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Little Frog in High Def

Musings of an NLE ronin…
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Archive for August, 2007

I leave Tuesday for Amsterdam…I will be attending IBC. I am heading out a week early to bring the family along and do the tourist thang. Then I will be at IBC, working at the CalDigit booth as their “expert who uses and likes the product.” So if you are a follower of my blog, and happen to be in Amsterdam and HAPPEN to be at IBC, that is where you can find me. I will also be checking out the RED camera (finally shipping) and see if I can find the MOTU booth and look at the V3HD.

And I will no doubt take advantage of the town to do a little partying.

I’ll blog if I happen to find internet cafés and have the inclination after working and partying.

I finished the rough cut of the episode of the Discovery show I am working on, so they will have three weeks to pick it apart and give me notes. When I come back, I have 3 weeks to get it into shape and out the door. I can do that.

Not long ago…January 2007…I was at MacWorld in San Francisco. There was a LOT of buzz going around about a great many things. The iPhone was announced, Leopard was demoed, a company converted a MacBook into a tablet computer…there was no end to the cool things to see. But all the companies that were there showing off storage solutions…RAID solutions…were hit by one big question.

“Does this do Raid 5?”

Well, I can tell you, that a VAST majority of the answers were “Sorry, no. Only Raid 0 or Raid 1.” This turned many people away. The only people who could say “Why yes, we do!” were the Fibrechannel solutions. But, as you might suspect, those solutions were EXPENSIVE. Restrictively so for many of us.

My how technology flies.

Here we are…8 months later…and the companies who were at MacWorld (and NAB) heard the cry. One such company was CalDigit. Their offering, the HD PRO, offers what everyone desires…hardware Raid 5 support. For a device to offer “Hardware RAID” it must have 2 things: An IO Processor (CPU) and a Cache Memory. This unit has both.

What is Raid 5? Well, let us first start with the lower numbers.

RAID 0 is what is called PERFORMANCE RAID. What you do is take two or more drives and “stripe” them together so they act as ONE DRIVE. “Striping” essentially means you format multiple hard drives together as one large “virtual” hard drive for your system.” For example, if you take four 250GB drives and stripe them RAID 0, you’d have a 1TB Raid. In doing this, you spread out the information that is being written onto all the drives so that you get faster data transfers. This means that you can capture uncompressed video formats and play them back. The more drives you add, the faster the raid, the better the performance.

RAID 1 is known as a PROTECTION RAID. You take 2 or more drives (need to be in pairs) and group them so that they again appear as one drive, but this time the information is MIRRORED. If you took two 250GB drives and striped them as RAID 1, you’d have a 250GB drive, but the information would be secure because the information on one drive is copied to the other drive as well. The drives are exact duplicates of each other. The good thing is that your media is safe, the drawback being that your drive performance isn’t as great, and you cannot really work with uncompressed formats.

RAID 5 is the best of both worlds. Performance with protection. RAID 5 stripes both data and parity information across three or more drives. It doesn’t have one dedicated parity drive that contains all the information, but rather distributes the data and parity blocks across all the drives in the array. “What the heck did you just say Shane? What does all that mean?” To tell you the honest truth…I don’t understand the inner workings of the engineering. I am not an engineer, I am a creative editor. But I DO know that it basically means that your footage and the backup information is not on one drive, but spread across many. So that if one drive fails (and drives are known to do this, more often than we care to admit) your information is still safe.

If you want to know more about the RAID types, go to the Wikipedia. Enough with the schooling…let’s get to the HD Pro itself.

First off, I must mention that currently the HD Pro ONLY WORKS WITH PCIe MACHINES (PCI-X support due by mid-September I hear). This means it works only on the newer MacPros, and the older G5 Quads withe a PCIe slot. Now, I don’t have one of these machines, I have a PCI-X G5 with a Kona LH capture card. I needed a PCIe machine with capture card in order to do this test. So for the purpose of testing, I was loaned a MacPro (Dual-core 2.66Ghz model) with a Decklink Multibridge Pro capture card.

When I went to unpack the unit, I encountered something similar to what I encountered when I unpacked the S2VR Duo unit. The hard drives were not inside the unit. They were all tucked into little cut out sections of the packing foam that encased the drive chassis. This is clever, for it helps prevent damage that can occur by jostling the unit. We know how gently delivery services are with packages, right? So I pulled out all the drives from their safe cubbies, removed them from the plastic wrap, and installed them into the chassis. They were all conveniently labelled A0, A1, A2 so I knew what order to install them.

Another interesting thing is that the card that you install inside the MacPro is a VERY small and basic card. It is a 4-lane one port card, with no real electronics to speak of. The card doesn’t have the controller on it. Nope…it is simply a BRIDGE from the board to an external connection that a PCI Express cable connects to. The controller is INSIDE the chassis. To quote the website, ” This direct link eliminates latency introduced by the conversion of other interfaces to PCI Express and provides superior bandwidth, availability and deployment flexibility over earlier-generation SCSI and Fibre Channel technology.” The reason for this is two-fold. First, it doesn’t contribute to the heat inside your MacPro…since you will have plenty with your DOUBLE-WIDE graphics card and your capture card. And second, it allows for controlling MULTIPLE units with the aid of a PCIe switch (not out yet). Meaning that your machine can control more than one HD Pro box…you can add more units as the need arises. Just like I can now with my eSATA boxes and my port multiplier card. Room to grow.

