Category Archives: Item of Interest

Something I found interesting written by someone else.

Who gets to be a production professional?

I was talking with Shane Ross about his new podcast and he said the first topic was, basically about Final Cut Pro and Media Composer because “they were all that professional editors used”. (My version of Shane’s words.) I admit, I had a fairly strong reaction simply because the world of production that Shane (and his guests on the first podcast) work in is such a small part of the entirety of the production space, that it does the whole industry a disservice.

Similarly I went very close to offending my good friend Andrew Balis when we were recording some interviews for Rick Young’s MacVideo.tv videos and I called him a “film snob”. In both cases I certainly did not mean to offend, and in Andrew’s case I was merely mean to imply that he had quality criteria that were somewhat higher than most. Andrew mostly works in film and television, as does Shane and it’s easy to believe, when you work in that area of “the business” to think that’s it. And 25 years ago you’d have been close to right, but not any more.

At the high end – Thompon’s Viper; Sony’s F900, F950 and F23; etc – there is a relatively small pool of people working with these formats to make “Television” and “Movies”. Let’s be generous and say there are 100,000 people working in post production for film, network or cable/satellite Television worldwide. (There are about 6000 members of the US Screen Editor’s Guild and only 104,000 across IATSE, most of whom aren’t working as editors.)

Compared with that 100,000 there are at least 1.25 million unique registered Final Cut Pro owners (and probably double that in “not registered” versions, but we won’t go there). There are probably 200,000 Media Composer units in use (some going back to OS 9) and well over 500,000 seats of Premiere Pro (probably more), at least 300,000 seats of Sony Vegas and approximately 75,000 Avid Liquid users. Feel free to correct my numbers in the comments if you have better information (or email me directly).

So, somewhere around 100,000 “professional editors” (by a certain reckoning) and yet there have been over 2.3 million seats of editing software sold. Professional editing software: this does not count iMovie, Windows Movie Maker or Pinnacle’s various consumer editing applications.

By Shane’s ‘definition’ professional editors make up less than 5% of the users of all editing software sold. Even if say that every owner of FCP is also an owner of Media Composer – there would be overlap but not complete – and the total is 2 million. That’s still just on 5% of all the professional editing software sold that’s being used by “professionals”. It does not compute!

There are no longer hard barriers between “the broadcast and film” business and the wider world of video production and post production like there may have been 30 years ago. Production quality from affordable tools has skyrocketed in that time and HD quality way beyond the best broadcast cameras of 20 years ago costs less than $5K US. There’s very high quality work being done for Trade shows or for educational video. There are those using RED One cameras for web video! Where are the lines to be drawn?

For me, if you get paid by your customers to edit (or produce) video and your customers are happy, pay their bills and come back for more work, then you’re a professional editor. (That is, of course, the inarguable definition of professional).

Professionalism also has undertones of quality and attention to detail that separates the pro from the amateur, and that certainly comes into it as well, but what has changed is that there is not just one market for quality. No longer a single standard.

I love that Shane, Andrew and their compatriots care deeply about quality, rejecting (if they can) “lesser” formats (like HDV or any long GOP acquisition) as lacking in quality. I also recognize that their world is a small part of the totality of production. I wish I could find the reference but I’m sure I’ve read that – based on dollars spent – what we think of as Broadcast Television and Film (IOW the entire industry of 30 years ago) is now around 15-20% of the dollars spent on “professional production”.

The old lines are gone. In coming days I’ll talk about Joss Wheedon “leaving television” and the implications of the failing distribution model, etc. Bottom line, things are changing and changing fast and there’s not really room to try and restrict “professional” editors to an exclusive club.

At the same time, I know what Shane is trying to define: there are different workflows and expectations of certain types of production – that he and Andrew work on – that are quite different from the workflows and expectations of corporate, event or other entertainment production. While the skill sets are different, I don’t see Shane’s compatriots as any more professional than the members of the Association of Video Professionals, WEVA (with more than 200,000 members); and the Digital Video Professionals Association.  They’re all about maintaining high standards of production, post production and service appropriate for their customer base. 

And here’s the thing. If those folk performed in the same way, at the same level and within the same restrictions as Shane’s friends and associates, they would not be doing the job they are being paid for and therefore, not professional. 

Maybe we just need some new terminology!

Oh to be in Amsterdam for IBC & Supermeet

A lot of my friends and associates are getting their passports ready for IBC this year. Every year I think “maybe this year” but there’s always one thing or the other. One thing has been Visa renewals which have happened in August the last three times. Leaving the US without a valid visa would make the European trip a much longer one than the five days or so of IBC – Sep 12 to 16.

