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Promo Workshop

part 6 of 7: introduction to editing
before we begin

Basic information for TV promo newbies who are considering getting into pro editing. With advice on which editing system to choose, how to capture editable media; and what video format to record in.

• the two parts to editing
• introduction to editing operation
• which editing software system to choose
• importing media: a rough guide
• what format of video to import and edit with

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pro editing software options

Avid Media Composer (Mac or PC)
• the leading, certainly most widespread software system around;
• can get outrageously complex and fiddly;
• slow to learn; but lots of courses and literature available;
• very expensive to purchase;
• no "lite version"... so definitely get the trial version before buying;
• afforadble education licence for students and teachers;
• subscription option available, but not a particularly cheap one.

While it may be a lot more stable than it used to be, the software is really showing its age, with critical functionality embarrasingly stuck in the early '90s.

Professional workflow solutions like Isis and Interplay; and round tripping to leading audio software ProTools make Media Composer the top of the pile.

Adobe Premiere Pro (Mac or PC)
• very decent editing software;
• complex; but good course materials and/or literature;
• used to be more of a designer's choice, now a serious contender to Avid;
• subscription only.

Subscription services mean you can go month to month; which is great in the short term... outrageous in the long term. If you're a freelancer the yearly cost of subscription just stinks.

Premiere is really making some serious strides lately, and is easily better than Avid, but it will take some time before it becomes the new industry standard.

Apple Final Cut Pro X (Mac)
• fantastically awesome and highly affordable editing system;
• super easy to learn;
• powerful with many features Avid doesnt have;
• lacking simple things that Aviddoes way better;
[e.g: Timewarp, Pro Color Grading];
• still doesn't play nicely with Avid AAF or XML projects,
• doesnt play nicely with its own audio stablemate Logic Pro X.

FCPX doesnt integrate so well into pro workflows, so it's not industry standard... and probably never be; as Apple appear to be losing interest in it.

Final Cut became the whipping boy of the industry who (rightly) couldn't believe Apple would crap on the loyal pro customers who invested so much time and money into the last versions Final Cut [7] & Final Cut Server; the same customers who helped keep the company solvent through its darkest years.

Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve (Mac)
• startup editing and Pro color grading system;
• FCPX-like editing methodology;
• lots of feature upgrades and additions;
• being rolled out by a great company staffed with passionate people;
• allows you to swap files between Avid and FCPX ...[amazing!]

This is what happens when new players enter the market, hungry for market share. How long this will last is anybody's guess; but right now, major kudos and hat tipping to Blackmagic for this very clever move.

other software options [honourable mentions]

Apple Final Cut Pro 7 (Mac)
Discontinued editing system that was the preferred system-of-choice particularly for people who never wanted to be editors, but found themselves having to edit as part of their new job description.
Difficult, but reasonably intuitive.
No longer commercially available and slowly dying out from pro circles.

Apple Final Cut Express (Mac)
Used to be an incredibly affordable way to get into pro editing.
Identical to FCP, close enough to Avid to be worth learning.

Autodesk Smoke (Mac)
A wholly different editing methodology that is more the choice of graphic designers who use other Autodesk software.
Seen more in boutique production and design agencies.

Sony Vegas Pro (PC)
Respectable editing software, not in widespread use.

video capture options

Recording of TV and movies is illegal. The information here is intended to be descriptive, not prescriptive. The purchase of devices and the use of these methods is entirely your responsibility. You should be aware that results can and will vary from user to user. These devices are not compatible with every computer set up. Do your research before investing in any of these products; and be aware that they all involve varying degrees of illegality.

TV Tuner
Usually a device that plugs into your computer's USB.
Has its own aerial, or connects to a regular TV aerial socket.
Cheapest, quickest way to get high quality media into our computer.
Limits you to capturing & editing realtime, broadcast TV.

Video Converters
These are external boxes that convert video output to computer recordable data streams.

The Canopus ADVC110 plugs into a Firewire input on your computer
and takes signal from and DV, S-Video or Composite video source.
Hold down the power button to unscramble DVD copy protection.
Limits you to capturing and editing in SD (see below).
Firewire is a discontinued format and may need adaptors.

