Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Indie Film resources

Ran across this over at FreshDV. GREAT resource for indie filmmakers:

Dependent Films

I usually don't spam this kind of stuff on my blog as I figure most folks that come here read the same stuff that I do but this is a particularly nice resource!

Thursday, July 26, 2007


Wed night Nance and I went to the monthly Los Angeles Final Cut Pro User's Group meeting. Two presentations were given on Apple's Color product. In case you missed it, Apple purchased Silicon Color about a year ago. Their product was a professional grade color correction tool called Final Touch. They made two versions. An SD version that retailed for about $5,000 and an HD / 2K version that retailed for $25,000.

About 6 months after making this purchase, Apple announced the inclusion of Final Touch with Final Cut Studio 2 under the name Apple Color at the 2007 NAB show in Las Vegas. Yeesh, that was a long sentence :). The version that Apple included as part of the FCS2 package was the 2K ($25,000!) version. Pretty nice for a $1200 Final Cut package.

While this announcement was broadly lauded as a great thing, there were those that cautioned the casual user that this application was not for the faint of heart. And, indeed, the application's interface is not what the typical FCP / Mac user is used to dealing with. The application has a great deal of complexity associated with it.

Moreover, casual users were also warned that Color would not be effective unless it was used in an environment that was conducive to professional level color grading tasks (i.e. using a control surface, using a dedicated room with the walls painted 15% gray, all lighting in the room properly placed and color balanced to 6500K...).

Clearly, that is the ideal. However, good results can be achieved without going to all of these extremes. The demonstrations at last night's LAFCPUG meeting illustrated that very nicely. Now, with all of that being said, on with the show!

First up was Andrew Balis who showed us a very slick couple of tricks in Color. He took some footage of a man sitting on a couch. Just a short clip that showed him looking from left to right. Andrew then illustrated key frames in Color.

He set a keyframe and then desaturated the image. He set another keyframe and reset the desaturation settings. Then he was able to show the footage gradually shift from color to B&W. He then showed that if you cross the keyframes, the process that was keyframed works in reverse (i.e. move the second keyframe so that it occurs before the first keyframe).

Very slick stuff!

Andrew then illustrated some tricks with keying and keyframes. Andrew selected the man's shirt in the shot as the key color (he set a range of color around the shirt's base color). This did cause some items in the BG to get keyed as well but Andrew assured us that the shirt could be masked to prevent this.

Once Andrew had his key pulled, he set a group of keyframes so that as the man in the shot turned his head, his shirt would change colors. Color defaults to an "ease in / ease out" type of keyframe by default and this default was not appropriate for this particular effect. Andrew quickly adjusted the type of transition between keyframes, quickly added some more keyframes to smooth the motion and played it all back. The effect was very compelling.

Andrew also demonstrated some undocumented features of the keyframing interface that were very nice. Andrew covers all of these techniques in his upcoming "Color grading in Color" training DVD that will be available from Ripple Training soon.

Next up were 3 folks from Hollywood-DI. Managing Director Neil Smith, senior colorist Yasu Tsuji and DI supervisor, Aaron Peak. Neil introduced the company as well as Yasu and Aaron. Yasu and Aaron then performed a demo of Color using footage for a Mercedes Benz commercial that was shot on a Viper camera in Filmstream mode.

As a quick aside, the Viper HD camera has a sepcial mode called Filmstream that ouputs the raw sensor data with no filtration or color balancing. The images that are produced in this mode have a slight greenish cast and soft contrast. In the following images from David Fincher's Zodiak (which was shot on a Viper in Filmstream mode), the left hand image is the raw and the right hand one is the color corrected image:

The first thing that Yasu and Aaron demonstrated was a simple FCP to Color workflow. They suggested that you take your sequence and render it out to QT and then bring that into a new sequence in FCP. Once you have that sequence set up, use the File->Send To->Color command (assuming that your sequence is the currently highlighted item in the timeline).

Once in Color, the first tab is opened up for you and allows you to setup your project settings. Color is structured such that you go from left to right on the tabs or "rooms" as you progress through your project. Once the project settings were adjusted and confirmed, they moved on to the primary room.

In the primary room, they corrected the green cast and the low contrast of the Viper footage and then saved that look so that it could be quickly applied to subsequent clips. One might think of the primary room in Color as the coarse tuning and overall look for your project while the secondary room allows for more precise tuning and color grading.

