: Kylee Peña's Blog
And I don't mean my first industry job. My first JOB. The first time I got a minimum wage paycheck for cleaning out a toilet. Well, in my case it was for cleaning up about 7 gallons of frozen ketchup, but we can talk about that another time.
The deeper I get into my editing career, the more I realize that the basis of everything I do on a daily basis was learned at my first job. When you peel away the layers of technological aptitude and the years of experience, the thing that sets one person apart from another in this industry is their ability to be a decent human being -- or deal with those that are not.
I got my first job when I was 16 -- a waitress at a 24 hour diner and soda fountain, basically. A corporate chain with corporate rules, many of which were arbitrary only because they were so freaking obvious: priority system (first in, first out -- for food or for customers), wash your dang hands, smile occasionally. Others actually were arbitrary: carry a tray with you every time you're in the dining room, even if you're just bringing a refill and carrying a single glass on a tray makes it WAY MORE LIKELY TO SPILL THANKS. In a way, the arbitrary rules were a part of the learning experience for every corporate experience that I ever had after, but that's not my point here.
My point IS I find it very interesting that most of the situations I first went through as a 17-year-old waitress are situations I find myself in as a 27-year-old editor. The setting is different and I don't have to wear a uniform anymore, but I find value in the experiences and lessons I got in the weeds
, as they say.
A nice spring evening, I'm working the dinner rush as usual. Our restaurant was famous for making shakes to order (yipee) so almost every table ordered at least one (YIPEE). On this particular evening, we got super slammed. As a diner waitress, you make your tips from turning tables quickly (yay cheap food), so this wasn't completely out of the ordinary or beyond our capability. Except for when the dishwashing machine stops functioning at 6PM. We had plenty of plates and such for the moment, but ALL the glasses were dirty. Having had this happen before, we started using foam cups usually reserved for to-go orders. More expensive for the store, but not as expensive as not making shakes, right?
As luck would have it, this night I got a table of regulars: an grumpy elderly couple that came in every Tuesday evening with coupons for a spaghetti dish and added the same lime freeze shake to their order. I brought their lime freezes in a foam cup, explaining that the dishwasher had broken for a moment and the clean glasses were way too hot to put cold liquid inside.
"No. We don't want this. We want real glasses."
I said even if I manage to cool off two glasses enough to not BREAK when I put the cold ice cream inside, they'll still have residual heat that will make everything melty fast.
"I don't care. We want glasses. And we want you to remake these."
I took their wrongly cupped shakes away to "make new ones." Being slammed, I didn't have time to deal with these crazy people. I found two warm glasses, poured the perfectly good shakes I had already made into them, put fresh whipped cream and a cherry on top, and returned to the table with their hot glasses and warm shakes. They took a taste.
"Perfect. See, that wasn't so hard."
And they kept coming back every week. And I never gave them a foam cup ever again.
Lesson: People will pay you for your expertise and a good product, then require neither.
A couple months after I started this job, I had only begun to understand the manager-server-customer dynamic, and that different managers operated things differently. I was working after school during a dinner rush with three other servers, one of which was named Jen. Jen had probably worked there too long, but she was good. She took an order of burgers to a table of four -- a guy, wife, two daughters -- and the man's hamburger had an ingredient on it that wasn't supposed to be on there. Jen sighed a little too loudly. She was sighing at the incompetence of the kitchen, not at the man's complaint. The man took her sigh as backtalk and threw the hamburger directly at her face
, screaming expletives about how the customer is always right.
I was still only 16 and new to this, so I couldn't believe this was going down right in front of my eyes. Still, I expected the customer to be asked to leave. Or something, right? He just committed battery with a burger!
I watched my manager, Brandy, apologize profusely to the man (who was now staring directly at the table in shame), comp his meal, and give him coupons for next time. Jen sat angrily in the back of the store until he was gone. Jen and Brandy were enemies until Jen stopped showing up for work. I never saw the burger thrower again.
Lesson: Stick up for your own people when they're wronged. If you don't, you end up with a good editor that resents you and a client that's never going to use you again anyway to show for it.
Another dinner rush scenario. Slammed as usual. Good for tips. Except not, because a majority of my section is being taken up by a youth baseball team and they all want shakes. I take their orders down and get the shakes done and out of the way as quickly as I can because they're so tedious. Just as I was feeling much better about maintaining control of my section, I hear the screaming of nine 10-year-old boys.
I ran to the table and found that one of the kids had attempted to drink his shake too quickly, and had quickly puked it right back up onto the table. In the middle of a dinner rush. With a full dining room of people surrounding them.
I looked at the table and didn't see any puke, so I was kind of relieved. I mean, how much puke could a 10-year-old kid make in a matter of moments with a small shake, anyway? I saw a little pile of paper placemats sitting in the middle of the table -- or what I thought was a little pile. I lifted them up to survey the damage. There were more placemats than I thought. Oh, the humanity. Puke was covering the entire table. It was so much worse than I thought.
Half the kids saw this and started screaming again before I could cover it up again. This caused most of the tables in my section to turn and see what the fuss was all about, and get an eyeful of chunky beige kid-barf. The kid's mom, seated next to him, looked at the pile, looked at me, and said "I'm an RN. You should be wearing gloves when you clean that up."
