Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The Ettiquette Of Modern TV News Editing.

In this post, i want to invoke a time of warm memories, expensive machinery, men smoking pipes INDOORS! and loose fitting corduroy slacks, maybe even a bow tie or two. You see, in the heady days of news gathering, not so very long ago, it was the done thing to take your filmed rushes back to the newsroom, where a craft editor would weave a silk purse from a pigs ear. You remember those cosy, warm and affable old editors, who would welcome you into their small fiefdom with a pat on the shoulder, coffee and maybe a doughnut, sit you down and tell you where it all went wrong.

Mobile editing... comfy.

 The highlight of my fledgling cameraman career in those distant times was to be told my taped rushes were in the three machine edit suite, not the usual cut and shut edit suite, but a slightly strange smelling place where a grumpy man with a frayed shirt collar would paste together clips of wonder and enlightenment using fades, wipes and other techno wizardry. Now you young spotty faced TV 'Director / Producers' or 'Shooting PD's' with your boy band hair may not understand this, but it wasn't always digital workflows, ingestion matrixes, DSLR's and low wages. Oh no. The large room would hum to the sound of Beta SP machines, switchers and routers, reel to reel sound tape decks and rows of monitors on which to peruse the editors art. Row upon row of Beta SP tapes on shelves that archived the stories of yesterday, interspersed with new fangled Digibeta tapes which were the cutting edge future of TV News, hinting at a brighter future and big bucks if you could afford the new Digibeta cameras. Oh how i laugh now...

Anyway, I learned a lot in those places. When to pan, tilt or zoom, framing, the art of sequencing and of never crossing the line. Editors taught me on pain of death, DEATH i say, never to over expose or to give them too little edit seconds at the beginning and end of every clip. They also taught me who to avoid in the newsroom, which reporter was boffing the new weather girl and to never ever, choose the strange brown gloop at the breakfast bar in the canteen. Fountains of knowledge they were.

Today though, as you know, is a very different state of affairs. There are no more warm rooms in which to hide and possibly learn a thing or two. No longer is there a bastion of clever talented people, doing clever and talented things with hugely expensive pieces of machinery with moving parts. Instead, i sit in the back of my small Mercedes van in a dark, damp and smelly multi-storey car park in a dark, damp and smelly town centre.

The laptop glows as it ingests a digital stream at 5 times real time. Drag and drop edit timelines mixed with the instant workflow of graphics, mixes and splices from a library of hundreds on the small hard drive. Outside the rain falls. I hear it on the metal roof top of my van. I close the door to keep out the draft and the slight urine tinged smell of the car park. The wind picks up the plastic bags and litter left by passers by. A can of special brew rattles under the van in tune with the neanderthal shouting of a group of youths under a nearby concrete underpass.

Time and technology wait for no man. Things have moved on. From the warm, coffee infused university of the edit suite, to a cold piss stained car park with a lap top. Technology is a wonderful thing. It's at times like this that i really miss the grumpy old git in the 3 machine edit suite, far far away.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.


  1. I thought you were the grumpy old git!

  2. On the international scalable index of grumpiness, i rate 7 out of 10. Craft editors usually come in around 9.5

  3. ...and they call it progress...progress hasn't stopped you getting pissed on all day or your knackers being frozen off! BTW I often found grumpy old gits were absolute gold dust when needed. A quick question Paul, are you shooting on SxS cards or sdhc via an adaptor on your 350. All the best. D

    1. I shoot on SxS cards, with the BBC, i shoot on SD cards in a SxS sleeve.