Saturday, 25 August 2012

Final Cut Pro X

Originally published on Jul 9, 2011 @ 0:50

Final Cut Pro X was released to a very mixed reception. Professional  editors were up in arms and the media had a  field day.  Enough has been written about that.  A percentage will jump ship to Avid, some to Adobe and some will be brave and stick it out but what about the rest of us? Some of us actually think it's an amazing product.

Years ago I messed about with Premiere Pro on the PC.  I liked it, it was perfectly suited to the kind of home movie nonsense I was shooting, then a friend of mine 'gave' me his macbook!  The macbook had iMovie HD on it and it was brilliant, I could edit stuff together quicker than with Premier Pro and the results were great.  After a while I met the limitations of iMovie HD and started craving something more powerful.  Final Cut Express 4 was released shortly after and I purchased it immediately and all was well again... for a while.

I was closely watching the DSLR movement into video production, short films were being made that looked amazing.  I wanted to be part of the DSLR video revolution so I bought myself a Canon 550D and a couple of lenses.  The 550D (T2i) can pretty much turn out video the same quality as a 7D, 1080p @ 24,25 & 30 FPS.  720p @ 50 & 60 FPS.  Final Cut Express only had limited support for 1080p. I could edit 1080p @ 25 FPS but not 24 .  I had to convert the H.264 .mov files from the Canon into Apple Intermediate Codec, FCE does not support ProRes.  I looked at Final Cut Pro 7 and the £900 price tag and said "If Final Cut Pro was £300, then I would buy it".  Then the rumors started appearing about a new version of Final Cut Pro

On January 15th I tweeted "I wonder if the new Final Cut Pro will appear on the Mac App Store at a silly low price like Aperture 3 did?"
It really was like Apple had released a version of Final Cut Pro especially for me.  It was priced right and solved nearly all of the issues I had with Final Cut Express 4.
  • I can now start editing with footage off the 550D straight away and it transcodes it into ProRes so colour information is maintained when grading.
  • I can now shoot 24p and edit with it.
  • Syncing audio from my Zoom H1 used to be a complete pain in the arse, now it's easy.
  • I can create films that are in surround sound.
It is definitely not iMovie PRO, I never got on with the newer versions of iMovie, I just didn't get it.  Final Cut Pro X might look a bit like iMovie but the similarities pretty much end there.

I purchased the FCP X training videos from Ripple Training there are just over 5 hours of training and these really do help massively and well worth the $40 (~ £25).

I am finding it a lot quicker to edit FCP X than I could with FCE4 which is basically the same interface as FCP7.  I don't have years of Final Cut Pro experience or money invested in FCP editing suites or paying clients nor have I ever used multicam  or needed to export OMF, saying that, there are a few things that are missing for me.

I can't correct footage that is shot using the Technicolor Cinestyle as there are no curves and FCPX doesn't support the LUT buddy plugin but hopefully support is coming soon.

There is no master sound level controls so you can't fade out all the sound with one curve!  That is annoying.
I bought Motion 5 because it's the same price as a couple of dominos pizzas.  Integration with FCP X is great as far as transitions go but I'm not sure what the best workflow is for adding special effects to part of the storyline.  Do you have to export what you want to work on, add the effects and import it as a new video file?  Why is there no "Sent to Motion" and "Sent back to Final Cut Pro" options so you can round trip the adding of effects.  Maybe this will be added later.

Overall for me £179.99 is a great price, It gives me nearly everything I need for video editing.  Maybe people like me are the target audience for this product or maybe I'm just more open to change.

Technicolor CineStyle

Originally published on May 15, 2011 @ 19:43

Technicolor have created a Picture Style for Canon EOS DSLRs which can be downloaded from here
I tested it out while at Fortress Wales and made a split screen film showing before and after colour correction.  The film has been used as an example of CineStyle on Philip Bloom's blog which has really boosted the views on Vimeo :)

The film shows the difference between the style straight out of the camera and colour adjusted using the supplied LUT file.  No other colour grading has been applied.

