Sometimes you need to step away…

Sometimes you just have to step away from the computer. 

Seriously. I will explain:

On Sunday, I’d worked hard creating a layered graphic in GIMP (the free graphics tool), and imported a .PSD file into FCP X – my video editing programme – to edit the end title card of the teaser trailer – the bit that just says ‘coming soon’….. It was a copy of the intro title card, with some slightly different wording. Exactly the same as the Intro Title card in design / no settings changed. 

I imported it into FCP X and it came out blank. All the layers were black. There was no visible workable data. Even changing the file name and reimporting or trawling GIMP and FCP message boards didn’t help. In the end I just gave up.

I sat before the same computer this afternoon, and I was planning to recreate the same title card, to find a workaround, but figure that before I do that I will give it one last go. And… It worked first.f@cking.time! WTF!

I’m kind of Hapgry… or Angpy… not sure what is the best combination of the two emotions in one word. Happy that it now works, but angry that something that should have worked first time did not and all that has changed is that I have not had time to tackle it again since Sunday!

But if you want to know why editing can take so damn long some times, hopefully the above clears a few things up. But maybe life was just telling me to step the hell away for a bit and do something else for a while.

If you google the issue – in the past it seems that this was caused by people doing 16-bit graphics, and changing to 8-bit fixed it. And of course previous FCP X updates addressed this issue with PSD files not displaying correctly. But what do we do when FPC X doesn’t play well with perfectly good files? What do we do when a reboot won’t fix it? What do we do when we’re up against an urgent edit timeline and nothing logical seems to fix it? – Personally I don’t like those stakes. But it’s something that should be considered if you’re ever working with layered graphic files in your edit.

Anyway, now the edit of MR CLEAN can continue…..

Transcoding DSLR footage and Radial Dolly

Great article video on using FCP Studio’s Compressor app to Transcode footage for your editing workflow. Obviously the same principles apply to working with iPhone 4 footage etc.

The article: http://filmmakeriq.com/2010/01/the-dslr-filmmakers-workflow/ – and check out all the other articles on the site. There’s some really useful material on there.

The video:

Here’s a great example of what can be shot on the 550D – if you know how – and combined with CG to create a stunning final product:

The 3rd Letter (aka “36 stairs”) trailer from grzegorz jonkajtys on Vimeo.

Nice.

Here’s another great video to show the kind of audio setup you can use to record separate audio and when to use software like Plural Eyes to sync it up later on your timeline for post:

How-to: Shooting ENG style with Dual System Audio on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II from Createasphere on Vimeo.

Yes, my brief encounter with a Canon 550D DSLR has inspired me. I am geeking out on the kind of footage that can be acquired. Especially when you factor in this cunning design for a tabletop Radial / Micro Dolly!

here’s the video to show you how they made it, with example footage:

Of iPhone 4 film shoots and more

Zombie Mints - Litter

Yes, I’ve been a busy film geek of late. Not only have we attempted to shoot a short film entirely on the iPhone 4, but I’ve been getting to grips with FCP Studio and learning how to edit the footage; as I am sick of trying to do it in the totally unintuitive and limited iMovie 09 or iMovie app.

It has not been the easiest of times. But as with each of my shoots I have learnt from it.

The main objective was to shoot a spoof commercial / short horror comedy film in 1 day, with mainly found objects / objects I already had, amateur actors, natural light and do it all on the iPhone 4 – and for £50 including food. It did not go to plan.

The End result – was shot in 4 hours, on the iPhone 4, is not edited on it though as that was doing my frickin’ head in, features the usage of one red head light as the weather was not with us on the day, I had to buy makeup and marigolds as props. Total budget – including feeding the crew was about £60.

Firstly, always check your makeup prior to prepping your shoot. I found that the latex and powdered makeup I intended to use for my zombie makeup had gone off, since I bought it after a special FX course that I took. Cue hurried calls and a mad dash by one of the crew to go and pick up some replacement makeup; only to find that it was vastly substandard, but by then we had to crack on and make a go of it. Not ideal. Periodically check your makeup, just like you would any piece of equipment.

Secondly, I must say that if you’re going to attempt to shoot anything meaningful featuring actors, that requires intricate zooms or moving the camera, don’t bother using the iPhone 4 unless you really want to keep retaking your shots to get them right. It’s difficult enough to shoot anything with actors and enabling them to hit their marks without having to ensure that you capture the shot. All it takes is the focus to suddenly become unresponsive or a slight knock to the camera itself or the tripod you’re using and the shot is ruined. This happened often. It’s fine if the shoot is simple or just shooting live action as it happens – after all that it what it was designed for.

I have noticed also that the compressed format of the iPhone 4 AVCHD footage doesn’t hold up well in blocks of colour, especially on blacks of shadows. It often looks blocky or patchy, even when the scene has plenty of light. My main actor brought a Canon 550D and I have heard amazing things about the video capability of this camera. If he had known how to use it and I could have quickly learned, I would have been sorely tempted to ditch the iPhone and do it right. However, the object was to have a fun shoot, using the iPhone 4 and not falling back to any of my other cameras – not even the fully charged Semi Pro DV cam I had upstairs; no matter how tempting it was!

Zombie Karl

The real point of contention for me has been the edit. iMovie just doesn’t cut it as an editing app, not when you’re shooting multiple viewpoints / angles and intercutting them. A 30 second sequence took me 4 times longer to edit in iMovie and it was far from polished at the rough cut stage compared to the same edit in FCP. That is the point though isn’t it. Although you may want to shoot a fun movie – fun is relative and if you approach it with a Semi Pro sensibility then you must use Semi Pro tools.

But the iPhone 4 footage is still relatively new. Few programmes automatically come with the codecs / settings as standard, so I found that FCP did not have suitable setting for me to use, which would retain the audio on the timeline. That is, until I stumbled across the article “Topic : Iphone4 video to Final Cut pro – giving away a droplet to help you out.” – which came with a link to download a droplet. This droplet converted over 62 clips in an hour – into better quality ProRes 422 LT footage that FCP could understand and could play back the audio. Nice! Thanks Jeff Greenberg!

Anyway, it will be while yet before the finished movie is ready for derision and mockery. But I am in the middle of editing it right now, and must stop procastinating. Let’s hope it’s worth the wait.

Colour correction – film looks

Rich at AE Portal News posted a great vidcast by Stu Maschwitz (Author of DV REBEL’S TOOLKIT now Creative Director at Red Giant), showing how you can achieve the same film looks of current blockbuster movies (TERMINATOR 4, WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123 remake etc) by using Magic Bullet Looks and Colorista in After Effects CS4. Check out the vid here: http://vimeo.com/5298634

Within the video there is also mention of this new tool from Adobe called KULER –  where you can explore, create and share clour themes. A perfect tool for all your colour grading needs!