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January 29, 2013
  Sci-Tech Awards 2013 award-winners
Posted By Daniel Restuccio
By Daniel Restuccio

BEVERLY HILLS - In early January, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the winners of the 2012 Scientific and Technical Achievement awards, which will be presented at the Beverly Hills Hotel on February 9. The nine awards, culled from over 70 submissions, include five software applications, one algorithm, one mechanical device, one computer controlled battery and an Oscar for Cook lenses.

The Sci-Tech awards, first presented at the Fourth Academy Awards (1930-31), are given for significant inventions used to make motion pictures. "In its way," says Richard Edlund, chairman of the Sci-Tech committee, "this is as creative as the other wing." Referring to the Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements.

Over 800 requests for entries went out in May of last year. "Rich Miller, the awards administrator, mails letters to the studios, companies and individuals within the United States and all over the world requesting information on technical achievements," says Edlund (pictured, below).

The deadline was July 13. All the submissions are collected and published as an online version that's index-able, a tablet device version and a printed version that's "issued in this big, thick bible that's like about two and a half, three inches thick," notes Edlund.  Two weeks later these applications are evaluated by a 10- to 12-member steering committee. They cull the entries down to the substantial inventions and forward their recommendations to the main committee.  

The main scientific and technical awards committee is comprised of 45 engineers and scientists. Just about every walk of engineering and science is represented there, says Edlund.  "We have software people, sound people, camera people, lab people, projection, all the different areas of technology that make up the means to make movies."

The main committee meets and reviews each entry one by one. Sometimes either the main committee or the steering committee will say, "We think that maybe this one is like on the teetering on the edge of rejection." Sometimes this is because the entry not a "mature technology". "It hasn't seen enough weather."

From the main committee surrogate committees of six or seven are assigned to investigate a particular item in more depth. Each surrogate committee has a chair that writes up the surrogate report and then submits that to the main committee.

Another call goes out in August to identify technology similar to the applications that are being considered for awards. These "challenges" were accepted from August 17- 28, 2012.

The surrogate reports are due in November 8. Then on November 29, the steering committee meets and reviews those reports. That segues into the main committee meeting where the winners are finalized. On December 4, the awards recommendations are presented for approval to to the Board of Governors. Award winners are notified by phone soon after that.

"It's hard to calculate," says Edlund, all the hundreds of hours of volunteer time that gets put into this process." Just the DITs (Digital Information Technology) subcommittee alone "they spend months, hour and hours and hours. They research where it came from, what it leaned on its way to existence." Everyone on the committee, he says, puts in that kind of time.

Edlund notes the trend with the Sci-Tech Awards over the past few years is that more digital technology is being recognized.  With analog moviemaking, "There was a different ingenuity required: high-speed photography, miniatures, those kinds of things were necessary in order to trick the audience into believing what you wanted them to believe and seeing.  However things "got to the point where we kept bucking our head against the same wall and there were certain things that we just didn't even approach."

"In the digital world now, not only can you break time down into 24 still frames a second, but we can also break each frame into millions of addressable pixels which gives us an almost God-like capability.  Truly, virtually everything is possible nowadays."
The nine Academy Awards for scientific and technical achievements will be bestowed on the following 25 recipients:

- To J.P. Lewis, Matt Cordner and Nickson Fong for the invention and publication of the Pose Space Deformation technique.

Pose Space Deformation (PSD) introduced the use of novel sparse data interpolation techniques to the task of shape interpolation. The controllability and ease of achieving artistic intent have led to PSD being a foundational technique in the creation of computer-generated characters.
- To Lawrence Kesteloot, Drew Olbrich and Daniel Wexler for the creation of the Light system for computer graphics lighting at PDI/DreamWorks.

Virtually unchanged from its original incarnation over 15 years ago, Light is still in continuous use due to its emphasis on interactive responsiveness, final-quality interactive render preview, scalable architecture and powerful user-configurable spreadsheet interface.

- To Steve LaVietes, Brian Hall and Jeremy Selan for the creation of the Katana computer graphics scene management and lighting software at Sony Pictures Imageworks.

Katana's unique design, featuring a deferred evaluation procedural node-graph, provides a highly efficient lighting and rendering workflow. It allows artists to non-destructively edit scenes too complex to fit into computer memory, at scales ranging from a single object up to an entire detailed city.

- To Theodore Kim, Nils Thuerey, Markus Gross and Doug James for the invention, publication and dissemination of Wavelet Turbulence software.
This technique allowed for fast, art-directable creation of highly detailed gas simulation, making it easier for the artist to control the appearance these effects in the final image.

- To Richard Mall for the design and development of the Matthews Max Menace Arm.

Highly sophisticated and well-engineered, the Max Menace Arm is a safe and adjustable device that allows rapid, precise positioning of lighting fixtures, cameras or accessories. On-set or on location, this compact and highly portable structure is often used where access is limited due to restrictions on attaching equipment to existing surfaces.

- To Simon Clutterbuck, James Jacobs and Dr. Richard Dorling for the development of the Tissue Physically-Based Character Simulation Framework.
This framework faithfully and robustly simulates the effects of anatomical structures underlying a character's skin. The resulting dynamic and secondary motions provide a new level of realism to computer-generated creatures.

- To Dr. Philip McLauchlan, Allan Jaenicke, John-Paul Smith and Ross Shain for the creation of the Mocha planar tracking and rotoscoping software at Imagineer Systems Ltd.

