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Little Frog in High Def

Musings of an NLE ronin…
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Archive for December, 2008

For the last 2 months I have been wading through interviews and b-roll. Mainly interviews. Zero transcripts…producers busy writing the other two shows. I have mainly been left to my own devices. Mainly what I have been doing is cutting “assembly” edits. Telling a story with the interviews and sound bytes that I have on hand. Culling out the good stuff and arranging it in story order. Leaving them long and full of information. I do this so that the producer can watch them and then write narration to better explain and condense what the interviewees said. Yes, this has been taking up my two months. Well, that and editing a segment or two for the other shows. But mainly it has been going over the stuff I have and trying to make a show out of it.

Now, one of the toughest parts of this is wading through all the interviews. Many of these people are boring. I mean, REALLY boring. They might be experts at what they do, but not many people are good public speakers. I know I am not…although I am getting better. But most of these people are so boring I find it tough to concentrate. Tough to stay awake and really CARE about what they are saying. Like that professor you had in college that just rambled on and on and no matter how hard you tried, or how late in the morning afternoon the class was, and how much sleep you get, keeping awake is a monumental task.

I was hit with a guy like this yesterday. Not only was he boring, but he was not the most well spoken either. UHM, AH, WELL…all over the place. Every 3rd word was a long “uuuuuhmmmmm” or “aaaaaaahhhh”…it was maddening. So instead of a nice long soundbyte, I have this thing on the timeline that looks like a chopped up carrot. CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP. Lucky to have 2 seconds of screen time.

Needless to say I was dragging my feet. This guy was boring. Sure, what he said was informative, but it was boring as heck.

But then…THEN! Then this other guy starts talking. A foreman on the site who is from a country in west Africa. Not the best english in the world, but he was dynamic and fun. He didn’t just spout out facts, but told stories that illustrated his point, and made the seemingly mundane thing seem amazing and cool. WHAT A BREATHE OF FRESH AIR! I actually sat up and leaned forward…intent on listening. Hanging on every word. Suddenly editing was fun again.

Interesting how that happened. I was dying…hating my job. Slouched in my chair and hating life as I listened to one guy…then the next moment I was at attention, rapt on every word of another. And they were talking about the SAME THING!

I encountered something similar on the documentary I worked on for History…THE MEXICAN AMERICAN WAR. A few experts were good, a couple were snorers, but one guy was vibrant. VERY vibrant. He really knew his stuff, and was a great story teller and told the story so well that I didn’t want to cut away from him to show any b-roll or stills. I wanted to see him. So I left him on screen…for 48 seconds. When the producer saw it, he loved it, and also didn’t call for any cutaways. Then the network saw it and not only wanted him on screen for the full time, but wanted MORE of him.

What is my point? Well, that just plain old droning facts are…well, boring. We all know this. We all had some teacher that just taught dates and names and we didn’t retain one OUNCE of that information later in life. I can’t recall half the history I learned in high school. But get a teacher that is great at telling a story, one that doesn’t just relate facts, but can relate a story with cause and effect, conflict and resolution, then you GRAB your audience and they are engaged.

I am currently beta testing a really cool application from Imagine Products. It’s called “ProxyMill” and what it does will save a lot of time and money.

ProxyMill will create timecoded “proxy” movies of any footage that you capture with FCP or any footage you copy off of a P2 card…automatically, in the background. All you have to do is tell it what folder to watch, and what folder to put the proxies in, then let it go.

First lets talk about how it makes movies from FCP. You tell the application what folder in the capture scratch folder to look for and then just start capturing video. When the new file appears (after it is done being captured) ProxyMill will begin to make lower res proxie in the folder you designate. They look like this:

This is the default setting of H.264 320×180 with 30 point text size. As you can see, the timecode does not cover the image at all, so you can see the entire picture.

One of the coolest things this does is make proxies from P2 cards and card dumps. When you dump a P2 card into your dump folder, ProxyMill will start making timecoded proxies of the card contents. Again, to the folder you designate, AND…I love this…AND to the PROXY folder of the P2 card. It won’t copy it to the proxy folder if it is locked, but if you unlock it, it can write to that folder. This way you have proxy video on all your archived backups.

What can you use this proxy for? Well, at the end of the shoot day you can copy all of these proxies to a hard drive to hand to the client or producer so they can see what was shot (They are working on iPod and iPhone presets too!) and use these for paper edits. You can also send these to transcription houses (verify what codecs they want) to have transcripts made.

