Sharknado 2 and Vashi’s Premiere Pro Editorial Workflow

You can use Adobe Premiere Pro CC to edit feature films. Sharknado 2’s editor tells us how.

Sharks and tornados go together so well that Syfy is on their second round of Sharknado movies with Sharknado 2: The Second One. This second coming of sharks and tornados was edited on Adobe Premiere Pro CC by Vashi Nedomansky (IMDB) as he shoehorned PPro into what has traditionally been a Final Cut Pro Classic workflow. I was curious as to how the process went (and feature film editing in general on tools other than the standards) so I sent over a list of questions that Vashi was kind enough to answer. Watch the mayhem on July 30 at 9/8c on Syfy.

SHARKNADO 2: The Post Production Workflow, A Q and A with Editor Vashi Nedomansky

Describe to us your hardware setup for editing Sharknado 2. What external monitoring options were you using? What video hardware for client viewing?

I edited SHARKNADO 2 at my home studio in Santa Monica. My main edit bay has a 12-core Mac Pro Tower with 32GB RAM. My storage for this project was an OWC Mercury Elite Pro Qx2 12TB RAID 5 system. I connected via eSata to a PCIe dual slot eSata card in the Mac Pro. For monitors I have a pair of 24” Apple Cinema displays that are on their last legs. Time to upgrade to a couple 30” displays for my next film! Editors can always use the additional real estate to key the eyes fresh and to get a better overall view of any project. 

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Where Sharknado magic happened, or “Chaos Central.”

For my external monitoring and client viewing, my BlackMagic Mini Monitor card sends an HDMI signal out to a 46” Vizio LED TV hung above my edit station. I use this only for playback and not color correction…but it is calibrated and is an accurate representation of my source footage. Audio is routed through a pair of Edirol MA–15D stereo monitors and a Sony SA-W2500 active subwoofer that gives me all the thump and rumble I need. Lastly, my stock Apple keyboard w/keypad and a Logitech M310 mouse round out my set up. I’ve tried to edit with the Apple Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad but need finer, micro moves are easier with a simple mouse and physical scroll wheel.

How much raw media were you working with? Did you get it all at once or did it come in daily?

On Day One of editorial, I received a 4TB G-Raid drive with all the raw footage on Sharknado. It clocked in to about 40 hours of footage all in. This was a cloned drive of the same footage that lived at The Asylum post production offices in Burbank. The project was prepped and built out by editor Ana Florit who has worked on several Asylum films and was one of the editors on the original Sharknado. She handed over an extremely organized project that was ready for me to jump in and start crafting right from the first minute. With my short 6-week editorial run…there is no way I could have hit all the deadlines without her amazing and talented work.

What was the camera origination format and did you edit at an offline resolution?

Sharknado 2 was shot on RED Epic at 5K resolution. The B camera was the Black Magic Cinema Camera and several inserts and pick ups were shot on the Canon 5Dmkiii and the Canon 7D. All footage was transcoded to Pro Res 422 at 1920×1080 @23.98fps. The Asylum puts out almost 30 films a year and this simple and easy offline process allows them to easily store and share footage across many edit bays and users without taking up too much space. Cutting Pro Res is an easy task for any tower or laptop these days and also allowed for mobile editing on set for pick ups as we pushed to hit the final broadcast delivery deadline. That’s one deadline that The Asylum has never missed and Sharknado 2 was no different. That doesn’t mean there weren’t insanely panic-inducing moments and 18-hour days for weeks at a time…because there were! But the fluid and ever updating beast of a timeline was finally turned in. I still think there will be changes up to the last second though…every editor knows the cut is never locked. It’s just taken away.

A typical Premiere Pro project and bin layout during the Sharknado 2 edit.

Why choose PPro for a feature over more established feature tools?

