Editing the Oscar Winning Film 'Skin' in Final Cut Pro X

Apr 09, 2019

Final Cut Pro X Design Manager, Colleen Pendergast interviews Editor Yuval Orr, and Post Producer Tim Harms from the Oscar Winning short film 'Skin'. They discuss the making of the short, and how Final Cut Pro X was used to create this Academy Award winning film.


- I am Colleen Pendergast, I actually run the design team for Pro Video, so that's Final Cut Motion and Compressor. Yeah. Like many of you I've been coming to NAB and this event watching Michael talk for a long time, because I was an independent editor prior to joining Apple about 15 years ago. So, super stoked to be here, super stoked to be up here talking to you, more excited about my mic, it's really cool. But even more excited, we got some really great guests that I want to introduce you to tonight. First of, we've got Yuval Orr. He's an editor, coming all the way from Israel. And he is the editor of Skin that just won the Academy Award for Live Action Short. Yuval's been doing a lot of feature films, documentaries, a little bit of shorts, obviously, just won for that. And he's won tons of awards already. He's won in Sundance, Berlin, Venice and Cannes, and he just got, I guess what they call, a full house with the Oscar. Tim Harms is also here. He was a producer for Skin. Tim is also a very acclaimed producer. He's worked with people like Neil LaBute, Sebastián Silva, Lee Krieger. He also has had plenty of films and won a lot of awards in festivals like Tribeca, Telluride and multiple independent spirit awards. So, please welcome Tim and Yuval.

- [Troy] Go away, I might have not colorful colors, but I'm still venomous.

- [Man] Highly motivated

- Truly dedicated.

- [Man] Nice story, though.

- Yeah, pretty good. So, lots of different stuff. Things are all over the map. How did you actually first get started?

- First of all, I'm very excited. I'm used to sit in front of computer with few people behind me, and suddenly I'm. Excuse my English, I hope you will like my Gal Gadot accent, and it will help you. So when I was 10 years old, my parents took me to a Bar Mitzvah at a friend's house. And the parents didn't want us between their legs, so they put us in front of a big TV. Someone brought a VHS cassette from Thailand and we watched a movie. This is the first time that I was caught in the magic of cinema. On the way back I told my parents, when I will be old, I will make films. Then, I went to study cinema at high school, made three years of the army, traveled for a year in South America, came back straight to cinema school. The movie was E.T. by Steven Spielberg, of course, like most of the directors in the ages of mine. And at the film school I fell in love with the art of editing. I had very good teachers.

- And you, obviously, had very good teachers, yes. Since you just won an Oscar. How about you, Tim? How did you start? And what were your teachers like?

- Good teachers. I was always just a bit of a film geek. I did reviews for the Chicago Tribune when I was in high school. And I studied film in college. But I actually didn't think of it as being a career option, until I found myself in Japan working at the Nagano Olympics, which will date me a little bit. But I was just like a PA for CBS, but I was just driving around these people who were making sports television, and I was like, hell, they can do it, and I should at least give the film thing a go. So I came back to the States, I bought and old Toyota Camry, drove out to L.A, about 20 years ago, and I'm still here, or, at least, there, doing it.

- Cool, and this is the first time you've worked together on Skin, right?

- Yes.

- It is, yeah.

- Okay. Well, since that's what we're here to talk about, we'll actually start with the trailer, rather than just talking about the movie.

- [Troy] Snakes have many predators.

- You ready?

- [Troy] So that's why they have camouflage.

- [Man] And how do I know which ones are dangerous, and which ones aren't?

- [Troy] Snakes have colorful bodies.

- With this kid, with my kid?

- He was looking at the toy.

- [Troy] And they use that to warn predators that they're venomous.

- Careful with that, will ya?

- He's a pro.

- [Man] Kind of feels like if I was identifying a poisonous snake, I really want to look for the color. The brighter the color, the more venomous.

- [Troy] So once they're striking, you want to move out of the way.

- I need you to go, hide under my bed, okay?

- [Troy] If you don't, that's venomous, then you're dead meat.

- It's fascinating, isn't it?

- He's our next generation. Troy Francis Hall.

