Learn Assimilate Scratch Step-by-Step

I’ve used quite a few NLE’s over the years.  From D-Vision to Media 100 to Media Composer, Premiere, Final Cut (7&X) and then onto Resolve.  I’ll be honest, they’re all more or less the same beast, where each company adds new features each year to try to one-up the competition.  Which one do you use? At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter, as they all serve the same purpose. Well, what if one of them didn’t?  What if one of them was designed for the sole task of Dailies and Finishing? That’s where Assimilate’s Scratch comes into play. A NLE with two very different strengths, that are both done exceptionally well, but with an interface that appears daunting, but once you start working with it, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.

I’ve started producing tutorials for Assimilate on working with Scratch, which I’ll be posting here on PVC.  If you’re someone new to the industry, who’s looking to get up to speed on a DIT (Digital Imaging Technician) workflow, to break through into that field, learning Scratch is almost essential, as DIT’s will use Scratch in the field to create dailies to send to post houses as productions are being shot.  Some things you’ll notice right off the bat with Scratch are:

  1. The app is fast.  Really fast!  You’ll get a little sample of this when you see how quickly it launches!
  2. The Scratch development team is a small team that listens to you, the user, to get the features in you want, and the bugs fixed that you need fixed, lightning fast.
  3. The support is awesome.  The developers are part of the Scratch Google Group as well as the Assimilate Scratch group on Facebook, and respond to users all throughout the day.
  4. Scratch is all about Metadata, and it manages it probably better than any application I’ve ever seen.  I call it a “Metadata Machine”, and you’ll hear that throughout the episodes.
  5. The interface is very different from any one you’ve used before, and that’s a good thing.
  6. Scratch supports the newest codecs, in most cases, before anyone else does (ProRes RAW)
  7. It forces you to think about your footage a different way and that, once again, is a good thing.

For the first lesson I posted on Learning Scratch, we’re talking about project creation.  Now, you might be thinking that Project Creation should be pretty simple and it is, but there are a few bells and whistles to point out about the project selection window before you create the actual project.  Before I talk about that, I want to circle back a little and talk about my first point. How fast the application is. It’s fast. You’ll get a brief sample of that when you launch it, and are greeted by the splash screen in about 4 seconds.  I’m not kidding. That fact alone speaks wonders about what Scratch has going on under the hood.

Once you’re at the main project selection window, you can always click on the splash screen to get more information about your system, and the version of Scratch you are running.

LearnScratch-ScratchInfo

Now, when we go to create a new project, the first thing to keep in mind is that this is only a starting point, and you can change the resolution of your timelines at any time in your workflow.  This is a common thing in Scratch. Everything is just a starting point, and everything can be changed as you move along.

Once you’ve launched the application, you’re brought to the construct window.  If you look at the bottom of the interface, you’ll notice that Scratch is divided up into four main modules.  Construct, Edit, Color and Render. You will also notice, however, you only have access to two of those modules, Construct and Render, when you create your first project.  All your importing will be done from the Construct Module and any adjustments you might need to make to your sequence settings, will be done from the Render Module. In the workflow that we’ll be looking at over the next few lessons, we’re not even going to talk about editing functionality of Scratch, as Dailies workflows will require little (almost none) to no editing at all.

The other thing that’s essential for me to mention, before we get too far into the weeds here, is that you can’t look at the “Media Browser” that you find in the Construct module, as a media browser, much like you’ll find in other NLE’s.  The Media Browser in Scratch is designed to manage the media, once you have it inside of Scratch, not to actually import it. Alright, let’s not talk about the nitty gritty aspects of importing your footage for a Dailies workflow.

