… for Random Weirdness

Tip #569: Tips for Buying Used Lenses

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Used lens are affordable, but be careful.

Lens image courtesy of pexels.com

Topic $TipTopic

This article, written by Caleb Ward, first appeared in PremiumBeat.com. This is an excerpt.

Used lenses provide a cost-effective way to get quality equipment, but know what to look for before you buy.

1. Look at the Focal Length

Lenses are broken up into two categories, prime & zoom. Prime lenses don’t zoom ‘in and out’ but typically let in more light than zoom lenses. They have a fixed focal length.

2. Check the Aperture Number

A good rule of thumb is: the lower the f-stop number the ‘better’ the lens.

3. Check the General Condition

Are there visible signs of use? It isn’t a perfect way to tell if a lens shoots great but it will let you know if the previous owner took care of the lens.

4. Shake the lens

On any lens you will hear a little noise when you shake it, but do you hear anything that sounds extra loose? Listen for screws or broken plastic pieces on the inside as these might be indicators of an unseen problem.

5. Shine a Flashlight Through the Back

Can you see any dust or scratches? If so you will probably have to send in your lens to get repaired which can get really expensive.

6. Does the Focus and Zoom Wheel Turn Smoothly?

Difficulty zooming or focusing can mean the gears on the inside of your lens are messed up…and there isn’t a lot you can do about that.

7. Are the Aperture Blades Closing Correctly?

You will need to connect the lens to a camera to test the aperture blades. It is imperative that they are in good working order. Do they all form a perfectly symmetrical shape when closed? Do they open up all the way?

8. Try the Lens!

Most camera shops will allow you to test a lens on your own personal camera. Put the lens on and shoot some pictures. Zoom into the image and check for vignetting or chromatic aberrations.

9. Ask about a Warranty and Return Policy

Be careful when buying on an online auction site like eBay. Lenses sold “as-is” should signal a big red flag.

10. Know the Seller

Tried and true retailers are the best companies to purchase used lenses from. Not only will they likely have a great return policy but they probably won’t sell sketchy lenses.

EXTRA CREDIT

The source of these tips – Karl Taylor – has posted a video at the link at the top of this tip. Watch it to learn more.


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… for Adobe Premiere Pro CC

Tip #567: YouTube Compression Settings for Premiere Pro

Premiere’s YouTube presets are good – provided you first check H.264.

Key compression settings for YouTube in Premiere Pro CC’s Export Settings screen.

Topic $TipTopic

In Tip #561 I shared YouTube’s optimized compression settings. Here’s how they translate into Adobe Premiere Pro CC.

Select the compression frame size that matches the size of your project. There’s no benefit to making the compressed frame size smaller, and scaling it larger will only make it blurry.

Premiere’s settings closely match YouTube’s recommendations. On the Export Settings screen:

  • Set Format to H.264
  • Pick the YouTube preset that matches the sequence frame size. In general, you’ll only need 720p, 1080p or 2160p.
  • Make sure the box to match frame rate is checked.

The audio compression settings are fine for both stereo and mono.


… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #576: Retime Audio to Match Dialog

Allen Rowell

Retime clips to match the pace of dialog.

Screenshot showing two alternate audio takes, running at two different speeds.

Topic $TipTopic

You can retime audio to match dialogue to a video clip that was recorded at a different time as shown in this example. The audio recorded with the video clip that I wanted to use had problems that the audio recorded with the reverse angle did not have. I had two good takes of the audio from which to choose but, while the actor’s delivery was pretty consistent, the pacing varied so that words came out faster or slower from one take to the next.

In the screenshot you can see the target clip in the timeline with the two alternate takes as connected clips underneath. By retiming these clips (Cmd-R), and dragging on the retime handles, I made the waveforms line up. The first take was sped up to 111% and the second take was slowed down to 92%.

Then, I played back the edit using Cmd-V and the Audio Inspector to turn off clips and isolate the audio that I wanted to hear under the video that I wanted to use.

Because FCP X does not pitch shift the audio, the result was delightfully usable.


… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #531: How to Delete Render Files in FCP X

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Any deleted generated media can easily be rebuilt.

This message shows the three categories of media that can be deleted at any time.

Topic $TipTopic

Final Cut generates a lot of files, even for small projects. While all these files are necessary during your edit, they are not necessary afterwards. When you need to recover storage space, here’s what you need to do.

There are three types of generated media that can be deleted:

  • Render files
  • Optimized media
  • Proxy files

NOTE: If, by chance, you delete the wrong thing, Final Cut will automatically rebuild it from existing files. This is a good reason to never trash camera native files until your edit is complete.

There are three areas from which you can delete generated media:

  • Library
  • Event
  • Project

Select the area you want delete files from in either the Library List or the Browser, then choose File > Delete Generated [ ] Files. (Where the brackets are will appear “Library,” “Project,” or “Event,” depending upon what you selected.)

FCP X will warn you that this action can not be reversed, which is true, but misleading. While you can’t undo the deletion, you can create new optimized or proxy media from File > Transcode Media.

