NAB 2016 – Technology and Friends

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The annual National Association of Broadcasters convention and equipment show – aka The NAB Show – is one of Las Vegas’ biggest. Typically about 100,000 folks officially attend the April ritual, including actual NAB members, along with a much larger group of production and post professionals there to check out the gear and attend the various on and off-site workshops and sessions.

df2216_03For me, that’s part of it, together with the fact that I cover the show as a journalist writing for Digital Video magazine and CreativePlanetNetwork website. Rather than rehash here what I’ve already written, here are the links to my preview and wrap-up articles.

In addition, NAB for me is a time to reconnect in person with old and new friends from all over the country and the world. These are folks I’ve known for years, as well as some that I’ve originally met only online. NAB is a chance to spend some face-to-face time – if only for a few moments. It’s also a chance to connect with online friends for the first time and get a new perspective on their ideas. That’s something that’s often lacking in so much of today’s social media and internet forums.

df2216_04This year I had an opportunity to connect with my friends Philip Hodgetts and Greg Clarke from Intelligent Assistance. Most likely you know them as the brains behind such apps as 7toX, XtoCC, Sync-n-Link-X, Lumberjack and more. They also routinely record a web series called Lunch with Philip and Greg. So along with plenty of time at the NAB show, we stepped out to the Firefly restaurant down the road from the convention center. There we recorded an hour of good conversation over unexpectedly excellent food for another episode. A welcomed break from the show.df2216_02

If you get a chance to attend next year, make sure to allow some time to connect with your friends, too. Gear is cool for the nerd in all of us, but it’s not the only part of Vegas!

©2016 Oliver Peters

From the Trenches

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Not all editing is done in comfy edit suites with powerful workstations. Many film editors cut on location for part of the film. Plenty of other editors make their living on the corporate circuit cutting convention and conference highlights, “happy faces” videos, and recaps for social media. If you are one of the latter group, much of your work is done in hotel rooms, ad hoc media centers set up in conference rooms, and/or backstage in the bowels of some convention center. Your gigs bounce between major cities and resorts around the country and sometimes the world. Learning to travel light, but without compromise is important.

I work a number of these events each year. In the past, the set-up was usually a full-blown Avid Media Composer system and decks – often augmented by a rack of VHS decks for dubs on-site. Today, more often than not, a laptop with accessories will do the trick. Media is all file-based and final copies get delivered on USB thumb drives or straight to the web. The following road warrior tips will help any editor who has to cut on the run.

Nail down the deal. Before you commit, find out who is supplying the  gear. If you are expected to bring editing gear, then define the rate and what is expected of you. Most of these gigs are on a 10-hour day-rate, but define the call and end times. If the camera crew gets an early start, your call time (and the start of 10 hours) might not be until noon. Make sure you know who is covering meals and how the expenses are being handled (air fare, hotels, car rental, per diem, mileage, parking, etc.).

Which NLE to use. This is often a matter of personal preference, but on some jobs, one over the other becomes the client’s decision. A set-up with several editors working in collaboration is best handled using Avid Media Composer and Avid or Facilis shared storage. Live ingest and quick turnaround of the CEO’s keynote is also best handled with Avid Media Composer and Avid i/o hardware. When those are the criteria, odds are the production company will be supplying the gear. You just have to know how to use it. Apple Final Cut Pro X is great for a lot of the convention video work being done, but I’ve also had clients specify Adobe Premiere Pro, just so everything is compatible with their home operation or with the other editors on the same gig.

df2116_trench_4_smRemember that with Adobe Creative Cloud, the software needs to “phone home” monthly for continued authorization. This requires an internet connection to log-in. If, for some reason, you are going to be out of internet contact for more than a month, this could become an issue, because your software will kick into the trial mode. That may be sufficient to get you through the project, but maybe not.

Video standards. Before you start any editing, make sure everyone is on the same page. Typically video packages are going to be produced and finished as 1080p/29.97 or 1080p/23.976. However, if you are recutting the highlights from a large corporate keynote presentation, odds are this was recorded with broadcast cameras, meaning that the project will be 1080i/59.94. But don’t assume that a US conference is always going to be only using US TV standards. A large European company holding an event in the US might want to stay consistent with their other videos. Therefore, you might be working in 1080p/25. As with many things in life – don’t assume.

