Science examines edits: 7 types of narrative discontinuity in popular movies

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

From a scientific paper: “Event segmentation and seven types of narrative discontinuity in popular movies” by James E. Cutting:

These results suggest that there are at least four different signatures of narrative shifts to be found in popular movies — general patterns across time, patterns of historical change, genre-specific patterns, and film-specific patterns.

[...]

...the structure of popular movies, and the changes in that structure over the last 80 years, are fit to perceptual and cognitive processes that allow movies to be faster paced but still easy to understand. Moreover, we know that in real life and in movies this segmentation process is an aid to memory and comprehension. Thus, understanding the reasons for why and how viewers segment movies into events brings us closer to understanding why we find them such a powerful component of contemporary visual culture.

Once a system is analysed, others will attempt to encode this analysis into algorithms. 

And I thought editors would never be disintermediated…

Judith Allen found this.

iOS app replaces professional editor with algorithm

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Triller is a music video app:

…the app will then automatically edit your takes together using an algorithm that’s designed to emulate how a professional editor would cut a music video. Triller looks at the action in your footage, how much the camera itself is moving, and how many faces are detected in each shot to make its editorial decisions. It then cuts everything into tiny clips that are perfectly synced with the song you’ve chosen.

Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve 2005

Monday, 27 July 2015

Before Blackmagic Design bought da Vinci Systems in 2009, they had years of hardware and software product history.

Thanks to the Internet Archive, their website from 10 years ago is still preserved. 

Included in the archive is a PDF leaflet:

From the genius of da Vinci comes Resolve®, the company’s first software-based color correction system

Note however: 

Resolve2K and 2K Plus are registered trademarks of da Vinci Systems, Inc.

The Onion: Exhausted Video Editor Can't Tell If Blooper Reel Is Funny Anymore

Monday, 27 July 2015

The Onion, 2006:

Lessner, who said he started the weekend session laughing at the abundance of "blooper gold," soon lost all perspective when faced with the task of condensing the more than 86 hours of footage—most of which was "almost indistinguishably hilarious"—into a single 26-minute special by his strict Sunday deadline.

4K playback costs: HEVCAdvance content royalty schedule

Monday, 27 July 2015

For people to share video using advanced codecs on the internet and elsewhere, the codecs have to be developed in the first place. The cost of development is then recouped using patent licenses. Sometimes a fee is charged for building a player - whether on a website or in a modern TV, sometimes a free is charged on each time content is played. Paying per play is known as a content royaty.

There are two groups of patent holders associated with the codecs associated with UHD and 4K playback. The HEVC group aren't charging content royalties, but a second (made up of GE, Technicolor, Mitsubishi, Philips, and Dolby) have just announced their royalty rate.

Jan Ozer has just ran the numbers:

For a $4.00 movie downloaded from Amazon Prime or M-Go, the royalty would be two cents, right in line with MPEG-2/H.264 content royalties. In a Netflix scenario, for a $10/month subscriber who watches 10% of video that uses HEVC, the royalty would only apply to 10% of the subscription price, so the royalty would be about half a penny ($0.005). Assuming the $10 subscriber watches 100% HEVC, the royalty would be a nickel.

HEVCAdvance expects the royalty to be calculated on gross numbers, not on a per-subscriber basis. For an advertising supported site, if HEVC was 30% of all video distributed, the calculation would be 30% x total video-related advertising revenue x .005. In this scenario, if video-related advertising revenue was $1 billion, the royalty would be $1,000,000,000 x .3 x .005, or $1.5 million, a far cry from the $120 million Apple is staring at.

[...]

...no matter how much you dislike the terms offered by HEVCAdvance, dealing with the individual patent holders would have likely been more expensive, and certainly more complicated. IP rights are a reality, so like the T-shirt says, the market will keep calm and carry on.

Read more at the Streaming Learning Center.

Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve 12 Beta 1

Monday, 27 July 2015

Now available from Blackmagic support page: the first public beta of the next big release of DaVinci Resolve.

Version 12 adds many timeline editing features. Although it looks a lot like Final Cut Pro X, Resolve 12 still uses the track-based metaphor it has had for years.

Final Cut-related features included in the long read me for Resolve 12 Studio:

  • VST and AU Audio Plugin Support
  • Support for FCPX XML 1.5 DTD roundtrip
  • Support for multicam and audio layout for FCPX XML roundtrip
  • Media storage sub-clip generation (reduce footage to that used in timeline plug handles)
  • Export to ProTools
  • QuickTime support for DNxHR codec

The names of the free and paid versions of Resolve are changing with version 12. The free version was called DaVinci Resolve Lite, the $995 version was called DaVinci Resolve.

