Video retiming with FCPX

The retiming tool is handy in Final Cut Pro X (FCPX) for slowing video motion. One of the challenges we found is adjusting the shutter speed to get the best result from slow motion. FCPX has three different video quality options for retiming, or slow motion. There are Normal, Frame Blending, or Optical Flow. As expected, as the quality selection is increased, the rendering time increases. The increase in quality is well worth, as you can see a definite difference in the increase in quality.

The test examines the difference between 1/60th second versus 1/2000th of a second shutter speed on a Canon M-500 using the highest quality AVHCD at 24MB/s, adjusting video speed to 25% of original. One thing we found is the real high frame rate shots do not blend well when the object moving through the frame has a hard edge, like the back end of a mini van. Once the van is relatively small in the frame, the blending improves markedly. As seen in other video slowdown programs (Twixtor), hard edges do not seem to blend as well, as they’re very apparent.

We made this evaluation to see if the quality improvement with Twixtor might be worth it. But, we found that because the camera we are shooting potential shots with uses AVHCD, which does not handle strong motion well in the first place, getting a clean slow motion is troublesome. Also, we edited this video on a Macbook Pro Retina (MBPr) and found the AVHCD video on the screen just does not look good compared to outputting the video to the HDMI port to a regular HD 1080 television.

Creating Share DVD FCPX

To burn a DVD in Final Cut Pro X (FCPX) version 10.0.8 go to File > Share>DVD.  A

Background task indicator
Background task indicator

small processing bar comes up for a short time and disappears.  To see if it is processing, go to background task window in Window>Background Task, command 9 or click on the background processing window.

In this version compared to 10.0.4 the background task bar is the only indication that it is processing a DVD, which may lead to some confusion that it is actually processing.

Background Task Window
Background Task Window

It is easy to think the Share DVD command is not working because there is no visible progress bar.   Wait until your Project is done rendering any changes before you go to Share DVD.  Your processing time for the DVD will be improved.

Final Cut Pro X – Adjusting the volume of multiple clips

While continuing to work on an hour long video shoot in Final Cut Pro X (FCPX)

Final Cut Pro multiple clip selection volume adjustment
Final Cut Pro multiple clip selection volume adjustment

with three Canon M-500 cameras, one Sony RX-100 and a Zoom H4n recorder, we ran into the problem of needing to adjust the volume on mulitple clips simultanously.

To adjust the volume of multiple / several clips simultaneously select the clips to be adjusted with the mouse.

Then click Control + or Control -.

Doing this will increase or decrease the volume of all the selected clips by one dB (1dB) increments.

Making stereo out of a single recorded channel

One problem we have run into is recording a single left or right audio channel into the

Single channel of audio needing to be both channels
Single channel of audio needing to be both channels

Zoom H4n recorder using a single microphone.  This is how to convert stereo audio recordings (in this case the Zoom H4n, Zoom 1, Zoom 2) to single mono sounds that play through both speakers / headphones / audio channels.

When we get back to the edit bay with Final Cut Pro X (FCPX), we only have a single side working.  We really want to fill that null, blank or empty audio channel with something.  Usually an exact duplicate of the channel with some useful audio.

More than once, we have run into this problem.  But it’s infrequent except when the camera or recording device does not do channel redirecting like the Sony PD-150.  That ability was very handy and saved time in editing.

To make this audio file into a stereo selection, bring up the inspector window (Command-4) and select Audio.

With your audio clip to be modified selected, find the area with the Channel Configuration.

Click Dual Mono.

Doing this will spread the single audio track across both left and right channels.  Since

Dual Mono from single channel stereo FCPX
Dual Mono from single channel stereo FCPX

one of the channels is empty anyway, just deselect that channel.

Now the clip will play in both the left and right channels.

There are other methods, like making a copy of the audio track and then creating a compound file.  However, this adds additional complexity to the project and it only takes a one frame error to create all sorts of problems with the audio.  Although we used to do the multiple clip technique in Final Cut Pro 6 (and 7), this method is far more effective and less error prone.  Really, there is not too much to go wrong with this approach.


Adding and removing multiple transitions Final Cut Pro X

While editing, we have found the need to add or remove multiple transitions to a large number of cuts.  The process is easy, once you know how to do it in Final Cut Pro X (fcpx).

This technique allows you to add a transition to every cut in your timeline.  Say you want to add a crossfade to every cut, you can do

Select all clips
Select all clips

it.  Select every clip in the timeline you want to add a transition between.  Then in the transition window, double click the transition you want to apply.  That will add a transition to every cut you made in the selected clips.

