Posts Tagged ‘Mark Spencer


breaking down the demo reel

When I started out on this project, I found cutting my demo reel to be a bit daunting.  Not only did I need to decide what footage to show, I needed to come up with a format, make footage selections,  and satisfy myself that it was (is) ready for prime time.  The next gig could be riding on all of these decisions, so no pressure.  While I admit this post will be self-promoting at the core, I hope this conversation with myself about how I developed and cut my demo reel will be of some help when you’re putting your own reel together.

First things first, the reel needed to be a minute or less.  I have no problem asking a minute of anyone’s time, whether they are a Network VP, President of a Production House, or my next door neighbor.  What I don’t want is to present someone with a 10 minute masterpeice.  At a certain point no matter how good my (your) work is, people are going to get bored and move on to something more important to them (like what they’re having for lunch).  Plus, if the reel’s good enough and a bit on the short side, maybe the person looking at it will watch it a second time.  In that scenario, you’ve only taken 2 minutes of their time which hopefully transitions to the “what is your day rate” conversation.

Unless you’re doing a compilation reel (like Stu’s), you’re going to need a music bed.  I’m a story editor  and colorist and compiling any meaningful stories into 1 minute is a bit of an exercise in futility,  so I put the music decision at the top of my list.  I figure the music will drive the montage and if the reel gets a client interested I can always point them to a couple work samples (when / if they ask to see them).  Understand that your music selection for your reel will be, as my high school trigonometry teacher liked to say, indelibly etched in your brain matter.  Equally important to consider is this music could be playing in a meeting room full of suits, a Starbucks, a living room with little kids in it or what have you, so consider your target audience before cutting your best work to The Humpty Dance.

The Sonics

I’d been listening to the Black Keys cover Have Love Will Travel by The Sonics and  felt the song fit me to a tee; editing is what I love to do and I will travel to do it.  Also, my most recent work was all done at the Travel Channel so it fit.  Bonusly, I dig the raw, retro-punk vibe.  And once I started editing the song my first music bed cut mystically landed at 00:59;29.  With a pro-cisely 1-minute duration I figured I must be doing something right, and if not then heck, just go with it anyways.

Then came the task of putting all my work into one project.  Yeesh, this is where I had to come up with an organizational theme.  I decided to group all my work samples into client bins; Richfield Productions and other corporate videos, Discovery New Media, Travel Channel, HGTV, etc.

sequence setting

Next I had to decide what sequence setting to conform all of my work samples to.  Cutting a demo reel is a great example of a project pulling from multiple video sources.  I based my decision on the intended output (Vimeo) and then worked backwards.  A 16×9 aspect ratio would be ideal for my HD sources and an easy conform for my SD letterbox sources.  And then there were the source video codec issues: Apple ProRes HQ, XDCam, DCVPRO HD, Animation, DV NTSC 25, MPEg-2 from DVD, etc.  I decided on DV NTSC for my sequence codec because 4:1:1 720×480 would be a fine mezzanine, or middle ground, codec to conform my video sources to and edit together into a sequence before transcoding for Vimeo.

The trickiest part of the conform would be for my 4:3 SD video sources.  But my most recent work is all HD, my best work is either HD or 16:9 letterboxed.  After some hard thinking and hair pulling I was able to figure on using just two shots of 4:3 SD source video (above) and looked at it as an opportunity to be a little creative and show some options for potential clients.  Ergo,   Additionally, a lot of my SD work is 4:3 letterboxed and some is plain stinky 4:3.  Which all lead me to choose DV NTSC Anamorphic for my sequence setting. For starters, this will be going to the Vimeo with a compression setting of 640×360 at 1.5Mbps or so.  Secondly, it fits all my 16:9 work easily and my teeny bit of 4:3 work creatively.  But thirdly, and maybe just as important as secondly, it meant faster renders for my 3D Motion project.

3D Motion proj end example

I have to start this part of the demo reel dissection with an emphatic GO CHECK OUT MARK SPENCER’S APPLEMOTION.NET.  Mark’s FREE tutorial, how to create the reflection effect and his $99 Ripple Training Motion 3 Deep Dive, were ESSENTIAL to figuring out how I wanted to build my 3D sets and animate my camera.  Got sweep?

splash page w camera

This whole 3D tangent leads to the core of my demo reel: the presentation of skill sets.  Some people are focusing on editing, others on color correction, some on compositing and graphic design.  You get the idea.  I have four major skill sets with solid broadcast credits behind them that I want my demo reel to showcase: editing, color correcting, producing, and training.  What better way to showcase them than to literally put them on stage?  Well, that’s what I came up with at least.