So I carefully did and still managed to take care of my tables. The vomit-table left me a whopping 10% tip after all the accommodations I offered to them, but some of the surrounding tables left a couple extra sympathy dollars.
Lesson: Sometimes you're running one step behind a bad situation -- covered in barf/bad footage, and the only thing you can do is smile and do your best not to make it any worse.
After high school, I transferred to another restaurant location in the middle of downtown Indianapolis where I worked for a few months in college before moving on to a new hospitality gig. Things were bigger, rougher, and much more violent at this location. On a bright January afternoon, I was running the dining room alone in the dead space between lunch and dinner. I only had one table of three youngish people -- two guys and a girl. Our restaurant, being a diner, had a cash register where you paid your bill instead of at the table, so I was running that too. While I was behind the counter looking at the dining room, one of the guys leapt out of his chair and started beating the hell out of the other guy with anything he could get his hands on: a half-filled glass, a plate, a condiment rack, a ketchup bottle, a chair. My tiny speck of a manager tried to break it up as the girl ran away, but the dude was destroying the guy's face pretty rapidly. Blood everywhere. Mr. Manager yelled at me to call 911 since I was standing next to the phone.
A woman had walked in during this fight, seeing everything that had happened including me on the phone. She wanted to place a to-go order, and I told her it would be just a minute until I finished speaking with the 911 operator. She got super duper mad at me for not taking her order right away. And then she got even madder when the 911 operator asked me to walk away from the counter to the bleeding man and ask him if he thought his nose was broken (??).
About this same time was a manager shift change, so the dinner manager had walked in the front door to find a man with blood pouring out of his face and a very upset customer who complained about me walking away from the counter. The dinner manager wrote me up for not taking the customer's order while I was talking to the 911 operator.
Also, this was the first and only time I called 911 and I got put on hold.
Lesson: Sometimes when you think you're doing the right thing, someone will perceive it as not the right thing at all. That doesn't make it wrong.
Waitresses commonly get taken off dining room duties toward the end of their shift to do "side-work" which is some kind of cleaning task usually. One of the assigned side-work duties at my restaurant was the bathroom. Usually this was just checking the supply levels and sweeping, but it was still considered to be the worst of the assignments. On this fateful day, my lovely manager informed us all that deep cleaning would be necessary for a visit by a health inspector the next day. She took me in the bathroom and told me that the dried urine on the wall beneath the urinal needed to go. So there I was, kneeling under a urinal, scraping dried whatever
off the wall, begging the universe to not have some creepy man walk in.
Lesson: THINGS CAN ALWAYS BE WORSE.
When I was 17, I thought that after I moved on from waitressing and customer service and got a real editing job, all that stuff would be a distant sticky memory. Instead, I find myself referring to the things I learned in the ice-cream-covered trenches now more than ever. How to treat other people, dealing with complaints, learning to accept that the best you can offer is the best you can offer; regardless of whether you're crafting a show for a producer or mixing a shake for a customer, it's all relevant.
Learning to control what you can, triage what you cannot, and sever ties with those that deserve it: that's the trick to be a good editor that I started learning much earlier than I ever thought.
You've booked your conference (perhaps the Southeast Creative Summit
), been practicing your handshake, and read How to Win Friends and Influence People
- twice. The eve of your classes is upon you. You're ready to learn all the things and network your face
Congratulations, you've prepared yourself well. But have you prepared yourself for yourself
? You can't learn if you aren't comfortable, and you won't want to be social if you're grumpy. Don't forget to check your own checklist for creature comforts.
1. Plan workshops ahead of time. Print out the schedule grid (because you can't rely on smartphone data service in cavernous conference centers) and circle the sessions you are most interested in attending. Prioritize them. If one is too full or not what you wanted, you already have your second or third choice in hand without thinking.
2. Bring a sweater or something. Hotels and conference centers are notoriously frigid.
3. Have a snack stash. The nearest food available might be expensive or icky or have a long line. You might get caught up talking to a colleague or presenter instead of eating lunch. Now it's afternoon and you're hungry. Protein bars, fruit, and water are good to have on hand just in case you need a blood sugar boost. At larger conferences, water is a particularly hot commodity, so bringing a refillable bottle is even better.
4. Pack your chargers -- phone and/or laptop. But especially phone chargers. Because you're going to want to do a lot of social media sharing (right?) and you don't want a dead battery before you can add your new BFF on Twitter.
5. Don't forget the little things: business cards if you're into that, chapstick, contact solution, hand sanitizer, medication, gum, whatever. Throw it all in a backpack and you'll be prepared so you won't have to skip a session to go to your room or a store. Don't pack your life, but think more than 20 seconds about stuff you probably want to have with you.
I made a new friend at a conference once by being prepared. He tweeted with the conference hashtag, asking if anyone had any aspirin. I tweeted back that I did. Now we're married. Just kidding, I think he still follows me though.
