Join Ashley Kennedy for an in-depth discussion in this video Interview with Jesse Averna, part of Conversations in Video Editing.
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- [Voiceover] Hi, I'm Ashley Kennedy. Welcome to our second installment of our series: Conversations in Video Editing. Here I chat with current Disney editor and former Sesame Street Editor, Jesse Averna. During this discussion, Jesse was still on staff with Sesame Street and we talk all about what it's like to work with the wonderful world of puppets that has influenced so many millions of children over the past 40 some years. He discusses in detail his various workflows including multi-cam, green screen, and music video. Okay, let's get on with the interview but first we'll take a look at Jesse's Sesame Street sizzle reel to get a sense of what he works on.
- Oh, here, Murray. (upbeat music) - Hey! - Welcome to Sesame Steet! - Hello. - Hi. - Uh oh. (upbeat music) - And Ice Cube. ♫ The power of the yet ♫ Yet, yet, yet ♫ That's the power of the yet ♫ Yet, yet, yet, yet ♫ That is what you get ♫ With the power of the yet ♫ - Hi, I'm Claire. - Hey, I'm Seth. - Hi, I'm Zach. - What's the word? - What's the word on the street? - [Both] Ridiculous. - Hah! (projector rolling) (upbeat music) - I love you, short Edward.
- Cookie thirst. - [Voiceover] Twilight, Breaking Cookie. - Release the Kracken. - [Voiceover] Nosh of the Titans. - Come back here, cookie. ♫ That's what makes you so useful ♫ - Oh, go on. (upbeat music) - Excellent. ♫ And that is what you get ♫ With the power of the yet ♫ - All right, so, Jesse, thanks so much for joining us. I'm really excited to hear about everything that you're doing at Sesame Street and beyond.
Can you just give us a sense of who you are as an editor, how you got started, what you're doing now, and give us a sense of what you're excited about? - Definitely. I am, as you mentioned, the editor on Sesame Street along with my colleague, John Tierney. I am starting my sixth season. John's been on for decades. I have worked in television, and documentary, and features, and, but the genesis of what ended up getting me to Sesame Street, I worked on a show called Johnny and the Sprites, a Disney pre-school show with puppets and humans, and it's a pretty tight knit puppet world.
So, a lot of those puppeteers that were on that show also work on Sesame Street. - Very good and so you're on your sixth season. From the time that I was watching Sesame Street, and you, and everyone else, and even before us, to now it's just evolved so much and I'm sure it's even evolved over the past six seasons. Can you talk about in your experience in the last six years and just from what you remember to now, like, what are the exciting things that technology is allowing you to do in working in this way? - A big thing is, the majority of the show is shot on set, on Sesame Street, but they've explored and more and more with specific segments, like Cookie's Crumby Pictures, and Super Grover 2.0, and Elmo the Musical, that are shot on three dimensional backgrounds.
So, all shot green or blue and then eventually replaced so that way we're able to put Cookie Monster in a, the Star Wars universe. Literally take these characters off of the street and put them in a different, a different place. - [Ashley] I guess for those of our audience who might not be as familiar with cutting on green screen, can you take us through that process? What does that mean? - [Jesse] Yeah, it quite literally means that it's shot with a green or blue background, depending on the color of our muppets who are on stage.
So, Super Grover is blue so we'll shoot him on a green background, same with Cookie Monster. But someone like Elmo will typically be shot on blue and the color of the green screen, or the color of the key is determined on the color of the muppets. - That's interesting because normally they just say to the talent, "Don't wear green." - Right. - Or don't wear blue. (Jesse laughs) But if you're a muppet and you're Kermit, there's nothing you can do about that. (laughs) - Right, and if multiple characters have to interact on a key then-- - Oo-oo.
Kermit and Grover together. - Right. - What do you do? (laughs) - But there is times where they'll shoot it in multiple passes. We'll shoot a pass on blue with characters and later we'll shoot it with a green background with a different character, and they'll interact with that playback that we'll provide for them. - Wow, that's very interesting. It's something I didn't think about. - [Jesse] Yeah. (laughs) - You have these very vibrant, bold muppet colors-- - [Jesse] Right, right. - That... - Right. - That you really need to consider. - Which, again, it speaks to these performers.
They're able to act in time with each other but then there's, because of that demands where we'll play something back for them and create another layer that in post we'll then put all together but they're interacting with a previous take. And so, that adds to the-- - [Ashley] Wow. - The fun of marrying how well these interactions work if it's been shot at different times because of the background. - And what would you say you work on most of all? What do you like to work on the most? What are the biggest challenges of what you work on? Kind of give us a sense of how you work, how you like to work, and? - Yes.
- All of that. - I, thankfully, since I've been on Sesame Street it's been a year-round job. And so, over the course of the year the demands on what's required of post changes essentially from quarter to quarter. Part of the year is the actual production of Sesame Street, which I'll, next day, I'll receive the footage and start editing right away to do my cut and then the director's cut, the producer's cut, and creating that Sesame Street, the street story segment.
But prior to that we're cutting test shows that are shown internally. Things that even our research team is exploring. Everything that we do literally 100% of what Sesame makes is with the intent of helping kids grow smarter, stronger, and kinder and we have a research team that is always looking at how to make everything that we do the most educational, the most beneficial for the kids. So, sometimes we'll do test shows, promos, promotionals, trailers.
