MCA-I Madison Session Notes

Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking at a breakout session for the MCA-I Madison Spring seminar. The topic was tapeless post-production workflow (specifically for FCP, but we did briefly discuss Avid & Premiere Pro). I promised everyone there I would post links to resources and some of the software we discussed in that session (and some we didn’t get to), so here it is:

Software:
Canon EOS Plugin – The official Canon plugin for Log & Transfer. Convoluted download process: Select Mac OSX, then click find “EOS MOVIE Plugin-E1 for Final Cut Pro Ver1.2” in the list, and accept agreement.
Magic Bullet Grinder ($49) – Batch processing of DSLR footage, including proxies with timecode burn in.
5DtoRGB – Process DSLR footage with more control and bypass QuickTime.
5DDtoRGBB – (Unmentioned) Will launch multiple instances of 5DtoRGB for pseudo-batch processing.
Clipfinder 2.2 – Software to reconform FCP XML to RED proxies for passing to Color, among other advanced RED functions.
RED Final Cut Studio 3 Installer – Includes QuickTime codec, Log & Transfer plugin, and Color REDRAW plugin, as well as a useful whitepaper on RED workflow.
REDCine-X – 1st light color correction and transcoding of RED files.

Resources:
RED User Forums – (Unmentioned) Community of RED users, including posts from RED staff.
Inexpensive Archiving for Tapless Media – Post from Little Frog in High Def (Shane Ross) covering some LTO solutions he found at NAB2011.
FCP 7 Digital Workflows (PDF) – (Unmentioned) Straight from Apple, covers working in several formats, including REDCODE, P2, XDCAM, and AVC. Unfortunately, it does not cover DSLR footage. And for obvious reasons, only covers Apple software.

So there’s the things we went over, and some items that didn’t make it into the discussion in the alloted time. Feel free to leave a comment or contact me if you have any questions.

Interlacing: A Twitter Conversation

It all started with this tweet:

the sooner interlaced video dies a horrible death, the better.less than a minute ago via web

Once I retweeted that, it elicited the following response:

@dan_hin @conigs |W|h|a|t|s w|r|o|n|g w|i|t|h i|n|t|e|r|l|a|c|i|n|g|?|less than a minute ago via Twitter for Mac

@vonherwig @dan_hin |h|W|t|a|w s|o|r|g|n i|w|h|t n|i|e|t|l|r|c|a|n|i|?|g| #WrongFieldOrderless than a minute ago via Echofon

@conigs @dan_hin Looks fine on my Trinitron. *shrugs*less than a minute ago via Twitter for Mac

Movie Barcodes

tumblr_lh50xtgrkV1qhtovio1_1280

Just ran across this interesting Tumblog that reduces films to a barcode. The image shown here is from Inception. While I don’t know their exact process, it looks like they are essentially taking frames from the films (reduced to a tiny size, a couple pixels at most) and stacking them to fit into a 1280×480 image (top-bottom, left-right). The result is an interesting look at how color can vary over the course of a story—and contribute to the feel of that story.

Something New…

ML-Banner

If you’re a motion designer, you’ll be interested in something new I’m helping with. A few of us are starting something called The Motion League. More details will come in the next couple weeks.

Post Haste 1.1 Update


I just updated Post Haste to version 1.1. This update introduces a few new features and some bug fixes. If you are unfamiliar with Post Haste, it is a Mac OS X application to set up and automatically rename a project folder template & project files. It was originally developed for an in-house solution to keeping projects organized. You can customize the template and add any files you would like. Any file with the name Template in it will be renamed based on information you enter in the main window, such as project number, client name, date, etc…

The primary new features are:

  1. Template names can now include prefixes & suffixes; ie, only the word “Template” is changed when creating the project. For example, you could use Template_v1.aep, and it would be renamed along the lines 14237_Client_Project_v1.aep, keeping the v1 at the end.
  2. Folders can be renamed in template. Handy if you’ll be moving separate folders to different locations; ie, Template_gfx, Template_sound
  3. “Check for Updates…” added so you can be notified when new updates are available.

There are more features planned in future updates, mostly from user suggestions. If you have any feature requests, find any bugs, or have any questions, feel free to contact me.

Post Haste is completely free to use. No shareware or nagging dialogues. Though if you do find the application useful, donations are always welcome. Thanks for your support and patience while this update was developed!

BG Renderer Hits Version 2

BG_Renderer2_lg

BG Renderer has officially hit version 2! I use this script daily, and this update is a must have. This time it comes in a basic and pro version. The basic version is very similar to version 1. However, the pro version has several feature improvements. These are the two that caught my eye right away:

  1. Render notifications through email, sms, Growl, or Prowl (for iPhone notifications, though Growl + Boxcar could be used as well).
  2. Render CS3 or CS4 comps in the CS5 render engine (if installed) to take advantage of 64-bit without having to update your project file.

Due to the massive amount of work that went into this update, Lloyd Alvarez made the tough decision to make BG Renderer a paid-license script (currently $4.99 for Basic and $19.99 for Pro, moving up to $14.99 & $29.99 respectively in a couple months). However, if you’ve used version 1, you know this script is worth every penny!

My Backup Solution

BackupMultipleHDBacking up data is one of those things that so many people know they should do, but don’t, either because they never get around to it, or think they’ll be okay without it. If you’re in the latter group, trust me, you’ll realize you’re not okay without a backup, probably when it’s too late. If you’re in the former group, take advantage the lighter workload that this time of year can bring and get going on your backups! Let me highlight the backup strategy I personally use.

