FCPX must have utilities

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When Final Cut Pro X first came out in 2011, I wasn’t too fond of the new interface or the editing paradigm, as it challenged everything I was taught to do in school. After numerous updates to the software, third party party utilities coming to market, and using it for the last four months, I’m more confident in Final Cut Pro X’s workflow than I ever have been before. Here is a quick rundown of some applications I’ve found helpful with transitioning to a FCPX workflow.

Event Manager X

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This handy must-have app is the creation of the folks at Intelligent Assistance. The process of dealing with events and multiple projects can be tedious at times. This app has a lot more going on under the hood, and gives you control of your events and projects with an easy to use interface.

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According to the description from the site, Event Manager X allows you to do the following:

-Quickly manage Events and Projects using visible checkboxes.

-Filter through libraries to find specific Events and Projects.

-Keep track of hidden Events and Projects.

-Check all storage devices that hold needed Events are properly mounted.

-Launch FCPX much faster using fewer active Events in the Event library.

Those are just a small list of the many things Event Manager X can do. At $4.99, it’s a no brainer purchase if you want to relieve yourself of sluggish performance Final Cut Pro may experience with multiple projects and events.

7toX

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This is another must have app from the folks at Intelligent Assistance. This app allows you to bring projects from Final Cut Pro 6 & 7 into X. The simple to use app takes an XML file of an edit you create in those legacy programs, and translates it into a workable project in FCPX. Below is a small list of the things that carry over during the import process:

-Bins become keyword collections.

-Sequences become compound clips and get tagged as FCP6/7 sequences.

-The track structure is represented by Roles.

-Multicam is fully supported.

-Motion Tab parameters are translated to Transform, Crop, and Opacity parameters.

From my experience, this process has worked 95% of the time with most projects I have sent from FCP 7 to FCPX. This app is great to use if you need to update old projects and want to cut them with the speed of FCPX. At $9.99, it will pay for itself in less than an hour of work.

ClipExporter

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This app is a free workflow and export tool from Mind Transplant. It allows you to send your entire timeline to After Effects, and batch export selected clips to Quicktime movies. You can also convert your clips for Nuke. Previous versions of FCPX were limited in their export abilities. If you are an editor who relies on these compositing applications to fix a project, this was an obstacle to overcome. Below is a video explaining how ClipExporter helps the editor overcome that obstacle and keep working.

Overall, this application is very handy. With a few more updates, it will become more utilized among filmmakers.

Motion Template Tool

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With FCPX effects, generators, and transitions all being Motion 5 templates, it’s now easier than ever for users to create their own effects from scratch and download them from other users across the internet. One thing that can be a pain is going through the folder structure of your Mac to install them if they don’t have custom installer. With the free Motion Template Tool, you can manage and install custom Motion Templates. Created by the folks from Spherico, this app is helpful for users and developers who want a hassle free way to manage templates. Popular FCPX editor Alex Gollner makes great use of this tool for his templates. All you have to do is install the app, download a custom template, and double click it to install. The tool does the rest.

CreateDiskImage

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Sparse disk images and bundles have been around for years, but recently it has become a preferred workflow method for popular FCPX users like Ripple Training and Magic Feather Inc. This has been a workaround for backing up projects, creating projects, and working collaboratively. Mac users can create a sparse disk using the Disk Utility app, but the folks from Spherico created the free Disk Image Creator to simplify the process. As explained by John Davidson from Magic Feather in this video below, using the Disk Image Creator to create a sparse disk is the preferred workflow when he cuts spots in FCPX for clients.

This is app is handy if you want to manage your projects from a disk image as opposed to a root of your internal or external drives. These are just a small selection of the third party utilities available for Final Cut Pro X. At first, I wasn’t too happy to find out that I had to go to other sources to get functionality that should have been built into FCPX. However, my opinion has changed after some time. I respect the fact that Apple gave developers the ability to shape how they worked in FCPX instead of determining it for us. I’m the NLE Ninja with Audio Micro asking you to stay creative.

Sound Effects

Keeping an Eye on Your Home with iPhone

iCam costs $5 from the Apple Store; for this nominal fee, you can stream live video and audio from as many as four webcams directly to your iPhone, iPod, or iPad.  You can also view a description and time and date stamp.  Why is this useful?  You can set up a cam in your baby’s room so you can watch her sleeping while you’re doing work in the next room; you can keep an eye on your chew-loving dog while you’re at work; you can set it up as a sort of nanny cam; and if you’re Vince Hunter from Texas, you can use it to watch someone rob your house while you’re 1500 miles away.

