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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 email@example.com
All content copyright 2004-2007 Mike Curtis.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Adam Wilt reviews the Canon XH A1. At the $4000 MSRP, sounds like this may be the winner in that price category - clearly get this over a Sony Z1U (but what of the V1U?).
I linked to this briefly in a prior post, but this is worth singling out - Adam Wilt gets my kind of nerdy all over the HVX200. Turns out we made some poor choices at the Texas HD Shootout last year, but that was not determinable until Adam spent some time with the camera. LOTS of specific bits of advice, LOTS of test shots.
Adam does it right.
Some of the things noted:
The HVX200 has 960 x 540 CCDs, so its limiting resolution is low; adding detail enhancement improves the apparent sharpness of the image. In Texas, we used -7 (detail off) and the image suffered for it. Set detail to +7, and everything picks up harsh edges. I usually use -2, which crispens the picture without adding too many objectionable outlines and halos, but others (for example, DP Chris Oben; see www.chrisoben.com/hvx200article.htm) opt for higher settings like +2. Why so different?
While repeatedly going back and forth between settings, I discovered that the Cinelike gammas have roughly half as much enhancement applied for any given detail setting as non-Cinelike gammas do.
Contrasty glass and metal that have specular highlights often looked better between -4 and -6; brightly sunlit scenes improved with a setting of -3 or -4, whereas similar scenes in the shade might warrant a setting of 0 to +2; +7 gives you an exaggerated "TV news" look.
...and so forth. Read on. If you have one of these cameras or are planning on shooting with an HVX200, this is a must read.
Frequent readers may recall I mentioned some weeks ago I was busy finishing up a magazine article - well, it's gone live (link above).
It's all kinds of goodness on how to build your own HD uncompressed workstation, whether you're starving artist or modestly budgeted facility, there's an option there for you (including a "best bang for the buck" moviemaker's config.
There are illustrations of the configs and everything, breaking it all down by category:
-the box (workstation)
UPDATE - there's a set of typos on the storage section that can be misleading - it says Mbps (megabits per second) instead of MBps (megaBYTES per second, an eightfold difference). It's being fixed in the online and PDF versions...
More articles to follow in future months...
PS - surfing around the front page, there are also articles on:
-DV - Features - First Look: Photoshop CS3 Public Beta - hits some of the video-specific functionalities in the beta.
-DV - Features - RAID! - a deeper look at RAID levels, but I have one quibble - RAID 50 is RAID 5's striped together, not RAID 0's in a RAID 5.
-DV - Columns - Exploring The Panasonic HVX200 - hihgly respected uber-geek Adam Wilt gets nitty gritty wit the HVX200
-DV - Columns - The Big Picture for the Small Screen: Trends to Watch an interesting overview I generally agree with, but I take notable exception that Final Touch is ready for freelancers (without considerable investment/sacrifice)
-there's more, so surf around over there. They don't have an RSS feed (hint hint guys!) so you have to go dig around manually
Jim posted a lengthy piece on Reduser.net summarizing the State of Red, and it is overall good news.
CAMERAS AND SHIPPING STATUS:
-first units anticipated to be delivered "around NAB"
-the first 100 or so will not be feature complete (more on that further down)
-all cameras field firmware/software upgradeable to add missing features
-all features expected functional by June or July
-production ramp up to be slower than originally guessed - meaning take longer to catch up on all backorders/reservations
-they THINK they can fulfill all reservations by Sept/Oct timeframe
-Redcine, EVF, LCD, drives & rails all available when the cameras are shipping
-110% refund to any dissatisfied reservation holders after NAB
-full price list of everything announced in 2 weeks
-WORKING CAMERAS IN THE BOOTH AT NAB
-Sony 4K projector in booth, projecting 4K
-full shooting/capture/workflow demos in booth
-"significant announcements" at NAB - partnerships, etc.
Read the post (link at top) for further details.
MY GUESSES & ANALYSIS
They say units 1-100 will not be feature complete, and in a later posting on the thread Jim mentions RGB recording modes won't be there. So my GUESS, not based on any hard data from Red, is that 4K compressed recording will work (that HAS been confirmed), but RGB recording won't (Jim mentions this in a later post on that thread). And I'd GUESS that recording scaled 1080p and 720p might be another of the features not included at first, as those are RGB derived deliverables. But since you can shoot 4K and convert to 1080p/720p with Redcine, might that be the plan at first? If so, that isn't much of a punishment - you'll still be able to get good results, the hassle will be reduced record times - if you COULD record at 720p instead of 4K, you could obviously get a lot more recording time on the Red Drive by recording those smaller frames. The only thing that I think would be truly limiting would be if you couldn't shoot windowed 2K footage at first, that would obviate (or at least seriously limit) PL mount Super16 lenses. Since the workflow is more roughly analagous to a film camera rather than a video camera, these omissions aren't as big a deal - you fix that in the "lab" or "telecine" - in Redcine, their conversion software.
Not mentioned were the B4 and still lens adaptors, but my understanding has always been that those would ship after the camera did. I'd guess when all the prices are announced, we MIGHT get some more dates on accessory availability.
I read on one of the threads the other day that due to the disk format of the Red Drive, recorded files will get chunked at 4GB apiece. While QuickTime will read these correctly and sequentially (I'm guessing some QT reference file cleverness), it is yet another little stumbling block that will be leading you back to Redcine as your one stop processing shop to put it into a format you like that you find useful.
Also, a point I'd like to get clarfication on - Jim said:
We are on track to begin delivering the 1st RED ONE (Spike) cameras somewhere around NAB as promised.
Now, is that delivered as in completed, to be used for internal testing, or is that actual delivery to clients? The lowest #s I know of for non-Red folks are for OffHollywood, my friends Mark & Aldey up in New York (who will be renting them out, but only if you do post with them last I heard). They have units 6 & 7 reserved. So does that mean Mark gets his around NAB, or that lower #'d units are for what, internal testing? First units for internal testing is definitely a significant milestone, but first units delivered to paying clients is the biggie.
UPDATE: Steve Gibby dropped me an email to remind me he's got number 8 - he's an Emmy winning indepedent shooter/producer in California, his company is Cut4. He's written on Red for Studio Monthly a number of times, and will have Day Zero articles at NAB I'm sure. Between him and OffHollywood, I'm pretty damn sure I'll be testing the first publicly available Red units ASAP.
1.) 1-100 won't be feature complete
2.) ramp up of production line will take longer than expected
3.) All features to be enabled by June/July
4.) Sept/Oct for all 1500 reservations to be filled
(and this is conjecture based on the above)
-does this mean it'll take them until June/July to get those first 100 out?
-if the above conjecture is correct, that would imply a pretty aggressive ramp - if it takes 2-3 months to get the first 100 out, that would imply 1400 more in the following 4-5 months
Having seen that they'd just gotten first prototypes together at the end of December, this is IMPRESSIVE progress - I'd quietly been surmising they wouldn't ship until summer just based on the date of prototype assembly and knowing the level of complexity of the project, getting those zillion parts to all dance in harmony is a major, MAJOR challenge - so hats off to the team for moving this fast.
Thinking about this accelerated delivery schedule, I briefly worried about them rushing something out the door that wasn't 100% reliable, but I don't think it would be in Jim's character to ship something not ready for the rigors of actual production - certainly not knowingly, anyway - so that puts those concerns mostly to rest. I've had long talks with Jim about this thing, he wants it to be a tank in the field, reliable and rugged. And it would be entirely their style to delay and fix it rather than meet a designated ship date - they've been saying that all along.
I'm looking forward to their announcements at NAB, should be VERY interesting. Considering that last year at NAB was when they launched specs and pricing of the Red One, and a year later they'll have working units in the booth, that is moving FAST in this industry. And it will be VERY interesting to see what they consider "significant" announcements.
I'll be there reporting it all, you can count on it!
They DO pay attention! This is a screen grab from an unreleased build of Leopard - note "HD 709" that is the native high defintion video colorspace - this bodes well that Apple is paying attention to our needs...
In February, BitTorrent will launch a video store where customers can download movies from Hollywood studios such as Paramount Pictures, Lionsgate and Twentieth Century Fox Film, as well as TV shows from MTV Networks. Earlier this year, BitTorrent announced a similar partnership with Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.
...but is still pretty lame - rental only, $4/pop, can't burn to DVD or watch on your TV, only plays on the computer you downloaded it to. Downloaded movies "die" after 30 days or 24 hours after you start to watch it.
A step forward over no legal content, but until it is easier to get content to the living room, this is dumb. The advantage BitTorrent offers is speed of download - the more popular the movie, the more peers will be out there, the faster the download will be - so it actually scales up rather than down for popular files.
But once you've got that file, unless your computer is attached to your TV, you're stuck - no burning of DVDs, no transfer to another playback device, etc.
So the speed benefit gets killed right there due to the hassle factor and limitations placed on the content by the studios.
I wonder if studio execs will look at the numbers in a few months and say "See? Not many people are downloading, this is not the future..." and write it off, overlooking the utterly hamstrung nature of the details.
It used to be said "the last mile" was the problem with broadband content distribution - getting a fast enough pipe from the trunk line into the neighborhood. Now we're facing a problem of the last 10 feet - how to get content from your computer to your TV.
Big progress for Fair Use advocates, this is particularly germane to doc makers:
This is a huge breakthrough. As many of us have been arguing, the real constraint of fair use comes not from the courts, but from those in the market who are trying to avoid any risk of copyright exposure. This market-based solution will now clear the way for many films to be released which before could not secure insurance. And we are eager to use the inevitable cases that will emerge to solidify the fantastic Statement of Best Practices developed by the Center for Social Media.
Read on for details.
Found this one via FresHDV - a good overview site on lighting for field production. Good for beginners & intermediate shooters.
Monday, February 26, 2007
CinemaTech: David Fincher's 'Zodiac': The Latest Feature Shot with the Viper FilmStream Digital Camera
More on Zodiac, bunch of links (including to an article I wrote), and this nice little pull quote:
The straight-talking Savides describes the situation bluntly: “Everybody who’s shooting this stuff is a guinea pig right now.”
“Everything is still R&D,” he elaborates. “I feel like these movies being made are just little experiments for the big conglomerate studios. They’ll see what it’s like, what’s gonna happen, see the best way to handle it down the road.”
The fluctuating nature of the technology means that most filmmakers still have to fight to shoot their films on HD. Directors like Steven Soderbergh and Robert Rodriguez can get away with HD because they keep their budgets down.
Read on, lots of links in Scott's article, and lots of links in the article of mine he links to.
I'm looking forward to Zodiac to see how it all looks as a finished product. Should be interesting to see the high def DVD (Blu-ray or HD-DVD? Which studio from, hence what format?), coming from a digital master file having never gone through film's soft-yet-detailed effect.
To Our Valued Apple Customer:
Thank you for ordering the new Apple TV, an easy to use and fun way to
wirelessly play all your favorite iTunes content from your Mac or PC on your
Wrapping up Apple TV is taking a few weeks longer than we projected, and we
now expect to begin shipments in mid-March, not in February as originally
You may check the status of your order any time by visiting our online order
status website at http://www.apple.com/orderstatus.
A shipment notification, with tracking information, will be emailed to you as
soon as your order is shipped. There is no need to contact us unless you
choose to change or cancel your order.
We appreciate your business and thank you for shopping at the Apple Store!
The Apple Store Team
...which fits into rumors and prior behavior - Apple announces Neat New Product at MWSF, says it'll ship in a month or two, then a delay occurs.
I've been out of pocket today - had a meeting this morning, went for a run, got the text message that SXSW Music wristbands were available and waited in line for 2 1/2 hours for my out of town friends to get their wristbands (see what a good friend I am? SEE???). The line wrapped around a city block, probably 700 or 800 people in front of me when I got there. Then walked back to where I'd parked my car blocks away and dropped in on my old boss and friend, Mark Rolston, creative director at frogdesign (my old employer). Turns out he's been busy working on his home theater setup too at the same time I had, putting in a 1080p projector and a drop down silver screen. Seems 1080p is on a lot of people's brains. He's always had a killer setup, buying a70+ inch HDTV set many many years ago when that was direly expensive. He now has a Xbox360 w/HD-DVD option and PS3 to play back all high def media. According to his research, the PS3 is both the cheapest and best Blu-ray player - interesting! I'd expected it to be hampered in some fashion, but apparently not.
As for my own home setup, I finally got almost everything hooked up, took 4 runs to the to-be-unnamed electronics shop to FINALLY get the right combo of crimper, stripper, cable and BNC ends to finish up some wiring to get the studio all talking to itself and to the living room at the same time, but it is 90% of the way there (one box can only do single not dual link until I make some more cables.)
All stories mentioned last week are still pending, have some interesting paying workflow consulting to do, and a review to finish as well for an upcoming magazine article.
Saturday, February 24, 2007
This guy did a bunch of testing with the Arri D20. He's got uncompressed DPX files, screen grabs of the waveforms, a diagram of his workflow, all that kind of stuff. Turns out the red channel was noisy beyond spec, but other than that the data is solid.
I've yet to sift through it myself.
Daring Fireball: Translation From PR-Speak to English of Selected Portions of Macrovision CEO Fred Amoroso's Response to Steve Jobs's 'Thoughts on Music'
This one's fun - I love this guy...
Friday, February 23, 2007
Cheap TV brand (Olevia) coming on strong, pushing down prices on name brands so that they remain competitive.
HDV To HD-SDI Video Converters Professional Video Equipment HDMI To HD-SDI Television Studio Equipment
Hardware to convert HDV to HD-SDI ($1000) or HDMI to HD-SDI ($700). Includes necessary deck control hardware.
Handy if your NLE doesn't support natively.
And for my acting Oscar, I thank the special effects-Arts & Entertainment-Film-TimesOnline
Tweaking actors' performances in post. It was always possible to tweak the PERCEPTION of a performance through clever editing, but it is quite another thing to paint a tear onto the frame. But it can be done. And it IS being done.
Just vewy, vewy, kwietwy.
thanks yet again to Paul Alvarado of Robogeek.com for this one.
(and you thought they were shy about talking about painting out wrinkes...)
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Colorista, Automatic Duck, and other plugins were broken by FCP 5.1.3, so this will in theory fix it. If you're still running 5.1.2, I'd stick with it for another week or so and wait to read the other user reports.
From the usual PDF documenting changes:
Late-Breaking News About Final Cut Pro 5.1.4
Final Cut Pro 5.1.4 is a maintenance release that resolves the following issues.
FxPlug Plug-ins with Custom User Interface Elements
FxPlug plug-ins that have custom user interface elements now work as expected.
Importing XML Files
Importing XML files with missing
Thanks to Shane Ross of Little Frog in High Def, it is one of many things he's blogged on today, including a new bundle of Nattress Plugins (yo Graeme - where do you find the time!) among other stuff.
Was trying to not blog anymore today, but every once in a while I see something so off base I just have to write about it.
In short, this article thinks FCP 6 will be seen at NAB 2007: that part I agree with.
They think it'll be shipping at NAB: I'd love for that to be true, but I doubt it.
They think it was going to debut last year but got delayed - so phenomenally wrong. Last year, they'd barely gotten a Universal Binary (runs on PPC and Intel Macs) out the door, they weren't going to be shipping a new version scant months later. They've been busy. Hopefully doing cool stuff like freeing FCP's deep code from the "one codec, one framerate, one resolution) limitation of the timeline, but we'll have to wait and see.
Will it REQUIRE Leopard and an Intel Mac? I doubt it - they'd be leaving soooo many machines behind if they did that. Might they have features that only work on Leopard and/or Intel Macs? That I think is much more likely, perhaps even some things are realtime on Mac Pros, for instance (maybe requiring Leopard, maybe not), but they'll still render non-realtime on PPC hardware.
As for Final Cut Extreme - they say it is rumored to be $10K for hardware/software combo to do 4K and that puts them in Avid pricing territory. This is so laughably wrong in so many ways;
1.) Avid hardware costs either a lot less (Mojo, Mojo SDI) or a lot more (Adrenaline)
2.) Avid's editorial lineup doesn't do 4K
3.) Apple can't even properly do 2K yet (you can get 4:4:4 or 10 bit, not both at same time, and no realtime FX for either, just playback) - let'em get that right first
4.) New RAIDs are likely - 4 GBit cards shipped recently from Apple
4K is SUCH a small niche market at the moment - only highest end feature films are getting mastered to 4K - that Apple has no business getting into it yet. YEARS away from there being enough users that Apple's current business strategy would make that make sense.
More misinformation or off-base data continues through the rest of the article....but suffice it to say, I'm betting we'll see something new at NAB, but I'll betcha it won't be close to shipping. They may SAY it will ship "soon" or "in a few months" but historically, anything shown at NAB as Not Done Yet doesn't ship until July to September (witness Motion, witness FCP 5.1.x update to get 24p HDV)
Been busy learning lots of stuff and getting things done, here's a bunch of links that I thought were of interest that I don't have more time to spend on:
Final Cut Pro: Nested Cross Dissolves with still-images may produce unexpected results: "Final Cut Pro: Nested Cross Dissolves with still-images may produce unexpected results" - read on for details and the fix.
MacMerc.com: Sonnet announces under-desk mounting bracket for Mac Pro and Power Mac G5: "Sonnet Technologies announces MacCuff Pro, an under-desk mounting and security bracket for Mac Pro and Power Mac G5 computers." - looks interesting, I'm pondering get a few of these - the more stuff you can keep UP off the floor, the tidier you can keep your studio - gobs on cables on the floor can't be swept under, so that's where the Dust Buffalo roam. This gadget attaches to the underside of your desk (bolts or screws I'd guess) and even has holes for cable routing - nice!
MRSP $130, due Feb 23rd 2007.
My only hesitation is about putting yet another 170+ pounds of strain on my desktop (3 G5s with lots of goodies).
The Editblog � Interesting blogs from the American Cinema Editors site - ACE members shout out about FCP vs. Avid. I found this from Matthew Jeppsen's FresHDV blog. Haven't read it, but let the holy wars commence, and it is always the LITTLE things that make you love or hate.
Haven't read CinemaTech in a few days? Go do so. As always, Scott's way up on how tech is affecting distribution and the deals being made to distribute content online.
Lucid Movement - A gallery of high-speed / slow motion videos. Whee! I mentioned sitting in on the Phantom HD test shoot the other day, my friend Jake Maymar (that works with some other ex-co-frogdesign employees at bad-ass mographix shop naka), he immediately pointed me over to this site. Not only are there cool videos to watch (flaming spray cans, lighting matches at 1000s of fps), you can buy the clips as well. Schweet geeky joy! Now, if Craig at naka would ever return an email...
Studio Daily | Matsushita Opens Panasonic Hollywood Blu-ray Testing Center: "New Blu-ray Test Center Allows Producers to Check Release Before Replication" - a necessary step, good to see. Will matter more in the future, but there's only a very limited # of Blu-ray players out there. This makes me VERY curious - with DVDs, the spec called for up to 10 megabits of datarate for audio/video content. However, because a lot of cheap crappy DVD players were made that couldn't handle it, 8 megabits was the recommended max, and MANY MANY MANY major Hollywood releases were encoded at around 7 megabits, when they could have used almost 50% more datarate. WILL WE SEE SIMILAR PROBLEMS WITH BLU-RAY AND HD-DVD? YES, I'm screaming in bold there, but I think this is a very important issue. Not that you'd want to encode the entire movie at high datarates, but high speed action sequences really due benefit from pouring on a bit more bitrate sauce (and NOT the Chunky HomeStyle!*)
* Chunky HomeStyle = home encoded, thus poorly encoded, with lots of quantization blocks, aka Motion Chunkies.
