Monday, 18 March 2013

The Top 7 Apps for Video Production

With billions of apps in the App Store, it’s tough to find the right ones, especially when it comes to video production. After hours and hours of research, I have discovered a few apps that I find essential to assist with production, so I decided to save you some time and share my favorite production apps and why I love them so much.

App development for production purposes has picked up over the last few years, with developers at Digital Rebellion leading the pack.  Digital Rebellion focuses on developing apps to make the post-production process more efficient.  They are the brilliant minds behind two of my favorite apps: Editmote and Cut Notes.

Editmote- $4.99
A few months ago, I was looking for an app to help streamline the review process for internal and external reviews of finished videos. A close friend of mine recommended Editmote, so I downloaded it and gave it a try.

Editmote controls playback of your editing timeline. You can set in and out points, create markers, as well as adjust volume during playback. So instead of you controlling the timeline during your client review, let them. (click here for more information)
Cut Notes- $7.99
This is the perfect companion to Editmote. While the client is controlling the playback of your editing timeline, you can take notes of any revisions that need to be done. You can also create short keys for notes you make most often (audio spikes, wrong angle, bad cut, etc.).

The best part of Cut Notes is the notes can imported into your editing program as a marker list.  (click here for more information) (iPad only)

Cinemek Storyboard Composer- $14.99
I love the idea of storyboarding with the iPad, but I was disappointed when I couldn’t find a good storyboarding app, until Cinemek Storyboard Composer came along.

This app allows you to create mobile storyboards. So when you’re out location scouting, you can snap a few photos with your iPhone and add them directly to your storyboard. Once your visuals are in place you can add notes and scene description panels.

My favorite features of this app are the ability to add audio and the ability to export to PDF or Quicktime movie. Being able to add audio is great for timing out VO, or even adding the music you plan to edit your piece too. Having the option to export to PDF or Quicktime makes it easy for you to pass along your storyboard to your editor or head of post production. (click here for more information)

Easy Release- $9.99
Once the storyboard is approved, we all know the next step: production. While working on a documentary a few years ago, I was looking for an app to help with appearance releases, and that’s when I discovered Easy Release.

Easy Release allows you to collect the data and signatures you need for appearance releases. Once the data is collected you can email yourself a PDF or JPEG to store in your records.  If you prefer to have a hard copy, just print.

Timecode Cal- $2.99
Any editors reading this blog understand how difficult calculating timecode and be. So I was overjoyed when I discovered Timecode Cal.

It functions just like its name implies; it calculates timecode.

Pro Video Guide- $2.99
Running into roadblocks is the nature of this business. There is always something that comes up whether in pre, production, or post. I’ve found Pro Video Guide to be a great resource when I reach those roadblocks.

Pro Video Guide cover formats, aspect ratios, cameras, non-linear editing systems, audio, essentially any aspect of production you can think of. (click here for more information)

Technicolor- Free
Most of the apps I recommended had a price attached to it, but I do have a favorite production app that is free: Technicolor.

Technicolor offers two great features. It calculates the run time based on the length of film and calculates amount of storage needed based on codec specifications.

I don’t shoot on film so that feature is of no used to me, but I love being able to calculate how much storage space I’m going to need for a project. I’m excited about using this app for our next shoot at Swagger. We have several networked hard drives of varying capacities, and this would be great to help me decide which drive would be best suited to handle the project.

There are hundreds of apps released daily, and awesome developers are constantly coming up with new ways for us to be more productive with our mobile devices. So now that you know what I like, I’m curious to hear what awesome apps for production you have discovered and why you love them.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Breaking My Arm, Not My Stride: How I Learned to Animate One-Handed

After Effects is so easy to use, you can do it with one hand- literally. 

This past week at Swagger was an adventurous one that taught me several important things- including how to master After Effects with one hand. With the absence of a major team player and big deadlines pending, the pressure was on to get through the week. The week started off great and all projects we had on deck were set to go off without a hitch. That is, until we suddenly found ourselves with a new big animation project that needed to be completed in 3 days. The video length was 5 minutes and every aspect of it needed to be animated. We knew it was going to be a huge undertaking, especially short-staffed, but we had enough swag to take on the challenge. 

The project scope seemed pretty simple, but once we identified exactly what the client was looking for, what seemed so simple at first quickly became complicated. We developed an action plan to get the project completed by the client’s deadline with everything they requested. The plan required me to work overnight in order to meet our 3 day deadline. The project was super awesome, and I was excited to help out my team and we felt confident that the only thing standing between us and the project’s completion was a little more time.

I transferred all the files I needed to a portable drive to take home. Once I arrived home, I cranked up my home editing station and brewed a nice big cup of coffee. I plugged in the drive and begin working away in good ole’ After Effects.

Time flew by quickly and before I knew it, it was almost midnight and I completely forgot to take my dog out. So I saved my worked and took my pup to the restroom. On our way back, he decided it would be cool to run up the stairs in our complex (we live on the first floor). After calling him several times, I proceeded up the stairs to grab him. As I was walking back down the stairs, I tripped and fell, landing on my left arm.

I immediately noticed that my left arm was misshaped, but I didn’t think it was too serious, so I decided to get back to work. Finally the swelling and pain became unbearable, and I decided to go to the ER. After a 6 hour wait, the doctor confirmed my biggest fear, my hand and wrist were broken.

Anxiety lurked its way in, as I began to think about the big deadline I had in front of me.
I was the only one who could work on this project, and now my arm was broken.  So I contacted all necessary parties at the office, and we began to devise a new action plan. Jarred, my boss, wanted me to take care of myself, but I insisted on getting the project complete. 

I tend to use keyboard shortcuts in After Effects rather than the mouse, so I knew that this task of animating with one hand would be difficult.  I took a few moments before starting to animate to familiarize myself with the tool bar. Taking a look at the tool bar did help, but I kept finding myself trying to use keyboard shortcuts. After another long night, I managed to get the project in on time.

This project wasn’t the only project that needed to be complete, but my other teammates in the office stepped in and got it done, so I could focus on the big project at hand.

To quote the great Vince Lombardi, “Individual commitment to a group effort -- that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” At Swagger, we are totally committed as a team to put the best work forward.

So the next time you feel the pressure and don’t know how to make it through, just remember to rely on your resources, keep the end goal in sight, and there is always light at the end of the tunnel.