Final Cut Ex

I am currently relaxing in Hawaii (location changed to avoid giving away secret surfing spot).  I recently finished my 2nd consecutive show on Clipster in a workflow designed for 3D.  It has been a long time since my last post.  It will likely be a long while before I post any specific details regarding what I am working on.  The projects are major motion pictures and the work flows are either interesting or bleeding edge.  I am in the thick of location based digital intermediate in a foreign country.  But it would be inappropriate to get specific.

What I have to write about is really a mix of related topics.  Tech for filmmaking has made some significant advances in the last couple years.  Before 3D made it’s comeback I had been intending to do a post on the appearance of DSLR’s in professional applications.  In the year that I researched that topic, and the year since, I continued to look at DSLR applications in the field.  I purchased a basic EOS camera (550D) and a nice lens (17-55mm 2.8 EFS).  Which I am using to gather surf footage (and Blue Bottle Jellyfish barbs).  I was sort of doing this as an excuse to demo FCP X which was really disappointing (see below).

DSLR filmmaking is now established on the fringe of professional production.   I don’t anticipate further penetration though.  It quietly became standard practice to use a DSLR on a some commercials.  Quietly because it was so cheap.   It is now also used as a tool by VFX depts on features to cover a large area for reference.  Sometimes the Editing dept will use one to film rehearsals or test shots.  These fringe pro applications are more the strong suit of this techology.

The full frame 5D mark 2 is the work horse and with good glass it is a powerful tool.  However the bottom line for pro work is that DSLRs are falling behind newer tools based on the same technology (Arri Alexa).  The problem is the necessity of DSLR’s to compress images.  The fact DSLRs  gather images at 8 bits creates more issues with what is actually gathered from the CMOS sensor.  These issues are to the point where it is not practical to use the camera for certain types of shots with fast movement.

But CMOS sensor technology was revolutionary.  We now also have the GoPro being used as a crash cam on some features.  Currently a variety of tools and accessories are available through small companies like Red Rock Micro, and many others, allowing regualr people to try their hand at moving picture storytelling.

Further to the above comment about FCP X I read an interesting article here that supports what I believe is a disappointing trend at Apple. 

My experience with FCP X was just my latest disappointment with Apple recently.

The failure of FCP X is a concern because of the way it has failed.  FCP X was built to work with DSLR devices.  H.264 is the standard format for DSLRs’ and, other than ProRes, it is one of the few formats Apple included.  So DSLR footage will edit natively in FCP X.  Also DSLRs don’t use tape nor are they embedded with timecode so EDL’s are not a native part of workflow.  It is a match made in heaven.

However, the Color integration is half considered add on to FCP X.  It is something that DSLR’s rely on now.  These tools are integral and Apple didn’t put their mind to it at all.

Without getting too technical the weakness of DSLR’s is the dark and the light losing detail because of compression.  The looks you can apply compesate for that but they leave the video in a state that has to be returned to a proper color space with a plug in or a color adjustment.  Neither of which are in the otherwise full toolset included in what Apple calls the Color board.

It is not so much professional as just good practice to use these tools and Apple didn’t see fit to allow a path to accomplish this for the product it made the software most compatible with. 

These problems give credence to the rumors of Randy U. (developer of FCP at Apple) being angry about the path FCP X development took leading up to the release.  What I heard was that his team lost resources (engineers) to the iOS wave of products.  Rumor has it that when they were in the middle of trying to develop and integrate the software to a 64bit standard and one interface instead of a suite of software people were moved to iOS apps.  Not just from FCP X but also from OS X.

I think this is indicative of recent changes at Apple.  More and more, when you open an Apple, you will see it includes consumer grade components (RAM, HD, SSD).  You used to get the best build with custom parts form respected companies.  Now you don’t always see much differnece between an Apple and a regular box.  I still don’t like the glossy monitors on the iMacs and MBP either.  When Apple do put the right components in they have done strange things like put limiters on what should be faster drive bay architecture (MBP 8,1 has Sata3 limited to Sata2).

We can only guess at why they do these things because one constant at Apple is the secrecy.  When everyone knows the iMacs and Laptops already have Thunderbolt ports it seems kind of ridiculous to be selling faster horses (Mac Pro) in front when everyone knows your building cars in the back (New Mac Pro’s with Thunderbolt).

The new strategy at Apple is in mobile devices and apps and royalties for apps and transactions on their devices.  They are going to be the Walmart of the internet.  

In their dealings with patents they have attracted the attention of the regulatory bodies in the US government.  A bidding war with Google for Nortel patents and brisque legal dealing with Nokia, Samsung and a number of other competitors is causing quick and serious reactions in the technology field.  Apple has hit a home run and the ball is still travelling.

Recently they appeared to solidify their position as the leader in smart phones by granting legal ground to Nokia that will allow them to hobble the other major competitors by forcing them to also pay Nokia for those same patents.  Because Apple brought so many patents of their own to the table in these negotiations the fee they had to pay Nokia was relatively insignificant.  The competition will be paying a lot more the $360m per quarter that Apple is going to pay.

The Jobs home run with mobile devices is well deserved and befits his status as a visionary.  But the new corporate attitude is a change from the philosophy that once ruled a benevolent and forward thinking company.  Now they are a forward thinking company.

To me the best example of the paradigm that was the Apple philosophy was their work with Avid software engineers in the early 90’s.  That was and is a great App and Apple took it somewhere with wheels because that was how they rolled.  I loved that.  I understood where the secrecy was coming from then.  But the things that Apple was known for appear to be getting lost in the jungle that is the stock market at the close of Steve Jobs career.

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