Thursday, March 7, 2013

Life after the FCPocolypse

After working tape to tape for a few years the release of non-linear consumer digital editing software was a dream come true, and when it became acceptable as the cheap alternative for high-end production everything seemed possible. Then Final Cut X happened, and the story of betrayal and heartbreak commenced.

When I started working with BPOC I had the awesome opportunity to start a video services department from scratch post-FCPocolypse (coined by Ben Cohen in this very blog, hi-five on that one). Fortunately we had a copy of Adobe Premiere Pro 5 and Avid Media Composer 6 so I spent a lot of time working with both to determine what made the most sense for our workflow (that I still needed to establish).

My findings:

Avid MC6 is fast as hell to edit in, I mean obviously there is a reason it is the industry standard. However, it is VERY different from the other options. However, if you went to film school and cut with film then it should come more easily, it reminds me of editing on Steinbeck in some ways.

The biggest difference is it functions modally, there is a trim mode, a color correct mode, etc. and within each mode your screen layout changes as does the way you interact with the timeline. The most important thing is to NOT treat it like FCP, the timeline isn’t all loosey goosey with the mouse and dragging and dropping, piling on and on, you can be messy in FCP and Premiere (which is fun).

If you are going to go Avid check out the tutorials Avid has created to help win over the disappointed FCP editors of the world and this is a must have that I used to learn the basics and get to work using the software with the help of this training DVD The training DVD is great for feeling your way into Avid, I also recommend these two books: Editing with Avid Media Composer 5: Avid Official Curriculum (they haven't come out for one for 6 yet) and Avid Agility by Steve Cohen. 

One thing that helps to make Avid so fast to edit in is the customizable buttons and keyboard. You can re-map the whole thing to play like FCP for the most part, as well as anything else you find yourself using a lot. This feature allows you to really customize the way you interact with the software to maximize your speed, which is super cool. Also since Avid owns Pro Tools if you use that for sound design it can be relatively seamless, but I generally mix sound design at the end anyway if Pro Tools is needed.

Now about Adobe Premiere, it is very similar to Final Cut and more commonly used because of affordability and education pricing, so whenever I get annoyed and forget the keystroke for something or how to do something I can google it and instantly get an answer which is a treat, Avid is a bit more leg work so the learning curve is a pain with it.

I generally advise people to go with Premiere if they have no time for the learning curve. Although definitely get yourself the current version of Premiere Pro, the older version 5 handles audio in a very stupid way, you need to break all 2 channel audio tracks out to mono, but this is fixed in 5.5. Also if you do graphics in Adobe After Effects the seamlessness between Premiere and After Effects is super cool, just need to make sure you have a lot cores working on your side, working in a 64-bit platform, and upgrading your graphics card to the max if you haven't already.

And finally the deciding factors for me:

1. Workflow
I was used to FCP’s ability to keep all assets contained in project folder. AVID works with MXF files generated by the software that are all sent to a media scratch. As we work with many different clients and therefore have several different RAIDs we work off of (to separate out our clients) it makes more sense to work with Premiere, which behaves just like final cut keeping all of the files inside of the project folder.

2. No Transcoding
Both softwares eliminate the need to transcode or “import” the files. Premiere automatically links to the native formats and does so seamlessly, it is very impressive in playback with AVCHD and DLSR footage. Avid has AMA linking which chokes on AVCHD files a little bit. You will also save an enormous amount of file space by working natively instead of transcoding to ridiculously huge ProRes files in your raw footage.

3. Web integration
Premiere is great for web production and that is all we do, no broadcast anything happening here. It works seamlessly with After Effects, Photoshop, and has an awesome titling interface. Additionally, Adobe Media Encoder is fabulous, it is unquestionably superior to compressor. As it works seamlessly with Premiere if file size is an issue it is your dream come true. Archive to high quality H264 and MP4 for web if you are literally unfunded and have no space, write a grant to get a raid so you can export out some high quality DNXHDs when you have the space. You can also pop out FLVs of virtually any size for software interactives. In short, it gives you a lot of control over format codec and bitrate which has made my life incredibly easy.

Premiere won in my battle, but maybe someone else has a story of life after the FCPocolypse?

Happy to answer any specific questions about my experience, and hopefully this helps some of you still on FCP 7 sort out what the next step is.

Saturday, March 2, 2013


Hello and thank you to Anna and Emily for organizing this group! 

 I’ve been the Digital Resources Content Producer at the Tang Museum  since the position was created in 2009.  I am responsible for the creation of all new media including videos, audio tours and exhibition interactives. I also manage the web content and mentor students.

 I came to the museum world with a TV background and am constantly amazed at the talent and creativity of my colleagues in this industry.  What drives most of what I do is a passion for storytelling and a desire to engage the audience.

Located on the Skidmore College Campus in upstate New York, the Tang has a pretty ambitious exhibition program of approximately twelve exhibitions each year.  This includes significant survey exhibitions of contemporary art, featuring major emerging and established artists.  Fortunately for me, this translates into most of my videos being about living artists.

We are currently undergoing some organizational changes at the Tang and I am part of the newly formed Engagement Team.  This has been a fantastic decision on our new director’s part and has led to some great discussions.   What is the responsibility of the museum or the content creator, to engage the visitor?  We are in the midst of putting ourselves in our visitor’s shoes and assessing their experience on every level. 

Hope to see some or all at MW2013!  Maybe we should organize a Museum Video Production meet and greet cocktail hour in Portland?