For editor Erwin Fraterman, there was never a doubt about which side of the camera he should be on. Despite following his photographer father around the world to shoot global campaigns and eventually being gifted a video camera of his own, Erwin always felt most comfortable after the camera had been put away and the story could begin to come to life. As snipping and stitching scenes together came to him most naturally, Erwin eventually followed his passion to LA, joining jumP editorial first as an intern and then as a full-time rising star. Now, in a world of proliferating platforms and multiplying versions, editors like Erwin are faced with more challenges than ever before. Competing with evolving attention spans and the need for reactive and appropriate content - brands and agencies are requiring more from the material and the editors themselves.
To learn more about how the edit world currently spins we spoke with Erwin about the idea of ‘medium over message,’ how newer platforms are disrupting the edit industry, and why a cut’s integrity is the most important thing in the world.
As audience members, a good edit is like a good sense of humor; fundamental to enjoyment but completely invisible to the naked eye. Cliché aside, a good edit really is the difference between immersing an audience or making them painfully aware of their voyeurism. In the current editorial climate, understanding exactly which audience is consuming your edit is tantamount to crucial when working in the suite.
Editor Erwin Fraterman agrees: “Many people think that the multiple platforms - and subsequent versioning demands - are the biggest shifts we’ve had to face as an industry. Yet, in actuality, it’s rethinking the audiences for these mediums, and factoring in how they play, whether it be without sound or on a 6-inch phone screen. It’s not that we need new a completely new skill set for social media, we just have to be aware of where that media is going to live and anticipate accordingly.”
So, whilst newer audiences may not require a technical skill shifts, is the evolving modern attention span a consideration for editors? With audiences reported to be far more selective about what content - both professionally and personally - they consume, how can the edit work to capture imaginations?
“There’s been a huge cultural and technological evolution over the past decade,” Erwin considers. “It’s important we adapt the message to these new mediums. For example, If it’s ending up on social media, it’s important to take the first couple seconds of that edit into greater consideration - because the people using these newer mediums have a shorter attention span.”
Understanding newer audiences is one thing, but accommodating for them in the first place is quite another. Often, projects are shot for broadcast and then retrospectively shaped to fit an Instagram or Facebook shaped hole - a difficult task for editors working with varied aspect ratios and proportions.
“A lot of the time we can’t directly lift from the broadcast version because it’s not framed with those proportions in mind,” explains Erwin. “Inevitably, we’ll have to go back through the footage to find similar shots that are framed wider - and often we’ll find nothing appropriate, which means thinking up solutions and workarounds.”
As for the challenges of innovating new solutions, Erwin notes that it’s about weighing up what’s possible, with what’s appropriate: “There’s always a balancing act between expressing your personal creativity as an editor and addressing the client’s notes whilst maintaining the integrity of the cut. Then again, that’s also the fun part too,” he laughs.
Platforms and aspect ratios aside, an industry tendency for over-paced and ‘flashy’ editing has become prolific again, much to the chagrin of experienced industry editors.
“I’ve seen it done both properly and horrendously,” Erwin muses. “There’s definitely a craft to fast-paced editing and when done properly, people in the industry, especially editors, will recognize it. We’re attuned to understanding the difficulties in creating the controlled chaos - when it’s flashy or fast-paced without purpose, it won’t help a film’s overall message.”
Yet, when executed properly, fast-paced editing can be a delight, as evidenced with Erwin’s example of standout editing: ‘The Watchtower of Turkey’ by Leonardo Dalessandri. The LA based editor applauds it for the brilliant sound design, music, and pacing, noting that it’s the perfect example of ‘controlled chaos’. “It’s fast-paced but put together meticulously, so the viewer is engaged until the very end.”
Looking to his next projects working on documentaries and an upcoming blockbuster’s opening sequence, Erwin has a busy year ahead.
“The medium really is the message,” Erwin finishes, paraphrasing author Marshall McLuhan, speaking to the edit process. “It’s about respecting the medium itself, rather than just the content it carries. The medium affects the society in which it plays a role, not only by the content delivered but also by the characteristics itself. I think this is how I feel about the modern evolution of the edit process - that if the craft itself is respected, that the content and end product will only ever improve.”