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HomeCraftsAnimationContender – Editor Tim Mertens, Big Hero 6

Contender – Editor Tim Mertens, Big Hero 6

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Tim Mertens
Tim Mertens

Tim Mertens edited the latest Disney animated film, Big Hero 6, the story of a plus-sized inflatable robot, Baymax and a young prodigy, Hiro, who team up with a band of high-tech heroes to uncover the villain behind the death of Hiro’s brother. An animated movie takes up to three years to complete, with the editor involved from the time the studio signs off on the script through the final sound mix. “It lends itself to be so creative,” Mertens said. “It gives us the opportunity to really hone the story and make sure all beats are working the way that they should.”

Unlike the editing of a live-action film, in which the editor is limited to the footage captured on set, part of the ongoing creative process in an animated production is to create shots during a series of iterations that allow the filmmakers to serve the story by creating and improving scenes as long as time permits. Animation editorial begins with cutting together a movie comprised of storyboards based on the script. Each scene can contain 200-600 individual boards, which are entered into the Avid and laid into the timeline for five seconds each. Mertens’ job is to make sure that this first storyboard edit plays on screen like a true film complete with music and sound effects.

“Then I go through and shape those pieces together so that they can play like the real film, like a real scene, timed out with scratch dialog,” Mertens explained. “I’ll put in temp sound effects and music so we can see the scene realized up on screen and make better judgment of how it fits in the cut. We do that for an entire 90-minute movie.”

Big Hero 6
Big Hero 6

As production progresses, other versions are put together with the boards being replaced by animatics that have modeled 3D characters and environments, before eventually moving to animation and all the texturing and effects that go into finishing the feature.

Because little, if any, of the dialogue is recorded with the actors and actresses together, the editor plays an important part in shaping performances. Mertens is heavily involved in picking the dialogue and performances are created as he puts the scenes together. “It is very different from live-action when you are given the performances,” revealed Mertens. “These are performances I created directly with all of the creatives on this team. We are constantly going back and forth on performance and timing to get the best one possible.”

Current animated projects often have complex action scenes that rival their counterparts in live-action. “At the heart of it all is the story,” said Mertens. “In action scenes in particular, I look to heighten the pace throughout. So quicker editing, quicker pace. It’s also a matter of discovery along the way, a sort of feeling you get.”

LR-bigHero6537e1f9ae3757During the animatic process when the sequence is being developed, Mertens receives a plethora of different shots and angles to try in the cut. “The great thing about animation is you can ask for something different. You can ask for a different camera angle. You can ask for a different shot to get the scene right as you put it together,” he said.

Mertens worked directly with directors Don Hall and Chris Williams and the creative team that included the head of story, the writers, the producer and John Lasseter of Pixar. “During the heat of production, we’re in there together probably a good eight hours a day from meeting to meeting,” Mertens explained. “We’re calling the story, we’re picking dialogue, we’re making trims. We’re reviewing the scenes together.”

In other words, the team is being creative as they bring the best possible story to the screen.

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