Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Future of NLEs

Hmmm...what should I cut out today?  My social life? 
Poor guy.  He stands there oblivious to the wonders that lie just around the bend.  Technicolor.  Chroma keying.  (The 1st generation of) 3D.  Of course, he'll never know the joys of corrupt files and flamethrower errors either.

Yesterday I checked out a symposium held in San Francisco sponsored by Apple and presented by Keycode Media called The Future of NLEs.  As much as we editors love to speculate about our profession you wonder why this this topic is not an ongoing series.

Needles to say the event was packed.  The panel discussion was hosted by Keycode's post expert Michael Kammes and included key personnel from the Bay Area fixtures Beyond Pix Studios, Hoff Productions and a representative from Avid.  But the most noteworthy panel member was Hollywood editor Steven Cohen.  Through his blog Splice Now, his heavily lauded book Avid Agility and the work he's done for years at AFI and MPEG, Cohen has been at the forefront of post-production education.  But before they could talk about the future of NLEs, they had to talk about the present.

It's not pretty.

With our rapidly expanding role in post-production coinciding with a rapid deflating of timelines, budgets and consequently - pay, many of us are at our wits end.  It was reassuring, if not a little dispiriting to hear Steven talk about facing the same challenges even at the highest rung.  He says they "just prepped a show and spent the better part of a month trying to figure out how we were going to cut it".  He feels that more and more responsibility is falling on the editor and that "the job of an editor is to become more of a generalist".  Tony Welch, the creative services director at Beyond Pix agreed and bemoaned the decline in broadcast standards.  "Most clients don't know or don't care what we're shooting on or how we're delivering it".

But it wasn't all bleak.

Jim Duvardo, the chief engineer at Hoff Productions talked about their innovative solution for continual post education.  He explained how they pair up experienced producers with inexperienced editors and vice-versa.  This probably requires a lot of patience in the short run but will assuredly pay off in the long run.

Casey Richards, the Avid rep. acknowledged his company's past missteps and was respectful towards his rivals who many agree have made Avid better.  He talked about the new version of Media Composer that was released this week and Avid's increasingly open platform.

So what were the big speculations for the future?

The usual.  Editing from The Cloud.  Improved stereoscopic (3D) editing.  Heck, even holographic video was mentioned.  In the end none of that really mattered.  Most of the Q&A involved the countless present day workflow challenges.  It all goes back to continually sharpening the sword.  Steven's simple and concise explanation of the difference between long GOP vs I-frame was something I want to see more of - key concepts explained in an open forum.  Knowing keyboard shortcuts may be essential but knowing the fundamentals is absolutely critical.

So what do you think is the future of NLEs?

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Killer App for Post in 2011: The Cloud

To The Cloud!
As sure as rain and random as computer errors, we'll soon be getting bold predictions for NAB this year.  Some of them will be coy teasers.  Some of them will be completely speculative.  Regardless of what happens, you will undoubtedly be disappointed that your dream update/product/service/merger didn't happen - again.  That's okay because there's one thing that continues to get better.  The Cloud.

Google's ultra-fast broadband network ambitions
You know, the thing that you are relying on more and more for downloading, uploading and even encoding.  The feds promise "to deploy the next generation of high-speed wireless coverage to 98 percent of all Americans" in the next 5 years.  Uh, ok, that's great you think but how does that help me today?  Well, it acknowledges how inadequate our network infrastructure is and it helps keep the dialogue flowing on efforts to improve it.  This will hopefully create more demand from consumers for faster, more reliable and hopefully cheaper internet connections.  This allows smart-people-containing-companies like Google to work on potential solutions that will get us rip-roaring speeds sooner than 5 (achingly long dial-up modem) years.

Air Display for iPad
More attention being given to the cloud is great news because we are relying more and more on virtualization.  You may not use the web based compression site that I mentioned earlier but I'm sure you use a host of other web services.  Almost every editor I know uses You Send It, Vimeo or DropBox - regularly.  More and more clients and producers are realizing the power of collaborative, synchronized document services like Google Docs, Zoho, Office Live and Evernote.  Mmmm...Evernote.