Mac versus PC. Inevitably you’ll run up against the compatibility issue of passing files and drives between Macs and PC. Maybe you are in a team of editors with mixed systems. Maybe you have a Mac, but the client is PC-based. Whatever the circumstance, know how you are going to exchange files. Some folks trust ExFAT-formatted drives to work cross-platform. On a recent job, only the PCs could mount the LaCie drives that were formatted as ExFAT, whereas Seagate drives were OK on both platforms. Go figure. My recommendation is to have all the Macs install Tuxera (to read NTFS drives) and have the PCs install MacDrive (to read HFS+).

Media drives. Speaking of drives, who is supplying the drives for the edit? Are you expected to bring them or use your internal drive? Is the client supplying drives and will they be compatible? If you are supplying the drives, you probably still need to factor in time to copy the media, projects and final masters back to the customer’s drive at the end of the job. All of this means connection compatibility is important. Newer Macs work with USB 3.0 (compatible with USB 2.0) and Thunderbolt 1 and 2. Most newer PC laptops generally only connect to USB devices, with a few that also support Thunderbolt and/or eSATA.

Unless you are all Mac-based, drives that connect via USB 3.0 will give you sufficient speed and will connect cross-platform. In you own a Mac with Thunderbolt, then it’s worthwhile to pick up a few adapters. For example, I have FireWire 800, Ethernet, DVI and VGA adapters and they’ve all been useful. In addition, my MacBook Pro will also connect via HDMI to external video and audio monitors.

df2116_trench_3_smCamera card readers. When it comes to media, card readers are another concern. Since post is largely file-based these days, you are going to have to be able to read the media and the files provided by the camera crew. As an editor, you can’t really be expected to provide a reader for every possible camera type. For instance, Canon C300 cameras record to CF cards, which will normally plug into most common, multi-card readers that plug in via USB. However, if the crew is using an ARRI Amira that records to CFast cards, then you’ll need a different reader. Same if they were using something that records to Pak, P2, SxS and other media types. Therefore, it’s best when the camera crew supplies a reader that matches their  camera. That’s something you need to get straight with the company hiring you before the gigs starts.

Peripherals. It’s helpful to bring along some extra goodies. In addition to a generic multi-card reader and Thunderbolt adapters, other useful items include extra USB sticks, a generic USB (or better yet, USB 3.0) hub adapter, and possibly a video i/o device. While most of the time you don’t need to capture live video or feed masters out to external recorders, there will be times where live capture or monitoring is required. When it isn’t, then cutting from your laptop screen is fine and playing it full screen for review will also work. However, if you do need to do this, then small i/o devices from Blackmagic Design or AJA are your best bet. If you want more screen real estate then Duet Display is an app to turn an iPad into a second desktop screen.

Audio. While video monitoring isn’t that tough with a 15” laptop – even for client review – audio monitoring is a different story. Unless you’re cutting in a quiet hotel room, odds are you are going to be in a noisy environment, like backstage. If you are working with a team of editors, the noise factor just went up – all of which means headphones are essential. If you like to travel as light as possible, then you might try to get by with ear buds, but those can be very uncomfortable if you wear them all day long – not to mention bad for your hearing. An alternative to consider might be in-ear monitors like the ones Fender now makes.

Ultimately it’s personal preference, until it’s time to work with the producer or review the cut with the client. For a two-person operation, you might consider bringing a Y-shaped headphone adapter and a second set of lightweight headphones. Obviously you aren’t going to want to share in-ear monitors the way you might a large-cup standard headphone.

When it comes time to review the cut with the client – often two or more people looking over your shoulder at the laptop screen – then headphones won’t work. You are stuck momentarily using the laptop’s sound system. In the case of Apple MacBook Pros, the max volume is completely unacceptable in professional use. At times I’ve brought small external powered speakers, but that’s extra weight and room. Another solution I’ve used, which has worked reasonably well, is a single small, battery-powered “boom box” style amplified speaker that connects via Bluetooth. It packs a lot of oomph in a tiny footprint. The only downside is that sync during playback from an NLE timeline is very rubbery at times, although most clients will excuse that when it’s just for a quick review. With exported files, it’s fine.

df2116_trench_2_smDepending on the job, you might also need a microphone for scratch (or maybe even final) voice-over recordings. The Shure MOTIV series is worth considering. These mics are designed for the “iDevices”, but will also connect to Macs and PCs via USB. Another solution for down-and-dirty recordings would be a cheap webcast USB mic.

