Into the fire with FCP X

As most of you know in following this blog, I’ve challenged the wisdom of what Apple has done with Final Cut Pro X. You may have also sensed, however, that I have warmed a bit to the application over the months. I’ve been working with FCP X since its launch nearly a year ago, mostly on smaller, unsupervised commercials and web videos that I could do on my home system. A couple of my freelance clients have been looking at a possible move to Final Cut Pro X, so I could see it as an option in  my future.

Working on a small scale has been a good way to test the system and get my sea legs, but at some point you have to jump out of the frying pan and into the fire. Time to see how it really handled itself on a bigger job – with a client in the room – on a project that required working beyond the simple confines of the FCP X environment. The ideal project came along at a facility where I often hang out and edit. It’s a four-suite SAN-connected facility. I was confident enough with the software and its ability to get the job done that we deployed FCP X on a few of the workstations for this inaugural project.

Creative concept and production

This project was a series of employee-oriented TV commercials for a Midwest grocery retailer. In the commercials, real employees deliver variations on the company slogan. On-camera delivery included the full line and portions of the phrase, so that in edit, I would mix and match different employees saying all or part of the line. The style is based on the cadence created by juxtaposing different speakers. Of course, each spot needed the right blend of departments, ages, gender, etc. representing the client’s diverse workforce. It’s precisely because this concept would mesh with FCP X’s organizational abilities and the magnetic timeline that I felt X was the ideal editorial tool for these spots.

Past productions for this client have included 35mm film, ARRI ALEXA and Canon 5D. This time the primary camera was the new Canon C300, with a little bit of slomo B-roll footage recorded on the Canon 5D Mark III. An extra element in the mix was a Sound Devices PIX240 to be used as the prime recorder, taking the SDI feed (audio, video and timecode) out of the C300 camera. Footage was recorded to the on-board CF cards as a back-up, but the point of using the PIX240 was the ability to record a high-quality signal as ProResHQ in the PIX. Since the camera triggered the PIX240’s recording function, there would be matching clip numbers and timecode on each.

One issue in this configuration was the preferred format of 24p (1920×1080 @ 23.976fps progressive). The C300 adds 3:2 pulldown to the SDI stream to output 29.97. Fortunately, the PIX240 has built-in conversion capabilities, which includes pulldown removal. After some brief testing, I was comfortable enough with how the PIX240 handled this and in its ability to record an artifact-free 24p signal to its hard drive.

Pre-edit preparation

I’m a big believer in first preparing your footage in a proper manner before editing. I’m not a big fan of mixing a lot of native formats. This is especially true when it’s footage I know I will need to get back to and decipher in the future. Plus this footage had to go out-of-house for additional post work. In this case, the end product would be color graded on a Baselight system, so I wanted to make sure the post house would have all the media in the ProRes format, with EDL-compatible reel IDs and timecode.

The PIX240 recorded ProResHQ clips with a matching number scheme to the native Canon XF recordings, but the PIX assigned an arbitrary reel number of 001 as the default for recordings made on that hard drive. I prefer to have reel numbers correlate in some fashion to the date and location of the production. The reason is that this is metadata embedded into the file. If I simply read the file again a few years down the road, the reel number by itself will give me some idea what that file belongs to. The beauty of QuickTime files is that they can be modified in various valuable ways if you have the right software. In the case of the PIX240 recordings, I decided to alter the names and the reel ID information.

Changing the file name is relatively easy. I use Better Renamer, a batch renaming utility, to strip off the part of the name I don’t want and to add character strings that I do. The production took place in four cities and the C300 onboard recordings took several cards (which we referred to as rolls). Using Better Renamer, I would strip off PIX_ from a default name like PIX_355 and add back the prefix of KC_R4_ to change the name to KC_R4_355. This would designate Kansas City, roll 4, clip 355.

Changing the reel ID is trickier and technically a “destructive” process, because you are altering native file information. The easiest place to make such batch changes is Final Cut Pro 7. Yes, it’s hard at this point to get through a complex project like these spots and do it all within FCP X.

In FCP 7 you can batch-rename reel IDs in the browser, which alters the embedded information of the media file itself. Highlight the selected clips, make the change in the correct column and ignore the warning. I altered the default 001 to an 8-digit alphanumeric name (all caps) that matches EDL specs. I also wanted something that would make sense in the future for identification purposes. So clips shot on May 31 by the A-camera would become HV0531A1. Client – date – A camera – roll 1.

To convert the 5D files, I followed my standard method (outlined numerous times in this blog):

a) MPEG Streamclip to convert the files to ProRes

b) Cinema Tools to conform the speed to 23.98

c) QtChange to add/alter reel ID names and timecode

d) Better Renamer to change the file names.

Some of you will read this and wonder why I didn’t use Final Cut Pro X’s “Import from Camera” (like FCP 7’s Log & Transfer) or to simply edit natively. Part of the answer is that I first wanted to alter the media files themselves. This is important if you intend to hand off portions of the project to another system. FCP X changes internal database information, but not the media file. If you choose to import and copy the media into your event, then the new media file is named with a date/time UID stamp that’s pretty meaningless to someone just reading the file name.

FCP X also works with optimized media. One of the formats it considers optimized is the Canon XF codec, so you can’t have it convert this to ProRes even if you have that option selected. For this project, it made more sense to prep the files prior to entering into the FCP X world. That might not be the case on a different production.

Organizing your media for the edit

My biggest rationale for Final Cut Pro X were the internal organization features. The production included 720 Canon C300 clips (6 ½ hours) and 15 5D slomo clips (about 15 minutes). A total of 660GB of media (ProResHQ and ProRes). My current approach – and what I used on this session – is to import all the files into a single Event and leave the media linked to its original location on the hard drive – a folder on the SAN volume. If you do this, DO NOT move or alter the media files once you start editing in FCP X or you’ll run the risk of losing connection to the media files.

If you work with a lot of different FCP X jobs, you quickly learn that there is no internal way to manage different clients’ work. You either have to move these files manually from the Final Cut Events and Final Cut Projects folders to an “inactive” folder(s) – or you have to use a utility like Event Manager X. Doing this often and manually can add some confusion, so I recommend the following solution. Assign all productions a job number and add Media and Edits to the naming convention.

As an example, an Event might be labeled 2040_clientname_title_Media. You can create folders in the Project Library. At the top level create a new folder that will contains all of the Projects (sequences) for that production. It would be called 2040_clientname_title_Edits. Now when you have to manually move folders, there is only one top-level folder for each and it’s clear which one goes back into an Events or Projects folder.

