Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Return to Assateague

The sand stretches out in front of me.  The waves roll their monotonous song against the shore.  Elizabeth is walking along the wet sand, watching for shells and rocks and little crabs.  Occasionally she pockets something extra - special, an adopted souvenir that will live out its days as potpourri on our bathroom sink.  
Mom turns to look at me.  We’re seated higher, on the dry sand above the tide line.  There are still some people around; tourists catching a few last waves before darkness falls.  
“I’ve been looking for this place,” she says.  
“What, Assateague?” I ask.  
“No,” she replies and I understand her meaning immediately.  
There’s nothing like an east coast beach.  Hot sun, hot sand, cold water.  Boardwalks that span miles, hundreds of shops with identical merchandise, menus of crabs and clams and shrimp.  
I’ve been coming here since I was a kid, young enough to believe my life jacket gave me magical power.  It’s not home.  It’s a sanctuary, a place where I can reorganize the jumble of thoughts in my mind.  
I’ve needed this too.



Due to the recent backlash against FCP, I cut this entire video on Premiere.  We’re still not best friends, Premiere and I, but we are slowly gaining each other’s trust.  I’m curious to see what CS5.5 brings into the mix, and if there are substantial speed increases.

My biggest complaint about Premiere is that it’s just a little too slow.  Final Cut and I move (to use a cliche) “at the speed of my thoughts”.  Premiere and I move “at the speed of my thoughts, plus one second of processing time”.  It gets irritating.  
Color grading and funness was added in After Effects.  This was my first time working with audio in AE that actually needed to be synced perfectly.  As a result, syncing became the most time - consuming part of the whole process.  Let me tell you why.
I had tons of syncing issues.  Literally days of syncing issues.  Normally, I resync my masters in FCP, then export a reference movie to compressor to create the online.  However, I wanted to use an entirely Adobe workflow, so that cut out the “resync in FCP” step.  Instead, I was resyncing in AE, using the TIFF master and the AIFF master (exported from Premiere).
Here’s the issue, the one it took me days to resolve.  Crack open a new Premiere project.  Set it to be the 1080p or 720p DLSR preset.  What’s the bitrate of your audio?  
48kHz?  
Great.  Now open up Quicktime and import an .mp3 you like.  Maybe a track from my buddy J Farell.  Good choice.  
Export that mp3 as an AIFF.  What’s your default bitrate for export?
44.1kHz?  Son of a...
Simple, elementary bitrate matching step that I should have caught.  But I didn’t.  And it took forever to figure out what the hell I was doing wrong.  I present it here in the hope that I’ll spare you from the same headache.  
There’s a ton of media associated with this trip.  Check it out on it’s respective sites:
flickr
vimeo


And, as always, feel free to ask any questions that you like.  



Saturday, July 2, 2011

This Is Not About Final Cut Pro X

I’m not going to jump on the bandwagon and write a blog post about FCPX.  
I’m not going to do it.
I’m not.
Crap, I am, aren’t I?
Fine.  You win.

You win this round.  But the war still rages!
I first sat down with Final Cut Pro in 2001.  I was in my school’s visual broadcasting program at the time, and they upgraded their tape - to - tape editing suite to a Quicksilver Power Mac G4 and FCP 2.5.  

I hated it.  Coming from an iMovie background, Final Cut was hard to use and incomprehensible.  I followed some of the included tutorials, but they were way out of my league.  For most of the year, I ignored it.  
Next year, in a new program with a new teacher, I dove headfirst into the program.  I learned straight from the manual this time, teaching myself page by page.  By the end of the year, I had purchased a copy for myself.  I loved it.  For the past ten years, Final Cut has been my reason to own a Mac.
There’s been a huge backlash to Final Cut X.  I’m not going to get into the specifics here, because it’s been so well outlined in other posts.  I mean, just reading the comments in the App Store is...well, an adventure.  
Ron Dawson has a very interesting post on the new program.  You should really read it (because it’s well thought out and executed) but in a nutshell, he believes that Apple is targeting photographers with FCPX.  Since all these new fangled DSLR’s do a pretty good job at video, they’re assuming that photogs will be eager to try their hand at some non - linear editing of their own.  
And I think he’s right.  Spot on.  
But his post got me thinking about DSLR’s in general.  I’d like to draw some comparisons if I may, and you can tag along if you want.  
Let’s say FCPX is like my Canon 7D.  For a photographer, it’s a great option.  For a filmmaker, it’s sorely lacking some critical features, like stabilization, follow focus, a viewfinder, XLR inputs etc.  Luckily, other companies make solutions for these products.  In some cases, they do a better job than Canon themselves would.  
Take Zacuto.  Want a viewfinder adapter?  You’re almost certainly going to buy a Z - Finder.  Could Canon or Nikon make a similar product?  Sure.  Would it be as good?  Probably not, because they’re a camera company, not a camera accessories company.  
I think the same holds true with FCPX.  We’re doing it already.  Want powerful color correcting software?  You’re probably using Colorista.  Think of the filmmakers you know who denoise with Neat Video or Magic Bullet DeNoiser or sync tracks with PluralEyes.  We buy add ons to make the software do what we want, the way we want.  
That’s the way I see the new Final Cut.  It’s like the body of a camera.  You can build on it, customize it, and make it your personal editing machine.  Granted, this won’t happen until the developers can get their hands dirty in it, but when they can, we’ll be seeing an impressive editing platform that is designed to edit just like you.  

Pictured: Final Cut Pro X
The reality of the lower price point of FCPX is this: it’s cheaper because it has less features.  And you’ll need to spend more to add on those features.  So now it’s up to you: Do you buy an editing suite that has all the features you use and more that you don’t right out of the box (I’m looking at you Premiere)?  Or do you buy a bare bones - customizable suite and add only what you need and use?  
Decisions, decisions...