Mocha provides robust planar-tracking even when there are no clearly defined points in the image. Its effectiveness, ease of use, and ability to exchange rotoscoping data with other image processing tools have resulted in widespread adoption of the software in the visual effects industry.
To Joe Murtha, William Frederick and Jim Markland of Anton/Bauer, Inc. for the design and creation of the CINE VCLX Portable Power System.

The Cince VCLX provides extended run-times and flexibility, allowing users to power cameras and other supplementary equipment required for production. This high-capacity battery system is also matched to the high-demand, always-on digital cinema cameras.

- To Cooke Optics Limited for their continuing innovation in the design, development and manufacture of advanced camera lenses that have helped define the look of motion pictures over the last century.

Since their first series of motion picture lenses, Cooke Optics has continued to create optical innovations decade after decade. Producing what is commonly referred to as the "Cooke Look," these lenses have often been the lens of choice for creative cinematographers worldwide.

Visual effects supervisor Bill Taylor will be awarded the John A. Bonner Medal of Commendation. Taylor's visual effects credits include such films as "Lawless," "Public Enemies," "Milk" and "Bruce Almighty."

The John A. Bonner Medal is named in honor of the late director of special projects at Warner Hollywood Studios. It's awarded for outstanding service and dedication in upholding the high standards of the motion picture academy.

Portions of the Scientific and Technical Awards presentations will be included in the Academy Awards broadcast on Feb. 24.

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January 28, 2013
  Is Final Cut Pro X ready for professional use?
Posted By Larry Jordan
By Larry Jordan

Of all the questions I get each day, this is the most popular:  "When will Final Cut Pro X be ready for professional use?"

Sigh...  Right now! Final Cut Pro X is ready for professional use today. Editors have been making money with FCP X since the first week it shipped.  But this is asking the wrong question.  

A much better question is: "Why should I consider using Final Cut Pro X?" This blog is designed to help you answer that question, from my perspective as a trainer, editor, and businessman.

The Final Cut Pro X launch was not one of Apple's best. In the launch, Apple introduced Final Cut Pro X, and killed the entire Final Cut Studio suite and Final Cut Server.

Normally, when new versions come out, old versions die. But, in this case, there were three missing elements:

* FCP X could not read FCP 7 files, so there was no upgrade path for current FCP 7 projects
* There was not feature parity between FCP X and FCP 7
* Not all the software in Final Cut Studio was replaced, Soundtrack Pro, DVD Studio Pro, and Color were gone.

The reaction was swift, bitter, and emotional; and instantly colored everyone's perception of Final Cut Pro X.

So, in thinking about Final Cut Pro X today, you need to separate in your mind your reactions to the launch from your perception of the product.

Personally, I think the launch was terrible, but that FCP X is quite good.

One of the promises Apple made at the launch of Final Cut Pro X was that they would be updating it rapidly.  In fact, the software foundation of FCP X made these updates easier and faster to implement.

NOTE: One of the reasons Apple moved FCP X to the Mac App Store, at least initially, was that they wanted to take advantage of the upgrade mechanism built into the store.

In the year and a half since the launch, Apple has released seven updates for Final Cut; a remarkable record for any company. All updates brought bug fixes, along with a variety of new features. (The following list of highlights comes from Wikipedia -

10.0.1 added XML and SAN support (Sept. 20, 2011)
10.0.2 added changing time on Compound Clips (Nov. 16, 2011)
10.0.3 added major new features like multicam, video monitoring, improved keying, improved PSD import, media relinking and much more (Jan. 31, 2012)
10.0.4 improved multicam syncing and many bug fixes (April 10, 2012)
10.0.5 added support for retina displays (June 11, 2012)
10.0.6 added major new features like dual monitors, native RedCode RAW support, audio channel editing, persistent ranges, and MANY more (Oct. 23, 2012)
10.0.7 improved stability and cleaned up bugs (Dec. 6, 2012)

By my very approximate count, Apple has added more than three DOZEN significant new features to Final Cut since it's release.

Final Cut Pro X is not the same product it was when it was released.


Yes. However it takes a utility from Intelligent Assistance to do so.

* 7toX converts Final Cut Pro 7 XML into a form that can be imported into Final Cut Pro X.

* Xto7 converts the XML export of a Final Cut Pro X Project (but not an Event) into a form that can be imported into Final Cut Pro 7.

The process is similar to moving an FCP 7 project into Adobe Premiere Pro CS6:

* Export an XML file from FCP 7
* Convert the XML file into something FCP X can read
* Import the converted file into FCP X

Just as with moving files between FCP 7, Premiere, or Avid (using the tools from Automatic Duck), some things won't transfer to FCP X. Edits and media transfer almost perfectly. Some effects and retiming do not; check the Intelligent Assistance website - - for all the details.

NOTE: It could be argued that this conversion utility should have been available at launch. I would agree. However, these conversion utilities needed XML to work, which wasn't available until later. The important thing is that these conversion utilities are available now.

Well, you can believe that if you want, in the same way that a Ferrari is simply a super-charged VW Beetle.  They both have four wheels and an engine, but the results are totally different.

Just as you cannot say that since a Ferrari and a Bug are both cars, therefore they must do the same thing, you can not say that because iMovie and Final Cut look similar, they must BE similar.

