Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hoda by Hoda Kotb

Hoda Kotb with Jane Lorenzini. Hoda: How I Survived War Zones, Bad Hair, Cancer, and Kathie Lee. New York: Simon and Shuster, 2010.

Kotb graduated college from Virginia Tech in 1986 with a Communications degree. She applied to and was rejected by all three network news agencies. A friend of her uncle helped convince CBS to hire her for errands and for ripping wire. Her parents are Egyptian and she speaks Arabic. She was working for CBS in Egypt when she received an important assignment to film a Dutch ship believed to have armaments that was crossing through the Suez Canal. She helped film this and hid a tape so the Egyptian police would seize a second decoy tape. The tape made “CBS Evening News”.

Kotb then obtained a mews reporter position in Greenville, Mississippi. She became an emergency evening news anchor replacement, starting nervously greeting viewers with “good morning” for the evening broadcast. Despite several errors, she was given another chance. She improved and became the 5 pm news anchor. Afterwards, she worked in other cities’ news stations, including New Orleans, before winding up in New York.

In 1998, Kotb became a correspondent on “Dateline”. She covered anti-American protesting in Pakistan when demonstrators started chanting against her and her film crew. Her assignments took her to Turkey and Iraq. If Iraq, she handled interviews while gunfire surrounded the area during the interviews, as those being interviewed were used to it. She went to Burma and interviewed Sun Kyi, under house arrest, in Kyi’s first interview in 11 years. Since it was illegal to interview Kyi punishable by seven years imprisonment he posed as a tourist and hid the tape with Kyi in a shoe. She filmed in Afghanistan not realizing she was in an area that had land mines. Numerous assignments followed.

Kotb’s work process at “Dateline” was to cover a story, write the script, select of the parts of the taping for the segment, screen it, review, and then send the segment to the senior producers. She and staff often had to argue with the producers and their ideas for revisions. The Executive Producer would be the decision maker. The segment would get its first screening. Further revisions would be made for a second screening. The Legal Departments and Standards and Practices Division representatives would attend the second screening. Standards and Divisions would seek a sense of balance in the presentation.

Kotb began hosting a TV show “Your Total Health” in addition to her “Dateline” duties. She developed breast cancer that required a mastectomy. She decided to present her experiences with breast cancer on the “Today” show.

Kotb sought to host the final hour of the “Today” show. She made an appointment with Jeff Zucker, NBC Universal’s Chief Executive Officer, and pitched her causes. She got the job sharing hosting duties with Ann Curry and Natalie Morales. Morales became the 9 am cohost and national correspondent.

NBC decided to pair Kotb with Kathie Lee Gifford for the final hour of the “Today” show. Gifford has left television eight years prior. Gifford wanted to first meet Kotb. They had a multi-hour initial meeting.

Gifford didn’t use an IFB to hear control room advice during the live show, as she had not used one before. Gifford convinced Kotb to stop using her IFB and to stop referring to notes. The two started clicking better and the show improved with their spontaneous exchanges. They even began drinking alcohol on the air. Kotb observed that “Today” show Executive Director Jim Bell is a good manager who gets people working together.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Behind the Seen by Charles Koppelman

Charles Koppelman. Behind the Seen: How Walter Murch Edited Cold Mountain Using Apple's Final Cut Pro and What This Means for Cinema. Berkeley, Ca.: New Riders, 2005.

It is the film editor who creates a coherent film by selecting pieces of film a director selects. A film editor needs to be both a specialized technician in the editing process and a creative generalist in choosing the correct final product of beauty. A film editor has to work well with a director's lead as well as knowing when to lead the director.

Walter Murch invented the N-VIS-O splicing system. This ides splice marks from the screen.

The film business involves an unpredictable future. Predicting that future is recognized by screenwriter William Goldman who observes in Hollywood "no one knows anything". Still, studios use tools to increase the likelihood of success. Moves are screened before test audiences. Scenes and endings to movies have been changed if test audiences don't like them.

A movie may have 500 years of work placed into its creation.

Film editing begins while shooting. Otherwise editing through perhaps over 40 hours of film could place adding months into getting a movie ready for release. This means the film editor travels to where the film is being shot.

The editing process often means working late and not having time to eat properly. Murch gets himself into physical shape beforehand.

Murch worked on sound effects and mixing on "The Godfather", "American Grafitti", and others. He switched to picture editing with “The Conversation". Others have made the same switch in their careers.

Director Francis Ford Coppola, after his success with "The Godfather", got the studio to agree to let him make "The Conversation" in order to then make "Godfather, Part II." "The Conversation" had to be made on a tight schedule before "The Godfather, Part II" began work. Coppolla thus was working on "Godfather, Part II" while Murch was still editing |"The Conversation". This was challenging since 10% of the screenplay was missing because it was never filmed. Coppola asked Murch to postpone editing "The Conversation" until "Godfather: Part 11" was finished. Murch opposed his and he finished "The Conversation". Murch won two British Academy Awards for editing and sound on "The Conversation".

Murch reedited a line in a crucial scene that changed one of the film's premise in "The Conversation". Murch felt, without the editing, the audience was missing a key point. Coppola agreed with the reediting.

Murch uses many notes formed with memos to the director. These memos of Murch were often 6 ti 8 pages. Murch becomes very involved in his work and communicating with directors.

