Archive for May, 2008

Installing JL Cooper’s EclipseCX customization software (in 13 tedious steps)

I’m a big fan of colorist control surfaces. My company invested in the JL Cooper EclipseCX. I’m approaching the 6 month mark of ownership and I’ve found that it’s not without its own set of quirks and annoyances. Prime among those annoyances is the fact that Apple’s Color natively offers only limited support for this control surface. From my original review:

Important keyboard commands are missing, as well as the missing Master Gain/Gamma/Lift controls. Moving quickly between shots using the transport buttons is too unresponsive. When copying and pasting grades there are too few buttons chasing too many controls. . . Keyframe management is clunky and should work better if placed elsewhere on the panel. . . Overall, I think the Color team really should to take another look at their control surface support for the JL Cooper and tidy things up a bit.

cooper_inspector

I still agree 100% with the above assesment. But here’s the good news: We don’t have to wait for the Color team to address these concerns. JL Cooper has their own customization software that solves every problem I’ve outlined above. And if you’re willing to dig into the software, nearly every feature JL Cooper users have requested is available – save one; the Inside/Outside toggle.

Here’s the bad news: The software is an initial PITA to setup. Royally. Unpredictably. Frustratingly. PITA.

I’ve complained mightily to the JL Cooper Powers That Be about the nonsensical installation problems that surround getting the Eclipse software up and running for the first time. Why does it take so long? I have no fracking idea. But I’ve installed this software a dozen times in two different locations and it generally takes about 45 minutes – and I (think) I know what I’m doing.

But I’ve finally developed a few methods for making the install problem as painless as possible. Here’s how I do it, in its mind-numbing detail:

Disclaimer: The current b6 software is just that, beta. It’s available for download off their website. Here’s the link. Like me, use at your own risk. I am not employed or any way associated with JL Cooper other than as an end-user. If you want to bitch at them, please do so. Here’s their contact page. If you, however, want help with setting up the software and ask for help in a nice manner – I’ll be happy do so either via the comments for this posting or, preferably, on the Yahoo Color-L mailing list (the latter is the preferred choice, since it can take me a few days to respond on the website).

The first time you do this – set aside a few hours. Don’t try to squeeze this in 20 minutes before a session – you’re asking for trouble. Let’s start:

  1. Begin by making sure your control surface is talking to Color using the methods outlined in the Color manual. Don’t bother with the Eclipse software until you’ve done this step. This will ensure you don’t have other networking issues getting in the way of your install. Once it’s working, write down the IP address and port you’ve entered into Color.
  2. Download the JL Cooper software from this page.
  3. Have you ever installed any version of JL Cooper Eclipse or MCS software before? If so, you must absolutely uninstall it using the provided uninstaller. Then go into ~/Library/Preferences and delete the .plist file associated with the JL Cooper software. If you leave that prefs file in there it’ll destroy you. And it doesn’t seem to be removed by the uninstaller. Removing this file clears up 80% of the issues I’ve had in the past. You should do the same.
  4. Restart the machine.
  5. Install the JL Cooper software
  6. Go into System Preferences > Universal Access and click Enable access for Assistive Devices.
  7. Restart the machine.
  8. Open the EclipseCX software. Go into prefs and enter the networking info that you wrote down in Step 1.
    cooper_ip_address
  9. Import the Color keyset from ~/Applications/EclipseCX Software/keysets/. You’ve now loaded the keyset that talks to Color. Modifications here effect how the Eclipse “talks” to Color.
  10. Test this software by moving a trackball and spinning some knobs. You should see the software interface respond. If not: Quit out of the software, turn off the control surface. Turn it back on. Log out of your account. Log back in. Open the EclipseCX software and re-test by pushing buttons, moving knobs, etc. It should be working now. If not, restart the computer and try again. NOW it should be working. If not, make sure the EclipseCX software prefs match the network settings on the Eclipse (which it should if you managed to have the control surface talking with Color directly.)
  11. Go
    cooper_set_port

    to the menu setting Actions > Set Ethernet Port for Color Keyset and select the top choice.

    cooper_set_port_2

    You can go with the default port number. I find that 61000 is a number that works better for me. It’s rather arbitrary. Write this number down, we’ll need it in a moment. Keep in mind, you might need to change it later, if things don’t work so well.

  12. Quit from the Eclipse software. If you’re feeling confident, you may launch Color and proceed to the next step. If you want to be safe: Power cycle the Eclipse, the log out / log back in. I find this tends to clear things back to a normal state and increases my chances for success on the next step.
  13. Launch Color. Change the control surface Ethernet setting to: 127.0.0.1 Set the Port to match what you entered two steps above. If you’re lucky – the EclipseCX is now talking to Color. If you’re not lucky, do the ‘normalization’ tasks in the previous step. If it’s still not working, reboot the machine.

