Monday, August 23, 2010

How to Fix Sync

We have a 42" HD Client Display which runs out of sync with our Avid's audio.  To fix the problem our Avid supplier, TimeLine Digital, has provided us with a black box which allows us to adjust a delay of the sound.  Unfortunately this doesn't completely solve the problem of sync for us, as the Avid and client NTSC monitor now are out of sync.  So we toggle between using the delay and not.

We would be interested if anyone with a similar problem has more successfully solved it.

Our black box is a Motron RTS-200 adjusted to .180

http://www.motron.com/

Our HD Television is an inexpensive consumer Vizio.

Thank you.

David Augsburger
Assistant Editor
"Falling Skies"

Saturday, August 14, 2010

File Copying Error in Mac OS 10.5.8

by  David Augsberger

As we increasingly are moving to a file based workflow, moving media files becomes more a part of the assistant's job. When copying files digitized by our telecine facility and delivered to us on a firewire drive, sometimes there is a copying error. There appears to be a bug in Mac OS 10.5.8 which interrupts a large file transfer.

Here's the error message:
-------------------------------------
The operation cannot be completed because the item "1R0032B0A01.4C504C0B.0DEBE0.mxf" is in use.
-------------------------------------

Important note: there was nothing wrong with this file.

A Mac forum has provided evidence that the other application using the file is the preview pane in the finder.  This forum recommends deselecting "show icon preview," which you'll find under the finder's menu:  View >  Show View Options.

If your files are nested in a number of folders, do this for every folder.

As in other cases where a copy is interrupted by a message, it may be difficult to tell what has been copied and what hasn't.  This makes this bug a nuisance.

If the error persists, you might do well to copy 10 files at a time.  The smaller group is easier to keep track of.

The following worked for me:

First, copy the files from the external hard drive to the Avid hard drive.  Then display only the files to copy in list view, sorting them by name.

Label (assigned color) every other group of ten files.

Copy 10 files at a time to the top of the media workspace, which is also sorted by name. By keeping above the AvidMedia Files folder, this keeps files from being read by other Avids, and simplified counting.

When I came across an error I could easily see what files didn't copy, and could copy them as a group or individually. 

I familiarized myself with the naming convention of the files:  The first characters are the reel name, the characters to the immediate left of the first period indicate audio or video, and the other characters are hexadecimal, so letters will never go beyond F.  Finally, the audio files will sort to the top of the list and there is a logical hierarchy to the list.

If it's not easy to figure out what's copied, copy one file at a time and cancel when a warning messages informs me the file already exists. 

Eventually the 10 files in the group are copied and you can proceed to the next group of ten.

When I'm done with the reel I verify the number of files and then move them into their correct folder within the AvidMedia Files folder.

Our System:

OS 10.5.8
Avid Media Composer 4.05, with Nitris.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

FCP: What Works... and What Doesn't

Before starting on the second season of Warehouse 13 I detailed some of the ideas we were going to implement, trying to solve some of the issues and clunkiness we experienced on season one. So, as we approach the end of production for season two, here is my take on what works... and what doesn't.

Project Organization:

Instead of one project for each episode I have several projects: a master editing project, dailies, backup, outputs. This has worked extremely well. It keeps the project size manageable, although I've had to create additional backup and output projects as the originals get too large, well over 100 mb. The other editors use different schemes, but multiple projects is the common thread.

In addition, I've created an all purpose project which stores things I use every episode. These include a 16x9 matte, black and white leaders, audio effect presets,  video effect presets,  titles (VFX, Scene Missing, Insert Missing), and certain audio files needed for every episode.

One caveat: when you save with multiple projects open, you must Save All. This is extremely important as a Save doesn't save your current timeline if it isn't in the active / topmost project.

Keeping  music and sound effects in their own master project works well also, except when you Save All you get an error message that that project is locked.

What doesn't work is when you crash, it takes quite a while to restart all your projects. Plus you have to be careful your System Settings are set to the correct Scratch disk (on occasion it has defaulted to the internal drive).

Crashing: it happens. Some people responded to Edgar Burksen's article that they 'never' crash. That has never been my experience with very complex projects, with multiple sources of media, and some version of shared storage. On WH 13 my CPU is new. All software is up to date. The drives, cards, and connections are all provided by the studio, so I have no options or choices in the matter. I maintain the system as best I can with repairing permissions and using Preference Manager to delete the old then create new preferences files if I start consistently crashing. FCP seems no more unstable than recent Media Composer iterations. But it crashes.

And once it crashes, the recovery time is a real time suck. FCP is slow to start, and worse when you have to open 4 to 6 projects.

Storage Organization:

Our FibreShare storage was partitioned so that each episode has a partition, each assistant has a partition, and the media is in one of three partitions. Sound effects, music, and stock footage have their own partitions. This has worked quite well. When I need to work on episode #208 (a very funny one, for those keeping track) I simply log into that partition within FibreShare. My entire project is on that partition, it is my Scratch drive, and when I need particular sound effects or temp ADR, it all is put on that partition.

What hasn't worked great is FibreShare. This version (3.0.6) isn't qualified for Snow Leopard, so we've all stayed at Mac OS10.5. The drive partitioning was very difficult. So, we would probably move to another sharing software in the future.

We've had almost no issues with media becoming un-linked under this scheme.

What hasn't worked so well is rendering. FCP requires a great deal of rendering. And re-rendering. It slows up my work flow considerably, because this is a VFX heavy show and I do a great deal of sound work that, with adding audio effects, also requires rendering.

Then there is the rendering problems when outputting. My assistant (Seagan Ngai) outputs my cuts for directors, producers, studio, and network on her system. I copy my episode sequence to an output project, then quit FCP and FibreShare. She logs into my partition (all computers internal drives are named the same, and all admin accounts on each system are named the same, so the system will think that I've simply logged back in). Seagan adds a timecode burn-in with a 16x9 matte, and a slate. She renders the timeline and outputs to DVD.

The problem comes later when I open my original project and timeline. All my renders are disconnected. I can see the render files on the partition for episode 208, but have only been able to link them one at a time by finding the name and pointing to the specified unlinked render. Rather than do that, I re-render the timeline. Something about rendering a sequence copy breaks the link to the original renders. Another waste of time.

Work in Standard Definition:

Our dailies are DVCPro-50, delivered on drives from Technicolor. Not having to digitize saves time for the assistants, and working in SD saves time over HD with rendering. Also important is we convert all media to consistent formats, so all video is the same codec and framerate, and all audio is the same format and resolution.

Titles:

Creating titles in Boris Contiunuum has worked great. A basic title with no drop shadow needs no rendering. And the controls in Boris for more complex titles work very well.

Boris Continuum

Boris Continuum Complete (6) has been a fantastic addition to our workflow. It has an excellent variety of effects. The Chroma Key effects are fantastic - we do a LOT of temp green screen compositing. Every plug-in I've tried has been interesting and useful... if not always easy to understand how to use.

And, amazingly, the people at Boris called our office to upgrade to the latest version 7 for free. How great is that!

What doesn't work as well is the Pixel Chooser. In Media Composer, the Pixel Chooser works similar to Animatte, where you can draw complex shapes and motion track them. Pixel Chooser for FCP only has simple shapes. I've found from forums that it has to do with how FCP is written. But a fantastic and free plug-in to draw and animate complex mattes comes from Alex Gollner's 8-point Matte Plugin (be sure to donate if you like and use this plugin). I don't bother with FCP's 4 and 8 point garbage mattes any more.

Finally:

What doesn't work well in FCP is any form of motion tracking, an essential tool in VFX heavy shows. I've tried several plug-ins, and none I've tried are any good. Boris has tracking on some plug-ins. What is needed is the ability to draw a complex shape or matte, and track that for a shot.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

2009 ACE Equipment Survey - Notes

Reprinted from Cinema Editor Magazine

The results have been compiled for the 2009 ACE Equipment survey (see complete results below). This was the first year the entire survey was conducted over the web. Thanks to everyone that contributed. For those who meant to, but missed, Ill be counting on you next year to help.

