Friday, April 15, 2011

Not Showing Location in Titles on iMovie for iOS

I've been playing around with iMovie on an iPad2 and noticed a little hassle. iMovie REQUIRES location services to be on in order to see footage that you've shot or transferred over from another project which is bonkers in my opinion.

It sees footage in two locations, btw:

1. Camera Roll
2. Synced iPhone Library (which you do via iTunes).

I'll post later on the steps to transcode stuff to ingest into iMovie for iOS.

Anyway, if you're in iMovie for iOS and add a title, often you'll see the location under your typed title. There's no one-button way to get rid of this.

But there is a simple workaround.

1. Double-tap a clip that has a text element with location text you want to remove.
2. Tap "Location"
3. Tap the Location listed.
4. Delete the location shown there and tap Done.
5. Click outside what is now called the "Edit Title" pop up window to dismiss it.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Find Footage Faster with Final Cut Pro's Find Window

I'm continually surprised by what some editors I talk to don't know or know about but for some reason don't do or use.

When a deadline permits or there's just a vast amount of footage that was shot while I wasn't around I go through all the clips and even before pulling "selects" I label, color label and comment on bunches of it.


Because when you're sitting down with the script or director or both and are looking for footage you can now search for clips very quickly. Let's run though the ways:

1) In FCP, in a bin you know you can rename a clip. You can also second-click on it and rename the file to match the clips name and vice-versa. I have some naming conventions I have become attached to over the years when people forget slates: INT-S02-Bob-Single for Interior, scene 02, Bob's Single Shot or something like EXT-Building-Pan Left-Wide.

So go through and name all your clips to something helpful and descriptive. If you don't know what something is or who someone is give 'em a nickname: Yellow Building, Ball Cap Hammerer, Short Pants, whatever, just as long as you know what you're talking about.

2) Highlight a clip and hit Command + 9 for the Item Properties window. You'll see four tabs: Format, Timing, Logging and Film.

Format has a lot of helpful info about the clip.

Timing is what you'd expect. Length, In point, Out point, Duration and some other stuff which is also shown in other tabs.

Logging is the most helpful for organizing. We'll get into this in a little more detail in a little bit.

Film is again, similar to the others but a lot of these should be filled in when you ingest.

Now, go to the Logging tab and see all the blank space? You can fill that up with helpful and searchable info. Take Description for example. Click on the gray area where text should be to the right of the word Description. You'll see a text box magically appear with a happily blinking cursor. Type your description into here.

Be aware that since the OK button is the default, if you type then hit return you'll save your change and close this window. Try and get into the habit -if you're going to modify more than one field- of hitting the Tab key until you've filled in everything you want to.

Bizarrely enough unlike most other places in Mac OS X, hitting Shift + Tab does not go back to the previous text entry box. I have no idea what it doesn't.

3) Close the Item Properties window and then add some info for other clips. Any field that you want to. Close the Item Properties window. Now, with the Bin as the active window tap Command + F for the Find window.

Search: Set this to whatever suits your needs. Usually the default is enough though.
For: All Media. Again change this if you need to. This is actually a quite powerful setting as you can search for All, Used or Unused Media.
Results: Replace Find Results starts your results out anew upon each search. I find this one most helpful.

Below those you'll see "Any Column" and "Contains". This is just like Find in the Finder. But, take a look at all the things listed under Any Column. Anything you change in the Item Properties Window you can search for here even if it's not listed. If it's not listed just use "Any Column."

4) Hit Find All. Why not Find Next even though it's the default? It's a personal preference for me; I like the little window of everything found in that search to pop up. I wish Find All was the default button actually.

So you can see that once you fill in some basic info into the Item Properties window or at the very least name all your clips something helpful, you can search and find them all at once quickly and easily.

I've found this to speed up editing overall tremendously. At the bare minimum I'll name all the clips, green label all the stuff I think is best, red label everything I think is useless then with a quick Command + F and a search term I have all the EXT or INT or CU or ECU or Wide or Tilt or Pans listed. Or "Bob INT" or "Building Pan" or whatever.

The search is a handy way to exploit your own organizational styles. I've been startled by some client's reaction to how quickly I can find a very specific clip seconds after they ask for it while we're editing together.

Explore around the Item Properties window in conjunction with the Find window and see what suits your organizational method best.

