: Kylee Peña's Blog
The greatest thing I've ever stumbled across: job-chaining in Compressor. It's perhaps the least known about yet useful thing in any Pro App. I've posted twice about job-chaining on my blog
, but after some confirmations at NAB, I wanted to make one last revision on my thoughts.So if you're one of the dozen people who might have stumbled across those posts, I apologize for the re-hashing. If you just want the steps without my backstory, skip to the bold text.
I first found job-chaining about a year ago when I was trying to figure out a way to make my encoding time shorter. In my day job, we have a media player with dynamic bandwidth switching playback. That is, it sees what's up with your viewer's connection, and picks a version of the video based on what they their connection can handle. This works really well for our demographic especially, where we have a lot of people out in the middle of nowhere on dial-up, a ton of people on phones, and then people who pay for a broadband connection. I usually have to encode three different videos of varying sizes and bitrates (and originally we even reduced the frame rate.)
I have a ProRes master that I keep as my archival file, and I use it to encode every asset I ever need. And I found that the conversion from ProRes to H.264 took an unbearably long time. Between the Frame Controls AND the bitrate crunching, Compressor was getting tripped up. It's too much to effectively process at once, so it just slows way down.
Enter job-chaining! What does it do? Basically, you can set the output of a Compressor job as the source of a new job, all within one batch. So for example, in my situation, I did all the resizing in one job, and all the actual compressing in another job. The two tasks are split up so Compressor can handle them better.
Let me explain with pictures how to set this up.
How to Job Chain in Compressor:
First, have a new batch open. Drop in your master file that you're making all your great outputs from. In my case, I dropped in my master ProRes.
Now, stick all the settings you want on that file. For me, I dropped another ProRes 422 preset on it, and changed the frame size and frame rate to what I need my outputs to be. This way, the codec stays the same, so there should be no complexities in switching things around - it should (mostly) just change the size.
Ok, now click on this job, and go up to Job, and choose New Job with Target Output.
You'll see another job pop up in your batch with a little chain icon.
Compressor is going to do what you asked of it in your first job - for me, resizing a ProRes file. Then it'll take that output, stick it into that second job, and do whatever you ask of it on there.
So now you can drop on whatever settings you need on job #2. In my case, I need three different outputs for my dynamic switching, and I have presets ready for that. No resizing, no frame rate adjustments - simply changing to H.264 and crunching the bitrate.
When you click submit, you'll see Compressor run through the whole batch as expected. For me, the time it took to complete an encode dropped from close to an hour to maybe 10 minutes.
It's worth noting that the intermediate file created by job #1 isn't a temp file - it's actually created, so you'll have that file whether you need it or not.
So there ya go, job-chaining. It'll change your life, one way or another.
It's a great tool to have at your disposal. It's also not an instant band-aid to your compression woes - it's a potentially valuable step in a compression strategy. And yes, it's possible to do the steps separately, but you risk messing things up if you do it yourself, and it's not completely autonomous. And we love autonomy in post, right? Well, at least for the boring stuff.
When I originally posted on this subject, I wasn't quite sure what I had stumbled upon, or if I was doing things right. And then last time I updated this post, I still wasn't sure if it was acceptable. Everything looked fine and worked great for me, but I was almost waiting for someone to reply and call me a moron for losing valuable bits somewhere along the way. But then this was brought up at NAB during Post Production World, and my entire thought process was validated for once. Is there quality loss? Well, I'm sure there is somehow, you always lose something with every transcode. But it's not big loss by any means. Well worth it for the time saved in many instances.
If you have another use case for job-chaining, please share. I'm curious about how others utilize this lesser known feature.
When a dire situation is at hand, an cuddly little animal called the hairy frog (or even more affectionately, the horror frog) intentionally breaks its bones to form claws. Another creature called a horned lizard creates pressure in its nasal cavity so great, the blood vessels in its eyes burst, spraying attackers with blood. A possum will, uh, play possum, which includes foaming at the mouth and emitting a green anal fluid. Potato beetle larvae cover themselves in their own poop. And the poop is poisonous. An malaysian ants? They just self-destruct.
As editors, we become very intimate with footage and invested in a story from the very beginning. It's as if you build a personal relationship with the subject-matter, or even the subjects on the screen. There's a fine level of attachment and privacy to a film or video that's built up as you've worked on it. You've carefully crafted it. You've raised it from birth. You've slowly carved it out of stone. It's been molded in your very hands for the last week, month, or year. It's your little duckling that you've sheltered from the harsh reality of the world.
