Tag Archives: video editing

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.


How Doc Filmmakers Are using A.I. to Create Captions and Search Footage in Premiere Pro

Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) and machine learning are changing how video editors deal with some common problems. 1) how do you get accurate transcriptions for captions or subtitles? And 2) how do you find something in hours of footage if you don’t know exactly where it is?

Getting out of the Transcription Dungeon

Kelley Slagle, director, producer and editor for Cavegirl Productions, has been working on Eye of the Beholder, a documentary on the artists that created the illustrations for the Dungeons and Dragon game. With over 40 hours of interview footage to comb through searching through it all has been made much easier by Transcriptive, a new A.I. plugin for Adobe Premiere Pro.


Why Transcribe?

Imagine having Google for your video project. Turning all the dialog into text makes everything easily searchable (and it supports 28 languages). Not too mention making it easy to create captions and subtitles.

The Dragon of Time And Money

Using a traditional transcription service for 40 hours of footage, you’re looking at a minimum of $2400 and a few days to turn it all around. Not exactly cost or time effective. Especially if you’re on a doc budget. However, it’s a problem for all of us.

Transcriptive helps solve the transcription problem, and the problems of searching video and captions/subtitles. It uses A.I. and machine learning to automatically generate transcripts with up to 95% accuracy and bring them into Premiere Pro. And the cost? About $4/hour (or much less depending on the options you choose) So, 40 hours is $160 vs $2400. And you’ll get all of it back in a few hours.

Yeah, it’s hard to believe.

Read what these three filmmakers have to say and try the Transcriptive demo out on your own footage. It’ll make it much easier to believe.


“We are using Transcriptive to transcribe all of our interviews for EYE OF THE BEHOLDER. The idea of paying a premium for that much manual transcription was daunting. I am in the editing phase now and we are collaborating with a co-producer in New York. We need to share our ideas for edits and content with him, so he is reviewing transcripts generated by Transcriptive and sending us his feedback and vice versa. The ability to get a mostly accurate transcription is fine for us, as we did not expect the engine to know proper names of characters and places in Dungeons & Dragons.” – Kelley Slagle, Cavegirl Productions

Google Your Video Clips and Premiere Project?


Since everything lives right within Premiere, all the dialog is fully searchable. It’s basically a word processor designed for transcripts, where every word has time code. Yep, every word of dialog has time code. Click on the word and jump to that point on the timeline. This means you don’t have to scrub through footage to find something. Search and jump right to it. It’s an amazing way for an editor to find any quote or quip.

As Kelley says, “We are able to find what we need by searching the text or searching the metadata thanks to the feature of saving the markers in our timelines. As an editor, I am now able to find an exact quote that one of my co-producers refers to, or find something by subject matter, and this speeds up the editing process greatly.”

Joy E. Reed of Oh My! Productions, who’s directing the documentary, ‘Ren and Luca’ adds, “We use sequence markers to mark up our interviews, so when we’re searching for specific words/phrases, we can find them and access them nearly instantly. Our workflow is much smoother once we’ve incorporated the Transcriptive markers into our project. We now keep the Markers window open and can hop to our desired areas without having to flip back and forth between our transcript in a text document and Premiere.”

Workflow, Captions, and Subtitles


Captions and subtitles are one of the key uses of Transcriptive. You can use it with the Premiere’s captioning tool or export many different file formats (SRT, SMPTE, SCC, MCC, VTT, etc) for use in any captioning application.

“We’re using Transcriptive to transcribe both sit down and on-the-fly interviews with our subjects. We also use it to get transcripts of finished projects to create closed captions/subtitles.”, says Joy. “We can’t even begin to say how useful it has been on Ren and Luca and how much time it saves us. The turnaround time to receive the transcripts is SO much faster than when we sent it out to a service. We’ve had the best luck with Speechmatics. The transcripts are only as accurate as our speakers – we have a teenage boy who tends to mumble, and his stuff has needed more tweaking than some of our other subjects, but it has been great for very clearly recorded material. The time it saves vs the time you need to tweak for errors is significant.”


Transcriptive is fully integrated into Premiere Pro, you never have to leave the application or pass metadata and files around. This makes creating captions much easier, allowing you to easily edit each line while playing back the footage. There are also tools and keyboard shortcuts to make the editing much faster than a normal text editor. You then export everything to Premiere’s caption tool and use that to put on the finishing touches and deliver them with your media.

Another company doing documentary work is Windy Films. They are focused on telling stories of social impact and innovation, and like most doc makers are usually on tight budgets and deadlines. Transcriptive has been critical in helping them tell real stories with real people (with lots of real dialog that needs transcribing).

They recently completed a project for Planned Parenthood. The deadline was incredibly tight. Harvey Burrell, filmmaker at Windy, says, “We were trying to beat the senate vote on the healthcare repeal bill. We were editing while driving back from Iowa to Boston. The fact that we could get transcripts back in a matter of hours instead of a matter of days allowed us to get it done on time. We use Transcriptive for everything. The integration into premiere has been incredible. We’ve been getting transcripts done for a long time. The workflow was always a clunky; particularly to have transcripts in a word document off to one side. Having the ability to click on a word and just have Transcriptive take you there in the timeline is one of our favorite features.”

