Editing Blogs You Should Be Reading Part 1

A Team NLE

One of the many things I enjoy about the post production community are the blog articles posted. They can be on the industry as a whole or on miscellaneous topics that aid their readers on a specific task. If there is one thing I enjoy about reading from editing bloggers it is how they breakdown their processes on projects and explain the logic behind it. The amount of knowledge you can gain from reading just one breakdown article is amazing. You will not only walk away learning some new tips but you will understand why those tips work as effectively as they do. With that being said, I want to discuss some editing bloggers I have discovered over the last few years that definitely changed how I approach an edit. This is part 1 of a 2 part series.

Shawn Montano (Edit Foundry Blog)

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Shawn Montano is a multi-award winning editor and teacher who’s work has been seen across various news stations in Colorado. In 2008, he started the Edit Foundry blog to place an emphasis on the editing process. Using various new stories he has edited over a 20 year career, Shawn illustrates the motivation behind every cut, sound, transition and effect he has used to tell these amazing stories. Reading just one article from the Edit Foundry will provide more insight into the editing process than knowing what button to press on your NLE. What I enjoy most about this blog is the shot by shot breakdowns and how Shawn provides the rationale behind each process. Shawn makes it clear to the reader the purpose behind his editing process story to story because everything is a motivated decision. After you read one of his articles along the attached Youtube video, you leave with a broader understanding on how the editing process can work to your benefit as a storyteller. One of my favorite videos of Shawn’s work is this video below.

Vashi Nedomansky (Vashi Visuals)

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Vashi Nedomansky is a film editor with over 15 years experience and has worked with industry greats such as Vince Laforet, Shane Hurlbut, the Bandito Brothers and more. In his blog, Vashi shares lessons he has learned while working on various projects. One of the particular lessons that seems to be very popular is the Pancake Timeline. A technique made famous by film editor Angus Hall, the user would stack 2 timelines on top of each other with the top sequence being selected shots and the bottom sequences being the main sequence for editing. Dragging selected shots from the top sequence would allow the editor quicker access to know what they have to work with instead of having to go through a bin and the source monitor. What I enjoy about this blog is the great illustrations in every article and how Vashi breaks down everything so that any editor, regardless of their level of experience, can pick up something new relatively quickly. He is also one of the top editors advising new users how to use Premiere Pro for television and film workflows. I’ve also been enjoying Vashi’s one sheets of shot lengths, movie grosses and more which you can see for yourself here. The article that made me bookmark him instantly was the 5 tips for Music Videos. In that article, he demonstrated how he was able to give professional quality to a low-no budget music video. Tips like those are the ones that make the filmmaking process much more enjoyable.

In part 2 of this article, I will discuss the blogs of editors Shane Ross, Aaron Williams and Oliver Peters. Just like the editors discussed above, these editors have years experience and knowledge which can help new and seasoned editors gain a greater perspective of the post production process from more than a technical level.

I’m the NLE Ninja with AudioMicro asking you to stay creative.

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Color Correcting with Adobe SpeedGrade CC for Beginners

 

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Are you interested in learning color correcting and recently subscribed to Adobe’s Creative Cloud? Well if so you’re in luck! Among the numerous programs you can access with the vast Creative Cloud subscription service you will find a relatively new program to the Adobe lineup called SpeedGrade CC.

SpeedGrade CC (Sg) is a dedicated color correcting program that works in a similar layering fashion as all the other Adobe programs you have come to love. Conceptually, think of color correcting with Sg the same as you would with adding an adjustment layer to your raw footage in After Effects, or even Photoshop. You start with your raw footage as the base and add either a Primary Look, Secondary Look, or Custom Look layer (or a combination of the three) to create a final image.

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I am going to show you how you can take your raw footage from ‘meh’ to ‘amazing’ in 3 simple steps:

  • Importing Your Footage
  • Adding Your Look Layers
  • Rendering Out Your Footage
  1. Importing Your Footage

Once you have the footage you want to correct safely logged on your computer and saved into a folder, open up SpeedGrade, and take notice of your drop down menus in the upper left corner of the program:

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If you have a good filearchy in place you should be able to navigate to your footage by using a series of drop-downs starting with DESKTOP. For me it looked something like DESKTOP >> MEDIA >> VIDEOS >> FREELANCE >> TEST SHOTS. Once you find your folder containing the footage select it and you will see your window populating with the appropriate clips:

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Hover your cursor over the first clip you want to correct and select the plus button in the lower right corner in order to add the footage to your timeline.

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Once your footage is in your timeline select the COLOR tab in the upper right corner.

