Things I'm Digging

start.io - a minimal web-based RSS aggregator. Easily customizable.

Safari Extensions - a new feature with Safari 5. Empower your browser. Instillation instructions here.

zootol.com - a sort of delicious.com for images. Gorgeous UI that allows for easy posting across social networks.

Cloudapp - a menu bar app that allows users to store web pages for later cloud-based reading. Excellent as a way station for later consideration.

Plastic Bullet for iPhone

Plastic Bullet is a $1.99 iPhone app from Red Giant Software, makers of the essential Final Cut color correction tool Magic Bullet Looks.

Unlike other camera apps, like the omnipresent Hipstamatic, Plastic Bullet offers no real way to control the look of your image.

For each picture you take, Plastic Bullet offers four alternate versions. Don't like what you see? Simply press the randomize button and you'll see four new choices.

Fortunately, most options are pretty stunning.

 

How I Use Social Networks

A coworker recently asked which social networking sites I use. I thought I'd take the opportunity to break down my "strategy." Blogs I blog here at ericmaierson.com, of course, and have also written extensively for the MediaStorm blog. (See the tutorial section.)

I use the WordPress plugin, WP to Twitter to automatically update Twitter when I create a new post.

I also have two tumblr sites. Tumblr makes blogging fun; it's an easy way to repost things I find on the tubes.

I save pictures to my dropbox during the week then post on Sundays.

Finally, I am the proprietor of a single serving site, WhatIsTheMostImportantThingAboutMultimedia.com.

Twitter

I have three twitter accounts. The first is my personal and often neglected feed @gboy.  It's neglected because I spend most of my time curating @MediaStorm. There you'll find lots of links about photography, infograghics, Final Cut and tech news–particularly related to Apple.

Finally, there's my pet project @FCPkeystrokes where I tweet one Final Cut keyboard shortcut a day.

I use the facebook application Selective Tweets which posts my @gboy updates to facebook if they include the hash tag #fb.

My Twitter tools of choice are Tweetie for the iPhone as well as the desktop version.

I post, however, using the web application Hootsuite. Hootsuite provides an excellent bookmarklet that when clicked automatically populates a new tweet with the name of the current web site and a shortened link. The only drawback is the link creates an iFrame on the resulting page.

Photography

Flickr is the main archive for my photography online. I also use the online editing site Picnik for last minute color corrections. Picnik can be set up to work from within the Flickr interface. For more information on integrating Picnik see Flickr's FAQ.

Pictures I make with my iPhone, I email to the dead-simple blogging site Posterous which promptly posts them. Posterous can also autopost to a number of other social sites.

I've set up my account to post a link on twitter and repost images to Facebook as well.

Aggregation

I've just started using flavors.me which uses dropdown menus to compact your social network in to a very useful aggregation.

What Did I Miss?

I'm always on the lookout for new sites and cool tools so I've overlooked one of your favorites please drop me or add a comment below. I'd love to hear from you.

Navigating the After Effects Timeline

One of the more fundamental challenges I've faced learning After Effects is how to navigate the timeline. While I can fly in Final Cut, I tend to putter about in AE. One of the obvious reasons for this is that the key strokes are so wildly different. To help me through this new terrain, I compiled a list of shortcuts. Try them out for best results.

View Timeline One Frame at a Time Page up moves current time indicator one frame backwards. Page down move current time indicator one frame forwards.

Two Ways to Select a Layer Type the layer number on keypad to select it. Use command up and down arrow to shuttle through the layers, respectively.

Jump to Current Time Indicator If you've zoomed in too far and can no longer find the current time indicator, hitting d will bring you back to it.

Jump to In and Out a Layer First, make sure the clip is selected. I will jump to the in point of the clip. O will jump to the out point of the clip.

Set In and Out for Playback Work Area B sets in point for playback. N sets out point for playback. The Playback Work Area are the indicators above the timeline that determine how much of your composition will play back.

