In 1984, I began post-production on a film that was to have a major influence on my career in post-production both from a technical as well as a creative perspective.
I’d had years of experience in film editing at this stage, mainly in nationally broadcast TV commercials, sports films and documentaries but I was exploring alternative creative opportunities. And “Floating Over Canada” offered a more complex project, a longer program duration, greater creatively flexibility, and a unique approach with a fascinating subject.
Magnificently shot on 16mm film by David O’Keefe, “Floating Over Canada” was broadcast for a number of years as a Canada Special on CBC. The program followed Murray McLauchlan across Canada in his Cessna 185 float plane. Murray would drop in on various guest artists such as Buffy Ste Marie, Levon Helm, Ian Tyson and Gordon Lightfoot and they would sing in appropriate settings.
I had started editing the 16mm film on a flat-bed editing system, a K.E.M., if I recall. And the project went smoothly through to first rough-cut. It was after the screening of the rough cut that a major technological change was instigated.
By the mid-1980s, linear tape-based editing systems were being employed in post-production work. Compared to today’s sophisticated digital non-linear systems these early tape systems were awkward machines with limited memory. In fact, when I first started working on a system, I missed not having the interactive, non-linear flexibility of film editing. If I needed to add two frames in the middle of a sequence, I did just that, physically added the two frames. With linear tape systems you had to rebuild all the material after the insert edit which could become very time consuming.
Producer Joan Schafer and Director Peter Thurling were instrumental in allowing me to continue on the project even though this leap into linear tape-based editing was my essentially my first, trial by fire, I guess. They had liked what I had edited on film, and although there was much to learn on the new tape system, the basic program structure was built, making this next phase somewhat less daunting.
Throughout the next stage of post-production, I was able to fine-tune my skills, providing a new expertise in post-production. As film-based editing would drift from importance, the linear tape-based skills would soon open new projects, and opportunities for me.