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Little Frog in High Def

Musings of an NLE ronin…

“Are there supposed to be two of these?” My wife texts me at work.

“I thought you were only making one of these.”

On Friday the parts for the computer arrived. And apparently something happened with the order, as TWO computer cases arrived. So my wife, who knew I was building ONE computer was confused, as TWO arrived. Actually, I know what happened. I ordered several things from Amazon and they all cleared, but the order for the case for some reason needed validation from my bank. I answered all the bank questions, but got one wrong, so they declined the order. So I ordered from another source (manufacture direct) and that order cleared. And then unbeknownst to me, the other order cleared too and the item shipped…although the notification for that didn’t arrive until it already arrived on my doorstep.  OK, no problem…I’ll RMA one of them, ship it back. But this seemed to be an omen of things to come…

So, here it was, Friday night and all my stuff arrived. Time to assemble the computer! My buddy Patrick wanted to come over for that so after dinner he arrived and we set to building the computer.  First to put a few things on the board before I put it in the computer…RAM and Processor. First thing to do is the processor. So Patrick made sure that I bought some good thermal paste, for the connection of the processor to the cooling fan. Both Patrick and Stefan said that I needed to get a good cooling fan, as the one provided was…well…lacking is the term. As you can see, the difference is huge.

If this baby was going to render in Resolve and deal with high end video, it would kick into TURBO mode, and for that, it needed really good cooling. So I put the processor in place, wiped it clean with an alcohol wipe (that Patrick brought with him in his “Hackintosh kit”) applied thermal paste, spread it with a small spatula (provided with the paste) and screwed everything into the motherboard. Then I went to install the RAM… Wait. Where’s the RAM?  Dammit! The RAM didn’t arrive. I look at my web orders and sure enough, I FORGOT TO ORDER RAM! Lordy. No worries, in Patrick’s Hack kit there were 2x4GB sticks and 1x8GB stick of RAM that we used for this install.  Install those, go online to order RAM. OK, whew.  So we inserted them and then mounted the motherboard into the case.   OH…I should mention that when I found that the motherboard was available, I ordered it right away, before anything else. because I knew it was in short supply. And Patrick ordered one too, for when he was going to upgrade his machine. His arrived quickly, mine did not. After two weeks I emailed to ask about it, and they responded, apologized, and got one out to me ASAP, and included a “goody bag” of a few neat items (alas, not RAM, like I hoped, given my current situation).

Then came time for the power supply. Installed that, and then with all the power cords that came with it, set about plugging them into the power unit, and then into the motherboard. Then I plugged various cables onto the motherboard for power, the Power LED light, the FANs, the USB connectors, audio connectors. This I had done before, having made a hack before. But when I first did it, Patrick was a great help. I’d have been a bit lost in the manual on this…or slowed down a bit.  But I soon got things into place. And connected the hard drive power to the power supply as well.

So I had this 2.5″ SSD drive for my main system drive, and it doesn’t fit into the standard 3.25″ drive bay, not without an adapter. I knew this and had ordered one with all the rest of the stuff. But it was cheap and plastic ($4) and it broke in a couple places. Joy.  But that’s when I discovered that the case I ordered appeared to come with some sort of mount on the other side of the case where I put the motherboard. Patrick figured out that that’s where one can mount two SSD drives.  COOL!  That meant that I’d have more room in the three 3.25″ drive bays for three SATA drives I had. Perfect

OK, I now had everything installed and was ready to install the Mac OS! We were going to install Yosemite, as it was the best one for this specific setup.

Now…one doesn’t simply install the OS that Apple has. Oh my no. You need to go to the Tonymac site and download one of their modified installers, and follow their specific install guides (brilliant coders modify the install to work with certain off the shelf parts, thus why you follow a guide for what to buy).  I followed this one for Yosemite and made an install flash drive. This is the one Stefan recommended as rock solid, and the one he used to make several Hacks. And it was very similar to the one I used the first time I made one.  BUT, first things first, we need to modify things in the BIOS (that’s the motherboard OS) before we install. turn off certain things, enable others. It’s all in that guide.

