NEW YORK - Editing for comedy is all about pace and timing.
And if you have ever watched Comedy Central's The Colbert Report and its regular segments, like Better Know A
District or Four Horseman of the Apocalypse, you truly understand how cutting
to a reaction and letting it sit for a while can grow the funny.
And to help them grow their funny, show editors Jason Baker,
Andrew Matheson and Joshua Weinstein call on Avid Media Composer Adrenalines
with Unity, while junior editor Bryan Dinello taps Apple Final Cut Pro,
prepping clips for the day's shoot from various news sources.
According to post supervisor Jeremy Tchaban, Dinello's work
has helped free up the Avid editors, who had been doing little pieces and small
montages, to do more complex work, like field pieces and daily fixes to the
While the show is taping on Digi Beta in-studio with host
Stephen Colbert — from 7pm to 8pm with feed to the network at 9pm — the editors
digitize two cameras and the program feed into the Adrenaline suites, just in
case they need to perform fixes. A typical fix is a misread line or technical
issue, says Tchaban. "Instead of redoing the whole segment or having to
jump-cut straight to tape, we can use the Avid during taping to really edit
quickly and keep the show to time."
When Tchaban says timing is everything, he means it; they
really only have one hour to edit the show. "It's important to get the control
room a runtime of each segment so they can keep the show on schedule. We
usually cut out material for time and rarely, if ever, cut for content or
While the show is being shot live to tape, all four editors
work closely with the control room. According to Tchaban, the control room can
only edit linear, which limits their
technical capabilities They have become accustomed to the editors
performing complicated fixes, like pulling out time in a segment and tweaking
audio, but that doesn't mean they don't do their share. "Fixes are performed
both in the Avid and the control room, so our editors and the control room work
closely to get the show on tape, on time and ready to feed to the network," he
explains. "Sometimes doing the fix is quicker in our control room and other
times it's faster to do it in the Avid when the edit requires more technical
PLAYING THE FIELD
The show has a field department that shoots reoccurring
segments on location, on Beta SP. One of those is Better Know A District, where
Colbert visits a congressman. "Our editors and field producers will spend a lot
of time reworking the material and testing each comedic beat," says Tchaban.
On average, the producers will shoot about one hour of
material, and when it's completely edited the result will be a seamless, four-
to five-minute interview. "The field producer will work with the editor to
create a rough cut, which is pretty close to the final version," he reports.
"On the day the piece is scheduled to air, the field producer and editor work
with the executive producers and Stephen to make any last-minute changes." Colbert
and Jon Stewart are executive producers; the three co-execs are Rich Dahm,
Allison Silverman and Meredith Bennett.
Sound design is typically done in the Avid, by editor Jason
Baker, who started his career as a recording engineer. "Jason has been using his experience as an audio engineer by
sound designing the show's graphic opens and animations." In addition, Baker
will compose original tracks in Apple's GarageBand. They also have a Digidesign
Pro Tools station.
The Colbert Report's three-man graphics department is made
up of senior graphics designer Andro Buneta, Kris Long and Bill Marko. They are
responsible for producing the opens, animations, mock-ups and graphics. They
are desktop-based and recently upgraded to Intel-based Macs and Adobe's
Creative Suite 3. And they often call on affordable plug-ins to add polish and,
well, explosions to their work.
One of those plug-in packages is Trapcode, from Red Giant,
which they use for opening, segment animations and full-screen graphics. Buneta
says it's particularly helpful with things that explode or are on fire."
For recurring segments, like Four Horseman of the
Apocalypse, "we use the Trapcode plug-ins to add that little shine or sparkle,
or whatever the joke calls for. Sometimes it's making someone's head explode,
or in the case of Better Know a District, we're taking a Congressional District
that Stephen is particularly annoyed with at the moment and exploding it
right off the US map, which is pretty funny," he says.
Buneta notes that with the show's schedule, they need tools
that are easy to use, and he says Trapcode fits that description. "Thanks to
Trapcode we can do something really nice in a short amount of time."
All in a day's work, making a fake news show funny.