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Little Frog in High Def

Musings of an NLE ronin…
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Archive for March, 2010

Not sure what to code name the project I am working on.  There are times when I can’t reveal the projects I am working on until I can announce an air date.  I guess I can call this the “LONG BEACH” job, as that is where I am commuting to.

First off let me say that after a year of finishing work…online and color correction…it is pure joy to get back into the creative editing saddle.  But also a bit scary.  Now I am in the ho tseat for making sure that the story works.  But mostly, I am excited to be creative cutting again.

The hardest part of editing, to me, is the rough cut.  Because this is the time you are seeing things for the first time, the script (if you have one), and the footage. This is when you have to make the initial creative decisions that need to be made, decisions that you know might be changed, or nixed, in the future.  You both have to edit, and review your footage at the same time, and you have to try to assemble things in order to tell a story.

In this stage I find that I make a decision…cover a sound byte with some footage that I think works…and move on, and later find some footage that better works in that spot, so I go back and replace it.  Or I have a “sound up” (a piece of b-roll where I allow the audio to be heard) that I think works better, and I replace that too.  It’s like two steps forward, and then one step back as I go back and make changes.  I recall trying to change my habit and just push on, try to save the other footage to replace later during the fine cut, but I found that  I lost my inspiration for using that footage, or just plain forgot where the footage was.  So I now edit, then go back and replace things as I find better things to replace with.

But all in all it is a race to the finish line.  Get the audio laid out, fill it with b-roll and sound ups….maybe add music if the producers require it.  THAT task in itself tends to add not only hours, but a day or two to the edit.  But I’m not sure what I prefer…to edit without music or with for the rough cut…depends on the schedule.  If I have more time up front, I add the music, if I don’t, if my schedule is shorter in the front with more time for fixes, then I add it later.  I am in a bit of a rush this time as I do have a deadline to meet.  I have to get the first half of the doc rough cut before I take a week off to go to Vegas for NAB.  The producer will take that time to review my cuts, and look at the remaining footage to help them in writing the script.

Speaking of the script…

In documentary editing, you might have a fully flushed out script, or you might have no script, and you need to find the story in the footage.  I have been in both situations.  But this situation is kinda cool in that I have a sort of script outline.  I am provided with interview bytes, and possible sound up footage, but I am really given a lot of creative freedom.  That does have a way of making me more invested in the cut than if I was given a full script.  Although there are times when you have a full script that you can, if you find better stories and footage, replace that with your find.

I am struggling a bit with the Avid.  I’m afraid I have become WELL accustomed to the open timeline…that is, the ability to grab and move clips all about….like slips of paper on your desk.  This, to me, is more intuitive…perhaps because when I do a doc, often times I will have scenes on note cards and will re-arrange them to try to find a better way of telling a story.  I will edit something, but then find that the first half works better up front, so I want to swap things, but my audio trackes are layered (L cut and J cut), so the simple YELLOW OPEN SELECT arrow won’t work. I like to move things aside to make a hole, and then grab a full section and move it down…which I can do in the Avid MC now.  They have the SELECT ALL RIGHT and ALL LEFT options, to that has helped greatly.  But I find that I need to do a lot of clicking to make things work.  Even when I go into TRIM mode, I have to click click click on the track selectors to lighlight the right ones (I am working on the lasso thing…gimme time).

It’s taking a little getting used to.  But I feel that trim mode is great when you are editing narrative projects, like dramatic TV or features, but the open segment mode of FCP is better for documentary work.  I can’t speak to Reality TV, I have yet to edit one.

OK, that is enough babble from me.  Glad that I now have some time to write as I take the subway back and forth to work.  But I feel that now my blog posts will get to be a tad long…or numerous.  So…sorry in advance.

While on this project, which is shot 100% with P2, BTW, I have encountered a couple issues.