At this point you should have the JL Cooper customization software up and running, talking with Color. If it’s not working, the first place to check is the Ethernet Port for Color Keyset. The most likely place for a foul-up is the Port setting. Each time you change the Port, I suggest running through the whole Power Cycle / Log Out-In normalizing routine. It’s a good routine that works just as well as rebooting. But, sometimes, a reboot fixes things and suddenly the whole EclipseCX Software > Color thing just suddenly works. If you’re still having problems, pick a new port number and enter it in both the Eclipse software and in Color. Then, Normalize the control surface and try Color again. If after a couple shots it still isn’t working, reboot.

Does all that seem like a pain? It sure does to me. Drives me nuts. Here’s the upside: Once I have it working, it’s pretty much bullet proof. It doesn’t go down. I’ve had it working for weeks at a time… until I install the next Beta version and I have to go through this whole routine again! It seems at least a few of the Tangent users aren’t quite so lucky (cheap shot, I know… but Tangent users are a mighty quiet lot so I’ll take it when I can get it).

Next time: I’ll take you through how to customize the control surface and why you should bother. But here’s a payoff until then – grab this file. It’s the Color keyset I created for the b6 version of the software. It’s quite different than what JL Cooper ships, but I think much more useful for the working professional. Be sure to read the pdf with it, it describes how I’ve set up the panel.

– pi

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Book Review + The Finishing Line Library Shelf

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On The Finishing Line I’ve previously listed links for learning color correction. A book I’ve been reading for the past few months has prompted to me to update / refine that list (now in the sidebar). I pre-ordered this book, The Art and Technique of Digital Color Correction, almost a year ago. It finally shipped in the middle of January 2008. I wrapped reading it in April. What follows is my review:

First question: Is The Art and Technique of Digital Color Correction worth reading?

Answer: Yes! Absolutely.

Second question: Is it targeted at newbies or advanced users?

Yes. To both.

The first two thirds of the book “Primary Color Correction” and “Secondary Color Correction” deals with the fundamentals of our toolsets: monitoring, understanding waveform monitors and vectorscopes, balancing shots, vignettes, HSL isolations, and more. While this part of the book can be safely skipped over by more advanced users to whom all that info is second nature, Steve Hullfish does a nice job of surveying how different software apps approach the same concepts. And when a particular software package has a unique tool for achieving a particular task, he breaks it down for the reader.

The upshot: Even if you’re experienced colorist on a Symphony you’ll walk away with a strong understanding how other software apps work and what you might be missing (or what advantages you may have that you didn’t realize). My advice, advanced users should at least skim through these parts paying particular attention when Steve takes a moment to pull a quote from the working professionals he features in the last third of the book. There are some great tips in these sections – especially on how different colorists set up multi-display scopes to help them nail black balance or tweak color values. I ended up changing some of my displays and found a few new setups that I really like.

Overall, the first two parts are not a dumbed down discussion. While Steve starts by laying down the ground-work emphasizing monitoring and external scopes (the latter being a deep discussion that permeates the entire book – which I very much appreciate), he seems to anticipate some of his readers finding material redundant and thankfully breaks out basic terminology to sidebars. Appropriately, those early chapters work through the subject matter in the same order a colorist will typically approach their problem-solving.

The final third of the book “Pro Colorists” is likely where the advanced users will want to begin. Why? That answer leads us to our third question…

Third Question: What makes this book different than other color correction books (or DVDs)?

The soul of this book is contained in the last few chapters and on its supplemental DVD. Steve sits with over a half-dozen accomplished, professional colorists and puts them in front of a common software color grading platform, Apple’s Color (at the time called Final Touch HD), with a JL Cooper control surface Tangent control surface. He gives them all the same set of footage (also provided on a DVD), presses ‘record’ on a tape recorder and grills the colorists about the approach they are each taking to color correcting those images. The result is the author presenting up to three colorists approaching the same shot using different techniques. Or the same technique being used on different shots. Usually in the words of those colorists. It’s a great education.

Even better are the transcripts Steve provides on the DVD that didn’t make it into the book but he thought were informative. I’ve just started to read those and already I’ve gotten some new ideas about different approaches to common challenges.

Another thing that differentiates this book is its largely software-agnostic approach. Color, Avid Symphony, After Effects, Color Finesse, even Photoshop are all been featured in the first 2 Chapters alone. Where interfaces are similar, Steve picks a software package and follows it through – pointing out where users of other apps might find things different. I suspect that if iMovie had a color correction module Steve would have a found a place to feature it.

Fourth Question: Any final thoughts?

This is clearly a book about concepts, not tools. As much as it necessarily covers the How To of working with color correction software, it’s the Why Do that is emphasized.

In fact, Why Do is the whole point of the book.

Read it. Live it. Learn it.

