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walter biscardi's Blog

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Foul Water Fiery Serpent garners Best Documentary at LA Reel Film Festival

Today we received word that Foul Water, Fiery Serpent was honored with 5 awards at the Los Angeles Reel Film Festival! Wow! We are truly humbled by the recognition for the entire team!

Foul Water was honored with the following awards:

Feature Documentary: 1st Place.

Best Director: Gary Strieker

Best Score / Soundtrack: Patrick Belden

Best Voice Over: Sigourney Weaver

Best Documentary Concept

We’re especially excited for Patrick Belden. He not only did the score for the film, but created all the original music. I first met Patrick when working on “Good Eats with Alton Brown” and he’s been a tremendous asset to the BCM team. I’m very happy that his work was recognized at the festival.

And this is just the beginning. The second global health documentary, “Dark Forest Black Fly” is currently in post. More soon!

Huzzah to the entire production team!!!

Posted by: walter biscardi on Sep 29, 2010 at 6:31:27 pmComments (2) documentary, final cut pro
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Testing the new Small Tree ST-RAID Mobile, a SAN in a box.

If you've followed me for a while, you'll know that we installed an incredible Ethernet based SAN back in December of 2008. It's the Final Share SAN system from Maxx Digital which features some ethernet wizardry from the folks at Small Tree Electronics. We've been pushing the heck out of this system with two feature documentaries with over 350 hours of material and a couple of weekly series along with a myriad of projects pushing through the pipeline. It's been a real workhorse for the shop.

So I get a call a few months ago that the gang at Small Tree is working on "something new" and would I like to try it out? You don't have to ask me twice. Our current SAN essentially runs in three parts. You have the Mac Pro that is the central conduit. The RAID units attach to the Mac Pro, in our case these are two 16TB Maxx Digital units connected via SAS and are both running RAID 5. Then you have the ethernet switch where both the Mac Pro and all the clients connect together allowing all the data to be shared across the network. The client is whatever machine you want to connect to the SAN. Mac Pro, iMac, MacBook Pro, Mac Mini, etc... Anything with an Ethernet port can be connected to the SAN in a matter of minutes to either edit video or simply access the data.

This new idea from Small Tree is essentially an ethernet SAN in a box primarily designed for remote applications, but I see it as a great tool for post houses too. The computer and RAID are combined into a single box and 6 clients can connect directly to the box and start working. That's it. If you need more than 6 clients, then simply add an Ethernet Switch off you go. The box they sent me has sixteen 2TB drives so we have a 32TB SAN running in RAID 5. In our case, since we already have all our computers set up on an ethernet switch, we ran the box through the switch to make it easier. As a side benefit to connecting through the switch, we can access all 64TB of our shared storage at the same time. The 32TB from the original SAN and the 32TB from the new SAN since it all passes through the same switch.

I say they primarily designed this for remote applications, such as live events or film sets, to make it extremely easy to network across multiple workstations without the need for Fibre Channel setups, network configurations, etc... Anything with an ethernet connection can easily edit using Apple's ProRes codec, for example, and you can have 6 editors up and running in a matter of minutes without the need for a "network specialist." If you can connect your computer to the internet you have the necessary skills to connect your computer to this SAN. It's not rocket science.

But in my case, I see this as a real space and equipment saver in our Post House. We have all our equipment rack mounted including the computers and such. (you can see an image of our machine room here: http://tinyurl.com/34h8pdr

By removing the Mac Pro from the SAN, that means we can now use that computer for another purpose and clear some room in our Rack. I can make that Mac Pro more productive for the shop rather than just sitting there playing "traffic cop" for the SAN. It's a win-win.

It's called the ST-RAID Mobile and is expected to be released in October 2010. In the early testing everything is moving right along. Took all of about 5 minutes to connect it and get running with it. It truly is a "SAN in a box." More details as they become available.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Sep 25, 2010 at 6:35:19 pmComments (9) SAN, Hard drive
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Producer Walter Biscardi, Jr. helps launch "The Test"

Really proud to announce the completion of our latest project produced in partnership with Cielo Productions and Producer Gary Strieker.

Medical textile company, Vestergaard Frandsen was looking for a special way to celebrate their 50th Anniversary. They didn't just want to spend a lot of money on a party, a company trip, etc... They decided to put their money and their company efforts in creating an innovative event to promote HIV awareness and testing in Africa, specifically in Kenya.

In order to be properly treated for HIV, you must first be tested. In Kenya, and throughout Africa, there has been a deep seated stigma associated not only with the disease, but even just going for a blood test. If you're going for the test, then you must be immoral if you suspect you might have HIV. This results in millions of people not aware of their status and thus passing on the disease to yet more people.

At the same time, Malaria and Diarrhea are major diseases in Africa that are responsible for millions of deaths each year. Vestergaard Frandsen has developed insecticidal bed nets to keep mosquitoes from biting at night and water filtration devices to help prevent diarrhea. So they developed the idea to give away these health prevention aids in return for taking an HIV test. Hence, "The Test."

