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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.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
R3D2DPX.exe is a Windows (only) shell-based tool that converts R3D files into the following formats:
CineForm Intermediate (4:2:2)
Think of R3D2DPX as a format converter for RAW data, where in this case RAW means the Bayer sensor data.
R3D2DPX does not extract color profile or white balance information from the R3D file.
It assumes that all color processing will be performed later.
If color processing as performed in RedCine is necessary for your workflow, then continue to use RedCine!
It is a good and healthy sign that a third party is offering a conversion tool, and especially for the Windows side of the world.
I emailed David Taylor of Cineform some questions and here's what I got back:
Question 1.) My understanding was that Redcine could convert to any standard installed codec - is it not possible to write to the formats R3DDPX supports directly from Redcine?
Not completely, no. RedCine will only support Quicktime based codecs, there are still limitations to that interface. Also PC users of CineForm primarily seek AVI files. When we do use QuickTime under RedCine, we are one of the few codecs to support 16-bit per channel RGBA, yet the memory footprint for 4K frame seems make the conversion unreliable for many users. It could be running out of memory due to issues inherent to all 32-bit applications, or issues with the graphics card or drivers, it has been hard to debug for the users that experience this. On RedUser.net it is the repeated frame or failure to write problem. There is also been issue that RedCine can't export 16-bit per channel Quicktime to any codec at 4096 in my testing, yet 4095 works in many cases (I've also tested using Sheer to confirm this.) I'm sure these glitches will be addressed, but there are presently in RedCine Build 74, as tested on Mac and PC.
2.) If not, what is the barrier to making that happen?
Just like us, I'm sure their software team is extremely busy. So time is the barrier.
3.) Under what circumstances does this offer capabilities that are unique or better than Redcine?
It has a significantly lower system requirement. It will prefer conversions without needing the GPU, therefore there is no minimum system requirement for the graphics card. This helps those with existing blade servers/render farms that may have underpowered GPUs. I think it threads better for higher performance, although each system will perform differently, so I would suggest users try for themselves. Direct AVI encoding, the preference for most CineForm users. And finally, and likely the most controversial, it can directly transcode to CineForm RAW for significantly smaller files than CineForm 444, at the same quality. We have always had the issue that RAW cameras should not develop to RGB, as that increases the datarate 3 times, without any quality benefit. Both Redcode and CineForm RAW exploit this efficiency, yet the Redcode workflow still in its early days, CineForm RAW has been running real-time under Premiere Pro (PC) for a long time, and is recently supported under FCP.
In the end it is about workflow choice. RedCine does so much more than R3D2DPX, but the CineForm tools simplifies the bridge into workflow and NLEs not yet supported by Red.
Thanks to David for taking the time to respond.
Friday, July 06, 2007
Creating Node Trees in Apple Color at FreshDV
"The lovely and talented Wendy Gribble (Graeme's better half) has shared an informative tutorial on Apple Color over at Ken Stone's site. The article talks walks you through creating node trees and dealing with interlaced sources. She also shares a quick example of the G Smart Denoise plugin, part of the Nattress Advanced Plugins for Color package. And while you are over at the Nattress site, snag the free G Blend blending mode plugin for Color."
I STILL think that indie DP's should be looking at Color as the back half of their process (if they can't afford to have a serious colorist do it for them) - I think there is a lot of talent to be found (as well as a lot of egregious beginner's mistakes to be made) from folks shooting video and then treating it in Color - much like there was a LOT of bad Photoshop art & retouch in the 90s, but out of that came some fine talent and a new ethos about image making.
Thursday, July 05, 2007
"Gefen's new HDMI CAT-5 MS Extreme enables users to put up to 300 feet between a high definition video source and its display, using industry-standard category 5 network cabling. It costs $549 and is now available for pre-order."
Run HDMI over Cat 5 for long distances? Sweet.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
(I dedicate this post to all the HVX users waiting on their free P2 cards)
Anyone who owns an HVX can feel timid with the first experience with their camera. Yes, I am one of the many who purchased the camera back in March thinking I would be shooting and editing projects in the weeks to come. Wrong.
Up until March 31st, Panasonic had a great offer: buy the camera, and you receive a free 8gig P2 card. Estimated delivery time: 4-6 weeks. It's been ten weeks and counting and still no P2 card. I received a letter from them explaining that the 8gig cards reached full production and they would be replacing them with 16gig cards. AWESOME! Right? Wrong.
As the 11th week has approached, I've completed two projects, both of which have not been shot on my own personal P2 card. I've had to rent P2 cards numerous times (4gig = $25/day, 8gig = $60/day from local vendors... it adds up) and have been lucky enough to have a friend lend me his 4gig card for the longer shoot.
I browse the forums at dvxuser.com and see numerous people complaining on why they haven't received their cards yet. I'm a pretty patient person, but going on three months is pretty long. Imagine if PEZ had a shortage of candy and all you could do was click the head back and forth all day long.
I have a $5000 camera and am always anxious to shoot HD, but wait, I could shoot DVCPRO 50 with the same color sampling and lesser compression without the P2 card. Wait, no I can't... you can only shoot DVCPRO 50 on the P2 card. So that leaves me with a mini DV tape shooting SD for the last three months on a $5000 camera. NOT COOL!
Prepping the HVX for a 16gig card
If you have an HVX and are planning on getting a 16gig P2 card, you must download the proper firmware update from Panasonic. Here are the links to the Firmware Update and the .pdf instructions to update your camera.
Note: You also need a SD Card (64MB or higher) to upload the update on it. You can buy a USB Adapter for the SD Card to put the files from your computer to the card. You then put the SD Card back into the HVX and follow the instructions on the .pdf.
