Analogue Wayback, Ep. 13

More corned beef, please.

In two decades of being freelance, I’ve done my share of on-site edits. Some are booked well in advance. Others start with a panicked call from a producer early in the morning.

It was a cold St. Patrick’s Day weekend in 2007. My friend – the producer – called on Friday morning with an urgent request. She was in Savannah doing a show for Spike TV to air that Saturday evening. It was a mix of Florida and New York crew, but the main editor was snowed in and couldn’t get a flight from New York to Savannah. Could I quickly drive up to Savannah as the main editor (out of two) to get the show on the air? So I tossed clothes in a bag and headed to Savannah, getting there by mid-afternoon.

If you’ve ever seen the Nathan’s Famous competitive hot dog eating contests, then you’ll get the drift. It was like that, featuring the same competitors, except that it was themed around St. Patrick’s Day. Think corned beef and cabbage instead of hot dogs. As with most “plausibly live” competition shows, there was a Friday and Saturday round, plus featurettes and graphics. The preliminary round was to be recorded Friday afternoon and then the final round on Saturday. The editors had to package the show into an hourlong competition to be fed up to Spike late on Saturday afternoon in time for network QC and an 8PM slot for air.

The event was set up in the River Street area with our two production trailers parked nearby. These contained the live control room and two Avid systems connected to Unity shared storage. The intent was to record the live rounds straight through an Avid to the Unity and then build the feature segments, clean up the live events, and package everything into a finished show formatted to network time.

I made it there in time to record the preliminary round, but immediately hit a hiccup. Every time I started the live ingest, Media Composer kicked out of record after less than a minute. After a bit of trial and error, I only recorded one channel of audio instead of two and it worked. Go figure. No big deal, since this was mono from the board feed anyway. We got it recorded, worked a bit into the evening, and had act one in the can.

The trailers had no shore power and ran off of generator power. The last thing the truck engineer did that night was to top off the diesel to make sure we would have plenty for the next day. He left the generator running with equipment power on, since it would be cold overnight. That way, we would be good to go for an early start on Saturday.

If you aren’t aware, St. Patrick’s Day in Savannah is a BIG deal. This meant an early call to avoid getting stuck in traffic headed to get a position for the parade. People had already been camping out on some of the city’s historic squares. We immediately saw upon arrival that the generator was now off. No power and it wouldn’t restart. Uh oh! After some frantic calls, the engineer finally located a generator repairman who was available and could actually get to our location without being stuck in traffic. We were finally up and running again by mid-morning – meaning a late start with a live contest to record and three more acts to cut. The day proceeded according to plan and we were working as fast as possible. But it was getting close to the drop-dead time to feed a final (to length) file to NYC.

Fortunately, this director was very trusted by the network, so they granted him some leeway. We were able to feed later without any network QC review and the show was allowed to run fat in length. However, this meant I was still working on the final act leading up to showtime, because of the late start. We finally fed the fourth segment while the show was already starting to air and made it with minutes to spare. Plausibly live was nearly live for real!

These competitive eating contests can be cringe-worthy, but given the St. Patrick’s Day theme, this one was even more so. At the crew dinner that night, our director – who had directed many MMA broadcasts – opined, that although he’d seen many disgusting things, this one might have topped them all!

©2022 Oliver Peters

Free BCC Looks for Final Cut Pro

The Boris FX Continuum and/or Sapphire filters have traditionally been essential add-ons for many editors, regardless of NLE brand. The features of these filters are tweaked for the specifics of each host application, but in general, a BCC filter used in Media Composer can be expected to work and look more or less the same way in Premiere Pro.

Compatibility became more difficult for many Final Cut plug-in developers when Apple launched FCPX. For instance, the initial BCC version for FCPX was designed to closely mimic the other BCC versions, yet staying within the then-new Apple architecture. However, some filters never made it into the Final Cut version of BCC, because it wasn’t possible. Boris FX took a different approach in 2021. As I discussed in my review of Continuum FCP last year, the version sold for Final Cut Pro is a different animal than previous Continuum packages for Final Cut Pro, as well as other host applications.