The test unit I received was a 4TB unit. Eight 500GB drives. When I fired up the unit it appeared on the desktop, ready to go. It was already configured…Raid 5 and everything. So I ran the AJA test with the following result:

331 Write / 372 Read. RAID 5!! Plenty fast for uncompressed HD…a couple streams of uncompressed HD. Niiiiice. But, me being me and not trusting the integrity of a drive format after shipping…and, well, to see what is involved in setting up a RAID 5, I did it myself. CalDigit includes a handy little pamphlet on how to do this, so I won’t go into the boring details. But I will mention that it did take 3 hours to build the RAID…which is slightly faster than I hear RAID 5 takes to build on an XServe. Do note that the size of your Raid determines how long it will take to build. 8TB will take longer to build than 2TB. Makes sense. So, I let it do it’s thing while I ate dinner, played with the kids, and tucked them into bed.

When the building was done, I ran the AJA test again:

311 Write and 402 Read….again, niiiiice. The Write was a little slower, but who really needs more than 250 anyway? I am not CAPTURING multiple streams…so 300 to 340 is fine. The Read increased, which was cool. And I suppose the average will be about 320 Write and 385 Read…which is VERY nice indeed.

I captured a few different ways. First DVCPRO HD native via firewire. No sweat…but I can do that with my G-Raid. So then I captured uncompressed 8-bit 720p…no problems. Uncompressed 10-bit 720p…no problems. Uncompressed 10-bit HD…passed again without one dropped frame.

OK, time to abuse this thing. Again I set it up to capture uncompressed 10-bit, and about 5 minutes in…I YANKED A DRIVE OUT! Just so you know, this isn’t something you can do by accident. There is a pinhole that you need to push an included tool into (or a paperclip if you lost the tool) and that pops open the handle that you then use to disengage the drive and pull it from the chassis. When I did this it did give me this nice little warning:

But, it kept merrily match capturing…not missing a beat. When it was done I saved my project and set about fixing what I intentionally broke. I pushed the drive back in and went into the RAID SHIELD software and unlocked the drive and the software went about rebuilding the Raid. Again, that took about 3 hours. But the footage I captured was still intact and played fine.

OK, now let’s look at playback. I was able to get 9 streams of DVCPRO HD playback (both firewire and Decklink encoded DVCPRO HD)…I resized my footage to look like the opening to THE BRADY BUNCH. The first 4 streams gave me no render bar whatsoever. When I hit 5 streams I encountered the dark green render bar, which means high quality playback. Eight streams got me the light green render bar….low quality playback…and that held up until I added the 10th stream…when it went RED. So i stuck with nine. Since it was getting late, and I had work in the morning, I just let it play this footage as I went to bed, setting Final Cut Pro to loop the footage(did I mention I was testing this with Final Cut Pro? No? Sorry).

I woke up, went to work, came back home, had dinner, then went “oh yeah, I have something going on in my office.” I turned my monitors on and there the footage was, happily playing along. No dropped frames.

But hey…seriously….DVCPRO HD footage? Was that a REAL test? OF COURSE NOT! So I went to the 8-bit uncompressed 720p footage. I started layering that. I got the dark green render bar after two layers, light green after 3 and the red render bar when I hit five. So four streams it is. I tried 10-bit uncompressed and couldn’t get more than one. But really…uncompressed 10-bit…I am not offline editing with this codec. I am FINISHING with it, so one stream is plenty. I am offlining with DVCPRO HD, and getting nine RT streams is a nice thing to have. OH, and I was able to add the 3-way color corrector to seven streams and stay RT.

Time for bed again, so I resized the uncompressed 8-bit footage into four windows, and pressed play. This time I let it run for 3 days. Every time I came back, it was running. On the third day when I got back from work, I walked in, opened the unit, and yanked a drive. I turned on the monitor and again, saw the warning, but playback wasn’t affected. Kept going and going and going. So I let it go. Went to bed. Woke up the next morning to see it still humming along…footage playing. I stopped…saved…quit…and set the raid to rebuild again. And again, when it was done, all my footage was still there…safe and sound.

The HD Pro unit was running for the entire 8 days that I had it…I didn’t turn it off. When I finally did, and I removed a drive and felt it…is was warm to the touch, but not overly hot. The RAID SHIELD software has temperature monitoring capabilities, so you can always check and see how hot things are. OH, and I forgot to mention that you can set up e-mail notification so when a drive does happen to die and you are…somewhere else…you’ll get an e-mail telling you a drive failed. Very handy.

