Bringing video in house: The Jigsaw24 Guide

Bringing video in house: The Jigsaw24 Guide

Adding video content to your offering is a great way to win new business, up end user engagement and create a stronger brand identity for your clients – and thanks to Adobe, helping your existing design team get to grips with a new medium is far easier than you’d think. If you’re currently packing Master Collection (or have just picked a copy of Production Premium CS6), you already have all the tools you need to produce cracking content, all in a single, integrated workflow.

Here’s how we did it…

“When we decided to start producing videos in-house, we looked at all the major NLEs,'” explains Tom Cottle, our resident Multimedia Designer. “I’d used Final Cut before, but when I joined Jigsaw24, the rest of the design team already had Master Collection. When I started exploring the video tools that it included, it became obvious that when we were trying to hit tight deadlines, I’d really appreciate the dynamic link between Photoshop, Premiere Pro and After Effects in Creative Suite, and the fact that it was cross-platform meant it would be easier to move projects between machines.”

As well as editing in Premiere Pro, Tom and the rest of the design team can ingest their footage in Prelude, add titles and graphics in Photoshop or After Effects, grade using SpeedGrade and output footage via Media Encoder or Encore, all without leaving Creative Suite. “It means we can divide up jobs if we’re in a hurry – someone can tweak a frame in Photoshop while I’m cutting another part of the project, and because Adobe software’s so common it’s easy to pick up the basic controls fast, especially now that you can do some video editing in Photoshop,” he says.

And CS6 looks to be the most user-friendly iteration yet. “The new UI has me excited,” says Tom. “I often find myself rearranging my panels in Premiere, and I can see CS6 will help avoid this – it’s been more thoroughly thought out, which’ll really help anyone new to video. I like the new larger thumbnail view mode for clips in the project panel, which makes it easier to find the specific clip you need by hovering the mouse over the thumbnail to scrub
through it quickly. Plus with the new Global Performance Cache, everything’s so much faster, which we always need.”

Handheld footage looking blurry?

Not to worry. Premiere Pro and After Effects CS6 include Warp Stabiliser, a neat little tool that lets you stabilise your shots during editing. If you’re shooting video on an older DSLR, you might find that some shots have a strange ‘jello-like’ blur to them because the rolling shutter can’t handle video. This used to be a big problem, but thankfully Adobe have added Rolling Shutter Repair to Premiere Pro CS6. This lets you lose the blur without auto-stabilising the shot, so you can get that naturalistic, handheld look without looking like your footage has been slimed.

Want to add 3D graphics to your promos?

Easy-peasy. After Effects isn’t a full-on 3D modeller like CINEMA 4D or 3ds Max (though it does have built-in integration with them), but the latest version still makes it simple to add 3D text and graphics to your footage. There’s a new, more powerful 3D tracker that lets you identify spaces in your footage where 3D elements will work, then drop in extruded text or objects you’ve created in After Effects or Photoshop CS6 Extended.

Want to work more naturally with 3D images?

We’re big fans of Wacom’s Cintiq 24HD, a giant monitor-cum-tablet that lets you get close to your work comfortably (you can reposition it like an old school drafting table) and, with customisable controls, can be made to suit any programme or workflow. A lot of design and 3D software is optimised for pen tablets, and the Cintiq combines those pen controls with a huge, hi-res workspace that’s exactly what you need if you’re doing detailed 3D or illustration work. You can even set up different configurations of controls for different apps, and the Cintiq will automatically switch them when you move between programs, so you’ve always got your most-used tools right at your fingertips.

For those who don’t have a spare grand and a half, try the slightly more modest Intuos5, which combines a pen tablet and touchpad so you can work more fluidly than you’d be able to using a keyboard and mouse.

Don’t want to wait for renders?

To make the most of After Effects CS6’s ridiculous speeds, you’ll need a workstation with a powerful GPU. NVIDIA’s CUDA-enabled and widely- qualified Quadro range are a safe bet, with the Quadro 4000 being a staple of our M&E solutions.

For maximum efficiency, you can combine a Quadro with a Tesla card to make what NVIDIA call a ‘Maximus’ configuration – one card handles all the mundane graphics tasks, like refreshing your screen, while the other powers through renders or focuses on playing back video so you never experience
any lag. We can build you a custom setup like this mammoth, Maximus-ready workstation (it’s got a 500GB hard drive, an AJA Kona LHe Plus video card for handling your footage and two terabytes of memory), and will even pre-install and configure all the necessary software and drivers. We like to feel useful.

Want to go further than three-way colour correction?

SpeedGrade CS6 is a great place to start, with a vast library of presets and histogram and waveform displays that’ll be familiar to anyone who’s colour-corrected stills before. Powering the whole shebang is the IRIDAS Lumetri Deep Colour Engine, which allows you to apply all changes with 32-bit floating point accuracy, even if you’re working with mammoth RAW or HDR files (translation: it’s super-accurate, even when faced with multiple layers of effects, and it’s not going to freeze on you every five minutes.

Want your audio to be as polished as your footage?

