Editors: Listen to cinematographers

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Before editors have to deal with codecs and files, TV and film camera teams have to capture scenes and footage. 

It is a good idea for editors to keep up with what they are thinking. Which cameras and codecs are preferred? For which jobs? What about on-set post services?

A good place to keep up to date is Geoff Boyle's Cinematography Mailing List site. Internet mailing lists have been around since before the web, but they still work well. You register your email address with the list, and if you or any member of the list send a message to the mailing list email address, everyone in the list gets a copy of the message.

Post is disarray right now

Recently, on-set equipment hire company Panavision bought workflow consultants Light Iron. Here's an example message from a CML mailing list discussion of the news:

Subject: Re: Panavision buys Light Iron
From: "Paul Sommers"
Date: Mon, 08 Dec 2014

I recently was made to do the full dog and pony and most of the major post houses to vet and build our pipeline from dailies to final. Right now it's a bit like the wild west. The on set to dailies solutions go from the full Ferrari solution, a DIT, loader and a Utility to maintain the gear and the pipeline. It involves an on set and cloud based dailies database and realtime color correction. This is Light Iron. Their system is really well thought out and has solutions to problems that I never knew I had. They want to offer solutions that run from set to final. My problem is that it requires too much care and feeding for the day to day hurly burly of multiple locations and no internet connection that I was afraid of the complexity. And who has the budget for a full time DIT in television?

Mike ran me through the multiple solutions at Technicolor, again well thought out and adaptable to different scales of production. One was very DIT-centric, one allowed all the LUT building to happen behind the curtain with the loader. I didn't go this way because I didn't feel like I had the time to learn the system. That's a shame, I do most of my final color sessions at Tech with Scott Klein. The appeal of one vendor handling the color science from shoot to post definitely has appeal.

Keep Me Posted has a good setup that is similar to Technicolor's

We ended up going with Bling. Mainly because I've been using them for the last three years and I didn't have to contend with a learning curve.

I was very involved every step of the way, but really it came down to price

Light Iron was by far the most expensive. I doubt they are going to compete on price. They are going to compete on service, just like Panavision. It's a good match.

Bling is owned by Sim Digital and you get a discount if you bundle camera and post, and it's substantial. They compete on price.

The trick as always is to find vendors who can provide good service at a reasonable cost so that we get what we need on set.

If Panavision and Light Iron offer this sort of bundling and both become cheaper and more fluid this helps everyone. If it pushes the market and we get better answers for better prices we look better to producers and maybe they will let us get on with the fun part, telling stories with images.

Post is disarray right now with the push to deliver in 4k (Amazon, Netflix, HBO). Even though we have been talking about 4k for years, and now it seems like it's really here for those of us who toil in TV. I hear a lot of different answers from a lot of different people about this. Technicolor and Light Iron seemed to have the best answers, and they were singing the same song. It's tough for post to suddenly make this 4k jump on the schedules we work with. A degree of integration might help soften the blow. It feels like when the HD storm hit, and everyone was scrambling.

I'm also wondering if Light Iron's experience with dealing with large amounts of data and pipeline management might help Panavision. The rumor mill is pretty thick with speculation about when/What/why it's taken so long to put this system out. Maybe Light Iron is helping with the new camera as well? Pure speculation, but the data rates and sheer size of the files the rumored camera puts out and release upon must be massive.
 
Paul M. Sommers
Cinematographer

Many of the mailing lists at CML are high-traffic: many messages per day. To prevent email from these lists interrupting personal email you get, you could set up an email rule the sends all messages from a CML list to a specific folder. Many list members view messages in 'Digest' mode: A compilation of all messages is sent once a day (At CML, click a list you are subscribed to, then go to 'My Account' and choose 'Digest' from the 'Membership type' pop-up menu).

There are many lists at CML:

List of Cinematography mailing lists

The 'Post production issues affecting the cinematographer' list is relatively quiet. For editors interested in crew discussions on complex workflows should subscribe to the 'RAW-Log-HDR' list (where Paul's sample post came from).

As well as being able to sign up at CML to read new discussions, there are some useful summaries of previous discussions.

Video in text Final Cut Pro X tutorial

Monday, 08 December 2014

As well as their weekly free Final Cut Pro X and Apple Motion tuition under the MacBreak video series for Pixelcorps, Ripple Training also make free short videos that show how to achieve special effects.

This Video in Text Effect tutorial shows how to make a video clip appear within text while showing other content behind the text.

Selected Final Cut work

Sunday, 07 December 2014

An important web site that Final Cut Pro X fans should know about is fcpxselects.com - a site dedicated to high budget productions edited using Final Cut. Those who think Final Cut Pro X isn’t for professionals should investigate what it is already being used for.

advent7-fcpxselects

One of the videos showcased is the music video for 'We Exist' by Arcade Fire which was edited by Thomas Grove Carter - which is nominated in the Best Music Video category at the 2014 Grammys.

 

Hours of free Final Cut Pro X training

Friday, 05 December 2014

Since before Final Cut Pro X, Ripple Training have been known to provide the best video tutorials. As well as great value training products, they also continue to give away hours of training on YouTube.

Here is my YouTube playlist of over 100 videos that can be used as a free training course for those starting out with Final Cut. They were released almost once a week every week since version 10.0.

advent5-macbreak-fcpx

 

The way Final Cut projects and footage is organised changed fundamentally in December 2013, so I've set the order of the videos on the play list so that the first video introduces basic editing and the second video shows the way Final Cut used to work. After those videos from 2011, I've listed four videos that show the new way that Final Cut works. The playlist is then chronological. You'll see the old user interface and old way of organising footage and timelines.

