There are plenty of options available to editors and DITs when it comes to software applications that can make your life easier. Some of the apps reviewed below range from handy to critical. Some are free and others are pretty expensive unless your livelihood depends on them. Whether you are a DIT, editor or colorist, I hope at least one or two of these could prove useful in your line of work.
The first tool that I would highly recommend to everyone is the free Mac utility OmniDiskSweeper, which allows you to scan your hard drive in a few seconds and see a list of all your files, largest first. This helps you to discover gigabytes of junk that you just don’t need, anymore and free up space on your system. Or at least that was the case for me when I found an old Adobe After Effects Cache folder from 2014 with 50+ GB of files still in it. Delete!
Hmm… do I really still need those 23.3 GB of Apple Loops for Soundtrack Pro?
Hedge – The Mac Offloading Tool
Hedge for Mac is a brand new offload tool that allows you to quickly and easily back up and verify your footage to multiple destinations. So far, that’s the same as many other apps out there. But the cool thing about Hedge, that sets it apart from the competition, is that it allows you to do two simultaneous transfers for free, with checksum verification and all.
If you want to do more transfers than that, unlimited concurrent transfers in fact, you’ll need to pay $15 a month or $150 a year, although you can stop and start your subscription at any time. It’s worth noting that currently Hedge uses the industry standard secure MD5 checksum, although the faster XXHash is also on the way. As you might be able to tell from the image above, the user interface is delightfully straight forward to use and literally takes three clicks to get going.
Another nice feature of Hedge for Mac, if you know what you’re doing, is that it allows you to autolaunch Apple Scripts at the end of a transfer to kick off further tasks like transcoding or renaming, automagically. Hopefully Hedge, or their user base, might share a few of these online, to help us all get the job done quicker. Hedge creator, Paul Lombert, had this to say on their future plans when it comes to scripts.
Although we don’t want to turn into a script building business, the idea is that we provide examples of Apple Scripts, simple and advanced ones, and there will be a community page for others to share scripts too. That way it’s easy to share camera specific workflows, i.e. renaming proxy .mp4 in FS5 footage.Scripts is the first incarnation of Workflows. What we want to build is a way to build a complete workflow (folder structures, scripts, other stuff) which you can share. That way post houses can provide their Hedge workflow for work on set, or a DIT can share his knowledge with his assistants.
Hedge for Mac just launched and you can check it out here.
UPDATE – Check out this page in the Hedge For Mac Knowledge Base, for some initial scripts to use in your workflow.
UPDATE – New Pricing
Hedge for Mac have switched things around a bit and have moved to a single purchase model priced at a more affordable $99. This is about the same as other apps like it, but the free version is still available. They have also implemented the faster XXHash too.
UPDATE – 10% off! – The team behind Hedge For Mac have been kind enough to offer my readers 10% off the price of the app, just by clicking this link!
Pomfort Silverstack 5
One of the DIT industry’s standard applications, Pomfort’s Silverstack, has recently been updated to version 5, with a host of new features including new colour grading functionality and look library management, the ability to import looks created in Live Grade Pro via CDL, and the transfer of clip and colour information to down-stream applications like DaVinci Resolve or your NLE of choice. You can now also output your images via HD-SDI to a 10-bit monitor for greater control over the quality of your images.
Update: They’ve been busy over at Pomfort and Silverstack has recently been updated to version 5.1 with a couple of extra improvements including “advanced support for ARRIRAW from ARRI ALEXA Mini (MXF) and VRAW from Panasonic VariCam 35.”
I downloaded the free trial to take a look around from a new user’s perspective.
These new features make Silverstack far more than a simple offload and checksum tool, putting a lot more control over the images passing through a DIT’s hands into one interface. It also makes a lot of sense to have greater integration between Pomfort’s other on-set tool, LiveGrade Pro – which lets you grade live images as they stream from the camera to the on-set monitor.
If you’re used to a simple looking offload app interface, like ShotPut Pro or EditReady’s, then Silverstack’s more detailed configuration can appear a little daunting at first, but it’s actually extremely well thought out, with everything you need to see for the specific task at hand, available immediately. In many ways the extra details adds a level of clarity, even to simple tasks like the offload process, because you have to think about what you’re doing, with a tiny bit more thoroughness, which helps you avoid making sloppy mistakes.
In the colour grading side of the app it’s nice to have the choice to switch back and forth between colour wheels and sliders with a click whilst working, although the wheels had a nice fine grain feel to them, whilst the slider adjustments felt a little heavy handed to me.
If I was doing more editorial prep work on-set, then I would absolutely upgrade to Silverstack XT for the far greater functionality across the board than you get in other apps. The ability to see offload statistics, tag things in FCPX style smart folders, export metadata reports with thumbnails, handle CDL’s and LUTs, transcode (and add framelines at the same time) and many, many other things, make this the DIT app of choice, especially for anyone looking to do some heavy lifting on set.
