Alex Hemingway was determined to work for Woodshed Films after seeing their 2002 feature, Jack Johnson: The September Sessions. The California production company has a documentary film catalog focused on surf, travel, and music. Alex began courting them first by emailing, and then by showing up at their events and offering to take on miscellaneous production tasks.
Something about his persistence must have worked, because he is now the Media Manager for a Woodshed Films feature-length documentary called The Railroad Revival Tour.
The upcoming release covers a traveling music concert that took three roots/pop/folk bands across the American Southwest by railway in the spring of 2011. A dedicated team using film cameras, DSLRs and GoPro cameras captured footage.
With over 85 hours of digital footage and 15 hours of film footage showcasing six performances between California and New Orleans, Woodshed called Alex in to organize the media in preparation for editing: a specialty he’s developed.
Alex’s challenge was to design an efficient system for synchronizing the large volume of data from varying sources. He began by organizing the footage into sequences. He divided the clips into acts from each show and then took all the camera footage and strung it out into a sequence. Then he brought in the reference mix audio from the venue in addition to any production audio.
For each show there were between five and nine simultaneous cameras rolling, each with their own stops and starts, and sometimes with conflicting timecode. This meant Alex had a sequence with up to nine video tracks and 15 audio tracks that would sometimes be extended to as many as 18 audio tracks.
Alex turned to PluralEyes to sync using the camera audio. For efficiency he created a pipeline in which PluralEyes would be syncing one act while he prepared the next act. He recounts, “I hit a rhythm where I’d be leap-frogging along with PluralEyes: The software would analyze and sync in the background while I was prepping the next sequence to PluralEyes and spot-checking the previously PluralEyesed sequence.”
“I like the recent upgrade because before you couldn’t have multiple projects open; but now you can have it working in the background, which is awesome.” Organizing all the media for this project took 20 days to complete. Without PluralEyes, Alex estimates it would have taken a team of people up to two months.
Alex graduated from the film program at University of Colorado, Boulder and moved back home to California in 2005. In considering where to base his career he recognized that Los Angeles held the most opportunities and an environment that suited him. “L.A. has a million little things going on and there are many ways to make or break it. But it starts with having the right attitude, making the right friends, and just crushing it when you get in there.”
He started out running errands and getting coffee, and soon discovered that he was happiest with the consistency found in post-production. His formula for success combines a knack for editing and media management, a strong work ethic, and the ability to handle anything that comes up. “Every job you learn something new. If you get complacent doing the same thing then how are you going to grow? I’ve seen this situation and that situation therefore I can handle a lot of the monsters that pop up, as they inevitably do.”
Alex’s goal to keep stretching himself has recently pushed him into the creative editor’s seat. “Once you step into the editor position it’s kind of that new and scary feeling again. It’s a challenge and you can either think you can’t do it and be afraid of it, or you can just go after it and try your hardest.
There’s not an exact recipe for how to edit something. You just have to get in there and do it, start putting things together. As an assistant you’re responsible for making sure everything is organized for the editor. You can get a project clean and organized, but at a certain point you’re hands off, just waiting for the editor to tell you to do something. Now stepping into the editor role is quite fun.”
Trailer for ‘Come Hell or High Water’ by Woodshed Films
Beyond media management Alex has edited a 30-minute documentary, director’s reels for the Woodshed Films team, and he cuts the prize package and graphics reels for the Let’s Make a Deal game show. He has also completed short films about rock-climbing and surfing, which nicely merges his two passions – outdoor sports and filmmaking.
Woodshed Films aims to release The Railroad Revival Tour in the fall of 2011. Keep an eye on their website for that upcoming doc, and for more of Alex’s work.
‘Aratitiyope: Into the Venezuelan Amazon’ by Asa Firestone, edited by Alex Hemingway