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.

Apple creative apps architect Randy Ubillos speaking in LA and San Jose

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

The Los Angeles Creative Pro User Group has announced that ex-Apple employee Randy Ubillos will be speaking at public events in May and June. 

Until April 23rd Randy Ubillos was a very important member of Apple's application software team:

His influence on Mac software started years before he joined Apple. He developed the first versions of the Adobe Premiere video editing software. Since joining Apple he's worked on Final Cut Pro, iMovie and iPhoto amongst others.

On May 27, 2015 he will be appearing at the May LACPUG meet in Los Angeles. On June 26, he will be appearing at the Bay Area SuperMeetUp - a similar event in San Jose.

It isn't common for ex-Apple employees to talk publically about areas of expertise they covered while working at Apple. Especially so soon after leaving the company. I guess this is either very bad news or very good news. The negative explanation is that Randy resigned because his vision for the future of Photos, iMovie, Final Cut Pro X and other applications he was involved with was too different from Apple's plans. His resignation was interpreted by some as a sign that Apple are about to give up on their professional applications - including Final Cut Pro X, Motion, Compressor and Logic Pro X. The bad news would be that Randy feels embittered enough to almost immediately go public with problems at Apple.

The 'good news' interpretation is that Randy appearing in public is part of Apple loosening up - that they understand that it is a good idea if users understand more about the people and motivations behind Apple software.

The good news is that the agenda at the LACPUG website says that Randy will be talking about his enthusiasm for the idea of telling stories with video: 

Randy will speak about his own moviemaking experiences and the power of video to inspire and document our lives. He will also provide tips and tricks for making your own movies.

That kind of talk could be designed to establish his bona fides for a new passion project supporting video literacy. A good sign is that he will also be joining post production experts to answer film making questions in a 'Stump the Gurus' session.

There's no sign that he'll be 'dishing the dirt on' or revealing Apple secrets about Final Cut Pro X, Photos and Aperture. Mike Horton of LACPUG specifically tweeted:

However, the fact that Randy is speaking in public so soon after leaving Apple is a good sign.

Will Virtual Reality change which stories we tell?

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

For a few years now I've enjoyed using panorama apps on my iPhone.

Occipital's 360Panorama iOS app can teleport you into a panorama by using the iPhone's accelerometers. Accelerometers detect where the phone is in 3D space and what angle it is being held at. 360Panorama uses this information to determine which part of a panorama to show on screen.

This means as you turn left and right (360°)…

p1 p2 p3

up and down (180°)…

p4 p5

in real life while holding the phone, the panorama display updates to show you what you would see if you looked in that direction at the place and time the panorama was captured.

In a new VR music video iOS app from 'Stor Eiglass' by Squarepusher the same technology gives you the opportunity to look in all directions during a 3D animation. If you have a Google Cardboard viewer you can also experience the VR in stereoscopic 3D, but the 2D version works just as well. The app is also available on Android.

While playing the video, I could look ahead as I flew forward...

vr1a

and look down to see what I was flying over:

vr1b

I wasn't able to choose the direction of my flight, the application flies through a virtual world, but was able to look around as things happened. As streams flew down from a tower...

vr2a

...I could look up...

vr2b

...or behind me:

vr2c

VR: No director or cinemetographer scene framing, few editor edits

From a storytelling point of view, this kind of virtual reality means that the viewer/player/user chooses where to look: how to frame the scene. They choose what is important to look at. Part of non-VR stortyelling is the ability of cinematographer, director and editor to direct the audience's view: "This is important," "her reaction is important" and "don't forget this."

The point of VR is that a solo audience member takes control of where to look. They can even change aspect ratio if they turn their phone:

vr3a vr3b

In-scene editing isn't possible because the editor cannot juxtapose different camera angles with editing - the audience chooses the camera angle.

Another aspect of editing is possible. Structure-based edits can be done with staging. Structure provides the beginning, middle and end of stories. 

Staging means that virtual physical boundaries between scenes act as edits.

In a city I fly towards a advertising billboard:

vr4a

vr4c

Flying through the billboard is a way of travelling between scenes to a new environment:

vr4b

I can look back to see there's no way back to the previous scene.

vr4d

Why are these 'staging edits' important? They help change pace and mood, making storytelling possible, so that this scene takes place in the same story as the previous scenes:

vr5

New storytelling technology, new language, new stories?

The history of movies and TV is the history of technological developments informing the way we tell stories. Movies started off as single shots being shown to large numbers of people in public. As artificial lighting, editing, sound, colour, multitrack audio, model visual effects and computer generated visual effects appeared, the way we told stories changed - which informed the kind of stories we told.

Now's the time to consider whether VR will affect way we tell stories and what stories we tell.

Shared storage for Final Cut Pro X post teams from GB Labs and LumaForge

Wednesday, 06 May 2015

For many years post production teams have been able to access media on shared storage. GB Labs and LumaForge make products that can be tuned to work well with editors who use Final Cut Pro X.

GB Labs' Space

The GB Labs Space storage range is a NAS (Network Attached Storage) system. 10 Gigabit Ethernet connections mean that editors can work with footage and Final Cut Pro X libraries stored on shared storage.

