Friday, July 26, 2013

An evening with a Hollywood editor


Yesterday, I spent nearly two hours in the company of a veteran Hollywood video editor.

His name is Kris Trexler and he is an Emmy Award winning editor. Los Angeles-based Trexler has been nominated for the Emmy’s five times in his 30-year career. Twice he has won it. He has worked on hit TV shows in the US, such as In Living Color, Ellen, Titus, According to Jim, and Rita Rocks. He has also edited some music videos of Michael Jackson and Tina Turner and has worked on the taped segments of the Academy Awards.

Most recently, Trexler has been editing the hit Disney dance and comedy show, Shake It Up. After three successful seasons, the show is folding up and Trexler has been hired to edit another hot TV show in Hollywood. His new work starts from next month.


Trexler was addressing some local video editors in the Singapore Media Academy (SMA) in a talent forum yesterday. He is a regular visitor to Singapore and he conducts an editing master class here once a year. He also taught editing at Nanyang Polytechnic a couple of years back and loves Singapore as a city.

Trexler is a self-taught editor. He did not go to any film school. He learnt all the tricks of the editing trade on the job.

Trexler started out in his editing career at a time when digital editing was just taking birth. There was a demand for technicians who could learn to edit films (video) on computers and Trexler jumped into the fray. He became one of the pioneers of computerised video editing, using the revolutionary CMX system to edit “All in the Family” and “The Jeffersons”, top rated CBS network comedies in the late 1970s.

Ever since, he has been constantly employed. He works for eight months and then takes a four month break. It is during the break that he conducts his editing classes.

Video literacy and editing

Today, video is ubiquitous (thanks to smartphones and YouTube and Facebook) and there are plenty of awfully edited videos on the Internet, he said. If people could learn the basics of editing, they could really improve their home videos.

I call this need video literacy. Today we live in the world of videos—from surveillance footage to our casual videos taken through our iPhones and iPads. They all end up somewhere on the Internet. Like we learnt how to read and write in school, how to use syntax and grammar, the same kind of literacy is required to handle the language of video.

In the SMA forum, most of the discussion centred on editing software.

Trexler lamented how Apple’s Final Cut Pro (FCP) X has disappointed professional editors. FCP was a great piece of editing software and after Apple discontinued FCP 7, it fell out of favour. When Apple had announced FCP X after a hiatus of several years, Trexler was over-excited. He wanted to use it to cut his next project on. When the product was finally released and he downloaded it from the App Store, he was disillusioned with what he saw.

The new version is not convenient for editing longer footage, he said. Creating and using duplicates is a problem with the software. However, he thinks that FCP X is great for editing documentaries.

After his initial rejection, Trexler is slowly coming to terms with FCP X again and is exploring it.

Hollywood is a 100 percent Avid town, Trexler said. All Hollywood editors use Avid to edit their footage. Most Hollywood productions use multi-cam footage (videos shot with four-cameras, A, B, C, and X). It is easier to edit such footage on Avid. Avid also has some unique features which other softwares don’t have, he claimed.

Trexler also appreciated Adobe’s editing software, Premiere. He said the software has evolved over the years and many editors are using it now (though not in Hollywood). Apple’s loss (after the folly of FCP X) has been Adobe Premiere’s gain.

If you are budding video editor, Trexler has one simple advice for you: you should learn both FCP and Avid. If you know how to use FCP, it should not be difficult to learn Avid in a day.


That’s what Trexler thinks. You want to try?

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