VFX editors talk shop at Frankfurt confab

'Speed Racer' 'vastly misunderstood,' John Gaeta says

FRANKFURT, Germany -- Academy Award-winning VFX supervisor John Gaeta turned the tables on film critics Monday at the Edit Filmmakers Festival here.

"Critics have so many conflicts of interests," he said. "They feel that they are power brokers. I tend to put aside established critics. Now I am sampling bloggers who are not put in a high position. That I feel is the true reaction."

Gaeta said he believes that his latest VFX work, "Speed Racer," was "a vastly misunderstood film from the beginning of its creation."

He described the look, which he called "photo anime," and he detailed early tests on the complex work.

"Our objective was to take the purity of pop art and create something original," he said, adding that another part of the aim was to reach a "new generation of filmgoers -- younger folks who are growing up with a wider array of media where they get their entertainment."

Pixar Animation Studios director of editorial and postproduction Bill Kinder presented a look at animation editing and postproduction, using examples from Disney/Pixar's "WALL-E." He said that animation editors use "many of the same tactics that are deployed for VFX films." He predicted that these disciplines would merge.

"Live action editing starts with millions of feet of dailies assembled to match a relatively static script," he said, adding that this stage is often described as the last rewrite. "Animation editors start with nothing, and we built up this huge ratio of material -- you can get to a 500:1 shooting ratio if you try to compare it to live action. A lot of the enterprise of the editorial department is tracking the materials."

The day concluded with a conversation with 2008 Festival Honors recipient Anne V. Coates, Oscar-winning editor for "Lawrence of Arabia," interviewed by fellow Oscar-winning editor Tom Rolf.

Speaking on the subject of short schedules, Coates admitted that the epic "Lawrence" was in post for only 16 weeks after David Lean completed production. "I wonder how we ever did it," Coates said. "We were working day and night, seven days a week."

The pair of editors also discussed their feeling about focus groups. "Twenty people have been anointed critics," said Rolf. "It's a horrible experience."

Coates added: "Focus groups are agony. (Producers) say they are not going to take notice of what they say, but they always do."

The festival was staged in cooperation with American Cinema Editors and Imago, the European Association of Cinematographers.