#1 – Occasionally media files go missing.  This was a big issue that kept happening before I came on board.  The company was running Avid Media Composer 2.7.7 and using the IMPORT P2 option.  But on occasion media would just go offline, and they’d have to reimport.  When I got the job I recommended that they upgrade to MC 4.0…because I saw that they had an Intel Mac, and from experience I knew that their Adrenaline would still work with 4.0…and MC 4.0 has a more robust P2 workflow. They did upgrade, and so far things have been going smoothly, until yesterday, when media went offline.  TO be fair, this was media imported with the old version, only a couple cards have been imported with the new version, and those are still present. But it is maddening to have media just go offline.  So, without my assistant at hand, who knows what media came from what card, I was going to import the footage myself.  BUT….now onto issue #2…

#2 – Avid MC doesn’t have any way for the user to see where the media came from, at least none that I can see.  I’m darn sure that it knows where it came from, but it just isn’t sharing.  In Final Cut Pro, the REEL number is the name of the P2 backup folder that contains the card dumps.  So when you look at a clip, you see that it came from the LAX_033010_01 card.  No so with Avid MC.  The REEL number is blank, and when I looked at all the other columns, I don’t see anything relating to that.  And, to top it off, the file only shows the USER CLIP NAME for one camera.  This is the handy thing where you can create scene files and set them in camera so that the clips have names relating to what you are shooting.  Handy, in some ways.  Better than that 0004GH name that Panasonic assigns…in some ways.  It allows you to know right away where that footage came from and what it is for.  But unlike the 0004GH name, I can’t search for that in Spotlight or just the Finder to find the card that contains the missing shot.  That name is buried in the metadata.

So, I just have to wait for my ever vigilant assistant to come in and reimport the footage.  Hopefully this will stop happening   I blame it on the old MC causing issues.  Like I had some issues with the first version of FCP that supported P2, 5.0.4.  Things improve with time.  I am reporting this tracking issue to the people I know, and I hope that either I get an answer on how to find this footage, or they will institute some fix in a new version of MC.  Which MUST be around the corner, as their record for update releases of late have meant new updates every 2 weeks!  OK, I kid…every 6 months/year.

And I guess the solution for knowing which P2 dump folder the footage came from, is to make one bin per card, and then manually add the dump folder name to a custom field in that bin.  Perhaps the reel?  Or will that mess things up?  Just in case, we’ll make it a different column.

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

Just when you thought a show was done…they PULL you back in! Creative notes given after the show was onlined and fully mixed.

To play in your browser or download direct, click here.

To subscribe to this podcast in iTunes, CLICK HERE.

Bryce over at Post Fifth Pictures has a great post about the “L cut.” It is a great editing tip about how to deal with audio in your cut…having audio from one take running under another.  Makes for smoother audio.  And this is a technique used in Narrative as well as Documentary productions.  It is a basic of editing, as basic as three point editing.

Go check it out for yourself.

I’ll take a moment of of my day editing on an Avid to deal with something in the Final Cut Studio world.  Specifically, Apple just released an update to the entire package today.  Get it HERE.

Pro Applications Update 2010-01 improves overall stability and addresses a number of other minor issues. This update is recommended for all users of Final Cut Studio, Final Cut Server, and Logic Studio.


Issues addressed in this update include the following.

Final Cut Pro
• Fixes an issue with clip duration when removing reverse speed.
• Fixes an issue with the Log and Capture window that could prevent the window from closing.
• Fixes an issue with HDV to Apple ProRes capture via FireWire creating a QuickTime movie with no extension in the Finder.

Cinema Tools
• Fixes an issue with importing telecine logs.

Motion
• Fixes stability issues when using Motion on computers with limited graphics or system memory.
• Addresses issues with filters returning rendered results at lower quality.
• Fixes an issue with the Checkerboard generator rendering incorrectly in 3D.
• Corrects an image corruption problem when rendering complex projects in 32-bit float after applying a motion blur.
• Fixes issues with aspect ratios of shapes in projects created by choosing File > Import as Project.
• Improves the rendering precision of intersecting objects in some 3D scenes.

Compressor
• Corrects disk size limitation messages when burning a project to an AVCHD dual-layer disc.
• Fixes issues with long chapter names and titles not appearing correctly in disc templates.
• Fixes issues when inserting a DVD-R or BD-RE disc with data already present.
• Addresses issues with saving and changing music channels and video using surround sound.
• Corrects color shift when transcoding image sequences.
• Fixes an issue with WAV audio files when transcoding an image sequence.
• Addresses an issue with upload to MobileMe with files containing reserved characters.
• Corrects a problem when burning a Blu-ray or DVD disc from a Final Cut Pro sequence with 5.1 surround sound.
• Fixes an issue with display of password-protected movies on iPhone.
• Addresses a pixel aspect ratio compatibility issue.
• Improves stability when processing large batches.

Color
• Fixes an issue with CFX nodes not being imported when choosing File > Import > Color Corrections.
• Addresses several problems with the loading and processing of trackers.
• Fixes an issue with the green channel on video scopes displaying an incorrect value.