The results, in a word, were astounding and beyond the wildest dreams of the company and the health ministries in Kenya. It is hoped that this film will show the world what is possible when the private sector and government work together for common good of all mankind.

A video crew from Cielo Productions was led by Gary Strieker throughout the Lurambi District of western Kenya over a 1 year period. Strieker, along with Co-Producer Walter Biscardi, Jr. crafted the story with lead Editor Kim O'Neill. Biscardi completed all the refined cuts and Patrick Belden provided the sound mix. The film debuted at a Global Health Campaign event in Washington DC in September 2010 and is slated for film festival and other screenings worldwide.

Website is now live and you can check there for screenings as they are scheduled.

http://thetestfilm.com/index.html


Also check out the great Trailer cut by one of our newest Editors, Adrienne Latham. Yep, she's going to get stepping up from Edit Assist to full Editor as we move into the new facility.


Partial Credits:

Producer / Director: Gary Strieker

Producer / Editor / Colorist: Walter Biscardi, Jr.

Editor: Kim O'Neill

Edit Assist: Adrienne Latham

Photography: Rhett Turner, Ronald Borden, Tyrone Edwards, Gregory Pope, Roger Herr

Sound Design: Patrick Belden

DVD / BluRay Authoring: Walter Biscardi, Jr.





Posted by: walter biscardi on Sep 17, 2010 at 8:34:07 pm Documentary, Final Cut Pro
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Davinci Resolve and Apple Color: Which is Better?

I've been getting quite a few emails from folks asking a lot of questions about Davinci Resolve and Apple Color. Specifically, "which one is better?" That's a loaded question for a number of reasons, but not the least of which is, they're both just tools. Neither will make you a better colorist just because you have it. That takes the skill of the operator and taking the time to learn the craft.

Davinci has long been the standard in color enhancement for film and television upon which all other tools are measured. Name a feature film and it most likely was finished on a Davinci workstation. But for the longest time, it was really the only tool in town for film so naturally it became the defacto standard. Kind of like Avid when it first came on the scene as a Non Linear Editor. To this day, all NLE's are still compared to Avid because they are still considered the standard editing tool to judge against all other tools.

Color started out as Final Touch by a company called Silicon Color that was a lower cost competitor to Davinci. They really got noticed by the Final Cut Pro and NLE editors by offering support for grading with Quicktime files, something Davinci didn't support at the time. Suddenly people like me could spend $5,000 for Final Touch HD and have essentially the "power of Davinci color enhancement" on my Mac Desktop.

The big difference between the two products of course was realtime vs. rendering. Davinci did all color enhancement in realtime, no rendering, straight back out to tape. Final Touch required the user to render all files and then send back to the NLE for final output. Of course the other difference was the price. $5,000 for Final Touch HD vs. six figures for Davinci.

Then Apple purchased Silicon Color and Blackmagic Design purchased Davinci. Today we're sitting here with two absolutely incredible color enhancement tools available for use on our Mac Desktop and, yes, even the MacBook Pro. So now what do we do? Which tool is better. Short answer? Neither.

Which one is better depends on your particular application and how you like to work. If you work with Avid or Adobe Premiere, well then right now Resolve is your best choice because it has an easier workflow to / from the application because it's a third party app, not a proprietary Apple app. If you work with Final Cut Pro, well then you can go either way.

Color works with traditional color wheels and rooms. Resolve works with curves and nodes. Color can operate very well with just a mouse and a keyboard. Resolve requires a control surface such as a Tangent Wave panel to work efficiently. Color has a ColorFX room that can utilize third party plug-ins. Resolve does not have an FX room. Color has a one point motion tracker. Resolve has a motion tracker I have termed "Ludicrous Tracker" (look up "Spaceballs The Movie") because it's just ridiculously good. Color uses an XML workflow that supports speed changes, graphics and multiple video tracks from FCP. Resolve currently uses EDL and AAF using a single video track only. Resolve has better controls over Luminance and the Node architecture can make it easier to alter a scene after it's been graded. And the comparison list goes on and on....

I can create the same look on both Apple Color and Davinci Resolve. Well for that matter, I can create the same or similar looks using the Apple 3-Way Color Corrector or Magic Bullet Colorista II. Prior to getting Final Touch I graded many broadcast television shows using only the 3-Way CC and we continue to use both Colorista and Colorista II to grade projects as well. So you see, everything is just a tool.

In fact as I've been testing Resolve it has only shown me just how good Color really is. People amuse me by saying things like "Well now that Resolve it out, we don't have to use that wannabe Color." These folks need to feel superior so they put down a product that is a world class color correction tool just because "it's not Davinci." Well, go on and keep feeling superior and we'll just keep turning out happy clients and happy QC network engineers with our little ol' Apple Color.

