Trim Editing

A small shop for the world’s largest clients.

“When I’m playing back an edit for a director, they’ll say, ‘Okay, let’s go and make those changes I talked about.’ I’ll say, ‘Oh, no, they’re already done,’ and we’ll jump back and watch it again. People can’t believe that I’ve magically done the change before we even finish playback.”
Editor Thomas Grove Carter

From an open creative space in East London, Trim Editing develops bold messaging for the biggest brands, including Audi, Nike, Adidas, Guinness and Perrier. Their work has earned critical acclaim, highlighted by the ingenious interactive Honda spot The Other Side that won numerous awards including two Cannes Lions and the prestigious Creative Circle Gold of Golds. And their projects are viewed across the world, including the hugely popular 2015 holiday ad for John Lewis department stores that has been seen over 24 million times online. Yet Trim’s home is miles from the bustling film-business hub of Soho. With just a few edit suites, seven editors and off-the-shelf hardware and software, the company has become a leader in creative editing in just over a decade.

For visionary directors, Trim is the go-to resource for putting their dreams on the screen. “At Trim we focus quite strongly on working with directors, and doing the best work with the best director regardless of budget,” says editor Thomas Grove Carter. “If you do good work, eventually you’ll be doing the good work that pays.”

Today, Trim does the good work that pays, thanks in part to the flexibility of Final Cut Pro X, its go-to video editing software. The app allows Trim’s editors to work closely alongside its director clients, quickly finessing creative visions with maximum experimentation and minimum busywork. In client sessions, Final Cut Pro X allows editors to make changes on the fly while the timeline is still playing. Faster editing means Trim clients can see their new ideas realised more quickly on screen.

Dominic Leung reviewing and making changes to an edit on his MacBook.

Focused on creativity.

Trim formed in 2004 almost by accident. Current partners Tom Lindsay and Dominic Leung joined forces with founder Paul Hardcastle, largely to share a workspace for editing music videos. “It wasn’t started with a pure intent of being an editorial company,” says Lindsay. “It was a way of sharing the rent.” As the in-demand trio moved into high-profile commercial work, bigger clients required a more formal business structure.

Trim’s tech infrastructure is built on Apple hardware and simple third-party accessories. “We’ve stayed away from expensive outboard gear,” Leung says. “We’ve got stuff you can pretty much pick up anywhere.” By using affordable, powerful Mac computers that simply work, the team has more time and money to invest in the best creative ideas.

Editor Thomas Grove Carter introduced the Trim team to Final Cut Pro X, having worked with Final Cut Studio while in university. The addition of crucial new features in Final Cut Pro X finally convinced Trim to fully embrace the system. “At 10.1, when the file management changed [to include libraries], that was a massive thing. It was so logical and it made so much sense,” says Lindsay. “It really opened up bedroom editing in a lot of small companies, and Trim was definitely a part of that.”

Thomas Grove Carter and Dominic Leung trying out different approaches to an edit.

Truly collaborative edit sessions.

As Trim’s business and income have grown, its editing workflow has evolved as well, helping the team work faster and more productively. “You have an idea and you can execute it 20 per cent quicker and that just helps the creative flow,” says Leung.

Rather than building edits beforehand and presenting them to directors, Trim’s editors can work in real time alongside directors and clients, making the process unusually collaborative. “Sometimes there’ll be up to ten people or more in your edit suite,” says Leung. “For us, editing is a collaboration.” Carter adds, “If someone suggests something, there’s no reason not to try it out, because it’s so easy to do it.”

Final Cut Pro X speeds up the basic tasks of organising media, allowing editors to tag, filter and find specific shots much more quickly than ever before. “Clients say, ‘Oh, what about this shot? What about that shot?’ And almost by the time someone’s said it you can find the shot,” says Leung. Once a workable edit has been created, the system helps editors try new ways to make it even better. “With Final Cut Pro X, the time I save gives me more freedom to experiment, to investigate what the edit is — or what it can be,” says Carter. “It leaves you in a better position to just try stuff out.”

MacBook Pro allows the Trim team to take their work with them.

Editing around the clock, around the world.

Final Cut Pro X and MacBook Pro give editors the flexibility to work offsite whenever they choose. “Sometimes you want to stop work at six or seven, carry it home, and have some dinner,” says Lindsay. “Then you just do another couple of hours of work to get ahead for the next day.” Carter adds, “It doesn’t feel like a hindrance if I’m cutting at home. I would never think, ‘Oh, I’m going to have to go into the office to do this’.”

With other NLE apps, editors are forced to use multiple monitors to track various menus and windows. Final Cut Pro X elegantly consolidates all its functionality into a single user window. As Carter observes, “The unified interface makes it more useful on a laptop. It feels the same across all these different devices.” Leung says you can use Fina Cut Pro X on a laptop screen “and not really feel like you’re missing out on a huge amount.”

By working while they travel, editors can be productive during their downtime. Leung once edited a spot while returning from a shoot. “I got the first assembly together on my MacBook while I was in the airport for three hours. I showed it to the director after we checked in and he gave me his notes. I tweaked it on the flight home. While I was waiting for my baggage, I sent out the first EDL to post-production with my MacBook hooked up to my iPhone.”

Tools for the perfect picture.

