The present and future of post production business and technology | Philip Hodgetts

CAT | Random Thought

One of the joys of 2014 for me was to learn to sing – from very much a position of sucking at it. I still suck whenever I start learning a new song. What I realized is that we have to be prepared to suck at something before we can be good at it, or even learn it.

By “sucking” at something I mean, being very, very bad at it. I realize now I’ve been there many times.

There was a time when I had no idea what XML was; now if you search that term and my name you’ll find I have a contribution to be made.

There was a time when I sucked at metadata – like XML I had no idea why it was important.

The thing is, I’ve sucked at so many things and yet, putting through the sucky period, eventually we suck a little less, then barely at all, until we arrive at a point of knowing we don’t suck at that skill or knowledge any more.

Never be afraid to start off badly: it’s the only way to learn something new.

Once upon a time it was easy to differentiate between Film and TV production: film was shot on film, TV was shot electronically. SAG looked after the interests of Screen Actors (film) while AFTRA looked after the interests of Television actors. That the two actors unions have merged is indicative of the changes in production technology.

As is noted in an article at Digital Trends, there is almost no difference between the technologies used in both styles of production, so what are the differences? It comes down to two thing, which are really the same thing.

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One of my non-metadata interests is in food, so I read a lot of food related articles, including this one where Anthony Bourdain talks about the foodie revolution. What stood out was this comment after discussing the traditional way a talented young chef might make their way through the kitchen hierarchy over decades, vs the modern “democratized” approach where a talented young chef just ups  – maybe via a food truck – and gets their career started.

“A lot of old-school guys complain about this—you’re not paying your dues. That’s the downside. The upside is interesting people with something to say and a unique worldview can actually get their name out there and open a place with relative ease compared to the way it used to be.”

This reminds me of modern production: it’s been democratized to the point where, if you have an idea, you can make it happen.

Most of the episodes of The Terence and Philip Show are edited by interns at Alpha Dogs, and we’re very thankful for their efforts. From time to time I edit a show and have always, until now, edited them in Soundtrack Pro. But I love the Magnetic Timeline in FCP X and thought it would be perfect for the audio editing. So this time I tried it, and was surprised at the results.

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Shortly after I first arrived in the USA, I was teaching some Final Cut Pro classes for Intelligent Media. It was just before Final Cut Pro 2 was released, which I had been beta testing for some months, but 1.2.5 was the release version we were teaching. At that time it was challenging for new users to get settings right, particularly getting a good match between Capture and Sequence settings, so the first half day was dedicated to teaching settings and making sure they were right. It was personally frustrating because I knew that the about-to-be-releaseed version was much smarter about settings.

As it turns out, Final Cut Pro 2 was released early the next morning, so the first thing I had to do in that second day of class was tell my students that what we had learned the day before was no longer relevant for version 2 because the software had become smarter, and that made it easier for people to use Final Cut Pro and no doubt contributed to its success.

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I was have a beer last night with my friend Joe B – @zbutcher on Twitter, follow him and check out his Final Cut Pro X curation site linking to all the stories he can find – and naturally the conversation covered the current Final Cut Pro X release and the consequent debate. In my mind, a good discussion is one I come away from with enlightened or changed thinking. And this was a good conversation. (more…)

Recent conversations – in person and on Twitter – have had me thinking about creativity and art: what are they and how do they apply to film, television and other production?

Most people associate “art” with the fine arts, but I think the term gets used without much real content. Most often “art” is conflated with “creativity”. With the additional complication that most people don’t understand what they mean by “creativity”, once again conflating it with fine art.

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After perhaps one tsunami video too many, we got to talking seriously about backup and how “secure we were”. It was a disturbing revelation, particularly for people who live in an earthquake zone where the next “big one” is expected before I die!

Of course we both have dedicated drives for our Time Machine backups (being all OS X based here) but they’re in the same physical space as our computers, so if for some reason that was destroyed, we’d be no better off than having no backup.  Ditto the demonstration media and archives of projects. Locally they’re stored on a RAID 1 drive for redundancy.