As stated on previous surveys, the results are helpful in showing trends for ACE editors, for providing feedback to equipment and software vendors, and to ACE. There is no suggestion that these results reflect the video editing industry as a whole just the trends, thoughts, and feelings of the best editors in the world.

First of all, there were 130 responses submitted, a new record for the 6 years of this survey. Here is are partial results.

(see the Edit System Results below)

Avid DX / Mojo is making a very strong showing, not replacing Adrenaline but heading in that direction. Final Cut Pro remains steady at about 20% of the systems. Lightworks had two projects, so there is still someone still cutting on that platform. For those wondering, Lightworks is now owned by EditShare, a company in the UK.

(see the Show Type Results below)

Wow: the Mini-Series is Back! From 0 to .78%. Otherwise, not much to glean from this category. Either there are fewer features being made or fewer feature editors are filling out surveys. Youre pick.

(see the Camera Original Results below)

This shows a huge shift from shooting film to shooting HD 24p. It bears out what Ive heard from several shows who this past year dropped film for digital (NCIS, BONES). I suspect this trend will continue  and our editing rooms will get the firehose of digital dailies every day. This is because while shooting film, production was more likely to turn the cameras off once and a while. Digital photography is another reason to learn more about technology and how your production pipeline works.

(see the Who Chose System Results below)

The editor is down to 39%, while producer / studio is over 54%. Ugh. I absolutely hate when a system is chosen without my input.

Selected comments from the 2009 ACE Equipment Survey or 
"The Easy-Bake Oven of Editing Software"

The following are some of the comments submitted with the 2009 ACE Equipment Survey.

Question: What feature to your edit system is most useful?

This question drew a wide variety of responses including Compressor, DVDit, Squeeze, Color Correction, Sapphire, Marquee, Timewarp, Boris, and trim mode. But the largest number of responders mentioned ScriptSync (16), Avid vfx (13), and Motion (7). I dont use ScriptSync much, but I know several editors who do and find it a essential feature in their workflow.

What feature would you most like to see added to your edit system?
Audio: "I would like to be able to assign number values to the volume level on the timeline rather than slide the markers up and down."

"Change Audio level on all clips in a bin at once (imported music comes in way too hot)."  Current versions of Avid allow you to lower the level of imported media. FCP doesnt have a way of lowering master clip volume in a bin or on import, and it is certainly needed.

Audio Effects: "Multiple audio effects." Many respondents listed multiple audio effects as one of their requests. This is a capability of FCP.

Audio Editing: "In AVID I'd like to be able to cut sub-frame sound."  Several people suggested this.

Sync: "(Fix) FCP audio in sync with client monitor."  Although Ive heard it said "sync is the hobgoblin of a small mind", yes this is a terrible problem that has never been addressed.

Search: "GLOBAL SEARCH INSIDE CLOSED BINS (Come on, it's 2010 already!)"

DVD: "Instant output to DVD." This request came from multiple respondents. It is such a common need that having to first go to Compressor, or Squeeze, or DVDit to make a DVD is silly.

"Timeline keeps playing while you move around. / Select groups of audio keyframes so you can move them together / Multiple audiosuites on same clip. / Easily move media to another system." This must be from an Avid user, as much of this describes Final Cut Pro.

Rendering: this is a big issue with many responders. Visual effects and outputs require a lot of render time. One of the ways of reducing rendering is to have specific hardware to render on the fly visual effects. But most people want less proprietary hardware. There is no simple answer to this.

"Background creation of Quicktimes." This can somewhat be done by outputting a Quicktime Reference file, then finishing the QT within Quicktime Pro.

ScriptSync: "A transcript of a sequence edited from ScriptSync would change my life, and blow FCP out of the editing rooms."
Message to Avid execs

The following are some of the comments forwarded to the CEO and the President of Avid Technologies.

"Final Cut does not have as good an interface but has many features that are leaving Avid in the dust."

"Make your software more friendly to standard video I/O cards like Kona  and Decklink, and have your software use QuickTime files instead of your proprietary formats, which take forever to convert to standard files for post sound work."

"Presently I have to transcode my AVCHD files to Quicktime in Adobe Premiere then import into AVID.  It would be nice if the .mts files could be imported directly into avid."

"Figure out a way to have the Avid software work without the expensive hardware so that the system costs are on a par with Final Cut Pro."  Actually, the costs between the two systems are close to the point of irrelevance.

"Crashes are still a problem." An Avid engineer told me that the crash rate has been improved to near Meridien levels of one crash every 18 hours. Not me. I think I sometimes crash at least 10 times a day. My motto: Save Early, Save Often.

"Spend  an entire day in a feature cutting room and observe the work flow first hand. See what happens when you get 25K feet of film a day and how better Avid might meet the needs of a feature editor." Just before the 2010 Eddy Awards, one of Avids senior product engineer visited for an entire day at my cutting room on Caprica. He talked with every editor and assistant, and wrote down every bug, every concern, and every feature request. And he solved several problems. The next day he visited a big budget effects feature, where I believe he did the same thing. The only similar time I had with an Apple engineer, he told us we werent using the software correctly, and showed us a few workarounds.

"I'd like to have better online access to tech support questions." The Apple and Avid forums are really great resources. I have great luck with people answering my questions.

"Please fix the scripting system to allow multiple lines to be scripted within one take."

Memory management: "Avid tends to get clogged up as we open new bins.  There is no good way to refresh the memory use, other than restarting the MC.  Doing a complicated show like Avatar where we used 24 video tracks for every reel radically slowed the system and we crashed everyday if not every few hours.  Much work was lost and had to be redone.  The auto save function would not work, because the memory of the system was used up.  There will be more movies using the maximum video tracks and they will encounter the same problems."

"I would like to see the porting of more time consuming activities like rendering, consolidating, etc. to work 'behind the scenes,' allowing the user to continue working on the system."

Finally

Although Apple has a substantial presence in film and television editing, they aren't the biggest player in software. The good news is the biggest player, Avid, has become very responsive to the needs of editors. They are making significant improvements in the software and hardware. And they very much are paying attention to what ACE editors say.

So it is incumbent on us to research technical issues and to make an effort to solve them rather than just complain. There are lots of sources of information. Many of the problems mentioned in the survey have been solved by newer versions of Media Composer, such as transition preservation. And if you like a specific version of software, you are under no obligation to cut on a newer system. There are plenty of Meridien systems available still.

Me: Im just happy someone is paying attention.

Finally, my favorite comment to Avid:

"(You) need to work on you PR because people in the low budget world think FCP is the only choice and I have a hard time convincing them otherwise.  And to me, FCP is still the Easy Bake Oven of editing systems."

2009 ACE Equipment Survey

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Training Videos for Avid MC 5

Avid has set up a web page for tutorial videos, produced by the training site Lynda.com, centered on Media Composer version 5. I've only sampled them, but it looks like a excellent resource.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Final Cut Pro Tips: Preferences and Mattes

FCP Preference files can become corrupt, which can cause frequent crashes. The same used to be true for Avid MC settings files. One important way to maintain good operation of FCP is to backup your User Data (Button Bars, Keyboard, Track, and Window Layouts), and delete FCP preference files so they can be rebuilt.

Ken Stone's Final Cut Pro Web Site gives a very good explanation of how and why to trash preferences.

For backing up and restoring preferences and settings, Digital Rebellion offers Preference Manager.  Best of all, its free.

If you want to keep your own backup copy of your settings, follow the image below. I copy my settings to a folder on my desktop.


One important caveat: when you trash your preferences you will have to reset your project settings (video codec, project frame rate) and your Scratch Disk. But this is essential to main good computer operation.

alex4d 8-Point Matte Plugin


I've found a matte program that is vastly superior to FCP's 4 and 8 point garbage mattes.  When you create a matte shape in FCP and need to track it during a shot, you have to move each point of the matte every time the image moves in the frame. Alex Gollner offers a free 8-Point Matte Plugin that allows you to create a shape, then move and resize that shape without having to reset each individual point on the matte. Best of all, its free. (But there is the opportunity to donate for the software if you use it).

