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Little Frog in High Def

Adventures in Editing
Little Frog In High Def


Archive for January, 2009

Great article…because it is written with bad english.


(from EditBlog via Twitter)

Ever wonder how those music videos get that great light leak that looks like a film roll out? Or that the camera magazine wasn’t light-proof? Want to make your video look like a really old film that has been played 500 times and thrown on the floor? Well, this is something I see asked a lot on the editing forums. And yes, there are film effects plugins that can do a fairly decent job with the scratches and grains, but what about the light leaks? Film roll outs? CONVINCING dirt and grain?

Well, I have a brand spankin’ new tutorial to share with the world. This tutorial is on and it “shows you how film effects like light leaks and film damage can be incorporated into your video footage to give them a more convincing film look.” How to use film effect clips you can download from their site and composite them with your footage to make it look more like actual film.

I demo how to do this with Avid and Final Cut Pro. I’ll tell you right now it is a lot easier and the effects show up much better on FCP, as it has more advanced compositing capabilities.

Here is the direct link that gets you right to the tutorial: FILM EFFECTS

First Avid dropped out of NAB 2008…then I heard they weren’t going to be at NAB 2009. Then Apple drops out of NAB 2009…THEN ARTBEATS drops out (what will we use as crap bags if ArtBeats isn’t there?). But now, Avid is back ON for NAB.

What next?

While I am in this flurry of posting while at the LAFCPUG meeting, and because the author of this book is ALSO here, I would like to give a shout out to Norm Hollyn. He has written a book that is NOT technical in nature, but rather about the CREATIVE aspect to editing. This book is called The Lean Forward Moment

Cluttering your head with a lot of technical mumbo jumbo on how to use technology and all of these non-linear editing applications is of the LEAST of your concern. Yeah, you need to know how to use the tool, but really, as an editor your main concern should be with storytelling. How can you best tell the story that needs to be told. THAT, my friends, is the art of editing. That is why editing is an art, not a technical skill. You need to know enough about how to use the tools so that they are so second nature that they do not distract you from being able to tell the story.

Now, I will admit that I myself haven’t read it yet…but I just ordered it from I will dive into it, just as soon as I finish Jonathan Livingston Seagull…so that I can talk about that with my daughter.

Last summer I taught part of a production class at Citris College in Orange County. One of those students, David Reynosa, took what we taught him and shot a commercial for the POM pomagranite drink. This commercial is part of a contest that can be found here. His is called OPERATION POM (the one with the pomagranite in the crosshairs of a gun). Please go and watch it…and vote if you like it.

To make things easy for you I’ll post the original YouTube version here. But please, if you like it, vote for it.

Shot with the HVX-200 and edited with FCP.

EDIT: I have been posting a lot of video links lately. Pardon my selfishness, but I want to share my friends video to ensure that more people see them. I only post what I think is watchable. SOOOOO much video out there is unwatchable.

Just because I am at the LAFCPUG meeting and sitting next to Andrew Balis of Moviola Digital, I would like to remind people of the Moviola Resource Center…I now have a link to it on the right under LINKS.

This place is stock full of information and tutorials not only for Final Cut Pro…not only for Avid…but for basic video and HD (Knowledge Zone). VERY useful…I found myself going there recently for the Avid stuff when I ventured back onto the Avid.

Gameday – watch more funny videos

OK, here is a short film a friend and fellow editor directed and edited (and co-wrote) and has posted on FUNNY OR DIE. I found it very funny. So watch and vote…please.

I wouldn’t have posted it if it needed to die…

For the last two and a half months I have been working on a series of three specials for the Discovery Channel. Now, I won’t go into the horrid details, but due to a lot of issues in production and post…and lack of communication between a few parties…the series has been put on hold for “re-tooling.” This includes rethinking the approach to the subjects, re-shoots, re-scripting…and what is called “fresh eyes” on the series. This means that they let everyone go…everyone but one associate producer who worked production and post…and are bringing in a fresh crew.

