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Machado edits episode of Discovery Channel show

James Machado, WCU assistant professor of communication, has been spending some time in New York City recently, editing an episode of the Discovery Channel television series “Alaskan Bush People.”

Machado is keeping his hands in the craft he practiced for a decade as a freelance television editor in New York before coming to Western Carolina in 2015.

James Machado takes a break from editing video productions at his summer job.

James Machado takes a break from editing video productions at his summer job.

Fans of the series will not be able to pry information from him about upcoming episodes. “I have signed a non-disclosure agreement with the production company,” Machado said. “I can’t disclose any trade secrets or anything about the show.”

Machado has moved on from the series to his next editing project. “I finished ‘Alaskan Bush People’ on Friday,” he said on Thursday, June 16. “Right now, I’m editing for a sports website called Winners View that is developing on-demand video content. They’ve contracted with New Wave Entertainment to produce a series of pilot episodes, and I’m editing two of the four pilots.”

Post-production has changed significantly throughout the years, Machado said, from the equipment used to the role of the video editor. “It’s sure not the same as it was in the days of splicing film,” he said. “I’m sitting at a computer, operating editing software – Avid Media Composer at the moment. On a prior assignments I’ve used Final Cut Pro 7, Adobe Premiere Pro – some on the Mac, some on PCs – so one challenge for an editor is being flexible to be able to use different platforms and software. It’s necessary to be conversant with all of them.”

Machado said that the role of an editor differs within different niches of the industry. “My background is documentary, nonfiction and reality television. Unlike scripted content, where there’s a screenplay and a director has vision of product, typically decisions in nonfiction are made during post-production. I make decisions about the best way to tell the story using the materials I have. That work and revision work is usually done with complete autonomy. There’s no one over your shoulder. In the earlier days of my career, that was not the case.

“Editors are the unsung heroes of nonfiction production. You’re concerned with continuity of story, visuals, sound, structure. Sometimes it’s like painting yourself into a corner, then figuring out how to paint yourself out again,” Machado said. “It’s a far cry from the typical button-masher that I thought I was going to be.”

Collaboration is still an important part of creating an interesting and entertaining product, he said. “Once I’ve created a product, I’m presenting that to powers higher up. Then they provide iterative changes. Showrunner, producer, network executive – they all drive the ultimate decision-making. Being a good editor is respecting that.”

The tools available to the trade have changed significantly, Machado said. “They’ve taken my job from technician to storyteller – all due to what I call the ‘democratization’ of the tools. Twenty years ago, Avid cost well into six figures; in order for your production to go into edit, you rented out an editing suite with an editor. The machines and software became less expensive over time. Production companies now own their own equipment and software, and hire the people they like best. It’s given rise to new title, ‘preditor’ – a hybridization of producer and editor. That makes it easier on the production company,” Machado said. “And it improves my pay.”

The future will doubtless change the industry even more, he speculates. “Totally online distribution – things like Netflix and Amazon Prime – have brought changes and products never seen before. It used to be that if you wanted to work fiction, you moved to Los Angeles; in nonfiction, to New York,” Machado said. “Things like the cloud-based media servers will make it possible for people to work anywhere. And the democratization of distribution has the potential to change the landscape as well. Hard to speculate where it will all go.”

Enticing as the work and potential are, Machado doesn’t plan going back it to full-time anytime soon.

“My goal for this summer is to maintain my professional pedigree, to stay current professionally, and I’ve been fortunate to be able to do that,” he said. “I want to be able to come back to WCU with three legitimate freelance projects done during the summer break to show students I’m keeping as current as possible with my craft.”

Categories | The Reporter


Photos | WCU News Services

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