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Little Frog in High Def

Musings of an NLE ronin…

A mini review for a mini color panel. This is an unsolicited review…Tangent didn’t ask me to do it. I wasn’t supplied with a review unit. I rushed out and pre-ordered it from Flanders Scientific (where I get my broadcast monitors)…and then anxiously awaited it’s arrival for a couple months.

It arrived late June in a classy little box.

When I unpacked it, I noted that it was nice and light. Not too light, but not too heavy. Some might think that it feels cheap and plastic, but it really isn’t. The plastic is solid and the balls are pretty hefty…cheap build is NOT how I’d describe it.  Lightweight. Has a Wacom lightness to it. The construction of it is part of what keeps the cost down. Yes, it’s plastic, but it doesn’t feel like toy plastic. It’s very solidly built.

One thing I noted is that it didn’t ship with any software. No big thing, the booklet enclosed gives directions to download and install the minor plugin it needs.  The unit plugs in via USB, and that’s the only cord on the device, getting power from it as well as using it for connectivity.

For the test run, using Resolve, I brought some test footage from my BMPCC that I shot in order to test out lenses. In the preferences I chose the TANGENT WAVE setting, as the instructions stated to do. And that’s all I needed to do. I was ready to go.

The unit is very simple, and has only the most basic controls. Which is fine by me, I’m a basic colorist. I am more of an online editor, and my focus is documentary work, leaning towards historic docs with old footage. A few interviews thrown in, or decent b-roll, but my main goal in color grading is to simply make the footage look good. I don’t do commercials, or scripted TV or feature films, where one does a lot of work on each shot, perhaps using 5-10 nodes and all sorts of power windows. For that work I would tend to recommend the larger color panels. But for what I do, the controls this unit offered were perfect.

Here’s what you have… the knobs adjust the brightness level of the blacks, mids and highlights. The balls allow you to adjust the color.  The buttons are mappable with the TANGENT MAPPER app. By default, the A button is empty, the B button bypasses the grade, so you can, with one click, see what the footage looks like graded and ungraded…and buttons next to the balls are reset buttons. But the mapper app will allow you to map what you want to those buttons.

Using those controls in my little test was a great experience. The responsiveness is just what I want, not too sensative. I had issues with another panel I used, I couldn’t seem to get it just right. This was just right out of the box.  I took to it right away.

As I said, it’s a simple control surface, but I’m a simple colorist, without the need of complex controls. To that end, the Ripple is just what I needed for all my professional, and family video, needs. In short, I really really like it.

(For a more in-depth review, check out what Scott Simmons has to say over at ProVideo Coalition)

ClipWrap is dead…long live CLIPWRAP!

On Tuesday, July 28, 2016, ClipWrap from will no longer be available for purchase. It is being end-of-lifed. It is a sad thing to see this go…it has been one of the most useful software tools in my kit for many many years, it not the most useful.

This application (Mac only, sorry Windows), in case you didn’t know, converted AVCHD .MTS camera masters into Quicktime files. You could either re-wrap it as MOV and still retain the H.264 codec, just in another wrapper…or convert it to various flavors of ProRes, DNxHD…DVCPRO HD, Apple Intermediate Codec, HDV, XDCAM or DV….editing codecs that many editing systems preferred, because H.264 can be difficult to work with.

Yes, many editing software applications had the ability to import AVCHD and convert it…but the issue with the AVCHD standard is that, well, there was no standard. Every single camera maker had their own variant of AVCHD. So when a new camera was released that shot AVCHD…it utilized a different AVCHD format than the editing software was used to and so it wouldn’t be able to import footage from that camera until the application was updated, more more likely, a new plugin was released by the camera makers to allow the editing software to see the footage.

What was great about ClipWrap is that Mike, the main guy over at Divergent Media, seemed to always be on top of the new formats, and would release updates to ClipWrap much faster than the camera makers would release plugins. Which was very helpful for those times your producer buys the latest camera, shoots a sizzle reel, and then needs you to edit it right away. If I had to rely on the camera makers and editing software companies…I’d be waiting a long time before things would work.

For example…quick story. A producer of mine bought the brand new Sony NX camera and shot a pilot with it. Of course, FCP 7 had issues bringing this in. If a clip was shorter than 5 min, all was good. Anything over, would take HOURS to import. Odd bug. And Avid? Couldn’t even see that camera. (Premiere Pro wasn’t on my radar at that time…sorry Adobe) So I tried to tackle it with ClipWrap, which had recently come out with an update. I tried it, and it worked! But there was a small glitch in the first 2 seconds of the clips…every clip. So I emailed Mike with the issue, he asked for a small sample file, I sent one his way, and within a day an update was released that made that glitch go away. How’s THAT for customer service!