The official AVS Guide to HD DVD Authoring. - AVS Forum - this one's really a note to myself so I can find it later (MUCH of the blog is for that purpose) - I've been having some trouble making red laser DVDs that play properly on my HD-DVD player (Toshiba HD-A2) and said so on the blog the other day, so Allan Barnwell of Omega Broadcast Group here in Austin was kind enough to send me this link that I've yet to explore.
HD to 35: Scratch - A Robust DI Solution On An Indie Budget
Reader Paul Schleicher has his own blog "HD to 35" (link above, I'm lazy), and he went to a demo of Assimilate's Scratch digital intermediate product and has a nice long detailed review/analysis. He also points to article:
Studio Daily | A DI Workflow for Indie Film
Secret Notes - Photoshop CS3 shaping up for March release - whether it is shipping or not, I'll betcha we see if at NAB. My wish list that I'd like to see for video folks:
-support for Y'CbCr processing (or at least a preview!)
-support for more video non-square aspect ratios (again, preview it)
-support for title/action safe/etc. without me having to build a layer every time
-for video legal, add Rec 709 (HD colorspace) in addition to just
-can we get a better scaling algorithm? I mean, really, bicubic is just soooooo 20th century...
-and if I could dream, break away from integer math!
...but it is likely NONE of these features will be in there...anybody know?
Panasonic USA Pressroom: " Available by late summer, the 2K processor allows professionals to record and process pristine quality 2K and HD images to D-5 VTRs for editing, interchange and distribution.
Designed specifically for use with telecine systems and especially within the rapidly growing DI workplace, the AJ-HDP2000 processor uses JPEG2000 compression, the same compression scheme specified by the Digital Cinema Initiative (DCI) for cinema release. The AJ-HDP2000 processor accepts 12-bit 4:4:4 %u201C2K%u201D 2048 x 1080 resolution film image data, or 12-bit 4:4:4 sampled 1920 x 1080 HD images, and records to the AJ-HD3700H, AJ-HD3700A and AJ-HD3700B D-5 HD VTRs for editing, archiving and distribution."
Interesting! Pricey ($35,000 MSRP), but interesting. D-5 got sand kicked in its face by HDCAM SR - D-5 was the first full raster (records ALL 1920 pixels across) 10 bit recordable HD tape format AFAIK, but when HDCAM SR came out with the added ability to do 4:4:4, and with arguably better image quality at any color sampling level at roughly the same price, Panasonic was in trouble. This'll help even up the odds, but the price point may still be an issue - but they have until August ship date, and Panasonic has been lowering prices aggressively on their cameras over the last year, will they do so for decks as well at NAB?
Movies 2.0: Digital Effects Magic Explained - Popular Mechanics
Popular Mechanics has a series on digital Hollywood - let's see what they get right and wrong....more links on this page...
Creating Hi-Def DVDs Using 4.7GB Type 5 DVDs - more on making high def DVDs, but for Mac playback - this skips a few important steps if you want it to play on set top boxes - found via FresHDV yet again.
Digg - Shopping for HDMI cables? Check out this price list. - there are HUGE price disparities on HDMI cables. If it is new, people are frightened of it, and people throw money at what they are scared of and don't understand. When I was shopping for a 50 foot HDMI cable, I found price disparities of 5 fold...and even the least expensive wasn't cheap (more on that later).
Sony hints at downloadable HDTV and movies on PS3 - Engadget - MS is doing it with the Xbox360, but Sony kinda has an edge with the whole Sony movie studio tie-in. They have a hard drive (how big? Can you attach an external?). Be interesting to see if they offered HD movies to download, or if they'd not because it would cannibalize Blu-ray sales (players and movies).
on the other side of the fence - Is "3X DVD" HD DVD's secret weapon against Blu-ray? - Engadget - which I don't think is a winning play, unless they are CHEAP, and the studios ALL jump in (which the Sony affiliated ones never would)
DV Rack 2.0 HD for $199 until March 15 - headline says it all! Good tool, SERIOUSLY worth considering, but keep in mind NAB is a month later and Adobe bought these gus (wait, right, it WAS these guys, right? Blogrolling, gotta keep moving...)
David Fincher - Zodiac - Movies - New York Times - Fincher on Zodiac, his latest movie shot with Viper & S.two (like Michael Mann did on Miami Vice).
UPDATE - oops, in my haste I got it wrong, and my friend Randy Wedick of from Band Pro corrected me and added some interesting info:
Still working my way through the blogwad, but quick correction. I tried to leave this in comments but I kept getting redirected to the same page.
In the lead-in for Zodiac, it says Zodiac & Miami Vice were done the same way, but they are actually done in opposite ways.
On MV, the Viper was in videostream 4:4:4 and the look was painted and finalized on a BVM monitor and then rolled down to HDCAM-SR tape. Mann & Dion Beebe had a clear vision of the look they were going for and signed off on each set up on the day of shooting.
It’s just a matter of preference. I have recently hung out with some top-flight feature DITs and they have a variety of opinions but they seemed to think that a better image could be created in camera on the set. This was due to taking advantage of 28 or 30-bit processing in camera, before it gets written out to a 10-bit format. On a Genesis show, the DIT sits in a tent and operates a DaVinci style device to create a non-destructive LUT. This is probably the same with Viper in filmstream. In a Sony/Videostream/video camera show, the DIT does lots of knob-twiddling to take advantage of high-bit processing in camera before the close-to-final image is rolled to tape. These guys were in favor of the latter. But they were also DITs who need jobs.
Thanks for catching me on that, and especially those extra tidbits - I'd always kinda figured if you captured 10 bit uncompressed (or very lightly compressed 10b444 HDCAM SR), that was as good as tweaking onset, plus you'd be able to fool with it later in post at your leisure so long as you got full range (no clipping shadows or highlights) - apparently not necessarily the case. Is this a last 2% quality difference or a last 10% quality difference? That's a crucial question...but if your DP can nail it on set, you don't have to worry about drifting off intent in final CC, when the DP isn't there...
On the one hand, if it were possibly to get a noticeably better image, these'd be the guys to know. 28 or 30 bit processing it definitely mathematically superior to 10 bit. Then again, these ARE the on set guys, so if they said you could do better in post, they'd be out of a job! Always worth asking as to the motivations of the source (me included).
Hmm..pondering....I think the crucial question is this:
Does the camera generate meaningful data at or beyond the recordable 10 bit log? If it is just noise beyond that, EVEN STRAIGHT OFF THE CAMERA HEAD IN THE PROCESSING MATRIX (or whatever you call the internal processing guts), then I don't think it matters where you do your image manipulation - on set you've got 28 or 30 bit processing and whatever controls the DITs have, and in high end post, you're often working in 32 bit floating point space, quite possibly with a richer toolset (secondaries, power windows, etc.), with less time pressure (it is still an expensive room and operator, but you don't have a whole crew standing around on the clock waiting for you to finish).
Yo pros out there reading this - thoughts?
Also, just added an over-the-shoulder shot to my earlier posting about updating the studio wiring - used iSight to do a quick over the shoulder shot of my mini-rack in progress - there's just tremendous value to having infrastructure in place ready to go - the difference between click an icon in my dock, pick up the MacBook, tilt over the shoulder and click "shoot", then be able to click on a button to build an outbound email with the pic already in it....that's a few steps that took maybe 20 seconds, think how long it would take to go get the camera, shoot a picture over your shoulder with you in it (and frame it right), find the cable, offload the picture, crop it, export JPEG, email, etc...all of which is to say I'm hoping I'll be much more productive once the studio is all laced up right, and everything is right where I need it always handy, always pre-wired, always route-able in 20 seconds (including running it out to the living room 1080p HDTV).
If the running shoes and shorts are already laid out the night before and the alarm set, you're much more likely to go run in the morning...
And finally, your geeky reward for slogging through all this - this is killer cool - Tip: Hidden Diagnostic Tool in Final Cut Pro - got a RAID? Wish FCP could report on performance during playback? IT CAN! Read on...
But wait! Another one, last minute -
my fried Paul Alvarado from Robogeek sent me this one - need a sound effect? Here ya go - FindSounds - Sound Types: "Search the Web for Sounds"
...you can specify file format, number of channels, Minimum bit depth, minimum sample rate, maximum file size, etc. This is a great searchable database for sound effects from the web. dunno about rights, but you can find stuff here.
...and for those who didn't see it yet, I've been requesting donations to keep HD for Indies going. Read the link for why.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Not sure when AJA slipped this in there, but they now have the Kona 3X, which appears to be identical to the Kona3 (dual link, 2K capable), except it has a PCI-X instead of PCIe bus - so older G5s can work with it.
It appears they've disco'd (that's discontinued) the Kona2 card, which is OK by me since Kona3 so much better.
One of the changes I want to make on the blog is more original content - my own reports, R&D, interviews, etc., rather than just link trolling and reposting.
Without A Box exclusive interview
So it has been a good week for that - I interviewed David Straus, founder or WithABox.com the other week, I need to tidy that up and post it - they are going to offer yet more services for indie filmmakers, interesting stuff to deal with rights management.
Thanks to all who have contributed, your generosity is very much appreciated. To those who have, THANK YOU! To those who haven't, I humbly request that you consider doing so if you've derived benefit from the site.
Hands On with Phantom HD
I got a call from my friend Sam the other day and he told me they were going to be testing/doodling with an interesting HD camera the next day up at the University of Texas at Austin's RTF (Radio/Television/Film) department - the Phantom HD. For those who don't know what it is, it is a high speed digital camera with a square 2Kx2K sensor, and when you crop that down to 1920x1080 you can shoot 1000 (yes, one THOUSAND) frames per second. So of course I got up early and high tailed it up there. I'll have a full report when I get a chance to sit down and type it all up.
Home Studio HD rewiring
Update - here's a quickie over-the-shoulder iSight pic from Thursday, mini-rack for studio patch panel in progress, click for larger view
The last several days I've been busy trying to rewire the home studio, so that I can get analog and digital high def video/audio going in both directions between the studio and the HDTV in the next room. Luckily, I live on a hill in a pier and beam house, which means I have a pseudo-basement, which means I can stand up underneath (most of) my house. After I bought the house 8 years ago, I ran heavy duty coax to all the rooms from the closet in the front bedroom (which has been converted to the home studio). There's groupings of cables that sprout from trap doors in the floor around the house, with the biggest gob emerging in the studio. I'd originally planned to run s-video and analog stereo pair to all rooms from a duplication amplifier in the rack in the closet, but that plan never quite worked out - the DA I bought on eBay had issues, and I got hum on the audio as I routed it around, due to hum from A/V gear being on different power legs.
So now my plan is to:
-consolidate the output from my three uncompressed HD capable edit stations to a patch panel in the studio instead of running a million cables on the floor back and forth and making a mess every time I interconnect machines
-connect analog and digital HD & audio connections to/from the living room
-think of it this way - if it were a facility, I'd be interconnecting three uncompressed HD suites into a master patchbay with separate client 5.1 & HD monitoring in another room. Yeah - LOTS of wires! And figuring out the patch panels and receiver interconnects is a BITCH...
...so I'll have a lengthy report on that I'm sure - there must be at least 100 cables involved in all of this, in all kinds of formats and connectors - HD-SDI, SD and HD component video, toslink, digital coax, SPDIF, AES/EBU, RCA stereo pair, XLR balanced audio, s-video, etc. etc. etc.
It is amazing how long it takes to figure it all out.
Latest challenging detail: if I do a direct cable run from analog outputs of Decklink HD card straight into the HD component inputs on the HDTV by running a cable across the floor, the picture looks great. If I go HD-SDI to the Multibridge Extreme, then go component analog out of that, through the patch panel, that cable runs under the floor to the patch panel in the closet, that cable goes back under the floor into the living room and straight into the HDTV, I get horizontal lines (changes in luma) that crawl slowly up the screen. Is it the cables? Is it interference? Is it the patch panels? I dunno, gotta troubleshoot it.
I also don't have enough HDMI and toslink/digital coax inputs/outputs everywhere, figuring out how to solve that as well.
When I'm done (or closer to done) I'll put up a lot of details on this, I'm sure it'll useful for a lot of folks - I've found some great deals on stuff...
HD-DVDs from DVD Studio Pro on the Toshiba HD-A2 HD-DVD player
Did some initial tests that looked promising - one MAJOR dissapointment - according to my first tests and something I read online, you can't make H.264 encoded content that will play in HD-DVD players. Dunno exactly why yet, need to research further, details to follow, if you have details please do share.
Monday, February 19, 2007
Long article on sound design in the design of a movie. Found this from Stu's excellent ProLost blog.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
so I've been running this site, writing 99% of the content myself, for nearly three years now. It ends up taking hours a day, time I could be spending doing other things...more profitable things.
I'm getting to the very, very firm conclusion that as much fun as I have writing the blog, and sharing this info, I need to spend my time doing more profitable things. If that is to include the blog, I need it to generate more income for me.
Along those lines, I've created a new feature on HD for Indies - a donation button, sitting up in the upper right hand corner of the page. It is a PayPal "Make a Donation" link, it will take you to a PayPal page where you can enter your PayPal info. It is safe and secure, I don't see any of your financial info.
In the past I'd decided to NOT solicit direct advertising in order to avoid the appearance of bias - the simple strip of ads on the side of the site is from Google's AdSense program - I have no control or influence over what ads run there, and in return I get lunch money levels of income out of it. So the income helps, but is nowhere near enough to justify the time spent.
So - if you've ever gotten benefit from HD for Indies - learned something useful, saved some money, found out about something you wouldn't have otherwise - I'd appreciate it if you'd make a donation to HD for Indies so that I can (hopefully) continue the site as it has been and keep it otherwise free and available.
Please think about the value you've received, and the time it took to generate that value, and do what you think is fair and right.
Review and tests on speed of the new new Apple wireless. It IS much faster - a one gigabyte file copied about 4 1/2 times faster...IF you're using a 802.11n Mac (Core2Duo or newer Mac Pros).
Friday, February 16, 2007
It tends to overscan, which is a pain, but then I found this:
At least with this display, you can click off the Overscan button (which defaults to on on my setup) and it'll substantially crop in the image on the HDTV - too much in fact, giving me about 3/4" top and bottom of black, and 1 1/2 to 2 inches on the sides.
The SIZE isn't so much a big deal, but the HDTV is now scaling to non one-to-one pixels, so the image is softer and harder to read. So in situations where you NEED mneus, there is a solution. If you don't care, it's sharper but no menus.
It'd be nice is there were an AppleScript to toggle it directly without going to the Sustem Prefs & Displays - anybody know how to do that?
Ideally map it to an F-key to switch back and forth (F8?)
Nope - it says on Apple's Apple TV Sync page: " Pair Apple TV with your computer and your TV shows, movies, music, podcasts, and photos sync automatically." - that 40GB is for caching content. What if I have more than 40GB of content, as i do? Probably pick playlists and albums to sync and have to stream the rest.
He also claims Mac Mini, AppleTV, and new Airport Base Station are stackable.
Nope - not only are they different sizes, but Apple goes to pains to stress that Minis shouldn't be stacked, they breathe top to bottom to dissipate heat. Apple just likes consistent design is all.
I like Cringely, we had a great banter some time ago (well before the AppleTV was announced) predicting such a device - I called it the Airport Express A/V at the time in the summer of 2005.
But he's off base here - he needs to do his homework.
Will Apple do a P2P play? They'd only do it if proprietary and not let you share other file types. Would it make sense the way Cringely suggests? I dunno - P2P only works well as it scales up, and I personally don't like the idea of P2P running sucking up my bandwidth.
What we DID agree on is that Apple would have high def downloads at some point, and since the tech specs call for up to 720p24 playback, that's a high def movie:
Apple - Apple TV - Tech Specs: "Video formats supported: H.264 and protected H.264 (from iTunes Store): 640 by 480, 30 fps, LC version of Baseline Profile; 320 by 240, 30 fps, Baseline profile up to Level 1.3; 1280 by 720, 24 fps, Progressive Main Profile. MPEG-4: 640 by 480, 30 fps, Simple Profile"
...it is just a matter of when.
At that point, AppleTV is still less expensive than HD-DVD and Blu-ray players, but with a tiny library, no DVD playback capabilities, and other hindrances. When AppleTV is about $150 then it gets more interesting, and if they came out with a 1080p24 or 1080i60 decoding capable unit next year with an HD-DVD or Blu-ray or other optical drive for under $500, that'd be even better.
CinemaTech: From the WSJ: 'Hollywood Weighs Copyright Protections'
...but go back and hit the main CinemaTech page and keep reading - Scott is absolutely on top of the latest trends in digital distribution options, I'd say the leading authority on it in the press.
Lots of good stuff of late, I just haven't linked to it
from the PDF:
Render File Compatibility
Render files created on both PowerPC-based and Intel-based Macintosh computers now work properly on either type of computer.
Keyboard Layout Issues Resolved
Final Cut Pro 5.1.3 adds several commands to the default keyboard layout that were missing in the previous version.
Issues with Cross Dissolves in Nested Sequences Resolved
Final Cut Pro 5.1.3 resolves cases in which cross dissolves did not work as expected in nested sequences containing still images with adjusted motion parameters.
That's all they say...
Colorista has a UI problem that makes it inoperable, Wes of Automatic Duck says there are problems -Duck Support Blog has details on that.
My advice - hold off a few days in general. If the above listed fixes a mission critical problem, update but be prepared to go back to earlier version (disk image using Super Duper of your boot drive). If you use Colorista or Automatic Duck, DEFINITELY do not upgrade until there are updated, proven to to work versions.
As always, careful jumping on the upgrade train!
Just got off the phone with my lifelong friend Charlie Wood (who just opened public beta on his Google/iCal syncing software), he wanted to know how well Front Row worked with the computer hooked up to the HDTV - he was thinking about using a computer as a DVD player and Front Row driver hooked up to his high res projector.
Turns out it works pretty well!
While the top pulldown menu is clipped off the screen (If I select About This Mac, I see "bout this Mac", and about one pixel above those words), and the dock is clipped such that the System Prefs icon clips one pixel below the grey Apple logo on this particular set (WHY does HDTV overscan? Why why why?), Front Row works fine - none of the text ever clips, everything is safely inset enough.
And popping in a DVD, MAN it scales nicely! I recall reading an article somewhere not too long ago that graphics card scale video for DVD much Much MUCH better than even the expensive DVD players, and I believe it *. Popping in Flyboys (only rented because shot on Genesis), the intro text scales VERY nicely.
* - I'm writing this line from the couch, watching the text appear 10 feet away on the 60 inch set running at 1920x1080, and I can read it in default 9 point Monaco. It could be sharper, but I can read it just fine
Charlie was thinking about using an AppleTV as his primary DVD watching device. I pointed out that the AppleTV doesn't have an optical drive, and he asked if it could stream it and I said I didn't think so, it only streams H.264 AFAIK.
