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When I was in New York in September, I met with the amazing people at Dig For Fire.  I’ve admired their work for years, from the fantastic live in-store performances they shoot at Other Music to an awesome Band Of Horses video and now to their relationship with Spotify.  I have been wanting to work for them for a long time.  Finally I had the chance.

They had just gone into the studio with Iron & Wine to film the re-recording of his classic tune “Flightless Bird, American Mouth” for the new Twilight: Breaking Dawn soundtrack.  To add to it, Marketa Irglova from The Swell Season came in to sing harmony on the the track.  They asked if I thought I could cut the video in the two weeks I was in town.  I said ABSOLUTELY!

Currenlty, WordPress.com doesn’t support VH1 embeds.  So if you wanna see it there here it is. The VH1 link has over 70,000 views already!

A quick thought before I get into my rant: don’t you just hate it when your day job takes you away from something you really want to be working on?

Right after Apple’s well-documented, well-staged NAB presentation of the new features of FCPX, I went right to WordPress and started drafting an article with the title: “What if FCPX is not awesome?”  I then proceeded to go right back to my 60-hour-a-week gig with little time to think about blogging.  Smart, Rob.  That was months ago.  Now that I’m back to funemployment, all I can think is how I wish I had finished that article.  Instead, I’m here with my late-to-the-game opinion.

The thoughts I wanted to get down on paper the internet were a few musings on how big a gamble it was for Apple to completely re-write FCP and how many changes it could create in our industry if it was a flop.  I wanted to talk about how, if indeed FCPX was indeed not awesome, it was going to tarnish Apple’s reputation as a company of not only great consumer apps like iPhoto but also high-end professional ones like Final Cut Pro and Logic.  I was going to prognosticate that Adobe and Avid would be jumping for joy, but I was also going to say how worried I was if suddenly our entire post-production ecosystem is devastated.

So now I say, with no great joy and without getting into too much more hyperbole: FCPX is not awesome.  I won’t go into listing out how FCPX has major problems.  Chances are, if you ended up here, you already know most of the issues.  If you need a refresher, check herehere, here, here, and here, and read a simple list of what it simply does not do anymore here.  Or you can just watch this video made by Conan O’Brien’s editing team (shouts to @robtheeditor and @ddandthecups) which basically sums up everything you need to know about the consensus opinion:

So then where does this leave us?  Well, for starters, disappointed.  I have been using Final Cut Pro since 1.0, the very beginning.  It was my first real introduction to non-linear editing.  Hell, I did ten times my film school projects in my dorm-room on FCP than I ever did on any of the school’s editing stations.   I certainly knew more about FCP then Avid or Adobe when I left school.  FCP was a welcomed addition to the marketplace because it was relatively inexpensive, easy to use, and robust.  To see it now neutered, that’s a hard pill to swallow.

But we’re here now, so eventually we must reach the last stage of grief: acceptance.  We must accept that now there is one less professional-grade editing software on the market.  Our baby has been put out to pasture.  But lo-and-behold, part of me actually feels relieved and excited about the future of post-production.  Could it be that Apple has actually helped us?  “But Rob, whatever do you mean?” you say.  The key is this: barriers to entry.

About a year ago, I wrote a two-part piece on getting into the Motion Picture Editor’s Guild (Part 1, Part 2).  In it, I wrote about inexpensive non-linear editing systems and the problems that poses for making a living as an editor:

Experience aside, one once needed access to extremely pricey equipment to be able to hone one’s skills and practice as an editor. This provided an extra barrier to entry for anyone trying to get into the business. With the introduction of [Final Cut Pro], it has become easy for any person with about $5000 to be able to create a broadcast-capable editing system. […] That has made it easy for young kids in high school and college (I’m speaking about yours truly and many following after me) to learn the skill of editing quite easily.

But today, it seems the tide as shifted back somewhat.  Not completely, but somewhat.  At the time I wrote that, the $5,000 number came from my loose budgeting around a Mac laptop, a copy of Final Cut Studio 3, some extra RAM and peripherals, and maybe some hard drives to boot.  I was not considering the $2500 price-tag for Avid Media Composer or Adobe Master Suite.  It seems now, though, that my math should be adjusted, because I would never call the current version of FCPX broadcast-capable.  And given that math, it seems that a broadcast-capable edit suite just went up in price.