With current connection speeds, the limiting factor for video data rates isn't the networking technology but the speed of the shared storage and storage controllers.

For two simultaneous users who need a fast direct connection to their storage, GB Labs sell a relatively portable product: the Midi Space SSD. It is designed to travel from place to place with a film crew. 

The Midi comes in the form of a Tower PC with two 10GbE connections with up to 13TB of storage with 2,000MB/s throughput.

GB Labs Midi Space SSD NAS device

The GB Labs Space SSD is less portable, but higher performance device with a througput from 3,000 to over 6,000MB/s. It is rack-mounted and serves multiple editors via an external switch: 

GB Labs Space device connected to editing workstations via a switch

GB Labs' workflow page for Final Cut Pro X.

In response to a Twitter question from Sam Johnson:

LumaForge's LumaShare

LumaForge recently introduced their LumaShare Mobile family. It is a portable (as in a luggable single tower PC-sized device) system that supports up to 12 4K users using direct 10GbE connections. Adding an external switch supports more users.

Their 4 minute demo on Vimeo shows how many streams of 4K can ber served from a single LumaShare box:

Because of the way Final Cut Pro X can work with files, the same 16 4K files can be simultaneously streamed to multiple editors on the same network via their own Final Cut libraries (which are also stored on the server).

Later that same day at the April 2015 meeting of the LACPUG:

For speed and storage specifications for the LumaShare family along with prices, visit LumaForge.

As well as GB Labs or LumaForges devices for each workgroup, each Mac needs a 10 Gigabit Ethernet connection. Modern Macs get this using Thunderbolt adapters - such as those from Promise, Atto and Sonnet

Almost plug and play

The new economic model for post production support means that the market will need medium to high-end solutions that are almost plug and play. There isn't much margin in selling Macs and video editing software. The new generation are becoming accustomed to doing without service contracts - supporting themselves instead. LumaForge say that they tune each LumaShare they sell to match the specific needs of the workgroup - including the way Final Cut Pro X libraries work on NFS shares. GB Labs have partners in Europe and the US.

Products like GB Labs Space and LumaForge LumaShare are designed to be set up by assistant editors and DITs. If both companies provide enough online training and support, collaborative workflows for many artists working with large amounts of high resolution footage will be accessible to many more people.

Up until now, obscure user interfaces have been a sign of 'high-end professional' products, but as products move 'down market,' UI quality will become more important than features. Once products provide good enough hardware and software to get the job done at similar proces, it will be the system that is easier to set up and maintain that will win.

Timecode window for Final Cut Pro X

Tuesday, 05 May 2015

Newly available for Final Cut Pro X users: a flexible timecode display window. It is a free download for users of the FxFactory post production plugin management system. FxFactory is a free download that manages custom plugins for Final Cut Pro X and other post production applications.

Because plugins cannot yet modify Final Cut's menu, you access the new Timecode window by right- or control-clicking the timecode display above the project timeline:

Screenshot of using shortcut to show timecode window in Final Cut Pro X

The window always shows exactly what Final Cut's timecode display shows:

Screenshot of Final Cut Pro X timecode window showing native timecode of clip that is being skimmed in the timeline

You can resize the window by dragging the corners or edges.

You can also choose what colours are used for the text and the window background:

Screenshot showing shortcut menu that accesses timecode colour settings

The colour controls include opacity:

tc 4 opacity

The examples shown in these screenshots include a background colour with an opacity of 33%.

Timecode over full-screen video

If you have two displays attached to your Mac, you can also overlay the timecode window on top of full-screen video:

Screenshot showing timecode with transparency appearing over full-screen video in Final Cut Pro X

To do this

  1. Drag the timecode window to your secondary display
  2. Go to full screen mode on your primrary display using the 'View:Playback:Play Full Screen' command or use the Shift-Command-F keyboard shortcut
  3. Drag the timecode window back over your primary display

At the moment the window shows the same information as Final Cut's normal timecode display panel. X displays time project timecode when skimming in the timeline, clip timecode when the cursor is over a specific clip.

If you set the timecode display to show subframes in order to do sub-frame audio editing, the window doesn't yet show the same precision:

Screenshot showing that when subframes are shown by Final Cut Pro X, the FxFactory window doesn't show them

In Final Cut Pro 7 and earlier, there was an option to overlay timecodes of all the clips in the timeline at the playhead. Since June 2011 Final Cut Pro X's information overlays have been simpler.

Maybe the ProApps team are hoping that the need for editors to know so much about timecode will go away. On the other hand, they might be working on a much more configurable overlay system for a future version of Final Cut. Time will tell!

Timecode and FxFactory are free downloads for Final Cut Pro X 10.2 and OS X Yosemite 10.10.2 and newer.

Primordial metadata

Timeline and clip timecode are an example of of a form of metadata that is over 100 years old. When films were shot with celluloid, editors had to manage film edge code - sometimes adding their own code to shot film to be able to manage every frame.

