Some notes on consulting (aka “Inside the Brain of Mike Curtis”)

I’m putting together a new editing system for myself. This one won’t be terribly elaborate — I’ll still be using an Apple, and I’ll still be using Final Cut Pro — but it will be more sophisticated than anything I’ve had before. Among other things, I want to have the ability to do HD editing because that’s the direction that things are going and it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me to invest money in an editing system that isn’t going to stay relevant for at least four or five years.

It’s a big expenditure, so I want to do it right. Now, I’ve read lots about this stuff, but I have no direct experience editing HD video, so this complicates matters.

A few years ago I would have spent weeks poring over article after article searching for solutions… and then I would have rolled the dice. I guess I’ve learned from a few bad experiences of doing this kind of thing, and I got in touch with an expert. I figure the few hundred bucks I’d spend on consulting fees would save me both money (because I’d be making better-informed decisions) and time (which is at least as valuable as money).

So I contacted Mike “HD for Indies” Curtis.

I’ve been reading Mike’s blog for at least a year and a half, maybe longer. Frankly, because he can get VERY technical in his postings, I don’t understand everything he writes about. To me, that made him the man for the job — he knows a lot about this stuff but, when he needs to, he can explain things like compression schemes and the pros and cons of various breakout boxes to someone like myself.

After a few short emails describing what my needs would be, Mike and I spoke on the phone for about 90 minutes. (It was funny to both of us to actually be in actual – well, phone – conversation after having read the others’ respective blogs. Mike sounds about what I thought he’d sound like — and he talks fast, which I should have suspected.)

I’ll be writing more about what equipment Mike suggested, what I selected, and why, so I’m not going to go into details in this post. Mike clearly knows his stuff, and it was exciting to have him work with me to tailor a system to my specific needs. If this helps, imagine Mike devoting a several-pages-long HD for Indies post to the question of what YOU need for YOUR projects. ‘Nuff said.

Besides learning a lot and feeling more confident about large purchasing choices than I ever have before, Mike’s advice actually saved thousands of dollars. Before talking with him I had drawn up a system that I thought I needed. It turns out I won’t need nearly all of the things that I had thought I would.

So, yeah, this is a grade-A endorsement for Mike as a consultant. (Note: Mike didn’t ask for, or compensate me for, such an endorsement.)

A parting thought: Someone might argue that hiring a consultant for anything goes against the principles of this blog. In the most literal sense — yup, I sought help from outside myself — it does. Guilty as charged.

But I see it another way: One of the keys to DIY, I think, is knowing what you can’t do for yourself or what you might not do as well as someone else. DIY efforts are most effective when you can do it better than anyone else. In this case, I recognized that my knowldge of setting up an editing system is pretty much limited to a G5, Final Cut Studio, and some monitors. I have little experience with RAIDs, have no experience with HD breakout boxes, and so on. In this case, I spent an hour or so talking with a bona fide expert so that I can set up a system that is truly tailored to my specific needs as a filmmaker. This, in turn, will let me to do my work without interference and without depending on an outside editing house. That’s my definition of self-reliance.

And if that sounds like self-justification, I guess that’s ok. I’m not the Pope of “Self-Reliant Film.” I’m just a guy that blogs about it.

2 Responses to “Some notes on consulting (aka “Inside the Brain of Mike Curtis”)”

  1. William Says:

    This is great because I am looking to do the same. Thanks.

  2. [this savage art…] » Blog Archive » A Future In HD Says:

    […] Okay, I’m back. So I went to Tekserve. I’m looking to get more into color grading. I’m at a crossroads right now. I have a decent system. It’s your basic offline config but it’s an HD world we live in so that only means one thing. If I want to take this post-production thing to the next level I will have to at some point invest in a fully uncompressed HD system. Do I have about $20-$25K to do it right? Hell no! It would require a loan. I can see I’m not the only one. Anyway, the seminar was taught by Alexis Van Hurkman. He’s written some books. He’s worked on some films. Taught me a few things. Overall I came out with the thought that, yeah, the 3-Way Color Correction tool in Final Cut Pro is pretty powerful. Now it’s even better with the new 5.1.2 update. This is funny because there are rumblings out there that say the opposite. This issue can have a lot to do with what was improved with the new update. The old scopes only read 16 scanlines where the new and improved read everything. The time was right too. I’m starting a new project next week that is being shot on the HVX200/P2 jammee. HD native on my little system. Yes, it will present some issues like monitoring. I only have one Cinema Display. You need two for any serious color work to see detail along with soft focus issues. […]