Once the primary viper look was defined, they moved on to the secondaries and fine tuned the color on the clips. Part of the footage was of a 50s drive in and a shot looking through the windsheild of a Mercedes Benz with a couple talking in the car.

Color allows for the creation of vignettes in the secondary room to isolate specific areas of a shot so that you can apply grading to areas that fall within the vignette as well as outside of the vignette. Color allows for the use of square and oval shapes for this as well as user defined shapes using B-splines. Color also allows for the definition of a soft edge on the vignette so that the masking effect is less noticable in the shot.

These user defined shapes are managed in the Geometry tab of color where you can easily modify the shapes, define the softness characteristics of the shapes and load and save them as well. The standard square and circular vignette shapes are edited on the secondary panel.

A user-defined vignette was created for the diner scene that allowed them to brighten and color the area outside of the diner where the patrons were milling around. This allowed them to focus the viewer's attention to this area of the scene.

The car scene was corrected with a reduction in luma for the overall look of the scene. However, this darkened the interior of the car with the couple such that it made them hard to see. They created another custom vignette shape for the interior and boosted the luma and adjusted the color for flesh tones and contrast so that the couple stood out more in the scene.

Following this, they then keyframed the vignettes so that they would stay in their appointed spots in the shots as the camera trucked in to the shot and dollied to the side slightly.

All of this was done VERY quickly and color was able to provide real-time feedback. Considering that this was done on a Macbook Pro at the meeting, the power of Color on such a small system was very impressive.

Once the final touches were applied, Yasu took the role of Director and told Aaron that he was not quite pleased with the look of one of the shots. Aaron complained that he had already put a lot of work into the grading but Yasu, as any good director would do, opined that he did not care and Aaron aquesced and altered the look of the car interior shot to have a somewhat surreal sci-fi look to it.

At this point, they had Color render the final graded footage and then used the Send-to function and brought the finished product back into FCP.

All in all, a very impressive demo done by a very talented team of colorists who demonstrated the tools in a very approachable manner and gave us all a few good laughs.

If you are interested in more info on Apple's Color, Wendy Gribble has a nice tutorial over at Ken Stone's site for setting up node trees. You can see it HERE.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The plague strikes

Been down with the flu for the last week.  One of those bastard musicians that came over for the jam session on Sunday gave it to me.  So here is some quick tips until I get around to blogging the last show that we did for Hot Rod TV (a special Mustang built just for Sammy Hagar).

Reduce your footage capture time in FCP - HERE
Apple's new Color application - Issues and gotchas - HERE
An AppleScript to send a compressor file to multiple servers - HERE

Well, chew on that for a few days - I am off to Las Vegas for my Mom's 75th birthday and I will be back on Sunday night.  I'll post a couple of stills from the Hagar show and go over what we did with it on Monday.

Also, next weeks LAFCPUG meeting will be all about Apple's Color (formerly Final Touch) so I will have a nice overview of what gets shown at the meeting later in the week.  Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 15, 2007


I am always interested in the workflow for different editors and other post folks. Lots of times I will get some magazine in the mail (DV, Studio Monthly, Videographer etc) and they will claim to have some in depth article on workflow. Invariably, they always fall short of my expectations. And, to a large degree, I understand why they cannot supply the level of detail that would interest me and that relates to space in these magazines.

Most of these magazines are pretty small. And, to be honest, I expect that trend to continue as the publishing world - and the media world in general evolves. There are those that believe that magazines and print media in general are dead. To be replaced by the internet and podcasts and the like.

Personally, I still like a magazine. Hell, I don't listen to podcasts and surf the net while I am in the bathroom. So, gotta have my magazines :)

At NAB 2007, the LA Final Cut User's Group had their Supermeet with the obligatory panel of experts, raffle and all around good time. As a special treat, Walter Murch came to the meet and gave a talk. Walter treated us to a VERY in-depth look at his workflow.

