Editing For You – 2.0

30 08 2007

The Web 2.0 is as loosely defined as can be. But one thing that everyone seems to agree on, is that it uses a cool, slick AJAX type interface, which brings drag and drop to web pages.

Read/Write Web has this posting about eight web sites that use 2.0 interfaces to create video editing applications of sorts. Some of them really seem like remixing sites (download films from YouTube and then mix and match them), rather than real editing, but if we’re going to talk about the democratization of the editing room, we need to take more than a passing nod at these sites.

They include:

Jumpcut

Eyespot

Movie Masher

Cuts

Mojiti (which is actually an annotation tool, not an editor)

Vidavee Graffiti

Muvee Mix

None of these are going to take over from FCP or Avid (or, for that matter, iMovie) but they do speak to an interesting use of the web.

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Be Your Own Television Executive

30 08 2007

While people like Brad Winderburn are creating their own mini-networks over at It’s All In Your Hands, the real revolution in television programming is happening in many of our living rooms.

With services like Tivo, and the other PVRs (Personal Video Recorders) that now come virtually free with cable and satellite services, most of us are creating our own channels. Ken Rutkowski, on his podcast World Tech Roundup (hmmm, that’s the second time I’ve mentioned in recently, I must be enjoying his cast!!) mentioned that he doesn’t even know what channel numbers his favorite programs are on anymore. And while the network logo is now burned ubiquitously in the bottom right of every image, many of us are in the same boat.

We have less and less idea what network something is on (especially those of us who skip over commercials).

Instead, we are creating our own networks which are comprised of just the shows that we like. I rarely have the need to sit in front of the tube (or, in most of our cases now, the LCD screen) and hunt for something. With enough pre-programmed choices, there is normally more programming awaiting me in my queue than I could possibly ever watch. What this means is the real network is my playlist on my Dish Network PVR, much like my real radio station is my playlist on iTunes or Pandora.

The real future of this movement is beginning to happen with social networking sites that allow me to see other people’s playlists that overlap mine. When that happens, and is combined with online video, I will then have a number of channels more attuned to my and my friends’ tastes. If you think Google isn’t thinking of that with YouTube, think again. The future isn’t some faceless conglomerate deciding all of my viewing and listening choices, it’s myself and my friends doing that.

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E-Books

28 08 2007

Ken Rutkowski, editor of the amazing Ken Radio “World Tech Round Up” series of podcasts (his RSS feed is here), has a video on his Facebook page (which, I’m sure, he has put up on www.kenradio.com by now) about the future of books.

Ken comes down on the side of paper, versus e-books.

Books have a feel all of their own. With the images they paint in the minds of the reader. What will be lost by reading a book on an eBook Reader. Will the feel and sound of a page turning be missed or will readers rather have their eBook Reader filled with 80 novels to take on the go?Do books need to be re-ivented and are eBook Readers the way to go?

I have a slightly different take on this.

Here’s an analogy from the world of film. As a film editor, when we were beginning the transition to digital Non-Linear Editors, you heard how some people “missed the feel of film.” I heard lots of talk about how nothing could replace yanking the film out, from hand to hand, and “feeling its pace.”

That was then, and this is now (as they say). No one talks about that anymore. What has happened is that the “feel of film” has been replaced by other types of feel and sensory shortcuts. No one yanks film out of a little roll anymore and says “Hmm, that feels like the right amount of time.” But they do tap keys in rhythms and say “Ah ha, that feels like the right amount of time.”

One set of inputs has been replaced by another because the positives of the switch to NLEs have far outweighed the loss of the “feel of film.”
I have no doubt that something similar will happen to books. Will they ever go away completely? Probably. After a long long amount of time. But what will replace the feel that Ken laments losing? Other feels. Images will still be engendered in our minds. They may or may not be the same as what a paper book would set off in us, but it will tickle us nonetheless.

