Lenihan has been editing animated film from the age of 17 when he got a job at the Wyatt Cattaneo Studio as a trainee in 1969.
“We did a set-pattern type of work, there was a constant stream of animated commercials promoting Home Pride flour, Dunlop tyres, and Tetley teabags. An effects library was created to serve those productions. There was a certain car horn, a certain tyre screech… In this way it shortened post-production time.”
He left Wyatt Cattaneo in 1980 and joined Halas & Batchelor as a freelance editor working on Heavy Metal and commercials. He formed his own post production company in 1982 and lists among his clients the Animation People, Bob Godfrey, Bubis & Grieve, Moo Movies and Alison De Vere.
He has recently been working on the Masters of Animation series for John Halas. Two of the 13 half-hour programmes are on computer graphics so all the material was on video. This was edited off-line at Lenihan’s premises before going to a major video facility house for final editing. Off-line is a system using time-code numbers that are on the master one-inch tape. The tape is copied onto U-matic with the time-code numbers burnt in on the picture. “When you have completed all your cutting on U-matic, and you require a transmission quality video master, you go back into a one-inch studio, which is very expensive, and remake your programme to time-code numbers. Time-code is based on a 24-hour clock so if you have your material on thirty different tapes there is a good possibility of ending up with the same time-code on some of them. You have to know your time-code numbers, your box numbers and the content of each sequence. It is not as difficult as it sounds, it is just a matter of keeping a log of the video material.”
“The creative decisions are made off-line, which is cheap to run. Basically it is one person and a couple of machines, as opposed to an outside facility house where you are sitting in a room full of equipment worth around a million pounds and have four or five other people involved. With off-line you are not rushed because it is not costing £200 an hour. You can sit there, have a cup of tea and think about it – if time allows, because even in off-line, time runs out sooner or later.”
Off-line has its limitations; it is only capable of making cuts, not dissolves or other opticals. These are carried out at the one-inch stage. Video editing does have some disadvantages when compared to film. “If you want to lengthen a sequence, when you are working on film you merely cut in one of the out-takes and whatever you put in becomes the new length of the film. With an off-line, if you wanted to put a ten-second sequence in the middle of a video you have to re-record the remainder again. If it is a half-hour programme you have to sit and watch it again. A lot of the time you ‘dump-off material, that is, you re-record from the cutting copy to make a new cutting copy rather than go back to your original tapes. If you have only one or two tapes and they consist of long sequences, no problem, but if you have sequences spread over twenty videos it take time to remake the whole thing again. In ‘lovely old film’ it’s cut straight in and it is finished.”
An example of this came during the production of the computer programme for the Masters of Animation. They had the half-hour tape completed and thought they were wrapping it up, when suddenly they had to take out one of the videos because they could not get permission to use it. “We had to find another sequence and edit it in. This is where the dumping-down and dumping back on comes into action. You can’t sit there and remake the whole programme. The quality of the cutting copy does deteriorate each time it is re-copied but it will eventually be remade on one-inch.”
One of the advantages of video is the original source is never cut. “In film the editor uses a cutting copy but if they make a cut that is no good the only way to rectify it is by putting back the trims, whereas in video you can record the sequence again, make it longer and never cut your original tape.