Then I mentioned I was already planning on running an HDMI from the studio from the Multibridge Extreme, then I thought about running it from a standard DVI port - I have a Gefen DVI switcher that keeps both ports "hot and live" at all times, so I could route the output from a G5 here to the living room.
Then I thought about using my eldest G5 (a dual 2.0) and putting it in the closet that is behind the HDTV behind a wall. I could use a DVI to HDMI cable, run it through the holes already in the floors and through the basement (thankfully I can stand up down there), use my Kensington IR remote that has the IR receiver on a USB cable to remote the whole thing to the living room. That and a Bluetooth keyboard/mouse if I want it and I'm off.
I'd been debating putting a server in that closet anyway, but I'd need to put a fan or some kind of ventilation in the ceiling in there, buy all these long run cables etc., so the price goes up pretty quickly from there.
Then Charlie and I were talking about what WOULD work best - the AppleTV is neat and relatively cheap at $300, but the small 40 GB drive is a limitation - I already have 50+GB of MP3 files from all my ripped CDs. I'd been idly debating bulk re-ripping them to ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec) that is about half the size of uncompressed - I'd end up with hundreds of GB of audio files.
Front Row can ALREADY stream audio and video from a remote machine - I did that the other week - I'd downloaded an episode of Lost I hadn't seen on a G5 in the studio, but wanted to watch the show in bed. So I left iTunes running on the G5, made sure Sharing was on, took my MacBook in the bedroom, hooked it up via s-video and fired up Front Row, and have you noticed that Front Row has a "Shared Videos" option under Videos? That's right, you can stream video just fine, even over my first generation Apple Airport (the flying saucer model) and it ran without a hitch. A little slow buffering at first, and fast forward/remind was utterly screwy/almost broken, but for basic viewing it was fine.
But the G5 is big and hot and heavy and would require some finagling to get it nearby. I don't want it in the living room because it is huge and the fans are loud. So what else?
A Mac Mini.
The HDTV has a HDMI in port, and I'm using a GMA950 based video card in the MacBook right now on that screen, same as the Mini has (or had, has it been upgraded?). A Mac Mini with an external hard drive starts to make a lot of sense - put all your media content on a fanless FireWire drive, and hook up that tiny Mini in the living room as an A/V component. Watch DVDs that'll look better than most players, use Front Row for downloaded videos as well (and for more than just H.264 encoded ones, a limitation of AppleTV), play CDs, MP3s, watch pictures, etc. Of course, that'll be about $800 for a Mini to do that, which is pretty expensive, but it'll do a LOT of stuff, and is pretty much infinitely expandable as far as storage goes - just get a bigger (750GB now, 1TB coming this year) hard drive, or just daisy chain additional ones. So $1000 for the Mini and an external hard drive for a great DVD player and Front Row experience. (Edit - base one I'd use is $600 not $800 - Charlie would want it for a usable machine, I just want a media box, and I could use that $200 to get a MUCH bigger drive).
OH OH OH OH - only in an email somebody sent me about HD-DVD players did it dawn on me - DUH - I have a HD-DVD player that will read DVD-R discs, and I have a DVD-R burner and DVD Studio Pro that will create red laser HD-DVDs!!! I'll be tsting that SOON, trust me!
I see one hitch in that process - I have a dual layer burner in my Quad G5, but I THINK it only does dual layer DVD+R discs, not dual layer DVD-R discs, and I noted support of DVD-R but not DVD+R mentioned in my HD-DVD player manual. Darn it if so, but single layer still lets me test a lot of stuff and ideas.
This makes me want to be able to route outputs from the studio in here in a variety of ways:
-each machine has HD component output - route that
-each machine has DVI output - route that as well?
-each machine can send HD-SDI to the Multibridge Extreme, then I can send HDMI out from that as well
In the living room, I've got HD-DVD and cable box taking over the two HDMI inputs - seems like I'll need an HDMI switcher then to flip between studio, HD-DVD, and AppleTV input.
OK - what else? There's so much to think about with all these toys.
PROS: CHEAP. Quiet. Plug & play. Small, sits in A/V rack nicely. Totally quiet. Cover Flow
CONS: If I do the AppleTV (still have one on order), it'll be interesting to doodle with but limited in a variety of ways:
-limited storage (but can stream from elsewhere)
-can't play anything but H.264 video
-no DVD playback
-720p24 playback MAX - no 720p60, no 1080p24 or 1080i60
from Apple TV Tech Specs page: "Video formats supported: H.264 and protected H.264 (from iTunes Store): 640 by 480, 30 fps, LC version of Baseline Profile; 320 by 240, 30 fps, Baseline profile up to Level 1.3; 1280 by 720, 24 fps, Progressive Main Profile. MPEG-4: 640 by 480, 30 fps, Simple Profile"
-so CAN attach my 1080p/i capable display
-so how to efficiently navigate LARGE music/video/media collections?
Convert an existing G5
-can attach to TV for Front Row (with available patch/hack)
-can also use as a serious server in the house for all other files & media
-extensible storage - throw a 750GB drive in there and that'll hold me for a while!
-can run non-H.264 video content
-can play DVDs very nicely (just gotta put it in the box in other room around corner)
-if I go to the trouble, should be a pretty awesome A/V experience. Plus, my server can run a 1920x1080 screen!
-expensive install - gotta get long DVI-HDMI cables, long USB, Bluetooth keyboard and mouse (and Bluetooth upgrade for G5) if I want more control over it (and will they work through a wall anyway?)
-plus I need to ventilate that closet - a thermostat driven fan that leads to the attic? The attic gets over 120 degrees in the summer Texas heat - I'm pushing air into there?
-gotta buy Bluetooth keyboard/mouse, will they work through wall?
Buy a Mac Mini
-base model is $600 - for $200 more, you get 80 not 60GB drive, slightly faster processor, and a DVD burner not Combo drive - but this this utilization, who cares? I'd have to add at least 512MB of RAM to keep it zippy, though
-fast box, fully featured, good experience
-practically unlimited storage capacity - just keep adding FireWire drives
-small, fits in A/V space just fine
-priciest up front cost of all the options
-decent but not outstanding graphics performance - but does that matter?
-no Cover Flow, tougher to navigate large libraries, gotta buy Bluetooth keyboard/mouse to be effective
I should probably break down the costs for each and ponder the pros/cons some more.
This is total DIY HDforIndies project - what do you folks think? Please chime in with your thoughts!
update - I've learned that I need to get an OTA antenna for better reception of the major networks, 19.2 mbit vs 10-12 mbit on my expensive digital HDTV cable (harrumph). The Terk was recommended, I just don't know whether I need the $30ish passive or the $100ish amplified model.
Also, Charlie Wood followed up with a link to MacHTPC.com, a site all about using Macs as home theater PCs, and I'm sure they've been thoroughly all over all the issues I've been wrangling with. I'll be reading up on stuff over there. I want a home theater box, a server, and possibly a gaming platform out of it, so I'm not a typical user here.
PS - sitting here all day tethered to the HDTV on laptop, I can definitely appreciate the idea of wireless HDMI.
thoughts on new HDTV:
-I got my Sony KDS-60A2000 HDTV delivered. It is a 60" SXRD (Sony's flavor of LCoS (liquid crystal on silicon)), then I got the Toshiba HD-A2 HD-DVD player, and Time Warner Cable's HD cable box
-setting up wasn't as bad as I thought - not as many initial "must decide" decisions to be made, but a ton of color correction choices, mostly involving turning "enhancements" OFF.
I found this handy page that has cnet's settings they'd clearly spent time coming up with to optimize viewing.
The default "Vivid" settings, especially in a bright room, are far too contrasty, oversharpened, and saturated - looks good in the showroom, but a guy with dark hair and a dark suit is a black blob all too often, especially on modern shows like CSI with that high contrast look.
There are three presets - Vivid, Standard, and Custom, which you can tweak as needed - I'm thinking I'll use a modified Standard setting for day and Custom for night.
Nice features - you can fine tune sharpening, edge enhancement, white point, gamma, etc. All those settings..and most of them I end up turning off or waaay down.
Each input retains its own custom setting - a VERY nice option allowing fine tuning of each input - I anticipate setting up my Multibridge Extreme to use both HDMI and HD component outputs to feed into the HDTV via usage of long cable runs under the house (yeah, I'm that kind of geek), so I can route from studio to living room.
One downside, though - viewing angle is CRITICAL - even standing up (from sitting on couch) creates a HUGE shift in luma (brightness) - side to side there is some variation, but if I display a flat grey screen, I can move up/down a foot and see the grey shift darker and bluer. Standing in front of the set, even 5 feet back, gives a completely off-the-map bad viewing experience, so the sweet spot to view is sitting on the couch, about 3 people wide. Hmm. Of course, two people is really optimal for Movie Palace Mode viewing. : ) I've tested extensively with a wide demographic cross section.
The HD-DVD player takes a long time to fire up, and the UI is interesting - the difference between reading about it and then actually using it is interesting - I got King Kong and Batman Returns in HD-DVD, and while King Kong follows the expected DVD main menu structure, Batman Returns just starts playing the movie until/unless you press a menu button.
Then you get a UI that pops up from the bottom WHILE THE MOVIE IS PLAYING which is pretty cool but a little distracting, it is superimposed as a graphic layer over the playing movie. Pretty slick. You can explore the menu stuff (and even get descriptions) while the movie is playing, surf for other chapters while the movie is playing, etc.
But an interesting note about how the HD-A2 HD-DVD player works - it is like a computer with an anemic graphics card, struggling to do what it is doing, barely able to do it. Fast forwarding is rough and skippy and not smooth, the UI elements slide out in course chunks, not smooth. I've heard HD-DVD players are essentially comptuers with video outputs, and if this is true, it has a slow CPU and a not-great GPU. I picture future players capable of smoother fast formwarding (mine goes in chunks, and not even time chunks of same size!), smoother UI motion, etc. Curious to know if the $1000 players do any better. I'd like to have the HD-A20 due this spring with 1080p capability, but I don't know if that'll actually play any better - is the 1080i output here just 24p with 3:2 pulldown added? How would a 1080p player work with 24p footage? 2:3:3:2 or 2:3:2:3 cadence to play back progressive frames? And will it run the UI any more smoothly?
When you pause, after a couple of minutes a Universal (the studio not generic) screensaver comes up - interesting.
TV stations - turns out my digital cable service offers HD digital cable - all I had to do was drive 10 minutes away and swap out cable boxes. I kept also traded out the old one to use in my bedroom for an extra $7 a month - not bad.
I stayed up late, watching Lost in HD then The Departed on my plain jane DVD player going into the component outputs - looked good, but nowhere near HD good. Mosquito noise is glaringly obvious at this scale.
Scaling oddnesses - there's Normal (4:3 pillarboxes), Full (16:9 full screen), Zoom (for 16:9 on a 4:3 screen) and Wide Zoom (same thing but for what, anamorphic? it squishes it vertically a bit more)
Had a few issues - audio dropouts during Lost every few minutes - turns out it is doing that to everyone. And annoyingly, changing audio volume on the remote doesn't do anything. I already had tech coming out from Time Warner cable, and he couldn't figure it out - all he did was make the cable remote change the volume on the TV itself...where there was no audio (DVI link from cable box to TV carries no audio signal, using toslink (optical) to receiver). As it is toslink I need to adjust volume on the final device audio is sent to....all this is yet another factor in the fact that all this HD related stuff is waaaaaaaay too complicated for the average consumer - if it is a pain for ME, what might it be like for someone like my Dad who can barely get a regular DVD to play? Typical consumers are completely out of their league - if it took me hours and hours of research to make an informed but still compromised decision, what's it like for normal people? I figure at LEAST 2-3 years for prices to get more affordable and interoperability to get resolved for the most part, and several more years for affordable Apple-level-of-ease to make it work well together.
My old Sony XBR 32" CRT had speaker inputs to use the TV as a center speaker - unfortunately, the new TV doesn't have that capability. Can't use HDMI downmixed as there is a delay - if both running I get an audio difference and an echo. So a center speaker is on my list. And while I've been happy with my Alesis Monitor Ones for providing base, time maybe for a subwoofer as well.
I now have to sell off some old gear to get some new toys - I'll put it up on eBay etc. and let you folks know.
Picture quality is AWESOME - I got my HD-DVD and watched the T-rex fight in King Kong and the Batmobile run in Batman Returns, and the detail is great. Black levels need to be adjusted to be right for day or night viewing.
SD content looks just so-so - the higher end XBR2 set supposedly has better SD uprezzing circuitry, but that was out of my comfort zone on price.
The compression artifacts in digital cable - on static scenes it is OK, BUT for fast moving scenes with lots of high frequency detail, MAJOR compresion artifacting, makes me think about getting that Algolith Flea HDMI device for mosquito noise and blocking reduction - but it is $1000, so never mind.
I'm definitely flip flopping on my "can't tell the difference" statements from before about DVDs on too small HDTVs seen from too far away. At roughly $2K if you shop aggressively online, this Sony KDS-60A2000 shows MILES of difference between SD and HD content. And with only 16 HD channels compared to the zillions of SD ones, my previous argument stating that most folks couldn't tell the difference....isn't quite the same anymore now that I've seen this.
The set I got for a bit over $2K was intro'd at a list price of $4500 just last summer. So I'd think it isn't unreasonable to think prices for something this size and approximate quality to cut in half again in another 6-12 months.
At that point, one's willingness to have something this large in your living room becomes the limiting factor.
It is definitely one of those things that once you see major HD, you don't want to go back. And even 1080 res stuff - I can see how I'd want it to be sharper - seeing how sharp the CG graphics are as compared to the footage - MOST of the footage shown isn't as sharp as this set.
I hooked up my laptop and ran iPhoto slideshow from some 5 megapixel digital stills - I can definitely see the advantage of higher res, even from my cheapie $300 Canon Digital Elph (a 450 model).
This bodes well for Red, Dalsa, and other greater-than-HD acquisition cameras.
Major quality glass is also a part of it.
-HDNet is woefully repetitive - clearly they need more content, and GOOD content. NOT HVX200 type stuff, either, but F900, 950, F23, Viper, Dalsa, Red One, (maybe SI-2K), with top-notch glass to really show it off. Will that work financially? I don't know.
HDNet's movie channel also runs a lot of ooooollllllld movies that have been re-transferred. While it is a delight to see a 1970s movie (McCable and Mrs. Miller) in high def, COME ON Mark Cuban, let's get some newer content on here! It is weird to see 80s hair and makeup in high def...
I'll be curious to see what the max bang/buck Red One setup, using still lenses for docs will be able to create.
In any case, over the next week or two I hope to get everything all wired up so I can readily monitor from any of my three uncompressed HD capable Macs, via HDMI (using the Multibridge Extreme) or HD component analog. Should be fun to see how it all looks!
While I could clearly see the difference between this set and the $6000-$8000 consumer HDTVs, it is still pretty good. It isn't as sharp as a a pixel-for-pixel like LCD would be, but watching the desktop from my Macbook from 10 feet away running at 1920x1080 (and it overscans, I can't see the top pulldown menus!) is comfortably legible and looks GREAT.
I'm now juggling four remotes - the HDTV, the digital cable box, the HD-DVD, and the receiver's. Usual thing to sit down with all the new manuals and cross pollinate all the control functions - they all have the capability to control multiple devices.
I find myself watching stuff I wouldn't otherwise - just watched Ant Wars and some quest for giant crocociles on DiscoveryHD. Hell, even though I ADORE Lyle Lovett, I'm wathing him on Austin City Limits in HD (rocks that it is my local PBS channel, and I know it was shot about 3 miles from my house!).
-and oh yeah, I'm a total noob on HDTV, HD cable, and HD-DVD - so be it, this is where I am. I know it has been covered elsewhere, it is just new to me as as an owner setting it all up...
Everything takes longer with HD - and I'm not talking about renders in Final Cut here - the HDTV takes a while to warm up, is dark dark dark when it first turns on. The HD-DVD takes about half a minute to get rolling, and another chunk of time (too lazy to stopwatch it, you can Google and find out how slow) to start playing from the time the HD-DVD is put in. Again if it is a computer, it is a slow one. And changing channels on HD cable is sllllllooooooooow as well - can't just click-zip through like you can with regular cable, the Guide starts to make a lot more sense and be highly useful, because it takes 2-5 seconds (varies) from final button press until the picture and sound are up. And speaking of audio delay, after pausing or chapter skipping, it takes seconds for the HD-DVD audio to "catch up" with the playing audio. Switching inputs on the HDTV (which has nice labelling capablities, so it isn't Input 6, it is Cable Box or HD-DVD or Studio Feed) is also slow and takes seconds. Switching back and forth between shows/inputs is vexingly slow.
BTW - I ended up deciding to get the HD-DVD player as an upgrade from the $230 I was expecting to spend on an good HDMI uprezzing DVD player. For an extra $170 from Amazon it does good DVD uprezzing and OH! It plays HD-DVDs too. I've said it before, I'll say it again - technology is only as relevant as it's price point. A $400 2nd gen HD-DVD player, or a $600 PS3 or $800+ Blu-ray player? As a $150 bump up from a good uprezzing DVD player, it fits into the "kinda pricey upgrade but worth it", vs a major financial commitment (as gear goes) that you think twice or thrice before committing to. A $175 upgrade to something they were already buying (almost doubling it) is in the "Ehhh....I might." category. A $370 upgrade? Gotta check with the wife/girlfriend/back account/conscience...
Speaking of the player I got, I was surprised to see it does NOT support MP3 discs! Crazy considering what all it does - the Oppo uprezzing DVD player did DVD-A and the other high def audio format, as well as a bunch more stuff. While the HD-A2 does play DVDs and DVD-Rs and DVD-RWs (kudos), I was suprised at the lack.
I've got an AppleTV on order, but at this point the only thing it'll do I like is a nice interface for my iTunes collection...which won't fit on the 40GB hard drive anyway. I was thinking of making a dedicated media Mac with an old G5 (that I rarely use, sadly) that I could leave hooked up to the HDTV full time (or optionally with a long run DVI cable), and it'd do more and cost less (you can get Front Row to work on non-Intel Macs with an available hack). In any case, I'm letting the AppleTV order stand, in part just to keep up on things. The stuff I do for you guys...
OK, enough rambly for now.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
This is actually really good, and about life not WoW.
At Sundance, I got a lot of extremely useful-to-know but painful/bleak advice and feedback about some things I've been doing that haven't been working out as well as I'd like.
In case you hadn't noticed, I've been kind of pessimistic of late, cranky and cynical.
I don't like that.
People have been emailing for advice, and instead of sharing in the leave-a-penny, give-your-old-bow-away motif (read John's thing), I've felt like hitting them up with the "I'm a consultant, I won't do that for free." messaging.
It is making me cranky, closed off, and not in the headspace I want to be - out of balance.
I'm trying to let go of the blog for a bit (not spend so much time daily) and catch up on life balance stuff.
What does this have to do with WoW and exactly what John said? Some but not everything.
Gotta pay attention to having a plan but not watching the map too closely.
Gotta find some freedom and randomness and adventure.
I've been thinking too hard about trees, then the forest, and not enough about going for a pleasant walk.
If this doesn't make sense, don't worry about it, I just wrote it in 2 minutes non-stop.
