The Reality of Editing Reality TV
As reality TV food shows continue their popular trend with viewers, the Rocky Mountains have grown to become a hotbed for food television production. Over the past 32 years, Frank Matson and Denver-based Citizen Pictures have received multiple Emmy nominations and Daytime Emmy awards for work on shows like Diners, Drive-ins & Dives, Giada at Home, and other well-known lifestyle programming. Adobe talked to Andrew Moraski, Post Production Supervisor at Citizen Pictures, about how the growing company puts together shows for some big names in reality TV.
Adobe: How did you get involved in video production?
Moraski: When I went to film school, I thought that I really wanted to be an editor. I was lucky enough to get an opportunity with Citizen Pictures, but as I worked my way up, I realized that I was more interested in the workflow and computer operations side of the business. In editing, it’s all about focus and finding that one piece of footage that will make the show even better. In operations, it’s more about exploring best practices and coming up with the most efficient way to use equipment, ingest footage, or even store digital clips.
Adobe: What types of shows is Citizen Pictures working on?
Moraski: We’ve really found our niche in food reality TV shows. Some of our big shows right now are Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives; Smoked; and a digital series for Bravo. It’s been fantastic seeing Citizen Pictures grow. We’ve been producing more shows and more recognition. We’ve grown from 14 to 26 edit bays just in the past year.
Adobe: What are some of the challenges of shooting for reality TV?
Moraski: One of the biggest challenges of shooting reality TV is turnaround time. For Diners, Drive-ins & Dives, we will shoot about seven restaurants, in one week, in a city using two crews, and at least one restaurant will be featured in an episode that will air within the next month. Since reality TV doesn’t shoot from a script, our writers can only start forming the story after we’ve filmed. That means that we only have a few weeks to take hours of raw footage and somehow transform it into a cohesive and entertaining segment.
Adobe: What does your typical workflow look like?
Moraski: The first step is ingesting, logging, and syncing all of the footage that we receive. For a show like Smoked, which uses six cameras and up to 18 different camera setups per day, just trying to organize all of the footage can be a tough job. Many of our talented freelancers work outside of Denver, so we’ll ship a hard drive full of raw footage to a writer before we’ve even finished syncing.
The writer’s job is to find those key pieces of dialogue that can drive a story, write any additional voice-overs, and cut the bones of the segment together. This cut goes to an editor who flushes out the writer’s story and adds elements like b-roll, bugs (icons), and lower-thirds. For a show like Diners, Drive-ins & Dives, the footage finally ends up in the hands of a stacking editor who edits the segments into one episode.
Adobe: How does Adobe Premiere Pro CC contribute to the workflow?
Moraski: Adobe Premiere Pro CC helps us get a faster, more streamlined editing workflow. Several years ago, writers were handing off written scripts to editors who had to search through footage, find the right clips, and pull together a segment from scratch. Now writers are ditching paper entirely. They’re working on Premiere Pro to cut together a rough edit of the segment and using that as a script that the editors can build upon.
Everyone loves working with Premiere Pro. We worked with Final Cut Pro previously, but we switched to Premiere Pro and haven’t looked back. It’s a relief to have a product that’s always up-to-date so we know that we’re keeping up with the times. Our graphics team also uses Adobe Photoshop CC, Illustrator CC, After Effects CC, and we use Media Encoder CC to transcode all media.
Adobe: How do other shows you work on differ from the reality food programming?
Moraski: Citizen Pictures isn’t just food shows. We’ve also done travel shows, commercials, and documentary projects like Race Across The Sky, which followed cyclists on the Leadville Trail 100 race. Every project has its own challenges.
For our reality food shows we’re dealing with tight schedules and even tighter kitchens. For Race Across The Sky we’re dealing with 30 cameras set on a mountain racecourse and a helicopter following the racers. It’s all about communication and keeping everyone on the same page.
Adobe: How do you like working in Denver?
Moraski: Denver is a small city, and the different producers, editors, and assistant editors in town all know and work with each other throughout the year. I’ve been very fortunate to have the opportunity to work at Citizen Pictures and in Denver. The production and post production community of Denver is extremely talented.
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