Native R3D Support in Final Cut Studio

According to ProVideo Coalition, a recent update to Final Cut Studio now supports R3D files. At least, the same way it handles P2: re-wrapped as QT files.

We could always transcode to ProRes or work with proxies, but this now gives us the ability to work with the full 12-bit RGB data. This will be especially usefull in Color ((While I’m still relatively new to color grading and Red in particular, apparently DPX didn’t even support this. Which means we can really pull more highlight data.)).

There are a few caviats, such as being Intel-only, still no ability to work with full 4k (just the 2k data), and no Raw or Redcode timeline, since these are still read-only. Still, I’m very, very happy to gain the ability to work with the raw data instead of transcoded ProRes files or the proxies.

[Thanks John.]

Is apprenticeship dead?

For some reason, I’ve spent a lot of time perusing the Pro-App discussion forums on Apple as well as the AE forum on Creative COW. Many people on these boards are very, very helpful. When I get the chance, I try to pitch in as well to help someone through a problem.

Lately, though, I’ve noticed two possibly (probably) related trends, mainly on Apple:

  1. Senior users responding with the air of “why are you wasting my time?” or “your wrong/that was stupid”
  2. Novice users posting questions along the lines of “I was hired to cut this commercial and I don’t know anything about broadcast!”

I’m guessing after seeing too many of #2, you get the attitude of #1. But no one is forcing that person to post or respond. As far as #2 is concerned, I’ve gotten in over my head, too; however, there seem to be more and more of these posts.

While this seems to be a relatively new trend for video, it’s old news for designers and audio engineers. Got a copy of Photoshop? You’re a designer! Pro Tools? Hey, now you’re an audio engineer! Have FCP? You’re now an editor. Gonna by that new Scarlet for $2,500. That makes you a DP!

I made a similar observation on Slashdot back when Apple lowered the price of Shake in June, 2006 ((And I’ll also note that some people called me out on it. If you go up two levels, I did make a rather snide remark which made me sound like an elitist prick.)):

When powerful software gets into the hands of the untrained, the trend seems to be that it lowers the value of the services of people who do know what they are doing. […] I’m not saying the price drop in Shake is entirely bad, just that it will bring in more people who think they know what they’re doing, when really they have no idea.

Recently, I discovered this thread on FCP-L. The general consensus is that apprenticeship seems to be dead, at least in the video/indie-film world.

I don’t knock people for wanting to get into the biz, and learning a few things the hard way. I did too. But there is, more and more, a trend of people NOT starting out as assistants or apprentices…learning the craft while on the job and watching how it is done. People will just buy the equipment and without any knowledge go off and shoot something. […] What gets me is when these people now go “I have a client and am making a commercial for broadcast…how do I do this[?]”

comebackshane

I know many, many people (especially some with me in film school) who just decided since they had a camera and computer, that made them a DP/editor/director. I’ve seen sophomores at UWM drop of their “DP” reels expecting to get jobs shooting commercials. Now learning something along the way is one thing. You fall. You get back up and try again, learning something along the way. Only these don’t appear to be falls, but rather willfully walking off a cliff and asking for a parachute on the way down.

Though, those of us who have run the gauntlet ((I’ll fully admit, I’m still in that process. I’m pretty sure it never ends.)) really should try and help those who need it. And especially those who ask for it. Mark Raudonis later notes that apprenticeship is not dead in his shop:

We make it a point to teach, encourage, and give people an chance to contribute to the team effort. The first mistake they make would be my fault… I didn’t teach them. The second mistake is their fault… they didn’t learn. The third mistake is their last one… at our shop.

If you come across those that seem to have gotten in over their head, be willing to help out. It may be our only chance to keep apprenticeship alive. Just be weary of those that get into these situations who then refuse to think or learn, but instead wish to have others do the work for them. They won’t learn. They don’t want to.

iPhone NDA Dead (Mostly), Rejections still confusing

As has been reported all over today, the iPhone NDA has been dropped for released software and features. However, I’m pretty sure it will still cover rejected apps (specifically, rejection letters). Even so, it is great that developers now have the opportunity to share their code and techniques with one another.

