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Kylee Peña's Blog

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Happy Birthday X-Files!

It almost snuck by me, but I remembered! Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the premiere of The X-Files. And as a huge fan (I think they used to call us X-Philes) of the show who has recently been working through (almost) every episode from start to finish, I have a couple things to say about this. 

This is the first chronological binge viewing I've completed on this show since I originally began watching -- something that happened pretty late in the series. Sometime in 1999, I picked up the show during season 7 and got hooked after the finale. That summer, FX played a couple episodes a night starting from season 1. By fall, I was fully engaged in not only watching the show, but also talking about every aspect of the show on the Internet. With other self-proclaimed "x-philes". Half cringe, half I ain't even mad.



Besides the phenomenal technical achievements of the show which I'm sure are discussed elsewhere on the internet on this happy birthday week, I have two major takeaways as an impressionable teenager, both of which have become a lot clearer upon this recent binge in adulthood, ten years after the show's series finale (sob).

The first thing: characters are everything, and not just the heroes. Yes, Mulder and Scully went through some fantastic character development (which, by the way, is even more impressively subtle when you view episodes back to back to back, there's some amazing mental breakdown slow burn). But how about Cigarette Smoking Man? How many shows give their nameless villain a whole subplot? An entire episode? It's a long journey to the reward, but these small hints build up to a pretty emotionally complex end to the main mytharc, with a lot of engaging and amusing stand-alones along the way. Even characters we saw once or twice -- the psychological mindgames of "Pusher", or the scary as hell hair and nail fetishist in "Irresistible" were way more captivating than a lot of recurring roles on other shows. 

Interesting and likable (or at least relatable) characters are a difficult lesson to learn as a filmmaker, and even when X-Files was at its worst, it was still a great teacher.



Two: Dana freakin' Scully. Looking back, she was possibly my biggest role model as a teenager (plus I had a lot of Scully-related forum handles) -- and I wasn't alone. At a Comic-Con, Gillian Anderson said she had dozens and dozens of women tell her that they pursued a career in medicine, science, psychology, law enforcement, or another related field because they had grown up watching Scully kick ass every week. In another interview, I saw a lot of women mentioning their path into filmmaking began with Dana Scully. I'm not sure my hair would even be red without Scully.

Scully is complex character with layers and junk. She's a deeply flawed person without being portrayed as weak-willed. She's physically and mentally tough, but she worries about burdening her partner with her concerns and keeps a lot to herself. Early in the series, the show tried to occasionally show that Scully had a romantic life -- but then somebody realized that the audience didn't care, and it got way better. 



It's interesting that the main thing taken away from her after her abduction was her ability to bear children, which made for an interesting dynamic to a character that already overcompensated for her gender as many women are prone to do in a male-oriented field. But she's, at least for 7 seasons, not defined by infertility so much as she is by wanting to find answers, like Mulder. Even when she's the victim, she's not truly helpless (nor is she truly unaffected.) And I think that's kind of rare for women in stories. Plus, infertility is such a trope for female characters anymore, but was anyone addressing such a thing in the early 90s?

I'll admit that Scully in seasons 8 and 9 was kind of crap though. The storyline that had sucked me into the show originally ended up being the weakest link for her character (make babies, protect babies, etc.) But still, we'll always have the ass-kicking Scully in seasons 3 through 5 (including the movie, especially the movie!) And girlfriend could wear them shoulder pads, mhmm.

Also, a majority of X-Files were edited by female editors. I don't really have a further point to make about that, I'm just saying it was a thing I realized upon this binge.

X-Files was awesome. Ya'll should Netflix it if you never watched it before. Great stories, great dialogue, best opening title sequence ever. Yeah, I said it.

Scully: Mulder, it's such a gorgeous day outside. Have you ever entertained the idea of trying to find life on this planet?
Mulder: I've seen the life on this planet Scully, and that is exactly why I am looking elsewhere.


Posted by: Kylee Peña on Sep 11, 2013 at 8:12:02 pmComments (8) x-files, filmmaking

Ten Networking Tips for Video Production Conferences

Duh, we all know it's important to stay up to date on the changing technologies in the video production and post-production industries. So we read and tweet and practice and put time aside for educational workshops (like the upcoming Southeast Creative Summit) because we're smart and forward-thinking.

But have you thought about the benefit of networking at an educational conference? Sure, you're there to learn from presenters -- but if you attend conferences passively, you're missing out on a lot.

1. Introduce yourself to the person next to you.

Yeah, that old trick about talking to strangers. You're going to be sitting around people you've probably never met. Sit down a few minutes early and strike up a conversation. Maybe you'll find common ground and trade cards or Twitter handles. Maybe they'll be a nutso weirdo (which also has its benefits.) Either way, you might learn something. Don't dismiss anyone as irrelevant. They could have information you didn't know you needed.

