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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?"

BCM completes new Good Eats Animation

BCM has completed a new historical animation for Good Eats with Alton Brown on the Food Network.

Artists Walter Biscardi, Jr., Aaron Stewart and Brian Mead worked closely with Alton Brown and producer Dana Popoff to create the latest in a series of historical animation that have been created for the Good Eats. This time it's a look at crackers, which have a surprisingly interesting story to tell! Animated by Biscardi in 720p HD, the one minute animation will appear in an upcoming episode in Winter 2008.

Tools used: Photoshop, After Effects, Canon 30D camera, Crackers.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Oct 7, 2008 at 2:54:40 amComments (2) after effects, hd, entertainment, adobe, animation, canon

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

I hate Adobe Activation

There, I said it. I hate Adobe's Activation procedure. Yes, I understand you have to protect your software from all the complete morons and low-lifes who can't pony up the money to purchase software legitimately, but geez, do you have to make this procedure so asinine that it affects legitimate purchases?

Three weeks ago I installed Apple OS 10.5 on a fresh hard drive on my editing workstation. A day later I installed my copy of the Production Premium Package CS3 to do some After Effects work. The Activation screen obviously pops up, I tell it to go ahead, but it fails. Fine, I'll Activate it later.

Two weeks ago I use After Effects and the Activation warning pops up again, again it fails to automatically activate on the internet. So I go ahead and do the Phone Activation. No problem, it gives me the activation code and I get the "Thank you for Activating the software" and I move on.

Yesterday, I launch Photoshop for the first time and I get the Activation request AGAIN. Ok, now I'm confused. Activiation only has to happen once across the entire suite, just like the last time I did it on my OS 10.4 (Tiger) drive. But what the heck, if it wants to activate again, what the hell.

Again, the automated activation fails. This time the phone activation also fails and instructs me to call an 800 number. I call that 800 number. This is where the fun really starts.

After 30 minutes of getting my serial number, putting me on hold multiple times, asking me a bunch of questions, putting me on hold again, asking a few more questions, putting me on hold again, I'm told that my serial number is invalid.

"Excuse me?"

"Your serial number is invalid."

I'm looking at the serial number on the screen and the serial number on the box of Adobe Premium Production Bundle CS3. They match. It's the serial number that Adobe put on the sticker and it's the serial number I've been using since July of 2007. But now it's invalid.

"Um, could you tell me how that number is suddenly invalid because it has been a valid number for almost a year and it's the number that's printed on the sticker on the box."

"You have activated it twice, now the serial number is invalid."

For those of you following along so far, you'll recall that I successfully activated the software last week, there was no reason for Photoshop to ask for a third activation. But I digress.

"Well, I have the box right here and I have my receipt, this is a valid copy of CS3, what do we do now?"

"Please hold while I make a phone call."

10 minutes later (yep, I'm watching the clock like a hawk now because my blood pressure has started to rise.)

"Do you have the proof of purchase?"

"Yes, it's right here in my hands."

"Well then, you'll have to fax that to us so we can issue you a new serial number, you can only activate your copy of the software 2 times."

What?!? I paid $1,200 for software and I'm only allowed to activate it two times and then my serial number will magically become invalid?

"Ok, once I fax it to you, what happens?" "We will issue you a new serial number in 48 hours after we verify the purchase."

48 hours AFTER they verify my purchase which should be quite easy to do considering I have the original discs sitting right here in my hands. Now the Adobe grace period will run out in a few days so if they can't verify my purchase right away, After Effects will stop working right in the middle of a project. You know, that same After Effects I purchased in July 2007 that Activated perfectly fine two weeks ago on this very same computer in this very same operating system? The one that had a valid serial number two weeks ago but now that serial number has suddenly poofed into a pumpkin never to be used again.

I send the fax. "Busy / No Response" I send the fax again. "Busy / No Response" I send the fax 20 more times over the past two days. "Busy / No Response."

I call Adobe Tech Support again today. "I can't get your fax machine to pick up. Is it working?" "Please hold while I make a phone call."

5 minute later "Just keep trying the fax it will pick up eventually."

Well gee, Thanks Adobe! I'll just keep trying to fax a proof of purchase that I should not have to fax to you at all. It's because of a failure in your Activation procedure that I'm sending anything and wondering if I'll get that new magical Serial Number that will make the world right again. Because if not, well than After Effects just stops working right in the middle of that new show open I'll be creating this week, but what the heck, it's only a deadline.

