Monday, 28 January 2013

Learnin' Stuff! with Ang: Episode 1

Learn how to make your own movie magic with our new series, "Learnin' Stuff with Ang"!

In our first episode, I will show how you can act opposite yourself using the garbage matte effect in Final Cut Pro...

 What video tricks would you like to see me explain in future episodes?

Monday, 21 January 2013

3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Your Brand Joins Instagram

Hey, have you heard of Instagram? It’s that handy-dandy app all the kids are using these days that makes your expensive smartphone camera photographs look like a Polaroid from the 70s. Of course you have. It's all over the place.

So hipster, dude.
As happens with such popular Internet phenomena, marketers have excitedly leapt onto Instagram’s bandwagon and are desperately trying to find ways to make money off of a site that has historically been known as a place for sharing pictures of one’s feet, or one’s turkey sandwich.
And cats. Always cats.
For some brands, this platform really works, and it’s a great tool for sharing with your audience. For others, it’s simply a waste of time that could be better spent cultivating your brand on a different medium. 

In order to decide whether Instagram is the right choice for your brand, here are 3 simple things you want to keep in mind.

1. Are you visual?

Do you sell a product or service that can be shown many different ways, utilizing the various Instagram filters to make it even more visually appealing? Can you show your brand in different exciting locations, or being used in clever ways? Do your employees regularly do legitimately interesting things [that someone other than your mother would want to see]? 

Your Instagram account should be a way to showcase who you are and what you do, but if your product/service is not so visually appealing (think law firm, or medical practice) or if your office culture has little to offer, then maybe you don’t have much to share. At Swagger, we like to share behind-the-scenes photos from our video shoots. It gives people a chance to see how videos are made from a unique perspective and it stirs interest in our upcoming projects. Also, we’re Houston-based and proud of it, so occasionally we like to show our Houston pride by sharing photos of the team on field trips around the city. These two types of photos show both what we do and who we are. 

2.  Can you master the art of the #hashtag?

 Hashtags are clutch on Instagram. Hashtags help you gain followers, hashtags help you find new customers, hashtags help you organize contests and promotions, and once, I heard a hashtag saved a kitten from a really tall tree. 

I swear. His name was Georgie and ever since then he has given his catlife over in service of the Great Hashtag.
But some people either don’t “get it” or slap a million hashtags on every post, making their brand look like an over-enthusiastic teenage girl. 
Over-enthusiastic teenage girl = redundant? #sorryimnotsorry #omg #footshot #nyc #skyline #whiteshoes #hadfrostedflakesforbreakfast #whydoesntstevenoticeme #clouds #rightfoot #leftfoot #seriouslystevepleasenoticeme #buymyproductorilljustdie #illsimplydie #lolz

3. Do you have time?

Don't do it just to do it. Too often brands lose focus trying to exist on every social platform available rather than sticking to the ones they can do well and make sense for them. If that's only Twitter, then only be on Twitter. You'll be ok, I promise. If you end up with an Instagram account for your brand that hasn't shared a photo since that one of the dirty break room fridge four months ago, you might be doing more harm than good. You want exposure online, but only when it's quality exposure.

If the answer to these three questions is yes then congratulations, your brand is on its way to becoming the next Instagram sensation!

Who do you think is using Instagram well? What kind of companies do you follow there? Or are you over the whole thing entirely? Leave your thoughts below, tweet or Facebook us!

Monday, 14 January 2013

Is Final Cut Pro X Ready?

Final Cut Pro X (FCPX), the latest iteration of one of the most beloved and ubiquitous film editing softwares on the market, was released summer of 2011, but unfortunately it lacked many features that non- linear editors have become accustomed to and need. That was really disappointing to many professionals and amateur alike, and accordingly, many have jumped ship to other editing programs. Apple has since released many updates for FCPX in the hopes of winning back the loyalty of those ex-FCP fans, but it’s debatable whether they have made enough changes to do so. Let’s talk about these additions and decide whether they are good enough to compete with the mainstream.

Multi-Cam Editing: Allows you to work natively, in a real time, with a variety of different formats and frame rates. You can create a multi-cam clip and sync up to 64 angles of photos and video, or you can sync assets based on time of day, timecode, markers, or audio waveforms. To adjust a Multi-cam Clip, double-click to open it in the Angle Editor, which lets you move, sync, and edit the look of individual clips. When it’s time to cut, simply drop the Multi-cam Clip into your project and click in the customizable Angle Viewer.

XML Support: XML 1.2 includes new standard metadata fields such as Reel. Final Cut Pro X XML now includes custom project and media metadata, so you can import from and export to third-party apps and media asset management systems.

