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Little Frog in High Def

Musings of an NLE ronin…
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Archive for October, 2008

Want some cool Moby music to use in your short film? How about non-profit video, or home movie? Well Moby would like to help. He is making available music for use in just these types of situations. And if you then need to license them, there is a way to do that too.

Nice. Thanks Moby.

The TIMECODE CALCULATOR by Netmedia Software has GREATLY improved. So much that I now can recommend it to many people. Mainly because finally it will properly convert a 23.98 NDF timeline timing into drop frame. Before this, I had to rely on the method I laid out in this blog post. And while I have had this little application for a while, but it never did a proper conversion..until now.

The calculator includes a conversion for 23.98 DF. Now, while that format doesn’t really exist (no tapes can record 23.98 DF), what that setting does is convert the NDF timing to a proper DF timing. I have done lots of tests and every time it came up right. If you make the mistake, like I did, of going from 23.98 NDF to 29.97 DF, then the timing will be WAY off. Because the calculator does a frame-for-frame conversion. 45 seconds at 23.98 came up 35 seconds 29.97. Odd. BUT, they make up for that by having a format that doesn’t exist, except for timing…23.98 DF.

Wondering if these timecode calculators for the iPhone can offer the same thing…

A few posts ago I talked about theAvid P2 workflow that Steve Holyhead gave at Birns and Sawyer. Well, how would you like to see it? He’s fun.

And if you want to look at all the P2 TUTORIALS, they can be found HERE.

On Saturday I went on my first professional shoot in…12 years. I have been on a few, but this is the first one where I was actually hired to do the shooting. This was for a very small segment in a two hour documentary I am editing for Discovery. We were filming bungee jumpers as part of an experiment. Now, the place we went for this was north of Azusa CA in the San Gabriel Canyon…along the San Gabriel river. The location was a bridge that is no longer connected to a road. The bridge was built in 1936, and the road that led to it was washed out by a flood in 1938. Just to get to the bridge we needed to hike 5 miles along the river, mostly over uneven terrain, and along cliffs and parts of the mountain where the path is always temporary, because it consists of falling rock. And we had to cross the river 8 times.

ANYWAY, it was quite a hike. And being the camera guy I was the one carrying the camera…my HPX-170. Not only did I have that, and two 16GB cards and two 8GB cards…I also had a microphone and cable and batteries and my laptop…just in case I needed to offload footage on location. My backpack weighed about 15lbs. All I have to say is that I am REALLY glad that the camera weighed as much as it does, just under 5 lbs. I bet if I had the HVX-200 that extra pound would really be noticed. And forget the larger cameras like the HPX-500 or Varicam. I pity the fool who’d have to trudge to this location with either of those cameras.

I got some great footage. Then the jump masters asked…nay, INSISTED that I jump too. And…well, I did. Not once, but twice…second one wasn’t shot as the producer didn’t realize I went again. Please excuse the exposure…my producer wasn’t the best camera guy, and the bridge was in direct sunlight and the river was in complete shadow. And we didn’t bring along the big silk to bounce light down there. VERY fun.

Well, for the first time in…YEARS…I will be working on a location shoot as a camera operator. PAID operator. I have done a lot of shooting on my own, and got some footage here and there for various shows I was on, but it was always considered “stock footage.” But now, armed with my new HPX-170 (that doesn’t have the notorious “wiggle” issue), I will be hiking for a couple hours, crossing a small river 10 times, to a bridge where we will be interviewing people right before the bungie jump. I have to get up at 6:00 AM to get to the trailhead by 7:15AM…hike in hot weather…shoot…hike back…then drive home.

If I didn’t appreciate my edit bay and my hours before, this will no doubt make me appreciate them more. BUT, I still plan on having fun. Plus, this will give me more working experience with this camera and allow me to really dig into the menus.

So now this is high definition SHOOTING from the trenches.

ANOTHER cool tool for FCP released today, EditGroove. This bit of software manages preferences and user settings for multiple users…on one machine or across a network. If you are working on one machine one day, then move to another, you can load your keyboard layouts, your preferences (including levels of undo, frequency of autosave, favorite effects) onto that machine as well. Pretty darn cool for those of us in multi-editor environments, and for those who have several editors that share one machine.

Oh, and it trashes preferences, restores saved preferences, and can recover accidentally deleted preferences. Nice.

(Man, all of these applications to do all of these small things that Avid does out of the box…and Avid is affordable now, and stable, and fun to work with…really makes one take a very hard second look at Avid.)