Pretty much you name it. But then what I am, when we are on the Sesame season there's a lot of times now where I'll be brought in to the control room to do live editing. When something requires a bluer green screen background I'll work with the technical director to put in temporary backgrounds or do simple moves that way the performers can see what it is they're interacting with, if it might not be there. And also for timing. A lot of the segments wind up being some kind of specific time whether it's nine minutes, or 10 minutes, or five minutes, and so I'm hoping to achieve that while we're shooting.
And sometimes that requires editing script or something on the fly in order to achieve that time. So, I'm a part of that. Once the season has wrapped production then we move into creating the actual broadcast show and there's a one hour show that it's magazine style so part of it is shot by us and then other segments of it are commissioned from film markers and other companies that create the show.
There's letter pieces and number pieces, and every hour has a theme, whether it's friendship or sharing or, and everything plays into that theme. So, once I move past the actual editing of that content I move into QC mode, sometimes doing final color corrects, but making sure that everything that ends up going to broadcast meets Sesame's standards as well as our distributor's standards. - Are there challenges in making that cohesive when you have so many different moving parts and you're contracting from third parties and using your own content? What is that like, bringing that back altogether? - That ends up being a little less than half my ear.
It's quite a process. - Wow. - [Jesse] Part of our team will on paper decide what the theme will be for the show but then also how every piece of the theme or piece of the show will play into that theme. Every piece of that magazine, half hour, hour, plays into making sure that that theme is solid for the kids. - Is that set before you go into that process or do you just have a bunch of nuggets that you decide to put together later? I mean it seems - No, no, no. - to help. - It's all, It's all chosen at a time by the producer's research team and because of timing we have to meet a specific to the frame timing so it's a challenge of what puzzle pieces will fit to achieve that and then what transitions we'll use between them or now seeing this commissioned piece here, it doesn't really work in this show and we'll swap it out or maybe it should be in different order.
It really is, there is an art to it, and what they do on paper is mind-numbing for me but it's a fun process for me because I'll help build that hour and then I'll review it with the producers and then we'll make decisions on how to improve it. Even to the very last minute before we actually deliver. - So, the other half of your year is, as you mentioned, you're doing some things to help the production team along during the creation process but then the rest of it you're in the editing room and as far - [Jesse] Yes. - as editing the individual pieces.
Can we talk, I wanna dive into that part of the process if we could. - Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, the show itself is multi-camera, three to four cameras depending on how complicated it is. What we call the street story, what's actually shot on set which can be around nine to 10 minutes, that's all multi-camera But then other pieces with celebrities or music videos, those type of pieces, usually tend to be one camera that can be two cameras at times.
But it ranges from having practical sets to things that are shot on green or blue and then replaced later. - And then can you, I mean, we're talking about, as you said, shows with puppets and humans. - Yes. - Which is a great way of putting it. What are the challenges in working with puppets that don't have the facial expressions and the, I mean, working off of humans you have so many cues facially that you work on. What are the editing strategies that you kind of can climb into with that? - I have to say these performers are just so outstanding 'cause there's so many things that are taken for granted that humans can do that when introduced to a muppet is incredibly more complicated.
Like pouring a drink or playing catch. I mean, it's an incredible act of problem solving to make, to be able to do that and make it believable. But there really is an incredible illusion that they're creating. Breathing life into these inanimate objects and making the audience and kids feel a connection to them. That's sometimes even greater than with another person. But we're, my job is incredibly gratifying is that with editing you're not, I mean, we're, we help shape story but we also shape performance.
And so, everything that's happening on camera is really the tip of an iceberg. You're seeing what is intended to be seen but underneath there's an incredible choregraphy of humans working around each other in order to create a dance number or yeah, to achieve some of those things. So, these performers are not only providing voice, and singing beautifully, and dancing, and moving around, they're also creating that illusion of believability.
And so, me as the editor,I'm always hyper-aware of that. How can I help them to continually make Elmo and Cookie Monster connect with the audience, feel as real as possible at every moment? - And then what visually and is there anything that you, that they say, "The editor'll take care of that," as far as there being a human attached to that (laughs) to that puppet. I mean, do they, do they frame everything in production so that you don't have much worry about as far as that's concerned or are there things in post that you need to take care of? - [Jesse] I mean, there almost inevitably is always something that I'll remove but the puppeteers are pretty good about it.
That's one of the challenges for them is they'll, they'll achieve this incredible difficult move with multiple muppets but there was a head in the shot so you do it again. So, if there is the opportunity to simply remove that head so that way they don't have to go through it again. If it was a perfect performance than I do do that. That's one of the advantages of when I do get to be on in the control room because I'll be able to say, "Yeah, don't worry about that. "I can, we can edit that out, yeah." - [Ashley] How often would you say that you're able to be on set and help the production team along as far as planning things? - It has evolved over the time I've been there.
Slowly but surely I'm spending more and more time in that control room. It looks like this season I might, we're still figuring it out, but I'm gonna spend almost the entire season there being with them to help achieve, yeah, I'm not only getting pieces of time but I'm also able, I have the luxury of noticing any kind of issues visually that everyone else is too busy to necessarily always notice. - They're certainly smart to use you in that way. I mean, any editor that can be on set helping the production team, that's super valuable. - [Jesse] Yes.
