Hello all — I’ve been following the conversation going on over at missamerica’s record RE: EDITING and wanted to address some of the issue’s raised by her and the community at-large. My response turned out a bit too long to post in the conversation thread. (for those keeping score — Length: 2 Brevity: 0) Anyhow, I thought it might be better to post as a text record.
RE: RE: EDITING
Thank you for contributing your feedback to the collaboration. I appreciate the time, consideration and passion that were so apparent in your record. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what you’ve written and the responses and conversations your record inspired:
For better or worse, HITRECORD isn’t always necessarily going to be all-things to all-people, all-the-time. For each production, we sincerely try to make as many areas of production as collaborative as possible. Sometimes, the nature of the project will allow for our community to be extremely involved. Other times, deadlines and complexity will require Joe and the HITRECORD staff to exert more control. More complex projects + Doing this for the first time = unfortunately and unavoidably (sometimes) inefficient practices. With HITRECORD, it has been our experience that this is a cost of doing business, I’m afraid.
Speaking of which — I have read some discussion regarding the degree to which HITRECORD is a business. We always say that the point of HITRECORD isn’t to make money. Indeed, HITRECORD’s commitment to creating high-quality art with our open-collaborative community of artists is the most important thing. Whenever we enter into any business relationship, on any level, protecting our community, our creative process, and the quality of the art we make are at the very top of our list of priorities. At the same time, HITRECORD the company does have business commitments with very real contractual obligations and consequences. For HITRECORD ON TV, the company was contractually obligated to deliver eight episodes of television on time and on budget. These time and budget constraints gave us less flexibility, so it sometimes dictated how we produced certain segments (more on that later). Alternatively, hitRECorderly #3 did not have much in the way of time or budget constraints, so we were able to work closely with editors from the community — which required a bit of back and forth.
As I’ve previously stated, I do understand and appreciate that our communication and process can and should be improved. I believe this will come in multiple forms: direction/outreach from the HITRECORD staff via our site, improving our creative methodology, and enhancing/refining and further developing our feature sets for the website. These improvements will take place in the short-, mid- and long-term, and I’m happy to keep you updated on these developments along the way.
Before I go on to address some of the points folks have raised in this thread, I’d like to attempt to neutralize some of the more harsh charges that I’ve read in this and some of the other conversations in this collaboration:
It’s always our intention to make art in the most positive, fair and even-handed way as possible. Of course, no methodology or technology is perfect. Inevitably, there will be artists whose work was mistakenly unattributed, resourced, or otherwise uncredited. I’d like to acknowledge that it’s in all of our best interests to make HITRECORD the most fair creative environment as possible. And that’s what we try to do. Great work is created when everyone feels great about how it’s created. We know that no one system can ensure 100% oversight. So, we’ve gone to great lengths to create (and refine) as many initiatives as possible to provide opportunities for the community to review and give feedback.
And, as with anything creative, sometimes we’re going to disagree. We’ve always said that HITRECORD is not a democracy. We don’t vote or encourage active competition (Tournament of Champions, notwithstanding!). I believe one of the things that makes our company unique is that we have a definitive director that gives our productions a point of view. As a result, certain types of aesthetics will be favored over others. And, while I believe we can point to a number of instances where community editing was included in the TV show, editorial control is one of the ways we pull our point of view into focus. That distinguishes HITRECORD from other creative environments that do not have a clearly defined creative perspective.
RE: EDITING REQUESTS
Throughout season 1 production we put out numerous requests for editors. We asked for editors to cut down testimonials, to work on edits of live shows, to add cutaways, etc. Indeed, it’s in our best interest to try to incorporate as many community edits into the show as possible. We sincerely put a lot of thought into every request before it goes out to the community — we don’t want anyone to waste time or resources on anything that may not at-least have the potential of being a part of a production. (Or, that doesn’t serve some creative development role). And, we do intend to incorporate the results from our requests into production. However, the task of editing is an inherently iterative process. It’s a very difficult art form to provide direction from afar.
Season 1 was a learning experience for us all, and a lot of time was spent discovering what the structure of the show would be, and a lot of time was spent iteratively editing each segment. Joe is the kind of director that sits with editors for hours (and hours) on end (if he’s not the one editing himself). This resulted in changing course sometimes, which is often a large part of the creative process—especially when you are making something from scratch for the first time. It’s certainly challenging to direct a small team of people down uncharted territory. Putting out more requests with perhaps conflicting direction, I believe, would have been damaging and perhaps even more frustrating for our community.
