Timelapses & Breakdowns

 

A Team NLE

The craft and method of editing is what drew me to filmmaking. Knowing what editors, visual effects artists, and others are capable of doing to tell an intricate story is quite incredible. They are responsible for weaving, manipulating, and inserting assets into frames that help and/or invigorate a story. The best way to see the what the post production process is like is through behind-the-scenes clips on DVDs, or making of featurettes, online. In this article, I’m going to highlight some VFX breakdowns and timelapsed video edits that showcase how much work it takes to bring a film or a video to the masses.

VFX Breakdown #1: X-Men Days of Future Past

One of the top blockbusters of 2014 saw the X-Men mythology returning to top form with this entry into the ever expanding saga. Set in a dystopic future where most of mankind and mutant kind have been eradicated by man made machines know as Sentinels, the remaining X-Men rally together to change the past to ensure a better future before it is too late. To bring the sentinels to life, as well as showcase the various mutant powers that were brought to the screen, required 372 visual effects shots. In the breakdown above, the talented folks of MPC, led by visual effects supervisor Richard Stammers, took upon the task of creating the visual effects of the future mutants and sentinels. Utilizing techniques such as match-moving, rotoscoping, matte painting, chroma keying, and more, they were able to bring various elements to life that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible using practical effects. The photo-realistic effects featured in this film were essential to bringing the audience into this universe.

VFX Breakdown #2: The Expendables 3

The Expendables 3, the third entry into Sylvester Stallone’s homage to classic action films, included more actors, as well as more insane action sequences. We saw everything from insane stunts, more explosions, and combat sequences. For this sequel, the folks at Worldwide FX were responsible for about 1200 VFX shots. In the breakdown above, the Worldwide FX team used a lot of matte painting in certain scenes as well as animating 3D vehicles, like the Expendables’s airplane and helicopters. Watching the breakdown, it is surprising how much green and blue screening was used to set up certain shots. Thanks in part to the efforts of the artists, they are able to seamlessly work with the actors involved. The one thing that caught my eye is how well they are able to rotoscope and integrate objects into scenes with lots of moving parts.

Timelapse Edit #1: SNL “Testicules”

This timelapsed edit session done by SNL film editor Adam Epstein features a short starring actor/producer Andy Samberg. Edited using tools from the Adobe Creative Cloud, Adam takes footage coming DSLRs and RED cameras, and puts together a digital short that has the look of a short film. During the rigorous 48 hour edit session, Adam is responsible for all aspects of post which include sorting out takes, multi-camera editing, color correction, motion graphics/visual effects, and audio selection. The crazy part is that he can still be editing and making changes while SNL is airing and get it uploaded just before it ends. The thing that impresses me about watching his edit session is the amount of quality he is able to pack into his shorts in a 48 hour timeframe. Essentially, cutting an SNL digital short is the equivalent of doing a 48 hour film race every weekend for six months. Anyone who can endure that is a masterful editor.

Timelapse Edit #2: Red Productions Christmas Video 2014

For their annual Christmas video, the folks of Red Productions did a timelapsed edit session on their latest video. Just like Adam, they utilized tools from the Adobe Creative Cloud and completed this video within 24 hours. This video featured greenscreen footage, composited objects and explosions, motion tracking, and many other post production facets. What interested me about this timelapsed session was that they were able to turn around a comedic piece in 24 hours. From what I have seen in editing comedy, it may take a little longer as you need to account for pacing and timing of the humor to occur. Cutting all this in a 24 hour timeframe is impressive to say the least. What stood out to me was how easy they made their visual effects look. They had a plethora of visual effects you’ve come to see in internet videos, and it looked really clean.

Those are just a few breakdowns and timelapsed edit sessions that are floating online. It’s always amazing to see how films and television shows achieve such high level visual effects, as well as watch the talented artists put it all together.

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Local TV Commercial Editing Workflow

Premiere Pro CS6

In my day job, I produce TV commercials for local car dealerships in Northwest Illinois and various cities in Indiana. On a monthly basis, I deliver over 40+ spots to cable and network providers which are shot and edited a few weeks prior to the start of the next month. If I have commercials I need to produce for the month of January, I will shoot and edit them in December so that we can have them running at the beginning of the month. Aside from the production schedule of the monthly commercials I produce, I use an editing workflow that allows me to be efficient and maintain a level of speed that can handle unforeseen circumstances. I’m going to detail my editing workflow in Premiere Pro and hopefully provide some tips and insight into delivering multiple commercials to multiple vendors.