This year Boris FX released the updated 2022 version of Continuum FCP for Final Cut Pro and Motion. Features of the 2022 version include GPU-acceleration for every effect, native operation on M1 Macs, HDR compliance, and more presets. However, the biggest new feature is the addition of Mocha and Pixel Chooser for planar tracking and masking within each effect.

The free Looks filter for FCP

While the update is nice, I wanted to look specifically at the free filter being offered. After all, most folks like free! Right? With the new update Boris FX decided to offer one of the filters for free, no strings attached. Sure, you can test out Continuum with trial versions, but this filter gives you very useful functions – and no watermark. It stands on its own, regardless of whether of not you get the full package. On the other hand, it also gives you a taste, which just may leave you wanting to get the rest of Continuum.

To start, simply register at the Boris FX website and you’ll be emailed a license code and a download link. The installer includes the full Continuum package. Read the installation prompts carefully if you only want to install the single free filter without also installing the others in a trial mode. Launch FCP and you’ll find the BCC+ Looks filter within the BCC Film Style effects category. Once you apply the effect to a clip, you can set up the parameters in the FCP Inspector pane or launch FX Editor, which is similar across multiple Boris FX products. There are 80 stylized presets in FX Editor’s lefthand browser pane, histogram and parameters are on the right, viewer controls for size and comparison spilt screen options at the top, and transport controls at the bottom.

Looks galore

The presets browser uses the current timeline image for each displayed look. Each time you move through the FX Editor timeline and stop on a frame, the preset thumbnails will be updated to the same frame as in the viewer. There are tons of variations from which to select. Once you find a look that you like, click Apply to close FX Editor. Now your FCP timeline clip is updated with that look. But it’s also easy to customize the look either by adjusting the preset or starting from scratch.

The BCC+ Looks filter is a full-featured color correction tool built around seven tabbed parameter layers within the plug-in. Processing is applied in this order, much like nodes in Resolve or layers in Lightroom: [primary] color correction, diffusion, color gradient, gels, [film] lab, grain, and post color correction. Each panel section uses slider controls, plus color pickers for gels and gradients. These parameters can be controlled in the FX Editor or directly from the FCP inspector pane without ever opening the FX Editor.

Let’s say you want a monochrome image with a color wash, diffusion, and some added film grain. If you used the native FCP tools instead of the BCC+ Looks plug-in, then this would require using several different effects in a stack. You still might not get results that look as good. Yet with Looks, it can all be done from a single pane straight from the inspector.

Although this filter is placed into the BCC Film Style category, it does not include any presets for specific Kodak or Fuji film stocks. You’d have to get the full Continuum FCP package to get those. However, there are some generic film emulation presets, like 8mm. If you open the lab tab, you do find options for bleach bypass and cross process settings. This, plus the grain tab, should be all you need to create some pleasing looks that emulate film. Quite frankly, I’ve worked with actual film in the past and most effects that claim to look like a specific brand of film stock never look right to me anyway.


Even though this is a free filter, it still includes a proper version of Mocha designed to work with these effects. Launch Mocha with the Mocha Mask button, which then opens the clip into the separate and familiar Mocha editor. Masking and planar tracking work the same as with all other versions. You might not use Mocha often with this filter, since you’re typically applying looks and color correction full screen. However, having Mocha at your disposal does make it easy to isolate portions of the image if you want to apply a look only to a region, such as a person’s face.

In closing, remember that BCC+ Looks is designed for stylized treatment of the image. It doesn’t include some of the other bells-and-whistles of the Continuum plug-in set, like gobos, glitch and damage effects, lighting, transitions, or titles. You can certainly buy the whole package and add those effects later if you find the need. But if not, BCC+ Looks is a great way to get your feet wet with Continuum and Mocha. Did I say it’s free?