6. Paper and pens are often much better than trying to bring a computer and type notes. Either way, good to have a backup plan for taking notes if technology forsakes you. (Bonus note: unless the workshop is built for following along, don't try to follow along with software demonstrations. You'll get lost and distracted.)
7. Don't bring things that are annoying. Loud things to eat, stuff that smells weird (food or perfume), junk that takes up a lot of space. Be courteous, it's not like you're going to the rainforest.
Make a list and assure you haven't forgotten any minor essentials that will help enhance your conference experience. If you're attending the Southeast Creative Summit
this weekend, come tell me what I forgot to put on this list. And if you aren't already registered, you still can! Discounted full passes are available (with code creativecow2013), or you can attend just one day.
I like writing. I always have, and I've always been okay at it. It makes a lot of sense to me when editors also write -- blogs, scripts, whatever -- because the tasks are so similar. It mostly comes down to constructing a story of some kind, and the same pitfalls seem to apply more and more as I keep editing and writing stuff.
Since I'm sufficientish (or maybe proficientish? I don't know words) at writing and I want to be AWESOME, I did the obvious and looked up advice from famous authors so I could copy off...er...attempt to emulate their success in small ways. I got hooked into a bunch of articles by awesome writers talking about being awesome a couple months ago. Since then, I've been noticing more parallels between good editing and good writing. Story stuff is story stuff, but it's been interesting to apply tips meant for writers to editing video -- unscripted or narrative, or whatever you might be cutting.
Don't go into great detail describing places or things. - Elmore Leonard
In unscripted stuff particularly, I've seen a tendency for editors to use a whole bunch of b-roll at the beginning to describe a place. It's kind of like the editorial equivalent of four pages of describing the weather and town instead of actually getting to the story. It's so much better when a place or thing is built through a character experiencing it.
Every sentence must do one of two things - reveal character or advance the action. - Kurt Vonnegut
If a cut isn't revealing character or advancing the action, then why is it there? This has been especially interesting to me while cutting narrative. I'm not just assembling a scene. I'm editing a script, after the fact.
Your story will always be stronger if you just show the physical actions and details of your characters and allow your reader to do the thinking and knowing. - Chuck Palahniuk
Palahniuk goes on to talk about the differences between two kinds of passages. In one, the main character is described as anxious about missing a bus. In the other, the circumstances of the main character's anxiety are laid out. You're in her head and getting a sequence of events that leads you to feel anxious FOR her, but the text itself doesn't say "X was anxious."
In editing, I've seen something like this: you're following a protagonist who is about to embark on a scary adventure after a restless night. In one version, you dip to black, put up a descriptive title slide, then move onto the action of the next day. In another version, you find key bits in the b-roll (maybe even in different parts of the day or from another day) that build the anxiety of the night leading into the action of the day. Easier said than done -- you often don't have the b-roll -- but some creativity and intent is sometimes all it takes to help suck the audience in a little bit more.
Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted. - Kurt Vonnegut
In the subjective world of writing and editing, it's hard to please everyone. And that's not what this is about. Tell the best story you possibly can with what's been provided to you. Don't be lazy, don't cut narrative corners, and don't assume your audience are imbeciles (unless that's your target, I guess.) If someone feels their time was wasted by watching your story, that's their problem.
If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. - Elmore Leonard
If it looks like editing, edit it differently. This is the one I've had on my mind the most over the last couple of months. Sometimes I come into contact with sequences cut by people I don't know and have the opportunity to examine them closely. So often I'll find that a good opportunity for an invisible edit is squandered by a flash to white or unnecessary speed ramp. Style over content.
The footage is good. The right music change, natural sound, and arrangement of cuts would be sufficient to end a thought (or paragraph) and go to the next one. This bit is more than just an inability to transition: cuts that are too clever or on the nose or perfectly to music, unintentional jump cuts, star wipes (eh) -- any kind of edit that reminds a person that editing has happened.
I suppose it's extremely obvious to compare writing and editing since it's all storytelling, and often as an editor you actually ARE rewriting a thing someone said. Plus, how many times have you been searching for editing jobs online and found a bajillion copy editor gigs instead? Story is story and editing is editing, but some timeless wisdom has served me well in the edit suite lately.
One of the great things about getting out of the dimly lit edit room (or bay or suite or closet or whatever you use to describe where you spend 85% of your life) and going to places where your peers are gathering is that you -- gasp -- meet your peers! And some of those peers become -- bigger gasp -- FRIENDS!
So allow me to introduce you to a friend
of mine: Joel Yeaton
. I followed Joel on Twitter for a long time and we exchanged baked goods* a few times before meeting at Editfest NY in 2012.
(*Some of us on Twitter Editors occasionally exchange baked goods with one another. It's not as weird as it sounds. I think.)
Joel is attending the Southeast Creative Summit in October, so I figured I would stop telling you why you
should go and let him
tell you why he's
What conferences have you attended in the past?
I hadn't been a part of Twitter for that long before I got connected to #postchat (where I'm more of a lurker than anything else) but @Dr0id mentioned Editfest and on a whim one day I decided to buy a ticket to Editfest NYC 2012.
What have you gotten out of educational classes and workshops that you couldn't get out of online training?
