On Camera Angles and Debates

The MOU between the two campaigns was released last night with regard to the rules of the debate. It’s an attempt to script the unknown and leave nothing to chance. There’s been a lot of hoopla about tonight with regards to the role of the moderator, or ‘moderator,’ Candy Crowley. They just want someone to play referee and not ask followup questions to the question posed by an audience member (in fact the rules go all O’Reilly with instructions to cut the microphone as soon as the question is asked, or if the audience member goes off script).

Thankfully Crowley has said she will ask follow up questions – you know, stuff a debate moderator should be doing. Seems like they got scared from the kick-ass job Raddatz did.

From a camera coverage point of view, here’s the most interesting stipulation:

“There will be no TV cut-aways to any candidate who is not responding to a question while another candidate is answering a question…”

Pretty much every broadcast has not followed this rule as the debates have been broadcasted split screen. But not all. For the first debate I watched it over Xbox (kudos to Xbox btw for streaming the debate live) and they did not do a split screen broadcast. I still got the impression that Romney did better, but Obama looking down and taking notes did not seem as big a deal to me because I hardly saw it. But that became one of the main talking points about that debate. Same can be said for Biden’s laughs and reactions to Ryan when answering questions.

Split screen has really shaped the perception of the debate. You’re not just on while answering the question. You’re always on.

Another interesting thing about tonight is the candidates have a designated area they’re not supposed to leave, and they don’t overlap. I suppose this is to prevent another wandering McCain (though maybe they also had their own zones and McCain just forgot).

 Tonight I’ll probably watch the debate on CNN.com, but have the Xbox on in the background, to compare the coverage. 

The 2012 Debates – Memorandum of Understanding Between the Obama and Romney Campaigns

The Final Cut Pro Dilemma

Never before has a piece of software put me in such an existential dilemma – the evolution (or de-evolution) of Final Cut Pro, the new software that’s so revolutionary it skipped two versions and went from 7 to 10. “Everything’s changed in post.” Yeah, people are switching systems, and it’s not to FCPX. I’m not going to go into what’s new in Final Cut or what it lacks, that’s been well documented (even Conan made fun of it). This is more my thoughts on non-linear editing, adapting, and how FCPX is a piece of crap that destroys work. But that comes later.

I started editing on Premiere in high school. It worked great for what I was doing and I was a big fan. First semester of film school we’re introduced to Avid (though knowing full well we’ll never touch it again). I still don’t understand Avid. It’s so rooted in linear film cutting. I found it really constrictive and counterintuitive to the whole point of editing on a computer. A completely separate mode just to make an edit? WTF?

This made me realize even film professionals are really hesitant to change, since Avid was the first NLE and had to convert film cutters to the digital world. I vowed never to be that person, I’ll embrace new technology!

The rest of film school was all Final Cut Pro 6/7. I became a FCP fan.

Then we edited Bots High. At first there was a lot of crashing and yelling at FCP, until we realized the bizarre hiccups, like bad idea to have a project file over 50 MB, don’t have more than 5 projects open, and tweaking playback settings. But that really introduced me to the idea of using project files not just for the film but to organize all sorts of media. No other program lets you have multiple projects open. With FCP, I have a project with my music library, project with stock footage, etc. For Bots High we organized footage into different projects. And then you can load footage from one project into a sequence in another. Fantastic!

I loved how lose it was, in that there were so many ways you could adapt it to work how you want it to. Plus, with Batch Lists and XML export to pull into FileMaker Pro, the amount of magic you can do is endless.

But did it need an update? For sure. I put 10 gigs of RAM in my computer and it was maybe using half of that. It could go faster, be more stable, use some UI updates, have better search. And even though FCP shifted more away from linear film editing than Avid, it still had a lot of carried over features, like bins and media organization. We all wanted a FCP8. But then we got FCPX.

I read about the uproar, I knew the complaints. But for most of my work I go straight to web, so a lot of the missing features weren’t a big deal to me. If I had a really large project in the works, then I’d probably use something else. But I wanted to try this new way of working, because I didn’t want to be that guy who’s resistant to new things and adapting.

So there’s a few things that are great in FCPX. I love that you can see all the media and scrub over it. Do you know how many times I’ve double-clicked, scrubbed through the footage, double-click, scrub….a lot. The precision editor is kind of nice too. And…it has a pretty icon. OK, I can’t find any more compliments. Not that I hate everything else, it’s just a mess. No tracks leaves a clusterfuck. Events? WTF, my project isn’t a birthday party. And no, I don’t want to import my royalty free music into iTunes so I can pull it in via FCPX. When listening to music on shuffle, I don’t want Cinematic Landscapes popping up. And FCPX starts throwing files in places I don’t know about. I don’t like that.