I am sure there are others out there that might be interested in this as I found it to be fascinating. Now, all of that being said, here are links to each of the 3 parts of the talk that he gave. Enjoy!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Calm before the storm - Updated

Updated: FCP to AE - No duck:

Creative Workflow Hacks

Nice list of filmmaker freebies here:

List of 15 freeware apps for filmmakers

Also, Shane over at Little Frog has a line on a nice set of plugins for FCP. One of which is a low cost alternative to Toon it. An effect that I always loved. I have actually implemented this effect before in a music video but the way that I accomplished it was by hand painting 380 frames of video using Corel's Painter.

A plug in would have made the process MUCH less painful! Painter supports "actions" which are similar to macros in that you can recored a set of keystrokes and then play them back. This was my first approach to this problem (read: I r lazy) but the frames all had similar brush stroke effects on them so I ended up going back and doing each one by hand.

Nancy picked up an HD of our next Hot Rod TV show last night. It's another rush job for cut-down / offlining. I'll post about the show once we get into looking at it. Tomorrow I have a jam session here at the house. It's the usual suspects with Walter Goad and KC Philips on rhythm guitar, Bob Robles on bass, Mike Mahoney on drums and yours truely on lead guitar.

It's been about 3 months since we had one of these jams so I am looking forward to it. Today will be spent prepping the house for the jam. Nancy won't be able to work on the show until Monday as she always plays the supreme hostess for the band and she would not be able to hear any of the sound in the show with a live band blasting in the livingroom anyway :)

Quartermile has also given us a headsup about the next show as well. Telling us it will be 2X the data that we normally get from them. The way that we edit with them is that we drop off an FW HD and pick it up from them when it's full (dropping off a replacement drive for the next show).

When we are done with the edit we just e-mail the FCP project to the client. This way we work completely at home with very little commuting. Keeps the air cleaner and it's a much nicer envoronment in which to edit the shows.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Transforming Indy

I am not a fan of Transformers. Too damn old to have played with them as a kid... But I appreciate the concept. Nonetheless, I ran across an article on the editing of the film Transformers and an interview with MB that I thought was worth sharing:


Another interesting story is the one about the youngsters that made a shot for shot re-make of Raiders of the Lost Ark. They started the project in 1981, the year Raiders was released. As such, they had no video of the film to use as a reference. Eventually, this film led to them meeting Spielberg and getting a production deal. Great story. Check it out here:


Monday, July 09, 2007

Boxcar Burt

Well, the '57 Boxcar episode of Hot Rod TV that Nancy offlined aired last week and it came out very nice. She spent a lot of time and stressed like mad over it (like every edit she does). This weekend was cutdowns for an episode of Hot Rod TV that chronicles the anniversary of the Bandit Trans Am. They did a run that mirroed the original run from Smokey and the Bandit.

They had a lot of nice interviews with owners. Some of these guys are pretty OCD about the car and the image. One guy looked just like Burt, dressed the same as Burt did in the film and owned an exact replica of the Bandit Trans Am. Pretty funny stuff. Burt Reynolds was sick at the time and could not make it to the event. And if I was Burt, I would have been sick too :)

I'll post when that episode airs as well. Other then that, I worked on some motion graphics, sound effects and music for a Hot Rod TV intro piece using AE and Encore. I will be composing / recording some metal music to play over a montage of Hot Rod footage this week to put in our reel.

In other news... If you read my Apple diatribe you will see where I had an issue with the company's arrogance. Now, while my recent experiences with the company have been positive, I think that Apple is in a position to re-live the days of arrogance as evidenced in the Apple Insider article regarding Jobs in the UK recently.

The rumor is that a lot of the UK/European cell carriers that have attempted to negotiate with Apple over their potential partnership using the iPhone have been floored by the arrogance of the company. It's our way or the highway kind of a deal.

It would seem that some of the developers out there are having some issues with Apple's apathy as well: Literature and Latte

Now, personally, I have no issue with this as long as this kind of attitude does not filter down to the lowly end users that actually keep the company alive.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Happy Fourth and some AE Tutorials!

Andrew Kramer over at Video Co-pilot has a bunch of new AE tutorials up if you have not been there in a while, do yourself a favor and check them out. He has a new "earth zoom" one up that is just amazing. His tutorials are always great and funny as hell. Check it:


Happy fourth of July everyone!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Royalty Free stock images

Ran across an article on

Nine Cool Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do With Wikipedia

Some of the pictures on there are insanely high resolution and appropriate for inclusion in full HD footage.