Where’s yo’ head at?

nullI’ve been restricted to quarters due to Man Flu recently, and have kept some rather odd company, in the form of the boxed DVD set of ‘Visual Effects for Directors’.

Over 7 intensive DVDs, the Hollywood Camera Work team takes you through the basics and the not so basics of working with 3d software, compositing, match moving, a deep dive into chromakey (from painting a studio to planning shots in a small cyc studio), and dealing with simulations that overlay your movies – explosions, collisions, hard/soft body interaction, particles.

All this is from the point of view of an Indie film maker with an HVX200 or something similar, non-esoteric 3d and compositing software running on desktop computers, and a big vision.

It’s not a course in how to use 3d or compositing software, though it pulls no punches on giving you very detailed information. Rather, it’s to gain an understanding of the process to enable the director or producer to fully comprehend the unfolding workflow when ‘we’ll comp that in post’, and how to plan a chomakey shot that tracks round a subject so they can be inserted into a CGI scene.

Like the other product in HCW’s stable – “High End Blocking & Staging”, this is not an easy watch. You’ll be ‘drinking from the firehose’ so to speak. Info comes thick and fast, and you’ll benefit from repeated watching. There’s over 10 hours of stuff in there, spread over 7 DVDs, and there’s no time for tourists. Buckle up, take notes, and there’s coursework for you to test yourself on hosted at the HCW website.

These courses are sometimes called a ‘film school in a box’, and that’s a pretty good description. It’s 25 years since I’ve sweated through intense lectures and come up gasping for air. But then I find that sort of thing an enjoyable experience….

It’s not going to be suitable for every videographer. It’s aimed squarely at indie film production of the high-tech type (Blocking & Staging is much more general and recommended for all ‘film makers’). The price, $329, is a bargain for what you’re getting. A wise investment. But since I bought my set, HCW are now offering you an option to download images of the DVDs, and they will post you a box and some labels.

Why? Because I had to pay VAT and import duty on my set, suffering delays and surcharges along the way. This way, you download the DVD images, and burn your own disks – the official labels are valued at $3 so do not attract surcharges and duty.

Besides which, this is the sort of thing that’s great to dip in and out of on a small screen as well as the home setup. There is SO much information, it needs repeated viewings to allow all that great knowledge to become part of your own mental toolset. It may not be as instant as Neo’s upload – “I know kung fu…” – but you’ll empathise with with the intensity of the upload experience.

http://www.hollywoodcamerawork.us

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Back to school

This may be a missive in the school of ‘Painfully and Slowly Working Out the Patently Obvious’, but in the face of a sudden delay in the start of an edit, I decided to splash out on something to cheer me up until the tapes arrive (four to six hour delay). And being a bit of a sad git at heart, what do I choose? To cuddle up to an Iain M. Banks? To go for a long cycle ride in the balmy summer air?

No, I’m watching training material.

There’s a lot of really great training material out there on very exciting subjects. And I’m surfacing from a long dip in Ripple Training’s Compressor 3. Yes, the thought of ploughing through a few hour’s worth of Compressor training is hardly going to make a spike on most people’s Richter scale, but it pays off.

The first comment I’d make to any new investor in any of the many of the downloadable training programmes from the likes of Ripple Training, Lynda.com and Total Training, is to watch EVERYTHING, don’t skip the first few chapters even if you’re drumming your fingers through it thinking that this is all in the manual. I suddenly discovered the ‘Upload via FTP’ destination and the ‘FLV’ encoding elements in my Compressor that I didn’t know I had. Soon you’ll be into deep dive stuff, inserting chapter markers, hooking cheap hardware to accelerate your H.264 Compressor encodes, optimising your WMV encodes, learning how not to reduce your Mac to an unresponsive jelloid mass by not switching on unnecessary options and using job chaining, how to avoid unnecessary key frames cluttering up your natural stuff, and making very nice video for distribution and optimal use within Final Cut Pro. And on and on.

The benefit for any UK based Final Cut Pro editors is that the dollar is so Euro amp; Pound friendly that good training is an absolute bargain. Lynda.com and Pixel Corps offer very very broad ranges of materials (The Corps has a more cliquey follow-on meet-your-tutor, discuss-with-peers feel, Lynda has oodles of everything to watch and learn, but doesn’t follow on – take your pick). Ripple Training is focussed on the Final Cut Pro niche, and if you ‘dress to the Adobe’, Total Training makes training you want to watch. Beyond that, many kind and talented souls have made screencast tutorials and all of them have much to offer.

Okay. Now and again, there’s the occasional dog. A ‘what a waste of everything’ moment. But at least by churning through the tutorials and the training, you’re able to discern, and that means you’re learning. Learning and training leads to doing better, doing it faster. Increasingly effective earning power. And now, with any luck, that bike with the tape hasn’t left yet, so I can take another sneak peek at Ripple Training’s Motion 3 Deep Dive.