Do you remember Apple's 10.4 presentation from the LACPUG? Afterwards three of the filmmakers from the Apple Short Film Project got to present and talk about their entry. Sam Mestman takes a look behind the scenes of the productions with the finished films and recorded presentations from that night.
Sam here. I’ve been waiting to write this article for a very long time, and it signals the beginning of something… and that is the beginning of complexity finally getting out of the way of high end filmmaking and truly making it accessible to everyone. We’re talking turning high end filmmaking into a teachable, repeatable process.
At LACPUG in January, there were two presentations. In the first, Apple gave their update to 10.4 that you’ve all seen by now. In the second, the filmmakers from the Apple Short Film Project showed off the work they did with FCPX 10.4. I’ve never been prouder of anything I’ve done in my career.
The bottom line is that excuses have now been removed from making whatever it is you’re passionate about. A group of high school kids, teachers, and a mom who has never edited anything before got together and made movies with FCPX, Motion, Compressor, and Logic Pro X that look as good as any independent movie you’re going to see, and they did it in less time and for WAY less money. Video is now officially democratized, and the real question is whether you’re ready to make the most of it?
There is a new world of content that is emerging and the paradigm shift from an ivory tower post production mentality where everything is complicated and no one knows how to communicate with each other is shifting to a model where anyone can make something that looks amazing if they take the time to become good at their craft. All you need is the right workflow, some affordable tools, a basic understand of storytelling and filmmaking fundamentals, and a willingness to learn.
There are no more gatekeepers, and the implications of this will be staggering in the years to come as everyone will gradually become video literate, and Hollywood style video editing will become an increasingly smaller (but still growing) subsection of the larger content creation market as video continues to replace the written word as the preferred form of communication.
What was done on the recent Apple Short Film Project can only be described as “high end postproduction that anyone can have access to”. It delivered on the promise of a simple, teachable, repeatable process for connecting preproduction to production to post in a streamlined, simple, affordable process that emphasizes creativity and storytelling over technical functions. The basics were profiled in this Apple Newsroom article, and what we’re going to be covering in this series are the workflow specifics of what was done and why.
Apple collaborated with my company LumaForge as well as RED Digital Cinema, and filmmaking teams from We Make Movies, Hollywood High School, and the Mobile Film Classroom. The three teams were given tiny budgets, the RED Raven package on the Apple Store, the new version of FCPX 10.4, Motion, Compressor, Logic Pro X, Izotope RX 6, some iMacs, and a Jellyfish Tower, and told to go make their movies.
They had 3 weeks for all of their post production, finished in 4k, and then screened their movies at LACPUG in January following the Apple Presentation, and their introductions and the movies themselves are all embedded below.
Whether you’re a student, a documentary filmmaker, an independent filmmaker, or even a corporate video department, you now have everything you need to take the stories of your dreams and have it look as good as something Hollywood might do.
If you take one thing away from this article, it should be this; If High School kids can do this workflow, so can you and there is no longer any excuse for you to not make your movie anymore.
This is going to be a 4 part series. In coming articles, you can expect a basic approach to the FCPX color tools from me, a comprehensive HDR workflow guide from Patrick Southern, and how to take your sound design to another level with a FCPX-Logic-Izotope workflow from Raibar Chener. BTW, if you want to play with any of these projects in the real world, and you’re going to be at NAB, you can come see them all in the LumaForge Workflow Suite in the South Hall. Sign up for an appointment here.
And now… here’s what’s cool about the workflow for all three of these movies:
The Dancer - A Studio Workflow for Indie Filmmakers
This one is pretty close to my heart, as the entire movie was created by my community, We Make Movies. They implemented a fully functioning, modern, high end narrative workflow that gives filmmakers a chance to create a compromise free movie at a fraction of the traditional cost by embracing the power of metadata and a few key concepts.
The workflow defined a new blueprint for production and post should work together to deliver an end to end experience that can set up any post production team using Final Cut Pro X for a smooth ride to the finish line working with high end 4k material.
For under $7,000, they shot over two days, everyone got paid, and they delivered a powerful short film without compromises that would stack up against anything you would see in a theater with a fraction of the resources and crew you might see with a studio movie.
Krista Amigone, a mom who has never edited anything before, wrote, directed, starred, and edited this movie, and the results are powerful. What was special about The Dancer that you wouldn’t see other places? Well, here’s just a few of the things this team accomplished that are pretty cool:
- Shot over two days with the Apple Store RED Raven kit for less than $7000. All Cast and Crew were paid.
- Script Supervisor used Shot Notes X, google sheets, and XML to allow all metadata to be instantly searchable in FCPX. No Scripty binders, camera or sound reports were needed on this shoot. Everything that happened on this shoot was searchable by the editor including scene, take, characters, shot types, locations, and more.
- Jellyfish Mobile was used on set allowing the FCPX library to be built on one laptop while footage was ingesting on a second laptop.
- Timecode was jam synced to the Raven using the Zoom F8.
- Sound Recordist labeled mics using the Zoom F8 and iXML that allowed editors to work with correctly labeled audio components throughout the edit and then transferred directly into Logic via XML.
- Sync N Link X was used to automatically sync dialogue in FCPX via timecode.
- iPad with Movie Slate was used instead of a smart slate.
- A fully synced, organized, properly named, searchable FCPX library (with keywords according to shot, scene, characters, and more) was created before production wrapped that allowed post to start without any organization, transcoding, or prep required.
- Finished in 4k while working from their native RED Raw media the entire way through eliminating the need for any conforms.
- Color corrected entirely within Final Cut Pro X.
- Sound design done in one night with a Logic-Izotope workflow delivered via XML.
