Sunday, January 30, 2011

ACE survey: Final Cut's slice growing

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All Rights Reserved

Daily Variety, January 19, 2011

ACE survey: Final Cut's slice growing

Since 2004, Harry B. Miller III has conducted an informal annual survey of his colleagues in the American Cinema Editors to determine what equipment and technology they use in the editing room, the camera original and delivery format of editors' projects and how they're finished.
While the results of 2009-10's 130-respondent survey are not yet complete, they presently show Apple's Final Cut growing steadily from around 12% use in 2004 to about 20%, and Avid Technology platforms holding steady, with the Avid DX Mojo now dominant in concert with 24P HD origination.
"The trend is that Avid has 80% of the offline editor market," commented Miller, a member of the ACE board of directors. "That has held with some fluctuation." Miller added that Final Cut's growing market share is not all at the expense of Avid. "Other systems have disappeared, such as Lightworks. There was a year when only Thelma Schoonmaker was using it."
Perhaps because of Avid's saturated installed base, however, Final Cut is leading Avid in new-seat sales, 49.8% to 19.3%, according to SCRI's April survey of broadcast and post houses.
"Avid had a solid product line in the 1990s and early 2000s. Then they introduced the hardware called Adrenaline," Miller recalled. "That took market share from older systems, but it was a technology disaster. It was unstable, and it did not provide substantial benefits in video quality or performance."
By 2007, however, several editors, such as Jabez Olson ("King Kong"), Bill DeRonde ("American Idol") and Paul Crowder ("Riding Giants"), were giving Adrenaline high marks.
Miller argued that Avid's acceptance can be attributed not only to Avid's Final Cut-pressured price drop but also to "a substantial management and technology change where the management is more responsive to editors." Plus, he added, Avid put out a software-only version and a much better HD system.
Final Cut has risen, Miller contended, because of its use by prestigious editors such as Walter Murch; companies such as Universal Studios "developing their own workflow where they can online edit in Final Cut Pro"; and an endless search for cheaper post, though he pointed out that the price difference is now negligible. Significantly, the survey shows editors making the call on editing platforms less often, with producers, directors, studios and others calling the shots more.
As a working editor (recently on "Caprica"), Miller is firmly in the pro-Avid camp. "Final Cut has shown no improvement in years. I'm reaching the conclusion that (Apple) is a company that wants to make iPhones and iPads."
January 19, 2011

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Looks like Apple are abandoning the FCP ship

Looks like Apple are abandoning the FCP ship: "It is rumoured that it’s not only Steve Jobbs that’s sick but Apple as a company are looking at abandoning Xsan and Final Cut Server, this will be a substantial blow to Final Cut Users as most pro houses including the BBC use Xserve in a daily basis. THE STORY as reported by MAC RUMOURS [...]"

Monday, January 10, 2011

Move Projects from FCP to AE Seamlessly (and Free!)

Move Projects from FCP to AE Seamlessly (and Free!):
November 8, 2010

by Richard Harrington, Final Cut Help


I am always on the lookout for things that can make my life easier… sleep in a can, comfortable shoes, great software.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Consumer Camcorders Proliferate in Stereo at CES

Consumer Camcorders Proliferate in Stereo at CES: "

JVC's GS-TD1 Stereo Camcorder

News reports from the Consumer Electronics Show indicate that 3D is a big topic of discussion this year, although sales of 3D TV sets are disappointing. What is getting the attention in 3D? 3D cameras, of course. Sony, Panasonic, and JVC all showed consumer-friendly 3D cameras at the show.

Panasonic went the route of creating an optional “3D Conversion Lens,” the CW-CLT1, that turns two different 1080/60p camcorders into stereo 3D units. While Panasonic’s cameras still have a single imager to capture the stereo content, JVC touted its GS-TD1, which has two 3.32 megapixel CMOS sensors built in, capturing both right-eye and left-eye images at 1080i in something JVC calls “LR Independent Format.” No word on whether that new format complicates working with the files later — the bundled Everio MediaBrowser software for Windows will apparently automate sharing the videos via YouTube’s 3D player — but the camcorder also shoots in the more common, reduced-resolution side-by-side 3D format. The 3.5-inch LCD touch panel offers glasses-free stereo playback.

Sony has a similar model, the HDR-TD10, with double CMOS image sensors, a 3.5-inch glasses-free 3D touch screen, and 64 GB of flash memory. (In fact, it looks like the official announcement of Sony’s camera beat JVC to the punch by one day.)