Now, not to rain on the parade here, but now can they fix the issue with app rejections? IBM’s Lotus Notes has been approved for sale in the App Store, despite apple rejecting a third party G-Mail app earlier for “duplicating funcionality and potential user confusion.” Granted, Lotus Notes is a bit more complex than MailWrangler, but they both seem to provide “sufficient differentiation” than the built in Mail app.

Still, the NDA shows progress in the right direction.

More App Store Rejection Fun

Apparently, Apple has heard the public complaints about their recent rejections from the App Store. Their solution? Cover the rejection letters under NDA:

THE INFORMATION CONTAINED IN THIS MESSAGE IS UNDER NON-DISCLOSURE

Nice. It’s no secret that I can be considered an Apple fan boy and all, but this is getting ridiculous. I wonder how many rejected developers will break the NDA?

Apple and Code Signing

By this point, most of us are familiar with the App Store and the controversy: why do apps have to be vetted by Apple before being deemed acceptable to install on our own devices? This is not a post specifically about that, but rather the extension of that practice.

Several months ago, I ran across a post on Rogue Amoeba’s Under the Microscope blog about code signing in Leopard. At the heart of the discussion was the following quote in an Apple mailing list:

In order to achieve the nirvana of only running valid code, the system must completely refuse to run unsigned code. Since that would really have ruined third party developers’ Leopard experience, we don’t do that in Leopard (except for the Parental Controls and firewall cases, where we surreptitiously sign unsigned programs when they are “enabled” to run).
Eventually you will all have signed your recent releases, and we’ll have fixed all the (important) bugs and closed all the (important) holes, and a switch will materialize to this effect – to refuse (at the kernel level) to run any code that isn’t valid.

Posted to apple-cdsa on March 3, 2008 ((It should be noted that I commented on that post as to who, exactly, “Perry the Cynic” was. He is an employee of Apple as past posts of his in the mailing lists will clearly indicate.))

At that time, I said that no one would accept such measures. How could people possibly use a system where all the code is signed in such a manor? The iPhone App store is certainly such a system, but it’s a closed device with the expectations of a closed device. ((Except, perhaps, for the Jailbreak community.))

However, with the apparent success of the App Store, Apple’s history of using smaller projects as test-beds for OS X, the inclusion of the Trusted Platform Module on Intel chip sets when Apple made the x86 transition ((Even though the TPM is not enabled on Intel Macs, its presence just adds fuel to the fire.)), and the support for signed code in Leopard, I have to wonder.

If Apple does indeed move to a closed system with all applications requiring signing in order to run, it will be a troubling time for those who run on Macs. Take, for example, the recent rejection of a podcasting application from the App Store:

Today I finally got a reply from Apple about the status of Podcaster.

Apple Rep says: Since Podcaster assists in the distribution of podcasts, it duplicates the functionality of the Podcast section of iTunes.

This bears repeating: an application was rejected because it duplicates the functionality of iTunes, an Apple app.

Now, I’m usually an advocate for Apple when it comes to “the whole solution.” I believe that by having control of the hardware and the OS which runs on that hardware enables them to provide a solid experience. That, however, is as far as my advocacy for a controlled system will go.

Yes, I use iCal, Mail, Final Cut Pro, and many other Apple apps, but I do so as a choice. The minute I lose that choice is when I jump ship. No user experience, regardless of polish and ease, can justify that. Imagine if I was forced to use iChat instead of Adium, Safari instead of Firefox… Motion instead of After Effects.

This single tweet from Steven Frank illustrates the worst-case-scenario:

Scenario: Apple makes code-signing mandatory for desktop Mac applications. You can now only buy them through iTunes. Think it can’t happen?

I think it can, I just hope against hope that it doesn’t. If it does? I’ll stick with Leopard (or in some cases Tiger) until I can no longer install those systems on new hardware. Once that happens? Well, I just hope Linux will have matured enough to get the support from the software I need to use on a daily basis.