Cup of Tea?

Originally published on Jan 29, 2011 @ 22:04

Filmed at 1080 25p with a Canon 50mm f1.8 II lens at f1.8.

I forgot to use my Zoom H1 recorder during filming so I recorded all the sound again later and dubbed it on.
Some simple colour grading is applied; I added a bit of mid-tone red and decreased mid-tone blue a little to give a warmer look.

Homemade Zoom H1 Shock mount

Originally published on Nov 20, 2010 @ 13:50

The Zoom H1 is a great little stereo XY recorder but it suffers from a lot of handling noise. When mounted on top of an SLR using a hot shoe to 1/4" screw adapter it picks up over movement of your hand, zooming, focusing and button pressing. A solution to this problem is to use a shock mount which will dampen handling noise by using elastic or rubber. I had a look on eBay and camera websites and found that an off the shelf shock mount which may or may not be suitable for the shape of the H1 costs about £35. The H1 itself costs around £90 so I decided to have a go at making my own.

After looking for suitable raw materials in the usual DIY shops and failing I was about to give up when solution appeared from within a kitchen cupboard.

Shock mount raw material

Yes, It's a plastic cup, but made from a really good type of plastic.  It is quite thick, not brittle and very strong. I'm sure my wife won't notice if it goes missing...

An hour later after getting the dremel out and a quick coat of fast drying enamel paint.  My homemade H1 shock mount was complete.

It features four yellow elastic bands which act as the shock absorber.  I bought a large box of different colour elastic bands for under a pound.  I'm using a hot shoe to 1/4" thread screw thing that I bought from eBay in order to attach it to my camera.

Finally, a shot of what this looks like mounted on the camera.  It still picks up noise but this really helps and the noise is minimal if you are careful.

Changing the frame rate of a QuickTime movie

Originally published on Oct 8, 2010 @ 23:16

One of the great things about Canon's DSLRs is their ability to shoot video at various frame rates.  The 50 and 60 fps 720p modes can be used to over crank  slow motion by adjusting the frame rate to 24, 25 or 30 fps in post.  The problem for me is that the examples for the mac on the web are using Cinema Tools, which is great if you own Final Cut Pro but I'm not quite at the level where I want to spend that much on software yet.  I have Final Cut Express 4, which is perfectly good to cut your teeth in video editing but lacks all the extra powerful tools that it's big brother FCP provides.  

There is a free way to adjust the frame rate of your quicktime videos without re-compressing and loosing quality.  The QuickTime file format makes use of data types known as Atoms.  These Atoms contain all the data in the quicktime file, the video and audio data as well as various meta data Atoms that contain information such as the dimensions of the movie, the number of audio channels, the audio bit rate etc.  It also contains Atoms that dictate the frame rate of the movie.  Apple have a free application which you can download from called Atom Inspector. By trial and error and some educated guesses I have worked out a method of changing the frame rate of a quick time movie by changing two values.

Using the Atom inspector load up the Quicktime move that you want to adjust. Find and expand the movie header.  This is the Atom named mvhd under moov - Movie.

I have loaded a movie which was shot at 60 FPS.

mvhd - Frame rate at 60 FPS

I'm going to change the frame rate to 25 FPS.  Simply edit the value and change to 25000

mvhd - Frame rate set to 25 FPS

The next value you need to change is under the Atom name mdhd - Media Header which is under the mdia - Media section:

mdhd - Frame rate at 60 FPS

Change the timescale value from 60000 to 25000
mdhd - Frame rate at 25 FPS

Press command S to save and that's it.  The QuickTime movie is now a nice 25 FPS slow motion movie.  You can of course choose any other frame rate and speed up as well as down.


