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Cutting
Face to Face
Without face-to-face.

 

Face to Face is a documentary which tells the story of a rising street artist from Ireland, who moved to London with the faint hope of earning her living through painting. Whilst the film was being shot in late June and early July, the rushes were sent 9,779 km to Taipei for editing. 

Fully aware of the logistical hurdles this decision would entail, Ziwei Zhao, the producer and director, chose to go with it anyway because of ‘the styles and skills’ that she saw in her editor’s previous works. 

Ian Chen, whom Zhao recruited for the editing role, currently freelances from Taipei, Taiwan. His broad portfolio expands from experimental, short fiction, and music videos, to TV series. Follow this link: https://ianchen.co.uk/films to see what inspired Zhao to enlist him. Moreover, Chen's technical acumen was instrumental in addressing challenges, including coordination with dubbing and the intricacies of online editing.

Preping the rushes

Given the film’s estimated screen time of 35 minutes, and that it has hence an unrealistic window of ten days for preparing the first cut once the photography process concludes, editing commenced simultaneously with shooting. 

But because Face to Face is a documentary project, ‘we didn’t even know what to expect regarding how much rushes we’d be getting each day’, admits Zhao.

As the project would later unfold, on any shooting day, London could produce rushes of 30 to 300 GB. To facilitate a remote editing arrangement, Zhao and Chen needed a solution to streamline this vast and recurring data transfer to Taipei.

They turned to WeTransfer.com, which receives uploads from one user and sends the download link to another. The ‘receiver’ could retrieve the files uploaded by the ‘sender’ by simply following the link. The sender, on the other hand, with a premium account (US$23.00 per month), may use this fashion to transfer unlimited amount of data. 

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Editing session

One of the primary reasons editors are often on-site is to allow VIPs the immediacy of making real-time changes. The traditional back-and-forth of emailing comments and waiting for revisions isn't appealing to many.

However, a common misconception about remote editing is that it lacks this real-time interaction. In actuality, during remote editing sessions, screen sharing tools can enable VIPs to voice their opinions and witness changes in real-time.

‘At our first editing session, Ziwei thought we were going to do this email loop where she gives me a batch of instructions at a time, and I execute them and render and send her the mov file. Then she is going to tell me what she likes and doesn’t, and we’ll start over again. 

Chen remembers his reaction to Zhao’s proposal, ‘I was legitimately frightened by the idea. I said, “no, ma’am…no, I am going to share my Avid screen, and you’re going to tell me what you’d like me to do.”’

Conclusion

‘Remote editing has proven perfectly practical,’ says Chen, ‘at least for short features like Face to Face’, of which the first cut runs just under 40 minutes. ‘It means the complexity that entails could be communicated through using video conferencing tools, such as Zoom.

‘So long as that remains the case, remote editing poses a viable option for productions.’

 

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