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When Your iPad Is Your Post House: Three Apps for Education and Editing

Hardly a day goes by that I don’t find a new way to use my iPad in pro video work. Here are three quality apps that make my professional life a bit easier.

Dale Grahn Color
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. It is also the greatest way to learn.

Colorist Dale Grahn has collaborated with CrumplePop on a $3.99 app that lets you learn by imitating one of the best. For those who don’t know, Dale Grahn was Steven Spielberg’s color timer and has literally hundreds of films to his credit. His Spielberg collaborations include Minority Report, Catch Me If You Can and Saving Private Ryan. Other high-profile films he’s worked on include Gladiator, The Lion King and Die Hard.

The Dale Grahn Color app consists of 21 lessons organized into three levels of difficulty. For each lesson, the dual display shows Grahn’s grade on the left and an original image on the right. Your goal is to match Grahn’s grade. I assure you that it sometimes isn’t all that easy.

The greatest value of the app comes not from adjusting parameters but from watching the video accompanying each image in which Grahn explains his process and the color theory behind the grades he is making. The wonder of this app is that it provides the opportunity to learn from one of cinema’s greatest color masters for less than the price of the latte you shouldn’t be sipping around equipment.

We have advanced from the simple color correction tools found in early NLEs to mass accessibility of powerful color correction suites. Few of us could have imagined just a few years ago that we would have the power of DaVinci Resolve for just $1,000 (or a limited version for free). Or that SpeedGrade would come standard as part of the Adobe Creative Suite.

I am always asked whether certain color grading apps are easy to learn. My answer is always, “Turning the dials and learning the program is easy. Getting the artistic skills and keen eye of the colorist requires talent, knowledge and experience.”

Dale Grahn’s app can’t magically give you talent. Sorry, that app hasn’t been written yet. What it can do is teach you how a colorist thinks, what to look for in an untouched image, how to visualize a look and, finally, how to achieve it.

You can even bring in your own still images for practice and export the correction.

Complete color grading does differ from color timing. We’re able to look at a whole image in this app and create looks and corrections, though color grading a piece of footage will also involve creating masks (power windows) and a whole range of primary and secondary corrections, keys, tracking and matching shots.

Dale Grahn doesn’t do it all, but it’s a great start. With tutorial levels from beginner to advanced, this is an app from which virtually everyone can benefit.

Product:Dale Grahn Color

Pros: A great way to imitate the master. Learn from Dale Grahn’s explanations about how he created specific corrections and looks.
Cons: Deals more with looks than corrections. By its nature, the tutorials cannot get into primary versus secondary corrections. But for what it sets out to do, there are no real negatives.
Bottom Line: A must-have for beginners. A fun tool for honing skills and an opportunity to learn from one of Hollywood’s best.
MSRP: $3.99 (iTunes app store)

Pixel Film Studios PROCUTX
I love control surfaces. PROCUTX is a $24.99 app that turns your iPad into a control surface for Apple Final Cut Pro X. The app was designed by Pixel Film Studios and created by LightWORK Solutions.

PROCUTX installation is a multi-step process. First, buy, download and install the app on your iPad. When you launch the app, you’ll get a message asking for an e-mail address to which Pixel Films will send a server-side app. This small app must be installed on each FCP X system on which you wish to use PROCUTX.

Then launch FCP X on your computer. Under the menu Final Cut Pro-> Commands, import the PROCUTX layout. Under that same menu, select PROCUTX Keyboard Set. Launch PROCUTX on your iPad. A window will appear showing available FCP X installations. Choose the machine on which you are working. For this to work, both the host Mac and the iPad must be on the same wireless network.

From that point, use the iPad to control virtually every FCP X function, from menu items to editing to color boards. Having worked with iPad controllers for other applications, I was pleasantly surprised at the responsiveness of PROCUTX. I found only negligible latency, no hang-ups and, most important, it has not crashed.

Of course, an iPad app does not offer the same tactile feedback as a true control surface. Having used keyboard commands and a mouse to control FCP X, I definitely needed to make an adjustment to switch to a controller panel. Furthermore, it adds one more device to my crowded workspace.