Overall it just feels less precise, more mouse than keyboard friendly. But here’s the kicker.

This isn’t just FCPX – Apple’s new direction overall is to eliminate saving. Not that you can’t save, but that everything you do is automatically saved. But let me tell you, I’m hard wired to constantly hit Command+S. It’s turned into a twitch. I’ve tried to do it when I’m using pen and paper (no joke). So when you try it in FCPX, you get the annoying Apple error sound.

So I’m trying FCPX out for a web video for Bots High. I’m pushing it to the limit, layering videos and using alpha channels. It was a bitch to align everything, because, you know, there’s no tracks, but it was working. This took half a day, and it was just about done. I was learning the workarounds, slightly warming up. Who knows how many times I tried to save and got the annoying sound. And then it crashed. Not unusual for FCP. But it’s always saving, right? Right??

Well guess what, it wasn’t. Some glitch happened, which was probably the same reason that undo wasn’t working, and it never saved, even though I kept trying to save. So all that work was lost. And that was the last time I ever opened FCPX.

I’ve tried to go back to Premiere, but it’s unbelievably slow. The hard drive is constantly spinning and it freaks me out. It took forever just to go through footage and make an assembly cut. Luckily there’s an escape hatch to go back to FCP7 with my cut. Looking back at the amount of work I just did, I couldn’t have met the client’s deadline at the speed Premiere was going. So cross that off the list.

And then there’s Avid. I don’t know. I know they’ve made it a bit more like Final Cut to get people like me. But it copies everything you import into it’s own MXF folder, which just means more hard drive space eaten up. And I feel like it’s forcing me into a style of working that I don’t like. But perhaps I just need to read more about it. Also because my friends in post-houses are saying everything is going the way of Avid.

So for now I’m still using and loving FCP7. Just today it was discovered that Apple is now selling Studio 3 again, but only over the phone, not online or in their stores. Does that mean they’ll still update and support it? Probably not. But we can hope.

It’s as if Apple spent the last 10 years developing Final Cut and making it a professional editing tool, just to build up its marketing cred so they can turn around, simplify it, and sell it to some hobby dad with a decent video camera (the same person who made DSLRs so popular) who can now show off his kid’s soccer game in a bearable manner and be like, “I cut this on Final Cut Pro. It’s what the pros use.” Just look at David Pogue’s review!

What will be interesting is when the new batch of high school filmmakers that used iMovie (and now, presumably, FCPX) enter film school and then the real world. Will we find a happy balance by then of a new way to edit that can hold up in a professional workflow? Can FCPX and FCP8 exist in the same world!?

Traveling to SXSW on the StartupBus

This Tuesday I’ll be getting on a bus of about 30 entrepreneurs for a road trip from Miami to SXSWi in Austin, TX. During this trip these entrepreneurs will be working in teams to launch a company, in time to pitch at the conference. It’s the Miami StartupBus. And I’ll be filming the whole thing.

I got the offer for this project about a week ago its been a bit of a rush to get things together but I’m really excited.

It’s being billed as The Apprentice meets Amazing Race meets Startup Incubator – should be cool.

I’ve got a few responsibilities as it relates to video. First off is to document the experience – what happens when a bunch of strangers get together and have to create a company in 48 hours.

Second, part of the StartupBus competition is to turn in a pitch video, where online viewers will vote on the idea and then the top 6 will move on to the final presentation at SXSW. I’ll be working with the teams to create that. Six videos in a few hour turnaround, should be fun.

And finally I’ll be handling the live streaming – or at least moderating the channel. What would be ideal to me, and I think more awesome, is if every bus member was a camera person, using their phone to broadcast their experience. I want something that would be one official StartupBus Miami channel page, multiple screens of different camera sources going on this page, and the user could pick one to watch. But I haven’t been able to find anything that can do that, though I feel I’ve seen it.

The main chocies are Livestream and Ustream. Ustream can broadcast from phones. Livestream can’t but can hook up with Qik. At first I was leaning towards Ustream, but Livestream seems to offer more for free, like a complete control center to mix live video, online video, overlay text, and setup playlists of looping video if you’re not broadcasting live on your channel.

For the documentary filming part, I’m borrowing a Canon T2i to play with. I’ll be doing most of the filming on my trusted EX1, but I wanted to try out a DSLR as a B-Camera and this seems like a good project to start.