So I did all that…correction, Patrick did all that…

And we modified things and started the boot! We did it in what is called VERBOSE MODE, meaning it shows all the code as it starts up. So you can see what process is happening. So if something bad happens, or the install fails, you can see why.

What I found fascinating about this is that this code was filled with very casual conversation instructions. “THE TIMEOUT KEY IS NO LONGER RESPECTED. IT NEVER DID ANYTHING ANYWAY.”  “THIS KEY DOES NOT DO ANYTHING, PLEASE REMOVE IT.” “THE HIDEUTILCHECKIN UTILITY IS AN ARCHITECTURAL ISSUE. PLEASE TRANSITION AWAY FROM IT.” Can you believe that? POLITENESS! IN THE CODE! “Please’s” all over the place.  And while this is the modified installer, all of this code is actually the real installer…this is code from Apple.

Ok, we see that code for a while and then it stops. And stayed stopped. It was hung. It did say something about the NVIDIA driver, so hmm.  A bit of research on that and we found a post on Tonymac where someone had a similar issue. They solved it by Typing some code in the install options to disable the NVIDIA driver.

So we did that…and it froze again. Hmmm.  Well, let’s look in the BIOS…did we miss something?  No, not that we can see. Let’s disable THUNDERBOLT, just in case. We try that.  Nothing. Patrick was prepared for this, and in his Hack kit he had a different installer, one that he made based on instructions from another site. So we try that one. Freeze. Hmm…let’s disable a couple things. Freeze. DRAT. The drive isn’t formatted yet, perhaps that is it. It was something I planned to do when we were in the install screen. So I mount it in a drive doc and connect that to my laptop. I format the drive MacOS Extended, and put it back into the Hack.  Boot…freeze. Well, OK then. Stumped. And by this time it’s midnight and we have things to do in the AM. I’ll research more and he will, and Stefan will (I was keeping him in the loop via Skype) and we’d tackle it later.


Saturday afternoon arrives…and so does my RAM. Wow…that was fast. I just ordered it the night before, at like 10 PM. Crucial seems to be giving AMAZON a run for it’s money in terms of delivery speed.  OK, I install that RAM and make another install drive, based on another site. I try booting that and…boom, the computer restarts. Odd. I try again. The computer gets so far, and then restarts. Damn. I try another method. That one too restarts the computer. Patrick was busy today, but Stefan was available, so he drove over with HIS install flash drive. The one that he knew was bullet proof, and what he used to make his Hacks. So he arrives and takes over the command chair. He looks at the BIOS, adjusts a few things, and then boots off the flash drive.

We watch the goes…goes…then the code goes away and I see a white screen! Wait, something is happening. I lean forward looking at the screen…this is truly a LEAN FORWARD moment.

BOOM! THE INSTALL SCREEN! YES YES YES! OK, let’s install this. We start the installer, it starts installing. YAY! OK, this is working. I must have messed something up on my end with the installer. 13 Min remaining….11, 10, 9…black screen. What? Then the BIOS popped up again. DAMN, restarted. install failed. What? OK, so we try again, but we need for format the drive first, as it has a partial install on it. So we go to the Disk Utility and go to wipe the drive…erase failed…couldn’t dismount the drive. Try again, same message. Try to just partition the drive…failed, couldn’t unmount. So we google the issue. One solution was to use TERMINAL to do the wipe. We try…fail. Damn. Well, I had to format it with my computer. So I do that, put it back into the Hack. Try the install again. 13, 12, 11…REBOOT.


Stefan starts googling and reading about similar events.  Finds some post on an Apple forum about this. One suggestion is that the SATA cable might be bad. STUPID solution, but what the hell. So we swap out the cable. Boot the installer, go to wipe the drive…IT WORKED! BAD CABLE! YES, that was the issue! We run the installer again. 13, 12, 11…reboot.