Since I had placed all media clips into a single Event, Keyword Collections became the primary method of organizing the clips. Think of these as bins. There were 132 employees, 4 cities and 12 categories (pharmacy, managers, deli, etc.). I used keywords for each employee’s name and their category. Next, I created a folder for Keyword Collections to group people according to their city. Keywords can be assigned to hotkeys and you can apply keywords to a group of clips at once. Multiple keywords may be added to any clip.

The beauty is that anything you do in one area is applied to all. For example, applying the keyword Joe Smith to a clip sends that clip to the Keyword Collection for Joe Smith. Now, if you are in the Joe Smith Collection (think of it as a bin) and apply another keyword for Manager, the clip will also be added to the Manager Collection. All of the keywords (and ratings – like Favorite or Reject) that you have assigned to this clip, will appear in all instances for the clip. In this example, that would be in three places: the Event, the Joe Smith and the Manager Collections.

The next handy feature is ratings for Favorites and Rejects. With modern file-based cameras, you typically end up with a lot of short clips. In addition to false starts and bogus clips, these may also include short bursts for the slates preceding the actual clips. Using the Reject rating on any of these clips – and then setting the Event browser to “Hide Rejected” – will remove these clips from view. They are still there if you change the setting to “All Clips”. Obviously, you could use this for any completely bad takes, as well. After I culled the clips down to those with actual content using this method, the 720 employee clips was filtered down to 408 clips (6 hrs. 12 min. of content).

I set my Event browser to a  list (not thumbnail) view, which displays the selected clip as a filmstrip at the top of this pane of the UI. Since it shows video and audio in this filmstrip view, you can quite easily identify the spikes in the audio waveform every time the person delivers their line. It’s a simple matter to skim through each clip and add a marker for every successful line delivery. When it comes time to review the footage with the client, simply skip ahead to each marker to review that section.

The actual session

Working with the client in the room is a charm with Final Cut Pro X if you’ve done this level of organization. When clips from a certain person are requested, finding the right choice only takes a few moments. The best way to note client selects for the possible takes is to use FCP X’s system of range-based Favorites. Simply mark in-out points and hit “F” for favorite. A subclip is created for that portion of the longer clip. FCP X allows multiple, overlapping range-based selections within a clip.

Another trick is to use Smart Collections. For example, in this session, I created a Smart Collection for Favorites from each city. Once the proper filtering was defined, if I chose a range-based Favorite (subclip) for Joe Smith in Kansas City, then that section would appear in the Kansas City Smart Collection. Going forward, if the client or I wanted to review only the best options from those that had already been selected, I only needed to review the clips populated into these various Smart Collections.

The magnetic timeline design of Final Cut Pro X has been hotly debated, but it was the ideal approach for this set of spots, because we frequently re-arranged the order of the people in the spots. I did use Auditions once, but that didn’t prove too useful, due to the general slowness of setting up Audition clips. I used most of the editing tools X has to offer, excluding the various “automatics”, which aren’t too useful for this type of production. Since I varied the speed of some of the slomo shots, as well as slowed some of the standard shots, I was happy to have X’s Optical Flow for cleaner slomos.

Although I didn’t do the final color grading, I did have to use the built-in tools for review copies. The footage shot with the C300 used the Canon Log profile, resulting in a flatter, darker image. I was able to edit just fine this way, as the client understood, but then I quickly graded the completed rough cuts using the Color Board tool for a close-to-final look. This was needed in order to show execs for approval of the rough cuts.

Sending out

The final mix and color correction was done out-of-house, which required timeline translation with Xto7 for Final Cut Pro. Export an FCP X XML, import that into Xto7, which in turn opens it as an FCP 7 project and sequence.

Now for some glitches. Audio was all recorded with two mics, so FCP X defaults to stereo. I had changed these to dual mono in the Project and disabled (unchecked) the mic channel I wasn’t using on a clip-by-clip basis. The corresponding XML resulted in having no audio on the FCP 7 timeline. The fix seemed to be to restore my FCP X Project clips back to stereo, remove all level changes and then send to FCP 7 again. Now all the audio was there, except for one or two clips. These seem to have been affected by the slomo clips in the timeline, which also didn’t show up. In both cases, it was easy to manually add these clips back to the FCP 7 timeline and fix the issue.

From there, I exported an OMF  file with embedded audio for our Pro Tools mixer. Next, I needed to send full QuickTimes and a matching EDL to the colorist who was working on a Baselight system. I like to consolidate the media first and my favorite application is Automatic Duck Media Copy. It takes the FCP 7 XML and copies all the media used in that sequence. There is no conversion done in that process, so I feel it’s a safer approach than FCP 7’s Media Manager. Once copied, I take the new XML and open it back into FCP 7 and make sure that all media is reconnected to the copied files. This sequence is used to generate an EDL needed by the Baselight system. 94 clips were used in the string of six :30 commercials, requiring only 134GB of media instead of the full 660GB.

The roundtrip back

Now to conform the final commercials. Audio was no problem. Simply line up the AIFF files containing the mix and the stems (separate dialogue, sound effects and music) at the head and you have all you need for mixed and a split-track masters. Due to the “rubbery-ness” of the magnetic timeline, it did appear that removing transitions at the beginning and end of spots and removing the slomo clips caused some shifting of the spots within this string of six spots on a single Project timeline. No sync issues, but definitely not as locked into position as with an FCP 7 timeline. I did use the Audio Roles functions to export a multi-channel QuickTime file as a split-track submaster, which worked well.

Replacing the “dailies” footage with the rendered files from the Baselight system proved to be a bit trickier. Most color correction systems that render individual clips with handles will append unique IDs to the end of the file names for the rendered files. That’s because you might have used several clips from a single, longer camera file. Unfortunately, this complicates reconnecting the new media files. It’s completely impossible with FCP X, because everything about the file is seen by the software as different.

FCP 7 and Premiere Pro can relink, but require you to do this one clip at a time, as they can’t match the file names. Not ideal for 94 clips. I have done this in the past with Color, but for some reason, this time Color simply wouldn’t do it. In the future I will get a new XML from the transfer house that matches their baked files, which should eliminate these issues.

