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:

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.

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.

iPhone Apps for Designers/Post Production

I’m not afraid to admit that I’m slightly addicted to my iPhone. It’s a really useful piece of tech, not just for communication, but for my work as well. Here’s a list of apps I use almost daily for my motion design & post production work :

WhatTheFontWhat The Font (Free, iTunes Link)
Take a picture of a sign, layout, billboard, or pretty much anything and upload it to What The Font. It operates much like the website and can be a lifesaver. Though it can be tricky to get matches back unless you have a 3G S, as the fixed focus camera on the original and 3G iPhones makes it tricky to get a decent picture.

Colorscliqcliq Colors ($2.99, iTunes Link)
Choosing the right colors for a project is important and inspiration can come from anywhere at any time. Chose your own colors (up to 16) or use a photo as the basis for the palette. You can work in RGB, HSB, Gray or CMYK (for you print designers). When you’re done you can name & rate your palette, or even send it in an email. The email is especially thorough, providing ACO, ASE, Office Open XML Color Theme, bitmap, plaintext, and CSV file formats, along with a preview.

ColorSlideColorSlide (Free, iTunes Link)
Speaking of color palettes, you’re probably familiar with Adobe Kuler. ColorSlide is basically an iPhone front-end allowing you to search, browse, and bookmark the palettes. Unfortunately, there’s no way to sign in with your Kuler account, though you can email links.

ColourMill Colour (Free, iTunes Link)
A great little photo adjustment app by The Mill. Allows you to chose from predefined looks or adjust lift/gamma/gain (both luminance & separate RGB) and saturation on your own.

PSMobilePS Mobile (Free, iTunes Link)
From Adobe themselves. Crop, adjust exposure/saturation/tint, apply filters and save & upload your completed image to I admit I don’t use this too often, but it’s handy to have.

AnimTimerAnimation Timer ($4.99, iTunes Link)
Tap out timing for your animation. It’s similar to the “lap” feature on stopwatches, though instead of fractions of a second, you get frames, 35mm footage or timecode. It’s handy for timing everything from edits to complex character animation.

EditCalcEditCalc ($0.99, iTunes Link)
A simple timecode calculator. Works in 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 59.94, and 60 fps. You can also work in varying film footages, from 16mm 1perf all the way up to 70mm 5perf.

DataCalcAJA DataCalc (Free, iTunes Link)
Recently released, this app will calculate storage for varying frame sizes/rates and codecs, and closely mirrors their Mac & Windows calculators in function. You can work in days/hours/min/sec or timecode. What I really like about the app is you can chose between working in KB (1000 bytes), KiB (1024 bytes) or even Bits, which is handy if you’re working in Snow Leopard. One complaint is that they don’t offer 720p24 as a preset, though you can use custom setups, so it’s not that big of a deal. When you’re all done you can mail a summary of your calculation; useful if you’re on set and need to let your assistant know what’s coming.

iBlueSkyiBlueSky ($9.99, iTunes Link)
If you’re not familiar with mind mapping, you might not care much about this app. But it’s hands-down the best app for this purpose. What I really like is that I can email my maps as OPML files (along with other formats) and open it up with OmniOutliner on my Mac.

PocketVFXPocket VFX ($0.99, iTunes Link)
This is just for fun. Framestore (vfx credits include Avatar, The Dark Knight, The Golden Compass, and Where the Wild Things Are) has released an app of their own. You, too can have Framestore’s power in your own pocket!

Have other favorite design/post apps? Share them in the coments.

VFX Breakdown: Sweater

Last week I was working on a retail spot where we needed a product that wasn’t shot on-figure. But we did have a shot of a similar product. It just needed a little work. This is what I mean by “a little:”

I’m pretty pleased with the end result. It was a fun task to work on, though I hope I don’t have to do it too often…

AE Mini Tip: Color Control Layer

If you’ve worked on commercial project, you know there’s only one constant: change… especially at the last minute. One of the things that seems to frequently change is color choice. If you have a complicated AE animation and many layers that use the same colors, this can be a royal pain. You can reduce this pain if, from the beginning, you set up a color control layer.

[Note: this really only works well if you’re working on vector animations with single-color objects.]

First, set up an adjustment layer and add the “Color Color” effect found under “Expression Controls.” Do this for as many colors as you want.


I recommend naming the controls for the layers you will be coloring rather than the color itself.

