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NAB 2012. The Mayans had it right. It's the year of the shift.

This year I witnessed an honest world shaking shift. Yep, 2012 became the year of the world changing from the way we know it, and I could see it happening right before my eyes at NAB 2012 in AJA's booth. I worked in AJA's booth for the entire show, and heard from the whole post and production community there. The carpet was torn to pieces on the first day. I'm not kidding, by the end of the show on the first day, it was so balled up it looked as if it had suffered the hit of a tsunami. That happened the second day as well. There I talked to everyone from the Network big wigs to the one man bands of our industry. DP's, Editors, small operators, Cable companies, churches, the whole industry really... I love 'em all too. But it gave me a wide angle perspective on production and post production points of view.

AJA showed the T-Tap. I had a guy tell me he heard AJA had a box for $249 coming. He said he was already a buyer of any box that AJA made at that price point. Then he asked me what does it do? I think it's the stocking stuffer present of the year. AJA, with a product like this, a 4K solution Ki Pro, and DNX to boot just blew the doors off everyone and anyone who came into the area. I think 50,000 walked through on day one alone. I'm not kidding either.There was an exciting product for anybody in the business in that booth. DP's came by to see that T-Tap and KiPro Quad. Engineers came by to see all the little and big boxes, and of course, most every editor at the show came by. They'll sell a gillion T-Taps within a month of release. And then there's a given that they'll do just fine with that new rack mounted Ki Pro. Yep, just fine.

The shift didn't come from one direction either. But three fundamental shifts in the way we'll likely post sooner rather than later reared right up to the front in everyone's dinner conversation at the show.

First, it's the beginning of the end of the use of towers. Not just for Mac's either. It's going to be the past in most of our lives sooner than we all think in all but a very few niche sort of places. Witness my year old MacBook Pro 17" quad being faster by 40% rendering than my first gen 3 gig 8 core intel tower. Just witness the miniaturization of computing in general. Thunderbolt is going to make my Mac Pro dreams evaporate. It's a dead issue folks, I really don't think we'll see a new one, even though I'd be first in line. If Apple shows us a new iMac with fast graphics, and another TB port or two. It's pretty much over. I think they that this all planned a year ago. They knew the smaller computers would be "fast enough" for most users a long time ago.

AJA had a Sonnet box enclosing a Mac Mini Server and a couple extra drives running ALSO a Kona LHi card. There ya go!
AJA also had a Magma Thunderbolt Chassis proudly housing a Kona with a couple extra slots open for whatever save a GPU... Running on an iMac of course. Solutions during the shift to soft land possibly.

Second big shift: All of the A's (save Apple- so they could hog all the headlines when they announce anything) announced or made big strides at NAB. The democratization of the hardware throughout make it way different. Even Avid works with my AJA gear! Wow. So does Adobe, Apple, Audodesk software... all at the same time. AJA had it happening on every Mac Station. Including current Mac Pros. But why is this a shift? Don't they always try to do this? Well, just a couple of years ago this really wasn't being shown on the same station any way.

Well... the SHIFT is in the fact that the largest group of NLE users on the planet (Final Cut Pro 7 users) are IN the market for the first time in at least 5-8 years. No longer just waiting on a new version of FCP. THAT is the shift. I heard an earful, that's for sure. I have solutions though... Just ask me sometime. Last year we were in shell shock of the way FCP X was launched. This year we've seen it grow into what should have been shown last year... and the bitter pill is we have to learn something new sometime soonish no matter what. No more FCP 7 is inevitable. Slow decline, yes. I did't hear of a lot of people already switched... I heard of where they stand now. Mostly still running FCP 7 quite frankly. So anyone telling you otherwise isn't quite right about it don't think. Adobe's sales have risen I know, but that's just not enough fuel to point to a shift in the market. They are mostly staying pat, but looking at what's next. And make no mistake, there were plenty of FCP X users coming into the booth to see what's up for them. FCP X users are quiet I think.. LOL. too quiet. FCP X has a lot to like. I personally can use it professionally, along side FCP 7 and other NLE's now. woo hoo.