Also, if you have a PCMCIA slot on your computer, such as a Powerbook, you need to download this driver to update your computer so it can read the card:
Panasonic Support page
You definitely need more than one P2 card when you're shooting. There's a reason for two P2 card slots on the camera, so take full advantage of them. One 4gig just doesn't cut it. I bet an 8 gig would be great, 16gig would be awesome, but here are the downsides...
On a 4gig card, you can shoot about 8 minutes of 720p/24pN (Native mode~literally 24 progressive frames/sec). It sounds like a lot, but when you're shooting it goes by in a flash... The positive side is that after you copy the contents of the P2 card onto your laptop/hard drive/etc... you need to have someone archiving the folder on a DVD using a DVD burner. It's really the only way I feel safe with my footage- I have a physical form of footage rather than just data on a computer.
15" and 17" Powerbooks
These are the only two Mac laptops that can read the P2 cards directly from the PCMCIA slot.
First thing learned: ALWAYS HAVE A PERSON ON SET TO DUMP THE P2 FOOTAGE... a.k.a. P2 WRANGLER. I can't stress this enough.
The drives on the 15" and 17" Powerbooks are either a combo-drive or super-drive. The super-drives can only single-layer burners, so if working with 8gig cards you would need to purchase an external dual-layer DVD burner (Mike note - a quick search didn't indicate that Apple made a G4 based Powerbook with a dual layer burner - are we wrong? Was there one?). The downside to the 16gig P2 card is that you can't fit its entire contents on a single DVD (mikenote - thus losing the 1-to-1, P2-to-burned-disc ratio which keeps life simpler). So how do you transfer/back-up your footage?
UPDATE - Mike here - we forgot to include the Duel Systems Adapters - an ExpressCard to PCMCIA adaptor that lets you use MacBook Pro computers (MacBooks can't because they have NO expansion slots of any sort). They worked OK with 10.4.8, ther were issues with 10.4.9 that may not be fully addressed yet, dunno about 10.4.10 - somebody who knows please comment or email me so I can update this. Around $100 though, not bad.
5 Options to transfer/archive P2 Footage
A) Have a dedicated hard drive to store your footage via a direct data dump from camera to drive, no computer necessary. By dedicated, I mean buy a hard drive and don't use it for anything else. ONCE YOU CONNECT THE CAMERA VIA FIREWIRE TO THE HARD DRIVE, THE CAMERA FORMATS THE DRIVE AND CREATES FAT32 PARTITIONS FOR EACH TIME YOU DUMP THE P2 CARD CONTENTS. (mikenote-thus obliterating anything you had on there before!) The size of your P2 card determines the of size each partition it will create. Meaning if you only have 2 gigs of footage on a 4GB card and dump the card to the hard drive, it will create a 4 gig partition instead of only 2.5 gigs. There are a maximum of 15 partitions that can be made on the hard drive, so that means you can only dump the card contents 15 times on the hard drive, which turns out to be ~ 60 gigs. (mikenote - or 120GB if dumping 8GB cards, or 240 GB if dumping 16GB cards...a 250 GB drive probably isn't QUITE big enough to dump 15 full 16GB cards to - formats to 232GB usable.) Advice: don't buy a dedicated hard drive over 150 gigs (if shooting with 8gig cards) and nothing over 80gigs if shooting with 4gig cards. The hard drive must be bus powered, meaning the camera cannot power the hard drive directly - thus the hard drive needs power from somewhere else.
B) Dump the P2 card directly through the PCMCIA slot (note: MACBOOK PROS CAN'T READ THE CARDS, ONLY 15" AND 17" POWERBOOKS CAN). If you own a Powerbook, I advise you to make sure the PCMCIA slot is clean and dust-free. The card will show up as a disk image with NO NAME as the label. *****************CREATE A NEW FOLDER ON THE DESKTOP/HARD DRIVE AND COPY THE FULL CONTENTS OF THE CARD: THE "CONTENTS" FOLDER AND THE "lastclip.txt" FILE.************* If you don't coy the text file then FCP won't be able to read your folder.
C) Connect the HVX directly to the laptop via firewire cable, the camera should show up as a drive labeled "NO NAME" just like the P2 card. Again, COPY THE ENTIRE CONTENTS OF THE FOLDER, same as above. LABEL YOUR FOLDERS ACCORDING TO P2 DUMP # AND ITS CONTENTS... FOR EXAMPLE: "p2_01_beach", "p2_02_beach", "p2_03_beach" etc... There is no alternate solution for changing the "NO NAME" label when the P2 card shows up.
D) Use a USB2 Hard Drive that has the USB "On-the-go" protocol. Connect the camera via USB 2.0 and in the camera menu choose OTHER FUNCTIONS>PC MODE so the camera will operate as a USB device. Switch to dubbing mode on the camera and press the "copy" button on the hard drive and it will copy the contents of the P2 card on the first slot it sees.
E) Open FCP 5.1.4 and click File>Import>Panasonic P2 (On FCP 6 it's File>Log and Transfer, and it has some enhancements over FCP 5.1.x). The P2 import window should pop up. Before you do that, you should create a logging bin to dump the P2 card contents. With the P2 import window open, click the add button and just choose the whole P2 folder you want to dump, don't toggle the contents folder, etc... Click open and the clips will show up in the viewer. This is a great way to log/label/note all your clips before importing. I do not recommend this option...
Here is a little video tutorial on how to import p2 cards to your hard drive/computer/FCP:
FCP 5.1.4 P2 Import Tutorial
FS-100 Portable DTE Recorder (Firestore)
"Weighing about one pound and only 1.5 inches thick, the FireStore FS-100 is an HD recorder designed to work with the new Panasonic AG-HVX200 P2 camera, supporting DVCPRO HD, DVCPRO 50, and DVCPRO/DV recording formats. The FS-100 provides long recording times and improves workflow with Direct To Edit® technology. It can also be used with other Panasonic DVCPRO/DVCPRO 50 and DVCPRO HD devices that have a FireWire port."