And now you're screening the final product for the first time, and people are going to look at it and tell you what they think about it and everything
You know that feeling where you want to melt into the floor to escape a situation? You should have been born a sea cucumber. They can turn from solid to liquid, and back again. Handy.
For me, the first screening of a finished (or semi-finished) product is fairly traumatic. And I think this is true for a lot of editors. But why? Shouldn't we be excited to show the world what we've done? Shouldn't we be eager to get it up on the big screen so we can start hearing feedback? Isn't the point of all this to tell a story that makes someone feel something? How they gonna feel anything if you hoard your work in your edit room on your little screen?
I am excited, and I want the feedback. I want people to experience what I've experienced. But the idea of blowing up the blood vessels in my eyes also becomes inexplicably appealing.
I have been wondering why this natural aversion to my work being shown happens. I've heard that some actors can't watch themselves on TV shows or in movies. Or artists can't view their own public exhibitions. Why is the transition from the creative environment into the cold, mean world so harsh? I mean, most of us as editors have developed a thick skin. We can defend our cuts. We're comfortable with our skills. It has nothing to do with confidence.
What makes watching your work on the screen without the ability to hit the spacebar and flee the area feel so different, psychologically?
I don't think I have to argue that a majority of editors are introverts. Sure, it's not always true, but generally if you enjoy the quiet solitude and reflection of 18 hours in a dark room on a sunny Spring day, you're probably seeing those same patterns throughout your lifestyle. Obviously being an introvert doesn't mean you're socially crippled or unable to be in public. In fact, most people aren't even entirely in one camp or another. Introverts aren't just shy. Shy people are freaked out in social settings, and introverts are not always as such. But what is true is that "introverts are people who find other people tiring." Could this be an explanation for my natural aversion to public screenings? A defense mechanism resulting in an involuntary reaction leaning toward solitude?
I find that public screenings are a lot like public speaking classes in high school. In these courses, you're often speaking about something that's supposed to be important to you (no doubt a strategy from teachers to make you care about the project.) You have a certain level of attachment to your subject, you've got a carefully crafted argument, and now you're facing 30 or 300 bored faces that are mostly just waiting for you to finish or fail, whichever comes first. Your palms get sweaty. Your blood pressure goes up. You're painfully aware of every tiny error you make in your speech. Minutes seem to turn into hours. But the truth is that hardly anyone ever notices this anxiety or stumbling. The audience doesn't know the intentions you held internally for the speech. Huge mistakes to you are tiny blips to them.
Back to the theater, and you're feeling the same way. You've got a carefully crafted argument in the form of a film, and you desire to change or affect a person with your argument. But just like in high school, the audience doesn't know your original intentions. They don't pick up on the things you wish you could fix.
But somehow, it doesn't make it any easier to realize that. So the big screen is somehow a threat to everything you hold dear in your edit, and you're trying to decide if you should hide in a closet or storm the stage "come at me bro" style. Maybe this feeling comes from a fight-or-flight response? Fight or flight, of course, is the surge of an animal's sympathetic nervous system that primes the animal for fighting or running. Basically, it's a response to stress that puts you on the offensive (running the hell away) or defensive (come at me!) In a very first world fashion, I seem to experience this feeling most when I go to see my work screened before an audience.
So, my frontal lobe knows what I'm going to put it through. Then my body reacts to these thoughts by turning all my systems up to 11. And the primal systems left over from millions of years of evolution release the same response as if I were being chased by a brontosaurus. (Yes, I know homo sapiens didn't exist when brontosauruses did, just let me have that fantasy, ok?)
It seems silly to be so bothered by 24 frames per second flashing by on a screen, but maybe I shouldn't feel that way. In a recent study about how films effect the human mind, researchers discovered that "movies activate every one of the seven intelligences: the logical (plot), the linguistic (dialogue), the visual-spatial (images), the musical (soundtrack), the interpersonal (storytelling), the intra-psychic (inner guidance), and even sometimes the kinesthetic (moving) as we tense up or move to the music." So the films themselves are turning all of my sectors up to max power as a
regular viewer. As someone deeply involved in all of these areas? Well, it's more like critical mass. I'm experiencing all of these, plus the additional things beyond the frame that the audience can never know.
Speaking of experiences beyond the frame, in the book "In the Blink of an Eye", editor Walter Murch says "Emotionally, it seems like some big hand has come and grabbed you up by the hair, picked you up, and put you down ninety degrees to one side. And you think, 'Oh god, look at that.' It's as if up to this moment you have been constructing a building but always standing in front of it to evaluate it. Now all of a sudden you are looking at the side of the building and seeing things you seem to have never seen before."
