Category Archives: Video & Photo Industry

News and comments about what’s happening in the video and photo industries.

Artificial Intelligence is The New VR

Couple things stood out to me at NAB.

1) Practically every company exhibiting was talking about A.I.-something.

2) VR seemed to have disappeared from vendor booths.

The last couple years at NAB, VR was everywhere. The Dell booth had a VR simulator, Intel had a VR simulator, booths had Oculuses galore and you could walk away with an armful of cardboard glasses… this year, not so much. Was it there? Sure, but it was hardly to be seen in booths. It felt like the year 3D died. There was a pavilion, there were sessions, but nobody on the show floor was making a big deal about it.

In contrast, it seemed like every vendor was trying to attach A.I. to their name, whether they had an A.I. product or not. Not to mention, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, Speechmatics and every other big vendor of A.I. cloud services having large booths touting how their A.I. was going to change video production forever.

I’ve talked before about the limitations of A.I. and I think a lot of what was talked about at NAB was really over promising what A.I. can do. We spent most of the six months after releasing Transcriptive 1.0 developing non-A.I. features to help make the A.I. portion of the product more useful. The release were announcing today and the next release coming later this month will focus on getting around A.I. transcripts completely by importing human transcripts.

There’s a lot of value in A.I. It’s an important part of Transcriptive and for a lot use cases it’s awesome. There are just also a lot of limitations.  It’s pretty common that you run into the A.I. equivalent of the Uncanny Valley (a CG character that looks *almost* human but ends up looking unnatural and creepy), where A.I. gets you 95% of the way there but it’s more work than it’s worth to get the final 5%. It’s better to just not use it.

You just have to understand when that 95% makes your life dramatically easier and when it’s like running into a brick wall. Part of my goal, both as a product designer and just talking about it, is to help folks understand where that line in the A.I. sand is.

I also don’t buy into this idea that A.I. is on an exponential curve and it’s just going to get endlessly better, obeying Moore’s law like the speed of processors.

When we first launched Transcriptive, we felt it would replace transcriptionists. We’ve been disabused of that notion. ;-) The reality is that A.I. is making transcriptionists more efficient. Just as we’ve found Transcriptive to be making video editors more efficient. We had a lot of folks coming up to us at NAB this year telling us exactly that. (It was really nice to hear. :-)

However, much of the effectiveness of Transcriptive comes more from the tools that we’ve built around the A.I. portion of the product. Those tools can work with transcripts and metadata regardless of whether they’re A.I. or human generated. So while we’re going to continue to improve what you can do with A.I., we’re also supporting other workflows.

Over the next couple months you’re going to see a lot of announcements about Transcriptive. Our goal is to leverage the parts of A.I. that really work for video production by building tools and features that amplify those strengths, like PowerSearch our new panel for searching all the metadata in your Premiere project, and build bridges to other technology that works better in other areas, such as importing human created transcripts.

Should be a fun couple months, stay tuned! btw… if you’re interested in joining the PowerSearch beta, just email us at cs@nulldigitalanarchy.com.

Addendum: Just to be clear, in one way A.I. is definitely NOT VR. It’s actually useful. A.I. has a lot of potential to really change video production, it’s just a bit over-hyped right now. We, like some other companies, are trying to find the best way to incorporate it into our products because once that is figured out, it’s likely to make editors much more efficient and eliminate some tasks that are total drudgery. OTOH, VR is a parlor trick that, other than some very niche uses, is going to go the way of 3D TV and won’t change anything.

Jim Tierney
Chief Executive Anarchist
Digital Anarchy

Artificial Intelligence vs. Video Editors

With Transcriptive, our new tool for doing automated transcriptions, we’ve dove into the world of A.I. headfirst. So I’m pretty familiar with where the state of industry is right now. We’ve been neck deep in it for the last year.

A.I. is definitely changing how editors get transcripts and search video for content. Transcriptive demonstrates that pretty clearly with text.  Searching via object recognition is something that also is already happening. But what about actual video editing?

One of the problems A.I. has is finishing. Going the last 10% if you will. For example, speech-to-text engines, at best, have an accuracy rate of about 95% or so. This is about on par with the average human transcriptionist. For general purpose recordings, human transcriptionists SHOULD be worried.

But for video editing, there are some differences, which are good news. First, and most importantly, errors tend to be cumulative. So if a computer is going to edit a video, at the very least, it needs to do the transcription and it needs to recognize the imagery. (we’ll ignore other considerations like style, emotion, story for the moment) Speech recognition is at best 95%, object recognition is worse. The more layers of AI you have, usually those errors will multiply (in some cases there might be improvement though) . While it’s possible automation will be able to produce a decent rough cut, these errors make it difficult to see automation replacing most of the types of videos that pro editors are typically employed for.

Secondly, if the videos are being done for humans, frequently the humans don’t know what they want. Or at least they’re not going to be able to communicate it in such a way that a computer will understand and be able to make changes. If you’ve used Alexa or Echo, you can see how well A.I. understands humans. Lots of situations, especially literal ones (find me the best restaurant), it works fine, lots of other situations, not so much.

Many times as an editor, the direction you get from clients is subtle or you have to read between the lines and figure out what they want. It’s going to be difficult to get A.I.s to take the way humans usually describe what they want, figure out what they actually want and make those changes.

Third… then you get into the whole issue of emotion and storytelling, which I don’t think A.I. will do well anytime soon. The Economist recently had an amusing article where it let an A.I. write the article. The result is here. Very good at mimicking the style of the Economist but when it comes to putting together a coherent narrative… ouch.

It’s Not All Good News

There are already phone apps that do basic automatic editing. These are more for consumers that want something quick and dirty. For most of the type of stuff professional editors get paid for, it’s unlikely what I’ve seen from the apps will replace humans any time soon. Although, I can see how the tech could be used to create rough cuts and the like.

Also, for some types of videos, wedding or music videos perhaps, you can make a pretty solid case that A.I. will be able to put something together soon that looks reasonably professional.

You need training material for neural networks to learn how to edit videos. Thanks to YouTube, Vimeo and the like, there is an abundance of training material. Do a search for ‘wedding video’ on YouTube. You get 52,000,000 results. 2.3 million people get married in the US every year. Most of the videos from those weddings are online. I don’t think finding a few hundred thousand of those that were done by a professional will be difficult. It’s probably trivial actually.

Same with music videos. There IS enough training material for the A.I.s to learn how to do generic editing for many types of videos.

For people that want to pay $49.95 to get their wedding video edited, that option will be there. Probably within a couple years. Have your guests shoot video, upload it and you’re off and running. You’ll get what you pay for, but for some people it’ll be acceptable. Remember, A.I. is very good at mimicking. So the end result will be a very cookie cutter wedding video. However, since many wedding videos are pretty cookie cutter anyways… at the low end of the market, an A.I. edited video may be all ‘Bridezilla on A Budget’ needs. And besides, who watches these things anyways?

Let The A.I Do The Grunt Work, Not The Editing

The losers in the short term may be assistant editors. Many of the tasks A.I. is good for… transcribing, searching for footage, etc.. is now typically given to assistants. However, it may simply change the types of tasks assistant editors are given. There’s a LOT of metadata that needs to be entered and wrangled.

While A.I. is already showing up in many aspects of video production, it feels like having it actually do the editing is quite a ways off.  I can see creating A.I. tools that help with editing: Rough cut creation, recommending color corrections or B roll selection, suggesting changes to timing, etc. But there’ll still need to be a person doing the edit.

