Assistant Editing
by James Jaeger

Apprentice editing is the entrance to assistant editing. Assistant editing is the entrance to editing. Editing is an entrance to directing and/or marketing motion pictures. Marketing motion pictures is the or an entrance to executive producing and/or writing. Writing is the best entrance to Directing once marketing, crew management and editing have been mastered.

Back to the editing department:

Footage should be picked up from the lab, by the Assistant Editor, along with mag transfers from the sound house, logged into the editing room, synchronized and ready for viewing within 24 hours of exposure. This would be the IDEAL SCENE.

Technical Procedure

The assistant editor receives the following elements in the editing room:

  1. Work Print (from the lab)
  2. Mag Transfer (from the sound house)
  3. Camera Reports (from the 1st Assistant Cameraman)
  4. Sound Reports (from the Production Recordist)
  5. Script Notes (from the Script Supervisor)
  6. Pink Slips (from the lab)

The Assistant Editor(s) must see to it that the sound reports, camera reports and script notes, (also referred to as Continuity Reports) do not come in AFTER the work print and sound transfers because the footage that enters the editing room must be accounted for. There must be a secure method of checking off the footage received and this is greatly hindered if the reports are not in the editing room. Picture and Sound (also "PIX" and "SND") must be checked off against circled takes. If this is not done,

A. Takes that were called for may not be present.
B. Takes that were not called for may be present.
C. Takes may have no sound.
D. Sound may have no picture.

When any of A to D happens, a to d also happens:

a) Dailies cannot be assembled in their entirety for the Editor and the Director.

b) Unnecessary confusion and delay is created in the editing room (especially in the case of B above).

c) Back order picture and sound cannot be ordered immediately and this piles up.

d) Photographic, sound, acting and directorial errors are not caught as soon as they could be and continuity suffers.

The film comes into the editing room, usually tails out, base out. It is accompanied by pink sheets that the lab makes. These sheets indicate what takes were printed and the negative roll that the circled takes are on. It is very important to store these sheets. Also, the lab sends a copy of the invoice. The invoice indicates what rolls are on the order. There is usually one pink sheet per roll of negative. The negative roll is listed on the invoice. These invoices should be given to the Production Secretary working for the Production Manager or Producer. This should be done daily.

The film is rewound to heads with emulsion out. The claps are located and the exact frame where the marker claps, where the blur stops, is marked with an X in white grease pencil. With the grease pencil, label the take about two frames towards the head of the clap. Get the scene and take number by looking at the slate with a loop. Then check the take against the camera report, the continuity report and the lab pink sheet to verify that it was called for and that all three agree with each other.

It is checked against the camera report AND the continuity report so that if one of them is an error, the discrepancy will show up immediately. Then the discrepancy can be further resolved by checking the sound report to see if the take was called for. Chances are that if two out of the three reports call for the take, one of the technicians (1st Assistant, mixer or script supervisor) just forgot to writ it down. Never go to the director to ask him: "What shot did you want and what shot did you not want?" This is extreme unnecessary traffic for the director and you can figure it out usually 99% of the time from correlating the reports.

Example: You are rolling down through the footage and you notice that you should have 240A-3. It is not in any of the footage that came in that day.


1) Cross check the continuity and sound reports. If they both are circled, order the shot.

2) If the shot is circled in the camera report and the sound report but not in the continuity report, look for any special notes that might indicate that the shot was to be held or not needed.

3) If no special notes, check to see if 240A-1 or 240A-2 were circled. If neither were circled and neither take was received, order 240A-3 immediately.

Example: You have shot 104-1 and it is circled, but shot 104-7 is not circled and you do not have it.


Check the camera report and the sound report to see if there is any agreement as to whether it was needed. If no agreement, order the shot; most likely the director would not have persisted in shooting the scene seven times to not print a shot other than the first take.

Basically, answering the question: "what will the Director and the Editor most likely need to have when they are ready to edit?", will indicate whether you are going in the right or wrong direction.

As you go down the roll marking the sync point and labeling the head, you should be checking off each shot that you physically have in the editing room. You should note on the continuity any shots that you do not have. The same procedure goes for the sound.