What will finally create the tipping point towards eBooks will be when the ease of use and the convenience of bookmarking and carrying around multiple books (and the coolness of note taking in an ebook) outweighs the convenience of paper. Some of us will notice, most of us won’t care.

I’ve been saying for years that, once the finances of digital distribution of features are settled, then the only thing that will hold back the mass adoption of it will be the audience perception of the image. Once 90% of the audience can’t distinguish between film and digital projection (or prefer digital) then the labs and everyone else will have to kiss film projection goodbye. In an earlier post, I talked about the effect this will have on labs but, for the discussion set off by Ken’s comment about eBooks, I’d say that the adoption of ebooks is pretty much dependent on consumers reaching somewhere near that 90% figure. That is, when a large majority of the book buying public decides that the advantages of reading books in the ebook format is no worse than reading them in paper format, then killing trees for reading will become a thing of the past.

By the way, I’d look for newspapers and magazine to clear the way for this before books.

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SUNSHINE and the Summer of Films Without Plot

25 08 2007

First, I want to say two things.  One is that I really really liked SUNSHINE, which I finally caught at the only theatre in LA which is still playing it — the Arclight.  Second, is that when I say without plot, what I really mean is without complex plot.

I haven’t seen a lot of films this summer.  For some reason, NOT going to Jordan to teach has cut down on my moviegoing.  Hmmm, perhaps writing has had some effect.  Or maybe it’s the heat.

In any case, I finally got to see SUNSHINE last night and, with the great picture and amazing sound, it was an amazing experience.  Amazing filmmaking, and some interesting characters kept me interested all the way through.  However, even while enjoying it, I had this sense of deja vu all over again.  Pinning it down was easy — I flashed back a month or two to when we saw THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM.  That was also a film which I enjoyed.

But both films had another similarity for me — they gave up plot complexity and exchanged it for continuous energy.  As a result, I enjoyed them, but found myself wavering in places.  My memory of Bourne, several weeks later, is one of pleasure but with absolutely no memory of content whatsoever.  In both films, exciting incident follows exciting incident without much respite.  In SUNSHINE, I barely had time to time to internalize one disaster (the film is a chronicle of an ill-fated futuristic space flight to the Sun) before another one was upon us.

Danny Boyle, the director of the really well done SHALLOW GRAVE and the truly amazing TRAINSPOTTING, sets up a small crew of astronauts, each of them with their own psychological makeup, and puts them on a ship heading for the center of our solar system.  After they come near to another spacecraft, an earlier space mission sent to do the same thing that they are doing (drop a nuclear payload in our Sun, to help restart it and keep it from dying out), they make a fateful decision to divert course to dock with it.  It is the beginning of a series of horrible disasters that follow them, one upon the other, without respite.

The film is fascinating in many ways, both in filmmaking and in subtext.  From its opening shots of extreme close-ups of eyes, to its visual special effects of the dancing gases that make up the Sun, to its incredible close photography of most of the events (extremely claustrophobic), to its fascinating use of subliminal sound effects, the film is clearly interested in how its characters perceive the world around them. There is an expression, drummed into me by a therapist I saw back in the eighties, that times of stress are the best opportunities for learning about ourselves.  That is what this film does with its characters — whether they are introspective or macho.

What SUNSHINE doesn’t do, is spend much time beyond those things.  It is a series of barely connected horrible incidents, and the characters must react to them in their own ways.  There isn’t much else going on here — besides the murky subplot of how humans relate to god and the unknowable.

BOURNE had no such lofty goals.  It was all about maintaining an E-ticket ride pace.  Despite its overt plot of a man trying to find himself, it was really more interesting in how a man reacts to danger.  Bourne is smart, clever, and strong.  And that is what gives the film its most entertaining moments.

My point is this — despite enjoying both rides, and realizing that the plots were convoluted, I missed any depth in them.  Each were a series of barely connected incidents, which provoked reactions from their characters.  TRAINSPOTTING had an extremely different level of plot — there were characters and relationships and there was a plotline, just like in SUNSHINE.  However, there was also plot turns that brought depth to my involvement in the storyline. There were mutliple plot threads that interacted or not.

