21 June 2008

Pressure Cooker Premieres at LA Film Festival

Congrats Jen and Mark!


About the Film

"Three seniors at Philadelphia's Frankford High School find an unlikely champion in the kitchen of Wilma Stephenson. A legend in the school system, Mrs. Stephenson's hilariously blunt boot-camp method of teaching Culinary Arts is validated by years of scholarship success. Against the backdrop of the row homes of working-class Philadelphia, she has helped countless students reach the top culinary schools in the country. And under her fierce direction, the usual distractions of high school are swept aside as Erica, Dudley and Fatoumata prepare to achieve beyond what anyone else expects from them."

TakePart.com for more information

13 June 2008

Tools, Sebsky Tools - Making Avid & FCP Play Nice

In a world... where many post production houses are finding themselves not only having to face the big expensive question of upgrading their NLE systems but also the debate of whether or not, as Apple so soothingly states, "to make the switch." I've seen it happen both ways, a large multi-avid-workstation facility goes FCP to save some bucks. A small independent documentary gets an unexpected grant, and the new seasoned editor refuses to touch FCP in light of her beloved Avid. And even then, another (highly unfavored) scenario: two editors cutting in both AVID and FCP at the same time. An assistant's worst nightmare.

It's not exactly easy to trade information between the two NLE's. They are after all, competitors, but beyond the corporate branding, they both capture, handle and manage your media very differently (especially in the days before Avid supported MXF). Avid with their OMFI (which by the way you still need to use in order to do a number of online operations), and FCP with meta-data embedded QuickTimes files. Even more difficult is the way both programs handle bins, making the moving or sharing of data.

Enter our hero/savior: Sebsky Tools from Dharma Film, a diverse tool for a range of applications. Foremost, this amazing tool allows you to use your FCP batch lists and Avid Log Exchange files as a way to share bins across the two platforms. Amazing! Thank you Dharma!

Another very fun feature I've been finding myself a fan of is the ability Sebsky Tools gives you to modify the Time Code of a QuickTime file. Now when I create a QuickTime from After Effects I can modify the time code easily. This is VERY helpful when doing a number of edit to tape functions, which we all know is enough of a pain in itself.

Best of all, Sebsky Tools is a freeware download with an optional donation to Dharma.
I highly recommend both.

12 June 2008

R.I.P. Xpress Pro

Well, it's been known for quite some time, but I thought it would be appropriate to have an official good bye to Xpress Pro. All of us dedicated users of Avid, whom found ourselves constantly using an unsupported product that required an upgrade every couple of months no longer have to feel the anguish and the guilt of living under our bigger cousin Media Composer.

Avid now offers a software-only version of Media Composer (priced at $2495 USD) to compete with the current software only market of Apple Final Cut Pro ($1299.99 USD) , Apple Final Cut Express ($199.99 USD) and Adobe Premiere Pro ($799.00). Obviously, priced higher, as it is a high-class product and we can't have the chaff using it.

So, good bye Xpress Pro. We shall, in some ways miss you. Now Avid does offer a $500 upgrade (for a limited time) for users of Xpress Pro to Media Composer. So, if you're following the Avid trail I'd hurry. I know I plan on having the extra tool around... OH WAIT, the new software is only for Intel Macs, excluding "legacy" G5 users from using any future Avid products. Oh well, I guess I'll just sit here and load Final Cut 5 on my old G3 as an assistant's logging station.

Well, look on the bright side all you assistant editors lucky enough to work on one of these new fangled Media Composers: Avid FINALLY has real-time TC burn in*.

** all prices as of June 12, 2008
*(so they claim)

11 June 2008

The Daily Gripe

Every NLE has it's flukes. Today's complaint about Final Cut Pro: MERGED CLIPS

Merge clips function is really broken. I can't create merged clips, and create in sync subclips (they play way, way out of sync) AND when the media is on the timeline I can't trim them. What's worse, if I export QuickTimes and attempt to import them, I loose all my logging information.


Solution: TBA

Why Final Cut Pro?

1. Because Apple didn't end of life their user's investments (see Avid Xpress Pro).
2. It was cheap (FCP Studio $1.100; Avid Xpress Pro (existed at the time) $1.850)
3. It was shinny
4. Most of my freelance work is with low budget documentary, a majority of them use FCP
5. Avid had been slacking off on it's support of the Mac platform
6. No dongle
7. Walter Murch said it was good?
8. One word: COMPRESSOR
9. QuickTimes instead of MXF or OMFI files
10. Avid Xpress Pro was really, really buggy. Maybe it's better you put it to sleep.
11. Avid and Adobe told me not to.
12. Because YES you can do [that] in Final Cut Pro


Over Cranked... DV?!

Today while reading over some theories of how to produce good looking slow motion (most of the posts were from before the advent of P2 and SxS formats) I found that many people had been using filters and proprietary (read: expensive) means of transcoding footage in an attempt to gain acceptable results. Now don't read me incorrectly, I love Twixtor; it's a fantastic product, if you have bundles of cash sitting around. Most of these products require long render times, which is frustrating. Equally frustrating, whether you're dealing with Avid or Final Cut, is the joke they refer to as motion control / duration. Although, as you will see these features become important later on, they are used solely for scratch.

The more interesting articles I found involved the use of transcoding footage (in the particular article involved using Apple Compressor to make the footage DVC Pro 720p, 59.97) and then using a conforming software (Cinema Tools). So imagine taking a clip running at 60 frames per second and playing it back at 24 or 30. Poof. Slow motion right?

Sure, why not.

With my skepticle hat on I loading in some 29.97 DV footage into FCP (my reasons for choosing FCP will appear in another article), and did the follow:

  1. File - Export - "Using Quick Time Conversion"
  2. Set the output compression as DV NTSC - Anamorphic (same size / dimensions as the native footage)
  3. Changed the frame rate to 59.97 and exported the clip with a new name
    (clip A3_01.mov now saved as A3_01b.mov)
The export itself was about a 1:3 wait time on my dual 2.0gig G5. So imagine what you people who have an editing station newer than 6 years can do!

Now we have a 59.97 clip of my original. For this particular project I've been working on we're going to be cutting in a 29.97 environment. So, going into Cinema tools, I added the clip to a new database I created and conformed it to 29.97. The result, a 50% slow down!

To top this, we can now record the slow-motion clip to tape for backup. Wow, who would have thought, my good-ol' XL-1s can now shoot "over-cranked" footage!

I was stunned at how good it looked. Having seen a lot of slow motion done poorly, this process really held up, particularly when combined with a little motion blur filter here and there. I now use the duration feature for scratch speeds and to tweak the 50% slow down.

Now, shooting without a fancy solid state camera can't be an excuse not to use some fun motion effects.

Go forth, peasant, and acquire slow motion!