Has this ever happened to you? You listen to some music and before you know it you’ve got a tune stuck in your head that you can’t get rid of? Feels like an ongoing loop you can’t escape? That happens to all of us. But what do you do about it? Several years I ago, I found a solution. The solution, as is often the case, appeared first as the problem itself. Here’s what happened.
I saw the musical, Cabaret, several years ago. There’s a song that Joel Grey sings called “Two Ladies.” Not sure exactly how you spell the opening lines but in my ear it sounds like this - imagine a German accent:
Beedelee deet de dee – two ladies
Beedelee deet de dee – two ladies
Beedelee deet de dee – and I’m ze only mahn, yah
Nothing against the writers, John Kander and Fred Ebb, but as lyrics go, on paper those lines don’t amount to all that much. Set to the music they created, however, the tune had a worm-like effect in the way it would burrow itself into my inner ear. I felt helpless in driving it out on my own terms. So I had to let it just drizzle it’s way out.
Then one day, another tune got trapped in my head. Could not get it out! But I remembered “Two Ladies.” And I started to sing it! I sang the entire song, or as much as I could remember. And guess what? “Two Ladies” won and it ended up being the song I couldn’t release. But I realized that I was effective in at least shifting the focus of my obsession.
So… the next time a different tune got stuck in my head, I pulled out trusty old “Two Ladies” but this time I sang only the first two lines.
Beedelee deet de dee – two ladies
Beedelee deet de dee – two ladies
Then I stopped. I would not let myself go further. And that’s what did it! My mind went into a whirlwind.
It didn’t know what to do. It didn’t get enough of “Two Ladies” to move in that direction. But it had gotten enough to pull it away from the song I had been repeating. Success!!! My plan worked! So try it and let me know if it works for you, too! (I’ve got a remedy for hiccups, too!)
But what does all this have to do with storytelling? Well, I had to finally ask myself, ‘What was it about that song that made it so easy to stick in my mind’s eye or ear?’ The same thing has happened to me with a scene from a film, a TV show, or piece of art in a museum. What is it about the images and sounds that make it stay with us?
In songs, we call that a hook. Hooks worm their way into your mind. That’s part of what makes a hit song successful. But films also have hooks – but we call them climactic moments, or poignant moments, and they stay with us, too. I can replay Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in the closing scene from “Casablanca” without having to turn on my DVD or TV. Same with the send-off scene from “Independence Day” or even “Life of Pi.”
When we appreciate something like a section in a song or scene from a movie, that’s great. But if that’s as far as we go, it’s like keeping that piece of art at arm’s distance, as though it were a guest in your house while it occupies your mind for that period of time.
But there’s another option. And that’s to invite it in and make friends with it. Get to know it. Offer it a glass of wine. Talk to it. Have fun with it. Find out what it is about it that makes you personally want to keep it around for a while. Is it the lighting? The script? The camera move or the way the scene was edited? Is it the rise in the chorus? Or the way the bridge balances the song? The way it makes you feel? Or the memories it evokes? Once you figure out what particular aspect or component you appreciate, you as an artist can incorporate that sensibility into your own creations. But first, you have to create a level of intimacy with it, as you would a close friend.
So next time something gets stuck in your head, you know how to get it out – by singing the first lines of “Two Ladies” from Cabaret. But before you do, take a closer look at why it got stuck in the first place, and put those observations in your tool belt.
Part 2 - Searching for Clips
One of the most tedious tasks in an editor's career is looking for that elusive clip you know you've imported but just can't find in all your media. Let's say you did not create Keyword Collections on import. And perhaps you didn't create a Keyword Collection for all the clips about making coffee. No worries. You can utilize the very robust search function and Filter window to search for the clip you need.
In the Event Browser search field, simply enter "coffee" and press Return. All the clips with that word in their name will appear in the Event Browser. If you want to make a Keyword Collection to organize these clips, create a "Coffee" Keyword Collection by adding that keyword to this group of clips. Use the steps from the previous blog if you need help.
And don't forget how powerful the Filter window is. To access the Filter window, click the Filter button (magnifying glass) in the search field.
In the Filter window, you can search for clips without the word Coffee in the name by clicking the Filter popup and choosing "Does Not Include" from the menu. All clips without the word Coffee in the name will appear. Now you can create a Keyword Collection for that set of words as well.
If you want your search to involve additional criteria, click the Add Rule (plus sign) popup to add a rule that will define the criteria you want to include.
With all of this criteria to search for clips, you'll be able to find anything you're looking for. And by adding different rules, you can narrow your search to a very precise set of criteria. When you do that, consider creating a Smart Collection simply by clicking the New Smart Collection button in the Filter window.
If you're ready to move on to editing, don't forget to download the Lesson 4: Building A Rough Cut from my new book on Final Cut Pro X.
In the new version of my Final Cut Pro X book (published by Peachpit Press and being released this week – yay!), I dedicate Lesson 3 to metadata. Metadata can supercharge your entire editing session. I know what you’re thinking. ‘I’m an editor, a visual person. I don’t want to make a lot of textual notes.’ But metadata doesn’t have to be text notes. And by adding metadata to the clips in your project, you can start telling your story before you make a single edit in your project. So just what is metadata?
The widely accepted definition of metadata is data about data. Or because meta is Greek for beyond, it could be defined as data beyond data. In Final Cut Pro X, there will be times when the app itself knows things about a clip, and other times when you will want to go beyond what Final Cut Pro knows and add your own info or data about a clip. The first place to begin is to recognize some of the primary ways Final Cut Pro uses metadata to organize clips.