Studio Daily | Telestream Announces Availability of Flip4Mac XDCAM v2.1 Software:
the component enabled editors to ingest IMX, DV and HDV content directly from Sony's XDCAM Professional Disc production system into Apple's Final Cut Pro 5 application for editing. Version 2.1 software adds the ability to also export IMX 30/40/50 media across the entire XDCAM family
....but with the free XDCAM HD software from Sony, I don't see why you'd want to buy this - anybody have a reason?
UPDATE - see Comments for why you'd want it - Ethernet support!
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Yesterday's introduction of dual and quad link 4Gbit fibre channel cards hints at upcoming 4Gbit RAIDs.
The next Radeon card is rumored to be the high end choice for the next Mac Pro:
AppleInsider | ATI Radeon X2800XT with CrossFire rumored for Apple's next Mac Pro
So: 8 processor Macs connected to 4Gbit RAIDs with CrossFire graphics cards...gonna be nice!
From the AppleInsider article, Apple has ...reportedly deferred on a release until a time closer to a roll-out of Adobe's Intel-native Creative Suite 3.0 software bundle.
I held off on first gen Mac Pros waiting for 8 processors. I'm ready, Apple, are you?
I think I linked to this before, but I've got a friend testing it and wanted to revisit the issue if I hadn't before.
ANYBODY USED THIS YET? HAVE EXPERIENCE WITH IT?
Here's a refresher from their website:
With Pomfort SilverStack you open and inspect image sequences such as scanned 35mm film or rendered sequences as you would expect it from professional tools:
Browse sequence-based and timecode-oriented with a unique info-timeline
Open movie-typical file types such as DPX, Cineon, TIF in practically any resolution (PAL, HD, 2k, 4k, 6k)
Extract color-channels and inspect color with a selective RGB histogram
Visualize clipping pixels in blacks and whites
Zoom and pan to see every single pixel even on smaller screens
Apply Gamma- or LUT-based color linearization with custom presets
Apply primary grading (basic RGB-grading capabilities for both linear and logarithmic color spaces)
Playback-preview of image sequences on any machine using built-in QuickTime player.
Choose frame rate, resolution, codec and quality of your movie
Append a sound track to the movie
Zoom/pan/crop your images and apply black bars to fit various aspect ratios
Add a center cross or action safe- and title safe borders
Choose various textual burn-ins such as timecodes in different fps, frame numbers, file and folder names, disk volume and custom metadatadata in selectable font, size and position for the movie
Apply primary grades and linearization filters to your movie
Store presets of your setting to apply them to multiple image sequences
So - anybody have any real-world thoughts on this thing?
It is an interesting trade-off. Stu presumes you only move to AE once you have picture lock. From that point forward, you have tremendous amount of control since you're already in After Effects. The catch is it is SLOW, and watching anything you've done in realtime requires a lengthy RAM preview.
BUT...the benefit is you're ALREADY in the tool that allows for a tremendous amount of control - deciding you have to go out to After Effects is usually a point of friction in onlining - it is a hassle to kick out a sequence (esp. if you want to avoid highlight clipping), bring it into After Effects, THEN do the actual work, then render it, then bring it back into FCP, line it up with the original, blah blah blah.
If you're already in AE (a chunk of work), then it is no biggie to just DO the work to fix the shot - you're already there.
The catch is, it is a HUGE pain to then watch what you've done - on the fly you can wait to render any given sequence to RAM (better have a LOT), or render a chunk of it out and drop it back into the NLE to watch.
Pros and cons, pros and cons...if Apple can get better performance and integration out of its next generation or two of applications, then we may be getting somewhere in terms of staying anchored more in the NLE. The current "Send to Shake" feature doesn't work as well as it should.
The only Apple fibre channel card I'm aware of is the dual link 2Gbit model that Apple sells intended for use with the 2Gbit XServe RAID.
Checking Apple's online store, why yes, there are 4Gbit cards available! I think I must have missed when this happened - perhaps while I was at Sundance?
From the Apple Online Store you can configure a Mac Pro with 2 or 4 link 4GBit cards:
Dual-channel 4Gb Fibre Channel PCI Express card
This card runs at full bandwidth in a four-lane or eight-lane PCI Express slot.
Quad-channel 4Gb Fibre Channel PCI Express card
This card runs at full bandwidth in an eight-lane PCI Express slot.
A quad-channel card is ideal if your computer is slot-constrained or if you want to connect two Xserve RAIDs to a single host computer without the expense or complexity of connecting through a Fibre Channel switch. Some hosts can utilize two quad-channel cards and support up to four Xserve RAIDs.
Each card ships with two or four 2.9-meter 4Gb Active Copper Fibre Channel SFP to SFP (small form factor pluggable) interconnect cables. The cables are used to connect to the SFP port on Xserve RAID with SFP connectors.
Dual channel card is $600, quad channel is $1000.
But the XServe RAID is still 2Gbit - this supports the LONG floating rumors of an improved RAID, with up to perhaps 16 SATA drives and 4GBit fibre connections.
When might we see it? With the Octo Mac Pro rollout? Or not until NAB?
This promises to be a bang-up year for Apple at NAB.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
I've been anticipating this format for some time, it has been QUITE slow to come to market, but once it does arrive (knock on wood), it'll be a great solution for archival and backup (although the CEO says not going to play in the backup market at all - whaaaaaaaa?)
Jukeboxes planned as well.
This will be a Big Deal for archiving uncompressed HD quantities of data.
I previously stated 20 MB/sec and implied write speed - they are saying transfer speed, so I'll betcha that is read speed and write speed will be slower. Wait and see to confirm.
Studio Daily | Panasonic Announces $14,000 2/3-Inch P2 Camcorder, Ups Cards to 16 GB
Goodies galore! First up, a new 2/3" $14,000 camera, the HPX500. Key features:
-3 CCDs, 2/3" each
-upgraded (sounds like pixelshift) version of SDX900 (which is a 16:9 SD camera)
-interchangeable B4 mount lenses
-variable frame rates from 12-60fps
-available in May
-$14,000, including viewfinder (but no lens I'd imagine?)
-P2 based, 4 P2 slots
-16GB P2 cards will ship in May, price TBA, 32GB by year end
-1080i60, 50i, 30p, 25p, 24p, 720p60/50/30/25/24
-4 XLR audio inputs
-8 gamma modes, CA compensation function
New P2 deck: "P2 Gear" - AG-HPG10
-record or play back P2 media
-IEEE 1394 & USB 2.0 interfaces
-$3995, shipping August
-AVC-Intra codec in August for the HPX2000 with 32GB cards
another camera, the AK-HC3500, is 2/3", 2.2MP 3CCD camera for studio/EFP usage, native 1080i sensor, late summer, price TBA
and a viewfinder/monitor, 800x450 pixels, BT-LH80W
The Steadybag is a simple camera support system for film or video cameras, similar in concept to a bean bag and available in several sizes. I have been using both the 3lb and 7lb models for a few months now. Originally I was only going to review the smaller model, but after they kindly overnighted the 3lb review unit to me and I had a chance to use it, I was impressed enough to immediately purchase the larger 7lb model at B&H.
Read on, a good tool for the small camera DIY set.
Monday, February 12, 2007
Hey all -
So It Is Time for me to buy an HDTV. Other than the studio gear, I don't have one.
Rational Boy that I am, I decided to go about this methodically.
My earlier rough thoughts had been that I'd wait for a true 1080p set to get down to about $2000 that had multiple HDMI w/HDCP ports, and good uprezzing capabilities for DVDs (if a new DVD player didn't have it). Then I started reading about 120 Hz sets and thought I'd want that feature as well. Then I read about HDMI v1.3 and thought that might be a nice feature to have as well. As for size? I hadn't thought about it too much. This starts out semi-organized and devolves into my notes to myself as I still don't have an answer yet:
More thoughts on what I want:
-excellent black levels
-do I really want 1080p? NO by typical viewing distance logistics, YES if I want to do critical evaluations on it
-no/minimal smear/lag/rainbow fringing
-LOTS of inputs
-96 or 120 Hz?
-good SDTV performance
-good backlit remote (or a 3rd party good universal remote)
-DVI input better than VGA input for computer usage, and FULL SCREEN not pixel for pixel
-built in tuner
plasmas suffer in direct light and have reflections (not so worried about burn-in issues) - so out?
LCDs are good but get pricey for size/res I want - so maybe
RPTVs - DLP typically better than LCoS (SXRD/DiLA) are close but not as good for contrast
LCDs are workst contrast of the bunch
Step One: How much?
The classic limiter: budget. I've semi-arbitrarily decided $2500 is as much as I'm willing to spend - I'll still need to be buying some new media furniture for my living room, and any HDTV receiver/tuner/set-top box/Blu-ray/HD-DVD/etc. that I might want to get, which is a whole other bailiwick.
In the end, that is just as much as I wanted to spend.
Step Two: How Big?
Referring to this chart I mentioned the other week, at my viewing distance (10 or 11 feet), SMPTE & THX would recommend a screen size of about 65 to 98 inches. Uh huh, not happening. In my budget level, I'm looking at sets no larger than 46" for LCDs and 50 or maybe 55" for plasma HDTVs, or up to 62" for rear projection HDTVs (from a quick skim of B&H's website).
So that right there rules out fitting into the recommended math. A 50" set is around 4 feet wide. That's BIG, and can dominate a room.
While the viable range I can afford falls into the 37-55" range, I'm guessing I'll be centering in on a 40-46 inch set to get good contrast and image quality.
Step Three: What Resolution?
Now, interestingly, there's another chart that is highly informative. If you look at the horizontal line for 10 foot viewing distance, and cross that with the size of screen I can afford, surprise! If I were to get the biggest possible set, and it had 1280x720 panel resolution, and I my glasses/contacts corrected my vision to 20/20, and I leaned forward a bit, THEN and ONLY then should I be able in theory to see the full benefit of a 1280x720 (720p) resolution signal & image. If you look at that chart, there are some hard lines (where benefit of 480/720/1080/1440p is fully visible), and some soft transitional zones (the areas between). At a viewing distance of 10 feet, a 36 inch set lets you see all the resolution of a 480p signal (like a DVD). I presently have a 32 4:3 Sony TV set, and watching DVDs, if offers me about a 30" 16:9 area. So in theory, I'm not even ABLE to see all the clarity/benefit of my DVDs as I'm presently set up....if my TV even showed all the resolution.
If I were to get a 37" HDTV, at my viewing distance, I'd barely (if at all) be able (in theory) to see the difference between a 480p and a 720p signal.
If I get a 46-50" set, I'd be able to tell the difference between that and standard def, but I wouldn't be able to eyeball all the resolution of a 720p signal. Hmm....therefore, the typical 1368x768 panel resolution would be fully adequate for my viewing conditions, provided it is bright enough and contrasty enough. This is probably why most folks are happy with their HDTVs and standard definition DVDs - it looks damn good on their sets from their usual viewing distances. And at ten foot viewing distances, with 20/20 vision, you'd need a nearly 60" set to tell the difference between 720p and 1080p signal resolution, and a whoping 78" (that's six and a half FEET diagonally) set to see ALL the detail in a 1080p signal. And who wants to dominate their room with a 6 1/2 foot TV set?
So I'm so NOT going to sweat waiting for a 1080p set to come into my price/size range...because I'd have to get a room dominating monster to do so.
I've also been idly considering getting a screen and a projector for watching movies in my bedroom - my laundry room is right behind my bedroom and I could cut a glass port into the wall to isolate projector noise, and I have a perfect spot on my wall to install a pull-down screen that would cover the windows. Fun as it would be, is this something I'd really want to do in my bedroom?
I'm considering the Sony KDS-60A2000 at the moment, some pros/cons:
-3xSXRD, no spinning color wheel issues
-CineMotion (aka 3:2 pulldown) worked spottily at best (uh oh)
-1080p60 yes GOOD, 1080p24 NO, BOOO!!!!!
-2 HDMI inputs (not v1.3 I'd bet)
-2 component inputs
-VGA (1366x768 max - what happened to 1920x1080????)
-some trouble with SD material, 3:2 pulldown in particular, and some detailing issues
-VGA mode did NOT fill screen from computer
-HDMI to DVI adaptor DID do 1920x1080 though, BUT overscanned significantly - no Start toolbar, for instance
the KDS-R60XBR2 has more inputs, but still has some SD issues - VERY important to figure out where your SD signal is coming from - I'll probably need to get a new DVD player with upconversion capability and HDMI outputs
-that given, which one? With HQV or Faroudha upscale chip, right?
DO THE PROCESSING DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE TWO ACTUALLY MATTER FOR ME?
what else to consider that I can afford?
-the 50" version of the cheaper Sony
--that Mitsubishi with DVI input Carlton dude recommended?
-do I really WANT a 50"+ set in my living room?
-if I go 60", that is HUGE - but is it in the "can see all res" category yet? If rear projection rather than direct pixels, won't that be soft as compared to direct pixels of an LCD?
-the quest continues - PLEASE DO share your thoughts etc. - depending on how close the screen is (wall mount or RPTV on pedestal) my viewing distance is about 9 1/2 to 11 feet.
-thanks for all the feedback so far, let me clarify my viewing situation: it is in my living room, which has a LOT of windows and is NOT darkable during the day. Also, I have studio gear, this is for living room enjoyment. I already have 32" SDTV, so I'm looking to make a big improvement from that.
-some folks are saying this is a bad time to buy - with prices constantly coming down, when IS a good time? Quality and price are both improving dramatically, is it going to be like computers, in that waiting 6 months will ALWAYS net a better result? I've got the Mad Cash sitting around now, dunno if I still will months down the road
-and for the reasons to wait - how far off are they?
I could either:
-pony up serious dough and get something good that would be cheaper and as good later
-get a "hold me over" unit in the meantime and upgrade down the road
-or not buy and wait
Thoughts? I'm used to computers always improving and you buy when you need - I have no specific need at the moment, but I've been waiting quite a while already
UPDATE: BOUGHT ONE!
Sometimes, you're just ready to BUY STUFF.
After meaning to get an HDTV for, oh, a coupla years now, I spent 3 or 4 hours reading and researching yesterday. After finishing some work, I drove out to Fry's and looked at a bunch of what they had out there (I have a gift certificate from there to offset some of the cost, so I'm inclined to buy from them, "free money" and all). I took some notes, compared them to what I'd found from online reviews (cnet.com was pretty helpful, but many reviews were getting a bit long in the tooth).
Crossing cnet's recommendations with what they had out there, the Sony KDS-60A2000 started looking pretty good - with the same core imaging capabilities as the top rated and $1500 more expensive 60" XBR2 model, I was happy with it. There's some nitpicky differences in the SD performance, but since I'm going to upconvert my DVDs anyway (more on that in a minute), I'm not so concerned about that.
I took my notes back home, did some more online research to make sure I wasn't missing any models worth looking at, and to make sure the prices I was finding were reasonable enough.
Got home, more research. The Sony was holding up fairly well. ALL HDTVs have some issues...or at least all the ones under $2500 I was looking at did - there's no such thing as a Perfect HDTV in this price range.
I did end up changing my mind and deciding to get a 1080p capable unit, even though at that size and viewing distance I probably can't eyeball the difference between 1080 & 768 pixels of imagery, I told myself it was because I'd be evaluating HD signals on it (work related, ya know) that I'd be better off with the straight, pixel for pixel, 1080p res. Or I just wanted 1080p, because I'm a victim of marketing and a quality snob - I don't know which...entirely.
The $400 stand from Sony? Man, $400 is lot of money for some metal and glass whose job is to SIT THERE. So I didn't buy it...yet. I'm going to research alternatives tomorrow. This TV is ridiculously huge, so I need a big piece of furniture to sit it on. And it will also need to house, at the very least, my receiver and new DVD player - the CD changer (never use it), the VHS (hahahahaaaaa......that's a good one, I kill me...), and the old DVD player probably won't be included in this game.
A definite issue - getting off axis up or down has a quick and DRAMATIC effect on brightness, so definitely need to have the HDTV at proper height - ideally my face at same height as center of screen when I'm sitting down (more measuring tape games to be played)
Further digging - the same stand can be found online for $250 not $400...but ground shipping starts at $80-$100...so $50 to wait a week or more...hmm...just paying for it locally and bringing it home could be way to go.
I skipped the extended warranty/coverage action, mostly based on The Simpson's episode where Homer is getting the crayon pounded into his brain further to re-dummify and he says "Extended warranty? How can I lose!" and Moe says "Almost there...just one more...." It was $300 I think for five years, and a new bulb is MSRP for $250. If there's a problem, somebody will come out to fix it. Without it, you're on your own with Sony, and of course he didn't say what their policy is.
So now the question is what DVD player?
A little research and I found a top rated upconverting DVD player that outputs 1080p not 1080i - but for only about $150 more, I could get the Toshiba HDA2 HD-DVD player and play REAL HD discs - but that unit is 1080i, not 1080p. Sigh....will it make a meaninful difference? I'm thinking not. I have hundreds of DVDs, but I don't buy anymore, I'm happy with Netflix.
So chime in - $230 Oppo DV981HD killer 1080p uprezzing DVD player, or $375 Toshiba HDA2 honest-to-goodness HD-DVD player that also upconverts DVDs to 1080i?
Consider this a polll...but remember budget is getting TIGHT...Octo-Mac Pros may be getting announced tomorrow, and I just dropped about 2 grand on this thing...
updated an hour later - digging around, 3 of 4 stores I've found list it as not available yet, and one place lists it as in stock....I sooooo don't trust "in stock" notifications online, and with a fairly new product, this smells iffy. For $150 more, I can DEFINITELY get an HDA2, and pronto (they've been shipping for weeks). While I'd like to wait for the HD-A20 (which DOES have 1080p output), it ships "Spring 2007) which could be May and I'm tired of waiting. When it is time to buy, I'm all about new-ish tech that the price has dropped some already. The $500 list of the HDA2 is actually under $400 if you dig around.
Next up - getting an HD signal - I'm on the phone waiting to hear what my options are with Time Warner Cable (already have digital cable with them)...then I gave up after holding half an hour (at 11pm at night - how busy can they be!)
Abel Cine Tech - Phantom High Speed Digital Cameras
Abel Cine is now renting these cameras out.
-up to 1000 fps at that size
-at true 2K (2048x1556), can do 700 fps
-4096x2440 up to 120 fps
-imaging area equivalent to 65mm film (wow)
I wanted some more info, so I had an email exchange with Mitch Gross of Able Cine Techwho answered some questions for me:
Q: ...so are they done yet, out, available?
A: The "First-gen" cameras are done, which have been selling and renting because demand is so high. These were really Beta units, but when clients line up with cash, whaddya gonna do? The "production models" will debut at NAB. Lovely machines.
Q: What rental rates?
A: Currently available from Abel Cine Tech. And up on our website soon if not already. The Phantom HD comes in 35mm PL mount with 16G of internal RAM, a color viewfinder, a laptop engineering computer (the camera controller, for the moment), a pair of 24v block batteries, and a sliding baseplate. All for only $2,000/day. The Phantom 65 is the same but offers a Mamiya large format lens mount (and soon Super-PL) and is $2750/day.
We also require a skilled engineer who has trained on the Phantom camera systems to run the unit. There are a few out there, and we offer training courses. If the client wishes to hire one of our engineers the charge is $750/10hr. day, New york or LA local.
