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Final Cut Pro

Final Cut Pro to Adobe Premiere Pro "Gotchas" 1

At the urging of a friend, I got back to work on these Transitioning videos as he is now jumping into the Adobe Premiere Pro application.

As I’ve noted in my blogs, for the Final Cut Pro editor migrating over to Adobe Premiere Pro CS 5.5, the transition really could not be much easier. I often refer to PPro as “Final Cut Pro 8″ because it feels like the natural progression from FCP 7.

But there are a few quirks within the application that will drive you absolutely bonkers. So before you pull your hair out and start swearing up a blue streak, here’s a few of the “gotchas” that got me and how to avoid them.

One great thing about Adobe is that they ARE listening to feedback. So if you would like to offer input as Adobe prepares CS6, be sure to go to the website listed at the end of the video.

And if you really want to learn about Adobe Premiere Pro, be sure to pick up the book, "An Editor's Guide to Adobe Premiere Pro" by my buddies Richard, Robbie and Jeff!

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Posted by: walter biscardi on Sep 11, 2011 at 1:13:59 pmComments (6) Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere Pro

Small Tree Improves upon Ethernet SAN* foundation

As I reported a few weeks ago, Small Tree replaced our original ethernet SAN we've been running since December 2008 with a new system including an all new 48TB Granite Stor RAID II. I also reported that we discovered some things about the Macs that Steve and Chris wanted to go back and test even further.

During the original install, the new Edge Core Switch turned out to have an issue which caused one of the 10Gig ports to fail. But we all expected that the system would work well for us while a solution was found to that issue. Unfortunately, though we tested the system for a full day with all the systems running and doing some editing, after the first full week, we knew we had to improve the performance of the system in a hurry. There just seemed to be a fine tolerance to what could be happening at any given time to ensure that all the systems worked properly, particularly the ability to master shows without the edit to tape aborting for dropped frames. It really came to a head one afternoon when we were trying to get two network shows out at the same time and of course, dropped frames turned everything into a race against the clock to make overnight shipping. We made it, but it was way too close for comfort.

We remained in almost daily contact with Steve, Chris and the rest of the Small Tree engineering team and they repeatedly would log into our various computer systems, make some tweaks, take some notes and keep working at it. Then last week Steve, Chris and Corky Seeber made a return visit to our facility, but this time they brought a brand new Small Tree 10gig switch along with a quad port 10 Gb card (installed in the server to take the best advantage of the new Small Tree 10 GB switch), and 4 Single port Ethernet cards. Small Tree had noticed during testing in their offices that they were able to get better performance from the Small Tree 1 GbE cards than the internal Ethernet ports of the Apple systems when using the Small Tree 10 Gb Switch.

Basically what Small Tree has been able to do in the past is make high speed, off-the-shelf network switches work for high speed video editing. But from what I understand we've hit the breaking point where if ethernet shared storage is going to continue to evolve and move forward, we need switches designed more for that task than for regular network traffic. Enter the new Small Tree 24 Port 10Gigabit Ethernet switch.

This thing was built with complete 10GigE infrastructure within to ensure that the maximum data throughput is achieved at all times. Designed from the ground up by Small Tree, this unit is something that should be able to withstand the constant beating that a shop like ours throws at it. So that was step one, install the new switch to give the entire system a speed boost right off the bat.

The next step was to go through each individual computer in our facility and individually tune them further. The first time they were here they did the first round, but since discovered some more "secret sauce" to make things work more smoothly. They go into the Terminal of each machine and make some internal tweaks to the setup of each system. There's no "one setting fits all" as I found out. Each systems has to be configured based on all the particulars of how the machine is set up including the software it runs and the third party hardware installed. In the end, I believe Small Tree only installed one of the new 10GigE cards into the machines because quite frankly, the others didn't need them once they were tuned correctly.

In short order we had the SAN up and running and every edit suite playing down video timelines along with all of our iMacs. So that's 5 Mac Pro workstations and 7 iMacs all playing 720p or 1080i ProRes video. The Mac Pros were were all playing FCP 7 timelines in a loop and the iMacs were all playing 20 to 30 minute clips in a loop. The iMacs don't have editing software on them, they're used by Producers to review footage as necessary.

Once again, the system in Edit 1 was the most vexing because it's one of the fastest systems in the entire facility and the one we use to cut the feature documentaries, yet it would drop frames playing the same timeline that the slowest system in the shop could play with no problems. Normally you would say "Add more Ram!" "Add a faster GigE Card!" and those might fix the problem temporarily. But there was something fundamental with the way this machine was configured that needed to be addressed. This was a super fast 8 core machine being outperformed by a much slower four core machine. I would guess the pair of them spent about 6 hours just on that one Mac Pro but they finally hit on a combination of settings that made a major change in the behavior of the machine. We did not touch the RAM, we did not change the Ethernet Card (A Small Tree Peg1 card that's been in there all along), Steve and Chris simply kept going into the Terminal and making adjustments to the way the Mac Pro operates. I honestly don't know all the particulars but by the end of the day, the Edit 1 system was behaving better than it has in a long time.

So when we started this whole process of moving from the older SAN configuration to the new SAN configuration we could lay off a half hour show to tape, but we would have to carefully manage what all the clients on the SAN were doing. Even then, we could get those aborts due to dropped frames.

Now, we can literally lay off two shows simultaneously and not pay any attention to what any of the other clients are doing. We've never been able to do that. In fact we did it 4 times in a row as a test. Two Mac Pros laying off 30 minute 720p HD shows being converted to 1080i via the AJA Kona 3, Three other Mac Pros playing 5 to 30 minute timelines in a loop or editing / scrubbing video (I was jumping from edit suite to edit suite to take over) and the 7 iMacs all playing long video clips in a loop. In fact I even laid off 3 shows simultaneously in one test. We've never been able to do any of this in the past. Oh we could edit in all the suites at the same time no problem, but mastering two shows at the same time to tape, that's never happened, but we always knew that and planned for it.

Then on Monday the editors came in and without any prompting, one of them said, "Everything is snappier today." All three of my editors noticed immediate improved performance from the system. More realtime playback, dropped frames non-existant and absolutely no concern for mastering off shows anymore, even two at a time. After a full week of hammering on the system, I'm glad to say that the system is proving itself on a day to day basis.

And it's not just that we have some faster products now with the new 48TB RAID and the 10GigE switch from Small Tree. It's the technical experience by Steve, Chris and all the engineers at Small Tree to completely understand the inner workings of all the machines that are connected to the system. Not accepting that we can "just throw more RAM or another card" at the problem and try to make it go away. It's getting to the heart of the problem, understanding it and then taking the correct course of action to solve it. Sometimes that means adding more hardware / RAM and other times it simply means tweaking the inner workings of the system.

It's very exciting to see what started out really as a cheaper alternative to a fibre channel SAN now evolving into a much more robust and fast system. Oh and don't think this is a Mac based solution, this concept can run on Windows as well, these guys have expertise in both platforms and of course Linux too. That's VERY important to me right now as we ponder the future course of our company and the NLE solution(s) we go with. We have to be prepared for the possibility that a Windows workstations (or two, or three) could start appearing in our shop. Thankfully, the guys at Small Tree will be ready to take our SAN in whatever direction we need to go.

Ok, about that * in the title - Technically what we are using is a NAS, not a SAN. But when Bob Zelin and I first started talking about it publicly we both referred to this configuration as a SAN because that's what we call shared storage in video production. Steve Modica got tired of correcting us and just went along with our (incorrect) terminology. So if you're fussy about the correct terminology, what we are using to edit video is a NAS. Happy now? Good!

Posted by: walter biscardi on Jul 17, 2011 at 7:01:32 pmComments (1) Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere Pro

Transitioning Part 1: Moving an FCP Project to Adobe Premiere Pro

As we transition from Final Cut Pro to another NLE, I'm running a series of tests to determine which NLE will best suit our needs.

Of paramount concern is to ensure that we can still access the 1,000+ Final Cut Pro projects we have on file dating back 10 years of production. We often have to do revisions and updates, particularly for news stories.

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Posted by: walter biscardi on Jun 27, 2011 at 5:58:06 amComments (3) Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere Pro

Anatomy of an Edit Suite

Because so many folks have asked me "What's in your Edit Suite?" followed up by "Why do you have that?" I created a new blog entry to answer the hows and whys of what we install in our suites.

I was originally going to re-create the blog here on the Cow site, but it would be so time consuming, forgive me for just linking to the original blog on my website. But feel free to post comments here.

Anatomy of an Edit Suite

Posted by: walter biscardi on Jun 19, 2011 at 4:13:02 pmComments (1) Editing, Final Cut Pro

Small Tree Ethernet SAN Installation with new ST RAID II

DAY ONE: Sunday

It was a very hot and sticky weekend here in Atlanta, but it was nice and cool inside the shop. A great time to install a brand new SAN. Steve Modica, Chris Duffy and I all met up bright and early at 8am to get a nice early jump on things. Turned out to be a good thing because we had to transfer almost 32TB of material from our original SAN.

Chris and Steve get to work removing the original switch.

First test was to ensure that everything still worked with just changing out the switch. That's a very important first step when you're making a major change to your system involving multiple parts. When feasible, always test your system with each newly introduced part.

Steve Modica behind the rack checking the clearance for the new switch.

Testing the new switch with the old SAN configuration was an easy first step. Then it came time to unpack the shiny goodness that is the Small Tree ST RAID II storage array. All 48TB of it, configured in RAID 4 which gives us about 38 TB of available storage space.

Like Christmas morning!

Installing the chassis.

No, there are no drives in there, so it's much lighter than it appears. Once the 16 drives are in there, then that thing gets super heavy. You can see our older 16TB RAID sitting up on its side to the left. This single 16 drive chassis replaces 32TB in two chassis. We'll use the new 48TB for shared storage and keep one of the 16TB for direct connect to our Resolve system for super high speed 4k and higher playback.

Molly sitting outside The Core, apparently unimpressed with the shiny goodness going on inside. She would apparently rather we play with tennis balls. But I digress.....

Close-up view of the Small Tree ST RAID II

And here it is sitting above one of our older arrays.

Yeah, I know what you're thinking. "Gee that looks exactly the same, so why go with Small Tree?" Ok, you'll find that multiple vendors all use the same chassis, it's a nice silver box that looks really nice sitting next to the Mac Pros. That's probably why they all use them. BUT when I say they use the same chassis, that's exactly what they use. The silver outer box and the drive sleds on the front. At least as far as Small Tree goes, that's all they use that would be the same as other vendors. Once you get inside with the cards, the electronics and the setup, that's all proprietary Small Tree and THAT's where you get the difference between something that "looks the same" and something that operates completely different.