Release notes:

FCP

http://support.apple.com/kb/TS2521?viewlocale=en_US

Compressor

http://support.apple.com/kb/TS2511

Cinema Tools

http://support.apple.com/kb/TS2513

Color

http://support.apple.com/kb/TS2512

Motion

http://support.apple.com/kb/TS2509

QMASTER

http://support.apple.com/kb/TS2543

I am currently in the “rough cut” phase of my latest show.  And this, to me, is the most difficult part.  This is where I need to make something out of nothing.  Well, not NOTHING, as there is a lot of stuff there that you use.  But this is the part of the phase that I need to look at ALL of my somethings, and cull it down and string it out and arrange it in a way to tell a good story.  I am taking all these threads of stories, and footage, and weaving them into some rough story.  There’s no need to be perfect at first, just get things in the right order, then you can start making it look good.  So I guess this is a two phase, or three phase process.

First off, if you are lucky enough to have a script, this entails first making a RADIO CUT, that is, recording the temp narration, and then laying it out with the interview bytes into the proper order.  So that when you close your eyes, you can hear the story and it is in order and makes sense. When you are done doing that, you go back and fill it in with b-roll and on camera sound bytes…and music.

If you aren’t lucky enough to have a script, this is far more envolved.  You need to listen to all the interview bytes, and add markers, or subclip what they say and note what they say.  It would be nice to have transcripts of these interviews, so you can make a paper edit, or read for the sound bytes as that is faster than listening, but you don’t always have this luxury either.  In cases like this I make subclips of what people say, and often drop these into sequences and add other soundbytes as I go along, grouping them by topic.  Then stringing it out, and filling it in with the footage and music.

Or, if you are in between those, like I am, you might have a rough outline, with some sound bytes (and the timecode where to find them, hopefully), in which you can start to build from.  I am currently in the middle of a rough cut of Act 1, and I have some sound bytes to use, but there was a section in there where all it said was “friendly back and forth.”  That’s a pretty big thing to say.  Like the part in the script of a Jackie Chan movie where all it says is “fight scene.”  You know that in those movies, that is a pretty big part of the movie.  This is many hours of footage, and not all of it riveting.  So I need to cull it down a bit. I have been, and I found other sound bytes that go along well with what is happening.

When in a rush to get a show done, I like having a full script.  But I really do enjoy the rough outline, as the producer gives me the general direction that they want me to go in, and add sound bytes to punctuate what they want to say, but then give me a bit of “free reign” to have creative input of my own.  I know full well that what I do might be cut down drastically, but at least I got a shot, and this way I get to know the footage better.

Now, as I am hoping to commute to work more on the train, I will see if I can do more daily updates of things I did, with specific editing tasks, to give a clearer picture of, well, MY editing process.  That is if I don’t find an audio book that is too engrossing.

I started my new job on Tuesday, and this time I find myself in front of an Avid Media Composer.  And what’s REALLY cool about it, is that it is the lastest version of Media Composer. When I interviewed I asked what version they were running, and they said MC Adrenaline version 2.7.7.  That’s pretty old, but a fine version.  But when I got the job, I asked them if they would be willing and able to upgrade to Media Composer 4.0.  My main reasons are that they shot everything on Panasonic P2, and P2 support on MC 4.0 is much better than 2.7.7.  Plus we will be needing to add some stock footage, and to be able to take advantage of Avid’s Mix and Match would be a real time saver.  And other enhancements like SELECT ALL RIGHT or LEFT and transition preservation, it would be a real timesaver and a benefit to me and the production.

Apparently I did a good job of selling this, because before I started, they updated the system.  I cannot tell you how happy that made me.  Oh, but that’s not the point of this blog post, so I’ll move on.

While I am taking these first couple days to familiarize myself with the footage, I find myself resorting to an old practice I had of making select reels.  This isn’t uncommon, this is a standard practice for Avid editors.  What I do is when I run across some good footage, I add it to a sequence.  This sequence is a select reel.  I do this for each scene, or location, or interview.  I have  a bin called SELECT REELS in which I store these, and I will often refer to them.

I can then load this sequence into the PREVIEW monitor (Viewer for all you FCP folks) and scan through it for footage when I cut, and when I cut them into the sequence, they bring over the original clips.  There is even a toggle on the bottom of the timeline that will toggle between the timeline in the Preview Monitor, and the main sequence.  Very handy to have.