2. Tweet with the conference hashtag.

If your conference and workshops is happening in the 21st century, someone has assigned a hashtag to it. And if they haven't, attendees have come up with one organically. Monitor the hashtag for activities, and share some thoughts and helpful tidbits. It helps keep you engaged, but it also connects you directly with the most savvy among the group. You never know who you'll meet with a hashtag -- I met one of my favorite Englishmen that way and we've been friends ever since.

Bonus tip: if you bring business cards, put your Twitter handle on it.

3. If you do follow the event on Twitter, make your avatar actually LOOK like you.

If you're an egg or a baby or a cat, you aren't recognizable. Upload a clear picture of yourself that actually looks like you, so people will know they've found the right person if they want to talk in the real world.

4. Actually go to the social mixers.

You've been sitting in cold classrooms all day. You've taken more notes than you have since high school. Curling up in your hotel room with some room service sounds really good. Socializing with strangers in the hotel bar sounds really not good. Take a hot shower and go to the social event! Some of the best places to talk to like-minded video professionals is over a quiet drink or coffee. At the first conference I ever attended, I stayed in my room during the social mixer and watched baseball. I'm not gonna lie, it was awesome and I remember it fondly. But if I had gone and met these people -- people I interact with all the time now -- I would have known them that much longer.

5. And don't think you have to just talk about the industry.

Finding other things in common with people in your field makes for great conversation too! Talk about pets, kids, rocketry, whatever. You don't have to argue about FCPX or the Cloud when you're at a video production conference. You can be a normal human being and talk about the weather, if that's what floats your boat.

6. Talk to the presenters too!

Don't be afraid to approach presenters after their workshop, in the hall, or at social events. If you get the sense they're busy or trying to get somewhere, don't get in a huff if they scurry by. But don't let the fact their name is on the room intimidate you from saying hello. Probably 99% of all the people I've ever met in the video production industry have been friendly and willing to talk as long as they had the time. There's no reason to NOT say hi to someone whose work you admire enough to sit through a 90 minute session.

7. Look friendly.

If you lay in the hall in the fetal position listening to your iPod between sessions, ain't nobody gonna talk to you. Look normal, smell good, try not to scowl so much.

8. Bring a charger for your phone.

A lot of networking involves social media or at least exchanging numbers to meet up. A lot of workshops involve using your phone or tablet to take notes or monitor social feeds. If your phone stops working, you miss out. Make sure your battery isn't going to die by lunchtime.

9. Listen and help people.

Ultimately, one of the most rewarding parts of networking is helping someone else fulfill a need they have. It could be just being a connection in the industry, actual paid work, or maybe it's actual technical and creative help as a peer. Ask a lot of questions about other people, and listen to what they have to say. You could find a lot of value in understanding their world, and you might be able to help each other out.

10. Follow up.

After you're home with some new followers online or some new business cards on your table, actually follow up with the people you met and try to make a permanent connection of sorts. There's no point in meeting someone if you're just going to toss their card aside and forget all about it. Don't leave networking to chance and wait for them to call YOU.

Workshops are all about your continued education as a video production professional, but don't forget the most important aspect of the industry: knowing the right people. Who are the right people? Maybe the dude sitting next to you! Find out.

(And where better to try your hand at professional networking than the Southeast Creative Summit, where I'll be speaking about social media, online reputation management, and generally not being a d@&k online! And YES, you CAN save $100 on registration for now with my code trackmatte2013, thanks for asking!)


Posted by: Kylee Peña on Sep 11, 2013 at 1:57:11 pm video production conference, southeast creative summit

Ask Your Boss to Send You to the Southeast Creative Summit!

Let’s say you work for a company, but you want to go to the Southeast Creative Summit. What do you do? Pitch it to your boss, of course. Don’t like asking your overlords for things? I’ve made it easy for you here with a letter you can copy and paste into an email! Whoa, I did your job for you? Yep! Just copy, paste, adjust as you like, and send it off into the ether.

You’re a valuable employee, right? You want to keep adding value to the company? And the company wants to keep you around too. Having your organization send you to continuing education events each year is a great way to maintain mutual respect. Plus, the worst they could say is “uh, no” I guess! Doesn’t hurt to try.

---

Hey Bossman,

I heard about a video production conference in Atlanta this October called the Southeast Creative Summit (www.southeastcreativesummit.com) and I think it'd be a great idea for me to go. There aren't many educational video production conferences like this, and I haven't found one as affordable or diverse.

It's a three day conference over a weekend (October 25-27), so I won’t miss much work. They're offering a lot of workshops I haven't seen before, like aerial cinematography and producing. The things I learn could easily change the way we approach our project work here.