Also, since I’m now traveling to SXSW, I figured I might as well try to find a venue to screen Bots High and tap into the SXSW crowd. It’s looking like I found a place; I’ll find out tomorrow. But for sure I scored a booth at Dorkbot, a mix of booths of geeky projects and Ignite 5 minute talks. So if you’re in SXSW check it out this Friday.


Andrew Interviews Himself

Taken outside an upscale bar in Madrid.

Who the hell are you?

I’m a 25 year old filmmaker. I went to the FSU Film School and graduated with a BFA in film production. I live in Miami and try to keep busy. I work primarily as an editor and TV producer for a show called ArtStreet, which airs on WLRN-TV (Miami’s PBS affiliate) and I’m currently editing a feature film directed by fellow CC contributor Cherie Saulter. I’m fascinated by New Media and I own a banjo that I do not know how to play.

What are you doing in Miami anyway?

I’m working on stuff.

Why are you still there?

The real question is: why aren’t you here? It’s gorgeous!

No seriously, shouldn’t you be in LA?

Probably. To quote a friend, “it’s inevitable, I guess.” I’m just delaying.

What’s next? Any plans?

Yes! In addition to the TV producing, the editing and the Borscht Film Festival, I’m developing a webseries titled “The Adventures of a Sexual Miscreant.”

Do you have anything to say about yourself, perhaps in third person?

Yes. Yes I do:

Andrew Hevia is a TV producer, editor and filmmaker. He has worked on reality TV shows and major Hollywood productions and is most proud of his time in San Francisco, where he interned at McSweeney’s Publishing, the company founded by the accomplished writer, publisher and TED award winner Dave Eggers. He works closely with the Borscht Film Festival in Miami doing all manner of ridiculous things.

If there were a list of things that Andrew likes most, number twenty-seven on that list would be writing biographies in third person. Also on that list would be vegetarian restaurants in San Francisco and stories about robots in love.

Robot in Love

"Android Falls in Love"

Kickstarter and Flattr

I want to briefly touch on two fundraising websites/programs because I’ll be writing a lot more about them soon (at least on Kickstarter).

Since I just mentioned Kickstarter, I’ll start there. We briefly talked about this in the last podcast, but just in case you missed it, Kickstarter is a site where you create a project, set your budget and set a deadline. You create different levels of funding, such as if someone gives $10 they get a CD for the album you’re trying to record or a digital copy of the movie you’re trying to make, or $2,500 gets them a producer credit. The difference with Kickstarter is people pledge the money, and the money is only withdrawn if you reach your goal. This lowers the risk on the funders’ part, so if you don’t reach the amount you need to complete your project, then no one has to put their money in.

I have a few posts lined up on this for a project I’m about to post, such as the most common donation levels and which levels people are most likely to give to, along with a list of things you can offer to funders.

But in the meantime there’s a good article on Documentary.org called The Kickstarter Effect: Fundraising as Game Theory. It’s a good writeup on how the filmmakers of Battle of Brooklyn raised $25,000 in 30 days for their film.

Another good article is on Ted Hope’s blog from Miao Wang On The Secrets of Her Kickstarter Success, where she describes how she raised $10,000 in 30 days to send Beijing Taxi to SXSW. However my two points of contention with this article are a) she didn’t see the donations pouring in until she mentioned the film was premiering at SXSW, and b) half that amount came from one guy. “The biggest pledge for our campaign actually came from someone who just stumbled upon the project while browsing Kickstarter…He decided he liked the project and went ahead with a pledge at the $5000 level!”

Like I said, I’m about to post a project on it for Bots High so I’ll see how it goes.

Website 2 is Flattr. It aims to allow content creators to make some money on their content (semi ironically Flattr is from the creator of The Pirate Bay). So the way I understand it, you sign up with Flattr and have it deduct a certain amount every month, say $30. You go online like you normally do, and if you read an article you really like, or see a movie or photo that jives with you, you click a Flattr button (I’m assuming something similar to ‘Digg This’ or ‘Tweet Me’) and that person gets a piece of your pie.

Then, depending on how many Flattrers(?) you give in the month, that number is divided by your $30 and sent to all those content creators. So if you liked 30 things, each creator gets a dollar. If you liked 1, then that person gets all $30. Check out the video below for a visual explanation.

The idea is if many people contribute, it can make a sizable sum for content creators, and maybe give something back to them.

Either way I’m curious to see how it pans out. However, for now we’ll have to wait until it gets out of private beta.

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