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  • Writer's pictureBen Cambridge

The Dyslexic Editor

I am starting this blog as an exploration of work processes, my thoughts based around what I do, media as well as the way technology has changed and continues to change since I started.

So to start with a little about me. For the last 8 years I have been working as a freelance editor. I’ve worked on TV productions, social media content, short films and many other outlets. Most recently though a vast majority of the content I have worked on, has been for social media and online marketing. It is without a doubt an interesting job, I love what I do and can completely lose myself in my work; much to the dismay of my family. Realising that it’s 3 or 4 in the morning and I should stop for the night is a common occurrence.

I can use most software, my main one is Premiere Pro but have used Avid and Final Cut Pro and have the use of all three on my home setup. Which especially over the last couple of years has had quite a battering.

My home edit suit is Mac based, I was for a long time very anti Apple in my thought process, considering them to be over expensive and inferior to PCs. But over time I switched my thinking based on circumstance and have since moved over. I don’t wade into the ‘which is better’ argument on ether hardware or software, as I am firmly under the impression that you use what you use as that works for you. I have always found it better to be versatile and to be able to adapt to your working environment.

I am calling myself the Dyslexic Editor for the simple reason that I am Dyslexic. Spelling, grammar and maths have always caused me a massive problem, through school and into adulthood. I wasn’t diagnosed properly until I went to university, up until that point I always considered myself not to be very intelligent. School was a struggle and that snowballed into other issues. Let’s just say despite my family life, I wasn’t the best-behaved kid. I did discover that my strengths lay in creativity and imagination. Art was my favourite subject and as I progressed through school that turned into photography. Mixing that with my passion for film I soon had the desire to go to ‘film school’. But due to my learning difficulty that wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought it would. I ended up enrolling on a HND course through Greenwich University on Television Production Technology. That is where I discovered editing. I would lock myself away in the edit suits with a pile of VHS, two decks and an edit controller and a whole world of ideas. I would make edit decision lists (edl’s) then inserting my master tape I would make edit upon edit, using the jog wheels to scroll through the footage creating in points and out points then hitting the big red button and watching as my creation unfolded before my eyes.

That was back in 1999 – 2000, non-liner editing existed. It was quickly becoming an industry standard, but tape workflows and liner editing was still very much in use all across post-production. So a lot was going to change. The campus I was on had one Avid suit, as students we were shown it introduced to it and had to create a single sequence to prove that we understood this technology. But once done we were ushered back to the liner post-production workflows so we could get on with our real education (but I will explain more of that over the next few posts).

From University I went to work in Soho, London for a busy post house before moving up north to Manchester and break from my chosen path and sometime in the wilderness going from job to job not knowing what I was wanting to do. I then returned to University and took my HND to bachelor’s degree and went to work at the BBC’s new northern headquarters at MediaCityUK. Where my second chance happened and I finally got on the right track which leads to where I am now.

Working as an editor is a demanding but rewarding job. It takes up a lot of time and is very much like doing a jigsaw, where you have all the pieces but not always the master picture to work to. Watching a timeline expand across many variations to your locked off master is a fascinating journey and one that never takes the same route. Each edit is different, each one offering its own complications. There are rules which you can break and that is all about knowing when to break them.

And as Walter Murch says:

‘Looking at a first assembly is kind of like looking at an overgrown garden. You can’t just wade in with a weed whacker: you don’t yet know where the stems of the flowers are.’

But for now I shall leave it at that.

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