The workshops are being taught by people who are primarily working professionals in our field. A few of them have won Oscars or Emmys too, so I'd be learning from some of the best in the field. Everything in our industry is constantly changing, and I think conferences like this where I can learn from my peers are our best bet for staying ahead of the competition.

Atlanta is an easy city to travel to -- the airport services tons of airlines, and the conference hotel is offering a really good discount rate at the moment. I also found a coupon code (trackmatte2013) to get $100 off registration for the Summit, so it'll only cost $495 if I register before September 25th.

Maybe we could talk about this more and see if this fits into our budget? Thanks!

XXOO

---

(Maybe not so much with the hugs and kisses at the end. But come on, give it a shot!)


Posted by: Kylee Peña on Aug 16, 2013 at 5:32:32 am video production conference, southeast creative summit

Successes & Failures in Editing with a Wacom Pen Tablet

USE THE PEN.

From the moment I stepped in the door at BCM, that's all I heard from Walter. It was like a nerdier version of Obi Wan Kenobi. (Is that possible?) My work station is equipped with a Wacom Intuos 4 (I think) -- which is very nice, both the product and the fact it was sitting there.

(And note to Walter: it was LIKE Obi Wan, I didn't say you actually ARE Obi Wan.)

But man, talk about tablet-challenged. The first time I picked up a pen and tried to do anything, I was dragging crap all over and misclicking and things were catching on fire. NO. WHY. STOP. Adjusting to a new job and state and like I don't know LIFE IN GENERAL is hard enough without taking away my mouse, my most basic human comfort. I bailed.

Seriously, what's so fab about it?



Two months later, this week, I decided to give it a fair shot. I asked for advice on Twitter for getting a handle on...handling it. The most useful tip came from Shane Ross.



Turns out there are a lot of you tablet editors lurking out there. Who knew asking about editing on a Wacom would bring all you geeks out of hiding?







So this past Monday morning at 9:30AM, I loaded up my project in Premiere Pro CC, put my mouse aside, and committed to pen only existence for a whole week.

At about 9:45AM, I had irreversibly screwed up my workspace in Premiere. I have no idea what I did -- probably dragged something somewhere somehow -- but my stuff went all bananas and I spent 15 minutes getting it back the way I wanted it.

By afternoon, I was getting the hang of it. Sorta. It wasn't frustrating me to the point of throwing it, but I was swearing quite a bit as I acclimated to its sensitivity. It ended up feeling more natural more quickly than I had anticipated, to be honest. I use the keyboard very heavily for everything and when my right hand isn't doing anything, it sits on my mouse. Hangs out there, chillin. With the pen, I avoid having it sitting in an awkward position for an extended period. I also don't have to put down the pen to do what my right hand does. I would show you my Premiere keyboard, but the keyboard shortcuts are seemingly impossible to share. It's very Avid-y with a strong dose of FCP7.

A thing I struggled with occasionally was dragging sliders in the effects window, or dragging graphics in the timeline. I grab and move around lower thirds and stuff all the time in my sequence, and just use snap to get them where I need them. When I "let go" of a graphic or something, the pen is so sensitive that it doesn't land where I want it to go, but a few frames to the left or right. So that's incredibly irritating. But at the same time, snapping stuff with a mouse in Premiere is also frustrating. I don't think it would be an issue so much in Media Composer, at least not with the stuff I usually cut in there. Plus, selecting trim points is different, so a lot of those issues wouldn't be relevant.



I expected this to be a fairly colorful blog post with a lot of censored swear words and hilarity about accidentally deleting entire volumes of work, but unfortunately for you (and fortunately for me) this was not the case. By Wednesday I wasn't having much of a problem. My brain was starting to deal with the oddities of the tablet and pen and compensate for them. I even did some cutting with a producer alongside without swearing at the pen AT ALL. Or doing anything stupid.

I know, huge accomplishment. For me, anyway.

A stupid thing I keep doing is putting the pen down and losing it. It's black, the desk is black, and it's dark. GREAT. Another stupid thing I keep doing is reaching for the mouse. That's some difficult muscle memory to break. I'm reaching for a mouse with a pen in my hand. More stupid muscle memory: getting use to putting the pen down and being in that part of the screen, rather than the motion of mousing your mouse to the area you want to go. All ridiculous when you write it down, but shut up, you try it and you'll see what I mean.

In terms of ACTUAL challenges besides the sensitivity being too sensitive at times, I found that OS X (and I'm sure every other operating system) isn't really conducive to a tablet. The clicking areas are very tiny and the dock is on the edge of the screen which kind of sucks. I navigate a lot of OS X with the keyboard as well -- command-spacebar to Spotlight to apps to launch, for example. I've always been kinda 50/50 on switching apps, doing it the hard way (click in the dock), but actually using the keyboard shortcut has become vital with the Wacom. It's a pain to go click in the dock. Command-tab brings up the app switching thingy so you can tab over to the app you want to jump to. It's so much faster and less annoying.