Graphics. Most editors are not very good graphic designers. We tend to work best when provided with templates and packaged branding elements. However, this means you as the editor have to be compatible with the client’s needs. For example, if the elements are supplied to you as editable After Effects or Photoshop files, then it’s essential that you have the latest version of those applications installed. For example, an old version of Photoshop or using Affinity Photo instead, won’t cut it. On a recent job, the client supplied lower third templates as animated Photoshop files. This worked like a champ and was yet another example of how Adobe Creative Cloud integration between applications is one of the best in the business. However, this only worked, because I was current on all of the Creative Cloud apps I had installed – and not just Premiere Pro CC.

Music. Try to make sure you are using licensed music that has been provided by the client. Corporate events are notorious for skirting around music licensing in the belief that, because it’s a closed conference, this is fine. Or that they are somehow covered under Fair Use guidelines (they aren’t). As an editor, you may not have control over this, but you should make sure to only use music that has been supplied to you by the client or purchased by the client from a stock music source during the course of the project.

Internet. Since many of these conference videos are intended for quick turnaround to the web, having a fast pipe to the internet is essential. Tying your edit machine to the center’s wifi isn’t going to be fast enough. A high quality 1080p MP4 that’s several minutes long will be several hundred MB in size. If you have several of these to upload each day, fast upload speeds are critical. Usually this means that the production company is going to have to pay for a dedicated line and ethernet cabling. This needs to be available past the point that the conference floor itself closes, since post will still be going on awhile longer. From the editor’s standpoint, this requires a machine that can accept an ethernet cable, which is getting harder to come by on both Mac and PC laptops. For the MacBook Pros, you can get a Thunderbolt-to-Ethernet adapter, which works flawlessly.

Schedule. Last, but not least, there’s the schedule. What can realistically be accomplished in the allotted time? Most corporate clients are not production people. They have no idea of what’s involved when they decide to interview and edit a given number of people in the course of a day. Even if the editor starts later, it still requires a producer to be involved in both the shoot and the edit. Realistically there should be a 50/50 ratio of shoot time to edit time. Naturally that’s not always possible, but this allows enough time to cut the piece, make tweaks, get approval, and then encode. On a fast laptop, the time required to encode high quality MP4 files is roughly the running time of the piece. Therefore, if you have an hour of total edited content, you’ll need to allow for at least an hour of encoding. Add to this upload time and the back-up to the client’s drives, and you have a rather packed schedule.

©2016 Oliver Peters

Adobe Premiere Pro CC Learning Tips

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Adobe Premiere Pro CC is the heir apparent editing application for many editors. In order to make your transition easier, I’ve compiled a series of links to various official and unofficial resources, including Adobe sites, forums, YouTube videos, training resources, and various blog posts. This list is by no means all that’s out there, but it should provide a great starting point to become more comfortable with Premiere Pro CC.

Adobe and Adobe-related training resources

Adobe tutorials

Adobe Premiere Pro tips

Maxim Jago’s tips at Lynda

Maxim Jago’s tips at Peachpit

Lynda’s Adobe Premiere Pro training

Ripple Training – Premiere Pro CC 2015

Adobe-related blogs and YouTube channels

Dave Helmly’s DAV Tech Table

Jason Levine’s YouTube channel

Colin Smith’s YouTube channel

Dave Helmly’s presentation at Orlando Post Pros meeting – 2015 (webcast)