Yes, I was fired. But not in a bad way. There was no malice on the production company’s end. In fact, they were nice enough to give us two weeks notice. Thus giving us two weeks of time to look for work…oh, and work a little bit on the show, organizing things for the new batch of people coming in who will have to look at all the footage. Now, this is uncommon…normally they say “we need to put the show on hold for now. So you can all go home now.” It isn’t uncommon for a project to be shut down and fresh eyes to be brought in. I have been the fresh eyes on more than one occasion. This just happens to be the first time I was on the other end of it. Yes, it hurt, but I’ll get over it.

In the meantime things are slow. Production seems to be drying up all over town…recession hitting here too. All of my go-to companies either are still gearing up for work, or have wrapped or have had shows canceled. Not good. But, I did find a short term gig cutting a promo for a show…goes for three days. And I get to work on it from home, instead of dealing with the hour-each-way commute to Santa Monica. Which means that I can work in my PJs again! HA! Well, not really. My office is now in my garage, and it is chilly out there. But it is nice to have the extra time to work instead of sitting behind the wheel, burning gas. Nice to have understanding producers.

And I have agreed to help cutting an independent feature doc for a follower of this blog. That doesn’t pay much, but it is a very interesting topic and one that will educate me on another topic, which is nice. It is a foot in the feature doc world and a project that I can play with stylistically. That is always good.

If you are a fan of comic books you know about the graphic novel series THE WATCHMEN. Well, they are making a movie based on that series and it looks darn good. Now I won’t go into the legal issues that have been going on between FOX and Warner Brothers about who owned the rights and blah blah blah…but what is REALLY interesting is the level of viral (internet) marketting that the film is getting. I mean, it is really clever. Not only is there the website full of behind the scenes stuff…lots of movies have that.

But who else has a great fake newscast from 1970? One that looks VERY authentic? Lookee…

Then there is this great picture on Flikr. And a website based on the underground newspaper The New Frontiersman.

And yeah, I know the lady editing all this behind the scenes stuff (although she didn’t edit the newscast). So I get some of the links right when they go up.

If you haven’t read the graphic novel…you should. It is all over the bookstore shelves now. It helps to be a fan of superheroes, as this is the ultimate “real world” look at how heroes might exist in reality. Real personalities and personal conflicts, not just “can I make it to class on time after I defeat Doc Oc” (although Spider-man is my personal favorite) or “I hope no one recognizes me with these glasses on.”

OK, enough. Off to bed.

EDIT: Speaking of the lady editing all of the stuff, her name is Yvonne Petersen and I have to point out her website. Click on FILM EDITOR and you will see her reel, including all of the WATCHMEN stuff she has edited. Us editors don’t get enough credit sometimes, so I want to give credit where credit is due.

Let me start out by saying that I REALLY like that Avid Media Composer has an UNINSTALLER application…something that completely uninstalls the Avid software. Very handy when the application isn’t working properly and you need to, well, reinstall it to get it working again. I have had to do that twice thus far. No biggie…took like 15 minutes to uninstall and reinstall.

Just to be fair, Final Cut Pro has one too…unofficial but it works great.

Now, onto the other thing, backwards compatibility. This is something that FCP is sadly lacking. There were a couple really mini updates that were…like 6.0.3 to 6.0.2…but other than that…nope, no can do. But Avid is pretty good about this…depending on the versions you need to go to. Specifically Media Composer 3.0.5 to MC 2.8.

I was asked to edit a “sizzle reel” for a company, and I was given the option of working there (They are over the hill in Santa Monica, and I live in the Valley…a really long commute) or working on my home system. I opted to edit at home. Now, this is a company that utilizes Avid Media Composer 2.8. But I don’t have MC 2.8…well, I DO…that was the first version Avid sent me. But I don’t have it installed, and that is because it requires Mac OS 10.4.11 (Tiger). All of my machines are running 10.5 (Leopard). I have extra drives in my MacPro, but it is the newest one and it does not allow Tiger to be installed, so there goes that. But then I realize that I don’t have a stand alone Tiger install disk. Ugh. I only have the one for my Powerbook…SO…I could wipe the drive clean and install the older OS (after I clone my current system…so I can revert back to that later).