But being in the Finder itself is kinda crappy. Bringing in files via the Media Browser in Premiere is definitely the way to go most of the time anyway, but especially with the tablet. Big chunky squares begging to be clicked.

So alright, I guess I'm committing to the thing, I should figure out what these function buttons and stuff actually do, right? I've remapped the everloving hell out of my keyboard settings in all my NLEs to make myself more efficient, so mo' buttons mo' problems.

I found



. Unfortunately, it seems to have been designed by someone who has never actually been an editor in their entire lives. Yo, Wacom, look at all these psychopaths that literally PREACH THE RELIGION of the pen. Why don't you ask one of them to make you a video that editors can learn stuff from?

So I turned to Twitter to see what the hivemind likes. There's actually very little consensus about how to use the various buttons. Everybody is different. Paul Conigliaro (@conigs) had a very helpful and cute little gif instructing me in my grip to switch between pen and keyboard rapidly.

And a lot of people had other things to say.









A thing I learned about the Intuos4 was that it introduced Precision Mode, which seems to have solved my issues with moving around things with frame accuracy. Grab something, hit precision mode, drag, let go, hit precision mode. It's a little bit to get used to, but in some ways gets even more precise than the mouse. I can imagine that drawing masks with the thing gets straight up cray. I actually WANT to mask something and try it out. Eh. Kind of.



Additionally, I got a few tips from Dan Wolfmeyer who is in Media Composer on the Intuos 3.




But then I wonder if coming to rely on a tablet setup is wise. What if you end up in an edit room without a mouse, on a freelance gig or something? Will you adapt so closely to a pen that mousing will send you back to the stone ages in terms of efficiency? Will using a mouse after all this tablet Wacom pen junk turn your hand into a CLAW?

Kidding aside, I think this is a valid concern for people. Especially those who aren't particularly adaptable by nature. Is it possible to be tied too closely to a specified way of pointing around?

(I've been told that freelancers take their tablets with them from job to job with no issue, so there you go. I guess if you're in a corporate environment where they don't like new things or don't want you to change edit rooms, that might be a minor issue, but for the most part it's not a thing.)



Obviously I'm not too worried about it.

Anyway, here's where my tablet settings have ended up after a week of usage. I actually have double click and precision mode on the pen itself. I'm too used to control-clicking to right click anyway, so there's no point in trying to retrain some serious muscle memory when my left hand is on the keyboard anyway. On the tablet itself, somewhat untouched button arrangement. The wheel is mapped to J and L, and also left arrow and right arrow and zoom. I did end up with snap, hand tool, application switching, and right click. All of those things are done by my left hand on the regular, but I figured if I'm in an instance where I'm using the wheel heavily, it might not be terrible to not have to return to the keyboard for something. I'm not sure I ever will though. I'm like a trained monkey on the keyboard.




I guess I'll keep it up and see what happens. I've been known to get severe muscle cramps in my mouse hand, so I'm looking forward to not having cramps in my mouse hand. There's still a lot I don't know, especially about different tips (EH?).




And of course, if anyone has any suggestions or advice about this matter, please throw it in while my mind is still impressionable. There's a small window where I can train myself, know what I mean? So here's what I learned so far:

1. My hand doesn't hurt. It didn't really before, but it doesn't now either.
2. I am capable of learning new ways to point and click.
3. I'm going to lose the pen a lot.

I can't say it makes me any faster, but it doesn't seem to be slowing me down and it makes me LOOK a lot cooler, which we all know I desperately need.



(Only partially related note I accidentally found while Googling something else: Wacom is a Japanese portmanteau: Wa for "harmony" or "circle", and Komu for "computer". THAT'S SO CUTE.)


Posted by: Kylee Peña on Aug 9, 2013 at 4:13:48 pmComments (8) wacom pen tablet, video editing

Come See Me at the Southeast Creative Summit!

Self-promotion ahead! Which is funny, because it's self-promotion about self-promoting.

Maybe you've seen some posts about the Southeast Creative Summit. Maybe not. I'll explain anyway. The Southeast Creative Summit is happening October 25-27 in Atlanta. It's three days of workshops taught by working professionals in the video production industry -- sound design, color grading, motion graphics, editing, producing, business practices, and other stuff.

Hey guess what? I'm presenting one of these sessions! I'll be discussing social media in the video production industry -- how you should be using it and why you should bother. A lot of people (including ME) have gotten amazing opportunities and met awesome industry peers by putting some time and effort into an online presence.

