We got the opportunity to play with a brand new Panasonic AG-HPX370 HD camera.
This camera features the incredible AVC-Intra codec and the price is only around $10,000 with the lens! It's essentially the baby brother of the Varicam, shooting on 1/3" chips instead of 2/3". Fujinon sent us a beautiful wide angle lens to play with as well.
And play with it we did. Geez, does it get much better than a classic tractor sitting out in a cornfield on a gorgeous afternoon? That's editor / videographer Roger Mahr trying out the camera. It's so easy it even makes an editor into a great photographer!
Left to right that's Max Armstrong, Georgia Governor Sonny Purdue, Roger Mahr, Dana Simmons and Adrienne Latham. Hiding behind Roger is Rodney Miller. That tractor was originally purchased by the Governor's father and after his passing, it languished in a field. Rodney had the entire tractor restored right back to original factory condition and then surprised the Governor with it at an event last year.
Governor Purdue had a great time driving the tractor around for some b-roll shots. That 370 camera is so light you can use it almost like the smaller 200 units.
I know folks like the small cameras because they're so small and light, but man, this camera fits the same bill AND you get the interchangeable lenses. I think Panasonic has really a sweet spot with this camera.
I got in and joined the team for a picture with the Governor. What a really nice guy and it was so nice of him to come out and join us for a pilot project.
Ok, nothing at all to do with the Panasonic camera, but how cool is this? For me two things really say "Americana." A classic Bel-Air and a farm tractor. Given the choice, I would take the farm tractor!
I hope one day this will be my view as I go out and do "stuff" out in the yard.... This is a stunning Ford 641 Diesel.
Dana, Roger, Max, Adrienne on the tractor, Rodney and yours truly hanging out at Rodney's barn with one of his "toys." And that's not just a showpiece, it's a working tractor that he takes out to his cornfields as needed.
Yes, it WAS as fun as it looks. What were we doing? Well, I'll have more details in the very near future.
But as for the Panny 370.
It was ridiculously simple to use. Roger shoots from time to time, but is not a DP by any means. But the images produced by his work were just stunning. Bright sunshine, shadows, white accents on tractors, aluminum, shiny glass, you name it, we had it. Great details in the lights and shadows no matter what we threw at it. The reds from tractors did not bleed and set off beautifully from the blue skies.
Didn't use up a single battery in about 5 hours of shooting, we were using those small Anton Bauer Dionic 2000 batteries and they were not only great, but much smaller and lighter. In fact the overall light weight made for a very pleasant day of shooting. Those really small cameras are nice for sure, but most folks don't realize you can shoot all day very easily with a camera on your shoulder.
On the top of the camera is a port where you can install two optional wireless receivers for microphones. No velcro holding receivers on the back of the camera, or on the side. They sit right on-board which is very cool. This particular camera did not have that option installed so we didn't get to try it out, but I'll definitely add that option when the time comes to order one for the shop.
The Fujinon Lens was a very nice wide angle with no distortion making Roger's life much easier during the shoot.
Looking at the images back on our 50" HDTV in the shop, I was just blown away by the detail and sharpness. Again, light to dark, whites and high gloss, it was all there. So if you're in the market for a new camera, I would definitely recommend checking out the Panasonic 370. Awesome price, incredible picture and very very easy to use.
Thanks so much to David Strupp at WH Platts Company, Jimmy McGinnis at Panasonic
and the folks at Fujinon
for setting up the demo and letting us try out the gear.
I spent the day at the FSI offices last week getting a chance to really chat with Dan, Bram and Johan about the monitors and learning about all the features. Their offices are also in the Atlanta area so I took the opportunity to get some instruction on these monitors at their offices.
I knew these things were full of features but I didn't realize just HOW many features and how much end user control they have. I really don't expect the feature set at the price point, but these guys are doing it and it's great for all of us in need of a good LCD monitor.
Scopes are becoming a standard now on the LCD panels, but how would like those scopes and audio meters displayed? There are something like a dozen choices from the type of scope you want to see, the values you want to see (Luma, RGB, etc), where you want it on screen and even how many channels of audio you would like to see. Oh and embedded audio via SDI which is really sweet on a field shoot. You don't need to tie into the sound guy's audio output, you can just plug a headphone into the monitor and get the clean sound from there. (you can also do this with analog). Oh and how about scopes that are active via all inputs including DVI?
Markers that can be displayed in pretty much any frame size and either as lines or transparent or solid mattes.
Pixel Mapping so you can see your image pixel for pixel, on any of the displays.
Control over pulldown, as in you can have the pulldown smoothed out or you can see it frame for frame with the judder.
Classic Blue Only mode for those who just don't want to give that up when switching out from CRTs. :-)
I'm especially loving the 5 user preset keys now that I'm figuring it out. Basically 5 user controlled On/Off buttons to activate my 5 most used features, such as Scopes and Markers. AND 5 user profiles so when we start having more editors using the suites, each person can have those function keys pre-set however they want.
