Here is a behind-the-scenes look at how I use the GoPro camera on a project:

 

You can see the final edited project here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A client needed a stationary, wooden cut out bus to appear to be moving. Here’s how I created it:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visuals are undeniably powerful.  They can elicit immediate and powerful emotions whether a painting, landscape, or photograph.

Iwo Jima

But when visuals are used in tandem with the art of sound, the emotional result can be magnified. Music is a crucial element for elevating a video from ordinary to compelling.

 

Oil and Water

But what if a piece of music doesn’t blend with the theme/pacing of the overall video production?  The music will then be a distraction to the viewer and detach them from the message of the video.  Songs should complement the story and move the piece along. For example, you likely wouldn’t use music from Metallica when showing a memorial service. Notice I said “likely” because there are no hard rules when using music. Heavy metal music may fit perfectly underneath a video of a memorial service for a heavy metal musician, for instance.

 

Pay to Play

Investing in music is in my view a no-brainer when producing a video for a client.  The payoff from the added emotional heft of a video piece with a soundtrack is huge.  You don’t need to run out and hire composer John Williams to craft a dramatic piece of music. There are many online options for getting your hands on quality royalty free audio tracks and sound effects. The key is knowing the right song to choose for the piece. It’s a good idea to force yourself to listen to least a dozen tracks and narrow down to the best of the best until you have a winner.  The goal is to not just pick any song but to pick THE song to complement the piece.

Multiple Tracks

In most of the videos I produce, I incorporate multiple music tracks. Each song is strategically edited into the piece to elicit an emotion. The music also acts as an audible transition from one point in time to another. An example of this can be seen in the project below that I directed for a Dallas-area hospital.  The music in the video below (Music Box Lullaby, etc) acts as a chronological rudder navigating the viewer through the story alongside those who lived it.

 

Music can, and often does, serve an important purpose in video productions.  Using the right song(s) to complement a message can make your video message have staying power with incredible results.

 

 

Knock on wood: I have never had a back injury. It’s pretty surprising considering the huge TV cameras I’ve lugged around for twenty years. Thankfully, the physical size of professional video cameras has shrunk over the years while maintaining incredible visual quality. One of the smallest and most popular video cameras today is the GoPro. You may have one yourself or know someone who does.

The GoPro made its debut in 2004 and is marketed to the extreme-action, X-games generation: surfing, biking, skiing, skydiving, kayaking.

But weekend warriors are not the only folks strapping on this mobile camera. Most video professionals have at least one (or more) GoPros in their toolkit, including myself. The camera is relatively inexpensive, it shoots high-quality HD video and it’s TINY.

 

 

Along for the Ride

I find the GoPro extremely useful in bringing the viewer along for the ride.  It allows me, as a video producer, to get up close without the obtrusiveness of a large video camera.  It is a virtual “fly on the wall” view that captures people in spontaneous, unreserved moments. Not to mention, it can turn your one-camera shoot into a two-camera shoot without needing an additional camera operator.

 

GoPro on Location

I used the GoPro during a “taste-testing” shoot. It captured people acting naturally without a big camera in their faces. I moved the GoPro’s position a few times, which also gave the edited piece more visual variety.  My primary camera recorded clean sound via a wireless and boom mic (taste-test reaction) which I synced with the GoPro video in post.

The small size of the camera is helpful in getting an angle that would be impossible with a conventional video camera.Space was minimal during a shoot in a small audio booth at the Winspear Opera House. The GoPro allowed for close-ups of voice actors translating a stage show while not getting in the way of their individual performances.

I attached the GoPro to a light stand during an outdoor concert. I fully extended the light stand, allowing for a bird’s-eye view of the event. I let the camera record while I hustled around with my primary camera to get footage of other action.  Later, I moved the GoPro behind the stage, again getting a view from high above the action.

The GoPro camera is proof that big things can come in small packages.

You can check out the GoPro footage in the final edited projects below:

Broadway En Espanol

Sammons Lunch Jam

Taste Test

I was doing some house cleaning the other day when I stumbled across something I hadn’t seen in a long time.  Unfortunately, it was not a Honus Wagner collectible but a stack of outdated user manuals and self-help books. They are all well-worn. Most people will use a manual to look up something specific, but I have this unusual habit of reading user manuals from cover to cover. I’m not sure why that’s my approach to new software as opposed to just jumping in and learning by trial and error. Maybe I actually like all the technical minutiae that user manuals explain.  But I think it’s just the simple fact that I like learning things about software that will make me faster and more efficient on projects.  When I got word many years back that I was getting Final Cut Pro at my job, I bought some training books.