Now at $999 why would you NOT put Resolve in your toolbox? BMD is giving anyone with a Mac the opportunity to have the same toolset available that has been used on thousands of feature films and broadcast television shows. This is a no brainer for me and we are adding it to our facility. Adding Resolve to our toolset just gives us one more option in post production. If we used it for nothing but the motion tracker alone, it would be worth the $999. But of course, it's much more than just that. Kudos to BMD for opening up the tool to everyone.

So the long and short of it is, a tool is just a tool. How good it is depends on your ability to operate it and, more importantly, to understand the craft that is associated with that tool. But at $999 it's also a no brainer to add Resolve to your toolkit if you have the funds for it and a control surface.....

Posted by: walter biscardi on Sep 15, 2010 at 4:14:05 amComments (30) color grading, post production
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Davinci Resolve and Apple Color: Secondaries and Nodes.

I thought I would put together a VERY simple example of the same shot getting essentially the same treatment in these two applications so you can see how they differ on what we would generally call "secondary color enhancement." Basically after the shot is balanced, you now go ahead and give it the "look."

In Apple Color we have 8 Secondary Rooms that essentially give you 16 levels of Secondary Color Enhancement. 16 from 8? Well, yes because you can work inside and outside a vignette in any room independently so in effect, you can have up to 16 levels of color enhancement using the Secondary Rooms.

Davinci Resolve uses a Node based workflow that gives you.... well essentially limitless possibilities depending on how complicated you want to get.

NOTE: As with other examples, these images are from the UI of each application because it's just quicker and easier. Images generally appear a little lighter with a bit more color on the actual output.

Now to get the shots into each application I created a very simple two shot timeline in Final Cut Pro. I used the standard "Send to Color" function to get the shots into Color. I created a CMX3600 EDL to get the shots into Resolve. The first shot of the timeline you saw used in the Auto Balance comparison. This is the second shot. Original is 720 / 60 ProRes codec.

First up, Apple Color.

Here's the original shot balanced and ready for some enhancement.



Now let's go into Secondary Room 1 to bring warm up the shot. You can see I'm pushing the Highlights in the Yellow / Orange Hue....



resulting in the image now warming up.



Next let's add a Vignette to the top of the image in Secondary Room 2 to add some crazy yellow / orange to the top and also bring down the blacks to make it look....



something like this. Altering reality a bit here.



Now moving into Secondary Room 3 I'll do the same, but a darker and more saturated version on the bottom to give the image...



this rather cool, golden look. Almost done, just want to add one more thing.



Drop into the ColorFX room to add a Vignette so I can blur the area around the driver....



and end up with something like this. Again, just a very simple thing, spent all of about 1 minute on this, to make it easy to illustrate how it's achieved here and how we can do something similar in Resolve.




Ok, now here's how I do a similar look using Davinci Resolve.

Our balanced shot again ready to move into secondary enhancement. Now Resolve just has one "Color Panel" where you do pretty much all the work from Primary to Secondary in one window. You just keep adding Nodes with no need to switch off between rooms.



Create a new Node and again, put a mask on the top of the image to alter reality a bit at the top....



Looking something like this.



Create another Node so I can once again create the bottom orange / darker mask...





And create a fourth Node so I can add another mask and the blur around the driver....



Resulting in something similar to what you saw in previously in Apple Color. It's a bit too orange at the bottom, the mask needs to be feathered more and I can further tweak it from here, but you get the general idea.




So the two apps take two different approaches to what we call secondary color enhancement. Which one works better? That just depends on how you like to work. They're both tools an they both do a fantastic job of color enhancement. Some folks are going to be more comfortable with the Color wheels and room workflow of Color. Some folks are going to find the Node architecture of Resolve more to their liking. I've been on Apple Color something like 5 years now and I'm picking up the Resolve workflow very quickly. In some ways I'm faster in Color and in others I'm already faster in Resolve.

One thing I will say. You absolutely MUST get a control surface for Resolve. It would be incredibly slow if you just tried to operate it with just a mouse, tablet or trackball. I run the Tangent Wave Panel with both Color and Resolve. With Color it's a bit easier to work with just a mouse or a tablet because of the color wheel architecture. The UI design of Resolve really lends itself to a control surface and I can't recommend the Wave enough. If you really have the money to spend, well then get yourself the full Resolve control surface from Blackmagic.

Since you've read this far into my blog, here is one neat little trick that does separate Resolve and Color. In Color, the 8 Secondary Rooms work from left to right. That is Room 1 comes first in the look, then Room 2 is added to that, Room 3 to that and so on. If you're in Room 4 and you realize you really wanted to have something different between Rooms 2 and 3 you can't just insert another tab or change the order of the tabs. Generally you would save off the various Secondary Rooms, erase All Secondaries, and start again.