There are two versions of Silverstack available at two different prices, operating on an annual, monthly or 14 day subscription model. An annual subscription to Silverstack is $399 and for the more full functional Silverstack XT, $599. If you only need the app for a two week shoot for example you can snap up XT for only $69.
Of course if price is a consideration then it’s worth noting that something like ShotPut Pro is 1/4 of the price, especially when combined with using DaVinci Resolve as a free dailies too. But if I were a working DIT, I would snap up Silverstack XT in a heartbeat.
If you want to know more about Silverstack it’s worth checking out the official Getting Started page here, which features lots of links to further info including a list of supported camera file formats, wherein unsurprisingly all the usual suspects are covered. The manual is also very well written and easy to follow.
The free trial of Silverstack also includes some useful things in that ubiquitous ‘Extras’ folder that I thought were worth pointing out, including a tool for creating and examining Media Hash Lists which allows for the ‘sealing’ and verifying of media folders as they pass from one person to another.
By sealing a folder the creator of the seal affirms that the folder has been in a well-defined state. Any change to the folder breaks the seal and can therefore easily be detected. Media Hash List assures both the consistency of the folder contents as well as the completeness of the folder structure compared to the state when the seal was created.
You can find out more about Media Hash Lists and download a free cross-platform command line tool for working with them here.
Lastly on the Pomfort front, it’s worth checking out LiveGrade Air, which is a free iOS app that I hadn’t heard of before. If you’re a Director of Photography, Camera Assistant, DIT or Colorist it might well come in handy.
Effectively you can import stills, set a look and then export a CDL, right from your iPhone or iPad. You can even work with LOG images by converting them to Rec.709. There is an in-app purchase which unlocks expanded functionality including 3D LUT support, device calibration, and the ability to remotely interact with the Panasonic Varicam 35 to set in-camera looks.
Either way it’s free and you can grab it here.
Digital Rebellion AutoTransfer
What’s great about Auto Transfer, other than being very easy to use, is the ability to perform extra tasks as a part of the copy process. For example you can inject metadata into Quicktime movies in your copy, create a spreadsheet of all your metadata, import the files into an FCP project (bit old school) and set up your folder names based on metadata in the transfer.
The price of the entire suite of 12 apps is only $99 for a single license, which is great value when you consider everything else you get as well and especially in comparison to the relative price of other apps performing this same transfer procedure.
PluralEyes 4 Reviewed
The latest version of the editor’s preferred sync application, PluralEyes, is now available as version 4 and is now part of Red Giant’s Shooter Suite, who bought out Singular Software back when PluralEyes was in version 3. This update features a completely overhauled user interface which massively simplifies the task at hand, as well as a new Premiere Pro extension panel which brings the full power of PluralEyes to bear on your Premiere timeline without ever leaving the NLE.
The video above does a great, and humorous job, of explaining the differences between PluralEyes 3 and the new version 4. If you want to know why you should definitely upgrade to version 4, in under 4 minutes, watch that.
Before we get much further into PluralEyes 4, it’s quickly worth mentioning the other apps that are part of the suite, which include Offload – Red Giant’s back up and checksum utility, Frames and Instant 4K which are plugins for Premiere Pro and After Effects, which allow you to de-interlace video footage to 24p and up-rez media to 4K, respectively.
To be honest, if I was going to spend $99 on an app to safely back up my footage, I would probably stick with ShotPut Pro, as Offload is a fairly new addition to Red Giant’s family of software, and who knows it might go the way of BulletProof that was discontinued in May 2015. I’m sure both would do an excellent job, but there’s only so much attention one company can spend on any given app. That said, I do like the excellent visual feedback you get in Offload as to what’s going on.
Anyway, back to PluralEyes 4.
It’s hard to overstate just how much better the user interface is in version 4, compared with version 3, and the ‘rooms’ style approach (that more and more apps seem to be taking) really helps to make life easier for anyone coming to the app for the first time. Also because lots of the options have been made automatic, such as the smart start feature that figures out what tracks things should be on, or the audio drift correction or how hard it should work to analyse your clips, means that you can just drag and drop and get going in a jiffy.
Four things I really like:
- The new interface and user workflow layout.
- The improved player
- Colour coding of the clips, which will also export to Premiere, are easier to see.
- The waveform viewer which has two controls to increase the waveform scale, without affecting the volume.
One of the other features I’m most excited about is the direct integration of PluralEyes synchronisation functionality into Premiere Pro via an extension panel. Only a few companies have taken advantage of this ability so far, (PDF Viewer is one) and it’s great to see it happening more often. The native sync abilities within Premiere have never seemed to work very well for me, or bring up a progress bar that’s too slow to bother with.