Forums

Adobe Filmmaker stories

Adobe Premiere Pro Forum

Creative COW Premiere Pro forum

Premiere-centric sites and YouTube channels

Jarle Leirpoll’s Premiere Pro blog

Retooled

Premiere Bro

Best Premiere Pro Quick Tips YouTube Channel

Premiere Pro Tips YouTube channel

Blog posts

VashiVisuals – Deadpool Premiere Pro Presets

VashiVisuals – Keyboard Layouts

VashiVisuals – Music Video Editing Tips

VashiVisuals – Pancake Timeline

Jonny Elwyn – Premiere posts

Jonny Elwyn – Premiere Pro Tools and Tutorials

Jonny Elwyn – Tips and Tricks

Jonny Elwyn – Tips for Better Editing in Premiere Pro

Jonny Elwyn – Tutorials for Better Editing in Premiere Pro

Premium Beat – Beginner’s Guide to Premiere Pro Shortcuts

Premium Beat – Match Frame and Replace Edit

Premium Beat – How to Clean up Audio in Premiere Pro

Premium Beat – Creating a Storyboard Edit in Premiere Pro

Premium Beat – AVCHD Editing Workflow

Premium Beat – How to Organize a Feature Film Edit

Premium Beat – 3 Quick Tips for Editing in Premiere Pro

Premium Beat – Time-Saving Premiere Pro CC Tips

Derek Lieu – Simple Tricks for Faster Editing in Premiere Pro

No Film School – Premiere Pro Keyboard Shortcuts

Wipster – 4 Reasons Why Premiere Pro is a Great Choice

Wipster – Master the Media Browser

Plug-ins, add-ons, other

Kinetic type and layer effects by TypeMonkey for After Effects

Post Notes Premiere Pro control panel

PDFviewer Premiere Pro control panel

Frame.io integration

Wipster.io integration

Axle Video integration

LookLabs SpeedLooks

FxFactory plug-ins

RedGiant Software plug-ins

Boris FX plug-ins

DigitalFilms – SpeedGrade Looks

Jarle’s Premiere Pro Presets

Note : this information is also included on the Editing Resources page accessible from the header of this blog. Future updates will be made there.

©2016 Oliver Peters

Easy 4K Workflow

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In the last post I questioned the visual value of 4K. However, it’s inevitable that more and more distributors will be asking for 4K deliverables, so you might as well start planning how you are going to achieve that. There are certainly plenty of demos showing how easy it is to edit 4K content and they use iPhone video for the demo material. The reality is that such footage is crap and should only be used when it’s the only camera available. At the low end, there are plenty of cameras to choose from that work with highly-compressed 4K images and yet, yield great results. The Blackmagic Design URSA Mini, Sony FS7 and Canon C300 Mark II come to mind. Bump up to something in a more cinema-style package and you are looking at a Sony F55, RED, ARRI or even the AJA CION.

df1816_easy_4k_1While many cameras record to various proprietary compressed codecs, having a common media codec is the most ideal. Typically this means Apple ProRes or Avid DNxHD/HR. Some cameras and standalone monitor/recorders can natively generate media in these formats. In other circumstances, it requires an interim transcode before editing. This is where system throughput becomes a big issue. For example, if you want to work with native 4K material as ProRes 4444, you are going to need fast drives. On my home Mac Pro tower, I have two internal 7200RPM spinning drives for media striped as RAID-0. In addition to these and the boot drive, I also have another internal SSD media drive. When I checked their relative performance with the AJA System Test utility, these clocked at 161 write /168 read for the RAID-0 stripe and 257/266 for the single SSD. That’s good enough for approximately 27fps and 43fps respectively, if the media were large 3840 x 2160 (2160p) ProRes 4444 files. In other words, both drive units are adequate for a single stream of 2160p/23.98 as ProRes 4444, but would have a tougher time with two streams or more.

Unfortunately the story doesn’t end with drive performance alone, because some NLEs handle real-time playback of 4K media better than do others. I’ve performed a number of tests with 4K files in Apple Final Cut Pro X, Adobe Premiere Pro CC, Avid Media Composer and Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve. This has been on a number of different units, including a couple of Mac Pro towers, as well as a newer “trash can” Mac Pro. Plus, I’ve run tests with local drives, attached media RAIDs, and network-attached storage systems. What I’ve found is that as long as you have fast drive performance, then the bottleneck is the NLE.

Pretty much all of these choices can handle a single stream of 4K media without too much of an issue. However, when you stack up a second layer or track for a simple 2D PIP composite, generally the system struggles. In some cases, FCPX has performed better than the others, but not consistently.  The others all choked to varying degrees. When you limit it to a single stream of 4K video with associated audio, then FCPX performs more fluidly at a higher quality level than Media Composer or Premiere Pro, although Media Composer also performed well in some of the tests. My conclusion, for now, is that if you want to work with native 4K media in a client-involved session, and with the least amount of rendering, then FCPX is the clear winner – at least on the Mac platform. For many editors it will be the most viable choice.

