Goodies for the holidays

Time for catch up on the little odds and ends that will make your editing workday more pleasant. If you’re the buyer, it’s hard to ignore low cost values, much less powerful free products. A number of influences over the past year have made this a great time if you are ready to spruce up your system.

Starting out with free, look no further than DaVinci Resolve Lite. This is an industrial-strength color grading tool that’s available as a free download. Blackmagic Design recently removed the limitation on the number of nodes you could use with Lite, so if you don’t need to render bigger than HD sizes and you’re not working on stereo 3D projects, then Resolve Lite does everything you need. This includes XML roundtrips from FCP 7 and FCP X, plus the ability to read AAF files and MXF media from Avid systems.

Automatic Duck has been a valuable conduit for getting from point A to point B, but now the keepers of the Duck are under Adobe’s wing. Thanks to this deal, all of Automatic Duck’s plug-in products are available as free downloads from their website.

Apple Final Cut Pro X uses effects that are all based on Motion 5 presets. The beauty of the system is that enterprising users can create new filters simply by modifying effects in Motion and publishing the presets to FCP X. There several editors around the globe who have produced a wealth of such presets as free downloads. Check here for some resources.

Speaking of FCP X, a number of traditional plug-in vendors have started to shore up the ecosystem with existing products that can install in a number of hosts, including FCP 7, FCP X, Motion 4, Motion 5 and After Effects. These include Noise Industries (and its partners), CHV, CoreMelt, CrumblePop, Motion|VFX and others. One handy set of filters and transitions comes from Digital Heaven. Although the DH products aren’t necessarily the flashiest, they are probably some that you’ll use frequently, because they are designed to fill the most common needs of daily editing.

The new cameras like ARRI ALEXA and the RED One and RED EPIC have introduced editors to the need to understand and work with LUTs. Pomfort has been developing products for the ALEXA and one of these includes a “look” filter that works with FCP 7 and FCP X to adjust the Log-C curve to Rec 709 video. In addition, it can also read and apply custom looks designed in the Pomfort Silverstack software.

Nick Shaw is a post consultant who developed one of the earliest Log-C-to-709 plug-ins for FCP 7. He hasn’t forgotten that this “legacy” NLE will see plenty of life in the next year or more. Shaw has developed another Antler Post FCP 7 plug-in to take RED footage that’s been rendered with the RedLogFilm gamma curve and correct it to 709 (plus burn-ins). As with his ALEXA filter, this effect is intended for use when offline editing with dailies in FCP 7.

Final Cut Pro X threw everyone for a loop, because there was no way to go between it and other applications. An update in September added FCP XML, which was promptly utilized by Assisted Editing to develop Project X27. FCP XML and existing XML (FCP 7 and Premiere Pro) aren’t the same, so this application handles the translation from an FCP X timeline (“project”) to an FCP 7 timeline (“sequence”) by interpreting one XML into the other. It only goes from X to 7, which some might find odd, since so many have asked for translation in the other direction. In reality, this is incredibility useful, because now you can bring your cuts into FCP 7 and from there to Color, Soundtrack Pro or Pro Tools. You can also export an XML which can be opened in Premiere Pro. Not to mentioned that since Automatic Duck’s plug-ins are free, you also have an avenue to go from FCP X to Avid systems or After Effects as needed. Assisted Editing also produces Event Manager, another FCP X productivity tool to handle access to FCP X Events and Projects while using FCP X.

This is just the start as the NLE market is very fluid and will continue to be so well into 2012. I expect to see at least two major plug-in packages to come out for FCP X: GenArts Sapphire Edge and Magic Bullet Looks. Both are preset-based and depend on a custom browser. Right now there’s a hitch that won’t allow FCP X to send frames to an external application, so Magic Bullet Mojo, which is uses slider controls, will work in FCP X, but Looks won’t. Both companies are in testing and my guess is that will be resolved with the FCP X update due in early 2012.

©2011 Oliver Peters