As I noted in my previous blog, the iMacs are fast becoming my machine of choice and the newest models are even more impressive than the two we have running. At this time, barring any major announcement from Apple that changes my mind, my plan is to replace the remaining 3 Mac Pros in Edits 1, 3 and 4 with 27" iMacs and AJA T-Taps. Once our original series hits, well I'll need 8 of them for that series alone. I'm looking at the 3.4 Ghz model though I'm not totally sold on the Fusion drive since it's brand new. Kind of disappointed I can't do the SSD Drive + SATA drive like before. I may very well go with the 3TB SATA and wait on a Fusion drive until second generation. For RAM, I'll go back to Other World Computing where 32GB is only $195 vs. $600 via Apple upgrade. I'll definitely step up to the nVidia GeForce 680MX and I'll swap out the wireless keyboard for the full sized keyboard with the number pad. Only looking at $2717 from Apple (including AppleCare) +$200 from Other World computing. Absolutely incredible for all that power plus the beautiful 27" screen.
We've had at least one iMac in production for over 6 months now and they are fast machines. The only place you'll notice them to be a bit slower than the absolute fastest machine is when you go to render. Depending on what you're rendering out, it might take a bit or a lot longer than a 12 - 16 core machine. So we're keeping our two 12 core Mac Pros and simply using those to do heavy lifting renders. When a project is done on the iMac, we can simply open it up on the 12 core and render away. But for news stories and even our documentaries, those are being rendered directly on the iMacs.
I know some folks out there look down on the iMacs because they ARE less powerful than a desktop and they are less configurable. I've seen articles of late showing all you all the technical reasons why you really need to consider more than just processor speed and RAM for maximum performance and that's correct. If you need ONE machine, and you only work with ONE machine in your operation, you probably want a desktop. Something beefy with dual graphics cards, 12-16 cores and gobs of RAM so you can get your work done and rendered as quickly as possible.
In my case, our facility is set up for 9 edit suites (5 currently running) and the potential for some new series coming in the door. For that, I need the best performance vs. cost not only to upgrade all the suites, but also maintain competitive rates vs. other post facilities in the area. I need a bunch of machines that can cut fast and are reliable no matter how much data we throw at them. So far, the iMac is proving more than capable of that and most of all, the clients have not noticed any change in the day to day operation of our shop. Premiere Pro, After Effects and Photoshop all work efficiently on the iMacs and that's about 90% of our work right there.
Adobe Premiere Pro Workflow
Somebody asked me recently to update y'all on our workflow with Adobe Premiere Pro. As I have mentioned in the past, we started right off the bat with An Editor's Guide to Adobe Premiere Pro and the media management section of that book is THE most important section for any editor to read. That section really set the basis for how we manage the workflow of all the projects.
My biggest concern going into Premiere Pro was the fact that there was no primary codec to work with, it's sort of a free-for-all. Adobe's biggest selling point is "Just worry about creating, we'll handle anything you throw at us natively." And on that they are pretty much accurate. We've only run into one specific codec / computer combination that really threw Premiere Pro for a loop and that was XDCAM Quicktime files on Windows. There's no native XDCAM QT codec for playback on Windows so you need to purchase a plug-in from Calibrated Software to make that work. But even with the plug-in, our Windows machine just chugged when we had to use XDCAM QTs that were delivered to us from shooters in the field. Beyond that single codec / computer combination, it really IS anything goes with Adobe Premiere Pro.
After coming to terms with the fact that Adobe really can handle anything natively, we decided to roll with it. So we will bring all elements into a project natively unless there is a good reason not to. Keep in mind we are an independent Post Production Facility so that means we have zero control over the footage our clients bring us. Adobe Premiere Pro has greatly improved our efficiency in having to deal with whatever the shooters send us and allowing us to get right to work.
The general workflow for a typical project for us, which is usually a news / documentary / episodic is as follows:
All media is first checked by our Media Management Specialist. Kelly manages our media database and organizes all the materials for and upcoming project, including pulling any archived materials we may have including tapes and digital media.
Kelly will then load up all the raw media organized as described in that Editor's Guide book I mentioned earlier. We use a modified version of the folder structure they show in that book but essentially we keep everything organized by how it came in. If a shooter shot three P2 cards, those cards are loaded into the project in their original folder structure since Adobe can read them natively. If we have tapes captured, they are put into their own folder and so on. As much as possible, we try to have Kelly put everything onto the SAN prior to the edit so the editors can start right off by setting up the Project instead of having to pull all the media as well.
The editor will then usually create a Bin for each element in the Project. So those three P2 Cards will come into three Bins with the same names as the P2 cards. Generally the Producers are going to come to us and tell us "Card 2, Shot 2X24Os" so it makes sense to keep the bins organized the same way the Producer logs them. We never re-name the clips, though we may put descriptive information in the metadata or at the very least the Description field. We often color code the clips too for easy timeline identification of what various elements are.
The Editor will also ensure to select "Put Media Cache Files in same location as Media Files" (or something like that) as we run on a SAN. These are the Peak Files that you will see Premiere Pro generate when you import your footage. By putting them with the media files, you can open the project on multiple machines and not have to re-generate the peak files each time. If you have a small project, it's no big deal to regenerate the peak files, but a documentary with 20 - 200 hours of material, well that can take hours.
For the offline editing, we will generally use either a 720p/59.94 or a 1080i/29.97 timeline using the AVC-Intra 100 preset in Premiere Pro. These are two great base timelines to use for high quality editing to output. We'll leave the Video Previews set to MPEG I-Frame for the offline as well. During this phase, the editor will literally edit with everything native, as is with no conversions made. 720, 1080i, 525, 625, 24, 30, 60, 25, 50, MPEG, H264,Internet downloads, etc..... whatever the raw material is, we just throw it into the timeline and edit. This is the biggest strength of Premiere Pro that we simply get the materials into the system and start editing. There's no sense in converting everything if you don't even know what will be in the final cut. BUT we do generally color code things in such a way so that we can identify things that we definitely will want to do conversion on before the final cut, makes it easy to pick those shots out later.
Once we have a "locked cut" (parenthesis because as we all know there never really seems to be a locked cut any more) then we will start cleaning up the materials that need it. We'll use our AJA Kona and IoXTs for example for most of our format conversions. Say we're editing in a 720p/59.94 timeline, we'll take all the 1080i / 29.97 material and run it through the AJA products to make them all 720p/59.94 via hardware. Generally we do this the easy route by just throwing all the 1080i / 29.97 material into a single timeline and just making a single pass rather than do each shot individually. We can always refer back to the original media via a previous cut of the project so it's no big deal to simply have a file called "1080i Converted" in the main timeline. Same goes for SD that has to be upconverted to HD. AJA hardware does a much better job that just Adobe software. Although we are awaiting delivery of a Blackmagic Teranex 2D unit which adds line doubling with SD to HD upconverts so those will be even cleaner. That will also give us PAL-NTSC or vice versa conversion as well.
We do these conversions one of two ways. Play out the timeline from one edit system to another or play out the timeline from one edit system to our AJA Ki Pro which is how we usually do it. Love, love, LOVE the KiPro since it automatically makes a ProRes file for us. If we want a DNxHD file, we can use the KiPro Mini.
At the "locked cut" phase we also switch the Video Previews over to ProRes or DNxHD as these result in far superior renders than the MPEG I-Frame, particularly with fast moving video and graphics.
For sound mixing, we do one of two things currently. For most documentary and all broadcast projects, we'll output an OMF for our ProTools sound designer along with an H264 reference quicktime file. He'll then create a Stereo Mix or a Stereo Mix plus split tracks depending on the broadcast requirements.
Or the editor will simply mix in Adobe Premiere Pro if it's a project that doesn't require or have the budget for full sound design. Right now that's a bit clunky since we can't use the audio mixer for the mix. Well, we COULD if it truly WAS a locked cut. But the Audio Mixer in Premiere Pro is a TRACK based audio mixer, so all keyframes created by the audio mixer are created by track position. Not by clip. So when our client inevitably comes back to us with a "minor change" that results in changing out 5 clips, trimming another and adding a sound bite, well our mix would be completely screwed. All the keyframes would NOT move with the changes, they simply stay locked into place on the track. So it's a bit of a painstaking process at first, but you learn to pick up the speed as you do it more, but we mix the timelines per clip. Fortunately, you can make Gain and Volume adjustments across multiple clips so it's not as bad as it sounds.
The biggest pain in general is that for whatever reason when using a Wacom Tablet, Premiere Pro does not accurately read the input from the tablet so the keyframes and any other paramaters you try to set in the timeline will jump up/down/left/right as if snapping is always enabled. This doesn't happen with a mouse thankfully so we'll use a mouse when we have to do a long mix.
For color grading we still export a self contained QT from Premiere Pro, either ProRes or DNxHD, to Resolve. I'm going to finally use Resolve 9 this coming week on a short project to test it out. In Resolve I simply use Scene Detect to cut up the file and grade away. From Resolve it's a rendered QT, either ProRes or DNxHD again, to send back into Premiere Pro.
For file output we'll use Adobe Media Endoder as it works really well and can output multiple files easily.
For tape output, we use our one system that has a BlackMagic Extreme 3D card in it that can lay to tape frame accurately each time. MUST ensure that the Premiere Pro interface is on a single screen or there will be dropped frames. Simple go to the Windows > Workspace and choose "Editing." That brings the entire interface to a single screen.
Premiere Pro caveats
Tape Capturing is still completely useless in the software so we still break out FCP 7 pretty much exclusively for that operation. We do a lot documentary and news style work so we're always pulling materials from tape. It's still an essential part of our workflow so instead of trying to force Premiere Pro to do something it really can't, we just switch to a tool that can. Works well as we usually have Kelly do the capturing on a dedicated system so the edit suites aren't tied up capturing.
The biggest issue we've run into are project that files that come up as corrupted or missing elements and cannot be opened. Seems to be no rhyme or reason as to why this happens. Projects from 9 months ago, 6 months ago, last week. They just suddenly won't open on any of our systems. With the work we do and the clients we work with, we're constantly opening projects from as far back as 5 years ago to revise, repurpose, and pull elements from. We can go back into our FCP projects from 10 years ago and open pretty much all of them without a problem. This is something I've been VERY vocal to Adobe about and I have every confidence they are addressing this very important issue. Fortunately there is a very easy workaround. Simply create New Project and import the "corrupted" project into that. Continue working.
Premiere Pro moving forward
The tool has become the workhorse at our facility. It's a great storytelling tool and I'm finding that my rough cuts are going so much faster than with FCP. The hoverscrub in the bins is so fast for auditioning shots and while I'm still using the FCP keyboard presets, one of my editors has switched completely over to the Adobe presets because once you get used to them, you can fly even faster. I definitely need to get up to speed on all the keyboard editing / trimming. That's what folks love Avid so much for, but PPro has made major gains with these controls in 6.0 and I'm sure it's just going to get better moving forward.
So right now, I'm very happy with where Premiere Pro is today and where it's poised to move going forward. It's not perfect, but it's a solid tool and a great storytelling device. The tight integration of the entire Adobe Suite also makes life really easy when we get to the finishing process of any project.
Final Cut Pro X
I've had a lot of folks asking me if I'm considering re-introducing FCP based on the most recent updates from Apple. Here's the way I look at X today.
If you're using FCPX right now, you should be really happy with what Apple's doing. You're getting more features back into the tool and they should be making your day to day work more efficient.
For me, I see no reason to switch back to FCP. It's amusing to see Apple touting the "new features" such as Drop Shadow and the Dual display. In my mind, those are simply corrections and an admission from Apple that X was released before it was ready for prime time. In the interim, we've switched off to other NLE platforms and in my mind, both Adobe Premiere Pro and Avid are superior to what FCP X is today and certainly superior to what FCP 7 was back in the day. There are certainly some good concepts in X but as a whole package, it falls short of my needs today.
I never say never, and if a client were to come in tomorrow and demand we use X for a project, we'll use it, we have it in the shop. But as far as the tool of choice, there's nothing in X today that makes me remotely consider swapping out Premiere Pro for X as our primary or even secondary tool. There's also something to be said for looking at companies whose main source of profit comes from really good professional software vs. consumer hardware. When software is a loss leader or a minor portion of your profit margin, you can do more what you want to do vs. what the market is asking for.
Adobe, Avid and Autodesk are all actively reaching out to the professional editing community to make their products better and more accessible. I appreciate that.
And with that, the end of this installment. Hope it's helpful and thanks for all your support through the years!
|As has been reported recently, CNN laid off 50 staffers, primarily videographers and editors. Why? Essentially after a three year internal review, CNN has determined that professional editors are not necessary to craft news stories any longer. Instead they are expanding their iReport section allowing for more user generated content to be provided to the network, at absolutely zero cost to the network. Yep, zero cost to the network since these folks won’t be paid. I could go on about that part of the story, but Stephen Colbert explains it so well in this clip from “This Colbert R...|
So we’re at the point in the evolution of Editing (and videography for that matter) from craft to commodity. As CNN says in their release, high quality video cameras and editing software are available to the masses, so they don’t need the professionals any longer. In the corporate production world, this move from professional to consumer / family friends has been happening for quite some time. “My son / cousin / nephew / daughter / friend has a video camera / computer and he/she can do the work for us now. Sorry, but smaller budgets you know.”
Now we’ve seen the same thing happening in broadcast and higher end production as the editing tools became cheaper over the past 10 years. Only for a while there it was actual professionals who left their corporate / broadcast jobs to take advantage of the lower cost tools to strike out on their own. So top notch editors were able to deliver high quality, broadcast and film projects right out of their own homes using desktop tools. I’m proof positive of that starting out in a spare bedroom and then expanding my house where we ran my company for 7 years with three HD edit suites.
I have to have to say, this is the first time I’ve seen a broadcaster literally coming out and saying we’re going to replace professionals with consumers and hobbyists. They save the salaries of 50 professionals and get all sorts of free content, no matter how it’s shot or edited with no regard for sound or video quality. Kind of ironic to see this push to the lowest common denominator at the same time that so many editors are discovering the joys of high end color correction tools. But I digress.
Basically editing is just a commodity right now in the minds of many. The craft is associated with cheap tools rather than the artist using the tool. There are millions upon millions of folks who use word processing software but that doesn’t make all of those millions writers. Writing is a craft that some folks can do and others….. well they can write letters, recipes, but you wouldn’t ask them to write your next script or promo.
It’s the same with video editing. Millions upon millions of people now have access to really good video editing tools, but that doesn’t make them an editor. Earning a paycheck doesn’t make you an editor either. I’ve met “professionals” who have full time jobs that can’t cut their way out of a paper bag. And then I meet kids in school or college that just blow me away with their sense of timing.