The workaround was to use Better Renamer and strip off the added suffix from the file name. Only a couple of clips were from a common source, so the application adds its own suffix (a, b, c, etc.) to these clips with the same name. Back in FCP 7, reconnect this media, manually reconnect the few clips with modified names and voila – you have the correct timeline linked to the new, graded shots. The last step was to export a new XML and use 7toX for Final Cut Pro to bring that sequence back into Final Cut Pro X. Marry it to the audio, make sure everything still lines up, add final graphics and Bob’s your uncle!

The final masters are HD, but broadcast distribution is still largely standard definition, 4×3 letterboxed files. After Effects continues to be my favored conversion method due to its clean scaling and correct 29.97fps interlaced files with the proper 3:2 pulldown cadence. All files were distributed electronically rather than on videotape. The finished spots may be viewed here.

Impressions

By and large this first big project went reasonably well. Editing in Final Cut Pro X is an acquired taste. If you stick with it and learn it, there’s a lot to like. I found that learning a few simple keystrokes and short cuts made things go faster and muscle memory kicked in for the new commands pretty quickly. I can’t say it was faster than with FCP 7. We got more done in the allotted schedule than was anticipated, but I believe (based on what I’ve done before with the same client) that the same would have been true with FCP 7, Media Composer or Premiere Pro.

There were some hiccups. The first was the SAN. This is a volume-level SAN, where each room has its own write volume plus read access to all the others. This doesn’t seem to work with FCP X’s “Add SAN Location” function, which was probably designed for a file-level SAN, like Apple Xsan. That doesn’t seem very important though, since multiple editors can still share the same media on the SAN drives.

I started with the Final Cut Events and Projects folders on the SAN volume, but experienced a lot of beachballs with nearly every second or third task. Sometimes a fraction of a second long and at other times, a couple of seconds. I experienced a couple of crashes and/or force quits a day. To FCP X’s credit, nothing was ever lost. Towards the end of the production, I moved the Events and Projects folder to the local drive (media still linked on the SAN volume) and all of these issues went away. So maybe network traffic creates some conflicts. The moral of the story is to keep your Events and Projects (renders, too, unfortunately) on a fast local drive and performance should be OK.

There are a lot of editing enhancements and software optimization that I hope will come soon. Editing/mixing audio is pretty weak in my opinion. (In fact, I found it refreshing to do some quick audio fixes on an existing commercial using FCP 7 again, after working in X for a while.) Simple titles are all Motion templates, so performance is VERY challenged. Stack two basic text lines over each other (no animation) and even a fast machine drops frames quickly unless you render.

After final delivery, I had to make a few quick changes, which required swapping clips on one spot and some color correction tweaks on three others. I had to match both the out-of-house color correction and the mix for these new clips. I could come close on the color correction using the Color Board, but needed the Broadcast Safe filter to clip white levels. This only works when you apply it to a compound clip, so you can’t see how your corrections are affected by the filter as you adjust the colors. Plus, it does more of a soft clip, thus changing the levels close to the ends rather than simply clipping. This filter has almost no adjustment control, making it of limited value. The same is true for audio, where compression and limiting does not work correctly when you try to apply it at the end of the audio chain. It is very hard to adjust your audio levels interactively between the compressor and the volume slider and get the correct limit.

Lastly, some of these fixes required that I use a few of the free plug-ins that various users have developed. You get what you pay for, as I found one that had a huge mistake in it. Applying the filter arbitrarily scaled the image up 150%. Fortunately these are all Motion templates, so it was a relatively easy matter to edit the filter in Motion and correct the mistake.

In the end, none of my concerns or complaints were deal-breakers. Editing was fast and generally fun, though you have to be very, very, very careful in what you do, when precision is important. Given the experience, I’ve moved onto another large corporate video project and will use Final Cut Pro X again on this one. Hey – I’m in the fire now!

©2012 Oliver Peters

RED post for My Fair Lidy

I’ve work on various RED projects, but a recent interesting example is My Fair Lidy, an independent film produced through the Valencia College Film Production Technology program. This was a full-blown feature shot entirely with RED One cameras. In this program, professional filmmakers with real projects in hand partner with a class of eager students seeking to learn the craft of film production. I’ve edited two of these films produced through the program and assisted in various aspects of post on many others. My Fair Lidy – a quirky comedy directed by program director Ralph Clemente – was shot in 17 days this summer at various central Florida locations. Two RED Ones were used – one handled by director of photography Ricardo Galé and the second by student cinematographers. My Fair Lidy was produced by SandWoman Films and stars Christopher Backus and Leigh Shannon.

There are many ways to handle the post production of native RED media and I’ve covered a number of them in these earlier posts. There is no single “best way” to handle these files, because each production is often best-served by a custom solution. Originally, I felt the way to tackle the dailies was to convert the .r3d camera files into ProRes 4444 files using the RedLogFilm profile. This gives you a very flat look, and a starting point very similar to ARRI ALEXA files shot with the Log-C profile. My intension would have been to finish and grade straight from the QuickTimes and never return to the .r3d files, unless I needed to fix some problems. Neutral images with a RedLogFilm gamma setting are very easy to grade and they let the colorist swing the image for different looks with ease. However, after my initial discussions with Ricardo, it was decided to do the final grade from the native camera raw files, so that we had the most control over the image, plus the ability to zoom in and reframe using the native 4K files as a source.

The dailies and editorial flow

My Fair Lidy was lensed with a 16 x 9 aspect ratio, with the REDs set to record 4096 x 2304 (at 23.98fps). In addition to a RED One and a healthy complement of grip, lighting and electrical gear, Valencia College owns several Final Cut Pro post systems and a Red Rocket accelerator card. With two REDs rolling most of the time, the latter was a godsend on this production.  We had two workstations set up – one as the editor’s station with a large Maxx Digital storage array and the other as the assistant’s station. That system housed the Red Rocket card. My two assistants (Kyle Prince and Frank Gould) handled all data back-up and conversion of 4K RED files to 1920 x 1080 ProResHQ for editorial media. Using ProResHQ was probably overkill for cutting the film (any of the lower ProRes codecs would have been fine for editorial decisions) but this gave us the best possible image for an potential screenings, trailers, etc.

Redcine-X was our tool for .r3d media organization and conversion. All in-camera settings were left alone, except the gamma adjustment. The Red Rocket card handles the full-resolution debayering of the raw files, so conversion time is close to real time. The two stations were networked via AFP (Apple’s file-sharing protocol), which permitted the assistant to handle his tasks without slowing down the editor. In addition, the assistant would sync and merge audio from the double-system sound, multi-track audio recordings and enter basic scene/take descriptions. Each shoot day had its own FCP project, so when done, project files and media (.r3d, ProRes and audio) were copied over to the editor’s Maxx array. Master clips from these daily FCP projects were then copied-and-pasted (and media relinked) into a single “master edit” FCP project.