From now on, the paid version will be known as DaVinci Resolve Studio and the free version will be simply DaVinci Resolve.

The differences between the two versions mentioned in the Resolve 12 read me:

The free DaVinci Resolve 12 includes all of the same high quality processing as DaVinci Resolve 12 Studio and can handle unlimited resolution media files. However it does limit project mastering and output to Ultra HD resolutions or lower. DaVinci Resolve 12 only supports a single processing GPU on Windows and 2 GPUs on the latest Mac Pro.

If you need features such as support for multiple GPUs, 4K output, motion blur effects, temporal and spatial noise reduction, 3D stereoscopic tools, remote rendering, an external database server and collaboration tools that let multiple users work on the same project at the same time, please upgrade to DaVinci Resolve 12 Studio.

We hope you do decide to upgrade as your facility grows and you do more advanced work!

Although there are usually dangers associated with using beta-quality software, many people report that past beta software from Blackmagic has done little damage to their systems!

What’s new?

Alex Van Hurkman wrote the Resolve 12 manual. He's summarised the version 12 changes on his blog:

Given the massive collection of features in this year’s release, the accompanying User Manual update was similarly enormous, and now that the manual has cracked the 1000 page mark (1095 pages in the beta version), with 704 new and updated screenshots at last count, it was clearly time to do a full reorganization of the chapters, in an effort to make it easier to find the information you’re looking for.

My free Apple Motion webinar: Exploring animation behaviors

Friday, 24 July 2015

It took me years before I got my mind around Apple Motion. I spent a long time trying to learn how to do complex multi-layer keyframed motion graphics like I used to make in Adobe After Effects. I clicked with Motion once I had a more straightforward task: make a simple plugin for Final Cut Pro X.

After making many Final Cut plugins and motion graphics sequences with Motion, I've come to know it well. One of the two sessions I taught at the 2015 FCPX Creative Summit was about using Motion's behaviors for animation.

I'll be teaching a webinar version of that session on Tuesday called "Exploring Apple Motion Behaviors for Easy Animation": 

The real power behind Apple Motion is behaviors. Behaviors use the power of complex calculations and real-time rendering to produce results in minutes that would take hours to create and modify using keyframes or complex math. Behaviors can control almost everything in Motion — including graphics, text, particles and cameras. Alex will show behaviors controlling graphics and particles and show how much fun you can have by playing with behaviors in Motion.

Register for free to watch live and ask questions at the Moviola website.

Final Cut Pro X and mobile journalism: Audio and metadata

Friday, 24 July 2015

In recent years, more of TV and internet news features recordings made on mobile phones. iPhones and Andoid phones are also being used by professional journalists. The art and science of using consumer technology this way is known as Mobile Journalism. There are blogs, Twitter hashtags and conferences on the subject. 

Final Cut Pro X is the editing software 'for the rest of us' - designed for professionals in many fields as well as editing. That means broadcast news organisations are training all sorts of staff in using X (Some would say everyone but the editors).

After a few years of steadily improving camera phones and video editing applications that run on iOS and Android, the quality of mobile audio recording is now catching up. Recent devices bypass microphones designed for telephone conversations.

Recently Glen Mulcahy of Irish national TV and radio broadcaster RTÉ compared two systems that connect via the iPhone's lightning port:

Today I got my hands on the Sennheiser ClipMic Digital mic for iOS so I decided to shoot a quick unboxing video and then do an audio test and a video test to pitch it against the iKmultimedia iRigPro and AKG 417pp Lav which we currently use for Mobile Journalism here in RTÉ.

He used the Apogee MetaRecorder iOS app which includes metadata tagging for those editing MoJo footage in Final Cut Pro X.

Ripple Training's video on how marker, keyword and role information captured on location can be imported into Final Cut:

ClipMic Digital is a new Microphone from Sennheiser that turns your iPhone or iPad into a professional digital audio recorder. By downloading the companion App from Apogge, you can record and add metadata to your recordings that can be read my Final Cut Pro X via XML. This is one of the COOLEST app/mics we've ever used!

Ex-chief architect of Apple’s video & photo applications to be interviewed live on stage

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Those who paid attention to 'About this software' dialog boxes in the 90s who used Adobe Premiere will recognise the name Randy Ubillos.

He was the lead developer for both Adobe Premiere in the early 90s and Apple’s Final Cut Pro in the late 90s.

