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Book Review: The Avid Digital Editing Room Handbook and Feminism and Documentary

By Ray Zone

by Tony Solomons
$26.95, paper, 233 pages, 8 1/2 X 11.
ISBN: 1-879505-48-7
Silman-James Press (Distributed by SCB Distributors)
Pub Date: June 15, 1999


Unraveling the mysteries of AVID is the courageous quest Tony Solomons undertakes in his revised Second Edition of The AVID Digital Editing Room Handbook. To the point that institutionalized obsolescence in the computer world allows: Solomons succeeds. Buzzwords are defined, and hardware hookups are explained in enough detail to get a new editor started, or, help an experienced editor out of trouble. This handbook is a must-have for someone who has never used the AVID before, or, needs a quick refresher.

The early years, AVID provided its users with a somewhat dysfunctional system that crashed frequently and resulted in hard-to-distinguish, blurry images. But, even in those pioneering days, AVID was fast and fairly easy to learn. Almost anyone who sat in the chair became an instant editor. While AVID was easy enough to learn, mastery of the task was still for only the bravest of souls. Today's AVID is new and improved, and seems to be the system of choice for filmmakers, especially documentary filmmakers. However until this handbook, all the poor editor had was a huge pile of Avid manuals to use as a guide through this complicated and technical labyrinth.

At 230 pages, The AVID Handbook is an easy-to-understand, step-by-step volume that introduces the reader to the 3-2 pulldown in telecine, hardware, software, and the mysteries of "Media." Solomons deserves special kudos for Chapter Seven: "Organizing Your Project," where he has the courage to declare that organization is the key to the entire editorial process.

Save for those really specific questions, a study of this handbook could spare the editor from the overwhelming AVID(r) manuals. As a seasoned editor, however, I would have liked a few more "tips and tricks," than Solomons reveals in this book. The section on preventative maintenance was, however, especially enlightening for me, and, Solomons includes a handy chart that details how to keep the AVID system running smoothly by the day, week, and month.

At this time, AVID is on the verge of abandoning their Apple for an IBM Windows-NT platform, and no one can predict what effect this will have on AVID(r) editing. Perhaps a third edition of this handbook will be needed soon which might make the $26.95 cost of this book, a bit of a gamble. However, even at this price, it still beats slogging through the AVID(r) manuals.

IDA member Bryan McKenzie is a workaholic AVID video editor who strives to shield his producers from video technobabble. His expertise can be seen in his latest work on the PBS special Man Ray.


Feminism and Documentary
Edited by Diane Waldman and Janet Walker
University of Minnesota Press
ISBN 0-8166-3007-0
365 pps., paper (no price shown)


A challenging anthology of 14 essays, "Feminism and Documentary" is the fifth volume in a series entitled Visible Evidence from the University of Minnesota Press. This series addresses the fact that "Public confidence in the 'real' is everywhere in decline" and has taken as its mission to challenge "prevailing notions of the 'documentary tradition' and of nonfiction culture more generally."

With an incisive introduction, editors Waldman and Walker set the context for the essays to follow. The main goal of the volume, they assert, is to consider "the connective and conflictual tissues of sexual, racial, and class differences as applied to documentary studies." While both documentary film and feminism have suffered "outsider" status in cultural studies, they have evolved "in too large part, as parallel universes." And though the book is divided into four theoretical sections—"Historicizing Documentary," "Filmmaker/Subject: Self/Other," "Going Back: Gender, Nation, and Documentary Returns" and "Innovative (Auto)Biographies"—most of the essays, state the editors, "deal explicitly with the filmmaker-subject relationship, and they foreground that relationship as a site of negotiated power."

An essay titled "Flaherty's Midwives" by Patricia R. Zimmerman, for example, examines the foundational work of Flaherty and finds that "excessively patriarchal residues" infiltrate the "formation of documentary itself." Other cogent essays liberate "the repressed of film history" and will reward the reader who is persistent enough to engage in these elegant discourses.


Ray Zone is the “king of 3-D,” film historian and dedicated print guru.