For reasons of schedule and availability, I split the editing responsibilities with a second film editor, Patrick Tyler. My initial role was to bring the film to its first cut and then Patrick handled revisions with the producer and director. Once the picture was locked, I rejoined the project to cover final finishing and color grading. My Fair Lidy was on a very accelerated schedule, with sound design and music scoring running on a parallel track. In total, post took about 15 weeks from start to finish.

Finishing and grading

Since we didn’t use FCP’s Log and Transfer function nor the in-camera QuickTime reference files as edit proxies, there was no easy way to get Apple Color to automatically relink clips to the original .r3d files. You can manually redirect Color to link to RED files, but this must be done one shot at a time – not exactly desirable for the 1300 or so shots in the film.

The recommended workflow is to export an XML from FCP 7, which is then opened in Redcine-X. It will correctly reconnect to the .r3d files in place of the QuickTime movies. From there you export a new XML, which can be imported into Color. Voila! A Color timeline that matches the edit using the native camera files. Unfortunately for us, this is where reality came crashing in – literally. No matter what we did, using both  XMLs and EDLs, everything that we attempted to import into Color crashed the application. We also tried ClipFinder, another free application designed for RED media. It didn’t crash Color, but a significant number of shots were incorrectly linked. I suspect some internal confusion because of the A and B camera situation.

On to Plan B. Since Redcine-X correctly links to the media and includes not only controls for the raw settings, but also a healthy toolset for primary color correction, then why not use it for part of the grading process? Follow that up with a pass through Color to establish the stylistic “look”. This ended up working extremely well for us. Here are the basic steps I followed.

Step 1. We broke the film into ten reels and exported an XML file for each reel from FCP 7.

Step 2. Each reel’s XML was imported into Redcine-X as a timeline. I changed all the camera color metadata for each shot to create a neutral look and to match shots to each other. I used RedColor (slightly more saturated than RedColor2) and RedGamma2 (not quite as flat as RedLogFilm), plus adjusted the color temp, tint and ISO values to get a neutral white balance and match the A and B camera angles. The intent was to bring the image “within the goalposts” of the histogram. Occasionally I would make minor exposure and contrast adjustments, but for the most part, I didn’t touch any of the other color controls.

My objective was to end up with a timeline that looked consistent but preserved dynamic range. Essentially that’s the same thing I would do as the first step using the primary tab within Color. The nice part about this is that once I matched the settings of the shots, the A and B cameras looked very consistent.

Step 3. Each timeline was exported from Redcine-X as a single ProResHQ file with these new settings baked in. We had moved the Red Rocket card into the primary workstation, so these 1920 x 1080 clips were rendered with full resolution debayering. As with the dailies, rendering time was largely real-time or somewhat slower. In this case, approximately 10-20 minutes per reel.

Step 4. I imported each rendered clip back into FCP and placed it onto video track two over the corresponding clips for that reel to check the conforming accuracy and sync. Using the “next edit” keystroke, I quickly stepped through the timeline and “razored” each edit point on the clip from Redcine-X. This may sound cumbersome, but only took a couple of minutes for each reel. Now I had an FCP sequence from a single media clip, but with each cut split as an edit point. Doing this creates “notches” that are used by the color correction software for cuts between corrections. That’s been the basis for all “tape-to-tape” color correction since DaVinci started doing it and the new Resolve software still includes a similar automatic scene detection function today.

Step 5. I sent my newly “notched” timeline to Color and graded as I normally would. By using the Redcine-X step as a “pre-grade”, I had done the same thing to the image as I would have done using the RED tab within Color, thus keeping with the plan to grade from the native camera raw files. I do believe the approach I took was faster and better than trying to do it all inside Color, because of the inefficiency of bouncing in and out of the RED tab in Color for each clip. Not to mention that Color really bogs down when working with 4K files, even with a Red Rocket card in place.

Step 6. The exception to this process was any shot that required a blow-up or repositioning. For these, I sent the ProRes file from dailies in place of the rendered shot from Redcine-X. In Color, I would then manually reconnect to the .r3d file and resize the shot in Color’s geometry room, thus using the file’s full 4K size to preserve resolution at 1080 for the blow-up.

Step 7. The last step was to render in Color and then “Send to FCP” to complete the roundtrip. In FCP, the reel were assembled for the full movie and then married to the mixed soundtrack for a finished film.

© 2011 Oliver Peters

ARRI ALEXA post, part 5

A commercial case study

Upon my return from NAB, I dove straight into post on a set of regional commercials for Hy-Vee, a Midwest grocer. I’ve worked with this client, agency and director for a number of years and all previous projects had been photographed on 35mm, transferred to Digital Betacam and followed a common, standard definition post workflow. The new spots featured celebrity chef Curtis Stone and instead of film, Director/DP Toby Phillips opted to produce the spots using the ARRI ALEXA. This gave us the opportunity to cut and finish in HD. Although we mastered in 1080p/23.98, delivery formats included 720p versions for the web and cinema, along with reformatted spots in 14×9 SD for broadcast.

The beauty of ALEXA is that you can take the Apple ProRes QuickTime camera files straight into edit without any transcoding delays. I was cutting these at TinMen, a local production company, on a fast 12-core Mac Pro connected to a Fibre Channel SAN, so there was no slowdown working with the ProRes 4444 files. Phillips shot with two ALEXAs and a Canon 5D, plus double-system sound. The only conversion involved was to get the 5D files into ProRes, using my standard workflow. The double-system sound was mainly as a back-up, since the audio was also tethered to the ALEXA, which records two tracks of high-quality sound.

On location, the data wrangler used the Pomfort Silverstack ARRI Set application to offload, back-up and organize files from the SxS cards to hard drive. Silverstack lets you review and organize the footage and write a new XML file based on this organization. Since the week-long production covered several different spots, the hope was to organize files according to commercial and scene. In general, this concept worked, but I ran into problems with how Final Cut Pro reconnects media files. Copying the backed-up camera files to the SAN changes the file path. FCP wouldn’t automatically relink the imported XML master clips to the corresponding media. Normally, in this case, once you reconnect the first file, the rest in a similar path will also relink. Unfortunately by using the Silverstack XML, it meant I had to start the reconnect routine every few clips, since this new XML would bridge information across various cards. Instead of using the Silverstack-generated XML, I decided to use the camera-generated XML files, which meant only going through the reconnect dialogue once per card.