Same with the overall configuration of the entire Ethernet SAN, Small Tree are network experts who really took the concept to a new level and which is why I went with them to configure the entire system and added their storage to equation. The next step was to transfer one of the 16TB arrays to the new array because we needed to use the other for a rare Sunday edit.

While the transfer was going on, Steve and Chris went through our 6 primary workstations and 7 iMacs to configure all the network settings. They literally had dozens of configurations to set up to get the best combination of speed and stability for our system. Various configurations for the client workstations, the client iMacs and also the SAN computer itself.

5 hours later, the 16TB was finally transferred over to the SAN so we could start running some speed tests. Here Steve and Chris monitor the SAN while the workstations play video down. After several hours of tweaking and tuning, for the first time since we moved into the new facility, we had all 6 workstations and the four edit suite iMacs all playing video projects simultaneously. It felt great to finally get the full system up and running. By then it was 8:30pm and time to call it a day for day one.

The best part? These guys had more ideas for further tuning AND we seem to have discovered an interesting condition or maybe it's a bug between older and newer Mac Pros. Will require more testing in the future, but we seem to be on to something interesting that really shouldn't be happening.

DAY TWO: Monday

On the second day we completed the installation of the new Small Tree Ethernet SAN featuring the 48TB ST RAID II storage system. The thing that continues to blow me away about these guys is their knowledge all ALL things Mac. In particular the inner workings of the OS.

One thing they did with our SAN computer was to DROP the amount of RAM in it. When we were having playback problems a few months ago, one of the solutions thrown to us by our previous vendor was to up the RAM from 20GB to 32GB to help the problem. Normally, more RAM, better performance. Turns out, with the brand new 12 Core Mac Pro, this was more inefficient on the computer because of the way it uses RAM. We were creating a bottleneck in the RAM rather than helping the problem. I never would have known that, but it was one of the first things Steve Modica did with the computer to help performance.

As mentioned earlier, in the course of testing we discovered that two of our edit suites performed completely differently when playing the exact same project off the SAN. The older model played it perfectly while the latest and greatest Mac Pro dropped frames at odd times. If it was just me working in the shop, I would immediately point to the RAID as not being fast enough, but that is definitely not the case. More than enough speed coming off of that.

So Steve and Chris started investigating all sorts of things within the Mac. Running test after test and eventually started to find some interesting things about how the two machines handle data, particularly through the processors. Without going into all sorts of technical data, the slower machine was actually more efficient at handling the type of data required for video playback than the faster machine with more processors. It was weird and something Small Tree will follow up with Apple. Of course, all of this applies to Final Cut Pro 7 which of course as everyone knows, will continue to work even after Final Cut Pro X comes out (or we switch to Avid).

Chris and Steve were amazing at testing, tuning, testing some more, not only on the SAN computer but on each and every client. By the end of the day today, we had 6 solid workstations and 7 iMacs / Mac Minis all running on the the SAN. The first of the 13 episodes of This American Land was laid down to tape and all seems to be well. Speeds are up, all of our Macs have been tuned to operate the most efficiently with the system and we no longer have the lack of Bond issues that caused bottlenecks.

Bottom line, Small Tree delivered what they promised and we all learned more in the process. We already discovered some things that can be improved to make the system even better. Again, it's their knowledge of all things Apple and Mac beyond just "let us put in a faster storage array / switch, etc..." that really sets these guys apart and why I decided to make a complete switch in our storage solution.

We've been using Ethernet SAN for almost three years now and the evolution of this concept has come a long way in a short time. First it was just a very nice cheap alternative to Fibre Channel shared storage. Now it's a very efficient and very stable storage solution.

And in the immortal words of Steve Jobs, "there's one more thing......" Alas, can't talk about it right now, but soon.

Click here for more information about Small Tree.

Click here for more information about Biscardi Creative Media.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Jun 7, 2011 at 4:24:11 am final cut pro, video editing

This American Land Interview with Co-Host Caroline Raville

A new behind the scene interview has been posted on the website for the new PBS series, This American Land, being cut at Biscardi Creative Media. This time with Co-Host Caroline Raville. An 8th grade teacher for Gwinnett County Georgia Schools, she's making her national television

Interview with Caroline Raville

Posted by: walter biscardi on Jun 4, 2011 at 5:02:13 am Final Cut Pro, Business

This American Land Interview with Exec. Producer Gary Strieker

A new behind the scene interview has been posted on the website for the new PBS series, This American Land, being cut at Biscardi Creative Media. This time with Executive Producer, Gary Strieker, a longtime CNN correspondent / bureau chief. Gary and Walter Biscardi, Jr. have been working together for many years now on environmental and global health projects.

Interview with Gary Strieker

Posted by: walter biscardi on Jun 4, 2011 at 5:00:26 am Final Cut Pro, Business

Ethernet SAN - Taking the Next Step Forward

This week we’re finally going to be upgrading our ethernet based SAN, which as most of you know is a Maxx Digital Final Share system. And of course most of you also know is that Small Tree Communications came up with “secret sauce” to make editing HD video via Ethernet a stable reality. So Final Share SAN was really a hybrid between Small Tree technology and Maxx Digital RAIDs.

Unfortunately since we moved into our new building the system has been under-performing. Many tweaks and changes have been made along the way, but nothing seemed to solve the problem of dropped frames across all systems since we got into the new building. The system is over two years old and definitely showing its age.

During the original development of the product, Steve Modica from Small Tree Communications would spend hours connected to our system tweaking, modifying and changing many things about how the system worked. Turned out we were pushing the ethernet SAN pretty much to the breaking point because of the long form work we were playing off (300 hours of material in a documentary) in addition to the multiple weekly series. Through many hours of tweaking and massaging, Steve was able to get more speed out of the system and made it incredibly stable.

So now that the time has come for us to step up to another system as we grow our facility from four workstations in the old space to 7 workstations plus 8 iMacs in the new space, I just feel more confident going back to the guy who started it all. And I’ll be honest, it doesn’t hurt that I’ve already been exposed to the “next thing” coming down the road.

So this weekend Steve and Chris Duffy from are coming down from Minnesota to install a new Small Tree GraniteStore ST RAID II 16 drive, 48TB system which is a 6Gig system paired with a new 10Gig Small Tree Ethernet switch.

“But wait Walt, other folks are releasing 10gig systems already, why go with a slower system?”

As I’ve learned over the past few months, it’s not just about having a very fast pipe, it’s knowing how to intelligently direct data through the pipe. So if your data is flowing efficiently to all the workstations, you can get the same performance from a “slower” pipe. Again, these are the guys who basically created the technology and they have many many tricks up their sleeve.

Including that “next thing” I mentioned. Can’t say anything about it right now, but I can say that as soon as it’s ready for real world testing, we will have it in our shop and we will tell you about it. The growth of this technology is just so exciting. What began as a cheaper alternative to Fibre Channel with some major tradeoffs in speed is maturing into much more.

In the mean time, I’ll have lots of photos and maybe even some video from Steve to explain the system as we install it this weekend.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Jun 2, 2011 at 5:14:00 pm Final Cut Pro, Avid

Apple Dropped the Ball....

I’m seeing this all over the various forums, blogs and twitter feeds in one variant or another in regards to the big Final Cut Pro X reveal at the FCPUG SuperMeet in Las Vegas last Tuesday.

“Hey, don’t knock down this product when it was just a SNEAK PEEK people! Sure there’s some questions out there but we should all be happy that Apple has at least shown us something. You know they’re normally super secret so the fact that actually showed Final Cut Pro X is a big change in the company. I’m excited about these new changes! Now we have to wait till June to see what features are still in the application before we start to complain.”

Apple had two freakin’ hours of stage time available and they wasted it on just one hour of a super slick presentation. Of course we’re going to knock the presentation because all it did was leave us with many more questions than answers.

How long would it have taken to mention planned support for third party filters? 30 seconds?

Third party capture cards? 60 seconds?

Log and Capture / Edit to Tape support? (are they still there?) 20 seconds?

Customizable interface to replicate a more traditional editing style? 2 minutes?

Continued support of OMF, XML, EDL, AAF import / export? 30-60 seconds?

Text Tool? 2 minutes?

Track management? (as in allowing us to specify audio tracks for elements for ease of sending to ProTools and other sound editors) 1 minute?

The other ProApps? (as in are they being updated, retained and if so, expected releases?) 2 minutes?

In other words, MANY of the unanswered questions that all of us are asking could have been answered in that additional hour with plenty of time to spare.

Even if they didn’t want to show one of their patented slick slides or video demo, they could have at least told us about the various professional features that many of us use every day. But apparently those questions I’ve asked up above are somehow trade secrets that simply cannot be revealed because what if (gasp) one of the competitors (Avid, Adobe, Quantel, Autodesk, Vegas) finds out that Apple intends to retain standard pro features?

I’m sick and tired of sneak peeks and teases quite honestly. Put the product out there where we can truly test it out and ask questions like the Adobe, Avid, Autodesk, Quantel and all the other demonstrations that were out on the show floor. Put it in the hands of 1,000 beta testers in all sorts of production situations to get real world feedback instead of relying on a couple of post houses and maybe 10 beta testers. I spoke one on one with the CEO of Avid about the product and the future of the product. That was a useful conversation with frank questions and answers.

“I cannot speak about anything except what you just saw in the presentation” is the response one of my colleagues got from the Apple ProApps team after the “sneak peek.” In other words, you have questions, I have no answers. So what was the point in coming at all if you didn’t want to address the Pro Editors’ questions?

For fanboys it was the ultimate Apple dog and pony show last Tuesday.

But in the end, in front of 1700 video editors, on what could have been the night Apple completely re-invented non-linear editing, quite simply, Apple dropped the ball. Next time come prepared to answer very simple, very basic questions from the professionals in the room.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Apr 16, 2011 at 1:34:31 pmComments (11) Final Cut Pro, Apple

Our Open House videos....

We finally got a few videos up on Facebook. Not much, but at least it's something.

My "Pre-Thoughts" before the open house.

The Ribbon Cutting with the Gwinnett Chamber. Always wanted to do this!

A little highlights of the event and some very kind words from folks including the one and only Bob Zelin....

"Like Us" over on Facebook to see some more photos and videos from all things BCM! What's not to like? :)

Posted by: walter biscardi on Mar 11, 2011 at 6:08:46 am Final Cut Pro, Resolve

Registration now open: Biscardi Creative Media Open House, March 5

Well I've been blogging about the new facility for the past six months. Now I am very pleased to announce our Open House Event!

