Thursday, May 26, 2011

Boston Final Cut Pro User Group meeting recap: 5/25/11

My coworker, Kevin, and I attended the Boston Final Cut Pro Users Group meeting on May 25th, so I figured I would post a quick recap for all of you.  The venue was Rule Boston Camera Rental, and as usual, Daniel Berube put together a fun and informative event.  The featured speakers were Philip Hodgetts speaking about the new Final Cut Pro X and Yan Shvalb speaking about some new features in Adobe After Effects CS5.5.  The evening ended with a few screenings of shorts made with DSLR cameras, and of course, a nice little raffle.

Crummy cell phone pic of Philip Hodgetts presenting at the 5/25 BOSFCPUG meeting

Philip Hodgetts was invited to talk about the new features in FCP X, but since Apple's released no new news since the SuperMeet at NAB in April, Philip made it very clear that he would be talking about features talked about at SuperMeet, educated guesses he has, and complete speculation.  He mentioned that he doesn't have a copy of the program to show, and even if he did, he would be bound by non-disclosure agreements from Apple.  Since I was lucky enough to attend SuperMeet in Vegas, and I've read many articles and blog posts about FCP X, I really thought he would just be rehashing news that I already knew, but that turned out to not be the case.  Philip's really examined all the FCP X news out there with a fine tooth comb, even going so far as transcribing the SuperMeet presentation and reviewing high def footage shot at SuperMeet to really explore every screenshot.  Philip's not only a video production pro, but he also is a software programmer, so he really likes speculating on the new programming architecture of FCP X.

Again, much of this is simply educated guesses from Philip, but here's a quick list of his points that I found interesting:
  • FCP X will work on any Intel based Mac.  He heard from a beta tester that he was having good luck using it on a Mac Book Air.
  • As you can see in this screenshot, there's an AJA KiPro listed using the H.264 codec, rather than the ProRes codec it actually records to.  I'm sure it was just a mock up screenshot released by Apple and was a simple typo, but still funny.
  • Even though many people are calling it iMovie Pro, FCP X doesn't share any code with iMovie.  iMovie is QuickTime based, and FCP X isn't.
  • FCP X is very metadata heavy.  It relies on source (camera created) metadata, as well as derived (user created or auto created by FCP features like face detection) metadata.  As you can see on his blog, Philip is very into metadata.
  • You will be able to disable the footage auto correction features at ingest (audio correction, color correction, etc.)
  • Rolling shutter correction will be included in the program
  • Using keywording features in FCP X is essentially like creating a subclip.  You will be able to tag a portion of your footage, creating a searchable subclip.
  • In the motion options for a clip, there's actually a button labeled "Ken Burns effect", to add zoom and pan motion to stills.  I guess that phrase is now a generally used term, like Kleenex.
  • Philip thinks FCP X will be easier to use than previous versions of FCP, unfortunately resulting in less work for his friends that are FCP trainers.
  • He heard (from an informed source) that there's still a way to create fixed audio tracks, so you can have set tracks for V.O, music, SFX, etc.  Handy for those that have to output to something like ProTools for a final mix.
  • Changing the speed of a clip will be much easier than in previous versions of FCP.  No more clumsy speed changing graph.
  • Philip did mention that some of his software programs that he's created will become obsolute because of new features in FCP X.
  • He believes that the new program will incorporate gesture support via an external touch pad.

Crummy cell phone pic of Yan Shvalb presenting at the 5/25 BOSFCPUG meeting

The second presenter of the evening was Yan Shvalb, telling us about some new features in Adobe After Effects CS5.5.  He started by showing us a great wedding video that he created for a couple that had a destination wedding in the Bahamas.  He shot the video using Canon 5D Mark II DSLR cameras.  It was a very nice looking piece.  Yan used a close up shot of the wedding rings on a twig to show us all AE's new Warp Stabilizer effect.  I won't rehash all the features on here, but I will say that it's very impressive.  Yan even used it to stabilize some shaky iPhone footage, and used the effect's rolling shutter correction to fix some iPhone jello.

