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Feature Article #1

Leave Your Edit Suite On Time, Finish From Home – For FREE!

Back in 2003 when I converted my basement to full blown edit suite (a year long process), it was both a blessing and curse all at once. Gone was the commute and fighting with Chicagoland traffic. I could sleep in later and “get home” from work earlier. Sounds great! But the flip side of that, […]

| March 23rd, 2009 | Continued

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Feature Article #2

The Emergency Boot Drive, Your New Best Friend

Several times a year I find myself on the road editing on-location with clients. These travel jobs are usually a convention, corporate conference or incentive trip. The locations can be as close as Chicago (20 miles away) or as far as Thailand and Hong Kong. I have a travel system that’s in cases and ready […]

| March 8th, 2009 | Continued

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Feature Article #3

The Manual Duck

Ahhh the age old struggle between Final Cut Pro and After Effects. For what seems like centuries now us Final Cut Pro editors have been struggling with finding an efficient and, moreover, convenient workflow between FCP and After Effects. Sure, products like Livetype and Motion have come along and made life easier for some tasks but when it comes down to real motion […]

| February 27th, 2009 | Continued

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Feature Article #4

XDCam Import Plug-In for Final Cut Pro

If you’ve ever had to edit with the Sony XDCam format, you already know that the work flow can be a challenge, especially if you’re using Final Cut Pro. While the Panasonic P2/DVCPro HD format integrates very well with the Log and Transfer tool, XDCam has had many shortcomings. That is, until now.  Sony recently […]

| October 16th, 2008 | Continued

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Feature Article #5

QT Movie Exports with Split Track Audio

If you’ve been in the business long enough, you probably remember doing split track master layoffs to tape machines. For me it started with 1 masters that had VO on channel 1 and everything else on channel 2, and progressed to using D2 and digital beta that allowed you to layoff vo on one channel, […]

| July 13th, 2008 | Continued

About this Site

In recent years I have gleaned an amazing amount of knowledge from many others in the field of video production, much through the internet. From forum posts to web reviews to personal and professional blogs, there is now an unlimited amount of information to anybody wanting to know more. Nearly all of it free! Now […]

Other Recent Articles

G-Technology Responds with Major Changes

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As it turns out, the internet is a great way to restart communications when it seems to be all but broken down. 

Less than 24 hours after my “Boycott G-Tech” post on SuiteTake.com, I received several calls from executives at both G-Technology as well as Hitachi. The calls came in while I was editing so they went to voice mail, but when I had a chance to finally call one of them back I was pleasantly surprised that the tone of the conversation was very constructive and apologetic.

At this point I’ve had a few phone calls with Todd Etherton, who is the Director of World Wide Customer Support at Hitachi. The very first thing he said was that they were very sorry for the experience that I had with their tech support team, and that they agreed that something needed to be changed. We talked for about 10 minutes and then I asked him to call me back when they had a plan actually in place so that I could talk about it on the blog (instead of speculate about what they might do). 

The next morning (still less than 48 hours since my post hit) I get another call (again while I’m editing) and I call him back in the evening on my way home. Todd tells me that in response to my blog post, they have made a few significant changes that will alleviate a repeat experience like the one that I had. 

Boycott of G-Technology

 

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While G-Technology has been one of my most favored and most recommended companies for well built, professional hard drives, due to a recent experience I can no longer lend my support to the company.

From the mid-2000’s G-Technology has been a leader in high quality products and service. I built my first home edit system on a stack of G-Raid drives because they not only made a solid product, but they were focused on the video pro. They didn’t just talk about data rates and drive speeds, they broke it down into editing lingo – the number of real time streams you could expect – and they guaranteed it. 

At one point I had some issues with some G-Raid drives that I had purchased, and they were always very fast to respond and in one case pre-shipped me a replacement drive even before I had sent them back the problem drive. 

For me personally, a really sold product means nothing if the company does not stand behind it with good people and exceptional customer service. And that’s where my relationship has now changed. 

Change Is Not Always Good

In February 2009 G-Tech was acquired (indirectly through Fabrik) by Hitachi. At the time I thought this was great, because for a long time Hitachi drives have been the best in class, and the most reliable drives on the market. So it seemed like a good idea. But now, two years later it appears this change in ownership has translated into terrible customer service, especially if your warranty has run out. 

