Monday, 13 February 2012

Shower seals, DIY vids and an editor upgrade...?

The New Video

I took Friday off work last week to do my first piece of official comissioned filming, shooting a basic how-to video for a company that sells shower seals. We filmed two simple videos, 3-4 minutes each, detailing DIY installation of the seals. I've done videos before, but mostly music videos or ones I have made purely for myself. So this project is a real first!

Andy from Syncrovise picked me up in the morning and drove me to the plumbing showroom where we would film the video, with a quick stop-off for breakfast (thanks Andy!). The showroom itself was fairly spacious so we were able to set up my new video lights and a mic near the shower where the quick installation would take place. Despite some noise from the car workshop next door which we managed to film around (more through luck than judgement, although Andy correctly identified the lunch hour lull that would be our prime time to tape) and a few people browsing the showroom, the whole thing went off pretty much without a hitch. Our video star and the man who commissioned the vid is (also called) Andy, owner of the Plumb-Fix plumbing/heating showroom and a most agreeable star (for clarity, Andy the plumber will be Andy C and Andy from Syncrovise will just appear as Andy). Andy C worked really hard to make sure we had what we needed, saved the day by finding a replacement power lead for a battery charger at short notice and did an assured performance in front of the camera, despite being nervous. He was great.

Quick screencap of the man at work

Being an instructional video, the shoot itself was dead simple. We captured Andy from a single angle as he ran through the entire seal fitting, then we took some close up footage to capture important parts in detail. Filming in the showroom gave us the room we needed try different lighting setups and to change camera location for the closeups. Andy was also able to get a good deal of still shots on his Nikon too. We shot a second video back at Andy C's house in the much smaller location of his upstairs bathroom, detailing the installation of a different kind of shower seal. The room was small but we were able to get all the gear in there. We set the camera up on a tripod at a low angle with the legs at minimum spread so that we could get the camera as far back as possible from Andy C so we could capture everything. It meant the camera was a little precarious as the tripod had a smaller base but I was standing over it watching through the viewfinder and my entire body was primed to catch it if anything happened. Oh boy was I primed. Andy C was up against the tub fitting the shower screen seal and our other Andy was outside monitoring the audio mix on his laptop - we captured a separate audio mix using a podcasting condensor mic to give us more options during the editing stage. Plus it was nice practice capturing un-synced sound.

As before we captured a single angle and then used close ups for the detail. This shoot was far quicker than the first. We wrapped up for the day once we captured everything and we discussed plans to get back together for one more instructional taping and possibly some more work -  just a small video of his plumbing and heating showroom for Andy C's website. It was a good day, I can honestly say I was never bored or nervous and I enjoyed every minute of it.

After the shoot Andy drove me home to pick up Dee and we went back to Andy's to meet his lovely wife Ellen, their cat Otis and to enjoy a slap up meal involving lots of white wine and many fajitas tacos and nachos, as well as some impromptu bass guitar and a visit to Andy's studio, to see where the man spends his working days. Being your own boss and working from home... I know it's got it's downsides, and I know anyone that does it can give me a long list of bad things about it, but speaking to Andy, and imagining it for myself, I think this is something I could do. I really do. Maybe in a year or two I could actually begin to dream about it. Spending my days taping, drinking tea and editing footage, it feels like a dream.

Anyway, back to reality for a bit...

Over the weekend I edited the basics of the videos together and sent them to Andy to see about inserting a decent title page for the product before the video. The edit so far is pretty good, the close-up inserts work well, even when we haven't quite captured everything perfectly (my own mistakes, sometimes in the close ups I have Andy C holding things in the wrong hands) but I've been able to use what we got right and it all gels together. The videos aren't live yet, I'll put a link up here when they are, purely for the curious, or for those needing to get a seal for their shower screen door!

Final Cut Pro X

I've been using Final Cut Express for a while now. I'm comfortable with it and although I've certainly not mastered anything I can use it with relative ease and speed. I enjoy FCE. It's great! If you're not familiar with editing systems, Final Cut Express is the consumer program, Final Cut Pro is the professional program. Final Cut Pro and several add-ons are sold in one package, called Final Cut Studio. These are prohibitively expensive for someone like me. But Final Cut Express has everything I need in a video editing program and more.

But there are problems. One of the biggest bugbears I have with the program is a long-standing bug whereby it exports your video at an increased brightness because of a flaw with the way the program understands your display gamma. This has gone unfixed, by either Apple or by clever third party coders for a long time. It even gave me grief when putting together the shower seal videos, I had to finalise the video, change the gamma settings to all clips to make the whole video darker, then export it and let the gamma bug brighten everything up again. It's not an ideal way to work and it could be costing me a little video quality.

Last summer Apple released a brand new rebuilt Final Cut Pro. It's a biggie. It's not an update but a complete rebuild. In fact, they have rebuilt it in the image of iMovie, the free video editor that comes with your Mac OS. This caused big ripples and a lot of concern. The new Final Cut Pro is very swish, very functional, and possibly a bit more user friendly than previous Final Cuts. But many people had spent years with the previous incarnation of Final Cut and they feel that they are being sold out to the consumer market. But Apple are listening, at least a little, and are adding new features with each update, bringing this new Final Cut Pro more in line with what people want or need.

But why is this important? I use the (relatively) cheap Final Cut Express. Well, Apple have also retired any future editions of Final Cut Express. It's Pro, or it's back to iMovie. Or of course stick with Express but without support.

Luckily for me, this new, fancy edition of Final Cut Pro is a slice of the price of previous editions at £200. It's digital download only, you cannot buy it at a physical store. Some purists are up in arms about it, but to be honest, I've been reading up on it, and it still does everything I need, even if I just need to learn to do it in a slightly different way. Plus I'm sincerely hoping that this gamma shift problem has finally been fixed by a complete rebuild. From what I have read online, I am hopeful.

I think I might have to take the plunge. If doing some more videos with Andy for his clients leads to a little bit of money, then I can consider it an investment. Final Cut Express is going to fade into obscurity and if I can finally get a fix to this goddamned gamma shift.

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