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Recent Blog Posts in November 2009

November 20, 2009
  "The Avid/FCP 2-Step" – LA Final Cut Pro User Group meeting, 11-18-2009
Posted By Barry Goch
A capacity crowd came to the LA FCP UG meeting at the Barnsdall Art Park in Hollywood to hear Academy Award® winning editor talk about his experiences going back to Avid.

As is almost always the case, I was coming from work and running a bit late so I missed the start of the meeting that featured Shane Ross demonstrating the new multi-format capability in Avid Media Composer 4.0. It's something that I've seen at previous demos and is a great new feature in this version.

I arrived when editor Steve Cohen was demoing a crowd pleaser in v.4: the ability to hold transitions when moving clips around on the timeline. In the past, the transition would simply vanish. He also demoed Advanced Keyframing, an older feature but perhaps new to the FCP crowd and some fine points of trimming in the Avid.

The crowd was very attentive. It seemed that the FCP crowd was intent on catching every detail about the world of Avid. Even Mr. Murch asked a question from the audience about transition corner display, a trim view that Mr. Cohen was demonstrating as part of his presentation.

There was then a short break, time for a bit of networking, then on to the main speaker, Walter Murch.

Mr. Murch stated that he felt that Avid had become complacent, resting on their laurels, and not listening to their customers. His high-profile choice to use FCP on Cold Mountain, an $80 million dollar film, was to energize the dialog in the professional editing application arena.

He then went onto a detailed Keynote presentation of his workflow on his previous film, Tetro, which he cut for Francis Ford Coppola. They Shot on the Sony HD F900 using Zeiss lenses. Mr. Murch had 165 hour of dailies, the equivalent of almost 900,000 feet of film. He edited the feature in FCP on location for 9 months in Buenos Aires. He used ProRes720 after testing the best codec for image quality and rendering speed. Later he showed photos of his cutting room and went into great detail about his personal workflow when cutting films. He likes to take notes during dailies to try and capture the "flame in a bottle" moment when you see something for the first time. Later, he does a meticulous breakdown of each take and uses frame grabs of key moments in takes in addition to a flow chart of the picture to help construct the story. He relies on a documentary approach of using found moments in the performance to build the narrative.

When Mr. Murch was brought into edit Wolfman for Universal, the project was already built inside the Avid and thus began his reacquaintance with the Avid. In his methodicical approach to things, he presented slides of his likes each system. Both Final Cut and Avid have their strengths and weaknesses but the competion between the two of them improves the tools for everyone.

Mr. Murch was a great sport as he stayed after his presentation to call out number in the "world famous" LAFCPUG raffle. He also handed out fortunes like those found in fortune cookies from an old cigar box. After the raffle, he stayed to autograph books.

There seemed to be a palpable shift of momentum from the feeling that FCP is taking over the world to one where it's important to know both systems to be a successful editor.
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November 19, 2009
  Sony Colorworks holds Open House
Posted By Barry Goch
Sony hosted an open house at Stage 6 on the Sony lot in Culver City, CA, to showcase their new DI facility, Colorworks. Sony chose to partner with FilmLight and installed 3 BaseLight Eight, two BaseLight Four, and two BaseLight Assists for their color grading systems.

Chris Cookson, president technologies Sony Pictures, said that they built out the 14,000- square-foot facility with an eye toward a full digital pipeline with a high-speed digital backbone and access to 3.5 petabytes of storage. In addition to BaseLight, they have also partnered with IBM to provide storage. The facility depends on BaseLight's Truelight color management system.

Bob Baily, senior vice president Colorworks, started our tour in their I/O room. The room features Arri film recorders, a Spirit 4K and the only DFT Scanity scanner in the US that can scan pin-registered 4K at 17fps. They also have a Northlight scanner.

Next we saw the conform rooms powered by the BaseLight Assists. They also have a MTI Control Dailies system as well as an Autodesk Smoke for VFX work and PF Clean for dust busting.

The highlight of the tour was joining John Persichetti in his color bay and screening a portion of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs in 3D. He explained that he first makes a color pass on the 2D version, then he grades the 3D version. He noted that the 3D imagery needs to be adjusted for the light loss of the glasses and that the image shifts slightly green which needs to be corrected. He also demonstrated the BaseLight's ability to adjust the interocular distance to affect the depth perception of the image.

Adjacent to Colorworks is the Sony sound department where we were treated to a 5.1 demo in the fantastic Kim Novak theater.

Sony has created a filmmaker friendly, fantastic facility on the historic Sony lot. Perhaps during your next DI, you might bump into Vanna White in the Commissary.


BaseLight 4


BaseLight 8


Storage


Senior VP, Bob Baily


President, technologies, Chris Cookson
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November 11, 2009
  A report from HD Expo
Posted By Barry Goch

I did a whirlwind tour of the HD Expo, which is rebranding itself as Createasphere. My main impression from the exhibits was the rise of the DSLR as a serious tool in production. I found many specialized products designed to make the cameras more filmmaker friendly, like the viewfinder and focus tool from Zacuto (see photo). The Zeiss booth also impressed me. They have developed prime lenses for both the Nikon and Cannon DSLR cameras (see photo).

I was very lucky indeed to catch a glimpse of the new Epic camera system from Red (see photos).

Overall, I found the mood to be much more positive and optimistic than previous events that I've attended this year.










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November 03, 2009
  Posting Lisbeth Scott's new music video - Part 1/Getting Started
Posted By Barry Goch

When I get a call from director Joseph Greco (Canvas, 2007) about a project, I always say yes. He is a true gentleman who has great respect for each person's role in a production. I've recently cut a music video for him and had a great experience, so when he offered me the next one, I was in.