So, once again I’m not going, and this year it’s bad. This is the first IBC FCP Supermeet organized in part by my good friend Mike Horton. Imagine putting together a major even a couple of thousand miles from your home base, in a city with a foreign language, expensive currency and way cool coffee shops. (They probably wouldn’t help Mike keep organized though!). The agenda has been set for the September 14 meeting at the Culture Park Westergasfabriek, Gashouder. (I hope that’s an address – for all I know I could be insulting someone’s mother!)

And there’s a good lineup for the meeting – ok, obviously *I* won’t be there to wow the crowd with a demo of Assisted Editing, but we will be giving away a copy of First Cuts as a raffle prize.

Those that make it will get Paul Saccone, Director of Technical Marketing in Apple’s Applications Marketing group, will provide the latest news on Final Cut Studio. If you’re into Digital Cinema Technology QuVIS will debut their offering there. Adobe’s Simon Hayhurst and Jason Levine will show how Adobe Production Premium’s suite of applications can compliment the Final Cut Pro workflow. (BTW, smart marketing by Adobe – people will have the CS3, and before the end of the month it appears CS4, and be tempted by what Adobe adds to the Final Cut Studio) without taking it on directly.) There will also be opportunity to see how the Infinity camera integrates with Final Cut Studio.

If you want to see the work of your peers, Darius Fisher will show clips from “Fields of Fuel” – the documentary that won the Audience award at Sundance 2008. Darius will also show how Final Cut Studio was used to make this complex and important documentary work. “Traitor” has only just been released Aug 27th (same as First Cuts/Finisher) and has an incredible pedigree behind it: written and directed by Jeffrey Nachmanoff, edited by award winning film editor, Billy Fox and it stars Don Cheadle and Guy Pearce. Once again, the role of Final Cut Studio will be discussed by Billy Fox and (if available) Jeffrey Nacmanoff.

The final show and tell will be Miguel de Olaso – a Director of Photography from Spain – about using the Red camera with Final Cut Pro. Not to forget that the ever-smart Rich Young – editor of Macvideo.tv and founder of the UK FCP User Group – will share his “Top Ten FCP Tips and
Tricks”, which would make the trip worthwhile.

In addition to the above agenda there will be twenty vendors from all around Europe showing off their wares. Many of these companies will not be on the show floor at IBC. The SuperMeet will be the only place you will see them. There will be food and cash bars and rounding out the evening will be a
raffle with prizes totaling into the tens of thousands of dollars.

Doors will open at 5PM (17:00) and the show will begin at 7PM. (19:00) Tickets are on sale online only for Euro 10.00 each and this event is expected to sell out. Historically every SuperMeet for the past seven years has sold out.

Complete details, including daily updates on the agenda as well as a link to where to buy tickets can be found on the lafcpug web site.

Maybe I’ll make IBC 2009

Using Scopes to measure video level

It’s always preferable to prove the accuracy of your video levels using external scopes as long as they’re downstream of your output hardware.

One common problem, as discussed in the BuZZ show of Jan 25, is the levels coming from Adobe After Effects. Video levels could be full range 0-255 in each channel (or 16 bit equivalent) instead of the 601/video range of 16 -235.
May be some useful information at
http://www.dv.com/features/features_item.php?articleId=196601411 (might have to set up a free log-in)
and for super technical background
http://www.poynton.com/notes/colour_and_gamma/ColorFAQ.html

How to protect the Internet from Politicians

The latest bit of insanity in legislation (part 654 in an ongoing series) has Rep. Michael G. Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) brining up a Bill to “ban Myspace.com from schools” in order to “protect the children”. Leaving aside the facts that parents are where the responsibility lies, and that, given the 80 million members, MySpace is safer than the school itself because more teachers have been convicted of molesting children than has ever come via MySpace or equivalent, this piece of extreme stupidity once again proves that Legislators don’t seem to have any idea of anything regarding the Internet.

Fortunately this piece of lunacy is unlikely to go beyond grandstanding by Rep. Fitzpatrick, but if it did the “Deleting Online Predators Act” would be devestating for the Internet because it’s badly drafted and way too broad. If Wikipedia were commercial it would not be available in schools or libraries. And, just btw, MySpace and equivalent social networking sites now cover half the Internet’s users.

I say every legislator in every assembly should show a working knowledge or the subject before they’re allowed to vote on, let alone draft, legislation.