These many hours of training are free, but they weren't designed as a carefully constructed programme. If you do watch them you'll have to work harder to put everything together. If you find these videos useful, I strongly suggest that you check out Ripple Training's paid video tutorials. You'll learn all the same information, but the process will be quicker and the knowledge easier to retain.

For the paid training, start with Apple Pro Video Series: Final Cut Pro X, then go on to Advanced Editing Workflows in Final Cut Pro X. After that, move on to Media Management in Final Cut Pro X. Then choose tutorials based on your specific needs: Multicam Editing, Compositing, Titles, Color Correction and Sound Editing.

If you would like to learn how to edit - to learn the craft of editing itself, consider Ripple's Creative Editing in Final Cut Pro X tutorial.

Alternatively, if you already know how to use parts of Final Cut Pro X, use the free videos in my playlist to learn more about areas of the application you are less certain of.

Diagnose Final Cut Pro X plugin problems

Thursday, 04 December 2014

A common problem when moving Final Cut projects from Mac is that of missing plugins. Even if the plugin is on both Macs, it works on one, but the project can't seem to find it on the other.

A useful tool to aid in Final Cut Pro X detective work is Spherico's X-FX Handler application (Direct download). If you find it useful, to find out how to donate some money to show your appreciation.

Export the problem Final Cut Pro X 10.1.X project as an XML file and open it with X-FX Handler. It will show a list of all the effects, transitions, titles and generators in the project:

advent4-xfx

The listing shows where the project expects the find each plugin. The majority of problems occur when a plugin seems to be in the same place on the second machine, but isn't. This happens when two folders seem to have the same name. You might have two folders in the Finder named "Transitions" - if you use the Get Info command in the Finder you might find one is named "Transitions" and the other is "Transitions.localized"

For more information on how X-FX Handler works, use the Help menu to read the detailed manual. It shows how although a plugin seems to be installed on both Macs, there are different places where the plugin might be - which means a project moving from one Mac to another might not recognise that the plugin is installed on the new machine:

advent4-multiple-install-locations

 

Final Cut Pro X 10.1.4

Tuesday, 02 December 2014

The 10.1.4 update appeared on December 2nd 2014. It was a maintenance release, not a feature update. As well as the usual bug fixes, Apple added very useful import and export features in the form of MXF handling through the separate Pro Video Formats 2.0 installer.

Both should be available in the Updates pane of the App Store application. You can download MXF support directly from Apple as well.

MXF

Ripple Training's MXF introduction and how it works in Final Cut Pro X:

Need MXF export but don't want to update Final Cut Pro X?

If you are in the middle of a project it is inadvisable to update Final Cut Pro X, but you can still produce MXF files if you have Compressor or Motion. Apple's Final Cut Pro X, Compressor & Motion MXF FAQ mentions that you can  use Apple's new Pro Video Formats 2.0 MXF export with versions of Final Cut Pro X, Motion and Compressor.

MXF Options

MXF-options

For AVC-Intra you can choose between 720p, 1080i and 1080p, 50Mbit/s and 100Mbit/s. You can also choose between 2 and 16 even numbers of audio channels at either 16 or 24 bits. You can also start timecode at the native value or force it to start at 10 hours or 1 hour.

As well as MXF working in Apple's ProApps, you can also use QuickTime Player 7 to open and play MXF files:

mxf-in-qt-player

MXF is a wrapper format for different codecs, so you'll find that in some cases although you can export a flavour of MXF, you won't be able to import it back into Final Cut or play it using QuickTime Player 7:

no-import

AVC intra HD formats and IMX SD format show as greyed out in the import window. Uncompressed either doesn't export properly or play back properly.

Final Cut Pro X is now UK DPP-compliant

Since October 1 UK broadcasters have required that programmes be submitted as files - not on HD tape. The format they chose MXF OP1a with specific metadata which is known as the AS-11 standard. Alex Snelling (who wrote the standard work on Final Cut Pro X 10.1 Library workflows) has written a new document on how to prepare programmes for broadcast using Final Cut Pro X.

AS-11

 

Download it from the 10dot1 website. The same page also includes specialised Compressor presets that aid AS-11 export.

This is good news for Final Cut Pro X users outside the UK because the AS-11 delivery standard was created in conjunction with the US-based Advanced Media Workflow Association. This means there is a good chance this standard will be adopted elsewhere in the world.

Compatibility

Don't forget that although recent updates haven't caused too many problems, it is best not to update Final Cut while in the middle of a project.

CoreMelt reported that all their plugins work with 10.1.4.

Philip Johnston reports that MXF AVC Long GOP files from Panasonic cameras now work with Final Cut Pro X, but XAVC-L footage from Sony's PXW-X70 didn't work.

Not updated

It is rare that Apple Motion isn't updated at the same time as Final Cut Pro X. This implies that Final Cut's effects and compositing didn't changed between 10.1.3 and 10.1.4.

It is odd also that the ProApps team didn't update the UI to match OS X Yosemite - unlike Pages, Keynote and Numbers.

A little bit more 'Pro'

With this maintenance release Apple added a feature that is useful for broadcasters, but not any other features for the wider constituency of Final Cut editors. In July 2014 I compared 10.X with Final Cut Classic using graphs showing which markets each update supported. The last major update was 10.1.2:

10.1.2 update compared with previous versions

Here's where 10.1.4 fits into this progression:

features10.1.4b

 

As I said in July, it looks like the next major version of Final Cut will shore up the middle markets: those using Final Cut Pro X for important and/or paid work and people working in smaller production companies. As well as features that demonstrate OS X Yosemite continuity and extension capabilities alongside Apple's replacement for iPhone and Aperture.