By the time Final Cut Pro X was launched in 2011, he was chief architect for Apple’s photo & video applications. Apple included him in many important keynotes. His presentations included demos of new versions of iPhoto and iMovie for iOS as well as iMovie ’09:

Randy retired from Apple in April this year, but he is already making public appearances. Next he’ll be at the Bay Area SuperMeetUp in San Jose on June 26th. The SuperMeetUp is one of a series of events for those who use Macs and PCs for TV and film making.

I'm happy to say that part of his appearance will be an on-stage interview where I’ll ask him about storytelling and what has driven him over the years to make tools that have changed millions of people’s lives. As well as talking about developing applications that went on to be used by professionals to make TV shows and feature films all over the world, he’ll discuss the value of creating tools for everyone else to tell their stories.

Apple opening up on the same day

That same day FCPX Creative Summit delegates will be attending a presentation at Apple's offices about the latest version of Final Cut Pro X

FCPX Creative Summit attendees have the unique opportunity to visit the Apple Campus in Cupertino and hear directly from FCPX product managers! You’ll get a unique perspective on how this video editing software has changed the industry and how it continues to innovate today.

Get an update from Apple Product Managers on the current release of Final Cut Pro X, exciting customer stories, and the thriving ecosystem of third-party software and hardware.

Representatives of Apple's ProApps team have appeared at professional events over the years, but this event marks the first time a large group of post production professionals have been invited to visit Apple.

These days we expect all live presentations to be filmed and made available on the internet within hours. This makes attending live much less essential. Despite Apple opening up more recently, they still ask that Final Cut Pro X team public presentations aren't recorded and put online. Most assume that this is part of Apple’s culture of secrecy. In practice it might be due to the ProApps team wanting to use footage they are not cleared to show online. Footage such as rushes and alternate takes from Warner Bros. recent Will Smith and Margot Robbie feature film which was edited in Final Cut Pro X.

That week is the 4th anniversary of the radical reinvention of Final Cut Pro X. Some Final Cut users hope that Apple’s invitation shows that they will introduce exciting new features as part of a birthday celebration. Although that is possible, even if Final Cut remains unchanged, it is worth visiting the mother ship to learn from those who make the software.  

‘3D Bumpy pixels’ – Oculus Touch haptic feedback

Thursday, 11 June 2015

A few weeks ago I wrote about an unheralded feature of the trackpad in Apple's 2015 MacBook computers: a force-feedback effect that could help users ‘feel’ application UIs - 'Bumpy' pixels: iMovie Apple Force Touch trackpad haptic feedback

Today, in the last five minutes of their pre-E3 press conference [1:23:59 in], Oculus announced ‘Oculus Touch’ – wireless handsets for interacting with virtual reality experiences. One of the features was described as the ability to feel objects in virtual 3D space using haptic feedback:

Touch also includes haptics that developers can use to deliver feedback when you're interacting with objects in the virtual world so that you can actually feel the things you are touching.

Following on from my ‘Bumpy Pixels’ name, maybe Oculus Touch will mean ‘Bumpy 3D pixels.’

‘Heavy’ video clips

When it comes to Mac, PC and TV applications that might mean giving different textures to different UI elements or user content.

For example, if I have a long list of video clips, it would useful to use one hand to quickly scroll them past the other, which would be able to ‘feel’ information about the clips going by. Most clips would feel smooth under my finger tips. The more highly rated a clip was, the more ‘sticky’ it could be made to feel.

Force feedback could also cue you as to the length of a clip - longer files could be made to feel ‘heavier’ as I move them around.

What different textures do your fingertips feel in daily life? What associations would you like to give them in the applications you use?

  • Categories UI

AV Foundation in OS X El Capitan adds movie editing code for developers

Thursday, 11 June 2015

The Apple WWDC 15 session video on AV Foundation shows there are new features for developers who want to manipulate QuickTime movies on the Mac.

Some notes from the video:

[0:38]
New version of AV Foundation provides new classes for applications to edit QuickTime movie files.

AV-Foundation-Session
Click screen shot to go to Apple Developer site

[1:19]
Open QuickTime movie files and perform range-based editing on movies in tracks.

You select a segment of a movie and copy it into some other movie.

Add and remove tracks (tracks in QuickTime can refer to any time-based information, such as subtitles, GPS info, camera metadata)

Associate one track with another - such as saying that this track is the chapter break information for that track.

Add or modify movie and track metadata.

Create movie files and URL sample reference movie files.