Q: What lens mounts?
A: Phantom HD is PL, Phantom 65 is currently Mamiya large format and soon Super-PL. That's for rentals. If you wish to buy a camera then you can certainly get a special order mount.
Q: Sample frames available somewhere?
A: Soon on our website. Come visit our NAB booth and create your own!
Q: Anything else?
A: Just wait to you see the quality of the images. Really stunning, cinematic stuff. The images from the Phantom 65 are breathtaking.
And read into our info about the upcoming Flashmags. How does 75 minutes of 2Kx2K recording ONBOARD with no moving parts in about the size of a VHS tape? 20 minutes on the Phantom 65. That's going to turn the industry on it's head.
Oh yeah, and the camera is just as impressive at 24p as it is at 1000.
So that boils down to about $2750/10 hour day for camera & tech, NOT including lenses for the HD model that can shoot up to 1000 fps at 1080p, or $3500/day for a 4K camera (up to 120fps) with tech.
If you need high speed shots, and want to be able to check it right there on set to see if you got it, this looks like a promising option to consider, just fly it in the day/s you need. There are a couple of other high speed cameras out there, but AFAIK Phantom is taking a leading position in terms of frame size, bit depth, and frame rate (if you know better/otherwise, please let me know and I'll amend).
I saw some sample footage at NAB, and there ain't nothin' like true ultra high speed.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
MacNN | Apple's Leopard, Final Cut trademarks
which states that the European Trademark Office published trademarks for several items including "Final Touch" - was this just a generic move to do when acquiring a company, or does this signal intent that Final Touch might live on as a standalone company?
My gut vibe was that Final Touch's parent company was acquired to get access to technology, not products - or perhaps even just for the programming talent. For those who recall, Final Touch (in SD, HD, and 2K versions) is color correction software. I first reported it in Jan 2005, then worked with extensively from roughly Oct 2005 to Jan 2006, when I walked away from it, deeming it sufficiently broken for my purposes (Mac based color correction that could QUICKLY and EFFICIENTLY get an FCP timeline color corrected).
The color correction part of it is excellent with multiple realtime capabilities, such as secondaries in power windows, etc. The Achilles Heel of the product, however, was workflow - getting XML to work as was, if not promised, certainly strongly hinted at; never worked worth a damn without ENORMOUS prep & check work, and various hamstringing limitations.
Looking to doodle with it again to grade a friend's project, I went back to the support boards to find out where things stood a year later, months after the company and its assets were sold to Apple. New versions do continue to trickle out, latest being version 2.7 release candidate 2, which DOES have Universal Binary support.
But when I asked about using XML to get timelines in and out of Final Touch back to Final Cut, the list of must do items to prep it going in, and the constraints about what could and couldn't be done was still evilly daunting, reminding me of the fact that I spent more time trying to get projects in and out of Final Touch than the colorist spent coloring them. Even if that situation is improved, the situation still sucks.
So unless Apple is going to do a MAJOR revamp of XML, or a MAJOR revamp of the efficacy of the workflow, I don't see Final Touch continuing as a standalone product - the MacNN article describes Final Touch as "a feature located in Apple's Final Cut Studio software" - which is roughly along the lines of what I expect to see - those capabilities will get folded into Final Cut Studio, and quite likely just as features in Motion, Final Cut Pro, and eventually the Shake successor.
In any case, it was interesting to revisit the whole thing. It was an excellent lesson for me in the necessity of double and triple checking the hell out of everything that you drop a bunch of money on and plan to depend on - the sales pitch sounds the same whether it works great or is a clusterf*cked, non-functional cripple of an app (edit - I meant that as a general description of tech working or not, and not FTHD specifically, and while I have my list of choice epithets about some aspects of that product, it had lots of cool functionality I really liked and hope to see survive at Apple, in whatever way/shape/form.)
After initial high hopes for Final Touch, I'm happy to have it behind me now. There is some excellent technology in there that I hope Apple successfully strip mines for Final Cut Studio, but leave the Old Busted behind.
The Hope was that you'd be able to take your Final Cut Pro project, export an XML, import it into Final Touch, and be able to grade all your footage in there. When done, you'd render out new footage, bring it back into Final Cut, and all of your dissolves, titles, and other effects would just drop right on. Not to be. There are shops out there working with Final Touch, but they use an EDL based workflow that requires much to be pre-baked within Final Cut before bringing it over to Final Touch, and titles etc. don't flow over the way originally intended. It is enough work it makes me think it is worth looking at non-Mac solutions as alternatives, such as Scratch or the Iridas solutions.
My friends up at OffHollywood Digital up in NYC originally worked with Final Touch then bailed on it after much frustration to adopt Assimilate's Scratch instead.
Studio Monthly | A Complete Guide to Plug-Ins
Handy list of plugins for all the major NLE & compositing apps (& PShop).
Friday, February 09, 2007
Dissertation challenging Jobs' assertion that a closed DRM ecosystem is inherently more secure than an open (licensed) one.
This is bang-on accurate. Go read.
Headline says it all - EMI is looking into the possibility of distributing their library as non-DRM'ed MP3 files. This is an interesting reaction so shortly after Steve Jobs' request to the industry to drop all DRM from music.
The article implies EMI is wondering how much higher sales might be if DRM were removed. My initial gut suspicion was that iPods held so much of the music player market that it wouldn't impact it much - but with music phones gaining in popularity, I may be wrong.
What do you folks think - would open MP3 music sales be overall good or bad for the industry?
My fellow blogger Matthew Jeppsen review an LED light panel for DV Magazine, he gives a quick summary and a link to the article itself:
"They offer many advantages over traditional tungsten lighting%u202640w output with zero heat emission, on-board diffuser, long battery life without a belt and tether, dimmable with no color shift, 3200K/5600K color temperature, the list goes on"
Here's the direct link to the DV Magazine article.
Thursday, February 08, 2007
Interesting! I hope the analog video quality is better than the abysmal performance I got on my 24" Dell of matching resolution, but this is half way to a po' man's 30" (without the added resolution increase).
Anybody tried one of these yet?
I found this article from this FresHDV page, which has some nice excerpts and summation for those in a hurry.
Thinking of buying one? Read the whole thing - there's charts, sample frames, all kinds of goodness in there. I wish I had time to do this kind of testing.
Here's a roundup of interesting tidbits going on in Red One World:
First off, a pic of Frankie as he's been used of late - man, if that's the cover they can whip out for a prototype, what'll the final be? This DEFINITELY looks like some kind of Lay-Zorr BFG 9000...gotta get me one of those...have fun getting this proto on an airplane though...
After briefly re-opening reservations for a few days in January, there are now about 1500 reserved Red One cameras. Comparing that to about "about 100 Vipers, 70 Genesis, and maybe a couple of dozen Dalsa Origin and Arri D20s currently out there" (according to the Digital Cinema Society Newsletter), that makes for a very interesting market out there once all those Red Ones ship. After making some inquiries, informed estimates put Varicam count around 1500ish, and F900 count around 2000ish (these are hard numbers to come by, anybody got a better guess let me know). With Red pre-orders already getting into those volumes before even a working camera has been shown to the public, what will Red One do to the rental market I wonder?
Certainly push down some prices, but how much? I'd spoken to a rental house about their intended Red One rental pricing (Varicam to F900 territory), but will that be sustainable with 1500+ cameras on the market, probably in the first year? Supply and demand will kick in I'd imagine, and between rental houses getting in, and owner/operators that have struggled to afford Red Ones getting in on the rental market on down days, the rental price of Red Ones will come down QUICKLY I'll bet. The points of differentiation will get down to accessories, support, redundant stock, service, knowledge, etc. This does make me think twice about how to optimally position my own Red One I intend to rent out - how can I differentiate? One way will be my plan to have local 35mm film lenses, tripods, matte box, follow focus etc. ready and available, and target higher end clients with a stronger level of support and service (and ancillary services, to be revaled at a later date) that will set me apart from the typical owner/operator who rents theirs out on the side.
But if I were a rental house that just bought heavy into Varicams, F900s, F950s, Vipers, etc., I'd be concerned about the amortization rate of those cameras, and paying close attention to market conditions over the next year plus. As a consumer/renter of any of these goods, this can only be good news, however.
I've talked in the past about Red being a disruptive technology, but as we get closer to actually seeing and receiving working cameras, IF they work as advertised, IF they are field reliable, IF the market accepts them as viable replacements, it is going to change the game for a lot of rental houses pretty soon. Perhaps even as early as later this year - if all the above conditionals turn out favorably (and I think it likely they will), I could see this having an starting to have an effect as early as this calendar year - after the cameras get out into the market, and the initial supply constraint eases, if the market learns about them as an option and accepts them...why would you want to rent an Varicam instead of a Red? Concerns over not knowing how to use the different workflow will probably be one of the largest hindrances at first - "Sounds great, never worked with it, I already know and trust Varicam as good enough for this project, and don't understand this new stuff, where's my tape at the end of the day, why's it so cheap/must not be good, etc." will probably be the biggest impediments to Red's success after they are out in the field, assuming it all works as expected. It'll be up to Red to educate the market as to the benefits.
BUT....then I realize I'm am soooooo the early adopter. Somebody in the comments said it'd take a couple of years for F900s to be affected substantially....and yeah, people are slow to change, no matter how much better any new entrant is. People fear change and like what they know. New camera, new company, new workflow? It'll take some time.
But if Red does what they say it will, within 2 years of it being on the market...what would rental price of Varicams and F900s be? What of the Sony's F23, likely to be priced at around $180-$200K with recorder and due to ship in the next few months, but with anticipated specifications below Red One's in most categories, and at roughly an order of magnitude higher price for camera body and recording capability?
Will it/might it be akin to what's happened in the post hardware/software market, where lowering costs have created a two tier system -buy & fly largely on your own lower cost systems, and high cost, high service systems? This market discontinuity exists/existed somewhat already for cameras - until recently, there was a big gap between HDV ($2-$10K) and pro 2/3" DVCPRO HD (used to start north of $40K) cameras. the gap has been filling in with new DVCPRO HD cameras and XDCAM HD of late. The difference is, Red One is a higher end camera that isn't quite so point and shoot simple - there are options to be dealt with. Good options to have, but more complex choices to be made (wrong or right). And that implies more service/support.
In other markets, I've seen Boxx Systems, a PC integrator, drop out of the high end video editing market because they couldn't sustain their pricing/business model there - the relatively fire-and-forget markets with aftermarket training for turnkey solutions on relatively generic boxes was eating their lunch. Think about other markets where the cost of the tech has dropped drastically, and what it has done to those industries. I had an interesting conversation with a software developer friend of mine - he said there are two markets for enterprise software - below $20K and over $80K. Below $20K, it is expected an IT guy will peruse the options, make a few phone calls to sales & sales engineers, and buy a solution. If you want someone to fly out to your shop on a few days' notice, sit down with you, go over your specs,figure out integration, install a demo unit, etc., you're into $80K+ territory right there. The capabilities of the toolsets may be extremely similar, but the price required to sustain a high level sales force push the costs up there. I don't know what the internal margins are for the Red One, but it will be very interesting to see how they plan to distribute the camera over time, and how they will service and support it. R&D and tooling costs amortize nicely as volume goes up, support distinctly does not. NAB should be very, very interesting for a variety of reasons beyond just specs, prices, products, etc.
I had an interesting conversation with somebody at the Red party about what Red's support plans were - the other guy was saying (this before reservations re-opened and another 400+ orders came in) - "If they are going to sell 1000 cameras in their first few months, they are probalby going to have to field 50,000 questions." That may or may not be an exageration, but you certainly get the point. With so much that is so new and so different about the camera, support infrastructure will be vital. I'm not doubting they won't support it and do so well, just come NAB time, it'd be good to hear some reassuring answers about their plans. How they can do it at the camera's price point will be interesting to see, and see if they can sustain (either high quality support, price point, or both). Their openness, involvement, and responsiveness in online forums bodes well, however.
This is all first draft, top-of-my-head conjecture and mental doodling at this point, fun to think about but too early to base any serious plans on. Comment away as you see flaws in my arguments, and I'll amend this article.
Here's some interesting discussions that have been going on over at Reduser.net, which is now the all-but-stated official place to get info on what's up with Red - the team answers (many) questions asked, but the wheat-to-chaff ratio can be frustratingly low due to the high level of chatter. Here's some of the better stuff:
B4 Mount - Page 2 - Reduser.net - discussion of the B4 mount and how it'll work with the Red sensor. There's a nice demo pic on page 2 (link above) that shows where the 2K frame falls within the total sensor with a B4 lens - so the vignetting occurs well outside the 2K frame - all this bodes well for using Red with B4 lenses.
A-Data's 128GB Solid State Drive Sees the Light of Day - Gizmodo - oh - HELLO - something like this for the Red Flash, please?
Studio Daily | Holographic Storage Coming for HD Post - now we're talkin' - So what if you had the ability to record seven hours of HD video onto a single disc at 160 Mbps? - that's 20 MB/sec, on a 300GB optical disc. And those discs can live in a jukebox that holds dozens of discs - it is being built. Keep in mind that Redcode RAW at 4K @ 24p is about 28 MB/sec. So then think about archiving compressed 4K at nearly realtime, fitting nearly 3 hours of 4K data on a single optical disc.
Suddenly all those complaints about "Where will I store my media?" start to sound whiny...
Pull List / Conform / Batch Scale/Crop - Reduser.net - spot-on discussion of vital post workflow issue
Colour Management - Reduser.net - interesting discussion of how color space issues are handled behind the scenes...and good answers from Graeme.
Reduser.net - View Single Post - Red One Pipeline Diagram v1.0 - thougths on how it'll all work together
Video Assist on Set - Reduser.net - goes into details of on set workflow stuff, quite useful/interesting
Moire Issues - Reduser.net
Overcranking at 4K? any news? - Reduser.net
delivery schedule - Reduser.net
Backing up data "on the road"... - Page 2 - Reduser.net - I chime in with some thoughts as well on data backup on the road - a tough challenge if generating hundreds of gigs a day
BTW - I keep adding onto the bottom of my Steve Jobs' 'Thoughts on Music' piece, scroll down and look for UPDATE if you read the original.
PS - one more update on Sunday, Feb 11th -
Frankie in action... - Reduser.net - the Red test platform, Frankie, in action, with the Red 300mm lens. Ted looks either surprised or sick, James (operating) looks non-plussed, and Jarred gives his Thousand Yard Stare. This is undoubtedly recent - so if they're still testing/using Frankie in the field (this at a drag strip, undoubtedly covering Oakley's drag racing team), where's Spike, the all-in-one, more-like-shipping-version prototype? I see a big pfhat bundle of cables leading down away from Frankie, so clearly it isn't an all-in-one package. Then again, look how tank-like Frankie is with that casing. Maybe they don't want Spike out there in case anything goes wrong and they have to get out of the way.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
In a hurry, I'll see if I can come back to this with more later, but sounds very interesting - skip the computer, go straight to TiVO with your downloaded movies/TV shows.
Or more accurately, from Amazon's Unbox service, to your computer, THEN to your TiVO. Point being, the TiVO plays the content, not the computer.
In beta testing now, $18/month to get the service, can THEN buy or rent videos from that point. Steer the whole process from your computer, after downloading goes to TiVO.
TV shows for $2, movies $10-$15, rentals starting at $2.
Got a TiVO? Sounds interesting. Not quality or extras of a DVD, but rentals at $2 and you don't have to leave the house sounds good.
Now if Unbox can get some indie content in there, we're talkin'!
Apple - Thoughts on Music:
Steve Jobs made an unusual move today, defending the proprietary DRM used in iTunes, and in offering alternatives pretty much taking a slap (how hard the slap you decide) to the face of the Big Four music labels. Pardon me for running long on this, it includes the entirely of Steve's screed (his in italics, my commentary in plain text), but for journalistic analysis, and the fact that I can run as long as I want on the blog, Let Us Dissect, tweezers and scalpel in hand:
With the stunning global success of Apple’s iPod music player and iTunes online music store, some have called for Apple to “open” the digital rights management (DRM) system that Apple uses to protect its music against theft, so that music purchased from iTunes can be played on digital devices purchased from other companies, and protected music purchased from other online music stores can play on iPods. Let’s examine the current situation and how we got here, then look at three possible alternatives for the future.
OK, a very interesting opening proposition. I like that Steve is directly addressing an issue....that has been floating around for years. Glad it is finally being addressed in this clear and public method.
To begin, it is useful to remember that all iPods play music that is free of any DRM and encoded in “open” licensable formats such as MP3 and AAC. iPod users can and do acquire their music from many sources, including CDs they own. Music on CDs can be easily imported into the freely-downloadable iTunes jukebox software which runs on both Macs and Windows PCs, and is automatically encoded into the open AAC or MP3 formats without any DRM. This music can be played on iPods or any other music players that play these open formats.
YES. This is often overlooked, and I am oh-so-annoyed whenever iPod opponents say "you can't play other music on the iPod!" Yes. Yes you can. It is called an MP3 file, they play anywhere, you should look into it sometime (and AAC is good too). I believe they aren't too difficult to come by or convert to, those shiny plastic discs the cavepeople still buy seem to be able to automagically be converted. iTunes can even be set to automatically convert, in minutes, any CD inserted to one of those formats as well, without so much as a single keypress.
The rub comes from the music Apple sells on its online iTunes Store. Since Apple does not own or control any music itself, it must license the rights to distribute music from others, primarily the “big four” music companies: Universal, Sony BMG, Warner and EMI. These four companies control the distribution of over 70% of the world’s music. When Apple approached these companies to license their music to distribute legally over the Internet, they were extremely cautious and required Apple to protect their music from being illegally copied. The solution was to create a DRM system, which envelopes each song purchased from the iTunes store in special and secret software so that it cannot be played on unauthorized devices.
Touché, Steve, I do so heartily agree with the validity of this statement - it is definitely the studios that are impinging upon you to slap a lock on the files so they can't be bandied about. However, this engenders one other tangential benefit we'll get back to...
Apple was able to negotiate landmark usage rights at the time, which include allowing users to play their DRM protected music on up to 5 computers and on an unlimited number of iPods. Obtaining such rights from the music companies was unprecedented at the time, and even today is unmatched by most other digital music services. However, a key provision of our agreements with the music companies is that if our DRM system is compromised and their music becomes playable on unauthorized devices, we have only a small number of weeks to fix the problem or they can withdraw their entire music catalog from our iTunes store.
Definitely a victory in dealing with the labels. However, another way of saying the first part is: "We have the least sucky deal out there." Also interesting to note the deadline/timeline to fix any leaks out there - the Hymn project breaks Apple's DRM every once in a while, and Apple makes changes to fix it again. The old measure, counter measure, counter counter measure struggle continues ever onward. I hadn't heard this detail before (had anyone else?), so it keeps Apple on their toes, honoring their obligation to keep FairPlay legitimately "tight" and leak free.
To prevent illegal copies, DRM systems must allow only authorized devices to play the protected music. If a copy of a DRM protected song is posted on the Internet, it should not be able to play on a downloader’s computer or portable music device. To achieve this, a DRM system employs secrets. There is no theory of protecting content other than keeping secrets. In other words, even if one uses the most sophisticated cryptographic locks to protect the actual music, one must still “hide” the keys which unlock the music on the user’s computer or portable music player. No one has ever implemented a DRM system that does not depend on such secrets for its operation.
