MCS Spectrum works with Eclipse Software

I only have time for a quick post tonight...

The last 3 weeks (and for the next month) I’ve had the opportunity to work on JL Cooper’s MCS- series of hardware controllers. Last week I posted on the Color-L mailing list that the customization software for the Spectrum colorist control surface basically... well, sucks. It’s buggy and it doesn’t have half the controls that the Eclipse software has. I was very disappointed. My buddy Mitch responded that he was told at NAB the Eclipse software would drive those panels.

The thought hadn’t occured to me. On Monday I installed the Eclipse software (instructions here) and it worked. I imported my keyset and that worked as well! Joy, oh happy day.

One small tweak had to be made since the Eclipse does have one extra button that the Spectrum doesn’t.

So Spectrum users - get out there and behold the power of a fully functioning control surface. I promise, you won’t be disappointed!

- pi

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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.

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.
  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
    to the menu setting Actions > Set Ethernet Port for Color Keyset and select the top choice.
    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: 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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Tip: Managing Grades in Color

Quick refresh: In Color you can save your color corrections in two manners. First, you can save your Primary In, Secondary, ColorFX tree, and Primary Out settings individually. Color calls these "corrections". I tend not to save out my corrections. No reason, other than it gets to be a lot to manage. The exception is ColorFX trees. I tend to save those corrections.

Second, you can save everything you've done to a shot - Primaries, Secodaries, ColorFX, and Geometry Room - collectively as a single file. Color calls those "Grades". I use grades extensively. Organizing grades tends to be fairly straight forward. Park on the shot whose grade you want to save, go into the Setup Room (under the Grades tab) and type in the name of your grade. Typically you'd name it something meaningful, "attorney_v001" for instance.


When you're finished with your show you might have a list of saved grades that looks something like this:


You'll notice I have all my grades grouped together by names. eric_ruddy_couch has several variations followed by eric_2shot, also with several variations. And so on... resulting in all my Eric grades staying grouped together - and then sub-grouped by scene, angle, etc. No rocket science here. Pretty basic stuff.

But what happens when the number of grades you want to save for retrieval quickly expands beyond your ability to come up with meaningful descriptive names?

This happened to me recently on doc that had 3 main subjects - but also a few dozen repeating interviews . There was no way I was going to individually name each and every setup. But at the same time, I needed a way to quickly find a saved grade for each subject.

I started by (1) switching the Grade bin to Icon view and (2) allowing Color to Autoname my grades.

Color's auto-naming system is less than useful. As you'll see in the following image Color uses a Date/Timestamp to generate names (thus the need to work in Thumbnail View):


And yet, in the midst of its generic naming style how did I keep my grades organized by location and sub-grouped by person?


The answer: I used the Unix-style file name quick-fill feature that can be accessed in most Save dialog boxes on OS X.

Here's how it works in this context:

1. After switching into the Grade bin, decide where you want the Grade to show up inside your bin. If you want it at the end of the bin, then simply accept the auto-generated name from Color. It'll be placed at the end of the line.

2. If you want to place a Grade specifically next to another thumbnail simply highlight - DON'T double-click - just highlight / single-click the Grade. The name of that grade will automatically fill the File Name box.

3. Move your cursor to just before the .colorgrade extension and append it with a number. I usually start with the number 2 (applause, applause), from there I'll increment upwards.

If I want to sub-group I'll append my numbers with letters so that datetimestamp2a falls between datetimestamp2 and datetimestamp3.

The other side-benefit of this naming style - it's fast.

I'm not sure, but if this post reads confusing post a comment and I'll try to clear it up.

- pi

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Isolating Colors in Color's ColorFX room

On the Apple Discussions forum for Color someone asked about isolating several colors simultaneously while de-saturating the rest of the image. There are two approaches. The first involves using the Saturation Curve in a Secondary room. The second approach, as I answered on the message board, is to use the ColorFX room. What follows is a more detailed explanation of how to use the ColorFX to accomplish that goal - I've even included pictures (click on a image to open it full size).

So, here's the initial image (just happened to be up on the screen at the time I decided to write this posting):

We'll isolate 3 different colors; blue sky, red building, yellow equipment. The rest of the image will be Black & White.

Here's the final node tree to create that result (click for a full screen image):

The first thing we do is pull three different keys using the HSL Key (for detailing instructions on how to use any of these nodes - check out the user manual available from inside Color under Help > User Manual). In this case I'm using the nodes HSL Key3 and HSL Key to pull the red and yellow elements. Then I combine those two into a single image using the first Add node. The output of that first Add node looks like this:

Next we use another HSL node (HSL Key2) to pull the blue sky. We combine that key with the initial Add node using another Add node (labeled Add2).

It's output looks like this:

One thing to keep in mind when using Add nodes... they have Bias controls which are initially set at .5. This means it'll add the sources feeding it at 50% of their initial values. If we leave them at these settings, we'll end up with alpha channels at 50% intensity. We don't want that, so we need to set them to 1.0 (or 100%) like this:

Next, we need to make our desaturated background. Back on the ColoFX tree you'll see the B&W node feeding a Curve node - this is to set the final look of the background image and gets fed into Source 1 of the Alpha Blend node. The Source 2 input doesn't have anything feeding it, so it defaults to output of the Primary In + Secondary rooms. The third input is the Alpha input and we feed that the output of the Add2 node (which, I've softened with a Blur node).

Here's the end result:

That's it!

- pi

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