"Oh god, look at that." Sums up a public screening pretty well, I'd say.
Murch goes on to give some advice for dealing with screenings, stating that "Even with technically finished films, public previews are tricky things. You can learn a tremendous amount from them, but you have to be cautious about direction interpretations of what people have to say to you, particularly on those cards they fill out after the screening."
Of course, we all know that the interpretation of a film will vary wildly from one person to another. But it's hard not to get caught up in why one person may have a strongly negative reaction, while another will sing praises to you all night. As it turns out, it's all in their head.
In a research project a few years ago, some researchers tracked the brain activity of subjects while they watched several segments of films. As you'd expect, there was a certain level of similar behaviors. In fact, all the activity in the logical, sensory, or basic comprehension processing was pretty much the same. The really interesting part is that the interpretive parts of the brain always showed different patterns. There was never a match between subjects when it came to the emotional, intellectual, or perceiving parts. Logically, each person saw the film the same. Emotionally, entirely different.
This goes to show us that the basic form of a film may exist in the same way for each person, but the experience of it? Wildly unpredictable. I guess that's not really that surprising, but to see it exist as tangible data is pretty impressive.
So we're back around to our original premise: why do things change for us as editors when we have to show our work on a big screen to a bunch of people? An evolutionary defense mechanism? A psychological reaction? A biological response?
Like anything else in life, it's a big, complicated pot of a little of everything, I think. Natural caveman instincts. Emotional investment. Past experiences. As the great Ron Burgundy once said, we're in "a glass case of emotion." Everybody wants to be validated. Am I right? Am I?
But next time you're in the screening room, wishing you could burst forth some claws from your own hands or cover yourself in poisonous poop, remember: there are some people out there that are biologically programmed to hate your work! Great! May as well relax, grab a drink, sit down, and enjoy the fruits of your labor. The screening room, while traumatic, is also an educational experience. Nobody can put it better than Murch: "The most helpful thing of all is simply learning how you feel when the film is being shown to 600 people who have never seen it before.
And be really glad that your human brain can understand and prevent these natural reactions from taking over, because nobody wants green anal ooze in a crowded theater.
I'm interested to hear what others have to say on this topic. How does the first public screening (or in progress screening) feel for you?
Half-assed bibliography (psh, I'm done with school, man):
"In the Blink of an Eye" - Walter Murch
Industrial video is a majority of my day job right now, and has been for the better part of three years. I've edited training videos, advertisements, and video blogs, and I occasionally have to go into the field and shoot. I find myself in hot, loud places sometimes, and I often have no idea what anything is at first. I do know two things: don't get run over, and don't stick your hand in anything. Those are a couple of freebies you can take with you into any walk of life, really.
While this industrial video stuff isn't exactly the Hollywood cinema experience I longed for as a child (hey, we all gotta start somewhere right?), I've picked up on some patterns that consistently give me some good results to help my videos stand apart from what else is out there. A lot of these tips are standard for any video production, but I've added a perspective of industrial/corporate video production to help you focus on this particular task.
1. Don't forget to get or use contextual/establishing shots.
If you're editing a movie and don't have an establishing shot, you curse the DP or director or everyone. In industrial videos, one has a tendency to get wrapped up in whatever process is being demonstrated. We often have little familiarity with whatever we're covering, so it can be difficult to not just skip ahead to each little piece of a process. Try not to get distracted and forget to use establishing shots in your videos to give your viewer context. For example, let's say you're showing the various steps of an assembly line. Assembly lines usually have a big piece of a machinery making it all happen, but the magic really occurs in one tiny little space. You might want to jump right to that space to show the thingy being attached to the other thingy - because that's the cool or interesting part. However, you need to show the context of where that thingy is being assembled - the whole piece of machinery. That's your establishing shot. For another example, if you're showing an engine - you need a shot of the whole engine before you delve into the little parts. And take an occasional step back to remind your viewers where they are.
2. Light equipment from behind.
Industrial places are often dark, hot, and filled with a lot of wires and pipes and whatevers. If you're shooting in one of these areas, you need to light it well. Don't forget to add some backlighting too. Let's say you're shooting a brake system on a vehicle, and you need to show the tie rod. Toss some light from behind to make it pop out from the mess of wires and tubes and stuff. Backlighting creates separation, so it's easier for a viewer to see what you're talking about. When it's all flat, everything blends together, and it's hard to tell where one thing ends and another thing begins.