But what's really interesting is how editors are starting to leverage these new media tools to create workflow hacks they could have only dreamed of a few years ago.  And when you throw iPhones and iPads into the mix, things really get crazy.  We're constantly reading about post-production apps for iOS devices like PhotoShop Express, AJA DataCalc and Cut Notes.  But not enough attention is given to the creative workarounds.  Some hacks are obvious like the app Air Display I recently wrote about that extends your desktop onto the iPad/iPhone.  A not so obvious hack would be to take screenshots of hard to remember menu settings and put them on flickr, where they can be sorted, tagged and called up at a moments notice, anywhere.  This extends the functionality of iOS VNC apps like Screens and can be a lifesaver for remote troubleshooting.  And according to the research firm Gartner, more people will gain access to the Internet through mobile devices than with personal computers. (NY Times 1/31/11).  So imagine when these web-enabled devices become faster.  MC Siegler on This Week In Tech thinks there will be some interesting things that people will be able to do with video editing like, on the fly.   Even to non-editors the possibilities are obvious and endless.

How do you use The Cloud in post?  Leave a comment or hit me up on Twitter.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Infinite Desktop

Remember when we had dedicated Tektronix scopes?  Re-live the magic.
Well, maybe not yet but with Air Display by Avatron it's a step in that direction.  This iPhone and iPad app let's you extend your desktop over WiFi and as you can see, this is just the app that a lot of video editors have been waiting for.    It can really suck to edit on a laptop (even a 17") when you're used to editing on a couple of huge desktop monitors.  You feel cramped and crowded like you're trying to look out the window of the #23 bus during rush hour.  I'm glad I drive everywhere and I'm glad I bought this app - even though it's not quite ready for intensive pro media apps.  Sure, it's got quirky issues that you would expect from most version 1 releases but the promise may have a lot of people overlooking it's technical shortcomings.  Then again for $10 it's understandable to want to wait for the bug fixes.

The pros.   
 - More space for your canvas, toolbars, palettes, menus, etc...
 - Orientation in either landscape or portrait mode.
 - Touch-enabled
 - Wireless

Now my selfish laptop can have the After Effects canvas all to itself.
The Cons.
 - Huge battery drain.
-  Reduced image quality
-  Frame dropping
-  Reduced response time

Ok, so they won't be editing Avatar 2 on this but I could see editors of all stripes finding a reason to include this into their workflow.  In the very least it can give you another reason to justify buying a tablet.  And I can only hope when the more powerful iPad 2 arrives this spring coupled with the touch friendly OS X Lion this summer, we'll see a updated version of Air Display that will have us walking in the clouds.

Check out the more detailed review on Smoking Apples.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Year, New Vine

Sometimes inspiration comes from the unlikeliest of places. I was hours into a day long trek through the deep south when I stopped at a convenience store for some, well - conveniencing. Who knew they were giving away free blog post photos! I snapped this photo of the door to the walk-in cold-storage locker. I immediately understood what context it was written in and it made perfect sense. A double entendre that's part plea and part threat. A marriage between Hal 9000 and Deep Blue. A voice from the void. It also kinda humanizes the space. Poor fridge, I'll make sure no one takes advantage of your ample shelf space and unenforced content management system. And then it hit me (not the loosely mounted security camera) but the idea of turning Splice Vine into a place where editors can learn to get more organized so that they can keep their cool. Ok, actually I've had this idea for a long while and this spring after months of spirited paper-balling and pencil-snapping we will launch the re-branded site. We will will be tweeting updates and planning on going live right before NAB. If you don't already, make sure to follow us on Twitter and be on the lookout for our Facebook page. Until then, keep your projects hot, your fridges cold and your mind organized.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

 I found a great post on Recording audio with your video DSLR over on the Digital Photo Experience blog.  It's about time somebody put this out.  Even before I bought my Canon T2i I heard about how bad the audio was (so I guess that's why I never bothered trying to record any).   Maybe the 60D that's rumored to be released this fall will improve upon the situation. 

Other resources:

 - At they list the 5 best external audio recorders for DSLR filmmaking

 - The JL-DT454 preamp from JuicedLink.  It seems like it could work. 

