I’m a big fan of apps that bring back some of the restraints of analog technology that we’ve completely forgotten with digital. Now I’m not giving up my digital cameras or editing programs any time soon, but the restraints are fun exercises in creativity and patience.
1-Hour Photo is a new app that’s pretty self explanatory from the title. Take a photo, wait 60 minutes, see your photo. Just like the old days, except you don’t have to drive down to the photo lab. Will this be my new go to photo app? No. But when you have to wait an hour to see your photo, you think about that picture a lot more.
Would be interesting to see if they add a 36 exposure cap and a ‘reload’ delay. Good exercise to get some action shots with those constraints.
If you’re into other analog apps, I’ve got a text editor from an old project that mimics a Typewriter (no deleting).
They say Adobe After Effects is like Photoshop for video (or aims to be). I’ll take it a step further and say Final Cut Pro X is like Adobe Illustrator for editing.
This post is a continuation of what I like about Final Cut Pro X. Check out part 1 on metadata here.
It takes some getting used to, but one of my favorite features of FCPX is the magnetic timeline and compound clips.
About the same time I began experimenting with FCPX again, I was trying to learn Illustrator. I’m pretty good at Photoshop, but I was having a hard time figuring out how layers in Illustrator worked.
Turns out that’s because layers aren’t the organizational foundation of an Illustrator file – it’s groups. You have groups within groups within groups. It’s the same idea with groups and compound clips in FCPX.
You can instantly create compound clips in a timeline – like nested sequences but on steroids. Highlight as many clips as you like and then create a Compound Clip. Now you have one clip to deal with on your timeline. You can double click on the clip to edit the clips within in. Or you can Ungroup and restore the clips to the original timeline.
This is great for project organization or if you create an instant animation with a few layers that you want to continue to use. Also great for handling time-lapse sequences of lots of photos.
My one complaint about Compound Clips is I can’t move a clip I created in a project into an event, just in case I wanted to use it again elsewhere (like my logo analogy). I’d have to go back into the project and copy/paste it. At least for now. You can create Compound Clips in an Event, which is what happens when you use FCPX to sync media together.
Speaking of time-lapse, another awesome feature is batch changes. Let’s say I have a time-lapse sequence with each frame lasting 5 seconds. I can highlight them all and change the duration for each clip to say 3 seconds. The change is applied to everything, and with the magnetic timeline, they automatically squeeze back together.
Skimming takes some getting used to. But once you do, it’s like having two time indicators. One remains at the last position you stopped or clicked. The other follows your mouse, letting you quickly scan through clips or the project. You just have to be mindful of where exactly the mouse is. You might be inadvertently hovering over a clip, and whatever changes you want to make (say inserting a clip or splicing) will apply to the time indicator of your mouse, not the one controlled by your keyboard.
As for the lack of tracks, I don’t mind it. You just have to take some extra preparation time in the Events, when you’re logging and tagging your footage, to make sure you set the roles of music and FX. But you can take it a step further, because you can create as many roles as you like. Once they’re cut into your project, you can turn them on and off at will, or filter them in other ways. But again, preparation is key, because once a clip is in a project, changing the role in the Event won’t change what’s on the timeline, and vice versa. And since there are no tracks, you can get really crazy, like stacking audio on top of video. Though I’m not sure why you’d want to do this.
But wait,there’s more! Stay tuned.
Not too long ago, I swore off FCPX as a project sabotaging POS and was trying to figure out where to go next.
Today, FCPX is all I’m using and I don’t see myself jumping ship. How’d I learn to stop worrying and love the bomb? One word.
With completely digital workflows, I have thousands of clips and terabytes of data. Data wrangling and logging was a big issue for my feature, Bots High.
To manage the 5000 files, I created a custom FileMaker Pro database, wrote shot descriptions for everything, and created custom fields for characters and general tags.
This gets the job done, but there is no synergy between your notes and the media. There’s a lot of jumping around between programs, and repeatedly watching the same clips multiple times to find and re-find footage.
Also, some shots could run 10 minutes long or more. Lots of different things could have happened in that clip, yet logging wise all those notes are crammed into 1 record, and I’d have to dig through the clip again to find what I was looking for (or not).
I’m gearing up for another feature, and was taking the proactive measure of starting a new database in pre-production, to keep up with the media as I shoot.
Around the same time I saw mention of Philip Hodgetts’ book Conquering the Metadata Foundations of Final Cut Pro X. For $5 I figured it was worth a read. Maybe I could use FCPX as a media manager, and edit elsewhere.
Best $5 I spent that month. This book covers everything you’d want to know about tagging, sorting, logging, and searching media, and it opened my eyes to the ninja tricks FCPX is capable of.
