Return of the blog by Victor Currie

It took a while to get excited about writing this blog again, though it isn't as long a time between postings as it seems. 

I use the excellent Photoshelter as the home of my still photography site, as well as using it's archive and delivery features both to protect images, and for client delivery. Before they introduced their new Beam sites a few months back I had experimented with a Wordpress-based site that integrated with Photoshelter in a more visually seamless way than Squarespace (I know I could hire someone to write some custom CSS to make the two look the same, but I'm far to impatient to have to wait for others when I feel like changing things around). Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that once you have a lot of open source you also have easier hacking. At the same time I had problems with my site, my Tumblr block was also hacked and since it was linked to post to my Twitter account automatically, all kinds of interesting things went out (For example, I did not Tweet, "Hey, look at the boobs!," though when someone did it probably did boost my traffic that afternoon). I pulled everything down except my very secure  Photoshelter site, and lost all my cross-integration.

The last year has been a busy one between multiple video and still assignments in Texas and Colorado (plus here in California), and a whole lot traveling around for my fine art photography (both showing and shooting), so I've finally had time to get things back up. I'm back to where I should have stayed all along for my main site hosting, Squarespace, where the technology so smoothly fits my tech-literate-but-not-a-programmer style (though I must admit I preferred the simplicity of Squarespace 5's interface). I'd kept my account active and been using my old Squarespace landing page active as a place to redirect to my various sites, so the past few weeks have been spent putting together a new Squarespace 6 site for the production side, plus we'll have another site going live very soon with the launch of a new company I'm partnered on that will focus on higher-end film television projects (details coming soon).

The two sites now have more design differences, but I'm so much happier with the way it's all set up now. As an old technology TV host, I tend to bite off a bit more than I can chew on web design work, but sometimes I like to get my hands dirty on this stuff (though my keyboard is clean unless I spill coffee on it).

Here are links to both of the companies I'm now using (and recommending). I you use my referral code for Photoshelter we both get a little spiff (though that's not why I recommend them). Nothing for me on the Squarespace link. Both offer free trial setups.

http://www.photoshelter.com/referral/VY7CU2B86Z

http://squarespace.com

Two more Telly Awards by Victor Currie

We just picked up two more Telly Awards for our Online Commercial "Daddy's Boat" for theNALA.com. Here's the spot and a press release:

CURRIE VISUAL MEDIA ONLINE COMMERCIAL FOR THENALA.COM

 SELECTED  A WINNER IN THE 33rd ANNUAL TELLY AWARDS

Newport Beach, CA The Telly Awards has named Currie Visual Media as a Bronze winner in the 33rd Annual Telly Awards for their online Insurance industry video for theNALA.com titled “Daddy’s Boat.”   With nearly 11,000 entries from all 50 states and numerous countries, this is truly an honor.  The internet video was honored with two awards, one for media targeted to the insurance industry and another for lower-budget production.

The humorous spot highlights the importance of having local agents review policyholders’ coverage regularly, and is seen on insurance agent members of the National Association of Local Advertisers websites across the county, as well as the association site, theNALA.com.

The Telly Awards was founded in 1979 and is the premier award honoring outstanding local, regional, and cable TV commercials and programs, the finest video and film productions, and online commercials, video and films.  Winners represent the best work of the most respected advertising agencies, production companies, television stations, cable operators, and corporate video departments in the world.

A prestigious judging panel of over 500 accomplished industry professionals, each a past winner of a Silver Telly and a member of The Silver Telly Council, judged the competition, upholding the historical standard of excellence that Telly represents.  The Silver Council evaluated entries to recognize distinction in creative work – entries do not compete against each other – rather entries are judged against a high standard of merit.

“The Telly Awards has a mission to honor the very best in film and video,” said Linda Day, Executive Director of the Telly Awards.  “Currie Visual Media’s accomplishment illustrates their creativity, skill, and dedication to their craft and serves as a testament to great film and video production.”

