Avid Editors in Lebanon

7 07 2008

When I’ve worked in the Middle East, I’ve noticed that many of their editors use Adobe Premiere. Certainly, the area is largely PC, so Final Cut isn’t really very popular (though that is changing, as Apple begins to penetrate the area a little more). But we’ve taught there, primarily because it’s what we knew and we were teaching storytelling anyway — not just technology.

Still, it’s cool to see that there is now a Facebook group titled AVID EDTIORS in Lebanon (this link won’t work right if you’re not a member of Facebook), led by Mohamad Zoghbi and Dany Abi Khalil Aljabai. Started at the end of last month, the group boasts 80 members now (including Harroot Kasparian who has a picture of Jim Morrison as his ID picture).

Exciting!





Amazing Amazing Amazing

13 06 2008

If this is true then there is proof that there is a God.

Wes Plate, the innovative maven behind Automatic Duck, did a demo of the soon-to-released Pro Export FCP 4 (due, according to the video, sometime this summer). In the video, which you can see at the Film & Video web page where I found it, actually shows ProExport 4 changing FCP media into MXF files that the Avid can actually read. In addition, with the effects that are in the demo, the program translated the FCP effects into Avid effects, and translated an FCP marker into an Avid locator. This is in addition to the already valuable function that the program performs in version 3 of translating project files.

Once again, if this is true — there is a God. Or, at least, the Holy Grail. For years, that unattainable goal was to easily move a project and its media from FCP into Avid, because most people felt that the finishing tools there were better. Or, perhaps, you’re moving from one facility to another.

Wes Plate, you are a God!!





Fun Red One Demo

12 06 2008

Red One cameraTed Schilowitz, public face of the RED CINEMA Digital Camera, knows how to put on a show. He, and Michael Cioni (Plaster City Digital Post), put on a short demo of shooting with the RED, and playing it right on a Final Cut Pro system.

There’s nothing really special about that.  FCP can do that with the P2 cameras. Avid can too. But the way that Ted does the demo is really fun. He and Michael have two red cameras (take THAT, Red Camera fanatics) and shoot a little mini show called “Mythbusters.”  While still rolling both cameras, they walk into the next room, which has a spiffy 27 foot screen, plug one of the cameras into a second Mac (eight-core) system, and immediately project the footage onto the screen.  Frankly, it’s a demo that Sony and Panasonic could do as well, with their technology.  The cool thing is that Mike is demonstrating it using the 2K movie files right out of FCP (something that Ted advises you not to do, by the way). And there are some occasionally funny titles laid over the picture.

There are 4K and 2K versions of the film posted on the Red Cinema bulletin board.





Great Do-It-Yourself Podcast Tips

10 06 2008

There are two really great sites that I like to tour around to get tips and technique tricks for FCP and Avid.

First, David Forsyth, over at Amber Technology in Australia, does a podcast called “Avid Tips and Techniques” which has featured discussions about the Audio Mixer, Animatte, the Super Bin, and more.

One or two Final Cut sites. My favorite are the series of tutorials about the entire Final Cut Suite from VASST, a company that does training videos. If you look up their store using the company name RHed Pixel in iTunes you’ll be treated to a great series of excerpts from those videos. I like the one called “Total Training for Final Cut Help – Final Cut Studio.” A warning — VASST’s free tutorial website hasn’t been updated in a very long time.

Another good FCP podcast, though it hasn’t been updated since early March, is Creative Cow’s podcast “Creative Cow Final Cut Studio Tutorials Podcast.” Creative Cow runs those great web forums on practically every production and post technology known to mankind (and womankind too).

A cool series of short tips and tricks from the people at Digital Heaven, who make some really neat plug-ins for Final Cut (including a large timecode window, for all of you Avid editors who miss throwing that up during music or sound spotting sessions). Their podcast of video tutorials for FCP can be found on YouTube or at this address in iTunes.





