Archive for the 'Mac software' Category

Looking at Magic Bullet’s Steady

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

A tripod is often … very often … a good thing when shooting video. I don’t have one to complement the HV20 and it is on the get list. A steady camera is a happy camera and you won’t make your audience sea-sick as the camera bobs and weaves. But sometimes you just can’t shoot with one. What do you do when a shot that you need for your edit is too shaky? You can always try to stabilize the shot with software like Magic Bullet Steady. Steady is available as a stand-alone purchase or as part of the Magic Bullet Suite 2008. The important thing to remember with any software designed to stabilize a shot is that it isn’t always a life-saver and can’t save every shot. But on some it can work wonders.

The best way to see what it can do is look at it in action. First is a shot that I was trying to hold as still as possible with my fake Fig Rig. It’s not too bad but could use some smoothing out. It’s a 5 second piece of a 9.5 second total shot at 1440×1080 ProRes resolution (it was converted from HDV). Magic Bullet Steady took 5 seconds to analyze the shot and about 10.5 seconds to render. Apple’s built-in Smoothcam took 1 minute 5 seconds to analyize the shot and 14 seconds to render. This was on a Mac Pro Quad-core 3 ghz. Here is the result, with the MB Steady option toggled through its 3 different motion parameters:

There appears to be an issue with Vimeo, WordPress and some combination of browsers. If you are getting odd or fast playback let the Vimeo stream buffer and then start the video over. Sorry for the inconvenience. We are researching the problem.

Magic Bullet Steady test from Scott Simmons on Vimeo.

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Shane’s Adobe Premiere Pro questions are good ones

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

I was recently having an email conversation with Shane Ross of Little Frog in Hi Def about Adobe Premiere Pro CS4. It was discussed on episode 2 of That Post Show by myself, John Flowers and Paul Zadie. Most of us really liked what we’ve seen of Premiere Pro CS4 thus far, but that was admittedly the shiny new features and just (at least for me) limited playtime in the application. Shane asked the hard questions that many other editors I’m sure are asking. Does the app have “all the basics that I as a storyteller crave?” I knew some of the answers, but not all of them so I dug around a bit deeper with Premiere Pro CS4 to try and find out.

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New page: Stuff We Use

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

We’ve launched a new page on the Editblog, Stuff We Use. A page is part of the WordPress platform; it’s a stationary page that is always available from the front page of the blog. On this theme we’re using they are listed as tabs across the top. The Stuff We Use page is just that … stuff we use in both our professional and personal projects at the Editblog. It’s sort of a recommendation/endorsement/clearing house for software, hardware, gear and resources that we have reviewed and/or talked about from time to time. This is all stuff that we liked and actually, really, honestly use. Most of the links from the Stuff We Use page are links to buy the products from places like Toolfarm or Amazon. If you find yourself wanting to purchase and of these products please use these links as the Editblog will get a small commission.

You know, I’ve never tried to actually make any money off of the Editblog but recently I’ve been very curious if anyone with blogs like this actually do make any money from them. That’s one reason you might start seeing ubiquitous Google ads popping up. I hope that aren’t too obnoxious and somewhat out of the way. But the Stuff We Use page isn’t so about making money as it is an answer to regular questions and emails that I get about what software we use for this, what piece of equipment we use for that. Stuff We Use is a good place to gather it all. We’ll keep adding to it over the years as we work with and test out more stuff! Thanks for reading and subscribing to the Editblog.

Kicking the tires of the Premiere Pro CS4 XML import

Friday, November 21st, 2008

I couldn’t let the day go by without trying the XML importing capability that was added in the Adobe Premiere Pro 4.0.1 update to take and edit from FCP, export an XML and then import that edit into Premiere Pro CS4. The skinny? Not too shabby for a first try, both for Adobe’s implementation and my attempt.

From Final Cut I took a simple edit with 3 layers of video and audio. The original FCP timeline looked like this:

And the Premiere Pro CS4 XML import of this sequence:

That’s not bad. Dissolves are right, disabled clip is disabled, everything looks like it’s there. Premiere doesn’t have an indicator for a through-edit like FCP does. Of special note is that this is a 23.98 HD ProRes edit. Premiere Pro was able to relink to the ProRes QuickTime files as well as render in the ProRes codec for playback in the Premiere Pro timeline. Makes since as ProRes is an installed codec on the system. I have no idea if this is officially support btw.

