Sunday, May 17, 2009

My Skills Audit 2 - May 09

I use a Macintosh because it is well known for its easy use with movies and music. When I bought Final Cut Pro it came with a program called Motion, Compressor, IDVD Studio Pro, Soundtrack Pro Color and Font Edit. Motion is a much more complex software program, it is primarily used for in depth animation with 3D graphics and, it is good to use when creating a clip without actual footage. I don’t use it yet because I’ve only just begun using FCP and now I finally have the hang of it. It does everything I need it to do, and working with Giacomo Gex these last few months has been very helpful because together we have learnt a lot of techniques.


We successfully carried out 12 separate interviews over the last 6 months. Three of these were undertaken in Shayan Studios, it allowed me to set up the studio by myself, making sure the lighting was perfect and that the green behind the interviewee was balanced, I learnt how to do this on the camera with a setting called white balance (it can see the level of white, it determines if the lighting is good or not). When we filmed an interview in the studio, we filmed with a Sony HDV HDR-FX1E Digital HD Video Camera Recorder (above), it is a 3CCD Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar 1,6/4,5-54 T* 1080i/mini DV Handycam, its placed in front of the interviewee with the green wall behind him/her, while at the same time we would use a second camera (Sony Super Steady Shot DCR-HC1000E PAL Digital Video Camera Recorder, 3CCD Handycam, 150x Digital zoom, Megapixel Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar) to film close ups of the face, eyes, hands, mouth and any other movements.  Both cameras were set up on tri-pods (we would occasionally take off camera 2 to get some different shots) (Cam 1 should always be left in the same position if you are going to use a green/blue screen since any movements can make it more difficult to get rid of the colour), with wireless Sennheiser receivers (receives sound signal) and transmitters (sends sound signal) connected to the camera, and professional Sony Headphones. The advantage of filming in a studio with a green-screen is as follows:


·      There are no interruptions.

·      The sound is perfectly clear.

·      The lighting is perfectly clear.

·      We can hook up the laptop to the camera while it is filming and record the footage directly to the hard-drive. I found there are two ways of doing this. One is by using FCP, there is a setting in file called Log and Capture, this lets you record the video straight to your computer or Hard-drive. I found that you can do the same thing with IMovie, its only a little bit more complicated because the video files are different, therefore I had to convert them using compressor or I-sky video converter.

·      The background can be anything when we edit it with FCP.

·      There are no risks.


We filmed interviews and re-enactments in different places such as San Antonio, Santa Gertrudis, Las Dalias, Can Misses hospital, and in a taxi. We always had to deal with what was available. Sometimes the light wasn’t very good so we would have to find a better spot. We never had serious problems except for when the sound was recorded badly; this was mainly due to high sensitivity and bad headphones, this only happened twice.


Giacomo and I have been using final cut pro since the 2nd of March, in that time we have come across a lot of problems, but because of those problems I have learnt a lot of useful information for my future:


·      How to connect different cameras to the computer so that we can download footage. I use an HDV Sony Camcorder when filming with the green-screen, the picture quality is perfect and it therefore makes it easier to edit on FCP, I prefer that camera much more than the Sony Handycam (the cam 2, which we use when we are not in Shayan Studios). The Handycam is a good camera but I find that it has more problems such as; de-focusing, the iris is not as good as the HDV cam and the battery tends to run out after about 2 hours, whereas the HDV cam will be charged for 10 hours. We had to use IMovie in a couple cases to directly upload the recording footage because the FCP on my laptop was causing problems, but I found a solution. We then we had to convert the footage to a QuickTime file through Compressor; this took on average about 20 minutes per 45 minutes of footage.


·      When we transferred the documentary data from my laptop to my new IMac we ran into a little problem. In FCP it said files were offline and that we had to reconnect them, but this caused the sound to be out of sync (this was 10 minutes into our documentary, 3 different songs). This meant we had to re-sync everything, which took us 2 extra days of work. In addition to that, once I had re-synced everything there was still a faint sound problem, every minute or so we could hear a tick, this was really disturbing. I found out later that it was only the program that was doing this and that when I exported it and compressed it into an MP4 file for the Internet that the ticking wouldn’t be there. That was the case.


·      When we went to interview the taxi driver we ran into a lot of problems, it turned out to be a disaster. Giacomo forgot the questions by mistake and when we watched it on the computer the sound was horrible, there was no light and it turned out that he had told us nothing useful. In the end it was a waste of time. But we learn from our mistakes, we didn’t have the opportunity to do a recce (video and sound test) because we didn’t have his car to test it in, and Giacomo never forgot the questions after that.


·      I’ve learned how to re-map time with any video, I can speed it up and slow it down to any amount of time, I can even choose exactly how long I want the video file to be or I can give a percentage to do it by, which is a guessing game really. I can even change the amount of speed in one piece of video by using markers in the time remap motion section on FCP, what I mean is that it could start slowly and slowly get faster and then slow down again, and this would all happen smoothly.