Adobe’s Audition audio editing software is now packing a host of tools that anyone working on sound would previously have had to purchase a separate, dedicated digital audio workstation for, making it a great contender for producing podcasts and adding quality audio to your videos. You can align and replace your shonky location dialogue with your polished studio recordings, and the Rubbadub feature lets you fix any lip syncing issues in a fraction of the time it’d take to do by eye. You can also stretch your clips nondestructively in realtime, preview changes and settings, and a new varispeed mode adjusts speed and pitch together automatically.

Need to offer clients footage quickly?

Once you’ve got your footage, you’re going to need to distribute it. Encore lets you deliver to Blu-ray so you can hand clients a hard copy, while Media Encoder handles digital delivery. However, you’ll need a bit of help from Matrox, whose MXO2 Max and CompressHD cards let you accelerate transcoding to H.264 (the format you’ll need your footage in if you want to send it straight to the web) by up to five times.

To find out more about adding video to your design and publishing offering with Adobe Creative Suite 6 get in touch. Give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email broadcast@Jigsaw24.com. To keep up with all the latest news, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or Like’ our Facebook page.

NVIDIA’s Tesla K20 and Quadro K5000 to power Maximus 2.0

NVIDIA’s Tesla K20 and Quadro K5000 to power Maximus 2.0

NVIDIA have announced that the second generation of their innovative Maximus platform will be up and running in December. Powered by NVIDIA’s new Kepler-based GPUs, the Quadro K5000 and the Tesla K20, Maximus promises faster, better graphics performance for anyone from mograph artists to prospective oil barons.

How does Maximus work?

Maximus technology allows a Tesla and Quadro card to work in parallel to crunch numbers and simulate or render graphics at the same time, reducing the workload of both the cards and your CPU and resulting in faster graphics performance.

The new GPUs

Over to Jigsaw24 3D consultant and resident Maximus expert, Ben Kitching, to explain why we should be getting excited about the Tesla K20 and the Quadro K5000. “The new Kepler-based cards have up  to 3000+ CUDA cores – that’s six times as many as the previous high-end cards like the Quadro 6000 and Tesla C2075. The new cards also have SMX and dynamic parallelism, two new technologies that allow them to make more efficient use of those cores,” he explains.

“On top of this, there is the pioneering  GPU virtualisation, which brings the long awaited dream of remote working to those needing to use high performace apps like Autodesk Maya or the Adobe suites. Imagine being able to remote into your high performance workstation from a MacBook Air and access your production data at full speed and quality as if you were sat in front of it.”

Other key features of the Quadro K5000 include:

  • ‪Bindless Textures that give users the ability to reference over 1 million textures directly in memory while reducing CPU overhead.
  • ‪FXAA/TXAA film-style anti-aliasing technologies for outstanding image quality.
  • ‪Increased frame buffer capacity of 4GB, plus a next-generation PCIe-3 bus interconnect that accelerates data movement by 2x compared with PCIe-2.
  • ‪An all-new display engine capable of driving up to four displays simultaneously with a single K5000.
  • ‪Display Port 1.2 support for resolutions up to 3840×2160 at 60Hz.

The Tesla K20 is no slouch either, adding SMX streaming technology that promises to deliver up to three times as much performance per watt, dynamic parallelism and Hyper-Q technology (we should probably point out that all these stats came from NVIDIA, and we haven’t been able to verify them independently).

When can I have one?

The Quadro K5000 will be available as a standalone desktop GPU from October (we’re trying to wrangle a demo unit before then, so keep your eyes peeled for benchmarks). The Tesla K20 and qualified Maximus-capable workstations are set to follow in December.

Want to know more? Give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email 3D@Jigsaw24.com. For the latest news, follow @Jigsaw24VIdeo on Twitter or Like’ our Facebook page. Visit our website at Jigsaw24.com.

Adobe, Avid and Xsan

Adobe, Avid and Xsan

If you’re a former Final Cut devotee thinking of making the move to Media Composer or Premiere Pro, the prospect of giving up your Xsan and losing all that lovely shared storage might seem a bit daunting. However, all is not lost: there are some surprisingly simple ways to work around this, and keep the functionality of your Xsan intact.

The surprisingly simple bit

Premiere Pro works with Xsan. No, really. Granted, you may have to make some tweaks to your workflow – some users find it works better if you ensure that your project lives on the SAN, with your working media caches being set to ‘same as project’ so that you can carry the same preferences between workstations and editors, but generally speaking, you can keep your Xsan setup as is, especially if you’re using Premiere Pro on Macs, too.

The Avid option

Sadly, working things out with Media Composer is less easy. If you’re feeling flush, one option is to rip out your Xsan and replace it with one of the Avid equivalents – ISIS 5000 will stand in just fine for a standard SAN setup, or you can upgrade to Unity MediaNetwork hardware if you need truly simultaneous sharing of assets between users and platforms. There are plenty of advantages to moving to ISIS or Unity – the combination of AVID hardware and software should ensure reliability and they’re both certified by AVID, so you can be sure of a certain level of support.

The third way…

However, there is another way. Earlier this year, Tiger Technology and FilmPartners teamed up to offer a new, universal SAN management system for FCP, Premiere Pro and Media Composer.