And I saw just how ridiculously easy the Auto Alignment procedure is to re-calibrate the monitor at any time. Turn On Monitor. Let it Warm Up for 30 Minutes. Connect the Probe to the FSI Alignment Converter. Connect the Converter to the Monitor. Hit "Auto Align." Grab a coffee and come back 20 minutes later.
Can you tell I'm really liking these monitors? A true color accurate monitor that we can all afford? And best of all, the 30 day money back guarantee, which is one of the reasons why I feel so comfortable recommending them to anyone reading this. If you truly don't like it, then return it and you're not out any money so you can go get something else.
If anyone out there needs / wants a Dual Link to 3G Converter, AJA Video Systems has a nice little mini-converter out there.
What's 3G you say? The replacement for Dual Link HD. Instead of two cables, you get the full 3G HD signal down one cable. I honestly had never heard of it until we ordered our new Flanders Scientific monitors and they were talking about how their monitors offer only 3G and not Dual Link because Dual Link will be replaced in the near future.
Editorial has been completed on the new business television pilot developed by Biscardi Creative Media, ideaWercs and Arriving with BB Webb. BCM Principal Walter Biscardi, Jr. served as Director, Editor and Post Production Supervisor on this project.
Additional credits include Brian Mead for logo design, Aaron R. Stewart for graphics design and Brian Little for opening title design. The episode was produced in 720p HD. More details will be provided as the series moves towards full production of Season One.
Biscardi Creative Media recently delivered an introductory project for an upcoming feature-length documentary about River Blindness disease. Produced by Gary Strieker and Cielo Productions, the project was a 10 minute overview of what the disease is and a brief look into some of the preventative measures being implemented by The Carter Center.
The presentation, "The Crab and the Fly" was shot in 720p HD in multiple locations in Africa and Latin America over a two year period. Editorial was performed by Aaron R. Stewart and the final presentation was delivered on 1080i BluRay disc using BCM in-house BluRay authoring & publishing tools.
The feature length documentary is scheduled for completion by mid to late 2009.
BCM has completed all BluRay disc production for Season One of "Assignment Earth," airing nationally on PBS stations.
Assignment Earth covers environmental and wildlife stories from the front lines around the world. Lead by Producer Gary Strieker, the series has traveled to Mexico, Thailand, China and Africa in just the first season bringing back stunning 720p and 1080i High Definition footage. Artists Walter Biscardi, Jr. and Aaron Stewart teamed up to create the first 5 episodes on BluRay disc, bringing the full quality of the original shows to the home viewer.
The entire series is being self-published at BCM's facility.
Tools used: Final Cut Pro, Photoshop, DoStudio, Panasonic BluRay replicator, FlexWriter IV Printer.
BCM has completed a new historical animation for Good Eats with Alton Brown on the Food Network.
Artists Walter Biscardi, Jr., Aaron Stewart and Brian Mead worked closely with Alton Brown and producer Dana Popoff to create the latest in a series of historical animation that have been created for the Good Eats. This time it's a look at crackers, which have a surprisingly interesting story to tell! Animated by Biscardi in 720p HD, the one minute animation will appear in an upcoming episode in Winter 2008.
Tools used: Photoshop, After Effects, Canon 30D camera, Crackers.
BCM has completed all color grading for the feature film, "Keepsake" from Stormcatcher Films.
Shot on location in Virginia, the film was Directed by Paul Moore and shot over a 24 day period. D.P. Todd Gilpin did an incredible job with setting up the look of the film. He created a very rich canvas from which Colorist Walter Biscardi, Jr. was able to create an incredible palette of color. Biscardi worked closely with Moore, Gilpin and Producer Scott Tanner to bring out the gritty details and haunting images of the fight for survival.
Keepsake is the first feature film project for Biscardi Creative Media. The film will debut in Oct. 2008 in Hollywood, California.
For more information about Stormcatcher Films visit http://stormcatcherfilms.com/site.html Tools used: Color, Final Cut Pro, AJA Kona 3.
Well, we've got our HP workstation up and running with DoStudio's Trial Version now installed. The Trial version is the complete application with only the commercial replication features turned off.
First impressions are this thing is definitely NOT DVD Studio Pro or Encore. This is a very serious tool along the lines of Apple's Color compared to the 3 Way Color Correction filter in Final Cut Pro. There is a learning curve as a lot of programming is manually done rather than simple drag and drop type of operations. This feels more like a professional authoring tool and less like a toy. Don't get me wrong, I love DVDSP and it's simple drag and drop functionality, but it's nice to essentially have almost endless possibilities open to us and forcing us to actually learn what we're doing. Anybody can drag and drop, but it's nice to be able to get your "hands dirty" and go under the hood to see how to really operate authoring software.