Setting up the project & gathering assets

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Before I shoot a month’s worth of commercials, I use a template project that has folders and assets which I know will factor into the edit. I change the scratch disks and project save location so I can keep my original template project intact; or I use PostHaste, depending on the project. From there, I add more folders that I may need for auxiliary assets like third party motion graphics and more. I also make sure that I have logos and monthly artwork from each brand I deal with at my agency. Once I’ve set up my project for the month, I wait until the shoot day before I do anything else.

Storage & Preparing the footage

When I’m shooting commercials for clients, I alternate between the Panasonic AF-100 and Sony PXW-X70. These cameras give me best of two worlds, which are interchangeable lenses and small but powerful broadcast cameras. Both cameras record with the AVCHD codec. The X70 also has its own proprietary codec which is the XAVC codec. When it comes to bringing footage from either of these cameras, I typically transcode the clips into Apple Pro Res or Pro Res HQ. Although Premiere can take most formats natively, with the hardware I have available (and based on past experiences) I choose to play it safe using a codec meant for editing. Before I do that, I always make sure to backup the SD card in two locations in sparse disk bundles using the Create Disk Image app.

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Once I’ve taken care of storage and encoded my footage into Pro Res, I move the footage to my network based RAID and import it into my project file so I can begin building sequences.

Building a selects sequence

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I place all of my footage into a sequence so that I can sort out the best takes, as well determine which clip goes with what dealership. I use timeline markers to group my clips together so that I can use the Markers panel and search for dealerships quickly. Once the selects sequence is built, I proceed to use the pancake timeline technique to build my main commercial sequences.

Structuring main commercial sequences & adjusting for time

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Using the pancake timeline technique, I put my selected sequences on top of my main commercial sequences, and drag clips into their appropriate places according to what is written in the script. From there, I add voice-overs, branding graphic assets, running footage, and more to time out each commercial to 30 seconds. If my footage, voice-overs, or other assets don’t meet that length, then I trim until everything does. Once I have my main commercials assembled and timed out, I add motion graphics and finishing touches like color correction/grading.

Motion graphics & finishing

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For motion graphics, I tend to use After Effects… unless I’m not looking for intricate animations. Lately, I’ve been using it for text animations as well as graphic overlays, especially since the update to Premiere Pro CC 2014.1 introduced the feature of Render & Replace. With that function implemented, I can now use dynamic linked After Effects comps and render/unrender them inside Premiere when I want to. In terms of finishing, I level the audio to broadcast specs and fix color balance and/or apply a simple color treatment, along with a Sharpen filter.

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Once I have motion graphics and finishing locked, I begin exporting my main commercial sequences to Media Encoder to get them to my broadcast vendors.

Exporting from Media Encoder and Delivery

Inside of Media Encoder, I set up my commercial sequences to be exported in a variety of codecs. Most of my broadcast vendors take either H.264 or Pro Res HQ. With Media Encoder, I use presets I created prior to encode one sequence to multiple Quicktime movies.

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Once I have exported my commercials into various Quicktime movies, I run one of them through Sorenson Squeeze to encode to WMV for brand compliance. With my Quicktime movies ready for broadcast delivery and my WMVs ready for brand compliance, I deliver each of them to their appropriate vendors and brands. In regards to compliance, if they approve it, then my broadcast deliver is cleared. If it is disapproved, I fix whatever mistake I have and re-export it for compliance and broadcast until it is correct.

As you can see, it pays to have a workflow that allows me the space to be creative, but at the same time meet pressing deadlines. After each month, I examine what worked best, what can be improved on, and if other tools can be added to allow for both efficiency and higher production value. In 2015, I plan on looking for tools and techniques that will allow me to be even more efficient and creative. Below is one of my finished promos for this month.

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5 Tips/Tricks for Premiere Pro CC

Premiere Pro CS6

Over the last few years, Premiere Pro has really stepped up its game as being a dependable NLE for professionals across the world. Its ability to make almost any codec native editable allows it to be more than a viable choice for editors to use. I’ve professionally relied on it to get many projects done over the years, and with each iteration that has been released, Premiere has shown that it can compete with the best of the NLEs. With the release of the Creative Cloud, we have been introduced to features that make the life of an editor much easier. I want to share a few tips/tricks that can help you in using this versatile NLE.