So yeah…ClipWrap, that amazing app, is going away. BUT DON’T PANIC!! Divergent Media isn’t going away. No…they have a better option going forward. Everything that ClipWrap was and is, is available in EditReady…and has been for quite some time. And where ClipWrap only worked for AVCHD, EditReady works with a lot more. Not only AVCHD (MTS), but also M2T (HDV), MP4 and MXF Camera masters. It too will re-wrap, or convert to DNxHD and ProRes. AND…it will do it a lot faster than ClipWrap does. Up to three times faster in many cases. And you can make adjustments to the image like flipping, rotating, retiming and applying LUTs. Everything ClipWrap is, plus a whole lot more.

So stop recommending ClipWrap to people on help forums. Move on to the more improved EditReady. Exact same price, but tons more features. And yes, a trial is available.

Notice: Yes, I was approached by Mike to do a write up on this. But no, I’m not getting compensation in return. I didn’t want any. ClipWrap has saved by bacon more than once. And Mike has always been nice, personable, and quick to address any issues that came up.

The fifty-eigth episode of THE EDIT BAY is now available for download.

This one is a show that was cancelled midway through production.

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This is the FIFTH episode of THE EDIT BAY that I did many years ago…but when I was looking for it to link to it on a forum post answer, I realize that I didn’t ever post it on my blog! It’s one of my favorite stories…so…it might be new to some of you, even though it’s pretty old.

This one is about bidding on a job where we doubled our budget….but still lost to a competitor. Because the client thought “there must be something wrong with your bid…it’s much too low.” Yup…dealing with ad agency people.

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The fifty-seventh episode of THE EDIT BAY is now available for download.

This one is about a New Media company that bit off more than it could chew.

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The fifty-sixth episode of THE EDIT BAY is now available for download.

This one is about the time I was THIS CLOSE to meeting one of my favorite actors…

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The fifty-fifth episode of THE EDIT BAY is now available for download.

In this episode, I get a little help from camera operators…

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The fifty-fourth episode of THE EDIT BAY is now available for download.

A producer I work with loves telling old Hollywood History stories. I share a couple.

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The fifty-third episode of THE EDIT BAY is now available for download.

This one uses making a puzzle as a metaphor for cutting a documentary and reality show. No, really…it’s a cool metaphor, as metaphors go. Here… “Editing a documentary is like assembling a 1000 piece puzzle with 40,000 pieces.” See? Cool, right?

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The fifty-second episode of THE EDIT BAY is now available for download.

In this episode, I talk about working on shows outside your normal field of work

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Adobe invited me to see DEADPOOL on the 20th Century Fox lot in the Zanuck Theater (Atmos sound system) on Saturday, February 13. Who am I to say no to a free movie on a studio lot? Oh, and by the way…DEADPOOL WAS EDITED WITH ADOBE PREMIERE CC!!

In case you didn’t know. Hard not to, it was all over the Twitter-sphere and post production groups and sites. and yes, many of you will say things like “Man, I could totally tell it was edited on Premiere Pro!” in a sarcastic way, just like we do when Avid goes “HEY! All the Academy Award nominees for Best Picture and Best Editing were all cut on Media Composer!” We editors…and I’m guilty of this…will say “It’s all about the story. It doesn’t matter what tool was used to tell the story, it’s all about the skill and storytelling ability of the editor. You can’t tell if a movie was cut with Avid, Premiere, FCX or Lightworks.” And no, you can’t tell. Just like you can’t tell what tools were used to build a house. BUT…having a tool that helps the editing process go smoother, that helps the editor tell the story the way they want to…that is important.

This is something that I’m realizing more and more as I look at the features that each editing application brings to the table. They all have their strengths and weaknesses…all have areas where they do things better than the competition. This is why you choose one editing app over the another. You need to look at the workflow you want to tackle, the features that you need to accomplish what you want, and then use the editing application that best addresses those needs. In the case of DEADPOOL, the post team did just this, and felt that Adobe Premiere Pro would be the best choice.