In just one day, we've been able to get a nice main menu and chapter selection pop-up menu already underway. A little snag on the pop-up where we can get it to pop-up but it's not going to the various chapters like we programmed. NetBlender's support has been great to work with so far and we've uploaded the project file for them to poke around and see where we went wrong. I'm sure it's operator error as we've been using the software all of about 6 hours.
One big thing that is missing as of right now is an "Undo." This is reminiscent of Final Touch before Apple purchased it and turned in to Color. Final Touch did not have any sort of Undo so you had to be very careful of what you were doing. NetBlender tells me that Undo is a feature that will be added on this fall with an update and we're already looking forward to it! :-)
The big adjustment is that we have to essentially "forget" the DVD mentality. There are so many different possibilities in authoring BluRay that you have to design the menus and even the overall flow differently. Still wrapping our heads around this, but using this software definitely calls for more planning and thought than just hurry up and get it done.
So many of you have read of our failings with Adobe Encore trying to create BluRay discs. Today we start a new chapter in BluRay authoring by transferring all our needs to NetBlender's "DoStudio."
NetBlender has instituted a really neat month to month licensing option that's approx. $250 per month to use the software. This is truly a month to month deal. So I can activate it for September for $250 and then sign up again in December. There's no extra fees, nothing. They have several plans for 6 months, 12 months or you can outright purchase the software if you want. But in my case, we plan to produce maybe 10 BluRays all of 2009. Probably in batches of 3 or 4, so I might spend $1,000 total next year in the licensing fees, which is significantly less than $8,000 for the permanent license. So to start out, I can just go $250 per month which is easily charged back to the client per job.
The only caveat to this software is that it requires a Window machine, and we're a full blown Mac shop here. So I did what I swore I would never do..... purchased an HP Workstation loaded with Vista. Of course, the sad thing for me is this is a fully loaded workstation for less than $1,700 and I know that if I created a fully loaded Mac Pro it'd be around $5,000 or more. So that's one good thing, I guess!
One really neat little gadget I added on is a 160GB "pocket drive" that slips into the bottom of the HP machine. We'll use this to transfer the large MPEG-2 files and graphics files from our Macs to the HP. Neat idea to essentially put a portable drive that slips in like a USB stick.
So that's Step 1 - get an HP Workstation! I went by NetBlender's recommendations and picked up the following machine:- HP Pavilion Slimline s3500t PC- Genuine Windows Vista Home Premium with Service Pack 1 (32-bit)- Intel(R) Core(TM) 2 Quad processor Q9300- 3GB DDR2-800MHz dual channel SDRAM (1x2048,1x1024)- 512MB NVIDIA GeForce 9500GS, DVI-I, HDMI, VGA adapter- 1TB 7200 rpm SATA 3Gb/s hard drive- 802.11 a/b/g/n Wireless LAN card- Blu-ray DVD writer/player & Lightscribe SuperMulti DVD burner- 15-in-1 memory card reader, 2 USB, headphone port- No TV Tuner w/remote control- None (Integrated 5.1 capable sound w/ front audio ports)- Microsoft(R) Works 9.0- No additional security software- HP keyboard and HP optical mouse- 160 GB 5400rpm HP Pocket Media Drive
- HP Home & Home Office Store in-box envelope
I'll give you folks regular updates as we move forward with this new BluRay authoring tool!
I'm really happy to report publicly for the first time that we'll be providing all post production for 3 feature length documentaries that are currently destined for major film festivals and network HD broadcast in 2009 and 2010. We can trace at least part of this announcement to our investment in BluRay and in-house self-publishing of the high definition discs.
Yesterday a sample 9 minute version of the first of the three proposed documentaries was presented to the Carter Center here in Atlanta. Among the people present were both hollywood executives and an executive of an international television network and most importantly, President Jimmy Carter. It has been Mr. Carter's mission to eradicate major diseases to impoverished areas of the world and in this particular presentation, the story was Guinea worm and its debilitating effect on people, especially the very young. I'm going to be very honest and say that for the first week I had a very difficult time cutting the piece and had to walk out of the suite multiple times a day to get away from the screams of the little girl who serves as the primary focus of this presentation. It was a natural sound story told through the stories of the man who oversees the eradication program for the Carter Center and the volunteers on the ground. All in all, it presents a very powerful emotional punch.
In order to present the project properly, we authored and created a BluRay disc and the production company purchased a Panasonic DLP HD projector for the event. Actually that part is kind of cool because now we have full access to a large format DLP HD projector anytime we need one. In addition to the presentation disc, we duplicated 20 BluRay and 30 DVD copies for all the board and associated personnel to take home. All packaged in proper DVD and BluRay cases with full four color sleeves designed in Photoshop and printed on our own laser printer. The discs themselves were printed on our new FlexWriter IV DVD duplicator / printer.