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 Over the last 5 years I have spent over $25,000 on two maxed out G-Speed XL systems (around 25TB of combined space). We’re not talking about little desktop drives, we’re taking about making a serious investment in a company, especially for a small boutique post house. I was a very early adopter of the very first units they shipped in January 2007 and even did a post on SuiteTake and The Creative Cow about my experience with the drive. I was very happy with it, and just over 3 years ago purchased a second one for the other edit room. Based on my experience with the company over the years I had no worries. 

The Dead Power Supply

A funny thing happened a couple of weeks ago, however. The power supply in the newer drive system went bad and as it’s supposed to, was beeping pretty loud to get the attention of anybody within 20 feet. No big deal, things happen and after all it’s the reason why it’s built with a backup power supply. The drive was still running smoothly, but no longer with a safety net.

I filled out the on-line tech support form at G-Technology like I’ve done in the past, and a day later (mind you this is a serious problem) I get a email telling me that my unit is out of warranty. Figures, it’s always just after it expires that something goes wrong.  

Turn Project Archives Into Real Money – BRU Producer Edition

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In my continuing effort to find a solid, reliable and affordable solution for long term archival of our editing projects, I have spent the last 12 months testing and creating a workflow for yet another product solution. Unlike when I reviewed the Cache~a a few years back (the positive review since removed from the site), I decided to spend a lot more time really running it through the paces. I learned my lesson the hard way with the Prime Cache and made changes to my review process.

The product that I’m reviewing this time is the “Edit Bay Production Desktop” software and hardware package from the Tolis Group. It has turned out to be quite the winner, and I’m excited to share our experience with it. While they do offer several different solutions of hardware/software or software only solutions (you provide the hardware), I’m going to focus on this one all in one package. It’s my feeling that this is the best fit for the small to medium sized post house with 1-5 workstations. To see some of their offerings, check out their website.

http://www.tolisgroup.com

What’s Included – Installation

What I liked about the “Edit Bay Production Desktop” package right from the onset was that it was a complete solution for your Mac. You provide a G5 tower, Xserve or MacPro computer with a open PCIe slot (must be a 8x slot), and they provide you with everything else.

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In your open PCIe slot you will install a SAS host bus adaptor. The card they provide is the ATTO ExpressSAS H680, and it was as easy to install as a video card. It’s as simple as removing the side panel of your tower and adding the card to your open slot.

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(Above is the Expansion Slot Utility that is on most, but not all Power Macs. Because the system we have the card installed on (a quad G5) does not support this utility, I took this snap from a different computer in the office just to show the utility. So don’t be surprised that in this shot the ATTO card is not listed. This utility allows you to configure the speed of your slots by dividing up the bandwidth in whichever way best suits your setup)

Once booted up, you install a driver for the ATTO card from the included CD, reboot again and the card is ready for use.

After that, turn the machine off and attach the LTO drive. Depending on the package that you choose, you will receive either a LTO-4 or LTO-5 drive. Both are HP drives in a external case. We have the LTO-5 drive.

With the LTO drive attached and the machine booted up, install the BRU Producer Edition software (from here on referred to as BRU PE) . This is really the heart of the product and is written for OSX specifically. Installation is as easy as mounting the included CD ROM or downloaded .dmg disk image and running the installer. Now you’re ready to start.

BOOK REVIEW: The Green Screen Handbook by Jeff Foster

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My Experience With Keying

While I wouldn’t necessarily refer to myself is a “Green Screen Guru”, I have my share of experience with pulling color based keys. For me is started on a Grass Valley 200 switcher in the late 80’s with the little spinning knobs you used to select and finesse the color. I remember that little chirping sound it would make as you went from one limit to the other. Just thinking about that switcher really takes me back.

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In later years I worked with a Ultimatte 45 external hardware box that allowed you to pull great keys using a component signal. At the time it was a $35k box and the place I was working at would only rent it when we had a project that required it. Sometimes I would run it as part of a studio shoot to check keys as we went, but most of the time it was setup in the online suite I was in.

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The difficult part about using this box was that the first few times I used it I only had a few short hours to actually learn the box. As soon as it showed up I would pull out the manual and start reading so that I could at least appear to the client that I knew what I was doing!

