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High Definition Video for Independent Filmmakers
A How To Guide for Digital Filmmakers
Welcome all! This is my blog to share my latest research,
thoughts, etc. on utilizing HD for independent filmmaking.
YES, I am available for consulting
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
All content copyright 2004-2007 Mike Curtis.
Monday, October 31, 2005
A nice recent article with hands on advice. Nick Tucker, the first guy quoted, and I hung out during NAB this year a bit (even took pics together).
Read up for good tips on working with HDV. Good stuff here for aspiring shooters. Actually, REALLY good stuff in here, a lot of if confirming things I've said in here, but some better stuff from hands on, in the field shooting (I'm not a shooter).
There are a few things I'd disagree with in practice if not in theory - somebody recommends recording out to an HDCAM SR deck (which costs about $100K) and processing it through a Teranex (nice quality but expensive). This works, but MAN, there are less expensive solutions for the same or similar quality! Recording uncompressed to computer isn't that much harder than to a 70 pound HDCAM SR deck, etc.
Scott interviews Barry Diller, media honcho.
"at the Web 2.0 Conference in San Francisco set the blogosphere buzzing. Diller conveyed the impression that he didn%u2019t think we're on the verge of seeing a creative explosion sparked by a population of talented bloggers, musicians, and filmmakers who publish their work on the Net. (See also this OnoTech post on amateurs versus professionals.) Diller told me today that he may have been misunderstood. There will be lots of user-generated content, he believes, but most of it will be consumed by small audiences. He doesn%u2019t think there are a thousand as-yet-undiscovered J.J. Abramses or Steven Spielbergs or Madonnas, who will make TV or or movies or music that appeals to a large swath of the populace."
and also of interest,
“What it does mean is that real, professional talent – being in the professional discipline of it – is a small group always. By its very definition, it is small. Respectfully to all of us humans, there are simply not that many great poets, singers, actors, dancers. There are, thankfully, enough. But we shouldn’t delude ourselves, that suddenly vast numbers of previously undiscovered talent will emerge through this instant publishing process. I just don’t think it’s going to happen.”
“I am a total believer that talent outs. There is no talent hidden away in a garage that doesn’t eventually out. And of course because of its self-publishing nature [of the Internet], it has a chance to get there quicker.”
Read on for more interesting stuff...
From their website's description:
DeckLink 5.1.2 for Mac OS X 10.4
31 October 2005
This release version adds: HD 720p to NTSC down conversion on all DeckLink models; HD cross conversion allowing 720p mastering to 1080i broadcast decks in real time on all DeckLink HD cards; Time Code Reader and Frame Count Display in Blackmagic Deck Control; gamma corrected output from After Effects; updated Apple Uncompressed 422 codecs; compatibility with QuickTime 7.0.3. Compatible with Final Cut Pro HD v5.0.3 (not v4.5).
Mike's Comments: 720p to NTSC down conversion is a LONG desired feature, so this is great. The ability to upconvert 720p to 1080i is nice as well (will it do 720p24 to 1080i60 on the fly, or only 720p60 to 1080i60?)
So good stuff.
Now, I don't know how many videos other services are selling, but this is encouraging. Cross this with the NYTimes article about big screens/small screens I linked to over the weekend (scroll down to find it). But selling a million videos in less than three weeks? Something tells me there is going to be a market here.
Also, just for fun, here's a link to a tool to batch convert movies to the iPod Movie format.
And here's also a tool that claims to be up to 5 times faster than Apple's tools.
Sunday, October 30, 2005
Taking a look at big vs small screens, and what each is good for. More Later, but read & think. Cross this with web based clip video sites, and you start to see where media is heading.
Wow. I hadn't realized that Disney as exclusive sequel rights to Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc., and The Incredibles. And they don't have to include Pixar necessarily, either. Disney also has exclusive rights to use the characters in its theme parks.
Back in 1991, Steve Jobs cut a deal with Disney, and Disney financed the production of Toy Story. 3 years later, a blockbuster was born, and Disney's most lucrative toy licensing platform EVER was also created.
Read on for more details.
Saturday, October 29, 2005
Here's a nice collection of all the very insightful pieces Edward Jay Epstein has written for Slate about Hollywood biz model stuff.
Really, really good if you want to understand the business of Hollywood.
As usual, Scott's all over the good stuff - the first full-on digital screening using all the specs from the Digital Cinema Initiative's format. I'll skip the acronyms, if you care read the link above.
The big deal is that the spec came out just a few months ago, and now there is already hardware set up to use it, and a test screening will be done with a "for real" movie. An important first step. Closed to the public, unfortunately.
Driven primarily by a European directive to reduce hazardous substances, Panasonic has redesigned the DVX-100 series with its latest revision, the AG-DVX100B. While they were at the design table a host of new features were also added. The most notable improvements are:
16:9 Aspect Display Mode on EVG and LCD, making it easier and more effective for framing in Squeeze Mode or Anamorphic Display
Remote Focus and Iris Control with Varizoom and others
Single-button display character off for LCD/EVG through the audio dub/display button. Allows fro clutter-free image
Larger-capacity standard battery
Scene files transferable to another DVX100B over firewire
Jam timecode to multiple cameras over firewire
Heavier-duty tripod connection
Audio off tape or live E—E for delay free, echo free monitoring
A new Black Sapphire body and textured lens paint distinguish the unit from previous models.
Link from Panasonic's site, and also this article from DVXuser that lists improvements in fine detail. A quick quote from that one:
First, what’s not there: no 16:9 CCD chipset. No P2 card slot. Nothing radical like that; and truthfully, nobody should expect changes like that in a model revision anyway. This is a “letter” revision, not a whole revamp
Friday, October 28, 2005
Disney is getting VERY serious about locking down their Oscar screener movie DVDs sent out to members of the Academy. The discs will ONLY play back on DVD players made by a division of Dolby (and yes, they are sending free DVD players to all those people, something like 12,000 of them!). The discs will ONLY play on those players, so if copies are made they won't play on generic DVDs.
After lambasting the public for years, Hollywood was chagrinned to discover that the source of a lot of their leaked copies were members of the Academy.
Matt runs (and runs and runs!) the SXSW Film Festival.
Scroll down a bit, Greg's the big guy in black, I'm the skinny guy in green.
As long as we're talkin' SATA RAID, the mini-G looks EXACTLY like a G5 you left in the drier too long - a functional match to the G5.
Nice review of a nice 4 bay hotswap SATA enclosure. I like it!
Step by step on how to make a video iPod-able movie from the latest version of iMovieHD.
From Apple's site.
What really bugs me is that the are presenting this as a blog that some guy has put together, but in reality, it is a Panasonic marketing piece.
That really bugs me that they are faking a "real" blog with this blog, that ends with:
Copyright ©2005 Panasonic Corporation of North America. All rights reserved
Not that the guy writing it isn't a nice guy.
Not that the equipment he's writing about isn't really killer and cool.
Not that what he is saying is incorrect or false in any way.
Hell, I could see, in a not too different parallel life, that I would have felt thrilled to be asked to write something like this for a vendor.
But he's presenting himself as an objective observer with the blog, down to pictures from trips he's taken, but in fact this is a sponsored PR/marketing plant from Panasonic, that he's being paid by them to do this, but presenting it in an objective, not subjective, format.
As someone who strives to present truly independent, non-biased content, that bugs me. And offends me.
"In Final Cut Pro 5 Essential Editing, Apple-certified, Larry Jordan teaches the essential editing techniques users need to get up and running with this complex program. In addition to introducing users to the software, Larry demonstrates the planning and organizing strategies he’s developed as a professional video editor that can greatly increase editing efficiency. Exercise files accompany the training videos."
More training materials for ya, until I can produce my own...
This guy is making a lot of points I've been talking about - most consumers, with typical viewing distances in the living room, on the size of HDTVs they can afford, can't really notice the difference between high def and standard def TVs. When watching regular DVDs on an HDTV or an a large 16:9 SDTV, they think they are already seeing high def DVDs. He makes some points about horizontal resolution greater than 1440 pixels can't be perceived, and that there are decreases in contrast beyond that level, that I can't vouch for - I don't know.
There have been some recent allegations that the guy that runs this site is on JVC's payroll and hence his motivations are suspect, but I don't have any hard data on that to confirm. So I don't know if this info is motivated by corporate interests of if what the writer is claiming is factually accurate. Dunno, just disclaimer disclaimer.
In any case, there is a strong risk that consumers will look at the high def DVD players, with their competing formats and high costs, and new TV requirements (only plays HD content on HDMI equipped TVs with HDCP, otherwise downsamples to standard def), that make may most consumers say bag it, and HD DVD and/or Blu Ray just become Laserdisc 2.0 - a rarity for the video fanatics with lots of money.
I had not specifically pointed out that Apple is now offering the nVidia 7800 GT graphics card as a build to order option offered after the new PCIe G5s were announced. It looks to be about as powerful for graphics (markedly faster at some things, slightly slower at others, than the Quadro FX card. See here) for details on how the two stack up.
I've changed my order from Quadro FX to 7800 GT. I'm really buying this box specifically for Final Touch HD, so the extra $1300 wasn't especially well suited for Final Touch usage from what I can tell so far.
This looks like it will delay my order by 1-2 weeks officially, I read that as 3-4 in practice, so again I'm happy if it is in the office by Christmas (maybe I'll have my BlackMagic Design Multibridge Extreme by then too).
It appears that Apple will offer a RETAIL, as in available in Apple Retail Stores, version with this card, called the Power Mac G5 Quad Ultimate configuration for about $4000.
Holding up the 7800's release is Apple QA to keep audio noise levels in line.
The Quad G5s will be using liquid cooling, same as before.
The article includes some benchmark results, but nothing particularly revealing for our FCP (or FTHD) rendering times, which is frankly what I'm interestd in most.
They did say, in an After Effects 6.5.1 test, that the Quad G5 rendered 272% faster than a dual 1.42 GHz G4.
An interesting conference in LA. If you're local, strongly worth considering.
This is a mintor point, but a handy one if you have a second drive installed internally.
Thursday, October 27, 2005
These guys make plugins for Final Cut Pro and After Effects to do a variety of nifty things. If you need to do paint or roto tasks, and want to do it inside FCP or AE, you should seriously check this out - the ability to do paint or roto without having to bail out to another program is a serious advantage. I was in a production meeting today talking about getting rid of some scratches on film, and telling them that I could fire up Commotion (old, dead end app that works well for these tasks) to fix it (or I suppose After Effects 6.5 could work, too).
Tidbits from an email they sent me:
- Silhouette Roto 2.1 is now available. The AE / FCP plug-in version price
has dropped from $495 to $295!
- Silhouette Paint 1.0 is now available - the first raster paint solution
for After Effects and Final Cut Pro. Silhouette Paint for AE and FCP is just $245.
- All versions (stand-alone and plug-in) are available with optional floating licenses.
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Great site and keep up the good work.
I'm trying desperately to choose a HD suite (not HDV) between the attractive Matrox Axio HD system or the Apple Final Cut Pro road.
Up to now I've worked DV on PC but the HD will be a major step up. I see your entire site is built around the Mac but I was wondering if you had any particular thoughts about HD on PC. I'm not looking for an in-depth comparison (that would be great but...) more just some general thoughts. On PC there is also the openhd certified systems. Do you think there's no contest between both platforms?
Anyway thanks in advance
My response (with a little extra at the end):
That's a toughie to give a definitive answer. As always, it depends on what precisely it is you intend to do with it. As the site name suggests, I'm most interested in HD for Indies, not so much for industrials or commercial applications. So far, it seems for a variety of reasons, that Mac/FCP combo offers a good set of features, ease of use, reliability, large user base to tap into, low cost, interoperability with other post tools, stability, etc., and is favored by a decent chunk of the serious editing world.
For features, for serious editors out there in the world, there's Avid, there's Final Cut Pro, then, somewhere down below that, Everyone Else.
For industrials, for FX laden projects, Premiere Pro can do a lot of stuff, and you can save a thousand or two dollars by going PC over Mac. But for feature stuff, I'm aware of only one or two indie features of any serious size that have cut on Premiere Pro.
When I was at NAB checking out Axio, the rep was saying it was about a $30K system, and while it is very powerful and does a lot of things FCP doesn't (mix & match SD/HD on same timeline, for instance), it still had some holes - it didn't support 24p at 720p resolution, for instance. A dealer killer for those looking to post their Varicam projects (at the time - I don't know if they've addressed that yet).
In years past I've heard a LOT of griping about getting everything working smoothly with Premiere Pro, issues with motherboards etc. that you don't get with Apple hardware - one model, supported. Of course, the certified systems you mention alleviate a good chunk of that concern on the PC side.
Avid runs on Mac or PC, and the newer/better/heavier versions are PC based. While it is an excellent editing tool with great media management, I feel it has a dated user interface, and it definitely gets very pricey to upgrade it enough to handle uncompressed HD.
I'm working on a longer piece inspired by the editing panel I attended over the weekend at the Austin Film Festival, that will discuss furrther the whole Avid vs FCP thing. I'll get it up as soon as I have time to finish it, I've been swamped with the site, the film festival, two new businesses, an injury, a car accident, etc.
PS-Matthew Jeppsen of FresHDV.com sent in this link to a recent review of Axio. Thanks man!
Referring to Chicken Little, and whether Disney can make a blockbuster animated film on it's own, or whether it needs Pixar to do it for them. One analyst said that if it does $350M or better, it'll be proof they can do it on their own, if it does $200M or $250M, Pixar will still be top dog, and Disney will be motivated to sweeten their deal to bring them back into the fold.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
But two things happened today:
1.) A l33t haxor buddy of mine (YES that is intented to be ironic) clued me in that Front Row has promptly been hacked to run on any Mac, and you can use Salling Clicker, or a Keyspan remote (I have two from a federal court case I did litigation support for a few years back), or just your keyboard to control it.
2.) Then Martijn Schroevers, My Man In Amsterdam, forwarded this link to me of a guy who had installed it and was using Salling Clicker to control media playback of his Mac projecting through a large 16:9 projector on the wall.
Superfluous #3.) God DAMN, I want that setup on my G5 stat!
Clearly, Front Row is the uber Mac TiVo type of thing we've been waiting for as consumers. It does music, videos, plays DVDs, slices, dices, juliennes. This will be the interface for the living room Viiv based Intel Macs of next year, I PROMISE YOU. Figure on a Yonah powered Mac Mini that will play back HD content. I'm figuring they'll have 960x720 HD movies by next Christmas at the latest as a downloadable thing. If not, it will be all the studios' fault.
Do I have a copy of that software? That would probably be illegal to have a cracked copy, and a bootleg at that, so it would be ill advisable for me to say I have it, as it is supposed to be the exclusive purview of new iMac purchasers.
It is relying on fiber, which is scarce and pricey, but they are delivering 260 channels including 15 HD channels over IP (internet protocol).
Interesting test. The article mentions another test in Keller, Texas (I live in Texas and have never heard of that town), but that one is strictly VOD (Video On Demand), not regular running programming.
Headline says it all....this is happening almost entirely because the studios aren't willing to "cough up content." Note even Jobs, who runs Pixar, couldn't even get Disney in with more than just TV shows.
Scott had an interesting conversation with Allan Yasnyi, consultant and former TV exec.
Talked about what it takes to change an industry - gotta have folks without "legacy issues."
I couldn't agree more.
An interesting read, mentions Disney's feint at collapsing release windows, mentions 2929 and their Soderbergh simultaneous release deal.
Most significant stats for us:
iMovie HD Render (rendering WHAT not stipulated):
Dual Core 2.0 GHz: 36 secs
Dual processor 2.3 GHz: 36 secs
Dual Core 2.3 GHz: 33 secs
Dual Processor 2.7 GHz: 25 secs
Compressor 2.0 MPEG-2 Encode:
Dual Core 2.0 GHz: 6 min 20 sec
Dual processor 2.3 GHz: 6 min 3 sec
Dual Core 2.3 GHz: 5 min 35 sec
Dual Processor 2.7 GHz: 5 min 12 sec
Also of note was the fact that Unreal Tournament 2004 was fastest on the Dual Core 2.3 GHz system, probably with the stock 6600 graphics card; hinting at the speed benefits of a PCI Express (PCIe) based graphics card over PCI-X in the 2.7 GHz G5 that it beat by a few frames per second.
Also, Pro Application Support v3.1 updates...some stuff. From Software Update:
This update improves general user interface reliability for Apple's professional applications and is recommended for all users of Final Cut Studio, Final Cut Pro, Motion, Soundtrack Pro, DVD Studio Pro, Soundtrack, Logic Pro and Logic Express.
...and THEN run it again, a second time! Final Cut Pro 5.0.3 is listed in Software Update (but ONLY showing up after installing the above updates), and so is Cinema Tools 3.0.3. Neither of the text descriptions in the Software Update panel is useful ("delivers improved reliability"), and neither of the links to more info have been updated (the linked PDF files preesently only show info on the x.0.2 versions at 3:15pm CST Tuesday).
I'm GUESSING that these provide PCIe Mac support, and might even possibly improve some of the render times. We'll have to wait and see.
ALSO, I've had one reader report of trouble with the XServe RAID v1.5 update - that it killed his ability to capture video over HD-SDI AS WELL AS over FireWire. Scary. So maybe hold off on that until further clarification appears.
Overall, I was really impressed with the panels' content and structure - sometimes it is the little things that make a conference better - such as the 30 minutes between panels for everyone to mingle and chat and schmooze and ask more questions of the panelists, or the spacing of the panels that didn't overlap too much with movies, and how it just timed out and spaced out well. Also, good quality on the panelists as well, with EVERYONE very approachable and talk-to-able. Even Shane Black (-Out), Mr. Grizzled Veteran himself, chatted with me a bit and wasn't "pish off kid."
So kudos to Maya Perez and her staff for putting on yet another excellent Austin Film Festival, and I hope they'll all be back next year to do it again. Also, congrats to Maya, whom I was informed is six months pregnant (but doesn't look it at all) - bless you all, and may your baby be as happy, sweet, and lovely as his/her parents. Seriously - golden happiness all around.
Also, saw Mrs. Henderson Presents at Frank Reynolds' recommendation. I'd been ready to blow it off as a chick flick with too much stuffy Britishness, but I LOVED it - VERY witty and sharp dialog, some scathingly funny scenes where I was, quite literally, knee slapping; and multiple scenes where I teared up as well. It was so nice to see the incredibly ALIVE chemistry between Judi Dench, and that an actress in her 70s (as well as a character of the same age) could have so much charisma and hold my attention so well. Truly charming and splendid, HIGHLY recommend. Oh, and to reference my glibness from the other day, it didn't hurt that there were quality boobies involved.
-"Hi. My name is Mike, and I'm, like, 14 years old...."
the new Mac-compatible DRX-810UL/T model. The external double and dual layer DVD drive will begin shipping next month with Roxio's Toast 6 Lite for Mac compatibility. The drive supports 4X DVD-R DL, 16X DVD -R, 8X DVD RW, 6X DVD-RW, 48X CD-R and 32X CD-RW recording speeds.
-not exactly HD, but darned handy for those of us with older Macs.
Final Cut Express HD 3.0 does NOT work on PCIe Macs (the new iMacs and G5s). This version 3.01 is required.
Along those lines, I've received word from a reader that Final Cut Pro HD version 4.5 does not work on new PCIe Macs either..
Apple's recommended fix is to run Final Cut Pro 5.x. I haven't heard anything to the contrary, so I'm assuming that version 5.02 DOES indeed work with PCIe Macs, but I have no active confirmation of that supposition.
Monday, October 24, 2005
It's late and I'm about to go to bed, but in short: the JVC is doing 24 on 60 as I had previously surmised, and it is using repeat flags - there are 24 "real" frames of video in the MPEG-2 stream, and 36 frames per second are just empty placeholders that occupy no real data - just a few bits to say "this is a repeat" to the decoder (called Repeat Flags - makes sense).
Also, Focus has their FS-4 HD and FS-4Pro HD Portable Direct To Edit (DTE) disk recorders available. Skip tape, record the HDV directly to a portable, battery powered hard drive. Record hours onto the thing, then plug it into your NLE to edit. More on it later, to bed.
About how HDV (FINALLY!) is natively supported in Avid Xpress Pro.
Details of ingest and workflow. Very VERY nice feature is the ability to mix HD & SD on the same timeline, no rendering, no waiting. I wish FCP could do this, but it can't.
However, if all you’re going to do is work in HDV , you can stay in 1440x1080. But when you’re editing, everything is decoded from HDV and then must be re-encoded (everybody tries to avoid using the term “rendered”) when the footage is going back to HDV . This means that the technique that Apple uses, called “gop splicing,” is not done here. That is, Apple’s Final Cut Pro technique is superior because it allows you to cut the long-gop footage. It does this by creating new I-frames wherever your cuts or effects happen, and then when it’s time to output it only needs to render those parts that were changed. That is in contrast to Avid’s technique, where once you’re done with editing, the entire segment must be rendered back to HDV , even if you’re producing a segment with just straight cuts and no effects .
But they are working on incorporating such a feature, hinting that the acquisition of Pinnacle's Liquid, which handled long GOP two years ago, should make this possible. I'm guessin they tried to get it working and couldn't and punted to get this out the door, and that's why it is late.