Double click transition to add transitions to every cut
Double click transition to add transitions to every cut
Transitions added to every cut
Transitions added to every cut

That’s handy!  But, what happens if you want to remove the same transition from a selected sequence of clips in FPCX?

Open the clips window in a project.  Either do this by clicking the Time Line Index (Shift-Control-2) or selecting Edit-Find.  Then,

Show or hide timeline index
Show or hide timeline index

either manually select the transitions you want to delete or use the find (magnifying glass) for the transitions you want to delete.  Select those transitions (use Control-A or mouse select) then select delete.

All transitions to delete
All transitions to delete

All the transitions will disappear.

This ability was around in Final Cut Pro 6 and Final Cut Pro 7.  Now it’s available in Final Cut Pro X (FCPX).

As we discover handy tips and tricks, we’ll post these here in our blog to share with other videographers.


Color Temperature/White Balance

You can use your camera’s Auto White Balance or its manual instructions, and it can end there, but what is “Color Temperature”?

Light comes in colors. When we see daylight outside, we see white light, or as it reflects off objects, we see the color of the object, but is it white? Our brains are able to white balance light to look normal quite well in most environments. Even though Auto White Balance on your camera can do a fair job of adjusting for the variation, a more accurate balance needs to be made manually.

Light color is measured as temperature. Daylight is generally 5500 Kelvin (outdoor or blue) and incandescent is 3200 Kelvin (indoor or red). The process for the color comes from heating a block of carbon to the said color, measured in Kelvin degrees. For more details and color use this chart. Outdoor light temperatures change during the day and in and out of shade, and artificial lights, including reflectors, can run the gamut. You need to balance every time and maybe every hour.

To white balance your camera, you fill the camera frame with a white object in the light and exposure you are shooting in (it can change during the shoot) then manually set the White Balance, (from your camera directions) and you’re good. If you have mixed colors of light such as daylight shining in on your incandescent lit studio shot, you will have to eliminate one or the other or balance the light with gels .

“White objects” come in many hues. To get the most accurate you need a professional balanced card. They may seem expensive compared to a white sheet of paper, but it will make you or a client much happier because the white balance will be spot on.

There are exceptions to the rule as with much of filmmaking. You can trick the camera for a false color or enhance a color for your film. Use a colored card opposite of the color you want and the camera will “balance” in the direction you want. With practice, you could blow them away with your cinematography.

Happy shooting,

Lighting groups

Recently, I had the privilege to make a short film with middle school students. They recited selections from Dr. King’s “I have a dream speech.” We masked each student over a background of diverse students. There were many challenges, one being lighting the group in a totally dark room.

I have lit scenes indoors and outdoors with lights, numerous modifiers and reflectors. One producer had mentioned to me that they had lit a group with 2k lamps. That was nice, but I couldn’t reach that level with a limited budget. I do have a number of 1k Frenels. Well, 1 plus 1 equals 2. Genius huh? So we prepped with four 1k’s up front as keys and two 500w behind for rim lights. We had compromised modeling with a more high key approach.

The group was in three rows one on the floor and the other two on risers. This adds more difficulty to get enough spread from your lights. Safety is always a factor, so make sure your risers, stairs or stands are stable for the subjects. With all the lights, there were a lot of cords. The room was a small gym. Fortunately, there were mats we able to use to cover the cords. Rugs would be good to cover the cords. When you have to move so many lights in a short time, it was impossible to tape. We constantly reminded everybody to be careful.

Some group lighting approaches are to aim your single keys (right and left) to the far side and one third in. Then feather them within 2/10ths of a stop. That does work if you have a large enough light. With the four 1ks we aimed them to the same side and the light spread was quite even. The two 500w rim lights did the job. The challenge with the rims was to avoid a lens flare. The barn doors make the difference. It just takes time to adjust the lights until right. Don’t forget to look for the catch light in the eyes.

As per usual with most projects time is of the essence, so we were pressed to work as fast as we could. I had a crew of four and it took every minute of their effort.

Working with youth

I have written earlier about working with minors with their special permitting and chaperone care. These are just the details of our work.

In a project for a training kit for after school programs, I had two students that were chosen to be hosts for their school tours. The program directors hand picked them. I had a screen test that the students seemed to handle just fine.

I had sent them scripts well ahead of time and made the required preproduction location surveys and was getting close to the shoot dates. I had experience other students in interviews and some small testimonials, chosen by program directors, and had good success, but this was a more demanding experience for a middle school student.

I went to one of the schools the day before the shoot. The program director called for the student to come to the office for last minute preparations. We found the student had quit the program not letting us know. Fortunately, there was a backup and was ready to go.