True editors are storytellers. Doesn’t matter if you’re cutting a commercial, a training video, a movie or an episodic television series, you’re telling a story. Really good editors seem to be natural storytellers with an incredible sense of timing. When I start a project, I can usually “see” the edit from start to finish within a matter of hours. It’s just second nature for me and it’s something I have a hard time explaining to other people when folks ask me for tips and how I go about editing. A buddy of mine described it that “the editing part is secondary for Walter, he just knows where the story is, but it’s everything else around editing like the technology that has always drawn him in.”
The technology, and the proper way to use today’s technology, seems to be the biggest differentiation between what we’ll call a hobbyist / prosumer vs. a professional editor. Even on national broadcasts I’m stunned at how many interlacing issues I see that aren’t rocket science to do correctly. In the case of our shop, there is not a format we have not had to work with so we’re getting pretty good at solving any problems that can arise from the mixing and matching of the various formats.
So in this short term environment where video editing is equated with the cheaper tool than the artist and anyone can edit at home for super cheap, why in the world would we open a huge new facility? Simple. We’re storytellers and I surround myself with other good storytellers. We are transitioning ourselves from just being a service provider to other clients, to creating our own original content. As we develop these into fully funded projects, we’re going to need room for more storytellers. And as some storytellers strike out on their own, they might need a place to call home for a while. So we want to provide that creative space for other artists because as cool as it is to work at home, I can attest that it’s more fun and creative to be around like minded folks than all alone in your home office.
Long term, the craft of editing is probably stronger than ever. Now that the tools are in the hands of the many, we’ll discover some new folks who just blow us away with their storytelling skills. But short term, many long time professionals could get hurt when editing decisions are based on price alone and not the skill of the artist. Like anything else, with storytelling you generally get what you pay for.
In time, folks will realize that again.
|EXCLUSIVE! (always wanted to say that!)|
When I get an email from Dan Desmet at Flanders Scientific asking “do you have any time available? I’d like to show you something” I always MAKE the time. One of the awesome benefits of being literally 15 minutes away from FSI is we get to see a lot from these guys. It’s also a great chance to get together for lunch, or dinner in this case.
Well, what he had to show were three truly incredible monitors, one of which you already know about,the LM0950W (WOW!) and the other two they are letting me spill the beans a day early. FSI is releasing two new monitors at a more affordable price range for everyone. These are 1080 Native monitors with the following standard connections: 3G/HD/SD-SDI/Component/Composite/DVI-I. Yes, you read correctly, 3G is standard on these new monitors and these are 1080 native display monitors and they accept 4:4:4 and 2K sources.
Let me first say, my photos don’t do the monitors justice quite honestly but I was a bit rushed and took what I could. But here’s what the 3 larger monitors look like sitting in my suite, you can ignore the old 0750W there at the bottom.
The LM-2140W and the LM-2340W are priced $2,495 and $2,995 respectively. That’s the 2340W on the left and the 2140W on the right with the original LM-2461W in the back. The 2461W is what I use every day in my Edit 1 suite at Biscardi Creative Media.
First off, I have to say wow, on the connectivity at this price point. Very sweet. Second, wow on the image. Is it identical to the $4995 priced LM-2461W? Well, no, but then they’re not designed to be. These are designed to very high quality, very cost effective monitors for those who either don’t need the absolute best color critical picture of the 2461W or who simply can’t afford to drop $5,000 on a monitor right now.
When you take $2000 off the price of the top of the line 24″ model, something has to give. In this case, the Color Fidelity Engine that powers the absolute “correctness” of the 2461W is absent in the new models. So you will notice that the 21 and 2340W’s are slightly warmer than the 2461W. The image displays a little more red overall and a touch of purple in the blacks.
Now comparing the 1760W to the 2140W, what you’re gaining is an extra 4″ of real estate. Doesn’t sound like a whole lot but there’s a definite difference in terms of the viewing experience plus remember, it’s now a 1080 native display vs. the 720p native of the 1760W. And of course FSI has gone ahead and made the 3G option (about $1,500 on the 1760W) standard on the 2130W.
Both monitors come with LED backlighting which means there is no warmup period so the colors are accurate from the time you turn them on. This also decreases the weight dramatically as well, just 9 pounds for the 2130W, 10 for the 2140W.
Could you actually do a color grade on these monitors and submit it to a broadcaster without fear of rejection? Well if you know what you’re doing in the color grade process, sure. I sat there with these monitors in my suite up against the LM-2461W and it was clear that the 21 / 2340W’s were warmer as I said originally. But, if I didn’t have the money for the 2461W or the need for absolutely color critical judgement, yeah, it would be no problem to do a nice color grade with it. Would a broadcaster reject your work solely because you did a color grade on this monitor? I would highly doubt it. If they do, it would be because of the operator who did the color grade……
LM-2340W foreground, LM-2461W background
These monitors will definitely fill a great need, particularly with the economy the way it is around the world, for those of you who need a really really good monitor, but maybe not the “best” monitor.
FSI re-defined the standard of the “best” monitor out there by giving us a super high quality, color critical monitor for just $4995. Now they’ve done the same by bringing us two incredibly good options at a much more affordable level for everyone. Something that is “good enough” to meet your needs yet much better than other monitors at the same or even higher price point.
Keep an eye on the Flanders Scientific page tomorrow morning because not only will they announce the new 2140W and 2340W, Dan hinted you’ll find special introductory pricing too.
Official Press Release came out today with the introductory pricing information.
|Because so many folks have asked me "What's in your Edit Suite?" followed up by "Why do you have that?" I created a new blog entry to answer the hows and whys of what we install in our suites.|
I was originally going to re-create the blog here on the Cow site, but it would be so time consuming, forgive me for just linking to the original blog on my website. But feel free to post comments here.
Anatomy of an Edit Suite
|Why is it that Producers treat Post Production as an afterthought? As in, “I need to spend all my money on Production so it looks great, but the editing we can do on the cheap.” The editor is the LAST person to touch your film. As in the person who will make or break your film by their skills to properly cut the film together making the right decisions on scenes to keep / remove, timing and a whole host of other decisions. So you hire the absolute cheapest person to do the one of the most important jobs?|
A Professional Editor also knows how to properly manage time, as in being able to handle a project on time, by deadline and also managing the Producer’s expectations. A Professional Editor also knows when a project’s scope is beyond their abilities.
The Perfect Storm of how NOT to plan your Post Production played recently in some unsolicited correspondence I received from a Producer I’ve never met, but they asked for my advice to help resolve their Post Production issues. I’ve edited some of the original email, but my blunt responses are reprinted here in their entirety.
Producer: I have a film shot on RED that I’m planning to submit to Sundance. I hired a college student to cut the film and gave them 2 months to cut it. The film will be about an hour.
Me: You hired a university student to cut a film for submission to Sundance. That’s only the most difficult film festival to get an acceptance in the U.S. because EVERYBODY submits to that one. The way you get accepted is to already have an in with the festival, have a blockbuster coming out, or submit an absolutely superb story that stands out above the rest. So you entrusted a college student to prepare your film for the most difficult film festival to get into. Unless you’re trying to qualify for a student level film, that was a huge mistake right off the bat. Your film would have to be both creative and technically sound. No matter how creative your film is, a university student has no idea how to make a film technically sound to stand out in a crowded film festival submission.
And you did the film in RED which requires a stout editing system and proper professional monitoring to properly edit.
Producer: I gave the editor two requirements: make my film at least 60 minutes and have it to me no later than my deadline in two months. I gave him all the RED footage that we currently had (approximately 3/4 of the movie) so that he could get a jump on editing while we completed the film.
Me: Two months is a ridiculously tight turnaround unless you had everything ready to go and laid out for editing. Especially if you were expecting a fully finished film for submission that would include a rough audio mix, rough color enhancement, etc… If you were expecting a fully finished film with full audio mix and full color enhancement, that was not near enough time. Your timeframe was impossible meet unless you had a full post production facility behind you that was skilled in completing quick turnaround projects. No way one person was going to complete all of this in two months have it fully film festival ready.
A university student wouldn’t really know this since when they submit projects to be graded, it doesn’t always have to be fully completed. If it’s creative but not technically sound, well that’s ok because they’re learning and the professor will give them good grades. In the real world, technical quality is paramount to the creative. I’ve seen some amazingly skilled college editors but the one thing they all lack is the ability to properly prepare projects from a technical standpoint. Audio levels, video levels and proper color correction are things I always have to teach new hires.
Producer: Delays happen as they do on film sets and half of the last 1/4 of the film footage didn’t get to the editor until 3 weeks before the deadline. “No problem”, he told me, “I’ve been editing the footage as I go. You’ll definitely get your film by your deadline”. Deadline came and he calls me up and says he can’t make the deadline because the film is rendering and the ETA is 12 hours. (As an editor, isn’t this something you budget for as far as time management goes?).
Me: I’m not surprised in the least. A university student is not used to meeting deadlines yet. They can miss a deadline or two in college and it’s no big deal. Of course I can’t understand exactly what they were rendering. Was it the color correction? Was it the RED Proxy Files? Didn’t they convert all the footage to ProRes for the edit?
Yes, rendering time is one of those things you have to budget for in time management, it’s always a trade off on adding more to a project vs. render time to complete on time. Not to mention the DVD compression / authoring / burning time.
Producer: While I’m watching it, I realized that it’s not 60 minutes and there are crucial errors in it (i.e. missing scenes, and in one scene you hear the AD say “Action”). I can’t submit this!
Me: So you have not watched any rough cuts of the film at all? When the film is completed this is the first time you’re seeing it? Generally an editor submits rough cuts either on a daily, weekly or other regular schedule that is laid out with the Producer before the edit starts.
Scenes are cut out all the time for timing. I have no idea how long your raw material was vs. the imposed running time of 60 minutes. Did you give the editor guidelines on which scenes could be cut for timing and which scenes have to remain in the film? If you left it completely up to the editor, then you cannot be upset with what was removed. Getting a film to an exact running time is impossible without guidelines from the Producer as to what must stay and what can be cut.
As for the “Action” I don’t think the editor did a sound pass on the film. I would not submit anything to a festival like Sundance without a professional sound designer doing a clean pass on the film first. Basically all he does is smooth all the levels and clean up any extraneous audio. That allows us to submit to film festivals and then he goes in and does the full sound mix which on a one hour film I would expect anywhere from 2 to 10 days depending on whether he’s supplying any original music and if we’re going 5.1 or stereo mix. Barring that, our editors would spend two days on a 60 minute film just smoothing out all the levels so nothing is jarring or extraneous.
Producer: So, I have to import the film into my own FCP program, crudely cut out the “Action”, and submit the half-assed film to Sundance with a production note as to why the other errors were not corrected. And then I had to find another editor to fix the mistakes he made, thereby costing me even more money. Up until this point, I had been paying him on a delayed schedule since I was independently financing the project. Every two weeks, I’d pay him for one week’s work.
Me: Again, you’re planning to submit to Sundance and you hired a college student to do the work. And it sounds like you did not review the film at all during the editing process. And you had a ridiculously tight turnaround time to complete the film. Perfect storm.
Indie film producers never budget enough money or time for Post Production. So they hire the cheapest person they can find and they have all sorts of issues in the edit that they can’t seem to explain. This cycle runs like a broken record here in Atlanta yet the Producers don’t learn. Post Production generally costs at least 1/3 more than Production. More if you’re shooting on the cheap. My independent film (20 minutes) cost $3500 to shoot and if I had to pay for the Post Production that would have been over $20,000. But since it was my own film, I didn’t have to pay for the Post or the facility. We spent 6 weeks cutting and preparing that 20 minute scripted film. The first three weeks finessing, the second three weeks in sound mix and color enhancement.
On the plus side you were actually paying the editor so that’s a good thing. Indie Producers are notorious for not paying at all. I would have demanded, and all editors I work with would have demanded 50% of the budget up front and you would not have received the final cut until the balance of payment was received.
Producer: He didn’t meet either of the requirements I set for him AND gave me a “finished” project that I couldn’t use. I’ve already paid him for 6 out of the 8 weeks, in the good faith that he’d finish the project per my requirements and continued to send payment after he failed to do so. I know it sucks for him because he really worked all day and night the last week, but this is a business and his actions caused me to lose money. And honestly, better prioritizing on his part would have prevented this entire situation (he spent days color-correcting while raw footage was waiting idly by to be cut into coherent scenes). As an editor, what would you expect from your client if this had happened to you. What do you think would be the fair thing for me to do?
Me: This is a business for you. It’s a learning experience for him. He’s a college student, he’s not a professional editor. You made the decision to hire him I’m guessing because he was ridiculously cheap. Therefore you owe him the payment.
Our one hour documentary took 6 days to color correct with a 30 year Colorist doing the work with professionally calibrated equipment in a professional color suite. So that fact that he took days is not surprising in the least. I would expect a non-colorist to take at least 2 weeks to color correct a one hour film. Did you tell him not to color correct any of the scenes until the film was completed? In fact, why were you color correcting the film at all when you had such a tight turnaround? That’s another mistake and something that you as a Producer needed to clarify with the editor.
As a professional editor you would not have had anything to submit to Sundance without giving me the final payment so the fact that you even had something to submit is remarkable. As a professional editor, I would have prioritized the edit to complete the story first and finish second. But in college you’re all about impressing people with your knowledge of software and effects, so playing with graphics, color enhancement and the like are what it’s all about in college. So I’m not surprised he wanted to play with looks on the film instead of finishing it first.
All in all, you chose the wrong person when you decided to hire someone in college to do a highly professional job. As the Producer it is your responsibility to hire the right people to complete each task of the project. It sounds to me like you did not budget near enough money for Post Production or you would have hired a good professional editor or Post facility. This happens all the time here and what usually happens is a facility like mine has to come behind and clean up the mess.
Sorry to be so blunt, but you made a very poor choice to choose such an unqualified person to cut a project for such high profile expectations.
I honestly have no idea if this Producer really was expecting sympathy from me or what, but when you make a poor business decision and then try to lay the blame on an unqualified person, that just really gets to me. There are thousands of incredibly talented artists in colleges and universities across the country, I’ve met a lot of them myself. They do insanely creative work and soon will take over our entire industry.
But it’s not fair to lay down unrealistic expectations on someone who is still learning the craft and then expect them to turn out a film worthy of one of the most famous film festivals in the world. So if the film gets rejected, whose going to be to blame? The Producer / Writer for the story or the Editor because they got in over their head? The Producer made an incredibly bad choice on whom to have cut the film. Ultimately success or rejection will ride on all the choices the Producer and Director made during the course of the production.
|Recently a thread in the Apple Color forum had somebody remark that if you're delivering to the "Big Boys" such as Discovery and PBS you really should have external scopes in your shop. It's also been suggested that external legalizer boxes really should be used as well when delivering to the high end networks. |
The true fact of the matter is, the scopes in Color are very accurate, to the point that I don't see any differences on an external scope when we do have one. The Broadcast Safe in Color is good enough for "the big boys." We have delivered about 66 episodes of "Good Eats" in HD to the Food Network, not a single rejection for video quality, and have now delivered two HD programs to PBS. No external scopes, no external legalizer. Just FCP to Color to FCP and out to tape. In fact, about 20 or so episodes of Good Eats was color graded ONLY using FCP's 3-Way CC, Broadcast Safe and Levels filters. All of those were legal.