The fact that we were able to deliver and present the project on BluRay made an immediate impression before the viewing even began. At the conclusion of the presentation, the accolades for both the story and technical quality of the presentation were overwhelming. We will most likely debut at least one of the documentaries at the Sundance Film Festival and it is very likely that all three documentaries will appear on a major international H.D. network in 2009 or 2010. The narrator will be a major hollywood star or potentially several stars, talks are already underway.
What we were able to accomplish by not only jumping in to the BluRay authoring realm, but also the duplication and finishing was to allow our client to look incredibly good in front of a very demanding audience. It's because of this ability to not only tell the story on screen, but deliver it in the highest possible quality anytime, anywhere, that we were granted the offer to be a part of these three documentaries and essentially have one edit suite already fully booked for 2009.
BluRay self-publishing is here and it works.
Apple Final Cut Pro, AJA Kona 3, Apple Compressor 3, Adobe Encore CS3, FastMac BluRay Burner, Panasonic BluRay Duplicator, FlexWriter IV DVD Printer, HP LaserJet 3000 Printer .
Sony and Samsung announce a wireless HD signal that would send HD signals to multiple TV's in your home from a single box. But Sony is also involved in another effort to achieve the same goal. Wonder if the signals will ever been good enough for smaller Post houses like mine to send signals wirelessly to our production monitors. that would be pretty cool actually!
The New York Times reports that Warner Brothers has now lined up in Blu-Ray DVD corner effectively giving the Sony format about 70% of the high definition DVD market. They'll continue to release movies on both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray until May and then switch exclusively over to Blu-Ray. This leaves Universal and Paramount along with Dreamworks as the only major studios backing HD-DVD.
As a production company that had to jump into Blu-Ray production in support of one of our clients, this is welcome news for us. I have to say, if you have not seen Pixar's "Cars" and "Rattatoule" on Blu-Ray disc, you have not seen the true capabilities of Blu-Ray. Jaw dropping is the only way I can describe what these movies look like in HD. Better than what it looked like in the theater.
Full article on the New York Times website.
Amazon has put together a nice links page to update your HD-DVD and BluRay players. If you don't already know, many machines require firmware updates to be able to play the latest discs, particularly the recordable discs, such as BluRay BD-R discs.
If your machine won't play that latest HD disc, check to see if there's an update for your machine.
SUGAR HILL, GA9/8/2007 Jonathan Demme's new documentary, Man From Plains, about former President Jimmy Carter had its World Premiere at the Venice Film Festival on September 7th, 2007. The film received a two minute standing ovation and will next be presented at the Toronto Film Festival with the Carters in attendance on Monday, September 10th. The film is an intimate two-hour portrayal of the 39th President set against the backdrop of Carter's Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid book tour. Biscardi Creative Media, located just outside Atlanta, Georgia provided extensive production support for this project working with Producer Gary Strieker, The Carter Center and Demme's production team at PostWorks in New York. BCM turned around hours of archival material in both standard definition and high definition. "We're honored to have been a small part of this very important project about a man who has been such a champion of human rights and health issues," said Walter Biscardi, Jr., Principal, Biscardi Creative Media. "It was a bit hectic here with four different formats of material and literally hundreds of hours of footage to sift through, but with guidance from Demme's team, Gary Strieker, our team was able to turn around all the footage to make the deadline. We wish the film much success as it moves forward and look forward to future projects with The Carter Center." The film has been picked up by Sony Classic Pictures and is slated for release in October. For more information about “Man from Plains:”http://www.sonyclassics.com/jimmycartermanfromplains/index.html For more information about Biscardi Creative Media:http://www.biscardicreative.com For more information about The Carter Center:http://www.cartercenter.org/homepage.html
So I just have to pass along this wonderful experience we've had and it really underscores the tremendous community we have here at Creative COW. For about a year I've been contemplating an upgrade to our facility to make it more efficient. When I started in 2001 I had one edit suite and hoped to add a 2nd one at a later date. In 2003 we expanded to that 2nd suite and I was eventually able to get a full sized rack unit to hold all my tape decks, my computer and some storage.
It worked pretty well though a bit combersome because there were no patch panels so to run anything to anywhere meant crawling behind the racks, pulling cables, figuring what went where, etc.. Then at the end of 2006 we suddenly needed a third suite which we quickly threw together. Now suddenly we were pulling decks out of the rack, walking them to the third suite, walking drives around, etc... It was starting to get really messy.
So I contacted a few local companies about assisting me in re-engineering the shop to be much more efficient. I can figure out what I need, but really wanted an engineer to come up with the best way to make everything here more efficient both in layout and operation. Didn't really find what I was looking for in terms of personnel and price. Enter Creative COW and fellow COW Leader, Bob Zelin.