The Blackmagic UltraStudio Mini Recorder does the same from any HDMI output, enabling you to capture HD media via thunderbolt.
Realtime import is recorded with provided software.

HDMI Splitter
The output of many HDMI sources are scrambled with HDCP.
Some HDMI splitter boxes come with the undocumented feature of stripping the HDCP signal from the outputs.
These boxes are available direct from the Chinese distributors on eBay or Amazon. The powered splitter boxes are (typically) the ones that perform this function. Though many HDMI splitters are only splitters and not strippers!

DVD Ripping
There are many software choices available online. Some cost money and don't work. Some are free but are really hard to find.
Usually involves a process of copying a DVD to your computer, then converting the file to an editable media format.
Can be slower or faster than realtime, depending on your setup.

Bit Torrent, Pirate Bay et al
Don't ask me, I honestly have no idea. All I know is that people do it.
Involves all sorts of downloading which I have yet to be able to work out how to do... and then, obviously, converting the downloaded file to an editable media file.

file types, codecs and standards

Standard Definition (SD) is a perfectly acceptable format to use for creating demo promos for your showreel. Having spent the last couple of years editing in SD, I have to concede that the small file sizes make it so quick and easy to edit, upload, download and render... and really, most people cant really tell the difference between it and HD. Seriously.

Professional SD has a screen size of 768 x 576 pixels for 4:3 screens;
or 1024 x 576 for 16:9 screens

If you intend to contain your work to the internet only, your frame rates will be either 25 frames per second if you source your media from a PAL country; or 30 frames per second if you source your material from an NTSC country.

Interlaced or Progressive relates to how each frame is stored. Old world, glass cathode ray picture tubes scanned images from top to bottom of the screen in a series of horizontal lines. It scanned even numbered lines in one pass and odd numbered lines in a second pass. Both passes made up one frame. This is where the word interlaced comes from.

New world progressive monitors are made up of millions of tiny electronic pixels which illuminate each frame at the same time. One frame progressing after the other.

These days it's safe to say, just select progressive for everything. The only trouble you may have is converting interlaced video to progressive format.

There are many higher frame rates available; all making a better quality picture at the expense of bigger file sizes. You really need a good reason to go above 25/30 fps.

A codec is the name given to the many and various systems of video compression formats. Compression keeps file sizes small at the expense of quality. The more times you compress and uncompress video files, the lower the picture and audio quality.

Professional codecs use minimal compression, but at the need for large media storage capability. The trick of deciding which codec to use means working out how much disc space you can spare divided by the amount of video footage you want to work on.

Take the MPEG2 codec for example. This is the one used on DVDs and digital TV broadcast. One hour of footage in SD at 30fps will take about 2.2GB of storage space.

Convert that footage to superior quality H.264 codec and you'll need some 15.5GBs of storage.

Use the professional ProRes 422 codec and you'll need 18GBs.
No compression at all... 73GBs.

High Definition (HD) is a 16:9 (widescreen) format only. It comes in 1280 x 720 or 1920 x 1080 flavours; and as you have already guessed, requires plenty of storage space. If you're going to go to the trouble of capturing and editing in HD, you really should be using a professional codec like ProRes as a minimum.
You'll need 32GB per hour of HD720 footage; and 65GB per hour of HD1080 footage.

Keep in mind that every time you copy and save an editing project you will need all that storage space again. Suddenly that excessive 3TB hard drive can be alerting you that it's about to run out of space!

You can use strong H.264 compression on the final product and this will get the file size down to something "acceptable".
A 30 second promo in HD720 at 30fps will be about 220MBs.

Check out this handy calculator.

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online resources

Vimeo Film School is an amazing, every growing pool of useful stuff.
The editing section is here. But you can see there's plenty of other topics covered too.

Avid Media Composer is probably the most widely used editing software.
They provide a worthwhile set of videos which you can view here.


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©2013 The Charley Holland Agency