The Butler

I have just put the finishing touches of my cut of episode 5 of the TV Show Ayeye which is to be broadcast in 2 weeks on DSTV’s youth channel Vuzu Amp. It’s a 48 minute drama with lots of dialogue. It’s centered around 3 mid 20 year old boys (read playas) who work in the advertising industry and start their own company after being disillusioned by their current place of work. It’s never dull.

So, my workflow for cutting dramatic TV is I cut the scenes as I get them trim, tweak and pull but only a little. Unless of course I feel it needs a little more work but generally I leave it alone once I am happy with it as a stand alone scene then when I have every scene cut I then start work on assembling the episode and the real work begins. Shifting, deleting, trimming, tweaking, pulling, pushing, cutting, hacking etc etc etc. until eventually you arrive at a cut that you want the director or in my case the producer (directors at the company I work for never ever get a chance to sit with their work, it’s a producer driven environment. Don’t get me started on that, well maybe in a later post.)

When I am doing the big stuff it’s mostly a stop start process, I start, see or hear a problem, stop, fix, start, rinse repeat. Once I have it bent into the shape I want I will view the whole thing from start to finish and… Yep you guessed it, stop, fix, start. The problem with this part of the process is that the flow is interrupted and I lose the sense of the pace of the episode.
I recently discovered Cut Notes which was created by those wonderfully talented people over at Digital Rebellion. I already have Pro Maintenance Tools and it’s an incredibly useful piece of software in its own right. But today I am focusing on Cut Notes.
If you are not aware of it, Cut Notes is an iPad or iPhone app that allows you to control your NLE and make notes which are synced to your sequence through some clever trickery called science.
The app interface is essentially a set of pre-defined buttons which when pressed save the button command and the time code at the point of pressing into a notes feature which can be edited on the fly. Once you have reviewed the whole episode you can go to your notes and start fixing the areas you have plotted.

The app comes with 4 pre-designed templates for Shot Selection, Editing, Mixing and Grading. The best feature by far is that you can create your own button sets designed for your specific needs. So if you want to create a single button set that incorporates mix and edit or edit and grade you have the power to create right in the interface. Each button can be individually color coded so once you have made notes you can very easily see by the color identifiers where most of the changes are required.

Examples of the predefined buttons sets include notes for, bad cut, add transition, missing dialogue, too dark, add music, too quite, too loud. And because you can create your own buttons sets you can tailor make labels. For instance I have a button set for specific sound effects i tend to leave out in the rush, so I have buttons for iPhone ring, Samsung ring, message alert tone, add buzz track, tighten scene, end scene here, rework scene, clumsy cut and so on.

I love it. It allows me to completely watch an episode without the mad rush to write something down on a piece of paper, which you probably won’t be able to read at the end anyway and there is less attention away from the screen. Simple quick look down, locate button and click, all done. Because the app can control your NLE you can still stop start, rewind fast forward, pause and play without losing time code or play head sync.

It has definitely improved my final process and I am slowly introducing it into other parts of my editing life. The shot selection interface I think is my next point of attack. I have already used it for mix purposes and it seriously beats writing shit down or having to pause while I write the note or get distracted by writing the note while it still plays. And my sound guy loves it when I bring it into the mix viewing as it means we get thru the session much quicker if I am just pressing a button on my iPad and going back at the end of the process to fix.

So really, it offers great continuity and flow to your work which makes for a much better episode of television in my opinion.

There are a few things I have on my wish list to improve the programme but I shall reserve that content for a later time.
In the meantime, download and start using Cut Notes. It’s available in the App Store and only costs $12.99 and is worth every penny.

Also check out for more handy software that will save you loads of time.

Later dudes