There are some video programmes that can be completed on U-matic without haying to go to one-inch. The finished result can be an off-line cutting copy. “Industrial promos and the like can be produced reasonably cheaply without going on to broadcast standard.” There are a lot of video houses specialising in this type of work, and it has virtually killed off documentary film editing.
Phonetic break-downs can be very time-consuming. The editor normally has a script of what the character or object has to say. “This is only a guide because the words may have come out differently at the recording session.” The sound is recorded in a radio studio on ¼ inch tape and transferred onto magnetic film for editing. The sound track is then put onto a synchroniser which has sound pick-up heads. The sound is amplified by a small speaker on the editing bench. The film is wound by hand so the resulting sound is full of wow but hand operation means it can be moved back and forth with ease to find a particular spot. “You start by breaking the track up into words. You then take the word break-down and analyse it for individual sounds. The easiest way is to chose letters that are easy to pick up on a track. D’s and T’s stand out because they are hard sounding letters while S’s can be picked up as ZZZ.”
The letters are marked on the back of the sound film at the place where they occur. These are written as the sound they make rather than the way the word is normally spelt, so ‘I’ becomes ‘EYE’, for example, ‘BY’ becomes ‘B-EYE’, ‘BIKE’ becomes ‘B-EYE-K’ and so on. Lenihan points out this is his particular way of writing it, other people may use ‘IY’. The sound ‘I’ is heard over a number of frames so the word is spread out to fit. This information is then written out on charts. “A thirty second commercial would normally be put down on bar sheets and the animator would use these to time out his film and mark up a dope sheet. That’s O.K. when you are only talking about 47 feet. As soon as you get into 200 or more feet it involves a great deal of time transferring from bar sheets to dope sheets. Hours can be spent on this. We recommend companies use what we call side strips. These are the track side of a dope sheet. It gives them the opportunity to stick this chart straight onto their dope sheet. They can actually cut it up into sequences if they so desire. Some companies have each scene in a different folder, in such a case, if they are cutting between a sequence while a word is spoken, they can cut the side strip where required for a new scene. Or if they wish to re-tune a whole track on a breakdown chart they only have to insert extra frames on the chart, and then relay the information back to the editor.”
Recently Lenihan undertook the phonetic break-down of 180 minutes of the TV cartoon series Count Duckula for Cosgrove Hall Productions, involving twelve weeks work. Lenihan was called in to help because Cosgrove Hall are tied up with their forthcoming feature film.
He is currently working on Alison De Vere’s latest project called The Black Dog. It is an 18-minute special for Channel 4 television, which has been in production for one year, and is due to be finished in March. He worked on De Vere’s previous films Café Bar and Mr. Pascal, both are now classics and award winners. He also edited her Silas Marner, a 30-minute animated film which was televised Christmas 1983. “Alison Dc Vere is director, animator, background artist – a one-man-band, and The Black Dog is looking very, very good.”
Lenihan is on the board of ASIFA, and has been busy organising a series of meetings for members. An evening of Biographic films proved very popular and he has plans for other meetings in a similar vein. “It is up to members to tell us what they want and we will do our best to provide it. Other countries, such as the USA have very active associations, and with the right support we can make the British group really exciting.”
Printed in Animator Issue 18 (Spring 1987)