- Of course the guys at Zacuto have figured out solutions to this problem and have created a video that shows you how to get Advanced Sound for DSLR's

- And once you get that audio into your NLE and you want to sync it up you;ll definitely want to use Dual Eyes by Singular Software.  It made its' debut at NAB this year and has been a hit ever since. 

Monday, July 5, 2010

Close Encounters of the Third-Party Kind

MediaMover FCP is here!  I didn't even know they were working on a version for Final Cut Pro.  The original version for Avid has been around for years and has been a God-send.  This tool will bring much needed order to the Lord of The Flies Final Cut Studio ecosystem.  I'm curious to see what workflows will emerge using this, Xsan and Final Cut Server.  Time will tell.
And bringing order to After Effects is Zorro the Layer Tagger.  Great name and even better function.  According to the creator Lord Alvarez:  Zorro makes selection and isolation sets easy and possible in after effects by adding  tags to layers. Similar to the way you would tag photos in Flickr, you can tag layers in your comps and then select or isolate those layers in groups by using the tags.  I can't believe I'm just now using this script - it's been around for a while.  Be sure to check out the other scripts on the site while you're there.

But why stop at tagging layers when you can even create your own effects to use on them.  At least in FCP.  Using FXScript you have the power built right into Final Cut Pro.  Ok, so this method is getting long in the tooth and most developers are using Quartz Composer nowadays - either way, real-time visual programming is here to rescue us from bad glows and page turns.

 But sometimes you just gotta spend the money for 
the sexy plug-ins and that's when you get Trapcode.  
You hopefully already own these peerless plug-ins but 
you may not know how to get all the magic out of them 
that is possible.  Not anymore.  Red Giant has recently 
- the developer of Trapcode.  You can stream them or download
but either way it will now be easier to shake the pixie dust out of
your fingers and on to the screen.

And Finally, Eran Stern of Creative Cow demonstrates how to create a jumpy and squishy animation using the power of expressions.  Like a wise clown the tutorial is both funny and enlightening.  It will put a swing in your step and your animations and possibly make you look 20 years younger.  And who knows, you might even get the courage to become an After Effects scripting/expressions guru by trying out all of the code over on Dan Ebbert's legendary site Motion Script

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Splice Vine Links #15


Everybody has been buzzing about the new phoenetic search tool introduced at NAB last month called Get.  It uses the art and science of phonetics to index your FCP project.  Even though it's still in beta and won't be out until July, it appears to be at least as accurate if not more so than the similar speech to text option in Adobe Premiere CS4. 


The CG channel has seen the future of magazine ads and it is interactive.  Will this translate to more jobs for content creators?  Time will tell but the wheels are in motion.  And increasingly it looks like more than just a distribution tool, the iPad can be used in production as well.  Editor Chris Fenwick explores how the iPad can be used as a camera monitor.  I've been waiting for this workflow since the iPad was first announced.

Next Generation

The new Light Peak technology that I wrote about back in December 2009 is making news again.  Recently, Intel gave a demo of the fiber optic technology at at an industry trade show in Brussels.  Light Peak promises at least 10Gbit/s in and out of computers and Intel's chief CTO "expects that number to increase dramatically over the next year with almost no limit to bandwidth potential".  It will supposedly be available to manufacturers by the end of 2010.  There's even speculation that it will overtake the soon to be new standard of USB 3.0 that is already shipping


Remember the days when you actually had to go to a classroom to learn the latest post software?  Well, there are still good reasons to get hands on training but there is an awful lot of augmenting you can do on your own nowadays.  Everybody knows (or should know) about Lynda, Macprovideo and even YouTube.  But there are also other great niche places to learn and stay current with new technology and it's often free.  PSD.tuts has just posted 50 Totally Free Lessons in Graphic Design.  This should be really helpful for video editors trying to transition into incorporating more motion graphics and visual effects.

Free Stuff

One of the things that I've started doing is compiling as many free design elements as I can find off of the web and placing them into my Drop Box folder.  That way no mater where facility I am at and what computer I am using (if it is connected to the internet) I will have a access to my creative files.  These are usually vector files, stock photos, fonts, icons - you name it,  I'll stockpile it.  What have I found lately?