Tag Archives: Final Cut Pro X

A one-man production band… on wheels

Capturing an event with pro know-how and flexible tools

By David Hurd

I recently had an opportunity to shoot a gala event at a mall for the Tampa Innovation Alliance. The CEOs of all the big local companies, as well as the mayor were there, along with 600 guests. The event was held in the large space that used to be an Old Navy store, and there were booths out in the mall that needed coverage as well.

The plan was for Tracy, the interviewer, to get short interviews with the VIPs before the sit down part of the event and then I would record the speakers. The footage would then be edited down into a five-minute 720p YouTube video.

Because of the many set-ups, and the size of the venue, I needed a rig that was quick and portable. I started with a pair of American Grip Dana Dolly Baby Combo Stands on wheels. These things are awesome and built like tanks. I then attached a 48-inch SmartSystem slider to the top of the stands and a Manfrotto head and pan bar. The 48-inch SmartSystem slider can take a lot of weight and allows me to use any camera rig.

I assembled the rig in the parking lot, and just rolled it into the mall. During the shoot, I used the slider to re-position shots quickly when the crowd got in my way, and it came in handy for creating moving shots as well. Let’s talk about the camera.

My Gear
I have grown to love my Blackmagic 4K production camera for jobs like these. I use a 35mm Rokinon lens, which due to the crop factor ends up at around 50mm. Indoors, I set it to Film mode (iso 800) and a color balance of 4000, which always seems to work best. I also turn on the 2:35 mask so that I have an idea of what the image will look like later.

The Rokinon lens is f1.3, so it does well in low light. Since I was going to be constantly on the move, I just used available light. Did I mention that the lighting inside the event looked like a dark bar? That’s where Film mode (iso 800) and the lens saved my butt.

For important jobs, I record a 220Mb/sec stream in ProRes 422HQ, otherwise ProRes 422 100Mb/sec works fine for the web. You will only see the difference when you zoom in a lot in post. For power, I used a V-mount Blueshape battery. Blueshape batteries are what professionals are changing to. The one I used that night lasted the whole shoot.

For audio, I use the amazing little JuicedLink BMC366 mixer for Blackmagic cameras. It’s small, lightweight, and has everything I need. I used a Shure VP64 mic, plugged into a Sennheiser RF transmitter in one channel of the mixer for the interviews. I also needed the house audio for the sit-down speeches. For this I used a Sennheiser lav transmitter plugged into a sub out on the house mixer via a 1/4-inch jack. Since the jack was mono and the mixer was stereo, I only pushed in the jack to the first click to avoid shorting it out. After adjusting the in and out levels, the Sennheiser transmitted the house audio to wherever I was in the room.

Interviews
The interview part of the shoot went something like this: Tracy walked around with his mic in hand, finding interview victims. I followed him, happily pushing my rig along. When one was found, I directed them into position to make use of available light, framed for a wide shot, focused and hit record. It was painless, and the process took about one to three minutes per interview.

When everyone went inside for the sit-down part of the evening, I found a place off to one side of the stage, about 30 feet from the podium. Using the same lens, I could get most of the stage in the shot. After a quick battery change in the house audio transmitter, I was ready to rock.

About an hour later, after the event, we stood by the exit and snagged people for interviews as they were leaving. Then I rolled the rig to the parking lot, took it apart, loaded it up, and headed home for the edit.

The Edit
The edit is where the magic happens. Thunderbolt is wonderful, and I have built up a system that is fairly state of the art, so that I don’t have to wait much while editing.

I called on a Mac Pro “Trash Can” with 64GB of memory and 12GB of GPU processing on the two video cards. The computer is connected to four G-Tech G-Speed esPro drive boxes via two HighPoint RocketStor 6328 RAID controllers. Each controller is connected to its own TB channel. Each set of two boxes (eight drives) is a RAID-5, and all 16 drives are striped RAID-0 in OS X. The system reads data at 2000MB/sec and writes at over 1700MB/sec. — perfect for 4K editing.

For viewing, there are two 32-inch monitors, one of which is a Boland broadcast monitor run through a Blackmagic UltraStudio 4K interface box via SDI.