Final Cut Pro X killed iMovie Pro

Back in the day the VCR was going to kill movie theaters, music videos were going to kill radio stars, 3rd party phones were going to kill Ma Bell and audio cassettes were going to kill the record industry all together. And home cooking is killing the restaurant business.

I've been keeping up with the development of FCPX for a while now and everything clicked when I recently watched someone using it and thought, "That's iMovie Pro."

I've given this a lot of thought since then and have come to a conclusion: it isn't.

The hue and cry over the new GUI, greater ease of use and lower price point I think really brings one thing into focus: editors, like all creative people like their tools to be complex. Complex means that you've put in the effort to learn it, even master it and since it's complex -speaking strictly software here- THEY need YOU. You can command a price for unleashing your knowledge. It props you up; makes you worth that rate because you know what Shift + Control + O does.

But, honestly, a large part of what editors do, in my experience, is routine, repetitive and frankly, boring. Clicking buttons, dragging stuff around isn't rocket science. The naysayers, referring to FCPX as iMovie Pro feel threatened, it's as simple as that. But why?

Now anyone can grab an affordable copy of FCPX from the App Store and with all it's fancy new automated this and that be editing before everything's even ingested; hence editors are obsolete, right?

I don't believe this to be true. You have to look at this from a wider context. FCPX is a natural progression of editing, it's Apple not only heading in the direction all digital media is going but they're leading the charge. Remember the lamentations of the end of floppy disc? The death of ADB? The lack of an optical drive on a MacBook Air? What do you mean my Performa doesn't come with a 56k Modem?

By placing powerful tools like FCPX into more hands, more hands are empowered. It levels the playing field in many ways but not all. Cheap, simple to use software is no replacement for raw talent and interest. This is why I think so many people on so many message boards are decrying FCPX: their creative talent, or lack thereof, will meld with coming tide of new FCPX users and they know they have little to help them stand out. I really believe it comes down to talent.

I've recently had some very interesting conversations over this over too many cups of coffee and FCPX at $300 does away with two things: the person who (likely pirated FCP) does adequate work for a quick paycheck and could have used FC Express or iMovie instead, and the person who invested in Final Cut Suite hoping that the high price would re-coop itself over time since few others could afford it.

Have you noticed how many people are unloading their original AVID systems in the past handful of years? One friend of mine offered to sell me his SCSI-based Avid system, computers, monitors, speakers and all for $2500 just to get it out of the office. Tack an extra zero onto that and that's what he paid for it originally.

Back in the day (and still true today somewhat actually) one or two people in a town would buy a Stedicam rig at a HUGE cost. They'd rent it and themselves out as an operator and make pretty decent livings just being an operator. They invested the big dollars and reaped rewards later because few people could afford the large initial purchase. Today Stedicams are cheaper and more and more places have them. Several editors I know have at least one, sometimes two; but they're great operators. The point is, even though the hardware is affordable (or at least more so) just owning something doesn't make you skilled at using it. Some of my friends are great Stedicam operators and are hired out for their talent even though the company hiring them could easily buy their own Stedicam.

You see, having the expensive hardware automatically sets up a demand. You have it, they need it, they rent you and the equipment. It's a simple formula. It worked.

In my younger days I owned an Arri SRII and would rent it out with me as the operator. I made a killing. Digital cameras make that less lucrative now days, but the skill at being an operator, DP, director, etc…endures. Anything rare, hard to obtain or unique is valuable. Intangibles are valuable as well.

So when the price point of the hardware or software drops to a level that everyone can afford it what's left? Skill. Creativity. Interest. Talent.

There are only 26 letters in the english alphabet but not everyone is a pulitzer prize winner.

FCPX doesn't hand-hold creatively as iMovie does now. There's no automated trailer building and the like. What it does do is act more like a 3rd assistant editor than anything else; that saves time (I bill by the hour sometimes as well, I know what you're thinking) which makes time for more creativity, exploration and problem solving. If FCPX chops my new project organization time down by even 20mins that's HUGE.

I believe that those who are crying foul about the simplicity and perceived hand-holding of FCPX don't feel a threat against their livelihood, they're actually fearful that their lack of talent, creative problem solving and interest in editing as a profession will be uncovered. It's easy to go through the motions in any project, it's faster and less stressful to turn in something good enough. However, now anyone can. If anything, iMovie was more of a threat to FCP editors than anything else.