 

De-flickering Bix Pix’s Stop Motion Animation Show ‘Tumble Leaf’ with Flicker Free

Like Digital Anarchy On FacebookLike us on Facebook!

One of the challenges with stop motion animation is flicker. Lighting varies slightly for any number of reasons causing the exposure of every frame to be slightly different. We were pretty excited when Bix Pix Entertainment bought a bunch of Flicker Free licenses (our deflicker plugin) for Adobe After Effects. They do an amazing kids show for Amazon called Tumble Leaf that’s all stop motion animation. It’s won multiple awards, including an Emmy for best animated preschool show.

Many of us, if not most of us, that do VFX software are wannabe (or just flat out failed ;-) animators. We’re just better at the tech than the art. (exception to the rule: Bob Powell, one of our programmers, who was a TD at Laika and worked on Box Trolls among other things)

So we love stop motion animation. And Bix Pix does an absolutely stellar job with Tumble Leaf. The animation, the detailed set design, the characters… are all off the charts. I’ll let them tell it in their own words (below). But check out the 30 second deflicker example below (view at full screen as the Vimeo compression makes the flicker hard to see). I’ve also embedded their ‘Behind The Scenes’ video at the end of the article. If you like stop motion, you’ll really love the ‘Behind the Scenes’.

From the Bix Pix folks themselves… breaking down how they use Flicker Free  in their Adobe After Effects workflow:

——————————————————————-

Using Digital Anarchy’s Flicker Free at Bix Pix

Bix Pix Entertainment is an animation studio that specializes in the art of stop-motion animation, and is known for their award-winning show Tumble Leaf on Amazon Prime.

It is not uncommon for an animator to labor for days sometimes weeks on a single stop motion shot, working frame by frame. With this process, it is natural to have some light variations between each exposure, commonly referred to as ‘flicker’ – There are many factors that can cause the shift in lighting. For instance, a studio light or lights may blow out or solar flare. Voltage and/ power surges can brighten or dim lights over a long shot. Certain types of lights, poor lighting equipment, camera malfunctions or incorrect camera settings. Sometimes an animator might wear a white t-shirt unintentionally adding fill to the shot or accidentally standing in front of a light casting a shadow from his or her body.

The variables are endless. Luckily these days compositors and VFX artists have fantastic tools to help remove these unwanted light shifts. Removing unwanted light shifts and flicker is a very important and necessary first step when working with stop-motion footage. Unless by chance it’s an artistic decision to leave that tell-tale flicker in there. But that is a rare decision that does not come about often.

Here at Bix Pix we use Adobe After Effects for all of our compositing and clean-up work. Having used 4 different flicker removal plugins over the years, we have to say Digital Anarchy’s flicker Free is the fastest, easiest and most effective flicker removal software we have come across. And also quite affordable.

During a season of Tumble Leaf we will process between 1600 and 2000 shots averaging between 3 seconds and up to a couple minutes in length. That is an average of about 5 hours of footage per season, almost three times the length of a feature film. With a tight schedule of less than a year and a small team of ten or so VFX artists and compositors. Nearly every shot has an instance of flicker free applied to it as an effect. The plugin is so fast, simple to use and reliable. De-flickering can be done in almost real time.

Digital Anarchy’s Flicker free has saved us thousands of hours of work and reduced overtime and crunch time delays. This not only saves money but frees up artists to do more elaborate effects that we could not do before due to time constraints, allowing them to focus on making their work stand out even more.

If you are shooting stop-motion animation and require flicker free footage, this is the plugin to use.

———————————————–

For a breakdown of how they do Tumble Leaf, you should definitely check out the Behind the Scenes video!

I even got to meet the lead character, Fig! My niece and nephew (4 and 6) were very impressed. :-)

Hanging out with Fig at BixPix Entertainment

Cheers,
Jim Tierney
Chief Executive Anarchist
Digital Anarchy

Thoughts on The Mac Pro and FCP X

Like Digital Anarchy On Facebook

 

There’s been some talk of the eminent demise of the Mac Pro. The Trash Can is getting quite old in the tooth… it was overpriced and underpowered to begin  with and is now pretty out of date. Frankly it’d be nice if Apple just killed it and moved on. It’s not where they make their money and it’s clear they’re not that interested in making machines for the high end video production market. At the very least, it would mean we (Digital Anarchy) wouldn’t have to buy Trash Can 2.0 just for testing plugins. I’m all for not buying expensive machines we don’t have any use for.

But if they kill off the Mac Pro, what does that mean for FCP X? Probably nothing. It’s equally clear the FCP team still cares about pro video. There were multiple folks from the FCP team at NAB this year, talking to people and showing off FCP at one of the sub-conferences. They also continue to add pro-level features.

That said, they may care as much (maybe even more) about the social media creators… folks doing YouTube, Facebook, and other types of social media creation. There are a lot of them. A lot more than folks doing higher end video stuff, and these creators are frequently using iPhones to capture and the Mac to edit. They aren’t ‘pro editors’ and I think that demographic makes up a good chunk of FCP users. It’s certainly the folks that Apple, as a whole, is going after in a broader sense.

If you don’t think these folks are a significant focus for Apple overall, just look at how much emphasis they’ve put on the camera in the iPhone 6 & 7… 240fps video, dual lenses, RAW shooting, etc. To say nothing of all the billboards with nothing but a photo ‘taken with the iPhone’. Everyone is a media creator now and ‘Everyone’ is more important to Apple than ‘Pro Editors’.

The iMacs are more than powerful enough for those folks and it wouldn’t surprise me if Apple just focused on them. Perhaps coming out with a couple very powerful iMacs/MacBook Pros as a nod to professionals, but letting the MacPro fade away.

Obviously, as with all things Apple, this is just speculation. However, given the lack of attention professionals have gotten over the last half decade, maybe it’s time for Apple to just admit they have other fish to fry.

Is The iPhone A Real Camera?

For whatever reason I’ve seen several articles/posts over the last few days about whether you can be a photo/videographer with a camera phone. Usually the argument is that just because the iPhone (or whatever) can take the occasional good video/pictures, it doesn’t make you a good videographer. Of course not. Neither does a 5Dm4 or an Arri Alexa.

Camera phones can be used for professional video.

But what if you have a good eye and are a decent videographer? I think a lot of the hand wringing comes from people that have spent a lot of money on gear and are seeing people get great shots with their phone. It’s not going to change. The cameras in a lot of phones are really good and if you have a bit of skill, it can go a long way. You can check out this blog post comparing the iPhone’s slow motion video capabilities to a Sony FS700. The 10x price difference doesn’t beget a 10x quality difference.

There is obviously a place for long or fast lenses that you need a real camera for. There are definitely shots you won’t get with a phone. However, there are definitely shots you can get with a phone that you can’t get with your big, fancy camera. Partially just because you ALWAYS have your phone and partially because of the size. Sometimes the ability to spontaneously shoot is a huge advantage.

Then you add something like Dave Basaluto’s iOgrapher device and you’ve got a video camera capable of some great stuff, especially for stock or B roll.

There are issues for sure. Especially with these devices trying to shoot 4K, like a GoPro. It doesn’t matter how well lit and framed the shot is because it’s often got massive compression artifacts.