The workflow is easy. I simply drop the SSDs from the Blackmagic camera into my RocketStor 5212, which transfers the data via Thunderbolt to my RAID really fast. I record on OWC 480GB Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD cards, so the transfer rate is over 550MB/sec.

In Apple FCPX I create a 720p timeline and when I import the 4K footage, I select “Leave Files in Place.” Basically, I am dropping roughly 2000×4000 pixel footage onto a 720×1280 pixel timeline.

For more of a “film” look, I place a 2:35 aspect ratio mask that I made in Photoshop over the footage. Now, I simply open up the scopes and color correct the footage, which is much easier to do before it’s all cut up.

My intention was to have the original wide shot, and zoomed-in medium and close-up shots, so first I had to see where I wanted to cut them. To do this I had to go through the footage and make cuts with the Blade tool. For example, I may start close-up on Tracy and go to a two-shot when he introduces his guest. Then I go to the guest when he says something interesting and then back to a two-shot for the close.

With the cuts made, I clicked on the clips, re-sized them and moved them around into the medium and close-up shots. Because I had about 2000×4000 pixels to work with, I was able to zoom in up to 300 percent and still have pixel-to-pixel coverage. If the shot was in focus, but looked a little soft, I would call on a sharpen filter to fix it.

Since I shoot with a Prime lens, there is no zoom. If the client wants a slow zoom, I just use keyframes. This is actually better than trying to zoom in and out at the event, where there are no re-takes.

This rig and workflow turned what would have been a lot of lifting and moving about in a crowded space into an efficient one-man shoot. I didn’t have to worry about zooming, or getting the exact framing, which removed a lot of stress. I got 90 minutes of footage, and I only needed five.

This story has a happy ending. The client was pleased with the video, and I got paid.


David Hurd is the owner of David Hurd Productions in Tampa, Florida. He has been in the business for over 40 years.

FCPX Creative Summit keynotes announced

Later this month, in Cupertino, California, Apple Final Cut Pro X editors and potential users will be attending the second annual FCPX Creative Summit. The three-day event will take place October 27-30.

The keynote line-up consists of two panels: the first features directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, along with editor Jan Kovac. The trio worked together on two of the first feature films edited in Final Cut Pro X — Focus and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

The second panel includes two-time Emmy-winner Chuck Braverman, Supersphere VR executive producer Lucas Wilson and creative director Duncan Shepherd.

Organized by Future Media Concepts (FMC), in collaboration with Apple, this year’s event will take place next door to the Apple Campus. In addition to the keynote presentations, there will be 30-plus sessions focused on editorial, motion graphics, workflow and case studies.

postPespective readers can save $125 off of registration with code: POST16.

Review: FxFactory’s AudioDenoise, EchoRemover, Xsend Motion

By Brady Betzel

Over the last few years, I’ve really enjoyed working on Windows-based PCs , but some of the drawbacks are the inability to use FCP X, Motion and any of their plug-ins. Recently, I opened my MacBook Pro once again because I found three plug-ins from FxFactory’s partners Automatic Duck and CrumplePop that I really wanted to check out inside of FCP X: AudioDenoise, EchoRemover and Xsend Motion. I’ve previously reviewed FxFactory plug-ins such as Nodes 2 before, and they are pretty incredible.

FxFactory is a Mac OS-only plug-in app that manages all of FxFactory’s plug-ins. You can buy, update, install, read info and even watch tutorials inside of their app! The FxFactory app is actually a very well-organized place to centrally locate all of your FxFactory plug-ins, as well as learn what each of them do without much legwork. There are a few tabs inside, including one that shows all of your purchased plug-ins, so, if like me, you forget about some of your plug-ins you can check them out in one page.

CrumplePop EchoRemover
First up is CrumplePop EchoRemover, an audio plug-in that sells for $99 and, like its name implies, it removes echo from your audio. If you’ve worked with Red Giant’s Universe plug-in, you’ll want to check out CrumplePop.

