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June 2010

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ONE ON ONE By RANDI ALTMAN EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Sharlto Copely: L OS ANGELES— Sharlto Copely, the South African actor best known for his starring role (his first) in last Knowing how to shoot and edit helped him land his most recent role. year’s District 9, has spent most of his adult life behind the scenes as a writer, director, producer, editor and VFX supervisor. His post production career unofficially began when he was 12 years old, creating VHS-to-VHS recordings.When Copely fin- ished school, his editing tool of choice was Adobe’s Premiere, which has gotten quite a facelift recently thanks to the 64-bit Pre- miere Pro and its Mercury Playback Engine. I guess you can say that both Sharlto Copely and Premiere Pro have gotten a fresh start recently. Just before his next film was to release — he is Mad Dog Murdock in the feature ver- sion of The A-Team — Copely, who used to own a post company in South Africa and who still has a production company back home, along with a newly-opened one in Los Angeles, took time out to chat with us about his post production past and present.This in- cludes a recent video for the South African Music Awards, where he is in character as Wikus Van De Merwe from District 9, and is on a quest to get fellow countryman Charl- ize Theron to present an award with him.You can find it on He also uses his production and post skills to help him win roles. More on that later. Copley (bottom, right corner) shot and edited an audition tape of himself playing The A-Team’s Murdoch, sent it to the film’s director Joe Carnahan... and got the job. POST: Does your production and post background help you with acting? COPELY: “I was very much a filmmaker. I was obsessed with making films and I briefly considered acting when I was in high school, but decided I really wanted control of what I was doing. I wanted to be more of a producer, writer, director. I ended up getting very involved in the business side of things by starting a TV channel in South Africa (Channel 69 Studios). In the visual effects [part of] the company, my primary function was always creative director, and for some of the high-end projects I would edit them myself. “I knew a lot about the business, but grow- ing up in South Africa and growing up in a business that was still very much in its infancy in some ways, you did everything. And the technology allows that more these days. 14 Post • June 2010 an actor with a post production heart When we first set up the television station,we set up low-cost digital cameras and shot on DV and things like that;we wanted to broad- cast 16x9 images with bars or play the signal off a PC.We were always on the edge of low- cost production and post production stuff.” POST: You have worked on different ver- sions of Premiere throughout? COPLEY: “Yes, pretty much. The only that Avid couldn’t do; you could export dif- ferent formats. It was just more friendly for computer people. It was timeline based and you could do more stuff in timeline faster and easier. It was a different way of thinking about editing — A-B roll versus timeline.” POST: You have already worked with CS5. What do you think of the new version of Pre- miere Pro with the Mercury engine? Sharlto Copely as his District 9character Wikus Van De Merwe in the video short he directed and edited, on Adobe Premiere Pro 5, for the South African Music Awards. other thing I ever used during the TV sta- tion days was Speed Razor software.We used that and Premiere. One of my busi- ness partners and myself at the time had one of the first PC-based machines in South Africa that was running Premiere on it. I think it was Premiere 3.” POST: What attracted you to Premiere over the other editing options? COPELY: “In the early days, Premiere, was, in my view, the leader in timeline-based nonlinear editing — the main competition was the totally professional Avid system. But the interface was designed for A-B-roll edi- tors, especially in the early days.The later versions of Avid looked more like, in my view, what Premiere had right in the begin- ning.You felt like the Premiere guys really got where the computerized, digital world was going. It could take in more types of media COPLEY: “It really embraced me. A while ago, I was doing a project on CS3 and it was not really delivering the way I wanted, and I was really losing faith in Pre- miere, to be honest. But this system with 5 on it is pretty impressive.The most notice- able thing was it was so much faster and stable. I haven’t been able to crash it. Al- though I haven’t really pushed the system as much on bigger projects where you have filters going and text, things that used to give Premiere problems. “I edited a short piece on it so far and I pulled my 25-minute short into it too, and it’s handling amazingly well. I heard that they had actually re-written it, which makes sense because just moving around on it or opening a project, you see a big difference. The time it takes to open a big project took so much longer. They did do a big jump with this version.”

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