I've gotten so much more out of workshops than I ever have out of online training. Online training is alright and has its place, but it is unfortunate only ever talking about the WHAT or the HOW and never talking about the WHY. Educational classes and workshops like the Southeast Creative Summit are the places you go to learn about the WHY. Also -- and even more importantly -- because of workshops, over the past few years I have gotten connected to a community of editors and post talent who are amazing people doing inspiring work all around the country.
Why did you decide to come to the Southeast Creative Summit?
I decided to come to the Southeast Creative Summit because I had such a great experience with EditFest in 2012, and unfortunately they didn't have another east coast workshop in 2013. But then the Southeast Creative Summit came and filled the gap that I was missing, and I'm so excited for Oct 25th — the 27th to come.
Why do you think it's important to learn in person?
Anyone can learn the WHAT of something, but the WHY of something is the most important and the hardest to learn. When you learn online, you can only learn from one person at a time, but at workshops and conferences like the Southeast Creative Summit, not only are there so many excellent teachers scheduled for workshops during the weekend, you can learn so much from the knowledge base of the other editors that are there learning along side of you. By going to these events, you are increasing your opportunity for connection and collaboration. Chance favors the connected mind!
What do you hope to learn at the Summit?
I currently work for a large PR firm as an editor, but my role is slowly transforming to more of a producer/editor so I'm really excited about all of the production/pre-pro workshops. I have also been playing on some jobs with Mocha and will hopefully get to sit in on one of those workshops as well.
What kind of people would you like to meet at the Summit?
I just want to meet old friends and new. I love meeting people and am very excited to get to be in the same building with the vast talent pool that Walter and crew have assembled. Tweet me if you decide to go! My Twitter handle is @joelyeaton.
What tips do you have for people attending classroom-style workshops?
I don't know if I have any great tips for people that @kyl33t hasn't put in her blog post
, but I would just say be open, be friendly, and just decide to go and see what happens!
I swear I didn't tell him to say any of that stuff. Or link to me. But hey, that's okay with me. Thanks Joel!
Look at that, you already know at least TWO people at the Summit, so you may as well register already
. Use the code trackmatte2013 to get a limited discount - $449 for a ticket.
Alright, I'll admit it. Premiere is pretty decent these days.
I know a lot of people say that. The Internet is filled with love letters to Adobe. I haven't really been among them, well, ever. I've almost always had bad experiences with Premiere, which I've documented a-plenty. Long story short (unless you go back and read my post where I lay it all out), Premiere was unstable as hell for me, Avid wasn't accessible (physically, I could never get in front of one) and being technically proficient in SOMETHING was important to me. So my senior year of college, I learned everything I could about FCP and even got certified by Apple. A card carrying FCPFREAK except not really because the certification logo usage guide was like 18 pages long. I cut on FCP for 3 years professionally and enjoyed using it -- until three months ago, when I came into a new job with Premiere. Creative Cloud actually went live on my first day of work. I used CS6 for a few hours, then CC forever and ever after.
And it's added or eliminated a lot of stuff that used to drive me CRAZY. A lot of people really liked CS6 and I'll agree it was an improvement but MAN, it was like a reanimated corpse in some ways. Nice to edit natively, but OMG WTF at some stuff -- sorry to use so much industry lingo on you.
Obligatory comment about how story is more important than tools. Yes, we know.
So anyway, I know a lot of people are resisting Premiere because they don't like past versions or they don't like the idea of the Creative Cloud or subscription or whatever. Sure, perfectly valid reasons not to use software that don't really concern me. I can't stress enough how much I don't want to argue about the cloud with you. But I thought that since I used to be so firmly in the "omg Premiere sucks so much I can't even look at it" crowd and now I'm not so much, I should spread the word just in case. 'Cause it really does save me a lot of time, I think.
The biggest thing for me that really makes me happy is not needing to transcode. In FCP, I transcoded all the things. I didn't think this would be a big deal to me because I knew FCP's quirks so well that managing media didn't bug me. Well damn ya'll, turns out when you can have a timeline with 6 different kinds of media on it without blinking, that's pretty much okay.
Other stuff that was previously missing or annoying is gone -- and well-covered in actual reviews that aren't just confessionals. Coming straight from using FCP every day (or even Media Composer every night), there's not really much about it that's bothersome when it works as intended. The person to person support seems to be very good. Despite becoming a punching bag for a lot of people, Adobe is pretty flippin' responsive. The help section sucks a lot, but luckily I don't resort to that very much (not because I'm SMRT but because sites like uhm Creative COW do it a lot better anyway.)
The thing is, I still don't really trust Premiere as much as I could. Sometimes weird things will happen and I'm not sure if it's me or the software, or if it really happened. Renders unrender. In or out points go POOF. Disabled clips still act enabled until suddenly they don't. Odd little bugs I can't recreate and make me question my sanity, some of which have been around a long time. Even timecode issues. NBD though right, it's not like timecode is important. At least when FCP tended to flip out, it did it noticeably.
Premiere is keeping up and trying to add new stuff without destroying the delicate little world an editor creates for his or herself, which I respect. But in its constant evolution, I feel like minor oddities that can become show stopping calamities are always a possibility. I never got that from FCP. For all its quirks and dinosaurness, I was always pretty sure that my timecode was accurate or my tested workflow wasn't going to collapse in on itself.