That student was on time and started out well. Then the surprise came. Apparently his mother didn’t know his father had signed the release & refused to let the student participate. After some wrangling by the director we were able to proceed. Fortunately, the student did a great job. Whew! What happened to the other student in the video?

You might know how difficult it is to get students from two different schools in the same place for a video shoot, but when the one you thought would be no problem isn’t prepared, you are doomed. She didn’t handle her lines well and when we had returned for a second shoot (no $$$$) she didn’t show up. Oh my! We had taped the two students together with an adult host, so we couldn’t replace her. With some creative editing and some screen test footage, I was able to pull it out (felt that way).

Lesson? Bring the students, parents and the program director together in a meeting. Develop a relationship and establish the importance of the student showing up and prepared. Parent buy-in is important and could save you on production day. Prepare for the worst and be happy with your successes.

Minors in your video?

Minors in your video?

Minors in your video can be complicated. I produced a special interest video on gold panning. Part of the video was to include instruction for children. My co-producer wanted to use his grand kids as talent. That all seemed easy enough, but it was not so.

We needed and got the always required Minor Releases signed by the parents. We thought we were up to speed with that when the county film administrator said “do you have a studio teacher hired?” California State law requires this for the protection and care of children on a commercial set. The administrator helped us find one, and we thought we were ready to roll. Two days before the shoot the teacher asked said “you do have your work permits for the minors right?” Work permits require 48 hours at least. We were doomed, but no, the teacher double checked. As long as the kids were on the set for one day and for no pay, we were good.

The outcome was all good. The kids did great and we finished our shoot. The studio teacher said we had a coup as our kids, in an outdoor environment, under the stress of finding gold on camera, did fantastic. “You can find an acorn in the mud some day.”

Take the time to contact your film commissionDepartment of Industry Relations and get all the answers for minors on the set. It could cost you if you are not prepared.

More talent than “talent”

More talent than “talent”
One of the great perks of video production is some of the colorful characters one meets when putting together a show. I had the privilege a couple of years ago to meet a throwback from the Gold Rush era.
My company entered into a contract with longtime gold prospector Don Robinson to make a DVD teaching folks the fine art of gold panning. Don’s pretty good at this, in fact he’s a four-time national champion, and has won numerous medals from around the world.
I’ll bet a lot of you didn’t know they even held gold-panning competitions. Well, not only are there such events – they’re worldwide.
Because Robinson is such a fan of this industry he’s created “Don’s Gold World;” visit his site at Don’s Gold World. He’s also president of the Goldhounds club that numbers in the hundreds. The club is one of the reasons he wanted to do the gold-panning instructional video.
Don lives in the heart of the gold country with his lovely wife, Annie. The yellow stuff became their lives almost three decades ago when Don retired and they moved lock-stock-and gold pan into the Sierra Nevada near a town called Iowa Hill. Iowa Hill was once known as the most remote community in the continental United States, and it still doesn’t have electric power or telephone service.
Such an expert at what he does, it took us under a week to shoot the gold-panning video. Our script was simple because Don knew exactly what to say because he teaches the subject all the time. And, if there’s a talent out there easier to work with than him, I want to meet that person.
You can see the trailer of that project either on Don’s site, or visit Timothy Linsdau Productions and catch it there. I’m delighted to say we’ve contracted to do more gold-discovery videos as this industry is more diverse and widespread than I could ever have imagined.
Getting the time has been difficult, though, Don is a busy miner. He spearheads both the U.S. and California gold panning championships each year, and competes in both. In fact, this year he earned a silver medal in the National Mens Skilled division, and a bronze in the Classic division. Not up to his usual standards, but the word is starting to get out – thanks to Don, himself.
“This has been the toughest championships ever,” Don wrote me a couple days ago. “Us old timers are in a fight to survive against some of these new ‘gunfighters.’ The way we win is through experience, technique, and savy.”
For anyone who hasn’t witnessed a gold panning competition I can tell you it’s a marvel that any of them find the gold. It starts with a 5-gallon bucket full of gravel with an undetermined number of gold flakes thrown in. Those flakes are no larger than the head of a pin.
The trick is to pan out that gold in the least amount of time – miss a flake and you’re as good as done for that event. The competition generally runs over two days, except for the Beginner class.
But thanks to Don’s “experience, technique, and savvy,” he’s able to hang in there. But now all that knowledge has been put into Don’s latest DVD and it’s probably one of the reasons those “gunfighters” have gotten so good so fast.
But in spite of it, I’ve made a good friend and delightful partner in Don Robinson. So I say, get to know your talent because there may be a whole lot more to them than meets the camera’s eye.