Archive for November, 2007

Learn some Quartz Composer with

Thursday, November 29th, 2007


A while back I posted a review of the FxFactory set of effects from the good folks at Noise Industries. They are really a remarkable set of effects because they run off of some of the core operating system components that allow for better performance and a really great number of effects. Even better is the fact that the package allows the user to tweak the existing effects and also create his or her own. This is possible through the Quartz Compositor application in the Mac OS. It’s a node-based way of programming your own effects (among other things) without writing any code. I had mentioned in the review that creating my own effects this-a-way is still more in-depth a skill that I wanted to learn but even the ability to do it at all is great for those who want to dive in.

Enter a new tutorial from They recently posted a half hour course on using the Quartz Compositor to create light rays. It’s a great study if you want to learn more about this powerful interface and in turn learn how to use your FxFactory Pro effects even better. The course contains a 27 minute Quicktime movie that guides you step by step through the creation of the effects and how it integrates with the whole operating system as well as a number of supporting files. So click on over and start learning!

Editing Old Men New-Style

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

On the Trail of a New Post Pipeline: No Country for Old Men  2-pop – The Digital Filmmaker’s Resource Site

Follow the above link and you will find a great in-depth article about the Coen brothers using Final Cut Pro do edit their current feature No Country For Old Men. According to article they began using digital editing a few films ago. Like a lot of old-school fimmakers they seem to both appreciate the technology but long for some of the pacing and “feeling” of actually cutting and managing film.

Some links for Thanksgiving reading and watching

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

Ahhh the lazy Thanksgiving weekend when you eat too much, watch too much tv and maybe get your eyes scratched out by the rabid mother of 5 going for that last Playstation 3 with 10 free Blu-ray movies. If you want to spend some quality time on the Internet over the holiday then here’s a few links I’ve enjoyed over the last few days:

EU fines Sony, others for videotape price fixes. These goons were fixing prices on professional videotape formats like Beta SP and Digital Beta. And they were fined about $109 million dollars. Am I the only one that feels like corporations only get a slap on the wrist when the misbehave these days? Maybe Michael Moore will look into this.

Ticklebooth pointed to the wonderful Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe that someone has put on MySpace. For a fill of Werner visit his official site.

This Amazon Kindle thing looks interesting. But $399 … kinda steep. And I wonder how it will fair at the beach?

FxFactory has gone version 2.0. Get your upgrade now as I’m sure it will be worth it. We reviewed FxFactory Pro not long ago.

Stephen King apparently approves of the new ending to the new film adaptation of The Mist and thinks anyone who reveals the last 5 minutes “should be hung from their neck until dead.” This might be appropriate for other things as well.

Editing “Organazized” talks about a new credit seen in the UK called the “edit producer.” This seems like quite a disturbing trend. I think we have the same thing here in the US and it’s called the ad agency.

For all of us who ever editing Avid before 2000, Little Frog In High Def has posted some photos of the proper use of the old big and heavy RMAG hard drives. We really don’t know how good we’ve got it these days.

Loren Miller had written what is probably the single best article about moving from Avid to Final Cut Pro called the Changeover Challenge.

Ed Burn’s new film Purple Violets has hit iTunes as the first feature to be exclusively distributed on iTunes. I like his movies and it’s great to see some alternative distribution but if I can’t burn it to a DVD and watch it on my own home theatre system then what’s the point? Watch a feature film for the first time on my iPhone? I think not

And finally, be careful if driving for Thanksgiving!


(Thanks to the Garage blog for that nice pic. And check for speed traps there too!)

Bottom 10 FCP Tips … revisited

Monday, November 19th, 2007


Over a year ago I followed up a post about my top 10 Final Cut Pro tips with a lost of the “bottom 10 tips.” Really it was all about stuff that just annoyed me about FCP. That was written way back around v. 5.1.1. Over a year, many incremental updates and one major upgrade later, have any of these personal gripes been fixed or changed? I thought that with the recent release of 6.0.2 it was worth revisiting.


FCP updated. Now more Avid-like (but not much) UPDATED

Thursday, November 15th, 2007


The Apple pro applications all received some updates the other day. With Final Cut Pro in particular, there’s really a lot to like. Besides all the natural evolutionary changes like support for XDCAM EX, hard drive based HDV cameras and DVCPRO HD 720p50 among others there are a number of basic editing interface changes and enhancements that have me most excited. First off there are a couple of things to make the interaction with the app a bit more Avid like (UPDATE: but not much). First there’s:

Zoom In on Playhead in Timeline: Keeps the Timeline playhead centered while zooming in (regardless of the selection in the Timeline).
Zoom Out on Playhead in Timeline: Keeps the Timeline playhead centered while zooming out (regardless of the selection in the Timeline).