3. Shoot big equipment from the ground.
This is particularly helpful if you're trying to market either the equipment itself or the operation of the equipment. Big equipment, when shot straight on, looks ok but rather ordinary. If you can get lower to the ground and shoot upward, it starts to look imposing and majestic. Making something like a large vehicle look extra big really speaks to the demographic of people who enjoy the operation of such equipment - raw, towering, and loud as hell. This is pretty much the same strategy that Cosmopolitan magazine uses for their cover models - women, shot (in a flattering way) from a lower angle, look tall, strong, and confident.
4. Bring cleaner and wipes.
If you're out shooting industrial stuff in its native environment, there's probably a good chance that it's dirty, if not completely covered in crud. You don't want your gorgeous cinematography marred by ickiness. Sometimes if you ask ahead of time before a shoot, equipment can be cleaned specifically for your shooting. This is ideal because there's probably a good, efficient way of getting the thing clean if experts are involved. But bring some cleaner and wipes anyway, in case there's spots to fix. And make sure it's OK if you use the cleaner on the surface. You never know.
5. Prepare for poor audio situations.
Have I mentioned that industrial video is usually in loud places? Try to prepare for the worst audio situation. This might include getting more directional mics, planning for ADR or VO, or scouting for a quiet room for necessary on-location interviews. Sometimes I find myself in situations where none of these things are possible, so I try my best in our run-and-gun situations to position the subject in a way where the mics will be least likely to pick up the noise. If you're at least prepared to deal with rough audio in post, it should ease the pain a little. One good thing is that this kind of background noise is not always a terrible thing in industrial video - the people watching it seem not to mind, and it helps to create an atmosphere. That is, if you can make out what the person on screen is saying.
6. Get a lot of angles.
When you shoot equipment, you'll find that when you get to the edit, one angle will tell the story of the equipment way better than another. Sometimes, it's hard to tell on-site what angles are clearest or most effective. Getting a lot of angles also gives you more options in post, obviously. This tip is basically the same as "get a lot of b-roll" which as an editor, I believe all shooters should have tattooed backwards on their chest, Memento-style. It's just a different way of thinking specifically about b-roll for equipment.
7. When you set up a shoot, explain what you need to your subject in simple terms.
Just like you're probably not familiar with the process you're shooting, the people on site are not familiar with the process of shooting. Make contact with your on-site coordinator and briefly explain what you'll need, avoiding jargon. The people you're shooting don't need a film school education. Just let them know your basic schedule, anything specific you might need from them, and how their assistance with your requests will help make their video look great. They'll feel involved without being confused.
8. Understand the process you're shooting or editing.
If you're working on a training video, read the manual and research the subject you're training. If you're putting together a how to, learn how to do it. Educate yourself on the basics. For example, if you're putting together a video that demonstrates a brake checking procedure, look up how to do it, and try to understand it. This will help you assemble the video as accurately as possible, with less time spent revising simple errors.
9. If you want lower thirds, shoot with them in mind.
In a past training video where I was shooting an engine, The DP didn't think far enough ahead of time to the edit to consider that I needed lower thirds to convey some points of the training. This made for some unnecessary fiddling in post. If you're shooting an intricate piece of equipment up close, leave some room for whatever sort of labeling you might need. And if it's for DVD, remember to consider title safe.
10. Add some movement.
Often in industrial video, we're shooting things that don't really move much - a vehicle sitting still, a piece of machinery that has moving parts but overall just kind of sits there. Adding a little bit of subtle movement can add a lot to the production value. A pan, zoom, slide, or if you have it, jib, can help bring a viewer into the environment.
11. Condense time, but not too much.
In the edit, you'll probably need to condense time in industrial video so you don't lose your viewers to boredom. You need to make sure you don't condense time too much. For example, there are vehicle inspections that require steps that take 2-3 minutes to accomplish, like pumping up air brakes. If you show 2 minutes of someone just sitting there, pumping up brakes (literally just hitting the brake over and over, watching a gauge), your audience just bailed. But if you cut away as soon as they start, it doesn't give the viewer an accurate big picture of the process. Find a middle ground where you can really imply that a task takes longer than a moment to complete. A dissolve will also help show the passage of time.