I edited Sharknado 2 entirely on Adobe Premiere Pro CC. This is odd because The Asylum is and has always been an Apple Final Cut 7 house. They have around 10 edit bays and all their previous films were cut on FCP 7. Since all the edits are off-lines and their uber-organized post workflow is rock solid…they have yet to change from a system that works for them day in and day out. I chose to cut on Premiere Pro CC for several reasons. Speed, Stability and No Rendering. The average Asylum film project has 6 layers of video and up to 20 layers of audio during editorial. This includes layers for footage, VFX slugs, ADR slugs, Temp VFX shots and more. Each on its own layer, each formatted a certain to keep consistency throughout the shared project. In a FCP7 project, each time you adjust a layer in this large stack, you usually have to render that chunk for real-time playback. Adjust anything in one of the 20 audio tracks, you need to render or suffer the dreaded “Beep-Beep-Beep” all us editors know only too well. I did not have the time or patience to deal with any delays. Gotta cut now! Gotta keep plowing forward! Gotta finish this scene!

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The full Sharknado 2 Adobe Premiere Pro timeline

Did you run into any performance issues with PPro? How did you integrate Premiere Pro into a traditional Final Cut Pro 7 workflow?

So here’s how I seamlessly integrated Premiere Pro CC into a FCP7 workflow. 1. Opened the FCP7 Sharknado 2 project in my studio. 2. Relinked to the clone drive and made all assets active in FCP7. 3. Exported XML from FCP7. 4. Imported XML into Premiere Pro CC. 5. Relinked footage inside Premiere Pro CC. 6. Done.

That is literally all I had to do. (Editor’s note: I didn’t ask this specifically but my guess is all media had proper timecode and reel names which makes the process of moving from edit station to edit station and relinking pretty rock solid. Proper setup of media before editing begins always means less headaches in the editorial process.) The entire project relinked on the first attempt and I was up and running. There were only two “gotchas” that popped up and both were quite minor. First, the placement and font of the Titler slugs from FCP7 were not positioned properly. Second, the Chroma Key plug in native to FCP7 is not present in Premiere Pro CC and those needed to be recreated for the temp VFX. I could now edit, adjust any parameters of video and audio in real time at full resolution and never have to wait for renders. At the end of every work day, I would export an XML of my project from Premiere Pro CC and email that back to the Post Production Team at The Asylum. They would import it into FCP7 and since we had cloned drives, it would open up immediately on their end so they could create exports and screeners. The power of a simple XML shared project workflow between two different NLEs should not be this impressive, but if it doesn’t work perfectly every time…everyone is screwed. In 6 weeks of sharing projects, I never had a technical glitch using this method. With such a short turn around and no room for error…I was glad my gamble paid off. The time I saved would probably be calculated into dozens of hours. I’ll take that all day long!

Once into editorial how many hours of media was PPro tracking? Any idea of how many media files?

I chose to have the entire timeline of the 85 minute film in one timeline. The Premiere Pro CC project had imported and was accessing all 40 hours of raw footage. I had no sluggishness in my one giant timeline and anyone who says Premiere Pro CC can’t handle feature length projects is sadly mistaken. I’ve cut my last 4 features in Premiere Pro CC and all of them were single timelines with footage counts of 30–150 hours. No show stopping issues on my end. Most notably, for the first time in many projects…I had no crashes or “Premiere Pro experienced a serious problem” in the 6 week post run. Boom.

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Sharks raining on Manhattan. It could happen.

Any sluggishness or long load times for the project?

Sharknado 2 had roughly 3000 media files and my load time was around 30 seconds. I always wait for the indexing of media files to finish before I start editing in Premiere Pro. I know you don’t have to but it only took another 30 seconds. Barely enough time to pour another red eye!

What was the audio finishing workflow? Any issue with an audio OMF right out of PPro?

I like to build very deep with my audio tracks and in the case of Sharknado 2, sound effects make or break the action scenes. Nothing is more flaccid than watching a pre-viz shark chomp on someone with no sound effects. It’s horrible. Add some ripping flesh, screams, bear growls and snapping celery sticks and now you have something! Even though my mix is temporary, the Sound Team will gladly follow the path the editor has laid down and borrow elements of this temp to build upon. The 20+ track mix was exported in the industry standard OMF format and handed off to the sound gurus so they could impart their sonic wizardry. I also provided an SD and HDh.264 reference video with timecode overlay. I created this files in Adobe Media Encoder and used the timecode overly effect and batch exported those in the background so I could continue editing in Premiere Pro. Simple and efficient.