NOTE: By the way, have you compared the performance differences between iMovie and FCP X?  My golly, iMovie is SLOW!!!

Yes, Final Cut Pro X imports iMovie events and projects. (On the other hand, with 50 million iMovie users out there, this was not a bad decision, as FCP 7 couldn't import iMovie at all.)

Yes, FCP X and iMovie have a similar look to the interface. (On the other hand, so do all the applications in the Adobe Creative Suite, or the applications in Final Cut Studio 3.)

Don't judge the book by its cover. The question is not how it looks, but whether it allows you to get your work done.

Yes. In fact the development of FCP 7 plug-ins has essentially stopped. This is for three main reasons:

* FCP 7 is no longer sold by Apple, which means the installed base is not growing.

* FCP 7 is a 32-bit application, which limits the amount of RAM and processing power a new plug-in could use

* Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 and Final Cut Pro X are seen as the new sales opportunities for developers

Here are just some of the companies that have released new plug-ins for Final Cut Pro X:

* Boris FX
* New Blue FX
* CrumplePop
* BlockPops
* Ripple Training
* GenArts
* Red Giant
* Digital Heaven
* FX Factory
* Stupid Raisins
* PixelFilm Studios
* Toolfarm
* idustrial Revolution

And that is only a partial list. New plug-ins are announced every day.

One of the things I'm struck by is the number of new companies that are migrating to the platform and creating plug-ins for FCP X.

Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 is a great application. It is fast, cross-platform, 64-bit, supports many GPUs and multiple processors and easily imports XML files from Final Cut Pro 7.

Adobe has done an amazing job bringing this application into the modern day. I enjoy editing on it and creating training for it. However, while there are some things that Premiere does better than FCP X, there are also some things that Final Cut Pro X does better than Premiere.

This gets to the crux of my argument: Buy the tool that best meets the needs of your project.  (I'll have more on that in a few paragraphs.)

Well, that depends. This question moves the issue from picking the right software into areas of personal expression and politics. Only you know how to answer this question for yourself.
Final Cut Pro X is not essential to Apple's revenues; that's not why Apple developed it. They created it to set their direction for video editing in the future.
If you want to make a political statement, feel free. But don't hide behind condemning the software when there are other reasons underlying your decision.

There's only one reason to buy any software: because it can enable you to do things faster, better, or more simply than other software for the same, or similar, price.

Let's back into this a bit, by looking at other software first.

If you are happy with your current FCP 7 system, you don't need to upgrade. Keep on using FCP 7. However, that also means that you can't upgrade your OS either, and can't take advantage of future software or hardware improvements.

I would recommend editing all current Final Cut Pro 7 projects on Final Cut Pro 7.  Stay with the system you know for an existing project, unless, for other reasons, you are forced to move.

Avid Media Composer with Isis is probably the best choice if you are doing feature films, reality shows with thousands of hours of media, or workgroup editing,
Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 also has many benefits:
* The interface is very, very familiar to FCP 7 editors
* Full 64-bit, GPU, and multiprocessor support
* It's really fast with the right GPU
* Full support of capture from tape
* The ability to easily import an FCP 7 XML file
* Tight integration with After Effects and Photoshop
* Tight integration with Encore to create DVDs

However, Final Cut Pro X has many benefits as well:

* Simplicity of the interface
* Full 64-bit, GPU, and multiprocessor support
* It's really, really fast on all Macs
* Ingesting, reviewing and archiving tapeless media
* Precision trimming; everything we could do in FCP 7 we can do in FCP X, plus the Precision Editor makes trimming even easier.
* Multicam editing, though Adobe Premiere CS6 is a solid second choice
* Chroma-key
* Color-correction and video scopes within the NLE; DaVinci Resolve is a better choice when using a stand-alone color grading application

The biggest weakness in FCP X, for me, is audio mixing. Here, FCP X is almost as bad as FCP 7, though with better audio filters. Currently, it is cumbersome to move projects out of FCP X into either Adobe Audition or ProTools for mixing.

Yes, absolutely. However, not for the reasons you think. If you are a died-in-the-wool FCP 7 editor and just don't want to learn something new, then move to Adobe Premiere Pro CS6.

Premiere has speed, power, and mimics the keyboard shortcuts and interface of Final Cut Pro 7. Adobe makes a very good product that is fast and fun to use.

However, with each passing day, FCP 7 editors are not increasing in number. New kids are tackling video for the first time.

Here, I think, FCP X has an advantage. I did a test this semester at the class I teach at USC in Los Angeles. I decided to teach FCP X to non-film students, who just wanted to learn how to do video editing.  I discovered that I could make them productive in about one-quarter the time it would have taken me in either FCP 7 or Premiere Pro CS6.

From a standing start and no prior knowledge, they were knowledgeably editing video and outputting in 90 minutes. It would take me far longer to achieve the same results with FCP 7 or Premiere.

In terms of interface, Final Cut Pro X is the wave of the future, because it appeals to people who are new to editing.

One of the by-products of the "NLE Religious Wars," earlier in this decade, was that we defined ourselves by the tools we used.  We would say we were a "Final Cut editor," or an "Avid editor." Fist-fights would then ensue. (I plead guilty to supporting this dichotomy for many years, as I enjoyed poking fun at Avid editors.)

But, as the recession hit, I realized how misguided this was, because it costs us clients and money. We are not technologists, we are storytellers who use technology.

