Keyboards, gamepads, trackballs, & macropads galore!

This is most of my current collection of computer input devices. As an editor and motion graphic designer, I’m on the constant look out for things that might make my interactions with my computers and the various applications I use daily, more efficient. It’s not just about finding shortcuts, though. Shortcuts have their place but knowing when to use them and why you need them is actually a much harder task than it appears at first glance.

I’m a systems guy. I love to find and use systems that make a difference for me. I put a lot of thought and energy into trying different things and ways of approaching problems. I’m constantly searching out new devices or new ways of interacting with existing devices. This goes way beyond finding all the best shortcuts.

Over the next few weeks, I’m planning a series of posts about a variety of subjects in the realm of input devices for post-production. I’ll cover purpose built devices like Black Magic Design’s Mini Control Surface for DaVinci Resolve or the devices like Contour Design’s Shuttle line (2 of them up there). I’ll delve into using gamepad devices, like that Logitech G13 up there. I’ll discuss a few applications that you can use to automate your interactions with the computer and how you can use them to build macros that can condense a series of keystrokes, mouse moves & clicks into a elegant single key press – saving you time and wear and tear on those fingers of yours. Also, I will share my experiences (thus far) into the world mechanical & programmable keyboards. It has been very interesting as I have been introduced to this world. I’ve even built 3 of the keyboard/macropad devices up there – and I’ve got more on the way.

And speaking of customizable macropads, the culmination of these articles will be a presentation of a scheme I’ve worked up for using these kinds of devices and my philosophy behind making them work for me – instead of me struggling to figure how to work with an awkward set of tools.

Stay tuned. I think it will be interesting.

I’ve discovered I have a new allergy

It came to me last night. In the midst of a back-and-forth comment flow about the newly announced MacPro: I am allergic to people arguing about platforms.

I get all itchy when people start railing against a brand based on some new product announcement. Hearing “Apple is dead to me,” causes me to twitch. I break into a cold sweat whenever I hear someone claiming one platform is the best there is and everything else sucks. It makes me ill enough to want to leave the conversation right away.

Are people really basing their loyalty to a brand or product on an announcement of a yet-to-be-shipped product? Seriously?!? So, the newly announced MacPro won’t allow you to make use of the PCIe expansion cards you are using today? Even though you are working on a 4-year old platform? With a 6-year old technology in PCIe? Even though not a single third party software or hardware developer has announced what their plans are for working with the new platform? Well, Grant Petty from Blackmagic has good things to say, so we’ll have to see if others will follow.

I’ve watched this industry struggle through some significant changes and this argument, while changing topics, remains constant – people can’t stand change. I read it best in the comment on the Blackmagic thread above, “it’s really just the case of people wanting a bigger horse instead of a car.”

Someone asked me, after voicing my hatred of platform wars, why I continued to bother participating. I had to stop and think. I replied, “its in my nature to seek out & keep as many tools in my kit as possible. I have to stay informed and up-to-date on the latest info and trends. While it may make my skin crawl, I’ll be damned if I’m going to let knee-jerk reactions and opinionated bloviations win the day.”

“Oh my god,” came the response, “could it be possible that you’re going conservative in your old age?”

“Exactly the opposite,” I replied,” I embrace change. I love learning all this new stuff. Bring it on.”

Formats & Frame Rates & Codecs, Oh My!

Last night, I was a panelist at the Women In Film & Video session, “Formats & Frame Rates & Codecs, Oh My!” along with Virginia Quesada and Chief Engineer Sam Crawford of Henninger Media Services and moderated by Editor Mickey Green. It was a great evening covering a wide range of technical topics. The turnout was phenomenal. I was surprised and pleased to see a large number of producer-types there. I wondered if maybe the producers had come out, because of something that may be shifting in our industry. Being the Super-Tech-Geek that I am, I have noticed an increasing interest on the part of typically non-technical producers. These are folks who, in years past, have stayed away from the complex technical issues surrounding production and post-production. My theory is that (maybe) many of those folks are coming to the realization that tech is not going away nor is it getting any less complex. Lack of understanding of the technology used in our productions can be directly translated to higher costs and missed deadlines. The energy of last night felt like things were shifting slightly and that even the non-technical folks have a rising interest in getting a grasp on the technical stuff. Its a refreshing thought & I hope I’m right. WIFV is interested in doing more of these sessions and I hope to be involved again. Stay tuned.