Native workflow

The first big plus for Final Cut Pro X is how easily it works with native media that it’s compatible with. That’s one thing I don’t generally advocate on a large project like a show or feature film – opting instead to create “optimized” media first, either externally or within FCPX. Nevertheless, a lot of native codecs can be quite easy on the system. For example, one client cut an indie feature, using all native camera files from his Sony FS7. His Final Cut system was a tricked out iMac that was a couple of years old and a Promise Pegasus RAID array. Initially he cut the film from native 4K FS7 files to an FCPX 1080p timeline. I was doing the grading in Resolve, so I had him export a single, flattened movie file from the timeline as 1080p ProRes 4444. I brought this into Resolve, “bladed” the cuts to create edit points and applied my color correction. I exported a single ProRes 4444 master file, which he could import back into FCPX and marry with the post-production mix.

df1816_easy_4k_2Fast forward a year and the film distributor was inquiring whether they could easily produce a 4K master instead of a 1080 master. This turned out to be relatively simple. All my client had to do was change his FCPX project (timeline) settings to 4K, double-check the scaling for his clips and export a new 4K ProRes 4444 file of the timeline. In Resolve, I also changed the timeline setting to 4K and then relinked to the new 4K file. Voila! – all the cuts lined up and the previous grades all looked fine. Then I simply exported the graded 4K file to send back to the client.

In this example, even with a roundtrip to Resolve and a change from 1080p to 2160p, FCPX performed perfectly without much fuss. However, for many, you wouldn’t even need to go this far. Depending on how much you like to play and tweak during the color grade, there are plenty of ways to do this and stay totally inside FCPX. You could use tools like the Color Board, Hawaiki Color, Color Finale, or even some home-brew Motion effects, and achieve excellent results without ever leaving Final Cut Pro X.

As a reminder, Media Composer, Premiere Pro CC and Resolve are all capable of working with native media, including 4K.

Proxy workflow

df1816_easy_4k_4In addition to native 4K post, Apple engineers built an ingenious internal proxy workflow into Final Cut. Transcode the camera files in the background, flip a toggle, and work with the proxy files until you are ready to export a master. When you opt to transcode proxies, FCPX generates half-resolution, ProRes Proxy media corresponding to your original files. As an example, if your media consists of 2160p XAVC camera files, FCPX creates corresponding 1080p ProRes Proxy files. Even though the proxy media’s frame is 1/4th the size of the 4K original, FCPX takes care of handling the scaling math in the timeline between original and proxy media. The viewer display will also appear very close in quality, regardless of whether you have switched to original/optimized or proxy media. The majority of legacy A/V output cards, like a Blackmagic Design Decklink, are only capable of displaying SD and HD content to an external monitor. FCPX can send it the proper data so that a 4K timeline is displayed as a scaled 1080 output to your external video monitor.

Although proxies are small for a 4K project, these are still rather large to be moving around among multiple editors. It’s not an official part of the Final Cut operation, but you can replace these generated proxies with your own versions, with some caveats. Let’s say you have 3840 x 2160, log-gamma-encoded, 4K camera files. You would first need to have FCPX generate proxies. However, using an external application such as EditReady, Compressor, etc, you could transcode these camera files into small 960×540 ProRes Proxy media, complete with a LUT applied and timecode/clip name burnt in. Then find your Proxy Media folder, trash the FCPX-generated files and replace them with your own files. FCPX should properly relink to these and understand the correct relationship between the original and the proxy files. (This post explains the process in more detail.) There are several caveats. Clip name, frame rate, clip length, aspect ratio, and audio channel configurations must match. Otherwise you are good to go.df1816_easy_4k_3

The benefit to this solution is that you can freely edit with the proxies on a lightweight system, such as a MacBook Pro with a portable drive. When ready, move back to a beefier unit and storage, flip to original/optimized media, double-check all effects and color-correction on a good monitor, and then export the master files. It’s worth noting that this workflow is also potentially possible with Premiere Pro CC, because the new version to be introduced later this year will include a proxy editing workflow.

