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Stuff happens. Sometimes you are totally screwed, but now and then there are solutions to help you resolve the problem.

Repairing Broken Timecode

It's fairly easy to end up with a tape with a timecode break in it. All it takes is removing your tape from the camera before you finish using it, or shuttling it around in the camera, and failing to resume recording exactly where you left off. Either of these moves will cause a timecode break.

Final Cut Pro doesn't like timecode breaks and will give you an error if you attempt to capture over an area in your tape that contains a break. In some cases this means you won't be able to capture the clip at all.

If you find yourself in this situation, the solution is to dub the tape onto a new DV tape in one continuous pass. The dub will have consistent timecode all the way through.

Correcting for Insufficient Pre-and Post-roll

Final Cut Pro may give you a similar error message if you attempt to capture a shot at the beginning or end of the tape and there's not enough pre-or post-roll for the deck to cue up.

If a shot that you absolutely must have lies on the very beginning or end of a tape, and Final Cut Pro won't let you capture it because it doesn't have adequate pre-or post-roll, follow the same procedure: Just dub it onto a new tape, ensuring that this time there's ample room around it, and capture from the new tape.

Fixing an Incorrect Reel Number

Whenever you put a new tape into your deck, Final Cut Pro will remind you that you really ought to set a new reel number for it. Even so, if you're thinking about how to solve some esoteric editing problem (or what to buy your husband for his birthday), sometimes you'll OK the dialog box and continue working without ever changing the reel number. Usually you realize this only when you look up in horror to see 15 clips already logged with the incorrect reel number (Figure 4.26). A useful, undocumented feature in Final Cut Pro can easily remedy this. You can multiselect a bunch of clips in the Browser and change all their reel numbers simultaneously by changing the reel number of any one of the group.

Figure 4.26. If you need to change the reel number for a group of clips, select the group and change any one. All the other clips will update as well.


Steven Mirrione has cut an interesting variety of projects, alternating big-budget studio pictures with smaller independent films. There's an arresting intensity to all of his work, from Doug Liman's Swingers to Steven Soderbergh's Traffic. At the time of this interview he was just finishing Soderbergh's latest, a remake of Ocean's Eleven (originally made in 1960 with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Angie Dickinson).

Michael Wohl: Can you describe your overall editing process?

Steven Mirrione: I begin with watching the dailies. I don't take very detailed notes, but when I'm watching, if there's a particularly interesting moment, or something I think I might forget, I'll write it down. “Look what that actor did there,” or “Look how the camera reveals that.” And then, maybe there's a moment where I know, “OK, this is a pivotal part of the scene.” And so I'll either go forward or backward from there, and shape the whole scene around that moment.

What happens after the rough cut?

A film gets created in layers. First you're dealing with the arcs of the individual scenes, then the arc of three scenes together, then the arc of the entire movie. That's why it takes so long to edit a movie. It's not because it takes six months to get it to where you can see it from beginning to end, it's because once it's all together, that's when you can finally start to do the work of the movie instead of the individual scenes.

Do you read the script before you start editing?

Absolutely, otherwise I would be completely lost. But scripts have a tendency to be slightly overwritten. It's the nature of the beast. A writer has to communicate what's going on in people's heads somehow. And a lot of times that comes out through dialogue. When it gets performed, however, suddenly words are coming out of their mouth that don't seem natural because you can see so much in a look or an expression.

That's exactly what happened at the end of Traffic, when Michael Douglas is giving that speech. That speech was twice as long as what's in the movie, and what happened was the way he delivered it, you could feel all the things that the script had him saying in the second half of the speech. A lot of times you end up cutting lines of dialogue, or huge sections of stuff, because an actor did something more efficiently with the way he raised his eyebrows or moved his head. Something as simple as that can make three paragraphs of dialogue completely unnecessary.

How does the budget affect your editing style?

Well, on a movie like Oceans Eleven, we shoot it, we cut it, we do a preview screening. There's money in the budget to say, “Okay, there's this whole section here that we really can't fix editorially; let's go back and do some re-shooting.” You can't do that with an indie film. You either get it or you don't and you just have to make everything work.

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