Ok, if I'm being honest about this, Day Two was really a continuation of a very LONG day one.
See I finished working last night about 6:30, then wrote the Day One blog, and then was preparing to go to bed around 11pm when I heard my phone chime that I had a text. A Producer on the west coast needed me to do a quick turnaround of a national broadcast spot today for Friday delivery. Well, I couldn't let that project interfere with the corporate project I'm cutting on Resolve, so instead of getting some sleep, I went back to the office and continued editing about 11:30pm - 4:30am. Didn't really sleep and went back to the office at 7:30am this morning, finishing up the master candidate of the commercial spot at 6:30pm tonight. Ok, so there's the backstory and I'm surprised I'm even still awake enough to type this, but here goes.....
Some updates on the issues from Day One.
The need to Transcode to ProRes.
Paul Saccone from Blackmagic Design reached out to me and told me I didn't need to transcode the 4k H264 to ProRes to get better performance. I can use "Generate Optimized Media" instead.
This basically makes a proxy file that's easy on the playback and editing but then I can simply switch back to the original H264 files for color grading at the end of the process. Yes, I still have to generate another set of files, but these go pretty darn quickly and are much much smaller than the ProRes files I generated yesterday. I thought the Generate Optimized Media was really for use with large files like RAW, but it looks like it's just as useful with the DSLR stuff too.
Not Automatically Scaling my 4k to 1080 HD
I knew this was a setting that I wasn't finding and thanks to Dmitry Kitsov's response on Twitter, I now know where the "magic button" is. It's in Project Settings > Image Scaling Preset.
The default was Scale Entire Image to Fit
but what I really wanted was Center Crop with No Resizing
. Seems like a long mouthful but as you can see there are four different options for mismatched resolution files so I guess that's the easiest way to describe it.
So on to Day Two.
Everything so far has been very intuitive, even in my sleep deprived state last night, I was finding new functions simply by doing what I always do with certain keystrokes.
Duplicate a clip is simply Option+drag which I used a LOT last night because I was duplicating the heck out of comedic sound effects. You can see 09829_SFX down below duplicated 5 times to coincide with the action.
Speaking of those clips, see how CLEARLY labeled the audio clips are? There's a delineation between the clip name and user controls that's fabulous. With Premiere Pro, the audio labeling frequently disappears with the audio clips so I have to double click them back up into the Source Monitor to confirm the clip name. The labelling is also plenty large and easy to read. Really nicely done.
I mentioned last night how the volume / level control in the timeline is super useful because you have full control of the amount of level rather than being limited to just 6db +/- like in Premiere Pro. Below you see an audio clip that clearly has low audio, it's a manufacturing floor with audio from the camera mic. What Resolve does is shrink and enlarge the audio waveforms giving you a really good representation of the amount of volume in a clip at a quick glance.
And here's that same clip with the clip volume raised.
You can see visually how much louder the clip is now vs. the original picture above. At first I thought this was gimmicky when I saw it in the online demos, but actually it's really handy to be able to just look at the timeline and without even seeing the volume control settings, I can tell what's full volume and what's not.
I finally played with the Text Tool and it's quite good and useful. Is it as feature rich as Adobe's? Not by a long shot, but can you create titles with it? Absolutely. You actually find the titles in the same place as the effects. They have them laid out to be pre-positioned for ease of use, but I generally just start with Text.
You drag a title out onto the timeline and then the Title Panel becomes active.
As you can see, all the basic controls you'd expect and all the fonts on my Mac loaded up. I've only used it for placeholders so far, but will create some titles for the final.
I mentioned yesterday the ease of video and audio track assignments. Here's a look at that.
Just a single control to turn the track on and off. Renaming the tracks is as simple as double-clicking the name and naming it as you can see I did with the audio tracks. It's intuitive and easy.
The Wacom Tablet Works!!!
I had to bold that one because if you're a user of Adobe Premiere Pro and you use a Wacom tablet, then you know the joy of the "jittery pen." Basically any adjustment you make with a Wacom tablet in Premiere Pro results in the keyframe / parameter changing when you release the pen. Completely maddening to say the least, so many of us resort to using a mouse when doing fine tuning such as audio mixing. But in Resolve, I've found the pen to be very accurate and stable. It's little things like this that really make a long long day in the edit suite pleasant.
A little thing that's functional but could be more efficient.