Saturday March 5th. More details to be announced as we finalize everything, but one of the exciting things I CAN tell you is that we will be featuring a showcase with many of the companies I love. You hear me talk about the Panasonic cameras, Canon 5D and lenses, the Flanders Scientific monitors, AJA Kona and converters, Maxx Digital Final Share SAN, Small Tree servers, TapeOnline’s incredible service and the folks who supply us with all our gear and more, the WH Platts company.

Well, you will be able to meet some of the folks behind these companies, see and learn about their gear and have the opportunity to ask as many questions as you want. We are setting up a product showcase, a mini tradeshow if you will, and so far, all these fine companies I’ve mentioned are scheduled to participate.

I’m so excited all of these folks are going to be there to join us in the celebration and I can't thank them enough. So you will have an opportunity to not only tour our fun new facility, you’ll get a chance to check out some new gear and services too!

Registration is now open on the Open House page of our website. Check out the details, then scroll down to the bottom of the page to register.

Thanks so much and as always we thank you very much for your support of our dreams!

Posted by: walter biscardi on Jan 12, 2011 at 5:50:18 pm Final Cut Pro, Post Production

When did video editors become prima donnas?

Two weeks ago "30 Rock" had a story arc involving the video editors of the show and how scary it was to go down to them. They controlled the video and you didn't want to piss them off or else you might not get your stories cut. Over the top humor that I love about 30 Rock and really made me laugh. And then it made me think, "Editors aren't really prima donnas, are we?"

And then a few days later yet another Final Cut Pro rumor came out including a nugget that Apple might be considering some sort of "super app" that combines Final Cut Pro, Motion, Soundtrack Pro, Color and DVD Studio Pro into one interface. So this re-ignited some worn out comments about the shortcomings of Final Cut Pro, some of the studio elements and the interfaces. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of legitimate things Apple really needs to get better with FCP and the Studio suite. Their Beta program is numero uno. At one point it was as small as 10 people outside of Apple. Yeah, that's a lot of input for a product with over 1 million registered users. But I digress.

What really gets me are the whiners about having to learn something new. When did Editors become such prima donnas that they can't be bothered to learn anything new? Interface. Software. Hardware. Whatever it is. If it doesn't conform to THEIR workflow or THEIR needs, well then

"Apple/Avid/Adobe/Quantel/Sony/Panasonic/FillInTheBlank better get off their ass and fix it to suit MY needs! Or Else I'm Going To Buy Something Else!!!! Thbbbbbbbbbbbt!"

I love these people. Whiners. Too important to learn. This is my favorite for the folks who use the Apple Studio suite.

"Waaaaaaaahh. Apple Color doesn't have an interface like anything else on Apple. It's too hard. Waaaaaaaah"

Really? Because something looks different, you can't be bothered to learn how to use an interface? Nevermind that Final Touch now Color has an interface that was designed with colorists. Now that it's included in Final Cut Studio suite, Apple MUST bend to the demand of the video editors who say "Make this look like iMovie so I can use it with a single click. I cannot be bothered to learn something new! Waaaaaaaaaaaah"

Maybe there is something about whiny prima donna editors after all. New tools, different interfaces, the video editor of today simply can't be bothered?

How about a quick history lesson?

I know it's hard to believe, but I've been editing video since 1984. I know, I know, you look at my pictures and you say, he can't be that old! I mean he looks like he just got out of college. It's my Italian genes, what can I say. So in 1984, we were using JVC 3/4" VTRs in community college. You edited using two decks, a Player and a Recorder. If I wanted to do a dissolve, wipe or any other "effect" well then I had to learn to use the switcher and do some fancy footwork. I had to set the main recorder into the Edit, then manually roll the B-Roll VTR, turn around to the other side of the room and operate the switcher.

At CNN all the editors did deck to deck editing, but if you wanted to move up to "Post Production" well you had to learn the Grass Valley 300 switcher, Abekas A53 DVE, Sony Audio Mixer, Chyron, BetaSP VTRs, D2 VTRs, and the CMX controller that controlled everything. And guess what? NOTHING had a similar interface or was tailored to the whims of the Editor. If you wanted to be an Editor controlling that room, well you HAD to learn each piece of equipment and how it tied into every other piece of equipment. Then you had to learn the main controller and how you would trigger each piece of equipment to do what you needed at the precise moment you needed it to happen.

So now we have $999 software tools that completely replace the "big iron" editing systems of yesteryear and if something simply doesn't conform to WHAT I ALREADY KNOW well then it must be a piece of crap and therefore Apple/Adobe/Avid/Quantel/InsertManufacturerHere damn well better get off their ass and completely re-write the software SO THAT I AM HAPPY.

In fact, many editors of today want one big super app so they don't have to be bothered "round-tripping" to an external app. Nevermind that these external apps have been designed to do their own tasks very very well, they would rather have every feature under the sun in one app so it does absolutely everything, but can't possibly do everything very well.

Furthermore, many editors want pretty much everything automated because editing takes so darn long. On the Creative Cow alone, people have asked for essentially automated logging so they don't have to watch all the footage. It's called editing people, if you don't want to invest the time to do this correctly, when why are you in this field to begin with?

Or how about these people?

I MUST HAVE BLU-RAY COMPATIBILITY NOW! Apple do you hear me? I MUST have a BluRay solution from Apple NOW!

So when I suggest to folks that they can purchase Adobe Encore for simple BluRay discs and DoStudio from NetBlender for fully authored discs, the response is usually they can't do that and will wait for Apple, or else. Or in other words, "I don't want to spend any more money so I would rather bitch about Apple not delivering what I really need and it's much much cheaper to just keep whining about it when a perfectly good solution for BluRay authoring on the Mac has been available for over four years now but since it's not from Apple I'm not going to buy it because that would cost me more money and I'm not going to spend anymore money."

The same can be said of so many "issues" we see floating around the internet against just about any Non-Linear Editing system out there. People who want to whine rather than get the proper tools, learn to properly use the tools they already have, and keep whining about how much they have to spend to create quality work. The cheaper and more accessible the tools become, the more whining we seem to get.

Is this really what the non-linear editor of today has become? Looking at the Creative Cow forums, talking to folks offline, perusing Twitter, Facebook and many other websites / forums, the resounding answer is..... well looking like a big Yes. So many editors are too damn lazy to learn anything new, everything has to look and operate exactly the same or they won't touch it. Everything needs to be reduced to a plug-in so I can create that "300 look" with a single click of a mouse.

To all non-linear editors out there. Appreciate the fact that on your PC and Mac, you have more tools and power at your disposal than an entire "big iron" edit suite ever had at a fraction of the cost of those suites. Instead of whining about what you DON'T have, starting using what you DO have creatively. For crying out loud LEARN SOMETHING NEW for a change. If nothing else, it puts you at a competitive advantage over all the other whiners who can't be bothered.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Oct 12, 2010 at 2:34:44 pmComments (10) final cut pro, avid

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

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.

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

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

Assignment Earth and Science Nation Episodes posted

Just posted 15 new episodes of our continuing series Assignment Earth and Science Nation to our BCM Facebook page.

These are two really great series that we’ve been posting at BCM for several years now. We’re heading into our fourth year of Assignment Earth and our 2nd year of Science Nation. R. John Becker is the current editor on the Assignment Earth series and Roger Mahr has edited all the Science Nation episodes.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Jun 7, 2010 at 6:25:46 pm Final Cut Pro, Biscardi Creative Media

Color Grading is done on a Proper Monitor.

Last week there was a thread in the Apple Color forum asking about the Color Preview Window. You know that little video window that appears on the same screen as the scopes?

Anyway, this person was asking if we all noticed that the Preview window can show a different image than the Final Cut Pro Canvas Window. In his case, the Color Preview window was more red than the Canvas.

My response to this and all other queries about the Apple Color Preview window is as follows:

"So What?"


There is absolutely no reason for anyone to even look at the Preview window in Color. In fact, Apple really should just remove it from the interface because it's not necessary.

We have four primary workstations set up in our facility. We have a myriad of computer monitors from Apple, Dell, Samsung and ViewSonic. If you go into all four of those rooms and put the exact same image up on Apple Color it will look different on all four of the computer monitors. Why? Because they're not set up exactly the same, they're not the same manufacturer, they're not the same model, the editor has adjusted the monitor to better suit their viewing needs, etc....

Now in that same thread on the Creative Cow we got a comment along the lines of "well why can't Apple create two products that display the image the same?" First of all, Apple didn't create Final Cut Pro or Color. FCP was the brainchild of Macromedia which Apple has seriously refined and improved and Color came from Silicon Color and was rebranded from its original Final Touch name. Second, FCP and Color DO display the image exactly the same. Through a video capture card to a properly calibrated broadcast or film monitor / projector.

See going back to that scenario with my four edit workstations, look at that same image on all four broadcast displays and the image will look exactly the same. That's because our monitors are all identically calibrated Flanders Scientific broadcast monitors. All our systems are feeding the same image via matched AJA Kona 3 board. So it doesn't matter which room you work in, the image looks the same.

In fact, our documentary, Foul Water, Fiery Serpent was color graded by Ron Anderson in his facility using a Flanders Scientific monitor, Apple Color, AJA Kona 3 and you know what, the film looked identical in our facility to his. Why? Same setup, same properly calibrated monitor. Two facilities, identical image. How many of you can say that when you go from place to place?

This is why so many of us who use Apple Color harp on people when they complain about the computer image. There should be no discussions about what the computer image looks like in comparison to the Final Cut Pro Canvas or Viewer or Quicktime or any other computer based video player. All that matters is what is on the external display, the properly calibrated external display.

So once and for all, repeat after me.

"The Apple Color Preview Window Does Not Matter. I will disregard the Apple Color Preview Window. I will only trust the properly calibrated external display."

Thank you. I think we've made really good progress today. Set up your appointment for next week before you leave.....

Posted by: walter biscardi on May 6, 2010 at 4:09:32 pm Apple Color, Final Cut Pro

Uncompressed HD via Ethernet? It just might be!

Most of you know that we're running an ethernet based SAN here at BCM. It's the Maxx Digital Final Share SAN which runs a combination of their drive arrays with Small Tree ethernet wizardry and some stout Atto Host Bus Adapters. We generally get around 100 - 120MB/s to the 7 workstations that are connected to the SAN. More than enough speed to cut using Apple's ProRes codec all day long.