“Working with the team at theNALA.com on their online commercial initiative has been a real pleasure as a producer and director,” said Currie Visual Media President Victor Currie. “Online budgets can be challenging, but they gave us the creative freedom to work around those challenges and we ended up with something special.”

About Currie Visual Media

Currie Visual Media is the production company of director/photographer Victor Currie, headquartered in Newport Beach, CA. Currie has overseen projects for Fox Television Studios, A&E Networks, satellite broadcasters, syndicators, and more. He has directed award-winning commercials in both the USA and Europe, multi-camera live and live-to-tape broadcasts, and corporate marketing media. For more information, visit www.currie.tv.

Contact Currie Visual Media for inquiries: info@currie.tv or call (877) 741-5990

The Death of Traditional Broadcasting by Victor Currie

I remember first visiting the old Channel 13 studio in LA in 1966 with my dad (I don't remember exactly why, as I was only six years old at the time, but I do remember visiting the set of Dialing for Dollars at one point, so I'm guessing Dad was doing some kind of appearance or exhibit at the time and promoting it. I wonder how many people actually watched that show... But I digress). It's being demolished now, and having spent much of my life and career in-and-around broadcasting, I couldn't help feel a twinge of nostalgia as the big old dishes lay in the dirt. It felt like a metaphor for the broadcast industry today.

In Praise of Drobo by Victor Currie

Customer service plug: I use a Drobo from Data Robotics for my backup drive (and more general storage than I should). A big power failure the other day fried it's controller, despite being on a big UPS. (Did I mention I really hate Sothern California Edison?)

The Drobo people overnighted me a new drive chassis. I popped the old drives in and everything was still there working perfectly, without any reconfiguring. 6 Terabytes of data/photos/video clips safe and sound.  Good product, great support.  Thanks Drobo!

Does Timeline make you feel like a Facebook slacker? by Victor Currie

Like most people, I waste far too much time on Facebook.  With the introduction of Timeline, however, I feel like I have been letting my online peeps down. 

There are huge gaps when I simply thought that what I was doing was more crucial than my important social media responsibilities--you know, stuff like work and charity and board meetings and other superfluous things.  It seems that I have not lived up to my responsibilities to inform/entertain/annoy my online friends.

Sorry about that.

Of course, I've got several dozen if not more Facebook postings and at least 100 tweats since my last blog posting, so what the heck...

Working on a new series of seaside shots by Victor Currie

I'm working on a new series of images around our local harbor here in Newport Beach.  Thankfully, the weather has been cooperating nicely lately.  Here's one at sunset from a dock on Balboa Island looking north at Harbor Island.

Catamran off Newport Harbor. ©2011 Victor Currie

TTFN Final Cut by Victor Currie

Last post, I detailed how I saw the Final Cut Pro X debacle from the perspective of a user of a lot of different editorial/finishing solutions over the decades.

With some testing under my belt now, I'm saying goodbye to the program until (if) Apple gets its act together and makes it work for collaborative workflow.

I've been using Final Cut Pro for the last five years, but I'm not a fanatic about it like many others. It's functional, and I vastly prefer Apple hardware and OSX to Windows.  It was better than Adobe Premier Pro at the time when I started using it, and I wasn't an Avid interface fan.

Unfortunately, Final Cut Pro 7/Final Cut Studio 3 is stuck in 32-bit architecture land, which is fine for people working in HDV and the like, but for those of us moving video and still files around from our Canon 5D Mark IIs and the like, it's way to slow and plodding.

I've been using Premier Pro intermittently for the last eight months or so for two main reasons: It saw HDSLR files natively in the timeline, and it was built on 64-bit architecture, so for the 70+ percent of what I've recently cut, it was a vastly faster workflow.

