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August 2014
Issue: September 1, 2007

AFFORDABLE TOOLS, PROFESSIONAL WORK

By: Randi Altman
The Colbert Report, on Comedy Central, takes advantage of a variety of gear to get their show on air and on time four days a week. The main editing tool for The Report, which shoots live to tape, is Avid Adrenaline (see our Edit This! column this month) but they have an Apple Final Cut station that is kept pretty busy as well.

When I spoke with the show’s post supervisor, Jeremy Tchaban, about how he chooses the best gear for the job, his reply was, “The most important thing is to make sure the editors and designers are comfortable with the tools they are using. We have to balance out the cost of the equipment with what they need to do their job.”

So the staff often calls on affordable plug-ins for their editing and graphic work. “We rely on tools like MovingPicture from StageTools,” which makes smooth pans and zooms on high-res stills, reports Tchaban. “It’s really good because it maintains the image quality of the original image, and it gives us nice, smooth movements without creating any pixilation.” These tools are platform agnostic, and work on both Avid and Final Cut systems.

The Colbert Report’s graphics department also calls on plug-ins that are affordable, easy to use and enhance their work. Senior graphic designer Andro Buneta often taps Trapcode from Red Giant to make his job a little easier. “The user interface is great and there are loads of presets that, with just a little bit of modification, give us exactly what we are looking for, and the rendering time is negligible. So you can add a lot without having to worry about the backend and how long it would take to complete.” And to add some smoke or a smoking trail off of something, he says, it’s just a couple of clicks and a couple of keyframes and you have something really useful.

Another low-cost plug-in they rely on is Zax-werks Invigorator. "When we need 3D text or elements, we turn to Zaxwerks,” says Buneta. “For this show, the turn-around time is short. We might have a day or day and a half for a larger project, so we really don’t have time to build massive models; with Invigorator we get away with building something simple that looks sharp and we add a 3D element to our project without having to build a model for days and wait for a big render to happen.”

Buneta feels the computers themselves have gotten so much more powerful, that “it’s kind of closed the gap between proprietary systems that do specifically 3D or realtime animation. The realtime aspect isn’t quite there with After Effects but with fast loading RAM previews and negligible render time, along with the affordability of the systems and software, our decision to work this way is a no-brainer."