Howard University Graduate Launches Career at the Discovery Channel.
At the age of 22, Anicia Morris is already on the fast track to a successful career in television editing and production. In July 2006, just months after graduating summa cum laude with a B.S. in Radio, TV, and Film from Howard University in Washington, D.C., Morris began working for the Discovery Production Group, the production arm of the Silver Springs, Md.,-based Discovery Channel.
Morris joined the Discovery Channel through the company's career placement partnership with Howard University and was hired as part of the channel's New Media Initiatives program. This program focuses on repurposing the channel's existing broadcast content for Web-based and mobile technologies, including cell phones, iPods, and video on demand - extending the reach of their audience while making the most of their media assets.
The company's partnership with Howard University helped them to find motivated, creative people to work as editors to launch this initiative, and
Morris was an ideal candidate. Her wealth of hands-on experience working with industry-leading editing technology, including a variety of Avid systems, helped her land the job.
Morris's impressive performance in the New Media Initiatives program quickly led to an expansion of her responsibilities to include editing the company's on-air programming. Now, in addition to working on New Media projects, she also performs cuts-to-clock for broadcast pieces and works with producers to add scenes and make corrections to existing programming.
I particularly liked how easily I could use the Avid system even though I was just a beginner.
The Hands-On Editing Advantage
The Radio, TV, and Film program at Howard University offered Morris a combination of theoretical and practical learning experiences that helped to set her on a successful career path. It was through her internships, course work, and real-world assignments at Howard that Morris developed her expertise with Avid's products. Because most film and television productions are edited on Avid systems, I felt it was important for me to learn as much as possible about Avid solutions prior to graduation. I knew it was going to be essential in my pursuit of a career in editing, she says.
Morris's first experience with an Avid editing system came during her internship at MTV Networks in New York City. Although she was not allowed to actually use the system, she did watch the editor create teases for the network's flagship TRL show. The editing sessions she watched were very intense - and somewhat intimidating for a novice from a creative standpoint -
however she was still extremely impressed by the whole editorial process and by the digital tools used. She took away one clear requirement for her ongoing career development. Here was a professional editor using the Avid technology, and I just knew this was the system I needed to learn, she says.
During a subsequent internship at WLRN 17, a PBS station in Miami, Morris finally got her hands on an Avid system. It was during this internship that I began to really appreciate working with an Avid [system]. And I particularly liked how easily I could use it even though I was just a beginner, she says.
While she had not worked with an Avid system until the internship at WLRN 17, Morris was not a complete neophyte when it came to digital nonlinear editing. She had some experience working with Final Cut Pro at Hallandale High School, the magnet school she attended in Hallandale Beach, Fla., where she focused on television production. Making the switch to Avid [systems] was painless, and I found using the Avid system a lot easier. The commands are simple, and they make editing more precise. And I always found that working with Final Cut Pro was less intuitive. I had to focus more on the act of creating than on being creative.
In the autumn term immediately following Morris's internship in Miami, Howard's School of Communications offered its first course in Avid editing, and Morris jumped at the chance to get full training on the system. The hands-on portion [of the course] really gave me the opportunity to demonstrate my ability to arrange the elements of film and video into an effective final product and to become familiar with the Avid system's techniques and terminology, she says.
The Avid editing course ran in the School of Communication's editing lab, which is equipped with eight Avid Xpress Pro stations. Each station had a computer monitor, a client monitor/TV, and a Sony MiniDV deck. Students worked at the stations in pairs during class and scheduled extra time to complete their assignments.
In addition to her assignments for the editing class, Morris applied her newfound digital editing skills to other courses. During that same term, she was also enrolled in an Advanced Television Production course. Her assignment for this class was to create a live-to-tape, 30-minute television show.
She explains, Most of the content for this program was done in the studio, but we were able to include footage shot outside as roll-ins for the show. I chose to create a dating game and to cut the roll-in footage using Avid Xpress Pro [software]. This was actually my favorite part of the project as it gave me the opportunity to be creative with my footage while improving my Avid editing skills.
For this project, Morris created short introduction reels for each participant that played during the program. Using the Avid Xpress Pro software, she was
able to add titles, effects, and transitions, as well as create her own split screens. This allowed Morris to present the participants as more complete characters and enabled her to fully demonstrate her creative talents to her instructor and classmates.
I felt it was important for me to learn as much as possible about Avid solutions prior to graduation.
Student Reps at NAB
Morris's creativity and skill helped her land a coveted spot as an Avid student representative at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) 2006 conference, where she had the opportunity to participate in a variety of activities, including providing information to visitors at the Avid booth and attending professional training sessions. Avid selected Howard University to participate in the first year of this program, and, based on her application and demo reel, Morris was one of four student representatives from this school.
There were so many different daily activities at NAB that there was never a dull moment, she says. For Morris, one of the most rewarding opportunities was the chance to conduct an interview with Jeff Roth, the vice president of post production at Focus Features/Rogue Pictures. It was amazing to hear his story firsthand, says Morris about the video interview, which was shot with JVC HDV cameras and edited with Avid Xpress Pro software on a laptop in the booth. And because the interview was uploaded to the Avid Web site, the students from Howard had the opportunity to showcase our skills and work with cutting-edge equipment.
Now, as an editor at the Discovery Creative and Technology Center, Avid systems are at the center of Morris's daily routine. The center has several Avid editing systems, including Avid DS Nitris, Symphony, Media Composer Adrenaline, and Avid Xpress Pro systems, plus an Avid Unity MediaNetwork shared-storage system.
Morris works mostly on a Windows-based Media Composer Adrenaline system, using an Avid MediaDock LVD removable drive array. One of her favorite Avid system features is keyboard mapping. I can set my keyboard according to my personal preferences, which makes editing second nature. This feature has proven especially helpful during my supervised sessions with producers, she explains.
She adds, I have mapped my keyboard with the features and commands that I use the most, including match frame, reverse match frame, and locators for finding shots in the timeline. This means that, if a producer wants to see a specific part of the timeline, replay a cut, remove a scene, replace it with another scene, or see which cuts I have made, I am able to keep up easily.
These days, Morris is often asked to cut seamless 50-minute programs (that were produced to run without commercials) down to 45 minutes with four or five commercial breaks. The challenge in removing these five minutes is to find the best time to begin and end a segment in order to maintain the integrity of the program and to ensure that the audience is not left confused, she says.
Further challenges arise when cutting one scene into the next if the music track varies or cuts on a different beat. This is where the Avid system's features come in really handy, she says. To mask the cut, I can use the Trim tool to tweak the audio and then trim the video over a shot or two so that the video does not cut at the same time as the music. Then, I can polish or fine tune any audio edits I make using keyframes to rubberband the audio and create a more precise fade.
The Future Looks Bright
Morris considers herself fortunate to be working at the Discovery Channel straight out of college. I have cutting-edge technology at my fingertips, I am gaining a wealth of knowledge, and my experience is allowing me to master the skills that are crucial to succeeding as an editor, she explains.
That said, Morris already has her eye on the future. I enjoy the high-energy, fast-paced environment of live television, and I would like to explore being a director of live events, she says about her long-term goals. I also plan to edit original programming, documentaries, and promos.
With her drive, enthusiasm, and proven skills, Morris appears to be just where she wants to be - poised and ready to compete with the best in her field.
* CREDIT: Courtesy of Discovery Production Group
Obtain hands-on experience with industry-standard digital tools to prepare for a professional career in film and television post production
Take advantage of Avid editing opportunities through college coursework and internships.
Attend NAB as an Avid student representative, participating in a variety of marketing and training activities.