We're all constantly looking for ways to set ourselves apart from the crowd in the video production industry -- newbies are trying to prove themselves and vets are just trying to stave off the young folk. I'll tell you about all the ways you should be shamelessly promoting yourself as a video production professional.

So you know, at the very least why not some tweeting and blogging? It's not nearly as time consuming or difficult as it may seem to set up and maintain. It's good for your continued education, and it shows off your glowing personality. If you have one. Disclaimer: this workshop will not give you a personality.

I'll also be straight with you: I've presented about marketing yourself to a number of video production groups, but this is my first actual video production conference. It's going to be very fun and entertaining (and duh, informative). But if you could go ahead and register now and come to one of my sessions, it would be great for my self-esteem. Thanks in advance! I'll help you out: $100 off registration through September 25th with code trackmatte2013.

For real, if you're within a day's drive of Atlanta, this should be on your radar. It should be anyway, but ESPECIALLY if you live anywhere nearby. There aren't loads of opportunities outside of NAB to get continued education in video production and hang out with your peers, and there's certainly not much else going on in the southeast. COME ON.


Posted by: Kylee Peña on Aug 7, 2013 at 8:24:26 am social media, video production conference

The Truth About Unpaid Internships

At the end of my college career, I took on my third and last internship. It was a loosely structured gig for a local alternative magazine that included such tasks as shooting video at events, interviewing attendees, editing highlights videos, and driving a rainbow colored jeep through a minefield of drunk people in a park downtown. 

The position was unpaid like all my other internships, and the technicolored vehicle was actually not the worst part of the deal.



When I was accepted as an intern, I was told that I wouldn't have regular hours to come into the office. Instead, I'd pick a local event or two each week, show up with a camera, edit a quick piece within the week, and post it to the magazine's website with a brief write-up of the event. I'd work with a producer on staff to make sure my pieces were up to par with their standards, and I'd have an "awesome" time getting into whatever events interested me the most for free. 

Surprisingly enough, it was my third internship where I realized I hadn't asked enough questions upfront.

After a month at this gig, a few things became clear. The "producer" I was working with wasn't really interacting with me other than to say "good" when I'd send a piece to him. It didn't matter if it was good, or even watchable. Showing up alone at crowded bars and outdoor festivals with my own camera and editing on my own system (for free) wasn't as great as it sounded. There was also an aspect of the internship that was downplayed to me when I was hired: being the face and presence of the magazine while covering the event. This meant setting up a tent, handing out random free advertising stuff to the crowd, and generally acting like a booth babe while also trying to be credible enough to conduct an interview.

I started to think that this was quite a strange internship situation I found myself in when I was driving the jeep through the minefield of overheated drunk people during Indy's Wine Fest. I wasn't on a rampage, we were always supposed to park the jeep next to our tent. This time the tent happened to be surrounded by hundreds of winos laying in tall grass on a humid June afternoon.



That's when I asked a question every intern should ask themselves: is this wasting my time?

Last week, a judge ruled that 20th Century FOX should have paid a couple of interns on Black Swan because they were essentially acting as employees. Their internship wasn't structured as an educational experience, and the company was getting benefits from them without offering anything in return. As a result, internships have been a hot topic this week, at least on my social media. Some people think this sets a precedent to eliminate unpaid internships from the entertainment industry. I don't think that's possible or likely, but then again, what do I know about law and junk.

All I know is what I've experienced, and I've been on both sides of it. I had two internships that I felt were mutually beneficial. Then I had a third where I was pushing unchecked content onto the web as quickly as possible as to maintain a (well known) magazine's web presence. 

The beneficial ones -- one at a production house, the other at a museum -- had me doing silly tasks occasionally, of course. I'd fetch lunch and answer phones, or scour the Internet for mundane information. I had to deal with being treated like an intern, if you know what I mean. But respectfully so. And I'd also sit in front of an Avid, get feedback from experienced producers, and get hands on with equipment my school didn't offer to me. The companies were always aware that I was unpaid, and they always made an attempt to check in with me to assure I felt the arrangement was mutual. Except for the magazine, anyway.

The truth about internships is that they do really suck. I spent between 10 and 20 hours a week working unpaid at these three organizations while also working nearly full time and going to school full time. As a result, I felt that none of these things ever really had my full attention. That's true for a lot of people, and it's become a fact of getting into the industry. A lot of people can't find the time to pursue an internship because of financial reasons. If I had chosen to go to a much better school that was further away, I couldn't have afforded the time off from a job to work for free in the city an hour away. No freakin' way. And if you can't make internships and finances work, your chances in the industry diminish greatly. It sucks that a doorway into the industry is dependent on your ability to pay for it because a large group of (probably talented) people are instantly eliminated.