Overall though, the cameras are impressive and if you’ve got the skills, you can consistently get good to great shots.
What’s this got to do with Digital Anarchy? Absolutely nothing. We just like cool cameras no matter what form they take.  :-)

(and, yes, I’m looking forward to getting the new 5D mark4. It was finally time to upgrade the Digital Anarchy DSLR)

VR: Because Porn! (and Siggraph and other stuff)

Over the last few months I’ve been to NAB, E3, and Siggraph and seen a bunch of VR stuff.

VR people with their headsetsMost VR people with their headsets

One panel discussion about VR filmmaking was notable for the amount of time spent talking about all the problems VR has and how once they solve this or that major, non-trivial problem, VR will be awesome! One of these problems is that, as one of the panelist pointed out, anything over 6-8 minutes doesn’t seem to work. I’m supposed to run out and buy VR headsets for a bunch of shorts? Seriously?

E3 is mostly about big game companies and AAA game titles. However, if you go to a dark, back corner of the show floor you’ll find a few rows of small 10×20 booths. It was here that I finally found a VR experience that lived up to expectations! Porn. Yes, there was a booth at E3 showing hardcore VR porn. (I wonder if they told E3 what they were showing?)

One of my favorite statistics ever is that adult, pay-per-view movies in hotel rooms are watched, on average, for about 12 minutes. Finally! A use case for VR that matches up perfectly to its many limitations. You don’t need to worry about the narrative and no one is going to watch it for more than 12 minutes. Perfect. I’m sure the hot, Black Friday special at Walmart will be the Fleshlight/Oculus Rift bundle.

Surely There Are Other Uses Besides Porn?

Ok, sure, there are. I just haven’t found them to be compelling enough to justify all the excitement VR is getting. One booth at Siggraph was showing training on how to fix damaged power lines. This included a pole with sensors on the end of it that gave haptic (vibrations) feedback to the trainee and controlled the virtual pole in the VR environment. There are  niche uses like this that are probably viable.

There are, of course, games, which are VRs best hope for getting into the mainstream. These are MUCH more compelling in the wide open space of a tradeshow than I think they’re going to be in someone’s living room. For the rank and file gamer that doesn’t want to spend $8K on a body suit to run around their living room in… sitting on the couch with a headset is probably going to be less than an awesome experience after the novelty wears off. (and we don’t want to see the average gamer in a body suit. Really. We don’t.)

And then there are VR films. There was a pretty good 5 minute film called Giant being shown at Siggraph. Basically the story of parents and an 8 year old daughter in a basement in a war zone. You sat on a stool that could vibrate, strapped on the headset and you were sitting in a corner of this basement.  It was pretty intense.

However, the vibrating stool that allowed you to feel the bombs being dropped probably added more to the experience than VR. I think it probably would have been more intense as a regular film. The problem with VR is that you can’t do close-ups and multiple cameras. So a regular film would have been able to capture the emotions of the actors better. And it’s VR, so my tendency was to look around the basement rather than to focus on what was happening in the scene. There was very little interesting in the basement besides the actors, so it was just a big distraction.

So if your idea of a good time is watching game cinematics, which is what it felt like, then VR films are for you. And that was a good VR experience. Most VR film stuff I’ve seen are either 1) incredibly bland without a focus point or 2) uses the simulation of an intimate space to shock you. (Giant was guilty of this to some degree) The novelty of this is going to wear off as fast as a 3D axe thrown at the screen.

There are good uses for VR.  It just doesn’t justify the hype and excitement people are projecting onto it. For all the money that’s  pouring into it, it’s disappointing that the demos most companies are still showing (and expecting you to be excited about) are just 360 environments. “But Look! There are balloons falling from the sky! Isn’t it cool?!” Uh… yeah. Got any porn?

Back Care for Video Editors Part 3: Posture Exercises: The Good and The Bad

Like Digital Anarchy On Facebook

 

Posture Exercises: The Good and The Bad

There are a lot of books out there on how to deal with back pain. Most of them are relatively similar and have good things to say. Most of them also have minor problems, but overall, with a little guidance from a good physical therapist, they’re very useful.

Editing Video while sitting on ice is rather unusualYou don’t need to sit on ice to get good posture!

The two of I’ve been using are:

Back RX by Vijay Vad

8 Steps to a Pain Free Back (Gokhale Method)

Both have some deficiencies but overall are good and complement each other. I’ll talk about the good stuff first and get into my problems with them later (mostly minor issues).

There’s also another book, Healing Back Pain, which I’m looking into and says some valuable things. It posits that the main cause of the pain is not actually structural (disc problems, arthritis, etc) but in most cases caused by stress and the muscles tensing. I’ll do a separate post on it as I think the mind plays a significant role and this book has some merit.

BackRX

Back RX is a series of exercise routines designed to strengthen your back. It pulls from Yoga, Pilates, and regular physical therapy for inspiration. If you do them on a regular basis, you’ll start improving the strength in your abs and back muscles which should help relieve pain over the long term.

backRX

As someone that’s done Yoga for quite some time, partially in response to the repetitive stress problems I had from using computers, I found the routines very natural. Even if you haven’t done Yoga, the poses are mostly easy, many of them have you lying on the floor, and are healthy for your back. You won’t find the deep twisting and bending poses you might be encouraged to do at a regular yoga studio.

It also encourages mind/body awareness and focuses a bit on breathing exercises. The book doesn’t do a great job of explaining how to do this. If you’re not already a yoga practitioner or have a meditation practice you’ll need some guidance. The exercises have plenty of value even if you don’t get into that part of it. However, mindfulness is important. Here are a few resources on using meditation for chronic pain:

Full Catastrophe Living
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction
You Are Not Your Pain

Gokhale Method

The 8 Steps to a Pain Free Back (Gokhale Method) is another good book that takes a different approach. BackRX provides exercise routines you can do in about 20 minutes. The Gokhale Method shows modifications to the things we do all the time… lying, sitting, standing, bending, etc. These are modifications you’re supposed to make throughout the day.

She has something of a backstory about how doctors these days don’t know what a spine should look like  and that people had different shaped spines in the past. In a nutshell, the argument is that because we’ve become so much more sedentary over the last 100 years (working in offices, couch potato-ing, etc) our spines are less straight and doctors now think this excessively curved spine is ‘normal’. I’m very skeptical of this as some of her claims are easily debunked (more on that later). However, it does not take away from the value of the exercises. Whether you buy into her marketing or not, she’s still promoting good posture and that’s the important bit.

Some of her exercises you will find similar to other Posture books. Other Gokhale exercises are novel. They may not all resonate with you, but I’ve found several to be quite useful.

Some good posture advice if you're sitting in front of a computerAll of the exercises focus on lengthening the spine and provide ways to hold that posture above and beyond the usual ‘Sit up straight!’. She sells a small cushion that mounts on the back of your chair. I’ve found this useful, if only in constantly reminding me to not slump in my Steelcase chair (completely offsetting why you spent the money on a fancy chair). It prevents me from leaning back in the chair, which is the first step to slumping. It also does help keep your back a bit more straight. There are some chairs that are not well designed and the cushion does help.

In both books, there’s an emphasis on stretching your spine and strengthening your ab/core muscles and back muscles. BackRX focuses more on the strengthening, Gokhale focuses more on the stretching.

But ultimately they only work if you’re committed to doing them over the long term. You also have to be vigilant about your posture. If you’re in pain, this isn’t hard as your back will remind with pain whenever you’re not doing things correctly. It’s harder if you’re just trying to develop good habits and you’re not in pain already.