This is a huge time and money saver. Saved time for you or the assistant editor stringing out the P2 footage onto the timeline, adding timecode and then exporting out as quicktimes. NO more wasted time and money making DVDs of all the footage for producers and transcription houses. The ability to send the client home with footage after the shoot day.

Keep an eye out for it in January.

This pretty much sums up any HUGE monster movie or alien invasion movie ever made…


President To Face Down Monster Attack, Own Demons In Action-Packed Schedule

I can’t find an “announcement” area in the Avid site that says this, but here is the sticky thread on the Avid MC for Mac forum. Link to the README is there.

Biggest difference, Tiger is no longer supported. Leopard only. Avid is moving fast these days with updates. Used to take a year or so for anything back in the OS 9 days…Meridian days.

Now, I wonder if this fixes the audio issue I am having with 3.0.5 and Nitris. This audio bug does not happen at home where I don’t have the hardware, but here at work 3 out of 4 machines have the issue, and a few people on the forums do as well. Updating my home system won’t tell me if the bug is fixed, so while I downloaded it I don’t know if I will install it yet. And for the machines at work to be updated…well, that is up to the rental company and the production company and given the track record of past updates, this won’t happen until a project wraps. I wonder if I could plead my case. This audio issue REALLY slows me down and takes me out of “the zone.”

Anyway…Now I have to work on my fine cut. The new draft of the script really changed things and rearranged things (typical), so I have holes to fill and music to fix. Pacing to get right. The usual.

Lately when I have been working with P2 footage I have been avoiding Final Cut Pro’s time consuming and metadata stripping option of LOG AND TRANSFER. Mainly because a lot of the footage I have been working with lately (in FCP) has a lot of metadata that was put there by the camera guy, like LOCATION and USER CLIP NAME and name of subject…useful stuff. You can see most of this in the FCP Log and Transfer window, but after you import…poof, it is gone.

So I have been using MXF4QT lately. And the CF Flow CM plugin for it really makes the import of this footage into FCP pretty darn slick. Wanna see it? DO YA?

Well, my buddy Jeremy Garchow at the Creative Cow has a great video tutorial on how this all works.

Tellin’ ya…darn slick. About as slick as working with MXF in Avid. That is built in slick.

Last week I received the Matrox MXO 2. As you may or may not know, I am a huge fan of the original Matrox MXO as a low cost/high quality HD monitoring option for those who capture footage via firewire or work with tapeless cameras. The NEW MXO is great as it allows for input as well as output.

Now, I haven’t run it through it’s paces yet, as I am working on a show using Avid, but I have played with it a little. I can get a decent looking image from it to one of my Dell 2405 monitors via Component. Nothing I would ever use to color correct to, but it is a decent client monitor to SEE what you have.

But I wanted to use both of my Dells as computer monitors, and use the Apple Cinema Display as the client monitor. But the MXO 2 doesn’t have DVI out…only the MXO 1 does. So I tried to get tricky and get an image on that ACD via an HDMI to DVI converter. Since the signal is essentially the same. So I ran to Fry’s Electronics to get the cables, needing instant gratification…and I paid for it. Ugh, order online when you can. Cables at the store are EXPENSIVE. SO I hooked everything up and…nothing. The ACD wouldn’t even turn on. Like it didn’t detect a signal or anything. SO I tried one of the Dells. That one got a signal, but not what I was expecting. It was an upside down waterfall of color…like a crazy WHIP PAN of light…like the kind we saw in that old BATMAN TV series…only down to up instead of side to side.

So I asked Matrox (and posed the question on LAFCPUG…thread jacking in the process) why this was. Andy Mees (on LAFCPUG) suggested that it was because the ACD and Dell are 1920×1200 monitors, and the MXO 2 is sending out a 1920×1080 signal…and they don’t know what the heck to do with a 1920×1080 signal. Then I got an e-mail from Matrox today confirming that. If you want to use the ACD, you need the MXO. The MXO 2 requires an HD LCD production monitor, or an HDTV. BUT, not to fret too much. I can get a decent HDTV with HDMI in for $300 from NewEgg.

BUT…on an interesting side note. I did get the MXO working with Avid. Full screen presentation mode. Easily done on a secondary computer monitor, but I was able to get it onto my HD CRT. With the aid of the Matrox TripleHead2Go. I’ll post about that soon.

Well, I will post something. I am very tired, but I owe you something…LOYAL READERS! TRUE BELIEVERS! (Quoting Stan Lee).