Another aspect to our production that lent a heavy-hand to how some portions were edited is with regards to the technical delivery specifications. Some technical information to consider is the total running time (TRT) of each episode. Our show has a TRT of 22 minutes, 50 seconds and 0 frames. As mandated by our network, the show must be broken down into 4 Acts. And, there must be a 30-second (and 0 frames) video between Act 2 and Act 3. ALSO — each act has to start on frame :00 and end on frame :29. This is called “locking to time.” And although we are working in 24fps, we need to “lock” at 30 Drop Frame FPS (as required for broadcast.) Hours and hours and hours (and hours) were spent shaving and adding frames to bumpers to accommodate these delivery specs. (It truly is a painstaking process that only our in-house editor can do — and can only be done once all the elements are in.) As a result - we often had to ‘reconstruct’ bumpers contributed by our artists — as was the case with ‘Trash Truck’ contributed by RyanPatrick. We were also required to provide a “Textless Master” of each episode to the network for international distribution. (This is a copy of our episode without logos or text. And, this delivery detail was provided to us quite late in the production process, I’m afraid.) Having to deliver locked cuts with these specs, combined with ‘title-safe’ requirements by broadcast and the overall uniformity of font and text color, we regularly needed to reconstruct each bumper from the site. Such was the case with the “re: fantasy - birds bumper” contributed by missamerica. Dr. Gory first downloaded the footage she used by KevinMaistros to remove the logo and text, and then had to cut down that footage for time. We did not approach missamerica to re-contribute a new bumper because delivery was imminent and all the resources were available on the site. It was a mistake to not provide missamerica with attribution and, I sincerely apologize for that. However, there was no malicious intent here. That said, I’m not sure if I understand how Dr. Gory’s treatment of missamerica’s bumper isn’t considered a remix, or why it is different than anything else we create on HITRECORD. We have attributed missamerica’s resource in the profit proposal docs, just as we would any other resource. (BTW — bumpers are some of the very first places we go to add / cut a second or two of time; and therefore, they are occasionally re-edited last minute by staff editors.)
It should be noted that the final construction of each episode really does come together in the edit. Big decisions are made when Joe sits with Dr. Gory in the final 12 - 16 hours before we lock. And, while I believe we can refine our process to accommodate more accurate attribution and crediting, for Season 1, we were on the hook and delivered in the best way we could.
Now, having gone through Season 1 and having experienced the process and delivery schedule — and, this was a suggestion made by Marya (http://www.hitrecord.org/records/1539685) — I think it would be very helpful to post all the delivery specs: fonts / colors / title safe dimensions / frame rate / etc. to our community before the season starts. This will obviously save time and also cut down on the possibility of records going unattributed. With Season 1 completed, I think it will be a lot clearer what we will be looking for in Season 2. There will be many Season 1 examples to refer to when requests are made for editors, and I anticipate our Request Videos for editors consisting of specific examples, which will help make the creative direction clearer now that a lot of the structure of the show has been defined.
RE: EDITOR CREDITING
We are always working on ways to improve our crediting process to get it even more accurate. With thousands of resources throughout the season, we approach the Credits from as many vantage points as possible. With the television show, unfortunately we are only able to lock Credits once picture is locked. This gives us very little time to compile all the Credits and Resources. That said, we do devote as much time as possible in the Crediting period to evaluate each record and create the Credits in the fairest way possible.
However, there are times when our system fails. Case in point: missamerica's "RE: Fantasy" bumper (as used as an example above). This was a remix of a KevinMaistros record - our Editors were in fact influenced by missamerica’s bumper and wanted to put a version of it into the locked cut. Because the original resource by KevinMaistros was on the site, the most efficient way to re-cut this bumper to make our episode delivery deadline (and to meet our delivery specs) was to download the original resource and add text that differed from missamerica's edit of the bumper. In this case, the KevinMaistros video resource was credited, and missamerica was not. This was an oversight that we take full responsibility for.
As I mentioned earlier, our system is not perfect. But we continually take great steps to make it as accurate and fair as we can in each case. For example, because our show is not yet distributed internationally, we were able to work out a way for several thousands of contributors to view it and make sure we didn't miss any resources. We do this because we want to hear the community's feedback and we want to provide the episodes to as many people as possible so we can revise the Profit Proposals in any applicable cases. And, we'll be monitoring each comment from the community to ensure the Final Profits reflect the feedback that we receive.
For Season 2, I am aiming to have as many as possible staff-remixed/repurposed bumpers uploaded to the site so that we can resource them immediately for the community to review. I think this will help the community in identifying any instances where our resourcing is off in a more-timely manner. That being said, some bumpers may be made rather last minute, so we will do our best to upload those records as quickly as we can in the event that we have time to alter any Credits.
