A New Season for the SNL Film Unit with Adobe CS6

studiodaily by Beth Marchant

Editor Adam Epstein on Insane Deadlines, Making the Switch and the Rush of 'Post-Production Improv'

Ask Adam Epstein to name the toughest part of his editorial and motion graphics workflow for Saturday Night Live's Film Unit and he will tell you, unequivocally, that the intense 24-hour edit sessions preceding the live show are actually a lot of fun. It has to help that Epstein, a freelance editor, has been working this crazy routine for the past three years at SNL's storied studios in 30 Rockefeller Center, cutting the mock commercial spots that appear between live skits for film segment director and producer Rhys Thomas, himself a creative beneficiary of long-time SNL film segment producer Jim Signorelli. Now in his fourth season with the show, Epstein says the raw, manic energy that sets the late-night institution's writers and cast members in motion every week also keeps him singularly focused on the work ahead. "I'm not going to lie—it's cool every single time," he says. "If you're a comedy nerd like me, it just never gets old. But what I think a lot of people don't realize about SNL is there really isn't much carry-over from week to week. Every show starts with a completely blank slate, from ideas, scripts and sets, to the films. Basically you're starting from zero every time." It is finding a balance, he says, between "producing the best stuff possible with the understanding that there's basically a gun to your head. That can be a huge challenge but also an amazing, addictive rush."

Fresh starts have become so familiar to Epstein that he opted to make a similar but potentially riskier transition during last year's Season 37 and switch out his NLE from Final Cut to Adobe Premiere CS5.5 for the Mac. He has, however, been creating each spot's motion graphics in After Effects from the start, and therein lay his problem. "Because of the insane turnaround time and the collaborative nature of the show, my edit workflow is constantly in flux," he says. "I just have no extra time to waste going between After Effects and my final edit." Add to that the show's emerging preference for shooting greenscreen, and Epstein had even less time on his hands. "In the past few years we've done a number of spots that were almost entirely greenscreen and basically every single shot was being done in After Effects. Dealing with the lag time of kicking out a shot, rendering it, bringing it into the NLE, kicking it out, bringing it in, then getting a change from a writer or producer and basically having to start over again every time, was getting just too cumbersome to manage." read more...

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