LIVE on the Digital Production Buzz

29 12 2008
Larry Jordan will be interviewing me on this weeks Digital Production Buzz

Larry Jordan will be interviewing me this Thursday night on his radio show, THE DIGITAL PRODUCTION BUZZ, a podcast/show devoted to all things digital media. You can get details about this week’s show on Larry’s site, or download the show from iTunes or your favorite podcatcher software.



Edit Fest is August 8th and 9th

22 07 2008

A.C.E. (the American Cinema Editors organization — there the three letters you see after the names of a lot of editors out there) is running what looking like an incredible event on the second Friday and Saturday in August. Its called EditFest and will give you an opportunity to “Learn about the craft of editing from the working experts.” It start on Friday evening with a welcome reception at Universal Studios with the ACE board members and ACE Interns. The next day is split between Saturday morning, where top television editors will be on a two-hour panel, and the afternoon, where there are three events — Editors of Summer Blockbusters, Animation Editing, and Cutting for Comedy.

It looks like an amazing event. “Tuition” is $349 and looks well worth it.

You can see a few more details, including contact information, by downloading this postcard or going to the ACE website.



Amazing Amazing Amazing

13 06 2008

If this is true then there is proof that there is a God.

Wes Plate, the innovative maven behind Automatic Duck, did a demo of the soon-to-released Pro Export FCP 4 (due, according to the video, sometime this summer). In the video, which you can see at the Film & Video web page where I found it, actually shows ProExport 4 changing FCP media into MXF files that the Avid can actually read. In addition, with the effects that are in the demo, the program translated the FCP effects into Avid effects, and translated an FCP marker into an Avid locator. This is in addition to the already valuable function that the program performs in version 3 of translating project files.

Once again, if this is true — there is a God. Or, at least, the Holy Grail. For years, that unattainable goal was to easily move a project and its media from FCP into Avid, because most people felt that the finishing tools there were better. Or, perhaps, you’re moving from one facility to another.

Wes Plate, you are a God!!



Great Do-It-Yourself Podcast Tips

10 06 2008

There are two really great sites that I like to tour around to get tips and technique tricks for FCP and Avid.

First, David Forsyth, over at Amber Technology in Australia, does a podcast called “Avid Tips and Techniques” which has featured discussions about the Audio Mixer, Animatte, the Super Bin, and more.

One or two Final Cut sites. My favorite are the series of tutorials about the entire Final Cut Suite from VASST, a company that does training videos. If you look up their store using the company name RHed Pixel in iTunes you’ll be treated to a great series of excerpts from those videos. I like the one called “Total Training for Final Cut Help – Final Cut Studio.” A warning — VASST’s free tutorial website hasn’t been updated in a very long time.

Another good FCP podcast, though it hasn’t been updated since early March, is Creative Cow’s podcast “Creative Cow Final Cut Studio Tutorials Podcast.” Creative Cow runs those great web forums on practically every production and post technology known to mankind (and womankind too).

A cool series of short tips and tricks from the people at Digital Heaven, who make some really neat plug-ins for Final Cut (including a large timecode window, for all of you Avid editors who miss throwing that up during music or sound spotting sessions). Their podcast of video tutorials for FCP can be found on YouTube or at this address in iTunes.



Feature Envy

9 06 2008

ScriptSyncOliver Peters, in his blog Digital Films, has a posting about Avid’s ScriptSync, the technology that allows somewhat automated connection between the script inside Avid, and individual takes. This allows the editor to edit in the lined script mode and, as for me, I often look at the script supervisor’s lined script when I edit. Once I finish my first cut, I’m rarely looking at the script — by then, it’s all about what the footage says, not what the script says.

But I often refer to the lined script (and the facing notes pages as well) to find out what has been shot for any given line of dialogue or bit of action. When I worked with the extraordinary editor Gerry Hambling on FAME, I saw that he did his own lined script, even though he had received one from the set. This is actually even doubly cool, because it means that the lined script will reflect what was actually in the dailies (even great script supers can make mistakes) as well as forcing the editor to really examine the footage that he or she has received.

So, in the scheme of things (and despite its shortcomings) this Avid Media Composer feature is A Very Good Thing.

But “more features” is not always A Good Thing.

We are all aware of Feature Bloat, the natural tendency of software programs to grow more features as they get older and need more selling points for new versions. Microsoft’s Word is often trotted out as an example. This program has gone beyond its 1981 origins (as Bravo) and its 1983 release, into a program which now takes 20 megabytes at its core (not including its countless ancillary files). I remember installing Word back on my early Mac, and it took about eight floppy disks to get it on my drive. Now, I look back fondly on those days. There are features in Word that, I’d bet, less than 1,000 people use on a regular basis.

The real problem is that one person’s useless, memory-hogging feature, is another one’s must-have.

Right now, I’m writing my new book (THE LEAN FORWARD MOMENT, coming in December from Peachpit Press, buy early/buy often) and, this morning alone, I’ve used the following features:

  • bookmarks
  • cross-referencing
  • index
  • table of contents creation
  • image resizing
  • image cropping
  • split screen editing
  • separate section styling
  • borders and shading

and many more.