While visiting family in Connecticut, Mr. Hunter received a text message from iCam, alerting him that his motion sensors in his Dallas home had been activated.  Hunter went to the app and watched men breaking into his home by throwing a brick through his glass doors.  He says, “I check the footage, and see in real time guys in this area, and they’re kind of hunched over. They’d just broken the glass. I said holy cow, I gotta call 911.”  He made that call and watched as the police showed up in his house, guns drawn, just minutes after the thieves made their escape.

While the two suspects are still at large, another would-be thief was foiled by an iPhone.  In San Francisco, a woman was walking down the street with her iPhone when a man pedaled by on his bike and grabbed her phone out of her hands.  Unfortunately for the thief, the woman was conducting a GPS tracking demonstration.

David Kahn of Covia Labs of Mountain view asked his assistant, Jordan Sturm, to go outside with the iPhone so he could track her via his laptop.  After she came running back without the phone and called the police, he considered turning on the phone’s camera or taking a picture, but he didn’t want to alert the thief, later identified as Horatio Toure, that he was being tracked.  Toure was picked up by the police ten minutes later.   A reader commenting on the story had this to say, “Good thing the thief wasn’t holding the phone in his hand with his thumb and pinky. Oh snap!”

Just a few of the helpful iPhone apps available to you today.

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Apps for Elections? Politicians Turning to the iPhone

Have you ever wished that you could just whip out your iPhone, check on your favorite candidate’s campaign and make a donation?  For the politically inclined, checking up-to-the-minute news on campaigns is like checking in for sports scores during the playoffs.  The use of social media and smartphones in politics is growing, as Barack Obama showed during his 2008 campaign; will it have a drastic impact on the political landscape?

It can in that it helps reach younger, more tech-savvy voters.  Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Minnesota House Speaker and gubernatorial candidate, for instance, offers an app giving potential voters the chance to look at her schedule of events, read news releases, check out her bio, and, of course, make donations to her campaign.  Kelliher’s spokesman, Matt Swenson, says, “It shows that our campaign is a modern campaign.  We’re connecting with people where they are right now through the phones in the palm of their hands.”

Facebook and Twitter have become standard fare, and many politicians, including Dan Rutherford, Illinois state senator and candidate for state treasurer, who says, “This is another medium for our supporters to track us.”  Shaking hands and kissing babies isn’t the key to winning anymore.  Getting out there is still essential, but “getting out there” entails having a visible online profile with Facebook and Twitter accounts, blogs, websites, and if you have $5000 to $10,000 in your campaign fund, an iPhone app.

If you love a good conspiracy theory, check this out:  Apple can reject any app, and it seems to do so arbitrarily at times, which has been a complaint among developers for some time.  According to Switched:

“Some worry (and perhaps rightly so) that Apple’s strict control over the App Store could allow it to exert influence over the political process. The company has already had one well publicized dust up with Ari David, who was seeking the Republican nomination for congress, when it rejected David’s app for allegedly defaming his potential opponent Henry Waxman.

This is clearly a plot by Apple to take over the country.  Peter Scheer, executive director of the California-based First Amendment Coalition says, “Their whole smorgasbord of apps is the equivalent of a magazine’s selection of the articles it wants to print and, therefore, it’s entitled to be as biased as it wants to be frankly.”

But Scheer doesn’t think Apple is going to sway voters by rejecting apps for certain candidates (though Ari David might vehemently disagree).  Steve Jobs admitted Apple needs to tweak its policies regarding political apps, and this will become increasingly necessary as the 2010 elections approach.

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The iPad’s First Month

If you were the first in line to grab an iPad because you’re a huge fan of the iPhone, you might now be noticing a difference between the Apple devices.  It’s not the size of the screen, it’s the size of the app prices.  Distimo, an analytics company devoted to the app market, recently released their report for April.  Their numbers show that iPad apps are more expensive than their iPhone counterparts by almost 25 percent.  Why the price hike?  And what else does Distimo have to say?

The April numbers are of particular interest to developers, marketers, and app buyers because it is the first time that Distimo has analyzed figures for the much-hyped iPad.  They found, among other things, that the average app for the iPad costs $4.67; that’s 22.2 percent higher than the average iPhone app price of $3.82.  Much of this is probably due to the current wealth of iPhone apps – number at over 184,000 – and the not-so-fully stocked iPad store.   Distimo found that on April 12, there were 2654 iPad apps; only two weeks later, there were 3437.  The relative shortage of apps may mean that developers feel they can charge more at present.