[thanks to Daring Fireball for inspiring the conversation]

iTunes 8: Initial Thoughts

iTunes 8 landed yesterday after Apple’s “Let’s Rock” special event. With new features like the Genius Sidebar/Playlists, Grid View, and a revamped visualizer, it might actually warrant a full version bump. However, iTunes has never had the most consistent version numbering. After playing with the new features and interface, these are my first impressions:

Genius Recommendation Engine

Genius SidebarPerhaps the most notable feature in version 8 is the Genius feature. There are two ways to utilize this feature. The first is the Sidebar. This will recommend songs and albums for you to purchase from the iTunes store based on your current selection. This is actually a more personalized replacement for the MiniStore.

The other way to access this feature is the playlist option. This will comb through your library and select 25, 50, 75, or 100 songs from your library that presumably go well with the song you have selected. While it is a nice way to listen to music, it seems better suited for some genres and not others. For example, I had iTunes build a playlist of 75 songs based on “Paper Planes” by M.I.A. It pulled songs like “Six Underground” by Sneaker Pimps and “The Salmon Dance” by The Chemical Brothers, it also chose songs like “Pump Up the Jam” by Technotronic (don’t judge). I decided to try it again, this time with “Sabotage” by Beastie Boys. This time it performed much better and gave me a nice hip hop-ish mix.

I’m not really sure what algorithms the Genius feature uses, but it definitely is interesting. It should be noted that this feature only works on one song at a time (so you can’t build a Genius playlist using three songs), and it only seems to work with songs that the iTunes Store recognizes. It will, however, pull from the entirety of your library to build playlists, regardless of whether or not those songs appear in the iTunes Store. I was glad to see this as I was worried it would be limited only to what they carry.

Grid View

Grid View presents an iPhoto-like view of all your albums, artists, genres, or composers. While an interesting way to view your music, I’m not entirely convinced of its usefulness, though I’m sure many will love it. I have two primary complaints with the implementation of this feature. First is that it does not handle “albumless” songs gracefully. It continues the problem with the album grouping view from iTunes 7 that puts each albumless song in its own “album.” So if I have 10 songs from VNV nation that don’t have albums tagged, they show up as ten different blank album covers. This could be easily solved by treating all songs with no album as belonging to the same “album.” Second is that the increasingly cluttered UI of iTunes is made even more cluttered and inconsistent when in this view:

iTunes UI

Looking at it again, it is reminiscent of the movies view in previous versions. The most baffling part of all this is the apparent need to darken everything, from the tabs/selectors at the top to the scroll bar, which turns to a dark gray. Even the scroll indicator is darker than normal when the iTunes windows is in the background. This just seems to be another example of Apple ignoring its own Human Interface Guidelines.

Visualizer

I’ll only touch on this briefly, as I rarely use visualizers anymore. The default visualizer in iTunes 8 is pretty. There’s nothing else to really say about it.

Other Tweaks

Artwork Grouping – With Grid View replacing the “Artwork Grouping” in the view buttons, I thought that it that view was lost. It is actually now built into the list view as an artwork column selectable by either “Show Artwork Column” in the View menu, or clicking the small arrow in the far left of the column labels. Unfortunately, you cannot reposition this column

Revised Preference Window – Apple simplified the preference window as well. Many things are more logically grouped, for example AirTunes and iPhone/iPod Touch Remote settings are now under a tab labeled “Devices” along with iPhone and iPod backups. This replaces the “Syncing” tab from iTunes 7. Also, certain features seem to have been removed, such as the “Smart Shuffle” slider which would change the likelihood of hearing two or more songs by the same artist  in a row.

Closing Thoughts

While some of the new features are interesting, I think the Genius Playlist is the only feature I’ll be regularly using. Grid View just doesn’t do it for me, visualizers aren’t my thing, and I rarely spend time in the preferences window (though I greatly appreciate slimming it down).

What really bothers me about iTunes is that it is becoming a behemoth of an app. When it first started, it was a music organizer. Now it syncs my iPhone, holds TV shows and movies, purchase apps… One of the original goals of the NeXT system (and by extension OS X) is one app for one function; hence Address Book, Mail, and iCal all being separate apps, and not combined like other PIMs. I think it’s time for Apple to really take a look at what iTunes is becoming and rethink its function and organization.