Jump to In and Out of Playback Work Area Shift-home jumps to the beginning of the work area. shift-end jumps to the beginning of the work area.

Make Playback Work Area the Size of all selected layers command-option-b

Jump to the Beginning and End of Timeline Home key jumps to the beginning of the timeline. End key jumps to the end of the timeline.

Transform Property Shortcuts S show scale T show opacity A show anchor point R show rotation P show position

See More than One Transform Property at a Time Hold down shift while hitting another keyframe shortcut. For instance, if the scale property is currently displaced, pressing shift-r will show the scale and the rotation property.

View Keyframes U shows all properties that have key frames applied. UU shows all values that have been changed from their default.

Insert Keyframe Shortcuts option+transform property shortcut key will place a keyframe in the timeline for that attribute. For instance, option+t will insert an opacity keyframe at the current time indicator position.

Replace Footage in Timeline While Keeping the Original Keyframes First, select track with media to be replaced. Next, hold down option as you drag replacement footage on to selected track. The media is replaced but the keyframes will remain intact.

Markers Markers are added using the Layer>Add Marker menu K jump forward to marker J jump back to marker Right-click to delete or lock Drag to move * (star key) makes marker on audio timeline

Move Beginning or End of Footage to Current Time Indicator [ (open bracket) moves start of clip to current time indicator. ] (close bracket) moves end of clip to current time indicator. These keys do not  change the length of the clip.

Trim Layers option [ (option-open bracket) - trims the footage so that the clip begins at the current time indicator. Shortens the clip's time. option [  (option-close bracket) - trims the footage so that the clip ends at the current time indicator. Shortens the clip's time.

RAM Preview to Hear Audio Keypad 0

The Minimal Desktop

4064323158_8c7924555d_b-1 I used to be a slob. Or rather, I'm still a slop but after working at MediaStorm for the last three years, I've become a bit of a neat freak when it comes to organizing my computer.

Besides the hard drive, my desktop also sports my dropbox folder. Dropbox offers easy cloud storage in what looks and acts like an ordinary Finder folder. The free account boasts 50G of storage.

On my menu bar:

  • Hazel: a utility that sorts files according to personalized rules. Think Mail rules for the Finder.
  • Dropbox: Unfortunately, Dropbox does not offer am option to remove its menu bar icon.
  • Spirited Away: small utility that hides applications after a user-defined period of time. Keeps the clutter down.

Also, Minimalmac.com is an excellent resource for running a clean ship on your mac.

The minimal desktop is a thing of beauty. And as the poet said, A thing of beauty is a joy forever.

Learning After Effects

I've been putting in the hours with my ancient copy of Adobe After Effects. My mistress in this affair has been lynda.com. But Lynda's $25 monthly fee shouldn't be a barrier to learning this amazing application.  A wellspring of free AE tutorials are available across the web.

My favorite of these is VideoCopilot.net which offers a series of ten basic lessons hosted by Andrew Kramer. Kramer keeps an easy pace as he walks through the fundamentals.

I'm also a fan of aetuts.com. They have some great looking tutorials. Many are a bit too complex for me, or require third-party plug-ins, but there are also some real gems for the beginners like how to create the JibJab effect.

Other resources:

Final Cut Pro Wishlist #2

Final Cut desperately needs the ability to create watch folders. Here's what I'm talking about. Usually I export my images from Aperture to the Finder. Then, I drag that folder of pictures straight in to the FCP browser. What happens though when I need to go back to Aperture and export new images to that same folder? Well, I have to hunt for the new image, then drag it back to the correct Browser bin.

It's a tedious process.

But what if I could assign a browser bin to stay in sync with it's Finder level counterpart? iTunes has smart folders. Final Cut should have them, too. Other program call them watch folders.

I suspect, though, that the real culprit is the legacy Carbon code on which FCP is built. And that just may be the biggest wish of all. Update Carbon to Cocoa and now we're talking a 64-bit app that is multiprocessor aware and can finally access more than 4G of RAM.

