Thursday, May 24, 2007

Soundtrack Pro 2.0

Last night at the LAFCPUG meeting in Hollywood, we were treated to an in-depth demonstration of Soundtrack Pro 2.0 by Steve Martin of Ripple Training and Jeremy Roush, the editor of Reign Over Me. They used Reign Over Me as the demonstration project for this. First off, a big thanks to these two guys for doing this. It was the most amazing presentation I have ever seen at a LAFCPUG meeting.

Now, on to the good stuff

The integration with FCP is seamless. Send the project to ST2 - Answer a couple of questions in a dialog and away it goes. Nice.

Editing in ST2 is non-destructive. Let me repeat that: Editing in ST2 is non-destructive. If you are experienced with the old ST or other DA applications, this is HUGE. My last edit was in a destructive application where you end up with a million trims and bins and all kinds of crap. No need for that here. When you have clips in the work region, you have access to all of the media. You can roll the ends of the clips out into their handles just as you can with clips in FCP.

Lift audio and retain synch: Wow - very slick. Like a ripple delete but it re-arranges the audio to maintain synch.

Fades: The one thing an editor is doing constantly. in ST2, you place the mouse cursor at the head or tail of a clip and you get a fade tool - just click and drag to create your fade in. Additionally, crossfades are REALLY slick - a nice graphical HUD using curves to represent the crossfades - Very intuitive.

Multipressor: Compressor on steroids. You can specify 4 band ranges for the compression in real time and adjust them on the fly. Annoying BG noise? Just sdjust your bands until it's minimized and apply it. The effect shows up on the left hand pane with a checkbox so that you can turn it on and off - again, non-destructive.

Delta Projects: You have locked picture and your mix is done and the producer comes in and informs you of picture changes. You get a new copy of the FCP project with the changes. Now you get to re-do all the sound for this...Well, still true in ST2 but now you have a tool to mitigate the pain. A project merge function will take the old project and the new project and create a new 3rd project that ST2 creates where it has tried to reconcile the differences.

It creates a report describing what changes it has made and what level of confidence it has in the integrity of the changes. You can then review these and accept or reject each change as you see fit.

Record your keyframe changes: Open up the mixer panel, play back your project and adjust levels in real time while ST2 records the changes as keyframes in the project.

Surround 5.1: Bring up the 5.1 HUD and grab the 'puck' in the center of the virtual surround field and drag it to pan the audio anywhere in the 360o field. Oh yeah - you can record the panning here as keyframes just like you did in the mixer. Play these back and watch the puck move just as you recorded it.

Sounds: ST2 now includes a BUNCH of 5.1 royalty free sound clips and loops.

Other then that, there was nothing new =)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Workin in a coal mine...

Hardware update

Well, a few things of note. We recently purchased a new Apple MacPro and it's amazingly, blindingly faster than the old Powerbook. Installing FCP on it was a bit of a challenge. We had to install version 4, then install the 5.1 crossgrade and finally delete some license file from the system and re-enter the serial number to get it up and running.

We bought the Blue-tooth upgrade for it and the Apple store just gave use the unit to install ourselves. It came with zero documentation so we had to do a bit of sleuthing to figure out where it went in the Mac. The antenna wire just does not want to attach to the BT board so the folks at the Apple store will have to take care of that for us.

One of the issues with getting this beast from the online Apple store is that the video card that we wanted (ATI x1900) has been back ordered for months. However, the local store had several in stock so we just went that route.

By next week, the machine should be configured with 5GB of RAM and 1.5TB of disk in a RAID 0 configuration. In theory, we could edit uncompressed HD with this but I do not have any illusions about performance in that space.

Workin in a coal mine

Nancy has been working from 7PM to 7AM over at Quarter Mile and has been pretty hammered. But, being the consummate pro that she is, her high level of productivity has impressed them enough to allow her to basically set her own schedule. We were looking at getting a used DVCPRO deck for her so that she could just work at home and then sell it after the gig was over, but with their willingness to work with her schedule we decided not to bother.