- So. That's very. - And it's a blast. - Yeah. (laughs) Definitely. - Yeah, it's amazing. - [Ashley] So we'll, we're gonna just watch a little bit of a segment here - Okay. - on one of your multi-cam shoots to get a sense of what's going on. But, of course, anyone watching this can go to Youtube and watch the-- - [Jesse] Right. - entire thing. - Yeah, Youtube dot com slash Sesame Street. - Perfect. All right. So, we're, do you wanna set us up (laughs) before we, yeah? - Yes. (laughs) This is a street story called Numericon. - Mm-hm. - They have their version of Comicon on set that is celebrating numbers.
And so, this one is near and dear to me because it's probably one of the geekiest things we've done. Sesame's always doing incredible parodies but this one really revolves around the comic universe. And so, right now, Elmo, this is his first time at a numericon with Leela. Elmo is the dark nine. Right now they're about to visit fiverine and get his signature. - Thank you for this set up. (Jesse laughs) And here we go. - I cannot wait to go home and tell my mother. (Elmo laughs) - Well, Elmo can't wait to get an autograph like that.
- Yeah. (Elmo laughing) Oh! Looks like we don't have to wait long, buddy. - Yeah! (Chris laughing) - Okay, who's next? - Me! Me! Hey Fiverine! How you doing? I'm a huge fan. I cannot believe I'm meeting you. I just need to shake your hand. Oh. Uh oh. - My crayons, you broke all five of my crayons. - Oh, I'm so sorry, Fiverine. - I use those crayons to sign autographs quickly. Now what am I going to do. - [Number 5] Oh, no! Now I'm never gonna get his autograph! - Worst convention ever.
- Looks like they're in need of another number hero again, Leela. - Go to work, Dark Nine. (Elmo laughing) - Stand back, everybody, the Dark Nine has a crayon for Fiverine. - [Fiverine] Thanks, kid, but that's one crayon. Signing five lines with just one crayon is gonna take much longer. - Unless you don't sign with five lines. - But Elmo, he's Fiverine. He has to sign with five lines. - But Chris, there are other ways to show five. - Hey, yeah, that's true.
- Yes. - Like, what other ways? - Well, Fiverine could just draw a number 5. Like this. Doo, doo, doo, doo, doo. (laughs) See? (suspenseful music) - [Fiverine] Hey, that's the number 5, like the one on my patented Fiverine superhero suit? - [Ashley] Okay. (laughs) All right, so, this you would say is a fairly typical multi-cam shoot that, well, take us through kind of production. Were you on the set for this one, advising for this particular one? - I actually was not.
- Okay. - Yeah, yeah, yeah. - So, you got the footage. - I got the footage. (Ashley laughs) - And how's the footage delivered to you and how do you work with it on that? - It is, we have a control room PA who will log the footage for buys and holds and the time code and we'll use that to then import with the multi-cam cut. So, I'll get this with the script, the marked script from the director, and my first pass with it is it's two-folded, it's showing the director exactly every angle and everything that they got, even if editorially I may think that an angle doesn't work.
It, I make sure to put it that way they see everything that they've, that they have, and then later it'll educate whether or not we should necessarily use that angle. But this one in particular I think there was more than one stop down and reframing the cameras in order to achieve the multiple angles. But, but yeah, this is fairly typical. They'll shoot a set up with a wide shot and then choose specific close ups. But all that is really decided at the script level with the director, where the cameras are gonna be, and how they're gonna cover it.
And editorially that can change depending on if something's not working or if we feel like we need to be somewhere else at that moment. - In something like this what do you like the most about cutting multi-cam and what are the biggest challenges in multi-cam cutting? - One of the things that's the most fun for me is being able to creatively choose again when and where we should be.
Not just the technical end of it but storytelling-wise I am given freedom to help decide what we should be looking at at any given moment. So, it's very gratifying to be a part of that storytelling process. Once everything's been captured, as the editor then you get to be, to help choose how best to tell that story and multi-cam really makes that a smooth process because you're worrying less about continuity and more about story. How can we get here, how can we get there, and as quickly and comprehensively as possible? I think one of the challenges with multi-cam, with Sesame they'll, while they're shooting when one cam (clears throat) they'll have tally lights.
So, when one camera moves away they're already repositioning for their next shot. We have incredible cameramen that know once they've got the shot they need they move on to where they need to be next. And so, the challenge for me is being able to find to the very last frame that I can get away with, having a shot before the camera's already moving to something next. - Okay. All right. Interesting. And then is it multi-cam and multi-group? Do they go through multiple takes within one multi-cam shoot? So, you're working with many multi-cam clips in a multi-group? - [Jesse] Yes. Yes, correct.
So, let's say we do five takes. All five of those takes will be shot multi-cam. The performers while they're performing they're looking at a monitor that's below them while they're performing above them. So, it's crucial for them to work with the TV and the AD to know what the camera's seeing at any given moment so that way our line's working for them and they're educated to see where they are in the frame. So, part of rehearsing and getting through the shot is, yeah, knowing exactly what camera's on you and when.
- Mm-hm. And then timing up those moments in post is fun and can be challenging-- - Yes. - through the, for the-- - Definitely. reasons that you mentioned. (clears throat) Before we go on to kind of another style is there anything else you'd like to say about working in multi-cam on Sesame Street? - I mean, something that's fun about working in multi-cam on Sesame Street for me is being able to choose from more than one take moment. Since the performers and the director already know when they were intending to close up and they were intending to wide shot, etc., and it's consistent from take to take, I'll then be able to go back and start with the director's buy and hold but then make some editorial decisions that this close up of Fiverine might be better than another.
