After many years in this business, I’ve hired a lot of good editors. A good editor can deliver well-organized, creative work on time. All the boxes ticked. But good shouldn’t be where editors peak. Here at Boom Box Post, we are ultimately looking for more. We want to work with great editors. In the end, I’d like to think everybody does.
All great editors start out as good editors. The hope is that you evolve as time passes into an exceptional talent. I have seen it time and again here at Boom Box, often in very short order. An editor with lots of skill and professionalism decides to push for more. These great editors form our core team; the kind of editors you want to keep around. So what’s the secret? Well I’m happy to you that going from good sound editor to great sound editor is not that complicated.
Your Work is Not Complete When the Edit is Done
The first inclination when you reach the end of project’s timeline is to breath a sigh of relief, send your work off and move on. This is the single biggest gap I see between good and great sound editors. You need to think of your first pass on an edit as a rough draft, planning for multiple watch-downs to not only check but plus your work.
As far as I’m concerned, missing an element is amateur hour. A red flag that you haven’t taken the time to watch your work down after completion. My advice is to set aside at least a few hours after completing your edit, during which you watch down your work without any production sound or dialogue, to catch every detail and ensure full coverage.
After that, set aside another few hours to then watch it down again and look for spots that you can sweeten (put that extra sugar on top). It may be adding something big like an LFE element or something small like settling debris.
In total, you’ll probably want a half day for every week of work to accomplish these two tasks (if not more). Make this a part of your routine for each and every project. You may need to cut faster to find the time but it’s well worth it. This last step is where good work becomes great.
Teaching Others is the Best Way to Learn
Kate and I started Boom Box Post after a decade of experience in the industry. I can honestly say that I’ve learned WAY more in the last 5 years here at Boom Box Post than I did the last five spent at my previous studio gig. What changed? Boom Box is a teaching studio. We have a formal intern training program, through which everyone on the team is involved with hands on teaching. Beyond that however, the heart of our mission has always been to teach and share knowledge with one another.
I’m a firm believer that the sharing of ideas creates a studio greater than the sum of its parts. We have all become students of sound design. The greatest benefit has been in the overall growth of our team. As we take turns in the role of teacher, we research new knowledge but also reaffirm important lessons. The best way to grow as an editor lies within teaching, so find a way to be an educator in our field. It could be as simple as giving advice on forums or as formal as a classroom setting. The important lesson is to keep evolving.
Think About Where Your Work is Heading
Ok, this is a topic I have already covered in my post Downstream: Valuable Sound Designers Think Like Mixers but it bears repeating. Even thinking about those who will next handle your work is indicative of a great editor. This is next level thinking. Great editors know this and take the time to give the downstream chain much consideration. Covering topics like “Clip Gain vs Automation” and “Food Groups” there’s a lot of great information there for you to check out.
Questions are great, but is your question essential? Are you a problem solver or a problem creator? I know it sounds harsh but stick with me here.
Of course there are situations where you need to check in for clarification. I’ve hastily written many confusing spotting notes so I understand when one of my editors reaches out to see what the heck I mean. That’s fine. But certain good editors lack the confidence to simply make decisions, which can become time consuming for their manager. I’m not suggesting you never speak up but I do suggest you think long an hard about possible solutions on your own before sending that questioning email, Slack or text message. Great editors know the value of their manager’s time and self-manage whenever possible.