Maybe what sucks the most is the attitude surrounding internships by people who are now successful. "If you want it, you'll make it work." The competition for a job where you'll work your ass off for no money becomes fierce because you have to want it more than anyone else, and they want it more than you. What, you don't want to live in a cardboard box and eat out of dented cans? Well screw you, you're not worth of this industry.
There's also the matter of giving a company 10-20 (or more) hours of your TIME for FREE for MONTHS. It seems insane to think about how much time you have to give to a company just to prove you're dedicated and trustworthy. Not just once, but multiple times.

Yet for a completely inexperienced editor or videographer, I'm not sure how else this could work. You volunteer your time, they understand that you are not yet entry-level, and everybody wins. 

But only if the feeling is mutual. And often it is not.

After a quick calculation, I figured out that I worked about 550 hours for companies for free during college. A lot of people work more. And a lot of people working more aren't asking if they're getting anything out of the internship because they're just grateful for the opportunity to be in the building or put that company on their resume. They wouldn't quit an internship even if they never learned a single useful thing because they're taught that quitting is a terrible, unforgivable act that leaves you on the industry blacklist in an instant. I saw it happen to friends who were stuck in iffy places. My SCHOOL even told these people, after being presented with the facts, that they shouldn't quit under any circumstances. 

Just like a regular paid job, there are some internships you can and SHOULD walk away from. If a company isn't treating its interns well, it probably doesn't have much weight in the industry anyway. 

Ask a lot of questions and set your expectations. Don't like what you hear? Leave.

I had two good experiences where I was asked what I wanted out of the internship. I had one bad experience where I was essentially used as an unpaid freelancer using her own equipment to produce content for search optimization. Guess which one was shortest.

It's a necessary evil, and legislation probably isn't going to leave you with any new regulations. As an intern, you're almost certainly on your own and you have to stick up for yourself. It's intimidating to be at your first (or second, or third) internship, the lowest person on the ladder. But once you start giving your time away for free with no reciprocity, you're only screwing yourself and all those who come after you. You aren't being paid. That doesn't mean you can't have demands. In fact, your needs should become even more important. Driving a clown car that looks like someone threw up a bunch of gummi bears? Probably not relevant to your career, but you can make that call for yourself.


Posted by: Kylee Peña on Jul 1, 2013 at 7:07:56 pmComments (2) internships, video production

Cautionary Tale in Data Management

I have 50 gigabytes of x-rated material on my external drive, including photos of a girl wearing my prom dress.

Wait, that may have been the wrong way to start this story. It wasn't my prom dress.

Last year, I was brought in as an editor to a large project rather late in the planning process. It was so quick that I didn't get any input on data management. I found out later the first assistant camera guy would be wrangling data and delivering it to me on a USB 2.0 drive. Goodie!

I got my footage (nearly 2TB) and we parted ways. I finished the project and that was the end of that.

Last week, I was archiving things and consolidating down old files to my external drives. I did a Spotlight search for "Lightroom" to make a backup of my catalog. Suddenly, dozens of professional nude portraits popped up in my Finder window. After wondering for a moment if I had forgotten about shooting an intense burlesque studio session, I opened the enclosing folder.

I discovered that it was in a sort of temporary recycling bin directory that had been written to my drive. I never noticed it before because it had previously been hidden. I recently ran a Terminal command to show all my hidden files for a reason I can't recall, so when this particular folder did appear I thought nothing of it. It's just a funky looking folder with a random string of letters and numbers.

At first I thought my drive had come to me with this material, which included hundreds of mundane personal files and hundreds more very personal photos. Another directory was even more alarming: a huge stash of adult entertainment, some of it with very graphic names. Trying to figure out if I had somehow gotten a used hard drive or if I crossed paths with this person somehow (despite the fact my hard drive has never left my editing room), I clicked on an image with a safe looking thumbnail.

It was the girl whose iTunes library and portraits had popped up in my Finder. Wearing the same prom dress as me. Um, what?

I went to sleep puzzled about how this got on my hard drive, wondering if the manufacturer had pulled a fast one, and totally weirded out at the prom dress. Seriously, that thing was the only one like it for miles in my area. And the way these files were organized, it seemed like they might have come from separate systems.

The next morning I decided to take a couple screen shots in case I determined I needed to ask the manufacturer "WTF MAN" and jumped into the uh, restricted directory for maximum impact. I noticed a file called "me.jpg" and clicked on it thinking I could at least know if this massive library of restricted material was prom dress girl's, or if my hard drive somehow had multiple people writing stuff to it before it arrived at my house.

No, wasn't her. It was a guy in a very colorful pose, showing parts of himself that I didn't really want to see bright and early in the morning. Or at all.

Wait, he looks familiar.

Oh. Yep. It's the first assistant camera operator from that shoot last year. But wait, there's more. More self-portraits and videos.

Yep, just gonna close that and go think about my life.

