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High Noon in the Editors' Corral

CreativeCOW presents High Noon in the Editors' Corral -- Apple FCPX or Not: The Debate Feature


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"It's tough out here in the Wild West. And for the longest time Sheriff Avid has been keeping this Hollywood backwater safe for those brave editing townspeople. And now, fresh from NAB, it seems our Old Friend Premiere has strapped on some new guns spoiling for a showdown with the big gun. Yeah, Kid, Final Cut rode into town a few years back, all puffed up and ready for some action, but it seems the Kid's kinda backed down from the fight...or has he?"

That was the description of a panel of editors who, last week, took "a good hard look down the barrel of today's editing systems." Organized and moderated by editor Herb Dow A.C.E. on behalf of the Hollywood Post Alliance Sales Career Resource Group, the panel featured a group of editors who used some or all of the afore-mentioned editing products.

Lining up at the O.K. Corral were editor Brandon Balin, Digital Media & Technology Specialist Scott Carrey, editor Billy Fox, A.C.E., Intelligent Assistance President Philip Hodgetts, Adobe Senior Business Development Manager Pro Video and Film Mike Kanfer, and Avid Post Application Specialist Michael Krulik.


HPA luncheon
Lining up at the O.K. Corral as moderator Herb Dow A.C.E., tries to keep hot tempers cool under the Western skies.


Balin uses Avid Media Composer 6 but has also used Apple Final Cut Pro. "At one point, I was NLE agnostic," he admits, reporting that for the last three shows he cut, he used FCP 7. Carrey is a fan of Adobe Premiere Pro 6. "It's fantastic for short form content such as commercials and promos," he said. Fox, who edits feature films, said he is primarily a FCP editor but also uses Avid. Hodgetts touted his main tool: FCPX (to which Carrey replied that he calls FCPX "iMovie Pro").

Since nearly all editors have used more than one NLE in their career, these panelists were well positioned to discuss the pros and cons of the various tools they've used. "Media Composer 6 give me full control of convergence for stereo material," said Balin. "I can also upload material to YouTube 3D."


Scott Carrey, Billy Fox, A.C.E.
For Carrey, the key advantage of Adobe Premiere Pro is its integration in Adobe's suite of tools. "Editors are now experienced in doing graphics and visual effects," he said. "Integration with other software tools was always an issue, and Adobe's seamless integration is great." He also praised the improved user interface. "The UI is as if someone looked at Avid's and FCP's interface and said, oh that's how they do it," he joked. "The UI is cleaned up and intuitive. Adobe Premiere Pro 6 also offers an efficiency of hardware and software. I can take the ARRI 2K files directly and work with them."

Fox said he picks his NLE based on the project. "I look at each one separately, but I gravitate a bit more to FCP," he said. "Both have advantages. Soundtrack Pro and Motion in FCP 7 is what makes me lean that direction."

Hodgetts reported that he is using FCPX for an upcoming reality TV show. "By nature I'm an early adopter," he said. "It was in beta and I had a commercial on -air in Australia the week it came to market. But I wouldn't want to cut a feature film with it."

Moderator Dow asked each of the editors to pick the three features they couldn't do without. With regard to Adobe Premiere CS6, Carrey picked the way it handles metadata throughout the entire workflow process. "I also like the hover scrub function that lets you hover your cursor over a thumbnail and scrub through the clip just by moving the cursor," he added. "Third, the thumbnails' size can go from truly a thumbnail all the way to full screen or anywhere in-between. Unlike on most systems where a thumbnail is just that, Premiere CS6 has the advantage of seeing the clips in a bin at any size."

In FCP 7, Fox liked attributes, which he called "a remarkable tool that is one of the biggest frustrations with Avid. "This allows you to copy whatever you've done in picture or sound and paste it on another piece of media," he explained. Hodgetts listed FCPX's Smart Collections, Magnetic Timeline and range-based keywords as "the three I'd like to keep."


Adobe Senior Business Development Manager Pro Video and Film Mike Kanfer
Dow asked if LUTs improve or slow down the workflow. Fox replied that, "so far, no editorial system is doing anything with it." Adobe's Kanfer begged to differ. "With a Premiere plug-in, you can use it like an adjustment layer and turn it on or off," he said. "You determined the color space it was shot in and that gives you the ability to read those files. Everything is based on being non-destructive. Not every editor is a DI specialist but they want to know if they're going to work with raw footage that they can see it the way everyone else with see it...without baking anything in. We're pretty on top of it."

Balin said he'd always "had the fantasy of a floating adaptive LUT, and he looks forward to the Academy's ACES being built into everything from cameras to displays. "There's still a disconnect between post and production," said Carrey. "A lot of education and communication needs to happen." Avid's Krulik reported that the only raw file they work within inside is RED's but that Avid is looking at ARRI Raw.