©2022 Oliver Peters

Analogue Wayback, Ep. 12

The smoke was so thick…

One of the many things that’s changed for the better is that smoking is no longer common nor even allowed within most video facilities and recording studios. Watch any of the documentaries about legendary music studios or more recently Peter Jackson’s “Get Back” and it will strike you how prevalent smoking was – even around sensitive gear.

When I joined Century III, our first facility (prior to Universal Studios) was the former Bee Jay Recording Studios, which had its own classic rock history. We remodeled most of the building, but left some of the original studio control rooms intact, including all of the smaller B Studio. One of the essential tasks was to clean the windows, whose double-pane glass was quite hazy. Carefully removing them revealed years of nicotine build-up on the inside from cigarette (and other?) smoke that had seeped in through the wooden walls. You can only imagine that any delicate electronics and even patch bays suffered from the same fate.

Most of our clients weren’t heavy smokers or at least had the courtesy to step outside for a smoke break. However, smoking was still not verboten at that time and we endeavored to accommodate clients in any reasonable manner. The online edit suites at our brand new Universal facility were larger and designed to handle plenty of clients in a session. The suites include a raised platform for a producer’s desk and behind that, a large sofa and arm chair. That was the scene for one of our more uncomfortable sessions.

The booked session was for a large corporate presentation involving a short turnaround with some long nights. It was supervised by an older producer, who was a heavy smoker, and his younger associate producer. One of the other editors started out the session, but after the first day the client complained that the editor was too slow. So I pulled the short straw and continued the session in his place.

If this wasn’t the session from hell, then it was close. First of all, the senior producer spent much of the session making demeaning comments about various people. You know it will be over soon, so you just buckle down to get through it. As we worked later into the evening, he simply fell asleep during the session. Then, it was mainly the associate producer and myself – finally we could make progress.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the senior producer was a heavy smoker. He was planted in the arm chair the entire time with an ash tray resting on the arm. As he smoked, he would flick ashes from the cigarette in the general direction of the tray, missing it most of the time. Therefore, on the carpet around the chair leg was a rather large circle of cigarette ash. Although the suites were large with tall ceilings, the smoke simply accumulated. There was quite literally a fog in the room. If you looked from the hallway door across the room towards the window into the machine room, the view was pretty hazy.

Fortunately we got through the session and thankfully never saw them again. I know my colleague wasn’t and isn’t a slow editor, so I didn’t think their criticism was ever justified. But I’ve often joked to him that he must have been purposefully going slow just to get away from this awful client!

©2022 Oliver Peters

Analogue Wayback, Ep. 11

Bumping your capstan.

I started out editing in an era of wrestling edits out of quad VTRs, so I tend to have less concern when there’s an issue with some plug-in. Not that it can’t be a problem, but it’s just one more indication of how far the industry has come.

In the 70s and 80s, the minimum configuration of an online edit bay involved three VTRs, a switcher, audio mixer, and the edit controller. Two VTRs were for playback and the third was what you edited onto. You needed both players to make a dissolve. If there was only one camera reel, then before starting the session, the editor would often make a complete copy (dub) of that camera reel. Once copied, you now had the A-Roll (camera original) and a B-Roll Dub to work from. You could roll A and B together and make a dissolve in a single pass, laying down clip 1 and clip 2 with the dissolve in-between. If it was a series of dissolves, then this required matched-frame edits in order to dissolve from the end of clip 2 to clip 3, then the same from clip 3 to clip 4, and so on.

To be completely seamless, the matched-frame edits had to be perfect. There’s the rub. In simple terms, NTSC and PAL are systems where the color signal rides on top of the black-and-white signal. This involves a colorburst signal and a sync pulse. NTSC follows a cadence of 4 fields (2 interlaced frames) in which the phase of the signal repeats every other frame. This cadence is known as the color frame sequence. When you play back a recording and the VTR first achieves servo-lock, it can lock up usually in one of two phase conditions as it syncs with the house sync generator. This slightly affects the horizontal position of the picture. 