Red Raw Support:  Finally, with RED Raw support you can import your .r3d files directly into FCPX, converting to ProRes 4444 or ProRes proxy in the background while you’re working. You can even adjust essential debayer and color settings without leaving FCPX.

Dual Viewer:  For many editors, dual viewing is a must. Not only does it help with skimming footage from the event browser but it’s great for matching clips and advance color correction.

Unified Import Window: Seamlessly import media from file-based cameras and file system locations using the unified import window. Built-in PTP support lets you import photos and videos directly from your DSLR camera. You can even add frequently used file system locations to the Favorites sidebar for fast access.

Multi-Channel Audio Editing: You can now edit separate audio channels when you need them and collapse them when you don’t — right in the timeline. Easily disable individual channels or select ranges for fine control of timing and volume.

Though FCPX has made some leaps and bounds since its debut, there is still a lot of functionality missing. Here is a list, just to name a few:

Roundtripping to Motion and Logic Pro:  This feature would give the editor the ability to complete the following task:
   Modify Motion and Logic projects in FCPX timeline
   Open a Motion and Logic projects from a FCPX timeline,
   Automatically update media changes made in Motion and Logic to the FCPX timeline

True Background Processing: Background processes are not useful if they degrade the performance of the foreground processes.

Robust Keyframe Editor: There is no true linear motion path as it stands in FCPX.

Relinking Media Improvement: This option, as it stands, seldom works and causes a big headache for editors.

Compressor Interface Update: They changed the logo but haven’t changed the interface. One unified window would be great.

The list can go on and on. Unfortunately, the list is still too long for us at Swagger Films to safely make the switch from FCP7 to FCPX. We handle every aspect of production, from pre to post, so we looked for a solution that could help us be more efficient in each area and have decided to go a different route for our needs. (Stay tuned to our blog to find out more information.)

We are interested in hearing from you. Are you impressed with FCPX? What features do you love? What features would you like to see in future updates? Let us know in the comments below, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Need Video Inspiration? Visit Vimeo.

There’s no doubt that YouTube has revolutionized the world of video and played an incalculable role in inspiring new film-makers, allowing them a venue to showcase their work, and establish a community of people interested in the art of story-telling through video.

…But it’s also allowed for a lot of idiots to take horriblyframed, shaky iPhone videos of people falling off roofs.

For those who are serious about the quality of their work and want to brand it within a community of higher quality video, YouTube might not be the place to be. If you fancy yourself a bit more cinematically-minded than Chris Crocker, you might want to make your home at Vimeo.

Like YouTube, Vimeo allows users to upload and showcase their original work for free (with fancier paid options as well of course), but the atmosphere of Vimeo feels more artistically inspiring than YouTube’s endless catalog of vloggers and dumb pranks. Vimeo is a playground for experimentation. Vimeo is meant to engage and inspire, and has cultivated a community of video-makers who fuel each other’s creativity, pushing them to stretch their skills and create beautiful work that pushes the boundaries of what has come before. Even the cat videos are more innovative


Whereas the “related videos” of YouTube tend to be a crapshoot, leading you down a never-ending rabbit hole of the bizarre, uninteresting, and downright unrelated, one could spend days wandering aimlessly through Vimeo’s collection without ceasing to find high-quality, thought-provoking material from amateurs and professionals alike.

This isn't breaking news. Vimeo has been around since 2004 and is the second most popular video sharing site behind YouTube, yet many video lovers and creators are not yet aware of what it has to offer that YouTube does not. Especially now that Vimeo is becoming increasingly brand-friendly and is even rolling out a new open platform which will allow creators to distribute and earn money from their videos (via pay-per-view service and “tip jar“ options), any filmmaker or brand who wants to monetize their work in this way should take note.

"The City of Samba"
Don’t get me wrong: YouTube is a great service that has a lot to offer. There's no doubt you want a presence on the Internet's second largest search engine, and with 60 hours of video uploaded every minute (one hour uploaded every second), YouTube’s dominance is clear. But, it’s not the only option. If you’re looking for material to inspire your next piece of work, or if you are looking for a spot to curate your videos that is somewhat more artistically-minded and long-form friendly, you’ll find it on Vimeo.

To get you started, here’s a sample of some of our recent finds in the realm of the inspiring, the imaginative, and the well-crafted.
"The Eagleman Stag"

Inspiring: “Holi” 

Imaginative: “The City of Samba” 

Expertly-crafted: “The Eagleman Stag” 

For more great Vimeo videos, check out their Staff Picks:

What do you think of Vimeo’s service in comparison to YouTube? Tweet us your thoughts (@swaggerfilms) or just stop in to say hi on our Facebook page
It makes us feel both warm AND fuzzy when you say hi.