This month in Pulse College Guest Lecture Feature we talk to Keith Bailey, Final Cut Trainer. With a PhD thesis in the “Aerodynamics of International America’s Cup Class yachts” he changed career direction deciding to follow his love of film, becoming Final Cut Studio Master Trainer proving no career path is set in stone. Putting his video skills into practice with his role as coach for high-performance rowing athletes by provided sports-video feedback. In 2006 he was sponsored by Apple to become a Final Cut Pro trainer. Keith now trains in all products in the Final Cut Studio Suite and also is an Adobe Certified Instructor in Premiere Pro. His knowledge of workflows and round-tripping through the various post-production software products brings a unique holistic slant to training courses.
Q1: You started your college career in aerodynamics with your thesis on International Americas Cup Class yachts. Quite a mouth full and quite an unusual degree tell us about the reason behind the course choice?
A: Thankfully International America’s Cup Class has the acronym IACC so that shortens things up. As for the choice of course, well it stems back to getting my Commodore 64 in 1986. I was learning to program graphics and New Zealand had entered the America’s Cup off Fremantle, Perth. I used the event to program the results tables showing who beat whom through the different stages and discovered that the New Zealand boat was doing well so I became interested in sailing and yacht design. In the Eighties New Zealand was a force in the Whitbred Round the World Race, some Olympic classes and as history shows a subsequent winner and defender of the America’s Cup itself. I dabbled with architecture for a while but discovered that I preferred distinguishing the curves of a yacht rather than house floor plan which comprised of a collection of rectangles. The University of Auckland School of Engineering had also recently set up a Yacht Research Unit for post-graduate students so I set my sights on an engineering degree in order to get into the YRU for a Masters or Doctoral degree.
Q2: You must have had quite a few adventures with this course any you would care to share?
A: The best part of the doctorate was being involved with both the academics and industry designers who were working to towards the successful defense of the 2000 America’s Cup. It gave the working a cutting-edge element. I was surrounded by peers and heroes alike. On occasions, when Team New Zealand were short-handed for training they would call us (the YRU) up to act as crew on the trial boats. That was fun—sailing around the Hauraki Gulf on these state-art-of-art racing yachts. The America’s Cup has been described in the past as “a game of chess played out on the ocean in Formula 1 racing machines, crewed by rugby teams.” That gives you an idea of the symbiosis of brawn and brains in that sport.
Q3: You dabbled with Video in the mid 80’s what area inspired you the most?
A: Honestly? As a teenager: two things really: peer prestige of video knowledge and earning money! My school had recently got a VHS camera for media studies. I would borrow it to record my sister’s ballet dance recitals. I would program titles and credits on the Commodore C64 and feed those on to the tape. Copies were made for the parents. I enjoyed attending the rehearsals to get familiar with the dancers movements and learn to pre-empt those with the framing of shots. But all that was voluntary work. I took this experience and started filming school productions and selling those to parents and families.
Q4: You must have a creative flair, does this creative flair come from family influences?
A: My Dad was a fitter so did a lot of DIY and renovation around the house so I guess elements of planning and conceptual design came through there. The family tree claim to fame is – I think I have this correct my great-grandmother’s sister (grandmother’s aunt) was Clara Novello, mother of Ivor Novello who was Welsh composer, singer and actor who became one of the most popular British entertainers of the early 20th century. My family would see resemblance in photos of Ivor and myself.
Q5: What element of the film process do you enjoy the most?
A: I have to say I love editing including a bit of grading and audio sweetening. I was always quick with jigsaw puzzles as a kid so I think the “put-the-pieces-together” mentality has spilled over in the video editing. I am not into screenplays. I pick up poor editing decisions and continuity errors on TV shows quite regularly so I definitely seem to have an eye for detail.
Q6: You started your editing career with a VHS camera and what is now prehistoric Commodore C64, what do you perceive as being the biggest technological breakthrough to date?
A: As with any technology I think the biggest breakthrough is the mass-market economy. I remember the introduction of CDs. Compact Disc players were expensive until demand rose and drove prices down so it was affordable technology for the masses. The same with DVDs, the same with mobile phones etc. Video is now in almost every device people have, phones, digital SLR cameras, web cameras placing it within reach of everybody. The downside is of course everyone now believes that they can be Oscar-winning DP’s as evidenced by the boom of YouTube.
Q7: You were born in New Zealand but you decided to leave the sunny shores of Aoteroa for England, what prompted this move?
A: All Kiwis, Aussies and Saffas (South Africans) tend to go on a thing could the big OE (overseas experience). Those lucky enough to have dual-citizenship often end up hanging around in Europe working and travelling. New Zealand is a great country to grow up in but naturally is a small economy so for more varied work experience it is alluring to come over to the UK and Ireland. New Zealand’s strength and weakness is its isolation. It breeds innovation but it can be considered a long way away from other places-three hours from Auckland to Sydney, same from Auckland to Nadi, Fiji. Both those places can be familiar to different spots in NZ. So… everything else is long-haul travel. The ability to be based in the UK or Ireland and fly to Spain or Italy in a couple of hours and be in a completely different culture is amazing. Kiwis generally measure travel distance in hours not miles so it’s only two hours from Belfast to Dublin not 100miles etc. I travel home every couple of years but in the meantime, Skype, the Internet for NZ websites and the regular Autumn tours by the All Blacks keep any home-sickness at bay! I guess I’ve traded South Pacific weather for proximity to Europe!