If you can afford an external scope and want to drop $12,000 to $20,000 for a good Tektronix scope, then by all means have at it. We actually could afford one if I really felt I needed it, but I personally would rather spend that money on something more useful to our day to day operation, say like 3 FSI color reference monitors to replace our aging CRT monitors.
But as far as being perfectly broadcast legal and delivering to the "big boys" of broadcast, the tools within FC Studio are perfectly capable of delivering a legal product in the hands of an operator who knows how to use them.
|As usual, the guys at FSI keep adding in more and more features based on user input and the latest round of updates have a couple of especially neat updates. And of course, these are free to all current owners of FSI monitors, just download the update from the website.|
EBU Gamma. True 2.35 EBU standard gamma setting for the monitor for anyone delivering material to european broadcasters. Yes, 2.4 is mighty darn close, but because of a request from a European user, they decided to make the monitors go exactly to the European gamma spec.
Timecode Display. The monitors themselves can now display on screen timecode pulled directly off the SDI feeds using LTC, VITC 1 and VITC 2. So no more having to turn on the TC display via a tape deck or a camera, the monitors themselves can now display on screen TC. I've actually asked for a few improvements to this feature already.
NTSC Setup. You can set the monitor up to 7.5 IRE if you're working on SD material that requires 7.5 delivery.
Scope Position. Now you can put the scopes in any of six positions instead of just having it in the lower right.
Active Boundary Marker. This is really really neat and it took me a moment or two to really figure out what they had done here. Because the monitors have the ability to show full resolution video without using up the entire screen, it can be difficult to tell if you're missing any lines of image in the picture. For example, in 1:1 SD mode on any of the monitors. You see black on the top and bottom of the image because it's sitting in the middle of the monitor so if there are any lines of resolution missing in the image, you can't tell because it'll just look like the black border around the image.
Turn on the Active Boundary Marker and a line is placed 1 pixel above and below the image frame. Now you can see where the edge of the image SHOULD be. If you see black between your image and that line, then you're missing image information.
And of course there's more stuff in the latest updates, but these are some of the highlights that I've noticed so far. Very cool stuff!
|Ok so the "official 18% grey paint" is something like $80 per quart and up. Thanks to this tip from Dan Desmet at Flanders Scientific, here's a really REALLY close knock off of that color for a lot less.|
You want Sherwin Williams SW 7071 color.
The one to get is Duration Home, Extra White Matte Base, 6403-63925. The BAC code should be
BAC Colorant 02 32 64 128
B1-Black - 20 1 -
Y3-Deep Gold - 5 – 1
Why do you need 18% grey? Well it helps to keep your eyes neutral while you edit and color grade a scene on your monitor. That's the theory anyway.
|I spent the day at the FSI offices last week getting a chance to really chat with Dan, Bram and Johan about the monitors and learning about all the features. Their offices are also in the Atlanta area so I took the opportunity to get some instruction on these monitors at their offices.|
I knew these things were full of features but I didn't realize just HOW many features and how much end user control they have. I really don't expect the feature set at the price point, but these guys are doing it and it's great for all of us in need of a good LCD monitor.
Scopes are becoming a standard now on the LCD panels, but how would like those scopes and audio meters displayed? There are something like a dozen choices from the type of scope you want to see, the values you want to see (Luma, RGB, etc), where you want it on screen and even how many channels of audio you would like to see. Oh and embedded audio via SDI which is really sweet on a field shoot. You don't need to tie into the sound guy's audio output, you can just plug a headphone into the monitor and get the clean sound from there. (you can also do this with analog). Oh and how about scopes that are active via all inputs including DVI?
Markers that can be displayed in pretty much any frame size and either as lines or transparent or solid mattes.
Pixel Mapping so you can see your image pixel for pixel, on any of the displays.
Control over pulldown, as in you can have the pulldown smoothed out or you can see it frame for frame with the judder.
Classic Blue Only mode for those who just don't want to give that up when switching out from CRTs. :-)
I'm especially loving the 5 user preset keys now that I'm figuring it out. Basically 5 user controlled On/Off buttons to activate my 5 most used features, such as Scopes and Markers. AND 5 user profiles so when we start having more editors using the suites, each person can have those function keys pre-set however they want.
And I saw just how ridiculously easy the Auto Alignment procedure is to re-calibrate the monitor at any time. Turn On Monitor. Let it Warm Up for 30 Minutes. Connect the Probe to the FSI Alignment Converter. Connect the Converter to the Monitor. Hit "Auto Align." Grab a coffee and come back 20 minutes later.
Can you tell I'm really liking these monitors? A true color accurate monitor that we can all afford? And best of all, the 30 day money back guarantee, which is one of the reasons why I feel so comfortable recommending them to anyone reading this. If you truly don't like it, then return it and you're not out any money so you can go get something else.
|If anyone out there needs / wants a Dual Link to 3G Converter, AJA Video Systems has a nice little mini-converter out there.|
What's 3G you say? The replacement for Dual Link HD. Instead of two cables, you get the full 3G HD signal down one cable. I honestly had never heard of it until we ordered our new Flanders Scientific monitors and they were talking about how their monitors offer only 3G and not Dual Link because Dual Link will be replaced in the near future.
|Biscardi Creative Media has been selected to provide all Post Production services for a new series revolving around Science. The first run will be 15 weeks with an additional 35 weeks possible for 2009 and further expansion in 2010.|
More details soon.
|I posted this originally in the Apple Color Forum but through I would share here as well....|
Just had an all-day demo of four Flanders Scientific (FSI) monitors here in the shop. Overall extremely impressed and yes, you CAN have an accurate monitor for $2,495. I'm not going to go into full details as Nick Griffin will be publishing an article shortly on everything we saw here today but basically....
LM-2450W (24") and LM-1760W (17") look as accurate as my Sony CRT Multi-format monitor. Excellent blacks, excellent whites and good solid color throughout. The 24" has an option for the ND Filter which I'll be getting, but you don't necessarily need it. The 17" is simply the cheapest monitor I've seen out there that I consider accurate enough to recommend. Honestly can't believe there's a monitor this inexpensive and this high of quality.
The LM-2430W (24") and LM-2130W (21") are considered "grade 2" monitors and while extremely accurate, the viewing angle is tighter. Also, when I put up a scene that was completely black on one side, you could see some light spill coming in from the edges. This is a limitation of the panel itself and the prices are lower, accordingly. These would be great editing monitors and could be used for final mixing if you don't have the budget for the 2450W.
Are they as accurate as the $10,000 and up LCD's? Probably not, though I would love to see a side by side comparison, I would not be surprised to see them look really REALLY close. One great thing about them, 30 day money back guarantee so if you don't like it, send it back no questions asked.
I'm ordering 2 of the 2450W's and one of the 1760W's for our shop so if anyone wants to purchase my Sony PVM20L5/1 and/or my PVM14L5/1 just shoot me an email. As soon as the FSI's are here, I'll ship them to you.
If you want to know more about the specs, just click on the yellow banners throughout the Cow or look up Flanders Scientific. They're a locally owned company right here in Atlanta, super nice guys to boot!
|To paraphrase a famous author, "I have seen the future of shared storage and his name is Ethernet."|
Last month we invested in the new Final Share system from MaxxDigital and after some tweaking, we now have 16TB of shared storage supported a high definition workflow with 6 workstations all running Apple's ProRes HQ in high definition, both 720p and 1080i. And actually it's not "workstations" in the traditional sense of the word, since we're running ethernet, we can connect any Mac computer to the array.
So in our case, we have three Final Cut Pro desktop workstations and three iMac's all connected. In our testing today we configured the three FCP workstations to capture approx. 3 hours of 720 and 1080i ProRes HQ material each. As that was happening, all three iMacs were playing back 20+ minute clips in Quicktime Player in a loop. After all the capturing, we had all three FCP workstations set up with 90 minute timeline playing in a loop while the iMacs kept playing their clips. We left it all alone for several hours and all way still playing. 6 streams of high definition from one storage array and all via simple ethernet cable!
We plan to use the iMacs both to allow Producers to review footage immediately upon capture and also for Assistant Editors working on upcoming series. Once the footage is in the system, anybody can access it at any time and since it's not Fibre Channel, I don't have to invest in top of the line desktop editing systems for the assists.
Watch for a full article on this system coming up shortly, but wow, this thing really works and it's really affordable!
Biscardi Creative Media recently delivered an introductory project for an upcoming feature-length documentary about River Blindness disease. Produced by Gary Strieker and Cielo Productions, the project was a 10 minute overview of what the disease is and a brief look into some of the preventative measures being implemented by The Carter Center.
The presentation, "The Crab and the Fly" was shot in 720p HD in multiple locations in Africa and Latin America over a two year period. Editorial was performed by Aaron R. Stewart and the final presentation was delivered on 1080i BluRay disc using BCM in-house BluRay authoring & publishing tools.
The feature length documentary is scheduled for completion by mid to late 2009.
Biscardi Creative Media principal, Walter Biscardi, Jr., will be Directing the Pilot episode of a new business television series. Being developed jointly by BCM, ideaWercs and Arriving with BB Webb, the series will feature success stories and inspiration from women in the business world.
"I'm honored to be launching this new series as the Director and have always believed that editors make great directors," notes Biscardi. "As an editor you know what you want to see and what you wish you had when cutting the show together. Knowing what will make the show better in Post helps me in making sure we get everything we need, and then some, in the studio and on location."
Production is scheduled for late October, 2008 with all editorial scheduled to be completed by early December, 2008. The series is tentatively scheduled to go into production by the 2nd quarter of 2009.
Biscardi Creative Media is creating an original lifestyle television series. Developed by BCM principal, Walter Biscardi, Jr. the series will be presented to major U.S. networks by a production partner.
The series re-unites Biscardi with actress Cynthia Evans who played the lead role in BCM's "The Rough Cut" short film, and Producer Sharon Collins who worked with Walter in the Environment Unit at CNN. The Pilot is scheduled for production in mid October 2008 with editorial slated for completion by late November 2008.
BCM is proud to have recently completed a fund-raiser for the Preeclampsia Foundation. When we started this project, we honestly had no idea what Preeclampsia is or what it can do to pregnant women and/or their babies.
From the Preeclampsia Foundation website: "Preeclampsia is a disorder that occurs only during pregnancy and the postpartum period and affects both the mother and the unborn baby. Affecting at least 5-8% of all pregnancies, it is a rapidly progressive condition characterized by high blood pressure and the presence of protein in the urine."
Ultimately the condition can lead to death of the mother and/or the baby in some circumstances. Editor Aaron Stewart and Artist Walter Biscardi, Jr. worked with Producers Pat Etheridge and Cindy Beckler to create the 24 minute feature presentation and an 8 minute preview. The preview version was featured at a major fundraiser in Washington, D.C. with 500 copies of the feature presentation given to the audience.
To learn more about Preeclampsia visit http://www.preeclampsia.org/index.asp
Tools used: Final Cut Pro, Photoshop, After Effects, DVD Studio Pro.
I'm really happy to report publicly for the first time that we'll be providing all post production for 3 feature length documentaries that are currently destined for major film festivals and network HD broadcast in 2009 and 2010. We can trace at least part of this announcement to our investment in BluRay and in-house self-publishing of the high definition discs.
Yesterday a sample 9 minute version of the first of the three proposed documentaries was presented to the Carter Center here in Atlanta. Among the people present were both hollywood executives and an executive of an international television network and most importantly, President Jimmy Carter. It has been Mr. Carter's mission to eradicate major diseases to impoverished areas of the world and in this particular presentation, the story was Guinea worm and its debilitating effect on people, especially the very young. I'm going to be very honest and say that for the first week I had a very difficult time cutting the piece and had to walk out of the suite multiple times a day to get away from the screams of the little girl who serves as the primary focus of this presentation. It was a natural sound story told through the stories of the man who oversees the eradication program for the Carter Center and the volunteers on the ground. All in all, it presents a very powerful emotional punch.
In order to present the project properly, we authored and created a BluRay disc and the production company purchased a Panasonic DLP HD projector for the event. Actually that part is kind of cool because now we have full access to a large format DLP HD projector anytime we need one. In addition to the presentation disc, we duplicated 20 BluRay and 30 DVD copies for all the board and associated personnel to take home. All packaged in proper DVD and BluRay cases with full four color sleeves designed in Photoshop and printed on our own laser printer. The discs themselves were printed on our new FlexWriter IV DVD duplicator / printer.
The fact that we were able to deliver and present the project on BluRay made an immediate impression before the viewing even began. At the conclusion of the presentation, the accolades for both the story and technical quality of the presentation were overwhelming. We will most likely debut at least one of the documentaries at the Sundance Film Festival and it is very likely that all three documentaries will appear on a major international H.D. network in 2009 or 2010. The narrator will be a major hollywood star or potentially several stars, talks are already underway.
What we were able to accomplish by not only jumping in to the BluRay authoring realm, but also the duplication and finishing was to allow our client to look incredibly good in front of a very demanding audience. It's because of this ability to not only tell the story on screen, but deliver it in the highest possible quality anytime, anywhere, that we were granted the offer to be a part of these three documentaries and essentially have one edit suite already fully booked for 2009.
BluRay self-publishing is here and it works.
Apple Final Cut Pro, AJA Kona 3, Apple Compressor 3, Adobe Encore CS3, FastMac BluRay Burner, Panasonic BluRay Duplicator, FlexWriter IV DVD Printer, HP LaserJet 3000 Printer .
We're working on a corporate documentary type of project that involves teenagers who lived through Hurricane Katrina. The project is all shot in high definition and of course, the producer was in the market for some news footage of the hurricane and its aftermath to help craft the story.
Looking around the web we found buyoutfootage.com with the most reasonably priced footage, about $450 for 19 minutes of the aftermath rescues and such. The description of the reel describes pretty much exactly what we were looking for with military personnel helping people, flooded streets, the mayor walking around, etc.... It's available on BetaSP so we naturally assumed it would all be clean, good quality footage. Being on a quick turnaround schedule, we simply ordered the master without getting the sample DVD.
That was a bad decision. When we received the tape, a lot of the footage looked like it had been captured at a very low resolution or it had been through about 5 or 6 generations of dubs. Most of it is very soft, again, like bad transfers along the way.
So I called buyoutfootage.com and it was explained to me that all of the footage is from the Department of Defense and it was all dubbed from the original sources at an Air Force Base.As there's no way to know what types of cameras the various folks were shooting with, the quality varies from very good to really really poor. That fact is not mentioned in the synopsis.Synopsis: The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, a category 3 storm, which made landfall on the morning of August 29, 2005. Aerial views of the flooding in New Orleans and helicopter rescue of people trapped by the floodwaters.
Scenes of people being removed from a freeway overpass by helicopter, and aerial view of the Super Dome. People waiting at the airport. Short scene of President Bush and Mayor Ray Nagin walking toward camera. Shows devastation of homes along the Gulf Coast.