Here are some of my favorite Final Cut Pro X Metadata tricks:
- When logging footage, you can create custom metadata views, showing only the fields you need. Plus, you can create custom fields.
- Not only can you tag clips, you can tag a section of a clip. For documentaries with 10 minute takes (like I’ve had), this is a life saver.
- Everything you’ve been tagging and logging is searchable. Or you can create smart collections that gather all your clips (or the tagged section) based on criteria you pick.
- Playback is amazing. In real time I can play a clip, mark the in and out and tag that section without ever stopping playback. You can even assign keyboard shortcuts to specific tags or groups of tags.
Logging is actually enjoyable. I can focus on watching the footage and not the hassle of jumping back and forth between different programs and using hacks to tag and log footage.
Even if you have no intention of cutting in FCPX, I’d argue (especially for documentary filmmakers) that it’s worth the $300 alone just to log and manage your footage.
Giving these metadata features a try with some media for a short project, I decided to give editing another try as well. At this point 10.0.3 was out, which meant some bugs had been fixed and it had XML export, so there was an escape hatch if I needed it.
After getting used to the workflow and keyboard shortcuts, there’s a lot to like. In a nutshell, it’s like Adobe Illustrator for video.
I’m splitting this up into multiple posts. In the next part, I’ll write about the rest of what I like in X.
Want to control your digital SLR camera from your iPhone (or Touch)? When I was taking pictures of grilled cheese sandwiches, there was a bit of downtime between the grillin’, so I figured out how to work this totally awesome magic, all for less than $4.
(While writing this and researching links, I realized OnOne has their own dedicated tethered shooting app. However, their app is $20 while the one I describe below is only $4. And before you say there’s a $2 Lite version, you can do so much more with Keymote)
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Digital camera ((This post is specifically geared toward Nikon and Canon shooters, but as far as I can tell, as long as you can tether your camera (that goes for point and shoot too) and you can control it from your computer via keyboard shortcuts, then this should work.))
- Laptop or computer (Mac) with USB cable for tethering
- Tethering software for your camera (links and free workarounds for Nikon users below)
- iPhone or iPod Touch
- Keymote iPhone App and their free receiver software installed on your computer
First is to get your camera and laptop setup to shoot tethered. Scott Kelby and Joe McNally have great posts on their personal setups and if you want more details on tethering you should check them out.
However, what they leave out is a free tethering option for us Nikon shooters. Canon users have a free ride with the EOS Capture Utility. The Nikon option is Camera Control Pro 2, but it’s $160.
If you don’t want all the bells and whistles and just want to be able to operate your camera from your computer, there’s Sofortbild, a free Mac tethered shooting app. Actually, it’s quiet amazing for free. You can control all your settings, have images displayed full screen, setup time lapse, and probably do 90% of the things you’d want to do in Camera Control, but for none of the cost.
So you’ve got your free tethering setup, now you need to make the magic happen with your iPhone. Keymote is an app that once linked with your computer it let’s you save sets of keyboard shortcuts to specific groups. There’s a bunch of preset program specific ones you can download, such as Front Row, Hulu, Finder, Final Cut Pro, or, in our case, you can create a new one, such as this:
The iPhone and Mac connect via a wireless network. Don’t worry, you don’t actually need to be in a hot spot. You can just create a network with your Mac and join it through your iPhone.
It’s pretty simple from here. With Sofortbild and Keymote launched and the two paired, just press away and watch everything go to work.
This worked out really well with the food when I had to position something and snap a picture before it all toppled over. Other uses I can think of are working with kids, getting a better connection with subjects and models, and anything else where timing or ruining the moment is at risk by running back behind your camera.
And as I said, Keymote will work with anything that uses keyboard shortcuts. So it’s been really nice to sit back on the couch and watch some cuts in Final Cut, and even be able to mark clips and subclip raw footage.
I’m finally in the last stretch of transcribing my documentary footage, so I’ll keep this post short. I thought I’d talk about the amazing software that I’ve been using to help me in my task – InqScribe.
Basically it’s a video player and text editor, but with the sole purpose for transcriptions and subtitling. You import your footage onto your computer, import the clip into InqScribe, adjust the timecode to match the footage, and playback the video as you type.
I know that doesn’t sound very revolutionary or time saving, but InqScribe’s got plenty of great controls. You can slow down the playback, toggle play/pause with the keyboard (or foot pedal if you have one), jump back a few seconds, and create keyboard shortcuts to insert timecode markers and different character names wherever you need them. It’s definitely made transcribing as painless as it can be. Best of all, they have a free 30-day trial, so check it out.
Though my two-week documentary editing cycle starts next Wednesday, I need to pick up the pace since I have to be on set Sunday through Tuesday. I’d like to get a paper edit complete before I start capturing footage, a process I’ll explain in the near future.