Archive for the ‘Tools/Equipment’ Category

Review: Digital Color Correction – The Final Cut Studio Workflow with Apple’s ColorTraining DVD

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

Digital Color Correction:The Final Cut Studio Workflow with Apple’s Color
Call Box
$75

Digital Color Correction:The Final Cut Studio Workflow with Apple’s Color stars Stuart Ferreyra and Noah Kadner (host of other Call Box videos) discussing Apple Color. The tutorial is really aimed at absolute beginners to Color and color grading. Being a beginner myself, that was exciting.

Ferreyra is an expert. Kadner, admittedly new to Color, represents a pro and indie (even low budget) philosophy. Kadner asks questions to Ferreya as Ferreya moves throgh the app. Kadner’s backwards ballcap sensibility brings a welcome looseness to the proceedings.

This isn’t is a step-by-step tutorial. As is repeated a few times, the DVD is not meant to take the place of the manual. And, significantly, there are no project files. This is a DVD (not a DVD-rom) that you simply watch.

As I watched it, I had Color open, but I didn’t really find myself following along in the application. Instead, billed as an “insider’s look”, it’s like sitting down with a friend and watching over his shoulder as he works. Sometimes that’s a great way to learn; other times you feel like you want the friend to move over and let you push the buttons. If the disc had gone a little further in having Ferreya discuss the artistry of being a colorist — what he looks for in an image and how he has learned to adjust it — this DVD could have been a home run. But I did benefit from hearing Ferreya discuss his craft and it does better than the other DVDs I’ll be reviewing in terms of discussing the actual art of grading.

In sum I enjoyed the disc, but I didn’t think it carried as much value as the other two Call Box discs I’ve seen, 24P Digital Post Production with Final Cut Pro and the DVX100 and Digital Color Correction:Panasonic P2 Workflow with Final Cut Pro and the HVX200. The latter, in fact, is a truly superb introduction for to the HVX and I recommend it to anyone new that camera and its unique workflow.

Working with Apple Color

Monday, February 25th, 2008

As I began the process (still ongoing) of delivering my new film, Quick Feet, Soft Hands I started weighing whether or not to try to do the final color grading in Apple’s Color. Certainly, in the spirit of self-reliance, it made sense to go this route. On the other hand, I have a lot of respect for the artistry that a colorist can bring to a project. When the quotes I was getting from some of the post-houses I was considering turned out to be far higher than what little I had remaining in my budget, I decided to spend some time learning Color. If I couldn’t get the job done myself, I figured I could always raise some money and plunk down the money for a grading session with a pro.

Color, though, is not nearly as intuitive app like Apple’s other studio applications. (Color began as Silicon Color’s FinalTouch application, and this is probably the reason it lacks the signature intuitiveness of Apple software.) On top of that, most people haven’t had color theory in the way that they’ve had experience editing picture. At least, I certainly hadn’t. So, for me, this was — at least initially — as complicated and intimidating as jumping into nonlinear editing after using a Steenbeck.

So, where to start?

What Equipment You Need to Start Working in Color:

Aside from working on computers that meet Apple specs, I found that you want to do work in Color on the largest monitor(s) that you have available. You may find that you even want to purchase a new monitor.

I began by working on a Dual 1.8 G5 with two 15″ 4:3 monitors set up at 1024×768 and I soon discovered that it was literally impossible to use only one of these monitors in Color’s single monitor mode. Even when using two monitors, reading the text in the menus was not easy. So, you need a big monitor — I’d even take one large monitor over two small ones (and I rarely say that). In the end, I did most of my work on a MacPro with two Apple 23″ monitors with an external Broadcast HD monitor, which I have access to at Virginia Tech. If I hadn’t had access to this computer my G5 at home would have worked, but it would have been slow on renders and playback. And upgrading my monitors would have been a must.

Can you work in Color without a broadcast monitor? Sorta. The color of computer monitors will not match that of output for television, so it’s obviously far better to know what you’re really looking at as you work. (Consider: Would you edit the sound to your project listening to it through your computer’s built-in speaker?) I think that for matching the color temperature of one shot to another you’re fine looking at a computer monitor. The problem is knowing whether or not the colors you’re seeing overall on that monitor are accurate. So, at the very least, if mainly working with computer monitors, I would want to make sure that I had access to a computer with a properly calibrated broadcast monitor for a few hours to tweak settings before final rendering.