[4:06]
'QuickTime movie' means data in a file that conforms to the QuickTime movie file format or ISO base media file formats that were based on QuickTime such as MPEG-4.

[7:15]
Sample data (audio and video content) can be in files separate from the QuickTime movie.

[8:05]
Movies that reference external media are 'fragile' - if the media is deleted or moved, the movie cannot play.

[13:07]
AV Foundation can now update an existing movie file without worrying about the sample data. That means edits, tracks and metadata can all be changed if the samples stay the same - "In place editing" (URLs in the context of AV Foundation are usually describe the location of files in connected storage)

AV-Foundation-Session-2

[19:52]
A example project that shows how an application can combine many gigabytes of footage with metadata.

What does this mean for non-developers?

Good news for post production people who need developers to make applications that support complex workflows, and for those that hope existing tools will get useful new features.

Digitial Rebellion are the makers of Pro Media Tools for Final Cut Pro, Avid and Adobe software.

Before AV Foundation QuickTime libraries in older versions of OS X were able to manipulate QuickTime reference movies. These were small files that were able to represent complex edits of multiple external media files. Reference movies are much simpler to work with that gigabytes of video and audio footage.

Maybe it’s time to do a quick course in Swift so you can make your own post production OS X applications!

OS X for now

Note that the screenshot shows that these new features are OS X Capitan only (the OS X logo in the top right of the screen). Once they're available on iOS, tools for iPhones and iPads will be able to do much more with movie files.

Autodesk likes Final Cut Pro X XML as an interchange format

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Autodesk Smoke 2016 includes improved support for Final Cut Pro X XML export. 

Although Smoke can use other formats for export, the new help file says out that Final Cut's format is the one to use for collaboration:

Use FCP X XML Export when you want to share a sequence with third party applications.

The XML Export generates a simplified sequence that can be used in third party applications for creative editorial, color correction, media management, etc.

There are new Sequence Publish presets available, which output FCP X XML sequences.

  • XML for DaVinci Resolve for Source Grading (ProRes 422 and 24-bit WAVE)
  • XML for DaVinci Resolve for Source Grading (Sequence-only)
  • XML for DaVinci Resolve (ProRes 422 and 24-bit WAVE)

Smoke 2016 can also now conform Final Cut Pro X timelines that include MXF format clips.

Shout out to @finalcutproes for the link!

Brian Mulligan pointed out:

Looks like Autodesk also likes Apple's ProRes 4444 XQ.

The Foundry on high-end post production applications for iOS

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Don't believe Final Cut Pro X or Adobe Premiere will run on iOS one day? Apple’s Metal for iOS might be the key.

Jack Greasely, Head Of New Technology at The Foundry (makers of feature film post tools such as NUKE and MODO) talking to RGB HQ:

As Metal originated in iOS does this mean that there is the potential to run 'serious' applications, such as MODO, NUKE or even MARI on an iPad one day?

Anything is possible. Having a common graphics API between the two is certainly a start. What is maybe more interesting is a WYSIWYG workflow between IOS and OSX. You could use your Mac to design assets in MARI / MODO / NUKE and then have them display / rendering live on a mobile device looking exactly the same.

Using the iPad's accelerometer, Foundry tools might be able to render graphics as AR overlays.

On stage at Apple's WWDC 15

Jack also appeared on stage at the Apple WWDC conference this week - 10:58 into the video at developer.apple.com. He showed how much The Foundry team were able to achieve in four weeks of adding Metal to MODO, their 3D modelling and animation application.

Airlines to squeeze hand baggage dimensions

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

If you don't want to transport computers and cameras in aeroplane hold luggage, you may need to buy new carry-on bags.

Airlines are changing the rules because too many passengers bring the the maximum size luggage. New worldwide rules:

The recommendation by the International Air Transport Association suggests an “optimal” carry-on size at 21.5 inches (55cm) tall by 13.5 inches (34cm) wide by 7.5 inches (19cm) deep. That’s smaller than the current maximum size allowed by many airlines.

The new recommendation is 56% of the current volume of the British Airways allowance of 22 inches (56cm) tall by 18 inches (45cm) wide by 10 inches (25cm) deep.

Apple's official new mission: “Leave the world a better place”

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Apple has changed the corporate definition that they include in their press releases:

Apple revolutionized personal technology with the introduction of the Macintosh in 1984. Today, Apple leads the world in innovation with iPhone, iPad, the Mac and Apple Watch. Apple’s three software platforms — iOS, OS X and watchOS — provide seamless experiences across all Apple devices and empower people with breakthrough services including the App Store, Apple Music, Apple Pay and iCloud. Apple’s 100,000 employees are dedicated to making the best products on earth, and to leaving the world better than we found it.