In the past, many new post houses and editors chose Final Cut Pro over Avid or Adobe because of budget.  There were always small arguments to be made for which fit the required workflow the best but, in truth, all three basically provided the same functionality.  The exception to this was that FCP cost much much less.  Since the release of FCPX, though, the paradigm has changed.  Now, I’d be willing to bet that the average beginning filmmaker will spend their money on the new FCPX while most professionals and production companies will focus on Media Composer and Premiere.  And why shouldn’t they?  FCPX is easy to use and does a lot of thinking for you, while Adobe and Avid provide support for nearly every type of production and the architecture of the software is scalable up to the largest projects.  But, because not every level of editor requires the same software, us professionals can breath a sigh of relief about some young kid with a Mac and FCP asking for half our rate and thusly eating our lunch.  It’s not that easy anymore.

Before, someone could buy FCP7 and cut their home movies on it while reading the press about how Walter Murch and the editors from The Social Network used the same software to edit Oscar-winning films. (Side note: has anyone interview these people about for their thoughts on FCPX?  Can someone please get on that? Send me a link!)  While that was great to imagine, believing that was simply drinking Apple’s Kool-Aid.  Not all editors need the same software.  Here’s an example: in-the-field documentarians and journalists don’t need a particularly robust editor.  They just need to get their footage in, view it, tweak it, and spit it out fast to Youtube, CNN iReport, and so on.  They don’t need advanced media-management tools for dealing with terabytes of footage.  They don’t need power-windows and secondary color-correction effects.  They don’t need the ability to export data and sequences for Pro-Tools, Resolve, or Smoke.  And now there’s software to serve their needs.  This is good.

But this new version of Final Cut Pro is also good for editors who need more advanced tools, in the way that it pushes professionals to harder-to-reach software.  There used to be two levels of software: consumer and professional.  Now, though, Apple has created a new class of software that requires an intermediate-level knowledge of editing and post, but not a mastery.  And so, for those of us out there who are required to be masters, the talent pool just got smaller.  And that’s also a good thing.  Now, I don’t need to look over my shoulder as much, wondering when the next development is going to take away the need for an Assistant Editor, or whether some new hotshot film director is just going to cut out the need for an editor entirely and cut their projects themselves.  Apple is revolutionizing the prosumer market, and there’s no shame in that.  From where I sit, the more prosumers we have, the more it separates me from everyone else.

PS: Just caught this as I was writing this, from the ever-excellent Revision 3 show Film Riot.  It’s another good primer on the good and bad of FCPX, and recommends it exactly to who the software is targeted to: the beginner.   Please let me know what you think in the comments.  I’d love feedback on my thoughts.  Also thanks to @therealjimhall for his feedback.

One other small post-script: I fear for the life of Aperture and Logic.  If I use those programs on a daily basis, I’d be very afraid of this trend.

WOW!

About six months ago I was introduced by my friend to the awesome directing duo Radical Friend to talk about some projects they were working on and about possibly helping them out as their editor. We got through one as-yet-unreleased project and then set forth on their biggest project to date: a music video for Yeasayer‘s song “Ambling Alp.” The job was nothing close to simple, due to an accelerated schedule and incredible creative and technical needs on the part of the crew. I can’t say enough about how everyone was to work with.

The project was shot with the RED camera and I managed the complete workflow through editing and into coloring and VFX. After production wrapped, we transcoded our almost nine hours of footage using RedRushes into Quarter-Res Debayer ProRes HQ Quicktimes at 1080p. In retrospect, the right thing to do here would’ve been to encode to 720p quicktimes, because for some reason Final Cut Pro doesn’t play nicely with 1080p on external monitors.

I then copied our offline media to two separate external FW800 drives and gave both the same name.  Radical Friend then received one drive and I retained one for myself, setting forth on the editing process. After logging, syncing, and grouping were completed, RF and I both took a stab at creating our own videos. We would email each other cuts back and forth, exchanging ideas fluidly by simply exchanging FCP project files that linked to the media on each of our computers. Because the file path to the media on each computer was the same, we never had to relink any media, or as Scott Simmons calls it, “the reconnection dance“.

With our deadline fast approaching, we sent our locked offline sequence on a path to be uprez’d. We had to relink our media to our original RED QT proxies to be able to recreate a full-debayer 1080p sequence, so we exported an XML of the sequence and, using Clipfinder, conformed the sequence to the Full-Quality (_”F”) QT Proxies in the R3D folders. We then reimported that XML in FCP and sent that to Apple Color for the expressed purpose of creating high-rez quicktime files of our source media.  Once that finished, I sent that sequence back to Final Cut Pro and voilà, I had my full-raster 1080p sequence for coloring.

