Archive for the ‘Laptop Editing’ category

Don’t Count Lightworks Out Yet

November 9, 2010

Lightworks, once the darling of longform post production, may soon find a second life. EditShare plans to release the first beta from their ongoing open source project on November 29. If you’ve registered, you’ll be able to download it for free. At the moment, it’s Windows-only, but they plan a Mac port next year. The list of features is impressive, at least on paper: resolution independence up to 2K, multiple frame-rate support, native support for DNX, Prores, R3D and dpx files, 3D support, unlimited multi-cam, subframe audio editing, audio bus routing, project sharing, film footage display in the application, 3-perf support, change lists, a node-based vfx interface with support for many common vfx plug-ins, secondary color correction — all wrapped in a modular user interface that looks slick. Check out the full feature list here, and the company website here.

Competition among editing system manufacturers drives development and keeps everybody on their toes. Lightworks fell out of favor because of a quirky interface and weak visual effects capabilities, but it has remained a favorite for some editors, Thelma Schoonmaker and Chris Gill among them. I’ll be very curious to see how the new build performs in the real world.


Spatial Interfaces

June 8, 2010

John Underkoffler is one of the great visionaries of UI design, and he’s just posted his talk about 3D spatial interfaces from the TED conference this year. This is the Minority Report UI (which he helped design) as it is being implemented — in reality — now. I had the great privilege of sitting in on his class at USC recently, where they were prototyping an editing application. My reaction at the time — it’s a slam dunk. The details don’t really matter. If we could have it, we’d use it. Take a look at his video (at TED or on YouTube) and start thinking about what computer interaction might be like sometime soon. And tell me that you don’t want it now.

Meanwhile, touch interfaces just got a lot more real for post-production with the release of iMovie for the HD iPhone. Apple has made it possible to shoot and edit on one small device and to do the whole thing via touch (and for a measly $5). It’s not for pros, of course, but it points the way.

MC5 will be released in a couple of days, and for the moment, things are pretty exciting in the world of non-linear editing. But these applications point to a different, more fundamental transformation — toward natural interfaces. Just when you thought things couldn’t get more interesting, the world shifts on its axis, and everything you know is wrong.

Editing in the Cloud

April 17, 2010

Another tidbit from NAB — a demo of Avid’s online, editing-in-the-cloud product. Just a technology demonstration, but it’s pretty darn impressive. If it was simply another editing application it wouldn’t be all that interesting, but all of the media and all of the editing action is taking place on a server thousands of miles away. All your cuts, including up to four layers of visual effects, get transparently assembled and composited on the server at DNxHD 220 and then transcoded and sent to you as you work. Very little latency. Background rendering and distribution. There’s even an iphone application for review and approval.

Product Manager Richard Gratton does a very tight, well-paced demo. It’s about 20 minutes long:

m4v file download / video podcast on itunes.

Editing on an iPad, Anyone?

March 24, 2010

Call me slow, but I finally watched Steve Jobs’ iPad keynote last night (it’s now available on Apple’s home page — or here). The iPad looks like it’ll be a very nice way to watch movies or read digital books, and Jobs offered a typically masterful demo of those capabilities. But what I didn’t expect was the focus on content creation. That came from Phil Shiller, who showed Pages, Keynote and Numbers.

Apple made a radical decision with the iPad, focusing entirely on a touch interface. That may seem like a natural extension of the iPhone, but you’re going to do different things with an iPad, and your fingers work differently than a mouse. A mouse is way more accurate, but it’s monotonic, with only one active region at a time. With multi-touch, you lose precision but you gain the ability to track gestures and activate multiple contact points. In terms of human-machine bandwidth, it’s probably a wash — but to make touch work you need an interface that’s tweaked differently. So Apple has quietly redesigned all of its core applications with bigger buttons and new interaction models that let you quickly do what you want with your fingers. There’s a focus on presenting you with exactly and only the tools you need for any particular task, and that ain’t as easy as it looks.

Watch, for example, how Shiller selects multiple slides and moves them around as a group (at about 1:01:00). Or how he matches the size of two images by touching them simultaneously. Or does live wrapping of text around an image (at 1:05:00). Or moves columns of figures, or uses a soft keyboard with just the symbols you need.

There’s no version of iPhoto for the iPad yet — editing an image will certainly take some unique UI work — but it seems clear that we’ll see one soon.

And so, we come to the question of post production. Would the iPad work for heavy duty editing? Unlikely. The screen is way too small, and there’s no disk interface, no Finder. But for putting together home movies while on vacation and uploading them directly to Youtube? It seems like a natural.

The question is what might happen when pros start playing with an interface like that. As the song says, once they’ve seen gay “Paree” — how ya gonna keep ’em down on the farm?

