Thursday, July 15, 2010

BOSFCPUG Meeting Report

The Boston Final Cut Pro Users Group has been on a bit of a roll lately. While they’ve been holding monthly meetings for several years, things hit a high-point this past month with the Boston SuperMeet two weeks ago, a great “regular” meeting last night, and still to come this week are a Meetup with Philip Bloom on Friday, and two day-long workshops with Philip on Saturday and Sunday.

How is BOSFCPUG leader Dan Berube going to top this?

Seriously, if you live in Boston and you’re interested in video production and editing – even if you don’t use Final Cut – you should be going to these meetings. And though this weekend’s workshops are full, you can still come to the Meetup on Friday.

Last nights meeting was another informative session featuring Patrick Inhofer on the "The Tao of Color Grading,” and Dean Schirm demoing Smoke for Mac. The meeting was held at Autodesk’s Waltham office, which is a really nice space, and there was even free food courtesy of AJA Video Systems and Autodesk. What’s not to like?

Patrick Inhofer

The Tao of Color
Patrick’s session was especially interesting, not just because Color Grading is my current preoccupation, but because I actually came away with a few new tricks that I want to try out. And though he did use Final Cut Pro and Apple’s Color application for the demo section of his talk, most of what he covered was platform agnostic.

For me there were two important takeaway’s from Patrick’s talk: i) don’t trust your eyes, and ii) I need to start using the Parade Waveform monitor...

Your lying eyes
Patrick started off by showing some visual puzzles that demonstrate how easily your eyes can be fooled into miss-reading brightness and color information. Edward Adelson’s Checkershadow Illusion is a classic example of how the eye can be fooled. In this example two squares (A and B) appear to be a different brightness, even though they are actually the same.

Edward H. Adelson's Checkershadow Illusion

Not only can your eye/brain be fooled, it also adapts your perception of an image to make the colors appear how it thinks they should be.  In essence, you have 45 to 60 seconds to look at an image. After that, your brain starts to make the image look "right," and it becomes harder to judge color.

Waveform Monitor tricks
His demo using the waveform monitor was particularly informative. I’ve been playing with Final Cut’s Three-Way Color Corrector for color correction for some time now, but this showed me that I still have a long way to go.

Using a white to black gradient, Patrick applied different filters and image adjustments to show the effect on the Waveform Monitor as the gradient is adjusted. Using the Waveform Monitor in this way you can easily see how the Black and White level adjustments in the Three-Way Color Corrector don’t work in exactly the opposite way.

Even better, he demonstrated the RGB-Parade view for the Waveform Monitor. This splits the waveform up into three parts representing the RGB values. Then using the RGB Balance filter he adjusted individual channels without effecting the other two channels; something the Three-Way Color Corrector doesn’t do. Suddenly I’m thinking I should be using the RGB Balance filter more often..

There was a lot more to the talk, and I’d recommend checking out Patrick’s website:, as a resource and forum on color work.

Finally, Patrick demoed the Euphonix MC Color board. If you’re doing color work every day – particularly if you’re using Apple’s Color app – this control surface looks like the thing to have.

Smoke on the Mac
The second half of the evening was a demo of Autodesk’s Smoke for Mac by - Dean Schirm of Autodesk. Dean demonstrated several of Smoke’s capabilities, including it’s compositing/masking tools and support for 3D (stereo) production. Smoke’s interface is non-standard; it reminds me a lot of Apple’s Color in that respect, and it’s pretty hard to get your head around it’s power and feature set.

Dean Schirm (left) assisted by Jacob Benjamin

Perhaps the most interesting comment of the evening was from Jay Ignaszewski of AJA.
One of the things that many people push back on is cost. Why would I spend this kind of money on this tool? What I think you saw right here is how fast it is. And that’s where you make money. If I can do my job in three days instead of seven, I can pull another job in behind it. It’s the horsepower to finish the job quickly.
Note that issue four of the Final Cut Pro User Group Network's SuperMag has two articles about Smoke on Mac: "Smoke 2010 on Mac; First Impressions" by Dmitry Larionov & Zsolt Besden, and "Stereo Workflow Between FCP & Smoke 2011" by Erwan Le Cloirec.



Paul Carlin said...

"Smoke’s interface is non-standard; it reminds me a lot of Apple’s Color in that respect" - What exactly IS the standard for interfaces? I am an expert with Avid, FCP and Smoke and find Smoke's interface to be the fastest of all three. The pen/tablet and large on-screen buttons allows me to "fly" the application.

Michael Murie said...

What I meant was; it doesn't look like any typical Macintosh or even Windows application. You look at most of the popular applications for Mac and Windows and they have similar interface elements (tool bars, icons etc.)

Launch After Effects and I may not know how to do anything in the application, but at least I know how to quit the application!

For the person well versed in Smoke, it's irrelevant, but for someone getting started, it's a bit disorienting.