So here's what I think happened. Dude had an external drive of his own for the shoot. It also had his big ol' stash of personal files on it. He put all the stuff on there from the shoot, deleted the personal stuff, and cloned it to the USB 2 drive. Oops, it cloned the deleted files too. Then I cloned that drive to one that has FireWire 800 and eSata so I could actually work with the stuff. Ta da, a lovely surprise.

So what did we learn here, kids? Two major takeaways, really.

First, don't store your entire personal library of quiet reflective time entertainment on the same drive you'll be storing footage from a job, especially if you'll be sharing that drive. Ain't nothing wrong with some personal entertainment, don't think I'm judging anyone here. But keep it separate if you're going to keep it. Personal files of any nature shouldn't cross paths with work stuff.

And second, nothing is really deleted when you just hit that delete key. If you delete something you really don't want anyone else seeing without your permission (writings, credit card information, pictures of your wang), it can easily be recovered. So easily that I did it accidentally. Look at the different levels of erasure available when you reformat a hard drive. There are apps you can use to securely delete files -- to an extent. If it's really important, perhaps the best (and most satisfying) way is smashing the drive with a hammer. Most erasures can be cracked by someone, though lower levels of erasure are probably fine when the person isn't expecting to find any bonus materials anyway.

So that's why I have 50 gigabytes of restricted material on my hard drive. Maybe what amuses me the most is the additional time this person took to copy an unnecessary 50 gigs over USB 2. 

That and the prom dress thing. The prom dress girl is still a bit of a mystery. I'm guessing it's from the same guy and that he stored her files when they were dating or something. Unfortunate for her that she trusted someone with her stuff that is clearly not great at data management. On the plus side, she was excellent taste in formalwear.

(Here's the dress. I'm not posting hers, obviously.)



Posted by: Kylee Peña on Jun 8, 2013 at 2:39:40 pmComments (1) data management, video production

Midwesterners: come to a meet-up in Chicago tomorrow!

Over the last couple weeks, I've sorta helped toss together a midwestern meet-up of editors and other creative types. So the least you can do is show up.

It's at 7PM central time at Karl Productions, 1743 N. Harlem Ave in Chicago, the workplace of @chicagoaviduser.

We're just meeting up and hanging out. No raffles or speakers. If you want to bring something, we'll eat or drink it.

We have people attending from 3 or 4 states, so don't complain that you have to drive an hour. I'm driving like 3 friggin' hours, and I-65 between Indianapolis and Chicago is SO BORING. Luckily the slated attendees are pretty cool and you should want to know them. Deb is bringing nut rolls.

There's an Eventbrite if you want to be nice and RSVP. But it's okay if you just show up.


Posted by: Kylee Peña on May 23, 2013 at 5:22:06 am chicago, meetup

On Networking, Being Direct, & Not Acting Like a D*#% Online

This is an anecdote about the importance of putting yourself out there, not being shy, and not acting like a d*ck on the Internet.

I grew up shy. I was in at least two stage productions a year from the moment I went to junior high, but introducing myself to people or confronting people was nearly out of the question. It's probably part of the reason I gravitated toward post production - a lot less talking to a lot fewer people, generally. Over the years, I kind of grew out of it. But being an introvert and avoiding speaking to people for fear of burdening them with your silly concerns or saying something stupid always lingers.

Basically my first instinct is NOT to go running up to strangers to talk their ear off in a social situation.

I've been a member of the COW for few years, but I lurked for a few years before that (shy, afraid of saying something stupid). My first year at my first job out of college, I spent almost all of my downtime on the COW forums reading about others' mistakes and learning a lot about Premiere and FCP7 and After Effects. Turns out, the power users that know their stuff are regular contributors to the community. Not just on Creative COW, but also across the Internet on their own sites and social media. I ran into the same people a LOT, and they taught me nearly everything that was important in transitioning from being a student to being a professional. And they didn't even know me.

I've been on Twitter since 2007, and the Twitter post community really came to life in 2009 or 2010. I was always aware of myself when I was talking to some of these power users. They're just editors, but you don't want to act like an idiot in front of someone you respect right? Even if to them, you're another random person.

Then came NAB 2012 and face to face interactions. By then, I'm sure some of these people I held in high regard had an awareness of me simply because we'd crossed paths online fairly often. But we didn't KNOW each other. We'd never met. And they weren't going to hunt ME down. So one of my goals for my first NAB was to introduce myself to a small list of important people to thank them for assisting anonymous internet users like me.

As an introvert, it's definitely not easy to walk up to a relative stranger and speak to them. It's not like I have massive social anxiety either, so don't give me too much credit. But still, it's a little uneasy for most people. But it's got to be done, so I made a mental list of people I wanted to say hello to and found them. To my surprise, most of them not only knew me, but they were the friendliest people I met. I've said it before: Twitter is a great ice breaker. If you're worried about saying something dumb, you're already ahead of 99% of Twitter users, so just go for it.