·      When we filmed in the studio we came across a couple problems. We filmed Zak Day in the studio and we put it on the computer. His hair was too large and there was a lot of green around his neck, it seemed impossible to get rid of it, therefore we had to re-film the interview. I then found a filter called “Spill Suppressor – Green”, this deleted any trace of green, it does this by turning it slightly red, but not enough to make it obvious. It’s much more professional using a green screen than filming with a normal background. I wanted to use it because I know how to work in the studio without a problem and this is a skill I am proud of. I wanted to use the green screen to our advantage and show the world, our family, our friends and the examiners that we worked as professional as possible.


·      I’ve learned how to scale, crop, fade, change the opacity, use filters which change the look of the moving image, use markers to time certain features correctly (For example when the long-term facts come flying at you in the documentary, this needs markers which change the scale and the rotation, and at the end the centre position needs to be changed so that the fact flies away in a direction, if you watch closely, every fact leaves in a different direction).


·      I learnt how to use a filter called trail effect, which gives a filmed movement a ghostly effect. It’s a great effect when you want to make the camera perspective look drunk, on the other hand it does have a down side; the rendering takes about 15 minutes for every minute of video.


·      Rendering (writing over video) was a hug issue, all the footage filmed at Las Dalias (the bar/restaurant) took almost a day to render. The focus group took 2 hours to render. When we had finished the project, the whole 25 minutes, I realized that I had to change the field dominance setting of the video to none; this meant I had to render the whole documentary, this took a whole night. Field dominance must be set to none, otherwise you would see lots of lines in the video, especially when watching it online.


·      I’ve learnt how to use many filters and effects such as: Highlight effect (to show something specific in the moving image), Blur effect (to make the footage look like your looking through someone’s eyes when they are drunk) and Brightness and Contrast (this saved our re-enactment because we filmed at night and there was no lighting). I now know how to create any type of text and I made great use of Font Edit when we showed the audience facts, statistics and notices about what was happening at that point of the documentary.


·      I’ve learnt how to export the final product as either a QuickTime movie or a compressed file using Compressor. Compressor makes the file size smaller, which allows you to put it online at an easy upload rate, or makes it easier to transfer from computer to computer; it also makes it quicker to burn onto a DVD. I had to test the different types of compressions such as MPEG1, MPEG2 and MPEG4. MPEG4 is the best format for the Internet because the pixel rate and quality is still high but the size is low.


·      I use IDVD to create a menu with music and to burn the movie onto a DVD because it is much simpler to use than DVD Studio Pro, which comes with FCP.  DVD Studio Pro is extremely complicated and it doesn’t approve of the MPEG4 format, which is the format our movie is compressed into.


·      Soundtrack Pro has been of great use to us, especially with certain sounds such as the wind blowing or a thunder storm, it also makes it easy to edit the sound files and then import them directly to FCP. You can also record; we recorded ourselves sniffing air to make the sniffing drug effect.


·      Our introduction is a compilation of footage which we downloaded online, mostly by searching “Teen Binge Drinking” or “Drunk Fight”. With FireFox I managed to download the files onto my laptop using the “SoThink Video Web Downloader” only for FireFox. What I realised was that they are downloaded as FLV files which is not compatible with FCP (it is but it doesn’t look good), so I had to buy “I Skysoft Converter” which transformed the FLV files into QuickTime files.


·      I have learnt how to compress the video file into a format that can be posted and viewed on the Internet by virtually any browser and it can also be downloaded. This makes it easy for us to show the world our documentary.


·      The sound is perfect now because I have learnt how to use the Sennheiser microphones and receivers professionally, this is all due to a lot of practice. I do this by checking the tuning, the frequency and the sensitivity on the settings.


·      One thing I have learnt, which I hadn’t realized till very late into the year, was the amount of paperwork that is part of, and a necessity when making a moving image.


·      I’ve been using iphoto, I was asked to make a compilation of photos with a piece of music, my mother chose the images and I put them together. I didn’t ask to put my name on the credits, instead you will see my mother’s and brothers name, here’s the link:


My MacBook Pro, a 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 duo processor with a 2GB RAM and 160GB Memory, was crashing everyday while we were using FCP, the laptop couldn’t load the video files properly, it would start loading and the colourful loading cursor would appear, the program would then say: “Final Cut Pro (Not Responding)”. I would have to force quit it and if that didn’t work (which happened very often), I would have to turn it off. One time after having to forcefully turn it off I tried to turn it on and it gave me a stop sign, the not working symbol, this was when I decided I had to buy a new computer simply to be able to finish our project. The IMac is a stronger computer: it has a 1TB (1000GB) Hard-drive and 4MB RAM. Therefore, this makes it easier to work with FCP and we don’t have to worry that it will freeze ever again. I feel that I can work confidently with FCP, together with anyone or alone. Giacomo asked me to make a “Making of” for the DVD, he told me what he wanted and we chose the song together, then I put it all together. Hope you enjoy.

Here is the link:


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