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Little Frog in High Def

Adventures in Editing
Little Frog In High Def


Archive for July, 2008

This has been a very busy couple weeks for me…as you can see from my lack of posting. Often I will be dealing with 6 shows at a time…in a single day…as well as being the resident HD and FCP in house expert…I get ALL the questions.

ANYWAY…I want to start talking a bit about Avid. I am not only an FCP guy…I just started down this path when it offered HD solutions that Avid did not. And for a while those solutions were what kept me firmly in FCP. But I still use Avid and like the product. They have had some rocky times with the Adrenaline…enough to make one want to give up on Avid altogther. But I know that was just a hiccup.

Back in January, when Avid announced the huge price reduction on their Media Composer line (half price…from $5000 to $2500), I got my hands on a copy of version 2.8. And when I loaded it up on my computer I was greeted by a familiar interface. One that I felt quite at home with. I decided to edit a small personal project with it

Everything I liked and wanted was there. The Paint effect, the Animatte, the great trim mode. The ability to put locators on the timeline, and have them shift when I make changes like trims or additions. All these little things that make Avid as strong as it is.

But then I was confronted by all the things that frustrated me. Having to click on one of the Selection tools in order to grab and move a clip. The fact that I have to also click on the spaces in between the clips in order to move whole groups. If you have a small bit with ONE FRAME that isn’t highlighted…the computer beeps at you. And moving on the timeline was like walking through molasses in December.

That was the big draw to FCP…the speed in which I can manipulate footage on the timeline and zip back and forth. There were all these great features that Avid has, but these little things tended to get me down.

Then I saw a demo of Avid 3.0 at NAB, in a one on one (well, one on four…one of me, four of the Avid folk) meeting in a hotel next to the convention center. And the stuff they showed me. Yeah, they had all the technical enhancments to show off. And I was duly impressed with those. But then they showed off the small things…the thing that make the day to day editing a joy. A zippier timeline, an open selection tool (meaning you can turn on the select tool and move things around and leave it on), a new timecode filter.

That wowed me. And I was looking forward to getting my hands on that version.

And now I have. It took a while, as I moved and the package arrived at the old address, but required a signature, so I had to go to FedEx to get it. And then I installed it on the laptop and it didn’t work. Oh, wait, I needed to update the dongle. OK, got that. OH…great, I don’t have enough RAM (requires 2GB). So I finally erased one of the drives in my G5 and installed Leopard (another Avid 3.0 requirement) and installed it yesterday.

All this time I was being helped by the able staff at Avid. It took a while to get things working because, well, I was very busy (work, moving, system not hooked up) and only had a certain window I could do things, and so getting things running took a couple days. If I was on the phone with them right then and there and my system was up, then I am sure I would have gotten it figured out in a matter of minutes. This is a FAR cry from the Avid support I am familiar with from the past. HOURS on hold, or awaiting a call back. Or even days. And then staff that was less than helpful, either not as knowledgeable, or snotty. I rarely called them, relying on other editors and local Avid rental houses for support. That seems to have changed for the better.

So last night I finally got Avid 3.0 installed and running on my Powermac G5 (my MacPro is still in production). So now I can start playing with it. Capturing the type of footage I normally deal with…and can capture without a MOJO or ADRENALINE box. DVCPRO HD from tape, P2 and DV. Might be a while before I can do this, however. Next week I am flying to NJ for business, then off to Montana for a week for vacation. But, I will take the time in Montana to get some really good footage to work with. I have a documentary I have been planning on doing, and I think I will finally start shooting some footage for it.

I’ll keep you posted.

About two months ago Promax, a Value Added Reseller (VAR) for Apple and Final Cut Pro located here in Southern California went out of business. Well, it looks like they are back in business.

VARs are struggling because people are configuring and buying their own Final Cut Pro systems, thinking that they can do it on their own. A few can, but many people lack the technical knowledge needed to build and test and basically get a fully functional working FCP edit station. This is the value of a VAR…the build and test and certify working Final Cut Pro editing systems.

When ProMax left…they left a big gaping hole. Who would people buy from now? There are others out there, like Keycode Media. But competition is a good thing.

