Grouping, Courtesy of Gaming

As you may know, I work a lot in reality TV and specifically with shows that use “Multicam Groups.” Hence,I’ve been doing a lot of grouping lately.  For those whose eyes glaze over at the mention of techie lingo, I’ll put it in layman’s terms.  I’ve been taking multiple shots of the same subject and welding them together so they can be used as a single piece of footage, like a live television director cutting from one camera to another on the fly.

I’ve begun using a method referred to by a lot of my peers as the 1-2-3-4-5-6 technique.  Here’s a piece on the basics of grouping:

The 1-2-3-4-5-6 method is as follows: you create your stack sequence (each layer of video is a camera and you synchronize them in a single sequence- I use the waveform a lot for this) then you put a splice through all layers every time a clip begins or ends.  Now you’re set up.

You then map your keyboard to 1 (mark clip) 2 (go to in) 3 (match frame) 4 (go to out) 5 (mark out) and 6 (make subclip) and create a new bin for groups.

Next, you go to the first scrap of footage in your stack (let’s say you have two shots of exactly the same length, ready to be grouped, just for simplicity’s sake) and you select all layers (in this case, V1, V2)  You play the clips so you’re timeline is focused on the shots you want grouped, and you hit the above numbers in order.  This subclips your mutlicam-to-be-footage into your groups bin.  You deselect the top layer of video and go through the 1-2-3-4-5-6 order again and it will subclip the next level down.  Once you have all your elements of the group in your bin, you can select the subclips and shift-control-G and have a group (select “group by in-point!”)

I color my finished clips red (sometimes you get a shot that’s longer than another and you need to keep subclips of those bits to have all the footage handy, since those bits won’t group), organize the finished bin by color and alt-drag the red clips into a new bin.  Now you have all the work you did on the groups backed up, and you have the clips for the stringout ready to go in their own bin without the extra stuff you used to make them.  Drag those reds (the ones you put into the new bin) into a new sequence and assuming you made them in chronological order in the first place, you’ll have a perfect string out of your footage, grouped or otherwise, that plays like one continuous clip reel.  Great, right?

Well, hitting 1-2-3-4-5-6 can be easy if you have ten or fifteen groups but what if you have sixty?    People make mistakes.  A lot.  Even when you have something so simple a trained dog could do it.  Well, for this, I brought in… a rat.

The R.A.T. 5, specifically.  It’s a gaming mouse.


This device was designed for video gamers who like using a PC.  The extra buttons are intended for special moves (haduken, etc.) or commands that allow careful aiming or firing special weapons.  Great, right?  But useless in the real world.  Well, no.  I used the same driver to program one button to type 1-2-3-4-5-6 and another Shift-control-G.  Now, once I have things synchronized, grouping is a snap.  Because it even has an option for multiple modes, I have one for grouping, one for multicam editing, one for color correction, etc.

There are newer R.A.T. models, but this one is fine.  If you get the bluetooth one, get a white mousepad though.  It’ll help preserve the device’s battery life.

Windows 8 Makes a Break For It

What does this have to do with film?  Everything.

A while back, Microsoft introduced the interface for Windows 8 with its new smartphones and let’s face it, most people think an OS is the interface.  More recently Microsoft showed us what “proper” Win 8 will look like as a teaser for the next batch of PCs.  The truth is I don’t think most computers will upgrade to 8 since it relies on using a touch screen interface on a PC and most people don’t have touch screens on their existing workstations or laptops.  So 8 will exist mostly on future PCs.

And tablets, apparently:

For a long time I’ve said that the power technology has to influence media production is in increasing the reach of humans across distances.  If you have an AE on set loading media into a drive and transmitting it to the editor in a post house in another location, you’re using tech to save time and money.  Such an arrangement means your editor can spot problems while you’re still in the field, saving time planning reshoots.

So what exactly does this tablet mean?

Tablets have enormous potential as media production tools.  On one hand they can store media for review and some light editing (with the right software) so you can work on a plane or something.  Sony has recently demonstrated its new tablet can control other Sony devices.  I think the ultimate use of a Microsoft tablet is not just as a stand alone device, but as a control device for a workstation.