DAMMIT. OK, what is this? Disabled the NVIDIA card, the RAM I ordered bad? I take it out, put back in the RAM Patrick bought. Reboot, reformat the drive, start the install. 13, 12, 11…reboot.  Crap. OK, let’s unplug the Nvidia card and plug the monitor directly into the motherboard DVI. 13, 12, 11…reboot. CRAP!  Ok…it was 1AM, and I started a job the next day and needed to get up early. And Stefan needed a break too.  This perplexed us both…these are solid installs.


Monday. After work I get home to a package. RAM.  Yup, MORE RAM arrived. This was actually the RAM I ordered when I realized that I didn’t order RAM. Only I DID order RAM, it just invoiced separately (this happens on Amazon, apparently…happened with the CASE too). So now I had two orders of RAM. OK…guess I need to RMA this. But…let me try it in the computer first.  After dinner Patrick came over with an installer that he made custom for this build, using yet another method. Same base installer as before, but more modifications. Install the new RAM… fiddle with the BIOS, boot the installer…fiddle with boot options…then go to install. Get to the installer, reformat the drive, run the installer. 13, 12, 11, 10, 9….8.  I LEAN IN AGAIN!  This one is going to work it’s going to…


DAMMIT! We both curse and hit the desk at the same time. We thought for sure this would do it. But alas.  So more fiddling, more install attempts. No go. This just wasn’t working. And it was getting late again, the kids school started tomorrow, and I needed to be up at 5:30, so Patrick offered to take my machine. I take the RAM out and set about RMAing it. He takes my machine and I bid him farewell.


Patrick texts me in the evening.  “Dude. Bad news.” Uh oh.  “I literally disconnected one computer, put yours in its place and hooked up keyboard and monitor, pressed power, the light flickered and nothing, then I smelt burnt electronics.” CRUD! The computer is fried! NUTS! “I suspect power supply, but I have to open the case and test.”  Actually it was his son that first discovered the smell. “Dad, why does it smell like that?”  And he quickly unplugged the machine.  I had a question for him. “Don’t happen to be missing your glasses are you?” “Um. Yes…”  “Well, I have some bad news too…”

I found them in the street near where he parked his car. BUT, they were cheap reading glasses so it wasn’t horrible news. It wasn’t a fried computer.

Patrick bought a power supply tester and tested my power supply. It tested good. OK, so it wasn’t the supply that sizzled. That meant that it was something else…the motherboard. Great. BUT…do you recall early on that I said that he bought an identical board? That evening he was nice enough to take apart the computer, unplug all the power and computer connections, take the board out, take out the processor, clean it off, and reinstall it and the heat sink and all the connections to his motherboard.

Can you guess what happened next?

Dude! I transferred your CPU and memory (cleaned the CPU of all heat sink compound and re-applied). Mounted it in your case, hooked all the cables. Went with internal gfx to start and adjusted the BIOS settings, put in your SSD, and booted and bam! It all worked. No glitches or errors, ran Cinebench just fine. Of course the internal GPU is only 24 fps as opposed to 124 for the Nvidia, but damn. It all worked.”

IT WORKED! The damn thing worked! It was the motherboard…the whole time it was the flipping motherboard. This is actually something that Stefan said might be the issue. This install not working didn’t make any sense, and with the amount of troubleshooting we made, he was fairly certain it was the motherboard

“Get an RMA for that motherboard, it’s clearly bad.” Patrick messsaged. “You can smell the burnt electronics on it.”

The machine boots just like a Mac, Apple load screen and all…

But, when you first turn it on you encounter this start screen, that asks which drive you want to boot from. It defaults to the main installer, so all I have to do is press enter, and then it boots normally.

The computer info makes the claim to be a 14,2 iMac. Now, I know that the 15,1 is the most current model, but the system acted…wonky, when we put that info into the config.list. 14,2 is more stable, and really, I don’t see what difference it makes in the computer performance.