Since Resolve works with Nodes, this isn't an issue. I've decided I really wanted to desaturate the entire scene before I started adding those masks to create the yellow / orange casts at the top and bottom. I simply insert a new Node in between Nodes 1 and 2. Technically it's Node 5 but it's now Number 2 in the tree so it's effect happens before the first orange mask....



And our image now looks like this. A much more desaturated scene making the orange cast at the top much more prominent, but enough color still in the scene to see a hint of green in the grass and the red of his jacket. And this literally took me a matter of seconds to make the change. Insert the Node, desaturate the scene at that Node.



Ok, so you're asking me "Walt, so which one do you like more? Which application is better?" Ah, that sounds like a good topic for the next blog entry. Until next time....

Posted by: walter biscardi on Sep 9, 2010 at 8:08:12 pm Davinci Resolve, Color Enhancement
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Davinci Resolve and Apple Color: Auto Balance

Here's another workflow comparison between Apple Color and Davinci Resolve. Auto Balance. As in "my colors are really out of whack so can you please balance the colors for me to make the whites and blacks appear normal?"

Most Colorists cringe at the thought of an "Auto Balance" button / knob / feature because balancing a shot is just a basic job function of the Colorist. But for folks coming from a Non-Linear Editing background who are used to having a 3 Way Color Corrector with nice little Shadows and Highlights picker, it's a nice way to start out in the application. If the application can get the colors balanced, you can take it from there.

NOTE: The following images are screen grabs from the UI of the applications, not from their outputs. Why? Well it's just easier to do screen grabs when you're pulling a lot of images for this and upcoming blog entries. They are very representative of the changes that each application performed. The images on the output were definitely a bit brighter than what you see here.

First up, Apple Color.

Here's the untouched image. Yes it's pretty dark, shot inside with available light also giving the entire shot has a green cast.




Now here's the image after using Auto Balance in the Primary In Room.



Not bad. You can see the white bottle is pretty white, still a little yellow, but not bad. In all honesty this is the BEST I've ever seen the Auto Balance feature work in Apple Color. Maybe because the white bottle and pills are so dominant in the image. Generally when you use this feature in Color the entire image turns blue, so most of us never use it.


Now on to Davinci Resolve.

Again, here's the original image. It's in a slightly different position, but it's the same video before the pills were poured.




And now using Auto Balance in the Color Panel.



Doing a real close comparison, what I see is that the arms are little less red in this one and overall, there seems to be less green in this image than the Apple Color image and it's a little brighter. For this particular image, the results are very very similar and quite honestly that was a big surprise to me.


But... oh yes there's a but....


Testing the Auto Balance feature across all manner of shots shows that it works consistently in Resolve. It doesn't work perfectly every single time, but I would say more than 75% of the time, Resolve brings the scene into balance so you have good color to start with. With Apple Color.... well I've been using the application for over 5 years now and I think the Auto Balance feature was added 2 years ago. This is the first time I can remember where I've seen it actually do what it's supposed to do. As I said earlier, usually you end up with a blue image that's generally worse than your starting point. In all honesty, the 3 Way Color Corrector in FCP does a better job of auto balancing a scene than Apple Color.

Obviously Auto Balance is by no means a "make or break" feature for any color enhancement tool. If you're going to be a colorist or make color enhancement a service you offer, you darn well better know how to balance a scene manually. That's color enhancement 101. But it does offer a nice simple comparison point between the two apps.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Sep 9, 2010 at 7:43:45 pmComments (3) davinci resolve, color enhancement
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How stable is Final Cut Pro? Very.

As I've been on the Creative Cow Final Cut Pro forums about 9 years now, I have seen all manner of people whine and complain about stability issues with Final Cut Pro. Sometimes it's truly Apple breaking stuff or releasing versions of Quicktime or FCP before they're ready. But often, it's operator error / configuration error.

Here's an example of just how stable Final Cut Pro is.

Been running my current Mac Pro Octo 2.93 for about 18 months now. ATI 4870 and AJA Kona 3 are the graphics and video cards in there. On Sunday I pulled them both out and replaced with the nVidia FX 4800 and the Blackmagic HD Extreme 3D video card.

What did Final Cut Pro think? Nothing, just kept right on rolling along. In fact I had to swap out the nVidia card and ATI card twice for 10.5.8 because I forgot to install the nVidia driver on that disc. Kernel panics because the driver wasn't in there. Installed the driver, opened the Mac for the fourth time to put the nVidia card back in there and away we go.

In fact I switch back and forth between my OS 10.5.8 and OS 10.6.4 boot discs depending on what I'm doing. Why? Well there's a problem in OS 10.6.4 that is disrupting the Ethernet SAN so I do all my primary editing in Leopard. But for testing Davinci Resolve I need to be in 10.6.4, so I switch over to that and edit using my 8TB local SAS/SATA array.