SWEET! For those that know me, I am very keen on organization. For those that don’t know me…hey, I’m very keen on organization. I have a tutorial DVD all about file organization (look at the right side of this blog). Well, with this new tool I am about to mention, about half of the organization I talk about in that DVD will be made moot. This tool is VERY cool.

It’s called LOADER and it is made by the geniuses at Digital Heaven. To quote the site (which you will no doubt click on and read AGAIN):

“Simply drag items from iTunes or the Finder over the Loader tab and it slides out to reveal a list of currently open Final Cut Pro projects. Drop the items onto the desired project and Loader handles the rest.”

On my last job…on a shared network with four editors…we had issues of editors importing pictures and audio into their projects, but NOT moving those pictures to the server to the appropriate folders we designated. So when I opened up the project that another editor started, I’d have all this media offline, because all the pictures were on the other guy’s desktop.

Or what if you are working on a project on local drives, and need to copy all the media used in the project onto another drive to hand off to another editor, or to give to the producer. But oops, you forgot the folder of music you had on your desktop or Music folder. How do you ensure that the other person is getting all the media you are using? Well, if you use LOADER from the start, it will make sure that all the media is copied to a folder inside your CAPTURE SCRATCH folder for that project:

“Loader automatically sorts copied media into subfolders inside the destination folder for each project. For example, .aif, .aiff, .bwf and .wav files will be copied into a folder named DestinationFolder/Audio. Loader comes with default settings for Audio, Graphics and Movies subfolders and you can edit the settings to suit your particular needs.”

Sick of converting your MP3s to AIFF in iTunes, then dragging them to a folder on the external drive, then importing into FCP? I know I am…even though I mention this on my DVD. I like organizing myself with iTunes, but converting can be a pain. because now I have TWO copies of that song in iTunes, one AIFF and the other MP3. Figuring out which to delete can be tricky. After being on an Avid for a couple weeks, I like how it converted the audio for me, and put it where it needed to go. Now, so does LOADER:

“Some types of audio formats don’t play very well with Final Cut Pro so if you drop an mp3, AAC or Core Audio Format (.caf) file onto Loader then it will automatically convert it to a 16 bit 48kHz AIF. Say goodbye to the beep-beep-beeps from the days of unrendered audio.”

OK…enough gushing. I am just giddy about this application.

I have…HAD…two small raids in my MacPro. Just two sets of 500GB drives raided as RAID 0. The idea was to have a couple small internal raids for video playback, although in the end I never ended up using them as such. Always just used them as storage. ANYWAY, just to say that this sometimes happens, one of the raids failed. Doesn’t show up. I can see it in the Disk Utility, but as two separate raid slices. It cannot repair them…Disk Warrior cannot repair them. I reseated them to no avail…it was gone. No big thing, the files that that particular RAID was holding are no longer needed. Backed up and archived as the show is done. Thank goodness.

So…RAID 0 is still called the ’scary raid’ for good reason. Now I will be unraiding all my drives and keeping them as separate disks, since I won’t be putting media on them. Even if I do, they are plenty fast on their own for the media I work with.

A couple nights ago I was at Birns and Sawyer giving a presentation on the P2 workflow with Final Cut Pro. It was a Panasonic event that was all about “OK, you shot it…now what?” Mainly DPs there, but a few people who were into post. But before I gave my presentation, Steve Holyhead of Avid gave his presentation on the P2 workflow with Avid (2.7 and higher). This is one presentation that I really didn’t want to follow…not only was Steve good, but, well, the Avid P2 workflow is so darn easy. There are “no shinanigans” as Steve puts it.

Avid captures media in the same format that Panasonic decided to use for P2…MXF. Because of that, Avid imports the files super fast, and works with them NATIVELY…no copying, no putting into a quicktime wrapper. And if you want to copy all of the footage into the media drive where Avid stores all the media (Avid MediaFiles>MXF>1) then all you have to do is consolidate the media. And the copy process is very fast…faster than if you did it on the finder level. Want to work with MXF files natively with FCP? Then you will need to shell out more dough for third party solutions (Raylight, HD Log, Calibrated, MXF4QT).

And Avid works not only with DVCPRO HD natively, it also works with AVCIntra natively as well. FCP needs to transcode it into ProRes, a process that takes time, and requires an Intel Mac to do so. AVCI and Avid…well, I can import and work with it on my G5. Very slick. And I can mix those formats on the timeline, with XDCAM and DV, and 20:1 and require no rendering. And when you import…if you uploaded metadata and assigned a User Clip Name, that name is what goes into the NAME column in Avid instead of the 001GH number that the camera generates. Meta data is mapped to columns in Avid, making the data searchable. You can do this with FCP as well, but that requires HD Log, and the steps required for HD Log are numerous.

