There are a few neat little things I’ve run across as I worked this fall and winter that made my life a bit simpler as I navigated the trenches of documentary television. Runtime for iPhone was one of them.
Runtime on the App Store $1.99
Runtime web site
Runtime is a great take on that most reliably needed tool, the timecode calculator. Time was, these were hardware, and kind of expensive. Like the blue Portabrace gear the field crew drags everywhere (though apparently the new stuff is black?), post production professionals likely had a FrameMaster from Calculated Industries on the desk somewhere. They were pricey.
iPad and Media Composer: Liine Lemur
Ladies and gentlemen, it is time for an upgrade.
It’s been almost a year that I’ve been editing shows on Media Composer and mixing them using an iPad running MIDI Touch and Touch OSC. These tools have made working with audio on the Avid substantially easier. But there have been some rough edges; the connection would go to sleep sometimes, requiring extra taps to re-start communication between the Avid and iPad. Solos and Mute buttons required double taps to trigger and turn off. And then, the faders themselves were a little fiddly; it was difficult to make small adjustments. And it didn’t look quite as cool as I wanted.
The iPad has been a small revolution for musicians in innumerable ways. From easier access to sheet music, to GarageBand as the new four track,to a recent app that provides a 48 track DAW environment, and not least, the sort of programmable MIDI gear I’ve been using to make theses tools which work with Media Composer. In 2004, the closest equivalent would have been a JazzMutant Lemur, a very cool, very high end device. Daft Punk, Bjork, and many other top acts use these devices live. Completely customizable and programmable, multitouch before most people even knew you could do that, I totally wanted one,for no good reason, and now, that very same software runs on the iPad. The same tech that rocks stadiums, I am using to rock rough cuts that are routinely 10 minutes too long. If you’re interested in more general info about Lemur and the iPad app, here’s a nice writeup.
A journey through the exciting world of taking notes on novels, textbooks and such.
I’ve been looking for the best way to annotate digital reference sources I get for a while. Lots of technical manuals for Avid, Boris, FCP, my air conditioner, etc, are available in PDF format, and with the mountain of applications available to annotate PDFs on the iPad, it’s easy to make a folder on Dropbox and simply sync all my PDFs. The files are readable by a variety of apps, and I have ready access to them from anywhere I’ve got an internet connection. I’ve been using this system for a couple of years and it works well.
But there are some kinds of reference works that aren’t great as PDFs – basically, anything longer, without a lot of pictures. For instance, for my current show, my copy of One Minute to Midnight. If digital files had spines, this one would be cracked, and if it were a paperback, it would have more pages with dog ears than without. There would also be post-it notes all over it.
In documentary and the reality shows I’ve worked on, everyone uses Microsoft Word for writing. No one loves it, but they use it because the client requires you to deliver the script in a table with cell numbers on each line, to make it easy for the lawyers, I suppose. But the truth is that now there are plenty of writing tools that are designed to be a bit more helpful to a writer than simply being a fancy typewriter. Tools that help you visualize overall story structure, manage research, and work on the writing all at once.
For almost a year, I’ve been using one of these tools on my iPad (and desktop) called Storyist. The other big app in the category is Scrivener, and that’s the one I used first.
Earlier on this blog I showed you how to setup an iPad to control the audio mixer in Avid Media Composer – at least on a Mac.
I’ve been working on a PC based Avid Media Composer for a little over a month now, running MC 6.0.1. It turns out that setting up the iPad to work with the PC is more complicated than a Mac (surprise!) but not impossible. It just requires some extra software to make all the pipes connect.
By installing rtpMIDI, I was able to make the wireless connection to the workstation.
(pardon the actual screen shot)
Actually I also bought a cheap USB WIFI adapter, and each morning, I set up an “ad-hoc” network on the PC, and then have the iPad join up to that. Then, launch rtpMIDI, and launch any MIDI app on the iPad. The iPad then appears in rtpMIDI, and you can connect it. The procedure is exactly the same as on the Mac – on both platforms, you’ll need to create new session the first time you do the setup. This is the box in the upper left corner.
Then, once Composer has launched, you set the gain controller port to whatever you named the session. Use MIDI Touch to send the controller identification to the Avid, and then switch over to TouchOSC to get your faders rolling. It’s just as functional and reliable on the PC as on the Mac.
Finding a Windows replacement for Keyboard Maestro has me stumped a little; this is what I’d used to bridge between non-fader controls on the iPad and the Avid, like play and pause, mark in, etc. Keyboard Maestro’s ability to respond to MIDI input doesn’t seem to be easily duplicated. AutoHotKey seems promising, but I haven’t been able to get the MIDI functions working yet.
One of my favorite iOS apps just got a big update. Index Card has been revised to version 3.0. It’s gained a bunch of neat new features.
For me, the biggest one is that there’s a whole new view – in addition to the standard card view and the outline view, there’s now a column view:
A quick intro here, as this post is being read by a more general interest crowd than I expected. I’m a video editor, I’ve worked on many shows for PBS, including an episode of FRONTLINE about rebuilding in New Orleans. More recently, I’ve edited episodes of HARD TIME for National Geographic, and I just finished editing several episodes of DOG the Bounty Hunter’s latest season. I use Final Cut Pro and Avid Media Composer to do most of my work, but the job of an editor is often to distill a story from a whole lot of source material. So this blog has been about some of the ways I organize to help me do that.
KEEPING IT TOGETHER IN POST: NOTEBOOKS
The problem: post production generates a lot of papers. Excel files containing tape lists, tape logs, interview transcripts, scripts from producers, story sheets, schedules, screening notes. Many of these documents are referenced frequently, and updated frequently. Sometimes I’m horrified at the amount of paper generated on my behalf during a production.
Part one of this post addressed using an off-the-shelf solution to provide a tactile mixing board for Final Cut Pro 7. Here, I’ll walk you through using two apps, slightly less off the shelf, to control the audio in Avid Media Composer.
UPDATE/NOTE: At the end of this article I speculate about using the Liine Lemur app instead of the tools discussed here. I have worked that out, and written it up here. This article remains the most detailed regarding setting everything up, though.
iPad Control Surface with Media Composer
Now, Avid being Avid, the situation on Media Composer hasn’t been so easy. It was kind of driving me crazy as I spent much of the past year cutting on Avid again after a long time doing FCP job after FCP job. Every few weeks I’d troll the internet again looking for a way to do this; I’d re-read the Avid manuals and stare at all the menu options again and again to see what I’d missed. Media Composer 5.5 supports a few control surfaces – the Command | 8 , Euphonix Artist series, another Digidesign surface, and the ProMix 01 – but I’d failed to get my AC-7 app to connect successfully.
Then, a few months ago, I stumbled on a message board thread, which lead me to another editor, located in London.
For editors who have experience working in audio studios, one of the most painful things about working with NLEs is the audio. Even the best audio subsystem within any video editing system I’ve seen leaves plenty of room for more accurate, less frustrating, and more capable software.
But even when the budget allows sending a show to a mixer who’s got better ears, better software and a quieter room, you still need to make your project sound good along the way. We do this is by a combination of clicking on the mixer windows, or dragging volume level automation up and down in our timelines. This is clearly a sucker’s approach, and extremely frustrating.