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Years later we have tools that are so much more powerful right on our computers, and they cost a small fraction of what the original Ultimatte did, or in some cases come free with editing and compositing software. FCP Studio has some ok keyers included, but Primatte inside of Motion is actually pretty good. And AfterEffects has KeyLight, which I find to be the best blue/green screen keyer out there for what I do. It’s rare that I can’t get a good key out of keylight regardless what I throw at it.

After Effects Tutorial: Creating a fluttering 3D leaf with Zaxwerks 3D Warps Plug-In

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In this After Effects tutorial I’ll show you how to make a fluttering 3D leaf effect using Zaxwerks 3D Warps plug-in. I’ll show you several tips to speed up your workflow and quicken rendering and previews with the 3D Warps plug-in. I use particles and other built-in AE effects to create a realistic scene from a still image. And I also take a look at refining motion paths with After Effects graph editor to create smooth organic motion. All this, and more in this action packed tutorial!

Boston SuperMeet – Free Admission Code

If you have never been to one Michael Horton’s FCP SuperMeets, than you have not been to a FCP User Group Meeting.

They are held at various locations around the globe, but for the first time you can attend one of these meetings in Boston, and it’s not too late to get in for free (details below). What can you expect when you attend a SuperMeet?

Aside from seeing demonstrations from some serious talent and on occasion some product debuts, it’s a great place to socialize with creatives from around the country and build new relationships. I had planned to travel to Boston for this meeting until I was booked on a travel job that starts tomorrow.

To find out more about the Boston Meeting agenda, visit the official site.

For your free admission tickets, follow the instructions below.

1. Go to: http://supermeetbos10.eventbrite.com/

2. Click on the ENTER DISCOUNT CODE link.

3. Enter discount code: suitetakevip

4. Fill out registration with legitimate email and address for EACH name.


Digital Production Buzz Interview – Growing Your Business

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Last night I was a guest on the Digital Production Buzz with Larry Jordan and Michael Horton. We discussed my last blog post on growing your business.

If you don’t regularly listen to the Buzz it’s a great resource for post production professionals, and keeps you up to date on the latest news and what others are doing in the business.

Click here for the Interview Excerpt

Click here for the Full Show

Adding New Services In A Shrinking Economy

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When the economy tanked in late 2008, I was forced to look at my business and figure out how to best combat the severe downturn in revenue. We have primarily offered post production services since opening in 2004, but what happens when there’s not enough post work to keep the rooms busy? Aside from the obvious solution of trying to increase the client base, there is also the option of adding other services so that you get a bigger piece of the overall project pie. Think of it like being in the stock market. All of my “stock” has been invested in doing post work. That’s great during the good times, but being more diversified will help when things are slow.

So throughout 2009 we’ve added a few new services to help us retain a larger chunk of every project we do.

Final Cut Pro Mobile: Touch Your Edit

It is with great excitement that I am finally able to make an announcement that has been eating at me for nearly a year now. In June of 2009 when the iPhone 3GS was released I had a flash of what the future could hold for editing, and it’s that moment of inspiration that gave birth to the product I’m announcing today.

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Our new groundbreaking product, Final Cut Pro Mobile, is now available on the iPhone 3GS. It will also be available on the iPad later this year. You heard me right – the full suite of FCPS apps have been ported to the iPhone 3GS, and in some cases, we’ve been able to add additional features not found in the current offerings from Apple.

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Much of our inspiration at SuiteTake.com to create this mobile suite was inspired by the growing interest in editing projects outside of the office. While the edit suite has been the traditional place to get your project done, technology no longer limits us to just a single location. And it was with that vision in mind that we marched forward with the project. Here is a quick overview of what the new suite includes.

Work On Your Business, By Working On Yourself

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I’ve been very fortunate in business. Since I first started Edit Creations in my basement in 2003 I’ve been blessed with having multiple clients follow me into business based on our work history together and friendships. And over those years, word of mouth has filled in the rest of the time. Within the first 5 years business grew from me working in my basement to having a 2000 sqft office with multiple edit rooms, vo booth, graphics, travel gear and 4 employees. Things were going great. Then, the fall of 2008 hit.