It’s worth noting that the QuickTime files written by the ARRI ALEXA somehow differ from what FCP expects to see. When you import these files into FCP, you frequently run into two error prompts: the “media isn’t optimized” message and the “file attributes don’t match” message. Both of these are bogus and the QuickTime files work perfectly well in FCP, so when you encounter such messages, simply click “continue” and proceed.

Click for an enlarged view

Dealing with Log-C in the rough cut

As I’ve discussed in numerous posts, one of the mixed blessings of the camera is the Log-C profile. It’s ARRI’s unique way of squeezing a huge dynamic range into the ALEXA’s recorded signal, but it means editors need to understand how to deal with it. Since these spots wouldn’t go through the standard offline-online workflow, it was up to me as the editor to create the “dailies”. I’ve mentioned various approaches to LUTs (color look-up tables), but on this project I used the standard FCP color correction filter to change the image from its flat Log-C appearance to a more pleasing Rec 709 look. On this 12-core Mac Pro, ProRes 4444 clips (with an unrendered color correction filter applied) played smoothly and with full video quality on a ProRes HQ timeline. Since the client was aware of how much better the image would look after grading – and because in the past they had participated in film transfer and color correction sessions – seeing the flat Log-C image didn’t pose a problem.

From my standpoint, it was simply a matter of creating a basic setting and then quickly pasting that filter to clips as I edited them to the timeline. One advantage to using the color correction filter instead of a proper LUT, is that this allowed me to subjectively tweak a shot for the client, without adding another filter. If the shot looked a little dark (compared with a “standard” setting), I would quickly brighten it as I went along. Like most commercial sessions, I would usually have several versions roughed in before the client really started to review anything. In reality, their exposure to the uncorrected images was less frequent than you might think. As such, the “apply filter as you go” method works well in the spot editorial world.

Moving to finishing

New Hat colorist Bob Festa handled the final grading of these spots on a Filmlight Baselight system. There are a couple of ways to send media to a Baselight, but the decision was made to send DPX files, which corresponded to the cut sequence. Since I was sending a string of over ten commercials to be graded, I had a concern about the volume of raw footage to ship. There is a bug in the ALEXA/FCP process and that has to do with FCP’s Media Manager. When you media manage and trim the camera clips, many are not correctly written and result in partial clips with a “-v” suffix. If you media manage, but take the entire length of a clip, then FCP’s Media Manager seems to work correctly. To avoid sending too much footage, I only sent an assembled sequence with the entire series of spots strung out end-to-end. I extended all shots to add built-in handles and removed any of my filters, leaving the uncorrected shots with pad.

Final Cut Pro doesn’t export DPX files, but Premiere Pro does. So…  a) I exported an XML from FCP, b) imported that into Premiere Pro, and c) exported the Premiere Pro timeline as DPX media. In addition, I also generated an EDL to serve as a “notch list”, which lined up with all the cuts and divided the long image sequence into a series of shots with edit points – ready to be color corrected.

After a supervised color correction session at New Hat, the graded shots were rendered as a single uncompressed QuickTime movie. I imported that file and realigned the shots with my cuts (removing handles) to now have a set of spots with the final graded clips in place of the Log-C camera footage.

Of course, spot work always involves a few final revisions, and this project was no exception. After a round of agency and client reviews, we edited for a couple of days to revise a few spots and eliminate alternate versions before sending the spots to the audio mixing session. Most of these changes were simple trims that could be done within the amount of handle length I had on the graded footage. However, a few alternate takes were selected and in some cases, I had to extend a shot longer than my handles. This combination meant that about a dozen shots (out of more than ten commercials) had to be newly graded, meaning a second round at New Hat. We skipped the DPX pass and instead sent an EDL and the raw footage as QuickTime ProRes 4444 camera files for only the revised clips. Festa was able to match his previous grades, render new QuickTimes of the revised shots and ship a hard drive back to us.

Click to view “brand introduction” commercial

Reformatting

Our finished masters were ProRes HQ 1920×1080 23.98fps files, but think of these only as intermediates. The actual spots that run in broadcast are 4×3 NTSC. Phillips had framed his shots protecting for 4×3, but in order to preserve some of the wider visual aspect ratio, we decided to finish with a 14×9 framing. This means that the 4×3 frame has a slight letterbox with smaller top and bottom black bars. Unlike the usual 4×3 center-crop, a smaller portion of the left and right edge of the 16×9 HD frame is cropped off. I don’t like how FCP handles the addition of pulldown (to turn 23.98 into 29.97 fps) and I’m not happy with its scaling quality to downconvert HD to SD. My “go to” solution is to use After Effects as the conversion utility for the best results.

From Final Cut, I exported a self-contained, textless QuickTime movie (HD 23.98). This was placed into an After Effects 720 x 486 D1 composition and scaled to match a 14×9 framing within that comp. I rendered an uncompressed QuickTime file out of After Effects (29.97 fps, field-rendered with added 3:2 pulldown). The last step was to bring this 720 x 486 file back into FCP, place it on an NTSC 525i timeline, add and reposition all graphics for proper position and finish the masters.

Most of these steps are not unusual if you do a lot of high-end spot work. In the past, 35mm spots would be rough cut from one-light “dailies”. Transfer facilities would then retransfer selects in supervised color correction sessions and an online shop would conform this new film transfer to the rough cut. Although many of the traditional offline-online approaches are changing, they aren’t going away completely. The tricks learned over the past 40 years of this workflow still have merit in the digital world and can provide for rich post solutions.

Sample images – click to see enlarged view

Log-C profile from camera

Nick Shaw Log-C to Rec 709 LUT (interface)

Nick Shaw Log-C to Rec 709 LUT (result)

Final image after Baselight grading

© 2011 Oliver Peters

ARRI ALEXA post, part 4

Local producers have started real productions with the ARRI ALEXA, so my work has moved from the theoretical to the practical. As an editor, working with footage from ALEXA is fun. The ProRes files are easily brought into FCP, Premiere Pro or Media Composer via import or AMA with little extra effort. The Rec 709 color profile looks great, but if the DP opts for the Log-C profile, grading is a snap. Log-C, as I wrote before, results in an image akin to a film scan of uncorrected 35mm negative. It’s easy to grade and you end up with gorgeous natural colors. There’s plenty of range to swing the image in different ways for many different looks.