One HUGE thing that you need to get right to ensure a really good working Final Cut Pro system is the perfect balance of Final Cut Pro and Quicktime. Quicktime is the engine in FCP, everything that FCP captures it captures as Quicktime. So having the right version for the version of FCP you are using is critical. If you use a version that is too new, you will have issues. Too old…issues. But for there was never a real comprehensive list of what version of QT works best with your version of FCP. Us editors just had to know.

Until now.

Here is that list. Thanks to Jon Chappell over at Digital Rebellion.


Ken Stone wrote a VERY in depth article on the Matrox MXO over at He goes into how to set the device up when you pull it out of the box, and into all of the various settings in the MXO System preference.

Kinda puts My MXO article to shame. OK, it is actually a very good companion piece. Very good.

Thanks Ken.

I spent the better part of the day watching footage for the latest segment I will be editing. I started yesterday, but was pulled away to re-edit another segment I worked on…address a few notes the producer had. Which was fine, because I didn’t have a script for the latest segment yet. And watching footage after you read the script, or at least have an idea what the story is, is far more productive than if you have no idea what the story is supposed to be.

Looking at the footage without knowing the story is just…well, looking at random images. You don’t know HOW you should be looking at the footage. In what context the footage should be viewed. When you get the script, or story thesis, you begin to view the footage as puzzle pieces. This footage can be used here, this footage was meant to go there…ahhh, THAT’S why they shot that the way they did. It is meant as recreation. Now that makes sense.

With a script in your hand, you can watch the footage and begin editing in your head, and start sorting the footage into “selects” bins so you can find it much easier. Getting to know your footage is one thing, but with an idea of how it should be used is much more useful. This goes for documentary and narrative.

Getting into the creative realm of TV and movies and even radio is one thing, but to actually succeed is another. It not only takes talent, it takes PERSISTANCE. Everyone starts out making bad projects. I look back at my stuff and wince. But practice makes perfect.

Let Ira tell you. He’s better at this than I am.

OK, I am back after a long weekend on a lake where I had NO internet access (yaay!) and I have dropped back into the frying pan and fire of work…AND I am in the middle of packing the house so that I can move a mile away to another house (owners coming home to the current house earlier than expected)…so I have nothing new to really write about…well, nothing that I have TIME to write about. I have lots that I do want to write, but very little time to do anything.

SO…I will take this opportunity to point out yet another great blog about editing, this one by Oliver Peters, who is a regular on the FCP-L and Avid-L at Yahoo and pops up on a few forums. He has a great blog post about his top ten tips for a better Final Cut Pro editing experience. And they are really nice tips. Starts of running with tip #1 (that not many people know about, and they SHOULD) and just keeps on running.

Tip 6 seems along the lines of the organizational tips I give in my FCP organizational DVD…and tip 7 is utter gold. Reference movies are problematic…pure and simple.

I’ll stop typing…I don’t have time for this. Get over to Oliver’s blog and get informed!

So one of the editors here, who has been bitching about FCP since day one, finally told me today what his biggest frustration was.

“The system just isn’t stable. I crash ALL THE TIME. 8-12 times a day. I can’t frickin’ work.”

OK, so he didn’t say “frickin.'” I toned that down a little bit. But he was crashing left and right…doing simple things. It wasn’t consistent.

So I pulled the Crash Log and sent that to someone who could decifer them…and his report was simple. “He needs to update Quicktime. He is running 7.3.1 and that had issues. QT 7.4.1 solved that issue.”

Wait, he didn’t have QT 7.4.1? I have 7.4.1…all the other bays have 7.4.1 (I checked). He didn’t. We are all supposed to be running the same versions of QT and FCP (ideally the OS too, but we aren’t…so…whatever)…because FCP relies so

heavily on QT.

Hmmm…but where to get this version of Quicktime. I could be searching the Apple site for hours only to get lost and give up. Well…thanks to Jim Geduldick and the Final Cut User blog, they are all in one handy place…and here is the entry that gets you there.

So I downloaded it…installed it…and so far smooth sailing. Getting the perfect balance on your system is difficult. Once you get it..stick with it. Unless some update offers a fix you need…in which case CLONE your working system before updating. If you notice, I say that a lot…clone your working system before updating. That is so that you get it ingrained into your skull and never forget it.

Having a working system is such a joy…

EDIT: They can also be found on the LAFCPUG FAQ WIKI