Jim Carleton leaned close to the flat-screen monitor, peering at the video image of a criminal profiler's face. As Carleton's right hand worked a computer mouse, the scene slid forward and backward, sometimes slowing to a frame at a time.
"... his use of restraints ..." the woman on the screen said. Carleton backed up, seeking the exact right moment to cut from one camera view to another.. " ... his use of restraints ..."
"This is the tedious part," Carleton said.
Carleton is in the midst of editing "Endure," a movie shot mostly in Lakeland in April and May. He hopes to complete a director's cut this week, after which the sound editor takes over.
Carleton, a partner in Lakeland's NFocus Visual Communications, has been a video editor for nine years. He and NFocus partners Joe O'Brien and Rob Tritton serve as producers on "Endure," a small-budget detective thriller written and directed by O'Brien. It stars Judd Nelson, Tom Arnold and Devon Sawa. The Ledger has been following the project since 2007.
The 16-day shoot ended May 10, and eight days later Carleton began editing the results. Carleton, 49, has been working 10- to 12-hour days in his dimly lit office, where he has an Apple Mac Pro computer and two large, flat-screen monitors at his command. He uses a program called Final Cut Pro to edit the footage, shot in digital video.
"Endure," like most movies, was shot out of script sequence, but Carleton edits it in narrative order.
Carleton said he's averaging about one minute of "rough cut" footage for every hour of editing, or about 10 minutes a day.
"I don't know if that's good or bad," he said of his editing pace. "I just know it's very time-consuming, but we're really liking what we're seeing."
The finished movie will be about 90 minutes long.
SCENE NO. 69
On a recent morning, Carleton began on scene 69, set in a fictional police station created inside the former Southside Baptist Church.
The scene opened with a split view of a hallway and a detectives' bullpen. The police captain, played by Dennis Neal, turned a corner into the hallway and rapped on an interior window for Detective Emory Lane (Judd Nelson).
Nelson rose to meet Neal at the front of the room. After a brief exchange about a dead kidnapper, the pair walked out of the room and down the hall, still talking.
Carleton scrutinized each take, looking not only for technical errors but also assessing the composition, the performances of all the actors, including extras, and the timing of the action.
In one take, a boom mike showed at the top of the frame. In another, Neal slightly flubbed a line. In another, Carleton noticed an extra failed to react to the chief's rap on the glass.
"There's a lot to pay attention to," he said.
During shooting, a digital time-code generator synchronized the sound and picture, but in some takes technical problems occurred and the audio and video did not match up. For those, Carleton had to do "old-school" editing, manually aligning image and sound through the visual cue of the black-and-white slate clapped before each scene.
TRIAL AND ERROR
Carleton said editing is a matter of trial and error. He splices a segment together and then watches the result to judge whether it works, often repeating the process many times until everything seems right. It took him 40 minutes to construct scene 69, which lasts about 20 seconds.
Carleton moved on to the next scene, a meeting of Nelson and Neal with a criminal profiler (Candace Rice) who suggests a second suspect may be involved in the kidnapping. He watched several takes of the scene from three camera positions.
"She did a good job in this scene," he said as Rice delivered her lines crisply in take after take.
Carleton decided on an opening shot of Rice seen over Nelson's shoulder with the camera panning slowly to the left. He cut in a reaction shot of Nelson and then cut back to a tighter image of Rice.
Carleton assembles segments of eight to 12 minutes and then consults O'Brien, who watches the footage and suggests revisions. Though this is their first feature film, the men have worked together for years and Carleton said he has a good sense of O'Brien's preferences. As a result, he said O'Brien rarely requests significant changes.
The "Endure" team's post-production schedule is geared toward having a finished version ready for submission to film festivals in the fall in the quest for a distribution offer.
"Since we're doing the editing here, we do have a little luxury in time," Carleton said. "If we took it somewhere else, we would have to adhere to a very tight schedule because it's money, money, money. Doing it here, we can be a little lax and make sure we get what we want."