You even get a nice little text file that imports into Premiere Pro to let you know what may have gone wrong in the import:

The above sequence had a number of color corrections from Magic Bullet Looks that didn’t translate and they were noted in the report. I’d call that a successful first test from FCP to Premiere Pro. But then when I went to send that edit to After Effects it crashed. We’ll have to troubleshoot that one later. A simple, single layer SD edit was able to successfully go from FCP to PPro to AE. I think this is something a lot of people might be looking for as a workaround if you don’t have Automatic Duck. Theoretically it’s possible but something wouldn’t let me HD sequence work. Maybe it didn’t like the ProRes files.

Red Giant products on sale all week

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

All this week (November 17 – 21) Toolfarm is having a one day sale on Red Giant products at 50% off the MSRP. Today is Tuesday and they are offering one of my favorites the Magic Bullet Suite 2008. That’s the entire Magic Bullet Suite that we have talked about for $399.50 including the fantastic color correction software Colorista. Tomorrow is another great package, the Trapcode Suite. These sales last for 24 hours so click on over and see what all they have to offer. Thanks to MicheleYamazaki and jasondiamond for this info via the Twitter.

Why does FCP unrender my rendered transition?

Friday, November 7th, 2008

If you listened to the last episode of That Post Show or read the recent post here on Final Cut Pro media management you know that one of my biggest complaints with FCP is that its media management and tracking of render files is probably its weakest element. Today while working one of the best example of FCP’s inability to properly keep track of its renders popped up. First take a look at the before shot on a simple edit in the timeline:

Here you have a hole in V2 and an IN to OUT marked for the clip to be overwritten into the timeline. Notice two fully rendered transitions in the next couple of clips right after the hole. When I overwrite a clip into the hole on V2 this happens:

It causes the two transitions after the new clip to become unrendered. This is very confusing to me as I ask Final Cut Pro “why does overwriting an earlier clip in the timeline sometimes cause you to lose your renders later in the edit. What are you … stupid or something?” For this particular scenario it didn’t matter what video layer the clips were on nor did it matter if there were the disable clips below on V1. I tried a number of variations and it always wanted to unrender those next two transitions. Now there might be some involved, technical, convoluted-computer-code expination for this but whatever it might be it doesen’t hold water in 2008 on version 6 of the product. As Oscar Rodgers would say … Fit It!!!

Adobe CS4 installed and running

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

A delivery of Adobe CS4 Production Premium arrived last night. The install when rather quickly with an uninstall of CS3 and the install of CS4 in under 2 hours. Be sure and restart after the install (I wasn’t prompted to do so) as several of the applications wouldn’t launch until I restarted. The interface enhancements are pretty cool and go a long way toward making CS4 feel like one very integrated piece of software. I just wish I had more time to explore but other work calls. The funniest thing I saw was the line in the Encore splash screen:

Take that you old and out of date DVD Studio Pro!

Final Cut Pro’s achilles heel or how I hate the reconnection dance

Monday, October 27th, 2008

When you talk about media management in Final Cut Pro it’s often not a big issue to many as you digitize a few tapes or import some P2 media, add graphics, music and you’re done. FCP’s bad media management never rears its ugly head. But when you start working with many different clips across a lot of hard drives  then the frustration can grow. And let’s not even talk about multiple editors working on the same job in different locations. Say you are cutting for a director that has an exact copy of your media on his computer and all he wants to do is open the project file, watch the edit, make notes and then send it back… you must both go through the reconnection dance each time you open the modified project. It’s a pain and a waste of time.

