Friday, December 23, 2011

Late December Evening


Late December Evening
December 16 - 17, 2011
Canon 60D | Sigma 30mm f/1.4 | Final Cut Pro 7 | Color 1.5

Last year during the holidays, I'd posted some shots of Central Park and Rockefeller Center that I'd taken during the month of December. I figured that this year, I would do something similar with a video.

The above video was shot late last Friday evening. After doing some Christmas shopping in Union Square, I took the 4 train up to Grand Central Terminal, arriving about 11:30 p.m. From there I walked to various sites, wrapping up at the Time Warner Center around 2:00 a.m.

Unfortunately, the big attraction lights (e.g. those at Rockefeller Center, Time Warner Center) were all off by the time I had arrived. I didn't have another chance to film these sites, so rather than focus on the big lights and crowds, I tried to focus more on the feeling on what these places were like after the lights were turned off, and most of the crowds had gone back to their homes or hotels.

Since I had another bunch of errands to run earlier in the evening, I didn't bring a tripod. For almost all of these, I swung my backpack around to the front, and propped my elbows onto it while holding the camera. The smoothcam filter in Final Cut Pro helped, but as always, it can be hit or miss. I might put a monopod on my gear wish list. Smoothcam can be ok, but I always recognize it when I see it, and it's not something that I can 100% rely on for fixing problems.

I did one color pass with Magic Bullet Looks, but I think I rushed the job, and it came out looking muddy, for lack of a better descriptor. Since I'd shot this using the Technicolor CineStyle Picture Style profile, I tried my second pass by clearing out the existing color work that I'd done, sending it to Color, applying the LUT there, and then making my adjustments. In the end, this was probably just as fast, if not faster, than what I'd done in Magic Bullet Looks.

Since watching Philip Bloom's great Looks tutorial, and because I am a big fan of his work, I've always wanted Magic Bullet Looks to be the tool I use for these sort of short videos. However, I've always found myself going to Apple Color instead, even for very short projects. I've realized that I have a slight bias towards Color, since the main book that I've read on color correction, Steve Hullfish's The Art and Technique of Digital Color Correction, used FinalTouch, predecessor to Apple's Color, as its model, and my best guess is that whatever tool I might try and use, those workflows are the steps that my brain is working through at any given time.

What I find particularly helpful is sort of a layering approach, advocated by some of the colorists whom Hullfish interviewed. Make your main color balancing adjustments in the Primary room, and then make your more interpretive choices in the Secondary rooms. And then if you don't like what you've done in one of the Secondaries, you can just switch it off or reset it, and try something else. I also like being able to switch quickly between pulling a key, using a vignette, or making adjustments that affect the whole picture.

Of course, Looks isn't designed for that kind of workflow. At that point, a better comparison tool would be to use layered instances of Colorista while in FCP. I just mean to say that I've always wanted to have a blast with Looks, but I just haven't found the right project for which Looks provided the right answer to the problem (and of course, much of this depends on my subjective taste, as well as my own experience, or lack of experience with Looks).

It's a shame that Apple had only purchase Color in 2006, and, for all intensive purposes, seems to have dropped it from its lineup of pro applications. Since I don't plan on making any major software upgrades soon, it's probably the closest that I'll get in the immediate future to high end color correction tools like the DaVinci (much pricier). Colorista looks interesting, but I tried the free version and found it a bit too crowded on my MacBook Pro's 15" screen.

In any case, that's about it for this video. I've been enjoying throwing together these short videos of places/scenes and cutting them to music, but as I'd mentioned to a friend recently, I'd be very interested in exploring the different challenges involved in cutting together a narrative film. If all goes well, I may be working on shooting one such thing this Spring; will post an update once more of those pieces start coming together.

Hope all have a very joyous holiday season, and a happy New Year.