Josh Earl, ACE, Cuts Down 30,000 Hours of Footage to 18 Episodes for Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch”

By in Timeline Tuesday, Video Editing

I’m Josh Earl, ACE, and a good chunk of my year I’m supervising editor/supervising producer for the Discovery Channel series Deadliest Catch. I’ve been with the show since season two. This year we wrapped our 12th season.

While I’ve dabbled in many genres and techniques, from trailers to features, scripted to unscripted, Deadliest Catch is one of the most challenging … and man, do I love a challenge.

Discovery Channel's Deadliest Catch

Josh Earl, ACE

There are more than 30,000 hours of footage brought down from Alaska to Burbank each season. All of this footage has to be cut down and sculpted into an 18-episode arc. Of course we do have an army of dedicated creative people helping make all of it possible. The post process is now a well-oiled machine, but it definitely took years to get there.

We deal a lot of Nat sound, Dialogue, VO, and a large amount of other sound designs in the offline so we basically use every track we can to construct a good starting point for our audio magician Bob Bronow. We can keep the timelines as clean as possible but of course there are always messes to clean up by the time online comes around.

One of the constant challenges this show brings is tracking all of the stories spread across five or so months and seven boats. Our show runner, Decker Watson, as well as my fellow supervising producers, Geoff Miller and Arom Starr-Paul, keep a close eye on events throughout the production. Decker and Arom are in direct contact with the boat shooter/producers on a daily basis, going over events that have taken place out at sea.

Sig Hansen

The sequence pictured is from our two-hour season finale. Myself and fellow editors Ben Bulatao and Art O’leary tackled this beast. Being the cap of a season-wide story arc, it required a bit more love than most. On top of that, the backbone of the episode was the moment one of our main characters, Sig Hansen of the Northwestern, suffered a heart attack. We follow him from his event just outside port to his medical transport to Anchorage. Balancing someone’s personal life event and telling that story on TV can be an extremely tight line to walk. Sig survived and was able to let us in on his journey, but how do you let people in while still being respectful of someone’s personal experiences?

In my years on Catch, we’ve dealt with a lot of very heavy subjects. In season six, Captain Phil Harris suffered a stroke after a battle with health issues and sadly passed away mid-season.  Death, money problems, deadlines, family issues … these are all things we can relate to in our own lives. It’s also something the fisherman on the show deal with everyday. Bringing these stories to the screen allows us to take a very real world and shine a light on it. It puts a spotlight on what would otherwise be thought of as a “tough subject” and possibly avoided.

I feel witnessing these events on a show like Deadliest Catch allows for a lot of people at home to cope with something similar they may be experiencing in their own lives.

Season 10 Premiere at Arclight Hollywood

It’s so hard to paraphrase everything that goes into making this incredible show and the immense amount of work and love poured into every second on screen. There definitely are an overwhelming amount of footage and elements available due to shooting time. But in that same breath, it’s what allows us to live with these men for weeks on end, capture the experience and bring that very real world to the screen. I truly love making this show and the entire team that put so much heart into each season.

My next/current project is Mark Hamill’s Pop Culture Quest, coming this fall to Comic Con HQ. I’m sure I’ll have some fun Timeline Tuesday posts coming soon!

Discover Media Composer

Accelerate storytelling with the tools embraced by top movie, television, and broadcast editors. And power through HD and high-res editing faster and easier than ever.

My name is Josh Earl, ACE, and a good chunk of my year I’m Supervising Editor / Supervising Producer for the Discovery Channel series, "Deadliest Catch".