Working with the Log-C profile in front of a client takes a bit of strategy, depending on the NLE you are using. Under the best of circumstances, you’d probably want to process the images first and work with offline-resolution editing clips (like Avid DNxHD36 or Apple ProRes Proxy) with a color correction LUT “baked” into the image. Much like one-light “dailies” for film-originated projects.

Many projects don’t permit this amount of advanced time, though, so editors often must deal with it as part of the edit session. This primarily applies to commercial and corporate work. Workflows for feature film and TV projects should follow a more traditional course, with prep time built into the front end, but that’s another blog post.

Strategies

There are LUT (color look-up table) filters for FCP, but unfortunately real-time performance is challenged by many. The best performance, is when you can use the native filters, even though that might not technically be the correct curve. That’s OK, because most of the time you simply want a good looking image for the client to see while you are doing the creative cut. Apple Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere Pro both require that you apply a filter to each clip on the timeline. This has an impact on your workflow, because you have to add filters as you go.

One good approach, which balances FCP performance with an accurate LUT, is the Log-C to Rec 709 plug-in developed by Nick Shaw at Antler Post. It not only corrects the profile, but adds other features, like “burn-in” displays. If you leave your FCP timeline’s RT setting in dynamic/dynamic, the unrendered clips with this filter applied will drop frames. Changing the setting to Full frame rate and/or High/Full will yield real-time playback at full video quality on a current Mac.

ARRI has enabled its web-based LUT Generator, which is accessible for free if you register at the ARRIDIGITAL site. You can create LUTs in various formats, but the one that has worked best for me is the Apple Color .mga version. This can be properly imported and applied in Apple Color. There it may be used simply for viewing or optionally baked into the rendered files as part of the color correction.

You can also use Red Giant’s free Magic Bullet LUT Buddy. This filter can be used to create and/or read LUTs. Apply it to a clip in Final Cut Pro, Premiere Pro or After Effects, read in the .mga file and render. Lastly, the Adobe apps also include a Cineon conversion filter. Apply this in Premiere Pro or After Effects and tweak as needed. On a fast machine, Premiere Pro CS 5.5 plays clips with the Cineon converter applied, in real-time without rendering.

Avid Media Composer and Adobe After Effects currently have the best routines, because you can add color correction to an upper layer and everything underneath is adjusted.

After Effects actually treats this as an “adjustment layer”, like in Photoshop, while Media Composer simply lets you add filters to a blank track – effectively doing the same thing as an adjustment layer. You still won’t see the source clip as a corrected image, but once it is placed on the timeline, the correction is applied and the image appears richer.

In the case of Avid Media Composer, this can also include some filters other than its own color correction mode filters. For example, GenArts Sapphire or Magic Bullet Looks. Media Composer is able to play these files at full quality, even though they are unrendered, giving it a performance edge over FCP.

Cutting spots in Log-C

I recently cut a set of national spots for Florida Film & Tape (a local production company) on a late-model Apple dual-processor PowerMac G5, running FCP 6.0.6. It was equipped with a fast SCSI RAID and an AJA Kona card. That’s a perfectly good set-up for most SD and HD post. In fact, I’ve previously edited spots photographed on 35mm film and the RED One camera for the same client and same production company on this system. G5s were manufactured and sold before ProRes was ever released; but, in spite of that, I was able to work with the 1920×1080 23.98fps ProRes4444 files that were shot. I placed my selected clips on an uncompressed timeline and started cutting. The client had already seen a Rec 709 preview out of the camera, so he understood that the image would look fine after grading. Therefore, there was no need to cut with a corrected image. That was good, because adding any sort of color correction filter to a large amount of footage would have really impacted performance on this computer.

In order to make the edit as straightforward and efficient as possible, I first assembled a timeline of all the “circle takes” so the director (Brad Fuller) and the client could zero in on the best performances. Then I assembled these into spots and applied a basic color correction filter to establish an image closer to the final. At this point, I rendered the spots and started to fine-tune the edit, re-rendering the adjustments as I went along. This may sound more cumbersome than it was, since I was editing at online quality the entire time (uncompressed HD). Given the short turnaround time, this was actually the fastest way to work. The shoot and post (edit, grade, mix) were completed in three consecutive days!

Once the picture was locked, I proceeded to the last steps – color grading the spots and formatting versions for various air masters. I decided to grade these spots using the Magic Bullet Colorista (version 1) plug-in. There was no need to use Apple Color and Colorista works fine on the G5. I removed the basic filter I had applied to the clips for the edit and went to work with Colorista. It does a good job with the Log-C images, including adding several layers for custom color-correction masks. As flat as the starting images are, it’s amazing how far you can stretch contrast and increase saturation without objectionable noise or banding.

I’ll have more to write about ALEXA post in the coming weeks as I work on more of these projects. This camera has garnered buzz, thanks to a very filmic image and its ease in post. It’s an easy process to deal with if your editing strategy is planned out.

©2011 Oliver Peters

Video sweetening

Color grading for mood, style and story

Video “sweetening” is both a science and an art. To my way of thinking, Color correction is objective – evening out shot-to-shot consistency and adjusting for improper levels or color balance. Color grading is subjective – giving a movie, show or commercial a “look”. Grading ranges from the simple enhancement of what the director of photography gave you – all the way to completely “relighting” a scene to radically alter the original image. Whenever you grade a project, the look you establish should always be in keeping with the story and the mood the director is trying to achieve. Color provides the subliminal cues that lead the audience deeper into the story.

Under the best of circumstances, the colorist is working as an extension of the director of photography and both are on the same page as the director. Frequently the DP will sit in on the grading session; however, there are many cases – especially in low budget projects – where the DP is no longer involved at that stage. In those circumstances, it is up to the colorist to properly guide the director to the final visual style.

I’ve pulled some examples from two digital films that I graded – The Touch (directed by Jimmy Huckaby) and Scare Zone (directed by Jon Binkowski). The first was shot with a Sony F900 and graded with Final Cut Pro’s internal and third-party tools. The latter used two Sony EX cameras and was graded in Apple Color.

The Touch

This is a faith-oriented film, based on a true story about personal redemption tied to the creation of a local church’s women’s center. The story opens as our lead character is arrested and goes through police station booking. Since this was a small indie film, a real police station was used. This meant the actual, ugly fluorescent lighting – no fancy, stylized police stations, like on CSI. Since the point of this scene isn’t supposed to be pretty, the best way to grade it was to go with the flow. Don’t fight the fluorescent look, but go more gritty and more desaturated.