As promised, here are links to some of the items I presented:

Presentation Slides – my slides on Backup Plan and Project Asset Management

The slides on HD formats were taken from a presentation I gave back in 2007. Here is a PDF of those slides. There is more in the PDF than what I covered and (thankfully) most of it is still valid even 5 years later.

Here’s a direct link to my Generic Assets Folder Template. And the post where I explain it all in more detail along with many other Asset Management techniques is “Man Crushed Under Weight of 34Terabytes.”

Thank you Mickey & WIFVers for putting this event together. Thanks to those who attended. And keep your eyes out for info about upcoming events like this, there will be more!

What about the non-Broadcast arena?

As a followup to my previous post, I received this question (or something like it) in a few emails: “do you think this same trend will hit the non-broadcast arena?”

The answer is, it depends.

It depends on what kind of work you are doing. Final Cut Pro X is not an unusable editor for many folks. Undesirable for some, but it is capable of editing programs together. People who are editing for the web or for DVD delivery, are probably going to have very little cause to think about switching away from FCP-X.

That being said, there’s alot of stuff that FCP-X does differently than FCP7. It is different enough that, for all intents, it *is* a different NLE application. There will be a learning curve. There will be new ways you will have to learn to handle tasks in a different fashion. Some tasks just don’t work the same way as they did before. From little things like setting In & Out points on a clip to big things like media management, FCP-X will be a new thing for whoever picks it up.

So, while the main premise of my previous post doesn’t completely apply to smaller firms (Go big or stay small), I think that there needs to be some serious consideration given to the kinds of work you are currently doing and the kinds of work you might be doing in the near future. You will need to factor that in to your decision. FCP-X just isn’t going to have the same kinds of support FCP7 does. You won’t be able to send an FCP-X project to a post-house and have them work with it as-is. Once they receive it, they are going to need to run it through some extra steps in order to get a timeline exported for use in audio or color in an efficient manner.

On the other hand, both Avid Media Composer and Adobe Premiere Pro support many of the same import and export paths that FCP7 does today. So, if you are looking for the closest non-FCP match, then you may want to explore those platforms. Also, FCP7 is probably going to remain a viable editing application for a few more years. It won’t be updated, but it could probably remain serviceable for some time. What we don’t know, is if some future update to OSX or to Quicktime will break the functionality of FCP7. If that happens, then in order to maintain an FCP7 system, you will need to have a older installation of OSX and Quicktime running to make it work. In my opinion, that’s a temporary solution and not something I’d trust as my primary production platform for very long.

The issues of drive space and hardware purchases are certainly more financially driven than anything else. So if it is a case of planning for upgrades or for planning new purchases for your operation, I think you need to do your research about FCP-X, Avid, Premiere Pro and anything else to see what the future might hold for you if you make a choice to go down a certain path.

We’ve been here before…

Last Friday I came across this bit of news:

Avid today announced that renowned television production company, Bunim/Murray Productions, has selected Avid Media Composer® 6 and Avid Symphony® 6 editing software for all of its programs beginning in early 2012. Bunim/Murray joins a growing number of professional users who have returned to using Avid solutions from Final Cut Pro to meet their production workflow requirements. Additionally, as part of this implementation, Bunim/Murray also plans to deploy an Avid ISIS® 5000 shared storage system to effectively store and share media across its organization.

On the surface it seems like a no-brainer. Apple has forsaken the broadcast editor to release an application that is more in line with the company’s minimalist approach. In doing so, they have effectively removed the application from consideration by many editors who need things like: deck control, import and export of interchange formats (omf), manual media management and self-determined timeline configuration (i.e. manual assignment of tracks). Editors who don’t need those things have a very fine tool at their disposal. Editors who do need them, are looking elsewhere. FCP-X may deliver those things in time. Certainly there are third-party solutions that make it serviceable enough now, but that’s not acceptable to a large operation like Bunim-Murray or to most professional editors, who don’t want to have to “roll their own” features.

Hence a huge production company like Bunim-Murray is going to drop FCP in favor of Avid Media Composer. It’s going to start happening more and more. FCP-X just can’t fit into existing workflows for delivery of broadcast material. More companies are going to switch. Many will go to Avid. Some will go to Premiere Pro. There are some production companies out there, however, that won’t be able or willing to make the switch. And this is the history-repeating-itself part, this switch is going to kill those companies off.

Continue reading “We’ve been here before…”