Children & Final Cut Pro

Sorry for the lack of updates the past 2 days.  Hit a very busy patch where I wasn’t home, and updating from the iPhone can be difficult.

As a trainer at an Apple Store, I teach people everything from turning on a computer and using a mouse, up to how to create movies and videos using FCP.  One of the more interesting things I’ve discovered is that some families with training memberships are using the membership on their kids.  Yesterday I met with a teenage boy who is fully proficient at iMovie and is planning on moving up to Final Cut.  (I recommended Final Cut Express to his mother, as he has no use for the other programs in FCS.)  We spent the hour talking about how to chroma key, and why blue and green are the usual colors for chroma keying.  One particular boy genius I have is about 7.  He is such a master at iMovie that his parents and I did a test session to see if he was ready to start using FCE.  The result:  a 7 year-old’s attention span isn’t long enough to deal with a complex program like FCE, so he is working on other iLife programs for now.

Training kids and teenagers in Final Cut is always tricky.  I started using FCP when I was 16, but it was offered as part of a Television Production course sequence my school had.  I got to practice shooting, lighting, sound, and editing every day for 2 solid years.  (Junior and senior years of high school.)  That kind of continuity made me so good at Final Cut that when I started college, I successfully got my Communication Studies department to convert from Adobe Premier to Final Cut Pro, and then ran the suites for 3 years as a student employee.  I trace my proficiency with Final Cut to the fact that it was something I used on a daily basis for several years.  I’ve also taught Final Cut for several years – first as an instructor for the NJ Governor’s School of the Arts, and as a support system for faculty in my department – and now I teach it at Apple.

But teaching children a program like Final Cut, whether Express or Pro, is tricky at the store.  We only see these kids at most for 1 hour, once a week.  That doesn’t allow for a very detailed curriculum, which I think kids need.  I won’t make the argument that kids don’t have a need or use for Final Cut.  After 3 years of working with high school students in the Governor’s School, I know that they have the capacity to produce some absolutely amazing projects.  I do think they need a structured plan of how to teach them.  It’s one thing to work with editors, producers, and camera operators.  They already have a sense of what they need to know.  However, with children, you’re responsible for building a foundational knowledge of how video and film work, as well.  What do you think?  How do we approach the phenomenon of children in the editing sutes (or calling the shots, or behind the camera, etc.)?

Using Consumer Programs as Supplements

Last month I did something I haven’t done in, well at least 6 years:  I editing a piece in iMovie.  The last time I had used iMovie previously to this was in my junior year of high school – back in 2001 -2002.  What I used it for was to create a fun, playful little promo to help raise money for the web series I’m working with.  It was the perfect supplement to Final Cut Pro 5, which is what I used to edit the show proper.  Why?

1.) I shot the promo on my Canon Vixia HF-10, which records to AVCHD.  Final Cut 5 isn’t really set up for AVCHD, so iMovie is a great way to capture and store the footage.

2.) Themes.  iMovie ’09 has a few playful little themes that you can apply to your movie.  My series is shot in and centers around a comic book shop.  So the promo is made to look like a comic book.  Transitions slide from panel to panel, and generally make the promo more lighthearted than it would have been.

3.) Priorities.  I was still working on the episodes at this time, and didn’t want to derail FCP, which spent the last 8 months being set up for the series.  I cut and exported the promo in the span of about an hour.  And exported to full quality.

4.)  Features.  Many consumer programs have features previously only found in the pro-level programs.  iMovie ’09 offers image stabilization, and is faster about it than FCP 6, which, let’s not forget, I don’t currently own anyway.  I’ve exported clips to iMovie and sent them back to FCP in stabilized form.  Works like a charm.

5.) Price.  I was able to upgrade to iLife because it only costs $80.  I haven’t been able to upgrade to FCS 2 yet because I lack the $650 to invest in it.  Besides, I’m waiting for the NAB conference like everyone else to see if Apple somehow unveils FCS 3.