In fact I was told I was the first one to complain about the quality of the footage and that there are "DV folks" and then there are "video connoisseurs." I guess I fall into the later and the DV folks don't know the difference in quality? Regardless, approx. 80% of the footage is far below what I could consider full quality video and really should not be sold to anyone without an explicit note in the description along the lines of "This footage was shot by Department of Defense personnel using consumer and professional cameras. Video quality varies widely."
The person on the phone told me I really should have ordered the DVD Sample disc (for $35) before ordering the footage. Yes, we will definitely do that in the future. To be absolutely fair here, the folks at buyout footage were very pleasant to speak to the phone and they did do a makegood offer so that we will have enough images to make this project work.
So for those of you seeking out royalty free and low cost footage, especially of major events, be sure to:
1 - Ask how the footage was obtained.
2 - Ask what the quality of the footage is. (Is it first generation? What cameras / format was it shot on?)
3 - Order the preview DVD where available.
SUGAR HILL, GA
Biscardi Creative Media is proud to announce the completion of "Jayne's Café" featuring Jayne Olderman, owner of Red Warrior Records. Looking for a unique way to present her songs to a wide audience, Jayne created the concept of an unplugged 'café.'
"Jayne and I have been working together for a long time and when she mentioned this project, I immediately jumped in and said we'd like to produce it at BCM," notes Walter Biscardi, Jr., Principal Biscardi Creative Media. "Our challenge was to be able to shoot it well in a very small studio space. There's very little room for lighting and the ceilings are only 9 feet tall and we had up to 6 people for each song and 2 camera operators, so it definitely made for some tight quarters."
DP Clay Walker setting up the lighting
Director of Photography Clay Walker created the overall lighting design and shot with an HVX-200 in standard DV mode while 2nd camera operator, Cheryl Collins, shot with a DVX-100B. "The decision to shoot in DV was predicated by both the budget and Jayne's decision that this was to be a YouTube only project so high definition was not needed. This also allowed for easy matching between the 100 and 200," said Biscardi.
A total of 8 performances were recorded in one day using two primary setups for guitar and piano based songs. A real challenge in Post Production were the live recordings and trying to match up the various takes. "When we first met on this I requested that the performances be recorded in advance and the singers lip sync to make for easier editing over multiple takes of the song. But Jayne insisted that they be recorded live during the taping. Of course with live piano, live guitar and live singers, each performance of a song came out slightly different so trying to match up the singers with various takes was definitely tough at times."
Rachel Farley and Jayne Olderman perform "He Made Woman." Pam Kennedy, Tiffany Milagro and Rachel Little back the duo up.
In the end, the live performances were the right call. "Jayne was absolutely correct to insist on the live recording as we did get some really great performances from the singers."
Jayne's Café is being rolled out over the next few months on YouTube, currently the live recordings of "Real Life" and "He Made Woman" are uploaded along with a previously produced commercial for "Love Big," which was also directed and produced by Walter Biscardi, Jr. The performances can be found here:
Equipment / Software used: Panasonic HVX-200, Panasonic DVX-100B, Apple Final Cut Pro, Apple Color, ProTools.
Jayne's Café Performers: Jayne Olderman, J. Donte Harris, Rachel Farley, Rachel Little, Pam Kennedy, Tiffany Milagro
For more information about Jayne Olderman and Red Warrior Records visit: http://redwarriorrecords.com/
For more information about Biscardi Creative Media visit: http://www.biscardicreative.com/
L to R: Rachel Little, Jayne Olderman, J. Donte Harris, Tiffany Milagro, Pam Kennedy
In Part 2 of this series, I gave you some thoughts on setting up your shop. If you missed that part or Part 1, links are at the bottom of this article. Now that the doors are open, the furniture and equipment is in, we need to get the word out so you can really get your company running and building. Just because you’re open, doesn’t mean people are just going to find you.Congratulations! Hopefully by now you’ve finished off that bottle of champagne, grape juice, coffee, or whatever it was you used to toast your new company. The doors are open, the business cards are lined up and you are officially In Business! Nothing to do now but just let the folks in and get to work.Yep, the coffee’s ready, the cups are out……Just a minute, they’ll be here in just a minute…..I’m sure they just missed that left turn, they probably turned right……Anytime now, they’ll just come strolling right into the office……Ok, so maybe they’re not going to come strolling right into your office. At least not the folks who don’t already know you and your work. Ok, at least not the folks who don’t already know you and actually want to hire your services. THOSE are the folks you want to get to know. The folks who don’t know you. You know?Just opening your doors is a major undertaking but being able to keep them open is even tougher. I think the last time I looked up the statistic, something like 65% of all new business failed in the first 12 months in the U.S. So more than half of the people just like you who were able to plan, finance and open a business didn’t make it to the one year anniversary. I’m not going to say that my pearls of wisdom that follow will guarantee you make it to your first anniversary, but they certainly did help me.
Hello…. Is This Thing On?Number one thing you have to do is let the world know you exist. Marketing yourself is actually a rather awkward thing to do and many folks just really don’t seem to get it right. Keep in mind that what works for someone else won’t necessarily work for you. Think about this, you never see two companies with the exact same advertisement on TV, do you? If Brand X has an incredible ad campaign they why don’t Brands Y and Z run the exact same ad? Because it would be very un-original and folks would associate Brands Y and Z with Brand X.. Besides, Brands Y and Z might have a completely different target audience so they need to structure their ads differently. So think about how you want to be perceived in the marketplace and structure your marketing based on that.Now I’m not talking about a full marketing campaign with advertisements, postcards, flyers and all sorts of stuff you have to pay for. Sure you might do some of that, but there are many other ways to start getting your name out there that won’t break the bank. How about online forums?Online forums such as the Creative COW are a fantastic way of getting your name out there. Troll around for a bit and just see what the landscape is like. If you have some knowledge to share with folks, jump in and give the advice. It doesn’t cost you anything and if your advice and wisdom are consistently useful to the community, folks start to trust and turn to you for advice. Especially for a very small company like my own, just being out there giving advice can lead to many great things down the road. True Story. I started participating in an online forum back around 2000 called the WWUG. I found some useful tips for After Effects and Photoshop and really thought it was cool that like minded artists could help each other out from around the globe. In early 2001 I started my present company with a brand new Final Cut Pro system with really no idea how to operate it properly and migrated over to the new Creative COW community with a ton of questions. 6 months later I was the one answering a lot of questions about the Pinnacle CinéWave card and being asked to start a new CinéWave forum. Because I took the time to learn how the product worked and was so willing to share my new found knowledge with others, I generated some very positive feedback about myself.A few local folks might call you for some advice from time to time and just like in the online forums, it’s not a bad idea to offer some helpful hints if you can. Don’t let this interrupt a paying session, but if you have a few moments, be polite and help folks if you can. Word of mouth will definitely circulate and before you know it, you’ll get friends of friends of friends calling to ask you how to get such and such to work correctly. Yes, some folks will abuse your generosity and that’s what Caller ID is for! But if you have the time, offering assistance to folks is a great way to spread your name around town as someone who is helpful.Emails and newsletters are wonderful tools if you don’t abuse them. How much do you enjoy getting unsolicited ads for stuff you don’t need? Keep that in mind when you send out an email blast or post card campaign. Don’t send emails every week to everyone you know reminding them that you’re now available to do work for them. Don’t send a newsletter every few days notifying the world that you’ve installed a new stapler and it’s ready to be used on their newest script. I think a good general rule is some sort of email every four months and maybe a newsletter every 6 months. That’s enough to let folks know you’re out there without becoming too obnoxious about it. Keep your communications short and simple with a quick update on what you’ve been doing, any major news about your company and a thanks for their time. It’s not the amount of words you use, just how you use them.
Take the High RoadIf you’re alive, then someone or some company has probably done you wrong in your life. Most likely in your career and it might even have been a driving decision to start your own business. It was definitely a motivation for me. No matter how much it hurts and how easy it would be to strike back, do not give in to this temptation. If you’re confused about what I might be talking about, consider a situation like this. An employee is disgruntled with his company. He’s been working there for a while and is the lead Producer for some of the biggest clients. He strikes out on his own and when communicating with those big clients, he degrades that company and the quality of their work. “Company B just doesn’t care about you guys, they’re just after your money, if you knew what they were saying about you when you’re not there you would never want to work with them. You should really consider me to do your work now since I was your Producer anyway.”He’s counting on the client being shocked that Company B would take advantage of them. Exactly the opposite will happen at least 90% of the time. What really happens is the Producer comes off as being a whiner and nobody wants to work with a whiner. The Client will most likely stick with Company B happy that the troublemaker is gone.True Story. I had a partnership for three years and it eventually went sour. I made the decision to leave the partnership as it was just not going to work any longer. My first step was to send a mass email to the company clients to inform them of my decision to move on and to notify them that my partner was going to continue the company and it would be available to service them. I even included the phone number and email addresses of the company again. I was informed later that his communication with the clients was drastically different and very negative against me. The result was that the biggest client from our partnership followed me. That client essentially supported my company for the entire first year as I built up my name and other clients. To this day, I still work with the same people and even helped some of them when it came time to start their own business. No good can come of being negative in any of your communications or marketing materials. Keep it positive and stay above the fray. Even be careful when talking to a client about a fellow Producer, Videographer, Editor, whomever in town. Everyone talks to everyone and eventually your words will get back to you. Oh and I’m not perfect by any means, but I really really try to stay positive at all costs. It seems like it takes longer to build a company “when you do things right” but ultimately you’ll feel better about yourself and what you’re building.
I Got an Offer You Can’t RefuseWhen you first open your doors you have no reputation. Sure you might have built a reputation as a great talent at what you do. But you have no reputation as a company, even if you’re just freelancing. It’s a lot of different to be that great talent and manage the business. Sometimes you have entice folks to get in the door or pick up the phone to use your services. How about a first time incentive like a discount? When I first opened up I would let folks know that they could have a discounted rate for their first job. Usually it was the first day free for a multi-day edit or a lower rate for a single day, things like that. How about an open house? Just open the doors for a day, have some snacks and finger foods on hands with soft drinks and let folks see what you’re all about. Be sure to have something going in each room or at least things for people to see and take. Have plenty of business cards, some one-sheets that describe the business and your services and hopefully a demo. If you have monitors in the shop, have some of your work running in a continuous loop. You might even offer some prizes to folks either for arriving at a certain time or putting their business cards into a jar. Free work, discounted work, a prize, whatever you want it to be, give an enticement for showing up. And make sure you have a sign-in sheet when folks arrive so you can get their phone numbers and email addresses. Whenever I’ve done this I’ve actually done two on the same day during the lunch hour and again after hours to allow more people time to come. Personally I never serve alcohol at these events and it’s never missed. I just really don’t want to deal with the expense and potential liability of alcohol at my offices.
Just Say No!The most powerful word you will learn to build you business is “No.” Sounds counter-productive, but trust me, “No” is the key to growing your business.When you first start open your doors you’re going to take on just about anything at just about any rate. You have to. Bills are already arriving for your office, your gear and your furniture. So if your regular rate is $500 and a client offers you $200, you’re probably going to take the gig because $200 is still better than $0. But once you establish a foothold and start booking yourself steadily, you’ll find yourself staring at some problems. Slow / No Pay clients. You know the ones who take 120 days to pay or keep promising they’ll take care of you “next week.” Rude and Obnoxious clients. You dealt with it when you needed the money but now they’re a drag to keep working with.Aren’t I your friend? The client you helped out with some steep discounts when you were starting out and now wants you to maintain those discounts because of the “relationship” you guys have going.The Next Big Thing. Just help me out with these projects and I promise you’ll get more than your worth as soon as we do the Next Big Thing.Ok, Slow / No Pay clients are just not worth ever booking again. They don’t have the decency to pay you on time, they’re not worth the headache. Rude and Obnoxious, who has time for that? Your Friends are those who stand behind and support you, not people who try to take advantage of a situation. I’ve heard about “The Next Big Thing” for almost 18 years now and I’m still waiting to see it. It doesn’t happen.When these people call and try to book time, just say No. Be polite about it (remember that thing about keep everything positive?) by telling them you’re fully booked up. You’re always booked up when they call. When I started saying “no” to folks, my income took a hit for a little while, but then suddenly those problem clients were replaced by solid people who are a pleasure to work with, brought challenging projects to my door and always pay on time. It may take some time, but if you just keep the negativity of problem clients out of your shop, eventually things should start an upswing.
It’s On the HouseOne great way to get your name out there in the community is by doing some donated or “pro-bono” work. A lot of times, these are done for church groups or fund-raiser type of events. These are great because generally the folks running these events are high ranking folks in local businesses. Your involvement can bring some goodwill and positive feedback for your company. The hope is that when these business folks need the services you provide, they’ll look you up.It can be extremely rewarding, especially in the video / film production world, because you’re the “hero” who made such a great video presentation. You’re the center of attention because everyone wants to meet the person who did “the video.” Now the danger of this kind of work is overdoing it. Remember, the point of these project is to generate actual paying clients, not MORE pro-bono work. And trust me, once someone finds out you did a great job with so and so’s presentation, you’ll get a whole host of phone calls and emails. If you’re not careful, the free work will take over your schedule and you’ll find yourself neglecting the paying work. That’s definitely not a good thing for someone trying make a living running their business.I strongly encourage you to come up with a limit on your Pro-Bono work and then stick to it. In my case it’s no more than two projects per year and I prefer working with a few folks that I know and trust. Setting this limit allows me to very respectfully decline the myriad of requests I get through the year by simply explaining that we only do two per year and only when the schedule permits. Foundations and groups completely respect that you’re trying to run a business and when you make it clear to them that your time is limited and their project simply doesn’t fit into the allotted time, they will understand. If they don’t understand and give you grief, then you didn’t want to work with them anyway!
BenchwarmersIf you’re running a company that requires the use of freelancers, remember one thing. These people represent YOU. Not themselves. YOU. What does this mean? If your client has a bad experience with a freelancer you assigned to their job, that client is going to remember that YOU gave them bad service. You absolutely cannot lay blame on the freelancer for screwing up the job. YOU hired them, YOU assigned them the job, YOU are responsible.As you grow your business you have to remember that anyone assigned to any job is representing you at all times. So you darn well better be sure that these people can do what is expected of them, in the time expected, and in a way that makes the client happy.Absolutely list your positions in the normal places like the Creative COW Job Forum as you want to get a nice cross section of resumes from local talent. But also ask all of your colleagues and friends in the business for referrals. These people have worked with the local talent or heard from others about the quality of their work. If you can, try them out on a small project, even if you have to pass through all your profit to them. This gives you a chance to see their work and work habits first hand. Nothing like seeing the real deal in action.Finally, if you get some good freelancers working with you, pay them fairly and pay them quickly. As much as these people are representing you to the client, you’re representing yourself to them. If you pay a fair rate and pay them on-time you’ll build up a reputation as a good business to work with. Then you’ll have quality folks calling on you to offer their services and then you’ll have a nice solid crop of local talent to take care of your clients.