If you record clip 1 and the VTR locks in one horizontal position, then when you make the matched-frame edit onto the end of clip 1, the VTR has to lock up again in that same position. If not, then there will be a slight, but noticeable, horizontal shift at the edit point. It’s a 50/50 probability of where the deck locks up. Some of the Ampex decks featured a bit more control, but the RCA TR-600 models that we were using tended to be sloppier. If you got an H-shift at the edit, you simply repeated the edit (sometimes several times) until it was right.

The facility hired a sharp young chief engineer who took it upon himself to create a viable workaround, since RCA was never going to fix it. His first step was to add an LED onto the front of one of the circuit boards as an indicator. This was visible to the editor when the VTR panels were open. This indicator could be monitored through the glass that separated the edit suite from the VTRs. Polarity condition 1, LED on. Condition 2, LED off. His next step was to add a remote switch for each player VTR next to the edit console. The editor could trigger it to “bump” the capstan control. This would cause the VTR to unlock and quickly relock its playback.

If the LED was on when recording the first part of the clip, then on the second edit the VTR would need to lock with the LED on, as well. If so, you’d achieve a successful matched-flame edit without any H-shift. Quad VTRs would lock up in anywhere from under one up to ten seconds or longer. The editor would monitor the LED status and could control the preroll length, which was generally five seconds for the TR-600s. During a matched-frame edit, if the condition was wrong, hit the switch and hope that the deck would lock up correctly before the end of the preroll. Otherwise lengthen the preroll time. This process worked better than expected and quickly became second nature.

At the risk of moving into the “kids, get off my lawn” territory, young editors clearly don’t know the fun they are missing with today’s modern nonlinear edit systems!

©2022 Oliver Peters Brings FiLMiC Pro to the Cloud

It’s not news that has been pioneering camera-to-cloud (C2C) workflows. However, one of the newsworthy integrations announced last week was the addition C2C capabilities for iPhone and Android users with the Filmic Pro camera application. The update already popped up in your Filmic Pro settings if you’ve kept the app current. Frame’s C2C feature requires Filmic’s Cinematographer Kit (an in-app purchase), and a Pro or Adobe Creative Cloud account.

Professional filming with iPhones has become common in many market sectors for both primary and secondary videography. The Filmic Pro/C2C workflow can prove worthwhile when fast turnaround and remote access become factors in your production.

Understanding the Filmic Pro C2C integration

Filmic Pro’s C2C integration is a little different than Frame’s other camera-to-cloud workflows, which are tied to Teradek devices. In those situations, the live video stream from the camera is simultaneously encoded into a low-res proxy file by the Teradek device. High-res OCF (original camera files) media is stored on the camera card and the proxies on the Teradek. The proxies are uploaded to Frame. There is some latency in triggering the proxy generation, so start and end times do not match perfectly between the OCF media and the proxies. Accurate relinks between file versions are made possible by common timecode.

An Android phone or iPhone does not require any extra hardware to handle the proxy creation or uploading. Filmic Pro encodes the proxy file after the recording is stopped, not simultaneously. Both high and low-res files are stored on the phone within Filmic’s clip library and have identical lengths and start/stop times. Filmic Pro won’t add a timecode track in this mode, so all files start from zero, albeit with unique file names. If you are shooting with multiple iPhones or double-system sound, then be sure to slate the clips so the editor can sync the files.

Testing the workflow

I have an iPhone SE and the software, so it was time to run some workflow tests in a hypothetical scenario. Here’s the premise – three members of the production team (in reality, me, of course), all located in different cities. The videographer is on site. The producer is in another city and he’s going to turn around a quick cut for story content. The editor is in yet a third location and he’ll conform the high-res camera files, add effects, graphics, color correction, and finish the mix to deliver the final product.

Click here to read the rest of the article at Pro Video Coalition

Click here for a more in-depth article about mobile filmmaking with FiLMiC Pro

©2022 Oliver Peters