 

  1. Adding Your Look Layers

 

To add a look to your footage navigate to the LOOK tab in the lower left corner of the program:

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In the look window you will see in the lower left corner +P (Add a Primary Look) +S (Add a Secondary Look) and + (Add a Custom Layer). Outlined as follows is the overview of what each Look layer type is used for and how it operates.

  • Primary Look Layer (+P)

Your primary look layer is, well, your primary layer. This is the layer you add all general changes to tone, contrast, hue, and saturation. Your layers window will automatically have a single Primary Look layer present. To make color adjustments you will notice a series of sliders and wheels you can manipulate:

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Looking at the wheels from left to right: Offset is for Dark Tones, Gamme for Mid Tones, and Gain for Light Tones. You can click and drag on both the sliders and wheels to get the look you are going for. My footage is of some panning over strawberries and I was looking for a warm inviting feel to my footage. To achieve this look I first increased the contract and then pushed the Gamma and Gain towards the yellows and reds until I reached a nice overall warm tone without distracting from the core image.

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  • Secondary Look Layer (+S)

With my footage looking pretty good now maybe I will decide that I want to bring back some of the richness of the greens that were lost when pushing in more yellow and reds to the overall image. That is where the secondary look layer comes in. Think of them as ways to key specific colors for isolated manipulation — in this case the green garnish in my image. To do that first select the +S to add a secondary look layer to your layers window. From there use your +eyedropper and select your color you want to isolate.

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At this point you can change your GRAY-OUT viewer to COLOR/GRAY and play with your sliders until you isolate just the color you are looking to manipulate.

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Next, make adjustments to the contrast and hue until you reach the look you desire. When you are finished change your GRAY-OUT viewer back to NONE.

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  • Custom Look Layer (+)

To finish up, I want to really blow out the whites on this footage and give these strawberries a shimmering, almost dreamy, appearance. To do that I need to add a custom look layer. First, I will hit the + button under the layers window then, for me, select fxBloom — there are a ton of custom looks here to choose from and I encourage you to take the time to review them all. Once I add my bloom custom layer I will go into the sliders and adjust the INTENSITY, THRESHOLD, and BLEND to reach my desired effect.

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  1. Rendering Out Your Footage

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Now I am finished making my color corrections and I want to ready this footage out. To do this first head on over to the RENDER tab in the upper right corner. From there you will want to choose a folder destination and give your footage a file name under the OUTPUT section. In FRAMING you will want to keep the settings at FULL IMAGE and 1:1 (SQUARE) in order to maintain the same framing the footage was imported at. Finally select RENDER under the RENDER section to initiate the process. You will receive a notification once the render is complete.

 

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Using the Camera Shake Reduction Filter in Photoshop CC

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With the recent updates to Photoshop as part of the new line up released with Adobe Creative Cloud, there are several new features to explore. One of the most exciting features is the ‘camera shake reduction filter’, a tool that can be used to recover photos from instances when the camera may have shaken during capture. A photo like this for instance:

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As you can see, this is a great photo in general but upon closer inspection, you can see the image has a slight softness caused by camera shake. Unfortunately, this filter will not help with images out of focus (blurry because of the depth of field, not from the camera shaking), low light images (a lot of noise and grain), or images with a high ISO (again, a lot of noise and grain). However, if your image was tarnished from camera movement, using the new camera shake reduction filter feature in Photoshop CC is a great way to save those images that otherwise would have been lost. I am going to show you how to properly use this tool in 2 simple steps:

  • Adding the Filter
  • Adjusting the Settings

I. Adding the Filter

Once you import your image into Photoshop CC, you first want to convert your image to a smart object by going to LAYER >> SMART OBJECT >> CONVERT TO SMART OBJECT. Converting your image to a smart object allows you to perform non destructive transformations and filtering. In other words, you can skew, rotate, scale, apply filters, and edit without losing or affecting any of the image’s original data.

Once your image has been converted you will want to go to FILTER >> SHARPEN >> SHAKE REDUCTION. The filter will automatically run an algorithm that maps the camera shake motion over the image and corrects the issue as best it can.

II. Adjusting the Settings

After the filter has finished running through its processes, it still can be pushed and tweaked further. While using the camera shake reduction filter you will notice along the right hand side of the window a series of options and sliders you can play with and adjust:

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  • Blur Trace Bounds: In some instances while using this filter you will find your image has a slight halo around the object that was corrected, by adjusting this setting you have better control on reducing this halo effect (note that doing so will also decrease your image correction)
  • Smoothing: This will allow you to manually control how soft or hard of an edge your image will hold after the shake reduction filter is added. Harder edge has a better focus but will increase noise and grain in the image.
  • Artifact Suppression: Artifacts in an image are visual blemishes or anomalies that appear on the image. This might look like random splotches or pixelations of color that commonly appear after compressing or correcting an image too much. Depending on how much shake was removed out of the image, there may be artifacts left behind. The artifact suppression slider will help get rid of these artifacts, creating a cleaner image. However, doing so also softens the image and increases the blur.