MXFServer has been around for a while as a project management tool. It lets you store metadata and media in universal MXF containers that are then accessed through different ‘abstraction layers’ based on which editing application you’re using. This allows multiple users to access footage in QuickTime or any native MXF file format instantly, and use MXFServer’s bin-locking options to work collaboratively or individually on the project without needing to transcode anything.

Tiger Technology have now made everything that bit easier by developing an API that will allow MXFServer to interact directly with metaSAN. The result is a flexible system that allows for high speed, scalable shared storage to be managed effectively, with metaSAN handing the fine detail at file level while MXFServer takes care of your edit-in-place demands.

The flexibility of this system is fantastic, and makes it a great choice for anyone who needs to collaborate with third parties who may use different system, but it’s not certified by Avid or Adobe.

Wondering which is right for you? Give our consultants a call on 03332 409 306, email broadcast@Jigsaw24.com or head over to Jigsaw24.com to see our full broadcast range.

Jammin’ at Djanogly: Silent music practice in the classroom

Jammin’ at Djanogly: Silent music practice in the classroom

We were recently at Djanogly City Academy, Nottingham, to rig up a JamHub silent music practice mixer. After running through the simple set-up, the students were able to plug in, turn up and rock out without disturbing others working around them.


Visit our shop to find out more about JamHub silent practice mixers. You can also get in touch with the team on 03332 409 333 or email learning@Jigsaw24.com. You can also keep up with all our latest education news and reviews by following @Jigsaw24Edu on Twitter or ‘Like’-ing our Jigsaw24 Education Facebook page.


3D benchmarks: New Intel E5 CPUs and HP Z workstations

3D benchmarks: New Intel E5 CPUs and HP Z workstations

Being cynical, ultra-geeky types, the first thing we did when HP announced their new 8-16 core, 32-thread workstations powered by Intel Xeon E5-2600 CPUs was run our own benchmarking tests. After all, HP’s press release promised that “the Intel Xeon processor E5-2600 product family allows for up to 16 physical cores in a single system, and lets 32 threads run at one time when using two processors, each with eight cores and Intel Hyper-Threading Technology enabled”, and that these new CPUs would be capable of “megatasking”. Who wouldn’t want a go?

The workstations

First things first: what are these workstations promising? Here’s the official word from HP:

“Engineered for the most demanding and compute-intensive visualization needs, the HP Z820 is ideal for customers in oil and gas, mechanical computer-aided design (CAD), mechanical computer-aided engineering, medical, video and animation. The HP Z820 provides up to 16 processing cores, up to 512 GB of ECC memory, up to 14 terabytes (TB) of high-speed storage and up to dual NVIDIA Quadro 6000 graphics.

“For quiet environments with minimal space, the HP Z620 is a great choice for customers in financial services, video, animation, architecture and midrange CAD. Updated to support both single- and dual-socket processors, the powerful and versatile HP Z620 provides up to 16 processing cores, up to 96 GB of ECC memory, up to 11 TB of high-speed storage, and up to NVIDIA Quadro 6000 or dual NVIDIA Quadro 5000 graphics.

“Engineered to meet mainstream computing and visualization needs for customers in CAD, architecture, video editing and photography, the HP Z420 includes up to eight processing cores using the latest Intel Xeon processor E5-1600 and E5-2600 product families, providing up to 64 GB of ECC memory, up to 11 TB of high-speed storage, and up to NVIDIA Quadro 5000 or dual NVIDIA Quadro 2000 graphics.”

Our 3D consultant Ben Kitching, who spent most of BVE chained to a Z800, saw the new models recently and notes that, CPU aside, the upgrades are largely incremental. However, key things to bear in mind include a unified chip set family over all models. This means that a single OS image will work on everything from a Z220 to a Z820 making it nice and easy to manage large estates. There are also larger PSU options on the Z620 and Z820, meaning that you can now have up to 3 GPU’s or a GPU and 2 Tesla boards, though the Z620 is now slightly bigger, which could pose a problem if you’re keeping it in a cage.

The tests: render times and Cinebench scores

Full disclosure: we couldn’t get our hands on a Z820, Z620 or a Z420. However, a supplier did lend us a server blade to do some benchmarking on, so 3D Consultant Ben Kitching slotted in two of the new Intel Xeon E5-2670s (eight cores each, top speed of 2.6Ghz). For comparative purposes, he also ran the same tests on a previous generation system based on two Xeon X5660s (six cores each, 2.8GHz).

3ds Max render test

The first thing Ben did was render interior and exterior scenes in 3ds Max. “I used two architectural scenes,” he explains. “One is an exterior scene lit with a mental ray sun and sky, the other is an interior scene lit with daylight portals. I rendered them both with iray inside 3ds Max at 1920×1080. I set the exterior scene to 500 iterations and the interior to 250. Setting the iterations like this ensures the results are comparable across different machines.”

– 3ds Max Interior scene render – average speed 6 mins 24 secs (previous generation: 13:59)

– 3ds Max Exterior scene render – average speed 13 mins 55 secs (previous generation: 28:41)

As you can see, the E5s get the render done in half the time of the previous generation – a big jump, even when you take into account the extra cores.

