Careers: Animation editor Stephanie Earley
Issue: September/October 2022

Careers: Animation editor Stephanie Earley

Animation editor Stephanie Earley’s rise in animated post-production came after a previous tenure working in the unscripted & reality storytelling worlds. As a lead editor, Earley worked on the third season of Central Park, which premiered on Apple TV+ on September 9th. The animated musical series tells the story of a family of caretakers who work and live in Central Park and must save the park from a greedy land developer. 

Earley has been a part of the show since its beginning, working as an assistant editor in Season 1, and then as lead editor for Seasons 2 & 3. For Central Park, she focuses on the pacing, the character's voice and the tempo, which is imperative to the show’s success. 

Central Park

Some of Earley’s past animation credits include The Bob’s Burgers Movie, a feature spin-off of the hit animated TV series Bob’s Burgers, and The Awesomes, a comedy about a new generation of superheroes filling in their parents’ shoes. Prior to working in animation, Earley dabbled in the unscripted realm for nearly a decade. Her last unscripted project before making the leap to animation was Ghost Hunters, where she was a member of the editorial department for over 100 episodes. 

Here, Earley shares insight into her career path and her current day-to-day duties.

Tell us a bit about your background.

“I have always loved television and movies, but like so many others, I never thought it could be a career. I went to the University of Georgia, with plans to be a fashion merchandising major, then quickly learned that I was absolutely not passionate about that industry and absolutely not fashionable — ha! I got involved with the student news station and got into the journalism school as a telecommunications major, which had the makings for an industry program, but not nearly the robust program it is now! I taught myself Final Cut Pro to be able to help put together news packages quickly and to cut the ‘short films’ we did in our independent studies classes. 

“A few friends and I decided to move to LA in five years so that we had those years of experience for resumes. Thirteen months later, my car was packed and I had enough money in my bank account to last about six months without a job. I applied everywhere I could and ended up getting a logging job on The Real World: Hollywood, thus starting my career (in) unscripted. I found a home and a mentor (shout out to Sarah Goff) on the show Ghost Hunters. I worked my way up from post PA to editor in about five years, learning everything I could about workflows, organization, and of course, Avid Media Composer. The jump from unscripted to animation came in a chance encounter with a producer in need of an AE who was fluent in Avid.”

Central Park

How did you get involved with Central Park?

“When I was on my final episode of Ghost Hunters, I was invited to a party for a friend and colleague of my boyfriend (now husband and fellow animation editor). There, I met a producer at Bento Box Entertainment, Seranie Manoogian. We talked for most of the night and had so much in common, including our sense of humor. She mentioned she was looking for an assistant editor for an animated show she was staffing up called The Awesomes. She felt I'd be a good fit with the crew, despite having zero animation experience, and said she'd love to put me up for the position! I got the job and that is when I fell in love with animation. I'm so happy she thought of me for Central Park when they needed an assistant editor a few years later. I came to Central Park as the AE, moved to animatic editor for Season 2, and then assumed the helm of lead editor for Season 2 color and all of Season 3.”

Central Park

Can you explain the needs of the project?

“Animation is one of the most collaborative mediums I've worked in, and editorial is central to each project. As the editor of Central Park, I creatively craft our stories through pacing, shot selection, and an overall sense of the big-picture narrative. The added benefit for any editor working on animation is, we get to be part of the decision-making process of deciding what ‘footage’ we are going to end up with in post. Unlike a more traditional, linear pipeline, where the editor is one of the last stops on the train, animation editorial departments work with the directors to forge the story before we send it to be animated. I was fortunate enough to cut all my animatics, as well as my color animation for Central Park, but even when there are different editors for the storyboard phase and the color phase, the projects have such an advantage in having the editors' involvement in these earlier milestones. 

“After animatics are shipped to our overseas animation studio, we have about 12 weeks before we receive color animation back. Once in my hands, I take another creative pass and assess how our frames were translated into color animation. We really don't know if what we intended will come across. We send out a rough color screening, implement notes into a rewrite, and then have a long edit session where I get into the trenches with the showrunners, going shot by shot, frame by frame, really figuring out how we can best tell the story. We've often gotten a good percentage of our cast recorded by this time, so their performances really help guide our direction at  this stage. This is the last opportunity to rewrite because the script of this cut goes to audio for recording our final cast records. Once it's recorded, I have an ADR pass and fix whatever picture I can — especially if the words are the same. My ADR pass is one of the heavy-lifting points of this process. This is where I can have layers and layers of animattes to build my own frames of a shot. Next, we lock the show with ADR and the episode is ready to go to retake animation. Our extensive online processes for audio and picture all fall in the few weeks after retaking animation, which finalizes the show for delivery.”

Central Park

What gear are you using?

“I use Avid Media Composer to edit color animation and Adobe Premiere Pro to cut animatic storyboards.”

Can you describe a typical work day?

“A normal work day of post production in the middle of the season is usually packed, but very different depending on where in the schedule we are. Our episode schedules are built out as weeks, so in the middle of the season, when it's Week 1 of 310, then it is Week 8 of 302. Week 1 and Week 8 have very different needs, my days involve lots of juggling between multiple projects in various stages of completion.

Central Park

“I always start my days with a check-in with my amazing AE, Matt Parcone. He is responsible for cutting in any retakes and lets me know if anything was weird or didn't come in correctly. He lets me know if there is anything that needs my attention and I let him know my expectations for the day. I have a few days that are my ‘no interruptions’ work days — a rough color, a color rewrite or an ADR day, where I really dig in and perform a creative pass, as well as get into the minutiae of fixing lip sync, building frames, tackling any notes assigned to me, or fixing things I can fix. If this is one of those days, I let him know what I'm working on and how long I anticipate it taking, in the event that something needs my eyes. He knows to take care of any requests and funnel anything to me that needs my attention before they can move on to the next phase. If the day is a session day, we discuss what has to happen before the session and then divide and conquer if it is a lot. Sessions are about six hours, so on those days, that basically is my full day.”

Where can we follow you on social media?
Twitter and Instagram: @cheerok
TikTok: @cheeroknotcheerok