Hopefully Apple will add features that will allow Final Cut users to view and edit any metadata in a floating window - including timecode. The kinds of metadata that would be useful in this case would be

  • Timecode
  • Slate/Scene/Take
  • GPS-recorded location (co-ordinates / colloquial name of place)
  • Keywords
  • Colour grade name
  • Name of person who last made changes/changed metadata

Periscope broadcast 1: Final Cut Pro X - April 6 2015

Tuesday, 07 April 2015

As Periscope currently only allows replays for 24 hours, here is a copy of yesterday's 'scope' on YouTube.

I muse upon Final Cut Pro X and answer questions put to me by Periscope followers.

To make this video, I recorded my iPhone while it displayed the replay in the Periscope application. Do this by connecting your phone to your Mac running Yosemite QuickTime Player X and choosing File:New Movie Recording.

Pop-up menu in QuickTime Player X showing iPhone selected

Then go to the pop-up menu next to the record button and choose the iPhone's camera and then the iPhone's microphone.

 

Chatty apps in OS X: Quiet them down

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

When I upgraded OS X to Mavericks I found that Final Cut Pro X alerts got more annoying. Every time I exported a movie from my edit, I would get an alert when the background export finished. When I need to export many movies in a short period of time, I end up with a whole series of alerts:

Screenshot of many alerts produced during a Final Cut Pro X export session

To prevent Final Cut - or any OS X application - being so 'chatty,' go to System Preferences and choose the Notifications pane.

Screenshot of Mac OS X System Preferences with Notifications icon highlighted

Scroll down and click 'Final Cut Pro.'

Screenshot showing Final Cut Pro selected in the Notifications pane of System Preferences

Change the alert style from Alerts to Banners. Instead of having to dismiss each alert, banners go away automatically.

'Bumpy' pixels: iMovie Apple Force Touch trackpad haptic feedback

Monday, 16 March 2015

Apple has updated iMovie 10.0.7 to provide context-specific haptic feedback for those using a Force Touch trackpad.

As part of their March 9, 2015 event Apple announced a new kind of trackpad for their MacBook computers. Instead of registering clicks using a switch, the new trackpad is able to recognise a range of pressures. The Force Touch trackpad can detect a light touch for when the user wants to move the cursor without clicking and dragging, a heavier touch for when the user wants to click or drag, and a heavier touch - a 'force click' - which is used for shortcuts.

As this new trackpad has no click switch, it is hard for users to know how hard they are pressing without physical feedback. They need to be able to feel the difference between moving the cursor, clicking a UI object and force touching a part of an application. The Force Touch trackpad includes a 'Taptic Engine' - tiny magnets that move the trackpad in such a way that they feel as if the trackpad has flexed downwards.

An Apple support document lists some examples of shortcuts accessible by force clicking:

  • Link previews: Force click a link in Safari or Mail to see an inline preview of the webpage.
  • File icons: Force click a file icon to see a Quick Look preview of it.
  • File names: Force click a file name in the Finder or on your desktop to let you edit the file name.
  • iMovie: When your iMovie project has an animated Map or Globe, you can Force click the map in the Timeline to access a Style menu. This lets you choose from four different styles.

As well as being able to simulate old physical trackpad features, the Taptic Engine can also provide physical feedback based on context:

  • iMovie: When dragging a video clip to its maximum length, you’ll get feedback letting you know you’ve hit the end of the clip. Add a title and you’ll get feedback as the title snaps into position at the beginning or end of a clip. Subtle feedback is also provided with the alignment guides that appear in the Viewer when cropping clips.

Final Cut Pro X is my video editing application of choice. iMovie is a full version of Final Cut Pro X running an additional consumer UI. As Final Cut Pro X hasn't been updated since December, iMovie's use of the Force Touch trackpad is a preview of features I hope to see in the next version of Final Cut.

I visited an Apple Store in London to see how iMovie 'felt' on the new version of the 13" MacBook Pro with Retina. 

'Feeling' the user interface

I tried two out of the three features mentioned in the support document. I couldn't feel any 'snapping' as I moved a title to the start or finish of a clip.

When I dragged the clip to its maximum length I did feel a little bump. Without looking at the timeline and looking at the viewer, I could 'feel' the end of the clip.

This feature presages the ability for UI pixels to be 'bumpy' - for user to feel the texture of application UIs without having to look at where the cursor is. This means that seemingly textured software keyboards and control layouts will be able to be implemented on future trackpads, iPhones and iPads.

Perhaps we'll look back and realise that the iOS 7 update removed borders from button because one day Apple user interfaces will be able to be felt as much as seen, and button text labels will feel more distinctive than button borders under our fingertips.

Non-visual manipulation

Film and video editing is an interesting UI problem: You need to look at the footage you are editing while you manipulate the clips that represent the footage in a timeline. That is why keyboard shortcuts are especially popular amongst video editors. No need to look at your mouse pointer the timeline as you manipulate clips - just press the keys that change the edit. 

Once a complex timeline can be represented by a touch only UI, editing will go full-screen. The screen will show footage only while the editor will be able to feel the edits as the story plays out.

 

iMovie 10.0.7 update

Monday, 09 March 2015

At the same moment Apple were launching the Apple Watch and the 2015 MacBook, they quietly updated iMovie.iMovie10.0.9

As well as the features listed here, 10.0.7 also updates the format for iMovie libraries. Once you open an old library with 10.0.7, it will not open in earlier versions.