This shift also witnesses furious competition happening in the NLE field. Apple, Adobe, Avid, and Autodesk! The latter three had a huge NAB. Everything in AJA, BlackMagic, and others are all playing nice with all the NLE's and they all are after the FCP crowd. I can't remember a time in the past quite like this. All open architecture turns the editor on for sure! It's a great thing this competition for users especially. Bravo this shift. Uptick shift we'll call it.

First it was Avid vs Media 100. Then there was Avid vs FCP, Avid held it's own and survived for this day. They've one last shot at being number 1. But they have Adobe to contend with. Jumping into this fray for the first time is Autodesk's future version of Smoke selling for less than a new car! In fact, one could run FCP X along side Avid, Adobe, and next fall, SMOKE for less than $10,000, and run it all concurrently on an iMac. and an io XT. That same Io XT could also supply support for a second computer display from MacBook Pros. Hint: if you're worth your salt you'll learn and use 'em all. You use the one who handles the task at hand the best every time.

When you vividly remember million dollar suites that did less than that mac mini I played with this year in a Sonnet enclosure... that, my friends is a shift... a big one. Autodesk did change everything. They lowered the price of entry by 80%. That's a goodie in anybody's book. All that yummy and mature 64 bit code affordable now!

But there was that third thing that was seriously shown at NAB 2012. Cloud computing solutions. Everything from just Cloud collaboration (not all that new) to actual cloud editing, which, represents the real shift. Can you imagine uploading proxies of your media you then stream and make edit decisions from anywhere on the planet with a broadband connection? Edit in the park, edit on the ski slope. It's a fundamental shift in the way we will work, and it will be everywhere being used by everyone within 5-8 years. Offline in the cloud, online locally will be the deal before ya know it.

Man. The shift is certainly upon us all. 4k?? no problem. a recording solution that's NLE agnostic for the price of a KiPro, and the laptop you bought last year with a Thunderbolt connected mac? wow... just.. wow.


Posted by: Jerry Hofmann on Apr 22, 2012 at 1:05:21 pm Editing, Final Cut Pro

The Art of Editing: Sometimes we worry too much about technical things.

I rarely if ever see posts about aesthetic considerations, when they are the most important things our time and effort as storytellers should be filled with.

Technically correct isn't nearly as important as aesthetically relatable to the human experience, and thus correct. Not even close. I think we all get a little too crazy about picture quality, when it is totally secondary to storytelling. There is story in every project out there whether it's a narrative, commercial, motivational or instructional. The story of most every toothpaste commercial is usually about sex... buy this toothpaste and get, well, you know... There is story in every instructional too. The predominating theme is that when you know this material, it benefits you. And of course there's narratives, just plain old fashioned stories we want to become emotionally lost in. Some motivate, some instruct, some recommend, some just make us happy or sad, but all of these adjectives are emotional in nature. Whether you want to admit it or not we are primarily emotional beings.

We go to the movies to have two hours of escape. When we can't physically or emotionally relate to what's being shown and heard, we don't like the film because our escape is truncated by foolish editors whose edit decisions got in the way, or they weren't given footage which relates to what a given moment was actually about. The french term is Mise-en-scène. I don't think hand held-shaky cam shots work with interviews for example. I don't watch people talk shaking myself as if I was in an earthquake, do you? I don't think fast cutting works for much of anything but fast action scenes, when I too would be changing my point of view fast as if I needed to be ready to duck. When most people leave the theater after seeing films using inappropriate technique, they don't even know WHY they didn't like it, but they do know they didn't care for it as much as they had hoped.

How many movies have you seen where the script was good, the acting was good, the direction was good and it contained very well shot and pleasing cinematography, art direction using mise-en-scène as it's guide, but the movie didn't satisfy? Lots I'll bet, and whose left here to blame? The editor of course.

But suffice to say, if our personal problems get lost in the story, because we get emotionally involved with it, which only happens when we can relate to what we are presented with, we love it. It's a fabulous pain-killer. We cannot get as emotionally attached to the characters if we cannot emotionally or physically relate to what we are presented with.

