… for Visual Effects

Tip #339: Inexpensive Green-screen Kits

Do-It-Yourself is possible, but this kit is better.

This illustrates the contents of the Linco lighting kit.

Topic $TipTopic While there are tons of articles on the web about creating Do-It-Yourself green screen kits, what you save in money, you more than waste in post-production trying to pull a clean key from a cheap background. Instead, consider a green-screen background kit.

Here are three to look at.

There are many others to choose from. With these three, though, for less than $150, you get everything you need to create and light a background.

While the Emart kit is the least expensive, what I like about the other two kits is that they include softlights for the talent, as well.

The key to a successful key is an absolutely smooth and flat-lit background. Then, use separate lights to light the talent. Any of these kits can help.

Please rate the helpfulness of this tip.

Click on a star to rate it!

… for Random Weirdness

Tip #147: 5 Tips for Handling & Storing Fiber Optic Cables

Proper maintenance of fiber optic cables

Topic $TipTopic

Recently, Camplex Fiber Optic Solutions shared these tips to make sure your fiber optic cables provide years of reliable performance.

Tip #1. Keep Cable Connectors Clean & Dry

Connectors can easily be contaminated by dust, oils from hands, film residue condensed from air vapors, and coatings left after water and solvents evaporate. Moisture can also corrode cable terminations, so store cables in dry areas. Before using fiber optic cables, clean the connectors on the cable and on the cables or ports the cable is connected to.

Tip #2 Leave Dust Caps On Until Ready to Connect

Dust caps keep contaminants and moisture away from the connector and protect it from damage. After removing a dust cap, inspect and clean the ferrule before connecting to another cable or device. Only use cleaning products intended for fiber optic connectors.

Tip #3 Take it Easy

Fiber cables are extremely durable consisting of cladding, coatings, and jackets that protect the delicate glass strands and provide strength. Still, if mishandled, the glass strands can fracture which affects signal transmission.

Tip #4 Test for Failure Points

Exceeding the bend radius or crush resistance ratings of the cable can affect performance, so use a visual fault locator (VFL) to find any failure points or a power meter to determine if there is signal loss.

Tip #5 Avoid Tangled Cables

Coil fiber optic cables and secure connectors with hook and loop type fasteners. Since compressed cables could cause signal loss, avoid using plastic zip ties. When zip ties are the only solution, cinch the zip ties loosely.

… for Codecs & Media

Tip #150: USB Bandwidth

Different versions of USB provide different amounts of bandwidth

Topic $TipTopic The speed of USB has increased significantly since its initial release. For example, USB 1.0 was released January 15, 1996, with a maximum speed of 1.5 MB/second. Compare that to USB 4.0 which was released August 29, 2019, with a maximum speed of 5 GB/second! USB4 is based on the Thunderbolt 3 protocol.

However, recently, the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) renamed virtually all USB versions and made things REALLY confused. Here are the new names and speeds of the different versions of USB.

Old Name Released New Name Speed
USB 2.0 April, 2000 USB 2.0 Up to 60 MB/sec
USB 3.0 Nov. 2008 USB 3.1 Gen 1 Up to 625 MB/sec
USB 3.1 July, 2013 USB 3.1 Gen 2 Up to 1.25 GB/sec
USB 3.2 August, 2017 USB 3.1 Gen 2×2 Up to 2.5 GB/sec
USB4 August, 2019 USB 4 Up to 5 GB/sec

NOTE: Keep in mind that all versions of USB, except for USB4, are optimized for small file transfers and generally don’t provide all the bandwidth that the spec calls for. I don’t recommend any version of USB earlier than USB 3.2 for video editing.

… for Random Weirdness

Tip #148: Which USB Version Does Your Mac Support?

Larry Jordan – https://LarryJordan.com

When in doubt, look it up.

Use System Preferences > Hardware > USB to determine your USB version.

Topic $TipTopic

Yes, the USB plugs on the back of your computer all look the same. However, here’s an easy way to find out what version of USB your computer supports.

Go to the Apple logo in the top left corner of your computer.

  • Choose About This Mac
  • At the bottom of this window, click System Report
  • In the display that follows, click Hardware > USB

This panel displays more than you will ever want to know about your USB ports and connected peripherals, including the version of USB your system supports.


… for Random Weirdness

Tip #149: The Five Types of USB Connectors

Larry Jordan – https://LarryJordan.com

Sigh… It’s no longer “one plug fits all.”

Five types of USB connectors.
Five types of USB connectors.

Topic $TipTopic

Not only are their different versions of USB, there are also different versions of USB connectors. Ever wonder how many different USB connectors there are and what they are called?

Well, here’s the answer:

  • Type A
  • Type B
  • Type C
  • Micro USB
  • Mini USB

Most computers use Type A or C, depending upon their age.

Most large peripherals use Type B, while smaller devices use either the micro or mini connectors.

Now you know.