There’s really only two things that, for me, are essential to teach almost right away, when I’m teaching people about a new application, specifically an NLE and that is how to import, and how to export.  Everyone can get in and play around with an application but if you can’t get footage in, or get it out, the application is really useless. That’s why the second thing I always teach is how to import (you’ll see that’s how to export is coming up shortly).  When we’re importing inside of Scratch, you’ll need to consider, first of all, what you’re importing for. Dailies or Conform. In this lesson, we’re talking Dailies. I think it’s important to cover this first, as Scratch is really a Dailies application first, and a conform application second (in my opinion).  I love the fact that in Scratch, the “Import Clips…” button is right dead in the middle of the application. Why is it there? Well, take a look around the Scratch interface. More specifically at the top. You’ll notice that there is no drop down menus, or really menus of any kind at the top of the application. Everything you need is located at the bottom and sides of the interface, and even the side bars can be shown or hidden whenever you need them.  Alright, once you hit “Import Clips…”, you will now be in the import window, and it looks a little daunting, but it doesn’t need to be.

LearnScratch-ScratchImportScreen

What we’re basically looking at is a complete breakdown of our system, with all the drives, and paths laid out for us in a pretty simple to follow manner.  There are a couple of things that we need to decide here. First, how do we want to bring out footage in, and do we need to take any scaling issues into account.

First, when working in a Dailies workflow, you might have 1, 2, 5, 10, or even hundreds of cards that you’re going to need to process.  Ideally, whether you’re working on set or not, you should have all your media in one location, simply in a folder called “Media” or something like that. This way all your media can be easily backed up just in case of drive failures, etc.  Now that you’ve done that, Scratch gives you the ability to select the top most folder, and create new timelines based on the sub folders (i.e. – your camera card folders), and import everything nice and easy (and quickly, I might add), directly into your project.



Now, with that being said, Scratch works in a very interesting way, as opposed to other NLE’s.  Normally, other NLE’s will take whatever footage you’re importing, and if you’re bringing that footage (we’ll assume larger than HD, or at least larger than the frame size you’re working in) into your timeline, the application will scale down the footage to fit the raster dimension.  Scratch doesn’t do that. Scratch will drop the footage into your timeline, and you might not even notice that it’s done it, unless you’re paying very close attention. This is where the scale feature inside of the import window comes into play. You can make scaling adjustments (normally it’s a width scale, so that your footage, no matter the size, will fit properly width wise, and will either be cropped at the top of the screen, or letterboxed in the case of Scope footage being dropped into an HD timeline) as your footage is imported, so it’s immediately “correct” in your timeline, and any necessary scaling adjustments (shot by shot), can be made when you jump into the edit module.

Once you have media in your project (we’ll talk about it’s organization in a little bit), the Media Browser is where you’re going next.  As I mentioned earlier, the Media Browser is designed to work with Media that is already in your project. Simply click on the “Media Browser” button at the lower right side of the screen, and it will display itself immediately.

The Media Browser is divided into six tabs, each focusing on a specific aspect of the shot.  The first tab you’re greeted with is the “Base” tab. This is where you’ll get all the basic information about your clips from the slot they sit in in your timeline, to frame rate, raster dimension, length, and so much more.  It’s more or less the basic information page of the Media Browser. Now, here’s where things get interesting. Looking at the “Grade” tab, not only do you get some basic information about the Color Space and EOTF of your footage, but you also have the ability to add Source and Grading LUT’s here as well.

You’re going to notice a bit of a trend happening here, moving from tab to tab.  The “Files” tab gives you the opportunity to verify media, replace or relink footage and even perform tasks like to Calculate MD5 Checksums on your footage.  The “Audio” tab lets you sync up external audio to your footage, assuming your timecode matches up. Don’t worry if it doesn’t, though, you can always do a manual sync at any step of the way, which we’ll talk about in later lessons.  For right now, the Node tab doesn’t do very much (but we’ll come back to it later), and the Metadata tab will let you begin to add custom metadata to shots in your project.

At this point, I want to talk about an interesting topic inside of Scratch, and that is Search/Match masks, or as they are also called #-Codes.  It’s a very interesting concept that I really like how it’s been implemented into Scratch. Let’s say, for example, you were creating Burn in for a review copy of your edit.  You wanted to add in Source T/C, Source Path, and Resolution. In most cases this information would need to be entered manually. Well, not with Match Masks (MM). In the case of creating the Burn in, all we would add in the burn in field would be #stc, #spath, #res.  That’s it. There are actually forty-four different MM’s that you can use, and they can be used across a wide range of tasks such as metadata information, burn-in information and even folder naming, when exporting your final master. It’s actually a very clever way of creating simple short cuts for us to use when doing very common tasks, inside of Scratch.