Here are the new features they just came out with:
- The ability to record native 720/24p, 25p and 30p in the MXF pN format; Allows users to only record the required frames in a DVCPRO HD stream, eliminating the need to remove advanced pulldown or duplicate frames during import to the edit system.
- QuickTime support for native frame rates as well as other 720p and 1080i DVCPRO HD record modes for DTE workflow within Apple Final Cut Pro; Allows DV, DVCPRO 50 and DVCPRO HD clips to import directly into the FCP timeline.
- Extended record time; Native frame rate recording allows users to double the record time from 100 minutes to over 200 minutes
- New included accessories such as a high-capacity 180 minute battery, a cradle to mount FS-100 onto all shoulder-mount camcorders with an Anton Bauer adapter, and a new 4-pin right-angle FireWire cable for an extra secure connection to the camera.
- The ability to easily bring non-P2 Panasonic cameras into a DTE workflow; Any DV, DVCPRO 50 or DVCPRO HD camera with 1394 can take advantage of IT workflow.
Visit Focus Enhancement's Official Website for more information.
AJ-PCD20 P2 Drive
"The AJ-PCD20 P2 solid-state memory drive answers the need of today's video professional for faster, easier file transfers on the desktop or in the field. This flexible, time-saving internal/external drive allows users to mount five 8GB P2 cards simultaneously for instant access and continuous editing of all recorded content in sequence. The P2 drive now offers an IEEE1394b interface (in addition to USB 2.0) for high-speed transfers of DVCPRO, DVCPRO50, or DVCPRO HD content into nonlinear editing systems and servers. Compatible with Windows 2000, XP and MAC OS X, the AJ-PCD20 can be installed directly into a standard PC 5.25" bay drive enclosure or connected to a computer and local area network (LAN) via its USB 2.0 or IEEE1394b interfaces. The flexible AJ-PCD20 also serves as a stand-alone external drive when connected with laptops for in-the-field use."
Visit Panasonic's Official page
AJ-PCS060G P2 Store
P2 Store is a 60gig hard drive and is battery powered, so no computer necessary. it serves as a great buffer when working in the field. It can then be used as an external hard drive to link to a computer via USB 2.0.
Visit Panasonic's Official Page
And now a very important message from the trenches, aka "See this scar here? That's why I don't that anymore."
If you want to view the contents of a P2 folder while you are on set, do so from the archived DVD. BURN THE DATA DVD FIRST, THEN REVIEW THE FOOTAGE IN FCP. This way your files are FOR SURE safe and won't be deleted.
I was toying around importing P2 footage with FCP 5.1.4. When importing footage, DO NOT delete the video files from the P2 log window. They will be deleted forever... you will end up with a P2 folder with all it's sub-folders but no contents within the sub-folders.
Let's set up the rules of P2:
1. Always have a person on set to dump the P2 footage... a.k.a. P2 Wrangler.
2. Always have a person on set to dump the P2 footage... a.k.a. P2 Wrangler.
3. Have at least 2 or 3 places to store your p2 folders. You never know when that day will come when your computer/hard drive crashes.
4. Burn data DVD's if possible and asap.
5. If dumping directly to a hard drive, use it strictly for P2 dumps and nothing else. remember it makes FAT32 partitions on the hard drive.
6. Always copy the entire contents of the card, including the "LAST CLIP" text file. if you don't, you're S.O.L.
7. If importing with FCP, do not delete the clips from the P2 import window, just leave them be. I REPEAT, leave them be.
8. Format the P2 card within the camera, not from the computer. it makes things much easier.
9. Label your folders according to P2 dump # and its contents. For example: "p2_01_beach", "p2_02_beach", "p2_03_beach" etc...
10. If you are on set and want to reviwew the P2 contents safely, view them from the archived DVD and not the Hard Drivesource footage
Panasonic really put a lot of effort into the P2 workflow, which in turn spoils the shooter to never want to revert back to tape. But there's something that doesn't feel right when you're shooting and dumping, almost like you never feel reassured that your footage is safe. with tape, you can hold it in your hand and say to yourself "I control you and I decide if I want to get rid of you." You should do the same with P2 to data DVDs.
Keep the P2 folders on multiple hard drives and back them up on DVD's if they are less than 4 gigs. Hopefully within a year, BLU-RAY/HD DVD burners will be affordable and you can back up 16gig/32gig cards on the discs for just a few bucks. Hopefully that day will come sooner than we think.
If you don't own a Powerbook and want an easy workflow in the field without tying up tha camera, a good choice would be the P2 Store. the downside if you have a 16gig card you can only dump it 3 times, but up to 15 dumps if you have 4gig cards. working with multi-P2 camera shoots, the P2 Drive would be a great option. If both of these choices are out of your price range, another option would be to buy a modestly priced PC laptop with a PCMCIA slot. Even ANOTHER option could be to somehow get your hands on a 15" or 17" refurbished Powerbook for a pretty modest price.
Mike's Comments: First off, thanks to Geoff for spending all the time to put this together.
As you can see, there are a BUNCH of options for how to deal with your P2 footage. One way not mentioned, because it isn't very budget/indie viable, is to just have a stack of P2 cards. With the recent price drop, the 16GB cards are awfully compelling, as their GB/$ ratio is MUCH better than the 8GB cards. Geoff did some spot market research and found that 8GB cards were going for around $675, and 16GB cards were going for about $900 on the street - so why NOT get the 16GB ones if you're on a budget? The "fits on a disc" is the only reason I can think of to even consider not doing so.
The P2 Store gets points for being small, battery powered, and simple to use - load and go with a a readout. The downside is the price. The other good thing about it is that the camera isn't tied up while you're using it. So if small size, portability, and immediately freeing up the camera is your goal, P2 Store makes some sense (or multiple ones).
Keeping track of which cards have been dumped and are ready to wipe and recycle from those that haven't is KEY if you have multiple cards.
