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Dispatches from PyeongChang: Editing the Olympics (Part 5)

Growing up, I was always glued to the Summer or Winter Olympics. And as a young and ambitious video nerd, I wondered what went into the incredible number of visual stories being told. Luckily I crossed paths with editor Mike Api who is currently in PyeongChang, South Korea, freelancing for NBC in his second Olympic Games. Mike’s “unit” is in the “Control C/Graphics Ingest” unit — that is, the department that cuts promos, sponsorship enhancements, and a few athletic features (or in other words, packages and profiles).

Mike is sending me periodic dispatches from PyeongChang, where he's on day 15 in a row (or day 16, time zones are confusing) of editing the Olympics. This is the fifth installment -- check out part one to get started on his journey.



What role does music play in the editing you're doing? Are you selecting it, is it provided, are you assigned edits that use more prolific music or is it something that's used a lot? OR are you not using a lot of music at all for the stuff you're sending to affiliates?

The Olympics has a very distinct orchestral score that's instantly recognizable, but that's not really what we go for when we're cutting our pieces. There's definitely a time and place to use the huge epic tracks with the pounding drums and 60-piece orchestra, but if you use that all the time it starts to get boring. The big soaring John Williams stuff is mainly to set the atmosphere for the live broadcast and then maybe some end-of-Games recaps or epic montages, but for promos and features the score can be all over the map genre-wise. This time in particular, we're making a concerted effort to freshen it up and experiment with more upbeat modern stuff as opposed to the typical "Olympics" music and I think the results have been pretty cool. We have access to a ton of music libraries to pull from. We'll do a few pop songs each Games but it's mainly library stuff.

At this point you've been away from home for several weeks, and you're in double digit number of days working 12 hour shifts in a row. How do you maintain a level of creative inspiration to keep going? Do you ever hit a wall when working with this, or is that just not possible?

Sometimes it can be tough to stay fresh creatively but it helps that there are new sports each day, so you're usually looking at new angles of new people in new places, doing new (crazy) things. It can be a challenge for events like figure skating and skiing that happen every day, but you reference the previous day's work and try to do something a little different, or improve upon what you've been doing. It helps you stay sane instead of just plugging in the same formula day-in day-out.

Beyond that, I'm always inspired by the people I work with and am constantly absorbing new tricks and techniques. It's fun to watch each other's stuff and see how we're all turning the same footage into drastically different pieces. We often do the whole "where'd you get THAT shot!?" or "have you seen THIS one?" routine like the nerds we are.


You can get super close to the track.

I think you can easily hit a wall physically more so than creatively. Like any edit job, you're making hundreds if not thousands of decisions every day and there's always more to do. It can be really taxing mentally. Somewhere around Day 10 or 11 the schedule starts to catch up to you. By that point the Games are in full swing, you're cranking on pieces every day, maybe you've crashed a few last minute pieces or some you were really proud of were killed because the featured athlete got hurt. But everyone's in it together, supporting one another and keeping the energy flowing. Once you get past Day 10 it starts to move pretty quickly. I'm writing this on Day 15 and can't believe we're almost done. It feels like I've been here forever but at the same time the Games themselves flew by.

Are there any special pieces that are generally prepared for the end of the Olympics? Or does that change?

There are a number of annual ending pieces and they're the most anticipated cuts aside from the grand Olympic open (which is cut by longtime NBC veteran Phil Parrish). Everyone's got some kind of end-of-Games recap or lookback to do, plus there is the credit rollout to cut. We have so many credits that our rollout is about ten and a half minutes long. The big headlining end piece is called Remember The Titans and it airs right before the credit rollout plays. It's a piece we do every Olympics of the very best of the best, most epic shots and intimate moments, heartbreak, emotional victories, and the Olympic spirit. Everybody pulls selects throughout the whole month and it's really special when you finally see it all compiled together with the Titans score. We'll all gather together on Sunday to watch the finished cut. It's a great culmination of everyone's work (and some fantastic editing by the brilliant Josh Glaser).


OBS HD cameras along the track in the sliding center

Can you talk about going to see some of the events, like alpine skiing and skeleton? How was it different than what you saw in Rio?