What does Final Cut Pro think? Nothing. It doesn't care which boot disc I start from, it doesn't care which graphics card and video card I have in there. It doesn't care if I'm editing off the SAN or the local storage. I keep both boot discs set up correctly for the OS version I'm booting off of. Nothing extraneous in there, no long daisy chain of FW or USB drives, etc...

So if you have an FCP system that is constantly crashing, bogging down, whatever, I'm going to bet there's more than likely something wrong in your configuration than with FCP. Just sayin'.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Sep 7, 2010 at 2:15:49 pmComments (1) final cut pro, apple
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Davinci Resolve compared to Apple Color workflow Part 1

Today was Labor Day Holiday in the U.S. and instead of grilling outside, we took advantage of a nice quiet shop to really get into some Davinci Resolve testing. My buddy Ron Anderson volunteered to come over and show me the ropes. When a 30 year colorist offers to "show you the ropes" on a color enhancement software, you don't turn him down! He brought along a surprise too. David Catt was at the door and not only did he come over to do the training session, he's one of the guys who was with Davinci when Resolve was created. Ok, now I'm really excited. I've got a colorist AND a Resolve expert in my shop. This is going to great day! Too much to cover in one blog posting so I'll add more over the next few days.

First off, Resolve is broken up into multiple Panels and you switch between them with buttons along the bottom of the interface. So when you see me refer to a Resolve Panel in these blogs, that's what I'm referring to. In Apple Color, it's like the various Rooms in that application. Since Apple Color is the color enhancement tool I'm most familiar with, and there was so much interest in the Apple Color Forum here on the Cow about Resolve, I'll be comparing how that app works vs. how Resolve works. It's going to be quite the learning experience for sure.

The big thing I wanted to start with is the workflow between Final Cut Pro and Resolve since we're an FCP shop. I was having some trouble with it last night and figured it was operator error. At the moment, the folks at Blackmagic recommend a single track EDL as the way to get from FCP into Resolve. When I tried it last night I could not get the media to connect correctly in Resolve. As David showed me this morning, I was simply pointing Resolve to the wrong media folder. Simple fix and the timeline popped right open.

Now I gotta say I'm not a huge fan of EDLs. Not sure why, just have never been. And the whole "Send to Color" from Final Cut Pro is pretty darn simple. But the EDL works really well between FCP and Resolve and unlike Color, Resolve is user friendly for those times when edits are made to the project AFTER color correction. Just send the re-edited EDL into Resolve and all your original grades are applied with the new shots ready to be graded. How does this work?

Essentially Resolve has a Master timeline that holds all of the clips in your project. These clips are just sitting in Timecode order at the bottom of the Color Panel. Above this Master timeline you load your timelines from your EDL. These display the timeline as it would appear in your NLE. In the image below you can see the "Master Timeline" down at the bottom and my edited story from the EDL at the top. Both of these timelines are generated from the same EDL.



So you grade your show, send it back to the NLE, you're ready to master and of course the client calls to make a bunch of changes. With Resolve, no problem. Make the changes to your timeline, create a new EDL. Open your original project in Resolve. Import the new EDL. Resolve automatically applies your original color grades to all matching clips from your original timeline and leaves you with just your new shots to grade. When David showed me this, I started to become a fan of EDLs. And I know it sounds a little confusing, but once you start to learn Resolve, it all makes sense.

The one thing that strikes you right away when you start working with the Color Panel is the lack of the traditional color wheels. You usually see three wheels representing shadows, gamma and highlights, left to right. You move around in the wheels to affect the hue and then you have luma and saturation controls for each as well. Resolve does away with this completely. When I saw this out at NAB I wasn't sold on the idea, but as soon as I watched David work the controls, I realized you don't miss them. And once I got onto the controls, it confirmed that for me. The Curves at the bottom of the Color panel is what everybody notices in the literature, but actually, the Primary controls are where it's at for me. These essentially replace the color wheels with the information displayed more accurately. I really don't even have to describe what everything does because it's laid out in plain English as you can see in the image below.



This is a very efficient window that differs greatly from the 2 Primary Rooms and 8 Secondaries Room concept in Apple Color. Instead of creating 8 rooms of identical controls, Resolve just uses this one set of controls that automatically become active for each shot, each node, each operation. The controls were very responsive with the Tangent Wave Panel.

Tomorrow I'll talk a little bit about the Nodes and how their use compares to Apple Color's Secondary workflow, but here's a look at a simple shot that I graded tonight using some power masks. These are just screen grabs from the Resolve preview screen and not stills from the output.

















Posted by: walter biscardi on Sep 7, 2010 at 6:18:53 amComments (4) Apple Color, Davinci Resolve
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DaVinci Resolve and Apple Color Workflows

Had a great day today poking around in the beta version of Davinci Resolve for the Mac. Spent the first few hours just gleaning through the User Manual and that was actually quite interesting.

