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]

Ease of Use is a Problem?

I work with complicated software and various engineering and hardware problems every day. Such is the life in post production. The average consumer should not have to deal with the issues I deal with. That is why there are software bundles like iLife to make things easier.

Christopher Dawson, technology director for a Massachusetts public school district disagrees. He thinks software like iLife is too easy and impairs students:

It simply hands so much to the students that they struggle with software (whether Windows, Linux, or even pro-level software on the Mac) that isn’t so brilliantly plug and play. Yes, iLife rocks in many ways, but the level of spoonfeeding it encourages actually makes me think twice about using it widely, especially at the high school level.

So his argument is that some software is difficult to use, therefore easy software should not be allowed.

When working in a professional setting, yes, you need to understand your tools inside and out to better understand how to get your work done. I see the effect lack of knowledge has all the time with edits we get back from freelance editors working in Final Cut Pro at home. We get 16:9 anamorphic footage edited letterboxed in 4:3 sequences, tapes captured as stereo instead of split-mono,  extraneous use of layered plugins to achieve a “look,” 24 layers of video with 76 layers of audio, most of which are empty… the list goes on.

That said, these are technical problems and not creative ones. When you’re in school (especially high school), little should stand in the way between the creative vision that is in your head and the final result, including software. There’s no reason for students to know NTSC frame sizes, what 3:2 pulldown is,  or the difference between RGB and YUV, that is, unless they want to learn more. In which case, let them grow out of the simple software and use the more advanced packages.

As for the assumption that using easy software causes students to struggle with more compliated software? I’ve been on both sides. Many, many times, it doesn’t matter what you’re used to, complicated software is still complicated.

If high school students are having trouble picking up “pro-level software on the Mac,” it’s not because they’re used to plug-and-play. There’s a reason it’s called “pro” software ((For the record, I started out on Media100 as a freshman in high school, then moved to Premiere & Final Cut Pro my junior year. I would’ve killed for something like iMovie where I didn’t need to make sure I captured my video as Motion JPEG-A through the Aurora card for it to play back out successfully)).

[via Daring Fireball]

Safari 4 Beta Tabs

I may write up a more detailed post later, but I wanted to get this out there now.

Safari 4 Beta, like Google’s Chrome has the right idea about tabs, but the implementation is horrible.

What’s right:
The tab now encompasses the URL bar & navigation bar, which represents the contents of that tab.

What’s wrong:
The title bar should be a title bar, not a container for tabs.
The tab now also encompasses the Bookmark bar, which is not in any way associated with the content of the tab, except to provide quick navigation to those pages. It does not change with regard to the different tabs, so why is it included as part of the tab?

Tabs, which usefull, still provide with unique UI challenges. I’m glad to see steps taken in the right direction, but it’s still by no means utopia.

KERN – Typography Nerds Can Have Fun Too

Kern GameThink Tetris, but upside-down, with letters. That’s the best way I can think to describe KERN (App Store), a new game for the iPhone. From the site:

KERN is a minimalist typography experience challenging you to precisely place a missing letter into a falling word while avoiding any unnecessary ligatures!  Practice and prove your typographical acumen with a score that gives new meaning to point-size!

The design is beautifully minimal and well thought out. It’s also easy to pick up and well worth the $0.99, even if your not into typography. I think this might be my new go-to game.

Video of the game play available after the break.

[via @rohdesign]

Read More…

Red delays Scarlet and EPIC

In an announcement on the Reduser forum this morning, Jim Jannard of Red Digital Cinema has stated they are no longer working overtime to push the release of Scarlet and EPIC. These cameras are still in the pipeline, they have just moved to a more typical development schedule.

I see no reason to continue to pay for rapid development and pushed schedules when the world is not ready to buy our product in the quantities that justify our urgency.  […] Retail camera sales are currently off 40-50%.

While it may be a blow to those who were hoping to get their hadns on one of those cameras once they were pre-announced, I can completely understand their decision. If the volume of sales won’t be there, it doesn’t make sense to push development as hard as they probably were.

Jon Chappell of Digital Rebellion highlights why this isn’t such a big deal, which I completely agree with. There may even be an upside. This may translate to more Red One sales, which could mean more support for the Red One in post. We’re getting there with RAW support in FCP, AE, and Premiere, but it could stand to be improved… especially 4k support in FCP.

Good read on FCP-L

A lengthy but interesting thread popped up on FCP-L. What started out as a simple off-topic post about the new Canon 5D-MkII evolved into tapeless vs tape, digital vs film, and even the evolution of nonlinear editing. At some point I will probably go through and pull out my favorite posts, but for now, I just wanted to get the link up. It’s definitely worth scanning through.

Apple Leaving Macworld after 2009

Apple has announced 2009 will be its last year at Macworld. I’m surprised, yet not at the same time.

Apple is reaching more people in more ways than ever before, so like many companies, trade shows have become a very minor part of how Apple reaches its customers.

This follows the trend Apple started (I believe) when they pulled out of NAB 2007. I will be interested to see what Macworld will become without a Stevenote ((This we’ll actually see this year as Phil Schiller wil be delivering the keynote.)) or Apple booth.

[via Ryan Block]

AE CS4: Leopard vs Vista

Being a Mac guy who works with After Effects, this news really bothers me. Keven Schmidt at Creative Mac benchmarked renders in After Effects CS4 on Mac OS X and Windows. The result? AE still renders faster in Windows, by roughly 1.2x. Now, AE has traditionally rendered faster in Windows, but now that we’re on v9 and OS X has been around for 8 years, you’d think there would be significant improvements. Kevin about sums it up:

Either Adobe isn’t tuning After Effects on the Mac at all, or tuning the buhjeezus out of the Windows versions. Hell, even single process rendering on Vista generally spanks multiple processes on Leopard, for the love of Pete.

This, coupled with the continued sub-par performance of Flash on the Mac really makes me doubt Adobe’s commitment to the Mac platform.  Are they still bitter about Final Cut Pro eating into Premiere sales back in 1998 & 1999?

As a side note, the other takeaway from the post is that enabling multiprocessing in AE doesn’t save much time in either platform. For longer renders, it may help, but for those intermediate small batches, you may be better of sticking to single processes. This is something I’ve suspected for a long time, and I’m glad to see some numbers on this.