Two Steps Forward, Two Steps Back…

I’ve experienced quite a variety of victories and setbacks on the LOUIE documentary project. In addition to the various clearance issues, and the delicate balance of dealing with complicated matters with the subjects themselves, I’d had my fair share of technical challenges. One of the biggest problems I’ve had is figuring out how to repair some of my master video footage shot on Hi8 tape. During the 1990’s, I shot a lot of footage with this format, as it seemed to be the best option at the time, considering my budget, or lack thereof. Unfortunately, Hi8 turned out to be a terrible mistake, as so much of my footage was plagued with excessive drop-outs, transforming my otherwise clear footage into an ugly snowstorm of horizontal lines.

When I began this project, non-linear video editing systems were very expensive, experimental prototypes that were completely out of my budget range. Thankfully, all that changed, along with the other great advances of computer technology that has revolutionized the way we communicate in the 21st century.

Final Cut Pro has been the video editing platform for the LOUIE documentary project, and a few days ago, I figured out a new way to clean up some of the excessive drop-outs. I came up with a technique that transformed the drop-outs (and shadows) into a traveling matte, so I created a few layers of identical footage, and then shifted one of the bottom layers by a frame or two, which would fill in the gaps. By exporting the new edit as a quicktime, then re-importing this new footage as source material, repeating the process by shifting in the opposite direction, it seems to clean up a lot of the ugly drop-outs.

I felt proud of myself for figuring this trick out. I’d never seen anybody describe this technique in any of my FCP books, nor any FCP forums. As long as there’s not a lot of fast movement, it should work OK. I’m still experimenting with this technique, but generally speaking, I think it’s going to be a great way to salvage some of my defective Hi8 footage.

Last night, after experimenting with this technique, I had a little setback. During a minor distraction, I tripped over a power cord and my 17″ Powerbook laptop crashed to the floor. Everything seems to still work fine, but I’ve now got a 2″ crack on the upper right corner of the computer screen. OUCH! I suppose if I had one of the newer MacBook Pro laptops, I wouldn’t have had this problems, as the power cords have magnetic connectors that disengage whenever you trip over the cords.

As I connect my laptop to an external monitor, I’ll be able to use it to edit video without the distraction of of a cracked screen, so it’s not that big of a deal. Until I get around to buying a new MacBook (which will probably be reintroduced with new bells and whistles at the upcoming MacWorld expo), I’ll have a laptop with war wounds. What the hey…. it’ll be like the scars on body from my various adventures. Like it’s owner, my Powerbook has experienced a very colorful life.

* * * *

ELSEWHERE IN THE NEWS: I’m very glad to hear that the Innocence Project has helped free an innocent man from prison. After spending over 26 years in prison, DNA tests have finally proved that Charles Chatman did not commit the crime he was convicted of. As recent DNA tests have also proved that another man probably committed the crimes that the West Memphis Three were convicted of, hopefully this controversial case will also be re-examined. My continued thanks to those that fight for the underdogs.

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