Here are the new buttons added below the viewer:

iMovie10 0 7new-buttons

New text

Within the application there are a few bits of text not found in 10.0.6:

A tooltip explaining the new Photos features:

Choose to view projects, albums, and more from your Photos Library

Instructions to deal with errors:

Select a local storage device or SAN.

Select a local storage device.

Copy the document to a local storage device or SAN, then try again.

Copy the document to a local storage device, then try again.

Errors:

This document cannot be opened from iCloud Drive.

This document cannot be saved to iCloud Drive.

 

 

Final Cut Pro X tip: Create compound clips with handles

Wednesday, 04 March 2015

Compound clips are useful for when your Final Cut Pro X project timeline is getting complex, or if you want to use the same sequence of clips in multiple places.

There's a catch though - they aren't created with handles.

In this case some frames have been trimmed off the start of 'Clip 2' and off the end of 'Clip 4'

cchandle-1makeCC

If I make a compound clip of the selected clips (Using the 'File:New:Compound Clip…' command or by control- or right-clicking then in the timeline)…

cchandle-2nohandles

…I can't use the select tool (or the trim tool) to drag the start of the compound clip to the left in order to see the frames I know are in Clip 2.

This is because the timeline of the compound clip looks like this:

cchandle-2anohandles

However, if I temporarily add a pair of long transitions to the first and last clip of the group… 

cchandle-3addtransitions

and then make a compound clip of the clips (don't select the temporary transitions when making the compound clip)…

cchandle-4makeCCagain

and then delete the transitions...

cchandle-4aasametimelineduraion

the compound clip has the same duration as before, but now has handles equal to half the duration of the transitions.

The timeline of the compound clip looks like this:

cchandle-4ahandles

cchandle-5CChashandles

That means I can now trim out the start of the compound clip. In this case I'm adding two seconds and three frames to the start of the compound clip.

 

 

Worldwide NLE Market until 2020: It's all about price

Thursday, 26 February 2015

A new report by market researchers Frost & Sullivan on the global non-linear editing market makes some interesting points and raises some interesting questions.

[The report] observes the NLE market through the lenses of the broadcast, post-production, and professionals segments during 2013–2020

The headline: Product Affordability Drives Sales of Pro-Video Non-Linear Editing Solutions Worldwide 

Here are some of their highlights:

  • With a steady pricing decrease since 2003, the professional editing solutions market opened up to a large number of users across all segments. Eventually, the availability of products at $1000 created a large user base of individual professionals who typically owned small boutique studios or small production houses.
  • The downward price spiral, the intensifying competition, and the slow growth in sales in the broadcast and post-production segments are challenges to the growth of high-margin, high-end NLE products.
  • The NLE market is preparing itself for innovation around cloud-based solutions, which are likely to challenge the adoption of off-the-shelf products.
  • The fast-growing and highly fragmented consumer devices market makes multi-platform content delivery a key requirement driving growth in the broadcast segment. In the post-production segment, adoption of solutions that help in increasing operational efficiency and reducing bottom- line while turning around content quickly is key.  
  • The main vendors in this space are Adobe, Apple, Quantel, Avid, and Grass Valley. Long-term growth in the pro-video segments (broadcast and post-production) is expected to be determined by a vendor’s ability to innovate, provide constant upgrades, and create an easy yet holistic ecosystem around the editing products. The ability to integrate into collaborative workflows and ensure interoperability will also be critical.

In return for your contact information, you can download a preview of the report from the Frost & Sullivan site.

According to the preview, a couple of questions the full report answers are:

  • Are the existing competitors correctly structured to meet customer needs? Will competing companies and products continue to exist or will they be acquired by other companies? Will these products become features in other markets? 
  • What technical trends, including cloud technologies, are shaping the marketplace? What trends are on the horizon, and what does this mean for future product strategy? 
  • How will the pro-video segments, such as broadcast and post-production, compare with the professionals segment that largely comprises individual video creators?

For those of us who can't justify buying these kinds of reports, perhaps discussing these questions might be useful. For example, how good are Apple, Adobe, Avid, Grass Valley and Quantel at

  • Innovation
  • Providing constant upgrades
  • Creating an easy yet holistic NLE ecosystem
  • Integration into collaborative workflows
  • Interoperability

'Focus' starring Will Smith: First major studio feature edited using Apple's Final Cut Pro X

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

The announcement of a feature film production seminar in Los Angeles reveals that Focus, starring Will Smith and Margot Robbie, was edited using Final Cut Pro X. Final Cut is currently available to download from the Mac App Store for £230.

The event is sponsored by Apple, camera makers ARRI and workflow specialists Light Iron (a subsidiary of Panavision). 

Focus is released on Friday in the US and UK. It is the first major studio film edited using Final Cut Pro since is was completely revised and renamed Final Cut Pro X in 2011. It follows on from 'Gone Girl,' the first studio feature film edited using Adobe Premiere Pro CC, which was released in October 2014.