 

 

My wife was amazed that I could sit there, night after night, reading page after page about software I hadn’t even laid my hands on.  As I told her, I know the concepts.  I just need to learn where the buttons are.   So, I kept reading.  I didn’t really know if I’d forget most of it or not.  But your mind can surprise you.  I actually remembered most of what I read, which helped me feel right at home when I started my very first edit.  I’ve done it my entire career.  Many years ago, I had to learn how to edit on Avid.  There were no Lynda.com or YouTube web tutorials then.  I didn’t have a choice but to open up the user manual and start reading and highlighting.  Nowadays, tutorials are everywhere online giving tips and tricks for all kinds of software.

 

I use Lynda.com a lot, especially with Photoshop, but to really find the “golden nugget” of tips/tricks/shortcuts, you need to dive deep into the book.  Manuals can be rather boring and you may read lots of pages of sleep-inducing content, but when I come across a really cool trick or hidden feature that will shorten my work time by 10 minutes, it’s all worth it.  There are two great by-products of reading user manuals.  More times than not, others will come to you for guidance because you know most of the answers.  But the most important reason to hunker down with a manual for a few days is that it is an investment that gives immediate dividends. Those dividends will follow you, no matter the city, job or project.

 

When Apple launched Final Cut Pro X in June 2011, the reaction from professional editors was fast and furious. “iMovie Pro,” as it was often referred to at the time, looked nothing like its predecessor in look and function.  After reading all the negative opinions about FCP X, I pretty much made up my mind that I was moving to Premiere Pro.

I already had the software and Premiere resembles legacy FCP in its functions and layout.  It also has a pre-built keyboard preference that loads all of Final Cut Pro’s keyboard commands.  It would have been pretty easy for me to switch.

 

 

 

But after a cooling off period (and two FCP X software updates), my curiosity got the best of me and I decided to give FCP X a try. After all, you can’t say you don’t like broccoli if you’ve never tasted it.  The learning curve was a little difficult based on the fact that the entire FCP X interface is much different from legacy FCP.  I also had to get my head around different terminology: Event Library, Connected Clips, Primary Storyline, etc.  Once I understood the concept, things went much smoother.  Here are my two cents about FCP X.

PROS

Native Support:
I shoot on P2 cards. On legacy FCP, time would stand still while the MXF media would be transcoded to Pro Res during Log and Transfer. This could take a while depending on how much media you shot that day. Now the waiting game is over. FCP X lets you import your footage and start cutting immediately. While you are editing, FCP X is transcoding your media into Pro Res in the background. Huge time saver.

 

 

 

 

Background Rendering:

Option/R, Option/R, Option/R. I get carpal tunnel just thinking about it. Before FCP X, rendering clips on the timeline was a manual process which took over your timeline while that thin render bar casually moved to the finish line. The new Final Cut has eliminated this by adding background rendering. You no longer need to stop and wait for a render to finish before editing again. If you add an effect to a clip or place a transition in the timeline, FCP X automatically starts rendering in the background so you can keep on chugging along editing your project.

 

Skimming:
At first, I didn’t really like it. But after editing several projects, I can’t do without it. Instead of double clicking on a clip in the browser (as with FCP 7), an editor needs to just move the mouse horizontally over the source thumbnail to scroll through the clip. By the way, you can kill the audio while skimming (SHIFT/S). Visually searching through source clips has moved into “light speed” status.

 Metadata:

Anyone who works with me will tell you I am organized. What can I say? I’m an efficiency fanatic who likes a smooth workflow. FCP X is a welcome tool for those of us who like to label, sort, and organize our media. Final Cut makes it very easy to label clips to search them later during your editing. And because of FCP X’s native support, you can start organizing your media before you can say the word “transcode.” Don’t be intimidated by the new lingo (Keywords, Smart Collections, Favorites). Spend time organizing on the front end because it will save you lots of time on the back end.

The Inspector:

Being a regular user of Apple Motion, I have grown to appreciate the Inspector, which is the all-in-one control panel of adjustable parameters for a selected clip (scale, position, anchor point, opacity, rotation, filter attributes, etc). Apple did away with the Motion Tab that was in legacy FCP and incorporated the Inspector in FCP X. It may take a little getting used to but trust me, you’ll love it after only a few edits. It streamlines parameter adjustments you make to clips.