So what are iPad users paying more for at the app store?  The biggest sellers are entertainment and games apps.  Thirty-two percent of the apps sold are games, but the most expensive are medical and finance related apps.  These sell for an average of $42.11 and $18.48 respectively.  The iPhone’s figures for the same categories: $10.74 and $5.74 respectively.  This is a whopping difference, and one that may start to equalize as the iPad’s shiny newness wears off a bit and more apps are added to the mix.

Apple reported that the iPad sold more than one million units within four weeks of its launch – about half the time that it took the iPhone to reach that milestone.  Users have uploaded 12 million apps for their new tablets, and 1.5 million books from the new iBookstore.

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WiFi by the Hour

With as much hype as the iPad has attracted, it’s hard to believe that customers haven’t even received them yet.  Most of the people who preordered their iPads and most who will purchase one will choose to get the WiFi version over the more expensive 3G version.  For those who want more reliable internet access without the 3G price, Boingo is standing by, ready to take your WiFi order.

Boingo offers access to over 125,000 WiFi hotspots all over the world (it owns just a handful but has partnerships with the owners for access), all of which will be available for iPad users via a new app.  Boingo is not a new service: currently, subscribers pay each month in exchange to access to this virtual hotspot network.  What is new, however, is that iPhone, iPad, and iPod users will be able to get a free Boingo WiFi Credit app at the iTunes App Store that will allow them to buy an hour of WiFi for $1.99.    The first credit is free.  You can also purchase 10 credits for $20 and get an hour free.  These are good for a year; if unused, they’ll expire, so get to those hotspots.

The per/hour rate is suited for those who need occasional access, such as when they are traveling.  When hotels, resorts, and other locations charge for an Ethernet connection, it can be about $10 to $13.99 a night.  If you want to check in, check your email, and look at a few things quickly, this is a colossal waste of money.  For those who use the internet more heavily, Boingo is offering a monthly subscription for $7.95.  This nets them unlimited data access at Boingo’s hotspots.

Boingo’s CEO, Dave Hagan, said in a prepared statement, “Boingo’s new WiFi credits are an easy, affordable way for millions of users to buy WiFi access through an existing iTunes account.  For Apple device owners who find themselves needing WiFi access only occasionally, it’s a great way to put some credits in the bank, so you can draw them down when you need them most.”

You can see a map of all the Boingo hotspots at boingo.jiwire.com.  If you download the free app, there is also a hotspot map.

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Have a Little Fun with the iPhone

The world can be a depressing place if you let it: EMI is $3 billion in debt and facing default; music piracy is costing the industry revenue and jobs; and just today, it was announced that Prince’s music company, PRN Music Corporation, owes the state of Minnesota more than $227,000 in taxes (maybe that’s not so depressing to Minnesota if they get a big fat check anytime soon).  Taking a news fast is a good idea once in a while: it’s not ignoring the bad or doing our ostrich impressions – it’s more like focusing on the good.  And what’s better than iPhone apps?

iPhone apps can be fun, frivolous, and just good old-fashioned time-wasting entertainment.  Here is a look at some good apps that you may find useful or you may find far from useful, which is sometimes great too.

  • Sketch-a-Search.  This is an innovative new app from Yahoo.  One of the most common uses for smartphones is mobile searches, and people on the go are most often searching for localized directions, restaurants, events, or other locales.  The Yahoo Sketch-a-Search lets you draw an area on a map with your fingertip to designate the search area.  That narrows it down and your search is conducted within those perimeters – a great way to find a restaurant in the part of town you are in.

Right now, you can search for cafes, restaurants, and some hotels for cities in the US.  Yahoo plans to expand to include Canada, UK, and parts of Asia and will include local categories like gyms, gas stations, pet stores, retail shops, and real estate.

  • If you’re enjoying a little March Madness, why not get Coach K’s new app?  The famed Duke basketball coach (aka Mike Krzyzewski) has a new game in which your avatar races around the world and competes against virtual opponents.  Coach K is there to, well, coach you through it and give advice.  All the locales are important to Coach K – players go to China, where he coached the Olympic Men’s Basketball team, as well as Durham, North Carolina, where he currently coaches.  You can get the first level at the App Store or Coach K’s app website.  The remaining levels are available for $2.99 at the App Store.  If you get all 3 levels, you are eligible to win prizes.
  • Now to a different type of playing field: if you’re very concerned with your calorie consumption and burn, you may find the Bedometer useful.  This app analyzes your sexual performance (via iPhone or iPod sensors) and calculates the number of calories you burn.  Invented by a woman who wanted to encourage her lazy boyfriend to exercise, the Bedometer could certainly motivate many to get some activity.  According to inventor Livvy Thompson, a “vigorous 15 minute workout” can burn up to 200 calories.

