ATTN JMS: Explain editing process, please?

B5JMS Poster b5jms-owner at
Sun Oct 29 06:25:51 EST 1995

Subject: ATTN JMS: Explain editing process, please?
+  1: Oct 17, 1995: szgilalu at ()
*  2: Oct 21, 1995: straczynski at
   3: Oct 23, 1995: swd2 at po.CWRU.Edu (Steven W. Difranco)
   4: Oct 23, 1995: blanks at (Dan KayBee)
   5: Oct 24, 1995: dsbailey at (Doug Bailey)
+  6: Oct 24, 1995: zafaran at (Zafaran)
*  7: Oct 28, 1995: straczynski at


From: szgilalu at ()
Lines: 30

In some posting *somewhere*, when somebody asked about
the awkward transition in the Susan/Talia scene and was something
edited out, you explained that it was a "rough cut" and
that you thought you "shot enough"(?) for the scene but
ended up short, etc.  

I know I'm probably mangling this badly, but basically
as I read the explanation I was nodding uh-huh while
thinking, "I am *completely* clueless as to what he's talking

Could you explain a little about the editing process?
What makes for a smooth transition?  What makes for a "bad"
(ie. jerky, too abrupt) transition?  Is coming up short on
footage bad because you, um, have less frames for
transition?  (and I have *no* idea what I'm talking about).


                                                            .       .
*                                                               .     .   .
*******************************************************    .       |       .
*The past tempts us, the present confuses us,         *        \   |   / .
*and the future frightens us...And our lives slip     *  .   .   \ | / .    .
*away, moment by moment, lost in that vast terrible   *   .  ------*------ .
*in-between.  But there is still time to seize that   * .    .   / | \  .   .
*one last fragile moment, to choose something better, *     .  /   |   \ .
*to make a difference.........                        *  .     .   | .     .
*******************************************************       .     .   .


From: straczynski at
Lines: 41

     Film is shot on the stage, then transferred to video, which is then
digitized onto the Avid computer editing system, which holds every take of
every scene.  A scene is shot many times from various angles: wide master
shot, three-shots (3 people), two-shots, singles, raking twos, close
ups, medium shots, extreme closeups and sometimes downshots (as well as
CGI and composite shots).
     John Copeland and I then go in and work on the version of the episode
edited by the director to do the producer's cut.  We sit down with the
editor, and go scene by scene.  The usual construction is as follows: you
get a wide master shot so we know the geography, where we are, and where
everyone is in relation to that.  Gradually you go closer, into threes or
twos, then singles or closeups for dramatic emphasis, coming out into the
master from time to time when someone has to move, or to break the sense
of claustrophobia.
     When you get in close, you have over-the-shoulder shots, meaning
you're shooting past one character's shoulder to the other.  Then you do
the same thing in reverse, so you see both sides of the conversation.
You do these one at a time, for lighting purposes; you light one side of
the room for the scenes looking left-right, then move the camera and the
lighting around for the scenes when you're on the right side looking
left (or, phrased differently, you light for Susan looking at Talia,
then Talia looking at Susan).  The actors then do the scene again, with
the camera on the other side.
     The actor has to be very careful to always repeat each movement
exactly; if he picks up a teacup on the word "quibble," he has to make
absolutely sure he picks up the cup on exactly that same word, every
time, in every take, in the same way, in the correct hand.  If the
actor slips (and this sometimes happens), when you go to show the other
side of the scene, you suddenly find you have a matching problem; in
the shot over Talia's shoulder to Susan, the actor raised a hand; in
the shot over Susan's shoulder to Talia, the actor (generic term that
includes women) *didn't* raise a hand.  So when you edit the two, you
have a matching problem.  You can sometimes avoid this by just staying
on one side of the shot, but then you can't get the other character's
on-face reaction to what's being said.  And in that scene in particular,
we *needed* to see both sides.


From: zafaran at (Zafaran)
Lines: 37

In article <46j2ju$d36 at>, dsbailey at (Doug Bailey)

>In article <199510210956.AA117619413 at>, 
>straczynski at says...
>>have a matching problem.  You can sometimes avoid this by just staying
>>on one side of the shot, but then you can't get the other character's
>>on-face reaction to what's being said.  And in that scene in particular,
>>we *needed* to see both sides.
>Why not just use two cameras, filming from different angles?  If you
>positioned them right you could keep them out of each other's view.
>Or is this not practical?
>dsbailey at

It depends on what you're shooting.  Situation comidies are shot with
three video cameras, but they only use one very-limited set except on
-very- rare occasions.  Babylon 5 is shot on film like a movie.  This
gives a much vaster range of possible sets, but it also entails more
complex lighting arrangements, more complex camera movements, etc.  And
scenes can be setup and painted with light to create specific moods.  Look
at the scenes in Gray 19 in "Comes the inquisitor" and see what the
director and lighting designer did to fulfill JMS's vision of this scene. 
Then compare it to "Married . . .with children" or "Rosanne" or a soap

Take care,


Patricia A. Swan      zafaran at       zafaran at
76571.2671 at                    [domain name pending]
Carolina Word and Data Services, 213 Franklin St., Bryson City, NC


From: straczynski at
Lines: 7

     Sometimes we do use two cameras, yes, usually for big scenes with
crowds and lots of action.  If you're in tight, it's hard to light for
both sides; the light generally goes just one way, then you relight for
each new angle.  Even so, we run two cameras often, but not always, as
the cost is prohibitive.


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