The main reason for this is that it was a very effects heavy show…with a lot of speed ramps. The director, first timer Tim Miller, was already familiar with Adobe products as he is a visual effects artist with many features under his belt, and he knew he would be involved in the post process doing many of the speed ramp effects himself. And the ability to send from the editing app to After Effects to do this work and send it right back was a huge bonus. Now, I’m not sure if the editor, Julian Clarke has also done a lot of temp VFX work on the films he’s cut, this wasn’t mentioned in the post-screening talk (and he wasn’t there). But he has cut a lot of VFX films…so, maybe. So to look into the possibilities for how to best accommodate his needs, the team decided to look at Adobe Premiere Pro, and hired post consultant Vashi Nedomansky, an editor himself, and an expert with Adobe apps. Being an editor and consultant, he knew the real world workflows that would work best for the production. He came in very early on to discuss what equipment they would need, and how to best deal with the multiple cameras and formats they would be shooting.

OK…so I watched DEADPOOL in the Zanuck Theater equipped with an ATMOS sound system, and it was GREAT! Yeah, I mean the sound, but I also mean the movie. Very violent, with sex and nudity added…it really deserves that “R” rating. But it is gloriously self aware, and broke the 4th wall all the time, and in very creative ways. Amazing movie, with some amazing effects…tons of fighting, lots of speed ramps from normal speed to slow motion, CGI…the whole bit. Over 1200 VFX shots.  This is what I learned in the post screening talk, hosted by Michael Kanfer of Adobe (who has an impressive list of IMDB credits). On the panel was the post consultant I mentioned before, Vashi. As well as the First Assistant Editor, Matt Carson and post supervisor Joan Bierman.

OK, so the post super, editor and other editorial staff were convinced that Premiere Pro would be the best option for this movie, and with a little effort they were able to convince the studio as well. Yes, you do need to convince the studio about all the tools used on films. They are very budget conscious, and want to make sure things go smoothly. And Avid has a proven track record and well established workflow, so they feel comfortable with it. Deviate from that choice and you need to convince them why. They convinced the studio that this would be the best option given all VFX nature of the feature.

But convincing wasn’t the last step, the post staff also needed training. Again, they relied on Vashi. Not only did he help provide them with the post workflow, but he also provided training to the editor, director and post staff. Vashi said that there were about 9 basic keyboard command that any editor needs to edit, and he taught those to the crew. He also asked how they liked their keyboards mapped, and spent time mapping each station to the needs of the person at the controls…making sure that their muscle memory was able to go unchallenged. Anyway, by lunch time all of the edit staff was able to dive in and edit away without much issue.

Now for some technical details. The film was shot on a variety of cameras, from the main camera, an Alexa shooting 3.5K to a 6K Red and 4K Phantom. They converted all to a common container…ProRes LT, 2048×1152 center extraction. If they needed to reposition the shot, they could easily do that at any time by going back to the masters. The Assistant Editors would receive the dailies from Encore in Vancouver and would sync them with the audio and then turn them over to the editor. Normally, when they cut on Avid, they were used to getting ALE files that contained metadata they relied on, such as color information that could be passed onto the VFX teams. As a workaround for this, they received CDL files that were integrated into the footage.  When it was onlined, E-Film conformed the cut with the RAW masters.

They had five edit bays (including the VFX editor), all Mac based, using MacPro Tubes.  All of the footage was stored on an Open Drive Velocity…a RAID server 180TB in size, consisting of several SSD drives. This system was used on GONE GIRL the year before, and proved to serve the production well. This system was able to meet the demands of playing back multiple streams of ProRes on five edit stations, without any delays or skipping during playback. It also allowed the projects to open quickly. Each reel of the film was a separate project, and the larger they got, the slower they were to open, and the more VFX shots in a reel, the larger they got. At one point the final reel, the most VFX heavy, took 10 min to open. But, with help from the Open Drive tech people and tweaking, they got it down to 2 min.

Now, I could go on and on about the post audio workflow issues and solutions, the change list challenges, the DI conform…but I don’t want to do that. Adobe will be posting the video of the event online soon, so you can watch that to see the issues and solutions.  The main thing I want to talk about is primary reason they wanted to edit with Premiere Pro. What made them choose this over Avid or FCX, because that’s something I talk about all the time. There’s alway some flame war online about what editing app is THE BEST editing app out there. What is the BEST one to use for feature film cutting? For broadcast TV? What are the professionals using?  And there will be shouting matching about this. “Avid all the way, baby!” “Come on, grandpa, look to the future! Tracks are for losers, FCX for the win!” Blah blah blah.  The truth is they are ALL professional apps, it’s all about what’s best for the given situation.  For this movie, the clear choice was Premiere Pro, because of it’s integration with After Effects. And I’ll explain why.