My guess is that most of you who use Word don’t care about half of those, and that a large number of you have features that you would care about far more than I. Those of you who use other word processors will feel similarly, I’m sure.

I’ve been involved in a group that has been presenting Avid with feature requests that we absolutely need. And while the list has been arrived at by consensus, it is amazing to me how many people have different opinions about what they can’t live without. I’ve also seen how one person’s feature must-have, is another’s oh-I-just-use-this-workaround-and-I’m-satisfied. And, while I’m not involved in anything similar for Apple or Adobe (not because I don’t want to — I’ve just never been asked), I’d be shocked if they don’t go through a similar prioritization over everything.

[And that doesn’t even take into account the issue of how expensive or how much time it will take to effect these requests. There is the issue of ROI — Return on Investment — all the time in software development. Do you want to spend $100,000 software dollars on features that won’t matter to most people, or on features that will?]

So to my mind, ScriptSync is an awesome new tool that everyone should want (especially documentarians who can afford to get transcripts of their shoots), but I’m not brazen enough to think that everyone will want it.



What Being An Assistant Really Means

28 05 2008

Tim Leavitt, over at the ever valuable blog View From The Cutting Room Floor, has a great definition of what an assistant editor’s job is on a blog post:

“Anything that goes into or comes out of the Avid is my responsibility: digitizing footage; importing graphics; making tapes, DVD’s, and EDL’s; etc. I am also responsible for helping the editor locate or organize any of the material already in the Avid to make his or her job easier.”

He then goes on to say that organization is what makes this all possible and goes on, in a three-part blog entry (part one is over here, part two is over here, and part three is over here).

Among students who want to be editors (and filmmakers who want to be editors) it is often too easy to ignore just how easy it is to get caught up in red tape if you’re not organized. Yet, that aspect of film editing is often dismissed as non-creative and not worth studying. Take it from Tim — it’s worth its weight in trim bins (hmmmm, old joke there; let me know if it’s too ancient-film for you).

Thanks to Tim for codifying this all.



Avid 1.0

24 03 2008

Here is a pretty awesome sales piece that Avid did, back in 1990, for the first version of their Avid Media Composer, courtesy of Au royaume de la salle 7. Pretty funny and, for those of you who have never touched film, there are actually some shots of an editor running footage through a synchronizer.



Sound and your film

24 03 2008

It is almost a mantra that one thing that separates a low budget film from a higher budget one is something that actually doesn’t cost very much money at all — attention to sound.  Colin Mulvany, over at Mastering Multimedia, discusses why sound is important to your final product and how to work that into your process. One great note that he talks about is using the L-cut, or split edit.

Always use split edits. The split edit separate the professional editor from the amateur. The way I define a split edit is that you want to hear the person before you see them. Split edits, also called L-cuts really make your video flow smoothly between a-roll and b-roll. Just watch a video where a person appears and starts to talk. It can be jarring to the viewer. You can fix it by unlinking the video and audio track, roll the talking head video back about four seconds, then tuck the exposed audio on a separate track under the outgoing b-roll clip. You now have a smooth transition viewers will hardly notice. There are a half a dozen ways to do a split edit. Find the way that works best for you.

One of the best things about L-cuts is that they tend to smooth out cuts. In fact, I always make my sound cut happen at a different place than my picture cut (except at scene transitions or when I want my audience to feel my cut). Even if all that means is extending the outgoing track ten frames until the next word of dialogue begins.



How Not To Screw Up Your HD Project

24 03 2008

Chad Denning and the folks over at Gamma Blast, a Nashville-based post-production house have put together a pretty straight-forward guide to bringing your project into an HD format. Subtitled “Be A Hero in Your HD Project” the piece, the guide talks about the various flavors of HD, as well as issues involving Standard Definition. The most important bit of information, to my mind, comes in the first paragraph.

Thinking backwards from the distribution step will guide the process for HD because the technical requirements of the distributor will dictate what you need.

In other words, don’t just shoot. Prepare to shoot. And make sure that the preparation takes into account the full project — all the way through post-production. As any number of wiser people than me have noted, the camera manufacturers are rapidly addressing production issues (easy capture onto the smallest amount of digital media possible), without acknowledging that the needs of post-production are almost the exact reverse (memory is so cheap that we hate what compression — particularly HDV compression — will do to our process).

So, it is wisest to know what you’re going to have to deliver at the end of your process as you’re making decisions about what to capture on.

Thanks go to Larry Jordan and the Digital Production Buzz podcast for the interview with Denning that led me to this website.



HD Craziness

23 03 2008

I’m old enough to remember that, when HD first came onto the scene, the promise was that it would create one great standard for everything and all of the problems of NTSC versus PAL and SECAM would be gone forever.

That seems like the Good Ol’ Days now.

The preponderance of HD standards makes the days of Standard Definition seem like a holiday. Shane Ross has a fantastic blog entry, on his Little Frog In High Def blog, called “The First Hiccup” that talks about his problems in getting an episode of his series out the door to be shipped to the network. It’s a story that will curl the hair of anyone who ever believed in the myth of One True Standard.