Finding an HD Editor

The search for an HD editor in Los Angeles or abroad
It’s important right away to define what is meant by High Definition / HD editor, for the purposes of this posting, since it is a generic term and has different meanings given the context.

HD editor can mean an offline HD editor - someone who ingests / digitizes lower resolution footage into an offline computer in order to edit. This ingest / digitization can occur using downconverted tapes or by using a deck which plays the original high definition media but downconverts the output signal.

HD editor, in another context, could also mean an online HD editor – someone who takes the EDL or project file exported by the offline HD editor and recaptures all the footage in HD and then either re-cuts it using the Edit Decision List or reconnects the newly ingested / digitized HD material with the project file itself. This stage of HD post-production is traditionally referred to as HD online editing or HD conform.

An HD production may require both an offline high definition editor and an online high definition editor. This decision will ultimately be made according to the proprietary format or HD Camera you are using to capture HD footage, the amount of HD source material captured, and the format(s) required for distribution of the project. The formats are numerous, so it’s easier to simply discuss the workflow for one specific HD camera as it relates to the search for an HD editor.

The example given below considers HD workflow for a Sony HDW-F900 rental. If you’re shooting with another HD camera / HD format please contact Saturnalia Productions and we will help you find the most efficient HD workflow and provide you with an HD editor(s), whether they are in Los Angeles or abroad.


Start the search for an HD editor early
The earlier in the process you can contact Saturnalia Productions or your HD production company, and speak to your HD editor, the better. Unless you are extremely well versed in the HD workflow associated with your HD camera, an HD editor can help you make proper decisions in pre-production and production, with HD post production in mind. This can make your job easy as a producer and save you money as well by avoiding pitfalls.


Am I searching for an HD editor or HD editors?
As mentioned above this depends on your HD camera, the amount of HD footage sourced, and the intended distribution. Again, since the HD cameras are numerous we’ve selected the Sony HDW-f900 for our hypothetical HD camera.

Hypothetically, let's say you're a producer who is inexperienced with HD workflow but wise enough to contact your HD production company and your HD post production company, sit down with them in the same room in order to understand the nuances of HD workflow. So what is the workflow for the f900 in post you ask? That’s a pretty big question, with a pretty long answer but here’s the short explanation.

The Sony HDW-f900 shoots on proprietary tapes called HDCam tapes. They can shoot roughly 52 minutes of HD footage in 59.94i or roughly 42 minutes of HD footage in 23.98p. If you’re shooting a short or a commercial and you have access to a Final Cut Pro HD editor bay or an Avid Ntiris you may simply wish to digitize everything in HD and have your HD editor edit in HD. However, this is rarely the case – so in this example let’s say you’ve shot a feature.

After a short conversation with your high definition editor, you determine that you are going to shoot sixty BCT-40 HDCam tapes. That’s 2520 minutes of HD footage, or 42 hours. At 1 GB per 6 seconds you’re quickly into terabytes of storage. Your HD editor tells you that downconverting to a standard definition format like DVCam will cut storage space by roughly 1/6. You don’t have to have an HD CODEC/card either to deal with the format, which will save you money. Your HD editor can offline edit the entire feature on something as simple as an Apple G5 uses Final Cut Pro.

There are two ways an offline HD editor can get your HDCam tapes into Final Cut Pro.

  • You can HD Downconvert everything to another digital format like DVCam or DigiBeta, preserving the time code of the original by performing a 3/2 pulldown. In Final Cut Pro, your offline HD editor can then use Cinematools to perform a reverse 3/2 pullldown so he / she can work in a 23.98 sequence. This 23.98 sequence is important for both the offline HD editor and the online HD editor, since it allows for each frame of HDCam footage to correspond to an exact frame of the Final Cut Pro offline edit. This comes into play during the HD online / HD conform and prevents edits from slipping an in and/or an out timecode. A frame or two of slip sounds like it won't be a big deal, but it can make a world of difference and throw of the cut.
  • Your offline HD editor can ingest / digitize all of the Sony HDW-f900 HDCam tapes directly onto a hard drive in a lower-resolution using an HDCam player-only deck like a Sony JH-3. Each Sony HDCam BCT-40 tape costs around $75 to downconvert to DVCam. Renting a Sony JH-3 deck costs roughly $300 for a 24-hour rental. If you’re lucky to get the deck for a one-day rental rate on a weekend, you might be able to digitize a large amount of the HDCam tapes for $300 working an HD editor and / or two assistant HD editors in double-shift. This can save you money, but make sure you have enough drive space since you have to ingest everything for your assistant editor or offline HD editor.

Your offline HD editors then edits, adds keyframing, etc. Make certain your offline HD editor is talking to your online HD editor during this stage to make certain he isn’t wasting any time adding effects which will not translate during the HD online process. This is a very common mistake, costing producers time and money. Doing the conform on the same system as your offline HD editing helps quite a bit. In other words, if you did your offline HD editing on a Final Cut Pro bay then do your online HD editing / HD conform on a Kona Final Cut Pro HD finishing bay.

HD Color Correction, Audio Mix, and Audio Sweetening
After the online HD editor has finished…it is then best to do your audio finishing and HD color correction. It’s highly recommended that you do so only after your online HD editor is finished with his/her work, because so many times the offline edit is changed once a producer sees the full-res HD online. Things like “I didn’t notice the actor's twitch in that scene in standard definition….or…I didn’t notice that Los Angeles sign plate in the background when the feature is supposed to be taking place in France "are heard by an online HD editor. Different takes are, therefore, sometimes chosen during the HD online, and the timing is different…so it’s best to wait until after your online HD editor is done to do your color-correction, audio mix, and audio sweetening.


Saturnalia Productions can provide you with one, some, or all HD post-production services
These services include offline HD editor, assistant editor, online HD editor, HD colorist, Avid Nitris HD online editing, Final Cut Pro HD online editing, audio mixer and sweetener. We can provide this personnel and these services in our Los Angeles based post production facility or abroad.

With a decade of HD experience, our HD post production specialists have worked on over thousands of hours of broadcast television, features, concerts, commercials and music videos. Our credits include BBC, National Geographic, HBO, MTV, Discovery and Disney. Contact Saturnalia Productions for rates, bios, to book dates for an HD editor, and/or review our other HD post-production services.


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