… for Random Weirdness

Tip #132: Use QNAP Servers for FCP X

Larry Jordan – https://LarryJordan.com

QNAP supports editing using Final Cut.

Tip Screen Shot

Topic $TipTopic

J.J. Sereday writes:

I’ve been using the QNAP TVS-871T for 3-4 years now and have been able to keep/edit with my FCP X project files on the server using their NFS (for FCP X) connection. Plus you can take advantage of the Thunderbolt speeds using it as a Thunderbolt EtherNet connection. I tend to get 600-800 Mbps read/write with the 8-bay in RAID 5.

It’s been pretty amazing.

NOTE: QNAP also supports SMB3, which FCP X 10.3 and later also support. Visit the QNAP support pages to learn more.

… for Random Weirdness

Tip #138: More RAM Isn’t Always Better

Larry Jordan – https://LarryJordan.com

Adding RAM has… implications.

Tip Screen Shot

Topic $TipTopic

More RAM, as we all know, boosts performance for most media tasks simply because our files are so big.

However, there’s a downside to adding RAM. RAM, whether it is used or not, always consumes power when your computer is on. The more RAM you have, the more power it requires.

For desktop systems, this isn’t bad because they are always plugged into a wall outlet. But for laptops, adding RAM pulls more power from the battery, decreasing battery life.

If you tend to edit with a plugged in laptop, again, no big deal. But, if you tend to edit on battery in remote locations, you’ll need to balance more RAM with battery life.

Just something to think about.

… for Codecs & Media

Tip #031: What Determines Storage Speed?

Larry Jordan – https://LarryJordan.com

Storage performance is key to successful video editing.

Tip Screen Shot

Topic $TipTopic

As you might expect, storage performance is dependent upon multiple factors – and how it connects is only a part. Storage speed, which is often called “bandwidth,” is determined by:

  • How it is connected to your computer, including the protocol used for communication
  • The number of drives or devices it contains

For example, Thunderbolt 3 is very, very fast – up to 3,000 MB/second! But, if that device only has one spinning hard disk inside, the actual speed will be closer to 150 MB/second. Here are three typical examples:

  • A single spinning hard drive transfers data about 150 MB/sec.
  • A single PCIe SSD transfers data around 400 MB/sec
  • A single NVMe SSD transfers data around 2,500 MB/sec

Think of it this way: The Thunderbolt 3 protocol is a very, very large water pipe. The devices connected to it determine how much water flows inside that pipe.

You can have a very large pipe, but if you are only filling it with a garden hose, you won’t get a whole lot of water through of it.

… for Random Weirdness

Tip #019: Pick the Right CPU for Video Editing

Larry Jordan – https://LarryJordan.com

All CPUs are not created equal.

Tip Screen Shot

Topic $TipTopic

Much of technology has become very opaque. CPUs now range from i3 to i9. GPUs range from 560 to Vega whatever. Is an editor’s life over if they get an AMD 570 instead of a 575X? Is an i5 really THAT bad?


No matter how fast your computer, you can easily design a project in any NLE that will bring it to its knees. No computer can play every possible codec, frame size, frame rate, bit depth and effect perfectly in real-time. None. At some point, rendering or proxies will become necessary.


  • There is no noticeable performance difference between a CPU running at 3.0 GHz or 3.5 GHz for the same class of chip (i3 vs. i3, i5 vs i5, i7 vs. i7).
  • CPU speed is less important than support for multiple cores and hyper-threading.
  • More cores makes for a faster CPU.
  • As video bit depth increases, i7 and i9 CPUs become mandatory.
  • An i5 CPU will feel slower than an i7, but an i5 will be fine for smaller, shorter, or HD, projects.
  • Import, edit, trim, playback, and speed changes rely principally on the CPU.
  • Video compression and transcoding also benefit from faster CPUs


  • Effects, color grading, rendering and export rely principally on the GPU.
  • Faster GPUs do not provide higher quality, only faster render times.
  • Apple Final Cut Pro X uses the GPU more than Adobe Premiere Pro CC. However, Adobe is actively working to use more GPU resources in future releases.

… for Random Weirdness

Tip #073: When Do You Need a RAID?

Larry Jordan – https://LarryJordan.com

Storage is more important to video editing that your computer.

Tip Screen Shot

Topic $TipTopic

RAIDs (Redundant Array of Independent Devices) are the high-speed, high-capacity workhorses of media editing. However, they are also much more expensive than buying a single spinning hard drive.

When should you consider a RAID?

  • When you need more capacity than a single drive can provide.
  • When you need more speed than a single drive can provide
  • When you want protection in case a drive fails. (Though a RAID won’t protect your data if you accidentally erase the wrong file. That’s what backups are for.)

RAIDs cost more than a single drive. They also are not as portable. But, as frame sizes, frame rates, and bit-depth all increase, editors are rapidly reaching the point where a single drive – even a single SSD – is not fast or big enough.


How you configure a RAID affects its performance, read Tip #30 to learn more.