Thursday, May 20, 2010

What's Going On With Final Cut Pro?

"Apple's Final Cut Studio suite of video post production apps is getting a significant makeover to better target the software to the mainstream of Apple's customer base rather than high end professionals." from AppleInsider, reported by Prince McLean on May 18.

Uh, oh.

There have been lots of rumors about what is the future of Final Cut. If the above report is true, it is a real mixed bag for feature and television editors.

First, the pressure on Avid to lower its price and improve its product is lessened if not removed. To a great extent because of Final Cut,  Avid has made a huge improvement in price and features over the past couple of years. The upcoming release of version 5 is a stunning combination of new technologies and features - for a student price of $300.

Second, the current version of FCP still lacks significant features and connectivity in a post environment. Targeting the prosumer doesn't bode well for development of more professional tools and features. Most people don't need Cinema Tools, multiple format (size and speed) playback,  improved rendering speed and linking, change lists, etc..

But rumors are just that: we won't really know until Apple chooses to share its plans. I do know of FCP engineers that have left the company. And Apples success with the iPhone and iPad give them lots of incentive to keep focused on their hardware products.

Monday, May 17, 2010

HOUSE shot with Canon 5D DSLR

The season finale of [H]ouse is airing  Monday, May 17th on FOX at 8pm titled, "Help Me".  It was directed by Greg Yaitanes (Children of Dune, Bones, House).

It was shot on the Canon 5D Mark II DSLR, a still camera that shoots stunning HD motion footage. This camera was also used extensively on the SyFy series Caprica.

According to Greg, "it has a sensor the same size as the Vistavision 35mm horizontal format... 8 perf full frame... but given the fast Canon lenses available , (50mm T1.0, 85mm T1.2 for example)... creates of the look of 'big cinema' 70mm film which gave us a very shallow depth of field."  

Here is an interview with Greg about the episode. 



Initially the camera could only shoot 30 or 25 fps, which made it a nightmare for post. I'm not sure if it was a firmware upgrade, but we were able to get 24 fps on Caprica. It has a 21 megapixel sensor, and is incredibly sensitive to light. Finally, it is able to shoot 30 minutes of 1080p, and can use a wireless transmission device for storage.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

The End of Final Cut (for me)

 By Edgar Burcksen, A.C.E.

I’ve had it with Final Cut. After editing three documentaries with enormous amounts of footage, enduring multiple crashes every day, with media that had to be reconnected every time, waiting for shots to render at every turn and losing many edits to unexplainable saving miscues, I finally told the producer of my upcoming editing job – another documentary with enormous amounts of footage – that it had to be ported to Avid from Final Cut Pro.

I started out on film and worked on flatbeds and uprights and then from the early tape based off-line video editing systems like Convergence to the laser based non-linear editing on Editdroids to the early Avid Film Composer, but none are as inadequate in dealing with the intricacies of editing long form film or TV projects than Final Cut Pro.

I embraced “electronic” editing in the early nineties because it expanded my creative possibilities especially with the advance of the Editdroid which I used on the Young Indiana Jones TV series at Lucas Film. Opticals like speed changes, flops (we called them mirror image), blow-ups, dissolves, fades, wipes, color corrections, titles, etc. all of the sudden became a ready to use arsenal in my daily work. After dealing with Final Cut Pro (FCP) in the last two years I felt like I was slowly being boxed in again, because all the freedoms I earned as an editor were complicated and annihilated by the clumsiness of FCP. I had long resisted working on FCP and even rejected some jobs because they were on that system. I finally relented when a job came along that was too good to refuse, thinking that a tool is a tool and I could probably learn how to work on it in a couple of days. That turned out to be true, mastering FCP is not a big thing, editing is editing and FCP had come a long way according to some editors.

Well for me that turned out not to be the case. FCP has two major flaws and in addition to those a myriad of smaller but not less annoying ones. First FCP is designed as an all-in-one system: you input your media, edit it, finalize it with all the effects, opticals and color correction tools available in it and you’re ready to output for your final product to be screened or broadcast. This might all be good if you are only editing small projects that only use one format and uses FCP to output the final. But in the real world you’re mostly dealing with different formats, different frame rates and massive amounts of footage that needs to be managed by assistants.

FCP might be fine to do an output that you can use as a final, but forget trying to use any of the lists or formats that FCP tries to spew out to talk to other machines or facilities because it is a complete nightmare. Ever tried the FCP to give you an accurate change list? FCP is arrogantly designed as its own entity, not needing to talk to anything else but itself. When you’re operating in the long form TV and movie business, it just does not work.

Avid has always worked as a link in the chain of post production making sure it would be able to talk to all the platforms through OMF, ALE, AMA and other tools. Over time Avid has added the gear to make it a finishing tool as well.

So what are the detailed gripes I have with Final Cut Pro? When you create a project in FCP it has a limited project size that you become aware of when your project starts to grow beyond 100 MB. Frequent crashes are the result and the bigger the project the slower the start-up. Because of the limits of the project size you have to create multiple projects to make your media accessible in a workable way; for example different projects for camera media, archival material, sound effects, and music. When you go through a lot of edits and re-edits of your sequences you have to create different projects, and when they become too big and when you want to move around through these projects because you want to rearrange your sequences or use an older edit that seemed better than the one you currently use, you have to make sure that you don’t have more than three projects open because… you guessed it; FCP will become more prone to crash.

When you crash you hope that it has saved your latest edit. Well this might not have happened because FCP only saves the project highlighted in the project bin. If you have the media project open because you last checked out a shot, it will save the media project, a useless exercise because nothing ever changes in it apart from media additions. Why it does not save the timeline you’re working in, is a mystery to me. Yes, I know there’s a Save All button but when you’re in the momentum of editing, you don’t think about that. And shouldn’t the Autosave function take care of that? Noooo.        

When you import media with a different frame rate or format from your project, you have to render it to make it run smoothly. When you move these shots around they lose their render and it makes FCP prone to crash. If you want to prevent this from happening you have to export these shots (with the project settings in place) and import them again. You lose all the pertinent information of the shots which you have to manually input. In Avid when you import a shot of whatever frame rate and/or format it creates a new media file that you can use and abuse however you want. In FCP when you attach some kind of effect and/or formatting to the shot it makes it even more vulnerable and prone to crash.


In Avid you can put any sequence you have created in the source monitor and use it as a source you can cut in as a whole or partial. By using the toggle button it will give you even the timeline of the sequence with a yellow position indicator so you can chose whatever you want to cut into your sequence. You can move video or sound tracks around to fit into the timeline you’re editing. In FCP you can move a sequence into the source monitor but it loses all the pertinent information attached to each individual clip. It becomes its own entity with no reference to the original: not very useful. To do what you can easily do in Avid using the source monitor, you have to copy and paste the exact piece you want from one sequence into another.

(Editor Note: you can copy clips, then hit Shift+V to ripple insert those clips in another sequence, but this is not obvious or well known) 

The effects in FCP are awkward too but that’s something you can learn to live with once you’ve figured out where they all live and how to manipulate them. Some effects live in the effects tool tab but others live embedded in the source monitor. Motion effects you’ll find in the source monitor, just like titles and sizing. Most other effects you’ll find in the effects tab organized in categories that you have to get used to. What all the effects have in common is that they need to be rendered otherwise won’t play them properly or becomes prone to crash. Move your shot one frame and you have render it again and this goes for the titles as well. In Avid when you create a title, you create a media file that you can manipulate any way you want to without re-rendering. 

The trim tool is worthless in FCP because it always goes into clip collision mode or something like that so you find work-arounds: to refine your edits you resort to a typical FCP view, you start stacking shots so you can move them individually until they fit right. The clean ‘one video track’ mode with effects, titles or superimposed shots in other tracks of the Avid is thrown out. In FCP you have easily 12 video tracks just to cover a simple edit without much else going on.