From beginning to end, the editing process is dramatically streamlined by the powerful features built into Final Cut Pro X. Its skimmer tool makes it faster for editors to view and evaluate incoming footage. “Final Cut Pro X offers you a quicker way for that third pass on your rushes,” says Lindsay. “You can scrub to the point of action and get the part you want.” Sophisticated keywording for clips allows editors to mark clips by shutter speed, shot type, content and client preference, then instantly locate them as needed.

Smart Collections simplify the process of sorting through footage too. “Rather than me trying to work out what we did on Friday, I often will make a Smart Collection and just say, ‘Show me everything that was imported on Friday’,” says Carter. Later in the process, alternate edits are organised automatically in the Projects Smart Collection, so editors never lose anything when they’re moving quickly.

The flexible Magnetic Timeline in Final Cut Pro X gives editors a new way to structure sequences. For those used to working on track-based timelines, the design and ease of use take some getting used to. “Then one day, it just clicked,” says Lindsay. “Since that moment, going back to something else just feels completely alien.” By keeping everything in sync when editors trim or remove shots, the Magnetic Timeline simplifies the process of creating cutdowns or alternate versions.

In Final Cut Pro X, the Filmstrip view displays clips in the selected event as a connected series of thumbnail images, allowing editors to see all the shots before and after a given frame. “I’m not just looking at that one frame in time,” says Lindsay. “I have a wide-angle view of my rushes and my footage. I feel like the blinkers are taken off.”

Finished edits from Final Cut Pro X are high quality, and easy for editors to output. “In the time it takes for me to phone an assistant and tell them what they need to output, it’s just as easy for me to make those elements myself,” says Carter. And Final Cut Pro X integrates smoothly with workflows involving high-end facilities. A collection of powerful utilities make it simple for Trim to send XML, EDL or AAF versions of their projects to top finishing houses in London like The Mill, MPC and Framestore.

The power of Mac Pro and speed of Final Cut Pro X allow Trim to tackle complex 4K jobs.

Sophisticated sound design, simplified.

Though picture is important, “half the job is the sound,” says Carter. “Even though all of our work’s eventually going to have a proper sound mix, we still have to push it as far as we can in our edits.” The sophisticated audio editing features in Final Cut Pro X allow Trim to develop incredibly complex audio beds. While editing one spot, Lindsay had to mix dozens of individual music tracks provided by the client. “We built the [audio] track and it was so complex. The speed with which we worked in Final Cut Pro X definitely saved us days.”

One feature that helps editors work quickly is the app’s high-resolution audio waveforms, which make it possible to locate specific points and adjust levels without playback. “You’re not having to sit there and listen to all three takes,” says Leung. “You can just go straight to the third one because you can see where it is.” The Magnetic Timeline lets editors extend certain clips without losing synchronisation or deleting anything. “I’m always safe in the knowledge that none of my audio has been overwritten, that none of my audio will ever be out of sync,” says Carter.

Built-in effects help editors produce polished audio tracks in a minimum of time. Fade handles provide a fast and highly visual way to control audio dissolves, allowing Trim editors to quickly drag to the perfect length and both see and hear the result instantly. Reverb, EQ and other effects can be added on the fly during playback. Thanks to support for Audio Units plug-ins, favourite audio filters from Logic Pro X and third-party developers are available directly in Final Cut Pro X — complete with their own custom interfaces. And with high-quality pitch-shifting, editors can grab and stretch an audio clip to change its duration without altering the pitch. When the mix is complete, Trim exports the projects as a Pro Tools session in seconds using the X2Pro Audio Convert app, for delivery to any audio finishing house in town.

Tatyana Alexandra, Thomas Grove Carter and Dominic Leung reviewing the final stages of a commercial.

From start to finishing.

What’s next for the creative forces at Trim? For starters, Final Cut Pro X is paving the way for Trim to expand into finishing and sound, thereby creating faster turnarounds and even greater creative control. “Final Cut Pro X takes away a lot of the potential boundaries to growth. We love doing sound and we want to keep control of that whole process right to the end.”

The software gives Trim a secure foundation for future expansion, one in which talent and not technology becomes the focus. “We’re not thinking, ‘we’ve got to invest fourteen million pounds in new equipment’,” says Lindsay. “It’s more like, ‘Who are we going to get to help us [grow]?’ It’s not about having better equipment than anyone else. It’s about the people.”

“I feel like we’ve got an edge on a lot of people, because we’re not relying on excessive technology or software. You can just walk in with your backpack and you can outperform everyone else.”
Tom Lindsay, Trim Editing Partner

Workflow

Final Cut Pro X Workflow

Media is converted to ProRes 422 before ingest. Secondary source audio is synched with the primary footage.

The Trim Editing team organises and tags the media, chooses selects, creates a rough cut and performs basic sound design.

This is an iterative process with clients in which edits are refined with constant feedback from the director and/or client.

Projects are then sent to specialised post-production facilities for final sound mixing, visual effects and colour grading.

Sound is sent as an AAF for finishing in Pro Tools using the third-party application X2Pro. The final sound mix is returned to Trim as stems, then integrated back into the Final Cut Pro X project.

For visual effects, projects can be sent as EDLs or as FCPXML for visual effects shots. For EDLs, the third-party application EDL-X is used. The EDLs or XML is used to conform the edit to the high-resolution camera footage. When complete, the shots are returned as QuickTime files for incorporation into the edit. This is an iterative process.

For final colour grading and finishing, projects are sent as EDLs and FCPXML to systems including Nuke, Flame and DaVinci Resolve.

Featured Hardware