There’s a handy tutorial over on the Red Giant site that talks you through how it works, but it’s as simple as selecting a sequence and hitting ‘Synchronise’ and then PluralEyes 4 will create a duplicate sequence of your newly synched media. You can even hit ‘Open in PluralEyes…’ if you want to send it out to the standalone app to work on it some more.
So to sum up PluralEyes 4 is a really great update to the fastest and most accurate synching software I’ve used, and well worth adding to your editor’s toolkit.
Further PluralEyes 4 Reviews
Editor Scott Simmons, from Pro Video Coalition, has put together a fantastically detailed review of PluralEyes 4 and comparison of the app to several other major NLEs and PluralEyes 3, itself. It’s well worth reading the whole article to get a sense of just how much better PluralEyes is compared to NLE native sync options, and to pick up some handy tips along the way. Keeping tabs on your sync temp files is crucial as they can eat up a fair amount of space on large projects.
Once the media is added to the timeline PE has to prepare the media by creating Temporary Sync Files. These are audio extractions that PE will use to sync the media. It’s nice to both have the option of where to save these temp files as well as delete them. If you’ve used PE in the past and seen the sync temp folders scattered around, now there’s an easier way to manage them. It’s also nice to have options to delete them on a user definable timeline.
IT Enquirer, a site I’d not heard of before, also has a decent review of PluralEyes 4 and makes some helpful points along the way.
The new version has a “Smart Start” feature. You can drag and drop an entire folder of media into PluralEyes, and during a sync it should automatically detect which device the media came from. I was very curious to see if I could make the software trip over in this respect. I couldn’t. The files will be sorted so that media from the same device are on the same track. Drag and drop also works with Final Cut Pro X XML files. No need to select “Import from Final Cut Pro X XML” in the File menu. D&D is all it takes to make PluralEyes 4 start humming along.
ShotPut Pro and HD-VU2
HD-VU2 is a multi format media player for Mac created by Imagine Products, the capable team behind ShotPut Pro and other post production tools, to allow you to quickly view all kinds of native camera media, along with their associated metadata, in one simple to use player. You can also temporarily add LUTS in the viewer, not affecting the source media in anyway, to see what that might look like in post, which is a nice feature.
There’s obviously been a lot of thought put into the functionality of the player, especially with regards to sorting and organising media, which you can see in more detail in the tutorial above and demo below. HD-VU2 gives you the ability preview over 20 different camera formats, including those that won’t play in your common media players like VLC or QuickTime player, such as:
• AJA Cion • ARRI Alexa ProRes • ARRI Alexa RAW • ARRI Amira • Blackmagic Cinema DNG • Blackmagic ProRes • Canon AVCHD • Canon EOS Cinema • Canon EOS Digital SLR • Canon XF • GoPro Hero • JVC ProHD • Panasonic AVCCAM • Panasonic P2 • RED Epic Dragon • RED ONE • RED Scarlet • Sony NXCAM • Sony XAVC • Sony XDCAM Ex • Sony XDCAM HD
Overall HD-VU2 is very easy to use and would be intuitive enough to navigate for even the least tech savvy producer or client. Being able to send them in the direction of this app when they want to view some rushes on their own system, without waiting for you to transcode them to some more accessible format, will obviously save you a lot of time and effort.
One snag I had was that I couldn’t figure out how to add a LUT to some R3D footage I was testing with, where as other footage worked fine. Another problem was in playing back audio smoothly from a C100 .MTS file, even when it was on my desktop. The file played perfectly in VLC, so I got in touch with Imagine, but they couldn’t replicate the problem, so I’m going to put it down to a peculiarity of my particular system.
At $99 HD-VU2 isn’t exactly cheap when I factor in all the other (free) players (Resolve, REDCINE-X, VLC etc.) that I have at my disposal as an editor, that can do a similar job. But then again, if I’m a producer without any of those apps installed (and why would I?) and I want to quickly QC or browse through some rushes then having one application I can quickly and easily use to do that, is a real plus. So I wouldn’t necessarily recommend HD-VU2 to my editor friends, but definitely to some of my clients.
Check it out at Imagine Products.com.
In this demo from Michelle Maddox at the LA Creative Pro User Group, you get a decent overview of all of Imagine Product’s app offerings, as well as a guided walk through of how to use their multi-format smart viewer HD-VU2. If you want a deeper-dive into the product, this will have you covered.
On the Shotput Pro front, which I’ve personally used for years, it’s really interesting to hear from professional DIT, Gary Adcock, on how and why he uses it on-set, and some of the technology he relies on in these short videos from Imagine Products at NAB 2015.
I have multi-card readers set up, and because I’m on Thunderbolt I can read three or four cards simultaneously. So I’ll actually load three camera cards up at one time and then copy each one to a different folder, A-Cam, B-Cam etc.