I'm a little biased because I love the winter sports more than the summer sports, but the atmosphere at the events I saw was unbelievable. Alpine skiing is terrifying because of the sheer speed at which they hurl themselves down the mountain. It's completely insane. Skeleton was particularly cool because as fast as they look on television, you can't imagine how fast they whiz by you in person. I remember thinking to myself, "oh, these guys are out of their damn minds too." You can literally blink and miss them. That said, it does look like a lot of fun to careen down an ice flume like a superhero. We walked down the length of the track and stopped at the last big turn before the finish line to watch South Korea's Yun Sungbin (the guy with the Iron Man helmet) win gold amongst a sea of Koreans, which was incredible. Seeing the home team win gold and everybody going crazy is a really special experience.

You said you're coloring in the edit, out of curiosity are you doing any QC for picture and sound levels or is that a separate department that legalizes stuff?

We QC everything ourselves and take it really seriously. Everything that gets delivered first gets sent to our EVS supervisor, where he and usually the editor plus one or two other people will all watch the piece down before pushing it to the servers. Whoever receives the cut on the other side will also give it a QC pass before it's finally cleared for air. From the outset, we have really specific standards as far as audio levels, video levels, and the entire export process so it's pretty clear what we need to be delivering.


Logo wall inside the IBC

Have you personally developed any Olympic traditions aside from pin trading now that you've got the majority of two of them down?

(Does eating like an animal count as a tradition?) You can learn a lot about a culture by diving into their cuisine, which is why I like to house as much of it as I possibly can. I loved the food in Rio and lovvvvve the food here in Korea. You could put an old sneaker in front of me and I'd eat it if it had gochujang (Korean red chili paste) on it.

Aside from pins, a lot of people get a postcard stamped on the day of Opening Ceremony. It's a pretty unique little souvenir to have something with these specific Olympic postmarks on them. The last thing I need in my house is more stuff, but since they don't take up any space I might make this a new tradition of mine.


Opening ceremony post mark


Posted by: Kylee Peña on Feb 24, 2018 at 6:21:56 pm editing, olympics, mike api, avid

Dispatches from PyeongChang: The Edit Infrastructure of the Olympics (Part 4)

Growing up, I was always glued to the Summer or Winter Olympics. And as a young and ambitious video nerd, I wondered what went into the incredible number of visual stories being told. Luckily I crossed paths with editor Mike Api who is currently in PyeongChang, South Korea, freelancing for NBC in his second Olympic Games. Mike’s “unit” is in the “Control C/Graphics Ingest” unit — that is, the department that cuts promos, sponsorship enhancements, and a few athletic features (or in other words, packages and profiles).

Mike is sending me periodic dispatches from PyeongChang, where he's nearly two weeks into editing the Olympics. Check out part one to get started on his journey.

What's the workflow like for cutting the stuff you cut and then making it to air? What’s the overall technical workflow for ingesting everything else?

The primary source for every network is OBS (Olympic Broadcasting Service), the official host broadcaster for every Olympics. They are a branch of the IOC and provide every media outlet [who has purchased the rights] with what we call the World Feed - literally every second of every event. Any game you see on TV was shot and recorded by OBS. The scope of their production is really impressive. They have cameras all over every venue, plus action cameras like the ones that race along the track/pool/ski slope/whatever, plus a bunch of high tech spidercams, drones, lipstick cams planted throughout the playing fields, on and on and on. Plus god only knows how many microphones dotted all over every playing venue. We get the World Feed plus textless "melts" - reels of the best moments from several different angles, usually in super high speed.

We also have our own production people filming and recording a whole separate slew of ENG material - true speed, super high speed, helicopter aerials, all sorts of fun stuff - on top of all the athlete profiles and cultural features we produce. Our stuff looks really filmic and helps add some color and texture to the broadcast. I have to shout out our ENG shooters for the unbelievable work they do - high-level professionals like Samson Chan, Aaron Mendez, and John Biggins provide us with some really astounding moments.

In addition to cutting sponsor enhancements, promos, and features, we're kind of the central distribution hub for all other departments as well as other broadcasters and venues. Our media managers ingest an ungodly amount of material every day, catalog it, and distribute it to my department. Loggers and PAs watch *everything* that comes in, subclip it, name it, and check it into Avid Interplay. Each editor has a producer in their edit bay, wading through the massive stockpile of material and digging out the gems depending on what our assignments are. PAs also do a lot of digging for shots and moments and even some editing. It's not uncommon for us to be in a pinch, with everyone crashing on their own pieces, and hand a project off to a PA to be cut. After all, they are the first eyes on the material and typically know the footage better than the rest of us. It's a great opportunity for these young bucks. Editors edit, producers edit, PAs edit, everybody's got their hands in the footage.

