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Following on from Larry Jordan‘s intense, cool and informative Final Cut PowerUp tutorial event in London, the question came up: which version of Final Cut works best with which versions of QuickTime and OS X?

Larry gave the most important advice: If your system is working fine do not upgrade until you need a specific new feature.

Here’s a link to a blog post with a table showing which version works best with which version… It might be a year old, but it should help the majority of people out there.

I’ve had no problems with FCP 6.0.4, QuickTime 7.5.5 on OS X 10.5.4

Comment with your combinations that work well!

In which I transcribe some notes on how the BBC uses Apple’s Final Cut Studio suite to make TV programmes.

I thought it would only take a day, but tomorrow I’m going back for more!

Trade shows bring out the worst in me. In recent years I’ve learned to do without them. However this time I have a couple of new reasons to go to an exhibition featuring Avid, Sony, Canon, Panasonic et al. demoing software and kit for post-production.

I spent the day at the Broadcast Video Expo here in London. I haven’t been in three years, so was expecting economic considerations to reduce the number of stands and attendees. I was wrong on both counts. The show isn’t huge, but it was big enough to be worth attending, and small enough to look very busy for the number of people there.

Here’s a picture I posted using my iPhone/Twitter/Twitpic/TwitterFon (!):
A busy Broadcast Video Expo 2009

Today was a day of seminars, starting with the BBC on how they use Final Cut Studio for HD workflow. They concentrated on Final Cut Pro’s links with Color. Here are my live tweets from today, with extra notes.

100:1 shooting ratio: Offline at dv res. 100 hrs=1.2Tb
– For documentaries, the shooting ratio ranges from 100:1 to 200:1. That is too much for anything other than DV resolution. 100hrs of DV rushes is only 1.2TB

HDcam not great. Avid worth it if time pressure is high.
– Problems with HDCam tapes. Using Adrenaline/Nitris etc. workflow is fine, but not worth the extra cost unless you have a very tight transmission deadline.

Mouse based colour tools not great. Like control surfaces.
– The Avid colour correction tools they used had to use mouse/keyboard and bright screens. Darker displays and control surfaces are much better

Apple Color is good option. Stable version of Final Touch
– BBC used Final Touch before Apple bought it. Worth the high price, but not reliable. They thought Apple were right not to change anything but improve the reliability. Now any problems are due to operator error, so allow for a couple of extra rendering hours in case something goes wrong overnight.

Use Apple ProRes as equivalent of Avid dnxhd. 6:1 ratio.

Docs need too much storage for uncompressed – can’t delete footage – producers always coming back with changes
– As HD takes so much storage, rushes need to be removed to backup. That is bad news for docs. Producers and directors are always coming back with a couple of little changes every few days. That doesn’t work well with high-end systems.

Apple Color doesn’t roundtrip well. Export full res qt from fcp, grade in color and bring back into fcp.
– Export ProRes QuickTime from Final Cut timeline. Import that QuickTime onto a new video layer in your project. Use the blade tool to slice your movie at each edit point in your timeline. Delete your original clips. Send to Color. Correct in Color. One problem is that you can’t correct Picture-in-picture sequences this way. You need to 3-Way Color Correct these in Final Cut relative to the background picture before you export to QuickTime. Once the grade is ‘over’ export at ProRes QT and return to Final Cut for captioning.

Grade in Color in 20 minute sections
– This is the most stable way to use Color, a figure determined by trial and error and talking to Apple.

Apple Color one flaw for pros: can’t get sound cues. Color is mute

BBC uses Natress Bleach Bypass filter in Apple Color
– There is a built-in Bleach Bypass filter, but Natress’s one is better. They also use Natress’s film effects plugins.

Apple Color can match any high-end system at a fraction of the price – if you have the time.
- The problem is that clients/production people need to understand that Color will seem to be dropping frames. However tricked out the Mac is, it seems to play 90% of the frames per second. You need time because rendering usually takes 6 times real time.

Apple Compressor for standards conversion very slow, but good enough

More soon…

Each year London’s Royal College of Art uses a secret sale to raise money and make a point about fame and the business of art.

From today for a week, Londoners are invited to visit their gallery for the opportunity to view 2,700 pieces of art drawn on postcards. At the end of the week the postcards are made available in a sale where each postcard can be bought for £40.

For the right piece of art, not a huge sum.

rcasecret2008sm

What exactly is ‘the right piece of art?’ Unlike most sales, each artwork is not labelled with who created it. You only discover the artist once you have bought your postcard. The majority of the authors are RCA students, but some are internationally famous established artists and designers such as Yoko Ono, Tracey Emin, Manolo Blahnik, Nick Park and Anish Kapoor.

