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DVD Review-Editing 24

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The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Foundation kicks off its new “Journeys Below the Line” DVD series with 24 The Editing Process. Taking an up-close and personal look at the roles of editors, postproduction supervisors and script supervisors, the series aims to lift the veil on what goes on behind the scenes at some of TV’s most popular shows from those who make the creative decisions. On 24 The Editing Process we see the contributions of script supervisor Ann Melville, editors Chris Willingham and Scott Powell, assistant editors Ann Parish and Larry Davenport, co-producer/postproduction supervisor Paul Gadd and re-recording mixers Mike Uhlman and Ken Kobett.With an accompanying CD-ROM that includes course material for students, it’s clear this series is aimed at the educational market. Nevertheless, there’s plenty to engage not only fans of 24, but fellow below-the-liners interested in the whys and wherefores of this unique day-by-day show.We learn that the split-screen editorial style that allows multiple storylines to unfold with a feeling of real time was the mastertouch of one Stephen Hopkins, who directed the original pilot. That approach subsequently informed the shooting style, necessitating a “box-friendly” visual design. According to Powell, the editors don’t always make the obvious choice when deciding upon footage for the boxes. For example, on a phone call the logical selection might be the two sides of the conversation, but the 24 editors are just as likely to use two different camera angles of the same action.Editors receive 25 hours of film for each one-hour episode, an unbelievable amount of footage for a television series. Multiple cameras are used on set and camera operators are encouraged to use a fluid, moving camera, and to zoom all the time. Thus the same take can go from a wide shot to a close-up with any conceivable angle in between. Willingham and Powell approach editing from the line script, reviewing short sections of each take and building the scene one dialog line at a time.The editors rely heavily on accurate notes from script supervisor Melville, whose job it is to record every bit of action, every camera move and every dialog change. She constantly tracks the actors and story arcs, checking for continuity. Melville is also responsible for timing each episode in preproduction; she knows the rhythm of the actors and can pace out episodes within seconds of the final timing.Assistant editors Parish and Davenport are seen taking care of the cutting room business. Their responsibilities include anything from digitizing dailies, and running edit decision lists, to edit system maintenance. Post supervisor Gadd, meanwhile, keeps track of running time, missing links, pick-ups and lines that need to be looped. Finally, as the process nears its completion, Uhlman and Kobett dub and mix the audio elements.Despite its gruelling schedule (two episodes every 15-day production period), there are surprisingly few differences of opinion among 24’s producer, directors and editors. The collaboration succeeds, we hear, because the producers of the show trust the professional abilities of the crew they have hired. Executive producer and star Kiefer Sutherland sums up the contributions of the editing crew thus: “They make this concept of real time cohesive, and for that we’re eternally grateful.” – By Mary Ann Skweres

Written by Mary Ann Skweres

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