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Desktop Video (part 5)

Of course you would have to wonder whether Apple were really able to leap from nowhere in video editing right up to full professional standard. The answer seems to be yes...

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Of course you would have to wonder whether Apple were really able to leap from nowhere in video editing right up to full professional standard. The answer seems to be yes. There is an incredible flurry of excitement, not so much because of what Final Cut Pro (simply FCP to aficionados) can do, but that it can do extremely professional work at such an amazingly low price, breaking entry barriers in the process. A quick web search will show you just how popular FCP is. Apple have managed to make Final Cut Pro appealing not just to people already engaged in video production, but to creative types in other fields. Apple particularly want graphic designers who are used to working with still images to experiment with movies. Likewise website designers, probably on the art side rather than the database side, will soon want to go beyond still images, animated GIFs, and even beyond Macromedia Flash into full blown moving images.

But back to the would be filmmaker. What can Final Cut Pro do for the small guy with an idea who wants to release it to the world? Well as we have seen, a DV camera and FCP is all you need to make movies. People are taking advantage and making movies that even just a couple of years ago wouldn’t have been made. Not necessarily full-blown feature films of course, but anything right down to a five or ten minute QuickTime short that provides just enough amusement to last out a coffee break. And it’s becoming amazingly popular. You have heard of course of MP3.com and its services to budding musicians (some 40,000 of them apparently). Similar services are now being offered to budding filmmakers. One such website is iFilm.com where you can submit anything apart from pornography and home videos and iFilm will digitize it and make it available on their site. iFilm claim that, “Dozens of our filmmakers have already been discovered by Hollywood”, and while the number films on the site is still relatively small (compared to what it probably will be in a year’s time) it is probably true that your film stands at least a chance that someone will be watching from an office somewhere in Hollywood. There are also prizes for getting in the top 20 viewings for two or more consecutive weeks, ranging from the ‘Lone Eagle Filmmakers Book’ series all the way up to the Kodak grand prize which includes a trip to Hollywood (tough luck if you’re there already), contact with the industry and spending money for your trip. You’ll win this if yours is the first film to stay in the top 20 for thirty weeks. You can view your own film and add to the score too, but not more than once per day.

Another broadly similar site is Atom Films but instead of being open to virtually all comers, Atom Films operate a selection policy, so your film has to be of a certain standard to get in. What’s more, Atom Films actively distribute films to television, airline entertainment services, Internet and broadband services, DVD and video, and theatrical venues. This is all rather new - where once the doors were not just closed but seemingly locked and bolted, this door is amazingly wide open. I suspect there is a window of opportunity (to mix my metaphors perhaps) which won’t stay open forever. Filmmakers are still a pretty select bunch but it won’t be long before they are as common as songwriters. Then we might find that it’s back to the days of going to the right bars and rubbing shoulders with the right people in the hope of striking up a conversation, when creative people trying to break into the industry spent more time promoting their work than actually getting on with it.

Although desktop video is certainly an exciting topic, there is just one problem. The computer has allowed ordinary people with ordinary budgets access to all kinds of extraordinary activities in music, sound, graphics, publishing and more. But making movies is actually just that little bit more difficult, and although systems such as the Apple Macintosh G4 with Final Cut Pro software can achieve a lot on the desktop, unless you are an animator you actually have to go out and shoot in the real world. Desktop shooting, as far as I know, is not yet on the agenda. Still, I would heartily recommend anyone working in audio post production to acquire at least and iMac DV with iMovie software and do some movie making. Even if the results are not up to professional standards of production at least you will gain an understanding of how the other half work. Fluency in the video editing process will almost certainly lead to even higher standards in audio. I have a feeling that there will be more to say about desktop video in the coming months.

By David Mellor Thursday January 1, 2004
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