And so, having that luxury to take specific pieces out and replace them with other takes because of the process of multi-cam. - Mm-hm. - And not having to worry necessarily too much of work in terms of continuity. So, the by takes are usually incredible but there's, I mean, as any production, there's moments where someone said, "That's better," or this performance looked better and so we're able to then start to create the final piece that goes there.
- [Ashley] Cool, sounds fun. - Yeah. (Ashley laughs) - All right, I think next (clears throat) we'll take a look at some of the 3D backgrounds that you were talking about. - Yeah. Yeah. - All right, so... All right, so for those at home we have Super Grover helping a duck across a river. - Yes. - Okay. - Super Grover's, (Ashley laughing) Super Grover 2.0. (Ashley laughing) - (laughs) Super Grover 2.0 helping a duck across a river.
So, we have a little bit of an intro and then into it. (suspenseful music) - [Voiceover] He observes. - [Grover] Oh, look. No, no. (screams) (suspenseful music) - [Voiceover] He questions. - Hubba-what? (turbines spinning) - [Voiceover] He investigates. - Hm, what does this button do? (screams) - [Voiceover] Super Grover 2.0. (Grover screaming) He shows up. (intense music) Somewhere by a woodland stream, one little duckling is about to waddle in to a big problem.
- Ah, yippee. Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. I can't wait to get to the party. It's going to be so much fun. (water splashing) A stream? And the party is on the other side. Oh no, how will I ever get across? Help! Help! (Grover screaming) - Oh, oh. - Super Grover 2.0, you showed up. - It is what I do. So, what seems to be the problem, little one? - I'm trying to get to that party over there but I don't know how to get across the stream.
- First, I shall unleash the power of observation. (groans) - Oh, I don't want to miss the party. - Hm-mm, I see with my super eyes that you walk like a duck. - Quack. - Ah! And I hear with my super ears that you quack like a duck. - Quack. - My superpowers of observation tell me you are a duck. - Of course I'm a duck, quack. - Well, then do not be Daffy Duck. You can swim across the stream. Everyone knows that ducks can swim. - Well, yes, but if I swim across I'll ruin my brand new part...
- So, take us through the process of creating something like this. What happens when you're working with the green screen and, well, take us from the very beginning. So, you have, obviously, green screen material and then? - Right, yes, well, this piece in particular was directed by Matt Vogel who is a puppeteer. He's also a performer. And I mention that because I think there's a great advantage. We have incredible directors but someone like Matt Vogel is just absolutely outstanding because he understands the challenges of what these performers are gonna deal with because behind them is nothing.
It's green. So, when we are, when we shoot this on stage the 3D team that makes these backgrounds will give us temporary backgrounds. Kind of a low-res example of what we're intending it to be. And the performers are seeing that temporary background in their monitors while they're performing. So, they can see, they can get an idea of what they're performing against. I work in the control room with the TD to help provide him with the temporary backgrounds but then also to create some temporary moves like as you saw at the beginning, move around the duck, to where she ends up at the stream.
So, all of that is incredibly helpful for the performers to be able to ground themselves again for our line and also to understand where in the environment they are. But some of the three dimensional work can be so complicated that it's helpful to have an editor on set in order to make sure it's working because they might be interacting with a completely three dimensional character or stepping onto a three dimensional plane that doesn't exist but will then later be replaced.
And so, I'm there to help provide that automatic answer to whether or not it's working if they need to reshoot something but then also a piece like Super Grover 2.0 is a specific time and so we're, I'm there to help trim it back down. - Okay. - But once this has been cut with the temporary backgrounds I then take it to Sesame workshop and work on the real cut, the real version of it, again with temporary backgrounds, but then deliver it on green to our three dimensional team who will then go back and replace the backgrounds and put them into these worlds.
- And then that, so that's really great that you're also able to often be on set and advise in that way. Well, you talked about reshoots. Are you talking about in that moment where you have, you're consulting and you say, "That didn't really work. I need you to reshoot it now." Or are you talking about down the line. - No, no. Yeah. - Okay. - At the a moment. - Yeah. - So, the second that they say cut, I'm digitizing on the fly - Right, okay. - in the control room and I'm right away trying to put it together. And right away I'll tell them some sort of note that it looks like she's looking the wrong way or-- - [Ashley] I see. Okay.
- Any way I can help possible that way they can continue moving as fast as possible because they're achieving a piece like this, which is, this one's seven minutes, with, on green, but doing it in a day on top of other multiple things that they're shooting. So, it's an incredible amount of work. So, any way that I can help educate that they're achieving what it is they're intending to then I'm on it. - And what do you like the most about this and what are the biggest challenges in this sort of workflow? - I like, I love when we shoot on green.
I personally, absolutely love and adore our set. I'm happy to be on a production, a children's production, that is still grounded in a real world. But I love when we shoot on these three dimensional backgrounds because it allows our characters to be anywhere. We can put Cookie Monster in the Star Wars universe. We can put Super Grover on a place like this. But for me, editorially, it's gratifying because I get to help decide, maybe, maybe the stream was in a different place when we shot it with our temp graphics and with the temp director I'll work on, okay, actually, we should move it over or help decide not only the performance, and the pacing, and getting a piece to time, and working, but also the background.