So now I had 4 skill sets that I could outline to music and figured I would have the triumphant Sonics “ooooooWOW” land on a splash page with my contact info.  That means 4 sets over 56 seconds with an end animated camera flying through all 4 sets and landing on a 5th set.  But my english major background told me to follow the tried and true outline aproach of “Tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em, tell ’em, tell em what you’ve told em.”  And this lead to the beginning of my peice with the animated camera zooming to, then sweeping around, each skill set stage.  At the end of the musical intro, the camera zooms back through all 4 skill set stages and lands on the stage for the start of the reel.

Once the camera zooms to Ultimate Spring Break, I gave myself timings to do a few simple cut sequences followed by a 3D camera move transition to the next sequence.  There’s a lot of back and forth out there discussing the best way to showcase colorist work.  Patrick Inhofer’s reel is a really good example IMHO:

I settled on the “before and after” technique to best display my colorist work.  It’s been the most well received piece of the reel (followed closely by the 3D transitions).  But back to the approach, I decided it was best to finish with a 3D camera move landing on my contact info.  Hey, the whole point of a reel is to have people call you up, right?

Hope this write up has helped you with your own brainstorm.  Whether you love it, hate it, feel bleh about it, hopefully now your approach to cutting your own reel will be less overwhelming.

proactively • hope this helps • peter


fcs3 highlights


By now you’ve probably heard the news that Final Cut Studio 3 has dropped.  Very cooly, Ripple Training has already produced 19 free video tutorials from Apple Certified Trainers to help you get to know the FCS 3 upgrade.  Two of my T3 trainers, Mark Spencer and Alexis Van Hurkman, helped produce these so definitely check them out!

If you simply want to know what’s new click here, otherwise here’s my very quick highlights with linkage:

fcp 7

As you can read below, ProRes gets a few more mouths to feed in its family and even has options for offline workflows (wow, is offlining coming back in style?).

expanded prores family

For the full rundown get the ProRes white paper here.

43 safe

I was just working on a prject yesterday where we were superimposing a screengrab of 4:3 safe on a 16:9 HD timeline.  As more and more projects utilize legacy SD footage in an HD show it’s great to know that this simple yet very important feature has been added.

iChat Theater

This would have been awesome to use on the first season’s production of Sailing Channel Theater episodes and we’ll certainly use it in the future.  Our previous workflow was to turn Skype on the MacBook Pro and face it to the computer monitor so Dad and Jon could do remote viewing as I made final tweaks to the show.  Cool to see this is now integrated into FCP 7 andcan’t wait to try it out!

color 1.5

The number one Color update is fricking incredible and will literally shave hours if not full days off your color grade.

seamless roundtripping

No more futzing with your speed effects, still moves (with handles for dissolves!), and multicam clips in order to get them ready to send to Color.  Thank you version 1.5!

Secondly and very importantly, Apple has announced a new line of affordable third party control surfaces specifically designed to work with Color.

affordable control surfaces

Could I please stop mousing my way through Color and get some affordable surfaces to speed up my workflow?!  And thanks to Eddie Sullivan’s post on the FCP-L I was able to find a pic of the new Euphnix MC Color.

euphonix mc color

motion 4

It looks like Motion is getting much more full 3D-ish.  Shadows, reflections, and depth of field… oh my!  Click on the pic to get all the info you want.

more 3dish

Even more excitingly is the major placement of a new product I had never heard of before.

3d connexion

What an awesome looking mouse!  Exactly the kind of intuitive device that makes navigating in 3D space treasure, not a toruture.  I guess Apple is doing it’s part to stimulate the economy by allowing third party manufacturers to cash in on their product launches.  I bet Logitech’s stock jumps a few points today.

compressor 3.5

Curiously, Blu-ray dvd creation is listed under Compressor’s new features.

bluray disc burning

Hey, as long as it’s in the box I could care less what product does it.  Maybe this is an attempt to phase out people’s asociation with DVD Studio Pro as a delivery app?  Who knows.

