Hodges Usry is a filmmaker whose work ranges across a variety of projects and includes notable clients as Chevy, Coke China, Southern Proper, as well as music videos for Lady Antebellum, Corey Smith, and Erie Church among others. Additionally, Usry has made a number of mini-documentaries which can be found on his YouTube or Vimeo channels, one of which – “The Cat and the Cat Five” – is the REEL 13 Short Winner and was featured at the PBS Film Festival 2019.
We recently had the opportunity to discuss Usry’s recent work and why he chooses to edit with VEGAS Pro on the wide range of projects he has been a part of.
Can you tell us a little about your professional work?
I’m freelance director and editor that works a lot in the music industry – I’ve been with the band, Lady Antebellum, for a couple years and it’s been an amazing experience. We are currently working on shorts for their upcoming album release called Ocean – Outside the music world, I work on documentaries and narratives.
How would you describe yourself, your style, the genres of your work?
I’m obsessed with reality so I think my style attempts to portray scenes as real as possible. My genre loves are documentary, music video, and thriller / horror.
Video: “The Cat and the Cat Five” documentary (REEL 13 Short Winner, PBS Film Festival 2019)
Which projects do you dream about working on (maybe that you haven‘t done so far) or can you say a few words about one you‘ve been meaning to start for some time?
Hopefully more narrative will work its way into my future schedule. I started in commercials and love the short form aspect of tv spots but I’m writing longer form pieces now.
Can you think of anything that definies your style? / Would you say that you have your own editing style? Which effects do you regularly use that define your style?
I would just hope my style is called “not boring”. I’m pretty classic in my editing style, I don’t try to over do effects or text — mostly keeping things simple but hopefully effective. But as for the actual edit process my initial starting point is pretty messy. My timeline mixes audio tracks with video tracks, clips scattered everywhere. Then as soon as I find the foundation of an edit, I start to tighten the timeline’s organization and clean it up slowly. This style of editing tends to reveal hidden gems that I usually would never see. VP allows me to work the way I want without getting in the way.
Are there highlights from your career which define you as an artist? Which ones and why?
When I was in college I’d make unofficial videos (just for fun) for the band Lady Antebellum and now I work for them officially — so that’s a cool full circle moment. Another highlight would include winning the YoungArts Award (presented by Martin Scorsese) in NYC.
Video: Lady Antebellum – Heart/Break Hotel
Video: Lady Antebellum – Ocean
Can you tell us why VEGAS Pro is such an important part of your workflow?
Speed and freedom. The ability to create an edit with precision and speed while also being able to dive deep into the audio is huge for me. Most NLEs don’t have the level of audio control of VP and audio is insanely important. Probably more important than picture!
Do you organize your timeline differently for client work than for personal projects?
My timeline looks different for all of my projects. Just depending on the style, I usually let the project dictate the organization.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned, which influences your work on a daily basis?
Subtlety is probably the biggest lesson I’ve learned over the years with VP. For instance to make a transition go from abrupt to seamless might be a few frames. I think this is where VP shines, the ability to move audio and video events / tracks freely allows for subtlety that you can’t get in other apps as quick.
You participated in our “My City” contest and there were a lot of very decisive stylistic choices that are “not boring”, but were not “subtle”. Instead, I’d say organic or reasonable for the situation. How do you make achoice that emphasizes without distracting?
This is very true! That piece is far from subtle. But since there is no story there, I felt like the more hyper stylized visuals would feel appropriate. I think the key is trying to find effects that fit the shot instead of fitting shots to the effects.
What choices do you make while working on a project that help shape the work you do in post production?
I’m a shot list fan, it keeps me organized on the shoot but also ensures the edit has all of the material we need in post. Occasionally I’ll create an animatic depending on the scale and time restrictions of the project. But a shot list always!
[And…] What advice would you give someone who wants to make is still learning to make these types of stylistic choices?
Use your shot list to ensure you have your wide setup, medium setup, and close-up setup. And place them in order of importance just in case time runs out in production (because it will).
How does working with this editing software help you achieve your artistic visions?
It may sound overly simple but automatic cross fades are under appreciated and save me daily.
What piece of advice would you give an aspiring filmmaker who needs a little inspiration?
Make as much as you can with what you have and learn VP 🙂
What projects do you have coming up that we should know about?
There’s a couple things in the oven but I don’t want to jinx them so I’ll refrain from talking about those just yet.
Thank you to Hodges Usry for taking the time to tell us about his process and work! Find out why VEGAS Pro is Usry’s video editing software of choice by taking advantage of a 30 day free trial here.