Posts Tagged ‘ equipment ’

Review: iChat Theater and FCP7

This week I got to undertake editing and consulting with Final Cut Pro 7’s iChat Theater option.  It’s definitely been an interesting experience.

When using the iChat Theater mode, you and (from what I’ve learned so far) the other party must both be signed into iChat.  When one of my test runs was with someone running AIM on a Mac, they couldn’t video chat.  Turn on iChat Theater from the View menu in FCP, then start a video chat with the person you’re looking to partner with.  If you’re the one editing, ignore the chat window.  You have better things to do, and your mic will be picking up your voice anyway.  You can also turn on timecode for the chat, so as the video plays and stops, the viewer can see the timecode of the frame.

If you’re on the receiving end, you’ll see whatever video is being worked on – either from the timeline or a raw clip in preview mode.  You won’t see bins, timelines, or tools, just the video.  This means you can see what the cut is looking like and provide feedback, but you can’t see what’s going on in the program while your editor makes those changes.  It is however, hugely helpful.  I was able to preview and entire short film to one of my chat participants, and the quality on his end was reasonable to excellent through the experience.  In my other chat I was consulting on an edit I couldn’t be physically present for.  I had excellent video until I took a break and started streaming a documentary from Netflix.  Not wanting to loose my place, I kept the player open when returning to my chat and noticed a definite degradation in video quality due to my rather overtaxed processor.

Audio from both of my tests was good.  I had some audio problems when I was overtaxing my processor, but when I did what I was supposed to – give over the majority of the system to FCP, audio quality was great.  The participant not editing is audible through the entire chat.  I don’t talk when I screen footage, so I have no idea if you can talk while you’re playing video.

As an editor, the consult was a bit frustrating because there were times I wanted to grab the controls and help out.  That’s not what this tool is for though.  This tool is a way to screen footage to a director or another party who can’t be physically present in the room with you.  It’s not the same as sitting them down in your office – in my case, the living room – and letting things play out on a larger screen.  However, it’s worth it to be able to get live, real-time feedback from key people.

I also attempted a screen share during the chat I was consulting on.  The visual quality of the tiny FCP controls was alright, but attempting to play video back this way is simply too much for a 2-way Wi-fi connection to handle.  If you need to show someone how to apply a specific effect or setting, this would be a workable solution.  However, if you’re trying to preview a rough cut, you’ll quickly run into problems here.

Overall, FCP’s iChat theater option works will for what it’s designed to do – showcase the video.  If you’re looking for more hands on remote collaboration, you’re going to be disappointed by it.  So far, there’s no real workable solution for remotely patching a second person into a computer for editing unless your in a fully networked facility.  A wired ethernet connection may be able to solve some of the quality issues I found during my screen share attempt, but this computer runs off of wireless, and an ethernet connection isn’t an option in my set-up.  So there you have it.  If you haven’t tried out the feature yet, give it a runaround.  It’s a helpful little guy.

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Creating an Editing Enviroment, Pt. 1

Despite what you may hear, you can’t just edit anywhere.  You may be able to throw a rough cut together just about anywhere you can set up your computer, but if you’re going to make that near-perfect final edit, you’d better have a space that will facilitate that work, and not make it more difficult.  Let’s start with the obvious: sound.

Hopefully while you’re editing, you’re adjusting sound levels as they need to be to ensure an even sound level from clip to clip.  However, if you’re sitting in your living room editing (like I need to) with someone watching television or listening to music, this can be a problem.  So my first tip for creating an ideal editing environment is to invest in a worthy pair of noise canceling headphones.  My tip, be as cost effective with them as you can.  Howcast.com has a video on how to make your own for about $20.  I’m seriously considering trying it myself.  A lot more affordable than the set of Shure headphones I’d been considering.

If rigging up your own isn’t your thing, there are two types of noise-cancelling headphones you can buy.

The first, and by any measure, more cost-effective option is passive isolating headphones.  These are the kinds of headphones that have comfy little silicone tips that sit in your ear.  The silicone makes a tight seal in your ear, effectively cutting out sound from the world around you.  With the proper type of tip and proper fit, these headphones can be very effective.

The second option will cost you a bit more.  These are the active isolators.  BOSE is the most well-known of the active isolators, with their very popular QuietComfort headphones.  These headphones sit on or over your ear and are powered by a battery.  The headphones study the sounds coming towards them from the outside world and emit the exact opposite frequency into your ear.  Those frequencies cancel each other out, and you hear nothing.

Of course, if you’re lucky enough to have a space at home or work that can be made completely silent, you may want to forgo the headphones and instead rig up to a good speaker system.  You’ll want to do this anyway for test screenings, but in the right setting, difficult as it may be to find if you don’t have a studio space open to you, they can be your primary means of sound.  I’ll be continuing this series in the future with more tips.  Keep posted.

I Need Colbert’s Grabby-Hand

Just a short note as I finish my chores and prepare for the train ride up to New York in a few hours:

Focus Enhancements has made a handy little machine that digitizes footage from non-tape cameras, and automatically stores usable copies on a hard drive and archives straight to Blu-Ray.  (Well, okay, it’s not little, but it’s definitely handy – and expensive.)  You can find out more about it here.

I want one.