The P2 Gear is good for better funded field work as you can review on it - think of it as an HVX with the lens and sensor sawed off.
The direct to drive option is nice, but makes me slightly nervous in terms of being sure you've got the footage- I'd want to plug it into a laptop right away.
The FS-100 is still kinda big and bulky, and P2 cards are finally starting to catch up with it. But for shooting a lot of footage in one go, it is a good answer for that.
The P2 economy/ecology is growing and advancing, and you have lots of choices as you can see. If you have budget for it, and/or need to be sure you can keep shooting, having a pair of cards to shoot with, the pair of cards you're backing up, and a spare pair keeps you guaranteed rolling.
Carefully analyze the needs of your shoot, see if you can spare staff to wrangle P2 cards, see if you need to keep the camera free to shoot, or if it won't be a problem to have it tied up offloading in down time. Standing around waiting for the P2 cards to download while everyone impatiently taps their feet as the good light is fading is definitely not a situation you want to put yourself into.
OK, happy shooting!
And keep multiple backups of that footage!
Friday, June 22, 2007
I've at least broken it down into categories - post software, post hardware, acquisition, cameras, general...and iPhone, since there's so much going on with that.
IRIDAS Extends DualStream Stereoscopic Technology across Product Line | Studio Daily - very niche, but good to know
Click-thru Tutorial: Magic Bullet Looks | Studio Daily
Click-thru Tutorial: GenArts Sapphire | Studio Daily
Interview with Automatic Duck's Wes Plate
Getting Intimate with CineForm Intermediate Part 2 (I trust you can follow the links to part 1)
Creating Node Trees in Color and the special case of interlaced video (Final Cut Studio 2) -good Ken Stone tutorial, thanks to a sharp eyed reader for sending this in.
MacNN | MacBook Pro 17" Hi-res: Best LCD yet
MacNN | Overnight 200GB, 250GB laptop drive upgrades - if you don't want to do it yourself...but what about data backup and data integrity and security?
Matrox MXO 2.0 review
Codex Digital Announces Portable Field Recorder | Studio Daily
9 pounds, carbon fiber, rubber weather seals, HD to 4K, size of a lunch box, powered by standard batteries, can do dual link 4:4:4, has Infiniband, Ethernet data connections, can do 10 gigabit optical I/O, 8 channels of audio, wireless MP4 video output, Red One RAW output (!!!), this sounds incredibly cool, useful, and improved - I should write more on this later...
short version - 4K capable S.two to be shown at CineGear
S.two Corporation’s DFR4K™ Digital Field Recorder announced at NAB 2007 will premier at Cine Gear Expo 2007.
New 4K capable portable recorder will feature in movie making workflow demonstration with the Dalsa Origin 4K camera.
Reno, NV—June 22nd 2007— S.two announces it will demonstrate for the first time its new 4K recording solution at this week’s Cine Gear Expo. The new DFR4K™ features full integration with Dalsa Origin 4K cameras using InfiniBand Fibre connections. The coupled systems will be shown on the S.two stand #T4 at the Wadsworth Theatre and Grounds June 22-23, 2007.
The DFR4K plays Dalsa 4K images in real time up to the maximum supported frame rate of the Dalsa camera. This closely coupled integration with Dalsa Origin cameras adds all the capabilities of the camera plus all the on set convenience, productivity, efficiency and robustness that S.two has shown on many completed feature films, the most noted of late being David Fincher’s ‘Zodiac’.
An Industry “first”, the 24V DC powered DFR4K™ production units allow the camera to be free of location logistics so that true ‘run and gun’ style movie making can be done in 4K resolution.
This debut showing of the DFR4K™ prototype heralds a complete set of DFR4K™ products for all extended resolution cameras and projects allowing a full choice of palettes for the discerning filmmaker. S.two extended definition workflow will be fully adapted for 4K movie making including offline, archiving and post integration. The DFR4K™ extended definition workflow is added to S.two’s HD, HD RGB, 2K and 3K products supporting other leading cameras.
“As the leading uncompressed digital film recording company, S.two is pleased to be able to provide our field portable, field proven, compact DC powered recording solutions to higher resolution users, bringing our un-rivaled on set experience and reliability to an emerging 4K market” states Steve Roach, Vice President, S.two. “The DFR4K™ provides 4K users a proven end to end workflow with the same benefits S.two has supplied on multiple movie projects around the world.”
Ikegami and Toshiba Provide Details of Advanced New Tapeless ENG Camera, Editing and Production System | Studio Daily
DALSA and the Digital Cinema Society (http://www.digitalcinemasociety.com/) are co-hosting a 4K presentation at the Cine Gear Expo, the industry's premiere film, video and digital media expo. The event which takes place on Saturday, June 23rd will explore 4K for production, post, and projection. Various samples acquired in 4K RAW with the DALSA Origin camera, edited in HD with Apple's Final Cut Pro, then conformed using EDL into the final project for color correction and creation of the DCP will be projected in 4K via the Sony SXRD Projector.
Following the screening, James Mathers, President and Co-founder of the Digital Cinema Society, will moderate a panel made up of Cinematographer David Stump, ASC; DALSA's Rob Hummel; Sony's Andrew Stucker; Denis Leconte of Pacific Title, as well as Directors Anurag Mehta and Joe DiGennaro. The presentation is a great opportunity to find out the benefits and challenges of Digital Filmmaking at 4K resolution.
The time slot is 10-10:45 AM on Saturday, the 23rd at the Wadsworth Theatre at Cinegear. Note: You must be registered for the Cine Gear Expo - Free of Charge Until June 15: For more information on Cinegear, visit http://www.cinegearexpo.com
Zacuto to offer turnkey HD camera packages with Redrock M2 adaptors
Zacuto and Redrock Micro today announced Zacuto will begin offering turnkey digital camera solutions equipped with the Redrock M2 adapter.