So I am rather impressed with this. And I would easily consider it for use in my edit bay. The piece of mind that RAID 5 gives you is something EVERYONE should experience. Currently I am running a RAID 0 box, and have all the footage backed up to a couple firewire drives. A sort of manual RAID 1. With this box I wouldn’t need to waste the drive space. It would be an invaluable asset to any edit bay.

OH! OH! OH! AND…oh I love this…AND CalDigit makes an Express34 card for this unit, so you can use it with your MACBOOK PRO! You won’t get nearly the numbers you get with the tower, but the numbers you do get are QUITE impressive:

168 Write and 195 Read. PLENTY for uncompressed SD and even uncompressed 8-bit HD work. And for DVCPRO HD and the new ProRes format, that would be plenty for several streams of playback…ON A LAPTOP!

Man…time for me to get a MacPro…or MacBook Pro.

The Motu V3HD, which I mentioned back in June, has finally been released.

It has a plethora of video connections, HD SDI, Component, composite…etc…and connects to your computer via firewire. It will take any HD format and convert it into DVCPRO HD…great for offline editing. And any SD format and capture Uncompressed or DVCPRO 50.

“Choose your input source, then log and capture HD and SD clips directly into Final Cut or Premiere, converted on the fly and ready for fast, CPU-efficient editing in pristine native DVCPro HD quality, without the costly overhead required for uncompressed HD. Monitor simultaneously in HD and SD with real-time SD-to-HD up-convert, HD-to-SD down-convert and real-time pull-down insertion or removal.”

It is available at a lot of stores, including my favorite, B&H Photo, for roughly $3000.

This is a GREAT LOOKING box that has all sorts of connections:

Video I/O

* 1 x HD-SDI in and out (4:2:2 10-bit) on independent BNC connectors
* 1 x SD-SDI in and out (4:2:2 10-bit) on independent BNC connectors
* 1 x extra HD-SDI output connector
* 1 x extra SD-SDI output connector
* 1 x HDMI output (4:2:2 10-bit, YCbCr or RGB)
* Support for DVI output with HDMI-to-DVI adapter (sold separately)
* 1 x HD component in and out (10-bit, YPbPr or RGB) on independent BNCs
* 1 x SD component in and out (10-bit, YPbPr or RGB) on independent BNCs
* 1 x composite in and out (10-bit)
* 1 x S-video in and out (10-bit)
* 1 x 400 Mbit (1394) FireWire A
* 2 x 800 Mbit (1394b) FireWire B

And of course, MOTU being an AUDIO company, you KNOW the audio interface on this box is stellar:

Audio I/O

* 32 channels of simultaneous audio input and output V3HD Audio I/O
* 8 channels of analog in/out at all standard sample rates from 44.1 to 192kHz
* 4 x XLR analog in/out — 4-channel direct connection without a breakout cable
* 8 channels of AES/EBU digital in/out at sample rates up to 96kHz
* 2 x AES/EBU connectors — 4-channel direct connection without a breakout cable
* 8-channel HD-SDI and SD-SDI embedded audio in/out, 24-bit at 44.1 or 48kHz
* 8-channel HDMI embedded audio output, 24-bit at 44.1 or 48kHz
* 8-channel ADAT optical digital audio in/out — includes a second bank of optical connectors for 8-channel operation at sample rates up to 96kHz V3HD Digital Audio I/O
* Front panel headphone jack with dedicated volume control
* CueMix DSPTM built-in monitor mixer — 32-channel, 16-bus mixer for monitoring live inputs from cameras, mic preamps or other audio sources with no delay. Set up send/return loops to digital mixers and outboard audio processing. V3HD Audio Meters
* Multiple CueMix DSP mixes — create 16 separate stereo monitor mixes (8 stereo at 176.4 or 192kHz) for main outs, headphones, outboard gear send/return loops, etc.
* Audio delay compensation — both fully automated and programmable controls ensure that audio always remains perfectly in sync with picture
* Audio only mode — operates as a 32 channel cross-platform audio interface
* Stand-alone operation — mix and monitor with no computer connected

While this is a competitor to the AJA I/O HD, it isn’t portable…it is rack mountable. And it doesn’t have an onboard ProRes hardware encoder, like the I/O HD…but I wonder if you can use it in conjunction with a MacPro Intel machine and capture ProRes, because Apple states that you need an Intel Mac to capture ProRes using third party capture cards like the Kona or Decklink series. If I had a MacPro I’d love to test it. But I don’t…so…we’ll have to see what others say.

OK, you HAVE to see this:

Internet Killed the Video Star

This is a commercial for a tutorial DVD on web compression…but man, is it well done and FUNNY!

Also reminds me that I have to make an ad for my DVD…sales are slumping. If only I can be as clever…

I was chatting with an editor friend of mine the other day about this and that…installing updates that won’t break FCP, our various experiences with shows that we were/are working on, network nonsense…when the conversation turned to “transitions.”