EchoRemover has a very simple approach with minimal input needed to do its magic in either FCP X or Adobe Premiere as long as they are on the Mac OS. It has three options to fine-tune the echo removal: Strength, Release and Bass Reduction. Strength covers how aggressively the echo is removed (think of it as opacity if you are a video person); Release describes how fast the cutoff is at the end of words or sounds; and Bass Reduction can help get rid of extra bass that might be present.

To test it out I used a clip I recorded using the Rode VideoMic Go along with the Rode SC4 TRS to TRRS converter with help from my iOgrapher. I figured the iPhone 6 will probably be the lowest common denominator with audio recording, and the reality is a lot of television shows use the iPhone as a quick way to get an emergency soundbyte into an edit. You can check out my test clips on my YouTube page where I placed the unaffected audio before the audio with EchoRemover and AudioDenoise were applied.

I recorded a short clip in my garage to allow for as much echo and background noise as possible. I was able to get a good amount of echo when I stood next to my metal garage door. Once inside of FCP X, I dragged the clip to a new timeline and applied EchoRemover straight away. Now you’Il need to remember that this plug-in is made to be “drag and drop,” meaning you won’t really need to make any adjustments (although small tweaks are possible). I was very impressed with the result of the echo removal. I dropped it on and didn’t touch the parameters at all.

I probably should have touched the Release and Strength a little, but for this example I wanted to leave it — straight out of the FxFactory/CrumplePop box. I guess I could ask for more parameters to adjust, but I really love the simplicity of these plug-ins. As a video editor it lets me concentrate on the story and less on the awful technical difficulties that can happen.

AudioDenoise
Up next is CrumplePop’s AudioDenoise, which sells for $99. As its name implies, its goal is to remove background noise from your audio. AudioDenoise works in Adobe Premiere as well as FCP X, but let’s stick with FCP X for the moment.

AudioDenoise is found under the CrumplePop plug-in heading and is as simple as parking your playhead over the section that contains a good sample of the background noise you are looking to eliminate — although I tested it I through AudioDenoise without any regard for what audio was playing and it worked.

You can then go into the Effects panel and adjust the Strength and Profile in the Effects tab of FCP X. Much like EchoRemover, AudioDenoise is a drag and drop plug-in. I tested the AudioDenoise plug-in by recording a clip in my garage like before, but this time with as much background noise as possible (without waking up the kids), I started our dryer and began talking. You can listen to my demo on YouTube (it is after the EchoRemover demo). Just like EchoRemover, AudioDenoise worked great and without any fiddling of the effect parameters. I was thoroughly impressed.

Xsend Motion
Last, but not least in this FxFactory FCP X-focused review, is Xsend Motion. If you’ve ever heard of Automatic Duck (if you are over 25 years old you probably had to use it when getting yourself out of some sticky FCP 7 to Avid Media Composer circumstances that some crazy person put you in) then you probably already trust this plug-in, because the creators of Automatic Duck created Xsend Motion.

Simply, for $99 Xsend Motion converts your FCP X timeline into a Motion project, complete with some simple effects like position, scale, blending modes and a few third party plug-ins — you can find a more detailed list of third-party compatible plug-ins here. Think of it like a fancy AAF transfer engine or more like how Premiere can send clips to Adobe After Effects from the timeline.

From FCP X you can either send your entire timeline or a section over to Motion. For the entire timeline you will go to the Share Project menu and click Xsend Motion. This will open up the Xsend Motion App where you can tell Xsend Motion where to place the FCP XML, whether or not to create layer groups and where to save the Motion project that you will be creating. From there, Xsend Motion will launch your new project inside of Motion to be edited. If you only want to send a certain section of your timeline to Motion, you will need to create a compound clip (think of a submaster, if you are familiar with Avid Media Composer). Click the newly created compound clip and select File > Export XML. You will then open that XML inside of Xsend Motion, select your settings and click Continue — much like the previous way of sending the entire timeline to Motion.

Once you have made your magic motion graphics inside of Motion you will most likely need to get this back into FCP X. You have two options: export your new Motion project as an FCP X preset/template/generator or export a QuickTime for use in FCP X. My advice is to export a QuickTime as opposed to an FCP X preset/generator as it won’t require re-rendering, but you will need to decide this on a case-by-case basis.

