The walnut cake movie is the first movie I’ve made in a while. It was made without any planning or forethought. Every time I make a movie, I screw it up in new and interesting ways. Here’s what I learned from my screwups this time:
- I’m deeply unhappy with the voiceover. Without a real mic, I was reduced into shouting into the lousy condenser mic in my laptop, which sounds about as bad as you’d expect.
- FCP’s voiceover tool is simultaneously nice and lame. It’s nice in that it seamlessly supports multiple takes and gives sound cues and lets you synchronize voice to video. However, for me, this led to a stilted and unnatural reading. If I could do it all over again, I’d sit down with the script and make someone else do the actual recording, do 10 takes without syncing to the video at all, and then do any necessary sync completely in post. In other words: I think I’d have been better off not using the voiceover tool at all.
- I wanted to use the audio mixer to set audio keyframes so that the background noise faded in and out depending on whether narration was occurring or not. In order to set audio keyframes, you have to click the completely unlabeled “record audio keyframes” button. The button has two states, and you can’t tell by looking at it whether it is on or off. You just have to try moving the sliders and then go back to your clip and see if any keyframes magically appeared.
- Even with the Canon Optura Pi’s optical image stabilization, the picture was unacceptably shaky. A tripod wasn’t practical under the circumstances, but I still wish I had had one.
- When I first visited the shop, the cashier was a personable, photogenic young lady who was excited to talk in enthusiastic detail about the product, its history, its manufacture, the customers, and so on. When I came back the next day with the camcorder, the only person available to talk was the polite but much less communicative owner. This is the standard photography lesson of “If you don’t have your camera, you can’t make the shot.” There’s really nothing you can do about this if you’re not willing to have a camera with you at all times, but I still feel like complaining about it.
- Maybe I just haven’t learned the right shortcuts yet, but I somewhat loathe the seemingly random elements of Final Cut Pro’s user interface. Here’s one example: Line up two clips next to each other. Grab an audio crossfade transition and try to layer it across adjacent audio clips. Sometimes the transition straddles both clips (which is almost always what you want). Sometimes it will only ‘fit’ on one or the other clip. In particularly pathological cases, it will straddle neither, but will drop itself between the two clips as a 0-length element, mocking you. I’m sure there’s some sophisticated explanation for this behavior, but the UI sure doesn’t make it apparent why these different behaviors occur.
- The “zoom” effect you get by stretching or compressing the scroll bar in the sequence window (which gives you a finer or coarser view of the sequence by stretching or compressing time) is the single worst UI element I’ve seen on a Mac. I have never once succesfully managed to reach my target ‘view’ without having to stop, readjust the scroll bar to recenter, and start over again. And of course, I use it anyway because you pretty much need to to do fine-grained editing.
- I want a hotkey shortcut that says “take this clip I’ve selected and move it left in my sequence’s timeline until it bumps up against something, and then stop.” That’s one of the single most common tasks I currently do by hand (and it generally involves wrestling with the awful time-dilation scroll bar) Does that exist? I haven’t found it yet.
Although lots went wrong here, I’m optimistic about the format. I’m a big believer in tiny yet good things. Perhaps there will be more 2 minute movies about food in my future.