We were just talking about editing and concentrating on a good story were key, and how many productions/networks try to make shows better by adding fancy transitions. Complaining more like it. We are always asked to “make it better” or “more exciting” with “cool” transitions But, does it really? No…well, they may LOOK cool…I suppose…but does it make the show “better?” Or are we trying to fool people into THINKING it is better by adding the cool transitions? The latter is the case. If you don’t tell a compelling story, then no amount of FANCY TRANSITIONS will make it better. But sometimes what we work on isn’t exciting, so we are told to liven it up.

I see this on the forums too. People asking where they can get “really cool” transitions so they can make their project better. These same people think that adding the “film look” will make their projects better. That a CUBE SPIN will somehow make the story more compelling. Sorry guys…it doesn’t.

My buddy commented how he was watching “housing porn” (home decorating show) on HGTV or somesuch network and in this show was a SPARKLE TRANSITION! I guess they thought that just the fact that you are showing off nice decorating tips wasn’t enough. They wanted to GET YOUR ATTENTION..or “make it cool.” I know this transition…it is part of the SAPPHIRE set that is available for Avid and FCP. I had the…pleasure…of using these on a VH1 show about a young female pop star. In fact, I used a bunch of these odd plugins, including that sparkle transition. WHY? Because I was told to. I didn’t want to, but they wanted to ROCK the show and “liven” it up. Was the show good? No. It was all flash and no substance.

What transition do I use the most? Which is most effective? THE CUT. Simple cut from one scene to another. Sometimes a dissolve, to denote passage of time. The basic tools. Although I will admit that for Andrew Jackson I did a BLUR DISSOLVE (part of the Nattress Big Box of Tricks instead of a regular dissolve. Because I knew the network would want something new…preemptive strike. I also added another cool transition that I discovered in FCP 5.1.4, the LIGHT ZOOM. I thought it was very cool, and used it as a transition to signify a flashback. It had a specific purpose. But then the network exec saw that, and REALLY liked it. “I want to see this transition used more!” I dug myself into a hole on that one. I wanted to use it ONCE as a flashback device, and now I had to “sprinkle” it about the rest of the show.

And I am ashamed to admit that I have worked on more than my share of no-substance-all-flash shows. Par for the course for the freelance editor. But in working on those shows, and employing all sorts of flash and trickery to try to make them better, I know that it is pointless. That without a good story, no sort of “plugin window dressing” will make it better.

Nothing beats a good story.

Currently I am color correcting a short film shot on DVCPRO HD…this while I am working full time editing a Discovery Channel series. But that is par for the course…main project, occasional side project. ANWAY, I want to mention a pretty vital part of my color correction arsonal. The book THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF COLOR CORRECTION by Alexis Van Hurkman.

Now I have a couple tutorial DVDs on how to use Final Cut Pro’s built in 3-way color corrector to match hue from shot to shot, and how to white and black balance, and some color correction tips. This book covers all of those basics and takes it a step further to go into advanced color correction techniques….and gives some pretty cool tricks too. My favorite is KEYFRAMING color correction, and making footage DAY FOR NIGHT. The book contains several tutorials in just about every chapter…and my favorite is the one that deals with turning out a light.

The tutorial shows a hand turning off a light switch, and you see that indeed a light does go off, but the change isn’t all that great. The director wants more. So this is something you fix with color correction. The tutorial shows how you set keyframes in the 3-way color corrector and shows the settings you need to use to make the room look very DARK…so when the light switch is flipped, the change is more drastic. VERY cool. It also talks about color correcting and keyframing from when you go from a well lit shot to a prety darn one.

And many more. This book is great because it will explain the theory, then show an example that you not only follow along you DO IT so that you retain the information better.

This book does go pretty in depth into the technical aspects, why the monitor needs to be a certain color temperature and many theories and tech talk about color and light. Now, I am not a very technical person, I know how to ONLINE a show, but I am no colorist. So there is technical jargon that I catch only about 50% of what is being said…but that is enough to understand what the author is saying.

ANYWAY…it is a good book. If you have any desire to color correct, you have to read this book.

This is a request for camera operators…and a request to directors and producers as well. I ask this on behalf of all the editors out there…

If you are shooting footage of a bunch of British Soldiers rowing across a swamp, and they land on the beach and climb out of the boat and onto the shore…Please refrain from talking.

If you are shooting footage of a doctor readying for the day…taking a shower, getting dressed, walking out the door…please refrain from talking.

If you are shooting ANYTHING, and I mean ANYTHING where there is audio occurring…even b-roll of a sunset where there is wind blowing thru the trees…please refrain from talking.

We need the audio from this footage. You may not think so…you may think “well, there’ll be narration or music playing under this, so it doesn’t matter to have the audio.” Sorry, but you are mistaken. If I show footage of guys getting out of a boat, it would be very helpful to have audio to accompany that. If it is quiet…silent except for music and narration, it will still strike the viewer as odd that they cannot hear the guys getting out of the boat. And if you record the action AS IT HAPPENS on location, it saves the audio engineer from having to find sound effects for that, or to foley it. Saves man hours as well as money.