While I was initially impressed with FCPX's speed at working with HDSLR files in the timeline, and love the background transcoding to ProRes, it just doesn't work for me.  I hate the "events" based file structure, and it's just too clunky right now.  While I usually count on Apple to point the way to the future in design, completely eliminating the ability for professional filmmakers to work intuitively eliminates any speed advantages that the program and its keyword-based search capabilities.

There's a lot of great potential in the program.  In fact, it's that potential that Apple showed off in pre-release previews that probably backfired on them.  The integration of some of Color's functionality, and the auto-match clips idea are huge.  But that's not enough when you can't work happily with others.  As a producer, I often look to others to do animations and other services that are out of my editorial skill set.  And on larger projects when I'm either directing or producing and having someone else post, I--and everyone I know--need a collaborative workflow.

So for now, I'll just bye for now to Final Cut, and hope that the inevitable updates will make it worth coming back.  And thanks to Apple for waiving their rules about not refunding App Store purchase and giving me my money back.  I'll  be using it for the Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 upgrade.

Final Cut Pro X: Awesome and Sucky at the same time by Victor Currie

I learned to edit on 1" and 3/4" machines, though I didn't consider myself an editor until the mid-90s. I've always been something of a non-conformist when it comes to video editing systems, and that includes typically being an early adopter of new technology.  I have a few major criteria that outweighs most others when it comes to system choices: It must have minimal rendering time and must be fairly easy and intuitive to cut.

In 1994, when most people were still on tape, a partner and I evaluated the up-and-coming non-linear editors of the period, narrowing at the end to Avid Media Composer, Media 100, and the iMMix TurboCube.  We ended up going with the iMMix because its interface made complete sense to me, and it did almost everything in real-time.  We built a facility around that and upgraded it to several seats of its successor system, the Scitex StrataSphere.  These were fast (and expensive) machines that used proprietary hardware to do the vast majority of editing in real time.  That's why I didn't go with Avid. I hate rendering with a passion, and back in those days Avids were clunky, slow, and a pain to work with (though their vastly superior data management which survives to this day made them a better choice for people doing long-form film and television).

The decision to go with the more faster, more stylish and cool interface made some sense at the time, since 90 percent of the work work that went through our post department was creating regional commercials, corporate and investor relations video, and editorial projects for others (infomercials, etc.).  In the long run, it wasn't a good business decision, since we were an LA-based company and lost out on a lot of editorial work we could have taken in the down times had we gone with Avid.  When you're investing in expensive systems, you need to keep them working to pay for them.

What does all this have to do with the new Final Cut Pro X?  Perspective.

Just as Scitex told all of us TurboCube users that their new system was going to blow us away with it's new bells and whistles (and 50-layer compositing with four-layer real-time previews!), Apple has released a version that isn't ready for prime time, and suffering big-time backlash for it.

Fortunately for Apple, it has virtually unlimited deep pockets and can ride out the storm as long as it gets the more pro-oriented features turned on quickly (which I have little doubt they will).  Scitex, which in my opinion had what is still the best non-linear editing interface ever released with the StrataSphere, couldn't weather the storm as their initial release wasn't stable enough (and in fact drove us out of the post business because we couldn't reliably guarantee outside clients that the system wouldn't freeze up), and they dumped their video division off to Accom, who didn't seem to have a clue how to sell to end users instead of their core clientele of video engineers, and finally killed the product line and its successors altogether.

The new FCPX is scary fast.  For someone like me, who likes to make editorial decisions quickly and move on, that's great.  It even blows away the speed of Premier Pro 5 on my system (which has a beefy nVidia 4800 card to get a lot of real-time performance from Adobe's Mercury Playback Engine).  I've been doing a lot of spot work lately shooting on Canon 5D Mark IIs and 7Ds, and Premier's 64-bit architecture allowed editorial to move so much faster that I dragged myself kicking-and-screaming in the past few months in that direction (despite my dislike for the way Premier make effects handling kind of a clunky After Effects-lite) because FCP7's older 32-bit system and transcoding requirements were driving me crazy.  FCP7 felt as slow as editing on an Avid in the mid-90s.

