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.

Online Video Attention Spans

We all know attention spans diminish rapidly once content moves online. With traditional mediums such as theater, television, and radio, you have a relatively captive audience (though I believe lessening as you go down that short list). True someone may get up during a TV show, but they’re still mostly just sitting there with the sole purpose of watching the program on the box.

Online entertainment is a different story, especially for video-based content. Personally, I believe it is a combination of the “snack mentality” and multitasking. In the former, people just want a little bit of something. They usually don’t go online with the sole intent of watching this video or that, they go online to be entertained or gather news & information. The specifics usually aren’t that important ((Notice I say “usually.” Sometime people fire up the YouTube for a certain video. Also, research is also a pretty targeted task. One doesn’t often say “You know, I think I’m going to research… something.”)).

More to the point, TubeMogul recently posted a study in which they tracked how long users would watch a video. The results aren’t really surprising: Roughly 90% of people watch more than 10 seconds, while fewer than 10% will watch more than five minutes, which a fairly strait drop-off as you move between the two. Though there is a slightly larger dip once the one minute mark is passed.

Though, as with all statistics, the numbers make little sense without context.

For a two-week period, we measured viewed-seconds for a sample of 188,055 videos, totaling 22,724,606 streams, on six top video sites

So we know it’s from a variety of sites and (likely) a variety of different videos. The thing I believe is missing is context, namely the type of videos. For example, I have a fairly low tolerance for for shaky cell-phone footage of some dude wiping out on his bike. However, I will often watch most narrative (and the more traditional documentary) pieces through to the end, provided they are intriguing & interesting.

Many times at work, we are constantly talking about this magical “two-minute threshold,” where if a video is longer than two minutes, it’s often too long. However, I tend to disagree. I don’t think there is a hard threshold. If something is engaging, people will watch, provided the have the time. There’s just a difference between watching someone else’s antics and being told a story.

For the sake of argument, many on-line videos are just images of something that (generally) regular people are doing. Dropping Mentos in Diet-Coke, someone’s kid doing something silly, high-school students left to their own devices with a camera ((If you’re a high-school student and reading this, just put the camera down, seriously. Just think about what you are going to be documenting. Chances are, it’s really not a good idea… at all.))… I, and I believe many people, just don’t have a high tolerance for any lengthy video in that category. I believe this is the reason for the rapid fall-off in the TubeMogul chart. Those videos just aren’t worth our attention when our time is finite.

What I would be curious to see is a break down of types of videos. I firmly believe that people will sit down and watch more of an online video if it is narrative or  a more traditional documentary. But I could be wrong. It’s been known to happen once-in-a-while.

[via korrejohnson]

[update: also posted this on the All About Face blog.]

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.

Portfolio

So, it’s 11 months late, but I’ve finally started to get some pieces up on the portfolio section of the site.

I’ve got one issue with it though (aside from it not being complete). Shadowbox, the media viewer I’m using, seems to have an issue with Firefox 3 and Adblock. It prevents any plugin media (including flash & quicktime) from loading in the viewer. If anyone has any ideas, I’m open to them. Right now, though, I think my best bet is to just provide a different view option for those users who may be affected. Are there any special firefox-only functions that can be used to detect plugins? I’d want this to be as automated as possible.

Film is not Moving Photography

Wired has a piece up about the new breed of DSLRs with the ability to shoot HD video. Now, the main objective of the piece is to point out that new chip designs have lead to this ability, but I take issue with comments like this:

“The single biggest difference between still photography and a movie, aside from motion, is lens choice and depth of field,” says Vincent Laforet, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer who is part of a Canon marketing program, “Explorers of Light.”

Okay, first of all, I’m not sure that Laforet is aware that professional film cameras, including digital cameras like the Red One, do have the ability to changes lenses and offer a shallow depth of field as well. Later:

Laforet predicts that this low-light sensitivity will lead moviemakers to dispense with expensive, bulky, and obtrusive lighting equipment, shooting their movies entirely with available light.

Documentary, maybe. But as a professional photographer, I would think Laforet would know that light use is not simply utilitarian, only to expose the shot. Light can and should be an artistic choice. This alone means the “expensive, bulky, and obtrusive lighting equipment” isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

Laforet is correctin one area: these cameras will be a great asset to news photographers who can now get snippets of video.

Now, call me elitist ((Listen, I recognize that the democratization of technology is generally A Good Thing™, but it also leads to an ever decreasing signal-to-noise ratio.)), but while I am excited to see the potential of these new DSLRs unlocked by the tallented people who use them, these cameras will not turn photographers into cinematographers or filmmakers. Just as having Photoshop does not turn one into a designer. They need to realize film (both documentary and narrative) is not simply moving photography. There’s story. There’s sound ((Please, use a good microphone! I’m glad to see the Canon 5D Mark II add an external mix jack, the lack of one on the Nikon D90 is sad.)). There’s pacing.

My predictions: at first, we will see a lot of beautiful moving photography. Then, once people get over that, we will begin to see the true potential of these cameras. But just remember: if the content isn’t there, it doesn’t matter how pretty the image is, it will still be boring ((I do sound like an elitist, don’t I?)).

Wired: Red Digital Cinema

Red Digital Cinema, creators of the Red One 4k camera, is profiled in Wired magazine this month. The Red One is an amazing piece of tech (though the post workflow is still continually evolving), and this piece by Michael Behar goes a long way in explaining why. Though John Gruber puts it more succinctly:

[The] Red One movie camera is, dollar-for-dollar, the best and most amazing camera in the world. It sells for $17,500 — but if you think that sounds expensive, consider that the equivalent film camera rents for $25,000 per month…

Using photos to enhance video (and more)

video-enhance2No, we’re not talking about simple Ken Burns effects here. Some CS students at the University of Washington have come up with what can only be called an incredible video enhancement program. To be honest, I have no idea how they’ve accomplished this (I was only in CS for one year at Marquette), and it’s almost a little scary.

Though some of the effects seem a little unnatural, they’ve gone a long way to make everything as seamless as possible. I won’t say I’m out of a job, and I’m pretty sure they had some insane computing setups, but I’m both looking forward to and dreading the day this capability reaches the hands of the masses.

[via Daring Fireball]