Now that we’ve had an introductory look at the Media Browser, I want to circle back to the scaling discussion we had before when we were talking about importing our footage, as there are going to be situations where you’ve imported your media already, and the last thing you want to end up doing is to delete all the footage you have in your timeline(s) just to re-import everything and adjust it’s scaling.  Remember, as I said before, everything you set in Scratch is a starting point, that you can adjust at any time in your workflow (and you’ll hear me say this a lot throughout the training) and scaling is no different.

Once all your footage is in a (or multiple) timeline(s), you’ll notice that your “Edit” module has now become available to you, and when you click on it, the currently selected timeline will be what is active, and it’s clips will be laid out back to back based on the clips order in the slots of the Construct Module.  The first thing we’re going to need to figure out is, are our clips actually larger than the frame, and we’re going to need some guides to help us figure this out.

In the Edit Module, we’re going to head to the “Settings” button, and then to the “Guides” button.  What’s important to keep in mind inside of Scratch is that, by default, the screen size reference window is turned off, and the only way to tell the sizing of the current raster, is to look for the darker area of the image, which represents what’s outside the viewable frame.

Learn Scratch - Image Crop

I have to say that this was one of the things that threw me with Scratch right from the beginning, as there are a couple of things here that, if you’re not paying attention, can handcuff you pretty quickly.  Inside the “Guides” parameters, we have a few different things that we can do. First, we can have Scratch show us the boundaries of the current Timeline we have set up.

Learn Scratch - Image Boundries

Now, to take this one step further, we can now crop off the parts of the image that are outside of the current frame (assuming there is any).

Learn Scratch - Image Boundry Crop

I don’t want to jump out of this page without talking about a few other important parameters that will really help you when getting rolling with Scratch.  First, as you’ve probably noticed, we’re in the Guides section, so there is where you can either set and turn on your title safes by simply hitting the “Guides” button, and selecting the Guide setup you want.  I should also point out that you can easily create your own Guides layout by simply hitting the “Add/Copy” button to either copy one of the standard layouts, or to simply create your own from scratch, but more importantly, there’s something else you can do in here that will be really important, especially if you’re dealing with multiple frame sizes with different aspects and different letterboxes.  Scratch knows, obviously, where the edge of the frame will be, and by utilizing the “Blanking” feature, you can have Scratch “blank” out the part of the image outside the frame, to make your life so much easier when trying to get all your multi-aspect shots to look the same in your time. No effects needed. What you do here is overlayed over your timeline, and you can turn it on and off as necessary.

Learn Scratch - Image Blanking

With all that being said, there’s another great workflow feature that I want to mention inside of Scratch, and it has to do with how you are going to “dial in” values into any parameter inside of Scratch.  Normally, how things work in applications like Resolve is when you want to adjust a parameter, and you don’t want to punch in the absolute value, you would click on the value and drag the mouse left or right to adjust the parameter as much as needed.  However, what happens in situations where you need to adjust the parameter by dragging past the edge of the screen? Well, it becomes an annoying process of doing multiple clicks and drags to get the value where you need it. Well, not in Scratch. In Scratch, you simply do what I call “The Twirlies”, and what I mean by that is that you can simply click on a value, and instead of dragging left and right, simply move the mouse in a circle clockwise to raise the value, and counter clockwise to lower the value.  It’s actually a very simple, quick and effective way to precisely change your parameter values to whatever you need them to be.

Learn Scratch - Twirlies

Another important shortcut I want to point out here is that you can pan around the Canvas by simply holding the space bar down, and dragging wherever you want it to go, and to zoom, simply hold Opt/Alt down, and you can mouse wheel in and out to adjust the zoom!