Editing wise, we're 100% Avid/PC based. Everyone's running on MC 8.9.2 with Symphony enabled, accelerated by these gorgeous whisper-quiet Avid Artist DNxIO boxes. We have a colorist making a color pass on select material upon ingest (usually scenics and specific major features), everything else gets colored in the edit. We work entirely in full resolution since it just wouldn't be practical (or necessary) to have proxies and then uprez later. We need to see everything in high res from the start and get it out as quickly as possible. After cutting, we'll color correct and either mix it ourselves or send it to our Pro Tools mixers in Stamford, CT if it's a bigger or more complex piece. Once we get the mix we export the uncompressed finished product to our EVS servers for playback. (Beyond just the regular HD broadcast, we also do a bunch of 4K HDR, VR, mobile, and even Snapchat stuff, all with their own unique delivery paths.)


Inside the IBC.

Can you give us an idea of how vast the infrastructure is?

It's mind-boggling. I have a hard time wrapping my head around the numbers because they are so comically high:

I think we have something like 2,500 crew members working here in PyeongChang, plus another 1,000 back home in Stamford, CT, some more at 30 Rock in Manhattan, some out at CNBC in New Jersey, plus more in Denver working on Olympic Channel stuff - where most of these sports than only get seen every few years have more regular coverage. This year we're doing about 2,400 hours of coverage (120 something hours a day), around 1,800 of which is live. We deploy 150 of our own cameras and 2 helicopters to accompany OBS's massive arsenal (they had 1,000 cameras in Rio). We have 15 or 16 edit rooms here in the IBC, plus another 15 spread out amongst the venues. I heard we take up around 72,000 sq ft of space within the IBC, which sounds about right. Everything is connected via fiber but I couldn't begin to guess how much cable was used to build the infrastructure. All I know is the 6000mi transfers from PyeongChang to Stamford, CT are lightning fast. The engineering team behind the build are mad scientists, man.

On the media side, it's equally as bonkers. Beyond ingesting the World Feed, our media managers also get about 3-5TB of new ENG material plus another few hundred GB of helicopter stuff every day. There's hundreds of GB of graphics, hundreds of TB of specialty promo footage, and as of today (Day 9) our projects drive is already about 600GB full. That's a lot of metadata! We also have a massive archive of all of our footage from past Olympic games. Storage-wise, we have somewhere in the neighborhood of 2.2PB (or 2,200TB). Like I said, mind-boggling.

When you are working on location, do you have much interaction with the locals? How do you try to experience life through their eyes?

Absolutely! Every Olympics has a local crew of staff and volunteers that work all the events, direct people where to go, assist with translations, man all the security stations, handle all the food, act as local concierges, everything. Getting to know the locals is one of my favorite parts of the job. I mean, why travel around the world if you're not going to meet new people and experience different cultures? My team and I do as much traveling in the country as we can, exploring nearby towns, eating where the locals eat, visiting cultural landmarks, just trying to immerse ourselves in the local life.


A day off in Seoul makes for good Instagrams.

Another great way to meet people is Olympic pin trading. Olympic pins date back to the very first Summer Games in 1896 and are a whole world unto themselves. Broadcasters all have their own unique sets of pins, as do equipment vendors, sponsors, specific venues, host cities, everybody. I've got some from NBC, BBC, Avid, Anton Bauer, CBC, and some classic ones from the 80s. All you have to do is ask for one (typically best to do in the very beginning, as supplies quickly evaporate once more broadcasters arrive at the Games). The local volunteers are here every day with us, so they're essentially our co-workers. Trading pins with them is a really easy way to forge a bond and make someone's day. I've had some really rough days turn around because a local kid was excited that I gave them a cool pin. For us, we go to Olympics every few years so we amass a pretty sweet collection of keepsakes, but for the locals working around us, this may be the only opportunity they have to get some.


Mike's pin collection so far.

[Below is an exchange from Rio that I'll never forget. My friend Karl (on the right) and I were coming into work one day at about 2am, about halfway through the Games. We were both exhausted and really struggling to maintain our energy. On our way in that day, this stoic security guard - who hadn't said two words to us the entire time - stopped us and gently pointed to the pins on Karl's lanyard, asking to trade. In a matter of seconds this guy went from stone-faced serious business to ear-to-ear smiles (as did Karl). He was proud of the Olympics being in his homeland and just wanted as many pins that said Rio on them as he could get. We made his day, he made ours, and believe it or not it gave us a little boost to get through the last week of the grind. All because of a little pin.]