One comment that I wanted to address from the conversation thread in missamerica's Text Record was a comment from LilacAmy11 which read "I made several edits of Still Here, including one that used many of the same cuts and footage from The Bed that was used on the show." I can personally verify that the final edit of "Still Here" was done by Joe himself. He exclusively cut with "The Bed Song" footage that tdolan contributed to the collaboration and “Still Here all shots” contributed by PaulBeauChamp. Joe retained many of the cuts that were in the original edits contributed by tdolan + PaulBeauChamp, but did not include cuts from other community contributions. This is why the Profit Proposals do not cite any community edits. Of course, we will be reviewing all the Profit Proposal feedback from the community within the coming weeks and will be replying to any comment in the "Still Here" profit doc that asks a similar question. These kinds of questions are all a part of the Profit Proposal process.
It is with utmost sincerity and respect for our community when I say: it does not behoove any of us (on staff) to unfairly copy or mis-credit members of our community. If/when this happens we try to do our very best to correct it. And, of course, that goes for the community profits. As far as we’re concerned, the community profits are the exclusive property of the community. It’s always our primary goal to make sure that credits and payments are most fairly accounted for. The goodwill and morale of our community depends on it and we don’t take it lightly.
RE: RAW FOOTAGE
I understand that the requests we made for Editors to work on parts of the show like the Opening Monologues were limited to the footage that the community uploaded from the live venue shoots. Each live venue shoot resulted in terabytes (upon terabytes) of footage being recorded by our television camera crews, and we simply did not have the capacity to transcode and export all of the footage, upload each clip, and then organize all of the footage on the site. It pains me to have not been able to deliver this — especially since Joe personally (and consistently) made this very request himself. For Season 2, I’d like to have more media managers on staff so that we’re able to make more of our footage available to our community. However, given the massive amount of data, manpower, and equipment this would require, I cannot guarantee that we will be able to deliver all of it, unfortunately.
Having said that, there was a detail in missamerica’s text record that I don’t believe characterizes her interaction with our Community Director. In her record, missamerica asserted that we refused to upload the live footage. Normally, I wouldn’t raise my hand about something such as this. (And, perhaps this is me being sensitive, as we really do try to have at least pleasant exchanges when artists from the community reach out.) missamerica did indeed reach out to Matt about uploading live-venue footage. She knows that we are always open to questions from the community and we devote as much time as possible responding to questions that arise. However, by saying we refused to provide the footage indicates an unwillingness on our part to do so — and, that wasn’t the case.
Below is the answer that Matt provided on Sept. 26th:
"...with the TV Production, we bring in terabytes of footage from each show, and are shooting with cameras as varied as the SONY a99, the NEX-5, and even 4K. The footage immediately goes into our AVID editing systems - which takes a lot of time. But then to transcode each clip, render, and export (along with all the time that would then go into uploading, organizing, and quality controlling) it is simply something we cannot do…"
I share the frustration of not being properly equipped to deal with this issue. And, as I stated above, we will make the effort to try to get more of our footage onto the site for S2. However, this response wasn’t a refusal, it was a statement of constraints.
The John Waters piece was also brought up as a Collaboration where raw footage we shot was not uploaded to the community. In this instance, three parts were edited and uploaded for the community to edit cutaways to. We did this for a few reasons:
1. We very rarely, if ever, release raw footage of any subject other than Joe. And, in the case of Mr. Waters, there really wasn’t much room for negotiation on this. There are times when we may be able to provide alternate camera angles, but for the reasons expressed above, we did not have the capacity. 2. The conversation was over an hour long. We knew the points that we wanted to hit and we knew the approximate length of the pieces. So, we pre-cut it to provide context. 3. If we didn’t cut it down and instead asked the community to do so — after already knowing the sections we want to hit on, would we not be sending our editors down a rabbit hole? 4. We spent an incredible amount of time choosing cutaways, adding music, taking away music, etc. — exclusively using the interview footage we uploaded to the site. As such, I believe there was more than enough material for an editor to create a unique take on the interview.
Pretty much the same principles apply for our Green Screen shoots. Additionally, to stay on schedule the cuts have to be locked when we present them to the community so that the community is working with footage that is locked to time. Also, visual artists need to be provided with a locked cut so they can illustrate and animate accordingly. Our production schedule simply does not allow for us to upload all the takes of raw footage and see what results from community edits. Joe's process as a director, as I alluded to earlier, is to sit with an editor and construct the edit.
It is my sincere wish that we learn and grow from our experiences in Season 1. I believe we’ve already started to do so and that we’ll be stronger going into Season 2. From the beginning, it has always been our desire to have as many tools and ingredients available to our community as are available to HITRECORD staff. And, while it’s never our intention to stack the deck in our favor — the reality is that for the reasons I listed above, and others that are bound to come up in the future, sometimes that’s going to happen. And, as I said said at the top — I think that’s okay. Every production is going to have it’s own way of producing itself. For better or worse, some projects will be inherently more collaborative than others. In the end, I believe in the balance we strike overall from year to year.
Thank you all, again, for your ideas and passion in proposing how we make HITRECORD an even more streamlined and efficient production company. The future is bright, indeed.
Friends and collaborators,
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