Knut Hake, Editing Danni Lowinski

Since premiering in 2010, the German weekly TV series Danni Lowinski has captured stellar ratings and won industry awards for best series and best comedy. The edgy comedy resonated immediately with audiences and has become one of broadcaster SAT.1’s most acclaimed programs. The show features actress Annette Frier as Danni, a hairdresser who, after earning her law degree in night school, can’t find a job in a law firm. She’s forced to set up a humble helpdesk in a mall, where she dispenses legal advice for one Euro per minute.

Phoenix Film, the show’s production company, set out to deliver as many episodes as fans demanded. From the start, the show used state-of-the-art production and post-production tools like the RED One camera and Final Cut Pro. Working the tools was top industry talent, including Knut Hake. An accomplished independent editor since 1999, Hake has edited dozens of TV shows, movies, commercials, and shorts. In 2004, an episode that he edited of the TV show Berlin, Berlin won an International Emmy Award.

Hake successfully cut several shows for the first two seasons of Danni Lowinski using Final Cut Pro 7. But for season 3, airing now on German TV, he chose to edit entirely in Final Cut Pro X.

Speed to Edit

The transition to Final Cut Pro X was smooth for Hake, a Final Cut user since version 1. “We did some tests with Final Cut Pro X before I moved over,” he says. “I felt like I was up to speed with the tools within two days.”

Hake says he quickly noticed that using Final Cut Pro X allowed him to work faster than he ever could with previous versions or with any editing tool. “We have a very tight editing schedule, as the season’s first episodes were already airing as we were cutting,” says Hake. “The editing speed with Final Cut Pro X was fantastic. Trimming especially was very fast, and a lot of it can be done without ever leaving the arrow tool.”

“We did some tests with Final Cut Pro X before I moved over. I felt like I was up to speed with the tools within two days.” Although the show is shot on a set in Cologne, Hake did most of the editing in his home office in Berlin, using a standard-configuration iMac and Final Cut Pro X. It was there that he created his rough cut for each of the season 3 episodes, working on ProRes LT files transferred via hard drives from the set in Cologne. “I used ProRes LT because the resolution is terrific,” says Hake. “Directors love it because they really can tell how the final product will look.”

Besides faster editing, Hake found in the new capabilities of Final Cut Pro X a straighter path to the story. “I enjoyed using the Magnetic Timeline because it lets me focus on the storytelling. I know other methods of trimming in Final Cut Pro 7 and in Avid, but I’m glad I don’t have to deal with them in Final Cut Pro X. Because all I care about is how I trim — the rest is done for me. I really liked that.”

Edit to Fit

Hake also found that in Final Cut Pro X it was much easier to edit an entire episode intact.

“I very much like that I can now edit a whole episode, something that has been difficult to do in other editing applications,” he says. “Typically, I have to cut episodes down to 10-minute pieces because that works better. But with Final Cut Pro X, even if I had a music bed or atmosphere track under a scene, the Magnetic Timeline kept everything in sync, so I could actually edit in the 45-minute episode length. And nothing went out of sync — ever. That was really nice.”

Sweet Audio

Because the television and production company executives on the show expect high-quality video and audio even in rough cuts, Hake used Final Cut Pro X to quickly and efficiently deliver high-quality premixed sound and music early in the workflow.

“I really like the way I have access to the iTunes library from within the app,” says Hake. “That’s really helpful. I also have a sound library myself, and I found a way to access it by dragging the folder right into the Music and Sound Effects Browser.”

Hake also took advantage of some of the new audio features of Final Cut Pro X, like auto-enhance audio, match audio, gain adjust, and fade handles to “ease in sound” in audio transitions. 

Copyright © SAT.1 / Frank Dicks

Nonstop Storytelling

After shooting stopped, Hake joined show director and frequent collaborator Richard Huber in Cologne to push for the final draft. “For each 45-minute episode, I edited alone during the eight-day shoot and then worked about three-and-a-half to four days editing with the director,” he says.

Huber credits Final Cut Pro X with having a significant impact in helping them meet those brutal show delivery deadlines. “It’s so lean,” he says. “The constant automation in Final Cut Pro X provides a flow in viewing and editing, so you’re editing all the time. You’re never being interrupted. So we could use all of our time evaluating, trying things out, going the wrong way, and finding that one angle that was hidden all the time.”

And he believes that editorial flow perfectly complements Hake’s editorial style: “With Knut, storytelling doesn’t stop when shooting is completed. He is always looking for the surprising moment in the material. He reads the script once, and then he is guided only by the images coming in and the feeling he is looking for.”

From Picture to Sound

After Hake and Huber achieved their Final Cut for an episode, Hake and his assistant used Roles to organize media for the final handoff to the sound house. They also exported XML to transfer the Final Cut Pro X project to DaVinci Resolve for color grading and finishing.

“I helped my assistant with the exporting to DaVinci and Pro Tools, and it went very smoothly,” says Hake. “The musician and the Pro Tools guys got a QuickTime file with dialogue and effects on one track and layout music on a separate track along with an AAF file. This task was very easy to accomplish using Roles, which is a very powerful organizational feature.” 

Fast Forward

Before potentially returning to edit season 4 of Danni Lowinski, Hake intends to adapt his successful Final Cut Pro X editorial workflow for his next project, Kreutzer kommt, a 90-minute TV feature project for German broadcaster PRO7, again directed by Huber. 

“It’s a very complex story with a lot of characters,” says Hake. “And Final Cut Pro X is all about the story. So I look forward to being able to concentrate on the actual storytelling without worrying about how to do something. I’ll just do it.”