Educating the three dimensional team on placement of things and where we're intending a shot to be, and how far away it should be, and since now we want this to be wider than before then put, maybe add additional temporary footage to help educate them on how the world should be that they build. - And when you receive the final 3D background, or is it final? Can you consult with the motion graphics artists that create it and alter it in any way? Do you have that authority? - Yes.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. - Do you, yeah? - The team that builds these is called Magnetic Dreams. - Mm-hm. - They're out in Tennessee. - Okay. - And just incredible professional team. I mean, they achieve masterfully everything that they do and they're actually able to make it look photo-realistic but also muppet-y in a way so that way - Mm-hm. - our characters feel like they belong in that world. But they're incredibly humble, generous people and there's a constant dialogue between us - Wonderful.
- that whether or not what I deliver to them is working or if there's a problem with the XML or EDL that I provided. And again, like, being able to send them temporary REFs. I mean, throughout the entire process all the teams are talking to each other. - That's great. So, what's the timeline when from green screen shoot to when you get the 3D background back and the dialogue that occurs within that? - The, in terms of creating the green cut, the, that's pretty quick.
- Mm-mm. - I usually cut that in, if all goes well, I'll cut in about a day and then work with the director to achieve their cut which can take another, maybe, half a day, and then eventually with the producers and our research team. Once all this that has been agreed upon it's sent over to the three dimensional team and we move on. So, they're working in tandem with us creating these backgrounds and these pieces. So, for them, it ranges on how long it takes depending on how much other work they have from us and also how complicated the backgrounds are for them.
But the second that I've delivered to that team I'm moving on to whatever's next. - And then you get it back and make tweaks and they make tweaks if necessary. - Right. - Then you arrive with the finished product and then it sits until you're onto your second part of the job later on in the season which is - [Jesse] Correct. - reassembling everything. - [Jesse] Right, right, right. - Wow, okay. - Right. Yes, so part of the year is creating and collecting all of these pieces and then later putting that puzzle together for the final broadcast. - Vice nice. - Yeah. And I can't. I have to say I love my job and I believe it's very crucial to the process but I mean, we have just the most incredible directors and producers and writers that make my part so much fun.
I mean, I really do feel... It's still surreal for me to love what I do and because there's so many different pieces to make up that final show every day is a completely different requirement for me. So, one day could be straight editing. Another day is doing particle effects in After Effects. Another day is dealing with keying out a celebrity. It's always, every day is a new adventure, but they make it enjoyable because they consistently give 110%.
And so, really for me it's this feeling of pressure to show up to the level that they have already shown up to by the time it gets to me, so. - Well, that's quite a compliment for the rest of your team. And that sounds lovely. (laughs) All right, let's touch on a music video, if that's cool? - [Jesse] Yeah. - Wah, wah, wah, ow. How does it go? - These no look right.
- Wah. - [Both] Oh, we'll never get this. (Two-Headed Monster shouting) - Missed the drums. - Nah. - Ah. (Elmo laughing) - There, two plus two is, oh boy. Elmo will never get it right. (upbeat music) ♫ You tried to add but the numbers came out wrong ♫ You tried to sing but you didn't know the whole song ♫ You tried to cook but the food didn't taste right ♫ You tried to dunk but you didn't get enough height ♫ You didn't do it right now ♫ But you're trying, you learn how ♫ You just didn't get it yet ♫ But you'll get it soon I bet ♫ That's the power of the yet ♫ Yet, yet, yet ♫ That's the power of the yet ♫ Yet, yet, yet, yet, yet ♫ That is what you get ♫ With the power of the yet ♫ Come on ♫ You try to write but you couldn't make a letter ♫ You tried to jump but you didn't make it very far ♫ You tried to drum but you couldn't find a down beat (Two-Headed Monster groans) ♫ You tried to dance but you tripped on your own feet ♫ Just breathe, don't ♫ - Okay.
(Jesse laughs) (Ashley laughs) All right, so, so, that's fun - This is Janelle Monae, by the way. - All right. - Incredible talent. - That must be so neat to work with so many talented singers and actors and such. All right, so take us through the process of production to post production on a music video. - This was directed by Joey Mazzarino, - [Ashley] Mm-hm. - who is a performer, director, and also head writer.
I mention him because he is an incredible talent to be able to pull something like this off. Again, we're shooting in a very condensed time period and so he'll go into a script knowing when and where we're shooting, which character, what part of the song they're going to land into. So, I'd like to say that every location you're seeing is done with an entire past but he is much smarter than that.
So, we, I know going into editorial where Cookie Monster is going to be placed into the song, where Grover's going to be placed, and there's always room, obviously, to change that but a music video is something that is a little easier for me because I'm cutting rhythmically and also continuity but someone like Joey is just so dang smart in terms of knowing when and where the camera should be, and where it'll fit into his story he's telling over a music video, so.
- So, in talking about rhythmic cutting you obviously, you have a set sound bed, - Right. - but and you are cutting to where he has envisioned each character to be during each part of the song. So, you say that's easier for you, - Yes. - but there's also challenges and everything. So, what, again, I'll ask you the same question, what is fun and exciting about this process - Yeah. - and if there are challenges, what are they? - The fun and exciting thing is that certain pieces of it like this shot here with the kids are shot longer so there's choices to be made whether or not we want to go back to the muppets or continue with this dance.