Now, you can do this in FCP too, but the default way FCP does this is to NEST the footage from the Viewer to the timeline.  VERY odd behavior, and something I don’t want.  I get past this by mapping OVERWRITE WITH CONTENT to F12, and INSERT WITH CONTEST to F11.  Then the behavior mimics what the Avid does.  But FCP doesn’t have a way to toggle between the sequence in Viewer…which is why in FCP I tend to COPY/PASTE from one sequence to another, because I can have more than one sequence open at a time.

That’s my Avid MC tip of the day.  I’ll see if I can come up with more while I edit…perhaps this will help people just learning Avid.  I might not get to one tip a day, but I’ll try my best.  Maybe a tip of the week?  Because some things are so second nature, I might not recognize it as a cool tip.

Oliver Peters has a great blog post that compares Avid Media Composer, Final Cut Pro built it 3-way color corrector, Color, Magic Bullet Looks, Magic Bullet Colorista and Adobe Premiere.  This is a follow up to a blog post I wrote here, in which we had a great back and forth about the color wheels and how they reacted in different apps.

VERY nice in depth look at this.

OK, here is the Color Correction before and after of AFTERGLOW.

Well, HERE is the before and after. Link to big movie.

Here is a spec commercial that I color corrected. Shot on 35mm, edited on Avid, color corrected using COLOR. I’ll be putting the before and after on my reel in a few days. But until then…

“AFTERGLOW” – Prince Tennis spec commercial (HD) from Todd Kaufman on Vimeo.

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

In this one I talk about how starting a new job always excites me.

To play in your browser or download direct, click here.

To subscribe to this podcast in iTunes, CLICK HERE.

If you follow my Twitter feed, you will note that I landed a new job.  This new job will be a History Channel two hour special, and I will be using an Avid Adrenaline (v2.7.7) to edit.  Now, while I am a HUGE FCP advocate and known world wide as an FCP editor and expert…I also know Avid Media Composer.  In fact, that is the first edit system I learned, back in 1995.  I edited with that system exclusively until 2005, when I made the switch to FCP.   Since then I have been editing primarily with FCP, but a few Avid jobs have come up…including the one I will be starting in a week or two.

I mention this as a way to say that, knowing both systems is VERY important in today’s post production market.  Don’t be labelled as an “FCP Editor” or “Avid Editor.”  Just be known as simply, an editor.  You need to be known as someone who can use either tool, because that will make you far more marketable.

Lately I have seen more friends and ex-coworkers remaining out of work because they don’t know how to edit on an Avid MC, or with FCP.  Recently a couple shows I have been working on shut down, in fact I am finishing up the online of the last few.  But the editors of those shows have been done for a while, and are in the market for new jobs.  And one of the producers here has many  many job leads that he gave all of us.  The issue is that pretty much all of them are for companies that use Avid MCs.  And a couple editors don’t know how to use the Avid MC, so the job leads are pretty much dead for them.

This is not a good situation.  By knowing only one NLE, in a town that is pretty evenly split between Avid MC and FCP, you have cut your job prospects in half.  And when post jobs are hard to come by, that is not a good situation to be in, to say the least.

So do yourself a favor…learn the other NLE.  When it comes to Avid MC, they have made this easy.  Avid offers a 30-day demo of Avid Media Composer.  Full feature demo…nothing held back.  You can download the software, capture footage via firewire, or use Avid Media Access to ingest tapeless media, and begin cutting.  Learn how the Avid works.  Go to the Avid YouTube channel and watch the demos.  Look at the demo they have a Lynda.com for Avid Express Pro (a lot of the features will be the same). Take this time you have off, or time in the evening if you do have a job, to learn this.

FCP doesn’t have a free demo…sorry about that.  They make it cheap and that is how it is accessible.  It would be very nice if they had a demo though.  But, there are TONS MORE tutorials out there for FCP, so you won’t be short on instructional material.  Lynda.com has tons, there are a few on CreativeCow.net, and YouTube…all over.

So take this time off and put it to good use.  Or if you are working and want to make yourself more marketable, then take your evenings or days off to learn the application.  Or if you can afford it, take a class.  Hands on with an instructor is second to none.

Now, I don’t mean to exclude Adobe Premiere or Sony Vegas or Edius or other NLEs.  It’s just that, in Los Angeles, as well as other major markets, Avid and FCP are the main NLE’s that companies that hire outside editors or freelancers use.  If there is a big market for Premiere editors in your area, then it would be wise to learn that software as well.

Good luck.

EDIT: Here are some very good links for learning the Avid. Just about everything you need to get you started, including sample media!