Murch went to USC and worked for Encyclopedia Brittanica Educational Films and then Dove Films. Upright Moviola editing machines were used then. This machine had foot pedals to move film back and forth and a hand brake. The view was postcardsized, much smaller than what was seen on screen. The Moviola would sometimes scratch and destroy film. Murch would later use both the nonlinear Moviloa and the linear KEM.

Computes began being used for film editing during the 1980s. Computers stored lots of information and let editing be completed more quickl. The Avid computer editing system which also converted film to video cost $80,000 to $100,000. Most feature films budgeted for two Avids, with many using just one.

Premire editing machines appeared in 1991 for video use. The Premiere could not turn 24 frames per second film tin 40 frames per second film.

The Final Cut Pro (FPC) digital editing system appeared in 1999. Apple made it and Macinstosh users such as Murch liked it. Murch decided to edit "Cold Mountain" with FPC. THis was the first feature film editoed with $995 software. FCP was marketed as something between consumer and professional use. Many antiicipated how it would work for a feature film.

Murch worked with director Anthony Minghella. Minghella's style was to shoot a lot of material and reconsider the story and make revisions throughout the filming and editing.

Murch and Coppola had created the 5.1 sound formal with an automated mixing board. This allowed sound be heard 360 degrees in a theater. Coppola added speakers or rewired theaters to accommodate this, and paid for it himself.

Digial Film Tree worked with Murch. FCP, a Mac computer, and FCP software then cost under $4,000 compared to a Fast 601 with abilities similar to Avid which cost $13,00o. Digital Film Tree used FCP. They also used a DVCAM OSR 2000, which cost $15,000, which Sony loaned them.

The film editors decided the pattern that the negative cutter uses in creating the final film. The cut points are indicated by key codes. These codes are essential, as "Cold Mountain" was an index of 114 miles of film. An EDL list of cut points is important. A computer saves times in creating the EDL line.

It is important for a film cuter to know if an adjoining frame where a cut is made is needed for another scene. If this is the case, a duplicate, or dupe negative, is made.

It was found that Avid sometimes crashed and media was corrupted or lost. FCP crashes less frequently,

Murch edited "Captain Eo". This was a $20 million George Luca film starring Michael Jackson shown only at Disneyland.

Apple released OSX as an advancement over OS9. Yet many FCP systems continued using OS9 due to a lack of software and hardware development for using OSX.

"Cold Mountain" was filmed in Romania. Murch edited in a Kodak Cinelab in Bucharest. Murch viewed dailies by himself so so could view them without anyone's input. Murch read Minghella's notes during a second viewing that happened weeks later in preparation for cutting. Murch did not go to the sets, as he wishes to view only what is captured on film.

Murch recalls an old saying that movie production occurs in six stages, 1.) enthusiasm, 2.) confusion, 3.) despair, 4.) searching for those guilty, 5.) punishing the innocent, and 6.) rewarding the non-involved.

The general rule that one part of scritp approximates one minute of a movie does not apply to Minghella. When Minghella directed "The English Patient", its 121 page script was 4 hours, 2 minutes. This was cut to 2 hours, 42 minutes.

Hitchcock and Spielberg shoot exactly according to the script. Minghella frequently deviates from the script.

Murch track film in File Marker Pro database. Murch uses a bin to track trims, in case they are needed later. There is no industry standard for tracking film.

Murch observed that 30 percent of an initial movie is usually trimmed. "Cold Mountain" would be trimmed by much more and took much longer to edit,

Murch found some problems with FCP. Some images faltered. This was easily resolved by resetting the resolution on the computer terminal from "millions of colors" to "thousands of colors". There were problems getting the color corrected editing on the fly to operate properly. Murch corrected it later, since the problem was not resolvable. The Romanian Kodak technician did a good job and little additional color correction was required.

It is also discovered it takes a minute for FCP to load. This meant to took several minutes to lead several videos. Murch realized not to put all his work into one FCP filter.

Mirimax Film had a distribution deal where they provided half the financing for "Cold Mountain". The financing casts were expected to be about $80 million total for "Cold Mountain". Murch was asked to create a promotional film with already shot iflm to be used to attract another studio financier. A 25 minute sampler DVD was created. This helped show that editing with FCP worked.

Minghella fell behind in shooting. He was legally required to be finished by a date certain. Minghella sarted filming 2.3 scenes a day, a pace that would finish on time.

The first version of "Cold Mountain" was almost four hours long. This was too long for FCP to show without often freezing. It could not be shown to others. Murch discovered that rendering the audio solved the problem, as FCP could not play lengthy media with multiple filters.

Afterwards, Murch and Minghalla edited together for three months. Newly written lines were added. Scenes were cut while maintaining continuity. 48% was cut to bring it to an initial showing of 2 hours, 37 minutes plus 6 minutes for closing credits. The audience received comment cards. A focus group was able to discuss the film. 12 of 33 participated in the focus group said it was excellent and 6 said it was good. Some of those who didn't care for it found it predictable.

Murch many sound refinements getting the sound density, reverberation, and pitch he sought. He also used editing to sharpen and clean some lighting in some scenes.

Mirimax is known for its successful marketing. $30 million was budgeted for promoting and advertising.