Archive for April, 2006

Starting NAB on a High Note and a Humbling Experience

Well, one of the great things about my job is that I learn something new every day. I’ve been an After Effects user for nearly 10 years now, and it was a delight to be able to share some of that experience with a room of about 250 students last Saturday at the NAB Post Production World conference in Las Vegas.

The exhibits part of NAB started on Monday, but over the weekend legions of digital media artists attended the Post Production World conference to get deep training on the latest production technologies. I taught a class on the After Effects Timeline – a pretty focused session – and one of the main parts of the session was an overview of all the time-saving keyboard shortcuts related to the AE timeline. I promised the class I’d post the list here, but I was also surprised to get a piece of paper handed to me by one of the attendees with a list of shortcuts that he wrote down that I didn’t cover in the session. Most of these I didn’t even know existed. So, thank you, to the guy who handed me the paper, I’m sorry I didn’t get your name, and I’ve taken the liberty of adding yours to the end of my list which starts right now:

Note – These are written in Windowsese, so if you’re on a Mac, substitute “Cmd” for “Ctrl”, and “Opt” for “Alt”.

Home = Go to first frame of timeline
End = Go to last frame of timeline
Page Down = Move forward 1 frame in time
Page Up = Move backward 1 frame in time
(hold the Shift key with Page Down or Up to move Forward or Backward in 10 frame increments)
Ctrl+G = Opens “Go To Time” dialog to navigate to a specific frame
Ctrl+Alt+B = Set work area to currently selected layer
Ctrl+Down Arrow or Up Arrow = Select next layer up or down
Ctrl+Alt+Down Arrow or Up Arrow = Move currently selected layer up or down
J = Go to next keyframe
K = Go to previous keyframe
Alt+Left Arrow or Right Arrow = Nudge selected keyframe(s) left or right

To Reveal Specific Properties for Selected Layer(s) – Hold Shift to reveal multiple properties, Hold Alt+Shift to add a keyframe for that property
M = Mask
F = Mask Feather
P = Position
S = Scale
R = Rotation
A = Anchor Point
T = Opacity
E = Effects (reveals all effects on that layer)
U = Show all keyframed properties for that layer (“Uber” Key)
UU = Show all properties for that layer that have been changed from their default setting

From our friend in the audience:
Ctrl+Click on Expression Editor = Close Expression Editor
Shift+0 (numeric keypad) = Ram Preview every other frame
Alt+Shift+Click = Get rid of Properties in Timeline
Alt+Drag Keyframes = Roving keyframes
MM = Reveal all Mask Properties
Alt+* = Add comment to layer & open comment dialog
Shift+F3 = Open Graph Editor
Shift+F4 = Expand Parent Column

I went straight from the class to check on how the setup of our exhibit was going.

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On the far-left is Elizabeth, who manages our NAB exhibit, juggling an unfathomable number of details while always managing to keep a cool head (don’t know how she does it). From this point forward it was a blur, like it always is. My favorite moment of the week, by far, was handing the copy of Production Studio to the guy who won it at my 10am session on Thursday. The look on the his face said it all. I’m still in NAB Recovery Mode today, so I’ll post more musings on the experience later this week.

The Final Countdown

More shooting for NAB today. Here in the Adobe SF office (the former Macromedia HQ) we’ve got a great little studio and I was able to use it today to shoot some greenscreen footage for some of the demos you’ll be lucky enough to see should you be going to the big shindig in Las Vegas next week.

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We did a direct-to-disk workflow, capturing HD from the camera into Premiere Pro 2.0 via firewire.

Our NAB theater schedule is now public, click here to take a look. I’m off to Sin City tomorrow evening, as I’ll be teaching an After Effects class at NAB Post Production World on Saturday morning.

I Was an HDV Rookie for the NAB

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As you can see above, the NAB preparation doesn’t actually stop for us until 9am on Monday morning when the show opens. Until then, I thank whatever force brought coffee into this world. There I am, shooting HDV footage this morning for some of our NAB demos (this is about as much of a sneak preview as you’re going to get). It’s a good thing I live in the most photogenic city in North America — all you need is a sunny day and you can point your camera just about anywhere and get a good looking shot.

So, even though I’ve edited tons of HDV footage, this was my first time shooting with an HDV camera (the Sony HDR-FX1). I’ve never shot 16:9 before, so it was an interesting challenge getting used to framing things in that aspect ratio. I need to practice a bit more with that — it was kind of like switching to 5-string bass (I switched back to 4 string a few years ago, BTW). I don’t think I’ll be switching back from 16:9, though, I really, really like the “cinematic” feel.