Aside from computer and monitor issues, you need a three-button mouse. I don’t especially care for Apple’s so-called “mighty mouse”, but it can work. (I prefer Kensington’s Optical Elite.) If you’re going to go pro with this stuff, you’ll want to purchase a colorist’s control surface. But such things are expensive — $5000 and upwards. (If you’ve got that kind of money what are you doing working with Color?) Seriously, if you’re not doing this all day, a mouse should be fine.

Finally, you’re also going to need some hard drive space. A full output of Quick Feet, Soft Hands meant re-rendering a little less than 20GB of new footage. (We brought it into Color in its native DVCProHD, but took it out using Apple’s ProRes 422 HQ codec.) Loading up your computer with RAM is a good idea too, but then you probably already knew that.


Digging In

I learned fairly quickly that Color is not the sort of application that the novice can just jump into. The interface doesn’t feel like an Apple application — even navigating through “Open…” and “Save…” menus looks different. So I looked for help in the way of instructional DVDs. My next few posts on SRF will evaluate the pros and cons of each disc I watched.

After those posts I’ll share the overall workflow we used to get Quick Feet, Soft Hands color graded and onto HDCAM for delivery to ITVS. Who knows? By the time I finish these posts the movie might even be delivered.

MacHeist: Indy Mac Software + Good Cause = Insane Deal

Saturday, January 19th, 2008

If you use a Mac, you absolutely must check out the insane deal that MacHeist — an alliance of independent Mac software developers — is offering.

For $49.95, MacHeist is selling $428 worth of fully-featured (i.e., not demo mode) Mac software. And to make the offer that much sweeter, a good chunk of the proceeds go to charity. As of this writing, $227,000+ has been raised so far.

Plus, the software is good. I would recommend all three of the twelve titles that I’ve previously used:

SnapzProX – a screencapture utility that’s GREAT for creating screencasts
iStopMotion – a great program for shooting stop motion animation
1Password – a browser extension that saves all your passwords in one place, and generates secure passwords

I’m an especially big fan of SnapzProX. Last fall I used it (in demo mode) to create a screencast for some of my students. I found it to be the best application of its kind on the Mac. It normally sells for $69, but for the next four days people can get it, plus 11 other applications, for $20 less. And it goes to charity. So I’m getting out my credit card now.

As for the charities represented, according to the MacHeist wiki:

Purchasers can choose from the following list of ten charities, or opt to split the donation from their purchase evenly among the choices.

* Action Against Hunger
* AIDS Research Alliance
* Alliance for Climate Protection
* Direct Relief International
* Humane Society International
* The Nature Conservancy
* Save the Children
* Save Darfur
* Prevent Cancer Foundation
* World Wildlife Fund

Panasonic HVX-200 for sale…

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

I’m selling my venerable Panasonic HVX-200 and its 8GB P2 card. No, I’m not giving up filmmaking; I just don’t need the camera. I was looking to rent an HVX this summer for a few weeks to do some shooting in Knoxville and Roanoke. For the few weeks I needed it, a rental wasn’t really cost-effective, so I just bit the bullet and bought the camera. Now that we’ve got a few HVX’s at Virginia Tech, I don’t need to hang on to this one. As many people who read this blog would probably testify, it is an awesome camera. The DVCPro HD codec at 24P is totally impressive.

Anyway, if you’re interested, email me personally [ pharrill AT you-know-what DOT com ]. You can ask me all about it and I can let you know all the details, accessories, etc. I’d rather sell it to a reader of SRF than put it up on Ebay, so I’ll entertain any reasonable, sincere offer.

UPDATE: Looks like it’s sold folks. Thanks for your interest!

Gels, and their Proper Care

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

Gels are useful, but pricey. Any budget-minded filmmaker should take good care of them. Here’s a helpful post from David Tames at Kino-Eye that details some simple ways to organize your gels so that they last longer.