My original though is that it would mimic the Avid focus key. focus.png The Avid focus key will automatically take you to a zoomed in magnification of the playhead no matter where you are in the timeline. FCP has always annoyed me in that when you zoomed in on the timeline it would automatically zoom into any selected elements in the timeline before zooming into the playhead. 9 times out of 10 I would want to zoom to the playhead. If I have intentionally selected something in the timeline then chances are I have my playhead located near the selection.

UPDATE: It actually just does what it says, zooms to the playhead instead of what might be selected in the timeline. I have replaced the normal zoom in function with this new one. You can find it in the Button List or the Keyboard Layout:


As you can see in the capture above just type “playhead in timeline” to access. I’ve mapped then to F11 and F12 on my keyboard layout.

They also added:

Scroll to Playhead: Horizontally scrolls the Timeline so that the playhead is centered in the window.

This is a much requested option that Avid has had for a while:


I don’t always leave the option check in my Avid application as it takes a bit of processor overhead to make it work and it can result in the occasional underrun error. I can’t wait to see FCP’s implementation and if it results in any dropped frames when trying to scroll a complex timeline. This option is very useful when watching an edit down with clients and making quick fixes.

UPDATE: The new “scroll to playhead” can be found in the Button List or under Keyboard Layout.  scroll_playhead.png  It’s really nothing like the Avid Scroll While Playing function. If for some reason you have scrolled the timeline where the playhead is off the screen you can push this key and it will jump back. This doesn’t happen to me very often as it seems when it does my next move is to do some action in the timeline that brings it back anyway so it’s never really bother me. What would be most useful would be if you could push the “scroll to playhead” key while the timeline is playing back and it would center the playhead and leave the timeline playing but instead it stops playback. So much for wishful thinking!

We also get:

Hiding Clip Names in the Timeline
You can now hide sequence clip names to make it easier to see content such as audio waveforms.

 UPDATE:  It’s located in the Timeline Layout Pop in the bottom left corner of the timeline:


This is welcome as well because my ultimate goal in any editing application is total timeline control by the user. While this still doesn’t give as many options as are available when viewing clips in an Avid timeline:


it is another step in the right direction. The more information that the editor can control and display the better.

One thing they didn’t “fix” is this:

Final Cut Pro 6.0.2 Compatibility with Final Cut Pro 6.0.1
Final Cut Pro 6.0.2 projects are not backward compatible with Final Cut Pro 6.0.1.

Sigh…. I guess we will never get any kind of backwards compatibility with even the smallest incremental upgrades. You can always try the multiple version hack but as always beware when updating those projects to v. 6.0.2 because you can’t go back (that is without an XML export and import) and open an updated project in an older version and neither can your client, or another editor, or an audio guy, or the effects artist, or the director, or the agency, or the producer, or …

Modern Parables: An Educational Filmmaking Link

Monday, November 12th, 2007


I recently had the pleasure of being involved in a unique project called Modern Parables. In a nutshell, it’s a series of short films based on the Parables. But it’s really a unique project in that it is more than just the shorts. From the Modern Parables web site:

Modern Parables is an original Bible study curriculum designed for people who like movies. It is the first in a planned series of film-driven studies on the parables. Films that drive the viewer back to the biblical text!

The 12-lesson study combines cinema and theology in short dramatic films that exegete (or explain) Jesus’ parables. In other words, just watching the films helps teach the historical, grammatical, contextual and interpretive elements in the parables.

Modern Parables lets people grasp the parables at an immediate, gut level. This emotional immediacy enables them to engage the Bible in a powerful and compelling new way.

The production is unique in that each of the films takes on a different style told with the inspiration of directors like Frank Capra, Ingmar Bergman and Woody Allen to name a few. One of the best things about this project was its approach to filmmaking in general. All the shoots were properly planned and scheduled with a full cast and crew with an eye toward the post-production process from day one. The films were shot in 720p DVCPRO HD, predominately using the Panasonic HDX-900. While the HDX-900 does record to tape the decision was made early on to also record to a Firestore hard drive. As an editor and a “technical adviser” I tried to be on-set during the first day or two of shooting of the different films to download files off of the Firestore and perform some early edits. We used 2 Firestore drives so we were able to switch drives and download footage without any waiting on the set. The drives performed well. Since the DP was shooting at a frame rate of 23.98 we removed the duplicate frames upon ingest into Final Cut Pro (all material goes to DVCPRO HD tape at 59.94). One thing that we struggled with was to have the Firestore drives remove the extra frames when going to the drive, like shooting in Native mode to a P2 card, as we could have gotten more footage on the drive. But at the time it technically wasn’t possible. We only had to go back to the tape a couple of times. Though we ultimately backed up the media onto 3 different drives, to me it was a nice to have these tapes as the ultimate fail safe if something catastrophic happened to all the drives. But let’s be honest, the chance of losing all 3 different backups (which were kept in different locations) was quite slim. The projects were edited on Final Cut Pro, output back to DVCPRO HD tape and color corrected on a daVinci. The end result is a very nice looking, high quality film-like image.