Feature Envy

9 06 2008

ScriptSyncOliver Peters, in his blog Digital Films, has a posting about Avid’s ScriptSync, the technology that allows somewhat automated connection between the script inside Avid, and individual takes. This allows the editor to edit in the lined script mode and, as for me, I often look at the script supervisor’s lined script when I edit. Once I finish my first cut, I’m rarely looking at the script — by then, it’s all about what the footage says, not what the script says.

But I often refer to the lined script (and the facing notes pages as well) to find out what has been shot for any given line of dialogue or bit of action. When I worked with the extraordinary editor Gerry Hambling on FAME, I saw that he did his own lined script, even though he had received one from the set. This is actually even doubly cool, because it means that the lined script will reflect what was actually in the dailies (even great script supers can make mistakes) as well as forcing the editor to really examine the footage that he or she has received.

So, in the scheme of things (and despite its shortcomings) this Avid Media Composer feature is A Very Good Thing.

But “more features” is not always A Good Thing.

We are all aware of Feature Bloat, the natural tendency of software programs to grow more features as they get older and need more selling points for new versions. Microsoft’s Word is often trotted out as an example. This program has gone beyond its 1981 origins (as Bravo) and its 1983 release, into a program which now takes 20 megabytes at its core (not including its countless ancillary files). I remember installing Word back on my early Mac, and it took about eight floppy disks to get it on my drive. Now, I look back fondly on those days. There are features in Word that, I’d bet, less than 1,000 people use on a regular basis.

The real problem is that one person’s useless, memory-hogging feature, is another one’s must-have.

Right now, I’m writing my new book (THE LEAN FORWARD MOMENT, coming in December from Peachpit Press, buy early/buy often) and, this morning alone, I’ve used the following features:

  • bookmarks
  • cross-referencing
  • index
  • table of contents creation
  • image resizing
  • image cropping
  • split screen editing
  • separate section styling
  • borders and shading

and many more.

My guess is that most of you who use Word don’t care about half of those, and that a large number of you have features that you would care about far more than I. Those of you who use other word processors will feel similarly, I’m sure.

I’ve been involved in a group that has been presenting Avid with feature requests that we absolutely need. And while the list has been arrived at by consensus, it is amazing to me how many people have different opinions about what they can’t live without. I’ve also seen how one person’s feature must-have, is another’s oh-I-just-use-this-workaround-and-I’m-satisfied. And, while I’m not involved in anything similar for Apple or Adobe (not because I don’t want to — I’ve just never been asked), I’d be shocked if they don’t go through a similar prioritization over everything.

[And that doesn’t even take into account the issue of how expensive or how much time it will take to effect these requests. There is the issue of ROI — Return on Investment — all the time in software development. Do you want to spend $100,000 software dollars on features that won’t matter to most people, or on features that will?]

So to my mind, ScriptSync is an awesome new tool that everyone should want (especially documentarians who can afford to get transcripts of their shoots), but I’m not brazen enough to think that everyone will want it.





What Being An Assistant Really Means

28 05 2008

Tim Leavitt, over at the ever valuable blog View From The Cutting Room Floor, has a great definition of what an assistant editor’s job is on a blog post:

“Anything that goes into or comes out of the Avid is my responsibility: digitizing footage; importing graphics; making tapes, DVD’s, and EDL’s; etc. I am also responsible for helping the editor locate or organize any of the material already in the Avid to make his or her job easier.”

He then goes on to say that organization is what makes this all possible and goes on, in a three-part blog entry (part one is over here, part two is over here, and part three is over here).

Among students who want to be editors (and filmmakers who want to be editors) it is often too easy to ignore just how easy it is to get caught up in red tape if you’re not organized. Yet, that aspect of film editing is often dismissed as non-creative and not worth studying. Take it from Tim — it’s worth its weight in trim bins (hmmmm, old joke there; let me know if it’s too ancient-film for you).

Thanks to Tim for codifying this all.





Avid Girds Its Loins

18 05 2008

WARNING: This post is chock-full of editing-geek mojo. If you’re not interested in editing and editing tools, then I’d suggest you surf over here instead (just kidding, just kidding).

