How To Win an Oscar From Your Living Room
Even if you missed the Oscars last week, I’m sure you’ve seen the headlines - Everything, Everywhere, All at Once swept the awards ceremony.
The team walked away with seven awards including best picture, directing, and editing. It’s an inspiring story for a variety of reasons but since this site is dedicated creatives and especially film and video editors I’m going to focus on Paul Rogers, who stood alone on the biggest awards stage in the film industry and stated “this is my second film y’all, this is crazy.”
Crazy for sure, especially when you dig into the back story. Everything, Everywhere, All at Once was not only unique in its style and storytelling but it was also a unique moment for upcoming filmmakers and editors everywhere.
The Premiere Pro timeline for Everything, Everywhere, All at Once (2022)
The film was shot in just 38 days. They used ARRI ALEXA minis on set with the raw footage captured in ProRes 4444. The Directors come from a Music Videos background which I’m assuming influenced the decision to capture a ton of scenes in all different frame rates - 23.98, 47.96, 59.94, 96, and 192 fps. They were able to use this later in the editing to speed ramp and time remap creating wrapped feelings of time.
On set the DIT transcoded footage to ProRes 422 LT 1998×1080 and the team received dailies twice a day. Paul Rogers, the lead editor, wasn’t on set for most of the production but did stop in a few times - “I was cutting while they were shooting. But I would visit the set, and it was insane. They have a really fun set.” While the team was shooting Paul would make string-outs of the dailies he would receive. He cut the audit scene for the cast and crew to actually watch during the shoot and getting everyone excited.
This is something to learn from. Making cuts and giving the directors or your client a visualization of how the shoot is going while still in production can really add a boost of confidence for everyone involved.
The Editing Process
Here’s where things get interesting.
Paul began cutting in March 2020, just two weeks before the lockdowns. The production was forced to go remote and Paul had to begin working from home. He began cutting the film on his 2017 iMac with the hard drive of footage in his living room, taking turns with his wife to care of his son.
“I didn’t have a home office. We lived in a two bedroom tiny house so I threw my iMac with a hard drive up in the living room next to my kitchen table. My son and wife were at home constantly, there was no daycare.” said Paul.
Let that sink in… the film that swept the Oscars this year was edited on a 2017 iMac in Paul's living room. Not a full edit suite, not a top of the line, brand new computer system.
As the team adjusted to remote work their approach to editing shifted as well. Since the team couldn't sit together to review scenes in person, they adopted a ritual of screening the film every 2 weeks over Zoom. This was unique for Paul since he was able to watch everyone's facial expressions react to the cut in real time. He could see exact moments where the edit may have fallen flat or missed the mark based on their reactions and facial expressions. The team would then add their notes to Frame.io which directly fed back into Premiere, adding markers where Paul needed to make adjustments.
This system was fast, organized, and of course, fully remote. But to take it one step further, Adobe opened early access to Adobe Premiere Productions, which allowed the team to collaborate even more closely. "This movie would 100% would not have been possible to pull off without Productions," says Paul.
They adopted a system of “Swarm Editing.” Paul described the process as highly collaborative and communal from which he found a fresh sense on play and enthusiasm from. When the team found themselves stuck on a scene they opened up the edit process to different editors they thought might bring something unique to the table. Rather than having to send bloated Project files, editors can hop into the cloud based project file and start editing the same timelines right away.
"Try things, experiment, throw things at the wall"
The VFX Team
There were almost 500 visual and special effect shots in the film. But this wasn’t done by a big VFX house, it was a team of 5 people working from their bedrooms. Unreal.
A lot of the visual effects were mocked up or finished straight in Premiere by Paul but the more intense effects were passed off to the VFX team using Resilio Sync to share assets. Rather than perfecting every effect, the team would work on each shot until it was usable then went back over time to continue fine tuning.
The transition scenes were all uniquely made so that no two scenes or sounds were exactly the same. The challenge became pushing the boundaries each time. Director Daniel Kwan would carry around a small 4K pocket camera everywhere he went filming time-lapses for the film. They used simple green screening and LED panels to sell the effect. They stacked all the elements together and added overlays and subtle textures to help push the effect just a little further.
VFX can feel like an unimaginably complex workflow that requires powerful computers and huge budgets. We hear VFX and we think about Marvel movies or Avatar. But there’s so much available to us as creators with some creativity and unique assets.
What I think is so exciting about this team winning seven Oscars for their work isn't the awards or the publications. It's the fact that storytelling, craftsmanship, and passion shined brighter than big budgets and overly produced creations. It's that the tools are more accessible and more collaborative than ever before and hopefully we get to see more unique work being made because of that.
Now back to laundry and taxes.
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