Most people don’t think about this at all, which is why 80% of the US population will develop back pain problems at some point. So even if you only read the Gokhale book and just work on bending/sitting/walking better you’ll be ahead of the game.

So what are the problems with the books?

Both the Gokhale Method and BackRX have some issues. (again, these don’t really detract from the exercises in the book… but before you run out and tell your doctor his medical school training is wrong, you might want to consider these points)

Gokhale makes many claims in her book. Most of them involve how indigenous cultures sit/walk/etc and how little back pain is in those cultures. These are not easily testable. However, she makes other claims that can be tested. For one, she shows a drawing of a spine from around 1900 and drawing that she claims was in a recent anatomy book. She put this forth as evidence that spines used to look different and that modern anatomy books don’t show spines they way they’re supposed to look. This means modern doctors are being taught incorrectly and thus don’t know what a spine should look like. The reality is that modern anatomy books show spines that look nothing like her example, which is just a horrible drawing of a spine. In fact, illustrations of ‘abnormal’ spines are closer to what she has in her book.

Also, most of the spine illustrations from old anatomy books are pretty similar to modern illustrations. On average the older illustrations _might_ be slightly straighter than modern illustrations, but mostly they look very similar.

She also shows some pictures of statues to illustrate everyone in ancient times walked around with a straight back. She apparently didn’t take Art History in college and doesn’t realize these statues from 600 BC are highly stylized and were built like that because they lacked the technology to sculpt more lifelike statues. So, No, everyone in ancient Greece did not ‘walk like an Egyptian’.

BackRX has a different issue. Many of the photos they show of proper poses are correct for the Back, BUT not for the rest of the body. A common pose called Tree Pose is shown with the foot against the knee, similar to this photo:

How not to do tree pose - don't put your foot on your opposite knee This risks injury to the knee!  The foot should be against the side of the upper thigh.

Likewise, sitting properly at a desk is shown with good back posture, but with forearms and wrist positioned in such a way to ensure that the person will get carpel tunnel syndrome. These are baffling photos for a book discussing how to take care of your body.

Most of the exercises in this book are done lying down and are fine. For sitting and standing poses I recommend googling the exercise to make sure it’s shown correctly. For example, google ‘tree pose’ and compare the pictures to what’s in the book.

Overall they’re both good books despite the problems. The key thing is to listen to your body.  Everything that is offered may not work for you so you need to experiment a bit. This includes working with your mind, which definitely has an effect on pain and how you deal with it.

Computers and Back Care part 2: Forward Bending

Like Digital Anarchy On Facebook

 

Go to Part 1 in the Back Care series

Most folks know how to pick up a heavy box. Squat down, keep your back reasonably flat and upright and use your legs to lift.

However, most folks do not know how to plug in a power cord. (as the below photo shows)

How to bend forward if you're plugging in a power cord

Forward bending puts a great deal of stress on your back and we do it hundreds of times a day. Picking up your keys, putting your socks on, plugging in a power cord, and on and on. This is why people frequently throw their backs out sneezing or picking up some insignificant thing off the floor like keys or clothing.

While normally these don’t cause much trouble, the hundreds of bends a day add up. Especially if you sit in a chair all day and are beating up your back with a bad chair or bad posture. Over time all of it weakens your back, degrades discs, and causes back pain.

So what to do?

There are a couple books I can recommend. Both have some minor issues but overall they’re very good. I’ll talk about them in detail in Part 3 of this series.

Back RX by Vijay Vad
8 Steps To a Pain Free Back by Esther Gokhale

Obviously for heavy objects, keep doing what you’re probably already doing: use your legs to lift.

But you also want to use your legs to pick up almost any object. Using the same technique to pick up small objects works as well. That said, all the squatting can be a bit tough on the knees, so lets talk about hip hinging.

Woman hinging from the hips in a way that puts less pressure on your back(the image shows a woman stretching but she’s doing it with a good hip hinge. Since it’s a stretch, it’s, uh, a bit more exaggerated than you’d do picking something up. Not a perfect image for this post, but we’ll roll with it.)

Imagine your hip as a door hinge. Your upright back as the door and your legs as the wall. Keep your back mostly flat and hinge at the hips. Tilting your pelvis instead of bending your back. Then bend your legs to get the rest of the way to the floor. This puts less strain on your back and not as much strain on your knees as going into a full squat. Also, part of it is to engage your abs as you’re hinging. Strong abs help maintain a strong back.

Directions on how to hip hinge, showing a good posture

There’s some disagreement on the best way to do this. Some say bend forward (with your knees slightly bent) until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings, then bend your knees. I usually hinge the back and bend the knees at the same time. This feels better for my body, but everyone is different so try it both ways. There is some truth that the more length you have in your hamstrings, the more you can hinge. However, since most people, especially those that sit a lot, have tight hamstrings, it’s just easier to hinge and bend at the same time.

But the really important bit is to be mindful of when you’re bending, regardless of how you do it. Your back isn’t going to break just from some forward bending, but the more you’re aware of how often you bend and doing it correctly as often as possible, the better off you’ll be.

This also applies to just doing regular work, say fixing a faucet or something where you have to be lower to the ground. If you can squat and keep a flat back instead of bending over to do the work, you’ll also be better off.

If this is totally new to you, then your back may feel a little sore as you use muscles you aren’t used to using. This is normal and should go away. However, it’s always good to check in with your doctor and/or physical therapist when doing anything related to posture.

In Part 3 I’ll discuss the books I mentioned above and some other resources for exercises and programs.

Taking Care of Your Back for Video Editors, Part 1: The Chair

Like Digital Anarchy On Facebook

 

Software developers, like video editors, sit a lot. I’ve written before about my challenges with Repetitive  Stress Problems and how I dealt with them. (Awesome chair, great ergonomics, and a Wacom tablet). These problems are more about my wrists, shoulders, and neck.

I fully admit to ignoring everyone’s advice about sitting properly and otherwise taking care of my back, so I expect you’ll probably igrnore this (unless you already have back pain). But you shouldn’t. And maybe some of you will listen and get some tips to help you avoid having to take a daily diet of pain meds just to get through a video edit.

Video editors need good posture

I’ve also always had problems with my back. The first time I threw it out I was 28, playing basketball. Then add in being physically active in a variety of other ways… martial arts, snowboarding, yoga, etc… my back has taken some beatings over the years. And then you factor in working at a job for the last 20 years that has me sitting a lot.

And not sitting very well for most of those 20 years. Hunched over a keyboard and slouching in your chair at the same time is a great way of beating the hell out of your back and the rest of your body. But that was me.

So, after a lot of pain and an MRI showing a couple degraded discs, I’m finally taking my back seriously. This is the first of several blog posts detailing some of the things I’ve learned and what I’m doing for my back. I figure it might help some of you all.

I’ll start with the most obvious thing: Your chair. Not only your chair BUT SITTING UPRIGHT IN IT. It doesn’t help you to have a $1000 chair if you’re going to slouch in it. (which I’m known to be guilty of)

A fully adjustable chair can help video editors reduce back pain

The key thing about the chair is that it’s adjustable in as many ways as possible. This way you can set it up perfectly for your body, which is key. Personally, I have a Steelcase chair which I like, but most high end chairs are very configurable and come in different sizes. (I’m not sure the ‘ball chair’ is going to be good for video editing, but some people love them for normal office work) There are also adjustable standing desks, which allow you to alternate between sitting and standing, which is great. Being in any single position for too long is stressful on your body.