Crashing is annoying but in FCP it is extremely annoying. It happens most of the time totally unexpected; you’re editing away, absorbed by the momentum and “plop” everything disappears to put you back at the computers desktop. When that doesn’t happen it starts to hang and the colorful spinning beach ball appears, inviting you to force quit the application. Most of the time in Avid you will get a message that the computer is about to crash, so either continue or force quit. It gives you the chance to save before you force quit.

On my last project on FCP SOS/ State Of Security, a documentary with about 250 hours of footage, I crashed at least 5 times a day, sometimes 5 times an hour when I had to work in multiple projects with a lot of archival footage that always needed to be rendered. Darfur Now a similar project I edited on Avid: during the almost one year of editing I crashed maybe three times. Bluetopia, the Dodgers baseball documentary edited on the Avid during a period of six months, there were two crashes. Crashes on FCP also make that you often lose media connections that you have to reconnect and renders that have to be re-rendered; all these are time consuming momentum killing annoyances.

Is everything bad on FCP? No, you can actually port over your personal Avid keyboard settings to FCP. Also a nice feature is the interactivity of the timeline: you can drag and drop clips on the time line and extend or shorten shots by dragging the end or beginning of a shot. But is this enough to reconsider working on FCP? No, because the new Avid Media Composer 5 has these features added to its repertoire.

What about this as a replacement: Diane Weynand wrote a book called Final Cut Pro for Avid Editors, may I suggest that she should write a book called Avid Media Composer for Final Cut Pro Editors? Because with the latest software updates for the Media Composer and the fact that Avid also has made their pricing equivalent to Final Cut Pro, there’s no reason for me to use Final Cut Pro ever again.

Setup:

FCP 6.0.5
Mac Pro 2.66 GHz Dual-Core Intel Xeon
5 GB of RAM
AJA Kona 3
3 G-Technology RAID 5 towers total 9 TB SATA
1 G-Technology 1 TB drive SATA
1 G-Technology 1 TB drive FireWire 800
Media @ Apple ProRes 422

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Freddy's Avid Links

Freddy's Big List of Relevant Avid Links

An excellent resource for most every Avid video tutorial and piece of documentation.  Give this to your assistant.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sorenson Squeeze 6 Review

by Harry B. Miller III, A.C.E.

I keep wanting to like Sorenson Squeeze. It comes bundled with Avid Media Composer, so it adds to the value of the MC suite.

The current release, version 6, offers a plethora of options for input and output. These include .ac3, .vob, . wmv, .wma., aif,. avi,. mp4, .mp3, .m4v…. you get the idea. And the output formats additionally include Adobe Flash (but not Flash 10), Quicktime, and MPEG-2. Honestly, I don't know what half of these file types are. And that is Squeeze's biggest problem; there are so many options in selecting the correct input and output for video, that I find Squeeze barely usable.

As an example of the programs confusing complexity. It lists a series of output formats. These include "QuickTime (.mov)" and "QuickTime Export". I have no idea why these are different. When looking in the submenus I can tell there are different types of outputs (Quicktime Export seems to be more sound related). But what a confusing naming system.

When I look at the QuickTime (.mov) export formats, there are a series of preset outputs with names that again confuse more than enlighten. There is a "QT 1Mbps" and a "QT 360p (16x9)". The first is named with a data rate, the second is named with a frame size. Which is better, with the smaller file size? Who knows.

Generally I have two important tasks that I need from a program like Squeeze: output to DVD, and rip from a non-protected DVD. (As a side note, as much as I've tried to understand Flash for my website, the format is beyond me).

I did a comparison of Squeeze vs. my favorite DVD burning software, Toast by Roxio. I took a 4 minute Quicktime .mov, encoded as h.264, 24 fps. To setup, encode, burn, and verify the disk in Toast took 9.5 minutes. Squeeze took 19 minutes. The Toast DVD played flawlessly. The Squeeze disk kept dropping frames.

My second test was to extract the video from the same DVD. My preferred software for this task is Cinematize. It took 3:20 to rip, and the resultant DVCPro Quicktime looked excellent. Squeeze took 16 minutes to 480p format, and looked extremely compressed.

Finally I tried converting a QT from frame size 640x480 to 320x240. The 4 minute clip was 500 mb. Squeeze took 4.5 minutes, compressed the file to 13 mb, and resulted in very stuttery video. Quicktime Pro took 2 minutes to encode, reduced the file to 7 mb, and it looked fine.

Whenever I see a new version of software, I want to give it a try, and I want it to be better than what I have. I want to like Squeeze. But it isn't for me. This even though I have to use three programs to do the same thing (Toast, Cinematize, and Quicktime Pro).

I'm sure there are ways to get great results from Squeeze 6. I just don't know how.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

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Boris Continuum Complete - Who knew?

by Harry B. Miller III, A.C.E.  - reprinted from CinemaEditor Magazine

I’m always amazed at what I don’t know, but learn through some experimentation.


My Avid Media Composer software has for years come with the visual effects plug-ins from Boris FX, the suite called Boris Continuum Complete (BCC). Boris is a software plug-in for Media Composer (and other platforms such as After Effects). It enables an editor to add effects such as colors, glows, distortions, lights, textures, keys, and mattes to any shot. Every once in a while I’d dabble with different effects, a blur, a glow, etc. It all seemed fun enough, but often too complicated to completely understand.

Then one day I found out what I really didn’t know: an function within Boris called PixelChooser. When did that happen?

I know this might be way too geeky for a magazine like CinemaEditor that is about the art and craft of editing, but technology is forever more a part of that art and craft. These types of effects have become essential to story telling. For example, when Dexter Morgan has imaginary conversations with his dead father in the series DEXTER, the audience is instantly clued in by the glow effect on the image that this is Dexter’s imagination.

And PixelChooser is one amazing addition to Boris I’d never seen before.

It is all fine to have a palette of visual effect plug-ins to help tell your story. Avid comes with a good variety: 3D Warp to make multiple changes to size and orientation of an image, SpectraMatte for greenscreen work, Animatte for matting shapes in images, Flips, Flops, Resizes, Motion Tracking, etc.. Sapphire, a visual effect plug-in package by GenArts, is thought by many editors to be the best software of this type. It features a wide variety of blurs, glows, sparkles, etc..

But what has elevated Boris in my eyes is that, in addition to having similar effects offered by Sapphire, is Boris’ ability to draw shapes within each Boris effect, and to apply the effect within or without of that shape. An not just single shapes, but multiple ones. It enables the editor to fine tune the visuals of a movie enormously.

Lets for example say I wanted to add a glow to a shot.
 
In the Effects Palette, under BCC Effects, you can find the BCC Glow effect.
 
Drop that icon on the shot in the timeline. It affects the entire image. But very often you don’t want an effect on the full image, but just a part. Let’s say just the sky, in this example.

By activating the Effect Editor, you can go down the screen to the button ‘Pixel Chooser: Off’. By switching that to ‘PixelChooser: On’, 


a new set of options appears. The default selection is ‘PC Region Shape: All’. That can be switched to a number of shapes, where the effect happens on the inside or outside of that shape.

The last shape is ‘Custom’. Here is where the power shows. By choosing ‘Custom’,






then highlighting the Custom Spline UI  (why is this stuff so complicated and confusing?), you can click on the image to create a custom shape. Once having completed a shape, you can easily move the points around to more finely draw the shape.

This power can be expanded: you can draw multiple shapes on a shot, and animate each point.
 
This is much like having the Avid’s Animatte effect available for every Boris plug-in. (Yes, this is awfully geeky, but its a terrific tool)

Once learning about this, I read deeper into the Boris manual (my wife hates manuals. So she has me read the manuals about her software for her work). I found several more gems.

Generators: you can add clouds, fire, sparks, rain, etc. to a shot.

