The ‘Science’ of ‘Awesome’?

What is it about manflu and training DVDs? Once again, I am confined to duvet, lines of lemsip cut with vitamin C ready for snorting, and I am watching the latest instalment of Per Holmes’ Magnum Opus – “Hot Moves – the Science of Awesome”. And once again, it’s an amazing watch.

This 115 minute long DVD/MP4 feature is an ‘addendum’ to the ‘Master Course In High-End Blocking & Staging’ course – a 6 DVD set of mindbending info, but rather than cover the mechanics of telling a story, or covering a scene so it will cut well, this DVD is about getting the trailer shots – as the narrator puts it, ‘awesome for the sake of being awesome’.

In his usual style, Per and his team hose you with information. It comes thick and fast – though I detect a slight slowing of in tempo in this iteration (though that could be the lemsip). You know an iconic shot when you see it, but the team demonstrate how and why these shots work. And variations that don’t.

Funnily enough, the audience for this production is probably a lot wider than previous titles, not only because it’s great for low budget indie movie makers, but because it taps into the virtual world. This is a must-have for 3d animators and motion graphics designers looking for a movie style.

But even if you’re just going to invest in a slider or even tape a GoPro Hero to a broom stick, you’re going to get some great ideas and solid learning from the title.

It’s ‘required reading’ (watching) if you already have the ‘Visual Effects for Directors’ series, and a fun intro to the style of Per Holmes if you’re thinking about jumping in, but remember that this is the fun bit. You’ll still have to learn the footwork with Blocking & Staging. And none of these titles are ‘watch once and file away’. You can absorb and reinforce by a sort of visual osmosis. I still go through the titles as a sort of ‘background hum’ if I’m not actually editing, though my accountant will probably say this is probably why my paperwork skills are so poor.

Any peeves? The download version I purchased was a DVD image, which really wants you to use FireFox extensions, which turned into a bit of a FireFox love-in and a very long download. I much prefer a smaller straightforward MP4, preferably HD for my AppleTV. But that’s such a minor thing and I believe HCW may be going MP4 soon.

In conclusion, this is yet another solid training title from HCW that rewards repeated viewing and pulls no punches in delivering high quality and high quantity learning material.

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Driving FCP

A forum topic popped up recently: “is it better to use a tablet, or a mouse and keyboard to edit?” – and the obvious answer is ‘whatever suits you best.’ But it got me thinking.

Over 15 years of mucking around with video on Macs, I’ve tried tablets, mice, trackballs, touchpads, external ‘surfaces’, huge knobs, voice control…

I now exclusively edit on a MacBook Pro, using its built in trackpad, with a combination of keyboard shortcuts and mousing. Much to the horror of my fellow editors, who cannot believe I don’t carry an external keyboard and mouse with me. To be honest, after a while, once you learn the interface, it disappears.

In that contemplative stage of editing, doing your selects, trying out ideas, it’s ctl-V to slice up the long sausage, and mousing to ‘lift’ (literally bump the track up a layer) your good bits, and lift again on your selects.

In that honing mode, I think (I have to watch myself) I’m doing more dragging of cut points.

Last year, a fellow editor was watching me edit and was shocked – almost upset – that I was dragging stuff around. Why didn’t I use the keyboard? Because it’s quicker, I replied. He wasn’t having it and saw mousing as a sign of unprofessionalism – yet he didn’t quite see the multitude of keyboard shortcuts for slipping and rolling that I moved between.

Honestly, it really is what suits you best, and having worked with laptops since the first PowerBooks, it’s genuinely faster for me to do what I do. I love the visualness of dragging stuff around, but I’ll still do a TTTT to select everything to the right and move it over before doing an RR to get the ripple tool out, then a ctrl-V to trim all the tracks together.

The only thing I still miss are the big heavy jog/shuttle wheels on the BVE3000 and BVE5000 – great feedback, hardly any latency, and although the way audio is scrubbed and trimmed nowadays is probably better, I still miss the ‘wibbly wobbly’ sound of jogged audio.

Seriously, though, a mouse (or touchpad!) can be more accurate than a tablet because of its scaled movement and ‘gearing’ (fast movements are big, slow movements are small) and take up little space. Tablets are good for ‘muscle memory’, tapping virtual buttons like the paintbox days. But even then, the keyboard was never far away. A tablet-only interface is hard work.

That’s why, I guess, our two tablets became mouse mats. Sigh.

Besides, I find Harry-style circular scrubbing a bit too much like children’s nursery rhymes and even a little more hard work than dabbing at J K L.

But I stil miss that knob!