That is viable, but time consuming. Which is why I am glad that Avid MC 3.0 is backwards compatable to 2.8. But just to be sure, I will just be giving them the bin of my cut, not the entire project. They will create the master project and digitize all the material, and get that to me on a hard drive. I do the cut, then e-mail the bin. Simple.

Viva remote editing!

Thanks to Jim from FinalCutUser for this link…via Twitter.

I will go on record to say that sampling should be legal. That what great artists and artisans do is take old ideas, old things and improve upon them. This is how things have worked throughout recorded history. Until Lawyers and big business came in to mess things up.

Sorry, this slipped by me for some reason.

Imagine Products, the makers of HD LOG and ShotPut P2 have now made a great little application called ProxieMill.

I blogged about this before, when I was testing it. But now it is ready for prime time and available to the rest of y’all.

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. You can add burned in timecode, and there are many presets available, like for the iPod.

Imagine this…you are on a shoot using P2 and while you offload you also create these nice timecoded proxie movies. At the end of the day you burn these to CD, copy them to a hard drive, or put them on the producers iPod so that they can take them home and look at what was shot that day and perhaps use it to start writing a script. Or you can then burn them to data DVD or CD and send them to the transcription company. Your director can look at the footage while being driven home from the set. You can add them to a tape database as a way to track your stock footage. Any number of possibilities.

This is Star Wars as told by someone who has never seen the films all the way through. Only bits and pieces here and there. And it is FRIGGIN’ HILARIOUS!

Star Wars: Retold (by someone who hasn’t seen it) from Joe Nicolosi on Vimeo.

Finally, my Avid review.

This has been a long time coming. Last year at NAB Avid invited me to look at the new version of Media Composer, 3.0. I got to see all the new features like mixed format editing, the great new time code burn window, faster response time on the timeline, additional native formats like P2 and AVCIntra, added support for Vista and Leopard, new hardware (MojoDX and NitrisDX)…the whole gambit. I was quite impressed.

BUT, I am not “the media” in a blogger sense. I don’t like to just announce things, when I can help it (I still do, when they are things I think are really cool!). I like to report on the stuff I experience. Plus there were plenty of other blogs out there announcing the new Avid Media Composer features (EditBlog, Splice Here. I didn’t want to be yet another blog that said “Hey, Avid has come out with a new product” and list of the same stuff that people have already seen 8 times.

So Avid sent me a copy of Avid Media Composer 3.0 to try and see what I thought. They even were nice enough to send along a MojoDX for me to be able to capture footage with. So I was able to capture DVCPRO HD as DVCPRO HD, and then at 15:1, then DNxHD 145. I captured some DV footage via firewire, and then imported footage via P2. And then I did what limited testing I could do. The formats all mixed well on the timeline (if they were the same frame rate…a couple clips were jumpy because they were 29.97 and most the rest were 23.98), and as a general rule you can mix formats but NOT mix frame rates. True for FCP, true for Avid.

I tested the multiformat workflow, and that cool AVX plugin that allowed for multiple timecode windows without rendering…I liked that. And the responsiveness of the timeline had significantly improved. Before on Meridian or Adrenaline, when you tried to scroll on the timeline it was like cutting mud with a spoon. The latest version is fast as fast can be. But, that’s all I could really test. I didn’t have a project to edit, I couldn’t run the software through day to day use. So I didn’t feel confident in giving a review of this software because all I really was doing was kicking the tires and testing the blinkers.

So 6 months passed with no review. But now that I have been working on an Avid Media Composer 3.0.5 for nearly three months, I feel more comfortable posting a “real world” review.