It started with a simple email to Bob. Through reading his posts it was obvious that facility design and installation was one of his specialities. I simply asked if he would be interested in assisting me at all. To my surprise he said yes and immediately asked for a full equipment list and a general layout of our facility. What I loved about this process was I kept downplaying what we needed here and he kept insisting on some additional cables and connections that would make our lives easier.
Within about two weeks we had the first drawings and plans from Bob. Again, I was questioning some of his ideas because I thought it was overkill. Three video patch panels? Three audio patch panels? We're a simple, small shop, aren't we going too far here? I'm thinking one patch panel for each should do fine. But Bob, in his own gentle fashion, reminded me that it's easier to run cables once, than to install something and then come back in a few months and say " you know we should add some more cables runs here, there and the other room." It started to make sense, especially after the full drawings for the patch panels showed up and I could visually see what he was talking about.
Two months after we started discussions, we finalized the plans which included: two new full sized rack units; three video patch panels; three audio patch panels; new reference DA; a Gefen DVI/USB extender to allow one computer to move 55 feet from the suite to the rack unit; and I'm guessing about 1,500 feet of new audio / video / control cables. At the same time we decided to upgrade our storage with two new MaxxDigitial SAS/SATA 8TB arrays for the two main suites adding 16TB of new storage. I have to say, Bob's insight and advice during this entire process was invaluable and he really made the plan much better than anything I could have created on my own. In addition, he probably saved me a lot of money from the inevitable mistakes I would have made designing all of this on my own.
Almost immediately our new racks and shelves showed up in about 6 huge boxes. We replaced the small box that was to the left of the original rack with one of the new ones and already the place started looking better.
A few weeks later, the storage and patch panels showed up so we pulled out the original rack and set up the 2nd new rack into it's final position.
Now it's really starting to look good and I get a real surprise from Bob. He's going to personally come to Atlanta to do the patch panel installation. The original plan was for Bob to make up all the cables and ship them to us with instructions. But due to an opening in his schedule, he was able to make the trip himself. I've never met him personally so I'm thrilled, can't wait to see if he's as angry in person as he is on the forums!
He went ahead and shipped up the long run cables to run through the walls which my assistant, Aaron, and I ran prior to his arrival. A messy job to be sure, but I had designed drop wire chases into the walls when we moved into the office thinking they would come in handy one day.
I killed the power before allowing Aaron to play with live stuff. Never let kids play with wire cutters!!!
So today Bob Zelin in the flesh shows up and to my surprise, he's a heckuva nice guy! Well, it wasn't really a surprise, I had spoken to him several times on the phone and he's actually quite funny. A straight shooter to be sure, but a very funny guy. He's not here 5 minutes and he jumps right into work.
After watching Bob for about an hour I was really happy he had the time in his schedule to come up here because while I could have done the cableing myself, it would have probably taken me three days to do what he did in less than 8 hours. As with any installation, there were some last minute issues and questions that needed to be addressed. Moving some audio patch points, re-routing some cables, adding some new cables, etc... were all last minute issues we took care of as the day progressed. It really boggled my mind to see how much cable three edit suites and about 5 VTR's would require to make this shop more efficient.
Before we knew it, lunch time was upon us. It was time to initiate Bob Zelin to the wonders of the Nintendo Wii. It took a few frames, but before we knew it, Bob was throwing Strikes and Spares with the best of them. Check out the professional form on this throw!
It's looking good Ted.... staying away from the gutters.... a little spin to the left..... and it's a Strike!
About the only real tough discussion was when Bob tried to convince Aaron and I to abandon all component and SDI cabling to run everything via Composite video. After all the VHS look is in these days so why spend all this extra money to run these extra cables. Ok, no he really didn't do that, he accidentally forgot to make up the final component / SDI cables for our Kona boxes, but of course, being prepared for everything, he had plenty of video cables and connectors to make up these last few runs on the spot.
Less than 8 hours after Bob started, we had a fully re-engineered facility. Every audio and video output from every device in the shop, from the Konas to the VTRs, passes through the patch panels. We can route any signal, anywhere. All the RS-422 controls pass through their own patch panel allowing all three suites to take control of any VTR in the racks. We have almost 20TB of fast storage for all projects. It's absolutely awesome and something both Aaron and I are not used to. You just get so used to the "moving cable ballet" behind the rack that to have something so efficient is weird.
Look what I made!
I cannot believe what we started in a single room in 2001 has grown to something the really feels like professional Post House. The growth of my business and the work with Bob Zelin can all be traced back to the Creative Cow. Folks we have a tremendous resource at our disposal with thousands of incredible working professionals in all aspects of the creative production field. You know you get answers when you post questions on the forums. Just remember that those same people who answer your questions are also some great people to call upon and hire when you need high quality services. Just look at our transformation in just three months from a decent working facility to a real professional facility.