Getting Accurate Transcripts using A.I.


Audio quality matters. So the better the recording and the more the talent enunciates correctly, the better the transcript. You can get excellent results, around 95% accuracy, with very well recorded audio. That means your talent is well mic’d, there’s not a lot of background noise and they speak clearly. Even if you don’t have that, you’ll still usually get very good results as long as the talent is mic’d. Even accents are ok as long as they speak clearly. Talent that’s off mic or if there’s crosstalk will cause it to be less accurate.


Transcriptive lets you sign up with the speech services directly, allowing you to get the best pricing. Most transcription products hide the service they’re using (they’re all using one of the big A.I. services), marking up the cost per minute to as much as .50/min. When you sign up directly, you get Speechmatics for $0.07/min. And Watson gives you the first 1000 minutes free. (Speechmatics is much more accurate but Watson can be useful).

Transcriptive itself costs $299 when you check out of the Digital Anarchy store. A web version is coming soon as well. To try transcribing with Transcriptive you can download the trial version here. (remember, Speechmatics is the more accurate service and the only service available in the demo) Reach out to sales@nulldigitalanarchy.com if you have questions or want an extended trial.

Transcriptive is a plugin that many didn’t know they were waiting for. It is changing the workflow of many editors in the industry. See for yourself how we’re transforming the art of transcription.

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

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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.


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.


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

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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

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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.

Speeding Up Flicker Free: The Order You Apply Plugins in Your Video Editing App

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One key way of speeding up the Flicker Free plugin is putting it first in the order of effects. What does this mean? Let’s say you’re using the Lumetri Color Corrector in Premiere. You want to apply Flicker Free first, then apply Lumetri. You’ll see about a 300+% speed increase vs. doing it with Lumetri first. So it looks like this:

Apply Flicker Free first in your video editing application to increase the rendering speed.

Why the Speed Difference?

Flicker Free has to analyze multiple frames to de-flicker the footage you’re using. It looks at up to 21 frames. If you have the effect applied before Flicker Free it means Lumetri is being applied TWENTY ONE times for every frame Flicker Free renders. And especially with a slow effect like Lumetri that will definitely slow everything down.

It fact, on slower machines it can bring Premiere to a grinding halt. Premiere has to render the other effect on 21 frames in order to render just one frame for Flicker Free. In this case, Flicker Free takes up a lot of memory, the other effect can take up a lot of memory and things start getting ugly fast.

Renders with Happy Endings

So to avoid this problem, just apply Flicker Free before any other effects. This goes for pretty much every video editing app. The render penalty will vary depending on the host app and what effect(s) you have applied. For example, using the Fast Color Corrector in Premiere Pro resulted in a slow down of only about 10% (vs. Lumetri and a slow down of 320%). In After Effects the slow down was about 20% with just the Synthetic Aperture color corrector that ships with AE. However, if you add more filters it can get a lot worse.

Either way, you’ll have much happier render times if you put Flicker Free first.

Hopefully this makes some sense. I’ll go into a few technical details for those that are interested. (Feel free to stop reading if it’s clear you just need to put Flicker Free first) (oh, and here are some other ways of speeding up Flicker Free)

Technical Details

With all host applications, Flicker Free, like all plugins, has to request frames through the host application API. With most plugins, like the Beauty Box Video plugin, the plugin only needs to request the current frame. You want to render frame X: Premiere Pro (or Avid, FCP, etc) has to load the frame, render any plugins and then display it. Plugins get rendered in the order you apply them. Fairly straightforward.

The Flicker Free plugin is different. It’s not JUST looking at the current frame. In order to figure out the correct luminance for each pixel (thus removing flicker) it has to look at pixels both before and after the current frame. This means it has to ask the API for up to 21 frames, analyze them, return the result to Premiere, which then finishes rendering the current frame.

So the API says, “Yes, I will do your bidding and get those 21 frames. But first, I must render them!”. And so it does. If there are no plugins applied to them, this is easy. It just hands Flicker Free the 21 original frames and goes on its merry way. If there are plugins applied, the API has to render those on each frame it gives to Flicker Free. FF has to wait around for all 21 frames to be rendered before it can render the current frame. It waits, therefore that means YOU wait. If you need a long coffee break these renders can be great. If not, they are frustrating.

If you use After Effects you may be familiar with pre-comping a layer with effects so that you can use it within a plugin applied to a different layer. This goes through a different portion of the API than when a plugin requests frames programmatically from AE. In the case of a layer in the layer pop-up the plugin just gets the original image with no effects applied. If the plugin actually asks AE for the frame one frame before it, AE has to render it.

One other thing that affects speed behind the scenes… some apps are better at caching frames that plugins ask for than other apps. After Effects does this pretty well, Premiere Pro less so. So this helps AE have faster render times when using Flicker Free and rendering sequentially. If you’re jumping around the timeline then this matters less.

Hopefully this helps you get better render times from Flicker Free. The KEY thing to remember however, is ALWAYS APPLY FLICKER FREE FIRST!

Happy Rendering!

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

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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

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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.

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.