Using Drop Down Menus

The source, program, and title monitor each have a drop down menu above them indicating what item is currently in view. Every time you enter a new item into these monitors, it changes to that item. The cool thing about the source and title monitor is you can load multiple items into them and cycle through each individually by using the drop down menu. For example, if I want to look at multiple video clips and not have to load them into the Source monitor one by one, all you have to do is select a group of clips in the project browser and drag them into the source monitor. By using the drop down menu, you can go through multiple clips one by one. Aside from using the drop down menu in CC, you can map shortcuts to these commands below to cycle through clips using the keyboard. Personally, I’ve found this to be a timesaver for high volume footage edits.

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You can also load multiple titles in the Title Tool and cycle through different titles. You can also edit them one by one without having to double click them individually.

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You can also use the drop down menu for the Program monitor when you have multiple sequences open. I rarely use the drop down menus when cycling between sequences, but it’s always good to know multiple ways to move around your interface.

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Opening Multiple Sequences

Having to double click to open sequences in Premiere can be a pain in the ass, especially if I have to do it to multiple sequences. Luckily, there is a shortcut in Premiere Pro CC that allows you to open multiple sequences at once. If you map a keyboard shortcut for the command Open in Timeline, this will definitely be handy for opening multiple timelines. Select your group of timelines in the Project browser, hit your custom keyboard shortcut for Open in Timeline, and all of your sequences will open at the same time. I discovered this trick while working on commercial spots recently, and it has been a real timesaver. I strongly recommend you try it out yourself.

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Creating Custom Dimensions for Layers

Not too many people know this, but you can actually determine the dimensions of a Color Matte, Black Video, Adjustment Layer, or Transparent Video Layer before you commit to it. When you go to create one of these layers by selecting the create new item button, a dialog box shows up with dimensions of your current sequence. Let’s say, for example, that you wanted a red square and you didn’t want to go to the title tool to create it. If I create a Color Matte with dimensions of 500×500, I will get a red square Color Matte.

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Knowing this tip can reduce the time you may spend creating shapes in the Title Tool, or farming out to Photoshop if you are so inclined.

Change Duration of Multiple Transitions

One of the things I enjoy about the Creative Cloud version of Premiere, is that I can select multiple transitions and change their duration at the same time.

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As cool of a trick as this is, I hope future iterations will have the ability to map a shortcut to change transition duration as opposed to using the mouse all the time.

Importing Favorites Bins/Custom Presets onto other machines

This was a tip I learned recently from the Adobe forums. If you create custom presets and bins for favorites, it is saved in a file known as Effect Presets and Custom Items. This file updates each time you import a preset or custom bin into Premiere Pro. The best things about this file is that you can copy and import it into other systems with Premiere Pro installed. The instructions I’m giving are on a Mac, but you can find instructions for this file on PCs if you search the help pages. First, copy the file from the User>Documents>Adobe>Premiere Pro>version #>profile folder. With the file on a flash drive, open Premiere Pro CC (2013 or 2014 works) and go to the effects browser. Right click on the Effects tab and select import presets. Select the file on the flash drive and you will get the custom presets you created, as well as the favorites bins you created on your other machines.

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This trick is also useful when Premiere is being sluggish and you need to trash preferences. You won’t need to recreate everything all over again. These are just a few tips/tricks that Premiere Pro has to offer. There are many more available when you really get to know the program. In fact, the updates coming for the next release of Premiere Pro CC 2014 look more promising than any release I’ve seen in years. Try these tricks out yourself and discover ways to move faster in Premiere to get your work done.

Sound Effects

Compression Apps Pro and Cons

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If you are a seasoned editor or new to video editing, one of the many things that will frustrate you off the bat is dealing with exporting and compression. Sometimes, it can be straightforward if your client gives you requirements for the format they need their outputs in. Other times, you will find yourself playing a game of compression roulette, trying to get good quality in a small file size only to find the format you chose was not compatible with your client’s needs. Thankfully there are many applications such as Apple’s Compressor, Adobe Media Encoder and MPEG Streamclip that are designed to help alleviate your potential exporting nightmare. In my years as an editor, I’ve managed to use all these apps to facilitate deliverables for my clients.

In this article, I will discuss the pros and cons of each application, to provide a better understanding of which app may fare better in different situations. As a disclaimer, the pros and cons are based on my personal experience using them, and may not be exactly the same as your experience will be.