First, please note that no single backup strategy is perfect for everyone. I approach my backups as a freelancer occasionally working from home, father, and Apple geek. The approach I use will almost certainly differ from what you use (or will use). This is just meant as a springboard from which we can remind each other about backing up our data.
 

Hardware

My main setup is a MacPro, which gives me the luxury of having up to four drives installed internally (more if you are clever), versus a laptop which is sparse on drive expansion. In my case, I have a 320GB system drive, 500GB clone (320GB for clone, plus a spare 180GB partition), 1TB media drive, and a 2TB Time Machine volume. But I could easily substitute an external for any of these if I were on a laptop.

Strategy

Regarding the backups themselves, I have a three-tiered approach to my backups:

  1. Bootable system clone
  2. Versioned local backup
  3. Remote critical backup

Let’s go through these one-by-one.

1. Bootable System Clone

This is a complete clone of my main system drive, made weekly using Carbon Copy Cloner (throw the guy a donation, too). This is a backup I rarely (if ever) use, but is invaluable. If I am working on a project, and something completely trashes my system (bad blocks, system drive failure, etc.), I can immediately boot off the clone without having to wait several hours to restore my system. I can continue working off this drive until I have time to repair the original system drive.

In all honesty, this isn’t a necessity, but I have so many drives littering my office, it seemed like a no-brainer to have a bootable system clone.

2. Versioned Local Backup

I go the easy route here, and simply use Time Machine. Using a 2TB Western Digital Caviar Green drive, I can backup my entire system drive as well as my 1TB media drive, which stores larger renders, captured footage, my stock library, etc. I chose to use Time Machine because it’s built in to the OS, and integrated into several applications I use daily (Mail, Address Book, etc…) There are several other options out there, but it just tends to work.

What’s great about a versioned backup is the ability to recover files not just from a hardware failure, but accidental deletion or file corruption as well.

3. Remote Critical Backup

If something catastrophic were to happen to my home (fire, tornado, robbery), I want to be sure my most important files are safe. I don’t just mean AE and FCP files for work; family photos, videos, tax, and insurance documents top that list above anything work related. So I make sure those go off-site. Luckily, software like Crashplan makes that incredibly easy.

For a very reasonable cost ($1.50/mo up to 10GB, $3/mo unlimited single computer, $6/mo unlimited up to 10 computers), I have unlimited off-site backup, including file versioning. There are other services like Mozy and Backblaze if Crashplan isn’t you’re thing. The important part is to get those files somewhere outside of your home. The nice thing about Crashplan, though, is you can use their software for free to backup to a friend’s computer. All you have to do is give your friend a drive, have them install Crashplan, and enter a code on their computer. (And really, why not just reciprocate and offer to be a backup destination for them as well?)

I am slowly extending my off-site backups to not-quite-so-critical files, including those on my media drive. But it’s a slow process. If I really wanted to, I could send a drive to Crashplan and avoid the online transfer entirely, but I don’t find that necessary for these files.

Conclusion

In the end, you need to find a backup solution that works for you. If you only chose one, I really recommend going off-site, either with a service like Crashplan, Mozy, or Backblaze; or with a drive you store in a safe-deposit box once a month. The important thing is to get those files to another physical location in case something happens to your home. Beyond that, if you can use a local backup for easy recovery, add that to the strategy as well. The bootable system clone? That’s just if you’re can’t afford any down-time for a drive failure.

Drives are getting cheaper and the best backup is one that you can afford to have fail.

AE Quicktip: Assign Keyboard Shortcuts on a Mac

Is there that one menu command you always use in After Effects and wish there was a keyboard shortcut? In the past, there were cumbersome methods of modifying a text file buried in the filesystem to change things. But there’s a much easier way:

System Preferences: Keyboard & Mouse

System Preferences: Keyboard & Mouse.

Go to the Keyboard Shortcuts tab and click on the “+” button towards the bottom.

Then select After Effects from the Application pulldown (you might have to go to “Other…” at the bottom and browse to AE).

Type in the exact name of the menu item you want a shortcut for, then hit the keys you’d like to be the shortcut. Just make sure they shortcut isn’t already used by After Effects.

And there you go!

It’s Vivifying!

1898yearbook-76I got this link to a 1898 yearbook (30MB PDF warning) for The West Side High School from my sister-in-law. It’s a fascinating glimpse of life over a century ago, but what I found more amazing were the ads, like the one to the left.

It’s well worth digging around and discovering the ornate borders, intricate typography, and detailed line drawings, as well as some interesting student illustrations. Not surprisingly, photography is very limited (mostly just faculty, staff, and the building itself).

But I digress. You really need to take a look at these ads! (And if you make it to the end, there’s a special surprise!)
Read More…

Offline Woes

AE-FCP

I’ve run into this problem a lot. Here’s the setup:

I’ll pull selects in Final Cut Pro, reveal the clip in the Finder and import it into After Effects to work with. When I go back to Final Cut Pro, the clip will be offline for a brief moment before showing up again. What’s worse is if I’ve rendered that clip somewhere in a timeline, that render will be gone.

I finally decided to dig into this to find out what was going on. It turns out it’s a simple thing, really. When you load a clip into After Effects CS4, it appends XMP metadata to the file. Final Cut Pro then sees the updated file and takes a moment to relink what it thinks is new media. So there you go.

Moral of the story: be careful when working directly with FCP media files in After Effects.