And by the way, make sure there is absolutely NOTHING your Tech Support guys can do on the phone, make sure I have to fax something in to prove that I own the copy of CS3 that I activated AND registered giving you all the information about me and the company just so you could verify that information in the future.  Make sure I have to do something like fax information to a fax machine that only picks up between 1:30 and 1:45 in the morning and only on a Tuesday. 

So I repeat. I hate Adobe's Activation procedure. There is absolutely no reason that legitimate owners should ever be stopped from activating their software for any reason whatsoever. Particularly since Apple's OS can get so good at corrupting itself that a complete erase and install is sometimes in order.

Speaking of Apple, Adobe could learn a lot from Apple's Tech support personnel. For one thing, Adobe, for the folks calling from the U.S., please please please get Tech Support Agents who can speak English fluently. I honestly don't care what country they are in, I just don't want to spend half of the 1 hour conversation asking "What was that again?" "Excuse me?" "I don't understand, can you repeat that?"  

When I call Apple, I usually getting incredibly friendly folks from Canada and we have very pleasant conversations. I love the way the say "aboot" instead of "about." But at least I can understand them and they are extremely friendly and cordial on the phone.

Both times I called Adobe, I had a very hard time understanding what these folks were saying and that just adds to the level of frustration.  Trust me, there's a lot of people here in the U.S. I would NOT want answering the phones either because I can't understand them.  But when you're in the position of talking to people, especially about technical issues, we need to be able to clearly understand them.

Adobe needs to protect their software, but they need to do it in such a way that does not hinder legitimate owners. And they need to better train their Tech Support phone personnel to speak clearly and fluently in the native language of whomever is calling.

If nothing else, this escapade has shown me that I really do need to dig deeper into the Apple Motion manuals to figure out how I can move more of my workflow to that software. I've never had any sort of serial number issue there no matter how many times I've had to reinstall the software.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Apr 12, 2008 at 3:23:22 pmComments (18) photoshop, after effects, premiere pro, adobe

Control Surface for Pro Editing / Graphics / Compositing

In response to a post on the Creative Cow Final Cut Pro Forum, my choice for a control surface to run all Pro Apps on a Mac is a Wacom tablet. I run a 9x12 Intuos 3 in my suite and I just can't see working without one.

For one thing, carpel tunnel syndrome just doesn't happen with a tablet, so you can work your 14 - 20 hour days and have no wrist pain. Second you get your entire workspace right on your tablet so there's no pick up the mouse and drag a second time if you have multiple monitors. Third, when working with apps such as Motion, Photoshop and After Effects, the tablets are pressure sensitive so the harder you push down, the more ink / paint will come out when using pressure sensitive tools.

It takes a few days to become acclimated to how a tablet works vs. a mouse, but once you get that comfort with it, you'll never go back to anything else. I set the unit up to the right of the keyboard because it feels more natural that with with my hands and also, it sets up very nicely on our editing consoles that way. Here's a shot of the tablet in my Wally World edit suite.

And in case you're wondering, that's the Bella USA FCP Pro Keyboard to the left of it, I highly recommend that as well. All the keys are color coded to the application and there's a jog/shuttle wheel on there that is a great help when digitizing and even playing back footage on the system.

Quicktime Player now reads Timecode

As Chi-Ho Lee noted on the Final Cut Pro forum today, Quicktime 7.1.6 has been released in anticipation of Final Cut Studio 2 and you can now read timecode in the Quicktime Player. Wow! Finally! Not sure why it took so long, but here's the proof.

If you click on the running time you now get a drop down box which gives you three choices of the Standard Running Time, Timecode and Frame Number.

Here's the clip now showing the original timecode off the camera tape. VERY cool and now anyone with Quicktime Player can accurately see timecodes without the need to burn in TC windows. Thank you Apple!

Walter Biscardi's NAB 2007 Schedule

Well folks, NAB 2007 is upon us and I hope to be able to meet some of you. So if you're going to Las Vegas, here is where you'll definitely find me!

Sunday April 15 - Apple Event AM, Panasonic Event PM

Monday April 16 - AJA Booth all day, Booth SL6113 directly across from Apple.

Tuesday April 17 - AJA Booth AM, Booth SL6113.

Creative Cow booth PM, Booth SL2626. Between Adobe and Grass Valley

(on your right as you walk to the Apple booth.)

Wednesday, April 18 - Presenting "HD Finishing in Final Cut Pro" as part of the Post Production sessions.