Which past Olympics would you have liked to work?

I really wish I could have worked the Sydney, Barcelona, Torino, London, and Vancouver Games because they're all places I either love or have always wanted to visit. From a historical standpoint, of course I would have loved to have seen the Los Angeles '84 Games and the Miracle on Ice in Lake Placid '80. Honestly, I'm still in disbelief that I get to work any of them.

NEXT: Read Part Five!


Posted by: Kylee Peña on Feb 22, 2018 at 5:43:33 am olympics, post production, editing, avid

Yes, Adobe CC Video Apps Updated at MAX



[I'm at Adobe MAX this week. You can also follow me on Twitter for more frequent updates and/or breakfast-related observations.]

It might only be Halloween, but Christmas has come early for Premiere, After Effects, and other Adobe Creative Cloud video apps users.

At IBC, Adobe announced its next round of integrated workflows and performance enhancements. This morning at Adobe MAX, a creativity conference in Las Vegas, those updates were released into the wild.

If you’re only recently accepting that Final Cut Pro 7 is probably not going to keep working for you forever — especially considering Apple’s unsurprising recent announcement it won’t be supported in High Sierra — maybe it’s time to look at what Adobe Creative Cloud has to offer because some of the updates will seem a bit familiar. The rest of it – from VR to AI – could hardly have been fathomed the last time FCP7 was updated.

Today’s release includes announcements sprinkled throughout the year, including Motion Graphics templates from After Effects to Premiere, which allow ease of use of graphics packages for lower thirds and bumpers.

Virtual reality is now possible inside Premiere, with editors being able to work while wearing VR head-sets. VR mode in Premiere and VR Comp Editor in After Effects will allow VR producers and editors to take the next step forward in immersive storytelling, scrubbing the timeline through the headset or switching between different formats to make sure it’ll work no matter the platform. Audio editing in VR allows audio to be determined by orientation or position as well.



Character Animator 1.0 is now available, with many changes to its core functions including accurately matching mouth shape thanks to Adobe Sensei, Adobe’s artificial intellifence and machine learning platform. Sensei also drives auto-ducking in Audition, which automatically lowers soundtrack volume during spoken dialog.

“Adobe continues to lead the creative revolution, driving modernization and innovation that will accelerate the creative process across all platforms and devices,” said Bryan Lamkin, executive vice president and general manager, Digital Media at Adobe. “Today, we unveiled a new generation of Creative Cloud, with a wide spectrum of capabilities—from new experience design, 2D animation and 3D rendering apps to an all-new, cloud-based photography service. These tools enable creative professionals and enthusiasts to express themselves and reach their full creative potential anytime, anywhere, on any device.”

And maybe most important for us video nerds: the ability to open multiple projects and share projects with locking, as well as continued support for more formats in the timeline. Team Projects should become a solution for collaborative workflows that many users have been demanding for many months. Keyboard shortcut mapping has also been creatly improved with a visual shortcut editor.

Having multiple projects open means being able to have a more traditional, streamlined workflow: splitting acts up into projects, having multiple episodes available, or just being able to pull from a template project in a tab-based structure.

Project locking allows users to lock projects in order to alert others when a project is currently being edited so other users cannot overwrite edits. Users can assign read-only access to those that need it for viewing purposes only.

Both of those updates will be familiar to Avid and FCP7 users, as many Premiere users have been trying to find workarounds to edit this way for quite a while.



While many of these features have been in beta for a while and have had reviews hitting the internet in the months since, putting them to work in real working environments will be the real test in seeing how Premiere continues to take hold, especially in high level workflows in Hollywood. Premiere has already been hitting LA hard, being the NLE of choice for David Fincher’s “Mindhunter” series, Al Gore’s “An Iconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power”, and the feature film “6 Below” among many others.

There will surely be more for Adobe fans from MAX this week as the creativity conference continues through Friday and includes MAX Sneaks, a session on futurist technology being worked on at Adobe. Follow along online with MAX keynotes: https://max.adobe.com/sessions/max-online/sign-up/


Posted by: Kylee Peña on Oct 18, 2017 at 2:00:52 pm adobe, premiere, after affects, max, fcp7, avid



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