At the end of 2008 work dried up and 2009 was the most difficult year since the business was started. During this time a few things happened that changed the way I looked at my company.

First, I didn’t lose any clients. I still had the same clients that I’ve been working with for years, in some cases close to 15 years. The problem was that those clients were no longer getting the jobs they used to. Projects were being scaled back, rescheduled or flat our cancelled. In one case a job that was normally 4 weeks of editing in 2 suites (a job that we received every December running into January) just went away and has not yet returned.

Second, for the first time in my career I was faced with having to find new clients. Two years ago I would have said you were crazy if you told me to go out and find new clients. I was already working 10+ hours a day and the thought of looking for more work seemed like self abuse.

Third, I realized that you can’t count on jobs that are promised to you, even if you have a long standing relationship with those clients. For example, in 2009 there were no less then 3 major jobs (one a broadcast TV series) that were promised to us. In one case actually scheduled for the last half of 2009. “Great!” I thought, the year is covered! The pressure is off! And then, one by one the projects just went away, in large part due to the economy. So I was left with open edit suites and very little work to fill them, but the same overhead as if it was business as usual.

The Nintendo Editing System


OH WOW! BREAKING NEWS!! In case you you didn’t hear last night, there has been some exciting news in the world of post production in the wake of the Apple announcement of the iPad. Lovable video game company Nintendo has just announced they would like to join the editing world with the release of the Nintedit System!

Whether or not this ends up being any kind of major player in the editing world is still in question, but I was blown away at the potential capabilities of the system, yet completely shocked in general that they are even deciding to make this. I’ve loved Nintendo for years, dating all the way back to NES, and I think it’s crazy that they would try and make this jump into post-production. I guess they wanted to make the case that video editing should be fun and universal, and shouldn’t be left alone to the technical folk.

Don’t Sell That Old G5 Just Yet!

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With so many software programs and hardware only supported by the Intel based Mac computers, you might find that having that old Dual/Quad G5 around is becoming more and more problematic. And that may be true, especially as a production machine. More and more of the Apple and Adobe apps only support the newer processor, so upgrading starts to become difficult. Even Snow Leopard is only supported by Intel machines, so your G5 kind of gets stuck in time.

But I’m going to give you a few options to still make use of that older machine, and it will end up having more value to you than the few bucks you can fetch by selling it on eBay. Currently a Quad G5 (the last and fastest G5 made) is going for about $600, and that’s if you throw in a bunch of extra software/upgrades. And who wants to deal with shipping the beast anyway. My vote would be to keep the machine around and put it to work.

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FileServer

One of the best things you can do is add more storage to the machine and have it as a file server. For example, in our office we have 3 main edit rooms, but there are many files that we use on jobs that are shared. We have a music library, stock footage, stock effects, some Editor Toolkit graphics, SFX, Custom Compressor Settings and many template items that we’ve created in house. We used to have all of these items installed on every computer in the office. Not a big deal, except when you make an update you have to make sure that every machine is updated with the same items or you quickly get out of sync. Having just one place to store it all is much more manageable.

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Backup Server

Another option would be to add extra storage and make it a backup server that monitors the computers in your office and backups new files on a daily or weekly basis. You can do this using the new Retrospect 8 for the mac, or ChronoSync and Chrono Agent. Both packages work the same way, having a small client app running on your workstation, and the server software running on the backup machine. You select what you want to backup, when you want to back it up and where to. The nice part is that once it’s setup properly, you don’t have to keep remembering to back things up before you leave every night.

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WIKI Server

Finally, you can install OSX Server (10.5) software and use it for workgroup management, contact files, file server and even a WIKI. We have a WIKI that we use for ECU (Edit Creations University) where we have all training materials, tips and tricks, job specific information, client FedEx numbers and even the employee manual. It’s all accessible to all employees whenever they need to reference anything, and any employee that has permission can add their own posts or revise posts that are there with new information. It becomes a very centralized location to store information, files, and video tutorials.

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Creative Samples Database

Over the past 10 years I have slowly collected still images, QuickTime movies, DVD’s,  tv commercials, show opens, movie trailers and so on, of things that I found inspirational or creative. The main reason was that I wanted to have something to spark my creative juices when I was just dead in the water looking for a new idea. I don’t like to steal an idea directly, but there’s plenty you can take from any given example and than make it your own. Often just seeing something will spark an idea of your own.