3:30 - 4:45pm, Room N259. I'll be showing some of our production workflow for the Food Network program, Good Eats.

I'll also be at a few of the evening events, but not really sure where, so if you see me, be sure to say hi!

Yes, this is the Animation Process

So as many of you know, in addition to being an editor and owner of Biscardi Creative Media, I'm also the animator for the Food Network's Good Eats. As such, most of our animations are based on food or food history. Now generally I rely on clip art / artwork books, websites like and along with my own photographs of headshots and hands to pull together the necessary elements for the script. But there are times when you just have to take matters into your own hands.

Take our latest animation for example, it referenced a very specific cake, one I had never heard of before and of course I could find no royalty free images of this thing. All the cakes baked for the episode had been devoured already (of course nobody called me for a taste!) so I couldn't get a photo of one of those. So what do you do? You get the researcher to send the recipe, take some pans and flour and get baking! Well, ok, what I really did was ask my wife if she would take out some pans and flour and get baking because I was snowed under with deadlines. My wife is wonderful and agreed to make this sinfully delicious cake.

After a night in the fridge, I was able to assist (and very ably mind you) with the frosting which was the sweetest, most delicious frosting I have ever tasted. Sugar, Heavy Cream and Vanilla. Wooooo, heaven! So for all of you considering a career in graphic design and / or animation, be sure to include some culinary classes as part of your training. You never know what skills you'll need to complete your projects!

Note the style and grace in how I apply the frosting. 4 years of college and 17 years of production experience paying off BIG TIME!

The finished product ready for its close-up which you'll see in an upcoming Good Eats episode about Milk.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Mar 28, 2007 at 7:53:16 pmComments (3) after effects, hd, television, entertainment, apple

From the Edit Suite

I have a blog now, so I thought I would take you guys and gals into the Edit Suite and let y'all know what we're working on at Biscardi Creative Media.

2/28/2007, Cutting Episode 4 of the environment series, "Assignment Earth" and this episode focuses on the Mekong River in Thailand. Footage is stunning HD shot by Roger Herr of Atlanta who traveled to Thailand with Producer / Host Gary Strieker.

Roger and Gary took a Sony Z1 HDV camera with them because a lot of travel was via very small boat on the Mekong and if they were going to drop a camera in the river, they figured it was better to lose the Z1 instead of Roger's Panasonic HVX-900. While I'm not a fan of HDV, in the hands of a talented D.P. like Roger, it can look very very good.

I used the AJA Kona 3 to convert the footage to DVCPro 1080i/60 during capture and when we're done, the show will be mastered to DVCPro HD 1080i/60. So far I'm through with the 2nd cut of the show trimming 14 hours down to about 23:30. Need to get the show down to 22:30.

I also had to make a series of animated graphics detailing the location of the Mekong and Salween rivers. I used a combination of Google Earth Pro, Photoshop and After Effects to create them. I love using AE's 3D camera moves for these types of graphics.

In JungleLand, Aaron is working on a new set of stories for our "This American Land" series of environmental news reports. These stories are delivered monthly to PBS stations nationwide. Some of the stories are also repurposed for Assignment Earth on Yahoo! News. I'll get some more details tomorrow.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Feb 28, 2007 at 6:46:45 pmComments (8) after effects, editing, hd, apple, final cut pro

Using full HD Frame size for DVCPro HD renders

Interesting find today while doing some test renders in After Effects. I'm working on a DVCPro HD 1080i/60 project in Final Cut Pro which means I'm working with a real frame size of 1280x1080. It's an anamorphic format which FCP scales back out to 1920x1080 during playback.

Well in After Effects I'm doing a series of animated maps and found that my graphics were more easy to position in 1920x1080 comps. My idea was to get everything positioned, and then switch the Comp Size to 1280x1080 DVCPro HD to do the final render. Problem was, my entire animation is in 3D space using the Camera and light tools. Switching the Frame Size resulted in all of my elements suddenly going out of position.

So I just left the Comp set up to 1920x1080 and just used the DVCPro HD 1080i/60 Codec to do the final render. Brought the animation into Final Cut Pro fully expecting FCP to need to do a render due to the mis-matched frame size, but nope. Plays in realtime, edits to tape in realtime.

Neat little find and now I might not have to worry about "squishing" all my comps in AE to match the anamorphic frame sizes of DVCPRo HD.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Feb 28, 2007 at 7:06:49 am after effects, final cut pro

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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