Alright, I want to wrap this article up by talking about adjusting scaling after you’ve already imported all your footage into your project, and it’s sitting in your timeline(s).  In the main “Edit” Module, you’ll notice a parameter for “Framing” on the lower left side of the interface. Once you click on it, you’ll notice parameters much like you had when you were importing your footage.  From this window not only can you adjust your Scaling, but also your image offset (position in X&Y), rotation, opacity, transfer mode, etc. Since we’re talking about scaling, let’s look at that. Obviously you can manually adjust the scaling to be whatever you want it to be, but if you want it to conform to the current width of your timeline, much like you would set when importing your footage, you can simply change the “No Scaling” parameter to be “Fit Width” or “Fit Height”, depending on what, exactly, you need it to match.

Learn Scratch - Set Scaling

Now, that’s great and all, but this is making the adjustment to a single clip.  Chances are that we’re going to want to have the scaling change happen to multiple clips in the timeline (all the ones we imported).  In this case, all we have to do before we set the scaling, is to make sure that the “all” button is pressed, and when we set the scaling, it will be applied to all the clips in the timeline.  That’s it. It’s pretty much that simple!

With the move to digital acquisition pretty much becoming the standard, DIT jobs are becoming more and more needed, but learning the software they use to do their jobs is pretty much non-existant.  On set experience is a must, but what I’m hoping is that these tutorials will give you foundations you need to know about the most used application out there for digital dailies, so that when you get out in the field on your first job, whether it’s on a student film, Indy feature, or as an assistant DIT, you’ll already have the foundation to get yourself up and running in your new role as quickly and as easily as possible!  If you want to download a free trail of Scratch to see what it’s all about, you can head over the the link included here!

 

The post Learn Assimilate Scratch Step-by-Step appeared first on ProVideo Coalition.

Photographer Nearly Smashed by Semi While Shooting Foggy Crash

A news photographer on the scene covering a foggy highway crash yesterday had a crazy near-death experience when an 18-wheeler suddenly appeared, lost control, and overturned into the wrecked cars and law enforcement in its path. The photographer’s camera managed to capture the entire incident.

KCBD NewsChannel 11 reports that veteran photographer Caleb Holder was shooting breaking news video of a car crash on Slaton highway near Lubbock, Texas when he suddenly saw the incoming trailer.

“I couldn’t remember if I was recording at the time or how the camera was framed,” Holder tells KCBD. “I just saw that trailer coming and knew I had to run away from it.

“I was looking that direction. That’s where I was focused. That’s when we could hear more tires screeching, and then just barely see headlights coming in through the fog.”

As the video shows, first responders immediately began running for their lives when they noticed the truck barreling toward them. One trooper trips and was struck by the semi. Authorities later stated that although he received serious injuries, he avoid life-threatening ones and is expected to be okay.

This video is a good reminder to always drive carefully when conditions are foggy, and also to always be alert when working on the side of a high-speed roadway.

ASC Awards 2019 Feature Film Polls Close

The eligibility period for the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) 34th Annual Awards Feature Film category will end on December 31, 2019, with the nomination polls closing on January 1st of the new year. The ASC Theatrical & Spotlight nominations will be announced on January 3rd, and the final ballots for this category will be […]

The post ASC Awards 2019 Feature Film Polls Close appeared first on Below the Line.

LEGO Ideas design recreates the iconic Nikon F3 out of plastic bricks

Photographer and LEGO designer Ethan ‘LegoDog0126’ Brossard has recreated the iconic Nikon F3 film camera as a LEGO kit featuring 549 pieces. The design has been submitted to the LEGO Ideas website where it was selected as a Staff Pick on November 25. At this point in time, the submission has nearly 1,400 supporters and 190 days remaining for others to support it.

Brossard detailed his project in a recent post on Emulsive, where he explained that his LEGO recreation of the Nikon F3 is only a bit larger than the actual camera. The render features an impressive degree of detail for something made from small plastic bricks and other components, including almost all of the levers found on the F3, the main dials and a plastic representation of the SLR’s mirror.

Though the renders include a blocky roll of film, Brossard notes that it can’t actually fit in the camera due to the thickness of the LEGO bricks. As well, the recreation features an approximation of the Nikon AI-S prime lens. The shiny chrome featured in the renders isn’t actually a color produced by LEGO, meaning anyone who attempts to build the model will need to use gray or some other color.