It dawned on me over the weekend that the TRUE ability to take full advantage of the GPU for editing purposes CANNOT happen until you get high speed in and out data capabilities with the graphics card - something PCIe kicks butt at but AGP does not. So I'm hoping FCP 6, which will hopefully come out/get introduced NAB 2006, will be able to really hook into Core Image and Core Video, and do things like 3:2 pulldown on the fly, mix 'n match SD & HD on the same timeline with no rendering, allow mixing codecs on the same timeline, and other goodies of that nature. Oh, and in order to do that, you'll HAVE to have a PCIe Mac, no way around it. And NO, you CANNOT update an older Mac to PCIe, gotta buy a new box, and NO, it is not all just a plot to sell more hardware, it is a legitimate requirement for this kind of processing and feature set.
OK, meta-metacommentary here - Scott over at CinemaTech (and it looks like he'll be panelling at SXSW 2006 per my push to get him in there, hooray!) links to and talks about how film directors are starting to get more involved with game making, which now makes more money than movies (Games $10B last year, movies $9.4B). Spielberg has signed a 3 game deal for games that he might make into movies, but that just feels kind of flat - Spielberg hasn't hit one out of the park in some time, and frankly, he's just not a gaming kind of guy.
Peter Jackson, on the other hand, has been more involved in the King Kong game that is due out soon. And Jackson's a gamer - he went with Ubisoft, maker of Good vs. Evil, in lieu of EA, that did the LoTR games that Jackson wasn't entirely pleased with.
My commentary: the interesting thing here is that video games are still in their infancy. We are still learning what makes a good game, and too often what makes for a "good game" is being defined by the hardcore gamers, not the general public. Think of movies - what if movie reviewers were in charge of what movies got made? It'd kind of blow - too much period romance, much less 'splosions and boobies. I like letting the market decide (Total aside - my favorite ultimate title for a late night Skinemax title that encompasses all cliches: "Guns 'n Titties II: The Revenge").
OK, I'm just smarting off, and there goes my "G" rating for the day. To paraphrase Jessica Rabbit: "I'm not evil, I'm just rendered that way." I don't really think that way or want more movies of that nature, just that All Miramax, All The Time would grow tiresome quickly.
In any case, I think gaming is still in its relative infancy. Time will tell if we've achieved
There is talk of techies wanting the creative vision of Hollywood, and Hollywood wanting to use the tech of games. That isn't really true or fair - moviemaking is all about creating a FIXED story in a reality of their own creation, with a perfectly rail driven story that can be interpreted in different ways, but only HAPPENS in one precise way as they present the story to you. The better games, as it has developed over the last few years, is all about letting you run around in a world of their creation, but largely creating your own story within their world. Look at the GTA series - you can play their storylines, with the twists you add due to your choices and ingenuity and skill (or lack thereof), but you can also freely roam the world as you choose.
What they DO have in common is world creation. THAT is their common bond, but what they do with it is quite quite different.
Note that GTA's success comes not from the preset storylines, but from how it allows you to wander not just off of it, but blow it off entirely and roam wild (sometimes REALLY wild).
Somewhere in there, in the world creation, creation of a setting, time, place, and tone, is where the game/Hollywood thing could really pay off. But neither side has done a great job of encompassing the skills of the other. There are only a few great game making individuals, and the public does not recognize them the way they recognize Spielberg, Lucas, Wachowski or Coen brothers, etc.
OK, EOR (end of rant).
Saturday, October 22, 2005
I'd been hoping this would encompass more of the REALLY future of distribution stuff, future stuff was certainly touched on but more time was spent on current distribution issues, for getting films made now distributed.
Turns out this was really interesting for how to get a current movie distributed, and some of the quirks involved, and the pitfalls of theatrical distribution.
So here's my raw notes from the panel:
Dallas based guy - gotta have an understanding of the distribution end and what sells
-went into theatrical distribution about 6 months ago,
John Martin - Pres/partner/CEO Alamo Drafthouse - (and somebody I used to work with at frogdesign. Great, GREAT guy, and I'll spare sharing the story involving a late night, the next day, and a piano. It's a good one, though. : D )
-started in mailroom of Orion
-worked in creative side/development
-Sony, Jersey Films
-big fan of the Alamo, so bought the chain w/a partner (Alamo Drafthouse picked as # 1 theater for doing cool new stuff in the country recently in a major magazine that I can't think of the name of at the moment)
-intent is to have a distribution run of some coolindie stuff, stuff that won't find it's niche in the AMCs & Regals of
Kelly Sanders of 2929
Truly Indie Program - programs that don't get regular distribution, will assist to get distribution, help get the film out up to 20 markets, started with 3 films: Tennis Anyone? is one film, Fall to Grace, Cavite
Michael Barlow - Paramount Classics - in a state of flux at the moment
-woked with the archives, became a reader, was a writer, producer, working with paramount classics for the last 6 years on creative & acquisition sides
-Sho West, until there is an incentive for the smaller venues, $180K to update, nobody is going to do it until it drops, the outlet is really getting it onto smaller digital. They have 2000 lumen projectors
Landmark's (Cuban's) 1st quarter 06 - looking to go high def productions
-digital post production is becoming more standard, no longer a prohibitive cost
-shooting on digital isn't as important as digital post production
Michael Barlow - "conventional lab processing post production will not last very long, and is probably not a smart way to spend your money in independent filmmaking."
-real argument for digital projection is the cost of prints being deferred for the hard copies
-inefficient economics for the huge run of prints for the
-horrors of digital projection that doesn't happen with 35mm projection
Barlow again - "until the technology absolutely settles, it is a very dangerous thing to retrofit for $160K and then have some guy in Wisconsin come up with a better system"
$30K for filmout on a feature
-Video iPod - Barlow again - and off the Internet in general - building constituencies and audiences, but the anewr is that the actual way that somebody receives something other than the theater, there may be 15 ways to do that - how and will theatrical distribution survive"
-it is how you connect with the people that are interested in seeing what you've done
-the immediate opportunity is from the marketing standpoint - downloadable trailers has been a boon for the marketing efforts
-on shortening the release window
John Martin on Piracy and on exhibitor side - "here's a product and how long will it last out there" - trying to draw the largest group possible at all times - if it goes to DVD, that whittles down the # of people that will be open to see it. They try to have a series of events that works out to free marketing
-2929 is going to try out Bubble from Soderbergh on DVD at a premium price on same day as theatrical release
-Barlow has been thinking about this - it affects art house more than anybody else - in LA, 4 weeks ago, 2046 opened at the theater, the snotty video store had been selling for 3 weeks before, a beautiful Hong Kong Region 1 DVD of 2046. Many Asian films are available on DVD Region 1 before theatrical here. Sales for BOTH DVD and theatrical have been strong, "a fold in kind of effect" - to spend $35 on the Criterion on The Mood for Love after seeing 2046.
The downside is if you look at how arthouse theater started - "you could only see the movie on that day at that theater, otherwise you wouldn't get a chance to see it" - that created a film community by forcing them to come same time/same place. You could sustain and build on that. Build events around that. DVD revolution has completely changed that. The big challenge is to do what Alamo has done - to create events to go see it in a communal setting rather than the home theater. The challenge is to make it sustainable & ??.
Self promotion - spend marketing dollars on Amazon.com or NetFlix OR do a small, short theatrical run? If had $500K, how would you spend it? It is a narrative feature film. Barlow thinks the problem with theatrical distribution, and it's more acute every week, releasing it in other cities has very little purchase on distributors. It did great in Chicago doesn't give you much sense of 'wow I can do something with this picture.' Means relase NYC or LA. $50K to $100K goes to bad placement of ads in NYTimes and get it slammed in a review. Getting theatrical release NYC/LA is "incredibly ineffective"
Use the festival circuit - it has become a magnet for stuff. Go to festivals, try to win awards, the cumulative effect of five festivals is a LOT more effective to do a one week run in LA or NYC.
Internet becomes your strongest tool in terms of building audiences and connecting to audiences. Do anything you can to do get the email address of folks who see it to encourage their friends to see it.
"Amazon is an incredible model for all these kinds of efforts."
A lot of movies don't do posters, postcards, publicist, etc. If you're doing fetivals, do it RIGHT at a festival and have a campaign to raise awareness in the festival circuit. Get a critical review. Theatrical, DVD, or festival are the only venues to get a critical review done. Those get distributors attention to get considered for a
Top 10 markets is around $80K. If you can get distro, get it. Each company only has so much money to spend. There are some good films that go through festivals and don't get picked up, but they do get limited release to get reviews to use THAT as marketing for the DVD release.
Barlow on distributor's side of the equation: there are only so many slots. They picked up Winter Solstice and released it this year, and virtually no one saw it. The problem is that people within the business may have seen it, the problem is nice little movies, there are 9 little indies in NYC every weekend, and very little that tells an audience there's a compelling reason to see it. The pic becomes even more of a loss leader, and a harder case to get it into other cities, but makes it tougher to get stuff out there. House of Games had a horrible death in first theatrical release, and tested horribly (since people were disturbed by ending). Figures for theatrical were QUITE dissapointing. As it hit cable, HBO, VHS, and now it is perceived as a successful movie as having done well."It didn't" Money was lost on the theatrical release.
Eventually those movies get seen, somewhat, and eventually the producer would like to get PAID for those models.
W/in 2929, they don't make money theatrically, they make the money on DVD. Never seen a P&L that COUNTS on making money theatrical.
having something open in NYC to trigger a video payoff, is increasingly self defeating and impossible
Indies being able to distro on HD DVD and Blu Ray? Cost being prohibitive? Barlow - no idea - nobody gets the model right from the get go. Economic model evolves out of the marketplace. Very hard to tell how indies will work. The analogy is that there are any # of singer/songwriters and bands that were poor due to no distro, now they send out emailings, and sales, and penetration, without big 3 distro through their self marketing efforts. Big 3 distros are struggling to figure out how to get out there. EVERYTHING is on Amazon or allmusic.com. You can find any piece of music you want to find in 2 minutes.
Marketing is the biggest hurdle. If you go to a constituency, watchers will adopt you - I want to see Lucas & Coppola products in the 80s. Festivals due the same thing - "if you like this, you might like this too" - if that can be associated with a movie, that's a good thing
2929 package - get marketing assistance, get advertising at their rates, get folks at 2929 and Landmark looking at your title and get feedback about the appropriate market for different cities in terms of where your best shots. After theatrical, they may get into video/DVD division, but they are looking into it. They DO maintain the rights - the filmmaker maintains the rigths for DVD sales.
Mad Hot Ballroom - originally the focus was to make a movie about the teachers. The competition and the kids were taking over the interest - "The darth vader school in forest hills" - Sundance turned it down since they had too many dance films. SlamDance liked it and made it the opening film. Paramont Classics was restricted on what they could bid. They were allowed to bid aggressively so they got Hustle & Flow and Mad Hot once set free to bid competitively.
10 minutes of the movie was brought down over the next few months. Wanted to build as much viral interest, teaachers, dance group, etc. to build as much audience as possible. The marketing of it was a matter of marketing off the strength of the film. It was good that Spellbound that had already done well that opened up eyes to the possibilities. Indie docs can have more heat - Capturing the Friedmans changed the landscape. Everyone expected to be lectured to about something they already knew.
If you're looking for what will change the technology, look for what changes creatively - Jaws, Star Wars, Gone With the Wind, etc.
Q: Biggest obstacle to indie filmmakers - what's the biggest dilemna?
A: as an indie producer - a.) Money, b.) Cast. A distributor has to market your film. Some films will find an audience, but ultimately you're marketing the names & faces on the poster or DVD cover. Biggest challenge is to compete a marketable cast against the studios. Finding somebody known, working below usual rate, available to shoot when you have the money to make it, is tough.
A: 2929 answer - indie's die of anonymity - distros look and say how am I going to build a campaign around it? Sometimes they decide to anyway, but it is tough. With so many films made and never distributed. Barlow says cast is most pivotal issue. So many indies feature good actors that aren't good enough, or one actor that sucks and pulls down the rest of the film. De Niro & Keitel anchored the work of the NY indies from popular perception, not the Scorsese and De Palma's etc. there's a lot of promising work out there, that is good, but that isn't ENOUGH to compel folks to get out there and see a movie. Not just marketability, the actor has to deliver ENOUGH. Not having names is a handicap.
Interesting to note how much I focus on tech, and business, etc. in all this, and so much from panelists comes back to story, performance, emotionally compelling stuff.
-Woman Thou Art Loosed was a movie Barlow saw. Extraordinary performance by the lead woman, he enjoyed it and liked it, he thought the NYTimes would hate it, since he didn't know how to market it in NYC or LA. Didn't look up how much money that made. If you can find a constituent audience that likes your film, you're hugely ahead. There has to be SOMEBODY that has passion to go see your film. they should have paid attention to this- "everybody missed the boat with the Passion" - they didn't know how to associate and work church groups with Paramount, they couldn't think about how to make that work
-Q: Stars and faces - what about Napoleon Dynamite? A: "they did discover a star, maybe a weird little star" ND may be a lightning in a bottle phenomenon - it only happens once, or at least can't be reliably reproduced. That kind of performance doesn't usually happen with a lot of folks. It is a harder thing to break, and they had an fortunately good performance.
-ND - ran about 400 different screenings, lots of underground performance, had to discover the audience, and then RAN with it.
-using the internet to discover your audience is incredibly useful tool - feedback!
-there are very few websites that connect that well as ??? (unknown site)
-those who think that if you get it distro'd, you'll get paid, may be sadly mistaken.
get a distributor to PAY, whatever the terms are going in, change over time
GOSH, this all sounds like a horrible business to be in.
-exhibition has never been a business run by nice people
John Martin -if we had a guy in charge of shut down locations to try to buy those
Q: how important is a producer's rep
A: Schloss has become a major force in American film culture. Jeff Dowd is incredibly valuable as well. Most pix have gravitated towards one of the 5 or 6 people were talking about, and if it works, it is certainly worth having. Having Schloss involved is a strong backing cue - paid more attention to than non-Schloss stuff. A good film rep will create a good screening situation. If Barlow wants to see if first, and "John (Schloss) doesn't want to do that." it is the end of the conversation, even for Barlow.
-IPTV - VOD - is huge about looking at the landscape of distro of indie films. It's that interface - if it is iTunes that is the searching mechanism for music, the content as far as who owns the films, but HOW the consumer gets to the product is of interest. Major cable companies are working on better VOD.
Q: What kind of access to indies have to participate in that flow?
A:There are smaller players that are getting involved - West Park Foundries that has been licensing, have a relationship wtih set top box Akimbo - they license the film on a non-exclusive basis, and we'll pay you per download. Can access 10,000 titles - why go to a video store?
Friday, October 21, 2005
I have a question as you're putting together info on your service. If you know you're going to send a project to a colorist, what's the best way to shoot it? My cameras have cine settings--one of which seems to try to give a film like appearance out of camera, the other seems to flatten everything to preserve detail. Is it best to should just standard video, standard gamma, maybe with edge detail turned down? What about rough edit? Try to get colors close? Trust the colorist? I'm just planning on the future and I'd love to see your service and rate structure as soon as possible. I have a 30 minute program I'm thinking of sending out if I can afford it.
There are two schools of thought, as a post guy you can probably guess where I fall.
Method 1: Shoot it like you want it. Light, expose, etc. as your DP wants it to be. With a good DP, this gets you all or almost all of the way there. The catch is that if you over or underexpose, if there's no detail in the media (be if film or video), you're hosed. Typically, you're worried about overexposing video and underexposing film.
Method 2: Shoot it flat, trust the colorist. And by flat I mean catch all the detail you can in the highlights and shadows. If you want a dark, murky, shot, sure - shoot it that way. But if you want to be able to roll some detail back into it, have some shadows, but have some detail in there that can be rescued. The better the format (the less compression and noise), the better your chances at being able to push it further in post.
There are limits to this approach, obviously. For vanilla, "normal" scenes, the shoot flat and color later works great. If you're trying for a particularly harsh or stylized or extreme look, consult colorist and DP for best approach.
For instance, in film it is common to change a shirt's color. In DV, this is an almost impossible (or really really difficult) request. HDCAM SR originated material can be "bent" or "pushed" further than if you shot the same scene with HDV, for instance.
Digibeta better than DVCPRO 50 better than DV.
HDCAM SR better than D-5 better than HDCAM better than XDCAM HD (next year) better than DVCPRO HD better than HDV.
So if you KNOW you're going to have a good colorist, shoot flat and trust him. If you KNOW you're going to have a GREAT DP, trust him to get it right in the first place. As with anything, there are extremes where this rule of thumb won't work, so discuss your plans with both to hammer out a workflow. Certain looks are more easily, or rarely only, possible from one talent or the other.
More and more, the DP wants to be there during color correction and DI workflow to preserve the integrity and intent of his work.
A lot of DPs hate trusting the colorist, makes them feel like a technician. Then again, colorists doing minor tweaks to footage feel the same way. It's a matter of whose creativity, talent, tools, and vision you trust more. There's a slider between ways to approach these things, but realize that some things are only doable at one end or the other. You can't relocate light sources in post, but you can change colors of some things. Get familiar with what's possible in Photoshop without using advanced magic wand selections and you'll have a better idea of what's doable.
Panels - good.
BBQ party - awesome - lots of good contacts, saw Harold Ramis, Tim McCanlies, tons of others. Even got a ride to the movie from the head of the Texas Film Commission. What service!
Movies - Ice Harvest - dark, but fun, recommended. Oliver Platt and John Cusack a joy to see on screen. Billy Bob - does bad guys well. Connie Neilson - even Harold Ramis said she was channeling Veronica Lake, but she said she was thinking Jessica Rabbit (who is hot).
Saw Stomp! Shout! Scream! movie from guy who did Teen Aqua Force Hunger Team or whatever it is called. Whatever it is that makes a coherent movie a movie, this lacked. One star. Don't! Go! See!
Tired and to bed. My Shooting HD panel is tomorrow.
I'm attending the Austin Film Festival this weekend and next week, and will be reporting on panels and movies over he next week or so.
Along those lines, saw Shop Girl last night with Steve Martin & Claire Danes - WOW, really good, touching, smart, warm, REAL, highly recommend when it hits theaters soon. NOT creepy having those two together, tastefully done. I've heard of some complaints about 50+ Martin with 26 Danes, I didn't have a problem with it. Then again, I'm 37, just about in the middle and can relate to both.
That was last night, but two interesting things today:
1.) Talked to Christopher Cargill of Aint It Cool News and he had an interesting theory that made total sense about the iPod video and the downloadable TV shows Lost & Desperate Housewives. I had been talking about how those were just starter kits to test out the tech and get Hollywood one step closer to downloadable movies, he said it's that but even moreso - by choosing to make the TV shows that are storyline based, they're getting additional viewers. Think about it this way - Lost & Desperate Housewives are storyline based - if you miss an episode or two, you're less likely to watch the show. If you miss an episode, you are stuck either waiting for reruns or, after the season is over, watching the DVDs. They can't really release the DVDs right after the initial release, it's too complicated for various reasons. But now, the day after they run the initial episode, you can download the episode and catch up. If you've missed all of it so far, you can catch up, and watch it either on your computer, your iPod, or your TV (connected to the iPod). So if they can get people to catch up, they are more engaged, and more likely to watch week by week. The get hooked - 22 million viewers a week. So the $1.99 is CHEAP if it gets them an audience. They aren't worried about that $1.99, they are worried about their broadcast advertisers. So it gets them an audience week by week. The cop shows, which are pretty much interchangeable week over week, don't matter in this fashion - you can watch any given episode and it is freestanding. I'm out of touch with Lost, but I might be catching up now.
2.) Caught the tail end of the Film School panel. The tradeoffs - the traditional schools like USC are like mirrors of Hollywood litself - you compete for the opportunity to shoot. So you get schooled in the present tense of the film industry. What you DON'T get in that context is how to make your own indie film in the New School way. The old school gets you contacts and networking and peer review and feedback and discipline to know things like the sweet spot of a boom mike. But my indie New Stuff attitude makes me wonder if they will learn about Digital Intermediates, and the possibilities of HD, HDV, working with Final Cut and After Effects rather than Avid and some really Really Expensive Workflows. Ideally, you'd get both. I don't know of a school that does that, but if _I_ were in school, that's what I'd be looking for. Are you looking to get into the filmmaking BUSINESS? Go to USC. If you're looking to learn how to viably make your own indie with the bestest newest techniques? I don't know where, but that's what I'd want.
OK, I'm half listening to Shane Black talk about character development right now, so I'm not phrasing this as well as I could. But try to read through my mess and see what matters there.
XServe RAID Admin has been updated to v1.5, now includes some options to disable cache flushing which could lead to frame dropping during capture.
Unless there are some problems reported, this sounds like a must have.
With the announcement of the Kona LHe, there is now an uncompressed SD/HD board that'll be a great fit for these machines. I'd expect a Kona2e or similarly named PCIe version of the Kona2 at some point in the future as well, but no announcement has been made at this time.
The big holdup is SATA cards - I've now received roundabout indirect confirmation that both Firmtek and Sonnet don't have any suprise PCIe cards to whip out today, and it would APPEAR (no proof) that neither has started development of such a card at this time, since they had about as much solid info on PCIe Macs as we do reading the rumor boards. Yikes! Apple plays it very close to the vest with new hardware developments, so bigger key vendors, like AJA, get to know development plans and get pre-release boxes to develop on (how else could they announce PCIe cards today?), but smaller vendors like Sonnet and Firmtek aren't allowed in on that kind of secret info. So now they have to convert current hardware to PCIe or make new products based on PCIe. Again, I don't know their inner workings, that is just how it seems based on the lack of announcements and my general knowledge of who does and doesn't get inner circle access with Apple.