And there you have it. The Saga of the Amphibi-hack. ALL of this trouble installing things, all of the issues and errors, and it was the motherboard. Some flaw in it caused the install to fail. The next day Patrick brought it back, and I hooked everything up and it booted just fine. And QUIET too (it is a QUIET case).  It’s running 10.10.5, and I was able to install Avid Media Composer 8.6.0, Resolve 12.5 and even FCP 7 and DVD Studio Pro. I haven’t gotten around to installing Premiere Pro yet. I let my subscription lapse as I don’t use it for anything yet, I have CS6 on my laptop and use that for quick family videos. I hope to install it soon.

But Avid works fine…great actually. I spent two days working with it, addressing network notes on a show and cutting 5 min of extra footage for international. Renders were fast, and the export was quicker than real time (review quality export). What took me 48-55 min for a 45 min sequence on my laptop takes 35-38 minutes on the Hack.  And I was able to test Resolve as well, grading DVD extras for a feature doc. Whizzed through corrections, the interface was snappy…and went to render it out. It rendered in what looked like two times speed, and sure enough, the 45 min of extras rendered out in 23 min. I did the same output with my laptop…48 min. So yes, huge improvement.

Here’s a test I ran on the system…CINEBENCH. The processor tests better than a current iMac, although slower than a current MacPro (if 2013 is considered ‘current’).  That’s pretty good, if you ask me. But what I really like is that the GPU tested higher than both. And the GPU is the main thing Resolve relies on, and that, along with Avid Media Composer, are the main apps I intend to use. And Avid doesn’t require fast processor nor high end GPU.  When I do finally get a Premiere Pro project, I think this machine should handle it just fine…fast processor, lots of RAM and a GPU that has CUDA.  And note, this measures up between an iMac and late model MacPro…but it cost a fraction of what they do. Here’s the link to a page that shows the iMac and MacPro benchmarks.

And, as you can see, doing all of this required help. If this were a smooth install, were the motherboard a good one, the initial installer would have worked fine, and I would…should…have been able to do this fine on my own. The instructions are pretty clear on what BIOS settings to adjust and what boot options to enable and disable. But man, when things go wrong, it’s nice to have someone who knows better at your side. Even better, two.

So yes, I deem this a worthy venture and I have a very nice new computer…EXPANDABLE computer…to work with (note the three internal SATA drives…and remember, the SSD is on the other side). And thus far it’s running gangbusters. And the Hacks my friends made all work great too, and are their primary work machines. So if you want to embark on this adventure, I encourage it. It helps build ones technical knowledge and gets you invested in your computer. But I do advise you try to find someone to help out, if you can. Because as you can see…shit happens.


Building a Mac with PC parts…

Before I get into this build saga, I want to say a word of warning. Unless you are a very technical person who knows how to navigate a basic PC BIOS (motherboard OS) or how to swap out some computer code or know some specifics about piecing together a computer from scratch, I suggest getting help. Even though I am a pretty technical person, and I have built a Hackintosh before, I still needed help. Even after getting help with the first Hack, I still needed help. A lot of it was advice on parts, but the vast majority was in installing the modified OS, and making sure that everything in the BIOS was set for the computer to work. Yes, there are step by step instructions online, but some of these assume you have some basic assembly skills, and BIOS knowhow and a bit of troubleshooting chops. I had that, but still needed help. So if you intend to do this, I suggest you find someone who has done this before, or someone who is technical enough to help decipher what some of the code and tech lingo means. I could not have done this without the gracious help, and patience, of Stefan Avalos and Patrick Sheffield. The reasons will become clear as the saga unfolds.)