So, there is definitely a lot of creative still involved but the fun thing for me is helping to keep the energy and the pacing up, and choosing the best takes as well. - Mm-hm. - Obviously nothing's ever achieved in a single take and again, there's challenges with part of the performers being puppets and part of them being people. - Right. - And so, every piece of this small puzzle there's the choice that the editor has in terms of choosing the best performance through achievement.
One of the challenging things for me is I guess with any music video is how to keep the energy up and cutting on an action that will then bring you into the next moment. There's always some leeway of whether do we stay past the beat and let her finish her look or we cut on the action, or do we wait until the action stops? And, I mean, a lot of the normal fun editorial decisions that you get to make but as you're doing that you start to create a feeling and a pattern for where things are moving.
For example, with the music video, you're cutting more based upon where things are on screen. - [Ashley] Mm-hm. - Where your eyeline is always moving to. - [Ashley] Mm-hm. - That you eye trace is are we looking here, and we're were moving there. And, so it doesn't feel jumbled or confusing for an audience. I'm looking at the left side of the screen and all of a sudden I'm at the right and it's finding some kind of cohesiveness that makes it comfortable to watch and not just random. - Would you say that there are any challenges in working with talent that normally doesn't do this sort of thing? Because obviously you have all of these celebrities that are coming in for a day and - Yeah.
- and are doing something like interacting with muppets - Right. - that are outside of their usual sphere. And I know, this might be more of a directing thing but as an editor do you see, well, either when you're in the control room or when you get the footage that they're not exactly doing it the way that you wish they were? (laughs) - The, I mean, the neat thing about a show like Sesame that's now 45 years old is that a lot of the performers and celebrities that we have on know the show intimately.
They either watched it as a kid or their kids watch it or, so they come here wanting to be on it and they're just as excited as any of us. So, that's not typically an issue and so me as the editor, again, I'm trying to make the decision to make them look the best as possible. Either our characters or the performers. So, any chance that I have to help improve performance, I do it. Yeah. But typically, yeah, I mean, they're... They're in it. - They're getting to - They're there, yeah. I'm impressed, I mean. - be on Sesame Street.
- I have two children and they love it and so I'm now watching it again - Right. - many years later from when I used to watch it and, yeah, it's pretty magical. - My mom actually, she found, this was a couple years ago, but a photo of me and my brother with, I have Bert and Ernie slippers on and he has Cookie Monster slippers, and I was two, (Ashley laughs) but it's surreal to have watched the show when I was a kid and now be a part of making it. To have watched Big Bird and now to directly talk with Big Bird.
(Ashley laughing) It's incredible. And again, I do feel that responsibility because we're not just making content that entertains but is making a difference. It's helping kids grow smarter, stronger, and kinder. And that's, I mean, that is the goal, the mandate. Every single thing we do is to help make kids better. (laughs) (Ashley laughs) I mean, that's an incredible thing and it definitely, it educates everything that I do. 'Cause my instinct, especially in something like a music video, is let's go fast, let's cut, make it real cutty and I have learned being on Sesame Street that from our research team and the producers that just because something might be more fun for me to watch we have to always consider our audience and what's gonna be more understandable for them as well as fun.
And the writers do the same thing. They'll try to write towards the parents so that way they're engaged and enjoy it while they're watching with their kid. - That's a really good point. Obviously everything on Sesame Street is aimed at both of those audiences. Because you say you need to know your audience, you need to cut for your audience, but you're right, it's both for the kids and the parents. I mean - Right. - [Ashley] all the parodies, the kids aren't gonna get them. It's for the parents that - Right. Right. - have attended Comicon. (laughs) - Yes, yeah.
- And I mean, maybe older children would know what that was but three and fold year olds don't know what that is. - Right. - I mean, I'm just thinking back to from when I was a kid and all of those Hitchcock references, my dad was cracking up behind and I'm just like, "Why are you laughing? "He's going up 39 steps. "It's... - [Jesse] Yeah. (laughs) - [Ashley] "I wanna see Grover do this." (Ashley laughs) - [Jesse] Right, right, yep. - [Ashley] But he's just, like, "39 steps!" So, anyway, yeah. - [Jesse] No, yeah. - That's interesting. You're cutting for two audiences. - Yeah, and it is, in terms of the writing, it's a feat.
I mean, they have to, the goal is dual viewership that way when the kid's watching the parent will be watching with them. And yeah, to ride the line between being entertaining and enjoyable for the parent but then also educational and enjoyable for the kid, and not going too far in both directions. Always with the intent of - [Ashley] Mm-hm. - the child but, yeah, to have the parent there watching with them, yeah. And so, yeah, in terms editorially I'm very grateful for our research team because they help, they're always constantly helping to educate me on what will make sense for the kid.
And I've, I've been immersed in it now for five years so I've gotten better and better it but my instinct is always how do I think it'll look best. How should I-- - Mm-hm. - What, what, 'cause I get to be the first audience as the editor so what is the most enjoyable for me in terms of telling the story. But they'll go back and they'll say, "No, when you show that triangle "we need to highlight and stay on it "so that we kids know what it is." Whatver it may be, but. - Mm-hm. - But yeah, constantly educating to find a way to fully engage that child in an educational way and not just simply be entertaining.