Logo of LA event on the post workflow for Will Smith film Focus

Although the event description doesn't name Focus specifically, the illustration uses its logo and the crew named as attending are the co-director, cinematographer, editor, 1st assistant editor, post supervisor and DIT of the film: 

Light Iron, ARRI, and Apple invite you to explore one of the most advanced and modern workflows in today’s cinema.

The event will begin at ArcLight Cinemas Hollywood with a continental breakfast, followed by a special workflow presentation featuring:

• Glenn Ficarra, Co-Director
• Xavier Grobet, ASC, Cinematographer
• Stephan Ukas-Bradley, ARRI
• Brandon Lippard, DIT
• Jan Kovac, Editor
• Mike Matzdorff, Asst. Editor
• Jeffrey Harlacker, Post Supervisor

The event will also feature a hands-on workflow area showcasing Final Cut Pro X and the Mac hardware used in the making of the film.

The event is on Saturday March 7th. Register to attend.

I'm glad to say that 1st assistant editor Mike Matzdorff engaged me to make some plugins to aid in the post workflow, two of which are currently available for free on my website: Alex4D Timecode 35mm 4-perf and Alex4D Feature Overlays.

Available soon: case studies on the Apple Final Cut Pro website and on fcp.co, the primary website for Final Cut news.

Also 1st Assistant Editor Mike Matzdorff will soon release an eBook covering the Focus workflow: Final Cut Pro X: Pro Workflow

Follow Mike on Twitter to find out more.

Follow me on Twitter for regular tweets on Final Cut Pro X and post production. 

Three kinds of ‘Delete Clip’ in the Final Cut Pro X timeline

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Because Final Cut Pro X doesn't have tracks, Apple have made three kinds of delete for clips in the timeline.

Three-fcpx-deletes-1-before

This clip has two connected clips: a video cutaway and an audio clip.

If when removing the selected clip I want the connected clips to be removed, I'd press the Delete key:

Three-fcpx-deletes-2-delete

If I want to delete the selected clip but keep the connected clips and not change the duration of the edit, pressing Shift-Delete replaces the selected clip with a gap clip:

Three-fcpx-deletes-3-shift-delete

If I want to keep the connected clips and close up the timeline when deleting the selected clip, I would press Option-Command-Delete (some people call these two modifier keys 'alt-cmd'):

Three-fcpx-deletes-4-option-command-delete

A new definition for post production

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

In the past few years the post production has been coming under increasing pressure. Most people blame tougher negotiations by studios - that they want twice as much work for half the money.

Micahel Cioni of Panavision's Light Iron has an alternate theory. Here he is talking during last week's Opening Keynote Presentation at the annual Hollywood Post Alliance Tech Retreat suggests:

Father and Son: An HPA Story from Light Iron on Vimeo.

(4:53) I don't believe the squeeze is actually coming from studios, although a lot of people think the content creators are creating a squeeze at the top and that filters down. If we were to look at this market as a business transaction, it's like having a new owner - a new boss. The content creators have a new boss - that new owner is alternative distribution methods. It's not just creating a squeeze below the line… it's actually effecting people above the line. 

(5:31) What's really changed is this idea of what is actually ‘post.’ I think of it as like a waterfall. Services you provide in post production eventually go 'over the edge' - they become part of production. Once they do, you can't get them back … 

(6:35) …if you elminate film, you don't eliminate film making. If you eliminate post houses, you don't eliminate post…

(7:00) [new definition of post:] 'Any manipulation of an image that happens after it leaves the camera'...

(7:19) [on screen] Transcoding and online are 2 post services that are soon going “over the edge” and will fall into production. This doesn't mean post is dead, but many of its fundamental services are.

(8:57) 

So-called 'heavy' work will be safe in post for quite some time. But the higher margin items that used to make up a larger volume of revenue are disappearing. Best future for post: Software as a Service, custom IT, mobile solutions, multi-platform deliverables and user automation. The largest 'heavy' projects will be the last to leave the post house.

Coming up with standard ways of doing things isn't good news for post production professionals. Post pros are more valuable in environments when there are many different ways of getting things done

Post: that which happens in parallel with, which is synchronized with and accompanies production

 

71 Apple Motion feature requests

Monday, 16 February 2015

Inspired by Richard Taylor's Final Cut Pro X Top Requests Master List, here are some of my feature requests for Motion, Apple's Final Cut X plugin and motion graphics creation tool.

Since June 2011, Apple have released many updates to Motion 5, but not at the scale of the changes to Final Cut Pro X. Probably one reason for this disparity is that Motion's new role - as an application that makes plugins for Final Cut Pro X - has proved very successful. As well as the many commercial plugins, individuals have made hundreds of free plugins that add so much to what Final Cut can do.

The majority of Motion 5's updates relate to fixing bugs in Final Cut Pro X, however here are the highlights of what's changed since 2011:

  • 5.0.1: Dual display support
  • 5.0.2: Drop zone pan and scale parameters, option to show animated parameters only in keyframe editor
  • 5.0.5: Multi-document support
  • 5.1.1: Additional parameters for the Sequence Text behaviour and Contrast filter

Here is a list of improvements to Motion that I hope Apple introduce - in no particular order: 

1. Keyframable and publishable shape points

To make masks and other shapes used in Final Cut plugins editable, as well as being able to move points, editors will also want to be able to edit the curves and lines that conect the points. When a Motion shape is published, bezier point controls on screen and a variable amount of point parameters in the inspector - which can be keyframed - including point deletion and addition over time should appear in the inspector.