Each of us is an editor who loves to tell stories using pictures. We hire a carpenter not because they own a particular brand of hammer, but because they can build us a house that looks beautiful.

We need to define ourselves by the results we create for our clients, not the tools we use to create them.  

This isn't a choice of "either/or." We are awash in excellent editing tools from Apple, Adobe, Avid, and others. This is truly a time when there are no bad choices.

Which is what we have, we have choices. I choose to use Final Cut Pro X as one of my major editing tools.

When it comes to my business, I am very cautious. I will learn and train on anything, but when it comes to the systems my business needs to make money and pay the rent, I change slowly and carefully.

I need to see a clear benefit before adopting a new tool.  With Final Cut Pro X I can improve my workflow, do more work in less time, and meet my standards for quality.

Final Cut Pro X allows me to make money, and keep clients happy, which is the essence of professional use.

As always, I am interested in what you think.

= = =

Larry Jordan is a producer, director, editor, author, and Apple Certified Trainer with more than 35 year's experience. Based in Los Angeles, he's a member of the Directors Guild of America and the Producers Guild of America. Visit his website at

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January 14, 2013
  Editing with Apple's new iMacs
Posted By Larry Jordan
By Larry Jordan

OK. I'm impressed!
Last November, the day they went on sale, I ordered a new 27-inch iMac to replace my main editing system.

The new unit arrived the end of December and, as these things tend to work out, as soon as I unpacked it, I needed to give it to our talented production assistant to do some Web database work for the last two weeks. (First, it's a tribute to the admiration I hold her in that she was even able to TOUCH this system and, second, I felt like she was using a Ferrari to ferry kids to and from school.)

Finally, she went back to school. Now it was my turn. While I haven't done a ton of work with it - yet - I want to share what I've learned.

This thing is fast! It loads fast. It runs smoothly. It renders quickly. Export is faster than realtime. The screen is clear and easy to read. And it has speed to burn.


I purchased a 27-inch iMac with:
* 34GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7
* 16GB RAM
* 1TB Fusion Drieve
* NVidia GeForce CTX 675MX  graphics processor
* 1GB video RAM
* Wired Apple Mouse
* Wired Apple Keyboard

I was especially intrigued with how the Apple Fusion drive would work. The Fusion drive combines the speed of a Solid State Drive (SSD) with the storage capacity of a standard hard disk (often called "spinning media"). I knew that I would be getting external storage, so I didn't get the largest Fusion drive, as I didn't see the benefit of the extra storage on the internal drive.

Also, I am not a fan of wireless keyboards or mice, especially for desktop systems. If something goes wrong with the system, you often need a wired keyboard or mouse to fix it. I found the wired keyboard and mouse worked great.

I began my tests by editing a one-hour ProRes 422 project using Final Cut Pro X. Single-stream video, dual-channel audio running at about 15 MB/sec. (This is about five times the data transfer of a single AVCHD video stream.)

NOTE:  Adobe does not currently support the GPU in the new iMacs. However, there is a workaround that allows you to turn on the GPU in a non-supported manner. I'll be writing about that, and providing a look at Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 running on this new system shortly.

To get started, I did a quick comparison. Launching Final Cut Pro X on my 2010 MacBook Pro 4,1 took 24 seconds. Launching FCP X on my new iMac took four seconds. SIX TIMES faster!

According to Apple, "The Fusion drive combines the high storage capacity of a traditional hard drive with the high performance of flash storage. With a Fusion Drive in your iMac, disk-intensive tasks in Final Cut Pro X, such as importing and optimizing media, are faster and more efficient."
A Fusion drive "learns" what files are used most often and moves them from the spinning hard drive to the SSD. This means that it delivers the best performance to the files you use the most often. (As a sidelight, with today's technology, SSDs are significantly faster than spinning media, in fact, SSDs are slightly faster at reading (playing back) data than writing (recording).)

So what does this mean? Last week, I was at the Storage Visions conference in Las Vegas talking with a variety of storage and system developers trying to better understand SSDs.

NOTE: There is an inverse relationship between performance and speed. The faster a storage device is, the less data it holds for the same amount of money. 7200 RPM drives deliver data more slowly than a 15,000 RPM drive, but the 7200 RPM drive holds more data. SSDs are faster than spinning hard drives but, for the same amount of money, spinning hard drives hold more data.

The Fusion drive does not cache files; that is, make a copy of the file from the hard drive and store it on the SSD. Instead, the file is stored either on the hard disk or on the SSD, but not both. Files you use the most are stored on the SSD to provide the fastest performance.

According to the Blackmagic Design Disk Speed Test, which is available in the Mac App Store, the speed of the Fusion drive measures 323.1MB writing, and 411.3 reading. Whew! Truly fast!!

However, even though the Fusion drive is amazingly speedy, I don't recommend it for storing your media. This is because you'll get the best performance from this drive when you are accessing the same files over and over - such as the operating system and applications. Media files are generally played once, and they are done. Constantly playing different files, or rendering different portions of the timeline does not benefit from the speed an SSD can provide to the same extent.

SSD drives work the best when accessing the same files - like databases, or applications - or when working with lots of smaller files.

When editing video, a better option is to attach a Thunderbolt RAID as your media drive, which is what I did. I'm using the G-Technology G-RAID, which is a two-drive RAID-0.