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iKids: The New Generation of Tech-Savvy Toddlers

Today’s kids are just smarter than we were.  We used to be happy playing with sticks and rocks.  Maybe a cardboard box if we were lucky.  The youngest of us maybe had an old school Nintendo with Mario and Luigi in their younger, rounder days.  But today, kids are routinely using computers, playing games, using cell phones, and they expect nothing less than 3G.  To oblige these tech-savvy kids, the icon of childhood has partnered up with the icon of technology to create three Fisher-Price iPhone apps.  Quieting those screaming kids in the car or keeping them busy in the grocery store?  There’s an app for that!  Turning your toddler into a voracious tech consumer?  There’s an app for that too.

All three of Fisher-Price’s iPhone apps are geared towards children age 2 to 5 and are designed by IDEO, the same developer who brought the iPhone to Sesame Street.  Here’s a quick look:

  • See ‘n Say.  This app is just like the toy you may have had growing up.  There are bright, cute farm animals arranged around a center dial.  Give it a spin and identify animals.  Just so kids don’t have to moo and cluck on their own, this app adds some videos of real animals and fun facts about these barnyard favorites.  See ‘n Say will cost you $1.99 – but it will entertain your child when you need it  most, so it could be the best $2 you’ve ever spent.
  • Little People Farm.  This app is modeled after the Little People Farm playset that is widely available in stores.  The cute red barn houses a bunch of equally cute animals.  Kids can match, hide and seek, clean a pig, and put in a hard day’s work at the barn.  The app songs, games, 25 touch points, and helps children develop strong cognitive and motor skills.  They’ll need those when they’re older to buy their own apps.  This, too, costs $1.99.
  • Chatter Telephone.  The irony here is that kids can play with your iPhone and pretend they are on an old rotary phone – you know, the one with the big dial.  This phone rings, makes sounds, plays songs, and helps kids learn about numbers.  Kids do love to play telephone, so this may be very well worth its $0.99 price tag.

Other Fisher-Price/IDEO apps include Sesame Street’s Elmo’s Monster Maker ($3.99 – but you get to build a monster!), the Playground ($1.99), and the Fix-It Shop ($1.99).  PBS Kids also has a Super Why app with the characters from that popular PBS Kids show, a Kids Photo Factory app, as well as ones with Curious George, Martha the talking dog, and Mr. Rogers.  You can find these games at the App Store.

Lesli Rotenberg, SVP, Children’s Media, says, “These apps empower children to explore the world around them with guidance from their favorite PBS KIDS characters.  They also provide parents and caregivers with a new way to foster learning anywhere, anytime, and help their children reach their full potential.”

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Splitting the Check – and Getting Your Share – Made Easier by PayPal

Has this ever happened to you:  you’re out for drinks or dinner with friends, and when the check comes round, everyone has mysteriously forgotten their wallets or only have very large bills that they can’t break (why they don’t pay the whole bill then is left unexplained).  You’re stuck with the check and the promise that they’ll pay you back tomorrow or, worse, that they’ll get you back next time you all go out together.  In a few months.  At which point you feel like a jerk for asking for your money back.  And hopefully you don’t get stuck with this bill as well; maybe you should “forget” your wallet and see what happens.  Or you could use PayPal’s new app, request some cash, and be square before the server has time to collect the bill.

PayPal’s newest iPhone app doesn’t really incorporate any new or groundbreaking technology – but the very fact that it is a money app from PayPal makes it new and groundbreaking in its own way.  There is a multitude of apps designed for making mobile payments, even via PayPal.  This new app, though, is different because of the sheer number of people who use PayPal.  Previously, you’d have to happen to have an app that someone else also happened to have in order to exchange money.  Because PayPal is a very common mode of money payment and transfer, it is far more likely your expensive beer-guzzling friends have an account as well.  So how does it work?