All standard stuff, plus I love how Steve is able to get away using words like "secrets" in otherwise technical discussions. "Automagically" regretably does not make an appearance in this conversation.
The problem, of course, is that there are many smart people in the world, some with a lot of time on their hands, who love to discover such secrets and publish a way for everyone to get free (and stolen) music. They are often successful in doing just that, so any company trying to protect content using a DRM must frequently update it with new and harder to discover secrets. It is a cat-and-mouse game. Apple’s DRM system is called FairPlay. While we have had a few breaches in FairPlay, we have been able to successfully repair them through updating the iTunes store software, the iTunes jukebox software and software in the iPods themselves. So far we have met our commitments to the music companies to protect their music, and we have given users the most liberal usage rights available in the industry for legally downloaded music.
Kudos to Steve for fessing up and being very straightforward about the history of all this.
With this background, let’s now explore three different alternatives for the future.
The first alternative is to continue on the current course, with each manufacturer competing freely with their own “top to bottom” proprietary systems for selling, playing and protecting music. It is a very competitive market, with major global companies making large investments to develop new music players and online music stores. Apple, Microsoft and Sony all compete with proprietary systems. Music purchased from Microsoft’s Zune store will only play on Zune players; music purchased from Sony’s Connect store will only play on Sony’s players; and music purchased from Apple’s iTunes store will only play on iPods. This is the current state of affairs in the industry, and customers are being well served with a continuing stream of innovative products and a wide variety of choices.
"Well served" is a highly subjective statement. This is the first time I'd say we are straying from the clearly and demonstrably provable so far.
Some have argued that once a consumer purchases a body of music from one of the proprietary music stores, they are forever locked into only using music players from that one company. Or, if they buy a specific player, they are locked into buying music only from that company’s music store. Is this true? Let’s look at the data for iPods and the iTunes store – they are the industry’s most popular products and we have accurate data for them. Through the end of 2006, customers purchased a total of 90 million iPods and 2 billion songs from the iTunes store. On average, that’s 22 songs purchased from the iTunes store for each iPod ever sold.
Today’s most popular iPod holds 1000 songs, and research tells us that the average iPod is nearly full. This means that only 22 out of 1000 songs, or under 3% of the music on the average iPod, is purchased from the iTunes store and protected with a DRM. The remaining 97% of the music is unprotected and playable on any player that can play the open formats. Its hard to believe that just 3% of the music on the average iPod is enough to lock users into buying only iPods in the future. And since 97% of the music on the average iPod was not purchased from the iTunes store, iPod users are clearly not locked into the iTunes store to acquire their music.
...and thus Steve starts to clearly and demonstrably Stray From The Path of Clarity. The KEY issue here is not whether there are OPTIONS to acquire one's music, the point that we looked to see addressed was the fact that music purchased via Apple's iTunes Store is locked to playing on iPods. Thus, The Whinging Begins.
While it is possible to burn a CD from purchased iTunes content and then re-rip that to a non-DRMed format like AAC or MP3, there is a recompression loss. Want to play your purchased content on anything other than an iPod? You have to do some work and degrade the audio quality (and the quality of this purchased content is a whoooole other bag of gripes article).
I feel Steve is sidestepping the core issue here - music purchased from iTunes Store only plays on iPods, not Zunes or Creatives or anything else. Period. The fact that music is acquirable elsewhere is good, nice, and...extraneous to the point that led to this discussion in the first place.
However, this is a good and clear case as to what the reality of the iPod world is like - you buy some content, but you rip (or, ahem, "acquire") MP3s elsewhere for the majority of your content. This "97% from elsewhere" makes for an excellent defense against any accusations of attempted monopoly against Apple.
The unexplored question is this - of that 97%, how much of it was legally obtained, on average? Beyond that, I'd be curious to know, on average, what percentage of that iPod's 97% of remaining content:
1.) Was ripped from iPod owner's own CDs
2.) what percentage of those CDs are still in owner's possession
3.) what percentage came from ripping friends' CDs
4.) what percentage of MP3s/etc. came as digital files from Internet P2P setups, or from friends' hard drives, etc. - Ripping Parties, or "Distributed/Remote Backup Events" aren't exactly uncommon these days
Think about your own music collection - how much of it is either bought from iTunes or ripped from CDs you still presently own? More importantly, how much is NOT from one of those two categories?
The second alternative is for Apple to license its FairPlay DRM technology to current and future competitors with the goal of achieving interoperability between different company’s players and music stores. On the surface, this seems like a good idea since it might offer customers increased choice now and in the future. And Apple might benefit by charging a small licensing fee for its FairPlay DRM. However, when we look a bit deeper, problems begin to emerge. The most serious problem is that licensing a DRM involves disclosing some of its secrets to many people in many companies, and history tells us that inevitably these secrets will leak. The Internet has made such leaks far more damaging, since a single leak can be spread worldwide in less than a minute. Such leaks can rapidly result in software programs available as free downloads on the Internet which will disable the DRM protection so that formerly protected songs can be played on unauthorized players.
An equally serious problem is how to quickly repair the damage caused by such a leak. A successful repair will likely involve enhancing the music store software, the music jukebox software, and the software in the players with new secrets, then transferring this updated software into the tens (or hundreds) of millions of Macs, Windows PCs and players already in use. This must all be done quickly and in a very coordinated way. Such an undertaking is very difficult when just one company controls all of the pieces. It is near impossible if multiple companies control separate pieces of the puzzle, and all of them must quickly act in concert to repair the damage from a leak.
Apple has concluded that if it licenses FairPlay to others, it can no longer guarantee to protect the music it licenses from the big four music companies. Perhaps this same conclusion contributed to Microsoft’s recent decision to switch their emphasis from an “open” model of licensing their DRM to others to a “closed” model of offering a proprietary music store, proprietary jukebox software and proprietary players.
Steve definitely has a valid point that it'd be tough to force downstream sub-licensees to update quickly, and an even stronger point about keeping secrets * . Apple seems to keep secrets better than just about anybody in the high tech and entertainment industries, even though they are paid a vastly disproportionately high level of attention by those industries.
* (Witness the entire DeCSS scenario, all because a single DVD player manufacturer failed to properly encrypt The One Key - cat got out of the bag, never to return)
BUT...Steve does kind of forget to mention one other factor here - that by keeping it a closed economy, it guarantees that the songs you buy on iTunes ONLY work on iPods. And if you look at Apple's fiscal numbers, it is the iPods that are the source of profits, not the iTunes Store. It is a bit like a reverse razors and blades model - Apple wants you to buy pricey iPods (razors) so you can then buy fairly cheap, low margin songs (blades). The two drive each other synergistically, but the bottom line is, the iTunes Store was created to sell more iPods, because that's where the money is.
By omitting this factor, Steve diminishes the credibility of his point. A line about "Yes, I do have to admit this does steer folks towards buying iPods, but we do strongly feel, and the market stats back us up, that we have the most popular and successful music player out there." Something like that would keep him on the Straight and True. Skipping that statement makes my BS-O-Meter needle start to twitch.
The third alternative is to abolish DRMs entirely. Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat. If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store. Every iPod ever made will play this DRM-free music.
Hmm. Sounds interesting. And it makes sense - just use non-DRMed AAC, or even MP3s (which aren't as efficient, but open standards never are, sigh....)
Do go on...
Why would the big four music companies agree to let Apple and others distribute their music without using DRM systems to protect it? The simplest answer is because DRMs haven’t worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy. Though the big four music companies require that all their music sold online be protected with DRMs, these same music companies continue to sell billions of CDs a year which contain completely unprotected music. That’s right! No DRM system was ever developed for the CD, so all the music distributed on CDs can be easily uploaded to the Internet, then (illegally) downloaded and played on any computer or player.
While technically accurate, this argument isn't quite fair. To stop casual consumer piracy, you only need to make it obnoxious enough that most folks won't bother with it. To stop P2P piracy is...virtually impossible. CDs were invented at a time when 650 MB seemed an enormous amount of data, vastly beyond what any consumer would ever dream of working with. I recall working for a large international industrial design/interactive design shop, with 20+ people in our office, and only at ONE station was there a big enough hard drive to routinely burn CD images for client projects. My first hard drive was 600MB (smaller than a CD) and cost $1500. The labels had no idea how quickly storage would get big and cheap, and got burned, and HARD, by a cousin of Moore's Law. The studios saw that happen and decided to put DRM on their 5 inch plastic media discs, DVDs. And that didn't last long, as DeCSS hit the scene and it became cake to pick the DRM locks - because there was only one key in the universe, and once it was out, it was OUT. Prepping for the next round of discs, HD-DVD and Blu-ray, even more stringent DRM was applied...and it too was promptly broken.
1.) DRM will always, Always, ALWAYS be broken.
2.) If no DRM, casual copying will be pretty rampant - witness CDs, either straight out duped, or ripped and the files shared.
3.) If stringent DRM, casual copying will be limited (with varying degrees of success), but P2P copying, it is safe to say, will never be curtailed - DRM is trying to keep you from getting at content you are going to, that they want you to, that you paid to, see - so it HAS to be decoded at some point, and therein lies the hole to be breached or exploited. It only takes one kid in Norway (or Kansas, or wherever) to get around DRM on ONE copy of the work in question, and if he has broadband and P2P, the world will have it within hours. Such Is Life.
In any case, the unfair part is this: labels HAVE to sell CDs - it is the ubiquitous, wide installed base, industry standard format for distribution. Consumers haven't taken to the proposed next generation audio formats for higher quality audio - DVD-A and whatsitcalled (see? If I can't think of it offhand, what are the chances it'll be successful?).
So the labels sell CDs because frankly, they have no other choice. They HOPE, they'd LOVE, to migrate to a more secure distribution format such as DRMed digital downloads, but it takes time to shift, and frankly, consumers need to see a benefit. The convenience of "gimme now" is working, with over 2B iTunes tracks sold, although there are the hassles of backups, incompatibilities, etc.
Another way of saying it? The studios are trapped selling CDs, which get copied rampantly, and they hate it, and want out of that game - so DRM it is for ANY new form of distribution.
In 2006, under 2 billion DRM-protected songs were sold worldwide by online stores, while over 20 billion songs were sold completely DRM-free and unprotected on CDs by the music companies themselves. The music companies sell the vast majority of their music DRM-free, and show no signs of changing this behavior, since the overwhelming majority of their revenues depend on selling CDs which must play in CD players that support no DRM system.
...backing up my point just made about no choice but to sell CDs...
So if the music companies are selling over 90 percent of their music DRM-free, what benefits do they get from selling the remaining small percentage of their music encumbered with a DRM system?
It makes them feel better? A little bit less robbed? Knowing that stuff they sell has a lower chance of being ripped off, stolen, having benefit derived for which they receive no recompense?
There appear to be none.
If anything, the technical expertise and overhead required to create, operate and update a DRM system has limited the number of participants selling DRM protected music.
Clearly, and this entire argument is even moreso the case in the downloadable video market right now (more on that shortly). Witness the failure, or limited success, of many of the other music download stores out there. Apple, to their credit, does an excellent job of understanding the importance of ease-of-use, good interfaces, and as the owner of the entire soup-to-nuts process, can craft an integrated, well functioning whole...which has largely NOT been the case for other online music stores as far as I can tell. If you don't buy your music from iTunes, you're buying it from, uh...the fact that I have to pause more than a second typing to think of viable alternatives kind of proves my own point (at least to me, Apple fan that I am).
If such requirements were removed, the music industry might experience an influx of new companies willing to invest in innovative new stores and players. This can only be seen as a positive by the music companies.
OK, I'd put that on the map as a possibility.
Note the equation of his sentence is conditional on this, emphasis mine: "the music industry might experience an influx of new companies willing to invest in innovative new stores and players. This can only be seen as a positive by the music companies."
That is a bit like saying
"If A might be equal to B and we know B=C, then A could only be as good as C!"
If that doesn't make sense or make my point strongly enough, how about this:
"If a frog had wings, it wouldn't bump its ass a-hoppin'."
Steve plants a big "might be", then if you assume that is true, THEN makes a huge "can only be" leap. Shady math.
The math probably doesn't work for non-DRMed content right now anyway since downloads are such a tiny fraction of current incomes, CDs still sell well (if not as well as they used to), and it would be a tremendous hit for the industry to try to swing the majority of purchasers to online, plus the chaos to their distribution partners and the political chaos that would engender. Blah blah blah, you (hopefully) see where I'm going with that. The labels want to shift to a more secure format - DVD-A and CD-whatsit didn't take with the buying public, so downloads are the next attempt to shift to a secure format.
Much of the concern over DRM systems has arisen in European countries.
YES. Diverging politically for a moment, the countries that don't tolerate invasions of privacy to the level that the US does (atrociously) have a low tolerance for this kind of bull. They see BS, they call it BS and tend to not say "That BS is industry standard, so step in it and don't complain." Kudos to my overseas brothas and sistahs. Keep the faith.
Perhaps those unhappy with the current situation should redirect their energies towards persuading the music companies to sell their music DRM-free. For Europeans, two and a half of the big four music companies are located right in their backyard. The largest, Universal, is 100% owned by Vivendi, a French company. EMI is a British company, and Sony BMG is 50% owned by Bertelsmann, a German company. Convincing them to license their music to Apple and others DRM-free will create a truly interoperable music marketplace. Apple will embrace this wholeheartedly.
Nice job of saying "Please aim your weapons at those guys not me, I only work with them." But he DOES have a point.
It is a bit disingenuous to suggest that the labels go non-DRM with their content. Apple, as I stated, makes their money off the iPods, not the music. Yeah, they do make some profit margin off the music, but it ain't much, and it certainly is not (presently) their primary source of income. Note you see iTunes+iPod commercials, not just iTunes commercials.
This is a bit like Ford asking Shell to give discounts gasoline, stating "It'd be good for the economy." * yeah, well, Ford makes out like a bandit from this, but Shell carries all the burden and risks. It is entirely valid to make this request, but it isn't as "Hey buddy buddy!" and "It's all good, brother!" as it might appear on the surface.
(* - Robogeek points out in the comments that this isn't a truly valid analogy, because unlike Apple, Ford doesn't sell cars AND gas. But imagine if Ford sold SOME gas, this'd be closer to the situation...maybe if they sold "for Ford only" gas debit cards....or something or other...mumble mumble...)
It IS good PR for Apple to make this request - it makes them look like they're on Our Side (and I think they are on this issue). However, note they've waited until now to go public with the issue - if Apple's market share for digital music players were not as strong, I don't think we'd have seen these statements made. Apple is now firmly entrenched enough as a market leader that it poses little risk for them to suggest getting rid of DRM. If they get it, they'll still sell plenty of iPods, it isn't as if there are major competitors to them. iTunes, even ignoring the whole Store end of it, is the best music organizer/player I'm aware of on the market. And it is free to boot - so Apple's position there is pretty safe. But I think the major labels are unlikely to do as Steve suggests, so even that risk is ameliorated - not much skin off their back in the unlikely event the labels do acquiesce, so a win/win to suggest this plan of action.
And if the Big Four DID sell un-DRM'd downloads, they'd be even easier to distribute and share - the already marginal barriers to entry (difficulty/effort) to file sharing, be it P2P or person to person, would be lifted - "Hey, I got this file, let me email it to you!" or even easier, imagine being on iChat/Yahoo/Messenger: "Hey man, got the new David Byrne music, here it comes, click on "Accept file" and its yours." If your friend asked, would you NOT hand it over?
So while I'm no fan of the Big Four, and they do utterly hoserate a lot of their clients, not to mention the buying public in myriad ways, I can't say I entirely defend Steve's memo here.
It isn't that Steve's comments are inaccurate, just incomplete.
In the end, if the Big Four did open wide and let it all go out unDRMed, I think the net result would be a slight increase in people's willingness to buy music if they could use it freely, but a LOT more sharing would go on. And in the end, Apple wouldn't care too much about that, becuase it would probably mean more iPods to be sold.
And in the end, that is what Apple really cares about.
OH - all that being said, proprietary, device limiting DRM needs to go away in our future digital world - witness the craziness of the Blu-ray/HD-DVD fiasco that (among other reasons) is holding back high def DVD's future. Proprietary solutions are always how things start in technologically difficult fields, but over time, either one proprietary solution is picked as a standard, or everyone gets fed up enough that the industry gets it together enough to come up with a standard (witness CDs, DVDs, and if they'd just stuck with ONE high def DVD solution!)
PS - OK, now Part 2: Movies
Now apply this whole bolus of thought to movies and it gets worse - since music is something you can appreciate on the go, it is a different animal that video - you can listen to music while you walk/talk/jog/work/ride the bus, but good luck doing any of those with video. Audio is an augmentative experience onto reality, video tends to be an immersive/dominating one - it is tough to do anything else while watching video. Plus audio is technically easier than video - portable audio is cake and cheap, portable video is not.
With audio content, getting it onto an iPod to tote around and plug into better presentation devices isn't difficult. While the video iPod is the first step in that direction, it has a long way to go in terms of storage, battery life, and most especially presentation quality.
DVDs are a half-inch away from being non-DRMed - how to strip the thin veneer of CSS was mastered and shared long ago, and anyone with 20 free minutes and Google can figure out how to rip a DVD - I have more a few acquaintances that use Netflix as a "Rent, Rip, & Return" service, ending up with a high quality H.264 file living on their hard drives (or iPods). This definitely impacts the number of DVDs they buy.
DVDs are defacto barely or non-DRMed - I'd be very curious to know the percentage of average consumers that know how to get around it. The good thing about DVDs is that playback is largely ubiquitous (sorry Linux guys) - the vast majority of us have access to a simple/low cost way to play them back.
How much does CSS keep people from copying/ripping DVDs? I'd guess not much - between the largish file size * and once-only viewing habits, I'd say the majority of folks wouldn't copy DVDs if it were one button easy - takes too long, too much effort, just rent it for $4 anyway.
* public perception of storage costs lags waaaaaaaay behind reality - saw 500GB drives for $140 online this week, that's at LEAST 55 ripped DVDs right there
There is definitely a crucial bit of economic math relating the value of a digital product, the price, the ease of copying it, and the likelihood of it getting copied. Anybody got an equation on that documented? I'd love to see it.
In that equation, music is clearly a likelier target for copying than video. But as video gets easier to copy, the likelihood increases.
OK, that's enough for now, time to go eat, I just wrote most of this in one long rambling screed * after getting back from a run.
Thanks to the half a dozen folks who emailed me the link today - I saw, I saw! Just took some time to read, digest, and get time to comment on it.
-mike, finally done
* - apparently, "screed" is my Word Of The Day
YES I like Apple toys, AND I have an AppleTV on order, AND I have bought 3 or 4 iPods for myself and family, AND I own some Apple stock, AND I have 6 Macs in my house, AND I could do more analysis/research on the music downloading scene, AND I want to see Apple come out on top because I like them and their toys, AND I've been in a cynical/curmudgeonly mood of late. All that said, I think this is a fair analysis/interpretation of the situation. But of course, as Dennis Miller says, I Could Be Wrong. Think so? Please Comment away using the link below.