Yan also showed us the new Camera Lens Blur effect in AE CS5.5.  Rather than simply blurring your image like other blur effects, Camera Lens Blur will create a more realistic looking blur, as if it was created by an out of focus camera lens.  Lights in your image will be blurred simulating the iris blades in a lens.  Yan also used a ramp matte to control the location of the Camera Lens Blur effect, and give his image some great, simulated depth of field.  You can animate that to give the effect of pulling focus.  Yan is a very creative and knowledgable guy, and I look forward to hearing him speak again in the future.

The next portion of the evening was three screenings of shorts shot using DSLR cameras.  The first screening was a trailer for The Visualmakers, which is a short film being produced and directed by Paul Antico.  This short film will look at the creative video professionals that have embraced DSLR cameras to shoot video.  It features interviews with many creative video pros, including Philip Bloom and Vincent Laforet, and was shot during the 2011 NAB convention in Vegas.  I look forward to seeing this film, which has a target release in July and will be free on Paul's Vimeo page

The next short was edited by Colin (sorry, didn't get his last name) and was a new video from The Super Secret Project.  This comedy group produces some pretty funny videos that go viral, and they're based out of Boston.  This screening was a Law & Order based music video that was very funny.  Keep an eye on their YouTube page for it.

The final screening was a pretty moving short from Rick Macomber titled One Day on Earth 10-10-10 Salem.  It was a great piece about a homeless man in Salem, Mass, that's dealing with overcoming alcoholism.  Rick shot it using his Canon T2i.

The evening ended as BOSFCPUG meetings usually do, with a nice raffle.  Unfortunately, I went home empty handed.  The large prizes were a copy of DiVinci Resolve, and a copy of Adobe Production Premium CS5.5.

Daniel mentioned that future BOSFCPUG meetings will feature Adobe and Avid presentations, and the July meeting will be dedicated to FCP X, which will have (hopefully) been released in June.  If you live in the Boston area and you're involved with video production, you should really attend the BOSFCPUG meetings.  Don't let the name scare you, there's plenty of Avid and Adobe users there too.  It's always an informative and inspiring evening.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Panoramic of Harvard's 2011 commencement ceremony

I decided to try making a panoramic, and as I was walking to lunch through Harvard Yard, I figured this scene would be a great time to try my hand at a panoramic.  This was taken a couple days before Harvard's 2011 commencement ceremony in Harvard Yard.  How would you like to be the person in charge of setting up all those folding chairs?!  It takes them three full days to set them all up.

I stood on the steps of Widener Library for this shot.  It's three iPhone photos that I stitched together using Photoshop.  I know there are apps that will do this for you, but I wanted to try it by hand.  Came out pretty nice for a few cell phone pics.  Click on this link for a larger version of my pic.

Click here for a larger version of this image

Friday, May 20, 2011

Follow Friday: video production podcasts

Well, it's Friday again, so I figured I would stick with Twitter's "Follow Friday" theme.  Last week I shared a list of all the video production blogs that I keep an eye on and this week I figured you might appreciate a list of the video production podcasts that I listen to. 

The Terence and Philip Show
This podcast features Terence Curren, owner of Alpha Dogs post production facility, and Philip Hodgetts.  I'm a big Philip Hodgetts fan, so of course I listen to this podcast.  Actually, I seem to talk about Philip on a weekly basis on this blog, so I bet I'm starting to creep him out a bit!  This podcast is usually a pretty informal discussion about the latest trends in the video production world.  They start with a topic and usually seem to drift off on a tangent, but always keep it relevant and interesting.  It's great to hear the thoughts of two industry professionals.  Terence and Philip are pretty entertaining guys, so this podcast is defineltly worth checking out. 

Digital Production Buzz 
This podcast is hosted by Larry Jordan and Michael Horton.  Larry is a certified trainer, hosts training webinars, writes a great blog, publishes a FCP newsletter, and is all over the video production world.  Michael runs the Los Angeles Final Cut Pro User Group.  This podcast is much more structured than The Terence and Philip Show.  Larry and Michael usually have a handful of guest interviews on their podcast, and keep to a tighter schedule than other podcasts.  It sounds more like a radio talk show, rather than an informal discussion show.  Listening to this podcast really keeps me updated on what trends are popular in the video production industry. 