Correct Selected, in Colors and Blurs: this is essentially secondary color correction, which is not available in Media Composer effects. Secondary CC is used when you only want to effect one small range of colors in an image. It is how an image can look black and white, but only the red rose shows color.

Optical Flow, in BCC Time: speed change a shot, with smoothing like Fluid Motion.

Optical Stabilizer, in BCC Time: to stabilize a handheld shot.

Lens Flare, in BCC Open GL: add optical lens flare, to make a shot more interesting, or as a transition.

Pan and Zoom, in BCC Distortion and Perspective: another way of panning and zooming in a shot.

Some of these filters are similar to what is available in the Media Composer. It is a toss up which is better. But discovering some of the secrets of BCC is really worth the time to explore.

The tide of technology keeps rising. Some editors have the notion that knowing about advanced tools is too difficult, and tends to make VFX work more a part of their job. I look upon it as job security. The more I know and am able to do (and do well), the less likely my job is going to disappear. Or go to another editor that knows those tools.

Boris is also available for Final Cut Pro, which is why I’m going to recommend any FCP show add this.

Who knew?

(images courtesy of HittingThe Cycle production)



Sunday, February 07, 2010

Final Cut Pro Workflow Ideas

A couple of colleagues recently discussed with me problems using Final Cut Pro. One is a feature editor. The other does documentaries. I’ve most recently used FCP on an episodic series. Three different types of productions, but I think there are some common solutions. Solutions we’re planning on using on the second season of Warehouse 13 for the SyFy channel.

Project Organization:

Instead of one project for each episode, a common organization on Avid MC, we will have several separate projects for each episode: a master editing project, dailies project, backup project.  FCP works poorly when projects get too large. On the other hand, it is easy to have several projects open at once.

And instead of adding music and sound effects into a master project, we will have a master sound effects project, and composer / score music project. We may also create a needle drop separate project. And we will have a project for stock footage. Each editor or assistant can access (read) any of these projects, just can’t write to them without drive writing access.

Storage Organization:  

We will have several terabytes of storage that the four editors and three assistants will all need access to. Each of us need read access. But we only need limited write access, basically just to the project we are editing. The networking storage we’re using is not Avid’s Unity, which allows for changing partitions at any time. We will have to partition all the storage before we start work.

Our plan is to format the shared storage so there multiple partitions. As we will have 13 episodes, each episode will have its own partition. Additionally, each assistant will have a partition, as well as partitions for sound effects, music, stock footage and visual effects. About 20 partitions. The assistant or editor will gain write access only to that partition as needed. This scheme will depend on how well the storage software works.

One suggestion from Apple techs is to limit the use of subfolders, as they make drive access slower for FCP. We will likely keep all sound effects in one large folder, have all the composer’s music in one folder, and all needle drop in one folder. This may mean renaming some files to have a complete reference to their origin.

One advantage to having each episode have its own partition is rendering. In this scheme, each episode renders to its own partition, which should reduce render files from becoming unlinked. So anyone that needs to work on that project will know where to find all render files.

Work in Standard Definition:

We considered Pro-res, but the render times (a substantial problem in SD) are unworkable in HD. It is likely we will get Quicktime files for dailies – last season we worked with DVCPro-50. And mostly ACE editors are creating off-line edits. On-line editing involves very different considerations and tasks.

Titles:

If you make a title with the Boris title tool rather than the standard FCP tool, it does not need rendering (unless a drop shadow or other effect is added). Anything that reduces rendering is good.

Boris Continuum

Finally, we’ve requested Boris Continuum Complete to be added to each system, and to our on-line editor’s system. Using BCC on my current (Avid MC) project has been a revelation. It has a function called Pixel Chooser, which is available in most of its plug-ins. Pixel Chooser is very much like Animatte in Media Composer. Creating simple or complex mattes for effects is now very simple (Four and Eight Point Garbage mattes are terrible to work with). And Boris has greatly increased the usability of its plug-ins, to where I’d rather have it over Sapphire.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Another reason you should be using Quickeys

by Harry B. Miller III, A.C.E.

I've used Quickeys on every editing system since Avid MC 7, and FCP 5. It allows you to record a series of keystrokes, mouse clicks, etc., that can be triggered by a single keystroke. One standard macro I use has the following steps

1 - key 'i' for Mark In
2 - F6, which I've set in Avid to move the cursor to the next edit
3 - Left Arrow, moving back one frame
4 - key 'o' for Mark Out.

This marks a clip for deletion, overwrite, or replacement. I've assigned this marco to F12. I may hit F12 50 times a day, meaning I've saved my self 50 x 3 keystrokes, or 150 keystrokes a day on that one macro.


Quickeys is currently up to version 4, which is the cleanest design and easiest to use of any previous version. 

Now I've learned from assistant Carmelo Casalenuovo that Quickeys works with the external key pads made by X-keys. These are connected though USB, and add different arrangements of additional keys. Now, Quickeys can assign macros to X-key external devices.


The problem this solves is there are only so many keys within Avid or FCP that can be programmed.  An X-keys device expands that considerably - up to an including a foot pedal.

I've currently programmed my X-keys device to do the following on single keystrokes: go back two seconds and hit Play; toggle V1, A1 and A2; Quad split the MC's display. I will be finding more and more functions to add to my X-keys with Quickeys.   
Now, what to program the foot pedal for...?


Sunday, June 21, 2009

2008 Equipment Survey - Full Results

Here are the full results from the 2008 ACE Equipment Survey. There were 100 returned surveys. (click on an image to enlarge)

2008 ACE Equipment Survey

Reprinted from Cinema Editor Magazine
by Harry B. Miller III, A.C.E.

Nothing is a bigger block to the creative process than a tool that fails: a pencil breaks, a pen is dry, a splicer blade is dull. The worst for the modern film editor is the computer system that crashes. That was one of the common themes from ACE editors who responded to the latest survey.

The annual equipment survey of ACE members showed there weren’t many big changes in our editing rooms this past year. There were 100 responses, slightly up from the past. The types of shows (doc, feature, episodic) remained nearly the same. This time, however, there were zero reported mini-series. The Camera Original remained nearly the same, even though it seems we hear about more shows shooting digital instead of film. Storage remained about the same, with Unity having a 64% share, external 23%, and XServe 5%. (click on the image to enlarge)
The biggest change here is the introduction of the new Avid DX hardware. It seems to be directly replacing Adrenaline. Final Cut is slightly up. There were no Lightworks shows reported.

An interesting added breakdown was that Final Cut was evenly split between scripted and non-scripted shows (11 to 10), while Avid was solidly scripted (73 to 5). Although anecdotal, reality shows (not well represented in ACE) are very solidly Avid. (click on the image to enlarge)
In Delivery Format, there has been a definite trend away from finishing on film and finishing in standard definition tape. High resolution digital finishing is clearly taking over. (click on the image to enlarge)
The results here are always disappointing. I don’t know how, but editors need to at least try to assert their influence over what machines we use. I’m not sure crying will work, but may at some point give it a try.

This is a new question in the survey, and it was surprising to me how many people used HD during their edit.

Many people responded to the additional questions in the survey. Here is a sampling. A more complete list will be posted on the ACE Tech Blog.

What is needed

Avid: internal search engine, 5.1 mixing, ability to set the sound levels for a whole sequence, ability to import ScriptE files (electronic script supervisor notes), networking ProTools and Avid along with the ability to ‘round trip’ audio, copy and paste Audio keyframes, stereo tracks linked as one track, more real time effects, live timeline, multiple plugins on an audio clip, subframe sound editing, simple camera shake (handheld effect)

Final Cut: better trim mode, better multiuser environment, a script function, a simpler way to retrieve cuts after a crash, locators that remain in position, color track assignments, ability to make specific undos

And finally “a great assistant” and “a button that makes all my creative decisions for me.”