(I'll note that I am using Avid Media Composer for the feature I'm working on because it's awesome for narrative, in my correct opinion.)
I suppose it's sort of a risk and reward situation. FCP was a stable dinosaur, a friendly brontosaurus. But to keep it stable, you stay on older operating systems and older computers, and that's not going to do you any good eventually. Premiere is uhm...the dinosaur that eats Newman. Or whatever. Point is it's pretty awesome and so very fast, but watch out because it does spit toxic black stomach tar sometimes.
Honestly, my main concern with being a Premiere user is: am I inappropriately spoiling myself
? Am I setting myself up for failure by no longer caring about the media the same way as I did before? Or is this what we should all come to expect, that we SHOULD be able to throw random r3ds and loose P2 junk around and let the software deal with it because life is short dammit? I'm nearly made to feel like a cheat for not spending half my life wrangling and managing media...but we have 64 bit phones so why is that my concern?
In summary, I guess I'm saying: Premiere CC is good stuff worth cautiously exploring, so don't reject it because YOU'RE the dinosaur.
A big dilemma when deciding to throw your hard earned money at someone in exchange for knowledge: am I ready for this? Will I get enough out of it to justify the cost? Will I get eaten alive? I'm scared. Hold me. I don't want anything to do with any of it. Go away.
Or something like that. It's a realistic dilemma to have. As a video editor or motion graphics artist, you wouldn't go to an advanced PHP conference or Accountantpalooza (if there is such a thing…and if there isn't, there should be.) And you wouldn't pay to attend a weekend of advanced level hands-on video production classes if you've never touched a camera before.
But chances are if you've made it this far and you read industry blogs like this one, you're exactly the kind of person that would benefit from attending video production or post-production workshops. Whether you're still in college, never went to college, you're in your first video gig, or searching for that first job, you'll get something out of a week or weekend of video production classes.
Most conferences are built with a wide demographic in mind -- which makes sense, because everyone is so different in our industry. So don't fret that you'll be the dumb kid in the back of the room if you feel a little green. Even if a few concepts do go over your head, at least you'll know what you're interested in researching further. And being surrounded by a bunch of your peers, you'll probably discover that you're less inexperienced than you thought. There's no need to feel intimidated, especially in a learning environment.
The Southeast Creative Summit
is coming up on October 25-27 in Atlanta and it'll be a great conference for the less experienced. The focus is less on specific tools, and more on what to do with the tools. Learn more about the art and craft and apply that to all the technical junk you have yet to learn. The student rate
will remain in effect until classes begin. Which is awesome. If you aren't getting free and cheap stuff as a student, you're doin' it wrong.
I was going to write a post called "Am I TOO experienced for educational workshops?" But duh, no, you aren't. There's always something new to learn about or get better at, and as soon as you start thinking you're too knowledgeable to possibly learn anything else, you should probably retire or move onto a new career. Maybe something in event planning, adding "--palooza" to words.
It almost snuck by me, but I remembered! Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the premiere of The X-Files. And as a huge fan (I think they used to call us X-Philes) of the show who has recently been working through (almost) every episode from start to finish, I have a couple things to say about this.
This is the first chronological binge viewing I've completed on this show since I originally began watching -- something that happened pretty late in the series. Sometime in 1999, I picked up the show during season 7 and got hooked after the finale. That summer, FX played a couple episodes a night starting from season 1. By fall, I was fully engaged in not only watching the show, but also talking about every aspect of the show on the Internet. With other self-proclaimed "x-philes". Half cringe, half I ain't even mad.
Besides the phenomenal technical achievements of the show which I'm sure are discussed elsewhere on the internet on this happy birthday week, I have two major takeaways as an impressionable teenager, both of which have become a lot clearer upon this recent binge in adulthood, ten years after the show's series finale (sob).
The first thing: characters are everything, and not just the heroes. Yes, Mulder and Scully went through some fantastic character development (which, by the way, is even more impressively subtle when you view episodes back to back to back, there's some amazing mental breakdown slow burn). But how about Cigarette Smoking Man? How many shows give their nameless villain a whole subplot? An entire episode? It's a long journey to the reward, but these small hints build up to a pretty emotionally complex end to the main mytharc, with a lot of engaging and amusing stand-alones along the way. Even characters we saw once or twice -- the psychological mindgames of "Pusher", or the scary as hell hair and nail fetishist in "Irresistible" were way more captivating than a lot of recurring roles on other shows.
Interesting and likable (or at least relatable) characters are a difficult lesson to learn as a filmmaker, and even when X-Files was at its worst, it was still a great teacher.
Two: Dana freakin' Scully. Looking back, she was possibly my biggest role model as a teenager (plus I had a lot of Scully-related forum handles) -- and I wasn't alone. At a Comic-Con, Gillian Anderson said she had dozens and dozens of women tell her that they pursued a career in medicine, science, psychology, law enforcement, or another related field because they had grown up watching Scully kick ass every week. In another interview, I saw a lot of women mentioning their path into filmmaking began with Dana Scully. I'm not sure my hair would even be red without Scully.