Pity the grammar is a little off. Shouldn't it be "leaving the world better than they found it"?

Compare this new definition with the way Apple described itself last week - which had remained unchanged for over three years - since January 2012: 

Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices with iPad.

Apple's mission in 1995:

Apple Computer, Inc., a recognized pioneer and innovator in the information industry, creates powerful solutions based on easy to use personal computers, servers peripherals, software, online services and personal digital assistants. Headquartered in Cupertino, California, Apple Computer, Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) develops, manufactures, licenses, and markets products, technologies, and services for the business, education, consumer, scientific & engineering and government markets in over 140 countries.

A corporate definition that could apply to almost any tech company back then - apart from the mention of PDAs.

I've written previously about how this definition changed between 1995 and 2012

Credit to noticing Monday's change goes to UK-based Mac journalist Lucy Hattersley.

Apple WWDC 2015 and post production

Tuesday, 09 June 2015

Here's my take on the announcements at the Apple Worldwide Developer's Conference 2015.

OS X El Capitan

First came details on the next version of OS X, named El Capitan. El Capitan is one of the mountains in the Yosemite National Park in California. This naming is smiliar to how OS X Mountain Lion came after OS X Lion and OS X Snow Leopard came after OS X Leopard. It signals that this update isn't as big from users point of view. OS X Mountain Lion, Snow Leopard and El Capitan have less big new features that most Mac users will get excited about.

These updates give developers that chance to catch up on new Apple technologies and Apple the chance to introduce innovations that developers can use to do new things. An example could be that if Apple have added more features to AV Foundation, the code that lets application developers (inside and outside of Apple) to do more with movies and audio. Apple Marketing won't tell the public about AV Foundation updates this year, but will hope that new OS X (and iOS watchOS) abilities will mean better AV applications in the coming months.

Spotlight improvements

El Capitan adds natural language searches "The pictures I took last year in London." This should also work for searches based media metadata, and eventually metadata added within applications such as Final Cut Pro X: "Select favourites from the second half of the concert in Manchester featuring the drummer and the bass guitarist shot on a GoPro." Apple haven't yet announced links between media metadata and Spotlight searches, but natural langauge searches in iMovie and Final Cut Pro X would be useful.

In iOS apps can make their content available to Spotlight so that an iPhone- or iPad-wide search will find content in a specific part of the app.

Metal

[20:30 into main keynote] Last year Apple introduced Metal - a way for iOS gaming applications to better access the power of iPhone, iPad and iPad CPUs and GPUs. Last year the emphasis was on how this would make iOS games better. This year Apple had a demo of how well a game worked with Metal on OS X.

Metal has also evolved to speed up more of OS X. In El Capitan Metal improves the speed of Core Animation and Core Graphics. Compared with when these libaries executing OpenGL commands, they now render 'up to' 50% faster on the same hardware.

[21:20] Interestingly for post production people, Apple also said how Metal would speed up 'high performance apps.' It does this by replacing OpenGL graphics code and OpenCL distributed processing code (for sharing work between CPUs).

[21:45] The first developer story of the WWDC keynote was from Adobe. They've been able to speed up After Effects CC rendering by 8x using Metal for OS X. Animations can be rendered in real time. Instead of waiting for Illustrator CC to rerender complex graphics when zooming, now rendering happens in real time. This brings the power of interactive graphic changes - no waiting for rendering in Illustrator.

“We are committed to adopting Metal on our OS X apps. With performance increases of up to 8x, we are excited about what Metal can do for our Creative Cloud users.” - David Wadhwani, Sr. VP & GM, Digital Media, Adobe [22:08] 

David McGavran of Adobe Systems demoed the speed improvements in After Effects CC and Illustrator CC during the ‘Platforms State of the Nation’ session [1:32:15 into this video]. He said that Adobe apps like Premiere Clip already benefit from Metal on iOS.

“Pro app makers are seeing the benefits of Metal like The Foundry and Autodesk. I think were going to see pro users, gamers and all of us benefiting from the performance advantages of Metal” Craig Federighi, Apple [26:55]

AV Foundation

AV Foundation is the part of OS X (and iOS) that applications use to manipulate video and audio. The Editing Movies in AV Foundation developer session has the following description:

Learn how to use the new AVMutableMovie class to modify media files and simplify your editing workflows. See how to support segment-based editing and discover the power of sample reference movies.

