So last night, I went to another Boston Final Cut Pro User Group meeting. This one was held at the Autodesk campus in Waltham, MA.
It started off with Colin Smith from Adobe. It was billed as ways of integrating CS5 into your video workflow, but the first half was showcasing the latest CS5 features. While not entirely video focused, CS5 looked really cool. Some interesting highlights:
Area of Transition – There are some incredible selection tools in Photoshop CS5 for creating masks. One demo in particular focused on softening and refining the edge of a mask (referred to as the area of transition), making the mask look good, instead of looking like it was cut out with Kindergarten scissors. Russell Brown is the place to go for learning these tools. Check out this tutorial – the best part is about a third of the way through, where strands of hair are revealed as you refine the mask edges using Photoshop’s smart detect.
Flash Web Sites – This was very slick. With Premiere Pro CS5, you not only can export to DVD and BluRay, but also to a Flash web site, i.e. Flash pages of all the DVD graphics and menus you created. Plus, if you’ve incorporated the script to your film using Adobe Story, your site has integrated search, allowing you to search for any spoken words in your film and jumping straight to a hit, with pre-roll provided. Very cool.
Customer Requests – Being a software developer, I enjoyed hearing Adobe’s way of handling customer enhancements. For those who don’t know, it’s common for software packages to end up with a lot of enhancement requests that would be great to do, but always get deferred release after release because there’s always something more important to tackle – this leads to a big backlog of stuff developers never get to. Anyway, Adobe has this “Just do it” process, where they pick some requests off the backlog and make time every release to chip away at and just do it. One they’ve apparently gotten hammered on for not having done until CS5 was CMD-H. On Macs, CMD-H typically hides the application, but historically, CMD-H has hidden edges in Photoshop. This apparently annoys many users. Well, after “20 years” (Colin joked), they finally figured out how to handle their indecision on what to do. With CS5, the first time you use CMD-H, you’re prompted with a dialog asking you to choose what you want the keystroke to perform. Small stuff, but I can see it making many people happy.
Graham Sharp, the Director of AV3 Software, showed off ‘get’, which is the most amazing plug-in I’ve seen to date for Final Cut Pro. Point it to a media file, or a folder of files, enter your search criteria, and it searches the audio stream for phonetic matches. The results were incredible. Multiple people talking, muffled audio, misspelled search terms, etc…it worked amazingly well..
It takes about 10 seconds to index one hour of material, all media files with search hits are returned in a Finder like window, and when you click on one, a separate window opens up listing all the hits in the audio stream. There are controls to adjust the accuracy if you want to refine the search. Searches can be saved, and when new media arrives in the folder, a message can be sent if the saved search finds any hits. Upon finding the media file you want, you can add it to your FCP project. The clip will appear in your bin, handles provided for convenience, with markers already in place indicating the location of your hits. The plug in being FCP based, handles any media file FCP can handle.
A few other observations:
- Future features they’re thinking about are exporting the audio to a text file.
- If your media is on an external drive, the indexing is saved locally, so you can’t take the results with the media. However, if the drive is disconnected, ‘get’ will still allow you to search the media – it’ll just tell you the files are off-line.
- In order to use it, you need FCP open. You can’t use it as a standalone app.
- A few untested areas is how well it will handle searches when there’s music playing, or searching music for lyrics instead of spoken words. It’s also unclear how well it’ll handle accents.
- They’re planning to do a beta, but their site is no longer taking names. Graham was kind enough to offer me his card and email him to see if I could get on the list. The plug-in would be really useful for the doc I’m working on.
- They really should’ve come up with a better name than ‘get’.
Asked what finally made something like this possible, Graham responded “the Iraq war”. Apparently, the software was developed for the military, and AV3 Software is licensing it from them through Nexidia (http://www.nexidia.com). Their biggest customer apparently was Cisco, and it was being used on every military ship (probably still is).
The plug-in is set to ship the 2nd week of July for $499 (Graham joked he needed to feed his wife and 2 skinny kids). If you go to their web site and sign up, you’ll get a 10% discount when it comes out. There will be additional language support when they ship. Graham said they’re aiming to have 7 languages available initially, but have 30 in the works.