Category Archives: Production

Visual Literacy

Video professionals often discuss the need to include media literacy in education. That ship has sailed. The next generation of professionals, not just media professionals but the whole professional class, has filled that void with the likes of the Colbert Report and the Daily Show. In fact, the current generation of college students is more media literate than any other generation. They are not just media literate, but media fluent as well.

The proliferation of inexpensive cameras, inexpensive and free software, and free distribution channels has given them the tools to become visual communicators. Previously the tools used and materials consumed to craft a visual story were quite expensive. In order to become any good at photography and motion pictures a significant investment of time and money was needed. To put it in perspective, my part time job in high school yielded me enough disposable income to shoot at process two rolls of film (72 images) per week. To distribute those images to an audience outside my family and closest friends was cost prohibitive unless the school newspaper or yearbook wanted to pick them up.

The change over the past decade has been dramatic. For the past ten years I’ve taught a 500-level post production class at Boston University. Students no longer have to be instructed to use the rule of thirds. They know it instinctively. They’ve shot so many images on their phones they’ve discovered it on their own. I don’t have to tell them what works on the big screen doesn’t work when creating a mobile experience. They know that.

I still enjoy comparing the students’ first assignments of the semester to their final projects. The progression is amazing. The difference is that the first projects submitted by the class of 2012 rival the final projects of the class of 2002.

As this generation gets into the mainstream media business, its effect on it will be profound. Its effect on society will be more so. They have their FOX News decoder rings. The remaining question is what will be the new standard of Fair and Balanced.

Create it in post

For all my complaints about directors and producers decisions to “fix it in post” that phrase has been personally lucrative. Technology advances amaze even the most curmudgeonly of veterans. What can be done in post starts with what can be done with the camera. Replacing silver halide with digital bits has done more than streamline the recording to review process. It’s enabled more creativity in post.

An article in the current Economist Technology Quarterly considers current and future camera technology – specifically light field photography. These cameras use software to calculate each object’s position in 3D space. Current software allows the user to refocus the image in post. Depth of field can be modified as well. Today’s prototypes are still cameras, but as computational power grows, motion cameras won’t be far behind.

It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to envision the ability to completely re-light a scene or to create stereoscopic effects from a single image. Someday the director of photography may be a post position, and every 2D film will have a depth grader. Imagine how easy it will be to cut a precise matte around a subject.

There’s more information on the technology behind these cameras, and the ability to get in line to buy one from the startup Lytro. Several papers on computational photography can be found on Marc Levoy’s page at Stanford. Levoy is a member of Lytro’s advisory board.


QuickTime currency

A very interesting piece by the always thoughtful Mark Christiansen on about our industry’s dependence on QuickTime in post production. He’s drawn a fascinating parallel between the adoption of the US dollar as the world’s currency and QuickTime as a post currency.

Back in the 90’s I remember lobbying hard, along with many others, for QuickTime to be universally supported on systems from Avid and Discreet and smaller more specialized companies that shunned the format in favor of proprietary formats such as OMF (the “Open Media Framework”) that couldn’t be played back without buying something, and image sequences, which couldn’t be played back in real-time without a specialized hardware/software combination. We were also rooting for QuickTime as the underdog against the other web video formats of the day, the much dreaded Windows Media Real.

Now QuickTime has acquired a position of strength in post, and has made huge inroads into the consumer space, it’s no longer the underdog and post pros are at Apple’s mercy to fix major issues.

In a related area, my Avid colleague, Justin Kwan posted this helpful article on managing QuickTime issues when importing and exporting in an Avid environment.

Final Cut Pro HD resource

Philip Hodgetts has released a comprehensive guide for the video pro making the move to high definition production and post. It’s more than a compendium of frame rates, raster sizes, and media formats – though at 200+ pages there’s a good bit of that as well. The HD Survival Handbook is also loaded with advice for the class of 2008 HD debutantes.

Though it’s Final Cut-centric, there’s a lot in it for the Avid and Premiere Pro editors as well. At $15.95, I hope a lot of teachers replace more costly (and far drier) offerings with it. Ken Stone has a more detailed review.

Like most everything Philip posits I have my points of disagreement, but this book is a nice place to begin the conversation.

Celtx released

Last week the latest update to Celtx was released.

Celtx is the world’s first fully integrated solution for media pre-production and collaboration. It replaces old fashioned ‘paper, pen & binder’ media creation with a digital approach to writing and organizing that’s more complete, simpler to work with, and easier to share.

Celtx logoCeltx is a client-server application. The application and basic web services are free. The script writer is elegant, though a little cumbersome when working with large scripts. The stroyboard tool is quite nice as well. Overall, Celtx is perfect for me to bang out a quick storyboard, script, and shooting schedule.

Those looking for true collaboration should look elsewhere. Celtx currently lacks version control, making it almost impossible for two people to work on a script concurrently. Even a simple check-in/check-out approach as used in Adobe Dreamweaver would be welcome.

Also, there’s no peer-to-peer networking available through Celtx. All collaboration must go through the Celtx server — an understandable limitation since the business model is based on upselling web services. It would be an easier sell to my clients if client-side encryption were available.

While Celtx lacks acceptable collaboration tools at this pre-1.0 stage of its development, it shows promise. (Version control is rumored to be in the pipeline.) As a production planning and scripting tool for a single user, it’s quite elegant. Definitely worth a download.

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