What the eye doesn't see ...

3 replies [Last post]
tom hardwick
Joined: Apr 8 1999

When I worked in Sweden I was asked to edit miles of Super 8 holiday footage for a doctor and his wife. He was far to busy and she had no idea of the technicalities. The Abdulfaters were wealthy and lived in a posh house, would I come round once a week for 6 or 8 weeks to go through years of their holiday footage and edit it down for them?

Certainly. They paid me handsomely by the hour, set me up in a study, brought me tea and bikkies and left me to it. I worked hard. Neither of them were cinematographers in the
slightest and a huge amount of footage
was vastly over or underexposed. At the end of the first day I'd cut 800 feet of film down to about 200, and the waste paper basket was literally overflowing with the dross.

Mrs Abdulfater came in. "What's this?" Her eyes bulged, she pointed a trembling finger at the WPB, over flowing as it was. I tried to explain that firstly it was all the totally unwatchable footage, everything of
value was safely on the saved spool and that secondly unspooled film takes up much more space than spooled film and it just LOOKED like I'd thrown lots away.

She wasn't having it. Quite angrily she lifted some from the bin and held it up to the light. I tried to explain that even if it appeared perfect there was good reason for it to be discarded - maybe it was simply because it was a repeat shot and I'd kept the best one. No no, I was to go through it all again and not throw away so much. I was ushered out.

I returned for the next 7 weeks, beavering away in the study. I never met the doctor but
found favour with the Mrs as when I left the bin had a few snippets, some totally white and completely black footage and no more. Every evening I'd tidy up, spool the film, put away the gear and say my goodbyes.

When I'd finished they asked me if I'd show them the product of my long hours. Sure, I'd be happy to. They insisted on paying me even for that evening when I was showing them their own films. I remember I fought against this. And at last I met the doctor.

The evening went well. I took along my Noris projector (that ran cassettes inside it to
supply background music). I showed them their holidays in Egypt and Paris and gosh, they were delighted. I complimented them on
their photography, said how good the holidays looked. We shook hands, I left, and never saw
them again.

You may have already sussed the trick, and the trick was bound to the adage that what the eye doesn't see, the heart doesn't grieve over. The first editing day taught me the
lesson, and so for subsequent visits I came prepared. I came prepared with some black and
some bleached out footage of my own, leaving it in her bin whenever I left the house. I knew she'd empty the bin so I knew I'd have to bring more "reject" footage every time I came.

And every time I went there I went in a big floppy pullover. You guessed it - I simply wound their miles of reject footage around and around my chest, pulling the jumper over my head to easily hide it and get me as far as the car. Everybody was happy. They glowed with pride at their now watchable films, they'd brought the editor under control and hardly any of their footage had been cut out.

What the eye doesn't see ... Which is what editing is all about.


chris thomas
Joined: Apr 23 1999

Fiendish! This should be reproduced in CV - although it's not directly related to computers, or video for that matter, it's still a valuable analogy for editors everywhere. A modern parable!

I only hope they don't read it...

Chris Thomas. http://cptv.co.uk - over 30 minutes of streaming video to bore yourself with!

tom hardwick
Joined: Apr 8 1999

Gulp - never thought of that...

Alan Roberts
Alan Roberts's picture
Joined: May 3 1999

You cunning little tyke. A smashing story that deserves a wider readership. Yet more proof that, like John West, you only get the best when you throw the rest away.

Get my test cards document, and cards for 625, 525, 720 and 1080. Thanks to Gavin Gration for hosting them.
Camera settings documents are held by Daniel Browning and at the EBU
My book, 'Circles of Confusion' is available here.
Also EBU Tech.3335 tells how to test cameras, and R.118 tells how to use the results.