October 17, 2005

Review - KenStone Unplugged
$29.95 Ripple Training

Review by Steve Douglas

Well, it is about time! First we get an announcement of a fantastic new reference source, tutorial, plug in compilation being produced by Ken Stone and then we have to wait a month or so before it is finally available. What timing! But when you have reproduction issues that were not foreseen things hit the fan, and we, at least, no longer have to bite at our nails to get this excellent resource.

Back when Ken Stone first started his site for Final Cut Pro there had been only one other avenue for information and help and that was the 2-Pop Internet site. 2-Pop was a lifesaver at the time answering questions posted by all the FCP 1.0 newbie's which most of us were at the time. And then there was Ken's site, full of a growing list of incredibly helpful articles and tutorials as well as an easy to use discussion forum. Ken started a community of Final Cut Pro users that swelled in ranks and expertise. When a question needed answering, a problem needed solving, or a thread of thought needed expansion, you could click on the kenstone.net site and know that solutions were just a few minutes, (okay, sometimes hours) away.

I can't remember how many times I would copy the new week's articles, especially the tutorials, for reading during my breaks at work or for when I got home. They were usually all well written with explanatory graphics that were easy to follow. I loved it; I was learning most of what I wanted to learn without a teacher with a hard ruler standing behind my back. But, when you think of all the great articles that have born themselves on the www.kenstone.net site, you would need a great many reams of paper and unlimited ink cartridges to print them up. Then there was the question as to how many notebooks could you fill up with all of them and how to index them as well. After all, there are over 500 different tutorials, reviews, and articles on Ken's site. Finally, some genius out there suggested to Ken that he take the best of all the articles and tutorials and place them on a CD so as to make them easily accessible as another essential resource. Glad Ken stopped eating chocolate chip cookies long enough to put that suggestion to task, because that is just what he has done; put all the best of the best articles, one hundred and forty to be exact, along with a massive number of some very excellent 'free' plug ins from the likes of Graeme Nattress, CHV Electronics, and a slew of tutorials from Steve Martin of Ripple Training, onto a CD to appease everyone who has been asking him for just such a resource in the CD format.

Now, why would anyone want to buy a CD for articles that they could just as easily be read for free on Ken's website? That's easy to respond to, and yet there are a multiple of answers. Part of the reason for doing this is printability. Printing articles from the web page can be wonky. On the Unplugged CD all articles have been converted to PDF and this greatly improves the printability. I, for one, am out of the country frequently for various shoots off of some boat somewhere and usually have no access at all to the Internet. On my downtime, or while I am suffering through 30 hours spent on planes, or waiting for them at the airport, it would be great to have a CD like this whereby I could catch up on the many articles that have come out and refresh my memory of the many I had forgotten about.

For those who are regular readers or contributors in the discussion forum, it never ceases to amaze me as to how often various tutorials, reviews and articles that have appeared on Ken's site are quoted or referred to. Many times, when the actual URL is not given, I will look at the referral and try to find the article and just as many times, I find myself scrolling, scrolling, scrolling just to find it. With several hundred articles and reviews on site, that takes a bit of time. Now I can just pop in the disc, use the excellent index and jump right to it. Often re reading these articles refreshes my memory about information or how 2s that I had forgotten were even there.

It seems like every major player/writer/instructor is represented on this disc. All the names of so many people whom I may not have met but know so well from their books, tutorials or, simply their unselfish correspondence, are represented on this CD; Steve Martin, Kevin Monahan, Ken Stone, Ned Soltz, Philip Hodgetts, Ralph Fairweather, and too many more to mention all have some of their finest contributions all compiled together on this one disc. We all have our favorite articles, you know what I'm talking about, the ones we always seem to seek out to refer to and check out some item or technique. Just reading through the index I found every one of my "Go to" articles. I'm honored and humbled to have a small nugget of an article by myself to be included with such luminaries.

As mentioned, there are over ten separate tutorials from Steve Martin and Ripple training. They cover all the applications one would want including the use of Mattes in Live Type, various compositing modes and Color Correction in FCP, Looping in Soundtrack, Encoding in Compressor, Template Intro Movies in DVD Studio Pro, that sometimes confounding Media Management and more. Each one is typical of what you get from Ripple Training, high quality, easy to follow and excellently produced.

Just one of the many Ripple training tutorials to be found on the Ken Stone Unplugged CD

However, that is not all; from CHV Electronics whose transitions and filters I have used for a long time now, comes an excellent iSilhouette filter as well as the, by now famous, Silk and Fog filter. Both are worth the cost of the CD by itself.

Source frame

With CHV iSilhouette filter


Source frame

With CHV Silk and Fog Filter

Behind door number 3 we have still more to come. Fourteen plugins from Graeme Nattress round out this CD with some truly useful filters ranging from the G Film Widescreen Matte and G Theatrical Filter to an exciting G Earthquake filter for anyone hoping to make the next disaster movie on Showtime. There's also an easy to apply Reverse Speed filter and Glow Dissolve as well.

Source frame

With applied G Theatrical Filter you can create
an almost 3 D effect

What we have here is the acoustic Ken Stone, the down and dirty Ken Stone, the nitty gritty, get it under your fingernails Ken Stone. What you get is the best of Ken Stone to date. Thankfully, as Apple software and editing challenges evolve in the future another "Best of" is still awaiting us a few more years down the road. One caveat; I did email Ken Stone and told him I thought the price of this CD was absurdly low and that he was cheating himself. He laughed at that, and the bonus still goes to all of you, as he never did raise the cost.

Maybe this isn't a real review after all; maybe it is simply my echoing the many unseen voices out there in our FCP community who wish to thank Ken for the very real contributions, help and encouragement that he continually and magnanimously provides.

Steve Douglas, is an underwater videographer and contributor to numerous film festivals around the world. A winner of the 1999 Pacific Coast Underwater Film Competition, 2003 IVIE competition, 2004 Los Angeles Underwater Photographic competition, and the prestigious 2005 International Beneath the Sea Film Competition, Steve has also worked on the feature film "The Deep Blue Sea", contributed footage to the Seaworld parks for their Atlantis production, and is one of the principal organizers of the San Diego UnderSea Film Exhibition. Steve leads both underwater filming expeditions and African safaris with upcoming filming excursions to Kenya, Bali and the Red Sea. Feel free to contact him if you are interested in joining Steve on any of these trips. www.worldfilmsandtravel.com


copyright © Steve Douglas 2005

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