One of the great things about the HDV format is that capture into Premiere Pro 2.0 works the same way as standard DV — just plug the Firewire cable in and go.

Cue The Karaoke !

In Japanese, “Kara” = Empty & “Oke” = Orchestra. That’s what you get in certain bars if you happen to be there on the wrong night. That’s what you are occasionally obligated to partake in when socializing with colleagues in Japan. And that’s one way of describing the Looping functionality of Adobe Audition 2.0.

If you’re a video or Flash person, you’re going to want to use Audition’s Looping features to create soundtrack elements & music beds for your productions. We include thousands of uncompressed, royalty-free sound loops with both Audition and Production Studio, and there’s a huge degree of control over things like tempo, key, and the overall sound of whatever it is you want to create. So here are the basic steps for creating a musical piece in Audition and exporting it for use in Premiere Pro, After Effects, Flash, or Encore DVD:

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First, make sure you’re in Multitrack mode by clicking on the Multitrack button at the top of the Audition 2.0 UI (see top of figure above). Then make sure the Main tab is selected. Right-mouse-click on any of the empty space in Track 1 and select Insert > Audio . . .

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The Insert Audio dialog (above) appears. Navigate to Loopology (Audition’s library of loops), which is located at C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Audition 2.0\Content\Loopology — note: this file path assumes Audition is installed on your “C” drive, if it isn’t substitute the correct drive letter for the “C” in the above path.

The loops are sorted by musical genre, and then by instrument. In the Insert Audio dialog, make sure “Auto Play” and “Loop” are checked, so when you click on a loop file, it will preview. When you find the file you’d like to insert (it’s good to start with drums, for example) double-click it and it will be inserted into your audio track in Audition.

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Hit the spacebar on your keyboard to play back your loop. To extend its duration, simply grab the right end of the loop (making sure not to grab one of the little white squares) and drag it to the right (example above). To change the tempo or key of your session, go to the Session Properties tab (above) and enter a new tempo and/or key.

Repeat the steps above to add additional loops to additional tracks (making sure to put each loop on its own track). Once you’re satisfied with your “empty orchestra,” it’s time to mix. Click on the Mixer tab to bring the Mixer panel to the front.

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Hit the Spacebar to play back again — you’ll see the meters in each of the channels of the mixer start moving. Your audio tracks, which were viewed from top-to-bottom in the Main panel are now viewed from left-to-right. To adjust the volume of any of your tracks, simply move the fader of that track up or down (example above). Once you’re happy with the mix, it’s time to mixdown to a file that can be imported into the application of your choice.

Select File > Export > Audio Mix Down. Give your file a name, and accept the default setting (Windows PCM). This gives you an uncompressed stereo WAV file.

So get to it, unsung Leonard Bernsteins of the world . . .

Side Businesses and the Fascinating Midwest

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On the left is an example of how we’re keeping Production Studio fresh in peoples’ minds. On the right is an example of Sao Paulo’s strange fascination with the U.S. Midwest.

Despite what it may look like, no, Adobe has not branched into the food services business in South America. This was just a neat “movie-themed” idea for the Adobe Production Studio launch seminar in Sao Paulo. The photos on the right are from Sao Paulo as well, where in a 2-block radius you have a neighborhood called Indianopolis & a building called Minneapolis. There is also a neighborhood called Brooklin nearby. Bizarro world — that’s gotta be it. I was expecting to see the Brazilian version of myself to walk past on the streets, and then that would’ve been it, straight to the nuthouse for me.

Your Virtual Logging Assistant

One of the most tedious aspects of film & video editing, by far, is logging & capturing your footage. All these cans of film or video tape show up all of a sudden, and you’ve got to digitize or capture them all onto your hard drive, organizing all the individual clips into bins that will make it easy for you to locate them later on.

It used to be that we had assistants for this task. Unless you’re lucky enough to be working in a high-end post-production environment, you’ll wind up doing this yourself (aaah, coffee). Today, I’m going to share with you a major time saver for logging & capturing footage shot in either DV or HDV.

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The “Logging” tab in the Premiere Pro 2.0 Capture panel.

Open the Capture panel in Premiere Pro by selecting File > Capture, or hitting the “F5″ key on your keyboard. On the right side of the Capture Tool you’ll see the “Logging” tab, and at the bottom of that the “Capture” options. Simply click the “Scene Detect” checkbox, and Premiere Pro will break your tape into individual clips based on where you stopped & started your tape when shooting.