New Features in Media Composer 4

September 10, 2009


Avid unveiled Media Composer version 4.0 today (press release). The headline feature is what Avid is calling Mix and Match — the ability to combine different frame rates in the timeline and play them without rendering. The demos I’ve seen are impressive. It’s so simple that there is almost no user interface. You just bring the clips in and play them. When you cut them into a sequence the mismatched clips get tagged with a frame rate in parentheses (similar to motion effects) and you see a tiny green realtime dot in the middle of the clip. And that’s all. The clips just play, and for the most part they look quite smooth. If you want to get fancy, you can change the interpolation method, and you can render. But generally, you don’t have to.

AMA got a few tweaks and stereo video editing got some improvements, as well. Neither of these will affect the majority of users, so I’ll leave them to others to discuss. More important to me, there are several useful editorial improvements, as follows:

  1. 16 tracks in the audio mixer.
    Yes, it’s true. You can finally see as many tracks as you can play. It seems like small thing, but every time I look at that big mixer I get a warm feeling inside.
  2. 100 Undos
    This will be a boon to anybody doing visual effects, where you seem to run out of undos all the time. (That’s because if you change a parameter by hitting the up or down arrow key a few times, every key press is remembered as a separate undo.)
  3. Auto-cropping in the stabilize effect
    You used to have to laboriously crop a stabilized shot. Now the effect will do it for you.
  4. Easier number entry on laptops.
    You no longer have to use Number Lock.  Just tap the control key twice, and you can use the number row.
  5. And the pièce de résistance — Transition Preservation.
    Briefly, this is a set of timeline modifications that make it possible to do three things:

    • Move clips around in segment mode without losing dissolves.
    • Edit from one sequence to another even when a dissolve is involved (no more error messages about breaking a transition effect).
    • Drag the edge of a clip through a dissolve and have the dissolve reattach itself.

Avid has been adding editorial features like these in each release and though some of the changes might seem minor, they have large implications for editors. And they’re beginning to add up.

More later — that’s just an overview. The official release date is September 30. (And for you students out there — upgrades to v4 are free.)

Your Avid on the Mixing Stage

March 6, 2009

It’s rare to see an Avid on a dubbing stage. The conventional wisdom is that it’s not needed because everything has been turned over to sound and you’re (hopefully) not planning on any picture changes. The sound effects editors are going to bring an OMF copy of your cut and that’s supposed to be sufficient. In the past, it’s also been difficult to move your Avid, and that, more than anything, has ensured that we picture editors don’t come to the stage equipped with our gear.

But with the advent of MC software and big, inexpensive drives, that equation has changed. You can bring your entire project and all your media with you, and it turns out that this can have some significant advantages, namely access to your original cut, and to your track layout. So if you hear dialog that doesn’t sound right, or if a sound is missing, you can quickly figure out what went wrong.

Editors, producers and directors all fall victim to what we call “temp love” at some point. The mix you did in the Media Composer has been evolving for months and it’s inevitable that there will be some things that people will want to preserve. But recreating those things usually stops the mix cold and frustrates everybody. Being able to identify exactly what you want and where it is can be a big win for all involved.

Here are some tips:

  • You’ll create a drive with all your media on it. And it’s going to take many hours to do, even with Firewire 800. Don’t wait till the last minute.
  • Be sure to quit your Media Composer while you’re copying — otherwise the MC will see all that duplicate media, which is likely to cause problems.
  • If you’re running from Unity with many partitions, it’s probably a good idea to format your portable drive to mirror the Unity partitions. That makes it easier to confirm that you’ve got everything. It also makes it possible to let your portable drive double as a full media backup.
  • To confirm that you’ve got everything, you’ll want to use some kind of software comparator. A good and inexpensive solution is Compare Folders. You simply point the application at two folders and it tells you whether they match, and if not, what’s different. Sure beats the heck out of trying to do it by hand.
  • Unity creates individual folders for each user on every partition. But Media Composer software can’t see OMF media in those subfolders. This is a real pain and something Avid ought to deal with (MXF media works differently, which is one advantage of that format). The solution is to copy each partition with the subfolders intact, then color-code each folder and all the files within, and only then pull all the media out of the subfolders. You should also trash the indexes — the .pmr and .mdb files. Sort by “kind” to find them.
  • Once you’ve got your media copied properly, you’ll want to “flight test” it on your laptop. Be sure to allow time for this. Copy your project to the laptop, connect the drive and start up the MC. Each partition will be indexed. This can take several hours.
  • If all goes well, your entire project should be on line. To confirm it, select Clip Color > Offline in the timeline popup menu. (And turn off everything else in that submenu — different coloring options can interfere with each other. See this post for details.) Then open each sequence of your cut show. You should not see any red clips.
  • If you have two copies of your project, make sure you know which one you’re working from. If you copied your project partition to the portable drive, you’ll have one there, and probably should use it. But you also may have one on the laptop’s internal drive. Changes in one won’t be reflected in the other.

That’s way too many potholes for something that ought to be simple and routine, and Avid really needs to take another look at simplifying media copying (more at this post). But even with all the hassle, having your Avid on the stage can be a big advantage and well worth the effort.