Cinebench benchmarks (higher is better)

Maxon’s Cinebench test suite, available for free here, uses various algorithms to stress every available core while it renders a photorealistic scene made up of about 300,000 polygons. Results are given in points – the higher the better.

– Cinebench multi-threaded benchmark: 21.44 points (previous generation: 15.24)

– Cinebench single threaded benchmark: 1.34 points (previous generation: 1.08)

Ben explains, “This shows that not only are the new 8-core Xeons ballistic in multi-threaded benchmarks, they are pretty good in single-threaded benchmarks too. This proves that the cores are more efficient than the previous generation, as they can do more work even though they run slower. Some of these results are actually more than 20% faster than the previous generation, but we are talking about 8-core models going up against 6-core ones. Looking at other benchmarks around the internet and extrapolating those results, it looks like the 6-core models of the new generation will be around 20% faster than the models they replace at the same price point.”

Want more results?

You can also see more E5 benchmarking tests for 3D and CAD work over at Tom’s Hardware – he’s not testing a HP machine, but the internals are very similar and they produce some interesting results, with the dual E5 system blazing through Premiere Pro and Photoshop tasks but flailing when it came to After Effects. (“This is probably due to the single-thread nature of After Effects and the fact that the new cores run a little slower than the old ones,” is Ben’s explanation.)

Pricing and availability
If you’re thinking you can make do with fewer cores, Ben has some sound financial advice: “Not many benchmarks focus on the 6-core models but, looking at the pricing we’re getting from our suppliers, the 6-core chips are priced to match the previous generation of 6-core models but they are faster. A nice win for the mid range.”

However, if you need the full eight cores, the HP Z420, Z620 and Z820 workstations are expected to be available worldwide in the first week of April. Estimated U.S. pricing starts at $1,169 for the Z420, $1,649 for the Z620 and £2,299 for the Z820.

Want to know more about HP Z workstations? Give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email broadcast@Jigsaw24.com. To keep up with the latest news (‘Z820 available now!’, for example), follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or ‘Like’ our Facebook page.

Tested to destruction: the Canon XF range

Tested to destruction: the Canon XF range

Cameraman Paul ‘Mungo’ Mungeam has taken his Canon XF305 to the Arctic, up mountains and across deserts, shooting shows such as Charley Boorman’s ‘By Any Means’ and the upcoming ‘Freddie Goes Wild’, which sees Freddie Flintoff battling the elements in some of the most hostile environments on the planet.

Surprisingly, his camera’s still in one piece. We asked the Expedition Media lighting cameraman/DOP about shooting in a volcano, the challenge of shooting over four continents, and whether Freddie Flintoff could take Bear Grylls in a fight…

What kind of challenges does filming in such extreme locations pose?

I’ve been a cameraman for over 17 years now, and I’ve always worked in the niche of adventure television, so I’ve been in every environment – the Arctic, the jungle, the Sahara  – you name it, I’ve filmed in it over the years! Each poses its own challenges, and challenges are what they are.

The beauty of the life of a studio or a facility cameraman is that it’s a very controlled environment, while we’re out there not knowing what will happen or how the kit will cope. We’re usually facing very hostile conditions, whether that’s hostile people or hostile weather, so there’s a lot of trial and error, but with each experience you gain more knowledge and learn how to deal with it.

What are the worst conditions you’ve had to take a camera into?

There was one camera we took down into a volcano in the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia when we shot ‘The Hottest Place on Earth’. It was a prototype and they sent it to us to see how it would cope, because obviously filming inside a volcano is one of the most extreme things you can do with a camera. None of us knew how it would cope, but it did quite well – except all the paint on the buttons came off, which made changing the settings interesting…

When we were in the Arctic, we were camping and filming in -35 degree weather, and you just don’t know how your equipment is going to hold up. You have to use what experience you have to cover your ass, basically.

Do you have any tips for keeping equipment intact through a tough shoot?

I’m a massive advocate of the ‘look after kit and your kit will look after you’ philosophy. You have to be really anal about cleaning your kit every night, which is a real bore, but if you’re camping in the middle of nowhere there’s probably nothing better to do. It’s all about simple things like not bringing the camera into air conditioned rooms if you’ve been shooting in the heat, and leaving it in a bag outside the tent if you’re shooting in the cold, so that the camera stays acclimatised.

That said, ultimately if anything’s got to go, it’s the kit, because that’s insured. As a cameraman, we do sometimes concentrate too much on the shot as opposed to where our feet are or what’s about to come down on top of us. You have to be very rounded to get through these types of shoots, and willing to think outside the box.

Are there any essentials you always take with you when you’re shooting in harsh conditions?

Too many to name! Chamois leather. Always have a chamois. Actually, I’m a really big advocate for keeping things simple with regard to kit. You can get the same results from simple kit if the right person’s handling it, and there’s less to worry about. In terms of functions, the zebras are vital – often you’re shooting by instruments because you can’t see the viewfinder, and when you’re in the Arctic you have to break some rules and burn out exposure to get faces instead of snow…

How long have you been using Canon cameras?

For a couple of years now. I tend not to be brand-specific: I go with the individual product. If the camera can produce the goods I’ll go with it.

