Category Archives: Assisted Editing

Snow Leopard Compatibility

I’m very happy to announce that all of our Assisted Editing software is now Snow Leopard (a.k.a. Mac OSX 10.6) compatible.

Even better, along with the speed improvements from running on Snow Leopard, Greg also improved the XML parsing speed so all the apps should be very noticeably faster.

These updates are free and can be downloaded from within each piece of software, using the built-in updating framework, or you can simply download the current version from Assisted Editing and overwrite the current version.

An update and two new pieces of software

We’ve been all about logging and metadata over the last few weeks!

First Cuts has just had a substantial update: we’ve added a new module to it that makes it easy to use Microsoft Excel to do your log notes. The new module is called exceLogger and it came about because of a suggestion from a First Cuts user. The advantage is that, even if you’ve already captured your clips, exceLogger will read your log notes out of the Excel spreadsheet and add them to the logging fields in your Final Cut Pro project.

The update is free for First Cuts owners.

We liked the idea of exceLogger so much that we created a stand-alone application called exceLogger for FCP – you can read more about it here.

The second new piece of software is something completely different. Final Cut Pro back at version 5.1.2 introduced support for QuickTime metadata, and more cameras and formats have been adding metadata to their media files. (Philip wrote about this metadata at his blog.) The problem is that you can’t see this QuickTime metadata in Final Cut Pro’s browser view – it’s hidden.

That’s why we created mini Metadata Explorer (miniME for short): export your clips from Final Cut Pro as an XML file, and open it in miniME. The spreadsheet view fills in with your clip names and columns of QuickTime metadata.

The free version of miniME allows you to save this metadata out to an Excel spreadsheet. But if you buy a serial number you also get the option to add this hidden metadata into the Final Cut Pro logging fields of your choice. There’s more information here.

Additional First Cuts documentation

Logging

More logging is good up to a point. I learned that you don’t overload story keywords as the same clips keep coming up in many edits, often not so successfully. So my advice now would be to keep the story keywords for each clip to the minimum that really describe the clip’s value to the story.  Initially I tended to load on any possible story keyword I could think of but as we got First Cuts closer to finished, and with the ability to selectively add as many story keywords as you want, I can really make the decisions of what I want to include on a much more fine-grained basis that way.

That multiple select also means I don’t have to be overly anal about always using the same keyword. It’s obvious when I’m building an edit that “Austria” and “Austrian” will probably both be included together or excluded together. Ditto “McDonald School” and “McDonald College” both refer to the same place – where my subject was “discovered”. In my examples there are many inconsistencies among story keywords.

Names and locations do have to match. Variations will be considered to be different people. We use the name to fill in lower third titles and to avoid jump cuts. Likewise location needs to match. Again it’s used to avoid jump cuts. Fortunately, FCP makes it easy to be consistent with these fields. After entering a name, for example, you can right-click (control click) into any other name field and pick the existing entries from the list. For Name and Location this makes entering the metadata very fast, and very accurate. It’s not like you have to type them twice.

The same trick works with entering Event and Theme log notes but I’ll come back to that.

How many clips are necessary?

The challenge is that First Cuts doesn’t do so well with small numbers of clips. You’d probably want to give it at least 20 A-roll or A+ and a similar number of b-roll options to start seeing how it can generate multiple different editions quickly and interactively. With small numbers of clips the results tend to all end up very similar – pushing duration can force variation though.

With small numbers of clips, you might get the optimal results by doing a quick A-roll (aka ‘radio’) cut and using Finisher to complete the job.

What should I do with the clips from which I made thought sized subclips for A-roll? Should they be deleted or can they be left without description?

My recommendation would be to move source or master clips to their own Bin or Bins within a single “masters” bin. Then when you export the XML file select all Bins *except* that master bin of masters. That will leave them out of consideration by First Cuts, because First Cuts doesn’t ever get them.

Tip: If you’re cutting a master clip down to though-sized subclips, enter as much metadata as you can – name, location, maybe event or theme – to the master clip first. Then the subclips will all inherit the common log notes and only need their individual variations entered.

Same for B-roll. If I leave the master clips in the bins will First Cuts use them?

