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E D I T T H I S ! B URBANK — Christopher Nelson, ACE, has what many would con- sider a dream job. During the sum- mer he's editing AMC's Emmy Award-win- ning Mad Men, and in the winter he turns his attention to the phenomenon known at ABC's Lost — he is currently cutting the last season of the show. In January, the multiple Emmy-nominated- Nelson is taking some time off to keynote Future Media Concepts' Fourth Annual Edi- tors Retreat in Miami Beach. This four-day event features sessions and networking op- por tunities for top-level editors working in TV, video and film. (For more info on the event, visit: Below, Nelson answers questions about the editing process on two hit shows that he considers polar opposites. POST: In terms of mind set, how do you go about editing each show when they are so different? NELSON: "It's funny, when I come off a season of Lost and go back to Mad Men, or Mad Men back to Lost — it takes me a little while to recalibrate my needle, to re-adjust myself to the different feeling and pace of the show I'm returning to. People that don't follow Lost think it's this super-action/fantasy, but the entire show, in spite of the action, is driven by human emotion. Mad Men has the same human component; they are just exe- cuted in a different way." POST: With Lost, the audience is always looking for hidden meaning in everything. Does that affect they way you edit? NELSON: "Yes, that's one of the things that makes Lost fun. The way we construct the show is to enhance mystery, not neces- sarily to clarify things. You reveal as little as possible for as long as possible, so you don't even know where you are in a room or why you are there or who is there, then you drop back a little and see a little more. So you are sor t of feeding the audience pieces of information during the whole construct of the scene… a silent look from one char- acter to another placed at the right time could provided myster y that may or may not go anywhere." POST: Do you know much of the stor y in advance? NELSON: "They really don't enlighten us to what's down the road.They will obliquely answer questions as we are star ting to sniff out the story, but they don't tell us a lot. So if I am able to make this connection between people and I really like how it feels, I ask, 'Is this for real or is it a red herring, or do you want it at all?' And they'll tell me. Usually red herrings are not frowned on at all. Generally speaking, trying to keep the mystery going is full of possibilities for the audience." POST: Maybe it's best that they keep you in the dark, so you don't subliminally give any- thing away. NELSON: "If I know the full arc of a char- acter it might shade the way I approach that character a little differently upfront instead of at face value. They want the audience to take everything at whatever face value we present. Some things will lead us to something. Some will be misleading. Some will only be the first crumb of information that will slowly come out later. And that aspect is really fun." POST: What are some other differences be- tween the two shows from your perspective? NELSON: "The pace on Lost is faster than Mad Men, but we certainly take our time with human moments too and really milk them for all they are worth.The show is handheld a lot, so it's less steady than Mad Men. Mad Men is more stationary, so the camera doesn't move a lot — it's about the composition of the sta- tic frame a little more than the composition of how ever ything is moving, so it has a whole different fit and feel to it. "On Mad Men, we have found that if Don [Draper, the main character] is in an emo- tional state, sometimes his pace might be a little off what you want it to be. Normally, you would cut to somebody else and come back to pull that air out. We do jump cuts on their faces and there is a tool called Fluid Morph in Avid that can track the arc of that movement through eight or 10 frames. And it's amazing how many times it's completely invisible. It allows me to takes out a second, or two, and maintain his performance with- out the having to cut away. "In the last show that I did this past season, which was when Betty confronts Don with the box about his past at the kitchen table, I used several jump cut, Fluid Morphs and split screens to maintain the simple integrity of the scene without having to cut too much." POST: What about your use of split screens? NELSON: "We started doing a lot those. If Don is sitting on the left side of the frame and if I can find jumps on him that will work and slightly increase the pace, but they won't necessarily work on Betty's side if she's moving. So, with this scene in the kitchen, I split the screen and ran her contin- uous on one side and then on Don's side I was able to pull those pauses out so he has a little better flow and we could stay there longer without feeling like we wanted to cut. "In almost ever y episode of Mad Men I do, there are probably 30 to 40 split screens. And it star ted with the simple thing that Matt [show creator Matthew Wiener] likes, Christopher Nelson gets Lost and Mad This editor talks about cutting two of the hottest shows on TV. Christopher Nelson's tool of choice is an Avid. 12 Post • January 2010 By RANDI ALTMAN E D I T O R - I N - C H I E F Nelson often employs split screens while working on a scene like this from Mad Men.

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