Fox gave a thumbs-down to how FCP 7 handles dailies. "It's so bad that I just take the mixed track, not the separate eight mics," he said. "I would like the ability to have those tracks. FCPX lets us have as many tracks as there are. This deals with those multiple tracks that get thrown at you, but you don't want it making the timeline."

Kanfer referred back to the ability in FCPX to easily turn things on and off. "You can do that in Premiere," he said. "But it's four steps, not one. We're looking at that."

Dow asked the panelists about the impact of visual effects on the edit process, with regard to the NLEs they use. Balin noted that the already huge quantity of visual effects facing editors has doubled with 3D. "When Mike [Kanfer] and I worked at Digital Domain, 100 visual effects shots was a lot," he recalled. "In terms of workflow, Adobe After Effects is great for compositing and many things that need to get done. Even when I worked with FCP, I'd use Automatic Duck to go back and forth in order to use After Effects."

Fox spoke about the large number of effects even in a non-VFX movie. "That's one of my frustrations," he said. "My assistant spend so much time putting shots back in. There's no reason why an NLE can't make that totally automatic." Hodgetts reported that XMiL Tools has a plug-in for that with Final Cut Pro. "But certainly Apple has done nothing to further this," he said. "I like the fact there is a place for third party providers because I am one."

Dow asked about the editors' experiences with high-resolution digital cameras. Balin found the Sony F65 impressive, and Carrey, who also finds the F65 interesting, noted that he was an early adopter and big fan of the RED. "But the ARRI Alexa blows the RED away in reproduction of color space," he said. "It'll be interesting to see how RED continues to compete."

Film is still Fox's preferred "high resolution camera." "The workflow is so much better than digital," he noted. "That said, film is dead. I've done a couple of RED and ARRI Alexa projects. The big part is transcoding media to get it into your house. I've had problems with RED and none with Alexa, which I like somewhat better. But I don't really care. The bigger thing is the facility to pick to work with and putting the timecode in the right place."


"The 'snowflake' nature of the workflow is still very frustrating," said Hodgetts, referring to the term used to describe the fact that every workflow is unique. "We need to standardize." Carrey agreed that the notion of a single codec or delivery system is great. "But economically, I don't think we'll get that any time soon in post," he added.

"We are like the parent of many children" says Adobe's Kanfer. "In the right hands, output of all these cameras can look good. There's been majestic use of RED 5K output with David Fincher's Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Some top DPs who said they'd never shoot digital have gone to ARRI Alexa and say only good things about it. Workflow issues will be dealt with. It's only been five years or so, and film had 100 years to develop a standardized workflow."

Dow asked about on-set dailies and how that takes the facility out of the picture for that portion of the workflow. How is that affecting editors? "I set up the pipeline so I'm fortunate," said Carrey. "If something messes up, I fix it. We are inheriting a lot of stuff. Moving upstream is key if you want to survive as a business. We've never had pre-post, but you can't just hang the negative. You do have to think backwards. At the same time, things continue to evolve. By the time you deliver a project, there are two new formats to deliver to."

Balin said that today's dailies can be a lot faster. "On my last project, we used the RED DIT station to get dailies in one hour," he said. "Sometimes there's no time anyway to send it to the facility."

Fox doesn't deal with digital dailies. "Yet there is nothing the production complains about more and the DPs hate them," he said. "But it's getting better. Hodgetts, whose upcoming reality TV show will be shot from a solar-powered boat said he isn't going to bother with dailies.

"Who handles dailies has changed," added Kanfer. "You still need the same level of expertise. They still have to be done correctly." Referring to the PIC system for dailies review and approval, he believes that "everyone will eventually work that way where we're all more in synch. "It's all so new and yet it blows me away to see how far we've come and how quickly," he said.

Summing it up, Hodgetts echoed the feelings of many when he said, referring to the NLE choices, "I don't think there's a bad tool in the market."

The conversation that started off as a High Noon showdown ended up more like a campfire kumbaya, but the reasons were clear. Everyone is in the same boat, trying to get to the same destination. The issue is less about individual tools and more about a continually evolving overall workflow. Standardization - by ACES most likely - is the likely end result of so much rapid evolution. But, for the foreseeable future, everyone, and especially those in post, are forced to stay as flexible as possible in bringing in a project from production to deliverables.







Comments

Re: High Noon in the Editors' Corral
by Gary Bettan
Great article. Just another example of why the COW is such a valuable resource to the post production industry.