At the moment we're cutting two feature documentaries (over 300 hours of material), 3 PBS series and a multitude of other projects all on the SAN simultaneously. It's been a very stout performer and when we need to do Uncompressed or 2k work, we have two local 8TB RAIDs directly connected to two workstations giving us 500 to 650MB/s. So for our needs, we've got everything set up to handle whatever comes in the door and need to allocate the uncompressed workstations as necessary.

Well at NAB 2010, Bob Zelin brought me over to the Maxx Digital Booth to show me 350MB/s coming off a single 8TB RAID connected via ethernet. Now we're getting into Uncompressed HD territory. Albeit a single stream of Uncompressed HD, but that's perfectly fine for color grading or sound mixing and even editing. Not to mention serious multi-stream ProRes capabilities. Via Ethernet!

I knew this technology was going to get better as we moved along but I didn't expect a 250MB/s jump in just one year. In fact, the system could go faster but we need to wait for the drive manufacturers to catch up! Can you say Multi-stream Uncompressed HD and 2k via Ethernet on the horizon? All I can say is Wow.

Really looking forward to working with these new speeds once everything is ready for shipping. I'll update you all as details become available.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Apr 18, 2010 at 1:47:52 pm maxx digital, final share san, storage, small tree, atto, final cut pro

NAB and the Trade Show: Making a Resurgence?

In 2006, the National Association of Broadcasters Convention had over 108,000 attendees in Las Vegas. That dropped to 82,600 by 2009 amid cries that the big trade show is rendered useless in today's internet connected world. All you ever need to know about your business and “what to buy” and “how to do” can be found on the internet without all the hassles and expense of traveling. In 2010 attendance crept back up to 88,044 for one of the most dynamic shows I have ever experienced.

I have to say, I’ve missed the last three shows myself. The first one by choice, the other two due to the work schedule. This year I made a decision that my schedule would be cleared for the event, particularly with the buzz around 3D. The decision was made even easier when we saw the lowest hotel rates in Vegas we’ve ever seen!

But back to the show. A 6,000 person increase is a modest jump when you consider the size and scope of this event and quite honestly, I was of the mindset that with resources like there really was NOT much of a need to get out and attend the show. It’s four (or more) days of a lot of walking, coffee, standing, talking, coffee, more walking, listening, coffee, walking, coffee and coffee. What can I say, there’s Starbucks all over in there and I’m drawn like a moth to flame.

I was reminded this year of just WHY these trade shows truly are still relevant and important to all of us in the production industry. There really is no other way to see everything you want to see, in person, operating at one time. What makes Avid unique from Adobe? What’s the difference between the new Panasonic and Sony small cameras? What kind of microphone can go underwater and still keep working? Are LED lights really any good or do I still need HMI? Why is the Grass Valley booth bathed in green light? (never got the answer to that one)

You’re spending money on equipment, software and you need answers on what will work for you in your budget. You have questions on how to do certain workflows, there are literally thousands of experts in one location. The internet is sweet and it certainly has empowered many of us to make decisions we could not otherwise have made from glossy brochures and sales pitches. But nothing beats the ability to literally compare two, three, ten similar products in the space of a few hours. Watch demo, use the product, ask questions, get answers and then have the ability to go back and ask more questions.

Nor is there any other place where you can stumble on to products and ideas you’ve never heard of. I’m starting two original television series here and I’m interested in some new Panasonic cameras and Canon Lenses. On the way there, I found a whole series of LED lighting setups. Lower power consumption, bright lights and potential HMI replacements. Prices ranged from $250 to thousands of dollars. What’s the difference in the brands? From what I could tell it was really the ruggedness of the frames, the rigs and the electronics. Some felt flimsy and fragile while one brand they literally slammed the lights on the desk to show they’re almost unbreakable.

We might be producing a new fishing series as well and I found a microphone company that was dunking one their products in water and the mic was functioning perfectly AND it was much less than the mics I had been looking at online. They pointed me to another company that had a reasonably priced waterproof transmitter. I never would have found either if I wasn’t walking the show floor. Yes I could have asked about this on the internet and would have gotten some really good advice from pros in the field. But this was nice to see, hear and touch.

So with this uptick in interest in 3D particularly, it seems to be that the Trade Show might be even more relevant in today’s internet world than ever before. We can make reasonably informed decisions based on the information we get from the internet. We can make completely informed decisions based on a combination of information from the internet AND first hand experience at a Trade Show. If I did not attend the show this year I would not have believed that, but it’s just true. Also, I can’t tell you how many people would tell me, “Did you see such and such? No? You have to go check this out in Booth....” We see this all the time with internet forums where one question leads to advice to look at an alternative. At a show like NAB you can not only look at the alternative but make a reasonable decision very quickly whether it’s a good alternative or not.

If you looked at Twitter, and many other sites during the 4 day run of NAB this year, those sites were just completely flooded with requests for more information, please test this out, please look at this, is this really as good as they say it is, etc....  People were begging for information that was on display right there on the show floor.   Does it cost money to go to a Trade Show?  Yes.  Is it money well spent?   Again I have to say Yes.   With the incredible changes our industry is going through, you simply can't afford NOT to attend these events at least every other year.

If you did not make NAB this year, plan to come out in 2011 as 3D should be in full swing. If you are in Europe, plan to attend IBC and check out what is on the horizon. At the very least, try to attend one of these Road Shows from the various manufacturers, though I do find them somewhat of a waste of time. You only get the one perspective from those, you really can’t compare and contrast what you’re seeing in the road show vs. another manufacturer.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Apr 18, 2010 at 1:21:29 pmComments (3) nab, final cut pro, avid, adobe, trade show

The Three A's; Avid, Adobe and Apple

The 2010 National Association of Broadcasters convention had the Post Production world buzzing about the Three A's of the industry.  Apple, Adobe and Avid.   Well, really more Adobe and Avid since they were actually at the show and had something to demonstrate.

Adobe brought their CS5 creative suite to the show with some incredible announcements.  Not the least of which to me is the ease of integration with other NLEs like Final Cut Pro and Avid.  Adobe has decided to "play nice" with with their competitors to make it easier for Post Houses like mine to get projects into and out of After Effects for one.  Right now this requires plug-ins like the Automatic Duck Importer for AE (which is totally awesome by the way), but with CS5, we could essentially take an FCP timeline, send it to Premiere and then send it over to AE.  Ok, the Duck plug-in is around $500 and Premiere is $799 so it’s a bit silly to even consider Premiere just for this functionality.   But......

Premiere has taken a huge step forward with their 64bit enabled Mercury Engine.  Much more realtime functionality and you can see in their online demos 4k and 2k material scrubbing and playing back in the same timeline.  You will have to install CS5 in a 64 bit system to run and run an Adobe Certified graphics board in order to take full advantage of the Mercury Engine functionality.  But the functionality of Premiere is very much on par to what Final Cut Pro based facility are used to and the real-time functionality of the CS5 package simply blows FCP out of the water.  

Avid brought us Media Composer 5 and what really got the show buzzing was their support of Quicktime.  More specifically, Apple’s ProRes codec.  So now there is the very real possibility of Avid working right alongside Final Cut Pro in the same facility or for sharing projects across facilities.   
Not only that, Avid’s H.264 native editing support refutes everything we’ve been saying about that codec and Final Cut Pro for the past few years.  Whenever someone said they could not get H.264 to edit well in FCP (such as from a DSLR), we would inform them that it was not a proper editing codec, it was a finishing / delivery codec.  Transcode it to something else like ProRes.  Avid (and Adobe for that matter) is now showing that assumption to be false.  Take the H.264 and start editing right away in realtime.

And like Adobe, Avid has a much more seamless P2 / tapeless workflow that does not require transcoding, wrapping to be able to edit with this material.  Simply bring it in and start working pretty much instantaneously.  

Now the one thing Avid has NOT really done is open up the platform to third party hardware.  Right now you can use the Matrox MXO2 Mini for display only.  So you can watch your project on a monitor and do a crash record to a VTR or DVD Recorder but that’s pretty much it.   No support for the AJA Kona Boards or the BlackMagic boards at this time and Avid was very vague on whether that would come in the future.  “The MXO2 Mini is the first step” is what I was told during a meeting, but that was all they said.   What I would ideally like to do in our situation is install the Avid Media Composer 5 software to work on our AJA Kona 3 based systems.  This would allow me to hire any freelancer whether they want to work with FCP or Avid and we could work in one universal codec, ProRes so any system could access the media.  This is going to be a wait and see with Avid to see how willing they are to really open up the software to third parties.  Short term I might install one copy of the software with the Mini so an editor could use Avid in our shop and we would lay back to tape using a Final Cut Pro workstation utilizing Automatic Duck to move the project over.  Right now to really use the Media Composer software fully, you still need the Mojo hardware and I’m not going to spring for that.

So that leaves us with Apple.  (sigh) Apple’s lone appearance was at the Supermeet.  Note I said Supermeet and not FCPUG Supermeet.  That’s because the FCPUG part of it was dropped and in this case, for good reason.  Apple sent up Steve Bayes, Sr. Product Manager for Final Cut Studio to give a presentation.  Mind you, this followed the two jaw dropping presentations from Adobe and Avid.  Steve starts off with “I’ve got a secret” and proceeds to tell us really nothing at all about Final Cut Pro.  There was no secret, just more marketing buzzwords about how wonderful Studio is and how many production partners are using Studio or something along those lines.  See I can’t even remember much about what he said because it was basically meaningless.

Your two strongest competitors take the stage in what used to be the Final Cut Pro Users Group Supermeet, completely knock it out of the park, and all you can do is whiff?  I would like to say we heard crickets in the room, but that would be a disservice to the Rio Hotel so it was more or less silence that greeted this earth shattering “secret” from Apple.

When Final Cut Pro came out, the industry laughed at it.  Here’s a cheap little NLE knock-off that will never get traction.  Apple proved that wrong by offering a very low-cost, yet powerful editing tool that can truly work in all manner of film and television post production.  Apple worked its way to the top of the heap in terms of users worldwide, somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.3 to 1.5 million registered users (and who knows how many more “non-registered” users).  Nobody could match the suite of tools, particularly with the addition of Color, for just $999.

Well, now we’re all kind of laughing again.  Apple’s notorious silence allowed Avid and Adobe to completely leapfrog all discussion about Final Cut Studio and leaves the post-production community wondering whether Apple can keep up.  When your competitors can work with your very own codec (H.264) better than your own product, that’s a problem.  When your competitors can work with tapeless workflow better than your own product, that’s a problem.  When your competitors can work with more realtime functionality using your very own hardware, that’s a problem.   Basically Apple sent up Steve as a sacrificial lamb and really should not even have bothered.