When I measured the speed of the G-RAID using the Blackmagic Disk Speed Test, it was slower than the Fusion drive, measuring 250.2MB/second writing and 260.2MB/second reading. But the G-Technology RAID provided far more storage: 4TB vs. 1TB in the Fusion drive. (As a side-note, the G-RAID has a maximum capacity of 8TB, while the Fusion drive tops out at 4GB.)

NOTE: RAID-0 drives don't provide any data redundancy. If you lose either drive, you lose all your data. For editors needing more storage or even faster performance, I recommend using one of the Promise Pegasus RAIDs, which provide RAID 5-level data redundancy and speeds more than double that of the G-Technology RAID.

To verify the findings of the Blackmagic test, I also measured the speed of the G-RAID using the AJA System Test utility, available from the AJA website (, illustrating that regardless of the files sizes involved, the speed of the G-RAID is pretty consistent at 260MB/second for both reads and writes.

NOTE: By way of comparison, a FireWire 800 RAID tops out between 85-90MB/second.

The Fusion drive automatically transfers files between the hard disk and the SSD. You don't need to do anything, the operating system decides what to put where.

When working with very large files that exceed the free space on the SSD, you may experience stuttering playback with high-resolution video. (This is one of the main reasons I recommend using an external Thunderbolt drive for media storage.)
Thunderbolt RAIDs, depending upon how they are configured, can provide faster throughput and greater storage capacity than a Fusion drive. This is especially important for multicam work.

In addition to the Fusion drive, the other big speed boost in the iMac comes from an improved graphics card.

The CPU processes instructions one after the other - serially. The GPU processes multiple instructions at once - parallel. Parallel is always faster and ideally suited to a variety of video tasks.
All effects in Final Cut Pro X are Motion projects, so using effects in FCP X or Motion benefit from using the GPU. Exporting that requires transcoding (like converting ProRes into H.264 for Web viewing) will be faster. Other operations such as color grading, Ken Burns Effects, and speed changes also benefit because they use the GPU for realtime playback and background rendering.

For my system, I only got 1GB of video RAM (VRAM). I learned from Apple that more VRAM means faster rendering, exporting and better realtime performance.

The CPU and RAM can't be ignored, but we already know how these work. My system has a Quad-core 3.4GHz Intel i7 CPU and 16GB of RAM.

During normal editing operations, I was cruising along using 12-15 percent of total CPU cycles. This allows plenty of overhead when the editing gets more challenging - say with multicam work.
RAM usage, when running Final Cut Pro X, hovered around 2GB.

NOTE: Apple tells me that ProRes (which uses I-frame compression) uses less RAM than long-GOP video codecs like HDV, AVCHD or XDCAM EX.

This proves a point I've been making in my classes and webinars recently: virtually every Mac shipping today is fast enough to edit video; even 2K or 4K images. The real test is the graphics processing unit (GPU) and the speed of your storage system.

I got the 27-inch iMac because I wanted the larger monitor size. It truly makes a difference when watching images. I can see a 720p image at 100 percent size and still have plenty of room for the Event Browser and Timeline.

I had a spare 24-inch Apple monitor sitting around doing nothing, so I plugged it in. Works great. Now I can edit projects using one or two monitors. This isn't necessary, but it sure impresses clients!

NOTE: A two-monitor set-up would be especially helpful if you are editing 1080p material, or larger, as you could display the Viewer to your largest monitor and view your image at 100 percent size. All my current work is shot for the web at 720p, so the extra monitor is nice, but not necessary. I principally use it to display the Event Browser.

Apple makes a point of highlighting the reduced reflections of the screen. I didn't notice a big difference between the new monitor and my older 24-inch monitor. Video looked great, text was totally readable and the reflections in the glass didn't bother me because I made a point to position the screen to minimize reflections.

I did two quick Multicam tests. The first was a six-camera XDCAM-EX shoot and edited using the XDCAM EX video format natively. (You need to install the XDCAM drivers by downloading Sony's XDCAM Transfer software - a 30MB download.)

When editing multicam, be sure to set Final Cut Pro X > Preferences > Playback to Better Performance to avoid dropped frames. Also, I recommend checking all three dropped frame indicators in that preference window to make sure you aren't experiencing hard drive problems.

Six streams of XDCAM EX video took 12 percent of my CPU and 38 MB/second of data during playback. However, XDCAM EX uses MPEG-2 as its compression codec, and can become taxing on your system as the stream count rises. For example, when editing the XDCAM EX footage natively, I could easily edit six streams of video. However, I got a few dropped frame warnings when I quickly jumped around in the Timeline, or cut too quickly. The dropped frame warnings were not serious, but I wanted to see if I could eliminate them.

So, I did a second test by converting all six video streams to ProRes 422.This required FCP X to pull about 105 MB/sec from the G-RAID during the edit.

However, the CPU load was well less than 20 percent and FCP X used less than 3GB of RAM.
When using ProRes 422, no matter how fast I cut, or how much I jumped around inside the Timeline, I did not get a single dropped frame error.

NOTE: Using this many streams of ProRes requires a Thunderbolt drive. FireWire speeds top out at 85MB/second, which is not fast enough to edit more than four streams of ProRes 422 video. There is a serious performance benefit to optimizing media when editing multicam projects.