The Reel Deal

I have been putting together a plan for our demo reel that will include a mix of cool edit transitions over live footage, composited scenes, motion graphics and 3D animation. It's going to take me a while to get it all done but it should be pretty slick. One of the first items I have started working on is a shot on a pool table tracking the ONE ball as it drifts across the felt. I have some work to do finishing up the felt texture for the pool table using SasLite in Lightwave as well as getting a decent image map for the pool balls.

FCS 2.0

Well, the new Final Cut Studio is supposedly shipping now. It looks to have some very exciting features that Nancy and I will be taking advantage of. Mixed format timeline, the new 3D features in Motion look really slick as well as the upgrade to Soundtrack Pro (a GREAT app if you have never tried it). The manuals are available online over at Mike Curtis's great HDForIndies blog.

Mike and Nance @b-scene films

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Been a long time since I rock and rolled.

Well, it's been - 8 months? We are still kicking and busy as all get out. Nancy is doing work for the post house Quarter Mile Films working on material for ESPN, Speed channel and Home and Garden channel.

The Aquarium: Since we are done with the festival routine for The Aquarium, I am releasing it for any and all to see. This was our first film and our goal was to gain an understanding of the film making workflow. And for that, it succeeded admirably. You can see it here:

The Aquarium

Current Projects: I am working on 2 instructional videos providing motion graphics, editing and general post stuff. One is a set of 4 DVDs on Kung Fu and the other is a DVD for teaching sailing. I have been grinding a lot of After Effects and Lightwave - Learning the joys of cloth dynamics and wind effectors. The Kung Fu video is being done in Premiere Pro 2 and the sailing video is being edited with FCP.

I have a new full time job that is really nice. Great folks doing cutting edge work. It's a 45 minute commute but I have been taking the train and listening to podcasts so it has actually worked out real nice and I have been managing to avoid the almost $4 a gallon gas prices. Speaking of which (gets on his soapbox) where the hell are the journalists outrage for this?

The oil companies are not having shortages - Just record profits at our expense. OK, I'll stop. It's a bit off topic for here.

I have just about finished Thicker than Blood. Just a little bit of tweaking left to do on it. I had it up on Zoetrope for review and got some great comments and crits. A lot of the crits have helped improve the script a great deal as well. I still have 2 other scripts in process. Private Paradise and Fear the Reaper. As soon as TTB is done, I will start getting those fleshed out.

New Gear: We are preparing to get a new edit system. We are looking at a MacPro 4 core box. The ole Powerbook just chokes on any kind of footage higher than SD. With the new FCS 2.0 on the horizon, this system will be a good match for us.

Reading: I tend to be a voracious reader and have recently read a few very good books. The first book I will talk about is The DV Rebel's guide by Stu Maschwitz. The book covers everything from pre-production through post production with an eye towards doing actions films on the cheap. And I do mean cheap. This book not only encourages the use of firearms in your films, it shows you how to make the look and sound like the real deal. The book has a GREAT section on color correction and while Stu focuses on using After Effects for onlining, the techniques can be applied to most any NLE's color correction tools. If you are an indie filmmaker, get this book!

Other books recently read are: On Film Editing by EDWARD DMYTRYK. Probably the best book I have ever read on editing. Directed by Steven Spielberg: Poetics of the Contemporary Hollywood Blockbuster by Warren Buckland is very academic but a great read, nonetheless. I have also recently finished 3 books related to the great Walter Murch:

In the Blink of an Eye Revised 2nd Edition by Walter Murch
The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film by Michael Ondaatje
Behind the Seen: How Walter Murch Edited Cold Mountain Using Apple's Final Cut Pro and What This Means for Cinema, First Edition by Charles Koppelman

All EXCELLENT books and highly recommended.

And finally, Adobe After Effects 7.0 Studio Techniques by Mark Christiansen. This book assumes that you already know how to use After Effects and takes you through workflow improvements, in-depth color correction techniques and much much more. Highly recommended for all AE users.

Also, if you are an indie content producer that is focused on narrative content, I also highly reccomend Hollywood Camera Work.

This set of DVDs uses 3D models and sets to illustrate staging and blocking techniques. It is really the only thing out there that will give you the depth and breadth of these techniques short of a film school. A bit pricey at $400, but a true bargain when weighed against the great content that it provides.