You may think that in a documentary about a trauma surgeons, when we show b-roll of a doctor getting up at the crack of dawn and getting ready for work, that you will just have music playing under, or him talkling about how he readies himself for the day, and that you don’t need the audio. Well, again, if I see the doctor in the shower, but don’t hear the shower, then I as the viewer will unconsciously feel that something is missing. And that will be a distraction that takes away from the story…and we don’t want that.

It might be a $100 Million dollar feature…it might be a network TV show…it might be a small cable documentary…shouldn’t matter. Please please PLEASE refrain from talking when filming. I WANT to hear the wind blowing thru the grass when I see it on screen during the sunset. Audio is MORE that 50% of the viewing experience. Sounds convey so much that they eyes don’t pick up. Audio will tell you something about a scene that your eyes don’t see. And if there is NO audio to accompany the video, your brain gets distracted by this.

So please refrain from talking. You can talk ALL YOU WANT when you stop recording.

I have become the type of editor that I used to make fun of as an assistant. In fact, I am sure the two assistants we have on this show are making fun of ME as I write this.

What is that kind of editor? The one who doesn’t pay attention to what drive they are rendering to, or capturing to. The one who when something bad technical happens, is pretty much useless in terms of figuring anything out.

How did this happen? I was the assistant who figured all of this stuff out. I knew all the tricks to get the Avid working again. How to locate the CREATING files and TEMP files and trash them…that to fix media linking issues you trash the media file databases in the OMFI folders on the drives. That…

Wait…have I told you what happened yet? Oh, I see I haven’t.

I lost 80% of my temp VO. And I was too…SOMETHING…to figure it out for myself. I dunno…stuck in my “creative” editing mind that I couldn’t figure it out. Or daunted about working in OS9 again…something. Dunno…but I couldn’t figure it out myself.

This happened before. The media was offline. BUT, it was there. I saw it. It didn’t say OFFLINE in the bin, it just wouldn’t play. Now, I did look on the drive I recorded it on and I saw it (Audio files have the name you give them in the Avid project, thank goodness)…but it wouldn’t play. The Avid techs were called in (Assistants not on during the day) and they looked at the Unity, found the error, trashed the CREATING and TEMP files and BOOM, the audio came back. I felt a little stupid…but was happy to have the audio back.

Then on Friday the audio went away AGAIN, and I needed to do an output. So I was trying to be all “technical” and trashed the CREATING files, and TEMP files, and media databases and still…nada. Well darn it. And THIS time they said offline. So I was at a loss. Before I started recording the VO again, the assistants arrived and I asked one of them to look into it. HE did and said, “well, they’re offline. They aren’t here.”

Uh…what? I look…the drive is EMPTY. Well, it has the database files, but NO MEDIA. Did I NOTICE THIS when I trashed the database files? No. How did I miss that there was NO MEDIA on the drive? Got me…I have no excuse. Buried in my creative mind. I had to laugh at myself for that. “Yep,” the assistant continued. “Looks like this drive is corrupt. This is why you can’t render to it either.” I had beed getting an error when trying to render to the drive too. Forgot to mention that. And I got an error (FATAL ERROR) when loading the Media Composer software with that drive mounted. He took the drive offline, loaded MC, and no problem. “Yep, corrupt sector. We are replacing the Unity this weekend, so just do without it for now.”

And while I feel like a BIT of a heel here, not remembering all this techie stuff, my job is to pay attention to the creative, so that is where it all lies. Working with FCP and working WITHOUT and assistant and building my own system has kept me in my tech head that I had as an assistant. But now with two assistants I guess I am getting spoiled.

I can get used to being spoiled. I like this. And if I provide a little amusement to the Assistants…it is well worth it.

I was struck by what I can only describe as editor’s block today. I had already done my “radio edit,” laying out the VO and the interview bytes in script order, and had moved on to adding temp music and b-roll…fleshing out the cut into a rough cut. Finding the perfect music can be a bit of a task in itself, so that took a while. Not only something to fit the mood, but something that I haven’t used before, and something NO ONE ELSE used in another show (5 of us editors working on 5 episodes). And since this “temp” music actually is THE music that comes from our composer and WILL be used in the show…we have to pick carefully, and edit it well.

ANYWAY…I got the temp music laid in and was starting to flesh out the cut when I was…well…stuck. First stuck with…what to OPEN the act with. We had a good soundbyte that introduced the main doctor, but it is at some conference where he got an award and we were going to feature that conference so…what shot do I open with that doesn’t showcase the conference, but allows me to use the introduction, that I can then easily transition to the hospital to and continue my story.

Just as a reminder, I am working on a medical show based on a trauma center in Miami and focusing on 4 main doctors and a few of their colleagues.