Some iterations of Avid software (like Curator) allow the PC to work like a terminal, letting the big server do the heavy lifting computations when pushing to a playout server or rendering a big movie.  Likewise, a tablet could be used as a terminal, like thereby allowing the editor to work on something from thousands of miles away, with no equipment.  Also, it could work like a fancy keyboard, with total customization to the keyboard allowed, enabling specialist configurations for editing, gaming etc.  The only thing that this arrangement leaves out is tactile feedback, which is handy when you’re touchtyping.  Sometimes you don’t want to cover the image with your hand because you won’t be able to see the image you’re adjusting.

So I applaud Microsoft for its first taste of the future in a while.  And when Microsoft wants people to test it out, I volunteer!  Gorilla glass is killer.

Pickman’s Model

I realized I hadn’t posted this here, despite making it live on Facebook and twitter. This film was made for less than $2K and you’d never believe it. It look amazing, due to some great actors and some clever use of cheap lighting, well planned shots (not to mention meticulous storyboards made after visiting the locations) and a soundscape crafted with an old fashioned tape recorder and some simple filters. Enjoy!

The Vicissitudes Of Media

I had a really unpleasant surprise this week when my computer, while in the midst of prepping media for an editing gig, decided to stop seeing one of two drives in a striped RAID configuration.  To fix this I had to unplug the hard drives in the RAID, plug them in with different cables (just in case) copy off the data to a safe, albeit slow hard drive and reformat the media drives, plug them in again with fresh cables, copy the media back and prep a second RAID just in case the first one decided to off itself again.  This has been going on now for nearly 3 days.

What a nightmare.  I have a new 2TB Western Digital Caviar Black HDD that I just formatted and put into Rosewill RX358 V2 enclosure in case I need the extra space again, only this time I did the smart thing and got a drive with some speed.  This one is 7200rpm whereas the other drive, which is still going after a day and a half (with about 8 hours left it says)  is as slow as slow can be and is infuriating me and making my clients uncomfortable.  I really hate USB 2.0 as well.  It’s too slow for me.  I want a USB 3 card but what’s the point when most devices still don’t use the format?  The nice thing about the Rosewill drives is they come with a PCI slot cover with a SATA cable attached so I could run it to the motherboard (I still have two SATA slots left) instead of running it to USB, but to install that I’d have to pull an existing PCI card because I’m using every slot.  I think there’s one slot left but the video card in my machine is so big that it takes up the slot.  What I feel like I need is another 3 PCI slots!  In the meantime, I am using both my RAID cards so I at least I can feel like I’m getting my money’s worth there.

But let me get back to the inciting incident.  What happened?  I was using Plural Eyes to sync up some media, I was ingesting new video into Avid Media Composer from a firewire Mac Drive and I was doing nothing else.  Suddenly one of the two drives in my striped RAID went down.  It still showed up on the RAID software, but was grayed out.  I suppose the Mac drive might have confused my computer or something in as much as I need to use third party software just to look at it, but in the end I couldn’t take the chance that it was a one time snafoo.  I didn’t have a spare RAID with the space for the media I was working with so I had no choice but to copy it to the slow external drive.  Had I known that freeing up the space on what I now have as a second RAID wouldn’t take more than a few hours, I’d have done that and copied everything over that way.  It would have been a lot faster, but given the amount of time it took to set up those drives and the amount of time it takes to copy nearly 1TB of data, I don’t know if it’d have made a meaningful difference in the time it took to set up.  Anyway, the damn USB drive is transferring data at 6.39 MB/sec and has 174 GB to do.  That’s 178176 MB.  That’s a lot of seconds.

Or about 8 hours.  Take your pick.

Anyway, I have regrouped the drives as a new RAID, reformatted them and checked for errors.  No errors.  So they’re getting copied to.  The data is safe.  I’m just angry that it took so long to fix something on a time sensitive project that was already taking forever because of having to sync up the sound to the picture.  Ugh.