I have only tried this on the H.264 .mov files that are created by my Canon 550D and Quicktime files that have been transcoded into Apple Intermediate Codec. I'm using OS X version 10.6.4.  I don't know if this method works with every Quicktime movie file and what side effects this method might have.  So it's a really good idea to make a copy of your file and edit the copy.  Always make backups of you original files before any messing about such as this.
If you try this on a copy then you have nothing to loose.  It might look a bit complicated and scary, but it's actually quite quick and easy to do.
Good luck.

7DVL1 64 LED Video / Photo modelling light

Originally published on Sep 25, 2010 @ 20:15

I don't think there are many photographers that will argue that one of the most important if not the most important element of creating a good photograph is good lighting. Good lighting is also essential for those of us dabbling in the world of DSLR film making. For guerilla style filming, mainly a hand held one man film crew a good portable, powerful light source is essential when filming inside or at night. I have a found an extremely affordable video light that is hot-shoe mountable.

It is the 7DV1 64 LED video light from
Here are the specs:
Dimensions: H7 x W7 x D3cm
Weight: 198grams (with batteries inserted)
Colour temperature: 5500K
LED luminosity: 480 lumens
Power requirements: 4 x AA batteries.  NiMh are recommended
Battery life is approximately 2 hours at full brightness and 4 hours at reduced power mode (36 LEDs)
It is supplied with a fairly sturdy plastic mounting bracket that attaches to a standard 1/4 inch thread.
The really good thing about these lights are that they can be connected together to make a large panel.  I only have two but you can get the idea.

The light has four hot-shoe sized slots to allow them to be connected together in any arrangement.  In theory any size panel can be created but each light needs to be turned on and off individually and takes it's own set of 4 AA batteries, so the practicality of making a large panel isn't great.  Lots of batteries, lots of weight.  Also a custom made rig to mount them on would have to be built.  The brightness of one of these lights is very impressive, I found two lights are very practical for filming inside in complete darkness, I will post an example video in the future demonstrating this in the future.
There are options when it comes to mounting the lights to a camera:  hot-shoe, bracket, both or 2 brackets.

Mounting the lights in this way involves screwing one mount into the other.  Because the mounts are plastic there is a bit of wobble but it's not too bad.  I'm sure there are lots of third party metal flash brackets available to give a more sturdy mounting solution.

I only really have one issue with these lights and that is the power switch, it's a push on / push off type rather and a sliding switch.  The power switch could easily get pressed when it's in your camera bag, for this reason I leave one battery out of each light when they are not in use.  This small issue can be easily forgiven as the price for one of these lights is just £17.29 delivered with a 2 year warranty.  I highly recommend these lights and at under £20 a piece it's a no brainer buying decision.


Originally published on May 15, 2010 @ 17:17

Canon EOS 550D, ISO 640, 17-50mm @ 50mm, f/4, 1/60

Lightroom 3 Beta 2 Noise reduction

Originally published on Apr 27, 2010 @ 21:38

I heard various people praising how effective the noise reduction is on Adobe's second beta release of Lightroom 3 so I snapped this mug on my desk at ISO 12800 and gave it a go. Wow.

Noise reduction applied

Compare this with the original image below:

Original image

Canon Picture Styles

Originally published on Mar 28, 2010 @ 18:22

This video shows the difference between some of the built in picture styles of the Canon 550D.  Choosing the correct picture style is essential as it will effect the quality and amount of post processing that is possible.  If you intend to grade your film it is important to shoot your footage with a flat picture style that has fairly low contrast this will give you the latitude you need to change the lows, mids, highs and saturation later on without blowing out the highlights or loosing detail in the blacks.  To achieve more of a film look sharpness should be turned all the way down as in camera sharpness is achieved using image processing and can't really be removed later on but the same kind of sharpening can be added in post.  If you focus correctly and have decent lenses then little sharpening if any will be required.