So how long will it take to get PCIe SATA cards to market?
Answer 1: I don't know.
Answer 2: based on a seemingly knowledgeable reader email who suggested PCIe boards can use modified PCI-X drivers, the driver question may not be too hard, but getting new hardware up and rolling takes some time. Personally, with no info from the vendors, my gut guess (and it is a non-qualified, non-informed, non-fancy book learnin' GUESS) is that i'd be surprised to see shipping SATA cards before 3 or 4 months. I'd think it about on schedule to see products announced at MWSF or sooner, with actual working cards in regular consumers hands somewhere between February and April. That's right, I could see it taking that long based on time to market I've seen with other products. This does, however, open the door for any Windows PCIe SATA card manufacturer to come in and whip out some Mac drivers for their existing products. I don't know the key players on the Windows side, but I hope they see the opportunity and jump on it. In that case, maybe by MWSF in mid January 2006? Again, this is all WAG (wild-assed-guessing).
Short answer - don't expect or depend on buying a SATA card for a PCIe Mac in 2005.
Proposed idealized indie-on-a-budget hardware/software recommendation:
So for now, it looks like a $2000 Mac, maybe $400 in RAM, Final Cut Studio for $1300, a Dell 23" monitor on sale ($800), a Kona LHe for $1800, some future unannouced PCIe 8 port SATA card for $300, 8 300 GB drives for about $1600, SoftRAID for $100, a coupla 4 bay SATA enclosures (Burly Box from MacGurus or similar), and a 17" JVC broadcast HD monitor with component board ($2300), and you've got yourself an uncompressed HD editing suite (plus various cables and whatnot). Total price? About $11,000 and you can cut yourself a shortish feature if you're careful and plan right and rent decks (at additional cost) for just the times you need them. Cut it, master it, and make yourself a DVD or high def DVD master too. Nah, add another $1500 or so for more storage for breathing room to really start being viable - so about $12,500. Want backups on all that data? Add another two grand or so.
What's with this JVC HD monitor all of a sudden? We've been using the 19" JVC HD broadcast monitor (model # to be inserted later when I dig it out, but it is their top end model), and pretty much liking it. A lot. It does SD & HD, 24p, 50i, and 60i. That's right, it'll do 24p in HD, which used to be reserved for only high end monitors costing MUCH more. Our 19" was something like $2600 with the component/RGB board. After recommending HDLink and an Apple 23" for a long time (or possibly the lower cost Dell), I'm realizing this solution costs about the same or slightly more, and makes much better sense. The HDLink is great for seeing super fine details, but is difficult to calibrate (understatement, although I haven't tried with latest drivers) and if you want to KNOW what it's going to look like on a broadcast monitor, just get you one now that they are so much more affordable for 24p capable HD broadcast unit. Would I trust this to make color critical decisions? If properly calibrated, so far I'd say yes I do trust it that much - MUCH moreso than an HDLink & Apple 23.
Ideally, I'd like to have both - an HDLink/Apple 23" combo AND the 19" JVC HD monitor. I'd trust color on the JVC, but analyze fine details on the LCD panel. The 3:2 pulldown is annoying on the Apple since it is an inherently 60Hz device. The JVC appears to run at 48Hz and double buffer the 24p image. There is some definitely flicker, but motion is smoother and truer on that compared to any HDLink attached monitor for 24p.
Sexual content is typically one of the first to take advantage of any new distribution medium. Printing presses, videotape, DVDs, Internet, and now video on iPod.
Careful who sees that screen...
First up, he had some 720p30 footage. Plugged in FireWire, selected 720p30 from the Easy Setup, all a breeze - captured just fine, Auto Scene Detection worked great.
Then, they went outside and shot some 720p24 outdoors. I had known previously that the 24p mode was not supported, but I didn't realize exactly HOW unsupported it was. I had forgotten some stuff I'd known back at NAB about how the JVC worked with 24p - its really 24p on a 60p datastream, vaguely akin (but different) to what the Varicam does. It is NOT, however, the same, AT ALL, as the way the DVX 100A or XL2 works with Advanced Pulldown - that is encoding 24p on a 60i, not 30p, data stream. But I was thinking at the time that it was going to, that I'd see SOMETHING on screen with a pulldown pattern or something.
End result was this - when I tried to capture 720p24 footage from the GY-HD100U, I got NOTHING AT ALL on screen. Nada/zip/bupkis. Unfortunately, I didn't have a copy of the beta of LumiereHD to try to capture and mess with it, the client had to take their camera with them.
So be duly warned - you cannot, at all, whatsoever, in any fashion at all, capture 720p24 footage from the JVC GY-HD100U into Final Cut Pro version 5.02 AT ALL. You get nothing.
Right now, the beta of Lumiere HD is the only application I'm aware of to get footage into FCP at all, and it is not the usual capture dialog window way, either - there's some additional steps involved.
They are the second house to support both formats. This is an improvement, but still not a win. What if one format fails in the market and that is the player you bought?
I'm behind on my news, there was another article recently about analysts picking Blu Ray to win.
The major issue now is the face off between Sony & Microsoft as to whether Blu Ray will support Mandatory Managed Copy, a legal way to rip Blu Ray discs to your hard drive in a protected, DRM controlled fashion so you can watch the discs on your home theater PC or computer.
Stop and think about it a minute - we copy stacks of CDs to iTunes or a media server, yet why are, or should, DVDs be any different if we are doing it legally in our own house?
More coverage on the Warners move here as well.
Thursday, October 20, 2005
Especially of note: it works with 1080i60 HDV to convert it to 24p. I've been planning on doing a full review, so keep watching for that, but in the meantime feel free to play with it yourself.
ps - version 2.5.1, latest. I hate it when demo versions are old/buggy
The HD cards (the DeckLink HD line) are not too far behind, either.
Multibridge is also very close to shipping, I'm looking forward to receiving mine and posting all about it on the site.
All good news. It would appear Apple gave Blackmagic plenty of heads up notice about the PCIe Macs and they must have had some to play with to be this close to shipping product for the PCIe systems.
Watch for an official press release in the near future.
Then this afternoon, when driving home, I got into a car accident. Without documenting culpability, let's just say the front of my car got too friendly with the back of someone else's. Poor young woman was all shaken up and crying and holding the back of her head, so I gimped it across the street to the fire station (this 5 blocks from my house) and got the firemen out pronto.
Turns out it looks like she's fine, just shaken up. Her bumper is scruffed up. My car's pointy nose is now not nearly so pointy, the hood doesn't line up, and the passenger door won't open without pinching metal in a very non-promising way. Or at least promising to cost $$$$ to fix. But it'll be fine, insurance will handle it.
But I'm kinda cool with all this. With both events, I just dealt with it and didn't get upset, didn't get frustrated, didn't get all bummed out about it.
Is it because of all the cool new toys that have been intro'd this week? Probably not, although they are awfully cool.
But I'm just glad that my life, crazy as it is right now, is just "going to be OK" in my head, I'm not freaking out. I like that part.
An old friend dropped by from out of town (LA), an indie doc maker and we chatted about his project, his new hobby (hang gliding), our lives and whatnot. We sat in chairs in the back yard and enjoyed the beautiful day. I'm behind on a bunch of stuff, I'm missing conference panels today, but its OK.
This story has no point, just felt like writing about it.
I guess the point is that I really value having some equanimity and balance in my life, and trying to focus on what's really important - the true quality and happiness of my life, not just stuff and goals.
-19" broadcast monitor
-SD & HD
-16:9 and 4:3
-the biggie: native 24p support for HD
-price: roughly $2600 with component baord
That last is a major point - when I first did research into HD 24p capable monitors a couple of years ago, 24p was strictly a super high end capability. Now, with 24p HD being much more common, JVC's solution is pretty reasonable.
They also have a 17" version that is a few hundred dollars less expensive, all the better for indies.
So far we are liking this monitor. We have a noticed a couple of small issues when working with a pitch black image in a pitch black room in certain modes on the monitor, but other than that we are liking it a lot, especially for the price.
So I'm now officially changing my recommendation for indies doing their own post if they can afford this solution- rather than a $600 DeckLink HD, a $700 HDLink, and a $1300 Apple 23" Cinema Display (or a $800ish brighter Dell) for a total of $2600, I'd say get the $1000 DeckLink HD Pro Single Link and a 17 (or 19" if you can afford it) JVC with the component/RGB board for about $3300.
Your extra $700 gets you CERTAINTY that you're seeing the correct colors.
If you want to see all the detail of your HD signal, then get both - you can run both simultaneously off of a DeckLink HD Pro Single Link, and judge critical color off the HD broadcast monitor.
Well, I mentioned in another article today, but it deserves it's own mention - Blackmagic Designs' DeckLink Extreme PCI Express card works with the new G5s, so if you need SDI I/O or better than FireWire based monitoring for your 24p 16:9 SD masterpiece, here's what to get with the new Macs. It can also downconvert HD content to SD as well, so could be a lower cost monitoring solution as well if you can't afford/don't have an HD monitor. Then you only have to worry about color space differences - HD uses the 709 color space, which represents a slightly different range of colors than the standard def 601 color space.
No HD PCIe card shipping from them as yet, we're still waiting on the Multibridge Extreme with PCIe "stub" (or whatever they officially call it) to ship for HD I/O with PCIe Macs.
In short, this looks like the new Killer Card To Have for almost everyone. It does hot and cold running video of practically every imaginable flavor - SD, HD, analog, digital, compressed, uncompressed, accelerated effects for everything FCP accelerates, everything. I literally can't think of a reasonable video device or flavor that this thing can't handle. All FireWire based media, all SDI and HD-SDI based media, as well as analog media for composite, s-video and SD & HD component.
The only possible limitations I can even think of are twofold:
1.) No RGB 10 bit 4:4:4 input/output - that is reserved for the Kona2, and frankly would be a pretty rare need for 99% of editors & facilities, only if they needed to interface with a $100,000 fully loaded and upgraded HDCAM SR deck.
2.) that it only has two XLR channels, and I'd have to think pretty hard about when that would be a realistic limitation.
(update - unlike the Kona2, this unit can downconvert HD to SD but not upconvert SD to HD)
Price is $1790, so that's entirely reasonable as well.
What is it's competitor? For the moment, BlackMagic's Multibridge Extreme with PCIe interface is as close as you can get. It is an external box with a PCIe interface and should ship around the same time AJA's product does (in theory - it is months late already). It does a few more things as an external box, it has more audio I/O it would appear, and also handles 4:4:4, and also does some stuff as a standalone box with no Mac required which is pretty cool too. It costs $2500, but it pretty much IS a breakout box (all the crucial guts are in the rackmountable box, the part in the computer is strictly interface).
I would guess they will have a PCIe version of the DeckLInk HD Pro Single Link, which is presently $1495 for the PCI-X version, available as PCIe in the not too distant future, at which point that would be the closest thing to the Kona LHe. For $300 less, you don't get the analog input, just some analog output (no s-video). So no BetaSP or other analog deck can be captured from without some kind of converter being used. But no PCIe version announced at this time, so no dice.
At present, I like the Kona2's output controls more than the BlackMagic DeckLink HD Pro Dual Link's - the controls per output are more granular, you can configure more precisely. Or at least the interface makes it appear that way, that there are more choices with the AJA (my opinion based on experiences to date).
It's also worth noting, by the way, that it would appear that the whole "you have to get the right G5" thing may be a thing of the past with these PCIe machines - so far I see nothing that would keep ANY of these machines from being valid for HD uncompressed work, even the $2000 entry level PCIe G5. Excellent news! It will be very very interesting to do some hands on testing to see if there are practical differences between a 2.0 and a 2.3 in terms of realtime performance - will there be a scenario where you can get one more color correction in real time during a cross dissolve that'll run full res full speed vs the other box or not? I fully expect the quad processor box, with whatever changes come next NAB, to be able to do SIGNIFICANTLY more RT stuff than the other two. Time will tell. And I don't expect the current v5.02 of FCP to take full advantage of what the quad can offer.
Full AJA press release follows:
AJA Announces KONA LHe 10-bit Uncompressed Video Capture Card for
New Power Mac G5 PCI Express Line
Grass Valley, CA (October 20, 2005)— AJA Video, a leading manufacturer of professional
video interface and conversion solutions, today announced the KONA LHe, a new PCI Express
version of the popular KONA LH. Identical in feature set to the KONA LH released one month
ago, the KONA LHe is a 10-bit uncompressed video capture card that supports editing on the new
PCI Express Apple G5 Power Macs with Final Cut StudioTM. Reinforcing the company’s
commitment to supporting the latest hardware upgrades, AJA is introducing the KONA LHe as
Apple prepares to debut its new PCI Express line of Power Macs. KONA LHe is the only PCI
Express (PCIe) card available for OSX and Final Cut Studio that provides a cost-effective, single-
card HD/SD analog and digital I/O solution with the superior broadcast quality for which AJA is
"PCI Express is much more than a new interface slot—it is an entirely new motherboard
architecture with dramatically improved bandwidth,” commented John Abt, CEO, AJA Video
Systems. “The combination of Apple's incredible new G5 Power Mac, and AJA's KONA LHe will
bring a new level of performance to desktop digital video."
KONA LHe will ship worldwide on October 31st, 2005, with a list price of $1790 US. KONA LHe
has the same feature set as the KONA LH, but with the new high-performance PCI Express bus
interface for use in Apple’s new line of Power Macs. The KONA LH remains available for non
KONA LHe Feature List:
• PCI Express compatible
• 10-bit Uncompressed SD/HD QuickTime Capture Card
• SD/HD/Analog (Component/Composite/S-Video)(HD Analog Component-only)
• DVCProHD hardware acceleration
• HDV hardware acceleration
• Dynamic RT Extreme hardware acceleration
• High-quality 12-bit Video A/D and D/A converters
• SDI or HD-SDI Input, 2 Independent SDI/HD-SDI Outputs
• 10-bit Hardware HD to SD Down-conversion
• 2-channel AES and 8-channel Embedded Audio
• 2-channel Balanced XLR Analog Audio
• HD/SD Genlock
• RS-422 Machine Control
• Final Cut Pro 5, Motion, After Effects, Combustion, and More
• Cables Standard, KL-Breakout Optional
• Three-year warranty
• Technical Support
Looks like the new dual core 2.3 GHz G5s (PCIe) are marginally faster than the dual processor 2.5 GHz G5s (PCI-X), but not as fast as a dual 2.7 GHz G5 (PCI-X) I would gather.
This is as expected - the dual core CPUs, with two CPUs on one chip, can share data faster than two separate chips communicating across an external bus.
all keep same res
20 stays same price, may get brighter/contrastier if using the same screen as the 20" new iMac (this is likely but not proven - maybe they'll sell out the remaining old ones and quietly replace with new ones)
23 drops $200 to $1299 (too bad, needs to drop more to be even reasonably competitive- I just missed the $783 price on Dell's 23 with SD/HD video input capability and VGA & DVI inputs. But of course, it is as pretty as any other Dell hardware...and all that that implies)
30 drops $500 to $2499. Definitely a good thing.
Details on Apple's new app for pro/serious photographers working with the RAW format.
Fast and easy with iPhoto like organization tools. Pretty cool.
-advanced RAW workflow
-compare & select tools
-nondestructive image processing (this is a biggie!)
-print & publish capablities
At first glance, looks like Apple is taking a serious shot at pushing Photoshop into growing up. Photoshop has become sort of like Word - it has been capable of the basic for quite some time, and nothing really better has come of it in a long time.
Maybe this will push them to grow up some more.
See Apple's Aperture page for more info.
The first part of the article is about the video iPod, and what it'll mean for future markets. The second part is about Google AdWords optimization which you can blow off, unless that kind of thing really makes your propeller beanie spin.
Anyway, read it for commentary on how Apple might or might not get into movie distribution with this stuff.
I definitely agree with him that the Lost and Desperate Housewives stuff is just a test, not a business.
I disagree with him about costs - if Hollywood media is distributed, people have to get their cut - actors, directors, etc. - so the true cost is not as low as he probably claims.
I disagree with him about Apple selling Sony monitors in Apple Stores - I could see Apple selling Sony product online, maybe, the same way they sell printers and speakers and such, but TVs in Apple Stores? Nope. For a variety of reasons - they are big and take up physical as well and mindshare space - does Apple want the dominant thing in an Apple Store to be a Sony display for sale? I don't think so. TVs are low margin items, and it wouldn't be a good use of Apple's floorspace. Plus, the new Front Row technology is a clear beacon of where Apple intends to go with consumer entertainment stuff. It just doesn't quite fit in my head to partner up that way.
Other than those quibbles, I think his analysis is right on and worth reading.
HP wants Mandatory Managed Copy on Blu Ray, same as HD DVD does. Microsoft and Intel announced support for HD DVD but NOT Blu Ray with this as one of the stipulated reasons.
The computer manufacturers used to have no skin in the game as to disc support. Now, with the possibility of the advent of a major market for home entertainment PCs, HP (and Dell the other week too), are pushing hard to make sure the market will allow for them to sell hardware that will cache and play back high def DVD content.
It is nice to see, in this instance, manufacturers fighting for consumer rights. However, I fully expect them to bend over backwards and accede to the studios demand that the formats be heavily protected, requiring ALL early adopter HDTV owners to replace their sets, as they don't include HDCP over HDMI (a secure digital connection to move the audio/video from player to receiver or TV).
Hi all - sorry to be so many hours late posting, have been in client meetings all day.
So, I was right - quad processor Macs are here, and one of my guesses was right - it is all PCIe. So your PCI and PCI-X cards won't go in here.
So what does that mean?
That means we need new toys - we need new storage interface cards (SATA or fiber channel), new HD capture cards, etc.
If you go check out AJA's site today, it says come back tomorrow for news - so I expect to see PCIe based HD capture cards to be announced.
BlackMagic has previously announced some pricier PCIe solutions with their Multibridge series, but they have yet to ship. It remains to be seen if they will announce some lower cost PCIe based solutions.
Apple lists a fiber channel card (2 gigabit, not four gigabit) for $599 that will interface with the existing XServe RAID.
The one gaping hole in this program, however, is the complete and utter lack of a PCIe SATA card with which to assemble and inexpensive SATA RAID capable of uncompressed HD throughputs.
Sonnet, Firmtek, are you listening?
Apple lists a 3-4 week delivery timetable for these G5s, so with the usual Apple Math Multiplier, I'll be agog if I get it before the end of the year. Apple has a long, LONG history of lying about ship dates on new high end boxes to Mere Mortals. YES, this means I've already ordered one - base RAM and hard drive, Airport & Bluetooth, Quadro FX 4500 graphics card (waaaaaaaaaay expensive, a $1650 bump up), and the fiber channel card to hook into the 5.6TB XServe RAID. Pricey - $5647. I'm looking forward to running a new version of Final Touch HD on it that should finally deliver realtime HD framerates to the broadcast HD monitor in the studio.
One other nice thing they've done is the addition of a SECOND 10/100/1000Base-T Ethernet connector. So SAN hookups no longer require a PCI-X card for the second Ethernet adaptor. A nice touch! As well as the 16x double layer SuperDrive.
RAM is "PC2-4200 DDR2 SDRAM (NECC) installed in pairs," crucial.com doesn't list these machines yet, and upgrading to 4GB RAM costs $700 additional from Apple.
There are also new PowerBooks with higher resolution screens, I'll address that at some future post.
But this is big news. The one dissapointment that I've seen so far is the render speed increases - they are claiming a 40% SD render speed increase, and a 60% SD encoding increase. SD encoding - as in MPEG-2 encoding? It's not clear what they mean.
I'd certainly expect the next version of FCP to take better advantage of the quad processor setup.
So I'd say it boils down to this - if you're editing in the near term, these boxes won't be reliably available. We haven't seen any HD cards (although I'm betting AJA has something very interesting tomorrow), and haven't seen any SATA solutions yet. And when those are announced, then they need to ship in accessible quantities, and then get some real world testing done on them to make sure they don't drop frames or anything crazy like that. Then and only then would it be a safe and wise decision.
Supposedly, the NEW dual core 2.0 and 2.3 GHz boxes are shipping in 1-3 days (we'll see), but if you are looking to do uncompressed HD not on an XServe RAID (such as planning on a SATA RAID), I do not, Not, NOT recommend those systems at this time.
Tomorrow I'll have more to say about the wisdom of buying a dual CORE (rather than dual PROCESSOR) G5 after I see AJA's new product lineup.
If you're looking to do FireWire based media (DV, DVCPRO, DVCPRO50, DVCPRO HD, HDV, ProHD), then these MIGHT be a decent solution for you. But you won't be able to monitor until you get a PCIe based SD or HD card. Again, look to AJA tomorrow. BlackMagic's website as of 4:48pm CST is unchanged, making no note of the new systems or hinting at new products forthcoming.
Other random thought - these should seriously, seriously, SERIOUSLY kick ass for Motion. I'm looking forward to running that on the Quadro FX card.
UPDATE: Got an email this morning correcting something I'd said - Matt Dowling, product manager for BlackMagic, sent me an email containing this:
We are actually shipping a PCIE version of our DeckLink Extreme card now - in fact we shipped at the end of September. Drivers are already available for this card on MAC and PC.