What appealed to you about the XF305?

The size, weight, picture quality and usability. From a professional camera operator’s point of view, compared with other cameras in its class, it stands out as being one of the best. The LCD is noticeably better than other models and that is very appealing, but as with any camera it comes down to the final product, and the picture quality on the XF305 is staggering.

I’ve heard of other cameramen being quite snobby about the kind of camera they’ll use, but ultimately it’s not about size – it’s what you do with it. People think, “I’m only going to use the very, very expensive kit” because that’s how they perceive quality, and a small camera isn’t considered as professional. But something the size of the XF305 can get you into places a lot easier: it’s a lot less intimidating politically, and you can film in any space with it. I’ve climbed with big Sony 800s and you can do it, but it’s not so easy. The XF305, you can swing round anywhere. And then there are shows like ‘By Any Means’, where we were hopping in and out of different vehicles all the time – you couldn’t do that with a big camera. It’s all about finding the right tools for the job.

How does the XF workflow cope with this type of shoot?

Amazingly well. When you have a big heavy camera, sometimes you look forward to the disc change because it’s a chance to put it down for five minutes. With the XF305 you can hotshoot it, so you can film 164 minutes and just keep rolling [the memory cards] over so you never really have to stop.

There are two schools of thought with regard to data management; I just did a shoot for Discovery where we used CF cards like tapes, so we didn’t back them up at all. Loads of people would say that’s too risky, but if you think back you never used to back up tapes or discs, you just looked after them. But then when we did ‘Extreme Frontiers’ the production company requested that we backed up everything every night, which is of course the sensible option, but does mean you have to sit up in your tent and spend another two or three hours transferring everything. In a luxurious world, you’d get a data wrangler, but we’re often working in really basic conditions.

Are there any circumstances when you wouldn’t recommend the XF305?

I can’t say there are. It’s all about whose hands it’s in – if you hand it off to an AP, it won’t look great, but if you know what you’re doing I think it holds up really well. The limitations are things like it’s a fixed lens, so you wouldn’t use it for anything that required a lot of long lens work.

What features would you like to see adding to the XF range in the future?

Detachable lenses would be fantastic. The focus is not as accurate as it makes out so you do have to go on your eye. The major issues are that on the zoom ring, where you’re using it manually, there’s a really frustrating delay, and the fact that the on/off/media button can be flicked over easily if it’s knocked, so you think the camera’s off but you’ve actually put it on media mode and have been burning battery power all night. I did that once when we were camping on a glacier and it could have been catastrophic had I not taken enough spare batteries! Ultimately, you have to consider that [these cameras] cost 5K. If you want something red hot, you go for a 50 grand camera. If you want something in-budget that won’t fall apart, you choose this. For a £5000 camera it’s extraordinary, really extraordinary.

Because of that, we’ve had a lot of interest from universities and colleges in the XF105 and XF305 – do you think the XF workflow is a good one for young filmmakers to get to grips with?

They’re perfect introductory cameras. The 105 is what we use for video diaries with presenters, and I can set it up on auto and let them get on with it – it’s pretty foolproof. The 305 is one step up, it’s more professional, has better ergonomics and it’s far easier to control, so as an introductory semi-pro camera it’s amazing. People might think of it as an education camera, but I’ve just shot a big Discovery show with an A-lister, and this was our choice of camera. You can achieve great things with it, and if you can master the 305 you’ve got far more chance of finding work as a cameraman/shooting AP.

Any advice for those students?

Firstly, work your way up. I say that because I think you need to learn the basics, because they’ll cover you in the future. Spend time as the kit room monkey and when you’re in the field you’ll understand how kit works, you’ll know how to look after it, you’ll have the attention to detail the job needs. Lots of people try and go straight into shooting, but if you want longevity, go in and earn your stripes, make lots of cups of tea, press buttons and ask questions.

Secondly, watch the credits of programmes you love and write to them directly. Go to facilities and houses and offer them a couple of weeks of free work, and if you impress them enough with your dedication and servitude you might get a job. Ultimately it’s all about hard work. We definitely have one of the best jobs in the world, but in order to be the one in a thousand who get to do it, it’s about working bloody hard.

Finally, who’d win in a fight between Boorman, Grylls and Flintoff?

Fred’s pretty tasty with his fists, but from our recent experiences in Canada, I’m sure that Fred would agree… in a fight the Bear will always win!

To find out more about the XF range, give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email broadcast@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or Like’ our Facebook page.

 

Why I’m embracing FCP X and loving it

Why I’m embracing FCP X and loving it

– We asked filmmaker and DOP Den Lennie for his thoughts on Apple FCP X in this guest blog…

 

Perhaps I’m different because when Apple first announced Final Cut Pro X I sat back and waited. There was fury from the die hard edit community. How could Apple do this to us?

Well, I have a different view. You see, I started life as an editor back in 1997. In fact, I cut news  on a two-machine, front-panel-driven suite bolted into the back of  a VW Caravelle crew van.  I traveled around Scotland with my cameraman and reporter, covering news for GMTV. I then became a cameraman myself, and worked for the BBC and then London Tonight before going freelance as a lighting cameraman, and rarely touched an edit suite again.