If--and I qualify this is a major IF--your primary business is video-for-the-web, and you do not need to interface with the larger professional broadcast/film post-editorial world, FCPX is pretty darn impressive for a 1.0 release (and we do need to keep it in perspective that this truly is a 1.0).  For fast-turnaround corporate work and regional commercials, I think it's going to be awesome within a few months of updates.  I'm going to use it over the next few weeks for several projects that I know can stay within the program, and from my initial tests think it will be great to work with, because as I mentioned before, when it comes to editing, I'm a speed freak and it's really fast (especially if the color correction clip matching lives up to the hype).

On the other hand, having interfaced a lot over the years with studio, network, and ad industry technical requirements for video (on both sides of the fence as an editor, a post supervisor, and a producer), I wouldn't think of using this initial release for anything that's going out-of-house.  The limitations to interfacing with other programs and being able to work within a shared network infrastructure smoothly are deal breakers at that level.

But we have to remember that 98 percent of the people doing video today are not working in the studio system.  They are content creators working as small companies and one-person-bands, and for them the barrier to entry to create good looking content just got lowered even more.  Living outside LA now, that's probably 90 percent of my video work as well these days too.

The question will be whether the next few rounds of updates will iron out the issues for the professional post community, or whether Apple has decided that the general content-creation business in the new-media world is where Final Cut's future lies.  If it's the latter, I don't doubt Apple's stock price will continue to increase because the web is screaming for more and better quality video content right now, and that demand isn't going away any time soon. 

So for now, it's sucky for professional post, but pretty awesome for the rest of the business.  I can see myself using it a lot once I get the new interface down.  For creating news segments, it's a high quality reporter-friendly interface that has to be looked at seriously as a cost-conscious solution for field editorial.

But I live in both worlds, so for the first time since 1994 I'm seriously evaluating Avid Media Composer again. 

Seaside in January - Still Photos Montage by Victor Currie

I've been out shooting more stills lately, especially along the coast.  Here's a short montage of some of the landscapes, mostly taken around Newport Beach and Laguna Beach during a very picturesque January.

For maximum enjoyment, click the fullscreen button, lean back with a glass of wine, and relax.

Eight tips to better Fusion videos by Victor Currie

Fusion videos, mixing photography and video clips, are becoming almost ubiquitous as still photographers make use of the new video capabilities of their DSLRs.  This is a definite positive, in that any tool that that elevates a presentation can be a positive.  However, as is often the case, a tool that isn't used properly isn't always doing the end product justice.

It's like all those video editors (especially the amateur/semi-pros) in the late 80s and early 90s who thought that every transition should have a special effect instead of a cut or dissolve.  Those of us who were trained and experienced in production and storytelling understood that in order for an effect to actual be "special," it needed to be used with restraint.  When we edited on tape rather than in the computer (or to really give away my age, film), it was a pain to go back and fix a bad effect (plus you paid for each effect, sometimes hundreds of dollars each, on systems like Montage), so we only used them when we knew it would add to the production.

Since I shoot both still and video, but come from the moving picture side primarily (Fox, A&E, dozens of commercials, etc.), and am still primarily a director, here are a few things I try to remember when mixing stills and motion together.

