Clayton Condit Talks About Editing With FCP X in DV Magazine Clayton Condit Talks About Editing With FCP X in DV Magazine
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A
s someone whos worked on a number of
independent films, I find it exciting when
an ambitious feature film project with tre-
mendous potential comes from somewhere other
than the mainstream Hollywood studio environ-
ment. One such film is Voice from the Stone, which
features Emilia Clarke and Marton Csokas. Clarke
has been a fan favorite in her roles as Daenerys
Targaryen in Game of Thrones and the younger
Sarah Connor in Terminator Genisys. Csokas has
appeared in numerous films and TV series, includ
-
ing Sons of Liberty and Into the Badlands.
In Voice from the Stone, Clarke plays a nurse in
1950s Tuscany who is helping a young boy, Jakob
(played by Edward Ding), recover from the death
of his mother. He hasn’t spoken since the mother, a
renowned pianist, died. According to Eric Howell,
the films director, Voice from the Stone was a
script that screamed to be read under a blanket
with a flashlight. It plays as a Hitchcock fairy tale
set in 1950s Tuscany with mysterious characters
and a ghostly antagonist.While not a horror film
or thriller, there is a supernatural element in the
exploration of the emotional relationship between
Clarke and the boy.
Voice from the Stone is Howell’s feature
directorial debut. He has worked on numerous films
as a director, assistant director, stuntman, stunt
coordinator, and in special effects. Dean Zanuck
(Road to Perdition, Get Low, The Zero Theorem)
produced the film through his company Zanuck
Independent. From there, the production takes an
interesting turn toward the American heartland, as
primary postproduction was handled by Splice in
Minneapolis. This is a market known for its high-
end commercial work, but Splice has landed a solid
position as the primary online facility for various
film and TV series, such as History Channel’s
America Unearthed and ABC’s In An Instant.
MYSTERIES REVEALED
The Final Cut Pro X Post Process for Voice from the Stone
OLIVER PETERS
LEARN
VOICE FROM THE STONE
Editor Clayton Condit and director Eric Howell during the offline edit at Splice
TUSCANY, MINNEAPOLIS AND MORE
Clayton Condit, who co-owns and co-manages
Splice with his wife Barb, edited Voice from the
Stone. We chatted about how this connection came
about. He says, “I had edited two short films with
Eric [Howell]. One of these, ‘Annas Playground,
made the short list for the 2011 Oscars in the short
films category. Eric met with Dean [Zanuck] about
getting involved with this film, and while we were
waiting for the financing to be secured, we finished
another short, called ‘Strangers. Eric sent the
script to Emilia [Clarke] and she loved it. After that,
everything sort of fell into place. It’s a beautiful
script that, along with Eric’s style of directing,
fueled amazing performances from the entire cast.
The actual production covered about 35 days
in the Tuscany region of Italy, where the exterior
location was filmed at one castle and the interiors
at another. This was a two-camera shoot, with ARRI
Alexas recording to ARRIRAW. Anamorphic lenses
were used to record in ARRI’s 3.5K 4:3 format,
but the final product is desqueezed for a 2.39:1
scope” final 2K master. The DIT on set created
editorial and viewing dailies in the ProRes LT file
format, complete with synced production audio
and timecode burn-in. The assistant editor back at
Splice was loading and organizing the same dailies
so that all materials were available there as well.
Condit explains the timeline of the project:
“The production was filmed on location in Italy
during November and December of 2014. I was
there for the first half of it, cutting on my MacBook
Pro on set and in my hotel room. Once I travelled
back to Minneapolis, I continued to build a first cut.
The director arrived back in the States by the end
of January to see early rough assemblies, but it was
around mid-February when I really started working
a full cut with Eric on the film. By April of 2015 we
had a cut ready to present to the producers. Then it
took a few more weeks working with them to refine
the cut. Splice is a full-service post facility, so we
kicked off visual effects in May and color starting
mid-June. The composer, Michael Wandmacher,
created an absolutely gorgeous score that we were
able to record during the first week of July at Air
Studios in London. We partnered with Skywalker
Sound for audio postproduction and mix, which
took us through the middle of August.
As with any film, getting to the final result
takes time and experimentation. He continues,
“We screened for various small groups, listening to
feedback, and debated and tweaked. The film has
a lot of beautiful subtleties to it. We did not want to
cheapen it with cliché tricks that would diminish
the relationships between characters. It really is
first a love story between a mother and her child.