But around 2003 I started playing with FCP7 and ‘taught myself’ how to do the things I’d previously done when linear editing. Perhaps since the leap from linear two-machine editing to an NLE like FCP 7 was so huge and liberating, I was just excited to have so much power at my fingertips.

I have never regarded myself as a proper craft editor. I could not go into Soho and offline the way the highly skilled guys (and girls) do, so perhaps that is why I view FCP X so differently. While I’m still getting to grips with FCP X and its new way of working, there are so many features that blow me away in terms of speed and efficiency that seem to go unnoticed over slating the software. My view is that FCP X is a little misunderstood.

The defence…

Take for example the fact you can take a Motion VFX template from www.motionvfx.com, pull it into FCPX and edit 3D graphics in real time’ and drop 24P graphics onto a 25P timeline and the iMac just deals with it. Pretty cool, huh?

My next big ‘ah-ha’ is keying. Previously I had to buy a £300 software package (I used Red Giant Primatte Keyer Pro) and I never really got it to do what I wanted it to do. It was too complex for my impatient, not particularly technical, brain. This simply led to me feeling stupid and frustrated.

Well, FCP X is a doddle. In fact, it’s so simple I worried I was missing something. Here’s how it works: you drag in your clip (even with an uneven or badly lit key it works) on to the timeline, then drop the keyer tool on to the clip. Add a solid colour beneath the clip (I use white a lot, and there are about six tints to choose from) and boom, you’re done. Now, in 10.0.03 there are even more controls to clean up the key and edging if needs be, but as yet I haven’t needed to. So what used to take me half a day to figure out is now literally seconds. This is huge for me. My passion is lighting, shooting and teaching, so I want to spend time creating images and not feeling frustrated because I don’t understand a complex edit process.

FCP X  is taking a little getting used to, and some of the features like magnetic everything can get annoying. But in fairness, I’ve never been patient enough to read manuals, so I tend to create more work for myself trying to ‘figure stuff out’ intuitively – my bad. Having said that this is largely how I do most things on the Mac, so I’ve come to expect an intuitive workflow from Apple.

The other cool feature of FCP X is trimming and editing during playback. You are able to make changes while the timeline is in playback, which is very useful. I also like how you can fade your audio in/out by simply dragging the slider on each clip. This is another super fast time saving feature.

I recently finished a project in FCP X. It was shot on the Sony FS100 and EX1, so AVC HD and XDCAM EX respectively. This was then offlined on Avid MC and sent back to my colourist, who converted the files to QT and graded in DaVinci Resolve. I then imported the files into FCP X added Motion Graphics, titles and a music bed, and played out into full-res QT before sending all files to Compressor for my playout versions.

I did this all on my iMac!

Previously I had an 8-core Mac Pro and a Quad-core Mac Pro. I was looking to upgrade memory and  graphics cards, but when I spoke to Lewis Brown at Jigsaw24 he explained how the new generation of iMac with Thunderbolt was optimised for FCP X. So I got rid of my big, noisy Mac Pro, the multi-monitor setup, and now run everything off my quiet 27″ iMac. I have a 2GB graphics card, 12GB RAM and 1TB internal HD.  At  the moment I’m using G-Tech FW800 G-Raid for editing my projects and they’re pretty fast, but I’m told if I go to Thunderbolt I could experience a 10x faster edit read/write, and as time is precious I’m almost ready to press the button on that storage.

Conclusions

To get the best out of FCP X you have to get the right hardware. You need a powerful GPU, otherwise forget it. On my old machine, it took me two weeks to create 16 motion sequences – but with my new machine I can do the same thing in two days. That’s worth taking notice of! Also, I think Thunderbolt is the way to go for speed. While my FireWire 800 drives at RAID 0 are fast, there’s no security of my data, and that is risky.

I just flew back from Chicago a few days ago and edited a nine minute VT on the plane, shot on a DSLR. I did not need any special software to ingest – FCP X just sucked it in and I began cutting using my 13″ MacBook Pro fitted with an SSD, and using a G-Tech 1TB mini. FCP X handled it no problem.

FCP X is challenging but only because we’re used to doing things in a certain way. It really is worth getting over the pain barrier. You will feel liberated if you stick with it. I really believe we’re just scratching the surface with what this new powerful edit system can do. I’m sticking with it.

For more on what you can do with FCP X, give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email broadcast@Jigsaw24.com. For the latest news, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or ‘Like’ our Facebook page.

 

 

New ways to showcase student content at Vision West Notts

New ways to showcase student content at Vision West Notts

As part of their Vision West Notts rebranding exercise, West Nottinghamshire College launched a £5 million refurbishment of their Derby Road site. The new Create centre was designed to help students prepare for careers in broadcast, theatre, dance, radio and more. We set them up with Centrify management tools for their new Macs, and configured and installed a 12-screen software-driven video wall so that staff could showcase students’ work in a more dynamic way.

Managing Mac suites

The college had been a long-term user of Apple hardware, but was having trouble getting their iMacs to work with their state-of-the-art Isilon shared storage system. After discussing their options with our server and storage engineer Tom Holbrook, they decided to use a combination of GroupLogic’s ExtremeZ-IP to smooth out any integration issues and Centrify Suite to secure and manage their machines.