The reconnection dance is a step that an editor really shouldn’t have to go through when they are opening an edit where the location of the media hasn’t change since the last time the project was open. If you are working on a job with another editor in a different location or an editor using the same media on different drives then the reconnection dance will be familiar to you. Let’s think about why this happens. Final Cut Pro looks to a specific path for the location of media:

In this example it’s looking for the drive Hawking > folder Robinson Racing > subfolder Robinson racing in car cam and then other specific subfolders for the media. If I was to give another editor an exact copy of the media for this project then the folder structure would remain mostly the same except for the top level name of the hard drive. In this case Hawking would be replaced with a different drive name and possibly one more subfolder. So when the other editor went to open this project for the first time they would be confronted with the reconnection warning:

That’s not totally unwarranted since FCP doesn’t use any kind of central database to track its files. Since the path where it found the media on longer exists you have to point FCP to the location of the media files for it to be able to reconnect them. It doesn’t have to be a completely manual process as FCP can scan your drive to look for clips that have the same file name:

This helps somewhat but if you have a lot of files scattered over a lot of drives then it can be a pain. Clicking the Search button will scan all the drives and can take time with lots of large drives attached. The Locate button will give you a dialog box to manually find the clip. While FCP will automatically find other files in the same directory that it needs you still have to point it to the first clip it is asking for. Again it can be a long process with many clips on different hard drives. It’s understandable to have to do this once when opening a project for the first time but if you are handing edits off to another editor on a regular basis then this process of always having to reconnect the media gets old … fast. There needs to be a better way.

Avid has always been known for its rock solid media management. Once a piece of media is in the Avid it always knows where that media is, come hell or high water. When passing off an edit to another editor he/she only needs to rebuild the Avid database once and then Avid will always know where all the media for that edit is located. It does this by building a dedicated media database for all of its media drives:

But one thing the Avid has to do that FCP does not is to copy any imported media into its Avid MediaFiles folder (it’s called the OMFI Media folder on omf based Avids). By doing this it has to create new media in the supported Avid format in that folder. This could be seen as a disadvantage if you had lots of music or a tons of graphics already taking up space on a hard drive. It all depends on perspective I guess as the advantage of Avid’s great media management means you have to use more drive space on occasion. An Avid edit is an amazingly organized thing with the Avid project file usually on the system drive and all media on a few media drives in the Avid MediaFiles folder. Often a Final Cut Pro edit is an incredibly messy pile-of-dung with media, graphics and music scattered from the user’s iTunes folder to the desktop to one firewire drive after another. Try to collect that to send to another editor and you usually forget something. If I had a dime for every FCP project that I’ve opened over the years with missing media from the previous desktop or user’s iTunes folder I’d hire software engineers to write my own personal NLE application! But this totally depends on the organization of the editor to begin with. An organized edit shouldn’t have media scattered here to there as the editor knows what they are doing and how to properly organize and track their media. This goes back to the debate of the younger FCP editor who hasn’t learned proper media management skills. But that’s another debate that has already been debated.

What Final Cut Pro needs is its own database tracking ability to keep track of all imported/captured/digitized media. The best of both worlds between FCP’s easy access of drag-and-drop, no-wait importing and Avid’s database than can recognize when you are opening a previously opened project where the media is on the edit system.

If you think about it, non-linear editing applications are themselves just database managers (at their most basic level) as they look to media on hard drives and play it back in a specifically arranged order that the editor has instructed from the timeline. FCP needs to take this one step further. If it could build a project specific database for each piece of media imported, captured or dragged into the browser and then compare that with its associated project each time it is opened then, at least in theory, that could save the reconnect dance when opening a project that had been changed by another editor. This seems especially do-able when the name of the project hasn’t changed. Since FCP projects can often balloon in size what you might find yourself doing is creating a new project with only one edit sequence. This obviously wouldn’t match the name of the original project so in that case I could see FCP allowing the user to point to a specific database to be associated with that project. While the project name has changed the media file names and attributes  of the clips in the edit would not have changed so pointing that project to the proper database could make reconnection automatic.

One way to lend a hand to FCP’s media management is with a new application from Digital Heaven called Loader that specifically address part of the problem. Loader allows the editor to drag media into the Loader interface and then Loader will copy (and in certain instances convert) the media to a designated media folder for that particular project, be it graphics, audio, etc. At first you might think that this workflow defeats the purpose of FCP being Quicktime based since you don’t want to have to make a copy of every piece of media you bring into FCP, that’s what Avid has to do after all, but this step that Loader takes is a crucial step to making FCP be much more organized in its media management. It puts part of the responsibility of good media management on the software and not the editor. While this may be a bad thing in some people’s minds, an app like Loader can help take even the experienced editor’s mind off the media management task if only for a minute. It’s a must have application if you use FCP, IMHO. But while it gets that media to a more centralized location and can make the reconnection dance a bit less time consuming Final Cut Pro still needs some type of database-based solution to always track its media. Project to project. Version to version. Editor to editor.