Here were the tricky parts, though.  Three things snagged us because of the workflow we were following.

The first was a simple problem: spanned RED files in FCP.  To solve that, I easily ran the ColorFixer program on my Color project file.  This is a must before you do any work in Color.

The second was the aspect ratio sizes.  Because we cut our offline sequence with all 1080p media, we never had to deal with the different aspect ratios that are delivered with the RED.  The camera/build we used delivered us 4k, 3k, and 2k media.  That meant that the relative geometry of our clips were all over the place because we had everything scaled to 100% of their image size, due to all our offline media clips being 100% and uniform in their aspect ratios. Therefore, once I sent the sequence to Color, I went into the geometry room and had to manually re-enter the correct image size adjustments to make sure each image rendered at full-frame.

The last problem was the way Color reads RED files.  For obvious reasons, rendering out handles on the media created all the handles at the tail of the shot, but none at the head.  This was extremely troublesome and I can’t wait until they fix that.  Once I sent the sequence back to Final Cut Pro, I had to slip each shot by hand to make sure it matched the offline edit.  Needless to say, it shouldn’t be designed this way.

Fortunately, though it wall worked out in the end.  Thanks to everyone’s hard work and the incredible guidance and creativity of Radical Friend, this video has had the most amazing response. I just heard from RF that the video has been counted as one of the Top 20 Music Videos of 2009 by Spin Magazine!!! I even found it on Kanye West‘s blog.

Isn’t the internet amazing?

UPDATE:
We screened our film at The Hammer Museum in Westwood on December 17th.  Michel Gondry debuted his latest music video with Mia Doi Todd and even played drums in her concert after the screening.  Totally awesome! Check out this link to see all the videos screened!

UPDATE #2:
Radical Friend is interviewed by Pitchfork for their Director’s Cut series!

Back again after an extended blogging layoff because of work and projects!  Coming up for air long enough to point you to the latest installment of What I’ve Been Working On.

Freddy and Francine is an awesome band and friends of robgwilson.com after their music was featured in a short film I edited called Chris And Steve (IMDb).  You can check out more about them here and here.  In June their song Brownstone Alley was featured on KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic as their Top Tune Of The Day, which is only the coolest thing ever.  In case you don’t live in Los Angeles, KCRW and that show in particular is the best place to find great new music in the city of Los Angeles.

So F&F and I got together and decided to up the ante on their video work online.  With the help of my friends Adam Deyoe and Katie Goldschmidt, the three of us got together to shoot a concert at The Mint in Hollywood.  Dating back to 1937, the venue has hosted everyone from Stevie Wonder, Willie Dixon, and Ray Charles to more recently Ben Harper, Macy Gray, and The Wallflowers.

These two videos, 8 Pages and Brownstone Alley, were the first two songs from their set, with more to come.  Hopefully we’ll be working together again soon.  They’re a pleasure and their music is kickass.  Go see them if you get the chance.

Her Private Practice Scenes:

Her Complete Reel:

Amy Harmon is a friend of mine and a great actress. She was recently featured in “Private Practice” and the pilot “Inside The Box”, both for ABC, and in the Brimmer Street Theater Company’s original production of “<3”. Get more information on that at brimmerstreet.org

Her reel is a fairly standard edit I do, employing simple dips to black between scenes and sometimes employing an occasional re-edit to focus the scene on my client.

This is a reel I edited for Michael Grant Terry. It showcases some of the editing work I put into a typical reel job. Here, each of his scenes have been edited to refocus the drama on his character. I have been cutting Mike’s reels for years now and have seen him grow from an unknown to a common face on television and in commercials. Currently you can see Mike on FOX’s Bones as Wendell Bray.  He just emailed me today to say that he’ll be on tomorrow night’s episode, Wednesday, April 15th at 8pm on FOX, and the season finale, which he believes will air May 14th.  Congrats Mikey!

A montage that played on a loop at an art show fundraiser for the theater company.

A promotional reel used by the theater company for marketing and publicity.

These are two promotional films I cut for The Brimmer Street Theater Company‘s original work “Severance,” which premiered in Los Angeles in 2007. The play is based on the premise that the human head lives for ninety seconds after the moment of separation, and in that final moment the mind continues to remember, ponder, and regret.

“For those who feel that theater has grown stale or predictable, here’s something different…a coup de theatre.” ~Terry Morgan, Variety