Avid LogoI spent most of yesterday at a meeting up in the beastly hot city know as “Beautiful Downtown Burbank,” along with a group of editors, talking to some of the people from Avid about what’s coming up for them, especially as revolves around the release of their new Media Composer software, version 3.0 (due out in early June).

Now, many of you know that I like working on the Avid. I started out on Lightworks, way back in the stone age of NLEs, and subsequently was forced to work on Ediflex and Montage before I got to work on the Avid. It took me a little bit to get used to it, after the very film flatbed feel of the Lightworks. But I’ve been using it pretty consistently since then and have gotten very used to its look and feel.

But the company very nearly ran aground for several years, when it couldn’t figure out what it wanted to do and how it wanted to interact with its users. Now, admittedly, feature and television editors are probably the worst group of users you’d want to have as a manufacturer — we’re incredibly detail-oriented, we’re under so much time pressure and stress that we have very little patience for errors, but we also want an incredible amount out of our editing systems. If you were going to choose a market to create an NLE for, I’d go for wedding videographers way before us.

But we are very visible and we do help to drive the NLE companies forward in their product development.

So, when Avid started its “New Thinking” campaign, many of us approached it with some trepidation. Was this sloganeering or course correction? Was it a sincere effort at reclaiming lost loyalties, or a cynical attempt to woo people away from Final Cut?

After yesterday’s meeting, I have to say that I’m very encouraged. Many of us in the room, including fellow bloggers Steve Cohen, of the ever informative Splice Here, and Harry B. Miller III, of the ACE Technical Blog, felt pretty positive about some of the new features. One that I am particularly happy to see, is the Avid FX application, which will now be integrated into Media Composer. Previously available as a stand-along application as part of the PC-only Avid Suite, this is Avid’s response to the increasing practice of Avid editors to go out and use Motion for titles creation, only to have to import them back into Avid. (As an aside, Jay Cassidy — who is cutting the new Jim Sheridan film — told me that he does his titles in After Effects.).

Based on Boris, Avid FX can easily create and animate titles which, like Motion, can be made from a large number of templates. For anyone who has no time to make titles, but still needs them in their cut, this is a great time saver. It was pioneered by Apple in Motion (and, before that, LiveType), but from the demo we saw, Avid has more than stepped up to the plate to give us a similar tool.

Like Motion, it is keyframable, works off of a timeline model (which is manipulatable) and pretty responsive, even on a single core laptop. It doesn’t work in quite the live/interactive way that Motion does (requiring the user to click on an “Apply” button in order to see changes), and is scattered across many overlapping windows. But it is completely integrated within Avid, rather than residing in a separate application, and that should make it even easier to use than Motion and Final Cut. It was absolutely thrilling to see it.

Two other strong additions to the Avid product are the timecode and caption burn-in effects (these are actually in the present version of Media Composer, but are pretty new so many of us were just learning about them). YouTube tutorials on these can be found right here for the timecode burnin effect and here for the caption effect (which not only can create subtitles, but can also be exported for use in DVD subtitle tracks).

One other thing that we saw that we are hoping to use in January when USC opens their new cinema school building, is the Avid Media Station. This is, essentially, a stripped down Avid, which will allow the actual picture files on one Avid, to be sunk up with matching audio files on Pro Tools. Though this was demonstrated as a great way to allow sound editors to easily receive files for editing (without forcing the picture editing team into the time consuming process of creating QuickTime movies for them), we are hoping to use it as an easier way of projecting dailies and cuts. Right now, we hand OMF sessions over to our sound department, which are then sunk up to a tape or to film for projection. In the future, using the high quality digitized picture (at DNxHD36, in our case), we can easily sync it up to the same ProTools session. Voila. Time saved. Quality enhanced.

[I told you this was going to get geeky. I apologize right here, right now.]

All in all, we were pretty excited.

This is what happens when you have healthy competition between products. The user always wins.

Oh, and speaking of user, you might want to sail on over to Avid’s new blogs.  There you will find actual Avid engineers and developer type people, talking about what they are up to.  And it’s not just sales talk, it looks like it’s going to be a great place for interaction.