you can always go freelance. This flexibility give your the option of working remotely and on any project your desire. With that being said the work may not be as consistent as working at the post house. There are plenty of places to find clients. One good place is to check online in the digital video forums. Although the competition may be stiff at times being a part of a community may help you join with other editors and even share projects and techniques. It’s always a good idea to set your rules and limitations in the contract before you take on a job, we’ve all worked with clients you can be demanding. Having a set list of iterations will ensure that your don’t bite of more than you can chew. Extra iterations should always be billed for, it’s important a client knows this.

For information on film and tv internships you can check out www.marketmevideo.tv and SF internmatch

Feel free to check my blog post on freelance vs. full time work, if you’re still unsure about which direction you want to go.

How To create Your Own Light Leaks

Light Leaks have always been considered a nuisance to filmmakers. The problem is due to a manufacturing problem or general wear-and-tear that would cause light would spill through a hole or gap in the body of a camera and “leak” into a sealed chamber. The result is the film being exposed to unaccounted light. However, with editing styles and film looks changing so quickly, what was once thought as a problem is now becoming a stylistic technique. Filmmakers are using light leaks, film burns and lens flares to add tone, style and colour to their films.

How To Create Light Leaks

There are a few ways to create your own light leaks. The first way is to use a techniques known as, lens-whacking, to do this, simply detach your lens from your camera body and hold it ever-so-slightly in front, leaving a small gap for light to spill onto your sensor. You should be able to see the results instantly on your viewfinder. Playing with the size of the gap with will increase the intensity of the light leak.

Another way to make light leaks is to film them in a controlled environment. Unlike outside, where the sun is your main source of light, being in a controlled studio environment (we say studio, but we really mean a dark office) you will have to get creative with your light sources.

light leakUse a tripod or table to hold camera in place. Set up a black background to shoot against. This will be important later. Now, with a flashlight shine light into the corners of your lens until you get the look you desire. You can experiment with colours and eve different kinds of lights. Place glass objects in front of your lens to get even more unique looks. Once you have all your footage filmed you can then import it into your favourite editing program, drag the clip onto of your footage and set your blending mode to screen. Now watch the magic unfold.

If you’re looking to give this technique a try you can get some free light leaks at www.lightleaks.me

Here’s an example of how it all works:


The Editor’s Tool Kit – What every editor needs.

So you’ve just moved into a new space? Started up your own editing suite? Or maybe even thinking about changing around your edit bay? Here are a list of tools you’ll need to get the perfect job done every time.

cpuComputer. You’re computer is the only piece of equipment you absolutely need. The rest of the list you can do without but with no computer you’ll be stuck editing on your old Steinbeck, or worse, in-camera. Get a computer that will last and more importantly get one that is fast, remember, time is money. The longer you wait for a render the more money you lose. Also, whether you’re a mac person or a pc person theres a piece of software out their for you. I’ve used them all, they’re all the same. It really comes down to personal preference – more on that below.

Software. Okay, this is the other essential part of your kit. Adobe premiere seems to be the new kid in town. With seamless integration with after effects and photoshop, premiere is the way to go if you run an all-in-one shop. If you’re looking to work at some of the biggest studios you may want to consider running an avid – many consider this the industry standard. Final cut was almost dead, and now its back but I don’t think it’ll ever return to the top of the podium.

light leak effectsPlugins. Products such as Red Giants Magic Bullet suite will be pivotal in helping you define the look for your projects. It’s also extremely handy to have effects such as light leaks, lens flares and film burns as they are quick, easy and require almost no training to apply. Check out www.lightleaks.me for some a free sample package.

Sound effects. Get a decent sound effects library. One that will offer you a wide range of effects from ambience to animal sounds, you never known when you’ll need to do a bit of sound design or clean up work.

genelec1Headphones/Speakers. It’s always a good idea to invest in a solid pair of headphones. Ones that are comfortable and will last for a while. Alternatively, having a good set of speakers will help your judge the sound quality of your projects – is it meeting the professional standards?


Update** Check out this video on final cut x

Stay tuned for a more detail “wish list” post. Where I’ll put some of the best tools on the market. Dare to dream.

Using light leaks in your next project

Adding digital effects in post production is a great way to give your films personality and a unique look that will stand out from the competition. Whether you’re producing wedding films, home videos or even travel films, adding light leaks and lens flares are a great way to “up” the production value of your films.

So, how do you get these effects? There are a number of ways you can achieve these effects in camera either while shooting on location or in post production. While on location, adding objects in-front of your lens will create interesting artifacts on the right angle and in the right light. Because these objects are out of focus the reflection and refraction of the light caused by these images will create interesting results. Another way to create unique effects for your films is to detach your film lens from the body of the camera, allowing light to leak into the chamber. This excess of light will fill the sensor, over-exposing parts of your images.

light leaksFurthermore, all of these effects can also be filmed in a controlled environment such as a studio, garage or in a dark room of your house. By using lamps and flashlights you can shine lights into your camera. The trick is to film against a black surface so only the colour effect stands out. Once you have a range of effects you can now add them your project in post-production.

light leaksMost video editing programs have simple modes that can overlay your effect directly on your footage. The most common term for this is called “blending modes”. By setting the blending mode, also known as composite mode, to one of the settings you will instantly see the results on your footage. The next time is to get creative! Slow down the footage, play with the colour, change the scale and even the intensity. The results may surprise you!

Finally, you can also purchase pre-made light leaks effects at Www.LightLeaks.Me. These High Definition effects work will all types of footage in a variety of programs. So if you don’t have the time to create the effects yourself, get them from someone else! For more information on light leaks try this wiki link.



Video Editing Software – What’s Right For You

I should mention that a high quality video editing software is not cheap. In fact you’ll be looking to spend a few hundred dollars. So before jumping in and buying a piece of software, it’s important to figure out what your needs are – are you looking for a simple program to edit your family videos or do you require more options that will allow your to manage plenty of footage and multiple projects.


If you’re a power-user or someone looking to work professionally as an editor programs such as avid, adobe premiere and final cut are your new best friends. These programs come in “studios” meaning they offer a number of different programs to complete different tasks. Some programs will work perfectly for colour-corrections, while another is great for doing motion graphics and special effects. What makes these programs great is that they all talk to each and can let you transfer project files between them. However, communicating between the different brands is sometimes more difficult.

Video Editing Programs

Adobe Premiere is a fantastic option as they offer a monthly subscription service. The means you don’t have to shell out $1000 right off the bat. Working in after effects and then in premiere is extremely fast and speeds up your whole editing process.

Avid is considered the industry standard as it was one of the first digital editing programs on the market. Many studios use avid as their native editing solution. If you’re looking to work as a pro, avid is the way to go.

Final Cut Pro has changed in recent years. Many professionals have moved to a new software as many features were stripped out of the new versions. With that being said, recently updates have brought back a lot of features and many industry professional are beginning to talk about final cut.

However, if you’re looking for some simple, than you’ll be happy to hear that there are plenty of free programs on the market. Unfortunately, they all come with a few limitations and programs such as imovie allow to you create a video and easily share it on a number of platforms. For PC users AVS video editor offer plenty of features and lots of export/sharing settings when you’re ready to finish.