Negative Cutter

After the editor is done and the final cut of the work print has been approved, the negative has to be cut. From the cut negative, the release prints are made. These are the copies of the film that go out to theaters. Because there is only one negative, you only get one chance, so you can see that it is very important to make sure the negative is cut properly.

How does the negative cutter know where to cut? The cutter gets a list from the editor, then configures the negative to match. This list is called the EDL—the edit decision list. The EDL uses the edge numbers printed on the side of the film (like the numbers on the edge of negatives you get from any standard 35 mm still camera), which correspond to frame numbers. If the editing system is video, the EDL is generated by a computer, which translates a standard form of time code, the SMPTE time code, into edge numbers.

In the room where the cutting is being done, you can have absolutely nothing that may damage the negative. No drinking, smoking, eating, nothing. You need a totally clean environment to work at your best.

The negative cutter also has the responsibility of reprinting any work prints needed by the editor. The cutter sends the negative to the lab with instructions on what to print. There is no room for mistakes in cutting a negative, so if you're a perfectionist with an eye for detailed, methodical work, this is the place for you. The problem, however, lies in the trend to edit on video. For jobs like TV shows or movies for cable, the entire project can be edited on video and, even though shot on film, the negative may never be touched. It's not an easy field to break into, but as long as there are theaters showing films, there will always be a need for negative cutters.

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