Just an FYI.
So my bad. I asked when those Mac drivers shipped and will append that info once I get a response.
DeckLink Extreme (PCIe or PCI) is a standard defintion card. So, forward progress IS being made in this regard, but so far only in SD, not HD.
Also, I checked in on the AJA page - no new updates...yet. But they supposedly are announcing something today, so I'll update when I see it.
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
higher res screens:
17" gets 1680x1050, same res as prior 20" screen
15" gets 1440x960 - isn't that about what the old 17" had?
12" still 1024x768
1.5 GHz for 12", 1.67 for the 15 & 17
longer battery life on 15 & 17 - an extra hour purportedly (5.5 hours)
SuperDrives all around, all the time
12" starts at $1500
5400 prm drives
5200 and 9700 graphics on 12 & 15/17
basically a small bump, the better screen res is the big feature
I don't know if you got the latest Film & Video Magazine, but I highly recommend it.
It talks about Nick, Kevin and I. Also, a nice little editorial mentioning Lumiere HD.
Here's the most interesting part of the HDV editing bit, a quote from Paul Saccone, product manager for FC Studio:
"If you take an HDV stream, whether you're doing color-correction or a 16-layer composite, we decompress all that video into a 4:4:4 color space, do our composites, and then do one single re-encode back down to HDV format. So you're only, ever, incurring one generation of re-encoding."
Wow! Why didn't they mention that in their HDV white paper. So the deal is, many have mis-interpreted lower quality due to Dynamic feature to artifacts. Indeed, I tried what Paul is talking about, compared it to going to uncompressed before a final render, and the HDV looks just as good either way. This is in my opinion a huge deal. As long as you stay in FCP of course because the moment you leave that app, the 4:4:4 color space magic isn't true anymore.
All interesting info. And check out that magazine, looks like I need to start subscribing to Film & Video - its that good - tons of very useful, advanced user info.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Dig through the forum for all the entries by Steve Mullen, and pretty much you can ignore everything else.
I think I know my stuff, and then I read stuff Steve has written.
Dude is ON.
He's been testing hands on, talking to JVC, and in general digging into the "how does it REALLY work" details of the camera.
For instance, read this golden nugget about how the FILMOUT mode on the JVC works, and how all the Cinegamma and other faux-film looks are not good for actual filmout.
If you're serious about HDV shooting, go read everything you can find that he's written.
Well, not Scott Kirnser directly, he's just linking to a 2002 article. But if you think showing a movie makes movie theaters money, you are sadly mistaken my friend. Read this to understand how the theater owners actually make their money.
All the basics.
From that article:
The first hint is a mention of the PowerPC 970MP processor into the MONster utility, which can be found into the Developer/Performance Tools/CHUD folder. As we could verify by ourselves, opening the MONster utility’s executable file in any text processing application and searching for “970MP” surprisingly returns a result.
If you’re still sceptic, make sure that your CHUD Tools are updated to version 4.1 then launch MONster utility and open the results display options, you will get a tray that shows, among other settings, 4 checkboxes which correspond to columns for 1, 2, 3 or 4 processors that should be displayed in the results page.
Since this was back in March, that lends me confidence that a simple recompile will get basic quad processor support, but code optimization is required to make it run WELL.
I'd bet money we're going to see quad processor (twin dual core processors) with PCIe tomorrow at noon EST.
And I feel more confident that Apple might soon release FCP 5.0.3 with quad processor support, as well as bumps for Shake, Motion, Compressor, etc.
I just got an email from Frederic Haubrich of LumiereHD that they have a downloadable (for paid customers) beta version of LumiereHD for 720p24, p25, and p30 for the JVC GY-HD100.
A bunch of other cameras and framerates are supported as well.
This is significant news, this is the first good solution to edit 24p HDV from the JVC that will work with Final Cut Pro. Their solution uses an offline/online workflow, and gives you lots of choices in how you want to work.
The one thing it does NOT do as yet is let you online your MPEG-2 footage in FCP 5.0 - a surprising missing feature, which I hope they'll resolve in the shipping version. This is just a beta, after all.
But for best results, you can offline in DV (or whatever codec you want), and do an online where you render out the results. You could always just use Media Manager and/or Compressor to convert that HD MPEG-2 footage to uncompressed 10 bit video and have some realtime performance that way as well.
So my hesitation in recommending the GY-HD100U is now somewhat allayed - there IS an editing solution for 720p24 footage, although it is not (yet) as simple and elegant as I'd like to see it be.
This may well end up being like last year, where LumiereHD is the only solution until NAB (April 2006) when Apple will hopefully get on the ball and have a native solution for this format.
But for $179, that's a bargain to have a solution 6 months early.
From their website:
Capture from following HDV devices:
- JVC GY-HD100 (720p30, 24, 25)
- JVC BR-HD50 (720p30, 24, 25)
- JVC JY-HD10U (720p30, HDV SD)
- JVC GR-HD1 (720p30, HDV SD)
- JVC GR-PD1 (HDV SD50p)
- JVC CU-VH1(720p30, HDV SD)
- SONY HDR-FX1(1080i60)
- SONY HDR-FX1(E) (1080i50)
- SONY HVR-Z1 (1080i50/60)
- SONY HVR-M10U (1080i50/60)
Converts the captured HDV clips into QuickTime friendly HD MPEG-2 video format via batch processing.
• Offers editors their codec of choice (DV, PAL, DVCPRO HD, etc.) to edit in Final Cut Pro's timeline, with all of the real-time benefits -- such as transitions, FX, and composites, without rendering. Also provides real-time playing and NTSC monitoring in DV.
• Automates the complete migration of captured HDV footage into Final Cut Pro, including:
- Generating XML File
- Importing clips
- Anamorphic (16:9) setting
- Merging of audio & video
- Online process optimization (Onlining is not yet supported in FCP 5.0)
• Encodes HD output from Final Cut Pro into HDV MPEG-2 Transport Stream and transfers back to HDV cameras and decks (not yet supported with JVC GY-HD100 & GY-HD50 in 24p & 25p)
Interesting commentary on the high def DVD war that I've been commenting on for a long time.
He talks about the strategic approach of the two formats, and how they didn't decide to pick a reasonable price and then fit the format to that, but chose a different path.
What the article DOESN'T respond to, and probably should, is that fact that other vendors, such as Microsoft, Apple, and others, are busy at work making optical media as a platform for content distribution obsolete with downloadable options.
To recap from the earlier posting, there are a number of things that will have to happen in order for Final Cut Pro users to see the full benefit of quad processor Macs with a PCIe (PCI Express) bus, should they be announced on Wednesday.
The event is scheduled right before a big photography event in NYC, so I'm betting that whatever new hardware they roll out, there will be an impressive Photoshop demonstration. Photoshop has long been trotted out as a "Macs are faster than PCs, really, we swear!" type of thing.
I'm now hearing rumors (I started writing this on Sunday) that a new Photoshop Lite type of application is expected from Apple. Hmm. That would oh so clearly be a shot at Adobe, as Photoshop has long been The Golden Standard of digital still manipulation for over a decade with no real competitor in over 5 years even trying to dislodge it.
If Apple makes a professional photo manipulation app, I would think that would put the possibility of Premiere coming back to Mac once Intel based Macs are available out of the question, and would probably put a dent in After Effects' long term prospects on Mac as well. A very dangerous game for Apple to be playing.
For the record, I have been told by someone that they were told by someone in a position to know that quad processor PCIe Macs have been seeded to certain developers for testing. And also, more importantly, to all my industry sources out there, I came to this knowledge without violating anyone's trust, without violating any NDAs, without passing on any information whatsoever that was shared in confidence, or in any way not treating everyone with respect and trust as I would like to be treated myself. This was a reader who was told by someone else passing this on, so I can't confirm that it is true, merely that I have been told this. But I believe it to be true. Whether those units are ready to ship, or will be announced tomorrow, I have no idea.
Fingers crossed - new Power Macs? New PowerBooks would be nice, but new PowerMacs with twin dual core processors and PCIe (PCI Express) bus would be oh so sweet.
BUT, if new PowerMacs do ship, there is a long list of prerequisites that must be met before these Macs can be useful for indie HD editing, and even further requirements to take full advantage of the power of the new machines.
OK, so one thing at a time.
What about quad processors?
In order to take full advantage of quad processors (actually use them for computational tasks), two things are required: the operating system has to recognize all four processors and be able to use them all at once. Then, on top of that, each application has to support and utilize the quad processor functionality. I have heard hints and bits about quad processor support in Tiger APIs (application programming interfaces), but I haven't heard any definitive statement that Tiger is ready for quad processor support. I haven't heard anything, anywhere, ever, about Final Cut Pro's ability to support more than two processors, but I would imagine it would be a matter of a recompile with a new compiler (part of the software development tools) and some code optimization to figure out how to best use four processors to accelerate things like transitions, decompressing and compressing codecs, rendering transitions and color corrections and effects, etc.
When the first dual processor G4 Power Macs shipped, only Photoshop could use them both, and only for certain functions. We might be facing a similar situation here.
So if new PowerMacs with quad processors are announced, that will be almost meaningless in the near term unless they tell us whether some of these pro apps that could really use the horsepower, like Final Cut Pro, Compressor, Shake, Motion, etc. are already prepared for quad processors (doubtful), or will have new versions available freely online (hopeful), and that those versions will be available soon, or whether we are waiting for the next major release for those to be ready (unlikely but possible).
I'd be very surprised if Apple launched new Macs and didn't have the software ready. But it could happen. So don't upgrade, for instance, until you KNOW it is going to be something you get the benefit of. If no new software to take advantage of it, strongly consider waiting to buy until there is software to use it fully - otherwise, what's the benefit of upgrading? Over time, prices will likely drop a bit, and first gen bugs will get fixed. To buy a brand new machine with new technology (new bus, new chips, new architecture in there), with no software to take advantage of it to make it worth the bugginess risk, is foolish. If you're buying a new system or only system, it may be something that you'll just get future benefit from and live with any possible teething pains.
What about this new PCIe (PCI Express) bus?
First off, to understand what PCIe is, you need to understand that it is very, VERY diferent from PCI and PCI-X. They are not intercompatible nor backwards compatible. Its a big leap, with big rewards.
Talking to a deep geek friend of mine, he said that there are several ways in which PCIe could be implemented. Three possibiliies:
1.) Apple implements PCIe only for the graphics card, and keeps PCI/PCI-X for the expansion slots.
RESULTS: faster graphics, but right where we were in terms of expansion stuff. Great for backwards compatibility, lame in terms of no new faster cards to fix some issues with PCI-X speeds (such as full frame rate performance in Final Touch HD).
2.) Apple goes clean sheet route - all slots are PCIe, and PCIe only
Results: faster graphics, faster bus for faster cards. Great long term, bad short term. Congratulations, all your existing cards are now defunct in the new box and you have to replace them all. There are no Mac PCIe SATA cards under development that I've heard of, and with good reason - there is no announced product to take advantage of them. More importantly, there are no shipping Mac PCIe HD cards on the market either. I've had my BlackMagic Multibridge Extreme on order seemingly forever, so that'll be my first PCIe device. But they announced at NAB and STILL haven't shipped yet. Harrumph. AJA has to date made no PCIe Mac product announcements, but I'd expect they'd be quick to respond, Apple has a history of sharing info with them. And AJA does have PC based PCIe cards they could write Mac drivers for.
3.) Apple does what many PC vendors do - a mix of PCI-X and PCIe
Results: This SOUNDS good, but might have issues. Likely scenario - a PCIe graphics slot, and then two each of PCIe and PCI/PCI-X. If they did that, I'd be very surprised if the two PCI-X slots did NOT share a common bus. That could make using your PCI-X SATA or fiber channel card and an HD card on the same bus not work. You'd need one or both of those two cards to be PCIe to get the speed you'd need. Apple hasn't shipped a six slot machine in YEARS, I'd be surprised if they went back to that now - there isn't much room in the current casing design for that kind of a system. Without separate buses per card, it might not be fast enough. But who knows? Maybe with the new architecture it'd be easy and inexpensive to have separate buses for those two PCI-X slots. Maybe Apple plans that well ahead, maybe not. Maybe they say to themselves "Well, they should be upgrading high performance stuff to PCIe anyway." Only Apple knows today, but we might all know tomorrow.
I'd expect that Apple would/should have PCIe cards for their XServe RAID products, but as for third parties? I don't have any solid info.
I've seen that AJA has some PCIe cards for Windows systems, and BlackMagic announced PCIe interfaces for their Multibridge products at NAB in April that STILL haven't shipped yet.
Then that makes me wonder whether companies like Sonnet and Firmtek have been trusted by Apple with the future product plans, or whether they would be too small fry to be brought into the inner circle of trust.
Firmtek seems too small to get that kind of scoopage.
Sonnet? Probably too small as well, even though they make what I consider to be vital tools for HD editors on a budget (Firmtek does too.)
AJA is definitely trusted with pre-release plans, of that I'm sure. BlackMagic probably now knows as well, but I don't know if they are as "in" as AJA seems to be.
Highpoint? No way.
SyncRAID? Not them either.
It does occur to me, however, that once Macs switch to Intel, it should be relative cake for some of the awesomely fast and cheap RAID card manufacturers to write drivers for Mac on Intel. Won't that be nice!
But it does come down to this: it might be entirely possible that new Macs ship, and Final Cut Pro would be ready to take full advantage of them, and if we're lucky there would be PCIe HD capture & output cards, but it appears very unlikely that there will be an 8 port SATA or eSATA card on the market anytime soon, and that suddenly commits you to a storage solution from Apple, IF they have PCIe fiber channel cards avialable, but you're looking at a greater than $10K storage solution, and that hoses the cost efficiency of the solution.
But who knows? There may be tons of related announcements cascading out after Apple's. This is just me being paranoid and cautious about what COULD go wrong. If I'm being overly concerned and all these fears are baseless, I'd be ecstatic. I just want to be SURE that there will be good solutions available before I buy, or recommend anyone buy, something new.
But one statement from Toshiba Digital Media Networks’ Hisashi Yamada was particularly intriguing: “We’ve gotten a variety of opinions about region controls. Even in the Steering Committee, they are extremely unpopular; we decided to not put them in. HD DVD probably won’t contain any region playback controls.”
Good. Region codes are just a hassle.
Monday, October 17, 2005
Read his blog entry, has a nice bullet point list of why this rocks. Under $1000, high quality audio with timecode sync.
A very nice widget.
see headline. Readers chip in with their experiences and comments on downloaded TV shows etc. Again, this is where Things Are Going In The Fyou-Chorr.
Mr. Mike source of all that is techy and good in the world of HD,
Is there a link that either proves or disproves that HDV is real HD? I've had a lot of my members ask me this, and since we're just starting to use HDV, it would be an awesome piece of info.
-Scott from SmartyPantsProductions.net
That's pretty much a religious question, with no One True Answer I'd say.
It all boils down to one's definition of what makes for "real" HD.
Is "real" HD 1920x1080 or 1280x720? Since the Varicam's DVCPRO HD format records 960x720, does that make it not real, since it is less than 1280x720? Is anything higher than 720x540 HD? Opinions vary.
As a FORMAT, HDV records 1440x1080 pixels to tape. Even though it is heavily compressed MPEG-2, I think one could make a reasonable argument that this should qualify as "real" HD in terms of resolution.
It also only records in the 4:2:0 color space, which isn't the same as the nominal/purportedly 4:2:2 of broadcast acquisition standards. But it can be quite reasonably argued that HDCAM only records 3:1:1 color space to tape, so 4:2:0 is at least a tie if not superior depending on how you argue. Obviously, HDCAM's 22ish MB/sec is vastly more data to work with than HDV's 3.2 MB/sec, but then the whole argument of codec efficiency gets into play, and by the end of it, all you've got is two engineering Ph.D's getting into a slappy fight, and who wants that? (Other than for entertainment value.)
As a CAMERA, all the currently shipping HDV cameras are best described as prosumer gear, not fully professional gear. Again, what is one's definition of professional? If you make your living with it, does that make it and you a professional level thing? The current HDV cameras are generating images that are not of the quality of the Sony 750 & 900 series cameras, not by a longshot. You see them side by side and say "Wow, that's totally different."
Would you consider an XL1 to be a professional SD camera? I think some would argue yes, others no. Do you consider it broadcast quality? Do you consider it good enough for network TV? Network TV reality shows? What are the bits and pieces that make up the definition of "true" or "real" HD? Is it HD-SDI outputs, a certain sensor resolution, type or number of sensors? XLR inputs and 24 hour timecode? Pixel res, color space, 24p support?
See? All the potential definitions are fuzzy...depending on where you are coming from, and how high you want to set the bar.
My opinion: HDV as a format should "count" as HD, but at the low end of the spectrum. The HDV cameras presently on the market are of low to middling quality compared to the Golden Standards of a few years ago (Sony F900 or 750), and those could be argued to not be "true" HD cameras, but again, it all depends on one's definitions, needs, and expectations. And of course, budget.
Especially with JVC's $30K HDV camcorder coming out in the not too distant future, definitions are fuzzy.
I'd say it is time to distinguish high end HD cameras from low end HD cameras, the same as is done with standard def cameras. Somebody's one chip Optura DV camcorder? Definitely not pro. A $25-$30K Panasonic (not Panavision as I mistakenly typed earlier) SDX-900, that is still shooting a DV variant (DVCRPO50) and does 16:9, 24p, XLR inputs, SDI outputs (I think..right?), interchangeable lenses, and 4:2:2 colorspace I would definitely call a pro piece of gear, but it still records on those little bitty tapes. (Yeah I'm cheating with DV vs DVCPRO50, but you get the idea.)
I'd imagine similar arguments came along when DV hit the market, and all the BetaSP and Digibeta camera owners called DV not a "real" format, either calling it not professional or not broadcast quality. I'd argue that there are now broadcast quality professional DV cameras on the market (even if there weren't 10 years ago).
Or, perhaps, there will be different definitions for different groups of people. Professional broadcast folks working on primetime TV will have one set of standards as to what constitutes "real" HD, those working on reality TV will have another set of standards which will probably be similar to low end indie filmmaker standards.
OK, end of stream of conciousness/rant.
I was inclined to argue against that approach, but am not so staunchly against it. Here's why:
Tim was saying he wanted to get the new iMac for the following reasons:
1.) It's cheaper than a new PowerMac, and it already has a built in screen.
2.) With this new Front Row stuff, and the remote and built in iSight, there's all kinds of new goodness to learn about Apple's future intent with this box (or slab, really, not a boxy shape at all!) that you wouldn't get with a big boxy traditional G5.
3.) It's got PCIe graphics which should be pretty darned fast
4.) It fully meets the minimum specs of what he needs to cut HDV with and compress high def DVD content (G5 required for that)
5.) Any PowerMac Apple ships between now and Intel based PowerMacs is strictly an interim step, a last shot, a destined-to-be-abandoned chunk of hardware. Why spend big bucks on that? Wait and get an Intel based PowerMac when they ship.
Hmm. Those are pretty compelling arguments.
I suggested he not go that route, and here's why:
1.) It's a limited box, in the following ways:
a.) Memory: Apple recommends at LEAST 1GB of RAM for using Final Cut Pro for HD stuff, and recommends 2GB. When a vendor recommends something, it usually means you really should have this if you don't want to suffer. Vendors want minimum specs to be as low as possible to keep the appearance of "what does it take" as low/affordable as possible. Apple's price tag to add 2GB of RAM for 2.5GB total? An extra $1080. Ouch! How much is 2GB for a G5? About $260 from crucial.com. And 2.5 GB, while quite a bit, is the max. 8GB is the max in a dual G5 (the good ones with PCI-X, anyway).
b.)Storage: While it does have a full sized hard drive internally, there's only one. You can upgrade to a 500GB, but that's an extra $270. Hmm. Brand new 500GB drives can be had for $380, so that's not such a great bargain. You can add additional external drives, but only via USB 2.0 and FireWire 400. What about FireWire 800 for faster performance? Oh, it doesn't have that, and since you have no expansion slots, it can't be added. A G5 on the other hand, has an empty space waiting for a second SATA drive ($380 for an additional 500GB rocks!). A G5 also has FireWire 800, and more important for our kind of stuff, has expansion slots so that SATA cards can be added to scale storage capacity and speed all the way up to uncompressed HD needs. For external storage, about 35 MB/sec is the most you'll ever get on an iMac at best.
c.) Screen Real Estate - the 20" model gives you 1680x1050. That's nice, but that's it. There is a VGA plug, but it is for mirroring on a second monitor, not a second display with different content on it than the main. It's expected that there will be a firmware hack to allow 2 independent monitor support, but that's a hack, not a native feature. For video editing, it is really, REALLY handy to have a second screen - either as a video preview, or just for all of your bins and stuff. A G5 supports two screens right from the get-go as is, big as you want. Even can drive multiple 30" displays, if you have the right video card.
d.) True Video Monitoring: As in, seeing the signal on at least a TV (lesser choice), or a broadcast SD or HD monitor (the preferable choice). OK, this one gets a little tricky.