"We've had great success providing camera packages setup for the Redrock M2 and have gotten to know it very well," said Steve Weiss, Marketing Director at Zacuto. "Offering our customers complete packages including Redrock's M2 made perfect sense to us. We are thrilled to be teaming up with another US manufacturer."
"Zacuto is putting together fantastic camera packages for digital cinematographers," added James Hurd, Chief Revolutionary for Redrock. "We're delighted to be working with a company that maintains a strong reputation for quality, expertise, and customer service."
Zacuto targets their cinema bundles to customers requiring a complete camera package and have a budget ranging from $20,000-$30,000. The Zacuto cinema solution bundles will include a Zacuto-branded Redrock adapter kit, Panasonic HVX-200 camera, Zeiss Nikon-mount lenses, tripod, Zacuto support system, fitted Zacuto case, and other needed accessories.
Redrock's M2 35mm lens adapter is always available directly from Redrock's website, available with other Redrock accessories including the award-winning microFollowFocus, microMattebox, and microRemote. Redrock pricing starts at $995 for complete SD solutions, and $1,295 for HD solutions.
Redrock and Zacuto will both be at Cinegear Expo 2007 in Los Angeles June 22nd and 23rd. Redrock will be in Booth 30 (located near Panasonic and JVC booths). Zacuto will be located at Booth 77.
Proposed Amendment Would Ban All DVD Copying - News and Analysis by PC Magazine
Cinematical Seven: Tips for the Indie Filmmaker - Cinematical
Shooting Animation Verit-Style for Surf's Up | Studio Daily
HD DVD Production - white paper details on HD DVD structure/setup
Apple`s Safari for Windows offers simple interface, good performance but not essential
MacNN | Apple patent: power adapters for security
Mac OS X 10.4.10 Released
YouTube to Test Software To Ease Licensing Fights - WSJ.com
CinemaTech: Could new RealPlayer spark legal action?
SoftRAID 3.6 doesn't work under 10.4.10 - so don't upgrade yet!:
"SoftRaid 3.6 does not recognize 10.4.10, and will not allow access to preferences for changes or statistics. The only option is to close the software. To paraphrase the error message, it says that I don't have the proper OS installed and that I should install 10.4.X.
I sent an inquiry to SoftRaid, LLC about this and I received an answer back in under 5 minutes as follows:
'Either go back to 10.4.9, wait until 3.6.2 is out, or ask to be on the beta list for 3.6.2. This is caused by Apples hack to make a 10.4.10 possible, which violates their naming standards.'"
iPhone data plans to surface before launch day - Engadget
AppleInsider | New iMac, iPhone hints turn up in Apple software update
AppleInsider | AT&T exec: iPhone data plans to be announced June 29th [Updated]
AppleInsider | Apple retail stores to close, re-open ahead of iPhone
AppleInsider | AT&T recommending "Crowd Control Devices" for iPhone launch
AppleInsider | Apple gets new EU extension; iPhone dock; 7.6 percent Mac share
Apple - iPhone - A Guided Tour - new on Apple's site.
EDIT 9:45PM - I'm watching this right now on my HDTV via my AppleTV (the file is Apple TV compatible, natch). My garage got burgled today - my trusty mountain bike (Bridgestone MB-1, heavily modified over last 16 years) got stolen, and my car pilfered. Drat it - so much for my comfy neighborhood vibe - alarm to be used EVERY time I leave the house from now on. But anyway, feel better sitting home tonight and locking all the windows, etc. Back on topic - the iPhone has more little features I hadn't noticed before, so that's good. A silent ringer dedicated button. Speaker and microphone both on bottom (odd!). Another speaker up by your ear. Sleep/wake button is nice - can still receive calls and listen to music, but the big screen is off to save battery. The speaker on the bottom is for speakerphone mode - nice! Conference calling is nice and easy - I could never figure it out on any other phone system before without going to the manual. Lots of subtle quality UI touches. The cost is starting to not matter as much seeing all this - this is how it ought to work. If they released a phone with no video, no audio, and just the UI in a smaller form factor..it'd sell just fine. can surf multiple simultaneous pages - keep'em open. Email on iPhone can read/view JPEG, PDF, Word, Excel, RTF, HTML, etc. The keyboard is "smart" they say as it catches typos, etc. They suggest starting with your index finger and then advancing to thumbing - "in about a week you'll be typing faster on the iPhone than on any other phone" - so get ready for a learning curve. Still only being demo'd in vertical keyboard only mode - I've always been wondering when they'd get a wide mode keyboard mode - I have fat thumbs (and all that...oh never mind). Stock widget is exactly like the OS X widget. Google Maps - it doesn't seem to be self-aware of where you are as some has hoped - you have to tell it where you are. Traffic updates can be live - nice! YouTube - yeah, gotta be on WiFi from what they seem to be saying. Has an airplane mode - no WiFi, Bluetooth, or cell signals come out of it in this mode (well thought out!). Set your ringtone - they don't mention loading your own, but part of me wants to use this one (NSFW).
That'll hold us for a bit...
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Poster "laguun" did a nice job of organizing a bunch of quotes from the manuals relating to workflow related issues, and discussing their possible ramifications. Nice work, sir or madam! Further discussion ensues. If you're thinking about doing serious work with Color and never used Final Touch, you really ought to read this.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
It includes ALL of the Adobe Creative Suite applications, including:
After Effects CS3 - compositing/motion graphics
Premiere Pro CS3 - video editing
Encore CS3 - DVD & Blu-ray authoring
Soundbooth CS3 - audio manipulation
Indesign CS3 - print design
Photoshop CS3 - do you really need to ask?
Illustrator CS3 - vector based draw package
Acrobat 8 Professional - for PDF creation/manipulation
Flash CS3 Professional - for Flash animation authoring
Dreamweaver CS3 - for HTML editing & creation & layout
Fireworks CS3 - for web graphic dicing/etc.