The integration of the entire Adobe Suite has been much tighter than the Final Cut Studio suite for a few years now, but there really wasn’t anything to get me to even consider dumping FCP for Premiere.  In fact, despite the fact that many of us like to defend Final Cut Pro vs. pretty much any NLE out there by saying it’s the artist that makes the difference, not the tool, I never really considered Premiere as a viable alternative for editing.  It just never felt like a “professional editing tool” for whatever reason.  Probably just a personal bias and I just don’t hear of very many “pro users” that base their facilities around Premiere.

With CS5, the Adobe suite suddenly looks very promising as an alternative.  Even more so since it runs with all of our existing infrastructure we have in place for Studio.  The only change would be to replace our ATI graphics cards with the proper nVidia cards to support the Mercury engine.    If Avid opens up their software to all third party hardware, especially the AJA Kona boards, well then that certainly becomes a very viable alternative as well.

That’s one of the beauties of what Apple has actually created.   A very strong third party hardware market that is software agnostic.  By concentrating on just the software and computer hardware, Apple opened up the Audio / video hardware to multiple independent companies like AJA and BlackMagic who designed their products to work with multiple NLEs out there.  And as we all know, FCP / Premiere / Avid all work essentially the same way so if you know one, you can switch to another one pretty darn quickly.  

Will I make the switch?  I’m not doing anything immediately though I will upgrade all our systems to CS5 when that is released.  We run CS4 on all of our systems currently as we’re very heavy After Effects and Photoshop users so we have the Production Premium suite.  When the CS5 bundle gets here you better believe I’ll be poking around in Premiere to see how it operates and just how well it “plays with Final Cut Pro” and how it compares to working with Final Cut Pro.

No I’m going to wait to see what Apple has to show us, whenever that is.  They have to not only hit a home run, but knock it completely out of the park.  I want to see a realtime alternative to Adobe’s Mercury Engine.  I want to see the ease of use of H.264 and other tapeless formats that don’t require Log and Transfer with a re-wrapping.  I want to see very tight integration between the apps in the suite like CS5.  And I would really like to see Apple open up an “ease of use” path for working back and forth with Premiere and Avid systems.

So right now, my feeling and what I heard very often on the show floor, at the Supermeet and my various meetings with people is it’s time for Apple to put up or shut up.   They set the bar high for a full featured non-linear editing system at a very low price.  Adobe and Avid just blew right by them using the same hardware that is available to FCP facilities.   Is Apple going to move the Studio suite forward and really improve the workflow for professional editors as the other A’s have done, or are they simply going to maintain the status quo with a few updates to just continue to sell Mac hardware?   At the moment, Apple’s silence is deafening.   I'm reminded of the NFL Playoffs commercial campaign a few years ago, "Show Me Something."  Anything.....    Once I can see what Apple has to show us, then we'll make the decision on where we go from there.  We're about to grow from 4 to 9 edit suites in the next few months so what we see revealed from Apple will make the decision on where our company goes from here. I'm hoping they hit it out of the park so we don't have to change anything, but it's easy enough to make the switch if that's better for our company.

Of course the one thing Apple still has going for it is Color.  Adobe and Avid still don’t have anything to match that.   Oh that’s right, DaVinci took care of that for them, but that’s another blog entry.....

Posted by: walter biscardi on Apr 18, 2010 at 7:27:50 amComments (9) apple, final cut pro, adobe, nab, aja, blackmagic

Avid Media Composer 5 looking like a game changer

So I haven't even seen it yet, but just reading the overview of Avid's new Media Composer 5 announced at NAB, this thing sounds like it could be a real game changer in the communication between it and Final Cut Pro. Especially when it comes to color grading projects. See right now when we get projects from Avid that need to be color graded in Apple's Color, we take the DnxHD files and use Media Manager in FCP to convert the files to Apple ProRes for Color. After the grade is done, we reverse the process to send an Avid DnxHD project back to the Avid house.

Now with native Quicktime support in Avid, we could send an Apple ProRes timeline back to Avid and they will be able to open and finish the project right from that codec.

Also, this means we could capture ProRes footage in Final Cut Pro and share the media with an Avid editor with no need to transcode the material. And vice versa, the Avid editor could capture the material in ProRes if they know the project is going to be shared with an FCP editor. So we're finally getting to the point of what I'll call "Universal Codecs" so the platform you capture with doesn't matter, we can start sharing the exact same media across multiple editing tools.

This is just awesome and for the first time since I've owned my own facility, I am seriously considering adding an Avid workstation or two. Primarily for working with Avid facilities that send us color grading project, but now I can hire either an Avid or FCP freelancer and have the tools ready for whatever they want to cut with. We'll use ProRes across all the edit systems, but if you're comfortable in Avid, then edit in Avid, if you're comfortable in FCP, then edit in FCP. I see Shane Ross talking about the trimming features in Avid being so nice to work with, I'll definitely be diving into the Avid interface myself. Funny, I always thought it would be Apple taking the first step to work more closely with Avid since it's a win win for all the editors out there, but here's Avid taking that first step. That earns a lot of respect from this owner / editor and I'm really looking forward to getting and up close and personal look at Media Composer 5.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Apr 11, 2010 at 10:38:11 pmComments (3) avid, final cut pro

Original Pilot in production this week.

Biscardi Creative Media is pleased to announce our first original Pilot goes into production this week. The new travel series starring Bobby Rivers and Widdi Turner will be in Atlanta and areas south of the city this week highlighting some great areas to explore. Bobby is a pop culture icon who is best known from VH-1 and "Top 5 with Bobby Rivers" on Food Network. Widdi is well known to the fans of "Good Eats" on the Food Network playing a multitude of memorable characters with host Alton Brown.

Executive Producers Walter Biscardi, Jr. and Cheryl Collins head up the production team. Cheryl created the original concept and together with Walter, worked out the final design for the series. Marsha Walton is the Supervising Producer and the camera operators will be Chris Palmer and Brian Gaffner, both veterans of productions with BCM. Production Coordinator extraordinaire is Jeanna Thomas, without whom our lives would be much more difficult!

This will be a very fun show, full of pop culture references and most likely destined for PBS distribution in the States. More details as they become available and watch for announcements on the new website here.

This series represents the first phase of a new division of Biscardi Creative Media focused on bringing original programming to television and independent film projects to theatrical release. We'll have a full announcement on the new division in the coming weeks. Needless to say, we're really REALLY excited about this new phase of the company.

i5 and i7 iMac Ethernet Controller Update

We now have the actual product features page from the Broadcom 5764 Ethernet Controller that's now in the i7 and i5 iMacs. It's been said a photo tells a 1,000 words. I think this pretty much tells the story of the "i" line of iMacs.

Jumbo Frame Support - NO.

Without Jumbo Frame support, there's no way to connect to our Final Share SAN which is all ethernet based. No Jumbo Frame support, no professional video editing in our facility.

I've had all sorts of people write to me with various theories and ideas as to why Apple would take a part as simple as this and cut corners to make these the only products in their lineup that cannot support Jumbo Frames. It's pretty obvious to me that Apple either does not know about ethernet SAN or does not understand how it works. Integrating and promoting ethernet SAN based solutions would only make the iMac an even more attractive solution in the professional editing environment and promote sales. Connectivity to a large media array is the weak link in the iMac design. Ethernet SAN is the answer, but unfortunately, not in their latest and greatest machines.

So once again, if you're considering the 27" iMac know that you will be limited to just local FW800 storage with the i5 and i7 iMacs. A real shame and we'll be avoiding those machines unless Apple changes out the controller to make it Jumbo Frame enabled.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Mar 2, 2010 at 5:41:10 amComments (8) apple, final cut pro, imac, ethernet san, final share

Apple Cinema Displays - There is a difference

I've been in the camp that the Dell 24" computer displays are every bit as good as the Apple displays so why spend the extra money to buy Apple? Well that was before I got up close and personal with the 27" iMac and their new LED backlight displays. The display is so sharp and so crisp that any other monitor we have in the facility looks blurry.

I have found the 24" LED Cinema Display to be equally as good and am now considering changing over all the computer displays in our shop to these despite their cost. Why? Eye strain. The sharper the monitor, the less strain on your eyes.

The beauty of video imagery is really pointless when it comes to a computer display. What really counts is the sharpness of the text. The sharper the text, you guessed, the less strain on your eyes. Think about it, when you're editing with Final Cut Pro, creating in After Effects, painting in Photoshop, what are you really doing 90% of the time? Reading text in the interface. We have to read the name of the clips, read the parameters of the effect, select the proper tool, etc... Most of the time we are doing this by reading text and numbers.

So if you're reading text and numbers 90% of the time, shouldn't you get a monitor that's well suited for 90% of the work your eyes will be doing? As someone who is now approaching the 2nd half of my life, I can feel eye strain coming on earlier each day. If I can give some sage advice to those of you coming along now, spend some extra money on a sharper computer display to keep your eyes in the best shape possible for the longest time possible.

I'm officially out of the "all computer displays are very similar so don't waste money on the Apple displays" camp. If you can afford at least one of them for your primary monitor, definitely consider it.

Of course the whole Mini Display port throws a monkey wrench into my plans because all our computers are located in the Machine Room, up to 100' away from the display. I have to figure out how I would get that Mini Display plug from the screen to my DVI Extender so it can feed the computer.... Another one of those things where you just want to say to Apple, "What were you thinking? Did you WANT to make life difficult for those of us actually wanting to BUY this monitor?"

Apple i5 and i7 27" iMacs do NOT support high speed ethernet transfer

SEE UPDATES BELOW, I've updated this story twice since the original entry.

We took delivery of the brand spankin' new 27" i7 iMac last week and connected it immediately to our Final Share SAN in about 5 minutes for video editing. Quick tests showed the SAN was connected and working fine.

Then today I started really editing on it and I'm dropping frames every 10 to 30 seconds. Now it appears the ethernet controller that is in the new Mac cannot support the speeds necessary to edit video via the SAN. Our 2 year old iMacs can, but the brand spanking new, most powerful iMac cannot.

I'm at a loss as to how Apple can improve every aspect of this machine, including the absolutely stunning 27" LED backlit display, but then cut back on something as simple as an Ethernet Controller that should be designed to work with today's equipment running high speed internet instead of stepping backwards to the speed of older model PowerMac machines.

We're working with a few folks to see if this can be addressed at all with a driver update or if it's just all that the card can do. If this is all the speed we get, this machine is going back and we'll move on with another machine. My original plan was to install up to 4 of these 27" iMacs in our new facility, but that may have to change now if Apple is going to stay with these crippled controllers instead of giving us the speed we're paying for.