(Click on any of these images to see an enlarged view.)

Once she’s released and picked up by her loser boyfriend, we are back outside in sunny Florida weather. Just stick with a nice exterior look.

Nearly at the bottom of her life, she’s in a hotel room on the verge of suicide. This was originally a very warm shot, thanks to the incandescents in the room. But I felt it should go cooler. It’s night – there’s a TV on casting bluish light on her – and in general, this is supposed to be a depressing scene. So we swung the shot cooler and again, more desaturated from the original.

The fledgling women’s center holds group counseling sessions in a living room environment. This should feel comfortable and inviting. Here we went warmer.

Our lead character is haunted by the evils of her past, including childhood molestation and a teen rape. This is shown in various flashback sequences marked by an obvious change in editorial treatment utilizing frenetic cutting and speed ramps – together with a different visual look. The flashbacks were graded differently using Magic Bullet Looks for a more stylized appearance, including highlight glows.

Our lead comes to her personal conversion through the church and again, the sanctuary should look warm, natural and inviting. Since the lens used on the F900 resulted in a very deep depth of field, we decided to enhance these wider shots using a tilt-and-shift lens effect in Magic Bullet Looks. The intent was to defocus the background slightly and draw the audience in towards our main character.

Scare Zone

As you’ve probably gathered, Scare Zone is a completely different sort of tale than The Touch. Scare Zone is a comedy-horror film based on a Halloween haunted house attraction, which I discussed in this earlier post. In this story, our ensemble cast are part-time employees who work as “scaractors” in the evening. But… They are being killed off by a real killer. Most of the action takes place in the attraction sets and gift shop, with a few excursions off property. As such, the lighting style was a mixed bag, showing the attraction with “work lights” only and with full “attraction lighting”. We also have scenes without lights, except what is supposed to be moonlight or street lamp lighting coming through leaks from the exterior windows. And, of course, there’s the theatrical make-up.

This example shows one of the attraction scenes with work lights as the slightly, off-kilter manager explains their individual roles.

(Click on any of these images to see an enlarged view.)

Here are several frames showing one of the actors in scenes with show lighting, work lights and at home.

These are several frames from the film’s attraction/action/montage segments showing scaractor activity under show lighting. In the last frame, one of our actresses gets attacked.

The gift shop has a more normal lighting appearance. Not as warm as the work light condition, but warmer than the attraction lighting. In order to soften the look of the Goth make-up on the close-ups of our lead actress, I used a very slight application of the FCP compound blur filter.

Naturally, as in any thriller, the audience is to be left guessing throughout most of the film about the identity of the real killer. In this scene one of the actresses is being follow by the possible killer. Or is he? It’s a dark part of the hallway in a “show lighting” scene. One of the little extras done here was to use two secondaries with vignettes to brighten each eye socket of the mask, so as to better see the whites of the character’s eyes.

A crowd of guests line up on the outside, waiting to get into the attraction. It’s supposed to look like a shopping mall parking lot at night with minimal exterior lighting.

And lastly, these frames are from some of the attack scenes during what is supposed to be pre-show or after-show lighting conditions. In the first frame, one of our actresses is being chased by the killer through the attraction hallways and appears to have been caught. Although the vignette was natural, I enhanced this shot to keep it from being so dark that you couldn’t make out the action. The last two frames show some unfortunate vandals who tried to trash the place over the night. This is supposed to be a “lights-off” scene, with the only light being from the outside through leaks. And their flashlights, of course. The last frame required the use of secondary correction to make the color of the stage blood appear more natural.

©2011 Oliver Peters

Audio mixing strategy, part 1

Modern nonlinear editors have good tools for mixing audio within the application, but often it makes more sense to send the mix to a DAW (digital audio workstation) application, like Pro Tools, Logic or Soundtrack Pro. Whether you stay within the NLE or mix elsewhere, you generally want to end up with a mixed track, as well as a set of “split track stems”. I’ll confine the discussion to stereo tracks, but understand that if you are working on a 5.1 surround project, the track complexity increases accordingly.

The concept of “stems” means that you will do a submix for components of your composite mix. Typically you would produce stems for dialogue, sound effects and music. This means a “pre-mixed” stereo AIFF or WAVE file for each of these components. When you place these three stereo pairs onto a timeline, the six tracks at a zero level setting should correctly sum to equal a finished stereo composite mix. By muting any of these pairs, you can derive other versions, such as an M&E (music+effects minus dialogue) or a D&E (dialogue+effects minus music) mix. Maintaining a “split-track, superless” master (without text/graphics and with audio stems) will give you maximum flexibility for future revisions, without starting from scratch.

A recent project that I edited for the Yarra Valley winemakers was cut in Avid Media Composer 5, but mixed in Apple Soundtrack Pro. I could have mixed this in Media Composer, but I felt that a DAW would give me better control. Since I don’t have Pro Tools, Soundtrack Pro became the logical tool to use.

I’ve had no luck directly importing Avid AAF or OMF files into Soundtrack Pro, so I would recommend two options:

a)    Export an AAF and then use Automatic Duck Pro Import FCP to bring those tracks into Final Cut Pro. Then “send to” Soundtrack Pro for the mix.

b)   Export individual tracks as AIFF audio files. Import those directly into Soundtrack Pro or into FCP and then “send to” Soundtrack Pro.

For this spot, I used option B. First, I checker-boarded my dialogue and sound effects tracks in Media Composer and extended each clip ten frames to add handles. This way I had some extra media for better audio edits and cross fades as needed in Soundtrack Pro. Next, I exported individual tracks as AIFF files. These were then imported into Final Cut Pro, where I re-assembled my audio-only timeline. In FCP, I trimmed out the excess (blank portion) of each track to create individual clips again on these checker-boarded tracks. Finally, I sent this to Soundtrack Pro to create a new STP multi-track project.

Soundtrack Pro applies effects and filters onto a track rather than individual clips. Each track is analogous to a physical track on a multi-track audio recorder and a connected audio mixer; therefore, any processing must be applied to the entire track, rather than only a portion within that track. My spot was made up entirely of on-camera dialogue from winemakers in various locations and circumstances. For example, some of these were recorded on moving vehicles and needed some clean-up to be heard distinctly. So, the next thing to do was to create individual tracks for each speaking person.