Frustrations

Frequent crashes tops the list here, on all systems, followed by system speed. I recently worked on an episodic series that used Meridiens. Although frustrated by the lack of modern features, it is remarkable what a solid performer the Meridien platform is. Almost no crashes, and a robust performance even though it was on an older Mac G4 tower.

What Feature Would You Like Implemented

These include: a link between titles (subtitles) and a text document or database, programmable macros like Quickeys, real DPX material, streaming to broadband.

Tutorials

Not many reported using tutorials, but there are some out there. The web sites Creative Cow, You Tube, Video Co-Pilot, and Avid (ALEX) were listed by some.

Message to ACE 

The following are a sample of messages to ACE (edited for space):

 “Avid MC  2.7 worked great without any crashes so far. (T)his compared to working on FCP with as many as 10 crashes a day.” Edgar Burksen, A.C.E.

“Remember to pass on your GOOD habits to your assistants - we teach by example!” Peter Basinski, A.C.E.

 “Love the Nitris DX. Get off of Meridien and help facilitate using new MC and especially the HD platform Nitris DX.” Martin Nicholson, A.C.E.

“Meredien worked just fine. Isn’t it about time that Avid was shamed into providing a useful and reliable product” Peter Boyle, A.C.E.

“prefer Moviola” Anonymous

“Technological advances are like your Mother-In-Law: often intrusive, but they’re not going away. You’ll be happier if you learn to embrace them.”  Stephen Semel, A.C.E.

“This is my third episodic series on FCP and I still find it amateurish and disruptive to the creative process - its a toy! Prefer my Avid.” Bonnie Kohler, A.C.E.

“Learn FPC. Its coming. And campaign for an affordable Avid editing system or a software-improved FCP.” Lori J. Coleman, A.C.E.

“This was the first time we attempted to use the ScriptSync and I found it totally unreliable.” Nancy Morrison, A.C.E.

“The Avid software only system is very good.” Anita Brandt Burgoyne, A.C.E.

“I love ACE.” Richard Halsey, A.C.E.

Message to

Finally, a survey question was “What message do you want to send to Apple / Avid / Lightworks?”.

First of all, there was no need to send any messages to Lightworks, as none were directed to them. 

Both Avid and Apple were sent email messages, with an attached document that had all responses to the above question. Each company was asked to respond in any way they’d like. The caveat was this magazine article had a deadline.

In just over a week, Avid sent two letters by Kirk Arnold, President of Avid’s Video division. The first was a reply to the general themes in the comments. The second was a specific answer / response to each comment from an ACE member.

The response from Avid was impressive by its detail, its breadth, and its timeliness. The ACE Board of Directors was impressed enough to send copies to each ACE member by mail and email. The letters are also posted on the ACE Tech Blog.

The essence of the reply was that Avid is listening to its customers, especially ACE, and is changing its products to meet the needs expressed by the comments they read.

From Apple? After two and a half weeks, the exchange of several emails with a senior products manager and their PR department, Apple had not responded to the ACE comments before this magazine’s deadline. If they do respond, it will be posted on the ACE Tech Blog. If….

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Avid Responds to ACE Comments

One question from the ACE 2008 Equipment survey is "What message do you want to send to Avid / Apple / Lightworks ?" The responses were compiled in one Word document. It was sent to Avid's CEO Gary Greefield and President Kirk Arnold, and to contacts at Apple (the Senior Product Manager for Final Cut and a representative in their PR department). Sadly, no member reported using Lightworks, so there were no messages sent to them.

Avid and Apple were asked to respond in any way they chose to our comments. Avid sent two documents; 1) a general letter to ACE members addressing the theme of the comments and 2) a specific answer to each comment addressed to Avid.

The ACE Board feels these responses from Avid are impressive and important. The ACE comments and the Avid response can be downloaded here.  Apple has acknowledged the request and has not issued a response.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Post Part 2 /2

As the film is mixed, the mixed stems come from the stage at Sony and are dropped into the working master sequence. The same is true of VFX in progress. Each iteration of a VFX is layered on top of the last in the timeline.

Dailies were telecined at Company 3 to HD, then encoded into Avid’s DNxHD 36. Initially the post crew wondered if they should work at the higher quality compression, 115. But the need to accommodate a laptop meant they would work with the smaller file size.

Audio is encoded at 48k, 24 bit, and is sunk during telecine. Only one channel is transferred to the dailies, but the full production audio from Diva is loaded into the system if needed. Very little MC color correction of the original dailies is done. Dailies are moved to the cutting room via hard drive, giving them a tapeless workflow.

One oddity is although they are working in MFX media, the assistants are converting the audio to OMF media for the sound department. Calvin reported AAF exports having caused the Avid to crash, so OMF was chosen.

MFX media has created a fair amount of confusion in the industry. Some sound departments say they can’t work with it. Picture departments aren’t especially aware of the advantages (if any) of MXF, and an AAF transfer.

The system has 16 terrabytes of storage, holding about 1.25 million feet of film. The director carries a Micronet raid array as a portable hard drive for media.

As the picture has gotten closer to its final form, the assistants have been ordering scans of the picture for the final DI. Three types of film are being used, 4 perf 35mm, 8 perf 35 mm, and 15 perf 65mm, and each are scanned at a different resolution.

Although the framing of the movie is 2.40, Cinemascope wide screen, the 65mm film is being integrated to give a full frame Imax experience. Some scenes wil show entirely in Imax. Some scenes have a mix. After going to a theater to screen a mixture of 2.40 and Imax, it was decided that mixing the two didn’t hurt the visual experience.

Calvin Wimmer’s previous Avid show with editor Roger Barton was Speedracer, which he called the ‘worst case scenario. The software was super crashy.’ Transformers has had only a small degree of problems. Paul Rubell reports there is slowness in opening some windows (dissolve tool) in his MC, but the software has been very reliable, crashing only one time he could remember.

The biggest change for Paul was moving from 14:1 compression to HD. “The first hour is amazing” to watch, but “then it feels normal.”

Editors Roger Barton and Joel Negron use a few of Avid’s effects, but the director is very keen that they not change the images he shot. They’ve composited temp greenscreens, split screens, and animates. None of the editors were aware of the new Avid software, Avid FX.

One frustration expressed by the crew is that the audio levels in their tracks didn’t translate properly to the sound editorial department. Key frames went across, but audio gain changes in clips could clip or distort. It was also frustrating for Calvin that colored clips, a great way of keeping a timeline organized, would not translate to sound.

A more common complaint in editorial departments is why Media Composer and Pro Tools, owned by the same company, and the defacto standard in feature film post, don’t work together better.

To work on the extensive VFX, a highspeed T3 line was installed in the cutting room. It runs at 44.7 Mb/s, or what Calvin calls “the foo foo lingo for ‘really fast internet’”. It allows direct, instant, and secure communication between ILM and the cutting room. A two way conference is set up. Each side can see the other. And ILM can show the latest shots in part of the screen for evaluation.

Another interesting technology in the workflow is iChat. Editorial is using it for all types of purposes: sending updated cuts, getting sound effects from sound editorial, or music from music editorial, or to update the director’s laptop.

But the most impressive piece of technology in the whole post facility was for Cal Wimmer: a work bench with a motorized height adjustment. At the flip of a switch, he can work sitting down or standing up with the bench height adjusted to his liking.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Post Crew:
Editors Roger Barton, Joel Negron, Paul Rubell., A.C.E., Glen Scantlebury, Tom Muldoon
Co-First Assistants Calvin Wimmer, Todd Zongker
Apprentice Editor Kevin Stermer
Post Assistant Tommy Aagaard

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Post Production Part 1

Every new movie or television production goes through the process of deciding about what technology to employ. Long ago it was a simple as “KEM, Moviola, or Steenbeck.” Now of course it is a lot more complicated. And every show is breaking new ground in some fashion.

Case in point: Transformers 2 (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen). It is still possible to edit major feature film releases with Meridien systems, but using the latest hardware and software from Avid provides several new benefits.