So Thank You Bob Zelin for all your help in re-designing our shop and Thank You to Ron and Kathlyn for starting such an awesome creative resource.
Another Satisfied Zelin Customer!
Hi all. We're entering the wonderful world of Blu-Ray authoring and with it, we've discovered that not all Blu-Ray DVD Players are created equal. To author our discs, we have to use BD-R media, as in Blu Ray Disc Recordable. We're using Sony Discs and to my surprise, my $999 Sony Blu Ray player does NOT support BD-R.
Worst part about it is we purchased this machine two months ago, it's been used a total of one hour, and Best Buy will not let me exchange it for a machine that does support BD-R. I even said I don't care about the 15% restocking fee, I just wanted to purchase the correct machine.
So now we have to go out and purchase a new Blu Ray machine while also trying to sell off this machine. So if you plan to start doing any Blu Ray authoring anytime soon, be sure to verify that the machine supports BD-R so you'll be able to play back whatever it is you burn in-house.
Funny I haven't been able to find a Sony model yet that does, but Samsung has one for only $599. Heading down to Fry's tonight to pick it up.
On Sunday, April 15 at the NAB Apple Event, I fully expected to see the application formerly known as Final Touch re-released under the Apple name. What I did NOT expect was for the product to re-christened Color and for the application to simply be given away as part of the new Studio 2 package.
A little history here. Final Touch was the brainchild of Silicon Color and was positioned to compete against the likes of daVinci, a very high end color correction tool used for broadcast and feature films for years. Generally a daVinci session goes for anywhere from $200 to $750/hour depending on the facility and artist performing the work. This is also due to the tremendous costs of installing and maintaining a daVinci system which can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Along came Final Touch which brought the tools down to a reasonable $995 to $25,000 depending on if you needed an SD to 2K version of the software. Much like Final Cut Pro did for editors, this price point allowed independent colorists to purchase the software and make a move to independence. Colorists could literally work out of their houses and small offices much like many Final Cut Pro editors have set up shops in their homes, yet still provide the quality and performance their clients demanded.
In addition, Final Touch allowed small Post production houses, like my very own Biscardi Creative Media to add an extremely powerful color correction tool our workflow to better position our shop against the "big boys" in town. One daVinci session alone would cost more than the price of Final Touch HD so it was a cost effective decision to purchase the software.
Now we have Color available to the masses as part of the new Final Cut Studio 2 bundle. According to Apple, there are over 800,000 registered users of Final Cut Pro across the world so that's potentially 800,000 new "colorists" that will be unleased on the world. Much as Editing is an art form, Color is also a very demanding art form. I always make it clear to people in my shop that I'm an editor first who has an understanding of color correction. A Colorist is a very specialized artist who can truly "paint" any scene of a project.
What I fear is that with simply giving away Color, Apple has actually made it very difficult for estabilished professional artists to differentiate themselves from enthusiasts and beginnners. By having a price point of $995, $5,000 and $25,000 Final Touch required the user to invest into an application and allowed the end user to promote something that was not available in every single edit suite out there. Now Apple is going to completely dillute the Color Correction market by handing the tool out to everyone.
While there will be some very talented artists out there who will do some amazing things with their hands on this tool, I fear what Apple has done is really set back the color community much as what happened when Final Cut Pro first came out. The product was derided because a lot of really bad editors made a really good tool look bad. It was cheap and anyone with the money could call themselves an editor, hence we saw a lot of really bad projects come along. I feel we're going to see a lot of bad color decisions being made which will sink the stock of Color among the editing and color community.
A professional grade color tool should require the investment of the user to properly learn it. A price point of $2,500 by Apple would have allowed the company to greatly reduce the price of the application, while at the same time allowing end users to differentiate themselves from the pack of 800,000. In my case, we spent $5,000 for the application and then another signficant sum to bring in colorist Bog Sliga to train us in the use of the product and color in general. This was an investment and a way to set us apart from other shops in the Atlanta area. As noted above, this was a great invesment vs. one daVinci session. By simply giving the tool away, Apple makes it very hard for those of us who have invested greatly in our skills and equipment to differentiate ourselves from the pack, both in the tools used and the rates we can charge. There comes a point where you can't simply keep investing in HD hardware while dropping your rates because the software prices keep dropping.
On the one hand I'll be happy to have three copies of Color when we upgrade. On the other hand, now we'll have to find another way to differentiate ourselves from the pack of 800,000 who now have the very same powerful color tool.
Those are my thoughts, what are yours?
Well folks, NAB 2007 is upon us and I hope to be able to meet some of you. So if you're going to Las Vegas, here is where you'll definitely find me!
Sunday April 15 - Apple Event AM, Panasonic Event PM
Monday April 16 - AJA Booth all day, Booth SL6113 directly across from Apple.
Tuesday April 17 - AJA Booth AM, Booth SL6113.