“We did a test with Centrify on about 20 Macs,” said Learning Advisor Tim Warrener, “just to see how easily we could integrate using the Macs on the network with a personal login.” Impressed with Centrify’s ease of use, the college then rolled out the solution across the entire Create building. “It was quite daunting, but the team from Jigsaw24 were fantastic.” Once a management solution had been decided, our engineers wrote custom scripts that would allow Vision West Notts’ team to mount their drives properly.

As well as delivering a smoother, more productive user experience for students and staff, the new management system allows Vision West Notts’ tech team to maintain tighter control over individual workstations, reducing the possibility of failure due to end user interference, and ensures students’ work is saved securely and backed up on the Isilon straight away. Some staff were wary of the new login system this required at first but, as Tim explained, “they’ve warmed up now that they’ve got their own space.”

Showcasing student work

From the beginning of the refurbishment, staff at the college had known they wanted to include a video wall in one of the building’s communal spaces. One of the college’s key aims was to foster links with industry, and they wanted the screen to act as a bold, eye-catching introduction to the building for any visitors, as well as a platform for talented students to share their work. The screen would act as a showcase for multimedia projects, especially those involving video or 3D elements, as the college’s existing display boards couldn’t show this content at its best.

Designing the video wall

After hearing several pitches, the college decided to work with Jigsaw24. The main advantages of the solution Vision West Notts chose were its cost-effectiveness, the flexibility the Scala software offered in terms of what could be displayed, and the fact that, rather than taking a single output and stretching it across all the screens, the system could output a separate 720p image to each screen. This increases the wall’s overall pixel count and reduces the risk of distorting or degrading the original image.

Expanding the solution

During the design process, Vision West Notts managed to free up some extra funding, and decided to expand the video wall from nine to twelve screens. “We weren’t sure what we wanted [from the video wall],” explained Curriculum Manager Steve Gathercole. “There was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, and one of the things that we were pleased about with Jigsaw24 was that we received a very fast response as we changed the criteria. Everything was put in a way that I could understand – I knew what I was paying for and how I could use it, and there was also an element of future proofing, so we could expand it, enlarge it, build on it, and that was what really made the difference.”

Our team headed over to the college and, despite having to swap out the DUI transmitters for
a newer model with better specs at the last minute, managed to get the whole setup up and running within a day. After a couple of weeks of smooth running, power to two of the screens cut out, but we were able to get them back on their feet in no time at all.

Jigsaw24’s Anthony Hammond also provided a quick training session for key users. “I picked it up quite quickly, due to the fact that I work in a multimedia environment,” said Tim. “It’s very similar to a lot of the software we use.” Our design department then put together an animation based on the Vision West Notts logo, which served as an eyecatching placeholder while the Vision West Notts team created their own content.

Looking forward…

“We’ve had amazing feedback on the video wall – we’re adding new content all the time,” Steve told us. Our design team have also given Vision West Notts some placeholder content based around an animated Vision West Notts logo, which Steve says “has elicited some brilliant responses.”

The next stage of the plan is to load up the screen with students’ creations in time for an upcoming open evening. “We wanted to showcase talent and show how great our students really are, and having this wall really does give that impact,” explained Tim. After opening night, he plans to look into giving other machines on the network the ability to edit content on the wall, so that staff can keep the wall up to date with the latest images and information wherever they are.

For more information about AV and digital signage solutions, get in touch with us on 03332 409 306 or email sales@Jigsaw24.com.

 

Inspiring students with iPad at Weston College

Inspiring students with iPad at Weston College

The music department at Weston College decided to help students improve their performance skills by creating a custom app that would allow them to take part in guitar, drum and bass lessons over the web or on an iPad. After we set them up with Sony Z5 cameras and several iPad 2 devices, they were able to put together a professional-looking app, and roll it out not only at the college, but to several secondary schools in the area.

Creating condensed lessons

After being hit by a combination of growing student numbers and budget cuts, Weston College’s music faculty were beginning to feel the strain. “As a manager of a very busy and a very successful music course, I was confronted with, how would I teach one hundred plus students the guitar, for example, with a limited budget and limited hours?” explained Curriculum Manager Paul Raymond.

Aware that they were dealing with a generation of “digital natives” who were as likely to have learned an instrument by watching YouTube tutorials as by having traditional lessons, Paul and the rest of the music faculty decided to put together a series of condensed video lessons that students could view online. “Every one of our students uses the internet, uses YouTube as a resource to learn, whether they’re recording, practising or learning new tunes. That’s opened up a massive opportunity to us,” said music lecturer and bass tutor Richie Blake.

The college quickly realised that the video lessons would be useful outside the classroom too, and decided that rather than simply making them available on the school network, they’d place them on YouTube and, for maximum portability, create an app called iTutorus which would be available to students via iPad and iPhone. “I think using the iPad is particularly appropriate because it’s what students want to use. They naturally interact with technology; they’re digital natives and that’s how their minds work,” Paul explained.