Right now the only way to send out a burned in timecode copy to a client is via the Color Panel. I couldn't even find this last night (this morning) so I went out of Resolve and into Adobe Media Encoder. But if you open the timeline in the Color panel, you'll find options for timecode and other things to burn into the media. I made a request to the Resolve team to consider either making a filter for TC Window or simply adding the option to the Delivery panel. When editing, I definitely don't think much about Color and I never even thought to look at the Color panel just to find TC burn-in. So it's there, but I'm hopeful it might be a bit more intuitive for editors who have no interest in using the Color panel.
One other thing that's not working quite as it should is the ability to double click a parameter in the Inspector Panel and change it. If you go back up at look at that Title Panel and I want to double click the Size to change it from 74 to 50. If I try to double click it, the numbers simply change say up to 80 or down to 63 and they keep changing every time I double click. Or the last number will be selected but not all of them. So I have to manually backspace, backspace then type. Most likely a Beta issue and remember this IS beta software right now. Remarkably STABLE beta software too I might add. Had to restart the machine twice last night because the system got a little wonky but the software is not crashing, it's not disappearing, just gets a little "tired" from time to time so I just reboot and keep going.
Here's a look at my timeline so far. Nothing remarkable as you can see, just your good old fashioned basic timeline but sitting inside one of the most powerful color grading tools on the planet. It's been super easy and quite pleasant cutting.
What's continued to impress me is how efficiently the workspace is laid out and how intuitive all of the necessary panels are. I'm editing on a SINGLE monitor.
I HATE editing on a single monitor, I love having all that extra real estate for all those windows I need open. But here I am, editing away in Resolve and when I need to access a panel, it's there. Panels move and replace themselves as you set about doing different functions while editing. It's so well thought out and I'm not searching for windows, or dragging more windows out, or losing windows under windows. Granted I have a 5k Retina iMac, but the interface is so efficient I have no need for the second window. It's absolutely remarkable so far. Keep in mind I am doing a pretty simple project right now, but this does give me an insight as to how the app will work for larger projects. The interface seems to have really been thought out from the editor's perspective first and not from an engineering / coding standpoint. It's a very light and nimble application.
Somebody asked me today "why does editing in Resolve interest you?"
Well it is my color grading tool of choice. It's completely free, and by the way, I'm cutting this project using the free version of Resolve. My Studio version sits on another machine.
So if I find the Resolve can handle the bulk of our editorial load and especially if I get my new Contemporary Living Network funded, we can have every editor, no matter where they are, no matter which NLE they currently cut with editing on Resolve. Why? We can completely eliminate XMLs and any issues that arise with moving projects between NLEs and Resolve.
Now we're simply passing project files back and forth and staying inside the same application.
The workflow to / from Photoshop and After Effects will be different and not as elegant as the Adobe Suite for sure, but then we had a really good workflow between the old FCP and After Effects in the past and I can draw upon that knowledge to create a simple workflow as needed. BUT completely eliminating XMLs from our editorial to editorial workflow and from our editorial to color workflow makes the idea of cutting inside Resolve very appealing. Now when I want to work with my colleague who is an AMAZING 30 years (and counting) colorist it's as simple as hand him the project file.
Does Resolve have the rich feature set of Adobe Premiere Pro or Avid? No, not even close. Does Resolve have a very good, useful feature set that any editor can cut a narrative story and is easy to adapt you muscle memory to? So far, from what I see, the answer is yes. Especially with the latest additions with Resolve 12.5.
I really like that Blackmagic Design has spent a lot of time under the hood ensuring that the basic operation of editing is smooth and easy. That's the most any editor can ask for. As for what comes next, well that all depends on what the editors ask for. From what I've been told, Blackmagic Design is listening quite well to their editing base just like Adobe.
Two days in, call me impressed.
This article first appeared on WalterBiscardi.com
By now you’ve heard that Wes Plate has joined the Adobe Product Marketing Team. For those who might not know exactly who this guy is, he’s been “the guy” in the industry for years who has made various production tools talk to each other. And not just a simple, “move parts of my projects into something else,” but help the apps talk to each other in a way that brought about very meaningful creative collaborations between artists no matter how what they used.
For instance, when I doing all the HD Post for the Food Network’s “Good Eats,” the shows were first cut in Alton Brown’s facility on his Avid system and then we used the Automatic Duck converter to bring the edits into my Final Cut Pro system. This was an almost seamless transfer between the two competing NLEs that allowed Alton’s editor to continue using her NLE of choice and for me to use my NLE of choice, but to work together. The only things I really had to re-create were the graphics and the transitions and of course I re-did the entire color grading for HD.
