Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Boston Final Cut Pro User Group meeting recap: 6/14/11

View of Boston harbor from this month's BOSFCPUG meeting on the 33rd floor

Another Boston Final Cut Pro User Group meeting is in the books, and as usual, it was an enjoyable evening.  This month's meeting took place at the University of Massachusetts Club in Boston's financial district.  I think Daniel Berube had to schedule this month's meeting a week early since he'll be in the U.K. next week for the London SuperMeet.  Unfortunately, there wasn't any news about a Final Cut Pro X release, since there wasn't an announcement made at Apple's June 6th WWDC.  This month's meeting featured Ken LaRue discussing Autodesk Smoke for Mac 2012, the always entertaining Bob Russo talking about Avid's Media Composer 5.5, and Jay Ignaszewski talking about AJA's tapeless workflow solutions.  As usual, the evening concluded with the Big Dig Raffle, which featured an AJA KiPro Mini.

I was especially interested in Bob's Media Composer presentation, since I use Premiere and Final Cut, and haven't had much exposure to Media Composer.  I was also looking forward to hearing from Jay, since I enjoy keeping up with tapeless workflow solutions.

Ken LaRue talking Autodesk Smoke

Ken LaRue started off the evening with an Autodesk Smoke demo.  Ken is a great speaker, and ran a very nice demo.  I have never used this program before, but this is the second demo I've seen of it.  Ken kept pushing the fact that we all use multiple programs to get the job done (Final Cut, Photoshop, After Effects, etc.) and Smoke combines the power of those programs into one package.  Smoke really provides some powerful tools for editing, motion graphics, 3D effects, titling, keying, color correction, motion tracking and Photoshop type painting tools.  Here are some of the highlights from Ken's demo, along with some opinions from me:
  • At first glance, the Smoke GUI is very cluttered and utilitarian.  Ken stressed that as you use the program, you start to get more comfortable with the layout.  Looking at it for the first time, you just see a screen cluttered with many buttons in no apparent logical order.  Ken was using what looked to be a Wacom tablet and pen to navigate.
  • Smoke offers very impressive tracking tools.  Ken showed us some tracking demos, and Smoke handled multiple tracking points very quickly.
  • There's lots of rendering to be done after you apply all of Smoke's various tools.  Ken rendered everything, rather than show it in real time unrendered playback.  He was using a nice Mac Pro with a powerful Nvidia graphics card (I forget what model he mentioned), so the renders were pretty fast.
  • Obviously, Smoke integrates well with other Autodesk programs like 3D Studio Max and Maya.  Ken was importing 3D objects created in 3D Studio Max and had the ability to manipulate them in Smoke.
  • Smoke has node based aspects to it as you start to apply the available tools, so that node window can get very cluttered and hard to read.  Ken flew around the node window very quickly, so I'm sure it's something that comes with using the program.
  • The retail price for Smoke is $15,000, so their target market isn't the low end video production pro.  Their demo video featured many high end post production houses using Smoke for feature films and national commercials. 

Bob Russo discussing Avid Media Composer 5.5

The next speaker was Bob Russo talking about Avid Media Composer 5.5.  The last time I heard Bob speak was at the November 2010 BOSFCPUG meeting at WGBH.  I have never used any of Avid's products, so I was interested in getting an introduction to MC 5.5.  Here are some highlights from Bob's talk, along with my opinions.  Remember, I'm new to MC 5.5, so you might think "duh, they've had that for years" to some of my observations:
  • MC 5.5 now supports the AJA IO Express to capture footage.  To end a debate I had with a couple coworkers over a few beers one night, Bob pronounced it "A.J.A." (the letters), not "Ahh-Jaa" (phonetically).
  • Bob started with a demo of combining multiple formats and varying frame rates on the same timeline.
  • Bob continued on to show us a multicam edit.  The process and interface looked very similar to multicam edits in Final Cut and Premiere.
  • ScriptSync is Avid's tool for linking your media to a text file containing your script.  Bob had footage shot for a very cheesy small budget film, along with the script.  ScriptSync was able to process the text in the script and sync it with the same text spoken in the footage.
  • Bob's next demo showed us how to manipulate clips in the timeline using the tools we're familiar with in FCP and Premiere:  ripple, roll, etc.  Bob also showed us that it's easy to simply click on a transition in the timeline to adjust duration.
  • Bob threw in a little sales pitch for some control surfaces that will integrate well with MC 5.5Avid purchased Euphonix a year ago, so those were the control surfaces featured.
  • PhraseFind is a feature in MC 5.5 that will scan the audio in your media and catalog it to make a searchable database.  It phonetically catalogs the dialogue, so Bob mentioned that you also need to think and type phonetically when you're searching.  I imagine it has the same issues as text to speech conversion, but just in reverse.