I see FCPX as making talent and quick turn around of a project command a higher price because when the restriction of high-priced software is eliminated what's left is the final project, how long it took and how good it is.

Someone's Flip video assembled in iMovie and shown at their corporate retreat is only a threat to those editors and videographers who distilled down their work to that level using better cameras and FCP instead.

I see FCPX and it's greater usability and very affordable price point as separating the wheat from the chaff. Clients will always pay for talent, creativity and quality because they can slap together mediocrity quite easily on their own.

It's the difference between in-house good enough and outsourced "I didn't think it would turn out this good."

FCPX doesn't eliminate the need for experience-based knowledge. All those crazy formats, connectors, output formats, compatibility and long list of fixes from past catastrophes are still valuable.

So what if an edit takes one click now when it used to need three and a key command? The result is the same. You know what they know now in terms of the basic machinations and the rules and like the old adage goes, once you know the rules you also know how to break them. That's also not to say that knowing all the intricacies of FCPX won't be valuable either.

Knowing a piece of software intimately actually escalates your thinking to a new level; you think in results rather than individual progressive changes. Ask any super Photoshop user; it's not that adding a bit of noise here will look like noise, it's that it'll combine with what they did before and after and look like photo-realistic rust or cloth or skin.

An example was a long, long time ago a friend built a project in Motion, saved it, packed up his equipment and headed to an extremely large convention to present it; ready for any final tweaks. He lands, the client asks for some very minor changes to the sample video they saw and my friend discovers that the laptop his company packed for him (I say company when I mean assistant) didn't have Motion installed, just FCP which was only used to load footage on-sets and not only that, it would barely run Motion if it were (even could be) installed. He did have the drive with the original media the client sent him weeks ago, however.

He called me in an absolute panic, literally tearing up as we talked. This was a HUGE HUGE client, international stuff, the presentation was listed on the event list and the CEO was there to present it. There was simply no time to ship out his HD and original laptop, or just buy anything (Apple store? Not built yet.) so together he and I worked in shifts, on separate portions of the project, re-building it entirely in FCP with about a forty two bajillion keyframes between us. We both knew the more dimly lit corners of FCP and keyframes and compositing and filters and etc… to re-create what he had originally done in Motion to really a surprising extent.

We render out our respective portions at a "slightly less than" full resolution to save time, merge them into one file and play it directly from the laptop in front of "a lot of people" and the client is pleased never knowing the sweaty sleep-deprived panicked 14 hours spent in a small hotel room upstairs huddled over a tiny underpowered laptop while the other person sketched out on paper what they'd do next.

Having FCPX ingest stuff for you, sort and catalog footage and help you out in all those little ways for $300 isn't never going to replace Raw Editor Know-how. It's going to accentuate skill, not hide the lack of  it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

No real-time playback in Multiclip

A friend is editing a two camera shoot using multiclip. The problem he's having is that there is no real-time playback when editing in multiclip no matter what he does. Out of complete desperation I drove to his place to investigate.

Looking over his project it all seems set up correctly but when you click on a clip in the Viewer it stops playback, playing via the Timeline or Canvas will not cause the clips in the Viewer to play but the thumbnails will update when playback is stopped.

Playing in the Viewer results in full-window playback of the currently selected (blue boarder) camera.

Digging around I noticed his clips are 720x402.

Suspecting that wasn't a multiclip compliant size somehow, I transcoded some clips (in the same codec) to 720x480 brought them into FCP, set the Canvas to "Correct for Aspect Ratio" and got better results.

Now, playback in the Viewer worked; it was no longer full-windowed but there was still no real-time. The Canvas would play or the Viewer, but not both concurrently.

Testing further I transcoded 60 secs of two of the camera angles to ProRes 720x480 and set Correct for Aspect Ratio. Now it all worked (well, the audio needed rendering and I didn't bother to check why); the Viewer and Canvas played in real-time together.

So the lesson here is frame size does matter. It seems that it must be a "standard" size and something listed (I guess) in the Easy Setup menu (Control + Q) to have real-time multiclip playback and editing.

I did lose Command + Z undo function on one test sequence but that seems like a FCP bug more than anything else. I did render the audio on this test sequence but Undo was still non-functional.

Looking at his Option + J (Button List) Keypad numbers are "Switch Video to Angle" while Command + (keypad number) is "Cut Video to Angle"