AND IF THAT WASN’T ENOUGH…Avid, keeping in the tradition of offline editing at lower resolutions, can import the P2 footage and transcode it to lower resolution as it imports. So you can have your master archive footage, and the low res import of that. When you are done cutting, simply reconnect to the original files (or copies of them…never work with your master archives) and you are ready to output. With FCP if you wanted to work in an offline resolutions (and there are several vaild reasons you might want to do this), you first need to import the footage as Quicktime files, then use the Media Manager to RECOMPRESS the footage. So you aren’t saving any drive space because you need all the footage at full quality from the start.

So yeah, after Steve gave his brilliant demo on how Avid works with P2 rather quickly and easily, I had to get onto the stage and show off all the shinanigans needed for FCP to work with P2. I am REALLY liking Avid now.

I love do it yourself projects. And I am a fan of cheap RAID solutions, because not everyone can afford an EVO HD or HD PRO or fibrechannel drives. Heck, in my early posts I showed how I made low cost raids…and people still remember me for them. There was the Popsicle Raid (and part deux)…that got me a LOT of attention. And my do it yourself raid case, the Quiet Tower, or DARK Tower as I now call it.

But enough about my VERY low rent and cheap looking raids. How would you like to roll your own very professional looking, and acting, RAID 5 unit? How does 4TB for under $2000 grab ya?

The blog Life Zero has posted how to do just that. He uses professional raid making supplies (unlike myself, who’s spare parts included popsicle sticks) and he gets great results…look at the AJA speed tests.

The only thing I want to point out is that going cheap comes at a price (pardon the pun). There is a reason the high end RAIDs cost what they cost…engineering to get things working just right, tech support…and warranties. First look at the engineering. Looking at the speed tests he provides, yes, his numbers are slightly higher than the Caldigit HD Pro. But look at how it peaks and dips. Then look at the HD Pro speed test…it has a steady range. That is part of their ASTT…Active Sustained Transfer Technology. Meaning that they engineer things so that your transfer rate remains steady. If you dip too far, then you interrupt your data stream and you get dropped frames. Not good for many people. Then there is tech support. Who do you call if something fails? With this setup, you have four vendors to deal with, and all will point the fingers at the other guy. Warranty…because things might fail. Good raid manufacturers have good warranties.

Not to knock this setup…not at all. I think it is the bees knees, otherwise I wouldn’t have linked to it. I just wanted to explain a little about why this is cheaper and why the other guys are more expensive. I am a do-it-yourselfer…as pointed out earlier in the post. So I get it. And when I was just starting out and couldn’t afford much, if this was an option, I would have been all over it. I am still pretty tempted as it is…

I really have gotten back into the swing of things. Back into my Avid mind and trim editing. Finding a few features that I really like.

-Source audio mapping. What I mean by this is no longer to I have to click on A1 and A2 from the SOURCE window and drag the arrow to the track I want to patch them to. Nope, I simply highlight the two tracks, and ONLY those two tracks and they automatically patch themselves. LOVE that. Cannot tell you how much of a time saver that is. I wonder when this was implemented?

-New timecode burn. This I know is new with 3.0. Making an output for the producer now has lots more information, and that is VERY handy. Source TC, source CLIP NAME (this really helps as the clip name includes the camera, A or B camera) sequence code. great when you have two camera angles with the same code, now the producer can see which camera angle was used.

-Footage says MEDIA OFFLINE, but you know it is there? Simply trash the MSM files in the Avid Media Files folder and Avid automatically rebuilds the database, and reconnects the media instantly. This has been around since the dawn of Avid I believe.

-Recording VO is EASY. Capture tool and VO bin are all you need. Makes me tired of having a sequence with slug on it like I have to do in FCP.

- Title tool that shows you the image your playhead is on. GREAT for placing the text just right. Again, been with Avid for as long as I can remember. I just miss it.

But, there are a couple small drawbacks too. Like pressing PLAY to scan through the footage quickly. Avid still chokes here…even at 15:1 on the new Avid 3.0. Get past 4 clicks and stutter city. Drag scanning works fine still. And since I am working on a show with super slow motion cameras, I need this scan ability. Also when I want to move clips I have to click on the SELECT arrows and move them. An added step that I don’t like. ANd while I enjoy the 3.0.5 update at home, they only have 3.0.1 at work, so no SELECT ALL TO THE RIGHT for me at the office.

