Entries in FCP (4)


back to the beginning

Continuing my complaints with the bolted together components of EOL'ed Final Cut Studio 7, now I'm on to Color 1.5. Some time has been spent with this opaque interface previously. But it took me probably another 8 - 10 hours to finally uncover the undocumented means to zoom in on the image you're working with in the geometry window so that you can magnify the edges of a vignette being applied. BTW, Vignette = PS layer = PP lens. But the controls are nowhere near as diverse as they are in those two still image manipulation packages.

Work proceeded on a shot that's on screen for 5 sec. 23 frames. There were five Secondary Vignettes applied, using five different shapes, four of which changed as actors move through the shot. About 15 hours was spent on this 6 second shot, learning the software, how to apply shapes, how to move shapes, trying to fine tune the edges.

Finally, after sending the sequence back to FCP so that I could watch the six seconds that had been modified, I'm deciding to start over again and abandon the 15 hours of work. Some of it was software learning curve, so I'll be able to use it again. But the edge detection/drawing around a moving object is a serious challenge. On a still image this is not that much of a problem with these simple tools. But for moving images, where occasionally the edges of an adjustment need to be redrawn every frame, those edges flicker and waver mercilessly, totally unacceptably when all the frames are viewed together. No doubt it's a combination of tools and technique. I'm lacking in both.

Which leads me to realize that if I'm going to use Color - which those who use it seem to feel is a fabulous piece of software - it's going to have to be in a more general manner. If I'm going to pick objects out of a scene for specific adjustment, either they need to be small, or they don't move, or they don't change shape.

I was thinking I'd figured out how this video was done, with some elements colored while everything else in the image is b&w. But after watching it again, I can see that they're using something way more sophisticated than the Vignettes in Color 1.5.


in which some excellent progress is made

Amazing how much can be done when one applies seat of pants to seat of chair. After a rather considerable period of reading too much news and going hither and yon such that I didn't apply myself to the task of editing "Roscoe" footage until 3:30 or 4:00 in the afternoon, finally in the last 15 hours I've knocked out pretty complete versions of three scenes. Admittedly they are simple, short scenes. But having all the material there, with a variety of alternatives to work through, is a wonderful thing. It truly is possible to have the picture mostly edited by the end of this week. Only one scene to go: the killer Eighth Scene, in which the Truth is revealed, but Nothing is known for Certain.

The wonders of computer video editing. It is possible to have several working clips, or shots, open in windows called Viewers, at the same time. So the master shot gets loaded into the Timeline, and then all that I have to do is go back and forth between the close up inserts and drop pieces of my two actors  into the master shot that's already on the Timeline. With a little tweaking to the sound to drop out any cue lines that might appear from off screen, add some ambient "room tone", and the thing is pretty much assembled. So much simpler than agonizing over what pieces to use in a documentary. This is feeling pretty good right now, and I'm looking to do this fictional short thing again. Let's not wait another twenty-five years this time.


a feature - not a bug

homage to Shepard

When was the last time you used a piece of software that had a feature that the documentation described as doing exactly what you needed to do? And then when you used the feature it did EXACTLY what you expected and wanted?

Such is the joy of the first usage of a filter in Final Cut Pro 7 called "SmoothCam." Admittedly, it took ten minutes to analyse a piece of video 3 seconds 19 frames long - apparently it has to look at the entire clip from which those ninety-one frames come. I didn't ask the software to do much - simply smooth out a camera that bounced a little from actors walking across the floor.

This is going to be my excuse for why there isn't much movement during this interior scene: if I'd had them walk around, the floor would have been bouncing the camera in a totally uncontrolled manner. The 7D should probably have been mounted on the Steadicam instead of a tripod - or some mount attached to the ceiling instead of the floor. (Which reminds me of a stereo installation from the recesses of my past where I suspended the turntable from the ceiling of the room, since I knew that walking across the room would make the tone arm bounce unacceptably. I don't think the landlord was too keen on the holes left in the ceiling when I departed.) Or maybe several thousand pounds spread around the floor to dampen out the movement. You would think that the several thousand pounds of machinery already in the shop would have done the trick, along with the massive shop bench included in the master shot.

Rarely does a filter work the way I want it to. Nice to see that software can come to the rescue of a shot that would have been eliminated without the filter.


more pieces to the puzzle

Maybe it's already obvious to everybody else, but the proper methodology - aka "workflow" - for getting files from flash card based video cameras or DSLRs into editing software, specifically Final Cut Pro, has eluded me. If you don't already know it, DO NOT simply drag & drop files from the cards to the hard disk. When trying to open them later in FCP, in the Log & Transfer window, the software will report an unsupported file type. The entire file structure needs to be copied off the card.

If using a DSLR such as the Canon 5D MkII or 7D, Canon has created a utility for FCP which helps with the correct settings and the use of the Log & Transfer function, and supposedly transcodes the original H.264 codec to Apple ProRes (or whatever editing codec you want) at three times the speed that Compressor will do this operation. Canon suggests using the Mac Disk Utility to first mount the card as a disk image on the hard disk.


Very preliminary use shows that another method, which seems much simpler, is to select in a Finder window the folder on the card that contains the files that need to be copied off the memory card, go to Edit/Copy, then open the folder on the hard disk where they need to be placed and go to Edit/Paste. Once again, Drag & Drop doesn't work, but copy & paste does.

In the case of the Canon camera(s), there is a directory called eos_digital with a subdirectory called dcim. When using Log & Transfer, open the dcim directory to find the copied files. Choosing any directory lower than this results in the Unsupported media message.

This way the files can be opened from the hard disk, and the memory cards can be reformatted and used again for new material. As an added benefit, cards can be copied to a portable hard disk such as the Photo Safe II, and then transferred later to a computer.

The Photo Safe has no display other than digital readout for functions, so is really only a small portable hard disk with card readers connected. When travelling no computer is needed to download memory cards. I've not really used this much yet, but with a summer vacation under way, it seems the perfect solution to the checked bag luggage problem. The primary issue appears to be the transfer speed from card to Photo Safe: they claim a 1 gig card takes 3-1/2 minutes, so my 16 g cards are going to take nearly an hour. Photo Safe to computer runs at USB 2.0 speed.

If anyone using the Canon 7D and FCP has a simpler way of getting video files off the compact flash cards, I'd love to hear about it.