Take Care of the ClientThe best way to build your business is to treat the clients right. You take care of them, they chat you up to fellow workers and they lead more business to your door.You’ve taken the time to open your office, now keep it clean and neat. Nothing is a turn-off more than paying someone to do a professional job and having to visit them in a messy office. It doesn’t need to be perfect, just straightened up and clean each time the client comes to visit. If you provide your service on location or at the client’s location, dress cleanly. Sure you can wear some cool T-shirts or clothing if that’s your style, but make sure it’s clean. Torn and dirty clothes just don’t make a good impression.Be polite. It’s that simple. Just be polite and positive during the time you spend with the client. It’s a small thing, but it amazes me how rude and negative some people can act around a client, especially when things don’t go quite right. There are always going to be problems with equipment, people, locations, software, etc… Just keep a positive attitude, figure out workarounds and move on. Clients not only want a great talent, they want someone who’s easy to work with. A very important way to treat the clients right is to address issues immediately, especially if it’s a technical or other problem that causes a delay in production. Say your camera is not working correctly, the software won’t run today, your VTR’s need to be cleaned, you’re late due to traffic, just something is not quite right and it causes a problem or delay in your work. Take care of the situation right then and there, don’t wait a few days, don’t wait a week, do it right on the spot. I will immediately tell the client what I’m going to do for them in the case of an issue. Usually it’s a discount worth more than the time lost, maybe some free services, whatever the situation calls for. I tell the client right away and then I will follow up with that by also putting the reason for the discount in the invoice. Taking responsibility for an issue on the spot makes a very positive and lasting impression on clients because you just don’t see a lot of people doing that anymore.True Story: I was working on a project that absolutely had to be in New York on a Monday. I finished on Saturday and couriered the tapes to another production house that had a DigiBeta deck ready and waiting to lay off the show. In my haste to get the show down to that production house, I forgot to move a few of the items around in the timeline. The editor on site tried to fix the timeline for the client, but it didn’t quite work out. I ended up fixing the master on Sunday and we ended up having to use same day air cargo service to ensure the master would be in New York first thing Monday morning. I told the client immediately that the air cargo charges and extra duplications would be covered by me. It was the right thing to do and my client very much appreciated the gesture.
Stop the Presses!You read press releases all the time. Companies announcing the latest product, latest service, latest project and so on. Well you’ve got some news to share too! Heck just opening your doors is worthy of a press release. As you build up your clientele and get involved with some projects, start telling the world. Obviously the Creative COW is a great place to release your news, but trade magazines, local newspapers, area trade groups and websites are also good choices.Read some of those press releases and see how they are put together. Always start with your city / state and the date. Write in third person at all times. Never “I am happy to announce…..” but “XYZ Company is proud to announce…” Sounds more professional and the “company” sounds larger than an individual. Building the company name is also important if you plan to eventually hire folks to work for you. If your company is getting a lot of good press, that will transfer to the team around you. Issue as many press releases as you see fit, after all the more your name it out there, the more likely people are to notice you.
Money makes the world go aroundManaging the money is so incredibly important as you try to build your business. Yes you want to pay yourself as much as possible, but you also have bills to pay and there’s always another “thing” you need to purchase to keep running the business. This is especially true if you run a business like my Post Production house where technology and equipment is constantly changing.If you are not that good managing money, please, please get some help. Hire a CPA, ask a family member who is good managing money, just get someone to help you. I’m the first to admit, I’m need help in managing money and am so very fortunate that my wife is an amazing help in this area of the business. Especially when it comes to a major purchase, we discuss the needs of the company, what the prospective income is over the next few months and our current financial situation before taking the plunge. I could run the money side of things alone if I absolutely had to, but I know that together we are doing a much better job managing the company finances. So please, do not be ashamed to admit if you need some help with managing your money.If your business requires the use of contractors or freelancers it is very important that you take good care of these people, sometimes even at the detriment of your own short term income. My policy is always to pay my freelance / contract work first before we pay ourselves. This builds a good reputation for me among freelancers and people will put my jobs ahead of others if there is a choice. It’s also just the right thing to do. You know the budget, you know how much you’re going to make on the job, you also control how the payments are received. Whenever I have contractors involved, especially with field productions, I always demand 50% down payment before we start a job. This money is always earmarked to pay the freelancers and contractors knowing that I will make my income from the remaining 50%. When possible, especially when dealing with outside help, request a deposit of 50% or at least equal to what you will need to pay out to these independent contractors so you can take care of them immediately.I must make one thing incredibly clear at this point. At no point should you allow yourself to get behind on payments to independent contractors or anyone else owed money for a job. What happens at that point is you start “paying backwards” by using the next job to pay for the last job. This is a never-ending spiral. What I have seen happen time and time again is that the business owner gets so deep into the hole that there are simply not enough upcoming jobs to ever get caught up and they lose all their reliable freelancers. Eventually they lose their clients. If you get nothing else from my four part series, please remember this one point.Carefully pay yourself keeping an eye on your schedule at all times. Have a full schedule for the next 60 days? Go ahead and pay yourself more as you should be good to cover that and all your bills. Things kind of slow? Keep some money in the company bank account to cover the bills so you’re not completely stressing on trying to cover the company payments. It’s a careful balance of paying yourself to make income while making sure the company stays afloat. Again, please get some help managing the money if you need it.
The Walls are Closing InWhen you open the doors everything is set up just so. You’ve got some furniture, equipment and other odds and ends so you’re fully functional when you start up. As you start working day to day you will find some shortcomings and some additions that are necessary. The trick here is to manage your space wisely so it doesn’t become a completely cluttered mess that’s difficult to get around.I have to admit I’m having this very problem myself as we are growing faster than my space will allow. The biggest problem I have is lack of storage space as we have converted a room that used to be for entertainment and storage into a third edit suite. So we’re a bit cluttered at the moment and instead of rushing out to purchase bookshelves and cabinets just to get stuff onto shelves, I’m taking my time and ensuring that we can store everything correctly and it will all look good to the eye. But I have placed too much emphasis on just getting what’s convenient and not considering the overall workflow and client comfort in the shop.So as you need furniture, equipment, etc… carefully plan out what you are going to get and how it will fit into your overall space. Is there something you should consider removing from your office to make more room? Can you consolidate multiple pieces into one? The basic idea here is to manage your space as you move your business forward. Consider every piece of furniture and every piece of equipment and how it will affect your client comfort and overall workflow.Well, there you go folks. Only one more stop on this 4 part journey and I’ll have given you all my best thoughts on running your business!
In Part 4 of this series, “Expansion, Make the Right Decisions,” I’ll look at some ideas on expanding your business. What to consider when expanding, when to expand and my own personal experiences in the growing pains / expansion of Biscardi Creative Media.Walter Biscardi, Jr. is a 17 year veteran of broadcast and corporate video production who owns Biscardi Creative Media in the Atlanta, Georgia area. Walter counts multiple Emmys, Tellys and Aurora Awards among his many credits and awards. You can find Walter in the Apple Final Cut Pro, AJA Kona, Apple Motion, Apple Color and the Business & Marketing forums.
Part 2 - Setting Up Shop
Part 1 - Are You Ready?
This is Part 1 of a 4 Part series on Starting and Running your own business in the creative industry. We start out this week by asking, Are You Ready? Are you really ready to step out on your own and become your own boss? Before you say yes, consider these thoughts.
Recently I posted a blog entry detailing the wonderful experience we had upgrading our facility with fellow Creative COW leader Bob Zelin. An unexpected response to that entry was someone who found the setup of our facility somewhat overwhelming. He was questioning what would he need to start a company and compete after seeing something like our upgrade.That post gave me pause and the inspiration to write down my thoughts for anyone thinking about striking out on their own in this creative business. We all start at Square One and a facility like mine doesn’t just happen overnight. So over the course of the next few weeks, I'm going to give you my ideas about starting and building your own company. Take what you want from my advice and experience and when you find something that works for you, be sure to pass along some knowledge to others. I’m going to start at the beginning with this entry and end up with thoughts for expansion in my final installment. In between we’ll talk about setting up shop and running / building your current business. So let’s get started.
Are You Ready?It’s a simple question. Are you ready to run your own business? It sounds great, equipment and software is relatively cheap, your friends think you’ll have no problems building a successful business. So why not? Well, there’s a million reasons “why not?” but if you never take a chance, what’s the point of living, right? Ok, here’s some things to take into consideration if you’re seriously considering your own business.
Dude, Where’s My Project?So how much experience do you have in the industry? And be very honest with yourself here. It’s easy to watch a commercial, a movie, a music video, a TV show and say “I can do better work than that!” Maybe you can, but have you? I mean have you actually done work that looks better than what you’re watching and did it on a tight deadline while staying within the budget constraints? First and foremost this industry is driven by the deadline. Whether it’s a church video for the service on Sunday or the next episode of “The Office” for NBC. Your must make the deadline that is set for your project each and every time. Failure to do that even one time can ruin your entire business. Creative skills honestly mean nothing at all if you can’t get a project done on time. The deadline pressure is the one thing that I see which dooms many new people to the business. It’s something that you really can’t describe because it is a completely different pressure than any other industry I’ve ever seen. With most industries, everything is black and white. The product was delivered on time, the new contract was signed, building was completed and so on. Generally something that is very black and white where you can look at the product, hold it in your hand, see it in front of you, witness the signed contract. When a product is delivered under deadline, say a new tennis ball, there is it, you can hold it in your hand and see it.The Creative Industry just sells ideas. Sure there is usually an end product attached to those ideas, such as a DVD or TV show, but we’re just selling creative ideas. So we’re at the complete mercy of our client’s moods, ideas, changes of heart, even just a change of mind. I’ve been in a situation where we have been working on a project for 9 days only to have the producer completely change their mind on the look and script 36 hours before a show is about to air. The deadline hasn’t changed, the show is going to air in 36 hours. It doesn’t matter that I’ve spent 9 days following the script and editing in the agreed upon manner which has been reviewed at the end of each of the 9 days. They’re changing it now and they just want it to happen in 36 hours. So what do you do? You can’t tell them it’s too late because the products have already been produced and shipped to the stores. You can’t tell them it’s too late because you can’t get the necessary supplies to build the widget in time. I mean it’s just a video so it can’t be that hard to make the changes they’re asking for, right? Do you miss the deadline or drink a lot of coffee and work up a miracle in the wee hours of the night? Don’t forget you’re running this business so it’s your decision. There are some amazingly talented people coming out there who get drawn into the relative ease that exists today to open up your own shop. Software and hardware is very affordable so why not just take the plunge to go it alone? The software and hardware is just one very small part of starting up your own production company, creative suite, editing boutique, whatever you want to call it. The ability to handle the pressure of the deadline, no matter what is thrown your way is a very large part of running a creative company.So be very honest with yourself here and decide if you are ready to do whatever it takes to meet each and every deadline you take on. 9-5 is out the window. Each day has 24 hours and you better be prepared to use every last minute if you want to make it on your own. Your reputation is riding on it. Handling the deadline pressure can only come from experience.In case you’re wondering how the story ends, I had already been working 12 hours that day when I got the news to make the change so I ended up editing for 48 hours straight. The show aired on time and I was nominated for “Editing in a Television Series” at the New York Festivals. I haven’t been able to kick my coffee habit since.
You’re the Boss of Me.If you’re new to the industry, whether right out of college or looking for a 2nd career, working for someone else has some very distinct advantages.Soaking it all in is one thing. I mean what does it take to run the company? Whether you’re working for a small company with one other person or a huge group with 1,000, soak in what is going on all around you. Notice how your room / workstation is set up. What do you like and not like about it? Ask someone why the room was set up like it was. How are the clients treated? How does the billing work and what are the rates? How do they figure out the rates? What extras does the company provide, like food and games, and why? Now don’t be obnoxious about this and ask a question at every turn, but just observe, ask polite questions when appropriate and soak in everything going on around you, especially if it is a successful business. If it’s not successful, try to figure out what could be done better, maybe even make some suggestions to management if appropriate. Working for a company also generally means working around other folks more experienced than you. Learn from them. In my own experience, I started at CNN and had absolutely no clue what a Waveform or Vectorscope were until someone explained them to me. Funny how many posts I see about this very thing on the COW these days. I also discovered that while I could edit very well, I had no idea how to tell a story. I just slapped down what was on the script without a thought to how all the shots really cut together. Two amazing editors took me under their wing and taught me how to really craft a story in the edit suite, not just push buttons. Could not have learned it this well from books, the internet, or in the classroom. You can generally focus on your singular task when you’re working for someone else. If you’re a graphic designer, then all you have to do is work on making the best looking graphic to meet the specs of the project. Of course there are exceptions when working for a smaller firm, but for the most part, your only concern is what is immediately in front of you. You can spend your time practicing your craft, trying out techniques and so on. At CNN I played with every single piece of equipment I could get my hands on, including this new thing that arrived one day call an Avid. It was all sitting there and I would even come back to the office on my time to practice on the gear and my editing style. You get exposed to a variety of clients and styles, regardless of whether you work for an independent company or in the communications department of a company. Each client is different and what works for one client won’t work for them all. After CNN I went to work for Foxwoods Resort Casino in their media department and I worked with very real clients, even though they were all Foxwoods departments. Marketing, Dining, Entertainment, Transportation, Hotel, Maintenance, Museum and so on all had projects that needed to be done by our department, about 200+ projects per year. Each department and even different people within each department had varying styles and needs. I had never been exposed to anything like this at CNN where we pretty much did the same thing no matter who the Producer was. Now I had to please about 100 different people who all had their own idea of what their project had to look like. This was some of the most valuable experience I ever received and it wasn’t anything anyone could have taught me in a classroom.Working for someone else also means you will most likely be exposed to a bunch of different equipment. No better way to find out what the equipment looks like than to get your hands on it. If you’re really lucky, your shop will have an engineer. These guys are awesome to talk to. Any question you have, they’re usually happy to answer. I use every opportunity I get to speak with engineers as very often some nugget of information gleaned comes in very handy as we plan, troubleshoot or make changes to our facility. Finally, working for someone else gives you the opportunity to make a reputation for yourself. Your boss, clients, producers, other creative workers all get a chance to see both your work and your work habits. This business is all about word of mouth and the more you can build on your reputation before you start your new venture, the better chance your business has of succeeding.In my own experience, I spent 5 years at CNN, 2 years at Foxwoods, 1 year at another corporate job before I started my first company with a partner and finally 3 years later I started Biscardi Creative. I saw each step along the way as a learning experience. CNN taught me how to tell a story, Foxwoods gave me confidence in designing a facility, the partnership showed me I could run my own business. So ask yourself, are you truly ready to go out on your own, or would you be better served spending time at someone else’s facility? If you’re working for someone else right now, have you built enough of a positive reputation and learned enough at that location to step out on your own?