Scully is complex character with layers and junk. She's a deeply flawed person without being portrayed as weak-willed. She's physically and mentally tough, but she worries about burdening her partner with her concerns and keeps a lot to herself. Early in the series, the show tried to occasionally show that Scully had a romantic life -- but then somebody realized that the audience didn't care, and it got way better.
It's interesting that the main thing taken away from her after her abduction was her ability to bear children, which made for an interesting dynamic to a character that already overcompensated for her gender as many women are prone to do in a male-oriented field. But she's, at least for 7 seasons, not defined by infertility so much as she is by wanting to find answers, like Mulder. Even when she's the victim, she's not truly helpless (nor is she truly unaffected.) And I think that's kind of rare for women in stories. Plus, infertility is such a trope for female characters anymore, but was anyone addressing such a thing in the early 90s?
I'll admit that Scully in seasons 8 and 9 was kind of crap though. The storyline that had sucked me into the show originally ended up being the weakest link for her character (make babies, protect babies, etc.) But still, we'll always have the ass-kicking Scully in seasons 3 through 5 (including the movie, especially the movie!) And girlfriend could wear them shoulder pads, mhmm.
Also, a majority of X-Files were edited by female editors. I don't really have a further point to make about that, I'm just saying it was a thing I realized upon this binge.
X-Files was awesome. Ya'll should Netflix it if you never watched it before. Great stories, great dialogue, best opening title sequence ever. Yeah, I said it.
Scully: Mulder, it's such a gorgeous day outside. Have you ever entertained the idea of trying to find life on this planet?
Mulder: I've seen the life on this planet Scully, and that is exactly why I am looking elsewhere.
Duh, we all know it's important to stay up to date on the changing technologies in the video production and post-production industries. So we read and tweet and practice and put time aside for educational workshops (like the upcoming Southeast Creative Summit
) because we're smart and forward-thinking.
But have you thought about the benefit of networking
at an educational conference? Sure, you're there to learn from presenters -- but if you attend conferences passively, you're missing out on a lot.
1. Introduce yourself to the person next to you.
Yeah, that old trick about talking to strangers. You're going to be sitting around people you've probably never met. Sit down a few minutes early and strike up a conversation. Maybe you'll find common ground and trade cards or Twitter handles. Maybe they'll be a nutso weirdo (which also has its benefits.) Either way, you might learn something. Don't dismiss anyone as irrelevant. They could have information you didn't know you needed.
2. Tweet with the conference hashtag.
If your conference and workshops is happening in the 21st century, someone has assigned a hashtag to it. And if they haven't, attendees have come up with one organically. Monitor the hashtag for activities, and share some thoughts and helpful tidbits. It helps keep you engaged, but it also connects you directly with the most savvy among the group. You never know who you'll meet with a hashtag -- I met one of my favorite Englishmen that way and we've been friends ever since.
Bonus tip: if you bring business cards, put your Twitter handle on it.
3. If you do follow the event on Twitter, make your avatar actually LOOK like you.
If you're an egg or a baby or a cat, you aren't recognizable. Upload a clear picture of yourself that actually looks like you, so people will know they've found the right person if they want to talk in the real world.
4. Actually go to the social mixers.
You've been sitting in cold classrooms all day. You've taken more notes than you have since high school. Curling up in your hotel room with some room service sounds really good. Socializing with strangers in the hotel bar sounds really not good. Take a hot shower and go to the social event! Some of the best places to talk to like-minded video professionals is over a quiet drink or coffee. At the first conference I ever attended, I stayed in my room during the social mixer and watched baseball. I'm not gonna lie, it was awesome and I remember it fondly. But if I had gone and met these people -- people I interact with all the time now -- I would have known them that much longer.
5. And don't think you have to just talk about the industry.
Finding other things in common with people in your field makes for great conversation too! Talk about pets, kids, rocketry, whatever. You don't have to argue about FCPX or the Cloud when you're at a video production conference. You can be a normal human being and talk about the weather, if that's what floats your boat.
6. Talk to the presenters too!
Don't be afraid to approach presenters after their workshop, in the hall, or at social events. If you get the sense they're busy or trying to get somewhere, don't get in a huff if they scurry by. But don't let the fact their name is on the room intimidate you from saying hello. Probably 99% of all the people I've ever met in the video production industry have been friendly and willing to talk as long as they had the time. There's no reason to NOT say hi to someone whose work you admire enough to sit through a 90 minute session.
7. Look friendly.
If you lay in the hall in the fetal position listening to your iPod between sessions, ain't nobody gonna talk to you. Look normal, smell good, try not to scowl so much.
8. Bring a charger for your phone.
A lot of networking involves social media or at least exchanging numbers to meet up. A lot of workshops involve using your phone or tablet to take notes or monitor social feeds. If your phone stops working, you miss out. Make sure your battery isn't going to die by lunchtime.
9. Listen and help people.
Ultimately, one of the most rewarding parts of networking is helping someone else fulfill a need they have. It could be just being a connection in the industry, actual paid work, or maybe it's actual technical and creative help as a peer. Ask a lot of questions about other people, and listen to what they have to say. You could find a lot of value in understanding their world, and you might be able to help each other out.