The performance of this iMac system makes me want to shoot a project with 10-12 cameras just to watch FCP X edit it.

Frankly, this 27-inch iMac blows the doors off my MacPro. It edits single camera projects easily. Its ability to edit multicam projects is limited only by the speed of your storage - with the caveat that optimizing media into ProRes is strongly encouraged.

If you are looking for a system that can handle whatever video format you throw at it, I am VERY impressed with this new iMac.

Larry Jordan is a producer, director, editor, author, and Apple Certified Trainer with more than 35 year's experience. Based in Los Angeles, he's a member of the Directors Guild of America and the Producers Guild of America. Visit his website at

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January 11, 2013
  Even more random thoughts from CES
Posted By Randall Dark
By Randall Dark
DARKmania Productions

I am now at the Idyllwild Film Festival in California where I will be screening my new Feature Documentary "Seadrift vs The Big Guy" Sunday Morning at the Rustic Cinema. Here is the Trailer:

Just because I left Las Vegas doesn't mean I am done talking about CES. Here are some more thoughts/photos from the show.

The biggest highlight so far for me...

I got to spend some time with the team from Harman International in the recording studio at the Palms with Lyle and Nathaniel Kunkel who mixes for Lyle.

I was with Lyle when he recently recorded "The Girl With The Holiday Smile" during his "Release Me" recording session, so  when I heard the  song again  in the Three-Dimensional Surround Experience based on the QuantumLogic technology I was truly amazed. Well done Harman. Great song Lyle. I am pictured next to Lyle (with glasses).

Here are some pictures of things that just didn't hit home with me.

Check out this picture, right. Although I love the elegance of the design, I wonder why would I want a curved 3D OLED TV?

This last photo below is not a picture of a giant hockey puck, but a prototype of the Sony 4K Media Player.

Randall Dark and/or his companies have been inv
olved in over 3,000 HD projects including feature films, documentaries, commercials, music videos, corporate presentations, product launches and live events.

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January 10, 2013
  CES: more random thoughts
Posted By Randall Dark
By Randall Dark

LAS VEGAS - I am still in Vegas, and I am still filing bits and pieces from the CES show floor for Post Magazine.

As you all know, 4K shooting, editing and protection masters all require lots of storage, so I decided to visit the LaCie booth. Their 5Big Thunderbolt series is worth taking a look at.

Kimberly Myers, Worldwide PR manager LaCie, and Jeff McAdams, from my own, DARKmania ( are pictured.

I also took a bit of time to check out what I like to think of as "Pong on Steroids."

For those who love video games, we all remember the original Pong.
So when I came across the L551V-CMT32 Cyber Touch in the Mitsubishi Electric booth, I had to play. It is still great fun!

Stay tuned for more bits and pieces from the show.

Randall Dark and/or his companies have been involved in over 3000 HD projects including feature films, documentaries, commercials, music videos, corporate presentations, product launches and live events.

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January 10, 2013
  2160p: The Dawn of a New Format?
Posted By Elizabeth Kiehner
By Elizabeth Kiehner

LAS VEGAS - Here at the CES show, there was no shortage of dazzling monitors and displays, but as a cord-cutter who consumes a vast inventory of media on my computer and tablet devices, I wonder who is purchasing these screens?  Last year China saw a 25 percent increase in sales of 3D-TVs that require glasses, currently making them the largest market for 3D in the world.  

This year, 4K TVs were the big trend at CES but there is still very little native 4K content out there. Ultra-D 4K glasses-free 3D technology by Stream TV Networks aims to change that through their technology which uses a clever algorithm to up-res existing 1080p content. In fact, Ultra-D claims to accept any source content and make it look great on a 4K TV, or a laptop or tablet with Retina display.  As of right now, there is in fact very little content that takes advantage of the Retina display, even through device manufactures are pushing this as a reason to upgrade... but perhaps that is about to change. 

At the convention Panasonic also debuted their own prototype 4K OLED screen, while Sony rolled out their own 4K screens in more accessible price ranges than the previously announced 84-inch TV with a $25,000 price-tag and the limitations of pre-loaded content. In addition to the TV systems, Sony plans to remaster Blu-ray materials into a 4K friendly format, which would exponentially increase the amount of available content.

Those who buy into Stream TV won't have to wait for remastered Blu-ray content from Sony. Later this year Stream TV Networks will release their SeeCube 4K Box, which will play available Blu-ray, sync up with your iTunes library, Xbox, iPad or iPhone. For content owners and distributors, they will release a SeeCube server promising to be the fastest way to distribute additional 2160p content. With major brands and new industry players both looking to create, format and distribute 2160p content to the home viewer, the question now is will 2160p become the new norm? Will consumers appreciate the vivid, enhanced media experience here in the US, the way they have embraced Blu-ray, or will this be another big hit in China?

Elizabeth Kiehner is principal/executive producer at New York City's Thornberg & Forester (, a design and digital production studio.

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January 09, 2013
  Random Thoughts from CES
Posted By Randall Dark
By Randall Dark

LAS VEGAS - Filmmaker Randall Dark (@RandallPDark) is at the CES show this week walking the floor. He sent us a few things of interest.

Over the past three years, HD 3D was the hot topic but how quickly things change. Although there were a number of impressive 3D displays, it just didn't have the same sort of buzz this year. The new buzz is 4k but more on that later.