Again, PIX means picture. After each roll of the daily footage is logged in and labeled and Xed at the sync point, the roll is tails out. Place it into a split reelotch splicing tape on the base side over four sprockets. Wind the trk and pix into the 1000 foot reels and proceed attaching these pix and trk together in sync until a roll of about 965 to 985 feet is made up. Label the roll #1. The next #2, etc. PUT SYNC MARKS ON BOTH THE PICTURE AND SOUND ROLLS AT THE TAIL ("Tail Syncs").

Splice all the MOS footage together in script order, or as close as possible to it. Put it onto reels just like the sync footage. Label these MOS rolls as MOS #1, MOS #2, etc.

Take the rolls of sound and picture, on 1000 foot reels, to be coded. Always note exactly what footage leaves and enters the editing room.

Breaking Down the Footage

When you get the footage back the first thing you must do is log it by code number, scene number and action. Get a multiple-ringed notebook (or something very sturdy because the pages will be ripped back and forth many, many times in the course of editing). Make the following columns: SCENE, CODE START, CODE STP, ACTION. Have someone start with Sync roll #1, winding down it while reading the scene, code start and stop and action in brief to another person (who writes NEATLY).

Log the MOS in its own section of the log book the same way.

When all the logging is completed you will be able to tell immediately what any stray footage is.

Get out the script and start at the beginning of the sequence you are going to cut. Pull all the shots relating to that sequence by using a flange. Wind the trk and pix together, pix outside. Stash the roll in order on the editing bench rack. The editor will start to view them and then cut.

Boxing Trims & Outs

Have an appropriate amount of trim and out boxes. About 75 to 100 for a feature with 35,000 feet of workprint/trk/MOS.

A scene is an OUT when NOTHING is cut from it. It must be at once labeled "OUT". The out is then logged in the book with the code logs and stashed in a numbered box. A list of OUTS is helpful so that you do not have to go tearing back through all the boxes. It is not necessary though if you label the OUT boxes: 1-14, 14-17, 15-25, etc. Clearly, the OUTS are stored heads out, marked with a small patch of tape on the flat of the roll, as it lays on its side in the box. The scene number is marked on this patch of tape and also on the round side of the roll in white grease pencil. The roll is wound up without a core and secured with a good quality rubber band. The tape looses its stickem over time--that's why the rubber band. Box it and rack it in the OUTS section.

As the editor cuts, he puts his pieces of TRIMS in the trim bin. When the assistant editor is sure the editor has moved on to another sequence, he boxes these trims in the same way as the OUTS with these exceptions: The trims are gathered together and identified by their code number. Label the head of the trk and pix as each piece is identified. Make sure there are no mistakes in doing this. Stack them all together by similar slate number, head of the scene first, proceeding to the tail of the scene. Pix in front of its trk. Every piece is labeled as said; wrap a rubber band around the pack's throat at about five inches from the very head end. Roll the trim up on the flange, label it on the round with grease pen and put a label on the flat with a piece of tape and "Sharpie". Box it tails out in boxes labeled TRIMS. Note: All TRIM and OUT boxes should be identified as to production title and producer or company.

This is the basic hat of the assistant editor. Other duties include aiding the editor in any way possible. This includes always keeping the editing room fastidiously clean. Reason: You lose it, you have to find it and there is no hell like an editing room or an editing situation that has gone out of control. When in doubt, label it. Always, always, always, always, always complete cycles of action so you do not forget where you were. Do not do too many things at once and make sure that everything you start is handled to its complete end. You all to easily can get in the middle of something and then lose control of what you are doing by leaving it for some other thing. Patterns get wrecked up, film gets lost, and much time is wasted. These warnings apply even more strongly to the editor, but in continuity and story telling way.

Your job is to make it easier for the editor: filing, logging, handling, remembering shots, pulling shots, admin, order, neatness and then you can say you have been through "logical hell"and made it to the other side.

As of 1999, random access computer editing devices are drastically changing the face of editing and especially the roll of the Assistant Editor. Nevertheless, is is good to know where the technology came from and many films are still cut "the old fashioned way" as set forth in this memo.

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