The DV Show 
This podcast is hosted by video production professional Brian Alves.  To me, this podcast appeals to a slightly lower level production pro than The Terence and Philip Show or Digital Production Buzz.  Some of the topics discussed on The DV Show are video production basics, and some of the people calling in with questions seem to be beginners.  That being said, Brian also does a good job of including topics and questions geared toward those people that have had more experience in the video production industry.  This podcast is a nice mix of discussion about current trends in the industry, gear talk, and general video production tips and tricks.  Brian has a very professional sounding production, which adds to this podcast being a great listen. 

Creative Cow Podcasts 
I'm not a huge fan of video production podcasts that are strictly tutorials, but Creative Cow does a great job with their podcasts.  I especially enjoy their podcast tutorials from Andrew Devis and Richard Harrington.  These tutorial podcasts are well produced, and I always learn something from the production pros that host them.

Speaking of Creative Cow, I saw a forum post stating that they're planning on starting up the Creative Cow weekly podcast again and they're looking for someone to host it.  Looking at the brief description, the format will be a weekly podcast, 15 minutes in length, discussing the week's news and will feature a short interview.  I'm guessing the interview will usually be a representative from one of the many companies that advertise on Creative Cow.  I look forward to subscribing to the weekly podcast when they get it up and running.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Follow Friday: video production blogs

In keeping with the Twitter theme of "follow Friday", I figured I would write a post about all the video production and post production blogs that I read.  I use Google Reader (a RSS reader) to keep up on all the updates to these blogs.  If you don't use a RSS reader, I highly suggest you read up on them and give one a try.  It thoroughly speeds up the process of keeping tabs on many different websites and blogs.

There's so many great video production blogs out there, so if you recommend some others I should check out, let me know in the comments.

Philip Bloom
He's a filmmaker that often uses DSLR cameras to shoot video.  Very creative and entertaining guy, and seems to love to share his knowledge with others.

Philip Hodgetts
I've talked about him before on this blog, and I'll say it again: he's one of my favorite personalities in the video production world.  I took a class taught by him at NAB's Post Production World and started to follow his blog.  Very knowledgeable and entertaining to read.

Richard Harrington
I was introduced to Richard by seeing his posts on the Creative Cow forums and hearing him speak at a Boston FCP User Group meeting.  I get lots of Photoshop and Adobe CS5 tips from Richard.

Gary Adcock
You've probably seen his posts and tutorials all over the Creative Cow forums.  After hearing Gary speak at a Boston Final Cut Pro User Group meeting, I started following him.

Larry Jordan
Producing a podcast, blogging, training and hosting webinars, he might be one of the hardest working guys I've ever seen.  He's a great source of FCP insight.

Walter Biscardi
Walter owns a production company in Georgia and has a very entertaining Twitter feed.  Has great insights about FCP and the video production business in general.

Todd Kopriva
Todd works for Adobe and writes two great blogs that I read regularly:  his After Effects blog and his Premiere Pro blog.  I even took a Post Production World class taught by Todd. 

Shane Hurlbut
Very creative cinematographer that's also into using DSLR cameras to shoot video.  Plus, he was born and raised in the same town I'm from:  Ithaca, NY.

Vincent Laforet
Another filmmaker that likes to use DSLR cameras to shoot video.  Very creative guy and also has a nice page listing the gear that he uses. 

Jason Konoza
An Avid editor working north of the border for CTV, and all around nice guy.

Eric Wise
He's a FCP editor that writes a great blog called Splice Vine. 

Scott Simmons
He has the Twitter username editblog, so how can I not follow him?  Very active editor and great writer. 

Kevin McGowan
I can't leave him off the list...he's my coworker!  He's a DSLR lovin' guy and the first person I call when I have a camera related question.

Triple Exposure
After reading Philip Bloom's blog, I started to get interested in time lapse photography.  In April, Richard Harrington and Scott Bourne started this interesting blog talking about time lapse, HDR and panoramic photography.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Philip Bloom's "24 Hours of Neon"

Over the past month I've made an effort to learn more about shooting video with DSLR cameras.  Up to this point, I've only really had experience using video cameras.  As I navigate the web to learn more about DSLR cameras, I keep finding myself reading Philip Bloom's blog and Tweets.  For those of you not familiar with Philip, he's a filmmaker that is a big fan of using DSLR cameras to shoot video.  His blog has been a weath of information in my quest to learn more about DSLR cameras, and I also enjoyed Philip's DSLR Basics series of Vimeo videos with Andrea Allen.