One of my favorites is The Widow and Judge. A great performance from the lead and the black and white look combine for a moving piece. Here’s the trailer:

Probably the most cinematic of the bunch is Prodigal Sons. The story and the locations really feel like big budget production. The trailer:

The Modern Parables website has devoted a page to the making of Samaritan. It’s a great filmmaking resource as the director has posted pdf files about a lot of steps in the filmmaking process. From the script and pre-production paperwork to storyboards and shot lists, it’s a nice look at how a film comes together. The entire curriculum is available as a box set right off of the Modern Parables website.

A lot of modern technology came together to make something like this possible. Affordable HD acquisition and post-production, the ubiquitous DVD format and web distribution all helped make a seed of an idea possible. And in addition to all of the technology it takes also some investors who believe in a project and fearless leader to see it all through to the end. That’s always the filmmaking process… in a nutshell.

Editing P2 media on Avid

Friday, November 9th, 2007

We’ve long been doing good work with Panasonic P2 media in Final Cut Pro. FCP’s elegant Log and Transfer tool does a good job of allowing the logging, organization and import of P2 media. Avid recently added support for P2 media so how does it stand up? In short: it works, but not as elegantly.

Under the Avid file menu there is now an option for Import P2. You have 2 options, Import>Clips to Bin… or Import>Media. More on what they each do in a bit. All new versions of Avid Media Composer and Avid Xpress Pro support the import of P2 media. What Avid doesn’t do is give you a transfer tool with good feedback. Since we usually always compare Avid to Final Cut Pro I miss the fact that the FCP transfer tool allows you to look at and scan around your clip, rename the clips from the rather cryptic names that the camera assigns and even mark IN and OUT point to import only parts of a clip. The idea behind the FCP Log and Transfer tool is to give you some kind of control over the media being imported just like you have with a tape based capture tool. It makes perfect sense that you would want some kind of control over any disc based media as well.

Avid works differently. The most notable option is that there isn’t any kind of tool, just 2 menu items:


With a recent release Avid added the support for MFX media as can be seen in the media folder on a hard drive:


Because of this MXF support (the old OMF format is only for Standard Def project these days, MXF is the only media creation option in HD) it has the ability to read media directly off of the P2 cards, or cards that have been backed up on a hard drive with the proper directory structure. To work directly with MXF in Final Cut Pro you need a tool like Raylight. While it’s great to see the MXF media directly there was one annoying thing I noticed while testing before I began the current project. Whenever I quit the Avid application, upon restarting all the P2 media was offline. A quick reimport and it would reconnect but it is annoying. I did find that this is normal behavior as stated in the Avid help files:

A progress box appears as the clips import. When the import is complete, the clips appear in the active bin. You can play and edit the clips; the media resides on the P2 card. If you leave the application and then restart it, you see the clips in the bin, but the media is offline. You need to import the clips again to continue working with them.

The way to avoid this little hurdle is to use the Import P2 > Media option. After first importing via Clips to Bin… if you then select your master clips and choose the Import P2 > Media option the app will then copy all of the selected clips to your media drive specified in the Media Creation settings:


This can also be a good time to transcode to one of Avid’s DNxHD codecs. Like Apple ProRes it allow for “mastering-quality 8-bit or 10-bit HD media at standard-definition (SD) data rates and file sizes.” To capture in the DNxHD codec you need an Avid Adrenaline system with the DNxHD option but you can transocode to it in the Media Composer software version. As I mentioned above the Avid implementation of P2 isn’t as elegant as FCP’s. But it does work. It would be nice to see Avid add some kind of tool in a future release to make it work more elegantly and allow for better organization upon import. Because after all, a lot of non-linear editing is all about organization.

UPDATE: Click on over to Avid’s own site for a video demonstration of the P2 workflow and how to do an offline/online style edit. It’s makes even more sense to see it in action. Thanks for AE Portal News for pointing this out.