Naturally there is no single solution, but Final Cut Pro X makes this process far easier than any other tool that I use. If 4K is increasingly looming on the horizon for you, then FCPX is certainly worth a test run.

©2016 Oliver Peters

4K is kinda meh

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Lately I’ve done a lot of looking at 4K content. Not only was 4K all over the place at NAB in Las Vegas, but I’ve also had to provide some 4K deliverables on client projects. This has meant a much closer examination of the 4K image than in the past.

First, let’s define 4K. Typically the term 4K applies to either a “cinema” width of 4096 pixels or a broadcast width of 3840 pixels. The latter is also referred to as QuadHD, UltraHD or UHD and is a 2x multiple of the 1920-wide HD standard. For simplicity’s sake, in this article I’m going to be referring to 4K, but will generally mean the UHD version, i.e. 3840 x 2160 pixels, aka 2160p. While 4K (and greater) acquisition for an HD finish has been used for awhile in post, there are already demands for true 4K content. This vanguard is notably led by Netflix and Amazon, however, international distributors are also starting to request 4K masters, if they are available.

In my analysis of the images from various 4K (and higher) camera, it starts to become quite obvious that the 1:1 image in 4K really isn’t all that good. In fact, if you compared a blow-up from HD to 4K of that same image, it becomes very hard to distinguish the blow-up from the true 4K image. Why is that?

When you analyze a native 4K image, you become aware of the deficiencies in the image. These weren’t as obvious when that 4K original was down-sampled to an HD timeline and master. That’s because in the HD timeline you are seeing the benefit of oversampling, which results in a superb HD image. Here are some factors that become more obvious when you view the footage in its original size.

1. Most formats use a high-compression algorithm to squeeze the data into a smaller file size. In some cases compression artifacts start to become visible at the native size.

2. Many DPs like to shoot with vintage or otherwise “lower quality” lenses. This gives the image “character” and, in the words of one cinematographer that I worked with, “takes the curse off of the digital image.” That’s all fine, but again, viewed natively, you start to see the defects in the optics, like chromatic aberration in the corners, coloration of the image, and general softness.

3. Due to the nature of video viewfinders, run-and-gun production methods, and smaller crews, many operators do not nail the critical focus on a shot. That’s not too obvious when you down-convert the image; however, at 100% you notice that focus was on your talent’s ear and not their nose.

The interesting thing to me is that when you take a 4K (or greater) image, down-convert that to HD, and then up-convert it back to 4K, much of the image detail is retained. I’ve especially noticed this when high quality scalers are used for the conversion. For example, even the free version of DaVinci Resolve offers one of the best up-scalers on the market. Secondly, scaling for 1920 x 1080 to 3840 x 2160 is an even 2x multiple, so a) the amount you are zooming in isn’t all that much, and b) even numbered multiples give you better results than fractional values. In addition, Resolve also offers several scaling methods for sharper versus smoother results.

df1716_4k-native_16_smIn general, I feel that the most quality is retained when you start with 4K footage rather than HD, but that’s not a given. I’ve blown up ARRI ALEXA clips – that only ever existed as HD – up to 4K and the result was excellent. That has a lot to do with what ARRI is doing in their sensor and the general detail of the ALEXA image. Clearly that’s been proven time and time again in the theaters, where files recorded using ALEXAs with the footage in 2K, HD or 2.8K ARRIRAW have been blown up via 4K projection onto the large screen and the image is excellent.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you shouldn’t post in 4K if you have an easy workflow (see my post next week) to get there. What I am saying is that staying in 4K versus a 4K-HD-4K workflow won’t result in a dramatic difference in image quality, when you compare the two side-by-side at 100% pixel-for-pixel resolution. The samples below come from a variety of sources, including the blogs of John Brawley, Philip Bloom and OffHollywood Productions. In some cases the source images originated from pre-production cameras, so there may be image anomalies not found in actual shipping models of these cameras. Grades applied are mine.

View some of the examples below. Click on any of these images for the slide show. From there you can access the full size version of any of these comparisons.