Focus, Focus, FocusThe number one biggest mistake I see in this industry is the inability to focus on what you do well. You can’t be all things to everyone. If you try to do everything, you’ll end up doing all things ok. If you simply focus on one or a few areas, then you have the potential to be very good at what you do.In my case, I’m an editor and over the years I’ve picked up a lot of skills in After Effects and Graphic designs so my focus since striking out on my own has been Post Production. Editing, graphic design, digital compositing and some special effects are what we concentrate on. So all of our marketing and our money for equipment is spent to better our Post Production. I can shoot with a camera but there are dozens of photographers here in Atlanta alone who are so much better than me, why would I waste both mine and my client’s time? The client deserves the best shooter I can give them and it’s definitely not me. So I have made my main focus Post Production. So what is your focus going to be? Whatever it is, that is what you need to really expend your energy and money on. This industry is literally changing by the month with new equipment, new software, new technology, new standards and so on. It can literally make your head spin and theirs is just no way to stay on top of everything. So stay on top of what you can control. Stay on top of what it is that you do best. To help you stay on top of everything else in the world, befriend some good folks locally if you can and of course use the tremendous resources of the Creative COW.In my case, I get a lot of questions about cameras because I work with so many formats. Honestly, all I know about them is what I see on the screen when I watch footage shot by them and what I glean from D.P.’s and the manufacturers. That’s about it. If I have a question about a camera or about something to do with cameras, I ask my D.P. friends or research on the COW. Really my biggest question about any camera is what format does it shoot and what frame rate am I working with? That affects me in Post. Lenses, filters, matte boxes, shutter speeds and the like are the domain of the shooters, I just want to know how to get it into my system and edit with it. As my business has matured, we do offer now offer full turnkey services from script to screen, but that’s only because I’ve built a great team of colleagues I can call upon to complete any project that walks in the door. But my focus is still the Post side, I hire other folks to write, produce and shoot the actual material.So what is truly going to be your focus? Who can you call upon to help you with areas outside of your focus? Two questions to ask yourself.
Man of 1,000 HatsIt’s a wonderful idea to open your own business. It’s truly a dream come true. But one thing even I overlooked is the fact that you’re now responsible for every single decision. I mean, the creative stuff, that’s easy, that’s what I do. But where is the office going to be? What chairs do I need? Where do I get the furniture? How many paperclips will I use?My point is quite simple here. Once you’re the boss, you are now responsible for every single decision for your company from what font to use for that corporate commercial to what long distance service are you going to use. It’s all those little mundane things that many of us never take into account when deciding to go out on our own.You will have to set up and manage your finances, the equipment, the software, the clients, the marketing, your skills, your demo, the office supplies, the tax returns, the research and the list goes on and on. Oh yeah, don’t forget you’re also going to have to be very creative and meet all your production deadlines to keep the clients happy. Not trying to scare you here, just being honest. Whether you want to or not, you will be wearing about 100 hats the moment you decide to open your office. If you’re not prepared for this, it becomes overwhelming very quickly. Fortunately I have a wonderful wife who is my partner in my venture and she oversees many of the financial areas of the company allowing me to concentrate on technology and creative. Make a list of all the things you need to take care of and think about whether there is anyone you can call upon to help you out with some of the details.
Swallowing your prideThose of you already working in the industry have experienced this. All of you entering this industry and ready to start your own place, here’s the rude awakening. The client is always right. Repeat. The client is always right. Keep repeating until it sinks in. If you don’t believe this, then don’t start your own business.I’ve had situations where I’ll describe an idea to a client, complete with sketches and pantomime with an enthusiastic response. I’ll go create the project, show them the rough cut and their eyes glaze over. “Oh, that’s not what I thought you were describing. I really don’t like this. Can’t you just do this other thing instead?”Now the artist in me wants to tell the client exactly what I think of this other thing they’re suggesting. After all I described to them what I was going to do, I spent 5 days executing that idea and NOW you tell me you don’t get it? But the business owner in me takes the suggestion and I tell the client, “Absolutely I can do that, let me go back to the office and get right on that.”Ideas and pride will not pay the bills. Checks from clients will. If you want to run your own business you have to be accepting of the fact that the Client always gets what the Client wants. Your primary responsibility is to give the client what they are asking for in the most creative and professional manner possible. One thing I always tell people is I don’t care if the client wants the sky green, the grass blue and the people red. As long as my levels are broadcast spec and the client is happy and they pay me, then that’s exactly what they are going to get. Sure I’ll offer my input, but ultimately, I will put on the screen exactly what the client wants to see. It’s the client’s money, not mine.Look at it this way, you’re not going to like every single thing that leaves your shop. If you don’t like it, don’t feature it on your website or your demo. So can you swallow your pride and produce exactly what the client wants and not just what you think the client needs? If you fail to grasp this basic concept, you will not be getting checks from clients for very long.
Show Me Some Money…. PleaseFinally, a very simple question to ask as you consider your own company. Are you prepared to not make any income for any amount of time, up to 12 months? Is your financial situation stable enough that you can afford to not make any money at all from your new venture as you start up?It’s the old adage, you need to spend money to make money. You are going to have to purchase some equipment to get started. You’ll need to some sort of marketing, maybe a website, definitely business cards, probably a Demo. Your personal bills are not going to stop coming in the meantime. So can you afford to all of the expenses incurred in starting a business and continue to pay all of your personal expenses if you do not earn any actual income for up to 12 months?Not much else to add here, just something for you to seriously think about. It takes time for the checks to catch up to the expenses and you can start paying yourself, just be sure you’re financially stable enough to not back yourself into a corner. In my own situation, my wife was extremely supportive of my new venture and she carried the financial burden for us until my business was able to earn us some income.
Well there you go folks, a lot of things to consider whether or not you’re truly ready to start your own business. And don’t get me wrong here. I’m not trying to scare you off and say don’t start a business. It’s a very exciting thing to start your own business and it’s easy to look at all the positive reasons for doing so. When done right and done well, it’s the most amazing thing you will ever do for your career. I’m just trying to give you a reality check before you jump feet first. And don’t just take what I say here as law. Be sure to do more research on the internet, talk to family, talk to other friends in the industry. Get as much information as you feel you need to make the best decision for you.In Part 2 of this series, “Setting Up Shop,” I’ll look at setting up your business. From location to type of company to client comforts, we’ll explore the next steps in taking your decision to start a company to actually opens the doors. Future blogs will cover Running your Business and Expansion Decisions.
Walter Biscardi, Jr. is a 17 year veteran of broadcast and corporate video production who owns Biscardi Creative Media in the Atlanta, Georgia area. Walter counts multiple Emmys, Tellys and Aurora Awards among his many credits and awards. You can find Walter in the Apple Final Cut Pro, AJA Kona, Apple Motion, Apple Color and the Business and Marketing forums.
Part 2 - Setting Up Shop: http://blogs.creativecow.net/node/277
Part 3 - Running and Building your Business: http://blogs.creativecow.net/node/300
For those of you who followed my blog about the issues with the Primera Bravo II DVD Replicator printer, you know that I purchased a DiscMakers Medley unit to replace it.
Well, while DiscMakers claimed the print quality of this unit would be equal to the Bravo II, in reality it isn't. This is disappointing because they both feature the same printing unit from Lexmark. The difference appears to be in the Bravo II drivers as there are many more options available to the user to achieve incredibly sharp text and good solid colors. What was printed as a solid color on the Bravo II is a mottled mess on the Medley as it is just not capable of printing a very tight dot pattern, even at the 4800dpi print setting. And this is using the exact same 300dpi TIF image and exact same DVD stock that was originally printed on the Bravo II so we're comparing apples to apples here.
On the upside, the Medley does reproduce the correct colors on the disc from the original file with minimal tweaking. That was a major issue with the Bravo II as we would have to throw the colors and shading out of whack in order to get acceptable color results on the Bravo II.
As a straight replicator, the Medley performs as expected, absolutely no issues there. But if you are looking for a very high print quality, this definitely would not be your unit. Print quality is decent, but not something you would want to present to demanding clients.
I have just noticed that exporting a still image from a DVCPro HD 720/60 timeline in FCP 6.0.2 yield a choppy, pixelated mess. Definitely wasn't the case with FCP 6.0 and I don't think it was a problem in 6.0.1 either.
I also noticed that the images are not being exported in the true DVCPro HD aspect ratio either. Generally when you export an image, it will show up in another application at the same 960x720 frame size as the original, but upon opening the image in Photoshop or Preview, the image is now 1280x720. I would expect this if I was using ProRes, but I'm not, we're just using DVCPro HD as the codec all around.
Just an FYI for folks. I've sent off a feedback form to Apple
1/19/2008 SUGAR HILL, GEORGIA
Biscardi Creative Media provided primary post production for the feature story, "Green Evangelicals" airing on The Weather Channel's "Forecast Earth" tonight. Artist Walter Biscardi, Jr. worked closely with Producer Bruce Burkhardt and The Weather Channel production team to bring the story together.
Using Final Cut Pro 6 with the AJA Kona 3 capture card, Biscardi integrated BetaSP, DVCAM and DVD material into an uncompressed, widescreen standard definition timeline. He also created original graphics and motion graphics in Photoshop & After Effects. The Weather Channel added all final lower thirds to the show.
"This was our first project with The Weather Channel," notes Biscardi, "and it was a great experience with a good workflow between our shop and the network. Since we're all on Final Cut Pro, I was able to deliver the story on a very small hard drive that would fit in your pocket."
This was also a reunion of sorts for Burkhardt and Biscardi having formerly teamed up at the CNN Enviroment Unit on the program "Network Earth."
For more about Forecast Earth: http://climate.weather.com/ontv/thisWeek.html
For more about Biscardi Creative Media: http://www.biscardicreative.com
While spec'ing a new Mac Pro (8 core) system today, I found that RAM is now available at 3rd party sites. At www.crucial.com it's almost 50% less than Apple's pricing.
4GB RAM at Crucial - $269
4GB RAM through Apple Store with Mac Pro - $500
www.edgetechcorp.com has the same RAM for $229, though they only list the 3.0ghz as the top of the line machine, not the 3.2Ghz so I would check with them before purchase.
Other World Computing (www.macsales.com) has their own RAM for $249.99
Nice to see the 3rd party sites have caught up with the new Mac Pro's as Apple has always charged a premium for their RAM. Personally I purchase all our RAM from Crucial as it was recommended to me about 4 years ago and we've never had an issue with their products.
In response to a query in the Final Cut Pro Basics forum, here's an example of why we would use more than one video track in FCP. This is an older project from 2003 hence all the video is offline, but it shows 17 track of video in use. Why? Because there is a lot of compositing and overlays going on to create an urban / gritty look requested by the Producer. When I get a chance, I'll pull a screen grab of this scene, but for the moment, as best as I can remember, here's what is going on in the area highlighted in yellow.
Track 17 is a Film Leader type of element overlayed on the video
Track 16 through 5 are all graphical elements created in Photoshop
Track 4 is a still image overlayed on top of the logo and hands element below
Track 3 is a film flash
Track 2 is a logo element provided by the Producer
Track 1 is a video element shot by the Producer slowed to 50%
The reason for all the photoshop elements is we like to very often have the main graphic full opacity so you can read it, but also subtly mixed in around the rest of the video frame.
Now if you look at the very head of that timeline you can see how Video Tracks 5 - 2 are Nested items "Donner B-Roll with Frame and Way Donner SOT with frame" Each of those nests are actually 6 video tracks so if I didn't nest them, I would have used 24 tracks of video to create that effect. Nesting allows me to easily place those video frames around the screen without having to drag 6 tracks at a time.
As soon as I have time, I'll pull a screen grab so you can visually see what's going on.
So there's been a lot of talk on the forums lately about Magic Bullet Looks now being available for use in editing systems and I'm even going to try it out shortly myself. But for those of you with Final Cut Studio 2, keep in mind you have probably the most powerful color grading software available for desktop computers in Color just sitting there. Yeah it's not perfect, there are some issues to work around, but I have to admit, even with the issues, the end results are nothing short of stunning.
I thought I would share some before / after shots of a recent project I did that featured all archive (read Old) material. BetaSP, BetaSX, DigiBeta, DV, DVCAM, HDV were all used in this project that was ultimately delivered on DVD for a special event and also the Web. As a piece focusing on the natural beauty of the American West, I felt it was extremely important to bring this project into Color to take advantage of all the color controls I would have. Especially the ability to essentially 'clean up' the image and 'wipe away' the dirt.
Sure I can show you what Color does with our HD projects, but those look pretty darn good before we even get to color grading. Making a bunch of archive material in multiple formats look good, well that takes some work. The project run approx. 6 minutes and was able to grade the entire show in about 3 hours. It would have been faster but I really spent a lot of time tweaking the skies and greens.
If you want to see the whole piece, just go to http://www.biscardicreative.com/sampleworks.htm
and then click on "Apple Color Comparison" under Corporate.
And of course, if you want to learn how to use Color, just pick up my DVD! Fresh from the Creative Cow Master Series - Stop Staring and Start Grading with Color!
|SUGAR HILL, GA9/8/2007 Jonathan Demme's new documentary, Man From Plains, about former President Jimmy Carter had its World Premiere at the Venice Film Festival on September 7th, 2007. The film received a two minute standing ovation and will next be presented at the Toronto Film Festival with the Carters in attendance on Monday, September 10th. The film is an intimate two-hour portrayal of the 39th President set against the backdrop of Carter's Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid book tour. Biscardi Creative Media, located just outside Atlanta, Georgia provided extensive production support for this project working with Producer Gary Strieker, The Carter Center and Demme's production team at PostWorks in New York. BCM turned around hours of archival material in both standard definition and high definition. "We're honored to have been a small part of this very important project about a man who has been such a champion of human rights and health issues," said Walter Biscardi, Jr., Principal, Biscardi Creative Media. "It was a bit hectic here with four different formats of material and literally hundreds of hours of footage to sift through, but with guidance from Demme's team, Gary Strieker, our team was able to turn around all the footage to make the deadline. We wish the film much success as it moves forward and look forward to future projects with The Carter Center." The film has been picked up by Sony Classic Pictures and is slated for release in October. For more information about “Man from Plains:”http://www.sonyclassics.com/jimmycartermanfromplains/index.html For more information about Biscardi Creative Media:http://www.biscardicreative.com For more information about The Carter Center:http://www.cartercenter.org/homepage.html |
So I just have to pass along this wonderful experience we've had and it really underscores the tremendous community we have here at Creative COW. For about a year I've been contemplating an upgrade to our facility to make it more efficient. When I started in 2001 I had one edit suite and hoped to add a 2nd one at a later date. In 2003 we expanded to that 2nd suite and I was eventually able to get a full sized rack unit to hold all my tape decks, my computer and some storage.
It worked pretty well though a bit combersome because there were no patch panels so to run anything to anywhere meant crawling behind the racks, pulling cables, figuring what went where, etc.. Then at the end of 2006 we suddenly needed a third suite which we quickly threw together. Now suddenly we were pulling decks out of the rack, walking them to the third suite, walking drives around, etc... It was starting to get really messy.