(L to R) Bob, Ken and Jay Ignaszewski from AJA

The last speaker of the evening was Jay Ignaszewski from AJA.  Here are the highlights from Jay's presentation:
  • Talking about the Ki Pro, Jay said "right now it's just ProRes".  Does that mean that AJA is working on offering multiple codecs, like the Cinedeck Extreme that can record to ProRes, Avid's DNxHD and Cineform?  Or it means nothing and I'm digging too much into his comment.
  • Only a few compact flash card manufacturers are approved by AJA for use in the Ki Pro Mini.  Obviously they've had issues with cheap cards not being able to keep up with the bandwidth required to capture ProRes 422 HQ (which is 220 Mbps).
  • It's easiest to connect the Ki Pro Mini to a laptop via ethernet and make settings adjustments with the software interface.  The screen on the unit looks pretty small.

As is customary at BOSFCPUG meetings, the evening concluded with the Big Dig Raffle.  Daniel had the usual assortment of Focal Press books, FCP plug-in packages, Adobe Production Premium CS5.5, and an AJA Ki Pro Mini.  I've been unlucky for the past few BOSFCPUG raffles, as well as the huge raffle at the NAB Vegas SuperMeet, but tonight my luck turned around.  I won this little beauty:

Big Dig Raffle prize winner!
Now, I fully appreciate the fact that I was a winner this time, but even Daniel essentially admitted that this was a re-gifter.  I haven't tried it out yet, but I can't imagine this is a rig that Zucuto will be selling anytime soon.  I especially like how it has no brand name.  This generic baby is straight out of a Lillian Vernon catalog!  The best part is the creepy mustache that the model on the box is sporting:

I was thinking of asking the winner of the Ki Pro Mini to trade with me, but he left before I could hunt him down.

Next month's Boston Final Cut Pro User Group meeting will focus on the newly released (hopefully on Tuesday) FCP X and will feature Steve Martin (the FCP trainer, not the comedian).  Steve is a great trainer and I look forward to seeing him.  My coworker, Kevin McGowan, took a couple Post Production World classes taught by Steve this year at NAB and really enjoyed them.

I'm a big fan of the BOSFCPUG, so if you live in the Boston area, keep an eye on their website for news about the July meeting.  I hope to see you there!


  1. :o) Hey Mike, that was my brother Don *joking* in the background about your raffle prize being a gift! :o) We really did receive this as a prize to give out and I hope you dig it! And thanks for a nice recap, too!

  2. Mike,

    You may have a new appreciation for this plastic shoulder mount when you watch this video. It's marketed under different names (Adorama has branded it, Cowboy Studio via Amazon, and others.
    I actually just picked one up to review and should have a review done in a couple of weeks.


    Review (Part 1);

    Review (Part 2:

    Might be worth holding on to it.


  3. Hi Daniel,
    Ha! I thought your brother was serious! I was just kidding around, but I'm always appreciative just to be a winner in your raffles. I know you work hard to gather a great collection of items to give away to all of us. Thanks for another fun BOSFCPUG meeting last night.

    Thanks for the links. Looks like with some relatively easy alterations they really made that rig work for them. Where will your review be posted?


  4. Thanks for posting this - you did forget to mention how quickly one can edit in the real-time environment of Media Composer, which in turn really helps editors keep, well, editing! Smoke is really stepping it up and reaching out with their very deep and powerful toolset. And we're all of course waiting to see what FCP•X will bring: I'm hoping for a whole lotta real-time editing!