FOR DV PROJECTS: Not such a big deal - can monitor through a camera, a deck, or a hardware codec box (under $250) to see his video on a REAL video monitor, not a computer screen. For those who don't know, there are SUBSTANTIAL differences in how an image looks on computer vs. video screens. Besides black point, white point, gamma, hue shift, contrast, and brightness, what part of the video image do you care about? Yeah. Watching your stuff on an actual (preferably broadcast) video not computer CRT matters when making color and brightness decisions. Calibrated computer screens are set up differently than calibrated video screens. That's just how it is. You can get it close, but it's really hard to match it. (To a lesser extent, the same would apply to DVCPRO50 projects, but I don't know if the SDX-900 lets you monitor back out through the camera, I kind of doubt it; I don't know of any DVCPRO50 hardware codecs, but a DVCPRO50 deck would definitely let you monitor through it.)
FOR DVCPRO HD PROJECTS: Again, you can monitor via FireWire in theory through the Panasonic AJ-HD1200A deck. But that's a $25,000 deck. Why would you go cheap on the computer and buy/rent/own a $25K deck? Yeah. Crazy.
FOR HDV PROJECTS: You'd be hosed. There is no way to get a realtime preview while editing from an HDV project. "Why can't I just run it back through the deck like I do with DV, smartypants?" you may ask. "BECAUSE IT DOESN'T WORK." would be my answer. Due to the structured, long GOP nature of HDV's MPEG-2, if it has been edited in any way it has to be reformatted before it can be sent out as an HDV signal over FireWire. This means you can master to tape, which takes a long time, and see what you've already done, but there is no way to interactively tweak settings, like color correction, and see live feedback on a video monitor via FireWire. So the only way to accurately color correct is to have an HD card like a Kona or DeckLink HD card of some sort (KonaLH or DeckLink HD Pro Single Link are my recommendations for HDV projects). And those require PCI-X slots. Not PCI slots like the currently shipping dual 2.0 box, but PCI-X slots like in the currently shipping dual 2.3 and dual 2.7, or the OLD dual 2.0, or the dual 2.5 G5s. Those are the ONLY Macs that will let you monitor an HDV signal, and then you need $1500+ worth of extra gear to get the signal out to a monitor (additional cost there as well).
FOR UNCOMPRESSED SD, UNCOMPRESSED HD, OR OTHER NON-FIREWIRE VIDEO FLAVORS: with the iMac, there is NO WAY to get a video signal out other than via FireWire. So DV yes, DVCPRO HD yes, HDV only for mastering to tape not interactively while editing. All other flavors, you need to move that project to another box. That means either you have a friend with the right gear, or you need to rent that gear, or take it to a facility that has that gear. Gosh, how fast will THAT add up? Pretty quickly. I can't imagine anyone charging, commerically, less than $100/hr at rock bottom buddy buddy pricing to let you work on their system that can monitor HD.
PREVIEWING ON SCREEN AT FULL RES: OK, this one I don't have a good answer for yet, but boils down to this - can you run HDV full screen in high quality and see all the detail, or is it cheating/taking shortcuts to get there? Since even the big iMac can only display 1680x1050, you can't see all the detail of your HD image, it has to scale it. Can Final Cut Pro play it full screen and full frame rate? I don't know. I have had problems trying this with HDV on a G5 with a good (was either my ATI 9800 Pro or ATI 800 XL card, can't remember) graphics card - it wouldn't do full quality, full size, full frame rate. Will the PCIe graphics card help this? I don't know.
So in the end that means an iMac is a NOT a finishing capable system for anything professional. While there is an s-video out on the new iMacs, I wouldn't trust that the video signal out of that would match the video signal out of a DV deck/camera/hardware codec, or from a video card from BlackMagic or AJA. Plus, the graphics chip only supports mirroing- you could use Digital Cinema Preview, but that's all you'd see - the preview would be your ONLY view, you couldn't make any adjustments while seeing it. And if a software hack does come along bypassing the mirroring limitation, there's still issues. For home movies, sure, why not, use it. But for anything serious, no way. Harsh surprises would probably await you.
EXPANSION: As I've been pointing out, expansion slots (PCI-X) are important for certain kinds of tasks. Need video preview via component analog, faster/bigger/more storage? You need PCI-X slots. Want to hook into a SAN? Need slots. Etc. Want FireWire 800 for faster storage? iMac doesn't have that.
OK, I get that there is an important difference. So how much more is this going to cost me if I did get the G5?
Configuring a 20" iMac as similary as possible to a dual 2.3 GHz G5, both to work with HD material with FCP 5, on the Apple website gives this:
20" new iMac
2.5GB 533 DDR2 SDRAM - 1x512, 1x2GB
250GB Serial ATA drive
SuperDrive (DVD+R DL/DVD+RW/CD-RW)
Apple Wireless Keyboard & Mouse + Mac OS X - U.S. English
20-inch widescreen LCD
2.1GHz PowerPC G5
ATI Radeon X600 XL with 128MB DDR Video Memory
Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR
Dual 2.3 GHz G5 with Apple 20" Cinema Display
Dual 2.3GHz PowerPC G5
2GB DDR400 SDRAM (PC3200) - 2x1GB
400GB Serial ATA - 7200rpm
ATI Radeon 9600 w/128MB DDR SDRAM
Apple Cinema Display (20" flat panel)
Bluetooth Module + AirPort Extreme Card
16x SuperDrive double-layer (DVD+R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
Apple Keyboard & Apple Mouse - U.S. English
Mac OS X - U.S. English
-2.5 GB RAM on iMac vs. 2GB in G5, made up for by 400GB drive in G5 vs. 250 in iMac. PCIe graphics in iMac, AGP in G5
-Upgradeable graphics and storage on G5, not so in iMac
-Can add a 2nd monitor to G5, not to iMac (just mirroring)
-can add a card for true video out (SDI, component, HD-SDI, etc.) in G5, not in iMac
-iMac does have built in iSight, Front Row, remote control, and other new goodies that give good hints as to Apple's consumer interactive video stuff. G5 is plain Jane (but fast) traditional computer
-and oh yeah! The G5 is a dual 2.3 GHz processor vs. single 2.1 GHz processor, stomps the tar out of the iMac in terms of grunt processing power. Wanna watch a 1080p H.264 movie? Can't do it on an iMac. Also means you can't effectively author & play back that kind of content either.
-iMac has FireWire 400, but doesn't have FireWire 800, G5 does. This makes the difference between 30ish and 50ish MB/sec performance on external drives.
But in reality, I'd never configure the boxes this way to buy them. What I would do would be to get the minimal amount of stuff from Apple that I can't get elsewhere - so I'd pop for Apple's Bluetooth and Airport Extreme, but I'd get the minimal hard drive and RAM I could from Apple, and get those elsewhere (like crucial.com for RAM and zipzoomfly.com for drives).
It's late on a Sunday as I write this, so I'm not going to look up all that numbers, but suffice to say you can save yourself a ton of cash by NOT buying Apple's hard drives and RAM. I feel comfortable buying RAM from crucial.com as a quality piece of gear, while zipzoomfly.com probably sells B Stock (lesser quality gear that other vendors have passed over), so I'd feel that there could be a quality difference there (or at least I'd HOPE that Apple's drives would have a better reliability record than a lowest cost most order house).
So there are pros and cons - G5 costs more, does more. iMac has fun new consumer/living room interactive stuff, but can't be expanded to handle pro level video stuff.
As for the argument about waiting for Intel Macs, I'm of the opinion that a professional user should probably be upgrading their Macs every couple of years - and I'm not expecting new Intel based PowerMacs until summer of 2007 at the soonest. Which is, pretty much, about two years from now. There will always, Always, ALWAYS be a faster, cheaper, better computer down the road. The question, as always, is what do you need to accomplish, and when do you need to do it. Can you get a machine that does what you need it to do, can you afford it, and is it available now? Then you should think about buying it. To say "Well, in 6 months there will be a better box out." Gee, that is almost always the case - you'll always be waiting. If you need to do something, or want to learn how to use something on your own, before that time, think seriously about buying. Now, if seriously better hardware is right around the corner (such as, oh, I don't know, getting announced this week), hell yeah - put off that decision until new gear comes out if you and your project/s can afford to wait. But don't get stuck in the "waiting for the perfect box" syndrome - the better box is always around the corner. Now, if there is a mission critical application or need that current hardware doesn't fulfill or is too expensive, then DO consider waiting. For instance, if you only have $3000 to spend and want to edit HD, that's a tough choice, and waiting to see if there's cheaper hardware around the corner is wise. Or, in my case, I'd really like a PCIe Mac that could do realtime previews of HD content in Final Touch HD (frame rate is presently reduced with PCI-X Macs for HD content). So I wait and look forward to new stuff.
Of course, the math will change again on Wednesday when it looks like new G5's will get announced.
Sunday, October 16, 2005
This isn't entirely practical (better if they use the 480x480 MPEG-4 rather than 320x240 H.264), but a fun idea.
The invite mentions "unveil Apple's latest pro innovations" and will be on the eve of PhotoPlus Expo in NYC (where the press event is taking place).
Fingers crossed - new Power Macs? New PowerBooks would be nice, but new PowerMacs with twin dual core processors and PCIe (PCI Express) bus would be oh so sweet.
I've had my BlackMagic Multibridge Extreme on order seemingly forever, so that'll be my first PCIe device.
I'd expect that Apple would/should have PCIe cards for their XServe RAID products, but as for third parties? I don't have any solid info.
I've seen that AJA has some PCIe cards for Windows systems, and BlackMagic announced PCIe interfaces for their Multibridge products at NAB in April that STILL haven't shipped yet.
Then that makes me wonder whether companies like Sonnet and Firmtek have been trusted by Apple with the future product plans, or whether they would be too small fry to be brought into the inner circle of trust.
Firmtek seems too small to get that kind of scoopage.
Sonnet? Probably too small as well, even though they make what I consider to be vital tools for HD editors on a budget (Firmtek does too.)
AJA is definitely trusted with pre-release plans, of that I'm sure. BlackMagic probably now knows as well, but I don't know if they are as "in" as AJA seems to be.
Highpoint? No way.
SyncRAID? Not them either.
So if twin dual core G5 PCIe Macs are announced next week, and are promptly available, there are still significant barriers to be overcome before we as editors can take full advantage of them:
1.) Will software have to be re-written or recompiled to take advantage of more than two more processors?
2.) If so, will there be software to take full advanatage of the new Macs when they ship?
3.) If not, how long must we wait?
4.) Even if new Macs are announced, and ship, and software (one way or another) is ready to take advantage of that speed, will we have inexpensive PCIe SATA cards available to use our low cost RAIDs?
5.) Or will PCIe fiber channel cards from Apple (assuming even they are available) be the only available choice at first for uncompressed HD usage?
It does occur to me, however, that once Macs switch to Intel, it should be relative cake for some of the awesomely fast and cheap RAID card manufacturers to write drivers for Mac on Intel. Won't that be nice!
Hey all - I recently helped James Mathers of the Digital Cinema Society do a roundup on the status of sub $10K HD camcorders. Below is what he published in their newsletter, with a few tweaks:
HDV/Prosumer HD Camera Round Up
Excerpted from Digital Cinema Society eNewsletter
by James Mathers, President & Cofounder, the Digital Cinema Society with the assistance of Mike Curtis, Editor of HDforIndies.com
The fundamentals of our industry are changing as the digital tools of our trade become more affordable and accessible. The potential for a Filmmaker to step up to the plate and create a feature on a very limited budget is becoming ever more possible. More features are sure to be made, but this doesn’t necessarily mean there will be more good movies. As I’m always quick to point out, it’s what you put in front of the camera by way of quality acting, production value, and the filmmaker’s ability to tell a story that makes for compelling entertainment. There are also hurdles to getting a project distributed; and it doesn’t matter how great a film may be, if nobody ever sees it. Yet the amazing progress being made in the world of Prosumer HD deserves some closer examination. This month I am aided by DCS Advisory Board member, Mike Curtis, Editor of HDforIndies.com, as we present a roundup of the highly affordable new HD cameras from Sony, Panasonic, JVC, and Canon.
As a Varicam owner, I’m relieved to say that these under ten grand cameras still don’t offer serious competition for the higher end HD models; but I do have to admit that there has been a tremendous amount of progress in the lower end segment over the last couple of years. JVC's initial foray with HDV in 2003 with the GY10U was a false start, but Sony's HDV cameras first introduced at the end of last year, (the HDR-FX1 and the HVR-Z1U) have proven themselves as viable candidates for indie film production. While they lack a true 24p mode, they can shoot a decent image in High Definition at a reasonable price point and can be converted to 24p in post via software.
There are also a slew of new cameras coming to market. Already shipping is JVC's second round HDV camera, the GY-HD100U, still using 720p rather than 1080i as Sony does, but with interchangeable lenses and a true 24p mode. In September, Canon announced the XL H1, their first HDV camera, due to hit the market by the end of this year. It purportedly has a 1440x1080 non-progressive imager, and will record 1080 interlace HDV, (again, no 24p). Interestingly, it is also said to have an HD SDI output, which offers the potential to record 10 bit uncompressed to an outboard disk recorder, or VTR, such as Sony’s SR. And, as a $600.00 option, Canon will also offer a software package that will allow all of the cameras electronic controls to be accessed, as well as the output of the camera to be recorded, via firewire. Thus, your laptop will have the potential to be a complete CCU, as well as a disk recorder. Being that Canon is an industry leading lens manufacturer, you can rest assured the new H1 will also have an extremely high quality interchangeable lens configuration.
Never to be outdone, Panasonic also has a new, Prosumer HD camera soon coming to market. With the HVX200, they have opted to record on solid state removable storage known as P2 cards. This new Panasonic will probably be the most flexible camera out there in terms of recording formats - 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p. 24p, 25p, 30p, 50i, 60i. It is also said to be including multiple selectable frame rates, although the exact speeds have yet to be announced. In addition to the P2 cards, and similar to other manufacturers’ HDV models, it can also record standard def to regular DV tape. A direct-to-disk via hard drive solution is also said to be coming by February of next year from Focus Enhancements. This is the camera that has the most buzz right now - better color resolution (4:2:2 rather than 4:2:0 of HDV), true native 24p that is supported now by NLEs, and extreme flexibility of recording size & frame rate. The HVX200 is also the only one of these cameras that I'm aware of that will also record DVCPRO50, (similar to the SDX900), a 4:2:2 standard def format, which separates it from the rest of the crowd.
As you can see, manufacturers are packing a variety of great features into highly affordable systems, however, the Holy Grail of inexpensive HD indie camera isn't quite out there yet. No one camera does everything, and it'll be a matter of finding the correct system for your specific project's needs.
-Want true 24p? Look to the JVC GY-HD100U or the Panasonic HVX200.
-Want 1080i60? The Sony HDR-A1U, the HDR-FX1, or the HVR-Z1U; the Canon XL H1, the Panasonic AG-HVX200 sort of (likely upsampled to 1080i60)
-Want 1080i50 and 1080i60 in one camera? Sony HVR-Z1U, or The Canon XL H1, but only with a factory modification. The Panasonic might offer these formats, but upsampled.
-Want interchangeable lenses? The JVC GY-HD100U or Canon XL H1.
-Want Variable frame rate options (moreso than 50i/60i?)? Check out the Panasonic HVX200
-Want HD-SDI output to record to a better than HDV format? Canon XL H1 (but the others offer analog component outputs, using an AJA HD10A converter or similar will give you an HD-SDI for not as good results)
As an aid in comparing these new models, we have compiled the following DCS Camera Rundown. Please note that many of these models have yet to be released, and although this information is from what we consider reliable sources, it is UNOFFICIAL and not to be relied on without further investigation.
-Price range: $4,000.00
-3 CCD 960x1080 sensors (uses pixelshift, Sony claims effective 1440x1080 resolution)
-Format: HDV 1080i50 or 1080i60 (1440x1080 to tape, 4:2:0 YUV long GOP MPEG-2), frame rates supported: either 50i (PAL markets) or 60i (NTSC markets)
-XLR Inputs: NO
-True 24p support: NO
-True timecode support (24 hour timecode): NO
Good: less costly than Z1U, same basic imager & lens.
Bad: No XLR inputs, no true 24 hour timecode, no 1080i50 mode, no true 24p mode, controls don't give as much control as the ones on the Z1U , such as fewer presets, etc.
-Price range: $5,000.00 ($4400 best street price I've seen)
-3 CCD 960x1080 sensors (uses pixelshift, Sony claims effective 1440x1080 resolution)
-Format: HDV (1440x1080, 4:2:0 YUV long GOP MPEG-2)
-Frame Rates supported: BOTH 1080i50 and 1080i60 in the same unit
-True 24p support: NO
-XLR Inputs: YES
Good: Decent image quality, shoots 1080i50 as well as 1080i60 (so can shoot 1080i50, deinterlace to 25p, reconform to 24p), true 24 hour timecode, XLR inputs, pretty good image quality for the price
Bad: No true 24p mode, be nice to have interchangeable lenses (but not expected at this price point)
-Price range: $9,000.00
-3 CCD 1440x1080 sensors
-Format: HDV 1080i60, 1080i50 possible with factory/service center modification (1440x1080 to tape, 4:2:0 YUV long GOP MPEG-2)
-XLR Inputs: yes
-True 24p: NO - 24F mode sounds like it will be sampling at 48Hz and then frame blending - better than what you can do with Z1U, but not quite the ideal solution - still not true 24p
-HD-SDI output: YES
Good: 1080i60 & 1080i50 (with mod), 24F mode is easier solution for pseudo24p than Z1U's options, XLR inputs, ONLY camera with HD-SDI output in this price range, interchangeable lenses (pricey though)
Bad: no true 24p mode, hasn't shippped yet so we don't know what to expect in terms of image quality, but expectations are high. I'd also expect some issues with 24F - how exactly do you capture and edit? Cinema Tools for FCP? Unknown.
-Price range: $6,300 list
-3 CCD 1280x720 Progressive
-Format: HDV 720p24, 720p30,720p60 out of camera but not recordable to onboard HDV
-Frame Rates Supported: 24p/30p/60p for HD
-True 24p mode: YES, but spotty support from NLEs at this time (not all, not natively), so plan carefully
-XLR Inputs: YES
Good: Interchangeable lenses, true 24p, XLR inputs, reasonable price
Bad: only 720p res not 1080 res; no NLE natively supports ProHDV's 24p mode yet.
-Price range: $6,000 for the bare camera with only DV recording capabilities; a $10,000 bundle from Panasonic to include two 8GB P2 cards; and in Feb 2006 or later a $2000 Focus Enhancements portable on camera direct to disk FireWire recording option
-Format: DVCPRO HD 720p24, 720p25, 720p30, 720p60, 1080p24, 1080p25, 1080p30, 1080i50, 1080i60 - also DVCPRO50 4:2:2 standard def
-Records to DV tape DV 480p/480i, but records to P2 cards for DVCPRO
-50 24p/30i, and all HD formats. Optional third party hard drive recorder due Feb 2006 for about $2000
-True 24p mode: YES
-XLR audio inputs: YES
Good: all kinds of frame rates and frame sizes (including DVCPRO50), 480p/480i/720p/1080p/1080i, 23.976p/25p/30p/50i/60i seemingly for every size, only camera in this lineup that includes a 4:2:2 color space at all, as well as 4:2:2 for BOTH SD & HD. Easy native FireWire acess or P2 card file access (only uses tape for DV). Personally, I'm all kinds of excited about this camera. XLR inputs as well.
Bad: P2 cards are VERY pricey. Image sensor likely to be 960x720 (unconfirmed), so 1080p/1080i modes are upsampled (not true native resolution). Non-interchangeable lenses.
(Note: All of these cameras also support standard DV in both 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios.)
For a free trial membership in the Digital Cinema Society please visit: digitalcinemasociety.org
Ben Derydt has some good commentary based on usage stuff other than indie filmmakers (such an indie doc makers) that you should take into account, too:
http://benderydt.com � Blog Archive � Cheap HD camera matrix
If you're looking for run-and-gun, ENG or documentary camera, the Sony Z1 or the more expensive Canon XL-H1 will be hard to beat. The JVC HD-100 needs attention to get good images out of it (manual focus and iris) and has lousy low light performance. Battery perfomance is awfull, it won't record 720p60 or 720p50 and there's also the split screen issue. Panasonic P2-media is expensive and holds only 8 minutes at highest quality. You will have to fiddle with hard disk recorders and/or laptops if you shoot hours of footage a day with a Panasonic HVX-200.
Read on for more good info.
As always, buying a camera is about much more than just the specs. How is it to shoot in the field with, does it match your shooting style, is it comfy to hold/support for the type of shooting you're doing (such as handheld), is it small enough and pack up tight enough for your needs, is the battery situation acceptable, what's it cost to get the battery situation acceptable if not, etc. etc. etc. All my nerding out about specs and format quality are kinda meaningless if the camera is too awkward to shoot with or the battery poops out before one tape is shot.
Saturday, October 15, 2005
If you go to the trouble to shoot your indie project with a 24p capable camera in 24p mode (such as the very popular DVX100A from Panasonic), and you ever have any desire to make a 24p master (either DVD or theatrical), FOR THE LOVE OF GOD read up on the process FIRST, and capture and edit in 24p!
First I consulted on a doc that was largely shot in 24p, then shot some in 60i, but mostly edited in 60i timeline to start and then changed their minds and edited in 24p (23.976). So coverting the 60i footage to 24p had to be dealt with.