Met with Rick Loughery of Go Pro and got a close up demo of the Hero3 camera. Followers of 1 and 2 can now look forward to using a smaller version that has a Wi-Fi built in with remote and app compatibility. Worth taking a look at.....

Started my day yesterday bright and early with a VIP invite to the Opening Keynote for Panasonic by none other than Kazuhiro Tsuga. This event was kicked off first by Gary Shapiro, who has guided CEA for many years. It was obvious, this very smart man, has not lost in enthusiasm for the Consumer Electronic Show. He is a very smart man.

The overall event was very well produced and I learned what to expect from Panasonic this and the coming years. However, the highlight for me was when president Tsuga introduced us to the new 4K organic light emitting diode TV. WAY COOL and I want one.

Left is a shot of the ribbon cutting after the Keynote.
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January 02, 2013
  2012 - Year in Review
Posted By Larry Jordan
By Larry Jordan

The end of a year, and start of a new one, is a good time to look back and reflect on changes over the last 12 months, which is how this blog starts.
I also invited users to share their thoughts on the last year. So, here is a look back at 2012 both from my perspective and from the point of view of the folks in the trenches.

NOTE: In the truth-in-advertising department, I edited many of the reader comments for spelling, length, and clarity.

To me, 2012 was a year where our industry continued to struggle under tremendous pressure in three areas: business, technology, and jobs.

The biggest business challenges in 2012 were the twin hammers of more competition creating smaller budgets. From my perspective, this translated into five business trends emerging over the last year:

▪    Barriers to entry continued to drop, which increased competition for available jobs, which meant jobs pay less
▪    Shrinking budgets are affecting all of us
▪    Being an early-adopter does not translate into increased revenue
▪    Deadlines are shorter and staff needs to be smaller
▪    Compared to phones and tablets, media production is a very niche market

One of the problems of being a niche market is that it is very hard for vendors to keep prices low with limited volume, yet it is very hard for filmmakers to pay high prices when budgets are getting squeezed.
This is quickly shifting the mantra from "higher quality is better," to "the quality is good enough."

Here, the key trend that I saw was that technology is now changing faster than most editors can afford to upgrade to it. This caused many to continue using last year's technology and delay making new purchases because there is not enough perceived value in the new offerings; especially when combined with enormous budget pressure to control costs.
So, lots of cool stuff gets announced, but adoption rates are slow to take off.

▪    Hardware and technology are evolving faster than budgets can support upgrades, which means many editors are delaying purchasing new gear
▪    Storage capacity and speed became more important than computer speed
▪    GPUs took over the heavy-lifting in video editing
▪    Camera codecs continued to proliferate and caused no end of confusion and frustration
▪    Software prices are plummeting
▪    The Cloud is here with reasonable benefits for production. The Cloud may be here for post production, but the benefits are still limited, insecure, and over-stated.
▪    There are still no affordable long-term archiving solutions for small to medium production houses and editors

A sidelight of this is that product reviews and evaluations from trusted sources will become increasingly important.

▪    Jobs are starting to appear again, though the competition will be greater for them
▪    Editors are increasingly asked to "do it all"
▪    Editors are less likely to define themselves by the tools they use

What all this means is that there is more work, with smaller budgets, being spread between more people. I expect those pressures to continue into 2013.
As editors, this means we need to keep our skills sharp, our costs low, and carefully evaluate every purchase to make sure the benefits outweigh the costs. Also, the industry is not standing still. Older software tools will not be supported forever. Cameras change, codecs change, connectivity and storage change - we need to prepare ourselves to change with them.

As vendors, this means that companies that have price elasticity, the ability to reach beyond their traditional markets, and compelling benefits compared to price will be more successful in the industry than those that don't. The increasing numbers of new users in filmmaking also means you need to market to people you don't know, yet.

As for the storage industry, developing yet another "me-too" storage product will be an exercise in marketing to low-margins. However, developing a long-term way to archive those assets at a seriously affordable price point is an out-of-the-park home run. Still, it will probably take someone outside our industry to think outside the box enough to solve this problem.


Apple's launch of Final Cut Pro X in 2011 was a wake-up call to the industry that we needed to redefine who we were. We saw those results playing out throughout 2012.

In the past, editors would define themselves by their tools: "I'm a Final Cut Editor," or "I'm an Avid Editor." As we discovered, those distinctions can get in our way.

Clients hire us because we can tell stories, on time and on-budget. Whether we use Final Cut, or Premiere, or Media Composer, or a Commodore 64 is irrelevant to a client giving us a job.

Just as you wouldn't hire a carpenter simply because of the brand of hammer that they use, we discovered that clients could care less what software we use. This year, we discovered that, in today's world, we needed more than one editing technology in our toolkit.

I am a fan of Final Cut Pro X because there are some things it does amazingly well. I'm also a fan of Premiere Pro CS6 because it can do things that FCP X doesn't. And I still edit projects every week using Final Cut Pro 7 because there are things it does better than Premiere and FCP X.

In other words, I am not defining myself in terms of the tools I use; I am defining myself in terms of the work I create. And, based on conversations with many other editors, they too have come to the same conclusion.

Everyone has the right to choose their own tools and to encourage others to follow their lead. However, I think 2012 took us past the "one-tool-is-enough" stage. Now, there are so many excellent software tools, at increasingly attractive prices, it is foolish not to know more than one.