See the User Manual for the new 7.0 Resolve is not out yet so I'm looking through the previous version. (Update: the 7.0 User Manual is now available for download) What I find so interesting is all the tweaks Blackmagic has made to the interface, particularly the Config Panel. They've made a lot of very nice changes to combine some things into a single window, moved some other things out to their own tabs and such. They've really streamlined the interface and cleaned it up from what I'm seeing in the older User Manual.

Now most of you know I'm a heavy Apple Color user and until Resolve was introduced for the Mac it was hands down the best color correction tool on the Mac. Now I'm not going to do a full comparison of the tools yet because I've been using Color for 5 years or so now and I've been using Resolve for about 6 hours, and 3 of that was looking through the manual. I'll go much more in depth about that later once I really have the opportunity to get into the product. It's actually quite easy to pick up the functions on the software and the Nodes workflow is quite interesting vs. the Secondaries workflow in Color.

But one thing I wanted to address early on. The big complaint about Apple Color I have heard time and time again, via email, on the blogs, in the Creative Cow Color forum is that it doesn't support all of the Quicktime codecs supported by Final Cut Pro. The second complaint I hear is that it's too time consuming, too difficult to prepare your timeline to go into Color. Of course both of these complaints come from Final Cut Pro editors who have never taken the time to properly learn the Apple Color workflow and thus create many issues themselves.

Well Resolve is going to require you to learn another new workflow. Like Apple Color, it's a serious color correction tool designed for colorists, not editors. It won't support every codec under the sun, it will require the editor to plan accordingly if you want to bring your Final Cut Pro, Avid, whatever timeline into Resolve. I was actually laughing in the edit suite today while playing around with Resolve thinking of all those folks who make some of those complaints I mentioned earlier. What are they going to do now? Resolve is not a standard Apple interface. It's not a "single click send to Resolve and apply my Color Grade" type of app. You're gonna have to work to make this application work for you.

For those of you who have taken the time to create a good workflow for Apple Color, you'll be able to make a pretty easy adjustment into Resolve. For those of you waiting for Apple Color to essentially turn into a Final Cut Pro plug-in, well..... starting planning your workflows now if you want to take advantage of this new option. Apple Color is still an excellent enhancement tool, but it's a no-brainer to add Resolve to your Mac toolbox for only $999.

Tomorrow will be full day training on Resolve so I'll be updating again tomorrow night.....

Posted by: walter biscardi on Sep 5, 2010 at 7:45:30 pmComments (1) DaVinci Resolve, Apple Color
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DaVinci Resolve Testing Configuration

It’s Labor Day weekend here in the US so I’m taking advantage of the 3 day weekend to set up and start testing the beta version of DaVinci Resolve 7.0 for Mac. Contrary to some of the information that’s out there, you do NOT require two nVidia graphics cards to run Resolve on a Mac Pro. It is recommended, but not required. Here’s the configuration I’m testing on:

Mac Pro Quad Core 2.93 Intel Xeon (2009 model)

16GB RAM

BlackMagic HD Extreme 3D video card

nVidia Quadro FX 4800 graphics card

ATTO R380 SAS/SATA controller

Small Tree PEG1 Ethernet Controller

Dell 24″ primary computer monitor

Viewsonic 22″ secondary computer monitor

Flanders Scientific 2450W reference monitor

Tangent Wave Control Surface

So as you can see, I’m running with only one graphics card, the Quadro 4800. I don’t have room for the second card because of the Small Tree PEG1 card in there. That’s to support our ethernet SAN. The on-board ethernet controllers do not properly support Jumbo Frames forcing us to use the PEG1.

Speaking to BlackMagic about this situation, I was informed that I would be giving up some realtime functionality by going with the one card, but all of the functionality of Resolve will be available. I have no problem at all accepting that I’m giving up a little realtime functionality to take advantage of everything else that Resolve offers for color enhancement.

So everything is installed and operating. More tomorrow on playing with Resolve!

Posted by: walter biscardi on Sep 5, 2010 at 2:46:00 pmComments (9) DaVinci Resolve, Color Enhancement
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DVDs not quite dead yet.

Ok, not a new record for many of you out there, but I think it's amusing with so many discussions all around the Creative Cow about how "tape is dead," "DVD is dead" "BluRay is dead" here we are purchasing a bunch of equipment for quick turnaround DVD production. We cranked out 400 DVDs in one day. The assembly line production here yesterday was pretty fun to watch. I called them "My Minions."

At least for another year or so, DVDs are not dead in our world and BluRay has now become the Film Festival delivery format of choice for many of the festivals we're shipping masters to. And why not? The players are sub $100 and the quality is far superior to DVD.

So keep proclaiming hard discs dead and stop purchasing any more duplication gear. Then send your clients to me so we can earn the profits you would have made if you still had any gear around.