You will have to pause the video and view it full screen to appreciate the differences.  If you compare 'Standard' with the 'User' picture style you might think that the Standard looks better and is the one to use which might be true if you do not intend to do any post production work.  Compare these two again.  The Standard style has more contrast, sharpness and is more saturated but look towards the back of the worktop the User style holds more detail as the Standard style goes almost black.  The clip shot using the User style could be easily made to look like the standard style or many other variations of colour, contrast and other looks but we would have far less freedom with the Standard Style clip.

These are tips I have picked up from reading articles on the web and from my own experiments.  My first film I posted "Porthcawl" is an example of the picture style being set incorrectly.  I hope to upload more films in the future that back up the advice I have given in this post. 

Porthcawl - 550D Test Video

Originally published on Mar 26, 2010 @ 14:49

I took my camera out with me last Sunday and shot some video as a test.  Although I wasn't happy with the footage I decided to edit and post the video anyway.  The footage was shot in 720 /50p (720p 50fps) and converted to 720 25p Apple intermediate codec using MPEG Streamclip.  I quickly edited it using Final Cut Express 4 adding the music, titles and 2.35:1 widescreen matte.  The film was then exported as a quicktime movie and converted to MP4, cropped to 1280x546 using Quicktime 7 (Thanks to @philipbloom for the cropping method).  The music is Giotto by Mark Roberts used with permission.

There are three main problems with the footage:  I didn't use a tripod for all of the shots so they are very shaky, I don't have any Neutral density filters yet so the shutter speed had to be compromised to get the correct exposure which means the aperture had to be very small also so there is a very large depth of field in every shot.  Lastly the picture profile was not set correctly.  I used the Marvels_Cine_ V1.2_rel.pf2 picture style which I'm not sure is right for the 550D but in any case the sharpness was set too high which showed some artefacts.
Apart from all that It looks OK considering it wasn't planned and I was lacking those ND filters.
The video can also been seen on Vimeo Here

Testing my new Camera

Originally published on Mar 18, 2010 @ 0:30

Sackboy EF50mm f/1.8II f/2.2 1/60s ISO 500

I am still getting through the manual of my new 550D and have only taken a few test shots.  Here is a picture of Sackboy taken with the EF50mm f1.8II lens (The cheap 50mm one).  This is a JPG from the camera exported as a smaller size from iPhoto.

Red Tractor

Originally published on Feb 14, 2010 @ 22:43

Dylan at Folly Farm

This is the first photo that I processed using the beta version of Aperture 3.
I used the way you can apply any change as a brush.
I desaturated the picture the brushed the colour back in, simple and powerful.

Dead Flower

Originally Published on Dec 12, 2009 @ 16:24

This is a photo of a dead flower picked semi randomly from my library. It's taken using the Minolta 70-210mm f4 (Beer can) lens @ 210mm f4 1/320s exposure.  It's not particularly exciting but I like the colours and the shallow DOF.

Strange Fish

Originally published on Nov 21, 2009 @ 20:23

Minolta 50mm Prime f1.7 ISO 100 1/2000s

Check out this weird fish that popped out of the water to say hello at Mini Europe in Belgium.
It reminds me of the helpful fish that gives information about the islands in the Nintendo game 'The Legend of Zelda the Wind Waker'.
I shot this wide open at f1.7 which is a bit makes the depth of field a bit too shallow but it still worked out ok.
I don't know what type of fish it is though?

RHEA - GREATER RHEA (Rhea americana)

Originally published on Nov 15, 2009 @ 17:41

This was taken using the Minolta f4 70-210mm (Beer can) lens @ 120mm f4 1/160

ShakeIt app

Originally published on Nov 6, 2009 @ 10:15

Taken with ShakeItPhoto app

A sunny November day in Tenby

Originally published on Nov 1, 2009 @ 21:54 

The beach At Tenby 16mm f22 1/50s

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

FCE DV widescreen 16:9 workflow for iDVD

Originally published  Oct 19, 2009 @ 22:03

I have edited widescreen video with iMovie HD and burned it using iDVD with no problems, they are designed to work together and both are bundled with every mac as part of iLife.  At some point if you are into video editing and find it as fun as I do you will soon be hungry for a more powerful editing solution.  What I really wanted was Final Cut but I'm not a professional editor and will not be making any money from from my videos, well not yet anyway.