- Titles and intro done with FCPX-Motion.
- Edited in a collaborative FCPX environment off a LumaForge Jellyfish Tower where picture was edited in one room, while sound design in Logic Pro X happened in another.
- Post Production from edit, sound design.
- HDR master created directly with FCPX’s HDR Tools
- A stay at home mom edited this movie
La Buena Muerte - A modern day, efficient workflow for Documentary filmmakers
La Buena Muerte is a pretty amazing accomplishment. This short documentary, shot over the course of 4 days by the Mobile Film Classroom in Los Angeles over 4 days for under $3000 (everyone was paid), probably could not have been done in 3 weeks had it not been for the organizational and finishing tools in Final Cut Pro X.
This team went into the documentary planning to profile Los Angeles’ Day of The Dead festival in Los Angeles, and they shot loads of material associated with everything that was happening at the festival. Like many unscripted projects, where they started is not where they ended, and they finally settled on a touching story of a mother with cancer who has found a way to reconnect with her daughter and the concept of death through the Day of The Dead Festival.
Putting an edit together like that requires a lot of revision and being able to sort through your clips in a fast and efficient way. By leveraging the power of metadata through tools like Lumberjack and Final Cut Pro’s keywords and thumbnail view, the team was able to sort through all their footage far faster than it could have been done in any other NLE.
Also, because of the new color tools in FCPX, they saved countless amounts of time coloring in the app as opposed to having to go through a traditional conform round trip process. The truth is that there would literally have been no way they could have ever turned around a project of this high quality with another workflow or NLE. Here are some of the unique aspects to the La Buena Muerte Workflow:
- Shot and finished with the standard RED Raven Kit from the Apple Store. The sensor on the Raven combined with RED’s new IPP2 workflow created stunning footage from the always colorful DOTD festival, and made the piece look far more professional than a documentary of that budget would typically look.
- Lumberjack was used to track metadata on set and apply it to their unscripted footage in post.
- FCPX Keywords and favorites were used to isolate people, places, locations, and sections of interviews.
- Rejections were used to non-destructively filter out footage that did not serve the narrative
- Using keywords and favorites combined with FCPX’s Thumbnail view made finding the right shot visually a seamless process.
- FCPX’s color tools allowed the filmmakers to finish inside their NLE without compromises and not need to go through a complicated conform process.
- Noise reduction for low light shots was handled through Neat Video Plugins for FCPX.
- Seamless sound delivery to Logic Pro X via FCPX XML for Sound Design. Noisy dialogue/interviews were cleaned up expertly with efficient Logic-Izotope RX Advanced workflow.
- HDR master created directly with FCPX’s HDR Tools.
The Box - A better way for students to learn filmmaking
The biggest problem when it comes to teaching filmmaking, in my opinion, is complexity. Honestly, there is no simpler way to teach editing for students than to start them on iMovie (that most kids have played with and is incredibly easy to learn) and then graduate them to Final Cut Pro X.
When it comes to being able to import your footage and get going quickly moving around pieces of footage to assemble an edit, there is no better way to learn the core concepts of that than with FCPX and the Magnetic Timeline. While I started on Avid and Final Cut 7 and have taught those to people, I have never seen people pick up editing so quickly as they do with Final Cut Pro X. When you’re dealing with students and trying to teach video literacy, having something that kids pick up quick is the number one priority.
Many Teachers think they have to prepare their students to get a job, as if whatever kids are currently editing with in their lab is going to be the way students will be editing when they hit the workforce. This is just simply not the case.
As far as we know, VR may be the standard in 5 years and editing may be a completely different experience. The reality is that the most important thing you can do to help teach students how to make movies is to focus on core concepts and effective storytelling techniques. If you can teach students how to block shots, light for camera, connect shots together intelligently, cut for performance, and generally engage audiences, you are preparing them to be content creators, and you are teaching them to be self sufficient.
On The Box, students worked more efficiently than most Hollywood productions. They edited in 4k, finished entirely in their NLE, made the most of their metadata with Shot Notes X and Sync N Link X, worked from their original media throughout the edit, and delivered a complete edit, sound design, and color corrected 4k master in under 3 weeks. They also didn’t need camera/sound reports, scripty binders, dailies, a complicated conform, or really any of the other things that tend to stand in the way of most students finishing their projects at a high level.
More specifically, here’s what they did on the Box that you would be hard pressed to see on another student production:
- Shot in RED Raw, worked with it natively in the timeline, and then finished in 4k.
- Script Supervisor used Shot Notes X and Google Sheets to get metadata into FCPX.
- Sound Recordist labeled mics using the Zoom F8 and iXML that allowed editors to work with correctly labeled audio components throughout the edit.
- Sound design done entirely in FCPX using FCPX Audio Roles and Logic’s built in Audio filters.
- Color Correction done entirely in FCPX.
- Edit, color, and sound design done in less than 3 weeks.
- This was done by High School Kids.
We’ll be back with 3 more parts to this series after NAB, but If you need to take a deeper dive on the the methodology behind everything you read above, check out this 5 part series we did last year for FCP.co last year with We Make Movies’ Off The Grid Pilot here.
Sam Mestman is the President and Founder of LumaForge, maker of the Jellyfish and the ShareStation, the world’s most advance shared storage for media and entertainment. He is also the CEO and Founder of We Make Movies, the world’s first community funded production company. As a professional editor and colorist, he has worked for Apple, ESPN, Glee, and Break Media (to name a few), and has edited or colored hundreds of shorts, features, web series, and just about every other type of content you can think of. He is also one of the world’s leading experts on Final Cut Pro X Workflow, and is responsible for some of the largest FCPX professional integrations in the world.