SO…what to do? Well, I just started out with the announcer praising the main doctor and the doctor walking down the isle to applause…then cut to a shot of his name on his office door…a couple shots, wide to rack focus closeup. Then we get into the interview and…and…stuck. Stuck stuck stuck. Hmmm…now what? the frist two acts (this is Act 3) are all pretty much action action action as we go into the trauma bays and describe what the doctors do to help the patients that come in. But now we are getting into the doctors themselves…this is time to find out who they are, what drives them…why they do what they do. And I want shots that, well, I don’t have. Introspective shots. They didn’t get much…a few here and there, but the majority is him at a cemetery that I need for later, and him in…well, doing things that don’t really fit for what he is saying. And I listen to what he is saying over and over and…man, it is POWERFUL stuff. This guy has great quotes and says great things…I need to find some good stuff. The OTHER doctors have good stuff, but he insisted on not doing the generic stuff and shooting something specific, and that doesn’t work for what is said…gah! I spend a good 4 hours struggling and get all of about 1 minute edited.

Why is this so hard? Well, I decide the best thing to do is just listen to the cut and sort of meditate thru the cut…let it flow into my brain and try to gather form and let me recall what footage I have that might fit that and….

WAITAMINUTE. What? What was that? I play the cut back and…well…something is out of place. A few things. We have him talking about challenges of being a doctor, then a tease of his struggles…then…then. Well, a series of really GOOD quotes. I mean, GOOD ones…but they don’t fit. They are out of place. Because after them we go into how he is glad to have the opportunity to help people, then back to his family history. GAH…all out of whack…and a piece that doesn’t fit. Square peg in a circular hole. So I rearrange things a bit shuffling dialogue to keep the personal history and past together and then to the ability to help people…and I am left with something that doesn’t fit. GREAT quotes that are very powerful, but make no sense where they are.

So I have no choice. I have to cut them. I don’t TOSS them…I put them in the “trims bin” (old film term…place where you keep things for later) for later use as I know I want to use them. But I might not…you never know. Sure, they are great quotes, but will they make the story better? Will they improve the cut? Not at the moment….so away they go.

This is one of the more difficult things to do as an editor…lose good material. But it is all for the greater good. The final product will be better without it most times. It might be good, but it takes you out of the moment, disrupts your train of thought. And it will be distracting to the message you are trying to convey at that given moment…or any given moment if you can’t find a place for it. No matter how good that thought is, it doesn’t add to the story and make it better, so it has to go.

And this happens all the time on all sorts of productions, even feature films. You might spend a lot of time setting up a scene and a lot of money shooting it…but if it doesn’t work…it has to go. Don’t feel obligated to use the scene because it cost you a lot of time and money to get. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. It has to go. This is one reason to have an editor that is NOT the director…and a good reason an editor should NEVER go to the set. Because a director knows what was involved in getting that shot…how much money and manpower was added, they might feel compelled to keep the scene. But an editor comes in with a fresh eye…not knowing what was involved. So they will look at that simply as a story element, and if it doesn’t work…it gets cut. And the story might actually benefit from this.

One GREAT way to see this is to look at the deleted scenes on a DVD. Watch them and see if you can tell why they were cut from the film. And how cutting them made the film better. One of my favorite ones to point out is the director’s cut of ALIENS. There are big elaborate scenes where you see the colony…the people on the colony going about their lives…kids all over the place playing. And then you see Newt’s parents finding the ship, and finding the Alien eggs…and…well…too much. The movie is MUCH better when you with Ripley when she hears that there is a thriving terraforming (making the planet hospitible) colony on the planet they discovered the alien ship, and that she’d just better forget about it and go about her life. Then the next thing you know they come looking for her…the colony hasn’t been heard from in months…so she and the marines are dispatched into an UNKNOWN situation. That ADDS to the tension…that ADDS to the suspense. Seeing the colony and knowing who they are and what they found…distracts.

OK…enough typing these when it is late. I ramble way too much. Or, MORE of this because people seem to enjoy my ramblings. Well, I like rambling.

OK…if you didn’t read about it from HDforINDIES or FresHDV (which are blogs you should read, BTW) then let me ALSO point out that Panasonic has finally released a P2 reader for the Mac…found here:

Panasonic P2 Reader for Mac

Not only does it display the P2 footage, but also allows you to ingest, search, and organize your footage…you can add text or audio memos, export it out, back it up, archive, and I like this one, RESTORE your footage. Say if FCP says it is corrupt. I also heard from the Creative Cow posts on this that with this installed you can even start editing the MXF files natively…without importing into FCP. But that you need FCS 2 to do this. I haven’t tested this out (Again folks…I am in Avid land now) but I’ll be sure to mention it if it is true. Otherwise you need Raylight in order to do this.

It requires OS X 10.4.10 and QT 7.1.6 (Currently incompatible with QT 7.2) and…ah heck, just go read about it. Although I am dealing with P2 footage on this show, it is AGAIN..on an Avid and the Adrenaline we have reads the files natively (on a PC) and they are strung out and spit out to tape and recaptured into the OLDER Avids…and on tape so that when we online we only have tapes….blah blah blah. But, it is nice to have tapes. ANYWAY..that is all handled by the assistants anyway, so I don’t touch it.