– end book review –

On a related note:

This posting has prompted me to update my links for recommended reading. On the right side of this blog I’ve put up The Finishing Line’s Library Shelf. These are a list of books I’ve found invaluable in furthering my education and understanding of color correction, finishing, or editing. They’re linking to Amazon via my affiliate account. If you appreciate the time I spend from my day job to keep the Finishing Line something more than a corporate News blog, buying through those links are a nice way of showing your support. Or, you can send me an email. Or both.

Just remember, supplement that book knowledge with the practical experience of color correcting a few hundred thousand shots – and then you’ll find yourself well on the road to becoming a craftsman.

– pi

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Color Correction Masterclasses – June 28 & 29 / July 19 & 20

Full Disclosure: I am on the Board and Treasurer of Moving Pictures Collective (Mopictive is a DBA of the New York Final Cut Users Group and also a certified 501c3 not-for-profit) which is hosting the following event. You can be assured that over 50% of the proceeds will go to Mopicitive and furthering its mission to the training of Digital Storytellers. The instructors (including me) are paid only a nominal fee.

It’s that time of year…

If you’re in the New York City area in June or July, there are TWO color correction seminars being held. These seminars are a collaboration between myself, Mopictive, Manhattan Edit Workshop, and Alexis Van Hurkman (author of the Color user manual as well as several books on color correction and effects with Final Cut Studio). I’ll be teaching a weekend of one-day seminars with Jamie Hitchings on the basics of working in Color. Alexis will be teaching another weekend of one-day seminars on Advanced Color Correction techniques with Color.

These will be jam packed days. I last did this class several times last year and they were pretty well received. Jamie and I cover the basics of color theory, FCP -> Color workflow, the Color interface, and solving real-world problems on real-world footage. In July Alexis presents his own material, picking up where I leave off. He’ll cover the ColorFX Room, advanced grading techniques in the secondaries, and how to get Color’s tracker to work properly. Both of us will leave time to make sure you get your questions answered.

The best thing about all of these classes – every enrollee will have access to their own computer running Color. These are hands-on classes designed to get you feeling comfortable on the software and giving you a strategy for sculpting your own images.

Cost: $300 / class with 50% of the proceeds going to Mopictive (the NY Final Cut Pro User Group) and the remaining split between the facility providing the equipment and the instructors.

Sign-up: To sign up directly, go here. For more info on the June workshop, go here. And for more info on the July workshop, go here.

Questions? Feel free to use the Comments.

– pi

 

Shameless Plug: Genesis "Come Rain or Shine"

I just got an email from Martin Baker, a friend in the U.K. He caught the airing on BBC of one the first HD jobs that ran through Fini. “Come Rain or Shine” is a 90 minute behind-the-scenes documentary of the band Genesis’ most recent European tour.

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I’ve been a Genesis fan since high school (mostly anything prior to Abacab). For me the highlight of that doc is the moment in the hotel room when Phil Collins and Chester (the band’s long-time second drummer) are practicing drumming on leather benches. That moment blossoms into the inspiration for the centerpiece drums solo in their live performance. Any Genesis fan will love seeing that moment.

It was also the only moment where the footage was nearly un-watchable. It was the first day that the crew had used the camera they were shooting and the color balance was so far extreme into the reds there was zero information in the blue channel. You can see the before / after on the homepage of this website. It took some fancy footwork to save the shots in that sequence – mostly on my own time, as I worked on it on nights and weekends. (It turned out the scene required two solutions since the exposure changed in the middle.)

I want to give a special Thank You to the film’s Director, Anthony Mathiel. He allowed me to fulfill a dream. Hopefully some last minute hair-pulling didn’t overshadow what I think is a final product we can both be proud.

The 3-disc DVD of their final performance on their European tour is coming out this month. “Come Rain or Shine” is packaged as one of the three discs. There doesn’t seem to be a release date for the BluRay version. SD only.

– pi

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Errata – BluRay & Compressor 3

In this previous post I lamented how Apple seemed to be dragging its heels on providing BluRay authoring tools in its Pro Apps suite.

I got at least one fact wrong: Compressor 3 does export for BluRay.

Compressor4_000

Where did I go to find this out? Adobe!

Specifically, the DAV TechTable blog – which is filled with useful how-to’s on BluRay authoring and I’ve placed into my RSS reader (now that I’m an owner of the Adobe Production Suite CS3 bundle, which supports BluRay authoring on the Mac).

Here’s the post which gives explicit instructions on how to export from Compressor for BluRay authoring in Encore DVD. It’s not a built-in preset in Compressor, so you’ll want to build and save these settings as a Custom Preset.

If you’re a glass half empty person, you’ve got to wonder why this setting isn’t shipping as a preset in Compressor. Is it an ominous sign of Apple trying to keep its boot on the neck of BluRay? If you’re a glass half full person, hopefully this is a positive omen that the next version of Final Cut Studio will have much more explicit support for BluRay authoring.

– pi

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