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.

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.

How to Install Final Cut Studio 3

Yesterday, Apple quietly announced the new Final Cut Studio. The “what’s new” page actually has some nice features, though many I’ve talked to are surprised this is a full point upgrade to Final Cut Pro (myself included). There’s already comprehensive posts covering the new features and what they could mean. I really don’t have much to add.

Today, however, I am posting perhaps the most important link: How to Install Final Cut Studio 3. This is spot on from my own experience and a very comprehensive guide.

[via @editblog]

Why Film Editors Complain Alot Today

I was going to write up a post on the recent ACE pre-announcement—which is apprently all the rage lately—that they are giving their first ever technical award to Avid Media Composer. This award is also meant to be a snub against Apple, whom ACE feels is not listening to their concerns. As I said, I was going to write this post. Norman Hollyn took the words from my mouth.

Sorry folks, but that’s just the beginning of it. and complaining about not being consulted about our editing platform of choice reminds me of the days when some editors refused to move off of film because it “just wasn’t right.” I’m trying to think of how many editors who refuse to edit digitally are working today. The answer to that would be — none.

Give Me h.264 Editing or Give Me Headaches

Apologies to Patrick Henry. One of the rumors floating around concerning Final Cut Pro 7 (and QuickTime in Snow Leopard) is that it will support native h.264 editing (via Philip Bloom). Depending on your point of view you may have read that and thought “F-ing awesome! About time!” or “Oh, great. Fantastic, another codec that shouldn’t be used for editing.” Both reactions are appropriate, because as with nearly everything, this is both good and bad. This new workflow might save time and headache, or it could end up being more of both.

The Good

Not too long ago, a camera came on the market that offered inexpensive acquisition of full-raster 1080p video on a full-frame sensor using 35mm lenses. You know which camera I’m referring to. (Hint: It’s the Canon 5D MkII.) The images from this camera are great – shallow depth-of-field, great glass, decent color. Though problems arose with the format Canon chose for their QuickTime files: h.264. In Final Cut Pro, users had to either put up with dropped frames and poor performance, or transcode the footage to a more friendly format.

I firmly believe that anything that makes life easier is generally good. With native h.264 editing, users can now pull the QuickTime files straight off the camera and begin cutting. Just like that. No transcoding, saving on hard drive space and (potentially) time.

The Bad

Most editors will be able to say that they’ve seen this before with HDV. At first, Apple allowed editing of HDV footage by transcoding it to the Apple Intermediate Codec, otherwise, editing was just plain awful. Then they allowed native HDV timelines. Like this announcement, some rejoiced, others sighed… heavily.

The problem with natively editing with codecs like HDV and h.264 (both variants of MPEG compression) is that they’re not meant for intermediate use. And many (myself included) would argue that they shouldn’t even be acquisition formats. Now, with editing natively in those formats, footage is being compressed on acquisition, compressed on timeline renders, and more than likely, compressed again on output, with another potential compression when uploaded to sites like YouTube and Vimeo (which is where a lot of these pieces end up). That’s a lot of compression.

My hope is that Final Cut Pro will at least allow for ProRes rendering on h.264 timelines the way it does with HDV and XDCam EX footage. But that is still only a stopgap measure. The greater problem may be lack of understanding as to why the old way (transcoding to a more robust codec) is really the better way.

An Aside: Misunderstanding

It’s anecdote time. A documentary friend of mine who shoots and edits is in love with his HDV camera (one of the Sony prosumer ones, I believe). And with good reason. He could affordably shoot in HD, and in 24p as well. Well, really 24p with pulldown in a 1080i stream. Now, some of what he shoots goes directly to web and is on tight deadlines. He shoots, ingests his footage as native HDV 1080i. Edits in a native HDV 1080i timeline. Then waits. Then wonders why it’s taking so long for the “conforming to HDV” process. Then wonders why there’s this weird interlacing going on, especially when he down-converts the edit to DVD or lower res QuickTimes. This is all despite several conversations we’ve had as to the nature of HDV & long GOP MPEG-2, how the camera is actually recording 24p, and that videos on the web are progressive, not interlaced.

Now, this is a great shooter, a great editor, and an all-around good guy. He’s just not an engineer and doesn’t know all the technical details. This is what is lost on many people: post production is half creative fun, half engineering and technical voodoo. Democratization of technology is great and it allows many people to work creatively when they couldn’t before. But because of that, the details are obfuscated and many don’t know why what they’re doing isn’t necessarily the best way or is sometimes causing them more problems.

It’s a Sliding Scale

In the end, it will most likely only be the professional editors who even notice and/or complain about this new workflow in FCP, provided it is even true. We just have to remember that Final Cut Studio is an inexpensive product that can arguably scale from DV editing on a MacBook to full on feature editing on a network of loaded Mac Pros. It’s not just pros using Final Cut Pro. And if this new workflow makes life just a little easier for the hobbyists/amateurs/photographers/moms/students/anyone, then it’s probably a good thing. Though it doesn’t hurt to educate someone should they ask for help or have questions.