JVC’s GS-TD1 ships in March and will cost $1999.95, and Sony’s HDR-TD10 will ship in April for “about $1500.” Panasonic was stingy with that kind of detail, saying in a press release that “pricing and availability [of the new cameras] will be announced 30 days prior to shipping date.”

But the coolest 3D camera at the show may be the Sony Bloggie MHS-FS3, billed as “the world’s first HD 3D pocket camera.” Packing 8 GB of on-board memory, the MHS-FS3 will ship in April for “about $250.” It has two lenses and two sensors, and content can be played back on the camera’s glasses-free 2.4-inch LCD screen.

Only time will tell whether any of these cameras produce good enough images for use by pros as 3D crash cams, but don’t rule them out.

The other super-hot consumer 3D product is the forthcoming Nintendo 3DS, a handheld stereo-3D gaming system that was reportedly being shown off the show floor. Taking into account the voluminous CES hype related to 4G data networks, it looks like CES this year is all about small-screen experiences, rather than big-screen TVs. Hollywood studios seemed to acknowledge as much with the announcement that a coalition of studios — Disney being the most notably absent — had lined up behind UltraViolet, a new system designed to allow consumers to watch movies they purchase on multiple platforms, including PCs, videogame consoles, and phones. (Well, we’ll see how that works out.)

Still, there may be another interesting inversion going on with digital media. Just as the portability of MP3 players dumped the music industry’s expensive new high-res formats (DVD-Audio and SACD) into the dustbin of history, 3D on the go may be a more compelling technology than 3D in the living room. That’s because glasses-free 3D is much more practical on small screens than large. Will the iPhone 5, or something like it, become the first blockbuster consumer platform for 3D stereo?


Monday, January 3, 2011

The DSLR Filmmaker’s Workflow

DSLR video has changed the industry. Over the past year, our photographic sensibilities have propelled the moving image-opening the door to a new realm of storytelling possibilities. For photographers, the form factor is comfortable and familiar. The lens selection? A dream come true. Custom color pallets, high ISO capture, all with a professional esthetic rivaling the production values of major Hollywood productions-how could this not be industry changing? Life changing, even?

Reviewing the rushes from my first outing with the Canon 5D Mark II, I almost lost my mind. The depth of field separations, lowlight performance, and 1080p quality were outstanding. The footage was easy to shoot. It was easy to drag and drop onto my computer. It was easy to play back in QuickTime Player. Then I loaded my footage into Final Cut Pro, assuming that post-production would be easy, as well.

This was the part where I really did lose my mind: editing the 5D II footage was a total nightmare. While things looked pretty good on the timeline, I couldn’t get the precise cuts that I wanted. Some chops were off by as many as five frames. Adding basic transitions, simple text–any small change–required rendering. Exporting dailies to DVD resulted in playback with dropped frames, digital artifacts, and the occasional Hulk-mad green screen. Here I was with a load of beautiful footage and no way to efficiently edit it.

The problem with DSLR video is file compression. The most popular cameras out there use web-friendly formats. For shooting and sharing, this would be great, but web-friendly isn’t always edit-friendly. Canon’s 5D Mark II, 7D, 1D Mark IV, and Rebel T1i use QuickTime H.264 compression. This is the same compression method employed for most of the movie trailers we view online. Nikon cameras like the D3S, D90, and D5000 use AVI (Motion JPEG) compression. Pentax bodies like the K-7 and K-x utilize the same thing. Used within most nonlinear editing systems, these files are all terrible.

This article was written to help anyone that’s been there. I feel your pain. It took me a while to find the workflow that fit my editing style. Today I’m sharing my findings. There are many ways to arrive at your destination. This article is a great place to get started. In the coming months, there will be other techniques, strategies, and software available to simplify your life. Until then, let’s talk workflow. Quick note: I’m a Final Cut Studio user. If you’re on another NLE, skip down to Transcoding with Freeware.

Transcoding with Compressor

Before you begin, it’s best to organize your media files for efficiency. Create a file folder for your video footage. As a best practice, keep the folder limited to video files-no pics, thumbnails, or reference stuff. Video only.

Transcoding is a process that changes one file type into another. Using Compressor, a piece of high-quality conversion software included in Final Cut Studio, we’re going to transcode our DSLR video footage into something a bit more edit-friendly. Final Cut Pro plays well with almost all of the major video formats out there. In theory, we could transcode our footage into any one of these formats. But for maximum flexibility, I’d recommend using one of Apple’s ProRes offerings. Why ProRes? It doesn’t require rendering on the timeline, and if your project incorporates footage from other HD or SD cameras (non-DSLRs), everything still works well. For most users, ProRes 422HQ, 422, or 422LT should do the trick.

