Ten Questions with Larry Jordan
Larry Jordan, author of the newly released Final Cut Pro HD: Hands-on Training from Peachpit Press and lynda.com, is an award-winning producer, director, and editor with more than 30 years experience on corporate, network, broadcast, and DVD programs, from newscasts to dramas. Although this DV workhorse has recently turned his attention to teaching, he's showed no signs of slowing down. In fact, his new book contains more than 70 step-by-step Final Cut tutorials that he's refined as an Apple Certified Trainer specializing in Final Cut and DVD Studio Pro. Recently, we caught the teacher between classes and asked him for a few tips, among other things.
Q. Your resume, which is a solid three-pages long, lists many years devoted to creating and producing videos, Webcasts, live productions, and CD-ROMs. In 2003, you became a full-time teacher and trainer and now you spend most of your time teaching others your trade. What do you like about teaching as opposed to producing?
A. Actually, I like them both—alot. I love producing and directing. Taking an idea and turning it into something that other people can watch and enjoy is enormously fulfilling. Teaching is different. A large part of my teaching (and writing, for that matter) is using examples from my production experience to illustrate concepts in editing. What I like most about teaching is watching the students eyes when they suddenly understand a concept. All of a sudden, what seemed impossibly opaque becomes understood and obvious.
That's why I split my time between teaching, writing and production. It keeps life interesting.
Q. From your experience as a corporate video producer, what are the most valuable features in Final Cut Pro HD and how can other video producers best take advantage of them?
A. For me, the value of Final Cut Pro HD lies in three areas: 1) the consistency of its interface, 2) its ability to handle all forms of video, from VHS to DV to HD and film, in a single application, 3) its ability to "disappear," which means that when I'm editing, I can concentrate on creating my story, not in wondering how the application works.
Q. What are some common mistakes that novice Final Cut Pro editors make and how can they avoid them?
A. The biggest mistake novice editors make is wasting time doing the wrong things at the wrong time. What my classes and book teach is a more efficient workflow to get your projects done faster. In any editing project, there's the heavy lifting of just getting the basic story down—screening all the material and figuring out the basic shot order. The fun stuff, however, is in adding effects. So, because it's more fun, many editors spend their time concentrating on the effects without first working out the details of their story. Yet, it's the story, whether a feature film or corporate training or wedding video, that makes people want to watch what you've created.
I try to teach a workflow that helps editors to understand where they are in the editing process, what they should be working on at that moment, and how Final Cut fits into the entire process.
Q. In your humble opinion, what could Final Cut Pro HD do better?
A. Oh, lots of stuff. That's what makes software so exciting—waiting to see what's in the next version. I spent a lot of time in the software industry as a marketing executive and I've learned that software is never really finished—it is a continuously evolving product. As the needs of the industry change, the software changes with it.
I'm looking forward to how the software evolves in audio handling, visual effects, and taking advantage of all the horsepower in our computers.
Q. In the summary to the introduction of your book, Final Cut Pro HD: Hands-on Training, you say that you love telling stories. OK, then. Tell us a story.
A. Many years ago, I was working as a producer/director for a PBS affiliate on the East Coast around Christmas and I had the idea for a Christmas special. Shortly thereafter, well, OK, after about ten weeks of preparation, I found myself standing in the back of a large church in Baltimore. Massive electrical cables snaked all around the building while a production crew of 35 people assembled all the gear necessary for a five-camera telecast. Decorations and equipment were everywhere. In less than eight hours, the church would be filled to over-flowing with 1,500 audience members, eight choirs, and an orchestra. I was the director and co-producer of the event.
As I watched all this activity from the back of the church, tears came to my eyes as I realized that all of this effort from so many people, both performers and technicians, sprang from the power of a single idea.
And, after all these years, I've never lost my love of production.
Q. It says in your bio that you're recognized as one of the "Top 100 Corporate Producers in America." Who hands out that title and what do you have to do to earn it?
A. This is a juried award, presented by AVVMM magazine, based on a collection of my corporate productions from the prior year. I was awarded the honor in 2001.
Q. In your long history of video production, what production do you consider your work of art?
A. That is a hard question. There has never been a production where I was completely satisfied. There's always something I want to improve, or an idea that didn't completely work out.
I did, however, have a perfect segment once. It was for a daily talk show on Channel 5 in Boston and featured an exercise trainer named Judy Missit (I've probably misspelled her name). It was a remote location with a three-camera crew and Judy had the audience up and exercising to the music of Kool and the Gang, singing "Celebration."
To this day, I consider the directing and camera-work on that live segment to be the best I've ever done. But this memory is helped a great deal by the fact there are no extant video tapes of the actual program.
Q. You're one of the first four Apple-certified trainers in the country to earn credentials as an "Advanced Level" Final Cut Pro instructor. What do you learn at the advanced level?
Final Cut is an enormously deep program. The more you learn about it, the more there is to discover, which is something I've tried to put in my book.
As an advanced instructor, we spend a lot of time teaching our students advanced audio techniques; more powerful ways to use Final Cut's color tools to change the look of a scene or the elements in a scene; more sophisticated control over motion effects, filters, and animation; as well as a better understanding of the other programs that accompany Final Cut, such as LiveType and Soundtrack.
Q. As founder and CEO of Canyon Interactive from 1994-1997 you produced almost 50 interactive CD-ROMs covering everything from cable television to vascular surgeon training. After producing all of these training materials, do you feel as confident hooking up your cable TV as you do in the operating room?
A. First, just because I produced a series of medical training CD-ROMs does NOT mean I am safe in the operating room. No, no, no. I am a wuss. My favorite view of an operating room is from the outside of the hospital.
And, as for hooking up the VCR, that's what they invented sixteen-year-old boys for.
Q. You've written a whole book on Final Cut Pro HD. What's the best tip in it?
The best tip in the book is that Final Cut Pro HD gives you lots of different ways to accomplish the same task. You don't need to learn all of them, just learn the ones that make you productive so you can forget about how the tool works and concentrate on telling your stories.
Because I'm tired of listening to myself talk, I'd like to listen to you.
(To contact Larry, visit him at his Web site at http://www.larryjordan.biz.)