I'll update you guys as more information becomes available. To say I'm disappointed right now is an understatement. Wonder what I need to do to get on a beta test team because I seem to the person pushing all the systems further than any of their beta testers are. Everyone always tells me "you're the first person to find this......"


UPDATE #1 - 2/25/2010

I've been told the problem is limited to the 27" i5 and i7 Quad Core iMacs.
The Core Duo machines appear to support full Jumbo Frames across Ethernet. We're going to do definitive testing on both my i7 and a Core Duo machine this afternoon. Will update with more later.


UPDATE #2 - 2/25/2010

We took the iMac to one of the local Apple Stores where the technician at the Genius Bar confirmed that the Broadcom 5764 Ethernet Controller in the i7 iMac 27" does not support speeds over 1500. This same controller is in the i5 iMac 27" machine too. From what he could gather, the Broadcom website is very vague as to whether the controller itself cannot support higher speeds or if it's just a driver issue. I've been told by outside sources that the documentation on the 5764 states it does not support Jumbo Frames so that leads me to believe 1500 is the max.

Now the Intel Core Duo 2 machines, which is pretty much the rest of Apple's lineup, all support Jumbo Frames. This includes the Core Duo 2 iMac 27" machines. I've returned the i7 and have ordered the 3.33Ghz 27" iMac.

I'm dumbfounded as to what happened with the design of the i7 and i5 machines. How was something as simple as an ethernet controller allowed to become a bottleneck on the flagship machine of a company? I don't know, but be aware that if you plan to use this in a professional environment and will require true high speed ethernet data transfer, as of right now, the i5 and i7 iMacs will not support that.

Again, to say I'm disappointed with Apple right now is an understatement.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Feb 25, 2010 at 3:52:58 pmComments (3) apple, imac, final cut pro, color, final share san

Apple lays off 40 from FCP team, My Take.

“Apple lays off 40 people from the FCP development staff right before NAB 2010.
Is it doomed?”

“Apple has laid off many people involved in the development in FCP. Will FCP languish now?”

If it’s getting close to NAB, it must be time for the new “Final Cut Pro is going away” rumor to start. By now, anyone who works with Apple’s Final Cut Pro software has probably seen the “tweet heard ’round the world” that Apple has apparently laid off 40 people from the Final Cut Pro development team. So of course we have to have multiple threads appear in the Creative Cow’s forums where we have the expected “Is Final Cut Pro doomed?,” “Why would Apple kill the product?” entries.

Why? I mean seriously. Why? 40 people were laid off, and as well noted by Shane Ross in multiple threads on the Cow, the bulk of these people were external contractors, not Apple employees in Cupertino. And suddenly the sky is falling? Entire COMPANIES have disappeared over the past year, some really HUGE companies have flat out disappeared off the map and we’re all up in arms that a product might disappear because 40 people were apparently let go from Apple?

Now I’m not taking their layoff lightly. 40 qualified people were apparently let go and that’s never a good thing when people lose their jobs, especially in this economy.

But in terms of the product line, Final Cut Pro and the rest of Studio, I don’t see why people get so uptight when the read something like this. Do you really honestly think Final Cut Pro, or the rest of Studio, would simply vanish overnight due to the loss of 40 people? Do you really honestly have any idea how many people are ON the Final Cut Pro and Pro Apps team?

There’s three reasons I can see for this layoff to have occurred:

1) Apple is trimming the fat on this department. Final Cut Studio is only $999 and accounts for a small portion of Apple sales compared to the consumer products like iPhone, iPods, iMacs and MacBooks. There comes a point where cutbacks are necessary in personnel and a decision was made to release these 40 people.

2) Apple has completed a full re-write of the software package to make it fully 64 bit compliant and have released the team members no longer necessary for the new build. This is standard procedure from what I have gathered at many software and gaming companies where a team is built up for a major software title and then that team is pared back down when the job is completed. This is much like any television production or film project quite honestly. In my own company we have anywhere from 2 to 12 people working in my offices depending on the jobs in the shop at any given time.

3) Apple is considering the sale of the entire Final Cut Studio package to a 3rd party and have released these people ahead of the sale. See I just don’t believe Final Cut Studio would simply disappear, not with over 1 million registered users around the world. I do believe at some point Apple would consider the sale of Studio to a third party vendor and in my opinion it could be a good thing, particularly if this was a software centric company and not a hardware centric company. If you are only making the money off the software, then you have to be constantly pushing the limits of it and constantly updating / upgrading it to meet the user base demands. If you are simply using the software as a carrot to sell your hardware, then you can allow the software to lag a little behind in development so long as you keep the machines improving at a fairly rapid rate.

If I were to take a guess on the reality, my guess would be Number 2. The fact that these were apparently external people who were let go leads me to believe these were primarily Quality Control and Testing type of people. The folks who hammer on the software to check that it functions as expected and to catch as many bugs as possible before the product is released. They might have also been folks who were advocates for new features and such.

Do I have anything to go on besides my own intuition? Nope, just a guess on my part based on what little information we have available to us. If we see a Final Cut Studio 4 or a Final Cut Pro 8 at NAB, then we’ll know that was the case. As usual with Apple, we’ll all know the truth when we know.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Feb 20, 2010 at 12:41:50 pmComments (3) final cut pro, apple, nab

Ethernet SAN has limits - UPDATED

In December of '08 we installed a Maxx Digital Final Share SAN system consisting of a 16TB array that is shared to 6 workstations via high speed ethernet connectivity. You can read a full article I wrote on the installations at the Creative Cow website.

The primary purpose for this installation was to allow a shared editing environment for three feature length documentaries. We have in the neighborhood of 450 hours of footage (and growing) for all three and our first doc, Foul Water, Fiery Serpent is using around 100 or so hours. All footage is digitized at Apple ProRes 720p/60 via Apple's Final Cut Pro so we're using a very low bandwidth format for the edit.

We started really cutting on the project in March of '09 and as I have reported both on the Creative Cow website and here on my blog, it has for the most part, been a thing of beauty. I'm cutting on a Mac Pro / AJA Kona 3 workstation while my edit assist is cutting on a 21" iMac. We broke the doc into 9 segments to make for easier project management and to allow each of us to work on different segments simultaneously.

To give you an idea of the size of this project, we have between 2,800 and 3,600 raw video clips, over 100 music cuts, animations, graphics and voice tracks. So we're in the neighborhood of 4,000 to 4,500 media files for this project. That's as big a project as I've worked on yet. As I said, the SAN has worked great during the editing process.

However, in the past few months I believe we have found the limits of ethernet based SANs; playback of a large project timeline. In November we finally had a full 98 minute timeline cut of the entire documentary. I could not play the entire timeline without dropping frames. And not just once, it would drop frames multiple times, every time during playback of the timeline. Plenty of speed on the RAID (about 600MB/s or more), plenty of speed on the network (about 100MB/s) but for whatever reason, I was dropping frames throughout the timeline.

Now I don't believe the length of the timeline is an issue. In my testing I played a 30 minute episode of "Good Eats" in a continuous loop for 3 hours on multiple systems simultaneously. So the system can easily sustain a long playback cycle across multiple systems, let alone on a single Mac Pro workstation. No there has to be something else other than pure speed.

If you've read my blog entries you also know that we've been dealing for months with an ethernet port issue introduced by Apple with the latest Mac Pros that caused the network disconnect from my Mac. So this problem of dropped frames was thought to be part of the same issue. Over the Christmas Holidays, with help from Small Tree Electronics, we dealt with that issue finally by moving the SAN to the Snow Leopard operating system because Apple finally created a fix to the disconnect issue in the latest updates.

But our dropped frames remain. The SAN is running as fast as ever, but we're still dropping frames during playback of our 90 minute timelines. From what I can gather, we are the only facility running this large of a project off this type of ethernet SAN. All the other facilities are doing 30 minute or shorter programming and a lot of :30 to :60 spots. In our own shop, we have multiple workstations doing projects of 20 minutes or less with no problems.

How we're dealing with these dropped frames right now is to export a self contained movie to a local 8TB array that is connected directly to my Mac Pro. This is how I screen the film for the client or folks who come in for reviews. It's the only way I can play the film without it stopping.

So for whatever reason, it appears to be the sheer project size and the amount of files that the project has to access during playback of the timeline that seems to be the issue. It really shouldn't matter, but it does appear in our real world application, the system simply does not support playback of an extended timeline from a project with this many files.

It's a real shame because the system is performing incredibly well overall, we have two series being cut on it and I've been able to work with a 2nd editor simultaneously on editing the documentary. But if you can't play back your main timeline without dropping frames on a large project, well then the system is not made for all editing applications as I originally thought and was led to believe when I made the purchase.

So if you're working on shorter projects, episodic television, 1 hour projects and need to share media across multiple workstations, this is still a killer deal. Fibre Channel is still the only alternative and you can't come close to what this system does for the money. We will continue to use this system moving forward on most of our projects.

But for the long form stuff like these documentaries, I'm going to invest in a few more local 8 and 16TB arrays. The primary workstation for each documentary will have its own dedicated local storage and anything that needs to move across to other workstations, we'll push to the SAN. It'll make things a little less efficient for the really REALLY big projects, but I'll have the best of both worlds. Low cost SAN for 90% of our projects. High speed local RAID for the documentaries.

So would I still recommend an Ethernet SAN for you? Absolutely, but go in understanding the limits and make sure it's right for your application before you buy. I won't say that this system was a $20,000 mistake, but I would have spent my money a little differently 12 months ago had I known this system would be limited by the documentary. And we all know technology improves almost daily so with any luck, future improvements will allow this type of SAN to even support the really REALLY big projects in the future.

UPDATE 1-21-2010

After some suggestions from colleagues, I mixed down the audio tracks (we had a total of 24) in the timeline and attempted a full timeline playback. We got 38 minutes through the timeline before it dropped frames, but it did not drop frames again. It was a 1 hour 18 minute timeline. So that's progress. Not exactly efficient since it took a while for the computer to do the mix, but it's an improvement.

Just one of those days.....

Today's just been one of those days where the Final Share SAN isn't working right, the AJA Kona 3 isn't working right and FCP isn't working right either. Just as we're about to finish our first feature documentary.

It's one of those days where you wonder what the hell you invested all of this money for and if you should just switch over to something else....

Apple Mini-DVI adapter not working with DVI Extenders - Fixed

My edit suite runs two 25' DVI extenders, VERY heavy duty extenders that were about $120 each. This suite has run with the G5 Quad 2.5, the Mac Pro Quad 3.0 and the Mac Pro Octo 3.2 with zero issues running two DVI monitors and the extenders.