01-Bezier-Point

2. More Drop Zone clip information available in Motion

Including active frame rate, dimensions, metadata (including time-based metadata such as Final Cut Pro X keywords and subtitles) and timecode. These would appear as 'read only' parameters associated with the drop zone.

02-Link-Source

For testing purposes, if there is no clip in the drop zone, there could be the option to enter values into special fields that simulate attributes of a dropped clip. This would be quicker than changing the clip in the drop zone:

02-Drop-Zone-data

3. Parent timeline properties available to Motion

Having access to the Final Cut Pro project the plugin is being used in gives rigs and behaviours the option to do different things based on the pixel aspect ratio, frame rate, rendering codec, audio format, start timecode, current timecode etc. of the project within which the plugin is being used. In the Link paramater behaviour, you would be able to drag the project into the 'Source Object' well: 

03-Parent-Timeline-Link-Source

4. "Non-frames" time ruler mode

Plugins can be placed in Final Cut timelines of any frame rate; in this ruler mode the ability to set in points, out points of layers, keyframes and parameter values would be defined in seconds and decimal fractions of a second. Dividing timelines into frames doesn't apply to 4 out of the 5 Motion document types - the ones used to create Final Cut Pro X plugins.

04-seconds-time-ruler

5. Multiple Inspectors

So Motion users can inspect the parameters of more than one layer at a time, or see the property, filter and behaviour settings of a layer at the same time.

6. Inspector history

In the same style as the arrows that move between timelines in Final Cut Pro X - perhaps with a pop-up menu that list the lists the most recent 20 things inspected.

7. Parameter combinations stored as styles

In Motion (or Final Cut) a style could be based on the current setting of published parameters. This could be automatically named "Pink, from Left, Fast" when first created and then renamed to decribe what this combination of settings means in the edit such as "Team B." These styles would be saved in a pop-up menu.

A master plugin could have a set of styles defined in a special rig. When saving the master plugin, there could be an option to generate a family of plugins based on each snapshot in the style rig.

In a future version of Final Cut/iMovie a setting on a clip could associate a Role with a style rig snapshot. The advantage would be when the role assigned to a clip is changed a different style would immediately apply to the clip.

8. Group published parameters within a disclosure triangle option

This is possible to do by editing the Motion XML, but this feature should get an official proper user interface:

08-disclosure-grouping

9. Timing markers

Each marker defines a section of an animation. Two sections are already defined in Motion: Build In and Build Out Markers. Durations between markers can then can be changed in Final Cut Pro X (using timeline and inspector controls) using the Retime Editor UI:

09-Title-retiming-1

Adding a special timing marker in Motion would add more retiming sections in Final Cut:

09-Title-retiming-2

The pop-up for each section is associated with turning Build In and Build Out sections on and off. The  menu for Build In would be 'Build In' and 'Remove Build In.' The menu for the Main section would be "Main," "Add Build In" and "Add Build Out." When adding timing sections, the name for the section would be defined by the name of the marker. In the second example the Motion template has a timing marker named "1st Group" and the Build Out marker is named "2nd Group" - because it defines the second section as well as the start of the build out.

10. Behaviour access to the rectangle co-ordinates of a text element

The Link parameter behaviour can read the dimensions of a text field, paragraph, line, word or character and apply the link to any other parameter. A new Text Boundary behaviour in the Motion Tracking category could track the position and size of text, paragraph, line, word or character.

11. Multiple parameter animation curves in Final Cut Pro X

Currently only the first rigged slider widget's animation curve appears in Final Cut. Control over which slider widgets, parameter sliders and co-ordinates have optional animation curves in Final Cut

12. 'Divide by source' 'Raise to the power of source' Link parameter behaviour Apply Modes

Useful when simulating scaling animation in 2D.

13. "Calculator" generator

That acts like the 'Numbers' generator, but it calculates values: eg: valueA + valueB, valueB is greater than valueA [result being true (1) or false (0)], distance between points, angle of straight line between points, angles between planes. Points/planes could be from parameters in generator or from parameters from layers connected via drop zones.

14. "Text Factory" generator

A generator that combines text from different places (=Word X of the text from layer 'foo' && characters 7 to 25 of the text from layer 'bar') including font and size text formatting

15. More "Timecode" generator modes

Sometimes minutes and hours need to be combined into minutes e.g. "65:02" in a sports fixture. Suggested by Karsten Schlüter on the fcp.co Motion forum.