So now Adobe snags Wes to join their team right after they snagged IRIDAS and their SpeedGrade color grading tool. I personally thing grabbing Wes is an even bigger grab for the company.
If you have used the Adobe CS 5 suite (or 5.5) you know how incredible the dynamic link option is between Premiere Pro and After Effects. Someone like Wes can bring dynamic link to a whole new level. Imagine that dynamic link type of performance between all of the apps essentially make Premiere Pro the render engine for the entire suite. So you would create your base edit in Premiere Pro and then dynamic link your material out to all the other elements of the suite but do your final renders back in Premiere Pro.
In particular, I’m hoping Wes joining the team could mean that we’ll see a dynamic link workflow for SpeedGrade. The Send To feature in Final Cut Pro was sweet for color grading, but to keep going back and forth without committing to a final render until everything is approved could be very sweet.
Also, I would expect very nice tight integration with external apps like ProTools. And as Adobe has already done on their own with the FCP XML reader, Wes will most likely create easier paths for external apps to work with Adobe’s suite.
In other words, you see Adobe not only purchasing incredible apps to make their incredible Creative Suite even better, the addition of Wes Plate also signals the company’s willingness to create bridges around their suite rather than walls. Just another of the great moves Adobe has been making these past few months.
Ok, I got a bunch of emails yesterday asking to explain exactly how an Ethernet SAN works. I've done a full article on this in the past, but here's a quick primer on how it works.
1 - The SAN controller computer. In our case, a Mac Pro 12 Core machine with 32GB RAM.
2 - An Ethernet controller inside the SAN controller computer. In our case it's a Small Tree Communications Card.
3 - A RAID Host controller inside the SAN controller computer. In our case it's the Atto R680 SAS Host controller.
4 - A high speed ethernet switch. In our case, a Small Tree 24 port ethernet switch.
5 - A high speed media array. In our case, a brand spankin' new Small Tree 48TB ST RAID II. 16 drive chassis with 3TB drives.
6 - Client computers connected to the ethernet switch via Cat 5 / 6 cable. Mac Pro, iMac, Mac Mini, Laptops, anything with an ethernet port.
So in a nutshell, the high speed RAID connects directly to the SAN Controller computer.
The SAN Controller computer connects to the Ethernet Switch.
The Client computers connect to the Ethernet Switch.
Set up the Network settings correctly on the SAN Controller Computer and all Client computers.
Set up the File Sharing correctly on the SAN Controller Computer and all the Client computers.
Go into the Mac OS on the SAN Controller Computer and all the Client Computers and tune the heck out of them.
That's it in a nutshell. Mount the SAN to each client and start working.
There is zero control software needed to run the SAN. Just set it up, tweak it and start editing. Of course I'm not going to get 500MB/s to each client workstation like you might with Fibre Channel, but we get well over 100MB/s to each workstation allowing us to cut and view Apple ProRes HD files all day long across 14 workstations simultaneously.
Here's a diagram of what the system looks like in our shop. In our case, we've decided to keep one of the original 16TB Expansion chassis from our original SAN so we can use it as a direct connect to our Resolve system for RED / Alexa playback and to use as a "dump drive" for the big SAN when needed to clean up the RAID.
DAY ONE: Sunday
It was a very hot and sticky weekend here in Atlanta, but it was nice and cool inside the shop. A great time to install a brand new SAN. Steve Modica, Chris Duffy and I all met up bright and early at 8am to get a nice early jump on things. Turned out to be a good thing because we had to transfer almost 32TB of material from our original SAN.
Chris and Steve get to work removing the original switch.
First test was to ensure that everything still worked with just changing out the switch. That's a very important first step when you're making a major change to your system involving multiple parts. When feasible, always test your system with each newly introduced part.
Steve Modica behind the rack checking the clearance for the new switch.
Testing the new switch with the old SAN configuration was an easy first step. Then it came time to unpack the shiny goodness that is the Small Tree ST RAID II storage array. All 48TB of it, configured in RAID 4 which gives us about 38 TB of available storage space.
Like Christmas morning!
Installing the chassis.
No, there are no drives in there, so it's much lighter than it appears. Once the 16 drives are in there, then that thing gets super heavy. You can see our older 16TB RAID sitting up on its side to the left. This single 16 drive chassis replaces 32TB in two chassis. We'll use the new 48TB for shared storage and keep one of the 16TB for direct connect to our Resolve system for super high speed 4k and higher playback.