Let’s go back a bit. First off, before I made my leap to Final Cut Pro, the version of Avid I used most was Media Composer v11 Meridian system on a Mac running OS9. That was the best most stable system out there, so stable that many production companies still use them. They work, why change? But it had severe limitations when it came to editing high definition. We had huge issues onlining a show and went hugely over budget. So when it came time to edit a show shot on DVCPRO HD I made the leap to Final Cut Pro.

So I cut with Final Cut Pro for a year or so, then that project ended and I find myself on a job cutting with Avid Adrenaline. The system was the most unstable thing I have ever witnessed. Crashed 5-12 times a day, Unity also down about 25% of the time. I don’t know how we managed to get a show cut on schedule, we really only had about four productive hours a day. I do know that I got VERY much into the habit of pressing SAVE every 5 minutes. Pure nightmare. Because of this I savored my Final Cut Pro system and vowed not to take an Avid job again if the Adrenaline was in play. And because of the issues with Adrenaline, a lot of places I found work still used Meridian’s on OS9. Avid seemed to be going downhill, fast.

And don’t get me started on Avid Express Pro and Mojo. Given what I could do with FCP I wouldn’t go near that either.

Then they came out with the standalone software version of Media Composer that didn’t require all that expensive Avid hardware. They dropped the price to an affordable $5000 and came back to the Mac platform. OK, improvement, but still too expensive compared to the competition.

Then I was shown Avid 3.0. Price cut in half to $2500…more affordable and now more competitive with FCP. I was invited to a demo at hotel at NAB next door to the convention. They showed off all the new features and let me play with the timeline…and I was impressed. Finally Avid seemed to be back on track. I was actually liking the platform again.

OK, we are now to the point where I was sent MC and the MOJO and did all of my testing…September 2008. The following month I get hired by a company that I have a long history with. A company that held onto their Meridian systems like Linus holds onto his blanket. TIGHT man. Well lo and behold, I land in an edit bay with Avid 3.0. DUDE! They upgraded. They recognized the stability that the new Avid software added. And they had the whole nine yards, including NitrisDX.

It took me a while to get used to the Avid again, and trim modes…being on FCP for so long. But it didn’t take long to get my Avid legs back. And let me tell you, the first thing I noticed was the fast reaction time of the timeline and the stability. That right there is huge. Well, it is something that should be EXPECTED with a system. But after working on unstable systems for a while, you get used to the instability, so when something is stable, it is heaven. Well, this Avid was stable, and more so than even the Meridians. And fast. I was whizzing on the timeline back and forth. No more step…step…step…step until I finally got to the end of the sequence. There lickity split. Nice.

So that job wrapped up and onto another company, and they too have 4 new edit bays sporting Avid Nitris DX. The other editors were jealous of me and my fellow editors on the shiny new systems. I have been on this system now for 2 months, and had the system at home where I edited with the footage I brought home from work (to test my home system and a workflow for transporting footage…and so that I could work on my sick days and still get paid). Here are my thoughts on the new features.

1) Timeline speed. I already told you…this is now fast and smooth. Pure joy to edit with. And a lot of that has to do with their “Improved real-time effects performace.” To quote Avid:

Avid’s advanced effect acceleration provides:
• High performance real-time HD FX processing pipeline making maximum use of host processor resources
• 6 streams of real-time full resolution Avid DNxHD 145 playback in raw performance test • Faster transcodes and renders with optimized multi-threading on multi-core CPUs

It’s noticeable.

2) Stability. In the last 3 months I have had two, count them TWO crashes.

3) Mixed Media timeline. Well, the big shock for me returning to Avid, other than getting used to the way to trim on Avid vs. FCP, is working in an offline resolution again (15:1). OH MY GOD the image is yucky. I can’t see anything. And they have this big 32″ HD monitor connected, and it’s even worse. Lordy, how can you see anything? I am used to working at full resolution. But we needed the offline resolution because we had 3 shows worth of material…600 hours, and it all fit on 1TB. Can’t imaging how many GB I’d need for full resolution. ANYWAY, we had to capture some footage at full DNxHD resolution to work around interference issues (aerial footage) and we had some stock footage come in at DV resolution. So I was mixing 15:1, DV and DNxHD145 resolutions on one timeline, without rendering, and without skipping a beat.