So I contacted a few local companies about assisting me in re-engineering the shop to be much more efficient. I can figure out what I need, but really wanted an engineer to come up with the best way to make everything here more efficient both in layout and operation. Didn't really find what I was looking for in terms of personnel and price. Enter Creative COW and fellow COW Leader, Bob Zelin.
It started with a simple email to Bob. Through reading his posts it was obvious that facility design and installation was one of his specialities. I simply asked if he would be interested in assisting me at all. To my surprise he said yes and immediately asked for a full equipment list and a general layout of our facility. What I loved about this process was I kept downplaying what we needed here and he kept insisting on some additional cables and connections that would make our lives easier.
Within about two weeks we had the first drawings and plans from Bob. Again, I was questioning some of his ideas because I thought it was overkill. Three video patch panels? Three audio patch panels? We're a simple, small shop, aren't we going too far here? I'm thinking one patch panel for each should do fine. But Bob, in his own gentle fashion, reminded me that it's easier to run cables once, than to install something and then come back in a few months and say " you know we should add some more cables runs here, there and the other room." It started to make sense, especially after the full drawings for the patch panels showed up and I could visually see what he was talking about.
Two months after we started discussions, we finalized the plans which included: two new full sized rack units; three video patch panels; three audio patch panels; new reference DA; a Gefen DVI/USB extender to allow one computer to move 55 feet from the suite to the rack unit; and I'm guessing about 1,500 feet of new audio / video / control cables. At the same time we decided to upgrade our storage with two new MaxxDigitial SAS/SATA 8TB arrays for the two main suites adding 16TB of new storage. I have to say, Bob's insight and advice during this entire process was invaluable and he really made the plan much better than anything I could have created on my own. In addition, he probably saved me a lot of money from the inevitable mistakes I would have made designing all of this on my own.
Almost immediately our new racks and shelves showed up in about 6 huge boxes. We replaced the small box that was to the left of the original rack with one of the new ones and already the place started looking better.
A few weeks later, the storage and patch panels showed up so we pulled out the original rack and set up the 2nd new rack into it's final position.
Now it's really starting to look good and I get a real surprise from Bob. He's going to personally come to Atlanta to do the patch panel installation. The original plan was for Bob to make up all the cables and ship them to us with instructions. But due to an opening in his schedule, he was able to make the trip himself. I've never met him personally so I'm thrilled, can't wait to see if he's as angry in person as he is on the forums!
He went ahead and shipped up the long run cables to run through the walls which my assistant, Aaron, and I ran prior to his arrival. A messy job to be sure, but I had designed drop wire chases into the walls when we moved into the office thinking they would come in handy one day.
I killed the power before allowing Aaron to play with live stuff. Never let kids play with wire cutters!!!
So today Bob Zelin in the flesh shows up and to my surprise, he's a heckuva nice guy! Well, it wasn't really a surprise, I had spoken to him several times on the phone and he's actually quite funny. A straight shooter to be sure, but a very funny guy. He's not here 5 minutes and he jumps right into work.
After watching Bob for about an hour I was really happy he had the time in his schedule to come up here because while I could have done the cableing myself, it would have probably taken me three days to do what he did in less than 8 hours. As with any installation, there were some last minute issues and questions that needed to be addressed. Moving some audio patch points, re-routing some cables, adding some new cables, etc... were all last minute issues we took care of as the day progressed. It really boggled my mind to see how much cable three edit suites and about 5 VTR's would require to make this shop more efficient.
Before we knew it, lunch time was upon us. It was time to initiate Bob Zelin to the wonders of the Nintendo Wii. It took a few frames, but before we knew it, Bob was throwing Strikes and Spares with the best of them. Check out the professional form on this throw!
It's looking good Ted.... staying away from the gutters.... a little spin to the left..... and it's a Strike!
About the only real tough discussion was when Bob tried to convince Aaron and I to abandon all component and SDI cabling to run everything via Composite video. After all the VHS look is in these days so why spend all this extra money to run these extra cables. Ok, no he really didn't do that, he accidentally forgot to make up the final component / SDI cables for our Kona boxes, but of course, being prepared for everything, he had plenty of video cables and connectors to make up these last few runs on the spot.
Less than 8 hours after Bob started, we had a fully re-engineered facility. Every audio and video output from every device in the shop, from the Konas to the VTRs, passes through the patch panels. We can route any signal, anywhere. All the RS-422 controls pass through their own patch panel allowing all three suites to take control of any VTR in the racks. We have almost 20TB of fast storage for all projects. It's absolutely awesome and something both Aaron and I are not used to. You just get so used to the "moving cable ballet" behind the rack that to have something so efficient is weird.
Look what I made!
I cannot believe what we started in a single room in 2001 has grown to something the really feels like professional Post House. The growth of my business and the work with Bob Zelin can all be traced back to the Creative Cow. Folks we have a tremendous resource at our disposal with thousands of incredible working professionals in all aspects of the creative production field. You know you get answers when you post questions on the forums. Just remember that those same people who answer your questions are also some great people to call upon and hire when you need high quality services. Just look at our transformation in just three months from a decent working facility to a real professional facility.
So Thank You Bob Zelin for all your help in re-designing our shop and Thank You to Ron and Kathlyn for starting such an awesome creative resource.
Another Satisfied Zelin Customer!
A technology company I regularly talk to told me about this cool little tool that can really help keep your Mac Pro cooler by increasing the Fan RPM's inside the box. What's really nice is that the change in RPM is completely silent.
It's freeware called SMS FanControl and it's up to version 2.1.2. After installation you simply set the RPM you want for the various regions of the machine. In the case of the Mac Pro there are four regions and the default for these regions are 500 - 600 RPM. The folks suggested I set everything to 1100 RPM and within 5 minutes, my Mac Pro dropped from 95 degrees internal temp to 76 degrees internal temp. I know this because the tool also displays the current temperature at all times in the Mac toolbar along with actual RPM of the fans. As the day goes on my machine seems to hover between 76 and 82 degrees.
As we all know, heat is a killer of computers and I wonder if excessive heat is causing some of the unexplained crashes and problems some folks seem to experience with the Mac Pro. According to the website this also works on MacBook Pro's but I'm only running it on the desktop machine. Very neat little tool and wanted to pass it along.
I've started my in-depth testing with Apple's Color and my first tests show that DVCPro HD 1080i/50 material is a major problem in Color.Test One:I opened Color and brought in a 1080i/50 DVCPro HD clip to a timeline.1 - The clip shows as 1920x1080 DVCPro HD and not 1440x1080 like it should.2 - I cannot select DVCPro HD for the codec anywhere.3 - I cannot set the Frame Rate to 25. It is greyed out in 23.98.
UPDATE - This was operator error, frame rate needs to be set before adding a clip.4 - What rendered out was a 10bit uncompressed 4:2:2 file. I could not render out a DVCPro HD File.Now for this test I simply brought in a single clip, I did NOT export a timeline from Final Cut Pro. BUT I should be able to work with a single clip or clips correctly in Color without having to come in from an FCP timeline. So at least for this test, poor performance from Color.
Test Two:Send To Color a 45 second timeline from FCP. 1080i/50 DVCPro HD timeline.Frame Rate - 25Frame Size - 1920x1080, this is wrong. Should be 1440x1080 but there's no way to change this.Render out the project and Send To Final Cut Pro.Frame Rate - 25Frame Size for the clips - 1280 x 1080. This is still wrong, that's the 1080i/60 Frame Size NOT 1080i/50. Should be 1440x1080 and in fact, the Sequence that opens up in FCP IS correct 1440x1080. The clips are rendered wrong.Image Quality - I'm seeing bad rasterization on any vertical or horizontal lines and an overall degradation in quality from Color. Video has taken a bad image quality hit in the Render from Color most likely due to the incorrect frame size.
Test Three:Same as above, but this time Render out Export to ProRes 422 (HQ)The Sequence that opens up in FCP is a 1080i/50 DVCPro HD Sequence. This is strange because I chose ProRex 422 (HQ) as the export / Render option.Clip Properties - 1280x1080. Still wrong. If I'm in a DVCPro HD 1080i/50 timeline, then this frame size HAS to be 1440x1080.Pixel Aspect - 1280x1080. Wrong.Image is squished left to right so it fits right inside the Action Safe area. Appears this way on the Kona 3 playback as well. I checked the Distort in the Motion tab and it's set to 0 so no distortion is being applied to the clip.Playback is very clean and sharp, but the frame size is all wrong so it's useless. Scaling it out to 112% and distorting it just screws up the image.
Workaround for Test Three, works, sort of:Render out from Color to the ProRes (HQ) format.Send To Final Cut Pro and open the new timeline in FCP.Create a New Timeline and select the Apple ProRes (HQ) 1440x1080 Preset.Change the Frame Size to 1280x1080Change the Aspect Ratio to HD (1280x1080)Change the Pixel Aspect Ratio to HD (1280x1080)Say OK.Copy All from the timeline from Color.Paste into that new Modified Timeline.Select All Clips in the new modified timeline.Remove Attributes > DistortThat removes a 12% distortion on all the clip and at last you see your clips in regular 16:9 resolution, albeit in the wrong frame size, but there you go.Ah, but you still need to re-render the entire timeline before you can output to tape because I see green "Preview" line above my entire timeline.
Conclusion:Definitely looks like Color has no clue how to handle DVCPro HD 1080i/50 correctly as the frame size / pixel aspect is completely wrong
My tests on DVCPro HD 1080i/60 MaterialTest One:I opened Color and brought in a 1080i/60 DVCPro HD clip to a timeline.1 - The clip shows as 1920x1080 DVCPro HD and not 1280x1080 like it should.2 - I cannot select DVCPro HD for the codec anywhere.3 - I cannot set the Frame Rate to 29.97. It is greyed out in 23.98.
UPDATE - This was operator error, frame rate needs to be set before adding a clip.4 - I could not render out a DVCPro HD File, the option to render out in “Original Format” is greyed out.Now for this test I simply brought in a single clip, I did NOT export a timeline from Final Cut Pro. BUT I should be able to work with a single clip or clips correctly in Color without having to come in from an FCP timeline. So again, for this test, poor performance from Color.Test Two:Send To Color a 17 second timeline from FCP. 1080i/60 DVCPro HD timeline.Frame Rate in Color – 29.97Frame Size – 1920x1080, this is wrong. Should be 1280x1080 but there's no way to change this.Render out the project and Send To Final Cut Pro.Sequence Settings – DVCPro HD 1080i/60. This is correct.Frame Rate – 29.97Frame Size for the clips – 1280x1080. This is correct.Image Quality – Quality is perfect. Same pristine image that went into Color. Test Three:Same as above, but this time Render out Export to ProRes 422 (HQ)The Sequence that opens up in FCP is a 720p/60 DVCPro HD Sequence. This is strange because I chose ProRex 422 (HQ) as the export / Render option. Compressor is still DVCPro HD in the compression settingsFrame Size for the clips – 1280x1080 This is correct.Image quality – Quality is perfect. Same pristine image that went into Color. Conclusion:Rendering to DVCPro HD and ProRes 422 is pristine in 1080i/60, this is the only DVCPro HD format in my three tests I was able to use correctly.
My tests on DVCPro HD 720p/60 MaterialTest One:I opened Color and brought in a 720p/60 DVCPro HD clip to a timeline.1 - The clip shows as 1280x720 DVCPro HD and not 960x720 like it should.2 - I cannot select DVCPro HD for the codec anywhere.3 - I cannot set the Frame Rate to 59.94. It is greyed out in 23.98.
UPDATE - This was operator error, frame rate needs to be set before adding a clip.4 - I could not render out a DVCPro HD File, the option to render out in “Original Format” is greyed out.Now for this test I simply brought in a single clip, I did NOT export a timeline from Final Cut Pro. BUT I should be able to work with a single clip or clips correctly in Color without having to come in from an FCP timeline. So again, for this test, poor performance from Color.Test Two:Send To Color a 14 second timeline from FCP. 720p/60 DVCPro HD timeline.Frame Rate in Color – 59.94Frame Size – 1280x720, this is wrong. Should be 960x720 but there's no way to change this.Render out the project and Send To Final Cut Pro.Sequence Settings – DVCPro HD 720/60. This is correct.Frame Rate – 59.94Frame Size for the clips – 960x720. This is correct.Image Quality - I'm seeing bad rasterization on any vertical or horizontal lines and an overall degradation in quality from Color. Video has taken a bad image quality hit with a lot of compression artifacts visible during playback and especially when in pause. Test Three:Same as above, but this time Render out Export to ProRes 422 (HQ)The Sequence that opens up in FCP is a 720p/60 DVCPro HD Sequence. This is strange because I chose ProRex 422 (HQ) as the export / Render option. Compressor is still DVCPro HD in the compression settingsFrame Size for the clips – 960x720. This is correct for 720p/60 DVCPro HD.Image quality – Identical to the DVCPro HD render, which is quite surprising because in the 1080i/50 test, the Pro Res render was very sharp.I'm seeing bad rasterization on any vertical or horizontal lines and an overall degradation in quality from Color. Video has taken a bad image quality hit with a lot of compression artifacts visible during playback and especially when in pause. Conclusion:Rendering both in DVCPro HD and ProRes 422(HQ) yielded the same bad, unusable results in image quality. The results of my 720p/60 tests are nearly identical to the issues I was seeing in Final Touch HD 2.6.
When opening high definition projects created and finished in Final Cut Pro 5.1.4, FCP 6 is giving me what I consider a false "Shift Fields" error.
Now the problem with this error is that I know for a fact that the Shift Fields filters was not applied anywhere in any of the HD projects I'm opening. So I have been answering "No" to this message each time and have had no issues with playback of anything in the timeline.
We are not getting this warning when opening a standard definition project.
I have seen some posts in the forums about people getting flickering video playback after converting a project from FCP 5.1.4 to FCP 6 and I wonder if this error message is the culprit? Just wanted to pass that along that I think this is a completely erroneous error and at least in my experience so far, Just Say No!
Me and my big mouth! I innocently asked if the folks at AJA could make a few tweaks to the unit so it could REALLY be useful in the edit suite. I think they took my prototype to heart so it's probably my fault if the unit ships late. I think it'll be worth the wait though, I may never leave the edit suite again!
Here are some links referenced by our All Things Apple - Audio Production episode.
Jayne Olderman - www.redwarriorrecords.com
Patrick Belden - http://www.beldenmusic.com/Home.html
Apple Logic - http://www.apple.com/logicpro/
DigiDesign ProTools - http://www.digidesign.com/index.cfm?navid=2&langid=100&itemid=22700
For collecting royalties: http://www.soundexchange.com/index.htmlFor registering copyrights: http://www.copyright.gov/
And here's a couple of shots of Jayne, Patrick and I at "Jayne's Studio" during the podcast recording.
