Learning Python

I’m finally teaching myself Python! I’ve wanted to re-learn computer programing almost since I stopped learning C in high school.

I’m using Ali Sweigart’s excellent book Automate the Boring Stuff with Python. I can’t recommend it enough!

There are two things that have made this the book for me. First, Automate starts at the beginning and building a solid foundation. For example: most of the other resources I’ve tried (and I’ve tried many in the past) don’t explain the difference between the Interactive Shell and the Launcher. Or how to even check that you’re running the most current version of Python in the Command Line. Maybe it’s so basic that most resources just assume that the reader will know how to do this. But this starting from the beginning approach has made the world of difference for me.

I also like the practical aspect of the book. It’s not working towards abstract computer theory, it’s building towards enabling you to use a computer as the most powerful tool mankind has even invented. In other words: how to stop wasting your time repeating unnecessary tasks.

I’ve supplemented my learning with two additional online resources: “The Hitchhikers Guide to Python” and “Think Python“. These two resources fill out and expand upon the knowledge I’m learning in Sweigart’s book.

The new Media Composer at Key Code Media

Great event at Key Code Media Burbank last night. Avid gave a 30 minute presentation of the new Media Composer interface, Tridib Chakravarty of StorageDNA gave a (too brief) presentation on the different Nexis cloud storage options, and there was a brief panel about the ‘reality’ of reality television post production. You can watch a stream of the event with my thoughts below:

I’m excited to work with the new Media Composer interface. Full stop.

…but I firmly believe that Avid needs to open up the “.avb” Bin file format. The future of the NLE is extensibility. One look at Premiere’s integration with Frame.io or Transcriptive is enough to show you how far behind Avid Media Composer is. This gap is only going to accelerate as the practical application of AI/ML increases.

Even if Avid Technology opens Media Composer up, it could already be too little, too late. The editor who only edits is becoming rarer and rarer these days. The new generation of editors are fluent in the peripheral tools like Photoshop and After Effects. Adobe clearly has the advantage here with their Creative Cloud offering. Premiere is the Final Cut Pro 8 we wanted but never got. The financial equation is very much Adobe + Avid. So what is Avid really bringing to the table?

The storageDNA presentation was much too short, but clearly described the differences between all of Avid’s Nexis cloud offerings. Avid really needs to make this stuff clearer if they want to help migrate our workflows into the cloud.

Finally, the panel discussion evoked the following thought: scripted production is the triumph of production management, reality production is the triumph of post production management.

Why the Roman Empire taught me about the importance of Diversity! (review)

I love learning about ancient history. So I am delighted to recommend Dr. Gregory S. Aldrete’s The Great Courses on audible: Rise of Rome and From Augustus to the Fall of Rome. But what truly surprised me about Dr. Aldrete’s thoughtful lecture series were what they taught me about the importance of diversity in today’s society.

It’s easy to think that we know so much about Roman History because so much of its history survives in the written form. From Julius Caesar’s account of the Gallic Wars, to Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations (a favorite of leaders from Churchill to Bill Clinton); it seems like every word Cicero uttered was written down, and even Rome’s poets like Ovid influence our ideas about art today.

Featured image by Mauricio Artieda on Unsplash.

But in reality our knowledge of the Roman Empire is limited to the extremely narrow focus of (1) Roman Citizens, who were (2) wealthy, (3) political active, and (4) men. A group that represented less than one half of one percent of the most diverse Empire of its time.

During his lectures, Dr. Aldrete brilliantly uses the few sources we have – tomb stones, graffiti preserved at Pompeii, letters from a Legionary found in Egypt – to try and tell us the stories of the rest of Rome’s citizenry. And through his grasping we feel the true tragedy of that lost knowledge.

Marble portrait bust of the emperor Gaius, known as Caligula, A.D. 37–41 Roman, Early Imperial, Julio-Claudian Marble; H. 20 in. (50.8 cm) length 7 1/16 in. (18 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1914 (14.37) http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/248851

It is easy to be cynical about Vice Presidents for Inclusion and Diversity Initiatives. And we are right to be cynical! (I’ll let a much smarter man, David Foster Wallace, explain) But it’s a start; and if humanity makes it to the year 3,000, or 4,000, or beyond, it would be a real tragedy to deny future generations humanity’s collective perspectives. I’d even argue that the only way we’re going to make it there is by including everyone’s diverse points-of-view.