Brossard has shared a Google Drive folder containing the Studio and Ldraw model files for anyone to download. As well, the model can be found on Rebrickable. The submission will need to achieve 10,000 supporters on LEGO Ideas in order for its to undergo a LEGO Review, at which point the company will evaluate the design for its potential as an official LEGO kit.

How to Shoot the Milky Way: A Crash Course in Less Than 5 Minutes

Photographers Ian Norman and Diana Southern of Lonely Speck made this helpful video that will teach you the things you need to know to shoot the Milky Way in less than 5 minutes.

The topics blazed through in the tutorial include gear, planning, camera settings, and focusing.

While the video won’t instantly make you an expert in astrophotography, it’ll help point you in the right direction for shooting photos like these:

You can find more helpful content by Lonely Speck on the blog and YouTube channel.

This Lens Cap Has a Temperature and Humidity Meter

Here’s one of the strangest looking rear lens caps we ever did see. The Japanese camera accessory company UN has created a cap that has a temperature and humidity meter built in to help you take perfect care of your glass.

Storing your camera lenses in a hot and humid environment allows fungus to grow on the glass elements and damage your equipment. If you want to make sure your lenses are constantly cool and dry, this rear cap was made for you.

Called the UNX-8595, the 1.2oz (34.5g) cap is designed for Micro Four Thirds lenses and features a thermo-hygrometer that doesn’t require a battery to function. While compact, it’s about twice the thickness of a standard M4/3 rear cap.

DC.Watch got its hands on a unit and published a hands-on review (here’s the Google-translated article) with a selection of photos of the cap.

If you’re interested in buying one yourself, it costs ¥1,980 (~$18) and is available directly through the UN online store.

(via DC.Watch via 43 Rumors)


Image credits: Header photo by DC.Watch

2019: The Year of the Face

It’s been ten years since Instagram launched and not long after, the selfie. It has taken the same amount of time for visual recognition to understand how to read our faces. If anything, 2019 has been the year where faces have taken center stage of visual tech, for good and bad…

All Your Faces Are Belong to Us

The most frequent usage of our faces is facial recognition for surveillance and security. It is has been the most visible because it is the most controversial. Fueled by a competitive market made of a combination of state-owned agencies and private enterprises, facial recognition has been at the forefront of commercial image recognition services. Scores of small, medium, and large companies compete to grab shares of what is considered to become a $7 to $15 billion market by 2024.

Like with all the A.I., these companies disregard ethics in favor of profits. A client is always offered a solution, regardless of who they are and what usage they intend. The only criteria is their ability to pay.

There are three components to facial recognition: the algorithm, the teaching pool, and the index.

  • Facial recognition algorithms are probably the most mature of the visual recognition space. Mostly because they have been studied for a long time, do not need to consider context, and, with no offense to anyone, a face is a rather easy object to recognize. Today’s algorithms take into account anywhere from 80 to 500 data points on a face (like the distance between eyes and width of the nose) to create a unique digital fingerprint of a person.
  • The teaching pool is the images you used to train your algorithm to recognize a person. The more images of one person you have, the better it is at identifying them. Countries or companies with more forceful leadership have the most complete data pool.
  • The index is what allows you to take a new image, compare it with the content of your data pool, and retrieve a match. Probably the simplest and most straightforward part of the process.
Imagga, one of the vendors of face recognition solutions

Clearly, getting the most extensive data pool is key to success, and this is where all efforts are being made. In countries with low respect for individual liberties like China, it is an almost complete categorization of the population for policing purposes. Others use a more subtle approach, like the USA, which starts with felons, expands to travelers, and might one day even access our selfies to create its own data pool. The result, however, will be the same.

Soon our faces will be part of databases whether we like it or not. It will be used partly for policing, partly for marketing. Either way, we will have little or nothing to say about how we are being tracked.

Of course, there are positives, like instant identification and personification. Financial companies see facial recognition as a potent, unique identifier to access accounts and transactions, and phone manufacturers use it to let people protect their information. It could soon be used in cars and homes, in replacement of keys, and to trigger personal comfort settings.