My old tower is a 2008 MacPro, 16GB of RAM, with a decent graphics card (great for Apple Color). But it’s 2016, and the machine is 8 years old, ancient in computer terms. But it has served me well. Lately I’ve been relying on my 2012 MacBook Pro when cutting in my home office. And I have fully decked it out with 16GB of RAM and two internal SSD drives. It does well too, but really only with Avid and simple Resolve and Adobe projects. Since most of the jobs I do in my home office are online and color grading, and I’ve been getting more and more into Davinci Resolve, even this laptop is getting long in the tooth, it’s only four years old, and it still has some life left in it, but forget trying to do 4K with it. And I have several 4K projects on the horizon.

So I need a new computer.

One big stumbling block in this quest for a new computer is that I am a die hard Mac user. I have been since I bought my first computer in 1991. I’ve only owned one PC, and it was solely for gaming. But Apple is fairly behind in their professional line of desktops. The latest MacPro came out in 2013…it is THREE years old. One year younger than my laptop. Sure, the latest iMac came out in Oct, 2015, but I have issues with the expandability of the model. BOTH models to tell the truth. Neither one allows one to swap out the GPU for a better one…one more suited for Resolve and Adobe Premiere Pro. Neither one allows for more internal drives to be added. Neither one allows me to be able to install any sort of card to add ports like eSATA or Fibre or SAS or an internal capture card without using an external box. Apple is dropping the ball on the professional computer needs for video post, this much is clear.

So what about the other option? A PC running Windows. And yes, there are great computers out there for this…the HP line is especially popular, and a solid choice. You can get a decent machine for $2900 and put in one or two very high end graphics cards, as well as additional hard drives. And they can go to upwards of $5000 and $7000 (a good place to look for these is These are decent prices for companies or individuals that use them all the time, and have rental income on them year round. I don’t, I do projects here and there. And have small budgets.

But I have another issue…most of my clients require ProRes exports. They are either coming from FCP-X (or even FCP 7)…and need either to be round tripped, or they need ProRes Quicktime exports to meet network delivery requirements. So if I went with a PC, I’d have to keep an old Mac around to convert the exports (my MacBook Pro will do that). It’s a BIG issue on Windows, as recently Apple announced that it would stop supporting Quicktime on Windows altogether, so just having it installed is an issue. But this would also mean double encoding (DNxHD and then ProRes) and risking the dreaded gamma shift.

This had me looking at Apple options. I spoke to many people and they said that interesting enough, the Retina iMacs were more stable with Resolve and Premiere Pro than the late-model MacPro. And there were reports of graphics cards issues on the MacPro…an issue so bad that Apple offered a repair program for it. Many people recommended that I get the best iMac there is, and maxed out with everything…better processor, the most RAM it could get, best graphics card offered. I priced that out and it came to be $3600. 4Ghz processor, turbo to 4.2, 32GB RAM, 500GB SSD, and AMD Radeon M395X with 4GB RAM graphics card. Pretty decent…but spendy. And any expansion, as I said, is all external, which means a more cluttered workstation. And no Nvidia options, that Adobe and Resolve tend to like more.

That got me to thinking…what about a Hackintosh? (That’s a computer built with off the shelf computer parts that runs the Mac OS…one that’s been modified a little to work with these components) I’ve built one before. And I have a couple friends to have also done this before, quite a few times. They have built multiple systems for themselves and others..Hackintosh models that they use professionally, for years. So I got to looking into that option.

NOTE…in order to build a Hackintosh need to get very specific computer components that have been tested to work properly with the modified Mac OS.   I set about researching this starting with the go-to site for this, There you can see builds for MacProsMacMinis, and MacMini Deluxe. And see posts of people’s success stories, and what components they’ve used…as well as failure stories where they explain why certain OS versions or certain hardware components don’t work. So it’s a good place to see what to do, and what not to do.

In looking for a basic motherboard, I found one that many people used…it has two Thunderbolt 2 and lots of USB 3 ports, and it one of the MacPro build options. The issue was that it was a couple years old, and I couldn’t find it anywhere. When I looked for more current motherboards, I found some with Thunderbolt 3, but people said that when they built their hacks with them, the TB3 wouldn’t work. The MacOS doesn’t have drivers for that yet…one place where Apple is falling behind in tech that IT introduced. I found the other components I wanted, but without that motherboard that has Thunderbolt 2…I was stalled.