Developing the app

The app was initially developed by Richard King, one of Weston’s Audio Technicians, who’d previously done some development work for the iPhone. “Developing for the iPad is a challenge,” he told us. “Apple put a lot of restrictions on their developers, but that’s just to make the user experience better, so even though you have the challenge of developing around them, at the end you get something with an intuitive user interface and experience.”

Making the app as intuitive as possible was a key goal for Richard, along with making it “really fun to use” and ensuring that “students were able to access the content without the actual app getting in the way.”

Reactions from staff and students so far have been overwhelmingly positive. “My favourite thing is the way you can split the screen between the actual camera shot and the PDF, which you
can scroll down at your own pace,” said guitar tutor Cliff Moore. “You can think, ‘I’ll pause that and learn that piece of music there,’ and then carry on with the lesson, and it’s just a beautiful, progressive move all the time.”

Sourcing content from students

To create content for the app, Weston turned to students from its Media Studies and Art & Design courses. Three musically inclined graphic design students were recruited to put together PDFs to
run alongside the lessons, and a series of posters to promote iTutorus. As well as brushing up on their music theory, working on the iTutorus project has given students the opportunity to work with clients and to a brief – a key part of their FdA course. “It’s just good to get to work with clients, especially when you’re working in an area you love,” explained Nick Reardon, one of the trio of designers. “It’s been really good to get experience at industry level.”

Corry Raymond, a media student who was commissioned to create intros for the guitar, bass and drum videos, was a big fan of the college’s Sony Z5 cameras. The camera’s manual ring controls made filming “a lot more organic. I could move at my own pace, setting how many seconds I wanted [the focus to take] to go from here. I love depth of field, I love focus pulls, I love all of that stuff. So to be able to do all that with my hand is amazing.”

Next came the task of actually putting the videos together. Media lecturer Richard Edkins was already working on another cross-discipline project, in which media students filmed live music lessons so that the musicians could review their own performances. Armed with the college’s Z5s, he and the students set about making 30 short videos on drum, bass and guitar techniques, then edited them together in Final Cut Pro. “It’s been an excellent opportunity for both departments to work together,” he said. “Working on live projects like this really sharpens students’ camera technique. They’ve got

to work to a deadline and under pressure, as [the footage] needs to be broadcast quality, so I think it really ups their game.”

Rolling the project out to feeder schools

After seeing how much students at Weston responded to iTutorus, Paul and his team decided to roll out the app to five local feeder schools. “Everyone was very positive,” said Paul. “I showed [the Heads of Music] what we’d pre-prepared and they all loved it and thought it was a fantastic opportunity.”

Weston secured funding to provide each feeder school with iPad devices of their own, then got back in touch with Jigsaw24. “We’ve been working directly with Brett at Jigsaw24, and he’s been constantly solid, dependable and positive,” said Paul. “Whenever we’ve had any equipment needs, he’s always been there to advise us, he always gets us the best price and whenever there have been any problems he’s been very quick to respond.”

“The post sales support is definitely the best of any of our suppliers,” agreed Richard King. “Jigsaw24 always deal with any problems we have on the same day.”

Independent learning at Priory School

Clive Day, the Head of Creative Arts at Priory School, has been an avid supporter of the iTutorus project. “I use it right across the board, from year 7s to year 11s,” he explained. “The response has been very positive, especially from the younger students, who see it as a really big privilege to be able to work on their own and take their time with it. It’s a big thing for me, the fact that they can go back again and watch lessons several times.”

Students who wouldn’t have picked up an instrument before are finding iTutorus really accessible. “This is providing students with lessons they just would not have come across without this technology,” said Cliff. “It’s evolved to the point where students are coming back after school and at break times and asking to borrow the iPads, so they can carry on learning independently.”

Looking forward…

“Once this is established, we’d like to see it in other subject areas, not just the creative industries,” said Sarah Clark, the Head of the Creative Arts Faculty at Weston. “We’ve thought about maths and languages, but we can’t think of an area of the curriculum that wouldn’t benefit from this technology.”

Richie Blake is keen to involve more feeder schools in the project. “If we can start running this in feeder schools and further afield, it all comes back to raising standards. Further down the line, any tutor will get a student with a solid foundation in good technique, good theory, and we can start them at college running rather than walking, so they can realise their potential in as short a time as possible.” Part of this plan involves creating The Green Room, an online community where students can upload performances they’ve recorded on the iPad, and receive peer feedback before assessments.

For more information about Apple iPad in education, get in touch with us on 03332 409 306 or email sales@Jigsaw24.com.

 

The XDCAM compatibility Guide

The XDCAM compatibility Guide

Having trouble working out whether your XDCAM or XDCAM EX is going to work with your software? Worry no longer. Sony have released this handy-dandy chart that shows you exactly which features of which NLEs are supported by which cameras. Lovely.

For anyone who’s eyes aren’t up to the tiny print (or who’d like a copy to take away), you can download the PDF here: XDCAM Interoperability.

 

Want to know more about what your XDCAM can do? Give us a call on 03332 409 306, email broadcast@Jigsaw24.com or leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you shortly. In the meantime, head over to Jigsaw24.com to see our full broadcast range.