After some more thought, Option 2 (licensing FairPlay to others) actually makes more sense - SOME DRM is necessary to protect rampant illegal file sharing. But any industry wide DRM standard is going to require some DRM. And it WILL get broken - witness, hmm, let's see...oh! Every DRM ever implemented. If there is going to be interoperability, it will require some DRM. Maybe even supporting multiple DRMs under an umbrella - could be iTunes or Zune or whoever else joins the consortium. But that opens whole other cans of worms.
I wish the music guys would learn from lesson industries that have already been through this...like software. Software has varying levels of DRM depending on how badly they want to protect their content, usually the higher priced the software the tighter the DRM. Freeware? No restrictions, copy it around. Simple "keep honest folks honest" serial numbers work pretty well. For high value software, the industry tried hardware dongles - little pieces of hardware that you needed one of for each high end app (I still have a half a dozen rolling around in a drawer, unused) - the software wouldn't run without it attached. Well guess what? The software often wouldn't run, or would stop running, even with it attached. The bigger the company involved, the more rapidly they abandoned this approach, since it was more trouble than it was worth. Many legit software owners would run the illegal cracked versions...because they ran more stably (ElectricImage, anyone?). Adobe used to use hardware dongles on After Effects Pro, they gave up. Now the industry tends to use software that locks to a given user account or a given machine - and that has troubles, witness Microsoft's validation woes. And these for for individual applications or operating systems costing hundreds or thousands of dollars. Think of the hassle and difficulty involved in supporting that. Now apply that to a song you want to buy for a dollar or two. Youd better have a 99.99999% accurate and easy metholodogy for dealing with that. And there's no such thing.
CSS was a group consensus effort to use DRM for DVDs. It MOSTLY has worked - MOST consumers don't consider it worth the trouble to dupe or distribute DVDs. Some do. Blu-ray and HD-DVD have much more restrictive and advanced DRM, it has already been broken, but we'll still have to deal with all the hassles sure to follow from it.
Where does this leave us? If there is to be interoperability, either somebody licenses their industry leading standard to everyone else (and here's looking at you, Apple), or the industry comes up with a new standard they can all agree on (that'll take 3 years right there).
And if DRM is used, and the standards do go that way, then we'd likely still be stuck with some of the original snafus - can I sell my copy to someone else as I would a DVD? What if I want to play my movie I bought at my girlfriend's house? Or my buddy with the big badass home theater setup with our friends on a Saturday night? Etc.
DRM still sucks. Does and will suck.
Do I sound like I'm flip flopping? We need it, it sucks and we should get rid of it? Yes, I am. How does the industry get some/reasonable protection from rampant file sharing (sneakernet, friendnet, P2P, whatever), yet give consumers the kind of freedom they get with their physical media to move it around etc.?
A billion dollars to the company that solves (and manages to hold onto the rights) to that one...
John Gruber chimes in with his as usual excellent observations:
Daring Fireball: Reading Between the Lines of Steve Jobs's 'Thoughts on Music', leading off with:
Is it a challenge to the major record labels? An answer to the increasingly hostile European governments (Norway, France, Germany) that are pressuring Apple to “open up” the iTunes Store? A message to the press to clarify Apple’s stance on DRM? A big fuck-you to Microsoft?
It is all of these things.
...and nails it more concisely than I do. Andrew Shebanow calls video "the elephant in the room"
He also has a titled called "Killing DRM would kill subscription services" and I didn't even think of that angle. He also has a great reaction to the industry wanting control over the DRM others use:
In other words, the music industry wants a magical DRM format that gives them — not Apple, not Microsoft — complete control over all digital music. And a unicorn and a rainbow.
AppleInsider's coverage gives me some numbers to use as ammo to defend my razors/blades statement: "'The reason for this is that iPods are significantly more profitable to Apple than iTunes; iPod (35 percent of sales) gross margins are in the 30 percent range while iTunes (5 percent of sales) gross margins are in the 5 percent-10 percent range,' he wrote." - so yeah, Apple cares MUCH more about iPod sales than iTunes Store sales.
NYTimes chimes in - Jobs Calls for End to Music Copy Protection - New York Times
So sue me � Blog Archive
� Steve%u2019s misleading statistics: "if you%u2019ve bought 100 songs ($99), 10 TV-shows ($19.90) and 5 movies ($49.95), you%u2019ll think twice about upgrading to a non-Apple portable player or set-top box. In effect, it%u2019s the customers who would be the most valuable to an Apple competitor that get locked in. The kind of customers who would spend $300 on a set-top box."
....and if DRM goes away, no subscription models could survive...and Apple doesn't do a subscription model - a bit of a "Sucks to be you" to the subscription based services
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
-3000 movies & TV Shows offered
-ALL the major studios involved (not case with iTunes)
-downloads available same day as DVDs
-New movies up to $19.88, older for $9.88
-TV shows $1.96 day after they air
-download and disc prices similar
-need PC with XP or Vista & IE
-uses MS's DRM
-no Mac or Linux support
-no direct iPod compatibility
-works with SOME portable devices compatible with MS's DRM
-up to 3 backup copies made, including DVD-R, but won't play in consumer DVD players (file format incompatibility)
-45 minutes to download typical movie in "near DVD quality"
-no extras - just the movie
The big plus is that ALL the major studios are in on this, and it should grease the skids to get their content onto other online movie stores that they may not be involved in yet - iTunes, CinemaNow, etc.
As for Walmart's play, I don't think this is going to go over very well - while they are offering an option outside of iTunes (good for choice in the market), the prices are higher, the quality still isn't DVD quality, no extras (same as iTunes in those regards).
My gut sense - the online experience won't be as clean/clear/easy as iTunes. How can I say this without even looking? Because it is WalMart, King of Low Cost. If Sony or Amazon can't get it right, what are the odds WalMart will?
I think this will be good overall - the studios have been wary of cutting deals with iTunes and other online download services for fear of retaliation from Walmart, but now that Walmart has their own service, Walmart can't complain (with much validity) about gettting cut out of the loop. But at these high prices, I don't think it'll make much of a dent in the market, esp. for the low quality offered. The trade-off is convenience - do you want a better looking disc with all the extras, or do you want it in 45 minutes without leaving the house? Oh...and then you can't watch it on your TV, your iPod, your DVD player.
Good luck with that, Walmart...but at least it is a start.
Scott Kirsner chimes in with his own thoughts as well - CinemaTech: Tuesday News: Wal-Mart intros movie downloads ... Bob Z bolts to Disney ... Diller dips into video
And AppleInsider has some intersting bits too:
AppleInsider | Briefly: Preloaded iPods, Wal-Mart movies, Apple stores:
"However, the Windows Media-only shop may have already run into its own self-made roadblocks. Many pointed out Wal-Mart's attempt to preserve its bread-and-butter DVD sales: most every movie on the store is priced nearly identically to its cousin at retail outlets, giving little incentive to wait for a download instead of driving to the store. Wal-Mart video downloads are lower-resolution (640x480) and can't be burned to CDs or DVDs.
Visitors who tried to browse the site on its opening day using Firefox were also faced with a completely broken page despite supposed compatibility with browsers beyond Internet Explorer. Ironically, Mac owners shut out from buying the videos themselves could still visit using Safari."
Studio Daily | Panasonic Introduces AG-HSC1U, World%u2019s Smallest Professional 3-CCD HD Camcorder
Besides the fact that Studio Daily essentially ran a press release with hyperbole intact, AND ran the first laudatory paragraph TWICE, the tiny little camera has the following pros/cons:
-tiny - 1 pound
-records to tiny 40GB hard drive
-crash cam at $2100?
-AVCHD format - no major NLE support (Canopus will transcode soon if not yet)
-1/4" CCD - I wouldn't call that professional
-no 24p - as Stu Maschwitz said in the comments, "No 24p=Dead To Me" - I concur...
So I like the idea of 40GB tiny onboard hard drive, I like efficient codecs, but this is NOT a serious professional tool - "this hand-held camcorder delivers stunning 1080i recordings with the accuracy and natural 3-CCD color reproduction that professionals require for capturing events in HD. " - come on, Studio Daily, what professionals - budget high school football game videographers? Studio Daily, you can Do Better (and you usually do).
UPDATE - It DOES say press release, once, in not large type, up at the top. So I'm giving them flack perhaps not entirely deserved. But I'd like to see it more clearly delineated. A quick read makes it look like Studio Daily is giving them accolades.
Then again, I often post links with quotes (such as today) that a quick skim could interpret as me endorsing, so I should share some of that heat if anyone felt it due in publisher's direction.
more info - DV - News - Panasonic Introduces AG-HSC1U, World's Smallest Professional 3-Ccd High Definition Camcorder
Studio Daily | Tips for Implementing Storage - short description here, but a very useful article.
Studio Daily | %u201CCheck Out Girl,%u201D Doritos Spot Shot With HVX200, Aired During Super Bowl - Contest spec spot shot on HVX200 airs at SuperBowl - indie dreams do sometimes come true...
South By SouthWest (often written SXSW, and locally known as "South By") has announced their film line-up for the film festival beginning March 9th.
SXSW is my hometown film festival, I've been on panels there for about 12 years or so, and will be on a panel this year as well (panel lineup gets officially announced Feb 13th).
Read on for highlights of the upcoming line-up.
Hollywood Reporter's coverage: From war pics to politics: SXSW sets festival lineup
Monday, February 05, 2007
James Cameron is doing 1080p 3D ONLY for his film "Avatar" due to be released in 2009.
Read on for the scoop of how Hollywood is hoping 3D will be The Force that brings theatrical attendance back to the fore, and not home viewing.
The argument: big screen 3D will offer something you CAN'T get at home. The new 3D systems work by multiply flashing images for each eye with glasses that are polarized to only see left eye in left eye and right image in right eye. You couldn't do that at home, could you?
Or could you? The new thing in home theater HDTVs is 120 Hz screens for smoother 24p playback -
120Hz HDTVs: The Secret to Making Movies Look as Smooth as Butter - Gizmodo
or to find out which ones,
Guide to 120Hz HDTVs: Which Sets Have That Magic Number? - Gizmodo
....could not that tech be adapted for 3D? Either running at 96 Hz (maybe) or using a stuttered, 3:2 pulldown style cadence - 3 left/2 right/2 left/3 right or somesuch? At least until 144 Hz screens come out for the home...
Anyway, Scott links to a couple of articles of interest.
Sunday, February 04, 2007
One of the things I'd been advocating as a workflow was to capture as native media via FireWire (such as for DV, HDV, DVCPRO HD, etc.). Do your offline in the native codec, then you can use Media Manager in Final Cut Pro to simply re-write the file to uncompressed. I felt so smart and smug to have figured this out, you can even Delete Unused Media to reduce the amount of footage converted...but it turns out, it doesn't do it as expected. It does it WRONG.
Retimed shots messed up? Used to do it, purportedly finally fixed with 5.1.2. So what goes wrong?
If you do this, you'll clip your highlights over 100 IRE - I just tested to verify. Dammit. So any so called "Super White" values will get clipped off. Not scaled, clipped. So you're losing highlight values.
...and it is completely invisible to the naked eye when comparing before/after images in FCP. So why does it matter? Because if you want to darken up the shot, you can retrieve some of that highlight info detail. If clipped and you wish to darken, it is gone forever.
There are cumbersome one-shot-at-a-time workarounds, as Stu suggests in his DV Rebel's Guide book, but I wouldn't want to have to go through all that - be faster just to batch recapture...which is what I was trying to avoid in the first place.
It boils down to a color space and QuickTime issue - in YUV space, you can have SuperWhite values. In RGB, you can't reall y (at least as QuickTime typically operates). When exporting via QuickTime, if it touches the QuickTime architecture, it is getting converted to an RGB color space along the way, and the SuperWhites are clipped.
If you never read my original 10 bit QuickTime in After Effects article, it is good reading as well for pertinent issues for high quality workflow issues as well.
More test notes - if you Media Manager Recompress To from one 10 bit 4:2:2 codec to another, Super Whites aren't clipped, they survive. But that's not a very helpful scenario for what I'm describing.
I tested DVCPRO HD, XDCAM HD, and HDV, and they all clipped - most likely because of the above mentioned conversion issue - to transcode it bumps it through an RGB space, and you lose your highlight goodies.
As I said..hell, hell, hell...here's to hoping Apple might make a huge change to their QuickTime architecture to fix this for NAB...yeah, doubt it.
This revises a significant chunk of workflow-ery that I'd been banking on for quite some time, and raises further complicating issues as well - without handling shots one at a time the Stu way, in order to ensure you maintain full highlight detail for uncompressed post workflow, you'd need to recapture from tape via HD-SDI whenever possible. This opens further complications, esp. if you shot 24p - unless you shot on a camera that can kick out psF frames from the studio deck (and AFAIK HDV, DVCPRO HD, and XDCAM HD decks do NOT), you're in trouble - you'd have to capture 60 fps (1080i60 or 720p60) then try to remove pulldown...and oops, how are you going to do that? Again, the QT processing would clip it.
OK, here's a challenge for all you folks out there - how DO you optimally post these formats in Final Cut Pro if you can't ingest native 24p over HD-SDI?
The only solution I can think of so far is to make a dupe of the sequence, modify the sequence settings to the desired final format, then you'd have to change some aspect ratio stuff on all the clips, adjust some other timeline settings, then Render All to get a playable version. Every change you'd make would then require a render. Possible, but time consuming and sucky as compared to the convenience of my other approach...but highlights are maintained (yeah I checked). It does seem to follow one of Stu's rules - Respect Thine Pixel.
Anybody got a better way to handle this? Chime away in the Comments (use link below).
Of course, my brain will be churning on this as I watch SuperBowl ads...
-exporting, clip by clip, from Timeline, Browser, or Viewer windows maintains Super Whites if re-imported directly into FCP
-double triple checking, taking same clip and Recompress To does not - SO - while QT is related, it isn't inherently involved - FCP has a native YUV (OK really Y'CbCr, but that's a pain to type) pipline, but clearly Recompress To in Media Manager does NOT.
-MAKING PROGRESS - I think I've found a way...gotta test some more, and make sure can relink to an Offlined project and have it all work...
UPDATE 2 - there's TONS of useful Comments, go read'em. Also, Stu just posted:
ProLost: Linear Color Workflow in AE7, Part 5
which folds in some related issues
as well as
Stu, writer of Colorista, writes and shows on ProLost one way to address the problem by compressing the video range - but only AFTER you're in a high precision YUV space (fix it in Timeline Settings in the Video tab).
And there's always this crap to worry about when taking files out of Final Cut Pro as well
Studio Daily | New Ways to Archive Old Movies
Unfortunately I wasn't able to attend the Hollywood Post Alliance event that just occurred, but boy I wish I had - sounds like LOTS of good info being exchanged there.
But one of the things discussed was long term archival of assets, specifically final films. A rep from Sun started things off by saying:
“You walk into a film archive, and what you smell is the image coming off the print,”
....and then went on to advocate for lossless digital backups, with a schedule for migrating that data, checking that data for problems, etc:
Sun’s motion-picture archiving model is based around an enterprise-class tape library with a front-end server and disk drive. A studio would maintain two complete libraries in different locations, and each library would include two complete copies of each movie. The library would comprise components that would be changed out on a regular schedule – every five years for the computers and disks, every 10 years for the actual tapes (with an audit of each tape to be conducted every six months to keep on top of any developing problems), and every 20 years for the library systems. Data would be stored in an open tarball data format; as it’s copied from tape to tape, it can be recorded in whatever file format the current tape system uses. Content would be kept in the clear (unencrypted) and uncompressed for maximum readability in the future. The archive would have no network connectivity.
For digital data backup, that sounds like a very solid plan - perfect copies could be maintained indefinitely that way - but at considerable expense, but with multiple backups in multiple locations. I like the idea.
Whether studio execs will go for it remains to be seen - studios have been infamously lax in maintaining their archives, I've heard stories in decades past about California warehouses with leaky roof and hole in wall problems. I could see one wave of execs implementing the plan, then budget cutbacks scaling back updates, data checks, equipment replacements, etc., landing them in a position where at a future date they wouldn't be able to access the data reliably.
Or they may just go with film prints and let them slowly rot over the decades, we'll have to wait and see.
BUT....when digital backups fail, then tend to be binary in failure - it works just fine, then you've lost some data. Analog, as in film prints, degrades gracefully and slowly - the print just fades over time.
By having multiple copies in multiple locations you drastically minimize the risk of digital failure - unless all the media suddenly goes bad in the same six months, you'll be fine. And you'd probably have some warning signals along the way. Data tape backups have error correction, I'd just want to see a LOT of error correction and redundancy in the media, and be able to limit damage to as little as possible - so worst case you maybe lose pixels, or a raster line, or truly worst case a frame.
Not that they'd ever do this, but for instance, I backup QuickTime files...but if there are corrupt bits in the file, it can make all frames beyond the damaged one unreadable sometimes, or possibly the entire file - I'd certainly call that a brittle or binary failure.
Anyway, this is a good meditation on what it means to back up your projects. They are only talking about backing up final results - but what about all the intermediate plate elements? That opens up another huge ball of wax - even if you had all the files and elements...will you have computers, OS's and software to run it on that all still works? Think about if you had a 10 year old animation project you had to resurrect - do you still have a system that can open that file or run that software? What if it was OS 9 software, for instance? You get the idea, and I've written on this subject before (and somewhere else, too, but a quick search didn't find it).
...and yeah, I do seem to be rockin' a cranky, pessimistic vibe today...hmm...gotta work on that...
FURTHER THOUGHTS - the purist in me wants to see the ongoing, perfect digital archives approach taken, where you keep perfect digital copies at all times, and have multiple copies at each of multiple locations, check the media for problems regularly, update the equipment on a regular basis, etc. All of which is constantly fighting the clock on obsolesence.
If, at any point in the future, the chain is broken - somebody fails to fund an upgrade cycle, and the gear is discovered to be too old to work with - no proper hardware, software, OS to read it, for instance, or the tape reading heads have decayed and no replacements are available, etc., you could blow the whole process in theory - once unreadable, a HUGE effort to get it back, and for back catalog, how hard are they going to try?
HOWEVER....if you you simply made good B&W color seps and kept them in a properly cooled/humidity stable environment, that would be TONS cheaper and easier (still keep a database of what/where, but that tech is much more stable and migrate-able) than the digital archives approach. The only downside is a loss of resolution/detail/dynamic range/clipping from re-scanning it in later. Optical encoding for the audio? Or burn to a CD/DVD and shelve it, with perfect digital dupes made every few years of the audio? Ideally do both, but that's even more expensive. If there's a vaulted HDCAM of a lot of the indie stuff that's made I'd be surprised - most stuff isn't archived well, because it costs money, money often not available or thought of. Obviously, on any major release with a marketing budget in the 10s of millions, color seps are certainly cost effective.
Anyway...ponder and comment away.
Saturday, February 03, 2007
I saw the press releases on the Canon HV20 - $1100 list price, HDV, 24p, 1920x1080 CMOS sensor. I figured too low end for the kind of indie filmmaking I want to pay attention to. But as a learner camera maybe, but Stu points out it makes a helluva cheap crash cam. He also points out that with HDMI out, you could pair it with a $250 Intensity card to capture live uncompressed...but with such a not-so-great image from an $1100 camcorder, why would you want to? Also, it couldn't be a crash cam and HDMI capture at same time, so pick one.