If clips are included in the XML export then First Cuts will attempt to use them.  Excluding Bin or Bins from the export to XML would be my current recommended practice. It’s a fairly simple matter to select all in the Browser, then Command click (that’s the Apple key) on the Bins you want to exclude. Then Export XML. FCP will only export what was selected.

Is there a minimum length of A-roll needed?

As a consequence of this question being asked, First Cuts was changed. There is no minimum duration required for any story keyword. However, if there is insufficient A-roll First Cuts will do what it can with it, but it won’t necessarily be useful. Experiment.

Is there a minimum proportion required of B-roll to A-roll?

No there is no minimal proportion of B-roll to A-roll. You can send no b-roll and it will still do the best possible job on an A-roll edit.

In fact one of the benefits I’ve noticed with First Cuts is that it makes it really clear where there’s no b-roll coverage on a subject, because First Cuts will place as much b-roll as possible (within certain guidelines so people get face time) That’s another benefit that’s hard to put into a user guide or marketing pitch, but it’s really useful.

Events or Themes confuse me. In the manual you refer to story arc which implies that they are in part about position in time within the development of plot. But I am unclear if changing the numbering of the events has an impact on the sequences generated by FC. It seems that order is affected by the choices made in the Story Keywords Selected panel.

There are many things that affect the way the story evolves in First Cuts. Story keywords are important in determining what will be included in the edit, but the actual sequencing within the story arc is affected by a Events or Themes and some other minor factors. Truth is, the Serendipity algorithm at the heart of First Cuts is now so complex that neither Greg nor I totally understand exactly how results evolve. Greg can trace a particular example and determine the decision making process behind why a particular clip is included, but to trace out how a particular edit evolved would probably take days. Both Story Keywords and Events and Themes interact to determine the story arc of a particular edit.

But I do understand your confusion on Events or Themes. It was another of those concepts that evolved over development. Originally only Events it was supposed to be a way to bring together clips around a particular events within the documentary. The project I used during development is the story of a young singer (dancer, actor) from Sydney called Tim Draxl. The documentary covers his early career and into his first CD and performance deals, before he got movie roles.  So, my Events and Themes look like this (there are 20 in total, I haven’t included all)

010 Growing Up and Family

020 Master Class

035 Tim the person

040 Beginning Career

055 Tim’s Talent at Cabaret

100 Tim’s Future

060 Recording in LA

075 Performing and Audiences

065 Developing Career

and so on.  The numbers give chronology to the overall story arc and a way to group or associate ideas as material is logged.

The Events and Themes can really be whatever you want. Events was originally intended to group content around the events that occurred during the documentary production. In Tim’s case “Recording in LA” was  a discrete event, as was “Cabaret Convention” “Sound of Music”. But as we went on in development I found I wanted to use the same mechanism to group other than events – what eventually became themes. Often the numbering is fairly arbitrary. Probably 00 to 99 is enough. I start with themes or events on the 10’s so that I have slots between if I decide (as I did) that I wanted to put the theme “Tim the person” between the Master Class and Beginning Career. It seemed to fit there. But I could just as easily renumber it to fit between Recording in LA and Developing Career by changing the number to 063, for example.

Keep the questions coming – they help us improve the documentation and/or the software.

First Cuts and Finisher released tonight

At the Los Angeles Final Cut Pro User Group this evening we announced the availability of two products: First Cuts for FCP and Finisher for FCP.

The Assistant Editor product demonstrated at NAB 2008 was renamed “First Cuts for FCP” to better reflect its main function. “Finisher for FCP” was shown publicly for the first time tonight, and came about from conversations with users in the beta program for The Assistant Editor. It’s a tool that does the same finishing work that was done by The Assistant Editor: finding b-roll, lowering the b-roll volume, building and placing lower third titles, fade-in and fade-out of lower thirds… There’s more details about Finisher for FCP at its product page: http://www.theassistanteditor.com/Finisher/.

Since Finisher would be incredibly useful for editors doing many changes to a sequence produced by First Cuts, we’ve included the Finisher product in First Cuts. And, for the first three weeks after launch, we’re offering discounted pricing on both these new products!