Logo Rob Buckley – Freelance Journalist and Editor

The world is non-linear

The world is non-linear

The last Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies was the first to go in for non-linear editing, but it wasn't until the next, The World is Not Enough, that the process paid off. Rob Buckley looks over the editor's shoulder.

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Long-running series are almost exclusively the province of TV, but there's one movie franchise that's so big its films are called shows and are known to the crews by numbers: Bond, James Bond. Bond 19, aka The World is Not Enough; is the latest in the 36-year-old series, now nearing the end of post for a November release.

“It's incredible,” enthuses visual effects supervisor Andrew MacRitchie, “when you watched the movies as a kid, you never imagined you'd be working on a Bond film.” Bond 19 is his second, although, with a CV that's as thick as your average Tolstoy novel (including Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Princess Bride and more recently The Mummy), he's no neophyte. Its predecessor, Tomorrow Never Dies, was the first to see non-linear editing, but short production and post-production schedules (just ten days between completing filming and the first preview) and the rawness of the technology meant non-linear didn't fare as well as hoped.

“There's always a problem when the gear's not 100% reliable,” he says. “The crew breaks, comes to see rushes with the editors, only to find problems with the telecine, the machines have broken down and the rushes aren't ready - and this could go on for two or three days. We also had sound problems and the bits of software we were using weren't completely compatible with each other.”

In keeping with Bond's military background (as the SAS says, proper planning prevents piss-poor performance), MacRitchie and editor Jim Clark sat down with their consultants, Root6, well in advance of production to iron out the problems discovered on Bond 18. Backing for this came from Eon's producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson, both very pro digital technology, and veterans of the Tomorrow Never Dies non-linear initiation.

Together with sound recordist Chris Munro, the group worked out a system that would minimise the work the editors would have to do to deliver each day's all-important lunchtime synch rushes. “That's an unmoveable. Everyone breaks for lunch then views the rushes,” says Root6's Graham McGuinness. “In terms of production confidence, it's a biggie. Lunchtimes are almost a barometer of the production's perceptions about how the cutting-room is functioning.”

With the luxury of a two-week period before first rushes, after setting up the equipment the group even had a chance to dry-run their system to iron out problems. When filming finally started, footage would be sent over to the labs each day, then be telecined as before, but connected to the telecine was an Avid Media Station. As the colourist recorded the graded footage on to DigiBeta, a duplicate was created in a Media Composer connected to the telecine. This then went straight into one of four Film Composers used by the editors on the Bond set at Pinewood.

Meanwhile, sound came straight from DATs recorded on-set. Rather than simply input the contents of the whole tape , the team of four editors was able to pick which parts of the tapes it wanted: Munroe had connected a PalmPilot with logging software to the DAT recorders . The sound recordists on all the filming units could e-rnail the logs to the editing team so they would know exactly where takes were recorded on each DAT, and batch digitise them in .

“We weren't using dazzingly new technology,” says McGuinness, “but it was the way all these things came together that was important.” Working non-linear meant savings not just in time: mag transfers for sound were avoided. Says assistant editor Mark Sanger, “last time, we spent £70k on mag transfers just for the lunchtime rushes screenings. It was already in the system, but they had it transferred to mag so they could run the mag with the print. I guess that's £70k just down the drain.”

VHS tapes of footage could be with any of the four film units around the world the day after editing to match scenes. Second and third units were in France during this year's severe avalanches. With weather so bad that they could only shoot a couple of hours each day, the crews were able to catch up the shooting schedule because they could view their own work after only a couple of days.

The main glitches came when director Michael Apted changed his mind about shots overnight, for instance, and brought in new requirements in the morning. The editors would then have to cut the print down to size, re-cut it in Film Composer and have it ready for lunchtime; they still managed it.

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