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Editing on Land, Sea and Air with a PowerBook G4

Intrepid reporter tackles tough assignment By Peter May
The sailboat is called Va Bene, Italian for "it goes well," often answering the salutation, "How's it going?" It just as often stands alone as an exclamatory affirmation of the fact that life is good. Sunsets, fine wine, home team wins and scrumptiously sculpted skirts all might warrant an emphatic "Va bene!" In short, any it-doesn't-get-any-better-than-this beer commercial moments, moments that abound out on the water. Va Bene's a Sabre, a 34 foot hybrid racer/cruiser, fast for her draft and displacement. Of course, fast is a relative thing. An inflatable with a 4-horse could run circles around us. But, the slow pace of life on board is one of the things I love about sailing and slowing down is just what I needed to do after finishing one of the quickest, dirtiest videos I'd ever been party to.

The idea was to shoot every day at the sales conference, edit a highlight reel and distribute copies on VHS at breakfast closing day. I looked forward to two things about this project. One was getting it over with, for the next day I was going sailing. The other was having the opportunity to edit on the road, as it were.

For me, this quest started twenty years ago when I was a shooter for a Florida TV station following our team to the Super Bowl in San Francisco. Back then, taking a broadcast quality production rig on the road meant seventeen hard side cases, including, but not limited to a Betacam, sticks, bricks, chargers, three Beta decks, an edit controller, a small switcher, black burst generator, three 15" monitors, speakers, a mixer and enough cable to reach from Fisherman's Wharf to the window of our improvised broadcast center in the Hyatt Embarcadero. I can still see the maid's face when she came by to turn down my bed the first evening. In an effort to liberate enough floor space to set up, I had stood the couch and one of the beds on end. The edit system was built out in the middle of the room surrounded by empty shipping cases stacked floor to ceiling. Standing stunned and still as the heavy door continued to drift open, she shook off the shock, handed me a mint and said, "If you can find your pillow, put this on it." I remember thinking, "there's got to be a better way to edit on the road!" Well, there really wasn't. That's why I'm so happy to be standing here today at the intersection Megahertz Boulevard, Codec Street and Storage Avenue, watching all the possibilities go by. It was a long trip.

I got on the plane headed for that sales conference with an infinitely more capable system than I had shipped out to that Super Bowl tucked into my backpack. I was shooting DV on an old GL1 but I was going to be editing on a slick, new-that-day 17" PowerBook loaded with Final Cut Pro 4.


I live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and while some think The Fonz, bowling, beer or polka, veteran travelers know Milwaukee means Midwest Airlines. Constantly dubbed America's Best by the top travel rating services in the world, they boast two-by-two wide leather seats, free wine, gourmet meals, warm chocolate chip cookies and generally first class treatment at coach fares. I can tell you, working at 35,000 feet there is no better combination than a comfy seat, a tasty Merlot and Apple's brilliant 17" PowerBook? I think. See, I didn't fly Midwest the day my 17" was delivered. I flew one of those six-across, knees-in-your-chest airborne cattle cars surrounded by the fat, the raucous, the selfish and the incontinent. Ergonomically speaking, a Palm would have been more appropriate.

Still, I'm stubborn, determined and besides, the guy seated behind me actually stood up, leaned in and said, "Wow, the 17 incher! Cool!" So, pleased at having my coolosity announced, I persevered. Right away I realized, unlike my old PowerBook, it won't fit into the seat pocket. Heck, it wouldn't even fit flat on the floor under the seat in front of me. On take-off I stood it up edgewise, pinning it behind my knees, hoping the flight attendant wouldn't see. At altitude I had other problems. There's no way the screen could be tipped back to a comfortable viewing angle. With the loading slot on the front of the machine I had to tip it up to insert or withdraw a CD-ROM. On the plus side, the thing is so big it actually added real estate to the tray table. There's room to set a couple of CD-ROMs and a Coke on the deck of this carrier. OK, so I'm not telling you anything you didn't expect. You don't buy a 17" PowerBook for convenience. You buy it because it's the closest thing to having a full-blown Mac tower in your carry-on.

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Related Keywords:editing on the road, Apple, 17" PowerBook, DMN reporter Peter May, summer sailor, long technological journey, Final Cut Pro 4.0, editing

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