16. Named keyframe curves

Where 'Ease in' 'Accelerate' 'Logarithmic' 'Exponential' parameter change settings are used in behaviours, more complex parameter changes can be designed (such as a curve named 'Ease out overshoot damped oscillate to final value'). These would options to choose in the "Mix Over Time" parameter in the Link paramater behaviour:

16-Custom-Curve-Style-1

...and the Speed parameter in the Move basic motion behaviour:

16-Custom-Curve-Style-2 

17. Special 'overlay' group for generators and custom controls

A setting for groups that plugin designers can use to communicate with editors in Final Cut Pro X. Any text generators in the group are by default moveable and act like titles. The contents of the group displays in a special overlay layer than can be turned off and on in the Final Cut viewer in the same way as a timecode/guides/safe zones can be turnes off and on. If an clip with an effect (or title or generator) with an overlay group is obscured by another layer in Final Cut, its overlay group is still shown (with a clip by clip disable visibility option).

18. Publishable/Riggable 'Active Camera'

So Final Cut Pro X users can choose which Motion camera to view through

19. Publishable/Riggable overall project 'Motion Blur' and 'Quality' settings

 

20. Individual layer 'Motion Blur' parameter

…which can be published and rigged.

21. Riggable font control

With the option to be able to rig (change which font is used in a widget snapshot) standard OS X fonts or all fonts available

22. Riggable behaviour and filter switches

So rigs can turn filters and behaviours on and off

23. Editable Display Aspect Ratio rigs

To make it clearer that a parameter is already linked to a display aspect ratio rig (so you can change the way the rig works while working on other rigs)

24. More complex Parameter Link behaviours source parameter/apply to combinations

For example so a single Link behaviour can use the X and Y of a 3D point as the source that gets applied to a 2D point and vice versa or linking pairs of width and height controls in a filter to the X and Y of a scale parameter.

25. Time offsets in Parameter Link behaviour

So the source values of a parameter can come from different times (X seconds from now, X seconds before now, Y seconds from start of behaviour or Y seconds before end).

26. Publishable ‘3D position' and '3D angle' on-screen controls

They already exist in Motion for postion and angle parameters. They should be available in plugins made with Motion.

27. Change template kind

Ways of converting Title motion templates to Generator motion templates or Transition or Effect motion templates or vice versa i.e. "Insert 'Title Background' placeholder" or "Convert Effect Source placeholder to Drop Zone"

28. "Nearby clip" Final Cut Pro X placeholders

Starting with "Clip Below current" and "Clip Above Current." These would act as implicit drop zones that don't have to be chosen directly in the inspector. They would give Motion templates access to nearby clips as the clip which has had the effect applied (or title or generators) are moved along the Final Cut Pro X timeline (optionally getting access disabled clips above and below at that point in the timeline - a 'visible layers only' checkbox)

29. Transition background Final Cut Pro X placeholder

For transitions applied to connected storyline clips with transparency (such as titles and generators), a transition background Final Cut Pro X placeholder would send the background over which the transition would be applied

30. The ability to create password-protected plugins

 

31. The ability to add notes to document how a template works

 

32. Access to the audio of clips in Final Cut Pro X placeholders

So effects and behaviours can be driven by audio

33. Audio plugins

 

34. Rigging/Publishing audio parameters

Including those in audio filters

35. Audio only plugin creation

For Final Cut Pro X and Logic Pro X (including the ability new audio effect bundles based on those built into Final Cut Pro X)

36. Depth maps

The ability to interpret depth maps created by 3D applications. Instead of baking in depth of field and volumetric lighting in the 3D render, Motion should be able to add depth of field and volumetric lighting. Depth maps could help Motion (and generated Final Cut plugins) to render intersections between pre-rendered 3D elements, and calculate occlusion for stereoscopic 3D.

37. Variance in replicator sequence behaviour parameters

Like the Variance parameter in text sequence behaviours

38. Divider replicator

When a divider replicator is applied to a layer, it makes as many copies as replicated cells - each copy being masked by the cell. Useful for breaking a layer into parts which can be animated individually.

39. 3D models as cell sources for replicators

 

40. 3D models as source arrangements for replicators

 

41. Bezier warp of layers in 3D

 

42. 3D extrusion settings for any 2D layer

A simple way of making 3D models - which should have self-reflection and be able to react to Motion lights.

43. Broadcast monitor output

 

44. Video/Audio scopes

 

45. On-screen controls layer group

For user-defined on-screen controls that appear in other applications using special library graphic elements that act as click/drag/gesture hotspots. OSCs that can be linked to rig widgets and behaviours. 

46. Multi-clip access

Complex clips are those with more than one video and audio clip. These include compound, multicam and clips that have been 'edited in their own timeline.' If a complex clip is used in a dropzone (or a plugin is applied to a complex clip), all the parts of the compound clip should be available to the Motion template - (although Auditions aren't complex clips, it would be useful if the audition candidates were also available).

47. Multicam render

If an effect has been applied to a multicam clip that can process multiple angles. Multiple cameras in the Motion templates should be able to send multiple simultaneous different angles back, which can then be selected using Final Cut Pro multicam editing tools.

48. More commands that can have keyboard shortcuts applied

For example "convert shape to mask" or "convert mask to shape." Suggested by "grailz" on fcp.co.

