Spy Gear: The Webisodes
Client: Spin Master
Producer: Buck Productions
Director: James Villeneuve
Director of Photography: Bob Lyte
Editor: Adam Schoales
My journey with Spy Gear wasn’t over yet. In addition to the television commercial we were also shooting 3 webisodes, including one with a choose your own adventure, branched narrative component. And, because they were webisodes, it meant that most of the finishing would be left up to me. Of course, Final Cut Pro X was more than up to that task.
As with the television commercial, I was brought on set to act as a sort of “script supervisor”. The three webisodes were all scripted, which meant that I was actually working with scenes and shot numbers, and meant I got to make better use of the powerful tools within Scene Report while I was taking my notes. Because I was taking a lot of notes, I had brought along my old iPad 2 to try Scene Report on that, figuring it might be a more pleasant experience than on my iPhone. Unfortunately the app wasn't fully iPad optimized yet (at least at the time we were shooting), and kept crashing. I reached out to the devs who told me they are working on it.
We shot the websiodes using a Sony A7S using a Atomos Shogun to capture ProRes files while we were shooting. It was from these ProRes files that I would be cutting, with the native files from the Sony saved as a backup. Using those ProRes files saved me hours in transcoding, which is always a blessing.
As with before, once shooting had completed I took my reports that Set Report had generated and fed them into Shot Notes X. Because we were now shooting with a different camera system and no jammed timecode, audio syncing had to be done “manually”. Thankfully, because of the incredible sync tools in Final Cut Pro X, and the fact that Shot Notes X had already labeled all my footage, it was a pretty painless job. I do wish it had the ability to simply throw all your video footage and all your audio files into one pile and sort it out itself, rather than having pick each pair separately. This is a feature of PluralEyes that I do miss. Having been spoiled by getting to use Sync-N-Link on the commercial I really missed the nearly instant syncing of my audio and video.
As with the television commercial I had to lean pretty heavily on third-party plugins, and was amazed at their power along the way. The webisodes made extensive use of CoreMelt's remarkably powerful TrackX for screen replacements. Again, MotionVFX's mLowers package was used to create the cool futuristic call-outs. I also made extensive use of their mSpy package to create a number of graphics for the 3 pieces. When it came time to do the colour I relied on LUT Utility to help achieve cool cinematic looks.
For the final webisode we had a branching narrative, and so I had to come up with the best way to approach this in the edit. Because the front section and ending would be identical for both I decided to simply edit the first piece together and then create compound clips for the beginning and end. I then created a new project for the alternate narrative, and edited the new portion together. I then added in my compound clips from the other edit and now had a complete story. Compound clips made things a lot more organized, and also ensured that any work done in one piece would carry over into the other.
Compound clips were also valuable when using stock music. While editing I would create a compound clip for any temp watermarked music I was using. I would then make any edits to that compound clip rather than the raw music track. Once we had decided a track was good and purchased the final files, I could open the compound clip, replace the temp track with the final track, and all my edits would now be replicated on the finished, un-watermarked track.
As for finishing, because these were going to web, it was decided to simply do all the finishing in house, which meant it was up to me to colour and mix the pieces. Thankfully the built in tools of Final Cut Pro X make this a breeze. Sound editing did take a while to get used to over the years, but I’ve grown to really like the way in which FCPX handles audio, especially the way in which you can actually tie your sound effects to their corresponding shot. It would be great however to have the ability to actually tie sound clips to other sound clips if needed. There are sometimes when it’s more important for two sound clips to stay stuck together rather than being stuck to a video clip (for example, using a second piece of audio to enhance a hit in the music, rather than a visual cue). Because the client wanted to have stems output for the pieces I made sure to make careful use of rolls along the way so that I could output stems with just a few clicks.
I had a lot of fun during the process of cutting these webisodes. Each was like a mini 2-minute spy movie and I finally got to put all those years of watching James Bond films to good use. It was especially fun creating a branched narrative piece and playing with how best to handle those elements. It was also great to see how Final Cut Pro X handles narrative editing, and how much one can benefit from all the great features it has to offer. Combined with the incredible third-party tools that are out there it is one of the most powerful editing tools available, and allows for a speed I never thought possible.
Lat 2013 15" Retina MacBook Pro
2.6 GHz Intel Core i7
16 GB 1600 MHz DDR3 RAM
NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M 2048 MB Graphics Card
9 TB RAID (4x4TB drives RAID-5)
Final Cut Pro vr. 10.2.2