Some would say paying only £40 for a unique piece by such artists makes this an exciting lottery. On the other hand, that only matters if you plan to make money from selling the piece you’ve bought. This is one of the few art sales where aesthetics are the only consideration: buy if you think it is worth £40 to you. Just because it was made by someone famous doesn’t make it any better as art.

Imagine buying a number of cards and never turning them over to see who created them. That would be a statement about making the experience of the art solely about aesthetics

After weeks of fund-raising producers do well to get all the money together to make their short films. There are so many little expenses that mount up. No day arrives without an invoice from some unexpected place. Suddenly the shoot starts, and everyone works for 24 hours a day until all the footage is in the can. In the following weeks producers work with directors and editors to get a rough cut…

Then a new set of problems arise. The film cannot be submitted to festivals unless it is finished. What about those effects that can’t be done on the editor’s home rig? Does anyone have a £8,000 grading-quality broadcast monitor and the grading suite with the 50% grey walls and expensive kit to do the grading in. How about doing a proper audio mix? What about doing a film out to 35mm?

If you’ve run out of funds, maybe the UK Film Council Short Film Completion Fund may be able to help. They take submissions from film makers who have got to the rough cut stage. Many producers have problems raising the next thousands of pounds to get the film to a releasable stage. The Completion fund has been set up to get them over that hurdle.

Twice a year the call goes out to producers who need that extra help. Each round up to seven shorts are supported. The current deadline is January 5th 2009. To find out more, go to The UK Film Council (the web page shows the wrong date for the deadline for applications).

The fund is administered MayaVision International, a TV documentary production company. It must be a tough call on which films to support. They need to assess the potential of the film based on the rough cut and the people who want to finish it. Is the film any good, and will the money available improve its prospects? I would say that based on the London Premiere of the six most recently completed films I went to last night, the current crop of films succeeded in both counts.

Ralph – 13 mins (dir. Alex Winckler, prd. Olivier Kaempfer) is the tale of a boy taking a chance on love in France. It started slowly and finished a little too quickly, but showed a sunny aspect missing in many recent shorts I’ve seen. Although the story was small, I ended up caring a lot for the characters.

Hatemail – 12 mins (dir. Frazer Churchill, prd. Mark Murrell) shows how childhood trauma can people do the strangest things. This story was brave enough not to paint its protagonist in too strong a positive or negative light. The tale is told in an exciting way, but we are left to make our own conclusions.

Unborn – 13 mins (dir. Justin Trefgarne, prd. Francine Heywood, Laura Giles, Ernest Riera, Sarah Parfitt) is a horror mystery: a couple can’t conceive, so who is that crying in the attic? This film is still mysterious to me, I’m not sure what the resolution was. However the tension was built up very effectively. It is said that one of the most frightening shots in film happens when the camera creeps up on a closed door. This film proves that adage.

Domestics – 7 mins (dir. Rob Curry, prd. Colin McKeown) is a time jumping impressionistic illustration of how far a domestic argument can go. There’s a lot of style supporting an interesting idea, and the intrigue doesn’t overpower the excitement.

The Hero’s Journey – 6 mins (dir. Jack Herbert, prd. Barrington Paul Robinson) We go on a journey of discovery as a little boy records his Star Wars fantasy. A deceptively ‘low-tech’ film that fits a lot into six minutes in real time.

Dead Dog – 6 mins (dir. Edward Jeffreys, prd. Loren Slater, Kerry Kolbe) An impressionistic tale of a young man seeking justice. The most avant garde of the six, yet it has clear compelling story.

The film that stays in my thoughts the strongest is Hatemail because it tells a story that doesn’t make a clear moral judgement on the anti-hero. The audience is left to make up their own mind.

The reason why the UK Film Council supports short films isn’t only to produce entertaining films that stand on their own. They want to support films that demonstrate a specific way of telling a story, an original story, professional production ability and post-production quality. This makes these films calling cards for directors, writers, producers and post-production facilities. Which will support more British Film industry activity in the future. I would say that the films I saw last night succeed at least three out of four of those criteria.

Watch for these names, you saw them here first!

I think it’s a good use of my tax funds and lottery ticket proceeds.

To mark the 100th anniversary of London Transport’s roundel, Art on the Underground have commissioned 100 contemporary artists to come up with a piece incorporating London’s logo.

They are on display in London, and available on an eBay auction. Bid here for more.

What would you do with the logo?

If you want to have a go putting your own text in the roundel, see page 95. Careful though, Transport for London don’t allow any modification of their trademarked logo without permission.

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