On the road

A surge in portable equipment takes post crews on location

When the HBO series "John From Cincinnati" leaves its Newhall, Calif., location for scenes in San Diego, producers bring surfboards -- and the editing system.

"I think field editing is more intriguing and more possible for people now," says Runway president Howard Brock, whose company supplies the editing gear for the show.
"Having an editing system you can use by opening the laptop lid has a certain appeal."
Show executive producer David Milch wants to be able to work on "Cincinnati" when he's on location, so Runway provided a laptop-based Avid Media Composer system in his location trailer.

Field editing is not precisely new, but what has boosted its appeal recently is technology like Avid's new software version of Media Composer, the standard TV editing system. Up until now, Media Composer was hardware-based and thus not really portable, and the only software-based Avid editing program was Xpress Pro. "A lot of editors dismissed Xpress Pro because they weren't familiar with it," Brock says. "When their familiar toolset became available, that opened up the possibility of field editing."

Electric Picture Solutions general manager David Goodman reports that his company is providing editing systems for Spike TV's upcoming pilot "The Kill Pit," which is being produced by Lionsgate Television and has a 65-day shoot in Pittsburgh. "It wasn't cost effective for them to send a complete editing rig out there," says Goodman, who reports the production might take a Media Composer or Xpress Pro software system instead.
"I call these tabletop systems," EPS president and CEO David Pincus adds. "There are fewer bells and whistles. We won't send out big speakers or big monitors -- everything is a scaled-back version."

Field editing's success means TV producers can, and are, bringing other post tasks into the field. Pioneer Creative Bridge, which recently partnered with Technicolor Content Services to create Technicolor Creative Bridge, is a mobile truck containing color correction/digital intermediates and a comfy screening room. A recent on-location shoot using a Viper camera was color-corrected with DI tools in the Creative Bridge truck, which helped with viewing dailies. The newly formed Technicolor Creative Bridge on-location services will offer certified workflows from camera to screen.

The CW's "Everybody Hates Chris" also shoots with a Viper, and Lowell Kay, president of the DR Group, has built an on-site capture station that converts the 1080-line, 30 fps HD output to 720p, a post trick that enables the production to both maintain a 24-frame rate throughout the post process and, with smaller file sizes, edit in HD. "This is the front end of editing on site," Kay says. "What we're doing is saving time and money because we've eliminated a post facility process by doing it in the field."

Although audio mixing's large consoles would seemingly prevent this part of the post process from going into the field, Warner Bros. Studio Facilities has done something very close to that, moving rerecording to a dubbing stage in picture editorial. "We've created remote rerecording," WBSF senior vp postproduction services Kim Waugh says. "Because there's such a convergence between picture and sound, we needed to go in that direction."

Adds WBSF vp postproduction services Bill Angarola: "The main reason to do this was creative flexibility. We can be cutting, designing and mixing the show while picture editors get more time to work on sequences." TV postproduction dictates that audio work be done on a dubbing stage. "But with today's tools, you can emulate the tools on a dubbing stage in a smaller environment," Angarola adds. "And the picture department isn't locked down into a schedule of when to mix. TV producers can now control the days they wish to mix."

Even as an increasing number of post services go remote, Brock notes the irony of traveling tools. "It's easy to move picture and sound (digitally) across the world," he says. "But people prefer to take advantage of the portability of the tools and keep the face-to-face contact in the edit suite."