Anyway, $1100 24p crashcam...could be useful.
Tiny lens going to a 1/3" sensor likely to yield low optical resolution as well.
...now offering new Advanced Authoring Format (AAF) offline-to-online interchange tools to streamline the process of moving related metadata from Avid Xpress Pro and Avid Media Composer Adrenaline NLE systems to its own eQ and iQ Post and DI systems.
"OK..." you say, "WTF does AAF eQ & iQ mean?"
It means that more of the stuff you set up in your Avid offline edit - things like " effects transitions, complex effects descriptors, audio splits and fades, time-stretch commands, layer event timings and layer priority data" - which means that more of the stuff that you do in your offline CAN potentially survive into your online, automatically carried over without having to do a ton of extra work.
The more I learn about post workflow options, the more little places get in the game that can affect what toolsets are worth considering. Even then, there can be conflicting advice. For instance - lets say you shot your indie masterpiece on Viper (recording however), then edited on Avid.
The DP might be steering you towards the post house with an Iridas color correction solution, because he can load in the looks he made on set and work from there - a definite time saver.
But the editor may be pushing for the house with the Quantel system, because all of his retimed shots and transitions and audio splits and whatnot would carry over automatically.
Which to pick?
Yet more things to think about...
itty bitty HDTV camera, 1920x1080, up to 60fps (progressive or interlaced? Not clear). Think HD helmetcam, but is just camera, not camcorder, so gotsta record to something else.
Somebody bugged me about this again, so here is that recipe for the really good blueberry scones, the big (serves 12) and small (for 2) versions.
Enjoy, and thanks to Ruth Kaufman for sharing Teh Luv!
a fun little analysis
Friday, February 02, 2007
"One common complaint about Final Cut Pro is that it is difficult to get notes and comments out of the program. There isn’t a direct way to get timecode-accurate collaboration notes to your sound mixer, for example."
"The idea behind Final Print is not particularly earth-shattering%u2014 it lets users add timecode accurate markers with comments to their sequences and then print out the contents of those markers with thumbnail images of the video. "
yeah. good. do that.
I mentioned during my Sundance coverage that my friend Jarred Land, who owns/runs dvxuser.com and reduser.net, has started a new service - RocketIndie.com.
What is it? It is a means of self distribution of any disc based media - movies, music, training, whatever.
They charge no markup on your content, they make up their end on shipping with a reasonable shipping/handling fee.
Check out the FAQ on their site.
They don't officially launch for a couple more weeks, so give'em a little time/space in the meantime.
It sounds like a pretty good deal, I'm considering using it for some of my own stuff. The only thing I don't see (yet) that I'd like to is an option for faster delivery services.
Studio Daily | P2 Log Pro For Panasonic AG-HVX200
New Mac version of P2 handling app. Does the following:
-lets you view native MXF footage
-repairs MXF video files
-create new P2 volumes from combined clips
-logging, viewing, text editing of original metadata
-print w/text & thumbnails in 2 styles, 3 or 6/page
-can merge clips while still native MXF
P2 Log is $150, P2 Log Pro is $200
Doing a P2 based production? The ability to edit source metadata, view & thumbnail and print probably cost justifies.
Jaman.com is a new movie download service that offers over 1000 movies, which they tout as more than iTunes. That's the good news. The ambivalent news is that it is all you-never-heard-of-it indie stuff from around the world.
This is an opportunity for folks that have internet distribution rights to their films, but I don't know how much of a draw it will be for consumers.
You have to download their player (14 MB Mac or Windows download), content comes from their servers or a P2P model (which means what, the Jaman thing installs a P2P client? Yes it does, so I didn't want to install).
What pixel size and image quality do you get? I didn't want to install their P2P thing so I didn't find out.
In the end, it is a niche play in an already niche market. How many people really want to seek out indepenent cinema in the US? Not a huge number unfortunately (as much as we wish it weren't so). Then you have to look at that audience, and find the slice of that ALREADY small group how many of those have broadband, and are willing to download movies using a third party player, and are satisfied to watch full length content on a computer. Hmm. Considering that even mainstream fare isn't having a large amount of success with that distro model, I don't find this a very compelling option...for the moment. Can you burn to DVD? No. How can you watch on your TV? That's up to you.
How big are the movies? Not sure without installing, but a 2 hour, 20 minute movie was 2.1GB - so it is about 2mbit datarate, so certainly no bigger than DVD, most likely 640x360 or smaller, akin to iTunes' current movie size I'd imagine.
If indie content is REALLY going to take off, it needs an BIG umbrella to fall under - an iTunes or major studio effort to wrap it in under its wings to bring enough consumers into the fold that it'll get enough distro.
At $2/rental and $5/purchase, how much of that would go to the filmmaker?
A nice idea, I wish them well, is a place to get SOME distribution for world cinema in the US and elsewhere, but not a major play, and I expect many, MANY more similar services to emerge over time.
BUT...if you have an indie feature and haven't found another venue for it, this is a place to look....but after you talk to most everyone else.
I look forward to the day when major services (like iTunes but others as well) offer more indie content, much as iTunes does for smaller record labels, or Amazon offers books/CDs/DVDs/etc.
Thursday, February 01, 2007
Yep - DVguru is going away, no more updates. Drat! It has been one of my consistent go-to's and link-to's for a while, now it is going away. Hopefully content and links will stay active for some time, as I've linked to a bunch of stuff today.
I'm sorry to see them go, and I wish Ajit and the rest all the best in their future endeavors.
Studio Daily | Focus Enhancements Doubles DVCPRO HD Record Time and Adds QuickTime Support to FS-100
Focus Enhancements came out with their v3.0 software for the FS-100 DTE device - can do 720p24/25/30p recording in addition to the 720p60 that was supported before. This means you can get longer record times, as the older model always recorded 720p60 to disk, even if shooting 720p24.
Also native DVCPRO50 recording in QuickTime, for direct to Final Cut Pro editing. Can get over 200 minutes of record time in 720p24 now, and record up to 4 channels of audio.
$39 update, all units manufactured after Feb 1, 2007 will ship with new version.
This addresses one of the major shortcomings of the FS-100, so it is a big deal.
This is interesting enough I'm going to start looking into it for my own purposes.
I've put a few of the most notables towards the top, but it's all good - check out the last thing, you'll love it.
Macworld: News: Apple updates Xserve RAID to 10.5 Terabytes - now with 750 GB drives.
the new system lowers the cost per gigabyte of storage to $1.31...average read throughput of up to 380MB/s and write throughput of up to 301MB/s.
-that $1.31 is predicated on RAID 0 - and with low cost native SATA RAID 0 outperforming in price and speed, why would you buy this expensive device and use as RAID 0? Lets look at real costs -
14*750 GB drives gives 10.5 TB of space, right? So that's $1.31 for the $13,800 price point, right?
Not in the real world. If you formatted as RAID 0, you'd have 9712.5 GB of usable, formatted space - thus $1.42/GB.
But you're not going to use it as RAID 0, you're going to use RAID 50 (which is how these are delivered actually) - so you lose a drive's worth of space from each bank of 7 for parity's use. So that's really 8325 GB of usable, formatted RAID 50 capacity - so that's really $1.66/GB.
And if you want a hot spare for failure rollover for uninterrupted performance, that is ANOTHER drive out of each bank, so that's really 10 drives worth of space available, so that's 6937.5 GB of usable, formatted RAID 50 with hot failover capability, thus $1.99/GB.
Apple is using straightforward math in their $1.31/GB claim. It just isn't a realistic statement of how the device is likely to be used in the field - more like $1.66 to $2/GB.
As for the speeds quoted, I'm 90% sure those are RAID 0 speeds - as soon as you introduce parity generation into the mix for fault tolerant RAID performance (which is why you buy these things in the first place), you're looking at lower numbers. I don't know what if anything has changed in the chassis, but my recollection with the older models was a top write speed in RAID 50 (no failovers) or around 220 or so MB/sec, and the limiting factor was the parity generation electronics - NOT the drives. 14 drives of this nature should be capable of write speeds as high as 800 MB/sec - a far cry from what you'll actually see.
Pirates don't care about HD DVD movie rips � WesleyTech.com -> HD DVD, Blu-ray, CD info and more - ...and why he's wrong: this guy talks about why HD-DVD downloads won't matter to pirates - mostly because the file sizes are large, thus the space required to store on drives is relatively expensive and the downloads would be long.
"Wow" I thought, "how short sighted."
1.) YES - files are large, storage on drives is relatively costsly NOW, downloads are long NOW for these as is.
2.) All this will change - I just saw a 500GB drive online for $144. That's 29 cents/GB. That's 23 movies at 20 GB each, or $6.26 each to store.
3.) You can always recompress these movies to make smaller pixel sized versions and/or lower data rate versions and/or other codec versions. DiVX at 720p anyone?
When CDs were first invented, the studios weren't worried about piracy and copying - consumer CD burners didn't exist, the professional ones were thousands of dollars, blank CDs were several dollars apiece, and the best defense? At the time, I recall my first 600 MB (oops said GB before, habit) hard drive (not as big as a single CD) was $1500 when I bought it in the early nineties. So studios thought there was no risk of these being copied. Fast forward to today - $50 burners, blanks for pennies apiece. That trend will continue - consumer burners for HD-DVD are already hitting the market, software to burn an EVO image to disc will come along shortly, and hard drive prices are plumetting constantly. Broadband speed progress is the slowest advancing portion of this list, but if you're downloading in the background, who cares as much? You spool it up and it finishes the next day while you're at work or school. So most of the arguments presented I find moot - so YES, the studios should worry about this.
On a similar note...
Blu-ray Hacked - Interview with the Hacker responsible at FresHDV
Studio Daily | Holographic Storage Coming for HD Post - now we're talkin' - So what if you had the ability to record seven hours of HD video onto a single disc at 160 Mbps? - that's 20 MB/sec, on a 300GB optical disc. And those discs can live in a jukebox that holds dozens of discs - it is being built. Keep in mind that Redcode RAW at 4K @ 24p is about 28 MB/sec. So then think about archiving compressed 4K at nearly realtime, fitting nearly 3 hours of 4K data on a single optical disc.
Suddenly all those complaints about "Where will I store my media?" start to sound whiny...
Will dual-format players end the battle between HD DVD and Blu-ray? - No. At $1200 at present, you can buy an Xbox360 with HD-DVD attachment, AND a PS3 to play all the new games and watch HD-DVD and Blu-ray discs. So no, not that great of an option. And even if the player were $500, it doesn't solve the "battle", it is just a draw - as a consumer you'll be able to play any disc, but the studios still squabble over what formats to support. One of these needs to win, and I'm beginning to feel it ought to be HD-DVD, even though I don't like Microsoft's involvement in the format. HD-DVD uses the exact same codecs as Blu-ray, and although Blu-ray has higher capacity, I don't think it is really going to matter - HD-DVD can hold ENOUGH to get a good looking movie and supplemental materials on the disc.
DV Expo 2006 streaming video available - DV Guru - "If you weren't able to make it to DV Expo 2006 in November, a few of the sessions have been posted at the DV Expo 2006 Video Portal."
Interview with Four-Eyed Monsters duo - DV Guru - " The team is undoubtedly responsible for a lot of innovations in DIY promotion through their use of everything from MySpace and social networking, to videoblogging, to using Google Maps to track geographic interest in film screenings. " - Susan and Arin talk about their process, well worth reading for the indie trying to self promote.
SketchUp Poser = Storyboard Goodness
(via the DV Rebel's Guide) My buddy Zane doodles with SketchUp as Stu suggests in DV Rebel's Guide, and notes some pros & cons.
M dot Strange Finds a Way at Sundance - New York Times - I consulted a bit with this guy on workflow last year
Variety.com - MPAA, NATO reform ratings system - finally - perhaps it took "This Film Not Yet Rated" to get these folks to move
DV - Features - RAID! - article on RAID stuff, a decent primer - also see the link in the Great HD Links on the right side of the page "Understanding RAID" for longer/better
Aspect: aspect ratio widget - DV Guru - handy doodad for OS X 10.4 using filmmakers - calculates frame sizes based on aspect ratio. Worth having right next to VideoSpace.
Studio Daily | FrameFixer v1.0 Released - Using state of the art motion estimation technology from The Foundry (www.thefoundry.co.uk), FrameFixer can analyse a sequence of images and repair any incomplete or missing frames. The results are often indistinguishable from the original images, leaving artists with complete and uninterrupted sequences.
Mark Pederson of OffHollywood was showing me this - way cool motion animation tool, used in videogame and moviemaking. Need natural looking motion with accurate dynamics? This is the tool for you. Combine this with Massive and hmm....
The Daily Reel - nice site worth checking out - some of the better video from around the web, including reels from folks
Film & Video | How Animal Put a Polar Bear in the Ohio River - has some nice "how done" stuff
The battle for Barton Springs finds an audience at Sundance - doc about Austin's own Barton Springs gets seen at Sundance, is an eco-doc.
Barton Springs is a huge natural swimming pool with grass and tree lined banks, and has been an Austin jewel for decades. The creek leading into it is constantly at risk of pollution from developers upstream - a classic case of Austin's own little paradise getting wrecked by developers. EVERYONE goes to Barton Springs - the hippies, the soccer Moms, the goths (though they hide from the sun), the teens, the 80 year old swimmers, EVERYONE. There was a famous moment of a developer and the lead lawyer for the folks suing him almost getting into a fist fight...when they ran into each other in the shallow end of the pool with their kids on a weekend.
Anyway, glad the issue is getting out there. I fear the developers will win eventually - they have the money, and they only have to win once, whereas defenders have to win every time. Not to mention the chipping away of the protection of the space, a little at a time...
A-Data's 128GB Solid State Drive Sees the Light of Day - Gizmodo - oh - HELLO - something like this for the Red Flash, please?
SpeedEDIT finally shipping - DV Guru - the good news - offered up as "world's fastest video editor" and it is only $500, is resolution and frame rate independent, lets you mix SD & HD on the same timeline in realtime, realtime up/downconversion, and tons of interesting features.
All that said, for indies, I'd want to know more about it - what kind of formats, SPECIFICALLY, does it support, how do you share media with other applications, are the codecs used cross platform, can it guarantee no dropped frames, how is EDL/XML export,etc. etc. etc.
So interesting, but I wouldn't go committing to it yet. I'd expect it is doing all kinds of groovy realtime OpenGL accelerated stuff.
HDTV Bulletins: In the Wake of CES, Universal Announces Plans for More Than 100 HD DVD Releases for this year, so that's better
Macworld: Video: Macworld Video: The ModBook in action - somebody brewed up a Mac tablet laptop, using a Wacom screen/tablet setup, and it is pretty cool. Check it out in action here. It uses Apple's Ink (was called Inkwell) pen recognition stuff. He gives an awkward but thorough walkthrough.
Variety.com - New media, new problems - for all of the claims from major companies that "we get it, we're on it" the reality is very different - problems and dead ends abound for consumers.
Video Copilot Products and Tutorials for Video Professionals - just discovered this site, a reader clued me in. All kinds of useful tutorials and DIY moviemaker stuff.
New plugins that are OpenGL accelerated for Final Cut and Motion: PlasmaFX
Digital Anarchy Releases PlasmaFX 1.0 for Speedy Design Work in Apple's Final Cut Pro and Motion
There are 26 plugins in the PlasmaFX set, creating a wide variety of custom effects that range from image processing to film looks and particle systems. New filters include the Topology filter, which generates topographical lines based on the luminance values of footage; the Film: Technicolor 3-Pass filter, which separates out color channels and 'dyes' them; and the Edge Rays filter. All the plugins have many customizable parameters for creating different effects and some plugins are designed to be combined with others to create further variations.
Terrific features in PlasmaFX 1.0 include:
26 Plugins: A wide variety of image processing and synthesis filters.
Core Image: Accelerated using Appleâ€™s latest cutting edge technology.
Real-time on fast hardware: Support for multi-core CPUs and the latest OpenGL graphic cards.
FxPlug Support: Native functionality in Final Cut Pro and Motion
After Effects Support: Native functionality in Adobe After Effects.
MacIntel Native: Supports PPC and Intel chipsets for Macintosh.
Resolution Independent: No resolution limits. SD, HD, or Film.
Pricing and Availability
Regularly priced at USD $129, PlasmaFX 1.0 will be available for USD $99 through February 15th, 2007. The filters work in After Effects 7.0 and higher, Final Cut Pro 5.1.2, and Motion 2.1.2. PlasmaFX runs only on Macintosh OS 10.4 and higher. This product is not supported in Windows, earlier versions of Mac OS X, or Mac OS 9 systems. Demo filters and samples are available at www.digitalanarchy.com.
CinemaTech: YouTube to Do Revenue-Sharing With Users? ... 'Future of Web Video' interview - Scott of CinemaTech is on it
120Hz HDTVs: The Secret to Making Movies Look as Smooth as Butter - Gizmodo - instead of using 3:2 pulldown, new sets are using triple (72Hz) or quintuple (120 Hz) frame flashing, akin to a 3 or 5 bladed film projector. Smoother images we would hope. Part of a series, next to talk about costs, efficacy, etc.
DIY filmmaking roundtable discussion - DV Guru - podcast. Worthwhile.
Ze Frank heads to Hollywood - DV Guru: "In the growing trend of Hollywood embracing Videobloggers, an Observer article talks about the Hollywood courtship of the biggest videoblogger, Ze Frank. "
Understanding Video Scopes in FCP at FresHDV: "Final Cut Pro trainer Larry Jordan has a whole series of training videos at Lynda.com. Over at Creativemac you can watch a free video tutorial excerpt on understanding Final Cut%u2019s video scopes."
How To Choose CD/DVD Archival Media
Studio Daily | 2007 Sundance Film Festival Announces Jury And Audience Awards
- did I see any of these? No. Will that happen next year? Maybe. Here's the winners, I heard good things about Manda Bala and Padre Nuestro while I was there.
Final Cut Pro keyboard shortcuts - DV Guru - knowing your keyboard shortcuts is mandatory if you want to be Fast On Machine. Good is one thing, but Fast makes it Better. Do you want to be the guy who can do it right, or the guy who can do it right super fast? Yeah, right - That Guy. Now, fast without good is useless, so first learn the right thing to do. Then do it fast. This was important in my own development as a motion graphics artist.
Microsoft Vista DRM subverted - DV Guru: "As with previous multi-year DRM development efforts, this one disintegrated like wet kleenex on contact with the general public."
Your reward for sifting through all this? Here's a fun little thing I KNOW you won't be able to resist, and it requires nothing from you.
Yellow Star Wars Text Crawl Tutorial - OK, this is dorky fun - there's a freebie app out there that creates, at any size you wish, the intro title crawl from Stars Wars, except this time with YOUR info. It will:
-make your 3D company title in the searchlights instead of 20th Century Fox
-your version of the "LucasFilms" company title complete with lens flares and fade in/out
-your versions of the "long time ago" text
-and of course, big yellow slanted scrolling text for the intro.
-how much fun is this? Let me see...how about this? Click to play the video:
The only downside is that it cooks out as a BMP sequence, so you have to use After Effects or similar tool to glue them together into a QuickTime movie. I then made a quick custom Compressor setting to cook it out to what you see here.
Enjoy your day,