Ah…assistants.

OK…I would like to make an unsolicited plug for a product (I do this from time to time). This is one that I personally use, and now HIGHLY recommend.

www.kbcovers.com

It is a solid flexible rubber keyboad cover that fits over your…well, keyboard. I have this for both my laptop and my G5. I first saw these at MacWorld, then NAB. I bought them at NAB.

Not ONLY are they a good thing to have for they show you all the FCP keyboard commands, but they do double duty as a shield to prevent crumbs and crap into falling in between the keys on the keyboard. I was inspired to make this plug today because I just now notices HOW MUCH CRAP this prevented from getting into the nooks and crannies of my keyboard. QUITE a bit let me tell you. So I found this to be a wise purchase.

I did initially have the replacement keyset from www.logickeyboards.com…and I like those. But having this cover is great…no more crud in my keyboard.

This will not work for the new SLICK Apple keyboard. Yet. They might come out with one soon. That is SICK!

OK, I will try NOT to make this a post comparing FCP to Avid…which is better…blah blah blah. They are tools…they get the job done…and I like both. I just wanted to point out a few things I like and dislike about both. The point? I dunno…do show the strengths and weaknesses of both I suppose. And also to tell people that I am NOT JUST A FCP EDITOR. Sure, I am on like five Final Cut Pro forums regularly…and NOT ONE Avid forum. That doesn’t mean…well, OK, it does. I like and prefer FCP now. So there….I said it. THPHTHPHTHPHTHPH!!

BUT STILL…I’d like to mention a few things I missed about cutting on an Avid.

I had a quick taste back in April. I was flown to Seattle to do the rough cut of a small project as a favor to my step-father, because the director passed away suddenly. The school (University of Washington) happened to teach and use Avids…Adrenalines. So I struggled my way thru a rough cut…not really having time to familiarize myself with the machine before I finished the rough cut and had to return to *cough* *hack* Los Angeles. But now I have landed a long term gig editing on an Avid…and I have been on an Avid for about a month. I am working on a Discovery Channel series on surgical doctors saving lives. My episode deals with a trauma center in Miami. ANYWAY…back to the point. After a two year hiatus editing on FCP…in my home…I am now back to editing on an Avid. NOW…I do need to mention that this Avid is…a tad old. It is an Avid Meridian v11…running on *cough* OS 9 *cough*. But I also need to mention that this is the version of Avid that I am most familiar. I started out on Avid Media Composter 5.5…assisted mainly with Avid 6.0 and 7. Then when I moved up to editor, I landed on a Meridian v11…utilizing UNITY.

And that is where I find myself now…in front of an Avid on Unity. The exact same system I edited on for 3 years before I moved to FCP.

But, why are they using such an OLD machine you ask? Well, I did at first, but then remembered something. One of my many many mantras. If it works, don’t fix it. This Avid not only works, but work as a part of a well oiled workflow that Hollywood is still firmly entrenched in. We offline at 20:1…then can either take the project file to a Symphony where it would be opened, recaptured and output to tape, where it is then color corrected on a DaVinci. An OMF is sent to the sound mixer where he sweetens the show then lays off to the color corrected master. That system has been in place for QUITE a while, and since it works for our given situation…for the type of footage we are editing…there is no need to change it.

And we are on a UNITY. Again, a system that works and works well. Sharing projects and media…nearly flawlessly. Every system has its quirks. And this one does appear to have more than its fair share of issues…more than usual. And the techs are switching it out for a newer model.

Since this older system works, the production has not needed to move to more expensive Avids. They are getting their money’s worth out of this system…as much as they can. And why not? They did invest about $65,000 per system (5 systems) and MORE on the Unity, and MORE on the per seat license…and tech support. So they are going to use it until it dies, or the workflow changes making it not a viable option.

Well gee Shane, if you like it so much, why don’t you MARRY IT? Huh?

One reason is that, well, it is cheaper than an Avid (And who doesn’t like a cheap date on occasion?). Every single Avid editor I know has FCP on their home system. Why? Well, we all edit side projects…short films, corporate videos, commercials, music videos….And most of us cannot afford an Avid. And the days of asking to use the company Avid for these projects, or sneaking in and using it at night (when you could…darn assistants trying to get work done)…are pretty much over. So I had a copy and used it on side projects.

But the main reason I switched to Final Cut Pro for a broadcast show was…well…HD. I was working on an HD show for National Geographic (a series of 9 shows on THE SCIENCE OF THE BIBLE)…shot with the Varicam, 720p. And we used the Avid Meridians and onlined on Avid Adrenalines…and…well. It wasn’t a smooth ride. Post went WAY over budget because of many factors…basically the system was having issues capturing DVCPRO HD and outputting an HDCAM master, and the people involved were inexperienced in what to do. So when a DVCPRO HD project came my way…I looked at FCP, which had been editing that format for a year or more at the time. And after some research, and testing…it worked great, so I made the leap.

