Inside The Edit

Here There Be Footage - by Andrew Ellard

27 July, 2007

For those who don't know, a Red Dwarf DVD edit is much like any other - though, our DVDs being retrospective in nature, it is by far and away the largest part of the production.

Inside The Edit

It occurs in three phases. Media students may want to skip some of the following article to avoid a) reading stuff you already know, or b) being totally put off joining the industry.

Phase one is preparation. Also known as the tape-watching phase. Every interview is run through, every answer logged and assigned a topic number (Craig Charles discussing Craig Ferguson: CC045). We also go through every rushes VHS we've got, or that we can reasonably afford to have run-off from the BBC archive, based on information from the remaining series production paperwork.

From the interview breakdowns a 'paper assembly' is made, grouping all these clips together under topic headings ('Set Design', 'Stolen Football') ready for...

Phase two - the offline edit. The offline, performed at Shepperton Post-Production, is all done in low-resolution to save on disk space (and thus cost). Every potentially-useful piece of footage, including the episodes, are loaded into the Avid system from DigiBeta tape, and the paper assembly is used to create a timeline of clips - grouped by series, then episode, then subject.

Then we go to work with the digital scissors.

Our editor this time around is newcomer Nathan Cubitt. Except he's not really a newcomer, having been a camera assistant on Red Dwarf Series VII. (He remains the proud owner of the sweetie that became attached to Lister's forehead in Nanarchy.) Having turned editor - releasing his own Avid guide along the way - Nathan has returned to the fold to help get our documentaries into shape.

And what interesting shapes we're creating. My personal favourite is a shot of Ed Bye... or, rather, two Ed Byes, with the director demonstrating both sides of a split screen shot for Chris Barrie. Put 'em together for a genuinely unusual behind-the-scenes shot.

Inside The Edit

Of course we've employed a few little tricks - demonstrations of the change from original episode to remastered with dissolves, wipes and splits, and a neat little moment where we show Rimmer in black and white, as Ed Bye had once intended.

But there have also been some interesting images dropped into the mix. On-screen you'll see alternative Red Dwarf ship designs, Dona DiStefano's original Esperanto lists, rarely-seen script pages, Ed and Doug's remastering change lists... a raft of little inserts to make these the richest doccos yet.

The biggest appeal, though, remains the interviews themselves. Nothing quite beats tales of Paul Jackson rehearsing the cast - everyone learning their lines, Norman not bothering because he had autocue - or Rob Grant discussing his reluctance to write an episode about Lister being a father because he lacked the personal experience... while Doug describes preparing his baby's bottle in obsessive detail.

Inside The Edit

As ever, dirt is dished in no small measure. Who broke their nose during filming? Who had their shirt ripped from their body when they turned up ridiculously late for filming? Who had their football confiscated and refused to do any work until they got it back? Who didn't think the script was funny at all and only took the role in order to ride on Paul Jackson's coattails? You'll find out in October. (Hint: Two of them were Craig.)

Finally, phase three - the online. This is an edit stage that costs enough to buy yourself a very nice car with built-in jacuzzi. All the edit information - every cut, every fade, every frame used - is exported from the offline Avid and into the online, which then begins its demand to be fed tapes. The machine takes only the specific clips it needs, all in lovely high-resolution... at which point we tend to see a stack of small, irritating things - colours, details - that didn't show up before.

The sound is thoroughly checked and smoothed out, the edits are given a final going over and we lay in all the titles, captions, credits and other fiddly bits. Every single bluescreen interview clip is given a carefully-chosen background - and when every interview is shot in front of bluescreen, with new backgrounds for each documentary... well, that's a lot of comping.

Inside The Edit

In something of an edit-induced haze the final content, hours and hours of it, is played out onto DigiBeta for delivery to 2entertain. We all breathe a sigh of relief and send them off with a motorcycle courier.

Pretty soon copies of that content will be in the homes of Red Dwarf fans everywhere.

More DVD Details will follow soon...

Red Dwarf: The Bodysnatcher Collection will be out in the UK on October 22nd.

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