Then there was a doc that shot all 24p, but logged and captured ALL their footage in 60i, and NOW the "real" editor is coming in to work on it, and he's saying maybe when they are done editing they'll go back and recapture the selects used at 24p. I'm pretty sure some edits will bump a frame and other problems will present themselves.
Then there was the short film that some guys spent some time and money on with a real DP etc., but one of the cameras (not operated by the DP) had BOTH an anamorphic lens adaptop AND also shot in 16:9 mode...thus hosing their footage to the point that they had to use Shake to de-wonkus their footage, and in the end that cost them 25% or more of their resolution. THEN they captured and edited their 24p footage on a 60i timeline, and used time remapping (time stretch) on about 75% of the shots. Often just a little bit - only 95 or 110% speed, for instance - but it creates new fields and does all kinds of wierdness. What they REALLY should have done was used the new version of Shake (awesome new optical flow stuff) to retime their shots with good clean handoff back/forth with FCP 5, and their life would have been much happier.
But no, they didn't.
So even though this is officially HD For Indies, I end up talking to a lot of folks about 24p DV jobs, and this is apparently a very common issue.
So do your research BEFORE you shoot, and make SURE your editor knows what they are doing before agreeing with their "yeah yeah I've done this before" statement.
Also, if you're going to use 24p, use Advanced Pulldown mode to save yourself a lot of hassle as well. You can work with regular 3:2 pulldown, but it is a bigger hassle.
More on that some other time, I gotsta go eat me some barbecue, my ex-bidness partner Patrick is in town from Chicago, they've wrapped on Stubbs The Zombie: Rebel Without a Pulse and he's in town to celebrate and whatnot.
Friday, October 14, 2005
Macintouch readers share their thoughts on how to rip (excuse me, convert) DVDs to iPod video format.
Or better yet, here's a handy step by step guide that shows every menu and step and along the way.
(Every time I think I need to sit down and figure something out myself with common hardware, somebody has conveniently already done it for me!)
It's REALLLY slow I'd bet, so this isn't something you'd sit down and casually do to your entire collection.
The described way generates H.264 files at the maximum size and bitrate supported by the video iPod, but 480x480 MPEG-4 is also an option if you want to carry stuff around on your iPod and then be able to play it on a TV at your destination (if you have all your cables and stuff with you).
Universal is taking a novel approach to marketing its upcoming, big-budget film 'King Kong' by releasing a DVD documenting the making of the movie a day before the film hits theaters.
It's a good marketing idea for them, and for the rest of us a great way to really see what's involved in a high end film. There is also plenty for indies to learn about in terms of approaches, pre-visualization, and how the various technical departments work and interact. You won't be able to afford the tools and techniques that they use as an indie, but scaled down versions of those things and approaches might be applicable to your show.
Just don't think that you're going to shoot a live actor, motion capture them, hand animate on top of that performance, render a photorealistic image, paint out the original actor, composite in the 3D, and deliver a masterpiece for your $5000 budget.
PS - thanks for the tip Tim!
Sam Longoria Filmmaking Blog: 3-perf's Ghost Frame
I have an increasing number of tech savvy indie producers suggesting that they shoot 3 perf 35mm film (with spherial lenses not anamorphic I'd presume? I'm enough of a camera geek to know) for their indie productions.
I've been advising some folks to be careful about automatically assuming that shooting 3 perf was a no brainer to save 25% of their film stock costs because of post issues.
If considering 3 perf, and considering a DI process of some sort (even just transferring to HD to use as your digital master source), consider the following:
-Is your transfer house of choice set up to handle 3 perf? I'd hate to set up a deal with a buddy at a transfer facility and have him say "Uhh....we can't do this film for you, sorry, we don't have the right gate & gear on our telecine."
-If you are shopping for a telecine vendor, does the requirement to handle 3 perf push up the price, due to a smaller number of possible vendors? (I don't know, but will probably be researching this in the near future.)
-If AND ONLY IF you are looking to use the INITIAL transfer of 3 perf 35mm to HD (such as 10 bit 4:4:4 RGB 1920x1080, either on HDCAM SR or direct digital files) and never go have to accurately refer back to a given piece of film by feet & frames, you can skip the next issue. But ONLY if.
-If you are looking to do a more normal workflow - telecine all your footage to an offline format, do your edit, then go back to retransfer or DI your film footage - god help you if your NLE system of film matchback system doesn't handle 3 perf matchback. That is, the normal way of matching film to video and back, Key Kode, doesn't quite work for 3 perf. Normal 35mm, 4 perf, uses a counting base of 64. Since 3 perf uses 3, not 4, perfs per frame, that numbering basis doesn't work well - suddenly there's 21 1/3 frames per 64 perfs. The convention of a short-short-long counting scheme, with two short and one long (one extra frame) has been suggested. Briefly launching Cinema Tools, 3 perf 35mm is supported, and in FCP 35mm 3-perf is a supported unit for feet+frames counting as well, so it looks like it is handled correctly...or at least it thinks it does. I haven't done it myself, and I haven't talked to anyone who has successfully used a 35mm 3-perf to/from FCP/Cinema Tools all the way to completion with matchback perfectly, so I won't swear that it works.
Anyway, these are all things to worry about. Veering off course to find new ways to save money is all well and good (and hey, that's what this site is all about!) but DO BE CAREFUL and check EVERYTHING out before committing to such a thing - it would Be Very Bad to THINK you're saving money in one part and cost yourself more time & headaches later.
PS - I did find one company listed on Apple's site that is using a 35mm 3-perf workflow, but it is only one way - they go 35 mm 3-perf to D5, but never go back to film. If and only if you're going back to film, OR need to re-transfer the same footage again back to video (new color correction, etc.) does software support for proper tracking of what frame of video matches what frame of film really matter. If it is a one time deal, using transferred footage as your master to never look back - roll with it baby, you cool.
(found via CinemaMinima.com
An oldie but a reallllllllly goodie. This is from 2003, so it's a bit dated in terms of keeping up with the newest toys and options, but it is a very, Very, VERY solid article on understanding where image quality comes from, what makes for a good image, and What Matters.
If you've been thinking of buying a $6000 or less HD camcorder and think it's going to be the same as an F900 since they both shoot 1080i, read this to understand why the F900 costs 20 times as much, and maybe that's not such a bad thing after all.
Thursday, October 13, 2005
The high-end Power Mac is expected to top $3,000. While exact specifications could not be confirmed, the high-end model is likely to feature dual dual-core PowerPC 970MP processors, while the low-end and mid-range Power Macs may pack dual single-core processors or single dual-cores.DDR2 memory and PCI-Express video cards, as previously reported and featured on the new iMac G5, are also expected to find their way into the new Power Macs.
Rumormongers saying new PowerBooks and desktops due October 19th.
Wait and see:
Around the same time that the new PowerBooks make their debut -- and likely on the same day -- Apple is also expected unveil its most powerful Power Mac systems ever. Admittedly, the exact specifications of these systems are unknown at this time, though sources say the systems will be based on IBM's dual-core PowerPC 970MP G5 processors.
Each new PowerMac will boast two of the PowerPC 970MP processors for a total of four cores of processing power. Improved PCI-E-based graphics and dual-layer SuperDrives are also a lock, sources added.
I feel confident that dual core processors is a lock, PCI Express is a lock, but whether one or two dual core CPUs is in question. Software support for more than two processors would be the possible hold-up - while I've heard/read of support for more than two processors via signs in the tea leaves of certain APIs and code, I haven't ever heard anyone definitively say OS X 10.4.x can support 4 processors, and whether software can fully take advantage of that processing power. If Final Cut Pro, Compressor, Shake, After Effects, etc. could use it, great. If not, what's the point? Those are the kinds of apps that can take advantage of that horsepower. What - are my CDs going to rip any faster? Whoop-de-doo.
Nice little summary Q&A FAQ about the new iPods and video capabilities.
“Telecommunication services, namely, electronic transmission of streamed and downloadable audio and video files via computer and other communications networks; providing on-line chat rooms, bulletin boards and community forums for the transmission of messages among computer users concerning entertainment, music, concerts, videos, radio, television, film, news, sports, games and cultural events; web casting services; delivery of messages by electronic transmission; provision of connectivity services and access to electronic communications networks, for transmission or reception of audio, video or multimedia content.”
The biggies:support of HDV and H.264 for reading/writing. That was a major hangup for me when I was evaluating it. I still don't know if it can properly handle 10 bit/channel codecs, I'll have to ask them.
Nice review, and the one unanswered question I have got answered:
You CANNOT burn a purchased movie to a DVD. Lame-o-rama.
You can buy the full first season of Lost for $35 at 320x240 pixels.
Amazon.com sells the first season of DVDs for under $40. 720x480, much less compressed as well.
Which would you rather have?
I'd be willing to futz around with converting (some) content for iPod viewing for the novelty, but I don't know that it'd be worth the VERY long compression cycle for the most part.
For those asking about how to get video content onto the iPod, there IS a feature of QuickTime 7.0.3 (released since yesterday) that is a preset for making video for the iPod in either 320x240 H.264 or 480x480 MPEG-4. You just export it. Then you import that into iTunes 6, then add it to your iPod.
Why H.264 only 320x240? Because H.264 is maaaaaaaajor math to encode/decode, and I'm guessing the chipset in the iPod isn't powerful enough to decode broadcast sized video.
CNET got to see the roadmap for Intel's chipsets for the next year or two, and unlike a few months ago, suddenly this is of interest to Mac folk.
The Merom chipset is likely to be used for Minis and laptops, and Woodcrest is a likely candidate for servers and pro desktops.
Propeller heads can read for details, but basically Intel has LOTS of choices to get just the chipset and mobo needed for the task at hand.
Good news for Apple.
Oh so most definitely expect to see a Mini based on the Viiv architecture for home theater stuff.
Note the remote and movie watching capabilities of the new iMacs? Yeah. Keep going, it'll happen for the Intel based stuff too.
Apple - iPod
Somebody serve up some crow, because it is time to eat it! Apple did in fact announce a video iPod today.
Whatcha gonna watch on it? Well for starters, the stats they give start out with H.264 (good!) at 750kbps video and 128 kbps audio, so frame size given (but go look on iTunes for music videos to find out). The big question I have is this: how big a frame size, and how fat a stream of H.264, can I play back over iPod?
Looks like I'll be going to an Apple Store quite soon, along with the rest of humanized geekery.
There are 2000 videos (including Pixar animations, those are worth $2!), and ABC and Disney TV shows.
Looks like we're getting there, folks!
So - I've been predicting that Apple is planning a major move into consumer electronics, and downloadable video, HD eventually.
Today's stuff is the starter steps - the downloadable low res short form videos, the TV shows, the video iPod, the the iMacs with remote controls that can be viewed across the room (Hello! iMac is now World's Ultimate dorm accessory).
In the fyou-chorr, I predict we'll be able to get the Airport Express AV to stream this downloaded stuff to our TVs. That remote control will come in darn handy then. Remember, Apple switched to Intel for EXACTLY THIS GAME.
Read up on the details, I gotta scoot, more commentary & analysis tomorrow!
UPDATE: An alert reader posted this in the comments from the Apple site:
H.264 video: up to 768 Kbps, 320 x 240, 30 frames per sec., Baseline Profile up to Level 1.3 with AAC-LC up to 160 Kbps, 48 Khz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4 and .mov file formats
MPEG-4 video: up to 2.5 mbps, 480 x 480, 30 frames per sec., Simple Profile with AAC-LC up to 160 Kbps, 48 Khz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4 and .mov file formats
So there we have it - MPEG-4, not H.264, is the better format to work with in terms of frame size. I'll be downloading some content and trying to make my own to see how it looks. If Apple were on the ball, they'd be posting updated Compressor settings for this pronto - I'll go looking later today (gotta go run before its 85 degrees out).
Scott talks about the wisdom of giving away the first 9 minutes of "Serenity" and how there is a push to get bloggers talking about it (well, it's clearly working, I'm writing about him writing about it).
Which is all interesting and useful from a business analysis perspective, about risk and ROI and giving away high quality digital assets, but the bitchin' part is that they've posted the first 9 minutes of Serenity online here, and it rocks.
Saw it in theaters the other week and REALLY enjoyed it.
Wow. Read this article, really really good, talking about the future of media distribution, and the key hangup is not the cost if distribution, or the cost of production, but the entrenched players trying to protect their turf.
A key excerpt:
“Downloading isn’t the big thing that’ll change everything,” Hastings said. “The cost of distribution is tiny. Stamping out DVDs – it’s like 1 percent of the cost of a movie, when you spend $50 million for advertising.”
“How do you do demand creation [less expensively]?” he asked. “It’s great that the costs of production have come down. But how do we create demand for long tail [aka niche] content, and get five million people who care about [the documentary] ‘Enron’ to know about it?”
Damn, this is so spot on its not even funny. Read it.
The same thing happens with music - it is now cake to produce high quality audio. Digital tools have enabled the ability to record, edit, produce, mix, master, and mass produce media at low costs. Which is great. But getting people interested in your music, or movie? Very very little has changed about the overall costs of reaching out to identify and market to a target audience - it is still very, very expensive, and those costs haven't changed much at all. Targeted web ads? Helps over newspaper and TV, but that's not good enough (at least not yet).
I got a Q&A from a student (at least, I hope it was a student and not a producer lying to get freebie advice) asking about whether the cost of a film out (transferring from HD to film) was a major barrier to getting more movies out there. That is so not the point - that's like asking if the grooves in your tire treads are what keeps your car from going 200 miles an hour. There's 9 zillion other things more important.
Marketing costs, aka client acquisition costs per sale, is The Last Frontier when it comes to successfully selling your movie even as a DVD. How do you get the word out, to a wide enough audience, that will give a damn about your product (movie), take the time to single it out and get it rather than your other eight zillion competitors? In advertising, this is called "trying to rise above the noise." Imaging you're in the middle of a stadium full of 80,000 people, and each one of them is yelling "Look at me! Listen to ME not him!" There's no way to separate out what you want from all that noise. If you're one of the people in the stands, you need some way to be distinguished, in every sense of that word, so the person in the middle will pay attention to YOUR message. Do you be louder with a megaphone? Wear a brightly colored suit? Or do you hire the blimp to run your message? You do if you have the money. If you don't, you'd better be very clever and very unique in your approach.
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
OK, this could normally fall under "shilling for a vendor" but I use, like, trust, and recommend SoftRAID, the product in question. Here's Mark James of SoftRAID answering a question on MacinTouch.
I went out to dinner at NAB with Mark and we had a looooooong talk about present and future stuff with SoftRAID and where I saw some demand in the market. I know, like, and trust this guy.
I'm quoting here, but I don't think Mark or Ric would mind:
I can contribute a couple comments here. 32k block sizes are a bit small for workstation use. 64k blocks are optimal for a wide range of use. If you remember Apple's RAID is essentially targeted for Xserve RAID and Xserver users, then it makes sense why Apple would choose to use such small block sizes as the default. If you have a volume targeted for Digital Video, then 128K block sizes are better, and Digital Audio seems to prefer 32K block sizes.
Mirroring should have NO performance hit. In fact, a properly configured Mirror volume will be faster, as writes are on separate buses, and reads are "striped". Always mirror disks on separate buses.
Apple's RAID does not use the Primary/Secondary tags on disks, so it can be hard to figure out what is going on when a problem occurs. (When there is a problem, it unfortunately also stops mirroring.) SoftRAID, on the other hand, always designates a primary, and one or more secondary disks, which makes it clear which is which when troubleshooting.
One more comment about SMART and diagnostics. SMART does not save "bad block reports", it is a simple diagnostic meant primarily for electronic or persistent failures. A drive failing from bad blocks can test out "SMART OK", as unless it had a problem in the current power on cycle, you have no idea about the past history of the drive. What we did with SoftRAID was add I/O error counters. We also log them in the System.log. So you can see that a specific drive is getting errors, when, and how often, which effectively is a sort of predictive failure analysis. Considering OS X mostly "ignores" disk errors (it usually does NOT pass them up to the user), we discovered this is one of the more important features in SoftRAID - the ability to tell the user a disk is starting to fail. Often, users do not believe it is a hardware problem, thinking it must be a driver problem when they get I/O errors on a disk, but disk I/O errors are extremely serious.
Super quick, gotta go to a family dinner - faster G5 chips, built in iSight, faster graphics cards, purportedly PCIe (PCI Express) graphics (which pretty much promises PCIe for next G5 rev, as expected), and a remote control so you can watch/control from across the room.
Not the Airport Express AV I was hoping for, but definitely fits into that category.
Oh, and I forgot to mention in the Video iPod article - 2000 music videos, and ABC & Disney shows can be downloaded and watched on the cheap. Quality TBD, I'll play with it tonight.
Final Cut Pro 5: Issues with setting an initial Scratch Disk - nice details, nothing magical going on here.
Final Cut Pro 5: Tips for using devices that handle both HDV and DV
OK, this one's a big enough deal I'm going to summarize:
-don't use "Auto" when capturing, explicitly specify whether DV, HDV, 4:3, 16:9, etc.
-quit FCP before setting up for a new session so you can start "clean", and don't fire up FCP until HDV device is on, tape loaded, and configured
-quit FCP before changing modes (DV/HDV) - apparently, There Are Issues if you don't
-and of course, avoid recording DV and HDV on the same tape, or recording 50i and 60i on the same tape (if using a Z1U, for instance)
More details in the article, but very sound advice!
Final Cut Pro: Assemble Editing with a Panasonic D5
If you're trying to master using Edit to Tape in FCP, there are clearly some "woopsies" involved. If you're not recording at the in point, having your In points occur a few frames early, or getting duped frames at In point, this is something that isn't quite perfectamundo with a Panasonic D5 deck. Read for workarounds and fixes. My takeaway on this is that D5 doesn't quite do right. And since D5 users represent about 0.005% or something like that of FCP users, I wouldn't expect the FCP team to be leaping over themselves to be fixing it pronto the way they would for a DV issue, for instance.
Cinema Tools and Final Cut Pro: Limit file size for reverse telecine - apparently, if doing reverse telecine to remove 3:2 pulldown, files larger than 2.5 GB can create problems. They suggest splitting large files or recapturing to end up with clips smaller than about 2.5 GB. Well, HELL! If it were 2.5 TB I could understand that limitation. But 2.5GB is only about a minute and a half of 10 bit 4:2:2 NTSC video. Harrumph! That blows. (Or should I say blowzors in dork-o-matic leet-speak?)
Shake 4: Using Convert and Adaptive retiming with the existing field workflow
OK, here's one for the Advanced Class - if you know what you're doing in Shake (and that's NO SMALL ASSUMPTION) - here's some tips on retiming clips and dealing with fields, 3:2 pulldown removal, retiming, etc. A lot of boils down to "this stuff be slow, why don't you pre-bake it and save yourself a lot of time?"
The 12 Weeks to Go episode from a couple of weeks ago covers color correction and what it can do for your film - interesting in and of itself aside from the fact that it is, you know, King Kong and rocks and all.
Now, since film has such a wide exposure lattitude, and Kong is working with nice, full res, 10 bit log scans (or maybe even better, dunno), they can push the looks to incredible degrees. Morning light? Evening? Dark? If properly shot, it can be pushed to any of these places. Video, lacking the dynamic range of film, can't be pushed as hard, but can still be heavily "bent" to give it a look different than as it was shot.
The entry on motion capture is also especially good - as a former compositor/VFX guy (not at this level - but then, only about 0.01% are), I really like the detail they put into these. The usual coverage about mocap is to see the guy in the dot suit, see the point cloud data (the 3D points of dots translated into 3D space in computer), then see a rough of the character moving like that, then the final. Here, they talk about how Andy Serkis (actor who performed Gullum) is motion captured for the Kong performances, and how they use a combo of mocap, translation software (to conform his human mocap to the ape physique & proportions), and hand animation to get the end result. Definitely gets in "under the skin" to explain how it all works. Every episode that I have seen has been head and shoulders above the usual "making of" type stuff, however is driving this process is clearly concerned with actually showing how this stuff gets done, instead of the usual puff piece to drive the marketing of the film home.
Kudos to whoever is in charge, they seriously deserve some kind of reward.
Check out all the other entries for other production coolness.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Wanna rip your DVDs to hard drive? Buy this fast before this gets pulled off the market.
The big deal is that it will both a.) remove CSS encryption, and b.) remove Macrovision protection.
So in theory, you COULD rent/rip/return DVDs from Netflix/Blockbuster/your friends, which would be illegal and bad, or you could rip your DVDs to your home media server, the same way you'd rip your CDs to your iPod and not blink twice about it. And WHY exactly should DVDs be considered protectable and sacrosanct? Or should you be able to time, space, and media shift your content as you see fit if you bought it fair and square?
Yeah, I thought so.
Insert the predictable rant here.
Yeah yeah yeah, there are other tools to do this, including freeware/shareware/darkware, but this is an OTC solution for Mere Mortals to use without wielding a Plus Four Staff of Smiting in the geekery department.
That quote was the part that caught my eye - remember when iTunes first started? Before there was iPod, before there was for-pay downloadable music from the iTunes Store? At first, it was just an app to play the content you already had. I smell the whole iTunes/iPod/iTunes Store cycle starting up all over again, this time for video.
As I've said before, I think some kind of streaming video device, NOT an iPod is on the way. OK, I've planted my guess, we'll see tomorrow whether Apple is starting into this process or not. If not tomorrow, before end of year I'd bet.