Now I get the $7,000 top of the line Apple Octo Core machine with the ATI 4870 graphics card which of course Apple mandates with one regular DVI port and one Mini DVI port. I got the adapter that allows me to run two standard DVI monitors. The one connected to the Mini DVI port is not coming on. We even switched the cables in the back of the machine and only the regular DVI port is putting out an image to the monitors.

Now we're going to have to come up with another workaround. If you have a "special monitor" (i.e. Apple LED Display) that requires a "special DVI port" because you don't want to pay the licensing fees for regular DVI, why don't you create an adapter cable the OTHER way around? Regular DVI to the Mini DVI required by the Apple monitor?

Posted by: walter biscardi on Aug 18, 2009 at 7:19:06 amComments (1) final cut pro, apple, monitor

Apple Color and FCP deliver true Broadcast Safe for "the big boys"

Recently a thread in the Apple Color forum had somebody remark that if you're delivering to the "Big Boys" such as Discovery and PBS you really should have external scopes in your shop. It's also been suggested that external legalizer boxes really should be used as well when delivering to the high end networks.

The true fact of the matter is, the scopes in Color are very accurate, to the point that I don't see any differences on an external scope when we do have one. The Broadcast Safe in Color is good enough for "the big boys." We have delivered about 66 episodes of "Good Eats" in HD to the Food Network, not a single rejection for video quality, and have now delivered two HD programs to PBS. No external scopes, no external legalizer. Just FCP to Color to FCP and out to tape. In fact, about 20 or so episodes of Good Eats was color graded ONLY using FCP's 3-Way CC, Broadcast Safe and Levels filters. All of those were legal.

If you can afford an external scope and want to drop $12,000 to $20,000 for a good Tektronix scope, then by all means have at it. We actually could afford one if I really felt I needed it, but I personally would rather spend that money on something more useful to our day to day operation, say like 3 FSI color reference monitors to replace our aging CRT monitors.

But as far as being perfectly broadcast legal and delivering to the "big boys" of broadcast, the tools within FC Studio are perfectly capable of delivering a legal product in the hands of an operator who knows how to use them.

New features for FSI monitors including EBU Gamma

As usual, the guys at FSI keep adding in more and more features based on user input and the latest round of updates have a couple of especially neat updates. And of course, these are free to all current owners of FSI monitors, just download the update from the website.

EBU Gamma. True 2.35 EBU standard gamma setting for the monitor for anyone delivering material to european broadcasters. Yes, 2.4 is mighty darn close, but because of a request from a European user, they decided to make the monitors go exactly to the European gamma spec.

Timecode Display. The monitors themselves can now display on screen timecode pulled directly off the SDI feeds using LTC, VITC 1 and VITC 2. So no more having to turn on the TC display via a tape deck or a camera, the monitors themselves can now display on screen TC. I've actually asked for a few improvements to this feature already.

NTSC Setup. You can set the monitor up to 7.5 IRE if you're working on SD material that requires 7.5 delivery.

Scope Position. Now you can put the scopes in any of six positions instead of just having it in the lower right.

Active Boundary Marker. This is really really neat and it took me a moment or two to really figure out what they had done here. Because the monitors have the ability to show full resolution video without using up the entire screen, it can be difficult to tell if you're missing any lines of image in the picture. For example, in 1:1 SD mode on any of the monitors. You see black on the top and bottom of the image because it's sitting in the middle of the monitor so if there are any lines of resolution missing in the image, you can't tell because it'll just look like the black border around the image.

Turn on the Active Boundary Marker and a line is placed 1 pixel above and below the image frame. Now you can see where the edge of the image SHOULD be. If you see black between your image and that line, then you're missing image information.

And of course there's more stuff in the latest updates, but these are some of the highlights that I've noticed so far. Very cool stuff!

Posted by: walter biscardi on Jul 9, 2009 at 12:46:31 pmComments (4) color, final cut pro, editing, monitors

Editor for hire, $50,000/year, Clothing Optional

Well I don't know about the clothing optional part, but it's definitely a good gig for the right person with good Final Cut Pro skills.....

Posted by: walter biscardi on Jul 3, 2009 at 11:54:57 amComments (1) final cut pro, editing

Flanders Scientific Video User Manual Live

After seeing the FSI monitors and all their features at the first demo, I suggested to Dan Desmet they should create a video version of their user manual to make it easier to understand everything. Well that conversation led to the new How To video manual that was launched on the website last week.

It's also a great way to essentially get a demo of their products without actually seeing them in person.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Jun 23, 2009 at 6:32:10 pm flanders scientific, color, color enhancement, final cut pro

18% Grey Paint for less money

Ok so the "official 18% grey paint" is something like $80 per quart and up. Thanks to this tip from Dan Desmet at Flanders Scientific, here's a really REALLY close knock off of that color for a lot less.

You want Sherwin Williams SW 7071 color.

The one to get is Duration Home, Extra White Matte Base, 6403-63925. The BAC code should be

BAC Colorant 02 32 64 128
B1-Black - 20 1 -
Y3-Deep Gold - 5 – 1

Why do you need 18% grey? Well it helps to keep your eyes neutral while you edit and color grade a scene on your monitor. That's the theory anyway.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Jun 12, 2009 at 5:19:07 amComments (7) color, 18 grey, editing, final cut pro

NSF Press Release and website on Science Nation

The National Science Foundation has issued a press release announcing the launch of the new series Science Nation along with taking the new website live. Biscardi Creative Media is providing all post production for the series which has reunited principal Walter Biscardi, Jr. with multiple CNN colleagues.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Jun 4, 2009 at 5:48:29 am biscardi creative media, nsf, final cut pro

Biscardi Creative helps launch Science Nation

Biscardi Creative Media is proud to have helped launch a brand new series for Dykstra Media called "Science Nation." The series of science stories are slated for air on Discovery Science in the near future.

Post Production Supervisor Walter Biscardi, Jr. coordinated all the elements necessary to launch the stories from Graphics, Animation, Music and editing. Editor Roger Mahr is cutting the entire series with lead Producers Kate Tobin and Peter Dykstra. The series utilizes all formats from DV to DVCPro HD.

Executive Producer: Peter Dykstra
Lead Producer: Kate Tobin
Post Production Supervisor: Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Graphics Package design: Brian Little
Editor: Roger Mahr
Original Theme: Patrick Belden

Posted by: walter biscardi on May 2, 2009 at 7:03:51 pm final cut pro, broadcast

Adobe Encore CS4 still exhibiting "Project Created In Windows" errors on Mac

This problem has been around at least two years since we started using Encore CS3.

Create an Encore BluRay Project on a Mac. In our case, a Mac Pro Octo 3.2 machine running the latest OS, Quicktime and Encore CS4.

Save that project.

Open the project on a second Mac that contains the BluRay burner. In our case a Mac Pro Quad 3.0 machine running the latest OS, Quicktime and Encore CS4.

Get the error message, "This Project was created in Windows and cannot be opened."

I posted a query in the Cow Adobe Encore forum, but no responses so far. I'll let you know if I get anything.

Haven't called Adobe Tech Support because the last time we tried that, they could not figure out why I didn't have any Windows Machines in the shop so how could the project possibly have been created on a Mac? They're not very helpful in my experience.

So I'm just letting you all know, Encore still does not have anything to make you "Come for the BluRay, Stay for the Flash." Fortunately we do have NetBlender's DoStudio in here for real BluRay projects and it works flawlessly.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Apr 10, 2009 at 7:57:32 amComments (7) bluray, encore, adobe, final cut pro

FSI Monitors feature loaded.

I spent the day at the FSI offices last week getting a chance to really chat with Dan, Bram and Johan about the monitors and learning about all the features. Their offices are also in the Atlanta area so I took the opportunity to get some instruction on these monitors at their offices.

I knew these things were full of features but I didn't realize just HOW many features and how much end user control they have. I really don't expect the feature set at the price point, but these guys are doing it and it's great for all of us in need of a good LCD monitor.

Scopes are becoming a standard now on the LCD panels, but how would like those scopes and audio meters displayed? There are something like a dozen choices from the type of scope you want to see, the values you want to see (Luma, RGB, etc), where you want it on screen and even how many channels of audio you would like to see. Oh and embedded audio via SDI which is really sweet on a field shoot. You don't need to tie into the sound guy's audio output, you can just plug a headphone into the monitor and get the clean sound from there. (you can also do this with analog). Oh and how about scopes that are active via all inputs including DVI?

Markers that can be displayed in pretty much any frame size and either as lines or transparent or solid mattes.

Pixel Mapping so you can see your image pixel for pixel, on any of the displays.

Control over pulldown, as in you can have the pulldown smoothed out or you can see it frame for frame with the judder.

Classic Blue Only mode for those who just don't want to give that up when switching out from CRTs. :-)

I'm especially loving the 5 user preset keys now that I'm figuring it out. Basically 5 user controlled On/Off buttons to activate my 5 most used features, such as Scopes and Markers. AND 5 user profiles so when we start having more editors using the suites, each person can have those function keys pre-set however they want.

And I saw just how ridiculously easy the Auto Alignment procedure is to re-calibrate the monitor at any time. Turn On Monitor. Let it Warm Up for 30 Minutes. Connect the Probe to the FSI Alignment Converter. Connect the Converter to the Monitor. Hit "Auto Align." Grab a coffee and come back 20 minutes later.

Can you tell I'm really liking these monitors? A true color accurate monitor that we can all afford? And best of all, the 30 day money back guarantee, which is one of the reasons why I feel so comfortable recommending them to anyone reading this. If you truly don't like it, then return it and you're not out any money so you can go get something else.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Mar 31, 2009 at 6:04:06 am monitor, hd, final cut pro, editing

HD Dual Link to 3G Converter

If anyone out there needs / wants a Dual Link to 3G Converter, AJA Video Systems has a nice little mini-converter out there.

What's 3G you say? The replacement for Dual Link HD. Instead of two cables, you get the full 3G HD signal down one cable. I honestly had never heard of it until we ordered our new Flanders Scientific monitors and they were talking about how their monitors offer only 3G and not Dual Link because Dual Link will be replaced in the near future.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Mar 31, 2009 at 4:30:12 am hd, editing, final cut pro, monitor, converter

Biscardi Creative to help launch new Science Series

Biscardi Creative Media has been selected to provide all Post Production services for a new series revolving around Science. The first run will be 15 weeks with an additional 35 weeks possible for 2009 and further expansion in 2010.

More details soon.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Mar 31, 2009 at 4:23:17 am television, editing, final cut pro

Low cost color accurate LCD's becoming reality!

I posted this originally in the Apple Color Forum but through I would share here as well....