Creative Cow booth PM, Booth SL2626. Between Adobe and Grass Valley
(on your right as you walk to the Apple booth.)
Wednesday, April 18 - Presenting "HD Finishing in Final Cut Pro" as part of the Post Production sessions.
3:30 - 4:45pm, Room N259. I'll be showing some of our production workflow for the Food Network program, Good Eats.
I'll also be at a few of the evening events, but not really sure where, so if you see me, be sure to say hi!
So as many of you know, in addition to being an editor and owner of Biscardi Creative Media, I'm also the animator for the Food Network's Good Eats. As such, most of our animations are based on food or food history. Now generally I rely on clip art / artwork books, websites like clipart.com and istockphoto.com along with my own photographs of headshots and hands to pull together the necessary elements for the script. But there are times when you just have to take matters into your own hands.
Take our latest animation for example, it referenced a very specific cake, one I had never heard of before and of course I could find no royalty free images of this thing. All the cakes baked for the episode had been devoured already (of course nobody called me for a taste!) so I couldn't get a photo of one of those. So what do you do? You get the researcher to send the recipe, take some pans and flour and get baking! Well, ok, what I really did was ask my wife if she would take out some pans and flour and get baking because I was snowed under with deadlines. My wife is wonderful and agreed to make this sinfully delicious cake.
After a night in the fridge, I was able to assist (and very ably mind you) with the frosting which was the sweetest, most delicious frosting I have ever tasted. Sugar, Heavy Cream and Vanilla. Wooooo, heaven! So for all of you considering a career in graphic design and / or animation, be sure to include some culinary classes as part of your training. You never know what skills you'll need to complete your projects!
Note the style and grace in how I apply the frosting. 4 years of college and 17 years of production experience paying off BIG TIME!
The finished product ready for its close-up which you'll see in an upcoming Good Eats episode about Milk.
So I've been dealing with several issues with an international network that has a primarily European distribution area. We seemed to have everything worked out this morning and suddenly I get a notice from QC that our audio was suddenly rejected as being 8db too hot. 8db too hot!
I'm completely dumbfounded. How can audio on this show, which was professionally mixed, be 8db too hot? We've already delivered three episodes and each passed QC with flying colors and suddenly we screwed up this big?
Of course I check the timeline first and foremost. Tone is -20db, Check. Main show audio rides around -12 to -10db with a few peaks at -8db. Check. Now I check the show we shipped last month. It matches. I check the the other two shows delivered in November and January, they match too. Now if we're 8db over -8, I guess we'd be hitting distortion hell at digital 0 so that would sound pretty bad.
I call my audio designer, Patrick Belden, whom you fans of Good Eats would know as the sound designer of every episode of that series. He brings up the show and a previous episode on his sound system and it all matches there. He's at a loss to explain what could have happened.
So I check in with PostWorks in New York. They handle the 1080i/60 to 1080i/50 conversion for us. Could they have done anything at all that caused our audio to suddenly rise by 8db? This seems unlikely because it's just an SDI transfer from one deck to the other through a Terranex or like converter. Not only does PostWorks take a look at our master in the tape deck, they bring the master into a sound sweetening suite and check all our levels. Everything is spot on to spec.
So I ask the network again, "You say we're 8db too hot, can you please tell me exactly what level we're hitting? -2? -4? 0?" I am going to quote the QC person here on the response:
"Walter the audio level was 4 to 8dB too hot. That means instead of being at -20dB they were between -16 to -12dB. This wasn’t the peak it was the mean. The audio consistently peaked around -12dB. This is all in the digital world so -12dB is 8dB too hot."
Folks, do you see the bold areas? -12db in the digital world is too hot. I really don't know where this QC person got their information and I'm not even going to tell you what my response was to all of this, but suffice it to say, at this point I stopped trying to explain anything. I instructed the Executive Producer of the show to have an engineer explain audio levels as I was not going to.
So folks, in this ever changing world of high definition TV, globalization and what-not, sometimes even the folks reviewing your shows at the networks can get it wrong. I guess it's too much information even for the technical folks.
So a recent thread in the Creative Cow Final Cut Pro forum about Internal vs. External RAID's got me thinking more about the subject. I'm a firm believer in external RAID's and really don't have any desire to install 3 or 4 drives inside my Mac Pro tower.
Let's think about this. Companies like LaCie, Ciprico, Medéa, CalDigit, Facilis and others spend a lot of time in research and development to produce storage solutions that are not only fast, but reliable. Every board, every drive, every switch, everything about that storage solution has been drawn up, assembled and tested by engineers who know a heckuva lot more than me about the inner workings of computer storage.
The hard drive units themselves are rigorously tested and "beat up" to figure out which manufacturer and model should be installed in a particular RAID unit. Drive reliability is different among manufacturers and even among individual models of the same manufacturer. Company X may have a killer 500GB model but the 750GB model may have issues. RAID companies will discover this issue much faster than I ever will and adjust their products accordingly.