Ben at Buttonpusher.tv has posted his own tips and techniques for avoiding the reconnection dance. They are great ideas if you can plan to name the media drives with the same names and paths as those you are sharing the drives with. It may not be possible with permanent, networked drives at a facility but with a little pre-planning his advice is well worth the effort in the time it could save.

At its most simple implementation, a type of FCP project-based database could make the reconnection dance a thing of the past. But at its most advanced maybe it could be smart enough to make the attribute mismatches that often occur when you move clips from one drive to another a thing of the past as well. It could allow for more accurate media manager tasks and remove the stigma of the “media mangler.” And how about if it was smart enough to track all aspects of the timeline, specifically renders in the timeline so you could disable and enable clips and tracks without losing renders. This type of advanced media management would open the eyes of a whole generation of FCP editors who don’t know the joys of rock-solid media management. It’s sad that 6 versions into Final Cut Pro we don’t have something so useful. This new version of FCP, whatever it may be and whenever it may come needs to be a real doozy!

Finally a few timecode calculators for the iPhone

Monday, October 13th, 2008

So after a lot of complaining there’s finally a few timecode calculators available in the iTunes app store for the iPhone. I monitor this feed for recently added iPhone apps and hadn’t seen these guys come online so thanks to the readers who sent a message. Sometimes when I check the feed there might be 100+ new apps that have been added. God knows there’s no shortage of tip calculators, flashlights and other useless crapola so it’s nice to finally see timecode calculators! Unfortunately they are just okay:

The first is called TC Calculator (iTunes direct link). On the surface it looks cool but it’s functionality isn’t good. It seems to always default to 25 fps which is okay if using PAL but there should be an option to always have it default to NTSC rates as well. Plus, it doesn’t add right!! I chose 30 fps as my frame rate and added 15 frames + 15 frames and the answer comes out to be 1:05. It comes out that way as the answer is in 25 fps mode. I could tap the 30 fps button and get the correct answer but who wants to do that at the end of each calculation. Then I tried to add 1:00:00:00 + 1:00 and got the answer 1:00:00:25. That’s just wrong. This thing needs work. It is free but if a free app doesn’t work right then it’s not worth it.

TCCalc (iTunes direct link) is better but it isn’t cheap at $4.99. While $4.99 really isn’t all that expensive, when you consider that most iPhone apps seem to be between 99¢ and $1.99 that does put TCCalc at the higher end of the iPhone app price spectrum. It’s much better than the other application mentioned above as it provides support for drop frame timecode, custom frame rates, better input methods and a nice help page. It doesn’t look all that sleek and iPhone like but it works pretty well. The developer’s web site is in French but you can send suggestions to the developer via email so support should be available.

Time:calc is a basic time calculator that recently added support for timecode. (iTunes direct link). They get a plus as they have all the basic frame rates that must be available. But it’s far from perfect as you have to always hit the colon : button when entering values. A timecode calculator should not require that as you have to be able to enter values fast. Close, but no cigar.

What do all these (and pretty much any timecode calculator) calcs need to make a fully functioning and very useful application? First, you have to have support for all of the high definiton frame rates to make a timecode calculator really useful. I don’t want to be guessing as to what I am importing so a button with 23.98 fps, 59.94 fps, 29.97 fps are buttons that make me feel better about my calculations. And drop frame is essential. Plus memory function and a way to review your last few calculations would be nice too. And you have to understand that when I type 1000000 I am typing one hour: 1:00:00:00. And a double 00 button is icing on the cake since you so often type two zeros together. I hope that TCCalc gets better but I’m also hoping a good United States based developer will still build the best dedicated timecode calculator for the iPhone that looks sleek, is easy to use quickly and supports all the frame rates we have to deal with today.

Looking at Colorista from the Magic Bullet Suite 2008

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

Colorista is a 3-way color corrector very similar in design to the built-in 3-way color corrector that Apple provides with Final Cut Pro. The first question that most people would ask, myself included, is why would anyone want another 3-way color corrector? The short answer is that it produces much better results. That’s a great reason to supplement any default FCP tool with that from another developer.