Now, we did have one minor odd issue with this. When we made our title media (Footage to come, CGI, Footage missing, that stuff) all of the editors did them at DV resolution. The system seemed to default to this and it was OK with us, because it made the title more legible. And the assistant could output a Quicktime file that played back fine…but when they encoded that as a WMV file for the network, something odd happened. The encoded file ONLY showed the DV title as a still frame. 20 min of the DV title, and the audio was fine. We went back, changed the titles to 15:1 and the issue went away. Odd.

4) Native support for more formats. P2, AVCintra, XDCAM…all native without the need to convert when importing. The footage appears in the Avid directly from the card…making the P2 workflow much Quicker. As Steve Hollyhead said at a Panasonic demo, “Getting P2 into Avid is simple…it doesn’t have any of the shinanigans that FCP uses to get the footage in. This really speeds up editing.

5) The AVX timecode plugin. Yes, I used this a lot for the rough cuts and assembly edits. This plugin allows Real-time burn-in tool to create up to three overlay windows displaying things like timeline and source timecode, footage counter, clip names, duration, time remaining, and a watermark so you can add something like “property of Shane Ross.” And I used this for the writer to note the interview tape names and timecode when the wrote the script. Very handy.

6) SELECT ALL Left or Right. This feature was something that Avid lifted right from Final Cut Pro and implemented in Avid 3.0.5…and is huge for me. Before when I needed to make a gap in my sequence to either build more story into or move a huge chunk of edited footage, I needed to add FILLER. And if I had overlapping audio (like I always do) then my overlapping footage would be broken up, as Avid cut a straight line down through my footage. Then I had to spend a few minutes cleaning that up. In FCP, all you needed to do to add a gap was press “T” a few times to activate the proper SELECT tool you needed. Then when you clicked on a clip on the timeline, that clip and everything to the RIGHT of that clip (or to the left if you had the other direction selected) highlighted and you could now move the clips out of the way, retaining the overlaps, and add what you needed to add.

I rely on this tool almost daily, and I guess that is because I am still used to the open timeline in FCP where I can drag things all over the place to move them. It is a great feature and I am glad Avid acquired it. There is much I would like FCP to steal from Avid…but that is another story.

7) The good old Avid media management. Man how I missed this. Sure, all the file names of the footage you find on the media drives are lengthy and seem to have no meaning (well, it does include some part of the clip name and if it is an audio or video file), but that name is how Avid tracks the footage. Even if you move it. Move a bunch of clips? No problem, Avid will notice they have been moved. Avid has databases in each capture folder and if that database doesn’t compare to what is on the drive, Avid scans the drive and rebuilds the list. Like a little guy at the door with a clipboard. Someone new? They write it down. Someone leaves, they write it down. Some people try to sneak in through the window? They see it and write it down. Avid has Media management licked.

That is one of the biggest differences I saw between Avid and Final Cut Pro. As complex as the controls are and as many tools you have to figure out, when it comes to capturing and editing, Avid gives you more time to concentrate on the creative part and less on the technical. It takes care of the technical stuff, you just edit. Well, having an assistant editor helps, but I had one on my last FCP show and I still had to watch what I was doing. When you capture, when you render, you just assign a drive that has the most free space and then tell it to capture and render there. And it will. And if space runs low, Avid will switch to the next drive with the most space left. Import something, and it defaults to the drives you specified for that project…always. When you change projects, Avid knows what drives are specified for that project. Avid just knows. So it gives you more time to think creatively.

ANYWAY, this has turned into Avid vs FCP and really I wanted to only mention that one aspect…because it is very freeing to an editor to not have to constantly be aware of what media is going where, and where you are rendering to.

8) Tech Support…I can’t do this article without mentioning tech support. Avid tech support was a thing of legend. Abysmally BAD. Arrogant techies, sluggish response times (you felt lucky if they called you back), hugely expensive. Calling tech support was the last thing you wanted to do when the Avid wasn’t working right. Dealing with them was worse than pulling teeth.

