MediaStorm Online Multimedia Training

I’m excited to announce the release of MediaStorm’s online training.

From the MediaStorm blog:

You can select from three Training Modules – a Reporting Track, a Post-Production Track, or The Making Of: The Amazing Amy, or you can opt for a full subscription that includes everything (along with other Modules that we’ll be producing throughout the year).

Along with Brian Storm, I host three modules on post-production. Topics include pictured editing, using music, and editing techniques.

For more information, see the online training site.

Replacing Footage With Pixel Accuracy in After Effects or FCP

Say you need to replace low-res footage with a new, high-res version while maintaining pixel accuracy. First, create a new layer. Stack the new footage of top of the old.

In Final Cut, right-click on the top layer and choose Composite Mode>Difference. In After Effects, use the layer's drop-down Mode menu.

Your footage will take on an inverted and somewhat psychedelic appearance. But here's the great part: when the two versions are perfectly aligned, they will cancel each other out and your Viewer will become black.

Credit to Chad Perkin's and his excellent After Effects CS4 Beyond the Basics on lynda.com.

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

Ten Tips for Working With Music in Multimedia on MediaStorm blog

As part of an ongoing series of tutorials on the MediaStorm blog I've compiled a list of techniques that he MediaStorm team uses when working with music. From the article:

Music should not be used as simply background sound. It’s an integral part of multimedia, as important at times as your images, narration, or video. Effective music editing creates a rhythm, a call and response, with your other media sources.

Read the post in it's entirety here.

Multiclip Workflow on MediaStorm Blog

Multiclips are an efficient way to sync two or more video clips when using Final Cut Pro. They provide an easy to switch between camera angles using a simple point-and-click or pop-up menu. Setting up a multiclip though can sometimes be painful, particularly if you want to use audio from one camera throughout while switching back-and-forth between video angles.

So when in doubt, document; I've written a brief tutorial on creating and using multiclips that's now available on the MediaStorm blog, available here.

Also, check out Steve Martin's longer essay, The Essentials of Multicam Editing in Final Cut Pro, on kenstone.net for further information.

Final Cut Pro Keystrokes on Twitter

In a previous post I detailed an easy way to export a master list of all FCP shortcut keys. The list is a tad overwhelming.

So in my quixotic effort to learn every Final Cut shortcut key, I've begun FCPKeystrokes on Twitter: one shortcut per tweet, one tweet a day. The feed will continue until I make my way through the list or until forever, whichever comes first.*

Honestly, I'm not sure if this experiment is helpful to anyone else, but for me, it offers an opportunity to at least try 'em all out. Hopefully, the useful ones will stick. (Option-clicking on a bin will open the bin in a new tab within your Browser window.)

Feedback is welcome at @FCPKeystrokes.

* I'm using the tweet scheduler twuffer.com so that I can write the week's keystrokes in advance.

Advice to Multimedia Producers

There are dozens of books available on the workings of Final Cut Pro as well as innumerable websites filled with tips and tricks, like editing guru Larry Jordan's FCP Tip of the Day.

So after my last MediaStorm blog post, Ten Ways To Improve Your Multimedia Production Right Now, I thought it might be instructive to take a step back from technical issues and focus instead on some of the underlying ideas that help shape the production process at MediaStorm.

Advice to Multimedia Producers was inspired by two short but powerful books on creativity, David Lynch's Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity and The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles. And while I can't claim the genius of these two masterful books, I can say that my blog post was made far better by the contributions of the MediaStorm team.

Check out the piece here.

Final Cut Pro Internal Tools

This tip comes from Jon Chappell's Guide to Final Cut Pro Internal Tools published on kenstone.net. Final Cut contains a set of developer tools that by default are hidden from us mortals. To see them hold down Cmd+Option+Shift and click the Tools menu. The Tools menu now contains an option for Internal Tools.

Most of these options are rather cryptic but the App/Perf Info dumps system and FCP information in to a text file. Perhaps most relevant, is the File Data section that reveals the number and types of files used in your project as well as the number of sequences you've created. Keep in mind that these statistics are based on all open projects.

In the Editing Information section of the file, you'll find the most revealing statistic; how many edits you've performed since the application launched. Facebook users might want to look away.