Contribute CS3 - for content management
It is available from a variety of sources, but I'd appreciate it if you bought your versions through my online store in order to support HD for Indies.
Full version Mac OS X
Full version Windows
Upsell version for Mac
Upsell version for Windows
Upgrade version Mac
Upgrade version Windows
New Versions available on this page for Mac & PC, and updates are available here for Mac and Windows. Read the upgrade requirements CAREFULLY to make sure you get the correct version - there is an Upgrade version for about $1400, and an Upsell version for about $2000.
If you want another CS3 bundle, or any other Apple or Adobe software, it is all on the HD For Indies Amazon Store Software section.
Friday, June 08, 2007
I was discussing the new MOTU V3HD, and realized how similar it was in concept and functionality to the AJA IO HD.
OK, since it'll come up, here's my first, non-conclusive nor comprehensive, top-of-my-head differentiation between the two just based on the specs available. There are small, refinement differences, but these are the ones I think are significant. This is an ever evolving document, so don't take it as gospel - I keep adding pieces to it, and you're welcome to chime in with your thoughts as well in the Comments (link after end of article).
Major Similarities between V3HD and IO HD:
-SDI & HD-SDI based capture & output
-analog component/s-video/composite capture & output
-can transcode to a high quality codec in hardware
-FireWire800 based connection to host computer
-can function as standalone converter
-RS-422 deck control
-other myriad audio/video features
-both can output simultaneous HD & SD over SDI taps
-both can output two SDI or two HD-SDI
-both have 4 channel analog audio I/O via XLR connectors
-both will work as standalone format converters - we're winners either way, this is very, very useful
Potential Advantages of V3HD over IO HD
-DVCPRO HD is an industry standard, ProRes is not (but AJA does support DVCPRO HD editing via FCP)
-Mac and Windows (IO HD is Mac only)
-EDIT to clarify - simultaneous output of standard and high defintion analog simultaneously - IO HD can't do that, as it only has a single component output set.
-optical audio in/out
-at least 8 analog in/out - which allows for affordable 5.1 surround output (hey, it is MOTU, audio is what they DO)
-FW400 as well as FW800
-generally more audio goodness, as that is MOTU's specialty
-in general a few more discrete outputs - SDI and HD-SDI are separate instead of combo, as are the component outputs (HD & SD component outputs, not a single switchable set) - but wait, see below....
Potential Advantages of IO HD over V3HD:
-uses ProRes, which is markedly higher quality than DVCPRO HD (but not industry standard, and Mac FCP 6 specific). This is a biggie. ProRes is full raster and 10 bit in HQ mode, DVCPRO HD is...not.
-HDMI in as well as out (V3 HD is HDMI out only)
-IO HD has cross convert capabilities that V3HD doesn't appear to have (if it did they'd probably say so)
-RCA stereo pair for simple monitoring
-a single set of cables for connecting to monitors..again see below
One other aspect that's a little fuzzier to quantify, but AJA has been making Mac/PC video specific hardware for a long time and has a very strong track record in that specific category. Their hardware and software are a known quantity (and known to be high quality). They partnered with Apple on this, the same way they did on the prior Io SD device - lends confidence it'll work very smoothly - the usual AJA way.
MOTU, on the other hand, has been around for a long time and is similarly well regarded in the audio industry, also has strong ties to Apple, BUT...AFAIK this is their first major video product, with all the implied Version 1.0 potential issues of a new product in a new market sector for them - their strong track record is audio, not video.
In the "different not necessarily better" * category:
-V3HD is intended as rackmount or desktop gear, while IO HD has a handle for easy transport and is meant to sit on a desktop.
-IO HD uses BNC connectors for AES/EBU audio I/O, V3HD uses a dense 25 pin type connector that you'd need a breakout cable for
-V3HD has separate sets of component connections for connection standard and high def. If you have two, separate monitors, this is great. If you have a single multi-mode monitor (like my JVC VT-1910CG), this is a pain, as you'd have to switch cables around to do standard and high def. On the other hand, the IO HD has a single set that are software switchable (no recabling required) so if you have a multi-mode monitor like mine, just leave it hooked up and you're good to go. BUT...if you want to drive two analog monitors, one in HD and one in SD, no dice.
-in exchanging emails with AJA on this, they pointed out that the IO HD has a clean, simple front display. Granted. The V3HD has a lot more discrete information displayed - is that more useful information, or just clutter? Client bling or inefficient, overkill and busy? Judgement call, personal preference. There's aspects of the detail V3HD gives I like, there's areas where I see they could convey the information more efficiently. But the information given is very thorough and discrete, and the geekier side of my soul likes that too.
-if you want to go beyond 4 channels of analog audio, you'd need a breakout cable from another 25 pin connector (but at least you can, IO HD doesn't have that many analog audio outputs). Nod, if an inconvenient one, to V3HD, since it will more affordably do 6 channels of analog audio out for surround. While you certainly can do it from AES/EBU, it is frightfully more expensive based on my recent research.
* (one could argue which is better, and I don't want to argue over it here...yet. For now, I'm OK calling them different, and although it may be that one has greater utility than the other, it is easily envisionable...blah blah see right below)
Winner? Either "nope", "not yet", "it depends", but ultimately "can't tell yet"
...so it isn't clear which one is definitely "better" to my mind, it would depend on the user and usage scenario to differentiate (as well as the price), since I can easily envision multiple scenarios where either would be preferable to the other. In THEORY: On Mac? Got FCP 6? Not worried about 5.1 surround monitoring? Want/can use ProRes on the project? IO HD is lookin' good! On Windows? Or a Mac on FCP 5? Or doing surround, and want to monitor affordably? Need an analog HD output and an analog SD output? Want to see exactly what's up with all of your connections? A heavy audio kinda guy? MOTU V3HD is lookin' damn shiny. As usual, we're talkin' 'bout a horses for courses kind of thing. Also keep in mind...neither of these products has shipped yet. While both companies have good track records of shipping solid products, either or both of them could conceivably blow chunks in actual use, so keep in mind this is all complete conjecture based on published specs. And, as always, price matters.