Launch Compressor. In the Settings window, you’ll find a range of ProRes options under Apple->Formats->QuickTime. Select any of the ProRes 422 settings. ProRes 422HQ offers the highest quality, but can get a bit heavy in terms of file size. If you’re working on a special effects project with loads of composites and motion graphics, consider ProRes with Alpha (ProRes 4444).

If you plan to work with DSLR video often, make your ProRes selection and click the Duplicate Selected Setting button (the third button from the left at the top of the Settings window). This copies your favorite ProRes flavor into the Custom Settings folder.

Double-click your ProRes setting. This opens up a small Inspector window. Click the Encoder button (second button from the left at the top of the window). Under Video: Settings, you can alter the frame rate to your liking. I recommend keeping this on “Current.” It’s best to do your initial edit in your DSLR’s native frame rate. Only alter these settings if your project requires you to do so.

In the Settings window, you should also see a tab labeled Destinations. Click this to specify where you want your transcoded material to be recorded. There are some prescribed options in the menu, but you can choose your own by clicking the “+” icon at the top right of the window.

An untitled project window should be open above the Settings and Inspector slugs. If not, use Command+N to create a new one. Click Add File at the top left of the window. A navigation finder will open up. Use this to locate your video content.

This is where it helps to have some patience. If you’re using a Core 2 Duo processor, you really don’t want to select more than 10 files at a time. Transcoding with Compressor is a bit taxing on the system, and if you overload it, it tends to crash. Quad Core users or editors who are working with a cluster of machines can work with a greater quantities of clips. The more powerful your machine or network of machines, the better luck you’ll have with larger batches.

Select all the clips in the untitled window with Command+A. Drag your ProRes selection from the Settings window over the selected clips. Choose the destination for your transcoded footage from the Tool Bar (Target->Destination). Click Submit at the bottom right of the window.

An option to name your project will appear. This auto-populates with the name of your first clip. Change this over to your project name, make sure that Priority is set to High, and click Submit.

Depending on the amount of footage that you’ve queued, the transcoding process could take minutes or hours. When the process is finished, you should be able to drag and drop your highly stable ProRes footage directly into Final Cut Pro.

Transcoding with Freeware

I love freeware. By definition, it’s free and often provides services that pay-software companies haven’t addressed yet. This is especially true with transcoding. Whether you’re on a Mac or a PC, MPEG Streamclip from Squared 5 is a fast and efficient way to change your footage over to a more stable format.

Install and launch MPEG Streamclip. From the Tool Bar, select List->Batch List and select the video files that you want to transcode. You’ll need to drag these into the Batch List window. Unlike Compressor, the software holds up pretty well under a bulky queue of clips. Keep the number of your selections conservative, though-the larger your queue, the more likely a crash.

Since most NLEs are compatible with QuickTime, select Export to QuickTime from the pop-up dialogue box. From here, you’ll choose a destination for the converted footage in the “Select the Destination Folder” window. Click Select. From here, an options window opens with all of the available QuickTime codecs on your system. Since your DSLR captures in HD, I’d recommend using an HD codec. If you’re on a Mac, choose a ProRes flavor. PC folks can use a DVCPRO HD setting or any HD QuickTime variant they prefer.

Pull the Quality slider to 100%. Click the radio box to turn Interlaced Scaling off. All current DSLRs capture HD progressively, so there’s no sense in scaling your footage.

Click To Batch. A new window will open. Click Go. The transcoding process can take a while. However, MPEG Streamclip is significantly faster than Compressor.

Does the speed boost make the freeware better? Well, yes and no. If speed is the name of the game, use MPEG Streamclip. It’s fast and relatively stable. If you’re on a Mac and want a higher quality file, use Compressor. Shadow detail is significantly cleaner and the overall image has fewer artifacts.

Whichever way you choose to roll, your transcoded footage will now play nice on with your NLE. It’s good to experiment with both approaches. There’s no right or wrong here.

Summing It Up

DSLR filmmaking is probably the fastest growing segment of the moving image market. This transcoding tutorial is just a starting place for those of you that want to work with your footage in the editing room. As I said earlier, new workflows and software products are already on the way. Stay tuned! Stay sharp! Can’t wait to see you and your film on the festival circuit!

David Flores is a photographer and filmmaker based in New York City. He is a member of the B&H Creative Content Team. His latest film, Blue King, is set to debut in 2010 at the Derby City Film Festival.