Don't think Apple hasn't heard that request.

XML to the Rescue

I'm currently editing Danny Wilcox Frazier's multimedia version of Driftless. The project includes lots of beautiful video, shot by a professional DP in 24p anamorphic format with a DV codec. We've blown the the 4:3 standard footage up to 16:9 1080 high-definition, while retaining the 24 frames-per-second frame rate. The footage is now being edited with Apple's ProRes 422 codec for faster renders and to compensate for the unusual frame size. We've also desaturated the video so that it matches Danny's gorgeous black-and-white photography. Needless to say, there's a lot going on with the Final Cut timeline.

So it wasn't a total surprise when my Final Cut suddenly suddenly refused to play through an entire sequence. The playhead continued to stop at the exact timecode and a pop-up window informed me that I had a "general error." I searched the internets for an explanation, trashed preferences, replaced clips, all to no avail. The timeline continued to stop in the same location each time.

Finally, I exported the timeline as XML, then reimported. After that, the timeline worked just fine, playing all the way through without issue.

I'm not exactly sure what the lesson is here other than whatever your problem might be, don't hesitate to try everything.

The Mother Load of Final Cut Pro Keystroke Shortcuts

The easiest way to find a Final Cut keystroke is to search the Button List (Tools>Button List). However, if you're the brave kind who wants to see all 600-plus shortcut keystrokes, there's a solution for you, too: Tools>Keyboard Layout>Save Grid as Text... You'll be asked to save a tab-delimited text file. Import the file in to Excel or any Spreadsheet program like Google Docs and witness the mother load: every single keyboard shortcut.

Test next Tuesday.

Improving the Final Cut Browser

As flexible as Final Cut is, the Browser continues to lag behind in its development, particularly when it comes to working with stills. Unlike Aperture, there's no way to scale the icon size of your assets. I find myself having to double click nearly every photograph so that I can get a larger look in the Viewer. It's an exhausting process. What's more painful is knowing that Apple already employs the technology that can quickly improve this problem. The browser desperately needs two things:

  1. Quick Look. With a simple press of the space bar, you can see a preview of an image without having to open it.
  2. Coverflow. Imagine the power of a FCP browser with the ability to pan through images in semi-3D.

Apple, are you listening? My wrist is getting tired.

iPhone Time Lapse: One Hour with Bob Sacha

[qt:http://www.ericmaierson.com/blog2/wp-content/uploads/quicktime/bobstopmotion.mov 448 336] Last week I twittered on the MediaStorm feed about xyster.net's TimeLapse application for the iPhone. The $0.99 app offers easy controls that let you set the interval between shots as well as the length of your session. I pasted the results in to Final Cut.

(Not responsible for Bob's antics at the sight of a camera.)

View Unredered Video in Final Cut Pro

I'm making my way through Larry Jordan's amazing new book, Edit Well: Final Cut Studio Techniques from the Pros and came across a real gem.

In FCP a red across the top of the timeline indicates that files must be rendered in order to see them during playback. Using the keystroke option-p, however, allows you to plow right through. This is a great way to see if effects are timed correctly before actually committing to rendering.

Managing Media Overload

My attempt to stay sane while scouring the internets:

  • del.icio.us - the indispensable free bookmarking site. I use the official delicious firebox plugin to tag sites I'll probably never view again but want a record of should I have a hankering to revisit the Mafia Nickname Generator.
  • Yojimbo - from Bare Bones software, the makers of BBEedit, this mac application acts like a desktop version of delicious, locally storing URLs for websites you'd like to revisit. Using the Yojimbo bookmarlet, you can easily add URLS or an archived PDF to the application. Yojimbo will also store images, pdfs, and encrypted texts. Helps keep your desktop clean. ($39.00, free trial)
  • Todo (iphone link) - a great iPhone application for keeping lists. It syncs will the free web app Toodledoo. ($9.99)