In the image above, you see purple boxes with white stars. These icons are Events. There are four sets of footage used in the Final Cut Pro X book, and each set of footage is contained within its own event. When you want to organize footage for a project, create an Event for that set of footage and place all media files associated with that project into that Event.
As you import footage, you can ask Final Cut Pro to look at original folder names that contained the clips you’re importing, and add that folder name as a key word to the clips. Clips with the same keyword are placed in a Keyword Collection. Each Keyword Collection is represented by a blue icon with a key on it, such as the B-Roll and Interviews Keyword Collections below. These Keyword Collections were created automatically during import.
You can also create Keyword Collections based on any key word you choose. For example, in the “Delicious Peace” project, there are several shots of the process of growing coffee. By giving a clip the keyword - Coffee, a new Keyword Collection is created and all clips that are given that keyword are automatically placed in that collection. So when it comes time for you to edit a montage of the coffee-making process, if you’ve applied a Coffee keyword to the clips about coffee, all you have to do is look in that collection for footage to cut the montage. Pretty cool and quite a time saver!
After you apply a keyword, such as Coffee, to a clip, that clip will display a blue horizontal line in the Event Browser as you screen it. If the Info Flag is turned on (View > Show Skimmer Info [Control-Y]), you can see all of the keywords associated with that clip as you skim through it. In the image below, the clip titled JJ beans wide has 3 keywords: Coffee, JJ, and Sorting.
In the Event Library, those Keyword Collections appear within the “Delicious Peace” Event like this:
When you take the time to think about your project, you might come up with several keywords that would help you organize your footage according to topics in your story, which would enable you to retrieve those clips when you need them more quickly. For example, in the "Delicious Peace" project, you might fill in some of the keyword shortcut slots in the Keyword Editor with topics you anticipate needing, such as:
Use the shortcut (Command-K) to open the Keyword Editor and then enter a keyword that pertains to your project in each slot. You can then apply keywords to the clips in your project using the shortcut for each keyword slot, such as Control-1, Control-2, and so on. I think you’ll find that once you start thinking about the topics in your project before you begin editing, it will make the editing process itself much more efficient.
I’m just putting the finishing touches on my new FCP X book, revised for the latest 10.0.7 software. You’ll definitely want this book – it’s full of great new tips and exercises that showcase this new software version! The book will soon be off to the printers (it will also be available as an ebook), so over the next few weeks – until it’s on the shelf – I’m going to reflect on some of my favorite parts of the book.
One of my favorite things is how easy it is to do a media mash-up in FCP X. What’s a media mashup? Well, you know what a music mashup is. If you don’t, here’s Wikipedia’s definition:
A mashup or bootleg (also mesh, mash up, mash-up, blend, and bastard pop/rock) is a song or composition created by blending two or
more pre-recorded songs, usually by overlaying the vocal track of one song seamlessly over the instrumental track of another.
So what does that have to do with video? Well, FCP X makes it easy to import just about any type of media to edit your project. And using the Media Browsers in FCP X, you have immediate access to all your still images in iPhoto or Aperture, your songs in iTunes, and don’t forget there’s a ton of sound and video effects you can draw from to enhance your project.
By combining different media elements together, you can create a unique expression in your project – something no one would see in other projects. And don’t forget, when you combine still images with video, in just a few short steps you can apply a Ken Burns pan and scan effect to create some movement on those still images.
So be brave – open those Media Browsers in FCP X and go find some little jewels that might spice up your next project. Something that will be your very own unique media mashup!
I hope you’ve enjoyed a relaxing holiday season. Here at Rev Up Transmedia, we’re back to work! We already have two major announcements for you so we know 2013 is going to be a great year!
First, we welcome a new partner into our fold, New Horizons Computer Learning Centers. You may have heard of them since they are the largest independent IT training company in the world! Through New Horizons, Rev Up Transmedia will be offering both hands-on classroom courses and live on-line courses on Apple software. And not just Final Cut Pro and Motion. We’ll be offering courses on iWorks, MAC OS X Server and Support Essentials for both Lion and Mountain Lion, iPhone & iPad App Development and courses specifically designed to integrate the iPad and iPhone into existing business workflows and operations.
So if you (or your company) are an existing New Horizons customer, you can now get Rev Up Transmedia’s quality Apple training at their facilities in Southern California and live on-line. Click here for more information.
And what’s a new year celebration if it doesn’t involve a new book update!!! As you probably know, Apple recently released a pretty significant update for FCP X. So our second announcement is that I'm revising my book, Apple Pro Training Series: Final Cut Pro X, published by Peachpit Press. I’m including all the new features from the latest software version so you’ll want to stay up to date on the these new additions to the book and course curriculum. The book goes to press around the end of the month, so look for it in the Peachpit online bookstore around February 23rd. In fact you can advance order it at this link on Amazon.
And don’t forget to check out and sample some of the lessons in my two Lynda.com courses: “Storytelling with FCP X” and “Documentary Editing with FCP X.” Both courses will really help you kick start your next editing project – and the new year!
So we say, “Welcome, 2013!” It’s going to be a great year for us and we hope for all of you as well. Remember, if you have questions or topics you'd like to see post tutorials for, let us know here: firstname.lastname@example.org. And once again, Happy New Year!