Can You Cut It?

panta rei dans lullaby

Video - Panta Rei Danseteater 'Lullaby'

Norwegian dance company Panta Rei Danseteater, late last year, conducted a little experiment whereby three dance makers created two pieces with the same name based on the same idea, featuring three male dancers and two musicians, to see what the outcome was.

June 2nd, 2016

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By Martin French

When you're making a dance film or a promotional video shooting the actual footage is only half the battle. Once you have committed your masterpiece to tape/hard disk/memory card you have to edit the hours of material into something cohesive. If you want to edit you're going to need some tools to get the job done and this article is going to look at the best tools available for a price that won't make you lay down and weep.

A Computer

The most obvious gizmo in your editing bag of tricks is going to be a computer. For video and film editing on a budget there really is no substitute for a system from Apple. Just last week the Californian company released a brand new iteration of their legendary iMac "all in one" machine onto a suspecting world with more power, lower prices and better features.

The systems range in price from just £799 all the way to £1459 and, believe it or not, you don't need the most expensive machine to get the job done. Video editing is mainly about cutting footage together and this task requires very little processing power and even the low end iMac, with a 20" screen and 2.0Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, is up to the task of editing High Definition footage in most formats.

The beauty of this machine, unlike a desktop PC from Dell or Lenovo, is that after the machine arrives at your door, you take it out of the box, plug it in, and you're ready to go in a matter of minutes.

Adding another 1 Gigabyte (GB) of RAM to take the machine to a total of 2GB will give the system plenty of room to breathe and keep all of your applications running smoothly. Video needs a lot of storage space so bumping the internal Hard Disk from 250Gb to 500Gb is a good idea but the system will still cost under £1000 (£978 to be precise). We'll add external storage later to give you more room to play.

An entry level machine such as this will enable you to edit a large amount of footage with ease. Basic video compositing is also possible (mixing multiple layers of video and effects) although render times will obviously be longer than they would on a high powered workstation.

A number of Firewire and USB2.0 ports on the rear provide a full range of connectivity to any number of video and stills cameras and decks. This machine will also carry out a multitude of additional tasks with ease from photo editing to audio post production.

As a straight forward, all in one, easy to use, editing station the new iMac cannot be beaten.

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The only down side to buying an Imac is the systems "closed box" approach. Apart from upgrading the memory there is nothing else that you can add to the machine internally after it has shipped out from Apple. Not without a great deal of effort and swearing that is.

Having said that, an iMac is a reliable, powerful edit station and general use computer. With built in WiFi, Bluetooth and a Dual Layer DVD burner fitted as standard these machines have a lot of tricks up their collective sleeves and it will serve you well for several years.

[ Apple's Imac ]

Software

Once again Apple leads the field with the impressively inexpensive and absurdly powerful Final Cut Studio 2 (FCS2) software suite.

The package comprises Final Cut Pro 6 (for editing), Motion 3 (for motion graphics and effects), Soundtrack Pro (for sound mixing and editing), DVD Studio Pro 4 (for making DVDs), Color (a brand new application for advanced colour correction) and Compressor (for, wait for it.... compressing video into different formats).

For basic cutting Final Cut Pro (FCP) excels with pretty much any video format you can throw at it. The learning curve is not at all steep and you can simply pick up the basic skills and work from there, adding to your knowledge as you go along and your video production requirement become more demanding. The FCS2 box also contains a detailed set of video tutorials on DVD for you to follow as well as the complete operators manual included on your computer when you install the software.

Motion 3 provides a straight forward, albeit complex, platform for creating video effects and motion graphics for your productions. You can easily create very clean, animated titles for your video and, once again, as your knowledge grows you will be able to create more complex, multi-layered video effects if that's what you really need to do. Motion has far to much depth for me to go into here but rest assured that it is an impressively powerful application.

Soundtrack provides you with the tools to mix complex soundtracks for your video work. The application uses a straightforward interface of multiple audio tracks, mixers and effects filters. As you edit your audio the video material you have created in FCP is played in a window, in realtime, for frame perfect audio editing. The software also comes supplied with thousands of sound effects. If you have experience of audio editing software then Soundtrack is not too difficult to pick up. Newcomers to this area of video production will need a little time to understand how it works but as with all the software in this package there are many tutorials supplied so you can grasp the fundamentals.

The remaining applications in the suite enable you to carry out advanced color correction and effects on your video (with Color), build a working DVD of your production (DVDSP) and compress video (with Compressor) into multiple formats for hundreds of potential applications, such as preparing video for the internet.

If all of the above were not enough to seal the deal Apple also provides dozens of templates for DVDSP and Motion as well as hundreds of preset filters, effects and other goodies.

Each element of the FCS2 package is impressively integrated. You can easily send video from Final Cut into Motion and vice versa and send sound to and from Soundtrack for editing.

The Final Cut Studio suite from start to finish allows you to professionally edit, create fx, and output your finished video in any format for any purpose. It does all of that for just £849.

[ Final Cut Studio from Apple ]

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External Storage.

As I explained previously, video can start to take up a serious amount of storage space. When you add up finished projects, captured video, render files and more you have hundreds of gigabytes of data lying around on your system and things start to get a little tight.

Plugging a high speed, external hard disk into your new iMacs' Firewire 800 port is the solution to all your storage woes.

There are a number of external drives that offer 1 Terabyte of storage (that's 1000 Gigabytes) for a reasonable sum of money. They are all pretty much the same but one company with a bit of pedigree is Lacie.

Their particular 1TB external drive is unashamedly called "Lacie Big Disk Extreme". It sports Firewire 800 (very fast), Firewire 400 (fast) and USB2.0 (useless for video) connections. Other than that it's a dull metal box that sits there, gets fairly warm and absorbs all your video content in an easy to move enclosure. All this for only £300 (approx). You can buy versions upto 2TB if you think you need the space.

Audio Playback

The final piece to the puzzle is monitoring your audio. Although the iMac comes with some built in speakers they are not up to the task of editing music or monitoring effects you have added via Soundtrack.

The best solution is a low cost amplifier and speaker setup of which there are hundreds to choose from. A good quality amp from Cambridge Audio or Marantz can be had for about £100 and an affordable, good quality set of speakers from Gale, JBL or Wharefdale are available for £70 - £100. They won't blow your socks of with unrivaled sound quality but they are more than up-to the task of post production sound editing and monitoring.

Summing up

There are a lot more toys you can add to this system and there are some limitations. Monitoring your video on a computer screen as opposed to an external video monitor is considered a big no-no in the video/film production industry. However, if you video is not intended for a broadcast television network then don't get too worried about that. An external video monitor is something you can add at a later date if you really feel the need.

The system outlined above will provide you with a powerful post production platform for several years for under £2,500. If your skill set doesn't yet match the power and features on offer then think how proficient you will be after 6 months with this system. Give your imagination time and room to grow and it will, trust me!

[ top image by ktsdesign ]

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