The other key thing is your posture. Actually sitting in the chair correctly. There are slightly different opinions  on what is precisely the best sitting posture (see Part 3 for more on this), but generally, the illustration below is a good upright position. Feet on the ground, knees at right angles, butt all the way back with some spine curvature, but not too much, the shoulders slightly back and the head above the shoulders (not forward as we often do, which puts a lot of strain on the neck. If you keep leaning in to see your monitor, get glasses or move the monitor closer!).

It can also help to have your abdominal muscle engaged to prevent to much curvature in the spine. This can be a little bit of work, but if you’re paying attention to your posture, then it should just come naturally as you maintain the upright position.

You want to sit upright in your chair for good back healthThere’s a little bit of disagreement on how much curvature you should have while sitting. Some folks recommend even less than what you see above. We’ll talk more about it in Part 3.

One other important thing is to take breaks, either walk around or stretch. Sitting for long periods really puts a lot of stress on your discs and is somewhat unnatural for your body, as your ancestors probably weren’t doing a lot of chair sitting. Getting up to walk, do a midday yoga class, or just doing a little stretching every 45 minutes or so will make a big difference. This is one of the reasons a standing desk is helpful.

So that’s it for part 1. Get yourself a good chair and learn how to sit in it! It’ll greatly help you keep a healthy, happy back.

In Part 2 we’ll discuss picking up your keys, sneezing, and other dangers to back health lurking in plain sight.

We Live in A Tron Universe: NASA, Long Exposure Photography and the Int’l Space Station

Like Digital Anarchy On Facebook

 

I’m a big fan of long exposure photography (and time lapse, and slow motion, etc. etc. :-). I’ve done some star trail photography from the top of Haleakala in Maui. 10,000 feet up on a rock in the middle of the Pacific is a good place for it! So I was pretty blown away by some of the images released by NASA that were shot by astronaut Don Pettit.

Long Exposure photos of star trails from spaceI think these have been up for a while, they were shot in 2012, but it’s the first I’ve seen of them. Absolutely beautiful imagery. Although they make the universe look like the TRON universe. These were all shot with 30 second exposures and then combined together, as Don says:

“My star trail images are made by taking a time exposure of about 10 to 15 minutes. However, with modern digital cameras, 30 seconds is about the longest exposure possible, due to electronic detector noise effectively snowing out the image. To achieve the longer exposures I do what many amateur astronomers do. I take multiple 30-second exposures, then ‘stack’ them using imaging software, thus producing the longer exposure.”

You can see the entire 36 photo set on Flickr.

Having done long exposures myself that were 10 or 15 minutes, the images are noisy but not that bad. I wonder if being in space causes the camera sensors to pick up more noise. If anyone knows, feel free to leave a comment.

If you’re stuck doing star photography from good ol’ planet Earth, then noise reduction software helps. You also want to shoot RAW as most RAW software will automatically remove dead pixels. These are particularly annoying with astro photography.

But the space station photos are really amazing, so head over to Flickr and check them out! These are not totally public domain, they can’t be used commercially, but you can download the high res versions of the photos and print or share them as you see fit. Here’s a few more to wet your appetite:

The shots were created in Photoshop by combining multiple 30 second exposure photosAmazing TRON like photos taken from the space station

Tips on Photographing Sports – Sneaking a Lens In and Other Stories

Like Digital Anarchy On Facebook

 

I love photographing sports. It’s a lot like shooting wildlife/Humpback Whales in many ways. It requires a lot of patience and quick shooting skills.

Unfortunately, I’m usually limited to shooting from the stands. So this makes the process a little harder but if you can get good seats you can make it work. As it happens, I recently got third row seats to the Golden State Warriors game against the Lakers. So here are a few tips for getting great shots if you can’t actually get a press pass.

Depth of field is always important when photographing sports

The first thing you need to check is how long of a lens you’re allowed to bring in. In this case it was a 3″ or less. So that’s what needs to be attached to the camera. (see the end of the article for some ‘other’ suggestions)

I ended up using a 100mm f2 lens for these shots, which is exactly 3″. You want as fast of a lens as possible. You’re not going to be able to use a flash, so you’re reliant on the stadium lighting which isn’t particularly bright. f2.8 is really a minimum and even then you’ll have the ISO higher than you’d like. Like wildlife, the action moves fast, so the wider the aperture, the faster the shutter speed you’ll have, and the sharper the shots will be.

The minimum shutter speed is probably about 1/500 and you’d like 1/2000 or higher. Hence the need for a f2 or f2.8 lens. Otherwise, the action shots, where you really want it to be sharp, will be a bit blurry.

Seat placement matters. Obviously you want to be as close as possible, but you also want to be at the ends of the court/field. That’s where most of the action happens. Center court seats may be great for watching the game, but behind the goal seats get you up close and personal for half of the action. Much better for photography and hence one of the reasons the press photogs are on the baseline.

Photographing basketball is best from the baseline

What if you’re not happy with a 3″ lens? Well, you COULD give a friend a larger lens and let them try and smuggle it in. Since it’s not attached to the camera, most of the security people don’t recognize it as a camera lens. Just say it’s, you know, a binocular or something (monocular? ;-). Usually it works, worst thing that happens is you have to go back to the car and store it. You’re not trying to break the rules, you’re, uh, helping train the security staff.

If you do manage to get a larger lens in, don’t expect to be able to use it much. One of the ushers will eventually spot it (especially if it’s a big, white, L Canon lens) and call you on it. You’ll have to swap it for the other lens (or risk getting kicked out). Wait until the game is well underway before trying to use it.

Of course, the basic tips apply… Shoot RAW, make sure you have a large, empty memory card(s), a fully charged battery, don’t spill beer on the camera, etc., etc. But the critical component is getting close to  the end of the court and having a very fast shutter speed (which usually means a very wide aperture).

Shooting RAW is soooo critical. It’ll give you some flexibility to adjust the exposure and do some sharpening. Since you’ll probably have a relatively high ISO, the noise reduction capabilities are important as well. Always shoot RAW.

If you’re a photographer that loves sports, it is definitely fun to get good seats and work on your sports shooting skills. Can be a bit expensive to do on a regular basis though!

Fast Shutter Speed and very wide aperture is critical for shooting sports

 

Avoiding Prop Flicker when Shooting Drone Video Footage

Like Digital Anarchy On Facebook

 

We released a new tutorial showing how to remove prop flicker, so if you have flicker problems on drone footage, check that out. (It’s also at the bottom of this post)

But what if you want to avoid prop flicker altogether? Here’s a few tips:

But first, let’s take a look at what it is. Here’s an example video:

1- Don’t shoot in such a way that the propellers are between the sun and the camera. The reason prop flicker happens is the props are casting shadows onto the lens. If the sun is above and in front of the lens, that’s where you’ll get the shadows and the flicker. (shooting sunrise or sunset is fine because the sun is below the props)

1b- Turning the camera just slightly from the angle generating the flicker will often get rid of the flicker. You can see this in the tutorial below on removing the flicker.

2- Keep the camera pointed down slightly. It’s more likely to catch the shadows if it’s pointing straight out from the drone at 90 degrees (parallel to the props). Tilt it down a bit, 10 or 20 degrees, and that helps a lot.

3- I’ve seen lens hoods for the cameras. Sounds like they help, but I haven’t personally tried one.