I'm guessing, since it was just announced and they only have nice Photoshop mockups online, that V3HD is further from shipping than IO HD, since we saw fully working units of IO HD at NAB, and those are scheduled to ship in July for $3495 list.
OK, that's good for now, I'm heading out for the evening. Chime away using the link below with your thoughts and preferences, I'll revisit this over the weekend probably. Anybody want to guess at the price? Feel free in the comments, keeping in mind AJA is coming out at $3495 with theirs.
If there's any known technical inaccuracies in all of this, PLEASE do let me know - I'm just tryin' to get it right.
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
This software release introduces support for Apple Final Cut Studio 2 and adds support for Apple ProRes, the the Canon HV20 camera, 1080i HDV playback, 720p25/50 DVCPRO HD playback with the Panasonic HVX-200 camera and general stability and performance improvements. These drivers support Intel-based Mac Pro series computers. PowerMac G5 series computers are not supported."
Since so many folks are so gung ho for the low cost Canon HV20, the $250/350 Intensity/Pro cards are a good match if you want to capture live over HDMI and skip the HDV compression. Transcoding to ProRes on the fly now appears to be a valid option as well - sweet!
PS - thanks to Greg Boston for pointing out the DVInfo.net thread where this was found.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Did you see that DV Magazine article * I wrote (cover story April '07) about uncompressed HD workstations?
Did you wish there was a simple way to get exactly that gear in one place, from one vendor, customizable, who could sell & support it all?
Meet the HD for Indies configurations over at Silverado Systems!
I've been buying my own gear for a couple of years from Torrey Loomis over at Silverado, and we've partnered up to offer the configs I wrote about in the article. They are:
System 1: for the truly starving indie type - the bare minimum to capture, edit, & monitor uncompressed HD.
System 2: for the moderately budgeted indie who wants a proper setup but doesn't have tons of cash.
System 3: for the well heeled solo operator that needs bulletproof reliability, or perhaps for a small single room facility.
System 4: Probably (I hope) of most interest to a lot of readers - my Best Bang For The Buck recommendation on a system to do feature length uncompressed HD editing & finishing (up to 1080p RGB 4:4:4) on a budget.
They are all accessible from this page on Silverado Systems' website.
The configs are a little different than what I wrote about in the article, I've tweaked & improved since I originally wrote it.
I've been formally & informally recommending systems to clients, employers and friends for about 15 years or so. For a brief time during the desktop publishing revolution, I was a VAR (value added reseller) myself, but I don't do that any more as that isn't where my interests and passions are.
But in the meantime, I've been recommending system configurations for HD editing for a few years now, and it usually boils down to me recommending a list of gear. Then the client asks where should they get it, and I say say try this that or the other vendor, and inevitably the client comes back to say that they can't get all my recommended gear in one place from one vendor. All too often it seems there's always a substitution or two, or a vendor recommended substitution or upgrade is of dubious value, or more likely a component or three that simply isn't available from that vendor. Which means if there's trouble, it is all the more likely that there will be finger pointing between Vendor A & Vendor B and much gnashing of teeth will ensue. And nobody wants that.
So I decided that the only way to get simple, turnkey, one click, gimme-that-one-right-there simplicity was going to be to partner with a VAR and give them the mandate that they'd need to provide exactly the spec I recommend without substitutions, and ALSO offer the upgrades that I wanted to provide, in the order that I recommended them. And after a LOT of work from both sides, that's what Silverado and I have worked out.
If you go to, for instance, the Indie Bang for Buck system, you'll see a list of gear and options. All of the upgrade options are ONLY those that I recommend - I've deleted a lot of what I consider bogus upgrades. The upgrades that ARE offered are also in the order that I recommend them - so while a 17" JVC HD CRT is the recommended monitoring choice, there's also a 24" professional LCD listed, as well as both, or a "step down" option of the JVC CRT and an HDLink/Apple 23" LCD option listed as well. I recommend a 2nd internal drive, but if you want to remove that you can. Or if you want to step down from the default 8GB config to 4GB of RAM, that's possible as well if it makes sense for your setup.
If any of this doesn't make sense, just scroll down the Silverado page for the config you're considering and each of the optional categories is explained in depth, with recommended options for different usage scenarios, when it is worth getting those, etc.
So you're getting the benefit of my latest and best advice, as well as turnkey solution from a known & trusted vendor. I was buying my own gear from Torrey at Silverado for two years before we set this up, hopefully that carries some weight with you folks.
What do I get out of this? Yes, I do get a cut out of the deal, which is why I've spent many days and late nights getting all this set up, but it comes out of Silverado's end - you're not paying any more than if you approached them with this parts list on your own.
Over time, I'll be putting up other configurations for other usage scenarios, and I'll be announcing them here. The options listed here will work for most folks for most scenarios, but as always, if you'd like a fully customized solution to your particular project's unique challenges, I'm available for consulting.
Personally, I'm really excited to offer this service, I think it makes for a good marriage of good advice, a trustworthy single source vendor, and solid gear that can get the job done - at an entirely reasonable price - that should make everybody happy.
And yes, this is that bigger deal I was mentioning several days ago about buying a new Mac editing setup. But I also still have at least one more announcement to go...
* For the record, DV Magazine is not involved in this deal, nor do they officially endorse, recommend, or have any role in this in any way shape or form. I'd just received a lot of requests about where to buy such a config, and folks were having difficulty getting all those exact parts in one place, so this just seemed like a good idea.
