Archive for the ‘Quality of Life’ category

In the Coal Mine

June 16, 2010

I’ve been thinking a lot about this crazy period we find ourselves in. I watched my musician friends get creamed by the digital revolution. People who had good steady livelihoods became salesmen to survive, or accepted big cuts in pay. We all celebrate the democratization of technology, but there’s a dark side. When everybody has access to the tools, the craft gets devalued. The film business used to be recession-proof. But something different is going on now.

What we’re seeing is the democratization of distribution. When live video from a spill-cam a mile under the gulf is more interesting than talking heads on CNN and Fox, you know the world has tilted on its axis. With an iPhone you can shoot, edit and distribute on a device that fits in your pocket. That is the wind that is blowing through out world. What will media look like when the storm passes? What stories will we tell? I’m sure I don’t know. But the ride isn’t over.

On that happy note, come on out to the LAFCPUG meeting tonight and take a look at Media Composer 5. I’ll be presenting, along with Steve Kanter, who will offer some Final Cut Pro tips for Avid-ites. It promises to be an ecumenical evening and a fitting way to celebrate the group’s ten-year anniversary. The raffle will include a copy of MC5 and a raft of other stuff, as well.

Stand Up Desks

April 22, 2010

A piece in today’s NY Times focuses on the advantages of sit/stand computer tables. Recent research shows that you burn a lot more calories standing than sitting. For those of us who now sit on our butts all day every day, and have the repetitive motion problems and weight gain that goes with it, an option that let’s you vary your position during the day might be  worth considering. Sit/stand desks aren’t not as expensive as you might think and some are motorized. The story is here: Can’t Stand to Sit Too Long? There’s a Desk for That.

And here’s an excellent and surprising article about the many health benefits of standing: Stand Up While You Read This!

Health Plan Kicks In Sooner Than You Might Think

December 29, 2009

One of the most frustrating things about the health care bill working its way through Congress is that if it passes it won’t kick in for years (2013 for the House bill and 2014 for the Senate bill). It turns out that that’s true of the individual marketplace it sets up and for the subsidies to help people purchase plans there. But many other key provisions, some of particular concern to readers of this blog, will go into effect much sooner. One would extend Cobra eligibility for roughly four years. That ought to provide considerable extra peace of mind for people covered through the IATSE. Other provisions that come on quickly eliminate lifetime and yearly limits on coverage, partly close the Medicare drug “doughnut hole,” prohibit insurers from rescinding coverage when you get sick, limit insurance company profits, and force insurers to adopt uniform plan descriptions.

The details are in this NY Times blog post by David Herszenhorn: Health Bill Benefits for the Impatient. Check out the list that starts about halfway down the page. Some of it might surprise you.

Assistant Editors and AMA

September 4, 2009

The more we move away from tape as a way to get in and out of an Avid — and the more we move to HD — the more people start to wonder what the assistant’s role is. Assistants used to have primary responsibility for input and output. Of course, that’s just one part of the job, but it’s a key part.

If you’re working with Avid Media Access (AMA), input seems to get a lot easier. All you do is hook up a drive, point the Media Composer at the drive and within a couple of seconds you’ve magically got yourself a bin populated with clips and containing column after column of neatly organized metadata. The first time you do this the whole world tilts before your eyes. Instant ingest. AMA works with many formats and, because Avid makes it possible for vendors to add formats on their own, more are coming.

But that initial, mind-bending experience is deceptive. First, AMA isn’t a slam dunk for projects that originate on film. So far, nobody has figured out how to get all the telecine data (key numbers and audio timecode) into AMA clips. But that’ll get worked out, soon enough. The real challenges are more mundane — organizing and archiving.

AMA allows you to work with media that does not live in an Avid MediaFiles folder. And that makes it much easier to lose it. Not as bad as Final Cut, where people have coined the phrase “the reconnect dance,” — but though AMA is reputedly smarter, things can still get lost.

More important, if we move to file-based ingest then in many cases assistants are going to be responsible for handling original materials. And that means making multi-terabyte backups religiously, keeping them organized, and storing them securely offsite. Editors and assistants are not used to this responsibility.

My sense is that after the initial euphoria of “instant bin creation” wears off, we’re going to realize that file-based workflows, like so many other digital innovations, while slick as can be, actually complicate things and create work rather than eliminate it.

It used to be that every show inaugurated a new sound workflow. Now, with digital camera formats proliferating, every show inaugurates a new vide0 workflow, too. Things are getting more complicated. And our responsibilities and workloads grow bigger, not smaller.

Clean the Mouse

June 16, 2009

I know it sounds faintly ridiculous, but cleaning your mouse can make a real ergonomic difference for your wrist and forearm. I’m often amazed at what people will put up with in a mouse. It seems like this is the most basic connection you make to the computer. Many of us are dragging and clicking on it non-stop, and it ought to feel as good as it can.

I’ve got a Microsoft Intellimouse Optical, which I love for it’s low profile (easier on your wrist), very smooth travel, flexible software, and the presence of five, easily distinguished buttons. It only touches the surface on four small feet, but they can get gummed up. The deposit can be nearly invisible, but it can produce a noticeable increase in the effort needed to move the thing precisely.

I’ve been working pretty hard lately and thought I was feeling resistance in the mouse. The feet seemed okay on quick inspection, but a couple of minutes of scrubbing made me realize just how bad they were — it felt totally different. I use rubbing alcohol for this purpose, available for a buck or two at any drug store. It’s best to get the concentrated, 91% version, which contains less water and makes it safer on equipment. And be sure to unplug the mouse before you start!  It’s tempting to just turn the thing over and look at it, but you don’t want to be looking into the laser.

Your mousepad is also critical. They may look similar but small differences in the surface texture can dramatically change the way a mouse will track and feel. There’s some kind of alchemy that occurs between the composition of the mouse feet and the surface of the pad. A pad that works best for one mouse may not work so well for another.

You may not be as persnickety about this as I am, but if you’re having wrist or forearm pain, you might be surprised by how much a good mouse — or a clean one — will help. Go to your favorite computer or office store and check them out.

Finally, a suggestion: I program one mouse button as a double-click (a single click on this button has the effect of a double-click). It seems like a small thing, but I do an awful lot of double-clicking to load source clips and this has made a very noticeable difference in the way my arm and wrist feel at the end of the day. It’s also more positive — when you hit the double-click button your clip loads every time. Not all mouse software can be programmed this way, but the Microsoft Mouse driver makes it easy.

Earbuds and Your Hearing

December 10, 2008

Not to focus too much on health issues, but the NY Times ran a cautionary piece by Jane Brody on Tuesday (All That Noise Is Damaging Children’s Hearing) that bears reading for anybody who relies on their ears for their livelihood. Turns out that there’s an epidemic brewing in hearing loss among kids who are spending more and more time with ipods and other devices that pipe sound directly into the ear.

Tinnitus (persistent ringing in the ear) and hearing loss are incurable. Once you’ve got it, you’ve got it for life, and it only gets worse with time.

I listen to an ipod a lot. But lately, I’ve been turning it down as much as possible and finding that I can hear just fine at lower volume levels.

We’re all involved in a giant beta test of these and other new devices. Buyer beware.

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