Unfortunately sometimes you have to shoot something in such a way that you can’t avoid the prop flicker. In which cases using a plugin like Flicker Free allows you to eliminate or reduce the flicker problem. You can see how to deflicker videos with prop flicker in the below tutorial.

Removing Flicker from Stadium Lights in Slow Motion Football Video

Like Digital Anarchy On Facebook
One common problem you see a lot is flickering from stadium lights when football or other sports are played back in slow motion. You’ll even see it during the NFL football playoffs. Stadium lights tend to be low quality lights and the brightness fluctuates. You can’t see it normally, but play video back at 240fps… and flicker is everywhere.

Aaron at Griffin Wing Video Productions ran into this problem shooting video of the high school football championship at the North Carolina State stadium. It was a night game and he got some great slomo shots shooting with the Sony FS700, but a ton of flicker from the stadium lights.

Let’s take a look at a couple of his examples and break down how our Flicker Free plugin fixed the problem for him.

First example is just a player turning his head as he gazes down on the field. There’s not a lot of fast movement so this is relatively easy. Here are the Flicker Free plugin parameters from within After Effects (although it works the same if you’re using Premiere, FCP, Avid, etc.)

Video Footage of Football Player with Flickering LightsNotice that ‘Detect Motion’ is turned off and the settings for Sensitivity and Time Radius. Well discuss those in a moment.

Here’s a second example of a wide receiver catching the football. Here there’s a lot more action (even in slow motion), so the plugin needs different settings to compensate for that motion. Here’s the before/after video footage:

Here are the Flicker Free plugin settings:

Football player catching ball under flickering lights

So, what’s going on? You’ll notice that Detect Motion is off. Detect Motion tries to eliminate the ghosting (see below for an example) that can happen when removing flicker from a bunch of frames. (FF analyzes multiple frames to find the correct luminance for each pixel. But ghosts or trails can appear if the pixel is moving) Unfortunately it also reduces the flicker removal capabilities. The video footage we have of the football team has some pretty serious flicker so we need Detect Motion off.

With Detect Motion off we need to worry about ghosting. This means we need to reduce the Time Radius to a relatively low value.

Time Radius tells Flicker Free how many frames to look at before and after the current frame. So if it’s set to 5, it’ll analyze 11 frames: the current frame, 5 before it, and 5 after it. The more frames you analyze, the greater the chance objects will have moved in other frames… resulting in ghosting.

With the player looking our the window, there’s not a lot of motion. Just the turning of his head. So we can get away with a Time Radius of 5 and a Sensitivity of 3. (More about Sensitivity in a moment)

The video with the receiver catching the ball has a LOT more motion. Each frame is very different from the next. So there’s a good chance of ghosting. Here we’ve set Time Radius to 3, so it’s analyzing a total of 7 frames, and set Sensitivity to 10. A Time Radius of 3 is about as low as you can realistically go. In this case it works and the flicker is gone. (As you can see in the above video)

Here’s an example of the WRONG settings and what ‘ghosting’ looks like:

Blurry Video Caused by incorrect Flicker Free settings

Sensitivity is, more or less,  how large of an area the Flicker Free plugin analyzes. Usually I start with a low value like 3 and increase it to find a value that works best. Frequently a setting of 3 works as lower values reduce the flicker more. However, low values can result in more ghosting, so if you have a lot of motion sometimes 5 or 10 works better. For the player turning his head, three was fine. For the receiver we needed to increase it to 10.

So that’s a breakdown of how to get rid of flicker from stadium lights! Thanks to Aaron at Griffin Wing Video Productions for the footage. You can see their final video documenting the High School Football Championship on YouTube.

And you can also view more Flicker Free tutorials if you need additional info on how to get the most out of the Flicker Free plugin in After Effects, Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, Avid, or Resolve.

Don’t Go To Art School, Especially for Video/Film/VFX

Like Digital Anarchy On Facebook

 

I’ve written about this before, but Forbes recently wrote a couple awesome pieces taking down San Francisco’s Academy of Art, really spelling out why for-profit art schools are such an overpriced scam. And they are.

Rule #1: Don’t go into massive debt to get an art degree

The ‘Starving Artist’ is a thing. Don’t compound it with debt.

For-profit schools will promise you anything to get you to take out a federally backed student loan. You can’t bankrupt yourself out of that loan so it’s guaranteed money to the school. They could care less if you succeed. They will certainly promote those few students that do succeed in a big way, but most end up like our former admin assistant:  Academy of Art Photography degree, a ton of debt, and a $15/hr job as an admin assistant.

And those that are successful, would be successful anywhere because they have the right mix of work ethic, skills, and talent. Especially the work ethic.

There are amazing instructors at even community colleges. I’m going to do another post soon profiling Community College of San Francisco and their excellent broadcast department with a great studio. Full switcher and control room, 4K cameras, greenscreen and all of it.  Misha Antonich, the head of the department, has set up a great program for all things broadcast. We hired our QA/Tech Support guy out of there. (Tor, who some of you have probably talked with)

So don’t get caught up in the supposed ‘prestige’ (i.e. marketing budget) of a for-profit school or other expensive school. It’s an illusion. Expensive tuition does not mean better results. You’ll do just fine at a community or state college. Ultimately, it’s your work ethic and demo reel that will make you successful.

Rule #2: Work ethic and internships

You’ll learn more in 3 months of an internship than a year in school. It’s also something that will stand out on your resume MUCH more than where you went to school. Make it happen.

The jobs you’ve had are what sells you. Spending $100K on a filmmaking or VFX degree is usually just a good way to get entry level jobs. There are much cheaper ways to get entry level jobs.

To get internships (and entry level jobs), you’ll need to do a lot of work on your own. But if you’re really into editing, vfx, or whatever this should be something you WANT to do. You should be totally into the type of work you’re trying to get. If you’re working on a personal project and you look up and realize it’s 4am because you’ve completely lost track of time because you’re so into what you’re doing that the time flys by…. that’s a really good indication you’re doing the right thing.

So dig through as many online tutorials as you can, do lots of personal projects, get together with other students and do cool stuff. It’ll all get you to the point of having a reel you can use to get internships.

One caveat: Just because someone is teaching it, doesn’t mean they’re right. With editing or visual effects there’s usually 10 different ways of doing anything and they’re all correct depending on the situation. For example, you’ll find the occasional colorist throwing an online hissy fit over digital beauty work using Beauty Box because they think it’s putting beauty artists out of work (yes, I’ve actually had an online argument about this) or it’s not true beauty work or whatever. However, you can use Beauty Box in many workflows and we have many excellent colorists that use Beauty Box for beauty work on feature films, high end music videos and national commercials. But some folks have _their_ way of doing something and feel that’s the only way. Don’t be like that. Be flexible and you’ll be a better artist (not to mention being able to work with different time/budget constraints).

Rule #3: Networking and self promotion

The other benefit of internships is you get to meet people. This is critical.

Of course, there are many other ways of meeting people. Go to user groups, join professional meetups, anything where you can meet folks that are doing what you want to do. It’s a good way to get internships, jobs, and good advice.

And you need to promote yourself. Most artists don’t get into doing art because they enjoy sales, but that is the business side to the industry. You need to talk about yourself or, at least, what you’ve been doing. Make sure you have a business card, a web site with your demo reel on it, and examples of your work on your phone.

The business side is every bit as important as your work when it comes to being successful. ALL schools tend to gloss over this. Art majors don’t want to take business classes. If you’re going to succeed, it’s critical that you understand the business side.