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Apple Compressor (sold as part of Final Cut Studio 3: $999, as a separate app: $50)

Pros

  • Great to use when you need to encode your finished file for a DVD
  • Encoding can be automated by creating droplets
  • Greater and more detailed customization than what is allowed in Final Cut Pro 7 or X
  • Has better conversion for slowing down footage using optical flow

Cons

  • Roundtripping from FCP 7 tends to yield poor results and can cause crashes
  • Encoding to h.264 can be really slow at times
  • It’s not a fully 64 bit application
  • Interface hasn’t changed in version 4 and is still a bit confusing for new users
  • Doesn’t take advantage of all cores on a multi-core Mac

Overall, I would use Compressor if I needed to encode a project for DVD or needed specific customization for a client deliverable. Otherwise, it’s the least used encoding application in my toolbox.

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MPEG Streamclip (free app from squared5.com)

Pros

  • Can convert to Quicktime, DV, .avi, .mp4 and more
  • Has the ability to open DVD Video TS folders
  • You can batch encode multiple files into one format
  • Preferred app for DSLR users with h.264 footage
  • Works on PC and Mac
  • Can trim, cut and join other movies together

Cons

  • Only converts audio to .aiff which can result in larger audio file size
  • Doesn’t support AVCHD or MXF file conversion
  • Parameters can be confusing for people who aren’t video savvy

Overall, I believe MPEG Streamclip is a must have in your toolkit if you need quick and dirty conversion. It is a highly recommended application among the DSLR community and best part of all is that it is free.

mediaEncoder

Adobe Media Encoder ($50 a month as part of the Creative Cloud)

Pros

  • Can encode to formats of Quicktime, .wav, .mxf and many more
  • Comes equipped with presets for many multimedia needs such web, DVD, broadcast, iOS, Android and more
  • Can be queued from Premiere and After Effects
  • Two pass encoding is available for higher quality output

Cons

  • Learning curve for usage is not as beginner friendly
  • Two pass encoding can be slow if you aren’t using a reasonably powerful computer

Overall, I’ve always found Media Encoder to be my encoding application of choice. The amount of headaches its relieved are second to none. With the next iteration on the horizon with CC, it will only grow stronger and more dependable with time.

That’s my assessment of the popular encoding applications used by video editors. They each possess their pros and cons but I’m a firm believer in using what gets the job done best and gives you the least headaches. There are many other encoding apps on the market but these three tend to be the most used and reliable for the various post production tasks that may arise.

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

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Swap Slide Transition in Premiere

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One of the many tips I learned when I started editing was to be observant of things I see on the screen. When I wanted to learn how to recreate a transition, effect, or animation and there was no tutorial or breakdown available, I would watch the example over and over to fill in the pieces. By doing that, I learned how to create my own effects transitions in various editing applications as well as how to turn those into successful tutorials. What I’ve recently learned how to do in Premiere is how to create over/under transitions that I was used to seeing in FCP 7. The first one I did was a Sliding Page Transition. I was able to break it down by observing a video clip I saw online into its essential elements. In short, it was nothing more than animating the scale and position parameters, switching clips on their original video tracks and adding a quick gradient behind it. Once I put the pieces together, it was simple to recreate it. I took a similar approach for this transition as well.

The next transition I will show you how to do a Swap Slide. This transition involves swapping your outgoing clip with your incoming clip.

Swap Slide Transition Setup

First, you want to have two clips on your timeline like the picture below.

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Next, add keyframes for position on both clips. For the clip on track 1, I’ll add a keyframe for position at its default value.

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Let’s move 13 frames forward and add another keyframe with the clip moved to right, almost offscreen.

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Move 12 frames forward and change the position value back to the default.

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Now, we need to add the same amount of keyframes to the clip on track 2 as well but instead of moving it to the right, we will move it to the left. Follow these screenshots as a reference.

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The final step in creating this transition is a blade edit and swap the video clips. First, let’s make a blade edit on the second keyframe of each clip.

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Move the clip on track 1 to track 2. Do the reverse for the clip on track 2.

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If you do all that, you will get a result that looks like this.

There you have it. Another over/under transition for the FCP converts who now use Premiere. If you want the transition to happen sooner, you can change the timing of the keyframes to your liking. If you are PC user, this tutorial may not be relevant as this transition still exists in the Slide category. If you want an option to purchase a package that has this actual transition, you can get the Genarts Sapphire package or BorisFX’s RED package. Both of them offer this transition with in their vast categories. While they are great to have, they can be expensive if you don’t have the budget, so purchase wisely.

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

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