And that made it a more interesting film for me.

Even though I liked this.  Really.

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Facebook is fattening themselves up

24 08 2007

Facebook is the latest media darling, though for excellent reasons.

Ever since I joined the social networking group eighteen months ago (thanks to my job at USC — at that point, FB was only open to students and others with a “.edu” address) I immediately liked it.  It had none of the chaos of mySpace and, its combination of friends and groups, immediately made it a way for me to keep in contact with alumnae and some of the students I had been teaching with overseas.

The Mark Zuckerberg Production (as every Profile page announces) has gotten an amazing amount of traction among webbies (like Leo Laporte) ever since it opened itself up to all-comers, removing the school e-mail restriction.  Groups have blossomed for workplaces, neighborhoods and more.  At the same time, FB opened up its interface to allow third-party applications and a host of good and absurd applications have been written (with greater or lesser competency) including a pretty cool “Where I’ve Been” map application.

Facebook is looking better and better for a major dollar sale.  A multi-billion dollar major sale.

And now, this article in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal.  Facebook it seems, has been quietly developing a new advertising system that would let marketers “target users with ads based on the massive amounts of information people reveal on the site about themselves.”

For anyone who couldn’t see this coming, I invite you to put your heads back into the sand.  Distribution is changing on a daily basis and no one has quite figured out how to monetize themselves.  People don’t seem to want to pay for content on the web (The New York Times just stopped charging for most of its archival content), so advertising is one of the few ways left for sites to pay their costs.  Facebook is not cheap to run, I’m sure, with servers and lawyers and all.  Somebody has to pay for it.

The one thing you can guarantee, is that once FB is sold to a major company, it’s only to get worse.  Once they move out of startup mode, into “keep the stockholders happy” mode, there will have to be more, not less, advertising.  And they are perfectly situated to monetize in that way because of everything that I (and the gazillion on Facebookers) have to them about ourselves.

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I’m gettin’ outta here

23 08 2007

When I worked with Michael Lehmann on HEATHERS, we used to joke about the absurd tendency of filmmakers to have characters say some variation of “I’m getting out of here.”  Sometimes a character would say “C’mon, let’s get out of here.”  Other times they’d say “I’m going home.”

Why, we wondered, do you need to SAY that, when you’re going to SHOW it?  Seemed like crappy filmmaking to us. It became a game for us to point out these instances in other films and Michael made me promise to never ever let him do it on his films.

I’ve often thought that this is great fodder for a new drinking game though, frankly, I don’t think I’d last very long.  I get drunk after six or seven stiff ones.

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Editing with Avid AND Final Cut

23 08 2007

A month or so ago, when my laptop got stolen, I mulled over my next step and, after about 2 or 3 seconds, decided to get a MacBook Pro. the new 2.4GHz Intel Core Duo’s had just come out, and I wanted to get a system that I could really edit on without screaming bloody murder.

I have to say that I have been really pleased with my purchase — a 17″ MacBook Pro which my insurance company purchased the lion’s share of (remind me never to end a sentence with a preposition).

It was important to me that I put both Avid and FCP onto the machine so I could work either way, depending on the needs of the projects. I do a lot of re-editing of problem projects and there are some projects that I edit that come to me that have already been started on FCP or Avid — I need to be able to work within their realities, not mine.

The Avid guru at school recommended that I put each of the applications in separate partitions so their various plug-ins and hidden files didn’t conflict with each other. No problem, I thought. I’m already partitioning my disk into PC and Mac, using Bootcamp (I probably should have used Parallels, but I’d heard that it had some issues with video editing). That meant that I’d put FCP on the Mac side, and Avid on the PC side.

FCP went on fine, though it did gobble up a tremendous portion of the hard drive. I just gotta get some of those templates and libraries onto an external soon.

