Scott Freeman is both a video editor and an engineer. This combination of skills has gotten him the nickname “Sherlock Holmes” due to his unusual ability to solve complex editing problems that slow down post-production workflows. Dozens of shows now use his techniques to speed up their workflow.
Freeman edited the first two seasons of Suits on the USA Network and has edited Hulk(2003), Covert Affairs (2010) and Idlewild (2006) plus more than 100 hundred other productions. He was online editor for the Emmy-winning documentary, Stardust: The Bette Davis Story, and was the online editor on the #1 hit song, Give It to Me, the music video by Timbaland, Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake.
Now, Freeman is a freelance editor and consultant who specializes in solving difficult editing problems.
Broadcast Beat’s Frank Beacham spoke with Freeman.
Frank Beacham: You have a reputation as a post-production problem solver. What kinds of problems do you encounter?
Scott Freeman: Video files are now edited at the proxy level. Actual camera masters are not being edited offline. When there is a swap out or replacement of video files for online editing, the process is infused with chaos and bugs. I try to solve these problems, which are still quite prevalent in post-production.
Frank Beacham: Are saying that most edit decision lists are not really accurate?
Scott Freeman: A simple way to put it is we are basically conforming different footage from different cameras to create an accurate link between the files. I’ve had clients where the UHD files were so large that the video wouldn’t even play on their computer. I come in, flag the problem and then draw up a diagram to streamline the workflow process.
For example, Netflix’s Ultimate Beastmaster was released simultaneously in six countries. There were a lot of obstacles to doing that quickly and I was able to figure out simple ways to fix the issues. That’s where the ‘Sherlock Holmes’ thing comes from.
Frank Beacham: Do you serve as a consultant or as an editor on these shows?
Scott Freeman: It depends. Sometimes I’m a consultant; sometimes I’m on staff. Because Ultimate Beastmaster is a union show, they put me in charge of editing. In that case, I became a manager. My status depends on the show. I usually get pulled in because there’s an emergency of some kind. I end up living there while solving a problem.
Frank Beacham: How do you approach problem solving?
Scott Freeman: What I try to do is pretend what computers are supposed to do. My ideas have nothing to do with Avid or Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve. Let me explain. It’s exactly like mailing a letter. You write a little bit of the letter and then add to the letter a couple of more times. But each time you add to the letter, you store the previous part you wrote. All the parts come together when the letter is mailed and then it reaches the destination.
In our case, instead of a letter, we deal with a picture made up of pixels. What I do is make it so that at any time we swap the contents of these pixels, or ‘envelopes,’ they all get to the destination intact.
Frank Beacham: I assume you mean various people keep adding to a video file along the way as it moves through the post workflow. You are able to keep the entire file intact as it reaches the final online edit and distribution?
Scott Freeman: Yes, I preserve the metadata roundtrip. Many shows have so many special effects. They embed stuff in the data along the way. The problem comes when they have to rebuild it. I match my techniques to the rule that if you type something, it should never have to be typed again. Once you do work, I want to preserve that work.
Frank Beacham: Do you use special software to accomplish this?
Scott Freeman: (Laughs) No, I use my brain. What I come up with has nothing to do with the computer, though it what the computer is supposed to do. I began as an authorized Avid teacher and then I worked with Resolve doing color correction. What happens is a color artist wants to work with Resolve and everything is baked into the file. The file is sent to Avid for video assembly. These are the deliverables everyone wants.
Frank Beacham: Is this .MFX data?
Scott Freeman: It can be, yes, but it’s really fluid. You can marry all of this data together, and it is automatically gathered throughout the whole process. We call it ‘versioning.’ Once the creative process is finished, it’s called ‘relinking.’ In the past, problems with relinking might have taken a long time to accomplish.
There’s a lot of talk now about working in the cloud. To me, the cloud is just storage. I look at the cloud companies potentially making a lot of money if they created software that would basically conform timecode and metadata of a file, store it in a certain remote location and save the user time making those files ready to conform. That’s the future I see for cloud computing.
Frank Beacham: It is hard for me to understand why the major editing vendors have not tried to deal with problem.
Scott Freeman: I don’t know why, but it is still not solved. I just want the artists to be able to do the editing and not spend any time looking at these issues. My job actually needs to go away, and the computer should just do its thing properly without a technician.
You can have all the hardware in the world. But what the user wants is to see video playing back correctly and accurately. I’ve figured out all the ways one could use Resolve or Avid, but I want a future where editors are not be obligated to use any one software. I see that future in the cloud.
Frank Beacham: Thank you, Scott.