Let me talk a little about what I have been doing. I have been editing. Well, that is a TAD obvious. But if you have been following me on Twitter (they show up on the right of the blog) you will note that I am editing without a script. Well, a COUPLE of times I was handed a script and assigned to edit an act for another show (the show I am on is a three part special), but when it comes to MY show, I’ve got nothing. We have two producers and two shows ahead of mine in the production, so they are getting priority.

So…what do I do in this case? I started by just looking at all the footage I had…like a good editor. But then that was done and I needed to do SOMETHING. So I listened to the interviews in their entirety and started pulling selects. We have no transcripts so this makes this interesting. Instead of re-arranging the words on the page, I do it on the timeline. I am taking the interview selects and arranging them to tell a story…doing what we call an “assemble edit.” This is what one normally does on feature docs when you have more time, and little cash. Or on any show where you have a small budget.

Normally, as the other editor is doing (we have 4 editors, one per show and one floater who fills in the gaps) we will just throw these interviews into some assemblence of a story, and then throw footage that might fit the story. But I have gone a little beyond the call and edited three segments as self contained acts, complete with music, with ONLY the interviews. We will have VO, but it will be sparse. This was fun for the first three segments, but very time consuming. So I have resorted to doing what the other guy is doing…arranging the interview bytes to tell a story, trying to fill it out with b-roll (footage) and then outputting for the producer to see. So that he can get a rough idea of the footage and the story that we have. He will then write a script and we take it from there, using the rough footage we dropped into the assembly, and then delving more into the other stuff.

OK…that is what I am up to. It is very time consuming, but I REALLY know the footage well, and the interviews well. VERY different from the last show I worked on, where I was handed a script and then had to edit without even being able to look at all the footage I had. Just scanned quickly and threw what I could. Not fun.

Falling asleep. Time to go.

EDIT: The following text is in response to a comment, but I figured not too many people read the comments and this is a fairly important point, so I put it here for all to see. And it bears a full blog post in the future, for sure.

Producers TYPICALLY will review all of the footage, get transcripts of the interviews, and then write based on the interviews and information they have. They will incorporate interview bytes, and might do narration to sum up other parts of the interviews. And further narration to explain stuff they have found in their research. And they might include in this script image and b-roll suggestions based on the footage they have viewed. They might even have a process in mind so the suggestion is a firm one. But they generally leave it up to me to find and work with the footage.

The amount of back and forth I have with the producer depends on the producer and how long we have worked together. Some producers I actually get input BEFORE production starts. On ANDREW JACKSON I talked with the producer about the importance of the TRAIL OF TEARS and displacement and deaths of hundreds of thousands of Indians. Because of this he scheduled interviews with Native leaders and scholars and devoted an entire act to this. Something the “other” Andrew Jackson docs either don’t talk about or gloss over. This got us pretty good responses from the public and scholars. We showed a very balanced view of Jackson, and a conflicting one. He was a great man that did great things and took on the establishment, defeated the British…yet he was horrible to Indians.

Other producers crave my input as well. This is why they like to hire editors who are good story tellers…does this work? Does that not? I can suggest changes or rearrange things and show them those changes to see if they like them. I have even written VO that was then added to the final script.

And I have worked with producers who are the ring leaders and masters of their domain and want it their way…period. I am just a button pusher and how dare I suggest a story point to them? So, it all depends on who you work with.

Forget about the RED camera. What you really want is the BLUE camera.

Only sold at IKEA…with an allen wrench. Or so I hear.

My buddy Scott Simmons of the EditBlog revealed via Twitter that he was getting Adobe CS4. I asked him in a flurry of e-mails how this might handle long form cutting. Because from what I heard in all the forums and podcasts I peruse, this is great for short form and effects work, but I heard nothing about longform editors using it. Feature films and broadcast TV shows all use Avid and FCP, but I know of not one using Premiere. So I asked Scott a few questions that I hoped he could answer, and he did, via this blog post.

NOW…I am very sorry that I haven’t been posting lately. I do have a lot to talk about, mainly non-technical stuff about editing and workflow and how to edit when you don’t have a script and stuff like that. But in NOT having a script to edit to, it takes longer and thus a lot of time I have is used for that. And for editing video for friend’d 40th birthday parties, taking the family to Disneyland often (we have annual passes) and breaking toes on stoves (only one, thank goodness). I will endeavor to get SOMETHING up soon.