Apple's Final Cut Studio costs £799 and to be fair it contains five products: Final Cut Pro, Motion 4, Soundtrack Pro, Color and Compressor.  I want more than iMovie but don't need as much as Final Cut Studio, this is where Final Cut Express sits.  Final Cut express is a stripped down version of Final Cut Pro but has all the features you require for editing home movies.  It is designed for editing footage captured on consumer camcorders, including HD.  There is no multi camera editing and the colour correction is two way rather than the more advanced three way offered with pro.  I'm not going to go through all the differences there are a lot more but Final Cut Express gives you everything you need to 'Professionally' edit your home movies.  The biggest difference between Pro and Express is the price, FCE is £126 which is reasonable for the features you get and a lot more easy to swallow than £799.

I have recently finished editing my own wedding video (only two years after the event) and wanted to create a DVD that I can sent out to relatives and friends and as I'm using a Mac, it has a great DVD authoring package included with the OS: iDVD.

iDVD allows you to create polished looking DVDs with animated menus, background music, buttons etc and as it's an Apple product it's intuitive and easy to use but there is a problem.  Final Cut express exports 16:9 Quicktime movies in an anamorphic format and iDVD doesn't expect movies in this format and treats them as squashed 4:3 movies.

I found <a href="" target="_blank">this link</a> on Apples website which describes the workflow to get around the issue which describes exporting the movie in the DVCPRO format and setting the aspect ratio to 16:9 and dimensions to 1024 x 576 which does indeed sort out the aspect ratio problem in iDVD so problem solved, not quite.

The problem with the workflow is that chapter markers which are used to define the DVD chapter points are not exported with this type of export so I had a choice: Correct aspect ratio without chapter markers or squashed video with chapter markers.  A bit more googling provided me with the solution.

Quicktime Pro 7 allows you to change edit the properties of the video track within a quicktime movie.  This only changes meta data and does not re-compress the movie when you save it so no quality is lost.  Changing the Display Size to 1024 x 576 formats the movie in a way that iDVD likes it retaining all the precious chapter markers.

Hopefully future versions of iDVD will cope with anamorphic 16:9 so this fiddling about will not be necessary.

Quicktime Pro is not free, it normally costs £20 but when I installed Snow Leopard I was given the option of installing Quicktime 7 as well as Quicktime X so I did and it appears to be Quicktime Pro.  I'm not sure if this is a mistake and a future update will downgrade it but for now I have a fully functioning version of Quicktime 7 Pro.

Manfrotto 055 Tripod

Originally posted on Oct 17th 2009 @ 14:21

I recently bought an old Manfrotto 055 professional tripod from eBay.  It came with an old 155 head but was missing the 1/4" screw part that attaches the camera to the head.  After a couple of weeks of waiting I got a tripod screw to hot shoe adapter which I used as the missing part but it wasn't ideal so I final gave in and bought a new 804RC2 3 way pan/tilt head from Amazon.

The 804RC2 head uses a quick release plate which allows the camera to be removed or securely attached in seconds.
At its lowest the 055 is just 50cm from the floor which puts the camera a mere 62cm from the floor including the head. When the legs are fully extended it reaches a very high 1M 80cm (over 6ft) putting the camera 1M 92cm from the ground which is way over my head.

The Tripod and head are extremely well  build and feel solid and durable.  It's not the lightest of tripods but not exactly heavy either but as  I'm not a professional photographer so I won't be lugging it about everywhere I go so it's not really a problem.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012


This blog will replace my old (currently broken) blog.  When it's better again I will commence transplanting the posts over to this one.  Please wait . . .