I finally got Avid onto my PC partition today and, once again, it works like a charm. I’m not used to working on a PC environment (how DO you raise the volume on hardware on the Mac using XP?) but that’s just my provincialism, I supposed.

The upshot, and I’ve got much much more testing to do, is that I seem to have a very stable, very happy marriage here. I haven’t tried to exchange data between my PC Avid and Mac Avids yet. When I last did that, on a project last year, the two OSes didn’t play very well together. I couldn’t add media on the Firewire drive, when I was working in the PC environment, and there were some issues on the Mac side as well. I know that this is all about how the external drive was formatted, but I thought we had done well in preparation.

Apparently not.

I’ll be interested to see how the two apps play together. I’m not going to have them both running at the same time, since I’m on Bootcamp, and they aren’t going to share media, of course. And I’m still going to be using external drives for media. But I am going to bang the hell out of my configuration and I’ll keep you posted.

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In FRONT of a camera

15 08 2007

I got interviewed today for a short film that the USC School is doing for potential freshman and found myself answering a number of questions about what an editor does and what collaboration is like.

Since I spent last week at the UFVA Conference talking mostly about collaboration, it was fairly easy to get up on my high horse and proclaim that collaboration is the best thing since sliced bread and all of the students need to learn it before the train runs off the rails and the ship runs aground.

I got to thinking afterwards, as I was driving home, that collaboration is one of the most difficult skills to learn.  It’s all well and good to say that we need to collaborate, but there are times when you want to throttle the other person and collaboration be damned. However, like anything that’s worthwhile, I’ve always found that if you stick with it, you come out the other end feeling way better. Some of the most difficult collaborative experiences for me have come when I wasn’t being particularly collaborative. That’s not to say that it is always the editor’s responsibility to collaborate — in fact, I feel that it is the leader/s who have that greatest responsibility.

Still, my experiences tend to show me that it is way easier to derail collaboration than it is to make it work. And, like difficult sessions in therapy, that’s when things are getting more productive.



What Is It That Everyone DOES on a film?

15 08 2007

Van Winckel Studios has a description of what everyone does on a film, including their feeling about who is required and who isn’t. You can see the list at this URL.

Some of these are completely idiotic.  A screenwriter, who is thankfully, required, “writes the script.”  D’oh.  A dolly grip is “a grip that moves a dolly.”  Now, that is total genius.

But, for anyone who wanted to know what a Gaffer does, it tells you right here – “The head of the electrical department.”  Doesn’t get any clearer than that.

Now if only they’d tell me just what a Best Boy does!!

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DRM Music — Hell Freezes Over Again!!

12 08 2007

The most interesting thing about Friday’s news articles about Universal Music Group announcing that they will sell non-DRM (Digital Rights Management) music is not that they are excluding Apple’s services from that deal (which is all about negotiation), but that they made the announcement at all.

UMG has been one of the biggest proponents of keeping protection on their music, claiming that they want their artists (along with them) to be able to be paid for their work. While that’s a laudable goal, I’ve long said that the days of selling pieces of plastic with music on them is long gone. What the Big Four music companies can do better than any indie ever is to:

  1. get the music out into the world (distribution),
  2. market the hell out of it and,
  3. they also do a passable job of collecting the monies that are owed to them.

In a world in which downloadable music is fast becoming the norm, rather than the exception (Apple is now the second or third largest music retailer, I believe, up there with Wal-Mart and Best Buy) the first and the third of those skills will go away in short order. What companies like UMG can do, however, is to make sure that we know about the music. In a world in which everybody can upload their songs to their MySpace account, how many of those singer/songwriters can you name? My guess is that most of you learn about your future music purchases, not by trawling through online music areas, but from friends and marketing. In that world, the Big Four music companies can make boatloads of money by getting involved with concerts, promotion and management. Of course, that will step on the toes of companies like Clear Channel, but all of these companies have got to merge or work it out at some point.

So, the fact that UMG is finally admitting that they can no longer control their music distribution in the way they used to, is big news.

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