Molly sitting outside The Core, apparently unimpressed with the shiny goodness going on inside. She would apparently rather we play with tennis balls. But I digress.....
Close-up view of the Small Tree ST RAID II
And here it is sitting above one of our older arrays.
Yeah, I know what you're thinking. "Gee that looks exactly the same, so why go with Small Tree?"
Ok, you'll find that multiple vendors all use the same chassis, it's a nice silver box that looks really nice sitting next to the Mac Pros. That's probably why they all use them. BUT when I say they use the same chassis, that's exactly what they use. The silver outer box and the drive sleds on the front. At least as far as Small Tree goes, that's all they use that would be the same as other vendors. Once you get inside with the cards, the electronics and the setup, that's all proprietary Small Tree and THAT's where you get the difference between something that "looks the same" and something that operates completely different.
Same with the overall configuration of the entire Ethernet SAN, Small Tree are network experts who really took the concept to a new level and which is why I went with them to configure the entire system and added their storage to equation. The next step was to transfer one of the 16TB arrays to the new array because we needed to use the other for a rare Sunday edit.
While the transfer was going on, Steve and Chris went through our 6 primary workstations and 7 iMacs to configure all the network settings. They literally had dozens of configurations to set up to get the best combination of speed and stability for our system. Various configurations for the client workstations, the client iMacs and also the SAN computer itself.
5 hours later, the 16TB was finally transferred over to the SAN so we could start running some speed tests. Here Steve and Chris monitor the SAN while the workstations play video down. After several hours of tweaking and tuning, for the first time since we moved into the new facility, we had all 6 workstations and the four edit suite iMacs all playing video projects simultaneously. It felt great to finally get the full system up and running. By then it was 8:30pm and time to call it a day for day one.
The best part? These guys had more ideas for further tuning AND we seem to have discovered an interesting condition or maybe it's a bug between older and newer Mac Pros. Will require more testing in the future, but we seem to be on to something interesting that really shouldn't be happening.
DAY TWO: Monday
On the second day we completed the installation of the new Small Tree Ethernet SAN featuring the 48TB ST RAID II storage system. The thing that continues to blow me away about these guys is their knowledge all ALL things Mac. In particular the inner workings of the OS.
One thing they did with our SAN computer was to DROP the amount of RAM in it. When we were having playback problems a few months ago, one of the solutions thrown to us by our previous vendor was to up the RAM from 20GB to 32GB to help the problem. Normally, more RAM, better performance. Turns out, with the brand new 12 Core Mac Pro, this was more inefficient on the computer because of the way it uses RAM. We were creating a bottleneck in the RAM rather than helping the problem. I never would have known that, but it was one of the first things Steve Modica did with the computer to help performance.
As mentioned earlier, in the course of testing we discovered that two of our edit suites performed completely differently when playing the exact same project off the SAN. The older model played it perfectly while the latest and greatest Mac Pro dropped frames at odd times. If it was just me working in the shop, I would immediately point to the RAID as not being fast enough, but that is definitely not the case. More than enough speed coming off of that.
So Steve and Chris started investigating all sorts of things within the Mac. Running test after test and eventually started to find some interesting things about how the two machines handle data, particularly through the processors. Without going into all sorts of technical data, the slower machine was actually more efficient at handling the type of data required for video playback than the faster machine with more processors. It was weird and something Small Tree will follow up with Apple. Of course, all of this applies to Final Cut Pro 7 which of course as everyone knows, will continue to work even after Final Cut Pro X comes out (or we switch to Avid).
Chris and Steve were amazing at testing, tuning, testing some more, not only on the SAN computer but on each and every client. By the end of the day today, we had 6 solid workstations and 7 iMacs / Mac Minis all running on the the SAN. The first of the 13 episodes of This American Land was laid down to tape and all seems to be well. Speeds are up, all of our Macs have been tuned to operate the most efficiently with the system and we no longer have the lack of Bond issues that caused bottlenecks.
Bottom line, Small Tree delivered what they promised and we all learned more in the process. We already discovered some things that can be improved to make the system even better. Again, it's their knowledge of all things Apple and Mac beyond just "let us put in a faster storage array / switch, etc..." that really sets these guys apart and why I decided to make a complete switch in our storage solution.
We've been using Ethernet SAN for almost three years now and the evolution of this concept has come a long way in a short time. First it was just a very nice cheap alternative to Fibre Channel shared storage. Now it's a very efficient and very stable storage solution.
And in the immortal words of Steve Jobs, "there's one more thing......" Alas, can't talk about it right now, but soon.
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