  • Remember that photographs are capturing a moment in time, while moving video is capturing an ongoing series of events. Let the video set up the moment, and the photo finish it.
  • Still photos allow the viewer to fill in the story with their own imagination.  Video by its nature tells a story more directly. Make sure those inherent values support your storytelling.
  • Make sure your video clips have movement, either because something is in motion in the frame, or by moving the camera.  Why would you want non-moving video in a mix with stills?  If there's no movement, use the still. (An exception to this is a key piece of audio or dialogue that adds to the emotion of the story, though I would still argue that most of the time that dialogue will end up better served by limited use of the supporting video and mixing it under additional stills).
  • Vary your shot lengths.  A whole bunch of images and clips set to transition every five seconds is not a montage, it's a slide show.
  • Audio makes or breaks the finished product.  Bad audio will kill the most beautiful shot, and good audio can salvage a shot that isn't perfect.  Choose your music carefully.  There so much good music available to license these days at a reasonable price, I just can't for the life of me understand why anyone would choose to use bad fake synthesized Kenny G style music as an underscore (or real Kenny G for that matter, but that's just a taste preference).  If you're starting out and can't afford to pay for licensing yet, search out artists who are sharing free under Creative Commons licenses (www.ccmixter.org is one good place to search. I've used music from there when doing personal or lower budget pieces and been very happy with the quality).
  • Your video should tell a story, but that story does not have to be linear.  By that, I don't mean a beginning-middle-end story, but rather that the mix of still and video imagery should open up the viewer's eyes to a deeper understanding (or relationship with) of the subject of the video.  Otherwise, it's now just a slide show with some video clips.
  • Remember that less is more. Don't overload with repetitive material. Don't overdo effects.
  • Don't be afraid to ignore what everyone else says (including me) and follow your artistic instincts when you feel that it's really working (assuming you do indeed have those instincts).

 

Web Video for SoCalProGolf.com by Victor Currie

I had a lot of fun putting together this quick web video project for PGA/LPGA Golf Instructor Blakney Boggs who recently founded SoCalProGolf.com.  It's a short profile piece for the front page of the website designed to introduce Blakney and show her passion for the game.  It's a good example of how a quick, reasonable budget piece can effectively introduce a web audience to a person or product. 

It's also the first project we've done shooting on the Canon 7D for the very filmic quality of the video rather than on video cameras (it helps that I already have a lot of very good lenses to support my still photography). Enjoy!

It must be news. Somebody just tweeted it by Victor Currie

Earthquakes, unlike so much of what pseudo-information is foisted upon us, actually qualify as news. Especially having watched all the recent footage from Haiti and Chile, when the ground starts shaking, the first instinct of those of us in the pushing-50 bracket is to turn on the TV and see what the stations are playing. To put this into perspective—it's a long while since I've worked in a newsroom—in the olden days of the 80s, I remember being in the newsroom at KTTV Channel 11 (in the Pre-Fox days) when Anwar Sadat was assassinated, and even our little skeleton crew of weekend news gatherers went into overdrive to deal with the story, and since there was only one live international feed coming in we were continually dealing with when to cut away if it looked like the bloodshed was going to be too much for the viewers. The point I'm getting to is that when the story broke, there were people in the newsroom to cover it, even though it was the weekend. These days, the local LA stations just continued on with the sport recaps until someone was available to go on air.
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Wish I'd made this: Did You Know 4.0 by Victor Currie

This promo for the third annual Media Convergence Forum last October in New York produced by XPLANE (I don't know them, but like their work) is a great piece on the changing medie landscape. The scary thing is that just four months later, a lot of the stats have already been blown away (remember when there were only 65,000 iPhone apps?). No wonder it seems hard to keep up with all this stuff these days even after 30 years in media.
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Producers as entrepreneurs by Victor Currie

One of the questions I get asked more often than anything else is "So what does a producer do, anyway?" That's a good question, actually, since there are myriad definitions throughout the industry. My favorite definition is "somebody who's got a friend with a script," though that's mostly a joke (though not always).
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Okay, I no longer hate Twitter by Victor Currie

This is very difficult for me. I have enjoyed bashing Twitter as mostly useless babble, a platform designed to turn Ashton Kutcher into a pundit (which in modern times I guess he's as qualified to be as the next person). I tend to prefer to read people who are thoughtful, quality prose writers, and the 140 character thing just didn't quite click-in for me (honestly, neither did haiku, and plenty of people enjoy that)
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