Why so adamant about Thunderbolt 2? Well, none of the boards have Firewire (I’m flush with Firewire drives and clients provide me with Firewire drives), but I have a Thunderbolt bridge from OWC that has Firewire on it. I also have a BlackMagic Extreme 4K capture box that has Thunderbolt…so I pretty much need a board with TB2 in order to be able to connect to most of my hard drives, and my video IO box that I used with all my editing apps.

So, as I said, I was stalled, and set about saving up money for that iMac, or one of the PC options. And just when I was about to do that, I started chatting with Stefan about this (one of the hack makers), and he was trying to convince me to make the hack (one thing he said was “friends don’t let friends use Windows!) . And he was able to look up a couple builds and track down the board I needed…right on the manufacturers website (At the time of writing this, they seem to have appeared back in stock in several stores).

Here’s the list of components that I chose for this build:


GA-Z97X-UD7 TH LGA 1150 Z97 Dual Thunderbolt 2 ATX

RAM:   $166 ($183 w/tax and shipping

Crucial 32GB Ballistix Sport DDR3 SDRAM Memory Module – 32 GB (4 x 8 GB) – DDR3 SDRAM – 1600 MHz DDR3-1600/PC3-12800 – 1.50 V – Non-ECC – Unbuffered – 240-pin – DIMM – BLS4KIT8G3D1609DS1S0


Intel Core i7-4790K Devil’s Canyon Quad-Core 4.0 GHz LGA 1150 BX80646I74790K Desktop Processor Intel HD Graphics 4600


COOLER MASTER RR-212X-20PM-R1 120mm 4th Generation Bearing CPU Cooler


EVGA GeForce GTX 980 4GB SC GAMING ACX 2.0, 26% Cooler and 36% Quieter Cooling Graphics Card 04G-P4-2983-KR


SAMSUNG 850 EVO 2.5″ 500GB SATA III 3-D Vertical Internal Solid State Drive (SSD) MZ-75E500B/AM

CASE:  $120

be quiet! SILENT BASE 600 WINDOW ATX Mid Tower Computer Case – Black


CORSAIR RMx Series RM750X 750W 80 PLUS GOLD Haswell Ready Full Modular ATX12V & EPS12V SLI and Crossfire Ready Power Supply

Tax & Shipping for all of these components came out to $130.65. So the total cost of all the parts was $1593.65.  Less than half the price of the iMac, and four times cheaper than the MacPro (it can be equipped with slightly faster processors, and it has dual GPU…down the line I intend to add another GPU) I already owned the two 23″ displays, keyboard, mouse, and Thunderbolt 2 Bridge. And this configuration doesn’t include a wifi card or capability. Patrick (the other helpful guy) had a wireless ethernet receiver that he had sitting unused, so he gave that to me. Otherwise, you’d either need to get one, or have the ability to connect your internet router directly to the computer.

The processors in build is more on par with the high end iMac. If you configure it, you can equip it with an 4.0Ghz i7, which is the same general model I purchased. But mine can turbo boost to 4.4Ghz, where it caps off at 4.2Ghz.  And while it is called a QUAD CORE processor, it has 8 threads, so essentially an 8 core processor. As for the MacPro, those processors are called 6-core, 8-core and 12-core, but from research I can see that Apple disables hyperthreading in them. Don’t get me wrong, they still will out-perform the processor I have….but I’m also not shelling out what it costs for those machines, and their iffy GPUs.

OK…so the saga begins. I ordered the parts and soon they arrived. In part two of this saga, I’ll tell the tale of getting this machine up and running. It’s a wild tale filled with ups and downs, week long late nights, swearing…and a couple lean forward moments.

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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