I have so many samples now that I created a database called Creative Spark. Everything is processed into a friendly format and imported into the database. Once in there, it’s tagged for any number of attributes, from the type of video it is to what types of things is shows examples of (camera work, effects, text, graphics, etc.). This is the kind of thing that works great in a shared environment and it’s now accessible to any of the editors or producers in the office.

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It also comes in handy when you’re trying to describe an effect or look to a client. It’s much more effective if you actually have the example right there to play for them.

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TimeMachine Volume

Most people hook up an external drive for use with Apple’s TimeMachine. But by adding up to 6TB of internal space, you can do the same thing and take up no extra counter space. We have a TimeMachine volume on each edit computer that runs twice daily* to backup the active projects (and only the active projects). We’ve found this to be a very solid part of our overall backup strategy.

* If you use TimeMachine you know that you really don’t have a lot of choice when it runs and how often. However, you can use a free program called TimeMachineEditor to give you more control over this. I personally don’t need it to backup every second that I’m working, but even once a day is enough in most cases. It takes less of a toll on your system resources that way too.

Whatever you decide to do with that G5, more storage is probably going to help. Today’s post will walk you through how to install more storage than you ever imagined in your aging G5 so that it’s up to snuff for you’re data needs.  Of the ideas I outlined above, all could be implemented on a single machine and play nicely, and in that case you would absolutely want to add more storage.

Have FCP, Will Travel… Please Let Me Travel!

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This week I have the good fortune of getting out of the cold Chicago weather and editing in sunny California. I’m was brought out to do some on-site editing for Fender at the NAMM convention in Anaheim.

Like every travel job that I do, there are unique needs that needed to be addressed. No two jobs are exactly the same.  The needs of this job resulted in me having the most sophicated travel setup I’ve had to date. Here are the details of the job.

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NAMM is a convention that showcases manufactures of musical instruments and gear. It’s kind of the NAB of the music industry. Fender has one whole floor of the convention center, and my job is specific to what they’re doing here. There are 3 main areas of their venue. The Stage, where there will be live performances, both planned and as people walk up and just want to jam. There is the exhibit area where booths are setup for all of the separate companies that are under the Fender umbrella. And then there’s the “floor”, where people are just socializing and moving from one place to the other. All of these are being covered by video, and as quickly as possible edited down and posted to the web on the Fender website as well as many social media sites.

The Top 25 Movies of 2009

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Today I join the extremely rare air of millions of internet folk. Today I do something that everyone from Roger Ebert to CindyCinema.com to your Aunt Rebecca does. Today I will list my favorite movies from 2009, to the excessively high amount of 25. Why 25? Because I go to the theater almost every weekend, I’ve seen about 60 movies from this year, so listing only 10 would inhibit my urge to talk about what movies I’ve seen. Plus everybody loves a list!

So let’s get right into it. I’ll be SPOILER-FREE. Here are picks for my favorite movies from the Year 1 A.D…K. (After Dark Knight)…

Review – Lite Panels Micro Pro and Chimera Color Correction Screens

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What’this? Production gear reviews on a post-production blog? Yup, that’s right. We’re not all just codecs and compression here at SuiteTake; we do actually put on our shoes and socks and get to shoot too. In fact, there’s nothing better to appreciate parking your rear in a comfy edit chair all day long that luggin’ production gear around on an old fashioned shoot now and then.
So yes, we do shoot here too and have come across a few nifty little production gadgets that have proved very helpful in the field: The Lite Panels Micro Pro and Chimera’s Color Correction Screens for their softboxes.

What’s this? Production gear reviews on a post-production blog? Yup, that’s right. We’re not all just codecs and compression here at SuiteTake; we do actually put on our shoes and socks and get to shoot too. In fact, there’s nothing better to appreciate parking your rear in a comfy edit chair all day long then luggin’ production gear around on an old fashioned shoot now and then.

So yes, we do shoot here too and have come across a few nifty little production gadgets that have proved very helpful in the field: The Lite Panels Micro Pro and Chimera’s Color Correction Screens for their softboxes.