12. Tell a story.
It may be the production of a sheet of metal, or the process of cleaning out a tank of garbage, but it's still got a story. Give it a beginning, middle, and end. For example, at the beginning you might introduce the production facility. Or you might show the finished product, and jump back to how it all gets started. Then the middle - the process. The end should be easy - the finished product in it's newly manufactured state, and then in use out in the wild. Simple and effective - and easy to forget if you're new to industrial videos. It's storytelling, like anything else you cut.
13. Be careful.
Shooting industrial videos can often have an aspect of danger to them, at least more than usual. Take great care to pay attention to special instructions, watch your step, and avoiding touching things. If you have questions, ask.
Photo credits: morguefile.com
A topic that always seems to create a big debate: the demo reel. Specifically, an editor demo reel. On one hand, it needs to be short right? So people will watch it? So string together some cool sequences and set it to a wicked techno track. But wait, no. You need to showcase your editing skills. Ok, so it'll be long. Grab some 2 minute sequences and slap them together. But wait, it's like 8 minutes long. Who will watch any of that? I'm doomed, DOOMED
The funny thing about this topic is that there doesn't really seem to be a 100% right or 100% wrong answer, though everyone feels their answer is the definitive one. When I was in college, I was given some advice about building a demo reel that I would consider to be a lot closer to the 100% wrong than anything else: pull together a bunch of cool looking shots, and edit them creatively together to a beat. "Your reel itself is your showpiece, it shows that you can edit." Meaning, the reel itself is demonstrating your editing ability, not what's within it. I completely disagree. It shows that I can edit a sizzle reel for a great DP and nothing else. What's the point of that?
And of course there's another whole subsection of editors that don't even have a demo reel. "I haven't needed one in years. People ask for me by name, or know me by reputation!"
That's super, but realistically there's a whole lot more of us still clamoring for gigs that need a solid reel.
So where do we meet on this? I'm going to tell you the strategy I've adopted for the time being. I don't know if it'll work for you, or if it even works for me, but I think it's an interesting approach to marketing yourself, because it applies some basic web video marketing techniques. Instead of marketing a product, you're marketing YOU
. If nothing else, hopefully it'll make you think about how you brand yourself online.
I don't actually have what I would consider to be a reel. Ok, well I do, but it's like the long one I mentioned, and I save it for special occasions and Bar Mitzvahs. The "reel" I have on the front page of my website is not a reel. It's basically a one minute video that introduces who I am, creates a personal connection (whether the viewer wants it to or not), and quickly showcases in quick succession the types of videos I've worked on by showing very quick samples. The point is not to show "hey this is how I edit" but to say "hey I have experience in these things, look at these shiny objects, also I'm a good person, I have these great skills, and you love me already now go watch the other stuff!"
At the end of my non-reel, I have a call to action that points the viewer to a sidebar next to the video. Here, I have links to 4 of my better or more interesting projects. This leads into a rabbit hole of portfolio work, where viewers can watch longer samples of my work. If they saw something they liked in my non-reel, they can find it in my portfolio.
So my reel blends both of the two big sides of the debate: it provides a super quick introduction into my work, showing some flashy images and motion graphics. Then it provides a way to watch the long forms. It's quick and compelling (I think or hope) and draws the viewer in, and they make their own decisions on where they go next with a little shove from me. It's a reel in some sense, and it's not in another. It just serves as a point of intrigue, to hopefully make the viewer leap from mildly interested to full-on looking within your website. In web marketing terms, making a conversion.
If you take away the call to action and make it a stand-alone piece, it's the kind of reel I mentioned above that I feel is pointless. The engagement and utilization within a site is what makes it different.
I'm not saying my "reel" is perfect, or my website couldn't use some updating. I'm saying this has worked as a great solution to the debate for me. It lets me tell a story and provide an experience to the viewer. And isn't that what we're usually hired to do?
Of course, it makes me really nervous to draw attention to my reel, as I know there are a lot of improvements I could make. Some suggestions I've had are things like replacing the software text with graphics, adding graphics for clients I've done work for, making the text more kinetic, adding lower thirds to describe videos as they pop up, showing some before/after comparisons for comps...and of course, getting better video to feature. That last suggestion was mine, though. Ugh. My own worst critic. (Look at the front page of my website, www.kyleewall.com
, if you want to see this in practice.)
In the age of web marketing, it seems to me a proper step forward to stop thinking in terms of "reels" and start thinking in terms of web video marketing for one's own self - using all the tools at your disposal together to create a full package.
I'm always curious to hear what everyone else is doing. How are you using the internet to your advantage? Do reels truly even matter at all anymore when people can just go on your website and watch the whole thing? Or are they vital to your hiring? Do you get asked for one?