The developer documentation for the version of AV Foundation in El Capitan hasn't yet been updated to include AVMutableMovie.

Speed improvement

According to Pedro Santamaría on Twitter, the current version Final Cut Pro X runs faster on his 2012 MacBook Air - as tested using my BruceX benchmark:

This is impressive given that operating system betas aren't tuned for speed. I'll add any update he gives on how much faster the Mac Pro is running El Capitan.

Also…

In each keynote Apple likes to show slides that list ‘too many features to go into right now.’ Some that are relevant to post production are:

File copy resume - could mean that the Finder (or other applications) will resume copying files after a crash or other interruption

Photos editing extensions - could be possible to make changes to photos within video and motion graphics applications. No ‘Movie editing extentions’ yet

Airplay Video - OS X users can already play videos on Apple TVs on the same network, perhaps this mention means that other Macs will be able to play back video.

Should I install OS X El Capitan?

No. Not today.

Unless you are developing Mac software. Although Apple hope it won't cause any problems on your Mac, it wouldn't suprise exprienced developers if a fault wipes all hard drives. At the moment there are reports ranging from "No problems" to "Final Cut Pro X crashes constantly." If you must try it, I suggest you wait for the version Apple releases as part of its public Beta programme.

As regards compatibility, if a Mac can run OS X Yosemite today, it will be able to run the release version of OS El Capitan tomorrow.

Apple ecosystems

Other keynote announcements show that Apple want to maintain and create new ecosystems. As well as supporting big players, their ecosystems include support for small companies and individuals to do well. This makes sense to iOS and OS X developers selling through Apple's App Stores.

Apple Pay

As well as adding more banks and the UK to Apple Pay, Apple mentioned that Square will soon introduce a terminal that will allow anyone to accept ApplePay payments.

News

The News iOS app is a place for syndicated content from news and media organisations. Apple is also considering content from smaller sites and individuals. For now they need to set up an RSS feed of their stories and apply to Apple stating which kinds of content they create:

News brings together high-quality news, magazine, and blog sources in a single beautiful content experience. Whether you’re a major news organization or an individual blogger, you can sign up to deliver your content to millions of iOS users.

...

Topics are created and assigned by Apple’s expert editors and sophisticated algorithms.

News Publishing Guide - Apple

This means that if you can demonstrate that you provide relevant content on a subject of interest to just a few thousand people, Apple's News app might be able to help you connect with the iOS users amongst them. 

As well as being able to monetise your content with 100% from any advertising you include, you optionally get 70% of income from Apple's iAd system.

Apple Music

During the launch of Apple Music, Apple made a point of including unknown musicians. As well as being able to have their music included in Apple Music, Connect helps them maintain their community of fans by adding text, audio, pictures and video to their Apple Music page. Apple Music also takes into account how individuals within families have different music preferences by offering a good value family plan.

At the moment Apple’s Beats 1 worldwide radio station seems aimed at a limited demographic - those interested enough in current and new music to want to hear well chosen music. Those willing to pay for a music subscription. Hopefully Apple will be able to create more advanced radio experiences in future.

Future media ecosystems

This prompts the question of where video, TV and film fits into Apple's plan. If Apple is consistent with what they are about to do with News and Music, people, small groups and large content creators will be able to share their video content in the same way.

If Apple Movies was built in the same way, there would be an iOS application which would provide a single place to consume and discover video content. It would combine human curation with algorithms that would learn your preferences. If you are a producer, Apple would provide simple tools to make your content available (News) and build audiences (Apple Music Connect).

A similar ecosystem could be built around podcasts - perhaps supported by a worldwide Apple radio station that features presenters and excerpts from podcasts, audio books and radio drama.

The Apple Music family plan prompts me to point out that some media - music, TV, movies - is fun to share with others. Perhaps Apple should find a way for software to create combined streams that would entertain groups of people: A family playlist for everyone until 10pm, then content for the parents. "Stick with this 15 minute short that only your brother likes, something you really like will be on next." This could work for any group of people - including groups not gathered in one place: hanging out across the internet.

If your media has to fit in a shared customised stream, the methods you use to tell stories might change.

If Google and Apple will eventually meet in a battle of software on hardware vs. software in the cloud, Apple might need to change the field of battle. If hardware devices become so ambient as not needing to be associated with an individual - apart from an earpiece running Siri - Apple's hardware integration edge will become irrelevant. What survives will be Apple's ability to maintain and support media ecosystems. 