One of the important new abilities was to allow the director, Michael Bay, to have a full working Media Composer on his laptop. Editorial provides him with an up to date portable drive with all media and a current project which allows him to comment on scenes, and to clip favorite takes for the editors to work with.

Paul Rubell is one of five editors on the project. He was brought on during post, after he had finished Public Enemies for Michael Mann - editing on Meridien systems. Paul was re-editing several scenes but had difficulty getting the very busy director to view and comment on them. Finally, the director was given these new cuts on his laptop, and Paul was soon given the notes he needed to proceed.

The editorial set up for Transformers 2 is as follows: there are eight Avid Media Composers, each with 3.x software, each with Nitris DX hardware. Nitris was choosen to allow each system to output eight channels, instead of two with the Mojo. All systems, including the director’s, are Apple computers running OS X. Not every system, however, has the same MC software version.

According to first assistant editor Calvin Wimmer, the different versions of the 3.x software can’t do certain important things. His system, 3.0.6, can do a consolidation for sound editorial… but can’t do an EDL. So co-first assistant Todd Zongker has a later version which can do EDL’s… but not consolidations.

Each system has two large Cinema displays, outputs through an analog Mackie mixer.

The editors pull sub-clips from the larger movie to work on. Once the work is completed, that section is re-integrated in the movie. The editors are working on all parts of the movie as needed. One potential problem is by the time a sub-clip is ready to go back into the movie, someone has made a change in that section (update a VFX, make a picture change for the director). It takes communication to keep from blowing away each others work.

 Paul Rubell had gotten used to working with audio in three channels: a center mono channel for dialogue and effects, and a stereo pair for music and backgrounds. He set the first four channels of his timeline to be center mono, and the next 4 to be stereo left and right. This is how he edited Public Enemies. It allowed for a better representation of a mixed movie. On Transformers, the director needed to work with only two channels for his laptop, so the editors all worked in two output channels.

To be continued....

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Post Crew:
Editors Roger Barton, Joel Negron, Paul Rubell., A.C.E., Glen Scantlebury, Tom Muldoon
Co-First Assistants Calvin Wimmer, Todd Zongker
Apprentice Editor Kevin Stermer
Post Assistant Tommy Aagaard

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

A Very Nice New Feature - Avid 3.5

The Avid Media Composer 3.5 release isn't a huge leap forward for series television and feature film editors. The new AMA (Avid Media Access) technology is big for some sectors of post, but it relates mostly to new ingest formats (P2, Sony's XDCam). Nice, but not something I need every day.

The stereoscopic editing at first glance isn't a big step either. But after having seeing a demonstration, it is a unique tool for editing 3D. Combined with Avid's HD capability, it can be a great benifit to post as one can screen 3D cuts without having to conform both eyes. I've edited many 3D projects: this will be a pretty excellent addition.

But the best new feature has hardly been mentioned in any press release. The Effects Editor will now allow one to edit every layer of a VFX on one panel.


As the above image show, this clip has the following VFX plug-ins: Flop, SpectraMatte, BCC_Rays_Streaky,  and Color Correction. In previous version of Media Composer, you had to step into each effect and edit the parameters on their own page. You no longer need to step into a clip's effects. All can be edited from this one panel. And with increasing numbers of off line VFX work, this is a huge feature addition.

As of yet the individual plug-ins cannot be re-ordered or deleted on this page. Perhaps that will come in the future.

New Editor Site

 A student at Video Symphony, the post production education facility, has started a new web site for editors.

www.PostEditors.com

According to Noel Albornoz  " The site, www.posteditors.com,  is a
social networking site similar to Facebook and LinkedIn but caters to
post-production editors.  Members of the site can create their profile,
network with others, join discussions in the forums, and upload their demo
reels where they can get feedback from their peers."


I'm curious what others think.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Editor Comments from the 2008 Equipment Survey

Two surveys were returned with extended comments.

From John Gilbert, A.C.E.

The EDL program needs to be updated. John and his crew kept getting a 'buffer' error when attempting to make an EDL, and the program would crash. As there was no other explanations of why, they kept dividing the sequence in half, to see which half had the problem. "So after 3 hours of working the problem we did discover that this version of the EDL manager won't let us make an EDL when there's a speed change in the sequence.  After so many years you can't make an EDL with a speed change in it?"

John continues: "Also, you still can't make an EDL with over 999 items in it." This of course is completely inadequate for today's work.

The ScriptSync program has come a long way, but still needs work: "When there's a re-write or an ad-lib on set, you can't add or delete text within Script Sync.  The script sync document NEEDS to be fully editable. We tried to amend a script outside of the program like we were told to do, and the script would never come back in with the proper format.  After several hours we abandoned the effort."

Secondly, the little tabs that appear on takes need to be more editable.   (W)e would need to remove the tab and add another and the change wouldn't happen.  We could slide the tab but Script Sync would keep the original reference in the take.  For example we had a line where the character said, "Cup..." and Script Sync thought the line was "Cut" and marked it at the end of the take. Since I couldn't add the additional tabs that I needed, I couldn't use it for that scene.

Also, when the clip is playing in Script Sync, there should be a "play bar" to indicate where the clip is being played.  The verticle line that's already there is perfect, it just needs to become in different color inside the line to indicate where it's playing.

(Finally) there needs to be an easier way to type text at the top of the clip.
_______________________________________________________________

Kate Sanford, A.C.E., responded about what feature Avid needs:

"Mappable audio keyframes!  Copy/paste audio keyframes from one track to another.  This would be especially useful when replacing music.  In fact, it would be wonderful if option+replace would preserve all keyframe info while replacing the underlying track on PICTURE or SOUND!  (In video the workaround is to save the effect, then paste it back onto the desired shot.)

The other feature I need is dupe detection on ALL video tracks!  Why isn't this available on V2?   Dupe detection should find common frames within and among all video tracks."

Monday, March 30, 2009

Editor Stories

Here are a couple of editors writing about their experiences, from the upcoming 2008 ACE Equipment survey.

A story from Stuart Bass on the perils of the editor having too many tools:

"This was the first time I cut a pilot and was offered no post-production support. As an editor I was responsible for CC, ADR, music editing and tracking, sound effects, the mix and many of the blue screen visual effects.

With some discussion I eventually got a music editor and supervisor and someone to help me with color correction. However, after I locked the director’s cut, my assistant and I undertook a week of work that is usually reserved for specialists. As a result I worked over the technical aspects of the show so deeply that I no longer could make “objective” creative decisions as we progressed through the studio / network notes. At times I felt I let down the producers and director because I could no longer make aesthetic choices. The act of going through the show frame by frame working audio levels and color for days at a time takes one’s head out of the story."

Tim Squyres on working remotely:

I did the (feature) assembly at home with software only Composer on a Macbook Pro with external FW  800 drives, while my assistant digitized in New York on a Nitris system. Every afternoon a runner would come out to my house on the train and we'd swap hard drives, and I'd give them any DVD's I'd made to be sent to the director. Occasionally, if time was tight, I'd have my assistant make the DVD from bins that I'd sent via iChat. It takes a little extra effort to be sure everyone has the right media and bins, but it's nice to skip the commute.

I have and older SD Mojo, so I could have down-converted to DX and worked on my larger client monitor, but I chose to work in full screen on my computer monitor in HD, without the Mojo. I down-converted only to make the DVD's. For the first part of the job, the Mojo was unsupported anyway, due to the Leopard Firewire problem that we discovered beta-testing last spring on a job that I'll send a different survey about. In early January, the director wanted to go skiiing, so we rented a Mojo DX, update my Firewire drives, and I took my home system to Lake Placid for a week. No problems.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Interview with Chris Dickens

From Larry Jordan, at HDFilmtools.com


"I am currently running a 5 part series with ACE, BAFTA and Oscar winning film editor Chris Dickens. You are welcome to link or post on your site if you would like.