RAID companies that I've dealt with have had very good tech support teams both for generaly questions and in the event of a failure. This is invaluable because when something goes wrong and a deadline is looming, the last thing I want to do is become a hardware engineer and try to figure out exactly where something might be wrong. I have enough trouble just keeping up with all the formats and software we run, I really don't care to become a computer engineer too.
Expansion is so much easier with an external RAID than internal. I mean, what do you do if you have maxed out your internal RAID and now you need another 2TB of storage? I guess you're going to connect an external RAID device? So now you're working with internal AND external media storage, at the same time? That doesn't sound like a very stable solution in my book. Start external, expand external. Keep everything coming down one or two pipes from the outside.
Speed is very limiting when it comes to internal RAID. Four drives striped together are going to be slower than say a 10 drive Ciprico Fibre Array, or maybe two arrays striped together. Heck stripe four of the new CalDigit 4:4:4 arrays together and you're pushing upwards of 900MB/s. You're not going to touch that with and internal RAID and you're certainly not going to stripe and internal AND external RAID together to gain more speed.
Zero protection is had by current internal RAID's as RAID 0 and 1 are the only supported formats right now. With External RAID's you have a multitude of protection options which gives you real control over speed vs. protection. Granted, right now I run an external SATA Array in RAID 0, but I also run another external backup device. But that will change in the next few months and we migrate potentially back to Fibre Channel.
I figured I'd ask an engineer I know about this debate and he said external is always the preferred way to go when working with high volume media storage. It's generally faster, more stable and a much more proven technology.
There you go, my reasoning for working with and recommending external RAID storage. You're free to do what you want, but this is where I stand on all this.
At long last, my Creative Genius will be unleased on national television. I will be appearing as the Negative Guy in a scene to be shot Friday, March 8, 2007 for an uncoming episode of Good Eats on the Food Network. The scene will actually be a family affair as my mother-in-law, father-in-law and brother-in-law are all in the scene with me along with my current edit assistant, Aaron.
It should be a lot of fun and hopefully I'll have some photos to post in the next few days. Can't tell you the episode details yet, but as soon as I'm permitted, I'll fill you all in!
We've discovered an audio issue when using the Panasonic AJ-HD1400. A high end "crackle" is being added that sounds somewhat like sizzling bacon or crackling cellophane when laying back to tape via Firewire. I honestly can't hear it as I have a hearing loss in both ears, but the fine folks at CineFilm in Atlanta who convert our DVCPro HD masters to HDCAM heard it and alerted us.
We tested a second 1400 unit and the problem occurred there too so it appears to be an issue with the model line. Panasonic is aware and are currently working on the issue. I'll update you guys as get some news.
I have a blog now, so I thought I would take you guys and gals into the Edit Suite and let y'all know what we're working on at Biscardi Creative Media.
, Cutting Episode 4 of the environment series, "Assignment Earth" and this episode focuses on the Mekong River in Thailand. Footage is stunning HD shot by Roger Herr of Atlanta who traveled to Thailand with Producer / Host Gary Strieker.
Roger and Gary took a Sony Z1 HDV camera with them because a lot of travel was via very small boat on the Mekong and if they were going to drop a camera in the river, they figured it was better to lose the Z1 instead of Roger's Panasonic HVX-900. While I'm not a fan of HDV, in the hands of a talented D.P. like Roger, it can look very very good.
I used the AJA Kona 3 to convert the footage to DVCPro 1080i/60 during capture and when we're done, the show will be mastered to DVCPro HD 1080i/60. So far I'm through with the 2nd cut of the show trimming 14 hours down to about 23:30. Need to get the show down to 22:30.
I also had to make a series of animated graphics detailing the location of the Mekong and Salween rivers. I used a combination of Google Earth Pro, Photoshop and After Effects to create them. I love using AE's 3D camera moves for these types of graphics.
In JungleLand, Aaron is working on a new set of stories for our "This American Land" series of environmental news reports. These stories are delivered monthly to PBS stations nationwide. Some of the stories are also repurposed for Assignment Earth on Yahoo! News. I'll get some more details tomorrow.
Professional Video Editor, Producer, Creative Director, Director since 1990.
Credits include multiple Emmys, Tellys, Aurora and CableAce Awards.
Creative Director for Georgia-Pacific and GP Studios, Atlanta. Former Owner / Operator of Biscardi Creative Media. The show you knew us best for was "Good Eats" on the Food Network. I developed the HD Post workflow and we also created all the animations for the series.
Favorite pastime is cooking with pizza on the grill one of my specialties. Each Christmas Eve we serve the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a traditional Italian seafood meal with approx. 30 items on the menu.
If I wasn't in video production I would either own a restaurant or a movie theater.