Anywho, hope you enjoyed these highlights.  I’m sure there will be much more to come here in the days to follow with additional info, opinion, and general blather.

proactively • upgraded • peter


apple motion – animate photoshop layers

My Motion 3 mentor Mark Spencer has produced a new video tutorial explaining how to animate a photoshop document’s layers in z-space.  He’s posted it to the Pro Video Coalition website. Mark’s brain and collected works are required ingesting for all FCP and Motion users, so drop that beer and get hoofin’ over to this awesome video toot!

proactively • peter


Based on viewer feedback, Mark has posted a redux of this tutorial.  Click through here for the awesomeness.


motion master templates – learn by buying

First seen (by me at least) on Mark Spencer’s site, this could be one of the coolest collections of Motion master templates around.

Available for purchase here, I will most likely be putting these in my edit suite. If you are wondering what the hell are Motion master templates?? the answer is the best thing since sliced video clips.

Motion master templates essentially nest a motion project in your Final Cut Pro timeline and contain drop zones and text fields that you can edit in FCP. In addition, you can open them up in Motion and customize them to your heart’s content. Two words: awe-some.

For me, the best way I learn is to see someone else do something and then copy it shamelessly while adding a slight tweak (isn’t that the definition of originality?). So purchasing 100’s of working hours of master templates and then having the felxibility to customize them just so a) saves me the time of creating them from the ground up and b) let’s me see how they were made in the first place.

Imagine an After Effects guy nesting his project into your FCP timeline. Hey says “Sure, go ahead and resize the text and change out the video in the windows as you see fit. And if you want to change the colors of the 3d strokes, go right ahead.” He then comments on the cold front that came in last night and what a pleasant change the ice storms are for this region of hell.

If you want to learn more about Motion templates (and Motion 3 in general) I can’t make a higher recommendation than Mark Spencer’s two Motion 3 tutorials from Ripple Training. Fast Forward walks you through the interface and Deep Dive focuses exclusively on 3D.

holy crap these toots are frickin’ awesome

They’re available for download so you can just impulse buy them right now. Kind of like the Matrix but without the coaxial cable jacked straight to your brain.

proactively • psyched as hell about these master templates I’m getting • peter


Mark Spencer Motion Mania

Ok, if you haven’t already checked out Mark’s awesome website, why not check out this Vimeo embed of his new Motion 3 Ken Burns tutorial:

If you think this rocks, and you want to get your Motion 3 learn on for real, you have to check out Mark’s Motion 3 tutorial series from Ripple Training.

proactively • Motion 3-ing • peter


Mark Spencer Shameless Plug

Mark Spencer was the trainer for my Motion 3 T3 in Santa Monica back in October 2007. He’s the first guy to cram 3D compositing into my brain. He was very gentle.

If you haven’t visited his website, stop what you are doing right now and click that link dammit. You’ll be amazed by all the free motion tutorials he’s posted. Really, you will be. Things like

Free 3D Cube and Die

Using Motion Templates in Final Cut

Free Tracking Video Tutorial

Creating a TV Screen Effect

3D Shatter Effect

Wormhole Tutorial

And if you’re an After Effects person or beginner or whatever and you want to get up to speed on Motion 3, check out

I’ve worked through this and it’s unbelievable that this dvd is only 99 bucks. I mean, don’t high end compositors make 100 bucks an hour at least? And this thing has like 10 hours of awesome training content. Instantly gratify yourself and buy the digital download. If for some reason you don’t want to take your humble narrator’s word for it, here’s a no-compromises review from Ken Stone.

If you’re already familiar with Motion 3 and want to dig in and learn all you can about the new 3D features, check out

I’m on lesson 4 and so far this training is the best thing that has ever happened to me in my entire life. Again, instant gratification download right here.

I don’t get a dime from these sales, but I do get a lot of feel-good karma knowing I’m pointing you towards an awesome trainer who will expand your mind without the use of hallucinogens or other questionable substances. And if for some reason those download links are lagging for you like they are for me, check out the homepage for Ripple Training Motion DVD’s.

proactively • spinning my 3D compass in perspective view • peter

September 2020

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