The Assistant Editor

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A look at pay.

Frame.io

Primary Responsibilities:

  • Logging / Tagging
  • Syncing
  • Organizing
  • Conforming

But the definition of an AE is changing quickly. The effects of technological advances and shrinking budgets generally mean fewer people are wearing more hats in post production. If assistant editing is your dream, a multi-faceted skillset will greatly increase your chances of success. This post from Reddit is very revealing:

There’s a bit of language here, but this video is equally insightful.

An assistant editor’s responsibilities require attention to detail and good organizational skills. They will accompany the footage from the moment it arrives at the post house until after picture is locked and the editor’s job is completed. There is often a high degree of technical ability expected from an assistant editor.

A seasoned editor may even trust an assistant enough to let them begin a rough assembly edit of a scene. In this case, the job requires both a technical ability and creativity.

On The High End

We’ll start with the high end because understanding the scope of a larger movie makes it apparent why an assistant is mandatory. Big features and TV shows require not just one, but many assistant editors.

First we’ll look at the process from the editor’s perspective. Eddie Hamilton discusses X-men:

Josh Beal talks about editing big TV and we get a look at assistant editor/editor collaboration:

East of Hollywood

But there’s a lot of work out there outside of Hollywood-level movies and TV. AE work is sort of divided between “Scripted” and “Unscripted”. Unscripted work, like documentaries and reality TV, generally benefits a lot from an assistant editors help. These jobs are easier to come by if you’re looking to “break in”.

They type of work you’ll do on reality shows is surprisingly similar to what you’ll have done in your home movies. Poorly exposed, low bitrate GoPro footage, for example, is a staple of the reality world. Much of an assistant editor’s job is making sense of a variety of camera formats so the editor doesn’t have to. This may include the following:

  • Sound sync
  • Timecode verification or addition (many consumer cameras have no timecode)
  • Reel name verification or addition (some cameras don’t assign reel names and this metadata can be crucial to conforming in some workflows)
  • Transcoding (these files are converted from a consumer, file-size-friendly codec, into something that plays well in editing)
  • Misc. (consumer cameras can have all sorts of anomalies that an AE may tackle. Technical things like data vs legal level mismatches, frame rate or color space oddities, and sometimes even visual things like heavy distortion could be corrected by an assistant.

Good Resources

Books for those interested:

https://www.routledge.com/products/9781138691339

Good AE site:

http://willblanksblog.blogspot.com/2016/11/a-starter-guide-to-becoming-assistant.html#4

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