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. If you want to hear what several industry pros thought of as the highlights of the show, check out our local Orlando Post Pros user group meeting, produced by Adrenaline Films and sponsored by Blackmagic Design.df2216_05

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

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

Photo Phun 2015

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It’s holiday time again and a chance to take a break from serious talk about editing and the tools – sort of. I’ve done a version of this post for a few years. Usually I take a series of my photos and run them through Photoshop, Lightroom, or one of the other photography applications to create stylized treatments. This year, I figured, why not try it with Final Cut Pro X?

These images have all been processed in a custom FCP X timeline set to 2000 x 1500 pixels. I’ve used a wide range of filters, including some from the FxFactory partner family, Koji, the built-in FCP X effects, as well as my own Motion templates published over from Motion. Enjoy these as we go into the holiday season. See you in the new year!

Click any image to see a slideshow of these photos.

©2015 Oliver Peters

Metrics

With the rollover to another year, it’s fun to take time to assess what sort of response this blog is having. I have heard from many of you who find it a useful resource, which is always good to know. So I thought I’d share some numbers with my readers.

I started this blog in March 2008 with two objectives: 1) to have a place to park some of my trade publication writings – so they have some additional exposure, and b) to add some thoughts, tips and ideas that might not otherwise find their way into an official industry trade magazine. To that aim, I’ve also included articles that I wrote prior to 2008, as they still have relevance today. It’s my way of giving back to an industry that I enjoy and in which I’ve had a level of success. Not counting this one, I’ve posted 355 articles to date. Over the years, the audience for this blog has grown. As of Christmas Day 2014, it’s had 3,160,605 total views. There are 805 regular followers. The best ever single day was May 27, 2014 with 30,957 views.

Like any publication, the interest that readers express – by the ongoing popularity of certain posts – says a lot about the readers themselves. For example, the top post has been 12 Tips for Better Film Editing (122,705 views). This has been followed by combinations of the various comparison stories (NLE, color correction software, etc.), DSLR stories, and color grading tips. Of the latter, the most popular has been Color Grading Effects Demystified (58,943 views). After that the FCP X Color Board Presets (30,016) and SpeedGrade Looks (26,123) posts have rounded out the top. Speaking of the presets and looks articles, these included free downloads. The FCP X color board presets have been downloaded 8,010 times, followed by the free SpeedGrade .look files at 5,893 downloads. Other downloads are also popular, including the film budgets (1,107) and a combination of the three edit suite design articles (over 1,000 combined).

I also post a number of links to pertinent content on Vimeo from time to time. Two links have stood on top. The first is the Yarra Valley Wine commercial, which was tied to my tips about using DLSRs in post. This remains a popular topic. Second most is the Blackmagic Cinema Camera grading study.

For those of you new to this blog, I would really encourage you to check out the Categories listed on the side. Click on any of these, like “tips and tricks” or “Final Cut Pro X” and you’ll see a summary of all the articles that I’ve written which relate. Some of my favorite stories are my interviews with top editors and filmmakers. These are fun reads where you can pick up tips from some of the best. Simply click on the “Film Stories” page at the top for a summary of these interviews.

Remember that if you landed on my blog, because the page was linked from another site, it may or may not be the most updated information I’ve written on that topic. So please check the other links within this blog to get the most recent information. Often my methodology evolves over time as the technology changes.

Now that we are in a new year, it’s time to get back at it.  Nose to the grindstone and all that stuff. Read on and drop me a line if you have questions or just to let me know how you find the blog. Thanks for reading!

©2015 Oliver Peters

Photo phun II

Time to come back with a look at photography – just for the fun of it. Earlier this year I talked about using Pixelmator as an alternative to Photoshop. When I work with photos, I prefer to use Lightroom, Aperture and/or Photoshop (in that order). For extra effects, a touch of Tiffen Dfx, DFT Film Stocks or Magic Bullet Looks also gives you more pizzazz. While Pixelmator is pretty “lite” compared with Photoshop, it still gives most casual photographers more than enough control to enhance their images. Since it is based on Apple’s Core Image technology, it can also serendipitously take advantage of some of the FxFactory effects plug-ins.

Below is a set of images processed strictly with Pixelmator. I did use some of the FxFactory filters just because they were there, but understand that most of these effects also have native equivalents within Pixelmator. So, FxFactory filters are not an essential part in using Pixelemator as your image processing application. Click on any image below for a slideshow.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! See you in the new year!

Simplicity

df_simplicityThe ongoing battle in all areas of the tech sector has focused on the conundrum of simplicity versus complexity. The central question being, whether or not a professional application needs to be complex by its very nature. We’ve seen this in the Final Cut Pro X arguments and we will see it again with the new Mac Pro. Clearly everything Apple has been doing for many years, is to enhance the user experience by hiding some of the complexity under the hood.

