Editor Catherine Haight, ACE, Cuts Amazon’s Comedy-Drama Hit Series ‘Transparent’

By in Timeline Tuesday, Video Editing

Transparent, an Amazon original series, is the story of an LA family with serious boundary issues whose patriarch comes out as transgender late in life. As Maura, formerly known as Mort, learns to be her true self, her three children struggle with what it means to live an authentic life.

I’ve been editing on Transparent since the pilot. I had worked with Jill Soloway, the show’s creator and showrunner, on previous projects including her feature Afternoon Delight, so it was only natural that our collaboration would continue.

On season 2 of the show our editing team was made up of 3 editors (Sunny Hodge, Hilda Rasula, and myself) and two assistant editors (Julie Cohen and Julia Franklin.) We had 5 Avid Media Composer systems and an ISIS for our shared media storage.  The show was shot on the Canon C500 in 4K, and Light Iron provided us with our synced and transcoded dailies in DNxHD36.

Once organizing our scene bins, the assistant editors marked all dialogue in Script Sync, which is an invaluable resource— especially when working with directors and producers. Since the actors are free to improvise, we had a color coding system that the assistants would use in the script to help us locate improvised segments.

The timeline pictured here is the editor’s cut of “Kina Hora”, otherwise known as episode 1 of season 2. The episode takes place at a wedding, all over the course of a few hours.  It starts with a 4 minute take of the family attempting (and failing) to pose for a family photo. The sequence is an incredibly powerful way to re-introduce the characters and plot lines to the audience.

After that one long take, however, the real challenges of editing began. Soloway, who directed and wrote this episode, loves to work in a sort of documentary style— something that was especially possible with this episode since much of it took place in one location. I would often find myself working with 20-minute takes with three cameras running that covered a huge portion of the episode. I relied quite heavily on my assistant to help me navigate and organize all the footage using both Script Sync and a series of color coded markers.

My assistant editor helped me track sound effects through the sequence. As you can see we mark our sound effects blue—this small detail makes splitting the tracks for sound turnovers quite simple. We do the same thing with music by labeling the clips green. I worked with 6 mono audio tracks and 4 stereo tracks. I tried to keep my dialogue on tracks 1 through 4, sound effects on 5 through 8, and music on 9 and 10. But as anyone who’s edited before knows, things didn’t stay quite that organized.

After this editor’s cut was completed I worked for several more weeks implementing the notes and changes that came from producers and Amazon Studios, all filtered through Soloway who is the final word on all creative decisions on the series. During this process the run time of the episode was brought down to about 28 minutes.

After the episode was locked the sequence was turned over to Light Iron for online and color correction, and Wildfire did our sound editing and mixing.

Transparent’s second season is now streaming on Amazon Prime.

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I’m an editor on the Amazon series Transparent. Other credits include Afternoon Delight, Mozart in the Jungle, Girls, and New Girl. My work on the pilot episode of Transparent earned me a nomination for both an Emmy and ACE Eddie Award. I also received an ACE Eddie nomination for the pilot of Girls in 2013.