©2016 Oliver Peters

Australian Design Shines with Blackmagic

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One of the things to do in the week after NAB is to scour the internet to pick up those gems I might have missed at the show. I was curious to run across a blurb at RedShark News about a prestigious design award picked up by Blackmagic Design.

df1616_bmd_reddot_6Anyone in this industry who’s been exposed to any Blackmagic product knows that the company has a sense of taste when it comes to industrial design, packaging, and even their website. Products, like their rack-mounted gear and cameras, have a certain finesse even down to the screws that hold them together. One look at DaVinci Resolve and you know they’ve aimed at the best-looking and easiest-to-navigate user interface of any NLE. The redesign of the Cintel Scanner is like an art piece to hang on the wall.

df1616_bmd_reddot_2This year they’ve been honored as the Design Team of the Year by the Red Dot Awards. This is a design competition founded by German industrial designer Professor Dr. Peter Zec, former president of Icsid (International Council of Societies of Industrial Design) and current head of the German design center, Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen. The Design Team of the Year Award (which is awarded and not competed for) goes to one company each year. Blackmagic Design is in good company, as past winners include Apple, Porsche, and frog design (who has been closely involved with Apple over the years) – among many others.df1616_bmd_reddot_4

df1616_bmd_reddot_5Blackmagic’s design team is headed by Simon Kidd, Director of Industrial Design, who’s been with the company for ten years. This is the first time the honor has gone to an Australian firm and highlights the outstanding work being done down under. That design aesthetic can be seen not only at Blackmagic, but other Australian firms, too, including Atomos and Rode Microphones. It’s nice to see this recognition go to any company in the film and video space, but even better when it goes to someone who really values design along with solid functionality.

©2016 Oliver Peters

Automatic Duck Xsend Motion

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When Apple transitioned its Final Cut Pro product family from Final Cut Studio to Final Cut Pro X, Motion 5, and Compressor 4, it lost a number of features that editors really liked. Some of these “missing” features show up as consistent and reoccurring requests on various wish lists. One of the most popular is the roundtrip function that sent Final Cut Pro “classic” timelines over to Motion for further compositing. To many, it seemed like Motion had become relegated to being a fancy development tool for FCPX plug-ins, rather than what it is – a powerful, GPU-enabled compositor.

df1516_AD_2At last, that workflow hole has been plugged, thanks to Automatic Duck. Last year the father/son development team brought us a way to go from Final Cut Pro X to Adobe’s After Effects by way of the Automatic Duck Ximport AE bridge. This week at the FCP Exchange Workshop in Las Vegas, Wes Plate reveals the new Automatic Duck Xsend Motion. This tool leverages the power of the FCPX’s version of XML to move data from one application to the other. Thanks to FCPXML, it provides a bridge to send FCPX timelines, clips, or sections of timelines over to Motion 5.

df1516_AD_4Xsend Motion reads FCPXML exports or is able to process projects directly from the Final Cut Pro X Share menu. The Xsend menu enables a number of settings options, including whether to bring clips into Motion as individual clips or as what Automatic Duck has dubbed as “lanes”. When clips are left individual, then each clip is assigned a layer in Motion for a composition made up of a series of cascading layers. If you opt for lanes, then the Motion layers stay grouped in a similar representation to the FCPX project timeline. This way primary and secondary storylines and connected clips are properly configured. Xsend also interprets compound clips.

Automatic Duck is striving to correctly interpret all of the FCPX characteristics, including frame sizes, rates, cropping, and more. Since Final Cut Pro X and Motion 5 are essentially built upon the same engine, the translation will correctly interpret most built-in effects. However, it may or may not interpret custom Motion templates that individual users have created. In addition, they plan on being able to properly translate many of the effects in the FxFactory portfolio, which typically install into both FCPX and Motion.

df1516_AD_3While Xsend Motion and Ximport AE are primarily one-way trips, there is a mechanism to send the finished result back to Final Cut Pro X from Motion 5. The first and most obvious is simply to render the Motion composition as a flattened QuickTime movie and import that back into FCPX as new media. However, you can also publish the Motion composition as an FCPX Generator. This would then show up in the Generators portion of the Effects Palette as a custom generator effect.

Automatic Duck Xsend Motion will be officially released later this year. The price hasn’t been announced yet. Current Automatic Duck products (Automatic Duck Ximport AE and Automatic Duck Media Copy) are available through Red Giant.

©2016 Oliver Peters