WOW…and now this post is getting HUGE, and I haven’t gotten to my likes and dislikes yet. Better get there now. You can take a break and read more later. I’ll understand.

First thing I noticed…RIGHT OFF THE BAT. Moving clips around the timeline is clumsy at best. I am so use to dragging clips all over the place and rearranging things. Like index cards on a table. Flip flip flip swish swish, assemble assemble…done. And the “TTTT” combo was my friend. I get onto an Avid and this is TEDIOUS. First I have to click a button to ACCESS the arrow that allows me to move things, then I have to highlight my clips (or I can drag from the upper left down and draw a box around the clips I want) and then move. And I’d BETTER get the black space in between them, or there’ll be hell to pay. I needed to make space in the middle of a cut to place some clips. With FCP, I grab and move them, or hit TTTT and move everything down the timeline…well, not so with the Avid. I had to load FILLER and drop it in…ooop, cut my audio in half as it was under the video…ok, rejoin that, then up arrow to get back to my nearest clip…no..I just switched my multiclip shot from the A camera to the B camera. GAH!

I was very lost my first week on the thing. It was VERY clear that my FCP techniques weren’t gonna work. I had to shove FCP into the recesses of my mind, and root in the filing cabinet for my Avid skills. Ah, there they are. PHooo! Dusty. Cough cough.

OK…now…dynamic trimming…hey! I remember this. Cool. And subclipping. Wow, I missed that…rock solid, linked to the master clip that then opens the master bin the clip is in! SWEET! OK, two camera angles, GROUP clip those. playing in the timeline I just press DOWN ARROW and a cut point appears and the B camera is there. NICE. OK, I want to add a paint effect, LIGHTEN, to go from white to normal. I can drop this on the layer above…in the EMPTY space…and make that. OK, I need to animatte around this face to blur it. ANIMATTE! Man how I missed you. How ya doin’? And the kids? They healthy and having fun? Good….man, I missed you Matte…

Ahem…sorry. It is late.

My editing chops came back…and so did a lot of my favorite tools. Animatte, LOCATORS that work right (move with the timeline if I cut in a clip earlier in the timeline), a Viewer that REMAINS ACTIVE after I cut something into the timeline (yes yes, I found that workaround in FCP….go away kid, you bother me), putting effects in the layer above to affect everything below globally. Great media management…THE CLIPBOARD. Ahh…my trusty clipboard. Sigh.

OK…enough. Now to what I MISS on FCP. Things that made me go “what the?” when trying to cut on an Avid.

-AUDIO IN THE VIEWER (Preview Monitor, pardon me) IS BLACK. No waveform…no way to LOOK at your audio and see beats. Gah…that sucks.
-scrolling on the timeline is GLACIAL. Slower than slow. I had to basically zoom out, then find a spot, and zoom in. Not bad after you get used to it
-I have to OPEN THE BINS to see what is inside. And that is slow. I can’t just turn the triangle down for a quick glance. So this REALLY slows me down. It is due to the fact that each bin is a separate file in the Avid Project itself on the FINDER level. Smart in some ways, not in others. This is really slowing me down.
-MEDIA OFFLINE. Not the fact that it is offline, but THAT I CANNOT TELL it is offline until I look at the clip. Or in the case of audio, listen to it and hear nothing. FCP does a great thing by putting that RED SLASH thru the clip. And brings up the fact that FILES ARE MISSING when you launch the application. Avid doesn’t do this. Nope. It just isn’t there, and you open the clip and MEDIA OFFLINE. Or in the case of audio..you still see black, but it doesn’t play. Now, in the TIMELINE you can make it obvious what is offline…there is a setting to make offline clips RED. This is VERY helpful when onlining a show so you can see what is still missing and needs to be captured/imported. But I had audio and picture…a LOT of audio and video…go offline and I didn’t know until I looked for it. Then there was a call to the Avid tech (because hey, it has been a while, OK?) to fix it while I go play ping pong with my producer. And lose in GLORIOUS fashion.

Did I mention there is a ping pong table at work in the main bullpen? No? Well, there is, and I am the WORST player. to be fair I am the newest employee…but still…it hurts a little. Mainly because it appears I am getting WORSE. Ah well, to be around other people is nice for a change. Working at home has benefits, but to hang with people over the age of 9…and other GUYS (I am flush with daughters…and one wife)…that is nice.

OK…I have rambled enough. The point I wanted to make is that Avid is a tool. It does what I need…no matter how old it is. And FCP is a tool. They are both good tools for a freelancer in L.A. to have knowledge of. Avid is alive and kicking, and FCP is making lots of inroads. They both are good, and they both SUCK…depending on the situation. And it is very odd to edit with both in the same day (Avid by day, FCP side project at night). Lots of gears shifting.

Sorry for the long post. This is what happens when I don’t post for a while and save it all up (in a Word document) and spit it out at 2 in the A.M.