For more information on the entire internal tool set, see Jon Chappell's article.

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.

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.

Shooting Stills vs Shooting Video

Why do so many exceptional photographers struggle to shoot just halfway-decent video? It's certainly not for lack of vision. The answer, I think, is more fundamental. It's a misunderstanding of how the two formats work. So basic is this difference that it often simply goes unsaid. A metaphor: Everything that is possible to capture on a camera, whether it be still or video, resides in a river. A still camera is the tip of a fishing hook, precisely capturing the briefest of moments from the water. A video camera is a large net, capturing whole sections of the river at a time. Obviously, there's nothing revolutionary about this explanation. The difficulty, however, is in the implementation.

Still photographers are trained to be active and on the move, always looking for the next best angle, the next vantage point along the water. When using a video camera, however, one needs a more passive stance, to stay in one place and let the action flow past the camera. In other words, a great moment of video is longer than a great moment captured by a still photographer.At the risk of belaboring the point, video moves through time. It doesn't stop time like a photograph. Therefore, viewers need to see video as it unfolds in order for it to make sense.

So for photographers shooting video for the first time, every shot you capture should be at least 20 seconds long. That's long enough for a viewer to understand what is happening in your footage as well as give you a little extra wiggle room at the beginning and end when you begin to edit.

Holding a shot for twenty seconds will at first feel like an eternity. Try thinking in steps:

  • Use the first five seconds to focus, hone in, check your settings. Set up your shot with the same precision you'd use for a still photograph.
  • For the next 15 seconds, do not do anything. Let me repeat: you do not do anything. Do not move the camera. Do not zoom. Do not pan. Do not move. Simply, stand there and watch the action in your viewfinder or display. Your instincts will say, "I've got it. There's so much stuff going on. Look at all the other things I can shoot." Ignore your instincts. What you are doing now, holding the shot, is capturing the footage. This is how video works.

This is shooting video at it's most basic. But the basics work and they work well.

Using Terminal to Quit Invisible Processess

No matter how much RAM your mac is pushing, it's inevitable that your computer will eventually hang; those times when no matter how many applications you quit, your computer still seems to working in slow motion. By way of review, the simple way to quit hanging applications is to use force quit (command-option-esc) and a window listing all of your running applications will appear.

Unfortunately, this method does not include invisible processes, those background applications that keep your mac running.

To see those, you'll need to launch Terminal from your Applications>Utility folder.

The Terminal uses an interface that looks a lot like the DOS prompt of yore. Terminal is the gateway to your Mac's UNIX underpinnings.

At the Terminal prompt type the word top. No caps and no period. You'll then see a list of all running applications. The first three columns from the left contain the most important information. PID or process ID is the number associated with each process. You'll need to know this number in order to quit its respective process.

Next is the COMMAND column which lists the name of the processes at work. Note that open applications are listed as processes here too - the same ones you'd see if you used the force quit method described.

The third column is %CPU, the amount of CPU power each process is taking. In most cases, a process will take no more than 30% of your computer's power. But if your machine is running slow and you see a process that's at, say, 90%, then that process might be your culprit.

To kill a process, note its associated PID number.

Next, quit out of your top search. To do this simply type the letter q. No period. Terminal will clear the page and offer you a new prompt.

Next, enter the command kill followed by the PID number you'd like to quit. For instance, kill 9178. Do not type a period afterwards. The process will quit. If you'd like to verify, simply enter top once again.

Quit Terminal and you should be back in business.

Creating Subclips in Final Cut

Previously, I lamented the lack of an expedient method for renaming sections of a long, digitized clip. We've been using the following method at MediaStorm. WIth your long clip in the timeline, set an in and mark where you'd like the clip to begin and end.

Make sure your playhead is between those two marks and hit F.

The clip with appear in the Viewer with your in and out marks intact. With the Viewer still selected, use the shortcut key command-U to create a subclip.

The new subclip will now appear in the Browser. Rename it accordingly.

The Proper Way to Peel a Banana

Turns out peeling from the stem is the hard way to undress a banana. You get all kinds of mush and dents. The easy, overlooked method is to pinch the bottom. Pops right open. Who'd have thunk it? Seems I've been peeling bananas wrong my whole life.