Exploring 360° video with Final Cut Pro X

Monday, 08 June 2015

I saw an interesting music video today from Bjork - another 360° ‘VR’ video, which prompted me to find out how to create 360° motion graphics using Final Cut Pro X.

If you view this video with the Chrome browser on YouTube, you can drag within the video to look around - left and right, up and down:

Use the cog settings control to increase the resolution to 2160p-4K.

I made this video by scaling a still equirectangular panorama down to 4320x2160 and importing it into a new 25p Final Cut Pro X project.

I then overlaid text on top, animating some of it.

Here is the 'flat' video - scaled down to HD from 4K:

Where I wanted text to appear 'behind' the initial position - where the left and right edges of the panorama meet, I created two copies of the same title, so it wouldn't be cut off by the edge.

I exported the video as an H.264 encoded mp4 scaled to 3840x2160 with a data rate of 30 Mbps (more on YouTube's video upload specs).

For YouTube to recognise that this 4K video was designed for 360° video, I opened the Final Cut output file with Google's 360 Video Metadata application. The simple UI has a single button:

Screenshot of Google's 360 Video Metadata application UI

I clicked 'Inject and save' and saved a new file which I uploaded to YouTube.

Looks like I made my graphics too large, but if you avoid moving too far up or down on your background, overlaid graphics should work OK.

 

Visit the Apple Campus for a Final Cut Pro X presentation on June 26

Thursday, 04 June 2015

It seems that after years of very little access, Apple is opening up a little more. On June 26 members of the public will be visiting Apple's offices to get an update on Final Cut Pro X. The kind of access that usually granted only to a favoured few is available to attendees of Future Media Concepts' FCPX Creative Summit:

FCPX Creative Summit attendees have the unique opportunity to visit the Apple Campus in Cupertino and hear directly from FCPX product managers! You’ll get a unique perspective on how this video editing software has changed the industry and how it continues to innovate today.

Get an update from Apple Product Managers on the current release of Final Cut Pro X, exciting customer stories, and the thriving ecosystem of third-party software and hardware.

Representatives of Apple's ProApps team have appeared at professional events over the years, but this event marks the first time a large group of professionals have been invited to visit Apple.

Future Media Concepts is a company that runs training courses in media production in the USA, Canada and online. They also organise post production events such as the Editors Retreat, After Effects World and the Creative Cloud Masters conference.

Livinia Smith, Future Media Concepts' event marketing manager for the FCPX Creative Summit says that after running events for Adobe and Avid users for many years, recent improvements in Final Cut prompted them to turn to Apple's software. The weekend of June 26-28 is just over four years since Final Cut Pro X was launched. Did that factor into the timing? "Future Media Concepts approached Apple about hosting an event dedicated to this platform. We both decided the date for the conference" says Smith.

Smith went on "Regarding the visit to the Apple Campus, when we pitched the idea to Apple, they saw value in directly interacting with this community of FCP users and they agreed to host a talk with the conference attendees in a lecture room at Apple."

Peeking out over the parapet of a besieged castle

Although Final Cut Pro X and its companion applications Compressor and Motion have been very successful over the years, Apple hasn't seen the need to publically involve itself with the user community. Compare their activities with those of Adobe and Avid - companies whose video editing applications were the traditional competitors of Final Cut Pro.

As well as constantly updating their websites with Premiere Pro and Media Composer case studies, their online activities include blog posts, tweets and Facebook updates with named staff members. They run support forums that feature contributions from software engineers. If a small user group somewhere in the USA gets in touch with Adobe to say they're organising a meeting about Premiere Pro, there's a good chance product manager Al Mooney will appear to give an entertaining presentation on his baby.

In recent years parts of Apple have been interacting a little more with the wider world. For example last year's launch of Swift, a new programming language for developing OS X, iPhone and now Watch apps was a big surprise. Apple going on to launch a programming blog on Swift is even more of a surprise. 

Anyone who visits the online forums discussing Adobe Premiere Pro CC, Avid Media Composer and Final Cut Pro X know that the harshest critics of most applications are those who use them every day for their livelihood. The combination of a long-established culture of Apple not sharing much information and the rabid nature of online power user debate means that it will be hard for the Final Cut Pro X team to change how they interact with the wider Final Cut community.

On the way towards a professional application community

Hopefully the ProApps team will be able to more directly support a Final Cut Pro X community. Online support would include

  • A buyers guide for third-party hardware and software
  • A consultants network
  • Continually updated training materials
  • A job board for employers and job seekers
  • Forums and discussion groups where the developers of the application itself can take part
  • Regular conferences so people can learn from each other and network

The majority of Final Cut users are individuals don't need to set up complex workflows and never need to call on consultants. However, knowing that there is a robust community standing by makes trying a new complex application that bit less daunting.