Having started raising the question, what are the answers? And that leads to the examination of what it is that you would need to get your “life back”, at least close to where it is now. I thought I’d share our thinking to stimulate your thinking, not only about a total disaster, but an immediate smaller one.

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Professionalism is for Amateurs http://tinyurl.com/45doktd

After making the case that “professionals” rejected the founders of Google, the founders of Apple and that amateurs created the “much bigger than the pro encyclopedia” Wikipedia, the article finishes with this clincher:

My reluctance to work with so called ‘professionals’ goes so far that whenever someone says “Lets do this the professional way” or “But that doesn’t seems professional” I can’t help but instinctively move in the other direction. If it seems professional to me it sounds boring and unoriginal.

Its the awkward people, the creative thinkers and the unconventional innovators that rule the world. Not the people who act ‘professional’ and follow the beaten path.

Re-invent the world; act unprofessionally!

But what really is a professional?

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If you look very closely at the restoration credits box at the bottom, you can see my credit as "Post Production Restoration Consultant".

 

Was at the Cinerama Dome to view the restored print of Windjammer and it occurred to me that there’s a lot of commonality between Cinerama (the three camera/three projector widescreen of the late 50’s and early 60’s) and 3D.

But first, a little back story. I have been consulting on the restoration of Windjammer as a technical consultant: making sure that the maximum amount of quality we could get from the print was available for the restoration.

I also advised on tools for the job. The Foundry’s Furnace Core featured prominently as did Adobe After Effects and Final Cut Pro. I also helped set workflow and kept everything running smoothly.

Unfortunately the complete negatives for the three panels of Windjammer are not complete. In fact the only place the entire movie is available was in a badly faded composite 35mm Anamorphic print.

You can see the trailerremastering process and how we telecined (Oh look, it’s me in the telecine bay) online, but today was the only time it’s likely to be shown in a Cinerama Theater.

David Strohmaier and Greg Kimble did a great job on the restoration – all on Macs with Final Cut Pro and After Effects.

Now this wasn’t a full reconstruction so we worked in HD – 1080p24 – but used the full height during telecine and correction so we didn’t waste any signal area with black. For the DVD, due in early 2011, the aspect ratio is corrected and a “smile box” (TM) treatment to simulate the surround nature of Cinerama.

Because we were working in HD, I was pleasantly impressed by how great it looked at Cinerama size on the Arclight Theater’s Dome Cinema in Hollywood. (Trivia point: the Dome was built for Cinerama it never showed Cinerama until this decade.)

Another point of interest was that the whole show ran off an AJA KiPro as it did in Bradford earlier in the year, and Europe last month. Each Act of the 140+ minute show was contained on one drive pack. Can’t recommend the KiPro highly enough.

So, there we were enjoying the story (and restoration work) and it occurred to me that there were strong similarities in cinematic style between “made for 3D” 3D and Cinerama.

 

Before restoration, this composite image was washed out, lacking in saturation and very shifted toward red/magenta.

Before restoration, this shot was desaturated, shifted to red and blown out. (From the screening Sep 05, 2010.)

 

Cinerama seams together three projectors into a very wide screen view that was the precursor of modern widescreen. The very wide lens angles favor the big, panoramic shots and shots that are held rather than rapid cutting. Within this frame the viewer’s eyes are free to wander across multiple areas of interest within the frame.

Similarly, my experience of “made for 3D” 3D movies is that it is most successful when shots are held a little bit longer because each time a 3D movie makes a cut, it takes the audience out of the action for a moment while we re-orient ourselves in space. (Unfortunately there’s nothing analogous to that in the Human Visual System, unlike traditional 2D cutting, which mimics the Human Visual System – eyes and brain together .)

Both Cinerama and 3D work best (in my humble opinion) when the action is allowed to unfold within the frame, rather than the more fluid camera of less grand 2D formats or 3D.

Since 3D had its last heyday around the same time as Cinerama, maybe everything old is new again? Digital Cinerama anyone? (How will we sync three KiPros?)

And one little vanity shot since today was the first (and likely last) time I’ve had my credit up on the big screen in a real cinema:

 

My first (and likely last) big screen credit moment. 9/5/10

My first, and likely last, big screen projected credit.

 

 

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