Web series MTV Voices focuses on MTV’s global network of millennial journalists reporting on the subjects and issues that affect their everyday lives. MTV Voices editor Thomas Arnold took time to talk with us about his experiences with MTV Voices, Final Cut Pro X, and CrumplePop.
With content delivered from all over the world how does everything come together for MTV Voices? What does your average workflow look like?
MTV Voices is based in New York and London. I am based in NY. The interviews are done by correspondents all over the world. Most of them are volunteering and they have friends or shoot the interviews themselves.
Getting footage from the UK or NY is pretty easy but Ghana, China, The Middle East, South Africa, etc. proves to be more difficult. All of the corespondents upload the footage to us. At times this is an organizational nightmare. We have files coming in from everywhere and in every different way. Sometimes correspondents will send all of their files together, sometimes its one file at time. The footage comes in in all forms: highly compressed mp4, avi, any codec you can think of or never heard of. The files also come in every flavor of sizes and frame rates.
My first step after getting the footage is usually to convert the videos using MPEG Streamclip. This helps me get the footage in the same codec and size and makes editing a lot faster and smoother. On other projects I would let FCPX do this for me, but for this one the files are just so random it makes things easier if they all are uniform.
At this point I would start the edit. I use Vimeo to show rough cuts to the producers and creative director in NY and London. Once the cut is pretty solid, I start layering the grafx. All of which is done in FCPX.
What made you choose Final Cut Pro X for this project?
When MTV contacted me to do the Newscasts FCP X was out for about 6 months. I didn’t want to do the job in FCP 7. I knew that the program was on its way out and I needed to jump on to another platform. This was the perfect opportunity. I was trained on Avid, but most of my career I’ve been on FCP 7. I am not a huge Avid guy and despite all of the bad press I was intrigued by what FCP X seemed to offer. In my freelance work-life I am a one man band, shooting, grafx, directing, sound design and editing all fall on me. FCP X was designed for that work flow. I didn’t actually realize until I started working in it how true that really is. I was really excited by the fact that Motion was built into FCPX. I knew that these projects needed grafx, another thing that can be added to spice up the footage, and I know that they were going to be done by me. I know After Effects, use it a lot, but I am by no means an animator. I also don’t have the time to jump back and forth between programs so I wanted to stay in the editor. So to make my long story even longer I just jumped in and cut the first episode in FCP X. Honestly I was like, I can always jump back to 7 if I have to, or maybe i will do some of the effects in X and the cut in 7, or if doesn’t work out maybe I jump over to Premiere. After a few bumps on the way, the program is just SOOO INTUITIVE and FAST things just started clicking for me.
It’s funny when it comes to editing, there are all of these battles as to what is the better NLE. To me it’s the one that works the best with your brain, how you think. My whole career has basically been spent in the short form content: commercials, promos, mini documentary. Often the workflow is a producer providing me with a lot of material saying come up with something. So I often don’t have a script to work with. So when I edit I spend a lot of time brainstorming, I brainstorm on the timeline. I need the NLE to stay out of my way, move fast, let me just throw files around so I can see what is happening. I need to figure out what seems to be working then I build from that. FCP 7 was always that NLE for me. Also since the Motion is integrated into the editor I can do this on the grafx side as well all in the same app.
When I’m working I don’t want to think too much about technical issues. I just want to start editing. I often don’t even watch all the footage, I just start throwing clips down. I do eventually go through all of the footage though…that’s kind of important. FCP X really helps here. It does so much under the hood, it key-wording makes organizing my footage happen in matter of minutes. So to me a lot of the dead time of organization, trans-coding, rendering are all gone.
Even the “dreaded” magnetic timeline, when you get a handle on it is be pretty awesome tool. If you’re like me and constantly clicking and dragging clips around, the ability to move stuff and have the timeline repair itself and open up automatically really makes you move faster. Well for me it does.
It’s funny to me because the launch of FCP X reminds me a lot of the FCP Classic launch. Everybody called FCP Classic unprofessional, viewed it ore as a toy and it basically took over a huge part of the industry.
What made you think of using Red Giant Carousel, co-produced by CrumplePop, for the videos?
I started these videos right when Carousel was released. Seriously like the same day. When I saw the footage I realized I needed something to blend this stuff together. The camera work is not done by professionals, which I wanted to embrace (my producers will probably remember me bitching more then embracing, but I came around) but I also wanted to give the pieces a distinct look. To me Carousel made me think more of camera phone images than a slide projector. At the time everybody was using those hipstamatic effects on all of their pictures. I thought the idea of all of these people all over the world doing these interviews on their phones was kind of cool and was a way to embrace the range of production value. Then the look just kind of evolved as we started doing more newscasts.
The other big thing on choosing Carousel is that I was looking for a solution that I could do within the NLE. That was a huge factor in why I decided to do these projects in FCP X and use Carousel. I work full time as a writer, producer, editor at a Network during the day so all of MTV work for Voices is done in the mornings, evening and weekends and the turnaround time is usually pretty quick. FCPX and CrumplePop have helped me do that.
You said you’ve used SkinTone with this project? How did SkinTone help out?
To be honest, I just got it. For me it makes something that is rather difficult to achieve super easy. Especially on a lot of my work I am not going out to resolve very often. I really need it to be done in the editor. I also love the little box with the samples. Its a great way to really dial your tones in, which raises your production value so much with very little effort. It really goes along with the mantra of FCP X. The app and the plugins…we’ll take care of the technical stuff…you just be creative. Well thats how I feel about it.