And FCP X will create new render files whenever they are needed in your edit.

EXTRA CREDIT

While you can do this during an edit, you don’t save a lot, as Final Cut will rebuild whatever files it needs from what you deleted. The big benefit comes when you are archiving a project. Deleting generated media reduces the size of your archives.


… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #568: YouTube Compression Settings for Compressor

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Compressor’s settings need tweaks for best YouTube compression.

Compressor’s video compression settings panel. Red arrows indicate areas to change.

Topic $TipTopic

In Tip #561 I shared YouTube’s optimized compression settings. Apple Compressor’s YouTube settings change based upon the frame size of the source media. While close, they need some tweaks for best results.

VIDEO SETTINGS

Match the size of your compressed frame to the source frame. There’s no reason to make it smaller and making it larger will only make it blurry.

Select the setting that matches your project frame size from Video Sharing Services. Then, in the Video tab:

  • Turn OFF Multi-pass
  • Turn OFF Add clean aperture information
  • If compressing for 4K, change the Data Rate to Custom, 35000.
  • 1080p and 720p video data rate settings are fine.

AUDIO SETTINGS

  • If compressing stereo, set the Bit Rate to 320 kbps.
  • If compressing mono, set the Bit Rate to 160 kbps.

… for Random Weirdness

Tip #544: 7 Tips for Better Shooting

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

7 Tips to improve your shooting, from Caleb Pike.

Image courtesy of Pexels.com.
Slate your shots. Labeling makes them easier to find in the edit.

Topic $TipTopic

This article, based on a video by Caleb Pike, first appeared in PremiumBeat.com. This is an excerpt.

Here are the tips that Caleb goes through in the video:

1. Transitional Shots

Utilizing transition shots gives the editor the ability to move from scene to scene without using harsh cuts. As Caleb points out you can find very creative ways to develop and film transition shots without the use of “artificial crossovers and fades”.

2. Slate Your Shots

Metadata is pretty important to an editor. It not only helps you, the director, to keep everything organized on set, but it also helps the editor in post. On any film shoot you’re going to go through several takes of multiple scenes, so by slating and cataloging each slate you’ve already begun the metadata collection and organizing for your editor.

3. Overlap Your Shots

Overlapping shots can make editing easier and its gives the editor more options to work with. To do this you want to film specific actions and tasks in several angles, and you want to be sure and film the action from beginning to end in each take. Total pro move.

4. Get It On Film

When shooting interviews or filming a narrative sequence begin rolling before you say “action”, this way you can gather auditory information about the scene or you can ask metadata questions to your interview subjects. Such questions for your subjects would include asking their name, spelling of their name and title. Having this information in audio form can greatly help your editor when setting up interview titles and or just labeling the metadata.

5. B-Roll

As Caleb says, “B-Roll, B-Roll, B-Roll, B-Roll. You can never have enough B-Roll….it doesn’t matter how important it is or whether you’ll actually use it. I’ve always been taught that, “It’s better to have it than not.”

6. Practice A Lot

You can go to school for years to learn the fundamentals of filmmaking, but if you don’t get out there and practice then you’ll never improve as a shooter or editor. So, use any open time you can and begin filming anything you can think of to practice shooting and editing.

7. Keep The Tone In Mind

Know your story. Know what it’s about and the tone you want to set through the visuals. This is extremely important as the tone will most often dictate how the transitions and b-roll will work.

EXTRA CREDIT

The link at the top takes you to a video where Caleb explains this tips in more detail.


… for Random Weirdness

Tip #547: 6 Tips to Better Foregrounds

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Shoot wide and stay low.

Image courtesy of Pexels.com.

Topic $TipTopic

This article, written by Nigel Danson, first appeared in PetaPixel.com. This is an excerpt.

I love shooting foregrounds in my big vista landscapes but it has taken quite a while to find out the things that work well and what doesn’t. I still don’t think I have mastered it but really enjoy the challenge of going out and finding a powerful foreground. In this article, I wanted to share the things that I believe have the biggest impact on creating great shots like this.

So, how do I go about finding and shooting foregrounds?

Point Your Camera Down

When using a wide-angle lens and shooting foregrounds it is really important to point the camera down. I like shooting vertically and getting right over the top of the subject like this image.

Consider the Height That You Shoot At

Shooting at different heights has a huge impact on the outcome of a scene. It also helps with connecting the foreground and distance.

Larry adds: The lower the height of the camera, the more you emphasize the foreground.

Start with Simple Foregrounds

Like most things in photography, simplicity is best. I think that is even more important in the foreground as you tend to read an image from the bottom up.

Think About Patterns

Patterns look great in foregrounds. Look for repeating patterns in the grass, rocks, sand or whatever you are shooting.

Find Something Special

My favorite type of foregrounds are the most powerful ones where you have something a little bit special. It may be some foliage or a rock that stands out. Be careful about the surroundings and make sure there are no distractions.

Midground Matters

Connect the foreground to the distance. As I have already mentioned the height you shoot at can make a big difference. Think about the foreground connection through the mid-ground to the distance.