Rule #4: Persistence

Don’t give up and definitely follow up. If someone introduces you to someone that has a job/intern opening, follow up with them. Make sure they know you’re interested. Ask them if they need any additional information and don’t be afraid to ask for an interview. People want to hire folks that are proactive and show a willingness to make an effort. It matters. A lot.

Even if there’s not a job involved, most people are willing to help you. But you have to be proactive about it. Don’t be annoying, but if you’ve interacted with them and gotten their card don’t be afraid to send them the occasional email updating them on new projects or things you’ve completed.

So skip the high priced art school. Go to a community college or state college, go through every tutorial you can online, meet folks, do your own projects, get internships, and meet as many people as you can. That’s how you get the skills and contacts that will make you successful. Just get out there and do it. Get an entry level job (you’re going to get one anyways, degree or no) and work your way up.

A school is just a good place to get feedback, get some project ideas, and meet like minded students. It doesn’t matter if spend $100/credit or $1000.

Here’s another good article on the film school debate, rising film school costs, and the ever dropping costs of pro camera equipment.

 

 

Wacom Tablets and Repetitive Stress Injuries

Like Digital Anarchy On Facebook

 

I’ve written about this before, but Thanksgiving came along this year and I left on a 5 day, two city trip without my Wacom tablet. Which reminded me exactly why I’m thankful for the tablet.

The downside to running Digital Anarchy is that I don’t really get many  days off. Usually I’m working in some capacity at least a couple hours a day even on vacations. For trips (like Thanksgiving) that involve plane flights and other downtime, it’s usually a lot more than two hours. (Not really complaining, just pointing out that it’s a thing. There’s plenty of awesome stuff about being Chief Executive Anarchist and coming up with cool video plugins for y’all)

I’ve used a Wacom tablet as a mouse replacement since around 2003. I used to run a user group called Bay Area Motion Graphics. Because I and one other DA employee had RSI problems, I got a variety of ‘ergonomic’ devices and had DA folks and members of BAMG try them out. BAMG was mostly video editors and motion graphic artists, to give you some idea of who was using them.

Wacom tablet used with Digital Anarchy Video PluginsExtra space on your keyboard drawer, yes. Clean desk, no.

We swapped around the weird looking keyboards, joystick mouse things, trackballs, tablets, and other oddments. We then got together and decided which devices seemed to offer relief to the most people.

One of the devices that stood out, especially for me, was the Wacom tablet. Once you get used to using it as a mouse replacement it’s really an awesome device. I have multiple tablets and use them constantly in the office and while traveling. It makes using the computer much less painful.

That’s in stark contrast to the last few days. No tablet, so I’ve been forced to use the track pad on the two computers I carry around. My wrists immediately started to ache and tingle. Not good. It’s amazing that for the most part I have no problems when using the tablets, but then after a couple days not using them, much of the pain comes back. Of course, RSI  is a whole body thing. Not only do your wrists hurt, but you’re in a less ergonomic position (f’ing hotel chairs) so my shoulders and back hurt as well.

Why are the Wacom tablets so effective for helping with RSI? I’m not sure to be honest. But I feel that 1) you’re holding the pen as you would a normal pen. This is a skill you’ve been working on since you were a small child and the muscle memory is very strong. 2) you’re not just using one body part over and over again (like your index finger on a mouse). You’re using your whole hand, wrist and arm. I feel like this distributes the stress over a greater area.

Whatever the case, for me, the tablets have been a godsend. It takes some time to get really familiar with them, but it’s been well worth it for me. Of course, it’s just one part of having an ergonomic workstation but it’s a big one (a great chair is another big one). Your health is critical. Take care of yourself.

Why VR Will Fail. (and AR too)

Like Digital Anarchy On Facebook

 

First off, neither will fail completely. VR will succeed in games and AR will end up like the Segway… used by mall cops and tourists. And, yeah, there’ll be some industrial and entertainment (e.g. theme park rides) applications for both.

But widespread consumer use? No. Fail. Why? Because most people don’t care. At all.

Geeks LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this type of stuff because it’s extremely cool technology. And it’s true, the tech behind it is amazing. However, this does not matter to most people. For most people what matters is 1) does this make my experience better MOST of the time and 2) is it easy to use? Or, more simply: Does this make my experience so much better that it’s worth the effort required to learn and use it?

We ran into this problem with Web 3D when I worked for on Cult3D for Cycore, which was a browser plugin to let you view 3D objects on the web. Really cool tech. Cult3D, and 3D on the web pretty much completely failed. Why? Because a sneaker in 3D gets you no closer to trying it on than a bunch of photos.

And that 3D sneaker costs a LOT more to create than a few photos.

But VR and AR are different than Web3D! No, sorry, they’re not. It’s going to be the same problem. The content creation costs are going to be a killer and does it really add anything to the experience? Is it the order of magnitude better that it needs to be for most people to invest the time/effort/money in it? Especially since it requires glasses you wouldn’t otherwise need, particularly clunky, tech looking ones.

For example, the Magic Leap (VR/AR technology startup) website shows a bunch of schoolkids looking at a virtual seahorse. Ok, that’s going to be super awesome… until the novelty wears off. Then… is that virtual seahorse better than high resolution photos and videos showing the seahorse in it’s natural environment that can be shown on a smartboard or HD TV (tech that schools already have)? No, probably not.

And do you really think schools are going to outfit entire schools with VR/AR tech and the expensive content? Most schools can’t even buy one smartboard for each classroom… to say nothing of training teachers, many of whom are not very tech literate.

But wait, I’ll be able to see bus stops and find restaurants just by looking around! How often do you actually need to do this? You’re going to wear glasses you don’t need so that you can be visually bombarded with virtual signage and more information? Most of us are already in information overload. For the few times a day I need to check bus schedules, Yelp, or Lyft I don’t need AR. AR might  be marginally better than having to look at my phone, but it’s something I need to WEAR. And how do you control it? waving your hands around? A fanny pack controller attached to your belt?

One other issue is one that dogged 3D TV. People are social and want to connect, especially by looking in each other’s eyes. I don’t like talking to people that can’t stop looking at their phone. If I can’t see their eyes or if their eyes are constantly glazed over looking at the retina display… it’s a big problem.

And no, most people don’t want to live in virtual worlds. Yes, for gaming, great. Real life? Give me a f’ing break. Nobody wants to see your dragon avatar walking around the airport.

So between the high content creation costs, the difficulty/cost using it, social impediments and the fact that in most cases it’s not going to improve the experience by an order of magnitude, I don’t see it succeeding as a common, every day thing for personal use .

Beauty Box Video 4.0 Released for Avid and OpenFX Apps

Like Digital Anarchy On Facebook

 

We’re excited to announce that Beauty Box Video 4.0 is now available for Avid and OpenFX Apps: Davinci Resolve, Assimilate Scratch, Sony Vegas, NUKE, and more. This is in addition to After Effects, Premiere Pro, and Final Cut Pro which were announced in April.

Beauty Box Video 4.0 adds real time rendering to the high quality, automatic skin retouching that Beauty Box is famous for. It’s not only the best retouching plugin available but it’s now one of the fastest, especially on newer graphics cards like the Nvidia GTX 980. We’re seeing real time or near real time performance in Premiere Pro, Resolve, and FCP. Other apps may not see quite that performance but they still get a significant speed increase over what was possible in Beauty Box 3.0.

