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October 30, 2014
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Back to school


The students stare back at me blankly. I wonder if they are paying attention.

“Who knows the difference between overwrite and splice in?”

A few of them nod. One yawns long and large but then surprisingly raises his hand and answers the question. I guess you can’t blame them; it is a three-hour class on a Monday night.

It wasn’t too long ago that the tables were turned and I was a student sitting far back in the computer lab in an NYU editing class. I’m sure there were times I yawned, probably much worse.

On the way to the bathroom during a break I imagine a bizarre comedy movie twist where in the mirror I see my college self staring back at me. A quirky janitor would then offer me a choice between the present and the past. Which would I choose?

I’m teaching an Intermediate Edit Workshop; it’s a step up from the class I taught two semesters ago, which was an overview of the entire post-production process. Now I am actually teaching editing with 10 students, who are each cutting a short film in my class.

The slight hitch is that the class is also about the Avid editing software system. I edit on Final Cut Pro. These two are very similar (but also very different). Boy, can I talk to you about Final Cut Pro! I can get down with the Apple ProRes Codecs and keyboard shortcuts. I’m super fast. (I’d better be after the amount of time I spend editing.)

But the truth of the matter is I haven’t cut on Avid since people used tape. I can get myself around, but I’m pretty rusty. I admitted as much to my class, “Back when I was editing on Avid…” and when I heard myself saying it out loud, I realized that I fulfilled some bizarre aging cycle.

I spent a day last weekend importing and messing around with some footage. Even in front of the class, my hands felt like someone else’s as I attempted a few Final Cut Pro shortcuts, only to be rejected by a loud. CLUNK. (You know that sound a computer makes when it doesn’t want to do whatever you are asking of it?) Imagine that clunk amplified through a massive sound system. The girl in the front row flinched.

Thank goodness I have a teaching assistant who knows Avid very well. I am certain she is shocked the first time she corrects me. Double thank goodness later, when she brings up one of the movies I’ve edited. It shouldn’t make a difference, but she noticeably warms afterwards.

I feel my way through the Avid instructional and get them into one-on-one situations fairly quickly. We are cutting a test scene from “NYPD Blue.” (Most of them haven’t heard of it.) I feel older by the second.

Giving them notes on their scenes is the easy part, and I am impressed with the way a few of them piece the dailies together. From my perspective, it’s pretty fascinating to watch the same scene cut 10 different ways. All of them starting with the same footage and yielding a wide range of results.

So I think I’ll take a pass on that time machine, Mr. Quirky Janitor, sir. I reckon it’s much more rewarding on this side of the desk.