It is equally foolish, though easy to understand, to remain wedded to the technology of the past. DV, tape, and standard-definition are all almost dead. You may be able to get a bit more life from them, but you need to be planning NOW what you are going to do NEXT.


CHIP DIZÁRD - Baltimore
▪    Clients don't care what NLE I use, as long as I get their project [done] on time.
▪    FCPX updating to 10.0.7 to a real NLE I can use day in and day out.
▪    CS 6 customizing it like FCP 7 so when I want to go back to my familiar editing space, I can.

FRANK MAXWELL - Trowbridge, England
I think Apple should take the highlight and us folks who have the cash should take the spotlight.... I like FCP X better than FCP 7. It is much better to understand and everything is at my fingertips.

ALAN DAY - Cape Town, South Africa
My highlight for 2012 turned out to be going back to FCP for a client's edit and finding out how utterly dreadful it was!!! So happy with Adobe.

STEVE ABARTA - Simi Valley, CA
I'm really impressed with the advances made by Apple with FCP X this past year. This was, for me, already a wonderful upgrade from FCP 7, but where it is today compared to just 12 short months ago, is really miraculous. Oh, it still has its "crash" moments, but I have really fallen in love with it.

The most significant product in the photo industry - which I am part of - is the coming of age of the mirrorless cameras - most notably the Panasonic Lumix GH3, its fast lenses and its video capabilities including real video autofocus capabilities! This makes it a true hybrid machine for photographers (hybrid = photo+video+ audio).

The most significant change in my business is the addition of video to my [still photo] services, on a limited basis for now. Plus, I started video blogging with a new group a couple of months ago.

DOUG SPARKMAN - Murfreesboro, TN
Obviously, the most significant thing is that Apple turned FCP X into a pro caliber NLE this year. CS6 is also significant.

JIM MCQUAID - North Carolina
It's been the best year to buy a fantastic new digital cinema camera. And, it's been the worst year to buy a new digital cinema camera.

Products like the BlackMagic camera, the Sony F5 and others are amazing but the rate of change is still so high that it's crazy. I'm holding my cards for another year and sticking with the lowly DSLR (and my trusty EX1)."

JEFF ORIG - Honolulu, HI
[I want] to emphasize how important the Gangnam Style video is. We have to keep in mind that this song is from a Korean pop star sung mostly in Korean. This is important because the US is notorious for NOT liking foreign language material. This is seen in the lack of foreign films [displayed] in the US. and further represented by strong anti-immigration feelings in the US.

FCP X turns one; great improvements to software that represents the future of editing. It still has a ways to go to being perfect like FCP7 (FCP7 was perfect for old workflows) but FCP X is the future.

All 2,482 new cameras that were announced. When camera companies compete, buyers/consumers of these cameras win. A few cameras that are of note on my radar: Canon 5Dm3, 6D, C100, Sony FS700, VG-900, F5, F55, Red Epic, Scarlett, battle-tested Red One's, BlackMagic Cinema Camera, GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition, Sony RX100, NEX7, and on and on and on. Which is great. Competition helps pricing and breeds innovation.

Apple announces the MacPro for 2013.

Thunderbolt is amazing with drives and accessories reaching market.

USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt on MacBooks is awesome. USB 3.0 is super fast and affordable. I love downloading CF and SD cards with my USB 3.0 readers to Thunderbolt drives.

Hollywood continues to use DSLR [cameras] as a part of production. This is an inspiration and I no longer have an excuse to not make movies.

The digital revolution has now reached a major milestone that it has democratized content creation. Cameras and editing systems of professional quality are within reach of almost everyone in the first world.

Plus, distribution of the content has also been democratized with services like YouTube, Vimeo, and Facebook. We are no longer at the mercy and whim of traditional distributors like studios or networks.

As a video hobbyist, the most significant thing that changed for me this year has been the introduction of Adobe's Creative Cloud. I have never been able to afford the latest Creative Design Premium Suites from Adobe due to their pricing. The Creative Cloud has changed that for me.

IMO, this is really a masterstroke of strategy by Adobe. It maximizes their return and increases their market share. My guess is they will attract enough "new" users to effectively claim ownership of the " Pro" NLE market, leaving Apple in the dust.

Up to date quality tools are crucial for those earning money from video production, but now it doesn't preclude hobbyist's either.

Deliverables are changing. It is becoming ever increasingly difficult to pick up media (blank or mastered/audio or video) in retail stores. Severely shrinking inventories at retail locations force us to purchase larger quantities from places like DiscMakers or B&H.

Apple finally made a significant amount of upgrades for FCP X that I am now going to upgrade. Though I have little time to play and shorten my learning curve, I am grateful that you provide video tutorials to get us through that FIRST FEAR of something new.....until we become comfortable enough to slide our projects from FCP 7 to X.

STU AULL - Fairbanks, AK
[The lack of] reasonably priced LTO archiving systems for small production houses! [Especially as a Red owner] one of the big challenges is archiving reams of image and program data on some cost-effective, "reliable" medium.
The first one out of the gate with an affordable package will deservedly make a killing.

Those are my thoughts and those of other readers. As always, I'd love to know what you think.

- - -

Larry Jordan is a producer, director, editor, author, and Apple-Certified trainer with more than 35 year's production experience. Based in Los Angeles, he's a member of the Directors Guild of America and the Producers Guild of America. Visit his Website at

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