If you’re in the above situation, use the “Split the Check” feature, divide up the check and tip, and then send payment requests for your friends for their shares.  The app also makes it very easy to transfer money between PayPal accounts.  In fact, if the person from whom you are requesting money is there, you just bump your phones together.  Their information is transferred, as are the funds.  You can withdraw funds, request money, and set up payment reminders.  This is great for people who do not like to carry cash, those who don’t want to use their credit cards, and those who really do forget their wallets (but no one ever forgets their smartphone).

You can get the PayPal app from the App Store for free, and it can be used for the iPhone, iPod, and iPad.

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App Helping the Census Bureau

Some of you may have had a knock on the door already from a representative of the Census Bureau and have received an envelope telling you that your participation in the once-a-decade census is required.  It is vital that accurate numbers are compiled because that is how funds are distributed for education, roads, and other projects.  In the tough economy, every dollar counts, so every person counts as well.   A new iPhone app is hoping to help the Census Bureau count a demographic that has traditionally been difficult to accurately count, the Latino population.

California has been hard hit by the recession: in 2000, they spent about $25 million on the census.  This year, they will spend $2 million.  Quite simply, they need the funds that each person can provide.  For every one person who isn’t counted, the state will lose about $11,400 in the coming decade. That’s money that could be going to any number of initiatives.  Considering that there are 4.4 million “hard to count” people in Los Angeles County alone, that is a huge sum of missed opportunity for the struggling state.  Many of the hard to count are Latinos, especially those who are in the country illegally.  California officials are hoping to change this by appealing to their sense of technology.

About 25 percent of iPhone users are Latino, and the younger generation has a great deal of power in swaying the older ones.  California Community Foundation (CCF) president and CEO Antonia Hernandez says:

 

“Technology is an integral part of how young people communicate, and this grant will help us interactively show them how important it is to stand up and be counted in the census.  This innovative outreach will lead to a higher count, and most importantly, more resources for the people in our community who need them most.”

So what is this initiative?

The “Census Challenge” cell phone app targets younger Latinos and urges them to be counted in the 2010 census via text messages.  The app will also encourage them to take on online pledge to participate in the census and become “virtual census recruiters.”  Participants will be able to track their progress and win prizes from MTV and Apple.   The hope is that not only will they be counted, but they will persuade their parents and families to be counted as well.  It is made clear through the apps and other digital media that the census is not used to track immigration.  Accurate answers are confidential, and they are important.

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And the Oscar for Increased Viewership Goes to…iPhone

The Academy Awards show has been struggling with decreased viewership for years; this year, a number of changes were made to try and get both the younger demographic and to the core of their traditional audience to tune in.  One of the updates was to have 10 films in the running for Best Picture, which opened up the variety quite a bit as Precious stood next to Inglorious Basterds.  The producers of the 82nd Academy Awards also decided to invite digital media to the show in the form of Twitter, Facebook, and the good old iPhone app.

The Academy Awards Twitter debut allowed followers to get an inside look at the Awards from producer Adam Shankman and chef Wolfgang Puck (really?).  According to Sparxoo, “In its current form it appears rather limited in its content…yet, it is definitely a step in the right direction of appropriate use of social media to engage potential viewers and bring unique perspectives.”  Hopefully, next year, their Tweets will be a little more encompassing of the younger generation (nice euphemism for having people younger people have actually heard of doing the Tweets).

The Academy Facebook page allowed friends to get wall updates, including behind-the-scenes pictures of preparations, video clips, and a live streaming section that, on the Tuesday preceding the Oscars, streamed the nominations.  Even the Oscar’s official website brought itself into 2010 by offering on online play-along game so fans could make real-time predictions.

But perhaps the broadest audience was reached via iPhone.  The official Oscars app was free and allowed users to look at all the categories and nominations.  You could watch a preview for each of the movies nominated for Best Picture (be nice if we told you about this before the Oscars, huh?  Plan for next year).  You could make predictions and share them on Facebook and other SNS.  On the big night, the app provided real-time updates.

So, how did the Oscars fare this year?  They had more viewers than anytime since 2005.  Over 41 million fans tuned in; in contrast, last year, 36 million found the show worth watching, and in 2008, viewership dipped to a low of 31 million.  This is due, in part, to the economy.  As people are cutting back, they’re getting back to cheaper entertainment. All of the major award shows and the Super Bowl saw increases in viewership.  Also, though, digital media played its role in helping create interest prior to the show and during as people watched to see if their predictions were right.

Plus, it didn’t hurt that even the documentary segment was livened up with a crazy lady doing her Kanye West impression.  We’ll see how the Academy uses technology next year to reel in viewers.

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