- Have many of you seen the film, yeah? Yeah, well, if you haven't, you're obviously going to want to right after. Yes, but probably not tonight, let's just keep it happy. It's a pretty intense film, it's pretty heavy, very very wonderfully done, how did it come about?

- Okay, Guy, the director, is a friend of mine from film school. And he moved to L.A. like about five years ago, not to work in cinema, because of love. He married a Hollywood actress, and he started to work on his feature film called Skin, the same name, but nobody wanted it. And one day, another friend of ours, director from Israel, called him and told him, "I have an idea for a short film, "that will win an Oscar." So he said, "Okay." And, "It's hard, so it can be done "just in the United States." So they wrote a script and called me, and asked me if I would like to edit this short, because we worked on a lot of things before. And, of course, he didn't have money, so he needed a friend to edit, to do it. So I said okay, and they started, they took all their savings to do it, and started to work on it, I waited.

- There was another producer on the film that I've worked with before. He asked me to help him out. Just because it was, for a short film it was quite an undertaking. It has kind of everything you don't want in a short. Which is children, animals, guns, we had a kid firing a gun. Which was something new, we had kind of elaborate stunts and these make up effects, and a couple of tough fight scenes to do. And it was just a challenge, I honestly didn't know if we were gonna be able to do it. But, yeah, it was probably the most intense like 4.5 day filmmaking experiences I've had, but I'm very proud of the result.

- And a small crew, very.

- Yeah, there's a picture of our crew. That's most of us, I mean, there might have been 20 people or so. But you have to really carry your weight, and then, sometimes, a bit more than that. We had an amazing cinematographer, a guy named Drew Daniels. And he actually called in a favor, I don't know how many projects he built up, but he was able to get our camera package, actually, an Alexa Mini, very similar to that, and our lens package, comped from a rental house called HD Optics. And so I actually ended up picking up that camera package. I was also a media manager, I was offloading the cards on set. And I was the assistant editor, which kinda came in handy. 'Cause I had the media, so I was able to do the director dailies, which I was sending to Yuval. He was in Israel this whole process. And I just kinda built the editorial drive, which is pretty simple, just the days of shooting, the camera, by card, and then just sound in a separate folder. And I got that done and I handed it off to Guy Nattiv, the director, who flew to Israel, landed at the airport--

- He flew to Israel to visit his family, not, you know, and then he came through, straight from the airport to my place, I'm working at home, and gave me the hard disk, told me, "Okay, we will meet in a week." "I'm going to visit everybody."

- [Tim] Here's your studio.

- Yes, this is my studio.

- There's E.T.

- You see my dog, and E.T, of course, a lot of dolls of E.T. And then I connected the hard drive to my computer, opened Final Cut, put everything inside, what Tim made me, arranged everything in like events of days of shooting and inside I did keywords of the scenes. It's a short movie, so I didn't got into too much things. Then I went through all the scenes, was amazed, because it's not an Israeli film, it's American one--

- It's a little different.

- And it looks much better. So I chose my favorites, and started to work on it.

- [Colleen] And what, 10 days?

- It was like a five days work, and then Guy had a time to come over, and we sat on it another five days, and finished the film.

- And I know that a lot of the stuff that you did in it, very amazing audio work, and we happen to have the project, just happen to have the project here with us.

- I brought it--

- You brought it with you.

- From Israel.

- Awesome, yeah, if you could show us a little, and Tim's gonna talk a little about the process as well.

- [Tim] Yeah, Yuval's gonna drive a bit, and I might add a little commentary. But this first scene is one that, it just needed a little bit of sweetening on the audio side. So he's gonna show you kinda the groundwork he laid.

- So we chose the scene that will not ruin the film to most of you, because you haven't seen it yet.

- [Troy] Dad!

- Oh no, push, push

- [Troy] Dad! Dad!

- So this is a very important scene in the film, that equals to another scene before with other family. But it was too much quiet, this scene. And I wanted the child to scream to his dad, that he's kidnapped in front of his eyes, much more, but I had just one take that he did it. So I took the sound from this take, put it in various places on the scene, and, as you can see--

- Dad! Dad!

- [Yuval] But, it was too noisy. Because all the mics were open, so I used the expand audio components. As you can see I had all the iXML, I got all the mics. So, okay.

