Archive for the ‘Post-Production’ Category

Review: Stop Staring and Start Grading with Apple Color

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

Stop Staring and Start Grading with Apple Color
Walter Biscardi, Jr. – Creative Cow MasterSeries
DVD-Rom – $49.95

Walter Biscardi, who is a leader at the Creative Cow website, has produced this fine Color training video. It’s consists of just over 2 hours of tutorials in the form of 9 lessons. All the lessons are QuickTime movies.

A small FCP project file with three clips, which you take into Color, is included on the disc. The project file that he supplies you with is very basic. I was a little skeptical at first that having only three clips wouldn’t be enough to learn the program, but it’s actually enough to get you started with all of the basics. In fact, I think the simplicity of Biscardi’s approach is an asset.

As a teacher, Biscardi is nothing if not an enthusiastic guy. (At times he’s downright manic.) He assumes you’re an editor well versed in other Final Cut Studio applications and now you’re being asked (or wanting to learn) to be a colorist.

All the movies are screencasts. When Walter wants you to see something up close, he zooms in on the element of the screen he wants you to see. If he wants you to look at something in the user manual, he’ll superimpose those pages on screen. It’s all very helpful.

The disc’s emphasis is really on speeding through as much as possible to get you to dive in. In most cases, I felt like Biscardi did a fine job of covering things with enough detail that the application felt approachable, but not overwhelming. Walt spends the most time on Setup, Primary, and Secondaries. One minor criticism: The Primary Out room is barely discussed at all and I felt like he sped through this room too quickly. (I later found myself not using this room much at all, but was that because Biscardi hadn’t taught me about it? Or was that because Biscardi understood it’s only occasionally used? I don’t know.)

Another minor quibble I have is that the DVD’s interface is clunky. It uses a web browser to load the QuickTime movies you’re supposed to watch. It’s slow to load at times, and this could be done more elegantly. As a solution, I found it was easier to simply find the QuickTimes on the disc and simply play them one by one without the interface.

Of all the discs I surveyed and studied, Biscardi gets you in the fastest. There’s truth in advertising: By watching “Stop Staring and Start Grading” while following along on my own computer I was quickly able to navigate through Color with some confidence. Highly recommended.

[Creative Cow info page]
[Amazon link for purchase]

OscarĀ® Bragging Rights: Avid vs. Mac

Saturday, March 1st, 2008

I ran across some amusing (because they’re duelling) press releases today:

Avid is touting that all of the nominees in “every single one of the nominated and award-winning films in the Best Motion Picture, Directing, Film Editing, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects, Documentary Feature and Original Score categories at this year’s Academy Awards were created using at least one Avid, Digidesign, Sibelius or Softimage product.”

What Avid doesn’t tout is the fact that multiple-Oscar (and Best Picture) winner No Country For Old Men “is the first movie edited with a completely digital workflow on Mac to win the Oscar.” Indeed, the Coen Brothers have done a fair amount of promotion for Apple’s Final Cut Studio suite.

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

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.

HD-DVD Burning with an “SD” Mac

Friday, December 14th, 2007

This may be old news to some of you, but it was news to me: You can burn HD-DVDs (not Blu-Ray) on a Mac using a standard DVD burner, Final Cut Pro, Compressor, and DVD Studio Pro. I tried it last night. It works.

The limitations?

– Standard single-layer DVD media storage limits mean that you’re limited to burning shorter projects (under 60 min).
– The article states you can’t play these on an HD-DVD player. I don’t have an HD-DVD player, so I haven’t verified this. You can, however, play them on a Mac.

Hooking up my MacBook Pro to a television and screening the DVD played flawlessly. And it looked a lot better than a standard definition DVD.

The trade-off? As anyone who’s done it before can tell you, encoding a project to H.264 takes a long, long time.