But now that has changed. Phone tech support is now friendly and easy (only had to rely on this once though), and their new Avid Communities of fellow Avid users and online Avid tech support helpers provides more help than you can ask for. And quick response times. Want tips and tricks and step-by-step instruction on how to use the Avid? Go to the Avid YouTube Community and you will keep yourself busy for quite some time.

CONS. Not everything was roses. Nope, I did have some issues, one in particular that really slowed me down.

I had the toughest time mixing the audio on the timeline:

When I cut a clip from the preview monitor into the sequence, then I adjust the audio using the Audio Tool, about 90% of the time the adjustments I make don’t stick. It is still loud. I could boost it all the way, or take it to nothing, and it sounds just like it did in the preview monitor. However, if I adjust the audio in the sequence, then click on the Preview monitor to make it active, then jiggle the audio with the audio tool…just a tad, THEN my changes take effect in the timeline. The really interesting thing about this is that it doesn’t happen at all on my system running without Avid hardware. This only occurs on systems with the Nitris DX. And I was not alone, three co-workers had the same issue, and a few people on the forums. And as of now there is no fix. Interesting thing to note is that this issue did NOT happen on Avid systems that did not have the Nitris DX hardware. My laptop, my MacPro, another edit system at another company all were without the DX hardware, and they did not have this issue.

The odd compression issue I mentioned earlier…with mixed formats when compressing to .wmv.

Composting with MC 3.0 is still bad. I am sure there are plugins that work with this, but I recently did a tutorial for ArtBeats on how to mix film effects with footage, and it requires more steps and tweaking on the Avid. In FCP you can use Composite or Blending modes that work very well.

I did not get to play with SCRIPT SYNC or the SUB CAP features….but I really wanted to.

OK…that’s all I encountered in this short time span. And since I started typing my notes for this review Avid has updated to version 3.1.1. Since it is still near impossible to get the production company to update the software on their machines (WISELY), I have installed it at home. So far so good.

In conclusion, this version of Avid Media makes editing on an Avid a pure joy again. I used to dread getting a job that utilized Avid, but now I look forward to it. And now it sports a price that makes it more affordable to the independant filmmakers and low budget productions. And if you are a student, then you can have it, the full version, for a song ($295).

A good friend of mine, Patrick Sheffield, has been working on a few FCP plugins for a while. He made some free ones a while ago starting with the Two-strip and Three-Strip color looks based on what he saw on THE AVIATOR. Since then, between editing commercials and music videos and documentaries and writing a book on Motion 3 (due out soon) he has been busying himself by making some VERY useful and VERY cool plugins.

One of the first he did was the Electronic Makeup Artist (EMA). This makes wrinkles vanish into thin air…so your grandmother will look like your mother’s sister in no time. Then there is Digital Coverup that does wonders for the young kids…gets rid of those nasty zits on their face. Those right there will be HUGE for a lot of people. But then there’s more.

He has a LOOKS SWEET package that adds Vibrance to your videos, or a Glamour look…and Mr. Fixit works on fixing that nasty OVEREXPOSURE that happens on some images, like clouds and white coats and foreheads. This is a step up from the Capt’s Blowout Fixer, in the free section. I have used the Blowout Fixer and now Mr. Fixit more than once. Pesky foreheads.

Then there are the Video Painter and Graphic Novel Look (GNL) that give your video that painting or drawn look. I have used these on more than one project…it makes the tease to a show look really cool. Great for the fast cut sections or mystical recreations that I need to accomplish. And was a great way to lead from the live action into the animation that we used on a show.

Anyway, yes I am pushing these hard. Because they are darn useful and I find myself using them quite often. There are demo versions available, instructions, presets…all sorts of cool stuff. Take a gander.

EMA will make your grandmother shine, and Digital Coverup will make your teenager hate you less. I find that darn worth it.