The director and producers and I worked very
closely together, taking scenes out, working pacing,
putting scenes back in, and really making sure we
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Edward Dring (Jakob) and Emilia Clarke (Verena) in a scene from Voice from the Stone
Marton Csokas (Klaus) and Emilia Clarke (Verena)
PHOTOS BY PHILIPPE ANTONELLO
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had an effective story.
Splice handled visual effects ranging from sky
replacements to entire greenscreen composited
sequences. Condit explains, “Our team uses a
variety of tools including [The Foundry] Nuke,
[SideFX] Houdini, [Autodesk] Maya and [Maxon]
Cinema 4D. Since this film takes place in the 1950s,
there were a lot of modern elements that needed to
be removed, like TV antennas and distant power
lines, for example. There’s a rock quarry scene
with a pool of water. When it came time to shoot
there, the water was really murky, so that had to be
replaced. In addition, Splice also handled a number
of straight effects shots. In a couple scenes the boy
is on the edge of the roof of the castle, which was
a greenscreen composite, of course. We also shot a
day in a pool for underwater shots.
PIONEERING THE CUT
WITH FINAL CUT PRO X
Clayton Condit is a definite convert to Apple’s
Final Cut Pro X. Condit says, “Splice originated
as an Avid-based shop and then moved over to
Final Cut Pro as our market shifted. We also do a
lot of online finishing, so we have to be compatible
with whatever the offline editor cuts in. As FCP 7
fades away, we are seeing more jobs being done
in [Adobe] Premiere Pro, and we also are finishing
with [Blackmagic Design]
DaVinci Resolve. Today we are
sort of an all of the above’ shop,
but for my offline projects, I
really think FCP X is the best
tool. Eric also appreciated his
experience with FCP X, as the
technology never got in the way.
As storytellers, we are creatively
free to try things very quickly
[with Final Cut Pro X].
Of course, like every FCP X editor, I have my
list of features that I’d like to see, but as a creative
editorial tool, hands down it’s the real deal. I really
love audio roles, for example. This made it very
easy to manage my temp mixes and to hand over
scenes to the composer so that he could control
what audio he worked with. It also streamlined
turnovers. My assistant, Cody Brown, used X2Pro
Audio Convert to prepare AAFs for Skywalker.
Sound work in your offline is so critical when trying
to ‘sell’ your edit and to make sure a scene is really
working. FCP X makes that pretty easy and fun.
We have an extensive sound library here at Splice.
Along with early music cues from Wandmacher, I
was able to do fairly decent temp mixes in surround
for early screenings inside Final Cut.
On location, Condit kept his media on a small
G-Technology G-RAID Thunderbolt drive for
portability. Once back in Minneapolis, he upgraded
to Splice’s 600 TB Xsan shared storage system that
enables collaboration among departments. Condit’s
FCP X library and cache files were kept on small
dual-SSD Thunderbolt drives for performance, and
with mirrored media, he could easily transition
between working at home or at Splice.
Condit explains his FCP X workflow: “We broke
the film into separate libraries for each of the
five reels. Each scene was its own event. Shots
were renamed by scene and take numbers using
different keyword assignments to help sort and
search. The film was shot with two cameras, which
Cody grouped as multicam clips in FCP X. He used
Sync-N-Link X [from Intelligent Assistance] to bring
in the production sound metadata. This enabled
me to easily identify channel names. I tend to edit
in timelines rather than a traditional source and
record approach. I start with stringouts’ of all the
footage by scene and will use various techniques
to sort and track best takes. A couple of the items
I’d love to see return to FCP X are tabs for open
timelines and dupe detection.
Final Cut Pro X has several features to help
refine the edit. Condit says, “I used FCP X’s retiming
function extensively for the pace and emotion of
shots. With the optical flow technology, it delivers
great results. For example, in the opening shot you
see two hands—the boy and his mother—playing
piano. The on-set piano rehearsal was recorded
and used for playback for all takes. Unfortunately,
it was half the speed of the final cue used in the
film. I had to retime that performance to match
the final cue, which required putting a keyframe in
for every finger push. Optical flow looks so good in
FCP X that many of the final online retimes were
actually done in FCP X.
Singer Amy Lee of the band Evanescence
recorded the closing title song for the film during
the sound sessions at Skywalker. Condit says,
Amy completely got’ the film and articulated it
back in this beautiful song. She and Wandmacher
collaborated to create something pretty special to
close the film with. Our team is fortunate enough
now to be creating a music video for the song that
was shot at the same castle.
Zanuck Independent is currently arranging a
domestic distribution schedule for Voice from the
Stone, so look for it in theaters later this year.
dv
Eric Howell (left) and producer Dean Zanuck
On the set
Final Cut Pro X timeline from Voice from the Stone