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In my travels, I’ve had to do a fair number of Automatic Duck project conversions. While I was learning this process, I found that there wasn’t much good information containing tips and tricks about making this process smooth. Especially now with the exodus from Apple because of FCPX, streamlining this process is more essential now than ever. I don’t propose to know all the answers, but I thought it was high time somebody started putting down their experiences so that we can start working towards some kind of a “Best Practices” document. I’m humble about my experience here, but I will say that I’ve done it a fair amount and I think my tips are good. I’d love to hear what you think. Please leave a note in the Comments section and tell me what I got right or wrong.

Quick note: What I’ll talk about here is transferring between Avid and Final Cut Pro, because that’s what I have experience doing. However, since Adobe After Effects workflows are prevalent nowadays as well, I’d love to hear about your experiences there. Please, leave comments.

WHAT IS AUTODUCK?

Automatic Duck is shorthand for a number of programs developed by Wes Plate as a way to move editor sequences between Avid/Apple/Adobe products. Now that Wes has joined Adobe, his programs are now thankfully free to download. The apps are basically plugins for Final Cut Pro 7 and Adobe After Effects, so you’ll need one of these apps (as well as Avid Media Composer, if that’s part of your workflow) in order to transfer your footage.

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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!

The ever-brilliant Splice Here blog (soon to be Splice Now) by Steve Cohen lays out the perfect list of questions that every production should answer before they shoot one frame.  If you or someone on your production team can’t answer this question before you start shooting, STOP! and get it answered.  Not knowing the answer can get you in to trouble.  Original link: File-Based Basics « Splice Here.

  1. Production
    Which camera(s) are you using? Which audio recorder?
    What kinds of files are you creating?
    What frame rate, sample rate, timecode rate, raster size are you recording?
  2. Dailies
    Who’s doing them? What do you need for editing, review and conforming?
    Who syncs and how will they do it? Who backs up and when?
    How are drives being moved around; where are they stored?
  3. Editing
    What system will you use? What kind of drives/raid?
    How will you output cut material for review?
    What are you turning over to sound and music?
  4. Conforming
    Will you roll your own or have a post house do it?
    How do you handle visual effects created in your editing room?
    And those created by the vfx team?
    What kinds of files will you use for color correction?
    And for television, a crucial question — when do you convert to HD?

 

Thanks Steve!

Okay, so it’s been a while since I’ve done what I originally intended to do with this blog: keep my various projects aggregated into one site.  I’m slowly getting back into it, and I think I’ll start back off by going in reverse order, starting with my project from the last few weeks.

Recently, a friend of mine asked me to help her out cutting the video packages for the awards ceremony for the 3rd annual Indiecade Festival.  Indiecade is the International Festival of Independent Games.  In short, it is meant to be a sort of Sundance Film Festival for games produced outside the usual “studio” system.  The project comprised of thirty-two short :15 packages for each of the finalists in the festival and a finalist montage to open the event.   To balance out the work I had the help of fellow editor and USC Interactive Media student Cory Sanford, so I had more time to focus on the important opening montage.

All of our source footage came from each of the different production teams for each game, so you can imagine that all our media came in a nearly infinite amount of flavors.  I took advantage Perian‘s ability to open nearly any type of video file, and kept with a traditional offline/online workflow in my new version of Avid Media Composer 5. (Thanks Avid!)  Combining these two allowed me to turn nearly every source I was provided with into 10:1 Avid media straight from the source video file, since Avid’s Import tool employs every Quicktime codec (i.e. Perian) installed on my editing system.  From there I was able to edit seamlessly without worrying about different codecs and without carrying around with me a boatload of media.  Once the edit was locked, I simply decomposed the Avid sequence and batch-imported the master clips at 1:1 from the original source files of those various flavors.  It worked like a charm.

The event was hosted by Levar Burton of Reading Rainbow and Star Trek: The Next Generation, two mainstays of my childhood.  It also featured live DJ sets by 8-Bit Weapon and awesome presenters including Isaiah Mustafah and Seth Gordon, director of The King Of Kong.  The show was at Sony Studios in Culver City.  It was a really fun event and a great festival to be a part of.  Slides below:

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Interesting post from the ever-excellent Silicon Alley Insider: Sorry, There’s No Way To Save The TV Business

As with print-based media, Internet-based distribution generates only a tiny fraction of the revenue and profit that today’s incumbent cable, broadcast, and satellite distribution models do.  As Internet-based distribution gains steam, therefore, most TV industry incumbents will no longer be able to support their existing cost structures.

Here’s the gist: we’re all going to be out of work in five years.  Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but the truth is that I don’t see much of a future for the industry.  THAT IS NOT TO SAY THAT I DON’T LOVE THE BUSINESS AND WANT TO DO THIS FOREVER, but the fact of the matter is, especially with post-production, job levels are taking a nose-dive and revenue streams are not far behind it.  I mean, we already have internet-equipped televisions, internet video on the rise, and more people then ever on the internet, so the technology is there.  How long before the industry has the rug pulled out from under us, just like the newspaper and record industry?

And things are already dead in this town.  What from the Writer’s Strike, the SAG “strike”, and the down economy, I can’t image jobs ever getting back to the levels they were at when I first moved out here.  I don’t want to say that we’ll never find a way to work, but if you’ve got any ideas, I suggest you pick up the phone and call some industry executives, because they want to know.

Quick link to a recent episode of KCRW’s The Business: Below The Line and Under The Gun.  It’s probably the best description of the job market facing us below-the-line’rs in this town.  Only problem is that it doesn’t even address the job market for post-production, because with the addition of technology to all these problems, editorial staffs have gone from double-digit crews to maybe two or three people for multi-million dollar projects! You want to talk about too much supply vs. demand, here is your example #1!

I’d love to hear what anyone has to say about this.  Hell, talk me down if you think I’m crazy.  I would love for someone to make me feel better about this.  Please comment!