10. Follow up.
After you're home with some new followers online or some new business cards on your table, actually follow up with the people you met and try to make a permanent connection of sorts. There's no point in meeting someone if you're just going to toss their card aside and forget all about it. Don't leave networking to chance and wait for them to call YOU.
Workshops are all about your continued education as a video production professional, but don't forget the most important aspect of the industry: knowing the right people. Who are the right people? Maybe the dude sitting next to you! Find out.
(And where better to try your hand at professional networking than the Southeast Creative Summit
, where I'll be speaking about social media, online reputation management, and generally not being a d@&k online! And YES, you CAN save $100 on registration for now with my code trackmatte2013, thanks for asking!)
Let’s say you work for a company, but you want to go to the Southeast Creative Summit
. What do you do? Pitch it to your boss, of course. Don’t like asking your overlords for things? I’ve made it easy for you here with a letter you can copy and paste into an email! Whoa, I did your job for you? Yep! Just copy, paste, adjust as you like, and send it off into the ether.
You’re a valuable employee, right? You want to keep adding value to the company? And the company wants to keep you around too. Having your organization send you to continuing education events each year is a great way to maintain mutual respect. Plus, the worst they could say is “uh, no” I guess! Doesn’t hurt to try.
I heard about a video production conference in Atlanta this October called the Southeast Creative Summit (www.southeastcreativesummit.com
) and I think it'd be a great idea for me to go. There aren't many educational video production conferences like this, and I haven't found one as affordable or diverse.
It's a three day conference over a weekend (October 25-27), so I won’t miss much work. They're offering a lot of workshops
I haven't seen before, like aerial cinematography and producing. The things I learn could easily change the way we approach our project work here.
The workshops are being taught by people who are primarily working professionals
in our field. A few of them have won Oscars or Emmys too, so I'd be learning from some of the best in the field. Everything in our industry is constantly changing, and I think conferences like this where I can learn from my peers are our best bet for staying ahead of the competition.
Atlanta is an easy city to travel to -- the airport services tons of airlines, and the conference hotel is offering a really good discount rate at the moment. I also found a coupon code (trackmatte2013) to get $100 off registration for the Summit, so it'll only cost $495 if I register before September 25th
Maybe we could talk about this more and see if this fits into our budget? Thanks!
(Maybe not so much with the hugs and kisses at the end. But come on, give it a shot!)
USE THE PEN.
From the moment I stepped in the door at BCM, that's all I heard from Walter. It was like a nerdier version of Obi Wan Kenobi. (Is that possible?) My work station is equipped with a Wacom Intuos 4 (I think) -- which is very nice, both the product and the fact it was sitting there.
(And note to Walter: it was LIKE Obi Wan, I didn't say you actually ARE Obi Wan.)
But man, talk about tablet-challenged. The first time I picked up a pen and tried to do anything, I was dragging crap all over and misclicking and things were catching on fire. NO. WHY. STOP. Adjusting to a new job and state and like I don't know LIFE IN GENERAL is hard enough without taking away my mouse, my most basic human comfort.
Seriously, what's so fab about it?
Two months later, this week, I decided to give it a fair shot. I asked for advice on Twitter for getting a handle on...handling it. The most useful tip came from Shane Ross.
Turns out there are a lot of you tablet editors lurking out there. Who knew asking about editing on a Wacom would bring all you geeks out of hiding?
So this past Monday morning at 9:30AM, I loaded up my project in Premiere Pro CC, put my mouse aside, and committed to pen only existence for a whole week.
At about 9:45AM, I had irreversibly
screwed up my workspace in Premiere. I have no idea what I did -- probably dragged something somewhere somehow -- but my stuff went all bananas and I spent 15 minutes getting it back the way I wanted it.
By afternoon, I was getting the hang of it. Sorta. It wasn't frustrating me to the point of throwing it, but I was swearing quite a bit as I acclimated to its sensitivity. It ended up feeling more natural more quickly than I had anticipated, to be honest. I use the keyboard very heavily for everything and when my right hand isn't doing anything, it sits on my mouse. Hangs out there, chillin. With the pen, I avoid having it sitting in an awkward position for an extended period. I also don't have to put down the pen to do what my right hand does. I would show you my Premiere keyboard, but the keyboard shortcuts are seemingly impossible to share. It's very Avid-y with a strong dose of FCP7.
A thing I struggled with occasionally was dragging sliders in the effects window, or dragging graphics in the timeline. I grab and move around lower thirds and stuff all the time in my sequence, and just use snap to get them where I need them. When I "let go" of a graphic or something, the pen is so sensitive that it doesn't land where I want it to go, but a few frames to the left or right. So that's incredibly irritating. But at the same time, snapping stuff with a mouse
in Premiere is also frustrating. I don't think it would be an issue so much in Media Composer, at least not with the stuff I usually cut in there. Plus, selecting trim points is different, so a lot of those issues wouldn't be relevant.