Although this kind of community might seem at odds with the way Apple works, they have a model of their own they can look to: FileMaker. FileMaker is Apple's professional database system. The FileMaker website has all the features I listed above.

It is interesting that Apple refers to FileMaker as a platform - as it is made up of an authoring tool, a server product and software that runs on Macs, PCs, iOS devices and in web browsers.

Perhaps the ProApps applications might end up as a platform/ecosystem too. I hope June's FCPX Creative Summit is a step on the way.

Disclosure: I'm happy to say I'm presenting a couple of sessions on Apple Motion at the Summit.

 

Facebook=Coke, Twitter=Pepsi: If you're No. 2, do what No. 1 cannot

Wednesday, 03 June 2015

In "Odyssey" by John Scully, the former president of Pepsi described one of his main strategies when competing with Coca Cola. He turned one of Coke's major brand elements and turned it against its owner. From 1923 onwards the Coca Cola company used a patented bottle shape to promote Coke. They put a great deal of marketing money behind associating its distinctive shape with Coca Cola. 

Pepsi didn't have a specific alernative bottle shape to promote in opposition to their rival. Instead of spending millions to add a physical packaging design to their brand, they used the flexibility of not having a specific shape to create different kinds of bottles. This flexibility made it much easier for Pepsi to sell bottled cola in locations not previously associated with soft drinks.

Chris Sacca has written an article suggesting what Twitter should do to compete:

Hundreds of millions of new users will join and stay active on Twitter, hundreds of millions of inactive users will return to Twitter, and hundreds of millions more will use Twitter from the outside if Twitter can:

  1. Make Tweets effortless to enjoy,
  2. Make it easier for all to participate, and
  3. Make each of us on Twitter feel heard and valuable.

Accomplishing this isn’t hard and there are obvious, concrete steps to fix it all. Done right, countless users new and old will find Twitter indispensable, use Twitter more, see great ads, buy lots of stuff, and make the company much more money along the way.

There are many interesting ideas in his post. Many of them are ways of using ideas from Facebook without becoming too much like Facebook: including providing views of the feed that aren't in strict chronological order, and breaking up Twitter into multiple apps.

While Twitter is considering which of its baseline features to change, they should also think of doing new things that Facebook cannot.

You are not your social media

The base assumption of all social media networks is one person = one account. When you sign up for Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Amazon, you create an account that represents your relationship with the social currency that the network manages: updates, pictures, videos and purchases.

Now that Apple want to make corporate attitude to privacy a major martket differentiator, I think Twitter could make it appealing for people to participate if they helped users be more than one person on the internet.

At the moment professional Twitter users know how to use tools like TweetDeck to maintain multiple Twitter accounts. Most TweetDeck users are maintaining accounts for different clients or departments.

I think Twitter should encourage people to have more than one Twitter identity. Each Twitter identity would be associated with the different lives people live:

  • Professional life (one for each area of expertise) - your place in a wider industry
  • Work life - what you are working on at the moment
  • Alumnus life (one for each instutution - be it educational or workplace)
  • Acquaintances life
  • Friends life
  • Family life
  • Personal life

The results of who you follow, who follows you, what interests you have, the tweets you write depend on whether which of these lives you are living.

The privacy promise that Twitter could offer is to never associate one identity with any of the others. If your family life identity searches for presents for a niece, there's no need for your professional life identity to be connected to those searches. Also your friends won't be interested in your professional opinion on an important industry issue. Also organisations who want to communicate with one identity will not be given access to any of its associated identities.

Twitter users will feel safer contributing to Twitter because it more accurately represents the way their different lives intersect with the world. Twitter could then talk about how many millions of identities access Twitter content each day.

Twitter would gain benefit from knowing what state a person is when using their service. Other apps and protocols would also be able to configure themselves depending on which Twitter identity is current. Amazon - or an upstart competitor to Amazon - should look different to me depending on whether I'm searching for professional, family or personal reasons. Wherever there is a 'Tweet this' button, there should be a UI to switch Twitter identities.

This would be very hard to explain to prospective users and hard to design, but the effort might be worth the reward.

Facebook's "one account per person" is their 'distinctive Coca Cola bottle shape.' I hope Twitter turns this restriction against them helps people maintain a distance between their true selves and the ones they maintain on the internet.