Video tutorials:

http://community.avid.com/forums/t/67003.aspx

http://community.avid.com/forums/t/71781.aspx

http://learn.avid.com/content/tutorials/

Sample Media:

http://www.avid.com/register/mcsoft_dl.asp

MC v4.0 What’s New:

http://avid.custkb.com/avid/app/selfservice/search.jsp?DocId=289951

Install Guide:

http://avid.custkb.com/avid/app/selfservice/search.jsp?DocId=263251

MC Basic Guide:

http://avid.custkb.com/avid/app/selfservice/search.jsp?DocId=289465

MC Advanced Guide:

http://avid.custkb.com/avid/app/selfservice/search.jsp?DocId=289457

Advanced Effects Guide:

http://avid.custkb.com/avid/app/selfservice/search.jsp?DocId=289395

Color Correction:

http://avid.custkb.com/avid/app/selfservice/search.jsp?DocId=289409

Best Practices:

http://avid.custkb.com/avid/app/selfservice/search.jsp?DocId=245361

MC Help Menu:

http://avid.custkb.com/avid/app/selfservice/search.jsp?DocId=346171

Not including stuff for FCP as you can throw a virtual rock on the interweb tubes and hit about 5000 things FCP related. Lynda.com being your one stop shop. BUT, this is also a good resource…at Apple: http://documentation.apple.com/en/finalcutpro/

About two and a half years ago, Alpha Dogs in Burbank, host of the Editor’s Lounge, had their first HD monitor shootout.  There were nine monitors, all 8-bit 24″ monitors and they all looked pretty different.  A couple were close, but it was amazing that they all weren’t.

Well, last week Alpha Dogs held another Editor’s Lounge, and this time, the panels were all pretty darn close.  VERY close, and that’s what you like to see.  Instead of writing the review here, I’ll link to the Post Magazine article that has a quote of my quick summary.

So, that project that I took from FCP and converted to Avid, you know, this, this and this one?  Well, after sending off three of five masters, we got notes back.  Not QC (quality check) notes like one would expect, but some more online notes like “blur this more, blur that…and blur that,” and “the graphics are the old ones, please replace with the new ones, link below, and the font needs to change as well.”  But notes like, “instead of blurring that shot, can we replace it?  And the sound byte here seems to cut short, can we fix that?  And this series of stills, they repeat too much, can we replace with others?”  More than a few CREATIVE notes.  Notes that should have been sent before we mixed audio and onlined and color corrected.

The producers did manage to talk down the number of notes to just a few, but a couple of those included the creative notes.  But those were handled without too much difficulty.  I fixed the Master, then I needed to fix the textless version.  But then…oh yeah, I needed to fix the AVID project too.  I had done all these changes on the FCP cuts, because I onlined in FCP, and just converted to Avid after I was done.

I wondered if I could just export another AAF via Automatic Duck Pro Export and have that cut reconform in Avid, connecting to the media that already existed.  But after a few attempts (with help from Wes), I couldn’t get the media to connect.  I unlinked the clips changed the source names to match, and tried to connect, but no go.  So I had to just redo the cuts AGAIN.  It wasn’t so bad, it just took a bit of concentration, exact number matching…and an hour.

Then I needed to add Bars to the front of the Avid Sequence.  I neglected to do this the first time.  But, how did I do that?  I had been on FCP so long, I didn’t know where to look.  I remembered that you went through the mixer to create tone media, but for the life of me, I couldn’t find the way to make BARS in the menus.  So I had to ask someone…I wanted to avoid the forums as to not seem like a complete hack.  But here I am, telling everyone how I forgot where to get color bars…whatever.  We all forget things like this.

So I asked Bryce of Post Fifth Pictures as he was on iChat, and used Avid every day.  He explained that I go FILE>IMPORT and then look in the Avid Media Composer folder, then Supporting Files, and in there are TEST PATTERNS.  Import the ColorBars.pict and I was good to go.  Oh, but then the sequence started at 59:59:00…and I needed it to start at 58:00;00.  I remembered that the command to get the window to change this was CMD-I (on the Mac), but it wasn’t working.  Again, Bryce reminded me that I need to click on the Composer window, THEN click CMD-I.  Brilliant!

Now I just need a gig cutting on the Avid so I can get my Avid legs back…

OK, GO

Mar 2

Time for another “I-don’t-have-anything-to-blog-about-today” link to a cool video.

I wonder how many takes they did until this one?