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Learning to adapt to changing technologies

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BY CAROL LYNDE
There is nothing permanent, except change, according to Greek philosopher Heraclitus, which should give you an idea of how long man has been struggling with the idea that, no matter how hard we want things to stay the same, they don’t.
When I began my career as a photojournalist at a Phoenix television station, we recorded our stories on what was then state-of-the-art 16 mm magnetic stripe sound film. We edited all that film using hand-cranked reels, Moviolas and a very odorous glue, which may explain why all the editors seemed a little lightheaded and giggly, but then maybe not: it was, after all, the 70s. Other than film breaks or ripped sprockets, the most technical thing we had to worry about was that, for the picture and the sound to be in sync, the audio had to precede the picture by 28 frames due to the distance between the projector’s lens for the picture and the soundtrack heads for the audio.
Whether you started out in TV, like I did, or at a newspaper or magazine, I bet the way you put a story together and the technical tools you use have changed since your first day on the job. Mine sure have. The capturing and editing of moving images have progressed more than a little since then, and I think almost everyone would agree the changes have been for the better.
While it is fun to wax nostalgic about the good old days, that’s not what this article is about. It’s about adapting in a technological age where new systems seem to be outdated before they are out of the box. It’s about being an old fart trying not to get left behind in the cosmic dust.
After spending almost 30 years in the TV news business and surviving all the technological advances in that arena, I have spent the last nine years as a video producer for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. We have a variety of cameras in our stable, and our edit system previously consisted of two PC-based Avid Media Composers. A few years ago we moved to high definition and upgraded to Avid Nitris — a fancier Avid, but still an Avid and the only non-linear edit system I’ve ever used. Until now.
“To improve is to change, to be perfect is to change often.” — Winston Churchill
This latest change came about because of a domino effect of other changes within our agency. For many years the department only had two video producers. When my fellow producer retired, I was promoted to video production supervisor and two new producers were hired. While they are tech-savvy and skilled producers, they come from the age of Apple’s Final Cut Pro, so neither of them had much experience, if any, with Avid.
Though Avid is a great product, our old warhorse of an edit system had been plagued with problems for years. Likely the issues were more Windows PC based than Avid based, but it crashed regularly. Sometimes it would let us export in HD and sometimes it wouldn’t. It even seemed moody, a scarily human characteristic for a computer program. So we scrapped the 32-bit PCs for 64-bit Macs and ordered Adobe Premier Pro software. We could have gone with the Mac version of Avid, but it seemed silly to make the two new producers, who already “spoke Adobe,” try to master Avid and, besides, Adobe software costs about half of what Avid does. So rather than ask them to tackle Avid, I prayed I had it in me to learn one more edit system.
Since we were on a strict budget with a seemingly impossible mandate to build three edit suites that also included shared storage capability, we hired a consultant to design the system for us. This was money very well spent. He not only configured an edit system that met our budget limitations, he worked with our information technology folks to sort out the technical details, installed everything and provided training on the Adobe software. He also configured our system as an independent island, separate from the department’s main server, which not only increased our data stream speed, but keeps their bugs out of our system.
Now that it’s all done, I have to admit, the transition hasn’t been as bad as I feared. I love some of Premiere’s features, especially the warp stabilizer effect, which gives your handheld video a smooth Steadicam look. Still, I was amazed at how much muscle memory I had developed on the Avid system, so relearning all those instinctive key strokes has been the biggest challenge for me. It’s difficult to keep a creative flow going with your project when you are constantly Googling questions like, how do I create stereo audio from a mono track, or how do I add a keyframe? With the Avid I didn’t have to think, I just had to edit.
The same applies to graphics. On our Avid system, with a Boris Red graphics package, the templates for all of our titles were only a click away. Now I’m staring into the depths of Adobe After Effects trying to figure out how to make a simple lower third font. Forget anything fancy like importing the Arizona Game and Fish logo. But I am getting through it. Before our new system was installed, I downloaded a free 30-day trial of Premiere on my home computer, so I could play around with it on my own. The book “An Editor’s Guide to Adobe Premier Pro” has become my bible. The other two video producers are flying on the system like they have been using it all their lives, but they are younger and
more flexible than I am (both mentally and emotionally, I would imagine). I have also swallowed my pride and embraced the notion that there are no dumb questions, so I ask plenty.
“Just because everything is different doesn’t mean anything has changed.” — Irene Peter
The bottom line is that good editing has more to do with what’s inside your soul than in your head. Whatever editing system you use, it is merely a tool to advance your storytelling, and with the new tools now available, you can make those stories as simple or complex as your imagination will allow.♦

[box]Our System Specs
In case you’re curious about our upgraded technology, here is the editing system we built. We have three edit suites. Each has a 27-inch iMac with Mountain Lion OSX, a Promise Pegasus 6TB external drive, Dell 24-inch monitor and Adobe Creative Suite 6 software. The suites are connected to a Mac Mini via a xMac Mini server and two 20TB LaCie drives for shared storage. Since the iMac doesn’t have a DVD burner, we ordered external Blu-ray writers and third-party Toast software.[/box]

-A member since 2005, Carol Lynde is a longtime video producer for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. She also owns Tall Paul Productions Inc. Contact her at clynde16@aol.com.
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