This recently has come home to me in several ways. First, when Apple launched Final Cut Pro X a little over two years ago, some of my acquaintances on the Pro Apps team made this comment in regard to the streamlining of user settings compared with FCP 7. They pointed out that they would no longer need to field those tech support calls from confused users. Although I’ve always found this versatility useful in FCP 7, I do recognize that what they were saying was quite true, as the myriad of user format options was overwhelming for nearly all beginning and casual users. By streamlining this, FCP X allows users to quickly dive in and start editing – with the added benefit of lower support costs for Apple.

I recently had my 2009 Mac Pro repaired at a local Apple Store. This took a longer-than-normal amount of time and towards the end, I was calling the Geniuses every other day to find out what the hold-up was. In those conversations, the tech on more than one occasion noted how complex the Mac Pro towers are and how long it takes to run the proper diagnostics in order to truly isolate and repair a hard-to-define issue. In the end, the repair was well done and they were more than fair. In fact, the final bill was so low that I’ve come to realize the Genius Bar service simply can’t be a profit center for Apple. It is, in fact, part of Apple’s holistic approach to the customer experience. From a corporate point-of-view, this means that pressure has to be on quick repair and lower operating costs. Under this concept, wholesale board swaps – even when it amounts to using a bazooka to kill an ant – are far cheaper than component-level electronics repair. With that philosophy, the design inherent in an iMac or new Mac Pro, is bound to yield rewards for Apple in the cost of operating its Genius Bar repair service.

Another variation of this is software. As part of the repair, certain components were replaced that tie into how software, like plug-ins, is serialized to a particular machine. In essence, my machine was now internally viewed by some of the licensing as a different computer. To clean up some of these issues – and to do an upgrade to Mavericks – I opted for a completely clean installation of the OS, coupled with re-installation of all applications and re-authorization of all necessary software and plug-ins. No migration. It’s the sort of thing that can do wonders for your machine’s performance, but it’s also something everyone avoids. This took two-and-a-half days. As I went through this process, the easiest part by far, was re-installation of any Apple application. Not only was this simple, thanks to the App Store, but some of the older apps that were installed from discs, were then subsequently upgraded to App Store versions. The second easiest was Adobe using Creative Cloud. Again, log-in and download the applications you want to use. Among the plug-ins, FxFactory (and their associated partners) was easy, because they, too, have adopted an App Store-style model.

If you look out at the greater world of computing, the macho-tech experience of dealing with towers, peripherals, add-ons and more is waning for all but the most complex set-ups. Naturally, if you are going from a large investment in these add-ons to a new Mac Pro with Thunderbolt, you are going to need to buy some adapters, docks, etc. to see you through the interim transition. But look around you. The reliance on such peripherals is the exception and not the rule. Most users are on laptops. If they have a tower, it’s probably not much more that the stock set-up. Mac users have migrated to all-in-one iMacs. Tablets are everywhere. I almost never take my laptop on the road anymore, unless I need it for actual production. My iPad is more than adequate. All of this means that for the vast majority of users – including pros with demanding requirements – the hardware is fading into the background, because simpler solutions are powerful enough to get the job done.

My dad used to repair TVs. He worked through an era when component-level troubleshooting gave way to circuit board/module swaps. While the pieces might have been more expensive, the cost in labor was less for complex problems. Fast forward to today and there probably isn’t a single flat panel that we buy, which has much if any ability to be repaired. Computers are following that same path and so is software.

This will scare many. I used to write simple autoexec.bat files in the DOS days. These let me create a menu page with a table of contents for the applications I used. Typing in the number of the application from that list would launch the software and when done, would exit back to this menu page. I certainly have no need, nor interest in doing that with any modern OS. It was a skill set based on the needs of a cruder technology, but is now as obsolete as setting up a 2” Quad VTR. Tinkering with your computer or software falls into the same realm as shade-tree auto repair. You can do it on a ’57 Chevy, but you certainly can’t do it on any modern automobile. To some this may have seemed like fun. To me, I’d rather get on about with the business of using the software/hardware to achieve results.

©2013 Oliver Peters

 

Southeast Creative Summit

df_summitJust a quick reminder that the Southeast Creative Summit is just around the corner.  I’ll be involved as part of the upcoming Southeast Creative Summit in Atlanta, October 25-27. It’s a jam-packed agenda put together by the good folks at the Atlanta Cutters Post Production User Group. This will be a solid weekend of workshops, sessions and presentations, complete with Saturday nights’ Atlanta Creative Ball social event. All located at the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel. The workshops cover a wide range of topics, including editing, color correction, sound design and the business of post production.

Click here for more details and event registration.

I hope to see you there. Cheers!

©2013 Oliver Peters