In STP, I would add more tracks and move the specific clips up or down in the track layout, so that every time the same person spoke, that clip would appear on the same track. In doing so, I would re-establish the audio edits made in Media Composer, as well as clean up excess audio from my handles. DAWs offer the benefit of various cross fade slopes, so you can tailor the sound of your audio edits by the type of cross fade slope you pick for the incoming and outgoing media.

The process of moving dialogue clips around to individual tracks is often referred to as “splitting out the dialogue”. It’s the first step that a feature film dialogue editor does when preparing the dialogue tracks for the mix. Now you can concentrate on each individual speaking part and adjust the track volume and add any processing that you feel is appropriate for that speaker. Typically I will use EQ and some noise reduction filters. I’ve become quite fond of the Focusrite Scarlett Suite and used these filters quite a bit on the Yarra Valley spot.

Soundtrack Pro’s mixer and track sheet panes are divided into tracks, busses, submixes and a master. I added three stereo submixes (for dialogue, sound effects/ambiances and music) and a master. Each individual track was assigned to one of these submixes. The output of the submixes passed through the master for the final mix output. Since I adjusted each individual track to sound good on its own, the submix tracks were used to balance the levels of these three components against each other. I also added a compressor for the general sound quality onto the submix, as well as a hard limiter on the master to regulate spikes, which I set to -10dB.

By assigning individual dialogue, effects and music tracks to these three submixes, stems are created by default. Once the mix is done to your satisfaction, export a composite mix. Then mute two of the three submixes and export one of the stems. Repeat the process for the other two. Any effects that you’ve added to the master should be disabled whenever you export the stems, so that any overall limiting or processing is not applied to the stems. Once you’ve done this, you will have four stereo AIFF files – mix plus dialogue, sound effects and music stems.

I ended the Yarra Valley spot with a nine-way tag of winemakers and the logo. Seven of these winemakers each deliver a line, but it’s intended as a cacophony of sound rather than being distinguishable. I decided to build that in a separate project, so I could simply import it as a stereo element into the master project. All of the previous dialogue lines are centered as mono within a stereo mix, but I wanted to add some separation to all the voices in the tag.

To achieve this I took the seven voices and panned them to different positions within the stereo field. One voice is full left, one is full right, one is centered. The others are partially panned left or right at increments to fill up the stereo spectrum. I exported this tag as a stereo element, placed it at the right timecode location in my main mix and completed the export steps. Once done, the AIFF tracks for mix and stems were imported into Media Composer and aligned with the picture to complete the roundtrip.

Audio is a significant part of the editing experience. It’s something every editor should devote more time to, so they may learn the tools they already own. Doing so will give you a much better final product.

©2011 Oliver Peters

When it absolutely has to be there

A lot of the productions we post these days are delivered electronically – either on the web or as DVDs (or Blu-rays). Bouncing a finished product to an FTP site is a pretty good method for getting short projects around the world, but often masters or longer DVDs still require shipping. For many of us, FedEx is a mainstay; however, if it has to get halfway around the world by the next day, then even FedEx falls short. This reminds me of a bumper sticker slogan for an imaginary Tardis Express: “When it absolutely, positively has to get there yesterday!” So, with apologies to Dr. Who, how do you make this happen?

I recently had to get an eight minute presentation to a client in Australia. This was to be presented from DVD. Due to last minute changes, there was no time for physical shipping – even if we could have gotten it there overnight (quite unlikely). I could, of course, post an MPEG2 and AC3 file or a disc image file, but the client at the other end would not have been savvy enough to take this into a DVD authoring program (like DVD Studio Pro or even Toast) and actually burn a final disc. The second wrinkle was that my master was edited in the NTSC world of 29.97fps. Although many Australians own multi-standard DVD players, there was no guarantee that this would be the case in our situation. After a bit of trial-and-error with the director, we settled on this approach and I pass it along. Take this as more of a helpful anecdote rather than a professional workflow, but in a pinch it can really save you.

Apple iDVD will take a QuickTime movie and automatically generate the necessary encoded DVD files. That’s not much of a surprise, but, of course FTP’ing a ProRes master wouldn’t have been feasible, as the file size would have still been too large. It turns out, though, that iDVD will also do this from other QuickTime formats including high-quality H.264 files. Our Australian client’s daughter understood how to use iDVD, so the director decided it would be a simple matter to talk her through downloading the file and burning the presentation disc.

The first step for me was to generate a 25fps master file from my 29.97 end product. Compressor can do this and I’ve discussed the process before in my posts about dealing with HDSLRs. First, I converted the 29.97 file to a 25fps ProRes file. Then I took the 25fps ProRes high-def video and converted it in Compressor to a 16×9 SD PAL file, using a high-quality H.264 setting (around 8Mbps). Bounce it up to my MobileMe account, “share” the file and let the daughter generate the DVD in Australia using iDVD on her MacBook. Voila! Halfway around the world and no shipping truck in sight!

A related situation happened to me in 2004 – the year several hurricanes crisscrossed through central Florida. The first of these was headed our way out of the Gulf in the middle of my editing a large corporate job. Initially the storm looked like Tampa would get a direct hit and then pass to the north of Orlando. It was Friday and everyone was battening down for the weekend, so I called my announcer to see what his plans were for getting voice-over tracks to me. “No problem. I am putting up friends from Tampa and once they get settled in, I’ll record the tracks and send them your way.” That seemed fine, since I didn’t need these until Monday.

Unfortunately the storm track changed – blowing in south of the Tampa area and straight through central Florida. The main local damage was power outages, due to many fallen trees throughout the city. Power returned relatively quickly at my house, but much of the area ultimately was without power for several weeks. However, the weekend progressed and I still hadn’t heard back from my announcer. By Sunday I finally got through to him on the cell phone.

“Were you able to record the tracks?” I asked.  “Oh yes,” he replied. “They are up on my FTP site.” What followed is a classic. “We lost power and, in fact, it’s still out. I waited until the neighbor’s generator was off for the evening and was able to record the tracks to my laptop using battery power. Then I drove around and found a Panera Bread location.” Panera Bread is a national restaurant/coffee shop chain that offers free wi-fi connectivity in most of its locations. He continued, “The restaurant was closed, but they must have had power as the wi-fi was still running. So, I sat in the parking lot and uploaded the files to my FTP site.”

So thanks to modern technology and the world of consumer connectivity, both of these clients were able to receive their products on schedule. That’s in spite of logistical difficulties that would have made this sort of thing impossible only a few short years ago. Time machine – or phone booth – anyone?

©2010 Oliver Peters