A Lesson in Sitcom

So, not too long ago I had the pleasure to cut a spec pilot called Dodgeville. This was my first real adventure into the sitcom world and I had my hands full. When you watch them on TV most people would think, “Oh, thats easy to edit.” This is wrong. It takes skill and loads of comedic timing. It was fun, but there were a few questions that I had about the art of cutting “The Sitcom”. So, I emailed Robert Bramwell, an A.C.E. Member and the current Editor on Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Season 4. Since he may as well be the king of editing Sitcoms, why not? It’s not like he won a Primetime Emmy for Cheers, right?

Here is the question and the response:

Me:

R. Bramwell,

I was actually hired to edit a pilot sitcom that will be sent to FX Networks in a week. I am finalizing edits, color correcting and audio sweetening right now. Since you have a lot of experience editing sitcom type projects I was just wondering if you could lend me any general knowledge that may help me in the finalizing process, such as: The best ways to play up jokes, but the most confusing thing to me is how to incorporate music into a sitcom. Because it’s very dialog oriented.

Just to let you know, I am cutting it on Avid Media Composer using Script Sync. I seem to be the only Chicago based Avid editor using it. Makes things go quicker!
Robert J. Williams
Assistant Editor

Robert Bramwell:

Hi Robert,

That’s awesome! I’m presently editing ‘Sunny’ season 4. Please let me know what I can do for you if it’s not too late. Timing of dialog jokes is the most important thing in comedy. You should be able to sense when people should say the punch line just by closing your eyes and feeling it. Even though we are editing a visual medium, when you are dealing with dialog jokes it’s like a radio show or listening to a comedy CD. If you close your eyes you will sense where the dialog should start. As for music in a dialog comedy, I find that it usually fights the comedy. I like to use music as a transition into scenes and to punctuate the end of scenes, but playing music through scene usually ruins it. Most producers that I’ve worked with will play music very low in comedy scenes because the most important thing is the spoken word and as you know that is where the comedy comes from.

I’m glad that you are using ScriptSync and Script based editing, just about all comedy shows in Los Angeles use the Script. It’s the fastest way for Producers and Directors to compare different line readings. Your Producer and Director if not familiar with Script based editing will think that you are a genius and the fastest editor in town. The trailer looks pretty funny and uses music very well. I would check your show out.

Thanks Rob

Here are a few Avid ScriptSync

Resources:

Accelerating Your Editing with ScriptSync
by Robert Bramwell

Edit More Efficiently in Media Composer with Avid ScriptSync
Studio Monthly

Avid.com Video Tours of ScriptSync

Dodgeville Avid Media Composer 3.0/ ScriptSync Screen Shots:

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1 Comment

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One response to “A Lesson in Sitcom

  1. jens

    hi robert,

    i am a just-finished film student working on my diploma film, which is a sitcom pilot, too. nice to see somebody wrangling with this genre and giving info about the editing proccess.

    keep it up!
    jens

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