Summing Up
In the end, I was really impressed with CrumplePop’s EchoRemover, AudioDenoise and Xsend Motion. At $99 a piece, some might consider AudioDenoise and EchoRemover a little expensive, but if you value your time and ability to improve your audio production quickly and easily, then $99 is a great price. They really give the editor the ability to focus on the content of the edit rather than fixing subpar audio recording.

Xsend Motion furthers the ability to focus on the content of your edit by letting you send multiple layers of video to Motion from FCP X without breaking each layer into separate QuickTimes, this plug-in seems so necessary it’s a wonder why it isn’t already in FCP X!

Brady Betzel is an online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff. Earlier this year, Brady was nominated for an Emmy for his work on Disney’s Unforgettable Christmas Celebration.

 

Apple upgrades Final Cut Pro X, Motion and Compressor

Apple has just announced Motion version 5.2, Final Cut Pro X version 10.2 and Compressor version 4.2. 

Both Motion and Final Cut Pro X now include 3D title capabilities. Users can create animated, customizable 3D text via cinematic templates with built-in backgrounds and animations. There is a large collection of text styles, and it’s possible to customize titles with hundreds of combinations of materials, lighting and edges for advanced 3D looks. Both Motion 5.2 and Final Cut Pro X 10.2 have additional controls to adjust environment, shadows and more, and both instantly convert 2D titles to 3D.

Among Motion 5.2’s many other new 3D title capabilities are flexible surface shading with options for texture maps, diffuse and specular reflection and bump mapping; real-world attributes such as paints, finishes and distress; and more than 90 built-in materials including metals, woods and plastics. Users can combine layers of materials to create unique looks, customize any material and save it as a new preset, and save any 3D title and access it instantly in Final Cut Pro X. (Similarly, Final Cut Pro X version 10.2 users can open any 3D title in Motion to add multiple lights, cameras and tracking.)

Motion version 5.2 supports Panasonic AVC-Ultra, Sony XAVC S and JVC H.264 Long GOP camera formats, and has 12 new generators, including Manga Lines, Sunburst and Spiral Graphics. Apple has made many other enhancements to improve performance and increase control, and to address issues with the prior version. For example, choosing a smooth option on an already smooth point no longer changes the curve, and double-clicking to add a new keyframe in the curve editor no longer changes interpolation of subsequent keyframes.

Motion-Materials_Display27-PF-PRINTBesides its new 3D title capabilities, Final Cut Pro X version 10.2 is capable of many new advanced effects, such as the ability to display up to four video scopes simultaneously; to apply super ellipse shape mask to any clip; and to apply draw mask to any clip, with options for linear, Bézier or B-spline smoothing. There are new shape and color mask controls for every effect, and Version 10.2 instantly displays the alpha channel for any effect mask. Apple has merged the color board into a new “color correction” effect, and it is possible to rearrange the processing order of the color correction effect. Users can save custom effects as presets for quick access.

Final Cut Pro X version 10.2 supports Panasonic AVC-Ultra, Sony XAVC S, and JVC H.264 Long GOP camera formats, with the ability to import Sony XAVC and XDCAM formats without a separate plug-in. Version 10.2 also has GPU-accelerated RED RAW processing with support for dual GPUs and for RED RAW anamorphic formats.

Additional features include “smart collections” at the event and library level, an import window that consolidates all options into a single sidebar, and GPU rendering when using “send to Compressor” (with support for dual GPUs). Final Cut Pro version 10.2 also improves upon the prior version with faster drawing of audio waveforms, which betters performance especially when editing over a network. Among a long list of other improvements: transform controls work correctly with photos in a secondary storyline, freeze frames copy media across multiple libraries, slow-motion video clips from iPhone appear in the browser with a badge, and MXF-wrapped AVC-Intra and uncompressed files export faster.