Just had an all-day demo of four Flanders Scientific (FSI) monitors here in the shop. Overall extremely impressed and yes, you CAN have an accurate monitor for $2,495. I'm not going to go into full details as Nick Griffin will be publishing an article shortly on everything we saw here today but basically....

LM-2450W (24") and LM-1760W (17") look as accurate as my Sony CRT Multi-format monitor. Excellent blacks, excellent whites and good solid color throughout. The 24" has an option for the ND Filter which I'll be getting, but you don't necessarily need it. The 17" is simply the cheapest monitor I've seen out there that I consider accurate enough to recommend. Honestly can't believe there's a monitor this inexpensive and this high of quality.

The LM-2430W (24") and LM-2130W (21") are considered "grade 2" monitors and while extremely accurate, the viewing angle is tighter. Also, when I put up a scene that was completely black on one side, you could see some light spill coming in from the edges. This is a limitation of the panel itself and the prices are lower, accordingly. These would be great editing monitors and could be used for final mixing if you don't have the budget for the 2450W.

Are they as accurate as the $10,000 and up LCD's? Probably not, though I would love to see a side by side comparison, I would not be surprised to see them look really REALLY close. One great thing about them, 30 day money back guarantee so if you don't like it, send it back no questions asked.

I'm ordering 2 of the 2450W's and one of the 1760W's for our shop so if anyone wants to purchase my Sony PVM20L5/1 and/or my PVM14L5/1 just shoot me an email. As soon as the FSI's are here, I'll ship them to you.

If you want to know more about the specs, just click on the yellow banners throughout the Cow or look up Flanders Scientific. They're a locally owned company right here in Atlanta, super nice guys to boot!

Posted by: walter biscardi on Mar 6, 2009 at 5:22:05 amComments (2) monitors, editing, final cut pro, color, color grading

High Speed SAN via Ethernet. It's True!

To paraphrase a famous author, "I have seen the future of shared storage and his name is Ethernet."

Last month we invested in the new Final Share system from MaxxDigital and after some tweaking, we now have 16TB of shared storage supported a high definition workflow with 6 workstations all running Apple's ProRes HQ in high definition, both 720p and 1080i. And actually it's not "workstations" in the traditional sense of the word, since we're running ethernet, we can connect any Mac computer to the array.

So in our case, we have three Final Cut Pro desktop workstations and three iMac's all connected. In our testing today we configured the three FCP workstations to capture approx. 3 hours of 720 and 1080i ProRes HQ material each. As that was happening, all three iMacs were playing back 20+ minute clips in Quicktime Player in a loop. After all the capturing, we had all three FCP workstations set up with 90 minute timeline playing in a loop while the iMacs kept playing their clips. We left it all alone for several hours and all way still playing. 6 streams of high definition from one storage array and all via simple ethernet cable!

We plan to use the iMacs both to allow Producers to review footage immediately upon capture and also for Assistant Editors working on upcoming series. Once the footage is in the system, anybody can access it at any time and since it's not Fibre Channel, I don't have to invest in top of the line desktop editing systems for the assists.

Watch for a full article on this system coming up shortly, but wow, this thing really works and it's really affordable!

Posted by: walter biscardi on Feb 16, 2009 at 8:38:33 pmComments (13) storage, final cut pro, editing, san, maxx digital

New Television Pilot Completed

Editorial has been completed on the new business television pilot developed by Biscardi Creative Media, ideaWercs and Arriving with BB Webb. BCM Principal Walter Biscardi, Jr. served as Director, Editor and Post Production Supervisor on this project.

Additional credits include Brian Mead for logo design, Aaron R. Stewart for graphics design and Brian Little for opening title design. The episode was produced in 720p HD. More details will be provided as the series moves towards full production of Season One.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Nov 28, 2008 at 4:14:31 am hd, television, entertainment, apple, final cut pro

River Blindness Introduction delivered on BluRay disc

Biscardi Creative Media recently delivered an introductory project for an upcoming feature-length documentary about River Blindness disease. Produced by Gary Strieker and Cielo Productions, the project was a 10 minute overview of what the disease is and a brief look into some of the preventative measures being implemented by The Carter Center.

The presentation, "The Crab and the Fly" was shot in 720p HD in multiple locations in Africa and Latin America over a two year period. Editorial was performed by Aaron R. Stewart and the final presentation was delivered on 1080i BluRay disc using BCM in-house BluRay authoring & publishing tools.

The feature length documentary is scheduled for completion by mid to late 2009. 

Posted by: walter biscardi on Nov 28, 2008 at 4:13:58 am editing, hd, documentaries, apple, final cut pro, bluray, hd dvd

Walter Biscardi, Jr. Directing new Television Pilot

Biscardi Creative Media principal, Walter Biscardi, Jr., will be Directing the Pilot episode of a new business television series. Being developed jointly by BCM, ideaWercs and Arriving with BB Webb, the series will feature success stories and inspiration from women in the business world.

"I'm honored to be launching this new series as the Director and have always believed that editors make great directors," notes Biscardi. "As an editor you know what you want to see and what you wish you had when cutting the show together. Knowing what will make the show better in Post helps me in making sure we get everything we need, and then some, in the studio and on location."

Production is scheduled for late October, 2008 with all editorial scheduled to be completed by early December, 2008. The series is tentatively scheduled to go into production by the 2nd quarter of 2009.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Oct 15, 2008 at 4:26:03 amComments (1) editing, television, entertainment, apple, final cut pro

Biscardi Creative Media creating original television programming

Biscardi Creative Media is creating an original lifestyle television series. Developed by BCM principal, Walter Biscardi, Jr. the series will be presented to major U.S. networks by a production partner.

The series re-unites Biscardi with actress Cynthia Evans who played the lead role in BCM's "The Rough Cut" short film, and Producer Sharon Collins who worked with Walter in the Environment Unit at CNN. The Pilot is scheduled for production in mid October 2008 with editorial slated for completion by late November 2008.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Oct 15, 2008 at 4:24:32 amComments (1) editing, television, apple, final cut pro

BCM color grades "Keepsake" for Stormcatcher Films

BCM has completed all color grading for the feature film, "Keepsake" from Stormcatcher Films.

Shot on location in Virginia, the film was Directed by Paul Moore and shot over a 24 day period. D.P. Todd Gilpin did an incredible job with setting up the look of the film. He created a very rich canvas from which Colorist Walter Biscardi, Jr. was able to create an incredible palette of color. Biscardi worked closely with Moore, Gilpin and Producer Scott Tanner to bring out the gritty details and haunting images of the fight for survival.

Keepsake is the first feature film project for Biscardi Creative Media. The film will debut in Oct. 2008 in Hollywood, California.

For more information about Stormcatcher Films visit Tools used: Color, Final Cut Pro, AJA Kona 3.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Oct 7, 2008 at 2:52:40 am hd, apple, final cut pro, indie film, aja

BCM completes Preeclampsia Fund Raiser

BCM is proud to have recently completed a fund-raiser for the Preeclampsia Foundation. When we started this project, we honestly had no idea what Preeclampsia is or what it can do to pregnant women and/or their babies.

 From the Preeclampsia Foundation website: "Preeclampsia is a disorder that occurs only during pregnancy and the postpartum period and affects both the mother and the unborn baby. Affecting at least 5-8% of all pregnancies, it is a rapidly progressive condition characterized by high blood pressure and the presence of protein in the urine."

Ultimately the condition can lead to death of the mother and/or the baby in some circumstances. Editor Aaron Stewart and Artist Walter Biscardi, Jr. worked with Producers Pat Etheridge and Cindy Beckler to create the 24 minute feature presentation and an 8 minute preview. The preview version was featured at a major fundraiser in Washington, D.C. with 500 copies of the feature presentation given to the audience.

To learn more about Preeclampsia visit

 Tools used: Final Cut Pro, Photoshop, After Effects, DVD Studio Pro.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Oct 7, 2008 at 2:50:12 am editing, documentaries, apple, final cut pro, health care

BCM completes Animations for EyeOn Creative

Biscardi Creative Media recently completed a series of animated elements for EyeOn Creative. The animations are used in short video presentations for children that all feature a Christian theme. Artists Walter Biscardi, Jr. and Aaron Stewart worked with EyeOn editor Roger Mahr to develop and complete the animations for four videos. Tools used: Photoshop, After Effects, Final Cut Pro.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Oct 7, 2008 at 2:47:05 am after effects, final cut pro, animation

Creating BluRays on a budget - Part 2 (DoStudio)

Well, we've got our HP workstation up and running with DoStudio's Trial Version now installed.  The Trial version is the complete application with only the commercial replication features turned off.

First impressions are this thing is definitely NOT DVD Studio Pro or Encore.  This is a very serious tool along the lines of Apple's Color compared to the 3 Way Color Correction filter in Final Cut Pro.  There is a learning curve as a lot of programming is manually done rather than simple drag and drop type of operations.   This feels more like a professional authoring tool and less like a toy.  Don't get me wrong, I love DVDSP and it's simple drag and drop functionality, but it's nice to essentially have almost endless possibilities open to us and forcing us to actually learn what we're doing.  Anybody can drag and drop, but it's nice to be able to get your "hands dirty" and go under the hood to see how to really operate authoring software.

In just one day, we've been able to get a nice main menu and chapter selection pop-up menu already underway.  A little snag on the pop-up where we can get it to pop-up but it's not going to the various chapters like we programmed.  NetBlender's support has been great to work with so far and we've uploaded the project file for them to poke around and see where we went wrong.  I'm sure it's operator error as we've been using the software all of about 6 hours.

One big thing that is missing as of right now is an "Undo."   This is reminiscent of Final Touch before Apple purchased it and turned in to Color.  Final Touch did not have any sort of Undo so you had to be very careful of what you were doing.  NetBlender tells me that Undo is a feature that will be added on this fall with an update and we're already looking forward to it!  :-)

The big adjustment is that we have to essentially "forget" the DVD mentality.  There are so many different possibilities in authoring BluRay that you have to design the menus and even the overall flow differently.   Still wrapping our heads around this, but using this software definitely calls for more planning and thought than just hurry up and get it done.

More soon! 


Posted by: walter biscardi on Sep 17, 2008 at 3:35:09 am dvd, hd, adobe, final cut pro, bluray, hd dvd, indie film

Professional Video Editor, Producer, Creative Director, Director since 1990.

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

Creative Director for Georgia-Pacific and GP Studios, Atlanta. Former Owner / Operator of Biscardi Creative Media. The show you knew us best for was "Good Eats" on the Food Network. I developed the HD Post workflow and we also created 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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