NAB 2019 Wrap up

Oliver Peters wrote the NAB wrap up I wanted to write. I completely agree with his assessment of this year’s show overall:

This year the NAB Show seemed to emphasize its roots – the “B” in National Association of Broadcasters. Gone or barely visible were the fads of past years, such as stereoscopic 3D, 360-degree video, virtual/augmented reality, drones, etc. Not that these are gone – merely that they have refocused on the smaller segment of marketshare that reflects reality. There’s not much point in promoting stereo 3D at NAB if most of the industry goes ‘meh’.

Like Peters, I was also very impressed with Cinamaker and hope to use their product for one of my upcoming presentations. I think they need to offer a turnkey kit that includes everything (tripods, cables, travel case, etc) to further simplify the process. But they were definitely one of my favorite booths this year.

I was also impressed by how far all of the cloud service providers have come. Make no mistake, the future of collaboration is going to be software run in the cloud. I think the biggest short coming is that these services don’t know how to speak to Producers. It’s great that Sony Animations is partnering with Google Cloud Platform, but as an independent producer I’m used to working with a post house and saying, “I need five edit bays for six weeks.” None of the cloud providers I spoke with understood that … by a mile. I think the next step for these companies is going to be some User Research into this area.

Miscellaneous thoughts:

  • The Birds of a Feather ACES 2.0 event was aces all around.
  • My thoughts about Avid’s huge changes to Media Composer remain the same since my “Opening Salvo” live post.
  • Resolve 16 looks sweet but that keyboard…

Opening Salvo (Updated)

Bravo Avid! You really made a bold statement on Saturday, announcing the next version of #Mediacomposer featuring a major UI overhaul just two days before Blackmagic Design will unveil Resolve 16. The last time the “NLE Wars” ran so hot Apple had the largest booth at NAB.

The infrastructure changes to Nexis are also big, (I mean, cloudspaces!!!) but beyond the scope of this particular post. Right now we are going to focus on why the UI overhaul is so revolutionary.

A curmudgeon’s meme.

Avid Editors will swap tales about which version of Media Composer was the most stable. ˆMeridien vs. Post-Meridien; the fabled 4.6.2 that never crashed … with SD; and 8.9.4 was pretty good until 2018. when Avid tried to be all like Adobe.

Part of Media Composer’s speed and stability is the enduring nature of it’s interface. Avid has changed MC multiple times in the past: Think AMA, and the dynamic timeline. But since the interface remains consistent an Editor’s valuable muscle memory doesn’t need to be retrained. An experience Editor and MC is a form of an existing BMI between man and machine.

Changing the interface could effect muscle memory, which in the Avid world could cause riots. Therefore every change needs to carefully weigh the costs and benefits. So this is a big gamble for Avid.

The advantage of taking this risk is that Avid is looking to tackle the widespread problem of non-editor usability. Avid isn’t Discoverable and it’s interface is very dated in the age of the single screen workstations (iMac, laptop, story producer screening station), iOS-era interactions, and the continued drift away from Log and Capture metaphors. Avid is gambling that making custom interfaces depending on “role” and with tailored toolsets is the way to go. Agitating a few to the benefit of the many.

From the website MC will support Resolve-style roles: Edit, Color, Finish, etc. But Avid is also introducing roles like Producer, Assistant, Logger. These interfaces will put the tools these roles needs front and center while hiding the more esoteric buttons. This would enable larger teams to collaborate more efficiently and within the Avid (Microsoft) eco-system.

Last year you would have barely realize that Media Composer as a product of Avid Technologies. I bet that’s going to very different this.

There is is. Media Composer does Premiere meets Resolve

Update: Just had a hands on demo with 2019.5 and the new interface is a big deal. I think Bin management is going to require a rethink of an AE’s/Editor’s habits. The demo is running on a MacBook Pro, Avid is definitely trying to show off interface efficiency.

Update: Media Composer is just a small slice of Avid’s booth.