The guys over at Cineform, that make the very high quality HDV/HD compressed solution stuff for Premiere Pro, already have their mits on a Canon XL H1, and are already figuring out support for 24F frame mode. Rock on! They have some comments about image quality (they agree it is probably 1440x1080 as well, don't know definitively about pixel shift but they think not), HD SDI quality, and other stuff.
If you're interested in the camera, worth the read.
Plus, they linked to me on their main page. Awwww....thanks David!
PS-if you look at the post after this one (see main page) they have a picture of the XL H1 as well.
OK, call me a blog ho - this is a link to an article that's a link to an article that's a link....you get the idea. FresHDV covers CinemaTech covering Hollwood Reporter. But FresHDV has nice synopsis of the major benefits of the camera:
-super sampled 2880x1620 down to 1920x1080
-film mode kicks out raw CMOS output that requires processing using 3D LUTs
-single CMOS sensor that is the size of a 35mm film frame, so a film like depth of field is possible
-uses film style lenses
-post workflow is complex - like dealing with RAW image mode with a still camera -- maximum control, but requires some handling to get anything useful. But if you can afford to work with this camera (last price I heard was $3000 to $5000/day for camera package)
ARRI Newsletter also has an article about the field test earlier this year (keep in mind it is ARRI talking about ARRI, so....)
headline says it all. Read for nice summary on CinemaTech, links to Variety and NYTimes articles.
OK, this is potently cool - Magic Bullet, known for good looking film look plugins that are really slow, has come back with a great answer to the speed problem - offload the graphical processing from the CPU to the GPU (the graphics card). If you have the right kind of graphics card, processing can be up to 10 times faster than the older versions of the software.
Key data: an ATI 9600 Pro/XT card is about 4 times faster than CPU only - 5-8 fps. An ATI 9800 Pro/XT is 7 times faster than CPU only, at 7-12 fps, and an ATI X800/850 or nVidia 6800 GT/Ultra DDL is up to 10 times faster, at 10-18 fps (depending on effects used, YMMV, etc.).
Final Cut Pro, Motion 2.0, Avid Express DV & Pro, and Avid Media Composer are all supported on the Mac, and Premiere Pro, Avid XPress DV & Pro, Media Composter, and Sony Vegas are all supported. Recent versions (last year's) or later seem to be required. See site for further details.
With a hoss enough PC system, you can get realtime performance (on NTSC footage anyway).
There are also new other plugins to reduce DV/HDV artifacts, new presets, and other goodies.
This is way good news.
New Seagate 7200.9 series with up to 500GB capacity. 7200 rpm, purportedly quiet, very quiet, 5 year warranty.
I've been extremely pleased with the 7200.8 series I have (9 of them), I'm looking forward to seeing the performance specs on this unit. At up to 160 GB per internal platter, and cache sizes up to 16MB, this could be the new performance leader. Quiet, with great shock ratings (can handle being dropped/banged better).
FresHDV has the scoopage on what ROM Mark for Blu Ray is all about -
ROM Mark is aimed at simply determining if a disc has been pressed from an authorized master. That's it. So AACS is control on the client side, and ROM Mark is control on the distributor/duplication side.
If you really want to see the studios upset, wait until we
release all of our DVDs uncopyprotected and have an option for people to pay a few bucks more and get an AVI, WMV or DivX version they can easily copy on to their laptops, media servers or flash drives to watch the movie where and when they want and have a backup as well.
I see no reason to treat my customers like criminals.
Good stuff. Indie producer? Read this. Cuban and HDNet and 2929 Productions are doing the most experimental, forward thinking stuff on the market. Will it all work out? Who knows? But they are the ones trying new stuff, and I think its great.
For those of you who haven't been keeping score, this also lays out the release window model of how movies are traditionally released to the public over time in each of the formats (theatrical, DVD, cable, broadcast TV).
Deep geekery about the new drives. No solid performance specs yet (bus speeds DO NOT COUNT!), but some major features - extremely quiet, and very large G-shock tolerances - I'm already thinking about using these for field recording applications.
Want a SATA enclosure that exactly matches the look of your G5? Quiet as well? $500 for the 4 bay fixed enclosure. Great looking (see link for pics).
SATA enclosures are mostly similar. The differences are in noise level, cooling efficiency, size, looks, form factor, and removable vs. fixed.
Performance, once properly hooked up, is really almost entirely dependent on the drives used and the host adaptor card used.
That said, this is a damn good looking choice, and I'd feel entirely comfortable having this on a desktop with clients looking at it.
Rob-ART over at barefeats.com has another excellent hands on review of the new Firmtek enclosure (which IS module compatible with the 2 bay enclosure - nice!).
Rob-ART does great reviews, check it out.
As you would with any enclosure, you can get over 500 MB/sec sustained reads with 8 Seagate 7200.8 drives. Wow!
So, a third official entrant into the high def disk field.
Based on, but incompatible with HD DVD, this format wouldn't see the light of the market day until 2008.
No specs released as to capacity, DRM, or cost.
Why are they bothering? Because 70-80% of the world's DVDs are manufactured in China. And they have to pay licensing fees to the group that owns the DVD techological rights.
I'm calling this one a no-show - a third entrant, while backed by the CONTENT DISK manufacturers (not the player manufacturers, nor the Hollywood studios themselves) would have a severely uphill battle.
It makes business sense for China to try this, but I have very low expectations for it's success.
I think that it is possible for them to come up with a standard, and be able to offer inexpensive players to the market (a major, major selling point as we saw with the explosion of DVD sales once players dropped below $100), but getting the significant content providers (movie studios) to sign on board could be a big challenge. The studios will be picky about DRM, and with China's reputation for bootlegging, they should be leery of how many might be going out the back door at a discount. This has actually been a problem with cheap DVD manufacturers - under-reporting of manufacturing has been rampant when the license holders try to collect - "Hey! You've been making cheap DVD players and not paying us! Pay up! How many did you sell in the last year?" (Response): "Uh....five. Maybe ten."
Stuff like that.
I would think that if Apple were to offer an "iMovie Store" playing to the Airport Express AV device I've been theorizing about they'd do better. (Too busy to link, search the September archive page of HD For Indies for Airport Express AV).
Later this year, Intel will launch dual-core chips for servers running four or more dual-core processors. In a system with 32 processors, up to 128 threads can run at once.
By the middle of hext year, 'we are going to be in a situation where Intel will have erased some of the functional gaps that they have had with AMD,' Haff said. 'By erasing the gap, Intel certainly has the opportunity to bring their much larger and better resourced manufacturing and development organization to bear.'
While these are server processors, this bodes well for future Mac desktops with multiple cores able to execute multiple tasks at once. A little realtime HD manipulation, anyone?
Nice article demonstrating why DRM matters, and is a pain for consumers. What happens if the DRM used in something you buy gets dumped, or that company goes out of business, or gets changed under your feet after you buy it?
My favorite example of this is the DiVX video format. No, not the codec used for a lot of downloadable stuff, but the DVD variant that relied on lock/unlock codes in order to function. There was some kind of telephone link, too, that checked up on whether a disk was playable or not. The format proved unpopular and went defunct, and the disks were no longer supported. I don't recall exactly how it turned out, but it would have been entirely possible for the disks that had been purchased to stop working after a particular point in time. Imagine buying a book that becomes unreadable after a time? Or a poster on the wall that turns black if it can't communicate with the shop that printed it? Yeah. Nonsense.
In a more recent and common example, Apple has been slowly ratcheting down the restrictions on the DRM they include in songs bought over iTunes. The number of computers that you can put a downloaded song onto, the number of people or networks that you can share your own ripped music with, etc., has been getting less and less generous since iTunes was released several years ago. It used to be you could burn a playlist 10 times. Then suddenly one day, it was only 7. Did we agree to this? Legally, yes. Explicitly, no. They just changed the rules under our feet. Imagine you're buying a new car - you do your research and decide you like the 200 horsepower model. You buy it, drive it, love it. Then you take it in for service one day, and you get it back with 150 horsepower. You notice, you care. It's not as good as what you had, and more importantly, IT'S NOT WHAT YOU PAID FOR. They tell you they needed to do that to protect themselves (say, from warranty repairs due to them overtuning the engine). Did you agree to that? Hell no. Would you go along with that? Hell no.
So DRM matters. And if the format you buy falls out of favor, it is increasingly likely these days that there will come a day when it stops working, even on the gear that you already own. Let alone if that gear breaks down over time on it's own due to mechanical difficulty.
Now, with Blu Ray and HD DVD coming along, what happens if one of those loses out in the marketplace in a couple of years(looks like it'd be HD DVD losing, but that's just this week)? HD DVD players would be harder to find or off the market. The movies you'd bought suddenly would only play on your Windows Vista computer, if anything. Watching them would get harder and harder. It used to be we had to worry about format obsolesence - 8 track players aren't plentiful nowadays. But now there's the concern of expiring media - not from wearing out, but from a built in expiration date if it doesn't get verification from DRM Grand Mission Control. Or slayed media - it is already part of the HD DVD and Blu Ray schema that if you change your player in a way they don't like, they can make it stop working by the simple act of you putting in a recently purchased mass produced disk. Then poof! Your player doesn't work anymore.
So think about this stuff, carefully, before you buy or commit to a format.
Monday, October 10, 2005
A good overview, with a LOT of new info on the war.
Basically, for those keeping up it boils down to this: Microsoft, after initially pledging neutrality, is now backing HD DVD for two reasons:
1.) their interactivity layer is inside it, and
2.) they want to be able to copy/rip to a hard drive in a controlled, DRM fashion, which Blu Ray is not supporting at this time
Reason 1 is your usual Evil Empire, My Way or the Highway rationale, and it bugs me.
Reason 2, however, is pretty valid in terms of me getting what I want as a consumer.
Microsoft is all about home theater PCs and media PCs. If you can't rip a high def disc to a server the way you presently can with a CD, then it nukes their ability to be a good media server. Intel feels the same way, which is why they aren't supporting Blu Ray at this time either, since their Viiv initiative is all about getting into the hardware playback device business, a potential threat to Sony's desire to sell a competing device for playback. And darn it, for once, I'm on MS & Intel's side - I want to be able to use a home media PC/server to shoot content around my house as I see fit.
Thus, all of MS/Intel's other reasons for supporting HD DVD over Blu Ray become suspect in my book since they have an ulterior motive.
(And note, for us Mac heads, the move to Intel was probably strongly motivated by this as well - a Intel based Mac Mini would probably make a great little living room PC once all the Apple user interface sauce was poured on top to make it all yummy.)
The movie studios had previously been backing one or the other of the two standards, but that wall is falling - at least a couple of movie studios have already committed to shipping on both platforms, and now others are thinking about it.
Immediately after MS & Intel announced they were backing HD DVD exclusively because it was so far ahead in the game, Toshiba & others announced that not only were titles getting pushed back into next year, but players wouldn't be available until later than expected as well.
Meanwhile, Sony is still stating that the PS3, with an onboard Blu Ray disc player, is on track for spring 2006 ship date.
Sony wants in on this BADLY, since they lost not only the Betamax/VHS fight, but were cut out of the majority of licensing fees when Toshiba's format was chosen for regular DVDs in the 90s. The see how many hundreds of millions of dollars are up for grabs per year (if not billions), and they want in BAD, so they will play as hard as they think they need to in order to win.
Stay tuned, it's all getting pretty exciting.
Apple is definitely announcing something new this week on the 12th, but the rumor boards are all over the map. Think Secret, known for blasting away with clips of rumor ammo all over the map and then later claiming to have pinpointed it exactly, now says that new iPods and 4 new Macs (model unspecified) are due Wednesday. Who knows. But I'll be paying attention, as should you.
After seeing the new Sin City Recut & Extended, I had some clienty junk to catch up on. But I made sure to be back in time to catch Hostel, the closing night film. I don't know if other shows sold out, but this one definitely was packed to the gills. This is from Eli Roth who directed Cabin Fever, a grim little horror film of the 80s style, with all the gore in your face as part of the fun. He also had a sense of humor abut the whole thing, so it's not just all suspense. This time around, instead of partiers in the woods contracting a horrible flesh eating disease, its 3 guy partiers in Amsterdam looking to hook up with hot European babes. They meet a guy that tells them to go to this one hostel in Eastern Europe, and of course, things go bad from there....torture for money, power tools Used Badly, Achilles tendons run amok. It is very, very unflinching in the gore department, which for me, after 4 days of scary movies, was getting to be a bit much. I walked out of there with giant pit stains of sweat from the stress of it all - you can decide whether that is good or bad. Basically, if you're into the classic horror moive, with naked hot chicks, revenge, gore, and tension that ratchets up like a head vice, this is your kind of movie. They'll do well with it theatrically I'll bet amongst the genre fans. Oh so incredibly definitely not the for the little ones or your parents, but a great, gut clenching, oh-my-god horror thriller based in a reality all too close to our own. What Jaws did for beaches, this may do for eastern European hostel travel. Did you see Constant Gardener? Did you feel like that was entirely plausible and could happen? Hostel is just a hair less plausible than that.
Unfortunately, that ended up being the end of my Fantastic Fest attendance. I had really hoped to see my new friend Eugenio's film The Birthday at midnight but was unable to attend due to client stuff.
Overall, the festival was definitely a success, and Paul Alvarado (one of the organizers and a friend of mine) was already talking about next year, and that they made enough this year that they can do it again. I certainly hope so.
My picks from the Festival:
Best Film Overall: Dark Hours - intense, intelligent, clever, well shot, paced, & edited
Most Enjoyable Genre Film: Feast - a gore filled hoot, even in it's unfinished state. Funny but still suspenseful.
Film Most Likely To Make Money: Zatura - honestly fun for all ages, I can't wait to see this again and take my 7 year old nephew with me. Runner UP for this category, Big White - fun and entertaining with it's heart in the right place, a dark enough comedy to enjoy wide audience acceptance, but not so dark that it is strictly for the genre fans
Best Arty Film: Strings, although I'd have to file Dark Hours right behind it
Best Presentation: The Making of Narnia session - wow, this thing is going to be amazing, and it was great to get Howard Berger himself down here answering questions
Films I liked & would endorse seeing: Big White, Dark Hours, Feast, Hostel, Sin City: Recut & Extended, Strings, Zathura
Films I didn't see but wish I had: The Birthday, Creep (saw first 20 min and bailed, too tired), G.O.R.A (for the campiness), Marebito, P, Pulse, Wolf Creek. If you saw these and want to comment, please do so with the link at the bottom of the article!
My friend, a director of photography, said she saw Malefique but considered it a let down
Biggest Dissapointment (personal opinion, others liked it): Wild Blue Yonder - I was really looking forward to this, and it literally put me to sleep. Harrumph. Would have been a great 20 minute short, but this was too much chaff and not enough wheat. Good concept, just overdone. Edit, edit, edit!
And that's that. Glad I did it, will do it again next year.
Sunday, October 09, 2005
Day 3, last bit
Last night after I posted I went and saw Dark Hours with Melissa (my girlfriend). This was the first Fantastic Fest movie she's come to - and boy, did I pick the right one. The poster sold it as a "psycho has you and yours trapped in a house in the woods and tortures you" vibe, but that isn't even half the story. I don't want to give away too much, but I definitely feel this will probably be the best movie I will have seen during Fantastic Fest. Smart, well shot, well paced, very intelligent, with an ending that still has me actively thinking about it and wondering "oh, so THAT'S what that meant" well into the next day. There have been several films that I've really enjoyed (Strings, Feast, The Big White, Zathura), but none that have stayed with me i quite this way. The lead actress was compelling, and the whole thing was very intelligent, mature, compelling....and utterly gripping. The symbolism and allegory used throughout was also one it's major high points. I really can't recommend this film highly enough for anyone wanting to see a taut, gripping, intelligent psychological thriller.
But after, that, rather than go see another scary movie, we decided we needed a break, and instead of going to go see Pulse, we decided we needed to go to a Shiny Happy Place and saw the new Wallace & Gromit movie, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit instead. It was fun and cute (claymation bunnies waving are awfully tough to beat) and definitely appealing to the whole family - as adults there were plenty of in-jokes just for us, and for the kids plenty of eye candy too. However, I'd have to say it feels like it has too much of Dreamworks fingerprints on it - a little too much intentional cuteness, and the gags aren't as clever as some of the older stuff from their short films. The cleverness of the sheep, the motorcycle, the chase, the plane, and the robot dog in A Close Shave was smarter and funnier than this movie. I don't read this as a shortcoming of Aardman to do long form work, just that this one seemed to lack the zingy wit of their past work. But still entirely enjoyable.
After that, we were too tired to make it to a midnight movie.
So we got up bright and early and just managed to get to Alamo Drafthouse by noon for the Sin City: Recut & Extended showing. Dissapointingly, Rodriguez didn't show, but it was still great that they had it there. They were also showing what looked like standard def video - perhaps this was mastered at standard def and not high def? I saw a lot of aliasing lines, it wasn't as sharp as the theatrical version. In any case, it ran about 2:20 or so in length, not the three hours that it looked to be on the program. There was a little more detail added to all of the stories, and each story ran linearly instead of intermingled with all three. The new stuff that popped out the most to me (after seeing the DVD when it was released and the movie at the Austin premiere earlier this year) was that they filled in some of the blanks in That Yellow Bastard and The Hard Goodbye as to why/how the leads were coerced into admitting guilt for killings that the Roarke clan had committed. Marv in The Hard Goodbye goes home and we meet his Mom, and learn why his pistol is named Gladys (after a nun from school), and we see why Bruce Willis' character is willing to take the rap to protect Nancy (played by Jessica Alba at a later age). Overall good but not stunning - a few new shots to fill in the holes, and nice to see each story play as a standalone, but not a profoundly new experience at all. I'd probably want to have both original and recut in my DVD library.
I've got some work to catch up on, so I'm going to unfortunately skip the Bloodshots screening, but I am hellbent on catching Hostel at 7 as it is supposed to be as gory as gory can be. Let's see if they can out-grim Feast, a tall challenge indeed.
More on Hostel, and hopefully The Birthday (directed by Eugenio, whom I've been hanging out with a bit) later tonight or tomorrow.
Saturday, October 08, 2005
Hey all - a bit more about Day 2, just was busy when I posted yesterday.
During the Zathura Q&A, John Favreau (wow, he's not the skinny guy from Swingers anymore), had some interesting things to say about how they shot the film. As with Elf, they wanted to avoid using CG wherever possible. There were some things they did with CG when they had to, but shot practical whenever possible. For instance, they shot physical models for as much of the "house in space" stuff as possible, as well as for the Zorgon space ships (see yesterday's post & link to pictures of the props they brought down to Austin). They ended up doing some mixture stuff, too, such as having a physical robot top half of the body, but an actor/stunt guy running around to steer it, giving it a sense of heft and mass. Later, they removed the bluescreen stockings (or green, whichever) the guy was wearing and put in CG robot legs. A good combination, which allowed them to have realistic heft and mass to the thing, which frankly is quite often missing even in big budget pictures.
Zax, the actor who plays the astronaut they rescue while out in space, was glibly hilarious during the Q&A - when Favreau said that he (Favreau) would get to end up with the robot model, Zax chipped in that he'd get the frozen model of the girl - "the girl's underage, but the dummy's not." (Even during the film when seeing that part, I couldn't help thinking of Real Dolls.)
The Chronicles of Narnia presentation was a whole lot of fun. During Berger's presentation (the "B" of KNB FX), he had a bunch of stills he was showing obviously from an iPhoto library. He'd exported a freestanding QuickTime movie that he was just playing back in a window in QT Player. I had to physically restrain myself from shouting out "Command three!" to get him to run it full screen so we could see it all better. After the iPhoto slideshow, and the slides of character studies and the Q&A, they showed some sample footage. But during the 10 minutes of footage that they brought (which was a mix of finished and rough composites), they started playing it and had no picture - just swelling music. I couldn't resist, so I had to shout out - "It's the making of - we're Inside The Wardrobe!" to favorable audience response. They stopped, back it up, and got it all right. They were projecting in HD, which makes me wonder whether HD projection was brought in just for the festival (probably) or will be a permanent fixture at the Alamo.
Berger talked about the social nature of working on the show. During Lord of the Rings, there was substantial dropoff - about a third of the extras would bail and not come back. Partially because they didn't realize how big it was going to be, partially because who wants to be dressed up as an Uruk Hai for months in the heat and/or rain.
But at lunchtime, there was an interesting segregation - the ogres sat with the ogres, the fawns with the fawns, and so on. There was some physical differentiation - for the giants (or was it the ogres?) rather than putting guys in giant suits, they found these big Maori guys and just put new heads on them. For some characters, they hired literal dwarves, none of whom spoke English. There was a pecking order, too.
Everybody fell in love with their makeup woman (35 of 42 are female, all seemed cute in the pics), so the dwarves would get made up, run around the corner, tear their ear and go back and say they needed to get fixed just so that they could spend more time with their makeup woman. Cute.
The fauns were another example of a mix of live and CG. All the faun characters were done up in the top half of their bodies with their faun makeup effects, but they all had on green tights with orange dots (quite the fashion statement) so that their legs could be removed from the scene and CG faun legs (wherein the knee bends the non-human way) put in. Looks great when done, looks awfully dippy on set.