- And then how has it changed, if at all, since you've become a father? - [Jesse] That has been easily the most gratifying part. (Ashley laughs) My daughter's now a little over two. Yeah, two and two months, something like that, but she, actually getting to be able to watch content with her is the most incredible thing. And to hear her laugh at pieces that we've worked on together and to call Elmo her buddy is (Ashley laughs) just an incredible thing.
And I've, even rough cuts I've done, I've taken home and watched with her just to get her, to see how she's engaged with it, and if it's making sense to her to help educate me in terms of how I'm cutting it. - Yeah, you have your own little test audience. Don't you? - Oh totally. (Ashley laughs) Yeah. But to be able to make something and then automatically be able to show her and watch it with her, it's an incredible feeling, definitely. - That's awesome because there are so many around the world that, she's getting a pretty hot seat there.
(Both laughing) They would to be in that seat. - Yeah. (laughs) I wanna talk about PostChat but before we do, before we exit on all things Sesame Street, is there anything else that you would like to talk about? The style of cutting or in general... - Maybe non-technical but personal, if that's okay? - Yes. - I think something that Sesame has really taught me as an editor is it's helped develop my storytelling muscle in a way that I believe closely marries to the director.
I've always been, I've always loved the technical side, and I've always loved storytelling but really doing this level of content and differentiating content that Sesame makes I've really had to grow in my ability to tell a story, how to best tell a story, and I, comparing a director and an editor position is inappropriate. I mean, they're very different but I really do believe that you're exercising those same storytelling muscles, the when and why we should be here, and when and why we should be doing this, and Sesame has been an incredible experience in learning how to do that.
But then also I think Sesame has taught me, as an editor, just gratitude. - Hm. - [Jesse] That editing can be a very lone wolf type of position and it's easy to notice what you don't have B-roll-wise or what you need, or what the limitations you have, and Sesame, just the culture, people and the culture of the workshop has really developed the problem solver in me to no matter what I'm faced with which is usually incredible content, how can I make it better? How can I not just simple achieve what they want but to improve upon it and so I think more than anything Sesame has taught me gratitude.
Just how lucky it is that as editors if we're able to pay for our house or our family (Ashley laughs) from editing we're lucky, and I feel very fortunate for that. - Yeah, good way of putting that. So, you have, you've really felt the community, the Sesame Street community, and you obviously expressed your gratitude for that but you have really reached out beyond that community into the world, socially, through social media, and developed PostChat.
- Yes. - Let's talk about that. Why did you decide that that was something that you wanted to pursue? First of all, explain what it is for that are not - [Jesse] Yes. - [Ashley] familiar with that. - Yes, PostChat is a weekly chat on Twitter. It's every Wednesday night at nine PM eastern, six PM pacific LA time, and really it's a chance for the post community to come together to chat about a topic or a concern or about a new piece of technology or to talk with professionals that they normally wouldn't get this uninterupted chat with and with the companies who helped create the tools that we use.
So, it really is an hour uninterrupted where anyone who is on Twitter using the hashtag PostChat can jump in and ask a question. And we've had everyone from ace editors to wedding videographers to, I mean, you name it. Avid, Adobe, the full gamut of the post world on there. And really the genesis of PostChat was, as I mentioned before, editing can be such a lone wolf type of career - [Ashley] Mm-hm.
- that I think post people are already looking to connect and they were doing this before PostChat but PostChat was really created out of the desire to give people a chance to connect and to be able to ask questions or to learn from one another. And our intent has always been for it to be a positive place. Selfishly, one of my purposes with it was because I have been fortunate enough to have been mentored by people and I feel like in the post world in general mentoring has kind of taken a backseat.
Mainly because of the nature of how editorial's done now. People can work at their house or they sometimes will just completely skip the assistant editor route and go straight into editing but there's so much to be said for watching someone else work, and watching their process, and learning from what they do and even to learning the politics of how to make as a freelancer. And so, PostChat was designed in a way to try and emulate that.
To give people a chance, whether they're brand new into the post world, or they're veterans, to connect with each other and to offer insight, advice, and comfort, and, I mean, we talk about topics that range from how to use something new that Adobe's released to shyness and how to overcome it, or how to balance time with family versus work. And really, the encompassing the whole of being an editor and what that is.
- Yeah, it's really great because sometime, well, so, it's at eight o'clock central, so it's my kid's bedtime. - Ah. (Ashley laughs) Of course. - So, it's, speaking of work family life. I don't get to it as much as I would like to but every two to three weeks I'm on it at least sometime between eight and nine and many times I'll just observe. - Yeah. - Because I don't have the capacity to participate fully. And I'm sure that there are many in that boat as well.
That you just kind of, even if you aren't participating and engaging actively, there is an opportunity for you to just feel good about being in that space and - Yeah. - and observing the interaction go on. And then when it strikes you and you do have something to say that it's there for you. - Right and we do, one of our users makes a transcript every night after we, after it's done, and I have noticed a trend just on Twitter in general but we have topics that everyone can engage in and will have a great turn out but there's other times where it does become kinda this almost one on one interview with someone and for a while I was bummed, like, "Why didn't I get a good turnout "but this is an incredible guest, what happened?" And I realized they're reading the transcript and the transcript is getting numbers that were much better than - Okay.