Easily being able to retouch video is becoming increasingly important. HD is everywhere and 4K is widely available allowing viewers to see more detail on closeups of talent than ever before. This makes skin or makeup problems much more visible and being able to apply digital makeup easily is critical to high quality productions.

Beauty Box 4.0 on 4K Footage
Beauty Box will smooth out all skin areas, so blemishes on arms are covered up as well as wrinkles or spots on the face, as you can see in this still from a cooking show.

You can also incorporate masks to limit the retouching to just certain areas like cheeks or the talent’s forehead. (as can be seen in this tutorial using Premiere Pro’s tracking masks)

So head over to digitalanarchy.com for more info and to download a free trial and free tutorials on how to get started and more advanced topics. You’ll be blown away by the ease of use, high quality retouching, and now… speed!

Creative Cloud 2015 and After Effects, Premiere Pro Plug-ins

All of our current plugins have been updated to work with After Effects and Premiere Pro in Creative Cloud 2015. That means Beauty Box Video 4.0.1 and Flicker Free 1.1 are up to date and should work no problem.

Flicker Free 1.1 is a free update which you can download here: http://digitalanarchy.com/demos/main.html

What if I have an older plugin like Beauty Box 3.0.9? Do I have to pay for the upgrade?

Yes, you probably need to upgrade and it is a paid upgrade. After Effects changed the way it renders and Premiere Pro changed how they handle GPU plugins (of which Beauty Box is one). The key word here is probably. Our experience so far has been mixed. Sometimes the plugins work, sometimes not.

Premiere Pro: Beauty Box 3.0.9 seems to have trouble in Premiere if it’s using the GPU. If you turn ‘UseGPU’ off (at the bottom of the BB parameter list), it seems to work fine, albeit much slower. Premiere Pro did not implement the same re-design that After Effects did, but they did add an API specifically for GPU plugins. So if the plugin doesn’t use the GPU, it should work fine in Premiere. If it uses the GPU, maybe it works, maybe not. Beauty Box seems to not.

After Effects: Legacy plugins _should_ work but slow AE down somewhat. In the case of Beauty Box, it seems to work ok but we have seen some problems. So the bottom line is: try it out in CC 2015, if it works fine, you’re good to go. If not, you need to upgrade. We are not officially supporting 3.0.9 in Creative Cloud 2015.

– The upgrade from 3.0 is $69 and can be purchased HERE.

– The upgrade from 1.0/2.0 is $99 and can be purchased HERE.

 

The bottom line is try out the older plugins in CC 2015. It’s not a given that they won’t work, even though Adobe is telling everyone they need to update. It is true that you will most likely need to update the plugins for CC 2015 so their advice isn’t bad. However, before paying for upgrades load the plugins and see how they behave. They might work fine. Of course, Beauty Box 4 is super fast in both Premiere and After Effects, so you might want to upgrade anyways. :-)

We do our best not to force users into upgrades, but since Adobe has rejiggered everything, only the current releases of our products will be rejiggered in turn.

4K Showdown! New MacPro vs One Nvidia GTX 980

Like Digital Anarchy On Facebook

 

For NAB this year we finally bought into the 4K hype and decided to have one of our demo screens be a 4K model, showing off Beauty Box Video and Flicker Free in glorious 4K.

NAB Booth Beauty Box Video and Flicker Free in 4k
The Digital Anarchy NAB Booth

So we bought a 55” 4K Sony TV to do the honors. We quickly realized if we wanted to use it for doing live demos we would need a 4K monitor as well. (We could have just shown the demo reel on it) For live demos you need to mirror the computer monitor onto the TV. An HD monitor upscaled on the 4K TV looked awful, so a 4K monitor it was (we got a Samsung 28″, gorgeous monitor).

Our plan was to use our Mac Pro for this demo station. We wanted to show off the plugins in Adobe’s AE/Premiere apps and Apple’s Final Cut Pro. Certainly our $4000 middle of the line Mac Pro with two AMD D500s could drive two 4K screens. Right?

We were a bit dismayed to discover that it would drive the screens at the cost of slowing the machine down to unusable. Not good.

For running Beauty Box in GPU accelerated mode, our new favorite video card for GPU performance is Nvidia’s GTX 980. The price/performance ratio is just amazing. So we figured we’d plug the two 4K screens into our generic $900 Costco PC that had the GTX 980 in it and see what kind of performance we’d get out of it.

Not only did the 980 drive the monitors, it still ran Beauty Box Video in real time within Premiere Pro. F’ing amazing for a $550 video card.

The GTX 980 single handedly knocked out the Mac Pro and two AMD D500s. Apple should be embarrassed.

I will note, that for rendering and using the apps, the Mac Pro is about on par with the $900 PC + 980. I still would expect more performance from Apple’s $4000 machine but at least it’s not an embarrassment.

FCP 7 Is Dead. It’s Time to Move On.

It’s been almost 4 years since the last update of FCP 7. The last officially supported OS was 10.6.8. It’s time to move on people.

Beauty Box Video 4.0 (due out in a month) will be our first product that does not officially support FCP 7.

It’s a great video editor but Apple make it very hard to support older software. Especially if you’re trying to run it on newer systems. If FCP 7 is a mission critical app for you, you’re taking a pretty big risk by trying to keep it grinding along. We started seeing a lot of weird behaviors with it and 10.9. I realize people are running it successfully on the new systems but we feel there are a lot of cracks beneath the surface. Those are only going to get more pronounced with newer OSes.

I know people love their software, hell there are still people using Media 100, but Premiere Pro, Avid, and even FCP X are all solid alternatives at this point. Those of us that develop software and hardware can’t support stuff that Apple threw under the bus 3 and a half years ago.

We will continue to support people using Beauty Box 3.0 with FCP 7 on older systems (10.8 and below) but we can’t continue to support it when most likely the problems we’ll be fixing are not caused by our software but by old FCP code breaking on new systems.

VFX Students: Get Ready to Work for $600/mo.

I was talking with the owner of a mid-sized effects house in LA last weekend. They’ve always done most of their work where they could get subsidies to pay for part of salaries… Canada, Singapore, etc.

However, the staff for a new production is in Indonesia, where the artists are making $600/mo. They’re already doing production work and it may not be top tier, but it’s good.

Prices for VFX work have been going down for quite a while and it’s probably not going to stop. Yes, there are still jobs in the US, but the trend is moving towards countries where staff can be had for a lot less. The effort to unionize may help, but probably not as much as folks think. An electrician has to be on set. Most VFX work doesn’t require that. It can be done anywhere.

So, where does that leave students? I don’t have a lot of respect for the schools promising careers in VFX. They don’t mention the state of the industry while they’re happily telling students how to fill out the government loan forms. The end result is that you have students graduating these places with a lot of debt and not a lot of job opportunities.

There are jobs for the top graduates, but it’s been my experience that these students would be better off doing online training (www.fxphd.com for example), working on their own projects and getting an internship. They’re probably going to excel no matter where they’re at. These are, of course, the folks that get featured in ‘Alumni Stories’. But instead of ‘Alumni Stories’ I’d much rather see the percentage of ex-students working full time in the VFX industry. The reason you don’t see that statistic is that it’d be pretty depressing.

So if you’re thinking about a career in VFX, before you sign up for $20,000/yr in debt, consider the $600/mo the VFX artists are making in Indonesia. There are other ways to break into the industry than an expensive school. As an artist you may not want to think about finances, but I can assure you… once you have to start paying that back, you’ll be thinking a lot about it.