Each of the sliders comes with pros and cons in remastering your final image. My best advice is to simply play with all your options as only you can decide what the best look for your image is. Nothing you are doing is destructive; everything can be undone. Experiment and tweak the settings as you see fit to achieve your desired image. Once finished, hit OK and your settings and filters will be applied to your image. Voilà! Image stabilized, and peace of mind returns.

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Simulate Frosted Breath using a Particle Simulation

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Simulating frosted breath on a warm day is a visual effect widely used in television and movies today. Anyone who intends to get into visual effects or post production should master this technique, and is recommended to have this shown in their VFX reel. Post production houses and studios are not looking for artists with the biggest explosions and visually loudest effects in their reel- rather, artists with the most subtle, transparent, and photo realistic effects tend to stand out and get hired.

For this effect we will be using Adobe After Effects along with Red Giant’s particle simulation plug in, Trapcode Particular. I am going to show you how to create this frosted breath simulation in 2 steps:

  • Step 1: Creating the Particle Simulation
  • Step 2: Key framing the Breathing Pattern

Step 1: Creating the Particle Simulation

First we need to create a new composition with our raw footage —  I am using a 3 second clip of my friend walking aimlessly through the woods.

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From there I will create a new white solid and add the Trapcode Particular effect by going to EFFECT >> TRAPCODE >> PARTICULAR. If we scrub through our footage we will see that this effect first turns our solid into a series of small spheres flying out in every direction. What we want to do is control the direction of the spheres and begin to manipulate the size and motion of the spheres to obtain the frosted breath effect.

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Go to the effects controls. Here we will be changing several settings and I will list them all here and a brief description as to what each setting controls:

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  1. Emitter
    1. DIRECTION >> DIRECTIONAL (from there you can play with the X & Y rotation — this will allow you to control the direction in which your frosted breath emits towards)
    2. DIRECTIONAL SPREAD (this manipulates how wide or condensed your cone of particles emits — you will want to increase or decrease this setting based on what looks the most natural in your particular scene)
    3. VELOCITY (this is defaulted at 100 and controls how far out your particles emit — for breathing you will want to increase this to around 500)

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  1. Particle
    1. LIFE >> limit this to about 2 or 2.5 seconds (This will allow the particles to fade off naturally)
    2. SPHERE FEATHER >> decrease this to around 25 (this ill give a more jagged edge to the gaseous form we are building)
    3. SIZE >> increase to about 38 (this will enlarge your particles and begin to take on the gaseous shape we are aiming for)
    4. SIZE RANDOMNESS >> increase to about 70 (this will ensure each particle is unique and the form does not appear so rigid and predictable)
    5. SIZE OVER LIFE >> Select the small triangle next to this option to drop down the graph >> to the right of the graph you will see different pre made graph patterns — choose the 4th selection down that looks like a small hill (this will give a more natural life pattern to the particles.)

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    1. OPACITY >> drastically decrease this number to around 2 or 3 (frosted breath is a very subtle translucent effect)
    2. OPACITY OVER LIFE >> Select the small triangle next to this option to drop down the graph >> to the right of the graph you will see different pre made graph patterns — choose the 2nd selection down that looks like a downward angle (Frosted breath appears a couple inches away from the mouth as your breath cools down from the air and then dissipates after a short period of time)

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  1. Physics
    1. AIR >> AIR RESISTANCE >> increase to 1 (when you breath the air comes out quick but then is encountered by air resistance which slows down the flow)
    2. SPIN AMPLITUDE >> increase to around 40 (this will give the breath the cloudy rolling form we are looking for)

When you are finished with Step 1, here is what your effect, on a black background, should to look like.

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Step 2: Key framing the Breathing Pattern

Now we are ready to have our particle form follow our actor and begin to match their rhythmic breathing pattern. To do this we first need to go back to our EMITTER setting and check the stopwatch next to POSITION XY and then key frame our particle system following the mouth throughout the entire clip (NOTE: you may also need to key frame the rotation X & Y in case you subject changes direction as mine did).

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No one is breathing outward all the time — so all that is left to complete our effect is to start and stop the particle system to match the inhale exhale motions. Check the stopwatch next to Particles/sec under the EMITTER setting, then set a keyframe for 0 right before the actor begins to exhale. Move up one keyframe and change the amount to 100. Wait until it looks like the actor looks like they have fully exhaled and setting a key frame for 100, move up one frame, then add a keyframe for 0. Your finished, as this will give you your basic start and stop motion, from here you will want to simply adjust and finesse the keyframes based on how rapidly or slowly the actor is breathing.

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