Colorista interface in Final Cut Pro

When you apply Colorista to a clip and open its controls in the Viewer you see that it has similar looking color wheels to that in the default FCP 3-way color corrector. But Red Giant Software, makers of the Magic Bullet Suite 2008, call these color wheels lift, gamma, gain which are terms that more resemble that in a high end color grading suite like a DaVinci. A name change is one thing but those things have to have functionality to really make a difference. I think one of the best ways to see how Colorista works it to compare some of the same corrections in both Colorist and the FCP 3-way. Stu Maschwitz of DV Rebels Guide fame is the inventor of Colorista and has done that on his website. Since there is a demo of Colorista available you can do the same and decide if Colorista is right for you. For me, I think color correction and color grading is something best left to a professional colorist. They can do a lot better color work than I can. I’ve seen a real colorist work wonders with the FCP 3-way that made my jaw drop. That said I often need to color correct footage myself so I want a tool that is easy to use and produces great results quickly. That’s what Colorista can do.

Another powerful aspect of Colorista is the Power Mask:

Similar to Power Windows in a DaVinci suite it allows you to mask and isolate only parts of the shot for color correction. You choose a rectangle or ellipse shape and then manipulate the size, positions and feathering. While something similar can be achieved with masking and FCP’s built-in 3-way, having this as part of the Colorista filter makes it much easier and faster to work on a specific part of an image. Positioning the mask is the most difficult thing in FCP since you have to click the position + sign in the filter tab before you can get the target to show in the Canvas to allow click and drag positioning of the mask. In Motion those targets are always visible when the filter is selected. It would be great to see a bezier drawing tool to create a custom shape for the mask as well.

Real power can be achieved with Colorista when you apply multiple Colorista filters to a single clip. A great example of this can be found in Red Giant’s own tutorials. They show examples of Colorista in both Adobe After Effects and Final Cut Pro and how you can use multiple versions on a single clip for a quickie secondary color correction.

One disadvantage when using Colorista in Final Cut Pro is the realtime playback performance. It isn’t nearly as good as that of the built-in 3-way. Colorista has what is called its DeepColor RT engine that offers better realtime performance by “efficiently using your system’s graphics processing power.” This is true in an app like Motion that utilizes the computer’s graphics card for realtime performance but not the case in FCP. Red Giant suggests using the Unlimited RT setting on an FCP timeline but you will get a lowered resolution during what might be a choppy frame rate. According to Red Giant’s engineers this is due mainly to the way FCP uses the FxPlug technology. It will be a great day when we get an FCP update that can use the graphics card as well as Motion can. Bottom line is you can get great color correction done with Colorist you just have to render it when you are done!

Colorist interface in Motion

And one final thing to like is that Colorista will run on a number of different hosts and they are included in one installer. Not may plug-ins do that:

As you can see Avid is included in that installer list. Currently Colorista won’t run on the newest Avid Media Composer 3.0. The engineers at Red Giant Software are working on updating Colorista to run on the newest version of Avid. If you use Avid you know that is has much more competent color correction that Final Cut Pro so the need for Colorista might be less on Avid. But Avid’s color correction toolset can sometimes be a bit overkill so a simple and good tool like Colorista can be good to have on Avid as well. Now if they can just get it updated to run on MC Soft 3.0.

What’s next for Colorista? danrubottom posted a couple of suggestions via Twitter a while back that would be nice:

That’s a great recommendation for the next version. If they would build a powerful secondary color correction tool into Colorista as well then it would more than double the power of the tool. Colorista might still be considered early in its life so there is a lot of room to grow. It’s also a good tip to know that when you are working on the overall settings for the lift/gamma/gain you may feel like you want to drag around the circle of the color wheel to move the slider. It’s designed to follow the left and right moves of your mouse. If you stick with left / right movement then it will work a lot better. There’s other 3rd party color correction tools available; Color Finesse and Apple’s own Color but for a great price / performance ratio it’s hard to beat Colorista. And since there is a demo available there’s really no reason not to the Colorista for you color correction needs.