The music video features Lisbeth Scott singing the title song from her new album, "Hope Is A Thing." Very timely…

She's been a featured vocalist in the Passion of the Christ, Narnia, Shrek 2, Transformers, and Munich.  Her songs have been chosen for both HBO's True Blood (a collaboration with composer Nathan Barr) and ABC's Brothers and Sisters.

To further up the ante, Joseph enlisted the services of two time Academy Award-winning cinematographer, Hakell Wexler.

Pre-production: Panasonic generously donated the use of their newest P2 camera, the 2700. They were also going to use a 1700 and a Cannon 5D Mark II. The P2 was going to be shot at 23.98 and the Cannon only does 30p (for now). The last video I did with Joe had a similar mixing of frame rates and I had already done my testing for that one. My solution is to import the 5D footage into FCP and do a batch export to the correct frame size and frame rate. For such a brute force approach, the footage comes out looking quite well. You can see for yourself on the last video that we did at:

http://true-blood.net/2009/09/02/exclusive-premiere-of-the-take-me-home-video/#tvg

Production: The one-day shoot took place in an old warehouse in the Boyle Heights section of Los Angeles. The on-set data technician, Wendy Walker, did a great job of managing all the media and making sure there were plenty of P2 cards for the day. Ah, modern production, tapeless — with it's joys and challenges.

Post: Here's where I start doing the heavy lifting. I got an external Firewire drive with all the footage on it. The first thing I did was to transcode the 5D footage to match the rest of the P2 media. That took a few hours on my trusty first generation black Macbook. I then logged and transferred the P2 media using the log and transfer function in FCP. Once all the media was prepped and in the project, I started syncing all the takes. Eric, our sound man, added a three-ping tone countdown to the on-set playback. I was able to quickly match up the full takes, or partial takes from the beginning of the song. The fun part is syncing up the pick-up takes which all are matched to the waveform of the final song mix.

I like to lay out all the tracks of the performance in sync on the timeline and go section-by-section, verse-by-verse and choose the best performance for each bit. I then watch each sequence to make sure the cut works and move forward down the timeline until I'm all the way through the song. I then play the entire timeline to get a feel for the piece and start making adjustments to the cut. Only when I'm happy with the cut, will I then post my first cut for the director to view and get notes.

Next up: Part Two, going from rough cut to final approval.

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November 02, 2009
  Hulking storage, metadata hash, big pipes and Terabyte cameras
Posted By Tom Coughlin
In general increasing storage capacity and performance as well as faster networks and processing power are enabling richer content and the long term storage of content. At the same time many media and entertainment professionals are not making sure that their content is being protected for the long term. Revenues expected for digital storage, including services for the professional media and entertainment market could exceed $10 B by 2014.

For more information on these trends please see the 2009 SMPTE conference paper, 2009 Survey of Digital Storage in Professional Media and Entertainment, by Thomas M. Coughlin. More information on the annual report on digital storage for professional media and entertainment can be found on the tech papers page of www.tomcoughlin.com.

In the same session, Oliver Morgan from Metaglue Corp. gave an interesting talk about using the MXF wrapper to contain content quality control data that he called “self-propelled data” using hashing algorithms to tie the metadata to the content essence that offers a scalable architecture within metadata for event tracks for time-dependent metadata as well as multi-track files. He said that this hashing could use the CRC-32 Castagnoli algorithm used by iSCSI. This algorithm requires low compute costs making it fairly easy to implement. The QC data can be used in AS02 and AS03 files and can include “Generation UID” that allows tracking who makes changes in the essence and when those changes are made. An interesting comment that he made is that there is an increasing need for partial restore of content, making segmented hashing very useful.

There was a entire session today with presentations focused on 3 Gbps infrastructure used in new production facilities. Christopher Bauer from ABC discussed the difficulties and opportunities of installing a fiber optic HD central switching facility supporting 3 Gbps data routing. He showed fascinating pictures of the differences including showing that a single fiber optic connection could replace up to 96 copper connections used previously. Other papers in this session discussed Harris’s 3 Gbps infrastructure to support 1080p and 3D production work. Another paper from Aspera discussed internet (cloud) based reliable content delivery for file-based transfers comparing commercially available as well as academic (laboratory) transport schemes in term of bandwidth utilization, network efficiency and transfer time. Yesterday I wrote of developments expected soon for 40 Gbps Ethernet transport—subjects for the 2010 SMPTE conference!

As in many such events it is possible to learn as much outside the sessions chatting with knowledgeable attendees as in the sessions themselves. In one of these conversations with a member of a well-known professional video camera manufacturer I found some interesting developments in data capture. These cameras run over $200k each, without lenses and there are maybe 300-400 units total worldwide. Most of these are rented as needed vs. owned by a facility. True 4k cameras are going to be available soon and 8k cameras may be available in the next few years to support Ultra-HD formats. The conversion to Ultra-HD may take about 10 years, which is significantly faster than the HD conversion due to the increased rate of change that current digital facilities offer. Perhaps the biggest issue in the introduction of new technology will be amortization of current investments. One interesting observation is that although currently digital tape is the most common high-end camera recording media, solid state storage devices with storage capacities as high as 1 TB and very fast data rates may soon be available making higher resolution content capture and off-loading even easier.

40 Gb Ethernet pipes in production facilities and 1 TB solid state cameras, it seems that the professional media and entertainment market will be making and using more content capacity than ever before. Storing, distributing, finding and using that content will demand increasing capabilities in digital storage. Looks like there are a lot of new factors to include in the next survey (and report) on digital storage in professional media and entertainment!
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