Clip Exporter (3 month update)

So for the past 3 months here at CEDE in the EPFL we have been testing a small piece of software called Clip Exporter that can have a massive effect on the way we store and archive our footage. I have already written a more in-depth article on how we are using the software here. For this article I just wanted to give an update on whether Clip Exporter is still as good as we initially thought it was.

I have now completed the editing of a whole MOOC course implementing the extra steps with Clip Exporter. These extra steps do take time in the editing process and a slight adaptation in the way I edit my videos. Generally the first edit is only for eliminating superfluous footage like pauses, hesitation, bad takes etc. Then I export the XML from Final Cut and run the Clip Exporter software to separate all the clips. I import all these clips on a new time line in the same Final Cut project. Personally, I like to call this new timeline the ‘Light’ timeline so I can clearly see which version I am working on. It is only on this second edit that I apply effect and transitions as this information is not transferred with the XML file. This method has worked very well for me so far.

Whilst I am working on a MOOC project, which comprises of anywhere between 10 to 40+ videos, I don’t delete the original rushes just incase a teacher or presenter in the course wants to revert to a different take for a certain video. So in the rush folder for each video I will normally have the original rushes plus the ‘video’ folder with all of the clips from Clip Exporter. Once all of the videos have been validated and uploaded this means there are no more changes that are going to be made so at this point I can erase the original rushes. It is at this point I’ll reap the benefits of the Clip Exporter software. Here is the folder size information for the project I have just completed:

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Here is project folder with all the original rushes plus the Clip Exporter clips.

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Here is the same folder once all of the original rushes have been deleted from the folder.

So to break down the numbers:

Total size on server = 745.88 Gb

Size of deleted rushes = 552.30 Gb

Size of Clip Exporter Clips left on Server = 193.58 Gb

Total space saved with Clip Exporter = 358.72 Gb

% of space saved with Clip Exporter = 64.95%

As you can see from the breakdown I can make considerable space savings in my projects by using this one little piece of software. So after a few months of using the software on live projects I can definitively say that it has met all my expectations for what we want to use the software for, space saving.

If I could develop something to make Clip Exporter more effective for the way we use it, I would develop a Final Cut Pro plugin to directly export the clips and create a new ‘Light’ timeline from Final Cut. Or a more sophisticated XML exporter that included effects and transitions (obviously this would only work for FCP to FCP projects), but this would be something for Apple to develop not the Clip Exporter team so I’m not holding my breath for that!

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360 Shooting

Over the past couple of weeks we have been testing out our 2 camera 360 video setup. Here at the EPFL we have an up and coming project that would make good use of 360 video, so we went out shooting some tests and here is some info on what we did and why.

So, primarily we wanted to try and record a short piece to camera with two of the professors that would be involved. Our idea was to record the two in two or three different locations and have the shots static. This way the viewer can look around the environment whilst listening to the speakers. Once the footage was recorded we had the idea of adding in some graphical illustration (images, text, animations) to the video to see what was possible.

So for the recording we used 2 Kodak 4K PixPro action cams mounted on our custom 360 base that we 3D printed (article coming soon). We also had some visiting people take part in the test recording as well and they brought with them a Samsung Gear 360 camera. It’s an interesting 360 video solution. Before we set off we all decided that we would keep the recording relatively simple and set the Kodak 360 rigs in the best location whilst the Gear 360 cam was a ‘roaming’ 360 cam that would be placed wherever looked interesting. We didn’t try and hide all the ‘behind the scenes stuff like crew and equipment. The reason being we didn’t want to waste filming time hiding everything as it was only a test and we were limited for time.

For shooting there wasn’t too much difference from normal shooting apart from the crew had to get used to the fact they were on camera as well. We setup the 360 cameras using wifi to connect to tablets and phones so we could see the framing. Set up the normal 2D camera, setup the mics and rolled.

Admittedly this was a very basic test as we wanted to try different sized environments as well as different types of lighting (daylight, low light, tungsten etc) and we wanted to see the footage and stitching with these different parameters.

Here are some photos from the shoot and there will be following articles on how we got on with the post-production.

360 videos, lets get testing.

IMG_2850So 360 videos are now hitting the mainstream with devices like Google cardboard, Samsung VR Gear, the Oculus and the Vive. This has caused quite a stir in the office as we discuss the pros & cons, ins & outs and benefits and set backs of this new medium. We have all been thinking about how 360 videos can be applied to e-learning and weather its worth the effort. Some say its a gimmick others say its here to stay. Either way here at the MOOC Factory at the EPFL we put our heads together and started thinking how we were going to test it out to see if it is something we want to offer for our course makers. Over the next few posts we will document some of the videos we made, how we made them and what we thought about the gear, software and processes involved in 360 video making.

*Warning* Server at critical level!

Ahhh, the age old problem of storing digital rushes on servers or hard drives is the bane of every production company and freelancer alike. Right now at the Centre for Digital Education (CEDE) at the EPFL we are starting to feel the pinch with our server space. We have known for a while now that our method of storing our rushes isn’t the most efficient. To help you understand our problem let me first explain briefly our setup here and how we work with our rushes.

Here at the EPFL we have three studios specifically designed for recording MOOCs. The concept behind these studies was to allow the professor, presenter or speaker to be as autonomous as possible. So we have a studio assistant set them up in the studio and do a short test recording to make sure everything is working properly, then after that they are on their own in the studio for their recording session. When they record we tell them to start the recording at the beginning of their session and just let the video record continuously, capturing mistakes pauses and all. Here lies the problem. At the end of their sessions we have three large video files (we record three video streams with audio simultaneously), often 25+ GB each, with lots of mistakes and pauses that we will never use within those files.

Our rushes policy up until now has been the classic “keep everything” approach. Obviously, this takes up loads of space on both our working server and archiving server. But we can’t afford to work this way anymore and now we have started to take action to fix the errors of our ways.

After many discussions in the office our studio technician, Gilles Raimond, found a lovely little program that seemed to be the answer to all our problems. ClipExporter.

The idea behind ClipExporter is to be able to quickly export clips from your Final Cut Pro X timeline.

You first make your rough cut.

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Export a .fcpxml file.

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Then the program will make copies of the each individual clips used in the timeline referencing your original rushes.

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So you end up with a folder full of short clips that you are going to use in your video.

The idea is that then you can take these clips and go into Aftereffects or Nuke to do further post production work. But what we do is then make a “light” version timeline of the same project and reconstruct the time using these clips.

Normal timeline

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Light timeline

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We can then delete the clips that are not used from our server and voila! From bloated, overweight rushes to space saving, efficient clips in no time at all.

We have been testing out ClipExporter for the past few weeks here at CEDE and we have been impressed with the results. We have had to change our editing workflow a little to incorporate the new software which now takes a little more time. And so far we have only been testing it on our more ‘simple’ editing projects where we don’t have a lot of video and audio layers or too many visual effects. But from the space saving results that we are seeing so far it is well worth this extra effort.

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Obviously, our case is a fairly extreme one in terms of the amount of space that we can save by using this software. But even if you save a small amount of space on each project pretty soon at all adds up.

We will add some updates further down the road to see how we are getting on with ClipExporter. But for now everyone in the office can sleep a little easier knowing that we aren’t going to have warning e-mails saying our servers are about to burst at the seams.

**Sigh of relief**