Magnetic timeline:

I didn’t understand the importance of this function until I started making changes to a finished project on the timeline. This is especially true if you have music mixed throughout your project. If you perform any kind of trimming (ripple, roll, slip, slide), your video footage stays in sync without you having to take precautionary measures.

Patching:
Because FCP X has done away with timeline tracks, you no longer need to patch video and audio tracks to their desired destination. Just pick your source clip, add it to the timeline and move on to your next edit. For most editors, this is an uncomfortable prospect. We’ve been used to timeline tracks, no matter what non-linear editing platform you’ve used. I’ll be honest… this functionality needs a little getting used to but once you edit a few projects, you understand what a time saver this can be.

 

 

Color Correction:
I was downright mad when it was announced Apple Color was an end-of-life application. It is a very powerful color grading tool that I really sunk my teeth into. Even though FCP X’s color correction tools don’t replace Apple Color, there are some positive additions to color correction within FCP X. Each clip in FCP X has adjustable parameters for color correction. You don’t need to add a filter on a clip to adjust saturation/hue/contrast. Just select a clip, open the Inspector and make your color adjustments. One color correction parameter that I use routinely is called “Exposure”, which is like using “Levels” in Photoshop.

 

 

Just call up your waveform window and go to work to improve the contrast by adjusting the highlights/midtones/shadows. You can even copy the color correction and apply it to other clips. Like Apple Color, you can also apply secondary color corrections to the same clip. This can be helpful if you want to alter the color for part of the image using a built-in mask (ex: make the sky a richer blue) after you have already adjusted the clip’s contrast for the entire image. All of this is possible without having to leave the FCP X application. That is a big improvement.

 

Stabilization:
I’ve used it on several clips and it does a good job. Just select a clip on the timeline, click the Stabilization button in the Inspector and FCP X does the rest. The clip is even auto-scaled. This function is a massive improvement from its FCP legacy predecessor, which processed the entire raw clip (not just what appears on the timeline.) I’ve noticed that the Stabilization works best on excessive shake (ex: hand-held dolly move) as opposed to moderate shake (ex: stationary hand-held shot).

Conclusion:

Based on my workflow and project delivery, FCP X works very well.  It definitely improves the overall speed of editing over FCP 7.  It does resemble iMovie in its layout but is nothing like iMovie under the hood.   Does FCP X need improvement?  Absolutely.  In an upcoming blog, I will cover what tools are inexplicably missing from ‘X’ and what editing functions need to be included in a future software upgrade.

 

I was half sleeping on the morning of September 11th, 2001 when my phone rang until the answering machine picked up.  “Turn on the TV now,” I heard from a friend.  As many were that day, I was in disbelief at what I saw.  The images were gut wrenching. Working in TV news, I knew I had a busy day waiting for me.  I was Assistant Chief Editor at the time.  When major breaking news happened, I was generally in charge of producing and editing special video segments that would air at the beginning of the newscast.  It set the tone for the broadcast.  My assignment this day was no different but the subject matter was unlike any breaking news event that preceded it.  For hours, I combed through all the video feeds from ABC News and CNN for any and all video of the disaster.  I had to choose the images and interviews that best illustrated the horror and anguish of 9/11.

 

Sitting in the edit room in Dallas, the attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania stung hard every time I watched it.  But I focused on my job at hand — recap the days events in an accurate but respectful way.

 

After the week was over, I had edited about a dozen of these segments.  Even though I was mentally fried, I made sure to edit together a compilation of raw video from 9/11.  I filed it away never knowing if I’d ever look at it again.  The videotape sat on a shelf collecting dust for a few years.  I was asked to shoot, edit and produce a piece for the anniversary of 9/11.  John McCaa, a colleague of mine at WFAA-TV, was asked ten years earlier to write a commentary about 9/11.  As he put it, he “opened up a vein” and put on paper what was in his heart.  But his commentary never made it on the air and like my 9/11 file tape, sat dormant for ten years until 2011.  It was decided that his commentary would finally air. I was assigned the task of producing and editing the segment of him not only reading his commentary but talking about his own personal experiences in reporting from Manhattan after the attack. I was proud to be associated with the project.  It allowed me to open up the history book and remember a day that we should never forget.