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Old October 2nd, 2002, 03:23 PM   #1
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Frontline Doc worth seeing

The Avid list got a post today from Steve Audette.
Mr. Audette has been an editor for Frontline for years now.
He is one of the very best in the business IMO. His latest
effort will air this Thursday night and is worth seeing.

here are his words about the story and production:
===========
Friends,

My latest editing effort “The Man Who Knew” will broadcasts this Thursday on PBS at 9pm (check local listings). It will be my 31st Documentary and the third time my program will be the season premier of FRONTLINE. I also believe that it is also my best work ever.

“The Man Who Knew” is the story of an FBI agent who felt the threat of Al Qaeda to America since 1995. His name was John P. O'Neill, and long before the world knew about Osama bin Laden, Agent O'Neill was obsessed with him. He warned his superiors at FBI headquarters of the growing threat, but headquarters thought O'Neill was too much of a maverick, and they didn't listen to him. In the summer of 2001, O'Neill was finally run out of the FBI. He took a new job -- as head of security at the World Trade Center, where he died on Sept. 11.

This documentary painstakingly follows O'Neill's investigation of Al Qaeda, his personal crises, and his struggles inside the FBI bureaucracy, In the end, "The Man Who Knew" is an investigation of the internal power struggle at the heart of the FBI's failure on Sept. 11, but for those of us who have come to know Agent O'Neill in the course of making this program, it is also a journey into the heartbreaking irony of his death.



Those interested in the technical aspects of cutting, the details follow:

For this 90-minute documentary, 100 tapes were shot on Beta sp anamorphic 16x9 with M/S stereo audio (not the interviews). About the same number of tapes were acquired for stock footage. In the Avid, we blew-up the 4x3 stock to match the 16x9 footage with a resize. Then letter-boxed the whole thing. (Exactly when is that digital future going to happen?)

I cut the show on a Media Composer 1000 xl at 15:1 (I love to pack my drives). I worked with eight audio tracks (1-4 mono. 5-8 stereo) I edited the sound design at the same time as I edited the picture. Just before the mix I spread the audio out over 16 audio tracks (keeping the M/S stereo stuff away from the rest of the stereo audio.

As part of my work flow, I digitized entire interviews and used script integration to match them up to their transcripts (Very handy when you are trying to get a guy to stop talking. Just find the same word with a period at the end -- double click, and drop it in audio only.) Once lined up, I never looked at the interview bins again - only the scripts. For the mix, I consolidated and then created two omf files. The first, audio 1-8 (almost 2 gigs with 90 frame handles) and the second 9-16 (also almost 2gigs). These two omf’s were copied to a fire-wire drive and sent to the mix house. It was mixed on a DSP workstation and then put back to a d-beta mix master. Audio 1&2 stereo mix, Audio 3&4 stereo mix minus the narration. The mix took four days. Sync was insured (though never a problem) by sync pops at front and tail that matched the sequence.

I also cut with up to six video tracks (layering effects – look close) but most times I collapsed them down to four. V23 I used for Titles, and on V24 I kept my letterbox resize handy for making dubs.

B-roll was logged shot by shot and digitized into bins based on location of footage. (All DC b-roll was put in the same bin.) I kept those bins in (funny) script-view so that I could scroll up and down. This way I could see a snapshot of my footage (or play it) with out taking up all the room of Frame view. I could also leave myself a note if I saw a shot I needed to get later.

The Video was re-digitized at 2:1 and color corrected (a feat of no small measure with the stock footage) on a symphony at FRONTLINE’s online rooms. The color is important to the emotion of my programs, and I get picky about it.

There are two morphs in the film used to cover jumpcuts (ok here comes the mail now… You all - I’m sure - will see them.) I believe that the truth of what these people had to say was more important than hiding an audio edit with a cut away.

I used Elastic Reality for the morphs. And it is the only tool that I still tolerate and use in classic MAC mode (besides my MCXL.of course). In fact ER does not work with QT 6 so I had to use a pict-sequence of both the “A” and the “B” sides of the morph. Bit of a pain, but the program is amazing. I took about an hour per morph to create.

All rostrum moves on stills (and documents) were scanned and created in Adobe Photoshop. They were animated in Adobe After Effects. All Text animation was done in the Media Composer’s Title Tool (yeah I know, but I’m kinda’ fond of it - and the creative possibilities of it’s limited function).

Well I’m sure there is other things I forgot to mention, but I need to cut my 90 down to a 60 for international distribution. I truly hope you all enjoy the show. I worked hard on it.


-- Steve Audette

PS. Please feel free to pass this along to anyone who might enjoy the show.
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Old October 2nd, 2002, 05:24 PM   #2
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Extremely interesting. Now I have to see the program. Thank you, Jacques.
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Old October 3rd, 2002, 09:40 PM   #3
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Just saw the Frontline show. Outstanding to say the least.

Profound, powerful. Makes you want to see more than a few people put up on charges of criminal negligance. Especially the former head of the FBI and the idiot ambassador to Yemen.
wow. Great stuff. sorry for the hyperbole, but this is powerful and angering stuff to any american who wonders how the FBI failed so miserably to stop 911 from happening.

Steve Audette you should be proud to be part of this one.

Joe
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Old October 3rd, 2002, 09:41 PM   #4
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p.s. Does that bitch (pardon my insult) ambassodor still have a job? I hope not.
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Old October 3rd, 2002, 10:59 PM   #5
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As usual, this was a powerful Fronline show. It was simultaneously discouraging to see yet another example of how badly people can behave in groups and jaw-droppingly ironic to see how Mr. O'Neal's life ended.

This must have been quite a challenge to edit. Since it was entirely recollective about subjects and events that were confidential, and were largely centered on political in-fighting and investigation, there was virtually no footage to add punch. The same stock footage rolled past again and again to break the visual monotony of the interviews. Mr. Audette must have gasped when he learned he had to fill 90 (wall clock) mins.

Honestly, though, I found myself listening to the show more than watching it after the first 50 mins. I do not mean this to be a ding on the editing whatsoever. Quite the contrary. It was just that this was not a visual story at all and could have been told just as well in text. So, the fact that the show held my visual attention for 50 mins is a tribute to Steve's editing.

Thanks again for alerting us to the show.
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Old October 4th, 2002, 12:30 PM   #6
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Watched the show twice and taped it. It's wonderful that this expose' was produced with such clearity and honesty. I hope the government watches it atleast 10 times and congress atleast 100. they could definitely learn something.

Thank you

Bruce
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