Then, apply the “Fill” effect under “Generate.” Here, you can option-click (alt-click on PC) and drag the pick-whip (that little spiral button) to the color control in your color control layer.


Now, when the client comes back to you with the comment “The trees should be purple,” you won’t be cursing under your breath (as much).

Mograph Workflow for NY Times

With so many newspapers seeing decline in their physical circulation, it’s nice to see a paper like the New York Times embracing the flexibility of content that the Internet can offer.

Recently, their After Effects workflow was posted on It’s a little rough and they fully admit they’re new to the mograph game, but it’s always interesting to see how someone else works.

Now if only other papers would realize Internet distribution offers more than digital copies of their print.

Here’s the New Your Times’ demo reel:

Introducing Post Haste

UPDATE: Humble pie. I already had to fix a pretty critical bug. Post Haste 1.0.1 has just been released.

One of the more tedious tasks in post, with the exception of rotoscoping, is just setting up a project. A while back, we discovered the usefulness using a template folder to keep everything consistent. Thomas Tomchak at Suite Take goes into great detail about project templates. But we were still duplicating folders, copying and pasting, and renaming multiple files before we could get started. I decided to make the write my own software to make things easier. The result is Post Haste.

Post Haste really just does one thing, but does it well: automatically generates a project folder for you. All you have to do is enter information such as project number, client, etc. and Post Haste will create a project folder with files in place and renamed. It’s customizable to allow up to five fields of information and auto-fills certain fields such as date, editor, or suite. Take a look.

Post Haste is completely free. There are no nag dialogues about how you should give me money. Really, I wrote the program for myself to make things easier. But to make things interesting, I’m releasing Post Haste as “luchware.” If you find it useful, consider buying me lunch.

My Amazon Store

So I decided to create my own Amazon affiliate store. I figure there’s always people looking for recommendations on products, especially in the film/video field. My store is mostly for post production and includes peripherals like the Wacom Intuos4, books, storage devices, and even a T-shirt.

One thing I’m really trying to do is make sure I only add products I own or  have personally used and can recommend. If I haven’t at least used it, it won’t go there. With that said, I gladly welcome recommendations on anything you think should be added.

Aspect Matte – Easier Letterbox/Pillarbox Matting in FCP

The Widescreen filter in Final Cut Pro can be anoying for two reasons: you have to apply it to each clip and it leaves transparent bars instead of a true matte. I’ve been using the method described here for quite some time now. Me being me, I assumed it was common practice, but perhaps not. So I’ve decided to share my extensive matte collection with everyone.

Below you will find a zip archive containing PSD files in common resolutions/formats (including HD & RED) with the following black mattes:

  • 1.33 (4:3)
  • 1.5 (3:2)
  • 1.67
  • 1.78 (16:9)
  • 1.85
  • 2 (2:1)
  • 2.39 (2.35)

Enjoy and feel free to share. The files are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.

zip Aspect Matte (Zip Archive)

Software Isn’t Expensive

Many people complain that some software is too expensive. I think it comes down to a fundamental difference in how software is viewed. I believe (most) software is a tool. I think others view (all) software as entertainment.

While Marco Arment was referring to the recent MacHeist bundle, this argument holds true to any software:

Most software is an incredibly good deal, especially the applications that you use every day or as part of your business. For example, given that I make all of my living by using TextMate, and it was developed entirely by Allan Odgaard over (probably) thousands of hours, it would be ridiculous for me to haggle its €39 price.

I am very, very tired of hearing “Photoshop costs too much” or “Why should I pay so much for software I don’t fully use?” To which I respond, respectively, “No it doesn’t,” and “You shouldn’t. Instead opt for different software that fits your budget/goals/skillset/featureset.”

Now, this may sound elitist, but professional software is priced for professionals who make a living using that product. Final Cut Studio & Adobe Production Bundle (as examples) are priced acceptably, as I can make that money back rather quickly on the jobs I take on. If you just want to use Photoshop to touch up some family photos, make LOL Cats, or doodle, there are countless other options for you (Photoshop Elements, GIMP, Acorn, Pixelmator, etc.). Several hundred (or thousand) dollars for software which professionals can easily make back using said software is not unreasonable. Do you want me to price out a full Avid suite for you?

If you view software as nothing more than entertainment, you probably would expect to pay no more than $50 for anything. It is a point-of-view I can fully understand; however, you then should not be looking at professional software, and you definitely should not complain about its price-points.

[hat-tip to @digitalreb for the original link]