I expected this to be a fairly colorful blog post with a lot of censored swear words and hilarity about accidentally deleting entire volumes of work, but unfortunately for you (and fortunately for me) this was not the case. By Wednesday I wasn't having much of a problem. My brain was starting to deal with the oddities of the tablet and pen and compensate for them. I even did some cutting with a producer alongside without swearing at the pen AT ALL. Or doing anything stupid.
I know, huge accomplishment. For me, anyway.
A stupid thing I keep doing is putting the pen down and losing it. It's black, the desk is black, and it's dark. GREAT. Another stupid thing I keep doing is reaching for the mouse. That's some difficult muscle memory to break. I'm reaching for a mouse with a pen in my hand. More stupid muscle memory: getting use to putting the pen down and being in that part of the screen, rather than the motion of mousing your mouse to the area you want to go. All ridiculous when you write it down, but shut up, you try it and you'll see what I mean.
In terms of ACTUAL challenges besides the sensitivity being too sensitive at times, I found that OS X (and I'm sure every other operating system) isn't really conducive to a tablet. The clicking areas are very tiny and the dock is on the edge of the screen which kind of sucks. I navigate a lot of OS X with the keyboard as well -- command-spacebar to Spotlight to apps to launch, for example. I've always been kinda 50/50 on switching apps, doing it the hard way (click in the dock), but actually using the keyboard shortcut has become vital with the Wacom. It's a pain to go click in the dock. Command-tab brings up the app switching thingy so you can tab over to the app you want to jump to. It's so much faster and less annoying.
But being in the Finder itself is kinda crappy. Bringing in files via the Media Browser in Premiere is definitely the way to go most of the time anyway, but especially with the tablet. Big chunky squares begging to be clicked.
So alright, I guess I'm committing to the thing, I should figure out what these function buttons and stuff actually do, right? I've remapped the everloving hell out of my keyboard settings in all my NLEs to make myself more efficient, so mo' buttons mo' problems.
. Unfortunately, it seems to have been designed by someone who has never actually been an editor in their entire lives. Yo, Wacom, look at all these psychopaths that literally PREACH THE RELIGION of the pen. Why don't you ask one of them to make you a video that editors can learn stuff from?
So I turned to Twitter to see what the hivemind likes. There's actually very little consensus about how to use the various buttons. Everybody is different. Paul Conigliaro (@conigs) had a very helpful and cute little gif instructing me in my grip
to switch between pen and keyboard rapidly.
And a lot of people had other things to say.
A thing I learned about the Intuos4 was that it introduced Precision Mode, which seems to have solved my issues with moving around things with frame accuracy. Grab something, hit precision mode, drag, let go, hit precision mode. It's a little bit to get used to, but in some ways gets even more precise than the mouse. I can imagine that drawing masks with the thing gets straight up cray. I actually WANT to mask something and try it out. Eh. Kind of.
Additionally, I got a few tips from Dan Wolfmeyer who is in Media Composer on the Intuos 3.
But then I wonder if coming to rely on a tablet setup is wise. What if you end up in an edit room without a mouse, on a freelance gig or something? Will you adapt so closely to a pen that mousing will send you back to the stone ages in terms of efficiency? Will using a mouse after all this tablet Wacom pen junk turn your hand into a CLAW?
Kidding aside, I think this is a valid concern for people. Especially those who aren't particularly adaptable by nature. Is it possible to be tied too closely to a specified way of pointing around?
(I've been told that freelancers take their tablets with them from job to job with no issue, so there you go. I guess if you're in a corporate environment where they don't like new things or don't want you to change edit rooms, that might be a minor issue, but for the most part it's not a thing.)
Obviously I'm not too worried about it.
Anyway, here's where my tablet settings have ended up after a week of usage. I actually have double click and precision mode on the pen itself. I'm too used to control-clicking to right click anyway, so there's no point in trying to retrain some serious muscle memory when my left hand is on the keyboard anyway. On the tablet itself, somewhat untouched button arrangement. The wheel is mapped to J and L, and also left arrow and right arrow and zoom. I did end up with snap, hand tool, application switching, and right click. All of those things are done by my left hand on the regular, but I figured if I'm in an instance where I'm using the wheel heavily, it might not be terrible to not have to return to the keyboard for something. I'm not sure I ever will though. I'm like a trained monkey on the keyboard.
I guess I'll keep it up and see what happens. I've been known to get severe muscle cramps in my mouse hand, so I'm looking forward to not having cramps in my mouse hand. There's still a lot I don't know, especially about different tips (EH?).
And of course, if anyone has any suggestions or advice about this matter, please throw it in while my mind is still impressionable. There's a small window where I can train myself, know what I mean? So here's what I learned so far:
1. My hand doesn't hurt. It didn't really before, but it doesn't now either.
2. I am capable of learning new ways to point and click.
3. I'm going to lose the pen a lot.
I can't say it makes me any faster, but it doesn't seem to be slowing me down and it makes me LOOK a lot cooler, which we all know I desperately need.
(Only partially related note I accidentally found while Googling something else: Wacom is a Japanese portmanteau: Wa for "harmony" or "circle", and Komu for "computer". THAT'S SO CUTE.)