Just saw The Big White with Robin Williams and Holly Hunter. Definitely worth seeing - not high art, but not just "a wacky adventure" of mistaken identities, bodies, and long lost brothers. I don't want to give too much away, but I definitely recommend it. It mines some of the same ore as A Simple Plan and ???? with Ewan McGregor.
Went and saw the Scanner Darkly panel where they showed some sample scenes, a new trailer, and Tommy Palotta (producer) and one of the animators (Lance) showed off the process - the movie was shot on 24p DV (probably XL2 or DVX100A) with Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, Woody Harrelson, Robert Downey Jr., etc., then edited (by Sandra Adair, Richard Linklater's longtime editor), and then that picture locked edit sent to these guys to be broken down for rotoscope animation. Their process involves hand animating (keyframing really) one stroke or shape at a time. Incredibly time consuming. Presently about 50 animators are at work, they peaked at around 75 animators. Hoping for a platform release in the spring, say March 2006, hoping to finish actual production by the end of the year. The software itself was written by Bob Sabiston, who's been evolving this piece of tech for years - Waking Life was his second or third piece with it (I did some web compression for the pre-Waking Life rotoscoped piece that aired on PBS years ago). Austin's a small town - I met Bob some 10-15 years ago back when Les Amis was still open on the drag (one of the restaurant's featured in Slacker, Richard Linklater's first feature). Tommy I met since I moved back from San Francisco, so that must have been 5-8 years ago.
OK, now I'm off to see Dark Hours with girlfriend.
Tomorrow will be all three of the Sin City Recut & Extended episodes back to back. Woo hoo!
Friday, October 07, 2005
OK, real quick, since I have to go see more movies tonight - saw Wild Blue Yonder by Herzog and fell asleep, at least twice. So did my seat neighbor. Interesting idea, waaaaaaaaaaaaaay too long. Destined for theatrical oblivion.
Saw an hour long preso on Chronicles of Narnia by the "B" of KNB FX, the physical props guys. WOW, Holy whatever is this stuff impressive. See the pics, and be lined up December 9th. I never read the Lord of the Rings stuff as I kid, but I read and adored the Narnia stuff. I got goosebumps seeing some of the footage (and I am sooooooo the jaded moviegoer), and I actually welled up seeing some of the Aslan footage - it's tunneling and connection directly to my childhood hindbrain, and man it works.
Go see the pics I shot today of the props they had out there. On the same page are some Zathura props John Favreau was kind enough to have brought down. They also had some animatronic heads of a minotaur and an ogre, but I couldn't take pix of those without getting slide tackled and then run over, repeatedly, by Harry Knowles in his wheelchair (and he's a biiiiiiiiig guy). Plus, that would be uncool and I wouldn't do that in the first place. Security for these kinds of things continues to be tight, they had a guy with night vision doohickey watching for recording devices in the dark.
OK, off to see more movies...
Another good link from CinemaTech - talks about Brightcove, a company that wants to be able to channel video to clients over the Internet, for clients to pay for.
OK, it's bleeding edge tech, but somebody out there loves us (color correction nerds). It's an LCD panel with extreme brightness and contrast ratio, so maybe in a few years there would be a $10K version suitable for color correction suite usage so you and client could see same thing.
There's a bit-o-hope - maybe the new PowerMacs we care about will be announced? I'd much rather see that than a video iPod.
Met with clients this morning about color correction on their project, had a thoroughly dissatisfying lunch I may have more to say about later, then got registered for Fantastic Fest.
Ran into Paul Alvarado and Tim McCanlies, two of the organizers, and chatted with them a bit. Tim likes to keep up on HD for possible future projects so I gave him an update on the latest and greatest at the high end. There is still not a cost effective digital competitor to film yet for serious image quality in a run & gun, untethered package.
Went and saw Strings, which probably won't be playing anywhere near you unfortunately, but a really visually compelling film - it's all done with marionettes, but they are SUPPOSED to be marionettes in the film - if they get their head string cut off, they die. The gate of a city is a bar that is raised to intercept the strings, and all buildings are open out the top. Four years in the making. Wow. Plus, dubbing to English was a snap since nobody's mouth moves. But it is still compelling. Recommended.
Then saw Zathura, the new John Favreau movie. When I saw the trailer, I thought "this is Jumanji 2.0." And it sort of is - they say right there on the movie poster that it's "from the world of Jumanji" but it is a much better film, not nearly so pedantic. I actually enjoyed it and if my sister will let me, I'll take my 7 year old nephew to see it (one of the leads plays a 7 year old). Recommended!
Then I went to the after party and talked shop with a bunch of folks, including Leela of an Austin Film something or other TV show, and I said she needs to get up and going as a podcast and vidcast (v-cast? What are the kids calling it these days?) available via iTunes.
I talked shop with Dan, the editor (Avid user - he likes the speed and fluency of it over FCP) for a while, which was totally cool. He got his start doing zillions of music videos, then the Hughes brothers gave him a break and he edited Dead Presidents. Fifteen feature films later, he's cutting Zathura (he cut Elf for Favreau as well).
I got to meet Mrs. Favreau, lovely and gracious. I can't recall her first name, that was beer four or so.
Then I went back to see Feast, the season three Project Greenlight film.
Is this thing a true, old fashioned gore fest. AND it's funny to boot, has a total attitude and awareness of "Look, I'm a horror movie, and I know this genre's been beat to death, so if I have stereotypes I KNOW I have stereotypes and I'm going to have fun with it." Funny and scary back and forth, from howling laughter/disgust (a horrible monster gets castrated, vividly, with a door) to cover-my-ears-cuz-I-know-its-coming-and-going-to-be-bad scary. While I'd like to see it get widecast, I think its too gruesome for a mainstream audience, but should do quite well on DVD. I got to meet Chris whatever, the producer who gets villified on the show. But he's here in Austin pushing for this movie, this is the first theatrical public screening, and he wants it to get picked up. I hope it does and I hope they get it out there. Clearly a labor of love. Note to writers - unless you're shooting for the moon, write something produce-able. The first draft got budgeted at 15 million. They had 1 million to spend. So instead of flying monsters and epic car chases, they staged the whole thing in one location - a bar. And mostly in one room. They joked that the bean counters were pressuring them, saying "why not get everyone into the meat locker, and work from there?" The director said some not intended scathing things about the female lead "I don't know, she's probably a slut." or something like that - meaning simply that her character is tough, and in real life she's a tough cookie, and that's the kind of character she does well with. Besides the fact her character gets shagged rough by the boss dude in the movie. Hmm. Not quite the endorsement I'd give my talent. And woe be to the guy who had maggots on him, in him (literally in his nose so he could Farmer Blow them out). Talk about suffering for your art. And everybody had buckets of blood over them the whole time. Note for future filmmakers - the karo syrup blood stuff can burn the skin of those with fair skin, like the hottie actresses. Beware and take care of your talent.
-mike, 2:30 am signing off.
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
-records 3-8 hours of video depending on format
-records .m2t, .mov, .avi, .dv and other file formats
-auto detects incoming format for recording
-HDV only recorded as .m2t
-can start editing directly off the thing, don't have to copy to local drive unless you want to
-weighs 10 oz
-80 or 100 GB sizes
I can't find a price for it yet.
Mike's comments: super cool gadget, a competitior to the FireStore FS-4 device for recording DV/DVCPRO 50/HDV to disk.
There is no quality advantage to recording to disk this way - it's merely recording the EXACT same compressed DV/HDV data to the hard drive that would otherwise go to tape. So zero quality improvement. But it's a great timesaver - you deal with clips as computer files, not as timecoded media on a tape (timecode does come across I'm presuming). The ability to record at least 3 hours of uninterrupted footage has it's obvious advantages as well.
And personally, I HATE logging and capturing from tape. And frankly, especially from indie productions, where they invariably don't have enough head and tail for pre-roll and have time code breaks all over the place (cursed, CURSED timecode breaks), it just makes my toes curl....the wrong, unhappy way. When I do online sessions, it is a VERY common thing for it to be a huge mess of broken timecodes and manual captures to get around short leads (not enough pre-roll after a timecode break) to get things working correctly. The ability to take an IT (file based) rather than tape based production is a huge, HUGE boon. The responsibility of backing up that data elsewhere? That's not such a horrible thing.
This crosses so many nerd threads - gaming, movies, computers, Industry - that it is topical even if not for this site.
Peter Jackson, currently finishing up King Kong, is slated to executive produce (but not direct) a movie based on the "Halo" videogame. Jackson's got cred taller than King Kong, but video game movies have pretty much always blown chunks, as a rule. Mario Brothers? Alone in the Dark? Tomb Raider? Resident Evil? Some have made money, none have won any Oscars or critical praise.
Anyway, durn interesting news. Movie to be shot & posted in New Zealand.
The cynic in me feels this may be Jackson's first step towards the Dark Side of selling out. File this next to Pixar's upcoming "Cars" in the folder labelled "Signs the Nice Age May Be Ending."
Highpoint has they own hotswap, LED, cooled, 4 bay SATA enclosure as well,except that theirs connects to a computer via Infiniband, which is simply four SATA signals bundled into one cable (and is likely to outperform the current LaCie S2S port multiplier approach to get 4 drives on one data cable). No price as yet, but works with the RocketRAID 2224 card, which has both SATA and Infiniband connectors. Infiniband is cool because it arries 4 SATA connections in one cable, and it is a LOCKABLE connector. SATA and eSATA can be unplugged with a tug, can't be screwed/locked into place Infiniband can.
The Highpoint RocketRAID 2224 card supports 4 external drives (one X4). RAID 0, 1, 5, & 10 supported. The RAID 5 performance is pretty woefully bad if it is anything like the RAID 5 performance of the similar RocketRAID cards, but this one only supports half as many drives. The RAID software was pretty funky, too, and I wasn't enamored of it's reliability.
Oh, and in case it wasn't clear, it can use SATA 1.0 or SATA 2.0 drives.
Mike's Comments: I would expect performance with this system to be identical with all other direct connect, one-drive-per-wire systems, so capable of up to 250 or MB/sec when empty suing Seagate 7200.8 drives (my current fave).
At $500 with no drives or interface card, it feels a bit on the pricey side, but that's lower than anybody else's so it is definitely competitive. You can get a larger, uglier, hot swap from MacGurus that lacks the heat management capabilities for about
$365. Add LCD trays and eSATA cables makes it around $430 or so.
LaCie and others sell a similar unit for about $600 that looks a little nicer/more professional (IMHO).
But this looks to be a solid solution, and I esecially like the connector style on the trays - the back of the drive slots directly into the backplane, no intervening wires to degrade the signal. My gut says that this will reduce the occurence of the RAID not showing up on the desktop as well.
Apple has definitely planned an October 12th event to introduce some new product (fact), the invitation shows a red curtain like you'd see in a theater (fact), and everybody expects it to be a video iPod (rumor).
It is expected that the device will be able to watch short form video on the larger-than-regular screen on the iPod, said to be similar to the 60GB iPod but with a smaller clickwheel and a larger screen (for larger video content display). The kicker would be the ability to plug it into a TV and watch the content there.
The AppleInsider article also mentions the possibility of a future Aiport Express like device that would allow streaming video wirelessly to a TV, much as I discussed some time ago I have to say with some puffery. And here, and here, and here, and here. Yeah, I said there wouldn't be a video iPod. Maybe I'm wrong based on all the rumors, or maybe I'm right and it'll be the Airport Express AV type device.
The other stealth bit of coolness, that the AppleInsider article doesn't mention, would almost certainly be the capapbility to stream video from your Airport equipped Mac to such a device (Aiport Express AV?), which would have onboard H.264 and/or MPEG-2 decoding circuitry. Eventually there'd be an Airport Express AV HD version, too, which is what I'm really interested in.
What I'm anticipating, totally based on speculation:
iPod video: probably, just because so many others are predicting it. 60-80 GB, small clickwheel and larger screen than 60GB iPod (or iPod Photo).
Aiport Express AV (or other name): small brick the size of the Aiport Express or slightly larger. In addition to it's 802.11g (Airport Extreme) wireless capabilities, just like current Airport Express it can stream to a stereo receiver via analog (headphone jack) or digital (optical cable). This new version, however, would have at least composite & s-video, if not component and HDMI connectors. (the future HD version would DEFINITELY have HDMI with HDCP copy protection, otherwise the studios would never sell content in that format - they want to LOCK DOWN HD content so it can't be copied).
The genius of this is that it puts Apple in the position to get money two ways:
1.) They get a cut of all video/movie content they sell through their iTunes (or iMovies or whatever) store, as well as:
2.) They make a profit on the hardware, which I'd expect to start around $200 or more. (HD version $350 or more at least).
It would be a great way for Apple to circumvent the whole HD DVD vs. Blu Ray thing - just download content! Instead of picking player A or B, that might lose in a format war, just buy a gadget that does several things you care about - wireless Internet access, streaming audio and video, etc. And if Intel's Viiv intiative goes as planned, buy a Mac in the next year or two and be able to copy our CDs, DVDs, HD DVDs or Blu Ray discs to it and stream it to any of several locations in the house. FROM A MAC OR A PC. The Mac would probably be first and have a prettier user interface. Woops, what's that about user interface? The Airport Express AV gadget would also have to provide some kind of a viable user interface. Suddenly, Apple's rumored Bluetooth remote control pops to mind - it could talk to the Airport Express AV wirelessly, which would relay those commands on to the Mac (or PC) that held the content to control selection, playback, volume, etc. Or talk directly to the Mac itself via Bluetooth. Again, this is all conjecture, but totally doable.
And if Intel wins it's standoff with the Blu Ray group, demanding that they provide a protected copy to hard drive/other devices functionality in Blu Ray discs the same way HD DVD promises to, Apple's in on that action as well. Intel's Viiv initiative is key to Apple's continued inroads into the enormous consumer market. Intel's low cost commoditized hardware, with Apple's user interface on top of it, will be the magic deal to Apple's continued success. And honestly, I think THAT is why Apple is switching to Intel. The huge consumer content market of a powerful, inexpensive home AV server beats the pants off, argument-wise, any flame war over "but Power 5 will be 20% faster and cost less than next gen Intel hardware!"
Of course, there's a whole other article to be written about the doors this opens for indie content creators. Look at what Apple did first with music (fairly open, indie labels can participate) and then with podcasts (seems almost entirely open, just sign up). If they allowed indie content producers to sell their content via an iTunes type store, or give it away via a podcast like solution (which is already doable now, instead of podcast think vidcast downloaded to computer/iPod Video). And sigh, there will be tons of porn distributed this way. They're always first into any new tech distribution medium.
Apple's going to have a very good year. I should buy some more Apple stock.
-mike, very much looking forward to the 12th
This alone will cut down on my emails by getting rid of the "how big is this format and how much space will it take up on my drive?" questions.
UPDATE - or download directly from this page on the Digital Heaven website.
The link provided gets you to the Apple Dashboard Widgets page, from there select from the Widget Browser Category (Calcutlate & Convert) and then VideoSpace (the thing you want 'n crave). Download and install if you're running Tiger. If you aren't running Tiger, this is reason #4682 that you should be. If you're on a PC, tuffit.
Download this sucker now, and you'll know how big every codec is at every frame rate for any duration. Totally helpful thingy.
Do it now.
MS puts their music service on indefinite hold due to the royalties that 4 labels want, in the $6-8 per user per month range.
OK, the rest of the media is catching up to what I posted last night - Autodesk is buying Alias. Last night I posted some from-the-hip commentary that is off base.
The logical move, now that there is some official commentary on it, is that Maya will continue to be used in film, TV, & visualization areas, while 3D Studio Max will continue to pursue games and lower end 3D applications. But the two product lines will continue with this high/low split, but expect that file formats and UI conventions will migrate between them much more seamlessly.
As for Macs, this is bad news short term since Autodesk makes very little Mac software (Cleaner team axed a year or two ago), but once Apple gets on Intel hardware, porting will be much less of a deal and hence more attractive (hopefully) for developers. As with any "core" piece of software, however, the 3rd party developer plugins and tools are vital to the overall success of the platform - no good third party support makes for a very bleak ecosystem. That's why editing apps have mostly boiled down to the 3 A's - Avid, Apple, & Adobe. If you're not making plugins for one of those three, you're in a very limited ecosystem.
I was working in the office color correcting a project last week, and met Cynthia Stein from VSA. VSA, Inc - Texas has a deal running on the Sony HVR-Z1U camera, one of my favorite indie cameras on the market (until new stuff ships between now and spring).
Contact them and ask for Cynthia, and mention HD For Indies when you contact her so that I get brownie points (doesn't affect your price, just helps me). Cost is $4400 plus shipping (about $10 to Austin from Dallas). Anybody in the US can order at this price though.
The usual street price from mail order places seems to be around $4750, so this saves you $350 or so.
Fantastic Fest! here in Austin - see the first (only?) screening of the full length, 3 part Sin City: Recut & Extended
My friend Paul Alvardo put together Fantastic Fest, a 4 day genre film festival. Some highlights:
-the first (and perhaps only) theatrical showing of SIN CITY: RECUT & EXTENDED. Rodriguez went back and recut each of the three storylines in Sin City into it's own freestanding film, one to be shown each night at the festival.
-John Favreau's ZATHURA
-Werner Herzog's THE WILD BLUE YONDER
-and way, way more!
From the press release:
AUSTIN, TX, 10/3/05 – The first-ever Fantastic Fest will present sneak previews of Jon Favreau’s ZATHURA, Robert Rodriguez & Frank Miller’s SIN CITY: RECUT & EXTENDED, and Werner Herzog’s THE WILD BLUE YONDER; work-in-progress screenings of John Gulager’s FEAST and Eli Roth’s HOSTEL; behind-the-scenes peeks at the making of Richard Linklater’s A SCANNER DARKLY and Andrew Adamson’s THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDOBE; and over a dozen other feature films from a dozen countries, October 6-9, 2005. The complete schedule is now available online at fantasticfest.com. The Opening Night film is ZATHURA, director Jon Favreau’s adaptation of Chris Van Allsburg’s best-selling sci-fi adventure. Favreau, actor Dax Shepard and producer Peter Billingsley will attend the screening and after-party (at the Austin Elks Lodge), which will feature live music, beers from Independence Brewery, appetizers catered by Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar executive chef John Bullington, and a Zathura-inspired room of vintage board games. [NOTE: Please contact Gena Hyde at Moroch for interview requests and red carpet access at email@example.com / 713-223-2796.] Fantastic Fest badges and single tickets are on sale now at fantasticfest.com, including a $125 festival badge that guarantees a seat at all times, as well as access to the Opening Night party. A limited number of badges will be sold at a student discount price of $95 starting Tuesday. Also, a limited number of V.I.P. badge packages are still available for $180, which add priority seating, a limited edition t-shirt, and festival poster. In addition, a very limited number of single tickets will be sold online and at the door for individual screenings, subject to seating availability.
Fantastic Fest is a new four-day international genre film festival devoted to sci-fi, horror, fantasy, and animation, presented October 6-9, 2005, by the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema South under the direction of Tim League (“#1 Theater Doing It Right” - Entertainment Weekly). It was conceived by co-chairs Paul Alvarado-Dykstra and Tim McCanlies (The Iron Giant, Secondhand Lions), who comprise a programming team that also includes Harry Knowles (Ain’t It Cool News), Matt Dentler (SXSW Film Festival), and Kier-La Janisse (Cinemuerte Film Festival).
Fantastic Fest is sponsored by Milkshake Media, Ain’t It Cool News, Jackson Walker, Independence Brewery, ME Television, and KOOP 91.7 FM.
For more information, tickets, and updates, please visit fantasticfest.com.
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
So Thursday Blogger went down for service, and I had, like, 30 or 40 open windows of stuff I wanted to read and/or blog on. When Blogger came back up after service, there was a weird caching thing on my machine, so all weekend my laptop kept redirecting me to the "sorry, we're down" message from Blogger, even though that wasn't the case.
I have a HUUUUUUUUUUUUGE stack of stuff to catch up on posting about - I have blog constipation. Rather than letting it all stack up, I'm mostly going to let it go and pick up from today. Been super ultra busy with work finishing some projects and banging out our business model, pricing structure, and partnership agreement. Mucho details to be addressed.
I'd like to catch up on all the HD DVD vs Blu Ray stuff of the last week - that last post about Intel and MS going with HD DVD turns out to start smelling like a classic Microsoft FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) marketing piece. Microsoft has a vested interest in the standard (the interactivity layer) so they want to push it as hard as they can. With Intel on board, they make a pretty convincing case. And by shunning Blu Ray, they make it verrrrrrrrry difficult on the Blu Ray group. I could almost see a restraint of trade/monopoly lawsuit coming out of this one by MS snubbing the format. But Blu Ray will be in PS3, and Paramount broke ranks to say they'll ship on both platforms. Which I think is really the answer if the market is to sift itself out over several years - release on both formats, let the buyer pick. Much the same way people had the choice between VHS and DVD for years, even though there was a quality difference between those two formats that's not nearly so applicable. Paramount is the first one to break ranks from the "one or the other" approach all the others have taken.
This is an improvement, but not a long term fix. We've got formats A & B, and if you as a consumer buy format A and then format B becomes the dominant format and nobody makes any more format A discs, U B FUCT. Hosenerated. Et cetera.
Which would put us in the same category as the DVD-A and SuperCD formats. WTF are those, you ask? Exactly - those two are the two competing high definition audio formats, both of which have been available for years.
Client about to walk in, gotta go...