The greatest challenge is, as with any new technology, the lack of appropriate legislation. Without a proper debate on how, where, and when facial recognition is used, it is bound to slide into abusive and destructive applications quickly.

Is It Not Real, Or Is It?

Deepfakes have exploded in 2019. Not so much in volumes as yet another source of concern brought by technology. And while anything can be replicated via synthetic data, deepfakes are mostly replacing faces: Those of celebrities put on porn stars or faces of politicians made to say or do disturbing things.

As with facial recognition, ethical barriers are no match to the destructive intent. And while our attention is entirely focused on deepfake faces, the real damage will come from unsuspected content with probably no or unrecognizable faces involved. As long as deepfakes play in the realm of famous people, movie stars, and politicians, they will easily be identifiable: Those involved will certainly loudly report the deception.

Example of a deepfake video using an SNL sketch video and Hillary Clinton’s real face.

However, when AI and synthetic data matches cinematic quality, scenes of fake events will completely obliterate our already shattered credibility of visual content. It will be almost impossible to tell reality from fakery.

And the damage will be double: From the lies of the deepfakes and from the declining credibility of genuine visual content. Every content will become suspicious. It already happened with photographs, and it is now, thanks to AI, extending to videos.

Buying a New Face

2019 was also the breakthrough in GAN faces. The launch of the website thispersondoesnotexist.com was a revelation to many. Before, it took a human, some Photoshop skills, and some time to generate a photo of someone who didn’t exist. It was a creative process. With generative adversarial networks, or GAN, not anymore. An unsupervised computer can get to the same result in milliseconds and with incredible accuracy.

Recognizing faces is one of mankind’s most expert skills. We are hardwired to recognize faces. It is what babies recognize first, the faces of mom and pop. It is how we navigate in society, quickly identifying genders, age, origin, intent, social status, and many other non-verbal clues.

Generated.photos, 100,000 faces of people who have never existed.

The ability for an algorithm to generate all by itself, with no human supervision, a face that humans recognize as real is thus an enormous leap. Already available as free stock photos for anyone to use ( fake avatars anyone ?), computer-generated faces will soon completely replace real models everywhere they are used in photos. Next, it will be videos. And not far away, you will see deepfakes with perfectly reproduced faces along with generated voices of people who never, ever existed.

GAN-generated faces might become, quite ironically, one of the most vigorous defenses against abuses in facial recognition technology. Using fake faces, one could create double or triple parallel identities, just to navigate identification barriers.

There is no doubt what has emerged in 2019 will continue through 2020 and beyond. The want to control combined with the pleasure of being recognized will undoubtedly lead to making our faces a central point of our visual technology. It will help us open doors, suggest foods or clothes while at the same time quickly separate the good guys from the bad. The question is, who decides who and what is bad?


About the author: Paul Melcher is a photography and technology entrepreneur based in New York, and the founder of Kaptur, a news magazine about the visual tech space. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of his writings on his blog, Thoughts of a Bohemian. Melcher offers his services as a consultant as well. This article was also published here.


Image credits: Header photo by Sharon McCutcheon

Aerial Photos Show Beverage Industry Crates Forming Eye-Popping Grids

Crate Stacks 2019 is the latest project by award-winning Munich-based aerial photographer Bernhard Lang who captured beautiful birds-eye views of thousands and thousands of beverage crates.

“The view from above on these rows of piles, consisting of thousands of colorful crates, reminds on the computer game Tetris or graphic bar diagrams,” Lang writes in the project’s statement. “The beverage production is part of the food and beverage industry. The beverage industry in Germany is one of the leading in Europe, employing around 60,000 people in more than 500 companies.”

Lang flew over industry yards in a small plane in November 2019 to capture these photos.

You can find more of Lang’s work on his website, Facebook, and Instagram.

(via Bernhard Lang via Colossal)


Image credits: Photographs by Bernhard Lang and used with permission

These are the next lenses you should buy for your new Micro Four Thirds camera

From pocket-sized prime lenses to fast zooms designed to weather the elements, there are lenses of all shapes and sizes for Micro Four Thirds shooters. If you’ve recently acquired one of these cameras then we’ve got some ideas for your next lens.