During the editing process, the director would send clips to After Effects for treatment…the most common of this was speed ramping, as I said before. Due to the tight integration of Premiere Pro and it’s ability to SEND TO After Effects, and have the clip link to the AE comp, it made this process very smooth. Vashi explained that one lesson they learned on Gone Girl was that simply linking to the AE comp caused the systems to really bog down. Especially when there were many instances of this. So Adobe came up with a way for After Effects and Premiere Pro to access the same render cache. That is, the same “render file.” So when the AE comp was finished, the editor could use a new feature called RENDER AND REPLACE. This would render the AE comp out to a Quicktime file, and Premiere Pro would link to that file, rather than the comp. But there would still be a dynamic link to the AE project. So if the AE artists  would make a change to the comp (or in this case, the director), they would make the change, and back in Premiere all you’d have to do is again, RENDER AND REPLACE and the clip would render a new Quicktime clip from the comp and link to that. And this is a lot smoother, and a more simple, than rendering out of After Effects and importing into Premiere pro…and keeping track of the latest export and the export folder getting clogged with exports.

(Quick tech tidbit…the edit stations consisted of Mac Pro tubes…and during the production, they burned out TEN OF THEM! This was due to a hardware bug related to the D700 graphics cards that Apple eventually figured out. Several of the stations had external fans aimed down the tubes for additional cooling.)

So the director and editor could send a clip to After Effects, adjust the speed, go back to Premiere Pro and hit RENDER AND REPLACE and there it was. If it didn’t quite look right, they’d do it again until it was right. And then move on and continue cutting. And then they locked that VFX shot, they could take that After Effects project and relink it to the RAW camera file and redo the composition in 4K, full resolution. And then link that up in Premiere pro and reframe as needed.

If they used Avid, or FCX, they’d have to do the old fashioned way of exporting files and importing into the NLE and that would slow them down.  And this movie was FULL of speed changes. Every fight scene had multiple speed ramps. So this really sped up the edit, and kept the post schedule short…and a shorter post schedule is good on the budget, which makes the studio happy.  And this was a good thing as they didn’t actually lock picture until a few days before the premiere.

One favorite feature of Matt, the AE, was the idea of “Stacked Timelines.” Where in FCP you could have multiple timelines open at the same time, as TABS (and where in Avid you can only have one timeline, period…unless you open one in the Source monitor). What that is, is you can have two timeline windows open at once…and stack them like pancakes, one on top of the other. They used stacked timelines in a couple ways. One way was to have all the selects in one timeline, and then build the cut in another…dragging the footage from the top timeline do the bottom. This helped them track how far along the selects they were, and how much time they had remaining. The other benefit was in comparing new cuts and old cuts. One of Matt’s duties is to work on the temp mix…when the editor finishes a scene, he takes it and adds music and sound effects. And then when the editor goes back and does changes, Matt can stack the two timelines and compare them…see where the changes occurred, or new stuff was added, and address those areas. Often he’d be doing the temp mix while the scene was still being cut, so the editor wasn’t working with his temp mix, still just doing scene work. So when the scene work was complete, Matt could compare the scenes, drag over the work he had done and then continue work on the new areas. Coming from FCP, I’m a big fan of having access to multiple sequences at the same time.

So there you have it…one reason why Premiere Pro was the best option for editing DEADPOOL. It didn’t take long to train the editorial staff in using it…the editor wasn’t hindered by unfamiliarity, he was still able to focus on story and not really worry about the technical as much as he might with another NLE. A few hours training and he was off! Could you look at the movie and tell it was cut on Premiere Pro? No…and that’s the beauty. We aren’t supposed to be able to tell. Editing is best when it’s invisible, so that we, the audience, can concentrate on the enjoyment of the movie. Premiere Pro was the tool that enabled the editor and director to tell the story they way they wanted to.

Now, one tidbit that I wanted to mention, a story related tidbit. The fact that Deadpool had a full face mask enabled the filmmakers to retool dialog where needed. Make the jokes better, because he really could be saying anything under that mask. And they did that quite a bit. Ryan Reynolds would send them temp ADR all the time…and they’d cut it in and replace it with final ADR when they locked the scene dialog. This makes me hope that they release the alternate jokes as a special feature on the BluRay.