We're the facility you wish your facility could be. I'm on a horse.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Sep 3, 2010 at 6:01:58 amComments (7) DVD, BluRay
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Doing What's Right for Clients - A Business Lesson

If you have followed my career at all and especially my business articles and postings on the Creative Cow Business and Marketing Forum you know that I preach that you always have to do what's right for the client. In today's economy, this is more important than ever, even if it hurts the bottom line for a job or two.

A few days ago I posted how I had to scramble to order a new DVD Burner for a quick turnaround of 400 DVDs to be delivered in just 7 days across the country in Arizona. This all happened because of a misunderstanding between me and my client. See we're working on one project that now has three deliverables. A Feature, Cut-Down and Short version of the same video with running times of about 65 minutes, 51 minutes and 19 minutes. The three versions are to be used in different settings from a company meeting to a public screening type of situation. When we started this project back in April, there was just one deliverable, the feature which had to be completed by a the start of a worldwide AIDS Conference in Vienna. We hit that deadline and the end client was very happy with the results. (in fact it was standing room only at the screening!) But as happens with many projects, the end client realized they could use a shorter version of the same presentation for meetings, conferences, etc...

So I know there's a screening in Washington DC on September 15 and in my head, I'm targeting that date for the delivery of the 400 copies. Got the timetable set, just going to call a nationally known DVD replication house, going to deliver on a certain date and the 400 DVDs will get to DC in plenty of time. There's just one problem with this plan. The DVDs actually need to be in Arizona on Sept. 8 for a different event. That's 7 days earlier than Sept. 15 for those of you keeping score at home. My timetable doesn't work for that. In fact, the DVD Master wasn't even finished until yesterday morning, September 1st.

So the first thing I did was make a cup of espresso. I think better with a cup of espresso. Two cups sometimes even better, but never three cups. Three cups in a row definitely sends me over the jittery edge and that pretty much makes me useless. Then I washed the cup, always clean up after yourself my mamma always said. No, I don't call her mamma, she'll probably hit me when she reads this.....

At that point there was nothing else we could do except do what needed to be done to meet the client's deadline. The misunderstanding was mine. The client had clearly told me on several occasions actually that Sept. 8 was the deadline for the 400, not Sept. 15. I just got the dates mixed up.

As I wrote on this blog a few days ago, I put in a big order with TapeOnline.com to get everything we needed to make this happen and had it all shipped overnight. 450 blank DVDs, 450 full sleeve DVD cases and a brand new Microboards 7 DVD Burner. Why 450? Well bad copies, damage, etc.... Always order more than you need to be safe. We only had a dual DVD burner here in the shop that was in no way going to be able to burn 400 DVDs in time. Everything arrived yesterday and we already got 300 DVDs burned by the end of the day, only another 100 to go today.

We got to the DVD Cover and DVD Disc artwork approved by the end client, ran out to Staples to pick up another 2 reams of Legal paper for the laser printer and cranked out 200 DVD covers in the afternoon and we'll run the last 200 today. Everything was cooking right along yesterday until....... our DVD Printer went belly up.

It's an Amtren FlexWriter IV that is supposed to be a Quad DVD burner (four burners) and DVD Printer. I have had a love / hate relationship with it since we got it. The DVD burner side of things really never worked properly and the company was a pain to deal with. The Printer we love when it works properly. When it doesn't work, it just doesn't work and then a few days later it magically starts working again. Yesterday it decided to just stop working correctly at all. It takes two ink cartridges and it seems it has stopped sending any information to one of the cartridges. We've replaced everything and it just doesn't want to print correctly. Now it's 5:30 in the afternoon on Sept. 1.

First thing I did, another cup of espresso. Then I picked up the phone and called my friend Lauren at TapeOnline again. We missed the overnight cutoff but tomorrow we will have a brand new DVD Printer that will easily crank out the 400 DVDs this weekend and the client will get their 400 DVDs on time, in Arizona, complete with full color printed sleeves, in cases, with beautifully printed DVDs.

I'm going to lose money on the DVD duplications. Quite a bit of money since I was not prepared to purchase either the DVD Burner or the DVD Printer. Actually if all we needed was the DVD Burner I would have just about broken even, but the printer is significantly more money. Who's going to pay for this? I am of course. I am not going to ask my client for any more money to cover the costs of the additional equipment. That's not his problem. It was my mis-understanding that led to the scramble here at the end to get the job done so it's my responsibility to do what's necessary to meet his deadline.

This is what I mean when I keep saying you have to do what's right by the client. I will not earn any money for this DVD job and in fact we will lose a significant amount of money on this one job. But we are meeting the needs of this client and ultimately his client. We are making sure that we keep our client looking good to ensure that they have confidence in us to get the job done and if my client looks good, we all win. After all if the DVDs were not delivered we should not expect any further work from the client. In today's economy we can't afford to lose any of our clients. I know it's hard when you have to come out of your own pocket to cover costs, but sometimes you just have to do it to meet the client's needs. Particularly if it's something that happened as a result of a misunderstanding or a situation created on your end. But I sometimes eat costs even if it's a client created situation, anything to keep the client happy and coming back for more work.