During the 2011 NAB convention in Las Vegas, Philip shot a series of time lapse videos from his hotel room's balcony using DSLR cameras.  He edited all his footage and the result is his film titled 24 Hours of Neon.  In some of the scenes, Philip used a technique called high dynamic range (HDR) imaging to capture some amazing looking shots.  I throughly enjoyed watching this time lapse film.  Of all places, Las Vegas offers some of the best scenes for time lapse.  In keeping with his theme of spreading the good word on using DSLR cameras, Philip also recorded an audio commentary track that you can play along with his video.  He gives some great insight into how he shot each scene, and what kind of planning went into the shoot.  He also created a behind the scenes video about this shoot, which was also a great watch.  All of this can be found on his blog, which I highly suggest you check it out:

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Philip Hodgetts speaking at the Boston FCP User Group meeting on 5/25/11

I'm glad to hear that Philip Hodgetts will be speaking at the Boston FCP User Group meeting on May 25th at Rule Boston Camera.  If you aren't familiar with Philip Hodgetts, this will be a great way to get to know him.  I had the pleasure of taking a class taught by Philip at NAB's Post Production World Conference in April.  It was a class about growing your post production business, and I found Philip to be a very motivating speaker.  Actually, he was the motivation behind me starting this blog.
Philip writes a very interesting blog and also hosts an informative and entertaining podcast called the Terence and Philip Show with Terry Curren.  He knows his stuff about Final Cut, but also brings a wide breadth of knowledge about the video production industry as a whole.  Hopefully Apple has released more details about FCPX by May 25th, so we have some discussion topics.

Looks like there will also be another guest speaker at this BOSFCPUG event, as well as a raffle with prizes from "GenArts, Noise Industries, Blackmagic Design, Digieffects, ArtBeats, Boris Fx and more."  I might sound like a big BOSFCPUG cheerleader, but I'm not affiliated with the group other than being a big fan.  I'll make sure to post a recap of the event here on my blog.

Click here to purchase tickets (only $6) for this event:

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Producing video for playback at a live event

I spend most of my waking hours providing audio visual support for classes and events at the university I work for.  Since I'm often the projection technician for many events on campus, as well as someone who produces video, I have some suggestions for those times when you're asked to produce video for playback at a live event.  Much of this might sound obvious, but you'd be surprised by the amount of poorly produced video we're handed. 

Live events can be pretty hectic, so keeping it simple is essential.  Typically our clients will come to us an hour or two before the event with a DVD created by their "video guy" and the majority of the time there's an issue with it.  Hopefully these suggestions will help you avoid some of those issues:
  • Go easy on your DVD encoding bit rate.  Squeezing out that slightly higher bit rate will just add a higher probability of our DVD player hating your disc.
  • Don't put menus on your DVDs.  There's no need for them, and they just add another layer of annoyance to a projection tech cueing up your DVD.
  • Skip the color bars, tone, countdown, etc. at the beginning.
  • Place one second of black and no audio at the beginning of your video.  It's much easier for us to cue up and pause on a black screen, rather than when the first frame contains video or audio.
  • Tack on 10 seconds of black video and no audio at the end of your track, so the end doesn't catch us by surprise and we see the DVD player's splash screen or DVD's menu (no menus!) pop up.
  • Don't place a looping command at the end of your DVD track.  I've experienced wasn't fun.
  • Label your DVD case with total run time, aspect radio, framerate (NTSC, PAL, etc.) and progressive/interlaced.  The more info the better, since we rarely have adequate test time before the show.
  • Giving us a Blu-ray disc or a H.264 encoded file on a USB stick is fine, but please always include a standard def DVD as backup.  If you're anal, like me, then throwing a copy of your video on YouTube or Vimeo as an extreme backup is a good idea.
Following these easy steps will result in a very happy projection tech, as well as a happy client.  I hope these tips are helpful.

Image:  I was the projection tech when Bill Gates spoke at Harvard's Sanders Theater in April 2010