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Desktop Video (part 5)

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Video for Everyone

Of course you would have to wonder whether Apple were really able to leap from
nowhere in video editing right up to full professional standard. The answer
seems to be yes. There is an incredible flurry of excitement, not so much because
of what Final Cut Pro (simply FCP to aficionados) can do, but that it can do
extremely professional work at such an amazingly low price, breaking entry barriers
in the process. A quick web search will show you just how popular FCP is. Apple
have managed to make Final Cut Pro appealing not just to people already engaged
in video production, but to creative types in other fields. Apple particularly
want graphic designers who are used to working with still images to experiment
with movies. Likewise website designers, probably on the art side rather than
the database side, will soon want to go beyond still images, animated GIFs,
and even beyond Macromedia Flash into full blown moving images.

But back to the would be filmmaker. What can Final Cut Pro do for the small
guy with an idea who wants to release it to the world? Well as we have seen,
a DV camera and FCP is all you need to make movies. People are taking advantage
and making movies that even just a couple of years ago wouldn’t have been
made. Not necessarily full-blown feature films of course, but anything right
down to a five or ten minute QuickTime short that provides just enough amusement
to last out a coffee break. And it’s becoming amazingly popular. You have
heard of course of MP3.com and its services to budding musicians (some 40,000
of them apparently). Similar services are now being offered to budding filmmakers.
One such website is iFilm.com where you can submit anything apart from pornography
and home videos and iFilm will digitize it and make it available on their site.
iFilm claim that, “Dozens of our filmmakers have already been discovered
by Hollywood”, and while the number films on the site is still relatively
small (compared to what it probably will be in a year’s time) it is probably
true that your film stands at least a chance that someone will be watching from
an office somewhere in Hollywood. There are also prizes for getting in the top
20 viewings for two or more consecutive weeks, ranging from the ‘Lone Eagle
Filmmakers Book’ series all the way up to the Kodak grand prize which includes
a trip to Hollywood (tough luck if you’re there already), contact with
the industry and spending money for your trip. You’ll win this if yours
is the first film to stay in the top 20 for thirty weeks. You can view your
own film and add to the score too, but not more than once per day.

Another broadly similar site is Atom Films but instead of being open to virtually
all comers, Atom Films operate a selection policy, so your film has to be of
a certain standard to get in. What’s more, Atom Films actively distribute
films to television, airline entertainment services, Internet and broadband
services, DVD and video, and theatrical venues. This is all rather new – where
once the doors were not just closed but seemingly locked and bolted, this door
is amazingly wide open. I suspect there is a window of opportunity (to mix my
metaphors perhaps) which won’t stay open forever. Filmmakers are still
a pretty select bunch but it won’t be long before they are as common as
songwriters. Then we might find that it’s back to the days of going to
the right bars and rubbing shoulders with the right people in the hope of striking
up a conversation, when creative people trying to break into the industry spent
more time promoting their work than actually getting on with it.

Although desktop video is certainly an exciting topic, there is just one problem.
The computer has allowed ordinary people with ordinary budgets access to all
kinds of extraordinary activities in music, sound, graphics, publishing and
more. But making movies is actually just that little bit more difficult, and
although systems such as the Apple Macintosh G4 with Final Cut Pro software
can achieve a lot on the desktop, unless you are an animator you actually have
to go out and shoot in the real world. Desktop shooting, as far as I know, is
not yet on the agenda. Still, I would heartily recommend anyone working in audio
post production to acquire at least and iMac DV with iMovie software and do
some movie making. Even if the results are not up to professional standards
of production at least you will gain an understanding of how the other half
work. Fluency in the video editing process will almost certainly lead to even
higher standards in audio. I have a feeling that there will be more to say about
desktop video in the coming months.

David Mellor

Sonic Dimension in Mixing

Sonic Dimension in Mixing

Greg Townley's mixing credits include films Sideways & Wedding Crashers, and artists Usher & Lil' Kim … Learn how Hollywood's Premiere Audio Engineer creates Sonic Space in his film and music mixes.

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David Mellor