Avid Systems Help Living Straight Take Flight

For filmmaker Sally Hampton, choosing to work without the backing of a studio or big-name director for her second TV project proved to be a classic catch-22. Without the studio, she couldn't get the funding; with the studio, she would get the funding but would not have been able to keep complete artistic control of the project.

Then, she found the Avid Xpress software, and her needs were answered. "I was able to complete the project on my own, and it looks like I spent a million dollars on it when I really did it for $45,000," says Hampton.

Hampton's project, "Living Straight," is a half-hour TV pilot based around a transitional home in Los Angeles, which helps people just out of prison transition their way back into mainstream society. Most of the ex-cons at the home were in prison on drug charges. Hampton believes that the pilot could open the door for a series on substance abuse the way "MASH" did for war and "All in the Family" for racism.

While the content may prove too meaty for network television, Hanson is confident she has a product technically superior to what's currently on the small screen. "The end product actually looks better than ninety percent of what's on television," she says. "What I have finished, you could air on TV, and the amazing part is I did it out of my house." Night shooting was done right outside Hampton's front door on Crenshaw Boulevard in Los Angeles, made famous by film director Spike Lee and the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

In addition to using her own home as a base for the project, Hampton borrowed a friend's apartment and his Avid equipment. Another friend, Warren Bowman, did the project's editing with Hampton at his side. "I would come in and work while he [the owner] was at his day job," explains Bowman about the unusual working conditions. "Then, he would come home at night to do the visual effects work."

The offline was completed using Avid Xpress version 4.0 software. The set-up included two monitors, an Apple G4 CPU with an external Medea disk array and a D-9 deck connected to it since the owner used the workstation mainly for visual effects work. The final version was then onlined on an Avid|DS HD system.

For Bowman, using Avid systems for the project - which was on a tight deadline and a tight budget - made all the difference. "Since our time on the system was limited, every bit of productivity we could get from each day carried extra weight. In my experience, no other editing system out there can let me cut dailies as quickly as an Avid system," he says.

Bowman was impressed with Avid's myriad features - but it was the package as a whole that won him over. "The elegance of the trim function alone is enough to make the difference, but the whole user interface is more productive for me. Mapping the keyboard is great for me. While assembling my first cut, I can get from point A to point B with a minimum of keystrokes. I am a lefty, and I like to mouse with my left hand while I use my right hand on the keyboard. And Avid requires me to do very little 'click and hold' with the mouse, which should be important to all editors. Repetitive Stress Injury can end a career. For fine cutting and making changes, there is no question. I can get the same amount of work done by pushing fewer buttons on an Avid system."

Bowman was also pleased with how easy it was to transfer the project from the offline session to the online. "The nice thing about using [Avid Xpress] was that when it came time to online the HD version of the show, my Avid sequence went right into the Avid|DS HD system. So finishing the show on HD was pretty painless."

Monkeyland Audio, a Los Angeles-based audio post facility, did all of the audio for "Living Straight." Gene Semel, director of operations and marketing at Monkeyland, says he was relieved when he heard that the project was edited on an Avid system. "When we get it from an Avid, I know that we're not going to have any issues," says Semel. "It is the standard in the industry, and it makes everyone's lives easier."

Monkeyland Audio uses nothing but ProTools software for all of its projects. ProTools software and the Digidesign division are an integral part of Avid and its postproduction workflow strategy that has made life easier for Semel and his co-workers. "We know that we're going to get the support that we need," he says. "We're all now on the same page."

Hampton says she couldn't imagine leaving the Avid fold. "If you have editors working for you, you have to give them what they need and want," she says. "And that's Avid." Hampton is duly impressed with what the Avid software allowed her to accomplish in such a short time. "An individual filmmaker can do a lot today with the new Avid technology," she says. "It's all you need."

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