Galaxy Crisis

Speaking of astute film analysis, in my research I stumbled upon The New Yorker’s original review of ‘Star Wars’ from 1977. Penelope Gilliatt:

No sci-fi film—not even a sci-fi film set long ago—being complete without a robot and a computer, there is a gold-plated robot who walks as if his feet hurt, like a primal woman shopper, and an overweight computer who is a mixture of bald pate, traffic lights, and mailbox, and who transmits rapid information in a language that evokes Eskimo. The computer is the robot’s dearest and most irritating companion.

It’s hard to imagine a world where this film was quite so unfamiliar.

‘2001’ and the power of music to tell a story

Charlie Brigden, at Film School Rejects:

Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is possibly the ultimate example of using music to tell a story in an opening title sequence, ostensibly telling the story of the classic film. It’s an incredibly simple concept, tracking the rise of the sun above the moon and earth, but Kubrick uses it as a thematic guide, with a grand gesture coming from his choice of music, the opening portion of Richard Strauss‘ 1896 tone poem “Also sprach Zarathustra,” itself based on a philosophical work by Friedrich Nietzsche.

‘2001’ will be deconstructed for as long as people watch film, but this is a good read.

Jumping off the cliff

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and that’s largely because I’ve been deep in a project that I recently completed, and it just happens to start airing tonight.

The show I worked on was somewhat complex in its source material, organization, assembly, and deliverables (multiple versions for different media outlets) and I stayed within FCPX for all of it.

On day one of the job, I stood on a metaphorical cliff deciding which NLE to use (my choices at hand were FCP7, Premiere Pro, and FCPX). As a bit of history, I started using Avid from 1995 to 2001, FCP “Classic” from 2001 to late 2012, and from there began testing the waters with Premiere and FCPX. I had lingering concerns about how FCPX would perform with an increasingly complex project, but the first few days were comprised mostly of logging and tagging sources, so I had a window of escape to another program if things started going downhill.

They didn’t.

FCPX performed quite well. I set up some hotkeys to tag media using keyword collections, and was able to very quickly get things organized. Switching between list and thumbnail view, or drilling down to only favorites were a few more keystrokes. It was all fast and fluid.

I was also dealing with many tracks of timecode-synced split audio files, so I selected them and created multicam clips, cut them into the timeline, and activated only the channels I needed in any given instance. When it was time to send the show to ProTools for the final mix (using the rock-solid X2Pro application), only the active tracks I chose were included in the AAF. Very convenient, and it kept the timeline streamlined. Speaking of the timeline, the timeline index was indispensable. With a click I could enable or disable music or effects globally, and I regularly used the search field to track down and select specific items in a sea of other clips.

FCPX’s most “controversial” feature, the magnetic timeline, is also fast and flexible in my opinion. I found that during the rough cut phase I could do a lot without taking my hands off the keyboard- no tracks to patch. In X I tend to do a “sketch” of the story I’m telling by quickly getting the pieces in place, and then I go back through and refine my edits. It’s nice to know that I can drill down to a specific moment in the timeline and make adjustments knowing that I’m not knocking something out of place further down in the sequence.

There were other little features in X that I appreciated. The Vimeo integration was handy for firing off a version for approval while I kept working on a different part of the show. The to-do markers helped to keep track of changes. Having color correction and image stabilization options built into every clip (as opposed to applying a filter each time) was great.

Overall I was glad I jumped off that cliff.

FCPX’s “Cold Mountain” moment

Editors familiar with Final Cut Pro’s history know that the legacy version of the application gained some major traction in the pro marketplace following Walter Murch’s decision to edit 2003’s Cold Mountain with FCP.  Over a decade later (and almost three years after its release) Final Cut Pro X is on the edge of a similar game changer.

This week, fcp.co linked to a ten minute presentation from Neil Smith from LumaForge at the Digital Cinema Society meeting last month.  Smith describes (without giving names) how a major Hollywood studio is editing a “100 million dollar movie” using six Final Cut Pro X workstations running Mavericks and connected to an Xsan.  In listening to the details that Smith lays out, it was surmised by fcp.co forum member Ronny Courtens that the film in question is Focus, starring Will Smith.

The obvious question: why is a Hollywood studio going against the Avid grain to cut a motion picture in X?  According to Neil Smith, the directors themselves are the driving force- they have been editing with FCPX on their MacBook Pros for two years and insisted upon using it for this feature.  The studio pushed back, but the the film’s producer had enough clout and sided with the directors, and they got their way.  They touted the creative power and flexibility of X as well as the relatively low cost of the buildout as the main reasons behind their decision.

2014 should be a tipping point for Final Cut Pro, one that’s been in the making for quite some time.  New Mac Pros will (finally) be arriving in editors’ hands, and the solid upgrade to version 10.1 (its 10th revision since 2011) brings FCP to a new level of capability in a shared professional environment.

Behind the scenes of The Shining, fictionally

Watch it here.

Siri Bunford created this amazing spot for Channel 4′s Stanley Kubrick Season, which gives a fictional, behind-the-scenes look at the production of The Shining. The commercial is done in one continuous gliding shot that explores the “back alleys” of the shoot, glimpsing many of the memorable characters and props from the film. The music and the pacing though still give off the creepy vibe of the film, which is what really makes this a true gem.

Absolutely incredible.

Macworld reviews Premiere Pro CC

Alan Stafford gives it a favorable review:

It’s not a ground-up overhaul, and it doesn’t incorporate hot new technologies. But these tweaks indicate that Premiere Pro has taken on some of the characteristics of a cloud application, adding features as they are developed, rather than making customers wait for monolithic annual releases.

I’ll be curious to see how this idea of “cloud applications” shakes out in terms of steady updates.  Premiere (and the rest of the Creative Cloud suite) is not really in the cloud, but rather a standard download and install that logs into Adobe’s servers to make sure your subscription is paid up.  Customers will no longer decide when is the right time to purchase a major upgrade; they’re purchasing it all the time.  Hopefully Adobe will make good on their end of the deal.