In response to a post on the Creative Cow Final Cut Pro Forum, my choice for a control surface to run all Pro Apps on a Mac is a Wacom tablet. I run a 9x12 Intuos 3 in my suite and I just can't see working without one.
For one thing, carpel tunnel syndrome just doesn't happen with a tablet, so you can work your 14 - 20 hour days and have no wrist pain. Second you get your entire workspace right on your tablet so there's no pick up the mouse and drag a second time if you have multiple monitors. Third, when working with apps such as Motion, Photoshop and After Effects, the tablets are pressure sensitive so the harder you push down, the more ink / paint will come out when using pressure sensitive tools.
It takes a few days to become acclimated to how a tablet works vs. a mouse, but once you get that comfort with it, you'll never go back to anything else. I set the unit up to the right of the keyboard because it feels more natural that with with my hands and also, it sets up very nicely on our editing consoles that way. Here's a shot of the tablet in my Wally World edit suite.
And in case you're wondering, that's the Bella USA FCP Pro Keyboard to the left of it, I highly recommend that as well. All the keys are color coded to the application and there's a jog/shuttle wheel on there that is a great help when digitizing and even playing back footage on the system.
|You know it's been a few weeks since NAB and surprisingly nobody has talked about a nifty little feature of the new Final Cut Studio and how it interacts with the new iPhone. You can actually install a "lite" version of Final Cut Express by putting the install discs in your machine and then connecting the iPhone via USB. Go into the Customize settings of the Installation screen and you'll see a "Lite" option appear. This only shows up when the iPhone is correctly attached via USB so be sure to connect the phone first before launching the installer.What can you do with Lite? Well by connecting to your media device via USB, you can capture at a low resolution version of the new Apple ProRes 422 codec. For editing it's all straight cuts only, no effects, no transitions, but you wouldn't want to try to do any transitions with an iPhone anyway. You get 2 tracks of video and audio maximum, but for just straight cutting in the field, you don't need any more. Oh and no titles either, but I can't see you needing them in the field with something this small. But after you put together a rough cut, you can save off your cut as a true Final Cut Pro project and then transfer that to your laptop or desktop for your final edit.Here Peter Wiggins and I look at a project I originally cut on my desktop machine, but I used Media Manager in FCP 6 to re-conform the project to the new ProRes 422 low rez codec on a prototype iPhone. (Don't ask how we were able to try this and get our hands on the iPhone, it took a few days) I have to say, it's not bad and it will certainly be fun to pull out an iPhone on set, connect it up and just start slapping something together! It's a bit small, but the screen is so clean that you can actually read the text and it was not all that bad working with the footage. Course, any phone call you get will interrupt the edit, but the phone will simply hide FCP until you hang up.I guess it's easy to overlook this nifty little addition to Final Cut Pro 6, but it's pretty cool nonetheless!|
As Chi-Ho Lee noted on the Final Cut Pro forum today, Quicktime 7.1.6 has been released in anticipation of Final Cut Studio 2 and you can now read timecode in the Quicktime Player. Wow! Finally! Not sure why it took so long, but here's the proof.
If you click on the running time you now get a drop down box which gives you three choices of the Standard Running Time, Timecode and Frame Number.
Here's the clip now showing the original timecode off the camera tape. VERY cool and now anyone with Quicktime Player can accurately see timecodes without the need to burn in TC windows. Thank you Apple!
On Sunday, April 15 at the NAB Apple Event, I fully expected to see the application formerly known as Final Touch re-released under the Apple name. What I did NOT expect was for the product to re-christened Color and for the application to simply be given away as part of the new Studio 2 package.
A little history here. Final Touch was the brainchild of Silicon Color and was positioned to compete against the likes of daVinci, a very high end color correction tool used for broadcast and feature films for years. Generally a daVinci session goes for anywhere from $200 to $750/hour depending on the facility and artist performing the work. This is also due to the tremendous costs of installing and maintaining a daVinci system which can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Along came Final Touch which brought the tools down to a reasonable $995 to $25,000 depending on if you needed an SD to 2K version of the software. Much like Final Cut Pro did for editors, this price point allowed independent colorists to purchase the software and make a move to independence. Colorists could literally work out of their houses and small offices much like many Final Cut Pro editors have set up shops in their homes, yet still provide the quality and performance their clients demanded.
In addition, Final Touch allowed small Post production houses, like my very own Biscardi Creative Media to add an extremely powerful color correction tool our workflow to better position our shop against the "big boys" in town. One daVinci session alone would cost more than the price of Final Touch HD so it was a cost effective decision to purchase the software.
Now we have Color available to the masses as part of the new Final Cut Studio 2 bundle. According to Apple, there are over 800,000 registered users of Final Cut Pro across the world so that's potentially 800,000 new "colorists" that will be unleased on the world. Much as Editing is an art form, Color is also a very demanding art form. I always make it clear to people in my shop that I'm an editor first who has an understanding of color correction. A Colorist is a very specialized artist who can truly "paint" any scene of a project.
What I fear is that with simply giving away Color, Apple has actually made it very difficult for estabilished professional artists to differentiate themselves from enthusiasts and beginnners. By having a price point of $995, $5,000 and $25,000 Final Touch required the user to invest into an application and allowed the end user to promote something that was not available in every single edit suite out there. Now Apple is going to completely dillute the Color Correction market by handing the tool out to everyone.
While there will be some very talented artists out there who will do some amazing things with their hands on this tool, I fear what Apple has done is really set back the color community much as what happened when Final Cut Pro first came out. The product was derided because a lot of really bad editors made a really good tool look bad. It was cheap and anyone with the money could call themselves an editor, hence we saw a lot of really bad projects come along. I feel we're going to see a lot of bad color decisions being made which will sink the stock of Color among the editing and color community.
A professional grade color tool should require the investment of the user to properly learn it. A price point of $2,500 by Apple would have allowed the company to greatly reduce the price of the application, while at the same time allowing end users to differentiate themselves from the pack of 800,000. In my case, we spent $5,000 for the application and then another signficant sum to bring in colorist Bog Sliga to train us in the use of the product and color in general. This was an investment and a way to set us apart from other shops in the Atlanta area. As noted above, this was a great invesment vs. one daVinci session. By simply giving the tool away, Apple makes it very hard for those of us who have invested greatly in our skills and equipment to differentiate ourselves from the pack, both in the tools used and the rates we can charge. There comes a point where you can't simply keep investing in HD hardware while dropping your rates because the software prices keep dropping.
On the one hand I'll be happy to have three copies of Color when we upgrade. On the other hand, now we'll have to find another way to differentiate ourselves from the pack of 800,000 who now have the very same powerful color tool.
Those are my thoughts, what are yours?
We've arrived in Sunny Las Vegas! Checked in to the fabulous Flamingo hotel which we really used to enjoy for the penquins in the outdoor habitat, but they checked out last year so it's not quite the same. Still gotta love staying in the "original" strip hotel that started it all.
As you can see from the photo we're staying in the top of the line penthouse suite with a classic Strip view, only the best for Cow members!
Tonight will be a little rest and relaxation as we'll be taking in the Jay Leno show at the Mirage and then tomorrow it's straight over to North Hall to get my Speaker Badge.
I'm really looking forward to this show to see what Apple really has to announce for us on Sunday and then see how that stacks up with Adobe's impressive return to the Mac platform. Some things I'm most interested in this year for myself are storage, color correction and special effects / plug-ins. Though I'm going to be quite busy working this year, I hope to be able to at least get out and see what everybody is offering in these areas.
I'll give you guys daily updates (hopefully multiple updates per day) and be sure to watch out for my inaugural "All Things Apple" Podcast on Sunday shortly after Apple's event!
Ta ta for now!
Well folks, NAB 2007 is upon us and I hope to be able to meet some of you. So if you're going to Las Vegas, here is where you'll definitely find me!
Sunday April 15 - Apple Event AM, Panasonic Event PM
Monday April 16 - AJA Booth all day, Booth SL6113 directly across from Apple.
Tuesday April 17 - AJA Booth AM, Booth SL6113.
Creative Cow booth PM, Booth SL2626. Between Adobe and Grass Valley
(on your right as you walk to the Apple booth.)
Wednesday, April 18 - Presenting "HD Finishing in Final Cut Pro" as part of the Post Production sessions.
3:30 - 4:45pm, Room N259. I'll be showing some of our production workflow for the Food Network program, Good Eats.
I'll also be at a few of the evening events, but not really sure where, so if you see me, be sure to say hi!
So I've been dealing with several issues with an international network that has a primarily European distribution area. We seemed to have everything worked out this morning and suddenly I get a notice from QC that our audio was suddenly rejected as being 8db too hot. 8db too hot!
I'm completely dumbfounded. How can audio on this show, which was professionally mixed, be 8db too hot? We've already delivered three episodes and each passed QC with flying colors and suddenly we screwed up this big?
Of course I check the timeline first and foremost. Tone is -20db, Check. Main show audio rides around -12 to -10db with a few peaks at -8db. Check. Now I check the show we shipped last month. It matches. I check the the other two shows delivered in November and January, they match too. Now if we're 8db over -8, I guess we'd be hitting distortion hell at digital 0 so that would sound pretty bad.
I call my audio designer, Patrick Belden, whom you fans of Good Eats would know as the sound designer of every episode of that series. He brings up the show and a previous episode on his sound system and it all matches there. He's at a loss to explain what could have happened.
So I check in with PostWorks in New York. They handle the 1080i/60 to 1080i/50 conversion for us. Could they have done anything at all that caused our audio to suddenly rise by 8db? This seems unlikely because it's just an SDI transfer from one deck to the other through a Terranex or like converter. Not only does PostWorks take a look at our master in the tape deck, they bring the master into a sound sweetening suite and check all our levels. Everything is spot on to spec.
So I ask the network again, "You say we're 8db too hot, can you please tell me exactly what level we're hitting? -2? -4? 0?" I am going to quote the QC person here on the response:
"Walter the audio level was 4 to 8dB too hot. That means instead of being at -20dB they were between -16 to -12dB. This wasn’t the peak it was the mean. The audio consistently peaked around -12dB. This is all in the digital world so -12dB is 8dB too hot."
Folks, do you see the bold areas? -12db in the digital world is too hot. I really don't know where this QC person got their information and I'm not even going to tell you what my response was to all of this, but suffice it to say, at this point I stopped trying to explain anything. I instructed the Executive Producer of the show to have an engineer explain audio levels as I was not going to.
So folks, in this ever changing world of high definition TV, globalization and what-not, sometimes even the folks reviewing your shows at the networks can get it wrong. I guess it's too much information even for the technical folks.
So a recent thread in the Creative Cow Final Cut Pro forum about Internal vs. External RAID's got me thinking more about the subject. I'm a firm believer in external RAID's and really don't have any desire to install 3 or 4 drives inside my Mac Pro tower.
Let's think about this. Companies like LaCie, Ciprico, Medéa, CalDigit, Facilis and others spend a lot of time in research and development to produce storage solutions that are not only fast, but reliable. Every board, every drive, every switch, everything about that storage solution has been drawn up, assembled and tested by engineers who know a heckuva lot more than me about the inner workings of computer storage.
The hard drive units themselves are rigorously tested and "beat up" to figure out which manufacturer and model should be installed in a particular RAID unit. Drive reliability is different among manufacturers and even among individual models of the same manufacturer. Company X may have a killer 500GB model but the 750GB model may have issues. RAID companies will discover this issue much faster than I ever will and adjust their products accordingly.
RAID companies that I've dealt with have had very good tech support teams both for generaly questions and in the event of a failure. This is invaluable because when something goes wrong and a deadline is looming, the last thing I want to do is become a hardware engineer and try to figure out exactly where something might be wrong. I have enough trouble just keeping up with all the formats and software we run, I really don't care to become a computer engineer too.
Expansion is so much easier with an external RAID than internal. I mean, what do you do if you have maxed out your internal RAID and now you need another 2TB of storage? I guess you're going to connect an external RAID device? So now you're working with internal AND external media storage, at the same time? That doesn't sound like a very stable solution in my book. Start external, expand external. Keep everything coming down one or two pipes from the outside.
Speed is very limiting when it comes to internal RAID. Four drives striped together are going to be slower than say a 10 drive Ciprico Fibre Array, or maybe two arrays striped together. Heck stripe four of the new CalDigit 4:4:4 arrays together and you're pushing upwards of 900MB/s. You're not going to touch that with and internal RAID and you're certainly not going to stripe and internal AND external RAID together to gain more speed.
Zero protection is had by current internal RAID's as RAID 0 and 1 are the only supported formats right now. With External RAID's you have a multitude of protection options which gives you real control over speed vs. protection. Granted, right now I run an external SATA Array in RAID 0, but I also run another external backup device. But that will change in the next few months and we migrate potentially back to Fibre Channel.
I figured I'd ask an engineer I know about this debate and he said external is always the preferred way to go when working with high volume media storage. It's generally faster, more stable and a much more proven technology.
There you go, my reasoning for working with and recommending external RAID storage. You're free to do what you want, but this is where I stand on all this.
|We've discovered an audio issue when using the Panasonic AJ-HD1400. A high end "crackle" is being added that sounds somewhat like sizzling bacon or crackling cellophane when laying back to tape via Firewire. I honestly can't hear it as I have a hearing loss in both ears, but the fine folks at CineFilm in Atlanta who convert our DVCPro HD masters to HDCAM heard it and alerted us.|
We tested a second 1400 unit and the problem occurred there too so it appears to be an issue with the model line. Panasonic is aware and are currently working on the issue. I'll update you guys as get some news.
|I have a blog now, so I thought I would take you guys and gals into the Edit Suite and let y'all know what we're working on at Biscardi Creative Media.|
2/28/2007, Cutting Episode 4 of the environment series, "Assignment Earth" and this episode focuses on the Mekong River in Thailand. Footage is stunning HD shot by Roger Herr of Atlanta who traveled to Thailand with Producer / Host Gary Strieker.
Roger and Gary took a Sony Z1 HDV camera with them because a lot of travel was via very small boat on the Mekong and if they were going to drop a camera in the river, they figured it was better to lose the Z1 instead of Roger's Panasonic HVX-900. While I'm not a fan of HDV, in the hands of a talented D.P. like Roger, it can look very very good.
I used the AJA Kona 3 to convert the footage to DVCPro 1080i/60 during capture and when we're done, the show will be mastered to DVCPro HD 1080i/60. So far I'm through with the 2nd cut of the show trimming 14 hours down to about 23:30. Need to get the show down to 22:30.
I also had to make a series of animated graphics detailing the location of the Mekong and Salween rivers. I used a combination of Google Earth Pro, Photoshop and After Effects to create them. I love using AE's 3D camera moves for these types of graphics.
In JungleLand, Aaron is working on a new set of stories for our "This American Land" series of environmental news reports. These stories are delivered monthly to PBS stations nationwide. Some of the stories are also repurposed for Assignment Earth on Yahoo! News. I'll get some more details tomorrow.