As apps go, $24.95 is on the pricey side. Also I would like to see a Bluetooth option in addition to Wi-Fi. But for those who like control surfaces, PROCUTX represents a stable, responsive and effective way to control FCP X.

Product:Pixel Film Studios PROCUTX

Pros: Fast, responsive, offers complete control of FCP X on Macs running OS X 10.7 and 10.8.
Cons: Somewhat pricey. No tactile feedback. Depends on Wi-Fi connection.
Bottom Line: A great tool but not at a bargain price. It works well and you should experience no performance problems. If this is the way you like to work, go for it.
MSRP: $24.99 (iTunes app store)

Dan Lebental TouchEdit
I saved the best for last. Award-winning editor Dan Lebental, ACE (Iron Man, Cowboys & Aliens, Elf), has produced what I can categorically state is the coolest pro video app I’ve ever encountered.

At $49.95, TouchEdit is also one of the more costly apps you will find, but in this age of total iPad production, of cloud-based collaboration and storage, and of editing on the run, it can be one of the most useful apps you own.

TouchEdit works with video files that are readable on the iPad, which means H.264 and .mp4 QuickTime movies, .aiff audio and .jpeg images. In short, it is a touch-controlled source/record two-window NLE accommodating up to eight audio tracks. Load a clip into the source timeline and preview window, edit into the record side. Or load a clip into the record side and drag it over to the source (preview) side. Make simple cuts. Execute insert or overwrite edits. Split clips. Perform three-point edits. Add markers with annotations (called paperclips in the app). Add audio. Patch audio to any of the eight channels. Then export a completed QuickTime movie or a Final Cut Pro XML.

Media can be brought into the app in a variety of ways. First, through iTunes sharing. Set up iTunes sharing on your host computer and drag footage into the TouchEdit window. (Consult iTunes help if you don’t know how to do this.) That footage will then sync with the iPad via either USB or Wi-Fi. The second option for media import is via Dropbox. Create an Apps folder with a TouchEdit subfolder in Dropbox, then import the footage from this folder into TouchEdit via your iPad’s Wi-Fi or 3G connection. TouchEdit will also use any material in the video library or iTunes library on your iPad.

TouchEdit is project-based. Create a new project and import media from any of the sources described above. Media can be imported into a collection, which is the same as a bin for those of us who come from an NLE background.

Add a clip to the source/timeline window. Each filmstrip represents eight frames. Scroll with your finger to find the edit point and make your edit using any of the available tools. You can mark in/out points with finger gestures or the scissors tool. Make a cut with the scissors tool and then drag to the record timeline, which shows up in the record window. Dragging the clip to the left of the center timeline marker performs an insert edit, while dragging to the right performs an overwrite edit.

There are no transitions or other adjustments. This is an editing tool.

When done, touch export. You then have the option of creating a QuickTime movie or FCP XML. That FCP XML and its footage can be synced back to computer via iTunes sharing or uploaded to Dropbox.

Consider this workflow. Shoot your DSLR footage and transfer it to Dropbox or your notebook computer before getting on the plane for your flight home. Once settled down in your business class seat (your clients pay for first or business class, I hope) on your Wi-Fi-enabled flight, pull out your iPad, retrieve footage and edit. Export the XML to Dropbox and your colleague back in the edit bay has media and a rough cut even before you’ve collected your baggage.

There is a bit of a learning curve with TouchEdit—and by “a bit” I mean maybe 30 minutes.

Don’t say, ”What, this app is $50?!” Say, “You mean this app is only $50?!” If you’re into iApps, get it.

Product:Dan Lebental TouchEdit

Pros: A real editor on your iPad with real-world applications.
Cons: Price. Works only with certain media formats. Cuts-only edits.
Bottom Line: There has never been anything like this on the iPad. It revolutionizes on-the-go editing. There is a lot to be said for a real editor creating apps for editors.
MSRP: $49.95 (iTunes app store)