You can access it via my front page at http://www.hdfilmtools.com"

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Media Composer Tutorials

The Avid PC forum features a post that links to 90+ tutorials. Most are simple, but seem to clearly show many basic Avid editing concepts. These aren’t, of course, nearly as interesting as the tutorials here, but an excellent reference nevertheless.

Roku: the future of Video

My Christmas present (to myself) this year was a Roku digital video player.
It is about the size of a five-pack of CDs. And it connects my TV to a huge library of movies and television shows.

The initial attraction to the device is it can stream movies from Netflix. As I have a standard Netflix account, the streaming service is free. The second very attractive feature is the device is wireless. There are no connections to figure out to make it link to my home wireless network. The overall setup was very easy. It supports standard definition and HD.

A recently added advantage is it can now tap into Amazon’s video streaming service, which has (Amazon says) over 40,000 videos. This service is not free, however, and works similar to iTunes: you can purchase, or you can rent for 24 hours.

I’ve watched several movies, and all looked and sounded very good. I can pause, rewind, fast forward like a DVD.

There are downsides. The Netflix library of streaming titles isn’t huge (12,000 videos), and is oddly eclectic - which means it doesn’t have a lot of things I’ve looked for. And if your internet connection is flakey (as Time Warner has been recently in Southern California), you can’t stream.

I can see why Blockbuster might be looking to file for bankruptcy. My Roku makes it unnecessary to every visit another video store - presuming Netflix and Amazon can keep up with the latest video release schedules. And this streaming ability is also available in Xbox 360, some BluRay players, Tivo DVRs, and a Sony Bravia Internet video link.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

DVD Burning in Windows

Burning a DVD on a Mac from an Avid sequence is easy. Toast is by far the easiest and best program. It takes a Quicktime reference file made from an Avid exported sequence, encodes, and burns it to disk.

Doing the same in Windows isn’t nearly as easy. Sorensen Squeeze is excellent for compression, but is very complicated. Avid DVD by Sonic is reasonably straightforward. But I’ve experienced several failures with it, and it isn’t designed well for what should be a simple operation.

I’ve experimented with several burning software programs. Recently I needed to burn a quite different DVD, and really struggled to find something that worked.

The problem was taking a DVD that had been encoded 4 x 3 anamorphic. What was on screen was a full frame with very thin and tall people. What was needed was normal sized people, in a 16 x 9 frame with black bars on the top and bottom.

It doesn’t help that every modern HD television seems to display video in unpredictable ways, and their terminology is very fuzzy (Wide, Zoom, etc). Incidentally, how does anyone know what the image on screen is supposed to look like? I've seen televisions set up with a completely wrong aspect ratio, simply because the owner didn't want to see any black bars on the side or top.

I used Cinematize to rip the DVD (non-commercial DVD, mind you, so not illegal). It created a very large Quicktime movie. After failing to resize the image in Quicktime and Toast, I then tried Sorensen Squeeze. The reformat was a simple software switch. But, when I chose to Burn-Large_DVD, my results were unexpected. First, it never actually started the DVD burner - a confusing problem. It did however create two files, video (.m4v) and audio (.m4a). I tried dropping these into Avid DVD. The video file came in: the audio file didn’t. Avid DVD didn’t recognize the file type (neither did I, but I thought that was just me).

Needless to day, I spent hours and many blank DVDs trying to reformat this video and burn a copy, with no luck. Even Adobe Premiere Elements 7, which seemed to have much promise, didn’t have an easy resize and the resultant DVD was fuzzy and way out of sync.

Then I tried TMPGEnc Authoring 4 - a suggestion from Michael Phillips at Avid. I downloaded a trial version, which I had reviewed earlier in version 3. The latest was the simplest and best solution.

TMPGEnc imported the Quicktime file. It had several preset frame sizes / formats. I could immediately see that it was making the correct frame size. I set it to burn to a 4.7 gig DVD, another menu option which constrains the final size of the burned files. I could watch it encode, which happened mostly in real time. And after burning, it retained the encoded file,  allowing me to burn additional copies without re-encoding (which Toast doesn’t do).

As a separate test, I took a Quicktime reference from an Avid sequence. It encoded that properly and burned it as well.

There are additional options for editing and adding menus. I almost never want or need this functionality, but its nice to have. The simplicity of the program is its real strength. You aren’t forced to make menus. It will calculate the proper data rate automatically when you tell it what size DVD you have. I could actually see the correct frame size to burn, which is handy if you have anamorphic media. And it retains the encoded files, so you don’t have to re-encode if you need another copy.

- Harry B. Miller III, A.C.E.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Who Knew? Command-X

- a continuing series of tips. 

It can take several keystrokes to delete a region in an Avid timeline. In Segment Mode (the red arrow), you highlight a clip then hit delete. If there are effects and keyframes, those get removed one at a time, so it can take as many as 6 keystrokes to delete a region.








Shortcut: highlight the region in Segment Mode then hit Command-X (on a Mac; Control-X on a PC).

Voila: the region and all effects are gone. Best of all, the deleted clip (with all effects) is now in the Clipboard, and can be inserted into the timeline at a new spot, with effects, keyframes, and dissolves in tact. Command-V to paste in, or open the Clipboard and 'B' to overwrite.

 
Thanks to Frank Capria and Avid for the tip. 
Who knew?

Friday, October 31, 2008

Editing Red Camera on FCP

Here is a view on a short project edited by Paul Trejo and assisted by Ian Kezsbom, shot on the Red Camera at 4K, and edited on FCP.

Ian Kezsbom:

We were working off two systems. We primarily transferred the footage on a G5 Mac OS X system. As a secondary machine we used my laptop, which is a 17" hi-def Macbook Pro, with a 2.6ghz processor and 4 megs of RAM.

We went to the Red Camera site - and downloaded the Red Log and Transfer Plugin.

This was an add-on that allowed us to log and transfer the Red footage to the Final Cut ProRes footage. This did take a long time - for a little less than 2 hours of footage it was more than half the work day. But it wasn't terribly surprising since we were taking high-def footage and down converting it - not much different than making a compressed Quicktime of 2 hours of footage, I suppose.

The advantage of course was that the Red camera logged each take as it printed them to a drive and we were able to start viewing some of the takes once they had been loaded since the main machine was a multi-processor unit.

This method ended up being the best result for us, since we knew that we were not going to be finishing in anything of higher quality than the ProRes

We had originally prepped to either upconvert to 4K or cut with the 2K footage. We downloaded the Red Quicktime codec, which in theory allows real time playback of the reference movies the camera creates. We ended up not going this route since the research I did suggest that the 2K footage would either not play smoothly or at all on the laptop. We went the conversion to ProRes route.

The outputs for the web were of no problem (one version of the edited project was for broadcast, another for posting on the web). In fact, once the footage was all converted to ProRes files, it was no different than working with any Final Cut project. Essentially, we had created new media - which still retained a fairly high quality (though not high enough for a film output.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Multiple Source Monitors

WOW!   

I’ve tested this just a little, but it seems to be a pretty interesting and crazy Avid editing capability.

Option+double click (Mac, or Alt+double PC) a clip in a bin opens that clip in a pop-up monitor. What is interesting is when this window is active, it works as a source monitor: hit an insert or overwrite key and the material from the pop up window is spliced into your timeline. Or, you can drag and drop from that pop up monitor into the timeline. Segment Mode determines if it is an insert or overwrite, and can be switched by clicking on the yellow or red arrow.

But what if you opened more than one pop-up window? Two? I opened five in MC 3.0, and used each to be the source for editing into my timeline. See this image from the HITTING THE CYCLE promo.

What makes this interesting is how easy it can make accessing your dailies. Rather than double clicking each shot in a bin to open it in the regular source window, or using the source window’s pulldown list, one could have an entire scene of dailies (?) instantly available.

This needs more testing. But it may be a 'hand saver' for episodic television, saving a few hundred mouse clicks a day in accessing dailies.

Thanks to Michael Phillips from Avid for this tip. And kudos to Avid: they are proving to be very attentive to customer questions and needs. They really seem to be listening.