- [Troy] Dad!

- As you see, you can hear the car, the Dad and everything, so I closed all the other mics. They couldn't stayed with the boom that was on the kid, so now you see it's very clean. And then, I wanted it to sound like from a distance. So I ducked the volume as he was far away, so we had much full sound of this scene. And then I chose music that I thought this family will listen to. Okay. And again, I wanted this music to be heard like indoor and outdoor of the car. So, again, I used the range tool to go to where is, this is inside the car, so it was loud. This is outside. And ducked it a bit through all of the scene.

- Dad! Dad! Dad, dad! Dad!

- And I did it again, of course, here, so the scene brought much more--

- [Tim] Just came to life a little bit.

- [Yuval] Yes.

- So, Yuval went through and he did that, obviously, to the rest of the film. And we ended up with this 22 minute cut, which, I think, you can show us in all of its glory. So that was, that's the entire film there. Now the problem was, so we really liked the 22 minute cut. The problem was, we wanted to submit it to the Berlin Film Festival, where the director had had a film play and actually win a few years earlier. But they have a 20 minute limit for what they consider a short film. So, Yuval got a call in the middle of the night, 'cause he was in Israel, and Guy really urgently, we all urgently needed a 20 minute cut of the film. So, Yuval knew it really well. He was gonna find some, an area where he could save some time without really affecting the story. And he's gonna show you how he was able to do that quickly, and keep everything in sync.

- I wanted to go to sleep, so I did it very fast, and Guy wanted it for tomorrow morning, to send it to Berlin. So I knew the film, of course, very well, so I searched places that I will not hurt the story. And there was a scene that I really liked, that we chose to use very long shots, amazing shots, that I decided to cut them in half. So this is the scene that something happened, and they throw the man here. So, as you can see here, the shot was very long, and I waited him to stand up. And then I needed to cut it, so I decided that he will just move a bit. So after he moved, you don't know, you think that he's dead, and suddenly, he moved a bit, I used the shortcut and tuned out, as you can see, everything stayed in sync, so it made me a very easy job. And again, this scene that he goes searching for his house was very long, but beautiful, and again, we decided to cut here, I decided. Guy was sleeping in L.A.

- [Colleen] Everyone else was deciding to sleep.

- [Yuval] And the next shot--

- [Colleen] Even the actress.

- [Yuval] Yes, Danielle Macdonald that we had the chance to add her before she became famous. She was the one that was taking care of Guy's dogs before she was famous. So here, she's waking up from a noise, so I searched the place where the noise will really wake her up, and I trimmed it very fast. Again, with the shortcut, nothing got out of sync. And then, I left with something like half a minute to take off.

- [Tim] We still need to save some time. So we used the old fashioned just speed up the end credits routine, which, actually, you can do really easily in Final Cut.

- [Yuval] Yeah. So, I'm sorry for, you know, for everything, except of Guy that I left his title in the same length, because I wanted to work with him again. All the others were shortened, and I really put it put it on 20.00, you know.

- So you got it down to 20.

- We did.

- And then you submitted it.

- We got it down to 20, and we submitted that to Berlin. And after all that it didn't get in, unfortunately.

- Yes.

- But, it was the version of the film that we liked.

- So, you'd stuck with the 20?

- Yeah, we did stay with that version of it, and it had a pretty good run after that.

- How good a run?

- This crazy snowball down a hill, but the film ended up winning the Best Live Action Short a couple of months ago at the Academy Awards, and that was a kinda crazy experience. There you go. So, and I'll just, just because they couldn't be here in person, but the fancy guy in the glasses, that's Guy. He's the director. And then, this, because even if you're with a film, it's very hard to get tickets to the actual ceremony. This is me and Yuval and Ronen, our sound designer, as well as some of our cast. We were invited to kind of a charity viewing party, where we had a lovely experience. And that was the moment they read our name, and we're all kind of excited about it.

- Awesome.

- It was a great experience.

- I have something to say. There was another night that Guy called me and told me, "I need a 15 minute version for Cannes." I really did it, I did it like in three days, but it killed the film, so we decided not to use it.

- Good call, good call. Well, congratulations. Thank you so much, have a good night.

- Thank you very much.

- Thank you.


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