Q8: You have had a varied and extensive career from working for an engineering consultancy to hospital trusts in England and Belfast as project manager. Tell us a bit about this experience.
A: The wind-engineering consultancy was brilliant but long hours. I worked on projects from Jumeriah Beach in Dubai to Wembley Stadium and the London Olympic Masterplan. I even consulted at early stages of the proposed twisted tower for U2 in the Docklands. I headed a group responsible for provided data relating to the structural and comfort design of tall buildings, stadia and bridges. We operated wind tunnels based at the National physical Laboratories in Teddington. This was the site that Barnes Wallace conducted his bouncing-bomb tests for the famous 617 Squadron Dambusters raid. The wind tunnel we used (although heavily renovated and updated) originally tested Spitfire. We also did some work for the McLaren F1 team. I shifted over to Northern Ireland for romantic and quality of life reasons and had to re-cast myself career-wise since there were very little high-end aerodynamic job opportunities. Having managed hundreds of projects in engineering figured I could handle one big one for the Health Service by organising the specification and procurement of a computer system for hospitals to plan, track and monitor the effective use of their Operating Theatres.
Q9: You then moved career paths and location, working freelance as a Final Cut Pro trainer based in the North of Ireland. What prompted this decision?
A: The Health Service in the North underwent a restructuring and the job I was in was meant to have offered some protection from the changes—it ended up that I had no protection so I took an opportunity to start myself up as a freelancer in web and graphic design. I knew Photoshop and Dreamweaver but applied to a community course which was also teaching a bit of Flash and something called Final Cut Pro 5. I sat the user exam and scored highly so Apple offered to sponsor me through the Train-the-Trainer as there was a scarcity of trainers in Ireland. I really enjoyed getting back to video, catching up on the technology and being able to move around places to meet and teach different FCP users. It was a natural progression to carry on and become qualified to teach the rest of the Final Cut Studio suite.
Q10: What is the aspect of Final Cut Training that you enjoy the most?
A: The teaching, definitely. Seeing novice and experienced users alike discover there are better ways to achieve their project results when they know how to “drive” the Final Cut Studio products properly. A lot of people have opened Motion or Compressor but leave it there. Once they understand what it is for it opens up so much digital opportunity in their creative works.
Q11: What advice would you give to people who have decided to take on the challenge of learning Final Cut Pro?
A: An open mind. Everyone knows what look they are trying to get with an edit but often people bring habits from iMovie, Windows Movie Maker or sometimes Avid and expect FCP to behave as other programs. Once you get familiar with the interface most people realize the strengths that FCP has in terms of usability. The other thing to remember is that the product is a moving feast. Currently FCP7 is the oldest non-linear editing program compared to Premiere Pro CS5 and Avid’s new Media Composer. There will always be leap-frogging of these products in terms of support for tapeless formats and functionality so doesn’t fall for the FCP cannot do this, Avid cannot do those arguments when choosing an editing suite.
Q12: What is the most important or beneficial area of the Final Cut Studio package that you teach?
A: Surprisingly it’s not any part of functionality. The most beneficial part of the training is learning best practice for time-saving and editing efficiency which arguably could apply to any non-linear editing package. I would often reference a sledgehammer and scalpel analogy. Editors often find workarounds to achieve the result but that can have consequences later on in the workflow (the razor blade tool falls into the sledgehammer category—it often is overused). Learning more elegant ways (and tools) for editing often gets you to the result quicker but also means your edit is future-proofed because you work in a less-destructive manner (meaning if you change your mind later you don’t have to do a lot of repair work to clips/tracks to return you to the original version.)
Q13: You now teach for Pulse College Film Course. How did the collaboration come about?
A: I have been teaching at Filmbase for a number of years and I believe I am the only certified Motion 4 trainer in all-Ireland. Pulse College’s Aidan Alcock enquired of Filmbase whether they knew any of Motion trainers so by word of mouth and reference, Aidan and I realised there was a chance to collaborate. I have subsequently taught Motion, an FCP Level 2 and a Soundtrack Pro course for Pulse.
Q14: Any advice for students who are going their Final Cut Pro exam.
A: Read the question(s). Read them again. Read them a third time. There are no trick questions, only some tricky ones. One word (eg viewer or timeline) can make a difference to which answer is correct. Do the practice test to get familiar with the online test process. Learn the difference between slipping, rolling and sliding clips.
Manage your time though the 90 minutes allotted is more than enough if you employ basic exam technique. Flick through and answer the ones you know instantly first, and then come back to the wordier questions later. If you get bogged down on one question early on you will burn time up.
Finally do ONE and only ONE full check of all answers at the end. If you start to sweep through and double- and triple-check everything you start to second-guess yourself. Anecdotally people are more likely to change to a wrong answer when checking for the n-th time.