OK, enough chat. Go see the movie. The laughs start right away with the open credit scene, and continue after the credit roll ends. Typical of Marvel movies, this has a bonus scene at the end of the credit roll.


(For more on the workflow for this film, head on over to the ProVideo Coalition where Steve Hullfish interviews Vashi Nedomansky. And watch this video from a panel at this years Sundance festival, where they talk workflow for Hail Cesar and Deadpool)

The fifty-first episode of THE EDIT BAY is now available for download.

Editor’s today need to know how to edit music, even if they aren’t musicians.

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The fiftieth episode of THE EDIT BAY is now available for download.

This one is all about how a network executive can’t seem to tear his eyes away from his iPad while giving notes on a show.

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OK, if you are an editor, and are on Twitter, you probably know about the hashtag #timelinetuesday. It’s where us editors post the timelines from our current shows…or perhaps past shows…as a way to go “Look at how complex my edit is!” Because, well, we can’t show you the show yet, but we can show you the skeleton of it, how it was constructed. It also gives us a way to show others “look how I lay out things on my timeline.” That’s what I do (OK, fine, I also do it to brag about the complexity)…show people how I like to organize my timeline, and lay out my tracks in a logical manner.

See, I’m an organizational nut! No, wait, that sounds wrong. I’m a nut about organization…ok, that’s better. Organization is the center of how I do things, so if I can impart some of my organizational knowledge to others, I’m feel good. Especially because I’ve worked with some people who can’t organize their way out of a box! Wait, can anyone do that?

ANYWAY…normally I just post a single timeline on Twitter, or now also on Facebook in the AVID EDITORS or ASK AN EDITOR section. Be it in progress or a finished thing. But this week I wanted to do something different. I wanted to show timelines from an Act of a show I worked on, starting with what it looked like at the end of day one, and ending on what it looked like at the end of day 7, with a bit of explanation about what I accomplished on each day. So….here we go. This is the timeline for Act 1 of a reality show.

DAY 1:

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This is a rough string out of only the reality. Normally this is something that the story producers would slap together, but this was the last episode, and since our show has an AFTERSHOW (like Talking Dead), we editors needed to do a more polished reality pass so that they could air this on the show. So, this is what I accomplished a few weeks before I actually returned to the act. So it’s only the reality moment, no VO, and audio barely addressed (I didn’t isolate mics).

DAY 2:

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I’ve now dropped in the “shell” of Act 1…meaning the spot where the show tease goes at the head, and then the open title sequence, and at the end, the shell for the tease out. I’ve also started dropping in the VO, and putting the reality tracks into the proper configuration, and isolating mics. A couple parts that you see at the end with tracks that dip into the PURPLE and SALMON range…those were additional reality moments added by the story producer. Here you can better see how I color code my tracks: BLUE is Interview, GREEN is reality, SALMON is sound effects, and PURPLE is music. And I make different shades of each so I can see at a glance where the stereo pair tracks are. By that, I mean that all the tracks for this are MONO, but all the ODD tracks are panned LEFT, and all the EVEN tracks are panned RIGHT, so I need to make sure I add my stereo clips on the proper tracks, odd first, than even. If I do it even first and then odd, the clips have the stereo pair reversed. NOT good when you head to the MIX.

Another thing you’ll notice is that I label my tracks by what type of audio goes on them. Helpful for me at a glance, and other editors who might end up fine cutting this, or dealing with notes. AND…this information gets transferred to the ProTools session (track names). Helpful for them, too.

DAY 3:

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Finished adding VO and adjusting the reality tracks and isolating mics (meaning only having the audio up for the people talking at that given moment, to cut down on audio distractions). And I’ve started cutting the scenes, adding reactions and b-roll.

DAY 4:

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More filling out the reality moments and adding b-roll. The small grouping of clips around the 3:50:00 mark is a flashback package.

DAY 5:

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More filling out…another flashback package

DAY 6:

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ALMOST there. Added the tease at the beginning, cut by another editor.

DAY 7:

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Finished filling out. Added a tease for the upcoming at at the end, lower thirds, and addressed producer notes given just after lunch. This Act 1 is ready to go to network as a rough cut….joined with the other acts other editors worked on.


The forty-ninth episode of THE EDIT BAY is now available for download.

Many movies and TV shows have little easter eggs hidden in them…commercials too. I tell you a few examples of Easter eggs I and my fellow editors have planted.

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