Oddly in this theory I hold unmovingly to, audio quality that's low will emotionally separate us faster from the story than picture quality will. Don't you notice a hit or pop in the audio track sooner than a mismatched edit? Sure you do, because it's inescapable, and it suddenly reminds us that what we are watching isn't real, and our emotional attachment to what's happening is diminished. (Emotional attachment is what entertainment is actually - a diversion which allows us to worry about something other than our own problems for a while).

When an unmotivated picture edit is made, the audience is actually frustrated, and less "entertained". We can't relate to it because it's not what, when or actually how or where we would look with our own eyes and brains if we were actually standing beside those characters in reality. This is the reason that zooms are avoided more often than not. Humans cannot zoom. We can dolly by walking, but we can't sit still and zoom in on our field of view. They work rarely, but when they do work, they usually simulate what our brains do when we suddenly see an important object that causes an emotional reaction. I think a fast dolly or a series of closer shots of the same moment punching in closer and closer works better because it simulates how our brains process visual information. We concentrate on that small object across the room that has grabbed our attention for some emotional or intellectual reason, and we simply ignore what's actually in our total field of vision. Note we only have about 3 degrees of sharp focus, even though we may have 160-80 degress of actual light hitting our retinas. It is this fact that allows cuts to work for us. We don't intellectually process the "blur" of vision that happens when we actually do change our point of view. It's as if a look from this person to the other is a cut from one piece of processed information to the other. So cuts work. Dissolves actually don't. Fades work better because it simulates what we percieve when we close and open our eyes. Fade to black and back...

The goal of any project is to grab our attention and keep it. Show us an unmotivated edit, or an edit out of sync with the rhythm of the scene or moment within the scene, and we get less emotionally involved with the story and characters every single time. The audience is frustrated by a beat that's not there when, in reality, it would have been there because it takes time to process what's happened at that moment mentally. The audience is frustrated by showing the wrong thing at the wrong time. If an editor cuts to an angle not where we would look if it was actually happening to us in reality, we don't relate, and figure it's time to go to the popcorn stand instead. We tend not recommend the movie, product, or instructional to others, and so the success of the project is doubtful at best.

You can produce the most technically perfect show in the world and it will FAIL miserably if the message, or it's original goal, which includes "entertainment", isn't reached because it contained unmotivated and/or rhythmically inferior edits and thus, less relatable edit decisions. (There's rhythm in everything.) Conversely, it can be of less quality technically, but if the story or goal is reached because it is edited well - it's entertaining, enlightening, or motivating, containing edits and durations that we can relate to, it is successful every time.

All else being equal, the poorly edited project will fail every time, and the well edited piece will always perform better than one that just looks good. When you have both of course, it's certainly better, but storytelling techniques trumps picture quality every single time.

It's not as if technical considerations aren't important. They are. They just aren't as important as we apparently think they are. We should be spending a lot more of our time and effort making better edit decisions. After all, how many ways can you edit a feature? Usually more than you can even conceive of, and much of editorial is trial and error, so the more time we spend refining an edit, trying to cut it this way or that way, the better the edit ends up. This is also why I promote using keyboard commands. They allow us more time to try the what if's within the alotted time we're typically bound by.

Put yourself in the room with your characters, where would YOU be looking and when would you change your point of view? Put yourself IN THE SCENE, and this will become apparent, and thus humanly relatable, and therefore more successfully keeping our audience's rapt attention. Want success? Edit carefully, in a humanly relatable way, and most importantly, keep the emotions presented and the story itself in front of everything else. This includes technical considerations.

I know, this post is redundant. I'll have to work on that. Redundancies are tiresome. There are whole paragraphs here and whole scenes which should be thrown out of the movie because they are repetitive.


Posted by: Jerry Hofmann on Jul 13, 2010 at 10:48:32 amComments (88) Art of Editing, Editing

Ruminations on the art and science of moving pictures, and sometimes on current situations.
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