It's called "doing the right thing." My grandfather taught me this valuable lesson. Kind of wish more companies (my current bank especially) operated this way. Another way you can look at this is the old adage, "You need to spend money to make money."

And now we own the equipment and for all jobs moving forward, we have it in the shop. It will pay for itself in short order and in fact, we significantly increased our capacity to burn and print DVDs and BluRay discs. 400 or 500 DVDs in a single day will be no problem when we need that capacity. Sure the world is going digital downloads, but for the short term, DVDs and BluRay discs are still requested in large numbers at our facility.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Sep 2, 2010 at 5:46:51 amComments (5) business
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+1

Sherwin Williams 18% Grey Paint for Color Suites

In response to the emails I've been getting over the past few weeks, I went back and dug out that Sherwin Williams paint recommendation again. It was suggested to some folks we work with as an alternative to GTI Munsell N 8. This is most likely the color I'll be using in all our new suites along the wall with the monitors as it's a significant cost savings and we'll be painting this in 9 suites along the front walls. Here's the email recommendation again:

SW 7071 is the paint: I have found out that Sherwin Williams has two matte bases. For anyone that wants to go this route, 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


I might even run out today or tomorrow to paint a square of this around our reference monitors in advance of installing DaVinci Resolve this weekend for beta testing. If I do, I'll let you know how it looks. At the very least I'll be painting some of this in another month or so in the new facility and we'll let you know how it looks.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Sep 2, 2010 at 3:55:57 amComments (1) 18% Grey Paint
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Heck freezes over! Installing BlackMagic HD Extreme 3D in my shop!

Any longtime member of the Creative Cow forums might recall some.... well how shall I describe them.... let's say, "difference of opinion" discussions between BlackMagic Design's Grant Petty and myself. It got to the point where I was politely (well maybe not so politely) asked to refrain from posting in the BMD forum.

To be honest, I wasn't all that nice and Grant and I got into things a little too personally. It wasn't professional and fortunately I've learned from those lessons. In fact Grant and I get along quite well and I enjoy getting the chance to talk to him in Vegas each year at NAB. This past year my wife and I spent over an hour chatting about BMD, DaVinci, the iPad, iPhone and even what games little kids love to play on the phones. It was fun and as always, he was very gracious with his time.

So during the show Grant asked if I would be interested in poking around DaVinci Resolve when it was ready for some outside testing. Took me of all the blink of an eye to say "Yes." Of course he knows I'm a big AJA Video Systems guy so I was rather surprised he even asked, but as I said, we've grown to respect each other and if there's one thing we both have in common is a passion for all things Post Production.

So when I got the call a few weeks ago that they were ready to start shipping the software, I reminded the rep that I have all AJA products here which don't support Resolve. No problem, they'd send me a BMD card. Well, they didn't just "send me a BMD card," they sent the BMD HD Extreme 3D card set. So for the first time, I'll be pulling out an AJA Kona 3 on one of my Mac Pros and installing the BMD HD Extreme 3D. I'll also be pulling out an ATI 4870 card in lieu of the nVidia 4800 Quadro for Mac. Again, this is for the Resolve which is only supported via the nVidia card. No, I will NOT be installing two graphics cards in the system, I was told by BMD that the 4800 will fully support Resolve by itself, I'll just be sacrificing some realtime functionality. For testing out and learning the software, that's no biggie. When it comes time to outfit our full-time system in the new facility, absolutely I'll be installing dual graphics cards in that system.

So I'll be installing everything in the next few days and I'll report back on how it's going. Yes, BMD is ok with me sharing information even though we're in Beta. I'm not used to this quite honestly, usually we have to keep our mouths tightly zipped for fear of Big Brother. Fortunately I have some friends here in Atlanta who are HUGE DaVinci users who will be able to help me get up to speed quickly on the software and we'll be running the Tangent Wave with the thing as well.

So thanks Grant for the opportunity and we're really looking forward to moving into a whole new realm of DaVinci!

Posted by: walter biscardi on Sep 2, 2010 at 3:42:58 amComments (2) DaVinci Resolve, BlackMagic Design
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Professional Video Editor, Producer, Director since 1990.

Credits include multiple Emmys, Tellys, Aurora and CableAce Awards.

Owner / Operator of Biscardi Creative Media, a full service video and film production company with about 65% of our work in HDTV. The show you know us best for is "Good Eats" on the Food Network. I developed the HD Post workflow and we also create all the animations for the series.

Favorite pastime is cooking with pizza on the grill one of my specialties. Each Christmas Eve we serve the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a traditional Italian seafood meal with approx. 30 items on the menu.

If I wasn't in video production I would either own a restaurant or a movie theater.

 


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