- than what we would get in the chat. So, I think people are still exploring how best it meets their needs and then we also have a face group, a Facebook group that people can essentially do the same thing but all week long. And people use the hashtag that way too. Not just during that hour. But to talk and connect throughout the week. - Exactly. And then how do you plan each week out? How do you get your guests? And then how do you moderate, come up with everything necessary to an engaging conversation.
Specifically a Twitter conversation of 140 characters or less. - Right. That is a great question. (Ashley laughs) The neat thing about PostChat, we have been offered several times now to monetize, to find some way to make money from this, and, - Mm-hm. - and it's been my intent to not do that. I, PostChat by it's nature is just professionals who are working that are connecting. So, we're all volunteers doing it. So, that being said, when we find guests it's usually because they come to us or because I'll notice someone on Twitter that I wanna talk to, or that I think the group needs to meet, or it's at topic that someone has written me and said, "I'm dealing with financing as a freelancer.
"Is that something you could talk about sometime later?" And I'll add it to my calendar. But we, the PostChat hashtag and also mine, Droid, none of it is automated or pre-planned. It's always me going in there and doing it, thankfully with the render times (Ashley laughing) I'm able to achieve that. But it always stems from a desire that's either presented to me or that I'm excited to talk about. There's a lot forums for tech but Twitter being 140 characters it's not necessarily always appropriate to delve into tech the way you guys are able to - [Ashley] Mm-hm.
- with Lynda so a lot of times it does become about small, quick, intimate, specific things that people want to know about whether from Avid or a professional that we bring on. So, the venue really is designed to be rapid fire in a way. - Mm-hm. It's quick little bites. I wanna know this, I wanna know that. It's not a diatribe of... - Right. - How did you become an editor? There's just not time or space for it.
It really cuts right to the heart of it. - [Ashley] You're good at it now too. I mean, I'm sure that's evolved too as well - [Jesse] Yes. - over time. I mean, I find that people are kind of able to get those bites out quite well. The guests all seem to get that. I know they probably prepared to - Right. - participate and have those, maybe, planned out, some of it. - Yes. And I'll write them ahead of time. We'll talk - Right. - via email and I'll give them a heads up what I'm hoping to ask and warn them that they're gonna get a ton of questions from maybe something specific that they're working on.
So, they do, - [Ashley] Right. - they do have a primer before they come in. - And then how has the social media community changed the way that you have interacted physically? Like, if things like NAB and you've met a lot of editors now, and you've met a lot of people in the post production industry in general. Just talk about not just social media but socially - [Jesse] Yeah. - what's it done for you? - I think one of the interesting things about social media in general is, like, for instance two nights ago, Sunday night at NAB, we had our live meet up.
So, you're interacting and seeing people that you're taught. - You saw a little square of their face. - Yeah. (Ashley laughing) - But we have daily conversations. I talk to this person every day. Arguably more than someone that I see in real life (Ashley laughing) and then you see each other and there's this weird bond. It's like we, I know you but I don't know you. (Ashley laughing) It's pretty incredible. It definitely is. But I, yeah, I mean, the neat thing about, in my experience with editors in general and post professionals is that they really are a giving and sharing group, and they wanna help each other.
There's very much a sense of if you're better, then I'm better kind of attitude. And not competing with each other. So, the more that you can know, technically and so on, the better we are as a group. So, people are constantly trying to educate and help each other. So, this is really become just an excuse and an outlet to do that. - Great. - [Jesse] Yeah. - Thank you so much for joining us today, Jesse. - Thank you. - Learned a lot and your work on Sesame Street is so valuable to so many, and so I appreciate that, and so do my children, and millions of others, and your work in PostChat's been so beneficial for so many editors around the world.
And so, I just wanted to thank you for coming and if there's anything else that you wanted to share with us please do. - If I could just return the compliment with Lynda. I have, I mentioned this to you before we started but I have listened to your voice so many times. (Ashley laughing) I mean, even being a working professional for, I don't know how long now, you can't know everything. And so, I've appreciated you guys helping me (laughs) to refresh my memory on something specific in Avid or, so I'm very thankful for the community you guys have already also provided.
But I guess I just wanna say that I'm grateful. I feel very fortunate to work with an incredible show that we have and to work in the field that we're in. It's incredible to be a visual storyteller and if I can communicate anything it would be gratitude. I'm not necessarily a guru or, but I do, I care about it. I care about helping kids grow smarter, stronger, and kinder and I know the one thing as an editor if you feel like you don't know everything or you're not the fastest on whatever in a league the one piece of advice I can give is to be the hardest working and I think that'll take you to a much higher level than even being the fastest on a keyboard.
If you're intent and your goal is to make everything you do better and to constantly be learning you'll go far because people want to work with people who care. So, if I can give any piece of advice it would always be to try and out-care everybody in the room, and know that at the end of the day it's just TV, it's just film, and to be willing to let go of any ego you have with that. Give it you 100% best and then achieve their vision.
- Well, thank you so much for the compliment. That means a lot. We definitely try to help editors of all, every, doing all sorts of projects, all sorts of genres, so that's really great to hear and I agree, hard working and caring is super, super important - Yeah. - in this industry and it's very clear from our conversation here that you are working hard to achieve the educational promise for what Sesame Street is all about.
So, thank you for that. - Thank you.. (Ashley laughs)