Obviously there were a lot of visual effects. Can you describe the VFX process? Any issue with tracking vfx shots and different versions throughout the editorial?

There were over 300 VFX shots in Sharknado 2. These VFX shots always lived on video layer 3 in my timeline. As the new versions came in I would swap them out and confirm they were latest version number. I used an Excel document to keep track of the latest updates and color coded them to stay current. Nothing new and nothing spectacular…just effective. As an editor you must be creative but equally must be diligent to stay on top of the minutia of the tiny components of the film. There is nothing worse than screening a cut for the director and having an old VFX shot pop up. The viewing grinds to a halt and the flow is gone. The smallest things make the large differences. Take the time to QC everything that leaves your edit bay. This is just as important as creating wonderful edits. Don’t let shit slide. Own it.

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The Sharknado 2 timeline with previz clips during editorial.

The final composite of the shot above in the PPro timeline.

Were there any graphics or vfx where were created entirely in PPro that are in the final program?

No final graphics or VFX done in PPro. The asylum has artists in Burbank on After Effects and several specialist VFX compositors in England and elsewhere for bigger/special shots.

What was the process for final finishing of color grading and mastering?

Color is usually done in Apple Color in house at the Burbank offices. I colored Zombie Night and Android Cop in the last 6 months for Asylum on Davinci Resolve 10. Most freelancers hired by Asylum are on Davinci Resolve in my experience.

Final finish and export is handled in house and exported from FCP7 to ProRes 4444 or HQ. Now it might go to ProRes 4444 XQ as far as I know. I wasn’t there for the final online.

How tight was the overall editorial timeline on Sharknado 2? How did you deal with changes?

Due to my mind-boggling short edit run of 6 weeks, I had to make sure that nothing slowed my progress. I needed to be a tidal wave surging forward and continually crafting the story. I was editing on average 5 minutes of tight footage a day and posting this to the director. Once I completed my first pass…we went back to the start and I would address notes from the director, the producers and the network. Usually this many points of view turn into a sword fight of epic proportions. Often times the edit will morph into a multi- headed creature with no cohesiveness. In this case, everyone was working to make it the best Sharknado 2 it could be. Everyone was pulling in the same direction and the notes helped everyone dial in the story with the least amount of fat.

Sharknado 2 was the quickest edit of the 9 feature films I’ve edited. It was a challenge, invigorating, rewarding and a big bag of fun. My choice to use Adobe Premiere Pro CC was the right one. It removed all technical and workflow issues and allowed me to focus on cutting the story and remaining agile enough to make any adjust on the fly. I look forward to sharing Sharknado 2 with everyone on July 30th on Syfy…then the next day in 86 countries around the world. Global Sharknado 2!

Vashi Nedomansky was born in Czechoslovakia and defected to North America with his parents when he was 5 years old. His father was a professional hockey player in the NHL and his mother a photographer and artist. He grew up in Toronto and Detroit and began making family movies on VHS cameras and editing them between 2 VHS decks. As a freshman in high school he convinced his teachers to allow him to turn in short film adaptations on VHS for book reports and soon received his first taste of good and bad reviews. he graduated from the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) with a degree in Film and Video Studies.

In 2001, Vashi began editing professionally. His strength as a storyteller and visualist was realized and he found my strongest affinity to be for editing. Over the last dozen years, Vashi have cut hundreds of Broadcast Ads, Short Films, Documentaries, Web Content, Reels and nine Feature Films.

You can follow Vashi on Twitter @vashikoo, browse his website at vashivisuals.com and read his very interesting blog. I don’t know if Vashi coined the term but he is the first place where I heard the term Pancake Timeline.

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Scott Simmons was born in rural West Tennessee and didn't really realize that movies and tv had to be made by actual people until he went to college. After getting degrees in both Television Production…

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