The WWE universe is about as diverse as its wild, larger-than-life wrestling characters. The award-winning media organization reaches 650 million homes across the globe with original programming on the WWE Network, reality shows on E!, and films that are both produced and released through WWE Films. The heart and soul of the brand remains its weekly wrestling-related TV programs, including Raw, Smackdown, Main Event, and 205Live.
“We have seven staff editors, but none of us are specialists,” says Ken Berchem, Lead Editor. “We do our best to be all things to all people.” In addition to the staff editors, WWE also has over 100 producers who edit. “It is our job to teach, assist, and finalize the countless hours of work they generate and try to keep the standards as high as possible,” continues Berchem. “My talent for creating efficient workflows and best practices put me in a position to lead the way in our newly established Avid production environment.” Berchem helped the team transition to 135 Avid Media Composer stations in the summer of 2015. To go along with its new workflow, WWE also purchased 40 Sapphire floats and 40 Continuum licenses.
Raw and Smackdown air live each week — 52 weeks a year. There are no reruns. The shows are produced on site with a team in their Stamford (CT) studio constantly creating content to send to the truck to air. “Requests for new packages and changes to existing ones can be called in at the drop of a hat,” notes Berchem. “We need to be able to work as quickly and efficiently as possible. Sapphire and Continuum are more than just helpful tools for us. They are essential for us to put out content as quickly as we can while retaining a high-end look.”
The packages are music-driven, quickly cut, and highly-stylized. “We use Sapphire and Continuum to help steer the emotion of our pieces. In the course of a 3 minute package, we’ll typically use 3-5 different looks. Anger, aggression, victory, whatever the piece calls for,” states Berchem. “I like to approach each piece with the mindset of giving it a new look, which is why we’re constantly exploring the toolsets and layering different effects in hopes of finding something unique.”
Berchem and his team rely most heavily on S_Effect which launches Sapphire’s Builder because it allows them to create complex effects as a single effect on a filler layer. “Being able to layer multiple effects in the Builder environment makes things incredibly efficient for us,” says Berchem. “If shot changes are needed at the last minute, producers still have access to the original cuts and only new additions need to be rendered.” Berchem uses Sapphire’s presets to quickly see what each filter can do and for creative inspiration. Filters like Light Leaks and Lens Flare are used as is, while color treatments are often tweaked.
“We use Sapphire more because we do so many stylized effects, but Continuum is great because its toolset is so varied and expansive,” comments Berchem. Among the team’s favorite Continuum tools are Chroma Key Studio (“It gives us more flexibility and parameters to tweak to get troublesome keys working properly.”), Beauty Studio, Title Studio, and integrated Mocha. “We are always looking for ways to incorporate Mocha effects in our day-to-day work,” states Berchem. “We’re still learning all the possibilities with Mocha integration. It’s great to have a new tool in the box.”
Berchem is excited to see what’s in store for Sapphire and Continuum now that they are under one roof. His special request? “I’d love to see the ability to use some of Continuum’s filters within Sapphire Builder!” remarks Berchem.
“I’ve been working here for 18 years, but I’ve never been bored. We keep changing the shows, getting our hands into new projects, and my favorite part, buying new technology,” ends Berchem. “Two years ago, we worked completely differently than we do now, production hinged on a switcher, now it hinges on Avid, Sapphire, and Continuum.”
In the words of ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage, “Oh, yeah!”