Finally, Compressor version 4.2 introduces new features that let users create an iTunes Store package for iTunes Store submission; add movie, trailer, closed captions and subtitles to an iTunes Store package; preview closed captions and subtitles right in the viewer; zoom in within the viewer to watch content with true pixel accuracy; and display and assign channels to QuickTime audio tracks prior to processing. Like the new version of Final Cut Pro X, Compressor version 4.2 offers GPU rendering when using “send to Compressor,” with support for dual GPUs. It also offers hardware-accelerated, multipass H.264 encoding on compatible systems, automatic bit-rate calculation to MPEG-4 and H.264 QuickTime movies, optional matrix stereo downmix when processing surround sound for QuickTime output, and CABAC entropy mode for multipass encoding. To address prior issues, Apple improved stability when using Apple AES3 audio format with ProRes 422 HQ. Also jobs submitted via Droplet now appear in the “active” and “completed” tabs.

Final Cut Pro X resurrected: Focus’ advanced workflow

By Daniel Restuccio

To many, Apple’s Final Cut Pro editing application died in June 2011 when they announced Final Cut X.  Derided as an odd version of iMovie, it lacked many of the features of Final Cut 7 and fell out of favor with many editors looking for an alternative to Avid Media Composer.

Nearly four years later Final Cut Pro 10.1.4 is fully resurrected and, for the makers of the Will Smith caper Focus, a godsend that provided a flexible, efficient and cost-effective workflow to post their feature movie shot on the Arri Alexa.

Less than two years since releasing the new MacPro “cylinder,” Apple claims that they have upgraded Final Cut Pro X to the level where it can be taken seriously again as a post production Continue reading

TrackX powered by Mocha offers pro motion tracking tools for FCP X

Guildford, UK — Imagineer Systems, based here, and the creators of the Mocha Planar Tracking technology, along with Australia-based CoreMelt, a provider of advanced video plug-in effects, have released TrackX powered by Mocha. This is the latest Apple Final Cut Pro X (FCP X) plug-in to come out of the strategic partnership between Imagineer and CoreMelt.

TrackX powered by Mocha (http://www.imagineersystems.com/products/SliceX_TrackX, http://www.coremelt.com) uses the planar tracking technology (which won an Academy Award, BTW) to precisely track camera motion, objects and people for seamless visual effects and screen composites.

track_text01

“TrackX powered by mocha is a tremendous leap ahead in plug-in innovation for Final Cut Pro X,” comments Ross Shain, chief marketing officer, Imagineer Systems. “CoreMelt has taken Imagineer’s innovative Planar Tracking engine and added a simple-to-use plug-in interface, giving Final Cut Pro X editors a powerful, yet easy-to-use, set of tools to manage complex tracking projects with exacting precision. No need to leave the timeline or learn a complicated VFX program. The Final Cut user community will love the ability to create these advanced visual effects directly inside their favorite editor.”

Suited for creating realistic screen inserts, set extensions and sky replacements, TrackX powered by mocha lets FCP X editors easily track and replace objects within a video, such as an image on a cell phone, TV screen or sign, as well as add graphics and text, including lower-thirds, to follow objects in motion.

TrackX’s customizable parameters provide FCP X editors with controls to fine-tune translation, scale, rotation and perspective motion of text and video, eliminating the need to do manual keyframing. Mocha technology stays locked on through shaky, grainy and motion-blurred video.

“We’re excited to be able to take Imagineer’s leading mocha technology and make it available in such an affordable and easy-to-use package,” says Roger Bolton, CoreMelt founder and director. “CoreMelt is all about finding ways to bring high-end, complex tools to as many people as possible. With TrackX powered by Mocha, editors can now directly accomplish many tracking tasks that would have otherwise involved jumping into complex compositing software.”

TrackX powered by Mocha features three plug-ins:
• Simple Tracker: Instant tracking perfect for quick floating lower thirds or graphics following a person or object
• Track Layer: Advanced tracking with perspective shifts, surface mapping and masking capabilities
• Track Text: Includes a text generator that can track text with perspective and masking capabilities

TrackX powered by mocha is available now for $99. Users who have purchased SliceX powered by Mocha can purchase TrackX for a special upgrade price, $49. Purchase the SliceX / TrackX powered by mocha bundle for $149.