Month: January 2012

Final Cut Pro X Update

Apple has begun the long, difficult journey towards repairing the damage caused by the Final Cut X debacle.

After stunning the professional editing community with a product that’s missing many essential features, Apple has made a small step in the process of replacing those missing essentials. The most important new addition to FCPX is XML support which offers some measure of backwards-compatibility as well as compatibility with other platforms. It’s far from ideal but at least it’s something. Perhaps more importantly, it’s a signal that Apple is trying to fix things.

Apple has a serious task ahead if they want to save their reputation among professional tastesetters (and let’s not argue for now about that “if”).

As I write this news item, a video editing seminar is being held in a city very near to me, at which editors are learning about the main options for migrating away from Final Cut Pro. The promotional blurb began with this:

Following the demise of Final Cut Pro as a professional editing application, digital editors are left with some big questions. Which platform will win their hearts?

Whether or not you agree that Final Cut Pro is dead in the professional world, this is a clear indication of the sentiment that still exists months after the failed launch.

Red Cameras and Industrial Espionage

An intriguing battle has begun between Arri, the world’s largest manufacturer of motion picture cameras, and Red, the popular new kid on the block that has won support from filmmakers such as Peter Jackson.

Red has accused Arri of email hacking and industrial espionage, and it appears they have a good case. Former Arri executive Michael Bravin has admitted to hacking the email of Band Pro chief executive Amnon Band between December 2009 through June 2010. According to Red, it went something like this:

– Bravin originally worked for Band Pro as chief technology officer.
– Jan 2010: Bravin left Band Pro and went to work for Arri as VP of market development, digital camera products.
– Dec 2009 – Jun 2010: Bravin accesses his old boss’s email. During this time, Band Pro was discussing a joint venture with Red, and a great deal of commercially-sensitive material was exchanged. Bravin gave this material to Arri, who used it to help develop new products.

Notably, the Arri Alexa camera was released in 2010 in direct competition with Red’s Epic. However it should also be noted that the first Alexa prototype was unveiled in February 2010, only about one month after Bravin joined the team.

Red’s lawsuit was filed December 21, 2011, in Orange County, Calif.

Green Screen Material

There is some debate over which materials are acceptable for use as a green screen. Many professionals will tell you that the colour must be just the right shade of green, or that the screen must be made of certain material. It is certainly true that some materials and colours are better, but in reality you can make an effective green screen from just about any smooth, green surface.

If you really want the best possible screen you should do an Internet search for green screen material. There are numerous websites which sell specialist material and with a little research you can find something to suit your studio. Be aware that professional green screen material can be quite expensive.

In the more likely event that you would like a cheap option to get started with, you will be glad to hear that it’s not hard finding useable material. There are three main options:

Use a solid material such as cardboard or wood, painted green.
Use flexible or spongy material such as foam, spandex, etc. If you’re going this way, you are probably better off to buy professional material.
Use some sort of fabric. You can either buy green material or buy white material and paint/dye it green.

Fabric

Go to a good fabric store and look through the selection — you should be able to find at least several choices.

The material should not be too reflective — this tends to create lighter “hotspots”.
Lighter, brighter green is better than dark green.
Material which is crease-resistant is very desirable. Wrinkles are the enemy and you will appreciate material which can be set up and moved without destroying the smoothness.
Heavy material is good for providing consistent colour, especially if there is any possibility of anything behind the screen showing through. However it can be prone to more creasing.

If you need to pack up the material for storage or moving, roll it rather than fold it — this helps reduce wrinkling. It’s a good idea to use a cylindrical object with a diameter of at least 5-10cm (2-4″) to roll the material onto, for example, the heavy cardboard cylinders used as the centre of newsprint rolls.

You may want to iron your material from time to time to keep wrinkles away. If you are going to paint or dye the material, make sure you will be able to iron it. Note than ironing a piece of material this large without creating new creases can be a challenge.

Hang the material in whatever manner suits your situation. For example, you could use thumbtacks or a shower rail attached to the wall. To make a mobile screen, use two stands (such as light stands or mic stands) and mount a rail between them. You could also make stands from clothing racks, hat stands, or any similar type of frame.
Solid Material

Cardboard or wood has the advantage of providing a nice consistent surface, free of wrinkles. The disadvantage is that it’s more difficult to pack up and move.

Although you can use any light, bright green paint, it is better to use a tint designed for green screens. Do a search for “chroma key paint” to see some options.