I loved and agree with Philip's quote at the end. There are many excellent tools to choose from. They all work great. You need to use the tools that best fit your workflow. In today's world, that can and will change from project to project. That's why you can't rely on any single tool or NLE vendor anymore. You can have a primarily NLE that you use for most jobs, but the smart editors know and have several to use when needed.

COW members get 5% OFF with Coupon COW5OFF

http://www.videoguys.com 800 323-2325 | We are the video editing and production experts!
Re: High Noon in the Editors' Corral
by Greg Andonian
Scott Carrey You never know, the next time you take your car in with a strange noise, they might very well tell you, "looks like we're gonna have to replace that hover strut."

Ah, yes, the hover strut- you don't want to overlook any issues with those for too long... :)

But on a serious note, it was a great article. It's hard to believe how much things have changed since FCPX came out.

One thing that really stood out to me: I was very surprised no one mentioned Smoke 2013 and what sort of impact it might have...

______________________________________________
"THAT'S our fail-safe point. Up until here, we still have enough track to stop the locomotive before it plunges into the ravine... But after this windmill it's the future or bust."
@Greg Andonian
by Jeremy Garchow
I wondered about that, too, but I don't think Smoke has a place in long form editorial at least it hasn't yet.

Time will tell if that will change, but there's limited interchange out of Smoke and when editing features, how much in app compositing and finishing do you need? Not much.

Jeremy
@Greg Andonian; @Jeremy Garchow
by Scott Carrey
Good point Greg,

Probably didn't get mentioned because we tend to focus on the 3 main candidates, but I for one being an old Flame and Inferno guy think Smoke is quite a powerful tool and certainly has its place. There exists a nice workflow between Avid to Smoke and in fact that is the primary delivery process requirement for shows at Fox Broadcast. With that being said, note that Smoke is really being used for final conform, color and perhaps some final comps and gfx, but not the core creative editing. I tend to agree with Jeremy that it probably isn't the best tool for features.

Now that Speed Grade is part of CS6, that and my Magic Bullet Plug-ins are really more Color Correction than I wish to handle, and for my colorist friends for most of them it's not about the software, but the panel. Give them a full Da Vinci 2K Panel and it could be hooked up to a melted box of crayons and they'd take that over a mouse, trackball, wacom or even a tangent wave panel hooked up to the best software that existed.

Ultimately I hope we as an industry and even as a society at large that is embracing media as part of its every day language and interactions, will reach a point that the "craft" of editing or ultimately that of "story telling" will be the primary discussion; with the tools continually improving, getting cheaper and basically staying out of the way of the creative process. If our discussions can focus on technique over tool, than whether we are handed a sharp rock and celluloid, or a holographically captured image emulated directly to the neurological synapses, we will just look for where the button is that accomplishes the feature we want.

Lightworks is an amazing FREE open source tool, Sony Vegas has some great 3D capabilities, and go to the developers link on YouTube and check, out some of the features available in the editing tools online, all that to say, "have a big tool box, for there will always be something new and improved to accomplish certain tasks, but sometime going back to that trusty old philips head and a claw hammer are needed to finish the job."
Re: High Noon in the Editors' Corral
by Scott Carrey
Greg,

My high respect for Debra drives me to go on record, "I was probably drunk. That or referencing the Adobe Automotive Tool, followed by the Film Making one." You never know, the next time you take your car in with a strange noise, they might very well tell you, "looks like we're gonna have to replace that hover strut."

:)
Re: High Noon in the Editors' Corral
by Greg Andonian
This was a great article, and I really enjoyed it. But I will say, I think the article itself could use an editor- either that or Scott Carrey had a few too many before the meeting. When asked what he liked about Premiere Pro, part of his response was:

"I also like the way it handles metadata and the hover strut function with huge thumbnails and the way it handles metadata, and 'hover scrubbing' with huge thumbnails."

WHAAAT?? :)

______________________________________________
"THAT'S our fail-safe point. Up until here, we still have enough track to stop the locomotive before it plunges into the ravine... But after this windmill it's the future or bust."
@Greg Andonian
by Kevin Monahan
I'm sure it's a typo. Happens to the best of us. ;-)

Kevin Monahan
Sr. Content and Community Lead
Adobe After Effects
Adobe Premiere Pro
Adobe Systems, Inc.
Follow Me on Twitter!
@Kevin Monahan
by Jeremy Garchow
I don't know, Kevin. Hover strut is a pretty awesome typo. I think Adobe should go with it. Hover strut will fit in perfectly with the Freddie Mercury Engine. ;)

Jeremy
+1
Re: High Noon in the Editors' Corral
by Jeremy Garchow
Another hit.

Thanks, Debra!
Re: Article: High Noon in the Editors' Corral
by Chris Harlan
Thanks Debra! Nice report.


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