I also use a combination of Aperture and iPhoto in dealing with stills from the show.  Aperture is great for quickly sorting the best photos and offers greater tools for really tweaking them before publishing them to the web site.  But iPhoto ’09 has Faces, which has made it incredibly easy for me to start creating albums for each actor, so they can all have their stills to do what they will with.  None of these consumer applications could ever replace my pro-apps.  The difference in functionality is simply too great.  However, they are very useful when incorporated alongside the pro-apps.  Especially since they can help you survive the larger gaps between updates to the professional applications for a reasonably small price.

Collecting Feedback to Drive Career Development

As an editor, there’s one interface I know very well – Final Cut Pro.  In fact, I’m in a minority that doesn’t think the next version of the program should have an interface overhaul because I’m so fast and efficient on the interface as it is.  However, I know I need a much more diverse skill set in order to be a serious contender for any post-production job.

I’m trying to collect feedback from as many sources as I can to help drive my professional development.  I’ve identified audio editing as my biggest weakness right now.  To fix that, I’ve lined up Soundtrack Pro to be the next program in Final Cut Studio that I devote significant time to learning.  I’m also taking an editing course next semester that will have me practicing advanced editing techniques, and focusing a great deal on audio editing and multi-cam.  What this means is that I expect to rapidly become more proficient in audio editing, which to me is an absolutely must have.

What I need to know is where else I should be focusing.  So I’m asking LinkedIn connections from production houses and major studios for feedback, and hoping I get some.  I’ll also be leveraging my connections on Twitter to get their feedback.  While I will still maintain responsibility for my professional development, I would be completely stupid not to be sensitive to the needs and trends of the industry as a whole.  Social networking gives me a window into so many places I couldn’t see before, and it is an amazing resource for someone who is trying to become successful.

The Value of LinkedIn in Networking

One of the first things you need to do before setting your career as an editor (or as anything else) in motion is to do lots and lots of research about the industry in general, and the companies you might look at working for in particular.  I, for instance, know a lot about editing, but I don’t really know how other people in the industry see editors.  My work on school and independent projects mean I’m usually more than just an editor.  For example, during Issues production, I served as director on a day the actual director couldn’t come.  I also have served as the webmaster of the show’s site since we launched our first promotional video.  All this means that the cast and crew don’t see me purely as an editor.

So I need to know what other people think about me and my field.  And how other editors view the field.  I’ve been using LinkedIn to find contacts at different companies.  Today, for example, I sent messages to a few NBC employees that I know from the Final Cut Pro Users group we are all a part of.  I asked them what essential qualities for editors at NBC are and what skills they would stress to people entering the field.  If I’m lucky, I’ll hear back from them with some very valuable insights.  I’ll be expanding that strategy in the coming days, starting conversations with contacts at many different companies to gain a better picture of the industry.  It’s an invaluable resource for anyone looking to start out in any field.

I’m sure I’ll post more about LinkedIn in the future as I keep using it.  My account there has been dormant for some time, but I’m investing the time to make it truly active.

Welcome!

Well, I never know what to write in the first post of a blog.  I’ve been feeling rather productive today.  Aside from cleaning part of the living room – I’m constantly at war with the clutter that accumulates in my small apartment –  I spent some time updating my LinkedIn profile today, and have been asking experienced editors, producers, and other professionals what a good editor needs.  I think I know some of what they’ll say, should they be kind enough to reply, but I also know I can’t anticipate all of what they’ll say.

My goal is to have full-time work as an editor, with a real career path, in the next 8 to 12 months.  Statistics show that the typical job search takes 5 to 8 months, but since I no doubt will have to develop a few more of my skills before being fully employable, I’ll aim for a bit farther than that.  The whole time I’ll keep up what I’m doing now:  earning my MA in Media Studies at The New School, and working with Scott Napolitano on several web video projects, including Issues.

Just for reference, to find out a bit more about me and the purpose of this blog, visit the About page.  That’s where all that good stuff is.  Well, for now I think I should consider dinner.  I’ll try to write short updates on a daily basis and longer posts weekly.  Welcome, everyone!