I've tried to be an active member of the post community online and locally. I'm honest and opinionated, but in measured ways. I probably take more than I give from our community, especially on the COW forums (and usually in the form of a Google search for a long-answered question) but I always try to be respectful. Internet tough guy syndrome sometime makes a person feel invincible; then you go to a conference or user group meeting and realize all these avatars have real people behind them. Real people that are worth knowing.

Anyway, the point of this story is that I recently accepted a video editor position with Biscardi Creative Media! I wouldn't know Walter without the COW and Twitter, and he absolutely wouldn't know me. There's almost no crossing of paths between Indianapolis and Atlanta. I attribute this awesome new opportunity to putting myself out there (online and in person), not being shy, and not acting like a d*ck on the Internet. And also probably some aspect of editorial talent…but mostly not acting like a fool.

It's something that's worth keeping in mind when the forum discussions get heated, maybe.

And definitely worth noting when someone says "Social media? Psh, I don't have time for that life-wasting stuff!" Guess what? Social media is just as inevitable as the cloud and death and taxes, and it's an important tool. Not just for networking, finding jobs and providing an introvert's buffer zone, but mostly for developing REAL friendships.

So expect some COW blog cross-over beginning this summer!


Posted by: Kylee Peña on May 9, 2013 at 5:43:47 amComments (16) networking, social media

Where Are All My Ladies at NAB?

When I was in Vegas a couple weeks ago for the NAB Show, I went to the Hofbräuhaus, the traditionally crazy German restaurant based on the brewery of the same name in Munich which is loaded up with a menu of Deutschland beers and meats.

The south lower hall at the convention center had more sausage than this place.

And that's my crude and unladylike way of asking: where all the women at?

Video post-production has been male-dominated for a long time. I don't need to be reminded of the big time Hollywood editors that have made their mark on the industry: Sally Menke, Thelma Schoonmaker, plenty of ladies in television doing great stuff. Or that there are a lot more women coming about now than there have been in the last few decades. I also don't need to be reminded that editing started with women. None of us do. It's common knowledge. They're out there, working and being really good and probably being better than you.

So where ARE all of these women hiding at NAB? I spent a day walking around the lower south hall. The ONLY time a female spoke to me was to scan my badge. If I had questions, I talked to a guy. I didn't participate in Post Production World this year, but I glanced at their speaker list: three ladies, two of which talked about social media and producing/directing. Christine Steele is the only one on the roster actually talking about post production. Really?

I spent another couple days working in a booth. I remember seeing a few women workers, but they were mostly around for the performance side of things. Or to scan badges and collect forms. Hell, even IN the booth, I talked to very few women.

But I'm going to be honest here and say that part of me sees the distinct abundance of Y chromosomes on the show floor, while the other part of me says "yeah, so?" Big deal, right? We're all equal, so if there's mostly guys, that's just the way it shook out and maybe there will be more girls next year. No reason to force it if there's just no girls available, to work at NAB or to send from your company to attend.

But then I go back to the part of me swimming in dudes, and I wonder if I should be asking "why" a little louder. I doubt intentional malice here. I don't think most guys are overtly sexist about including knowledgable women on their NAB teams, and I REALLY don't think the organizers of Post Production World are smoking in a back room, laughing maniacally over their old boy's club, plotting on how they can get rid of Christine once and for all. I can't speak for employers choosing to send male employees to NAB over women because I can totally see that happening, though I hope it doesn't…much.

I just wonder if I should be asking "why" a little louder in case nobody really thought about it.

Correct me if I'm wrong (really), but I've heard the NAB Show of maybe 10+ years ago described as a very male-dominated and bigwig-only type experience. Decision-makers were the most plentiful attendees, so lower ranked employees weren't around so much and certainly weren't so included in anything of importance. And most decision-makers were guys because that's just how the industry is or was then. That's how a lot of industries are, in fact, so it's not like I'm accusing the video industry of being some crazy backwards place. There have been several gigantic companies only recently naming their first female CEO. So you know, whatevs. But what if the lack of gals on the show floor is just a remnant of that time? Just invite back the same people, send the guys because they'll get more out of it, do the usual thing we do every year, just go about our business as we always have.

Or you could try some fresh meat, you guys. Not just women, but in general. If the best choice for your business is to bring an 18-35 year old white male to man your booth or teach your class or represent your company, then I'm not going to argue with you or say you're a male chauvinist pig and burn my bra in protest. I'm just asking: why?

Have you thought about it?



Posted by: Kylee Peña on Apr 22, 2013 at 12:34:57 pmComments (9) nab show, women

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