EXTRA CREDIT

The link at the top of this tip has images and a video that illustrate these points.


… for Visual Effects

Tip #552: 8 Tips to Improve VFX Shots

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Think about what you are shooting and how to match it to the background.

Topic $TipTopic

This tip, presenting by Brad Hamilton, first appeared in a YouTube video. This is a summary of his video.

Here are Brad’s eight tips to improve your VFX shooting:

  1. Study reference images of the effect you are trying to recreate.
  2. Color correct the element you are adding to match the live action plate
  3. Match the sharpness of the VFX elements you are adding to that of the live action plate you shot.
  4. Match the amount of grain in the added element to the amount of grain in the live action shot.
  5. Utilize practical special effects during the filming process.
  6. Use lens flares/glare to promote realism and hide flaws in your composite.
  7. Make sure the lighting of the 3D world matches the live action shot.
  8. Create realistic 3D materials by adding scratches, dirt, grime, glossiness, rust, roughness, bumps, and so on.

EXTRA CREDIT

Click the link at the top of this tip to watch the video.


… for Adobe Premiere Pro CC

Tip #564: Master a Linked Selection

Linked selections keep audio and video in sync.

An enabled Linked Selection button in the top left of the Premiere timeline.

Topic $TipTopic

Most of the time, linking is a good thing. Except, ah, when it isn’t. Here’s a description of what it is and two ways to unlink a clip.

Most of the time, when we import a media clip, the audio and video come in together, in sync and ready to work. However, there are times where you may not want both. Perhaps you recorded audio using the camera mic and need to use audio recorded on a boom mic instead.

You could drag the audio volume of the clip to zero. But, that takes time. It would be faster to just delete the audio clip. But, every time you select the audio, the video gets selected as well.

However, the Linked Selection button shown in the screen shot, which is in the top left of the timeline, allows you to unlink the audio from the video. When this button is blue, synced clips are linked. When it is white, you are able to select the audio of a synced clip without selecting the video.

At which point, you can move or delete it.

EXTRA CREDIT

Except…. it is SUCH a hassle grabbing the mouse, dragging it all the way up to the top of the timeline and clicking it.

If only there was the option to select just one side of a clip. An option that allows us to choose just the video, or just the audio…

Smile… Well, there is. Press the Option key when clicking a synced clip and you’ll only select the side of the clip you clicked on.

NOTE: Windows users need to use the Alt key, but “Alt” is a lot harder to work into a joke.


… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #530: Enhance Audio in Final Cut

Audio can be enhanced manually or automatically.

The Audio Enhancements section of the Audio Inspector.

Topic $TipTopic

This tip originally appeared as an Apple KnowledgeBase article. This is an excerpt.

Final Cut Pro includes several powerful tools for automatically analyzing and enhancing the audio in your projects, including:

  • Loudness: Improves the main audio signal and makes it more uniform.
  • Background Noise Removal: Reduces background noise.
  • Hum Removal: Reduces common electrical hum noise at either 50 or 60 Hz.

All enhancements are designed to correct most common audio problems automatically or with minor adjustments.

You can let Final Cut Pro analyze audio and adjust these problems in your audio clips automatically, or you can make manual adjustments in the Audio Enhancements section of the Audio inspector. You can also analyze and fix audio problems when you import a clip.

NOTE: When you import a clip with the “Analyze and fix audio problems” import option selected, only severe audio problems are corrected. If the clip contains moderate problems, these appear in yellow next to Audio Analysis in the Audio Enhancements section of the Audio inspector after the clip is imported. To correct these problems, you need to automatically enhance audio in the Audio inspector.

In Final Cut Pro, select an audio clip or a video clip with audio in the timeline.

NOTE: Audio enhancement works on the component level, not the clip level. If your audio clip has more than one audio component (for example, a dual mono clip), select an individual component, then proceed with the enhancements.

  • Choose Modify > Auto Enhance Audio (or press Option-Command-A).
  • If it isn’t already open, open the Inspector, then click the Audio button at the top.

In the Audio inspector, do any of the following:

  • Adjust equalization: In the Equalization section, click the Equalization pop-up menu and choose an equalization preset, or click the Controls button to make manual adjustments.
  • Change loudness settings: Drag the Amount and Uniformity percentage sliders in the Loudness section. The Amount slider increases or decreases the overall loudness (compression) of the clip, and the Uniformity slider increases or decreases the dynamic range affected.
  • Change the percentage of background noise removal: Drag the Amount slider in the Noise Removal section.
  • Remove hum: Select either 50 Hz or 60 Hz in the Hum Removal section.

To turn off an enhancement, deselect its checkbox.

EXTRA CREDIT

  • Blue. A blue checkbox appears next to each enhancement that was turned on to apply a correction. You can turn on additional enhancements by selecting their checkboxes (when an enhancement is turned on, its checkbox is blue).
  • Green. A green checkmark next to an enhancement indicates that the clip was analyzed and, if necessary, adjusted for that enhancement.
  • Yellow. A yellow warning triangle indicates potential problems.
  • Red. A red sign indicates severe problems.