Both DV and HDV camcorders put a marker on your tape whenever you start recording, stop recording, or pause while recording. Premiere Pro uses this information to break a tape into clips based on the location of these markers. So the easiest way to capture footage is to make sure “Scene Detect” is selected, and then click the “Tape” button in the Capture section of the Logging tab. This will capture the entire tape, creating individual clips at the start/stop points recorded on the tape. Of course, make sure to give the tape a Tape Name in the Clip Data area first.

If you have a tape with timecode breaks (i.e. the timecode restarts from zero at more than one point in the tape), you’ll need to capture each section of timecode separately. In this scenario, it’s a good idea to give each section of timecode it’s own tape name, so for example if you have a tape called “Exterior Shots”, you’d call the first timecode section “Exterior Shots A”, the second “Exterior Shots B”, and so on. You’ll avoid all kinds of headaches down the line by doing this.

The Most Impressive New Technology of 2006

During batting practice at Pac Bell Park (I know it’s called “AT&T Park” now, but I’ve given up after all the name changes) a bunch of kids assemble in the bleachers with their mitts to try & catch home-run balls. Many balls land at the base of the wall on the warning track, and check this guy who’s about to go fishing . . .

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And the kid reels in the catch. I’m not sure whether to be impressed with the guy or just sorry for him. In any case, he winds up giving most of the balls to the kids, and the ballpark security seem to put up with it, so I guess it’s just one of those wacky things.

The long, narrow video screens that run the length of the stands right above the club deck have been upgraded, and whoever is designing the animations & ads is doing incredible work. I must find out what tools they’re using (my hunch is that there’s some AE & Flash involved . . . ).

Lights, Camera, . . .

If you use Adobe Photoshop CS2 then you already know about “Actions.” With this feature, you can record a series of commands and then play them back whenever you wish (a major timesaver if you need to perform the same processes on a set of images). We even provide a set of preset Actions for typical tasks in various workflows.

What most Photoshop users don’t know is that we include a set of preset Actions for Video & Film Workflows in Photoshop CS2. That’s because they’re hidden well within the Actions Palette Fly-Out Menu (the little triangle-within-a-circle at the upper-right corner of the Actions Palette).

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As you can see above, by going down to the very last item in the Fly-Out Menu, you can load the preset Video Actions. This gives you access to a number of time-savers for video/film workflows, such as “Broadcast Safe”, which filters your artwork to make sure it’s within broadcast-legal luma & chroma, and “Alpha Channel from Visible Layers” which automatically creates alpha channels (transparency information). If you’ve ever had to do either of these tasks manually, you know how tedious they can be — this will definitely help you get the job done much faster (and maybe get home at a reasonable hour now & then?).

United Airlines Turned Me Into Jarjar Binks!

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I’m sorry, after the way they treated me on this trip, I deserve to have some fun at the expense of their “amenity kit” (although I must admit their arrivals lounge shower-suite at O’Hare was a real de-luxe treat after the 11-hour red-eye from Sampa)…

Piracy, Redux

If you read my blog on a regular basis, you know I’m not prone to rants — but I just wanted to add this tidbit from our wander around Sao Paoul last Sunday.

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Anne-Lise strolling by the pirated DVD vendors in Placa da Republica, Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Now look, there are way more important social issues in Brazil than pirated DVDs. But this is one of the frustrating things facing anyone involved in IP –whehter it be software or films or music (the band Dasher that I was in until early 2005 was famous in Peru but we couldn’t make money selling records due to rampant piracy). The honest truth is that I’d rather that the money from the CD or DVD purchase go to the poor person who is selling the product on the street in this deveolping country. They need the money way more than I do. So another example of how complex this issue is and yet again I find myself stepping down from the soapbox.

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So how do we deal with the language issues at the launch seminars? It’s something called “simultaneous translation.” This means that there are 2 translaors in the back of the room, in a soundproof booth, listening to what I say and simultaneously translating into a microphone that feeds into a transmitter that broadcasts to wireless earpieces that all the attendees are given when they enter the venue. Above, you can see them taking inventory of the earpieces prior to the Sao Paulo event.

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There’s the obligatory hotel room photo (the Cesar Park in Vila Olimpia, Sao Paulo). You can see all the helecopter pads on the roofs of the high-rises, as I alluded to in a previous post. The Mexican soccer team Chivas was staying at our hotel and they beat the Sao Paulo Football Club 2-1 on Wednesday night. There was some serious police & security presence at the hotel that night, believe me.