Which brings me to a big thing…interoperability. Taking a project file and using it in a variety of versions of FCP. The project was created in 3.0.1, but I can open it in 3.0.5, make changes, and then open it in 3.0.1. I even tested opening it with Avid 2.8…worked fine. BIG checkmark in Avid’s corner. With FCP you need to export XMLs, and that starts getting old, fast.

That’s it for now. Just glad that I am finally back into the swing of things.

Awaiting notes from the producer…so in a holding pattern. Good thing, as I am sick again…flu or cold relapse.

Well, things are going better. Getting into the groove of Avid. Still would like to have that feature that moves all the clips to the right here at work (Avid 3.0.5 update), but that isn’t to be. So I will have to live with it at home.

Speaking of my home system…that is a Dual 2.0Ghz G5, and it is sporting ONE monitor…not two. One Apple 23″ Cinema Display. So that makes editing in that small space a bit of a challenge. But, there is a way to make it work…and this way harkens to how I do things in FCP too. There is a feature called SUPERBINS that allows you to make one bin to rule them all. Hee. This is one window that really holds all of the open bins…this is a great feature for those of us with one monitor. The tutorial on how to get this function to work can be found on the Moviola site, right here.

Now that I have that tip on how to see the waveforms on my source files, editing music has gotten a lot easier.

And I will be going to the Avid forums and just start reading through posts. And when I have questions, or frustrations like I suffered on days 1 and 2, I will post them to get the answers. Instead of bitching about them and grumbling and yearning for my FCP system. I am all over the FCP forums, so adding the Avid ones won’t be too hard. I always perused the Avid forum on the Cow…good to just lurk and learn.

Uneventful day. Went home early, installed the Avid 3.0.5 update on the home machine (making sure to uninstall the Avid software first, THEN install the new version…really nice that Avid has an uninstaller. (Apple? FCP Uninstaller? QT Uninstaller? Please?) Then I installed all the other components, like Boris FX (gotta learn how to use that), Sorenson Squeeze and some AVX plugins. Opened the Avid software, mapped the MOVE FROM HERE button to my keyboard so that I can move the clips off to the right to make room for changes. Ahhh…too bad I can’t have this on the WORK machine. This is a great option! Huge beyond belief. Now I can get more into my FCP cutting style…well, not completely. But closer.

Might not need to go into work tomorrow…so there might not be an AVID-DAY 4. I will take that time to play with the Avid at home (when I don’t work, I work)…so there might be a DAY 4. I need another monitor though. Learning that I really like having two 20″ monitors on the system, instead of two 24″. Because my desk is smaller. The monitors aren’t so far away. I might invest in two Dell 20″ monitors ($200 each), and then use the MXO to send the video signal to the Apple Cinema Display…the MXO works with Avid as well…although not giving broadcast quality. Works as a play out device. I have the Matrox DualHead2Go so I can split one DVI port to two monitors, thus leaving the second one for the MXO. We’ll see. At least get ONE Dell so that I have two monitors. One is so…limiting.

Second day on the Avid and all I can say is that editing on this is a bit frustrating. I have gotten very used to FCP and the ability to drag clips all over the place, and move everything on the timeline down to make room to add footage. I know that the new update adds this functionality, and I will install it on my own machine, but getting it installed on the work machines might not be possible. Up to the Post Super and they tend to be very wary of updates. In the meantime, I am trying to remember how I did this with Avid’s amazing TRIM capabilities, but wasn’t having much luck. Felt like I was fumbling along. I hope to get into the swing of things soon.

My main task today was to flesh out the rough cut and add music…and that brought another level of frustration. In FCP when you open an audio file in the Viewer you can see the waveforms. You can see where the music swells and dips, and where the beats hit. This is VERY useful. In an Avid, you see black. So editing music is a bit tougher, and takes a bit longer.

So far things have been rocky…and I hope that can be attributed to me needing to relearn my Avid skills. Because while the media management rocks, mixing codecs in real time and faster reaction time on the timeline is nice, the basic editing feels rough. This is a great tool, but it feels…heavy. It does so much, but using it can be difficult…while editing on FCP (for me) is fast and fun. But then I know Avid people who get on FCP and complain just as hard that editing on FCP is like slogging thru mud. So I just need to get into my Avid game.

Cool thing is that I have upgraded the home system to 3.0.5 and brought the segment home that I am editing and it opens just fine. Did a few changes to the cut, so I’ll bring the changes in a bin to work and see if it opens and connects. But that is where Avid does excel…you can take projects back and forth in a variety of version without too much trouble. And all you need to do is take the bin (which is a separate file…Avid breaks the project into smaller files…each bin is a separate entity) to another system and open it. Good tool, very powerful. I just need to be able to have fun with it now.