49. Stop keyboard shortcuts when editing text

A preference suggested by SquidFX on fcp.co

50. Simulator

Instead of having moving to Final Cut/iMovie, a simulator to show how plugins will work in - showing application differences: alternate inspector Uis (i.e. Final Cut vs. iMovie) and showing different kinds of projects that the template might be used in: multiple timeline frame rates, display aspect ratios and pixel aspect ratios. The simulator could be loaded with a common group of clips that designers like to test with - and make demos and tutorials with.

51. Quartz Composition creation and editing

A set of generators that act as subset of Quartz Composer patches which can be added and linked together using the Motion metaphor, and a view mode that shows the links between generators(patches) in the same way Quartz Composer shows connections between patches.

52. Plugin creation for iMovie on OS X and iOS

 

53. Plugin creation for video-capable OS X applications

Apple applications such as Photos, QuickTime Player, Keynote and Pages as well as Motion itself,. Third party applications too, such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe After Effects, Adobe Premiere, Avid Media Composer and Da Vinci Resolve (Mac OS X versions only). Enabled by a free Motion plugin playback system from Apple (like the UI-less version of Motion that in built into Final Cut Pro X).

54. View of timeline at different time in Motion and host application

When a rig modifies a parameter whose change isn't visible at the current frame, it would be useful for a pop-up window to show the change happening. If the Motion (or Final Cut Pro X) playhead is in the middle of a title and a published slider widget is modifying the build in animation, the widget could have a 'Show a inset preview of timeline at Marker X' parameter so the user will get feedback on their change. Alternatively, changing a parameter value could temporarily move the Final Cut (or host application) skimmer to the marker specified. Suggested by SquidFX on fcp.co.

55. Camera controls of 2D clone view of 3D layer

The clone of the 3D layer would be 2D, whose view could be controlled by camera-like 3D position/rotation/view angle/depth blur parameters. Imagine a video wall of 2D clones of 3D layers (sometimes the same 3D layer) but with different views of the same 3D content depending in the 3D position and angle of the special camera associated with the 2D clone.

56. Line widths of less than 1 pixel

Suggested by "muddygun" on fcp.co

57. Change inspector values by relative amounts

For example the ability to change the X co-ordinate of multiple selected objects by -15 pixels - not change them all so their X co-ordinate is -15. Suggested by Braden Storrs

58. Retime behaviours for drop zone clips

Behaviours could then slip, speed up, slow down or scrub clips in a drop zone (with the option to apply the effect to audio or not)

59. Import 3D keyframes

…from 3D applications. Suggested by Deyson Ortiz of Motion Master Templates

60. Layered PDF and PSD import

 

61. Convert PDF element to Motion element(s)

Shapes, gradients, patterns (which become replicators), clipping masks (masks)

62. Duplicate naming control

When duplicating layers, behaviours and filters, choose whether 'Copy' a number or nothing is added

63. Parameter behaviour name suggestions

Control clicking on a behaviour name should bring up the option to add useful information using a naming template: Instead of 'Link' or 'Link Copy' a context menu would suggest 'Source.Parameter -> Destination.Parameter' as a naming template which would name the Link behaviour as "Lower Third bg.Opacity -> Type Text Here.Scale.X" A 'Ramp' behaviour applied to a text layer could be named 'Ramp Styles.Style.Offset.X'

64. Background rendering

 

65. Editable default versions of each kind of Motion template

When choosing to start a transition template for example, the ability to base a template on a preset where the placeholder layers are named 'Outgoing Clip' and 'Incoming Clip' for example.

66. New Sequence Text behaviour 'Animate' by options

At the moment when animating by 'Word' punctuation characters are considered as individual 'words.' Two new options: animate by 'Word (including punctuation)' and 'Custom Delimeter' (such as comma or Tab)

67. Rename layer based on source

After switching a source picture of a layer, it would be useful to rename the layer to denote that the source has changed. After selecting multiple layers, the context menu would have a 'Rename Based on Source' command.

69. More timing parameters for groups

The same timing parameters that are available in movie layers: Time Remap, Speed, Reverse, Frame Blending, End Condition and End Duration. If not possible with groups, perhaps with clones of groups.

69. Publishable/riggable layer/behaviour timing parameters

In/Out/Duration for layers, behaviours and filters, also the additional timing parameters associated with movie layers

70. Copying layers between projects should copy connected rigs and layers

If a layer with rigged or linked parameters is copied from one project to another, the rigs and the objects the parameters are linked to should be copied to the new project.

71. Duplicating layers with rigged parameters

If a layer or group has one or more parameters that are rigged to a popup widget, provide one of four options: 1. Connect duplicate to currently rigged widget snapshot, 2. Do not connect duplicate to currently rigged snapshot, 3. Duplicate rig and connected widget and rig duplicate's parameter(s) to duplicate layer/group. 4. In the case of Pop-Up widgets, create a new duplicate snapshot connected to new duplicate.

 

If you have any feedback - including what you'd like to see added to this list, please email me: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. When you do, try and consider what the user interface might be - how to add your feature to the existing user interface and underlying application metaphor. Think of new specific tools, behaviours, filters, generators and controls that fit alongside what Motion already has. Creating images to go with your ideas helps make your proposal clearer for others - including Apple.