Sunday, May 06, 2007
This is damn handy to know for the low end folks. Paraphrasing from their little chart:
FCE2 requires FCP 4.0 or later
FCE3.0 requires FCP 5 or later
FCE3.5 requires FCP 5.1 or later
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Some background for those not up to speed:
Redcode RAW is the native compressed recording file format of Red, recorded as data to files in a folder structure on a Red Drive, Red Flash, or Red RAM. Redcode RAW is a 12 bit linear RAW (Bayer pattern, color filter array) wavelet based compression scheme.
All above recording media have about the same performance envelope - based on public statements, all can record the same frame sizes/rates as all the others - so long as you have a properly spec'd CF card, for instance, the only limit as compared to Red Drive is the recording capacity. Recording quality, frame rate/size, etc. all the same. Red gives you LOTS of recording options - single/dual link HD-SDI to deck or DDR/DFR, uncompressed 4.5K out the high speed link, or the more likely/useful Redcode RAW to one of two external recording modules (320GB, $900 Red Drive or 64GB, $4500 Red RAM), or to one of three $500 internal Flash RAM based adaptor modules that fit on side of camera body (CF, ExpressCard 34, or eSATA).
Anyway...after you record all this stuff, how do you use it? Redcode RAW is the native format, but it is also proprietary - nobody else's camera generates it, it is specific to the Red One at this time. How to edit it, do VFX work with it, etc.?
If you hadn't heard, Redcine is the tool to convert Redcode RAW to...whatever you want (I'll skim over the basics previously covered and get to the juicy stuff here shortly). Standard image file format sequences or any "normal" codec you have installed on your Intel Mac (no PPC Mac support, drat) or Windows based system.
Click the pic above for a larger view of what Redcine looks like.
As you can see, there are four tabs, and I'l zing through what they are for:
In the project tab, you set up your, well, project. What is a project in Redcine? If you're used to working with film and the telecine process, think of this as your telecine session, saveable to disk, same as you'd save your color grades for a given tape on your daVinci setup. If you're a software jockey, you can think of a project as being akin to an FCP timeline settings or an After Effects composition settings (not exactly for either of those, but that's the general idea).
From here you can load a shot or a full mag - one of the nice features of Red One is that on camera, during the shoot, you can do some digital slating - specifying shots, takes, etc. The files are filed in folders that fall to that order - takes inside shots inside scene folders, etc. Redcine understands this struture, so when you import, shots are stretched out horizontally, and multipe takes are stacked vertically - just like Scratch, which this owes a very obvious debt to. So much so that the UI (user interface) pretty much IS a very cut down version of Scratch's toolset with some modifications.
One of the coolest features of Redcode, which makes it more like anybody else's v3.0 software than a beta release, is the use of gestural controls - if you flick the mouse pointer (no clicking involved) towards a screen edge, controls and UI elements will appear or dissapear (or even build/reduce in terms of how many/how simple things are shown). Sounds a little complicated/scary at first, but once you start using it, is super fast and easy. It's the little touches - things like you can click and drag horizontally to control some things where they make sense, but in other areas you click-hold and twirl mouse clockwise or counter-clockwise to increase/decrease values...just like a knob or wheel. Very clever.
Anyway, in the project, you can set things like your format, your aspect ratio, your frame rate, etc. You can also control display reticles and masking areas (opaque or transparent, your color of choice), show timecode, all kinds of useful stuff and powerful stuff.
It is important to remember that Redcine is a prep/conversion tool, not intended to be an editor or full coloring tool. It is a pre-grading tool for one light type color corrections, and a prep tool to deliver assets in format of choice.
You can flip between Library View which shows all your shots (horizontally) and takes (stacked vertically atop each other) - is a pre-editorial organizer so you can get a sense of your shot coverage - instead of a long vertical text list for your to organize, is thumbnails in a timeline like interface. Fast and efficient.
Next up, you can proceed to the Shot portion of the application. In here you can see and edit the shots metadata, name, position and scale. Want to crop? Want to scootch it around in that cropped area? All doable, and those shot-by-shot decisions get saved in your project for later recall and usage (handy when it comes time to generate your online res copies). You can play back, even on a laptop. That's right - play back 4K footage without pre-rendering - it is extracting a fractional res version on the fly. You have pop-ups for playback quality at full/half/quarter res, in preview through high quality. Higher res, higher quality slower to process. Wanna see realtime playback as you adjust scale or whatever? Quarter res preview is your friend. Wanna zoom in on that blown highlight for subtle tweaks? Crank up the res to see all the detail. The wavelet nature of Redcode makes it cake to extract fractional resolutions on the fly, no problem. So scale and repo as it is playing back - nice! Can't keyframe though - for that kind of subtle work, just take it to Motion, After Effects, or tool of choice at full res and manipulate it there.
In the Color tab, you have control over a bunch of the color attributes of the shot - you've got three point curves (toe/gamma/shoulder), you've got tint, exposure (measured in stops, very nice), white point (measured in Kelvin and properly executed without just chopping channel data), color channels, a special highlight recovery tool that manipulates digital blowout (ever see a magenta highlight in an overexposed area? This tool can fix it!), and several other things I can't recall.
One major feature of this: the color controls on camera, and in Redcine, and in the FCP plug (more on that below), are all the same, on purpose...because you can save in any one of them and move them to the other. It takes a little time for the full meaning of that to soak in, but do so. Hypothetical: imagine shooting a few test frames, throwing on laptop, previewing the shot there. Tweak color until you like it using the convenient mouse/keyboard interface (could do all same stuff on camera UI, just harder, like iPod vs. iTunes playlist organization...in fact VERY much the same metaphor). Save those settings as a file, put on an SD card, and load back into camera. Bang! Your tweaked nondestructive look metadata now rides shotgun with all footage shot with those settings...and gets baked into the HDMI and HD-SDI outputs. Doing a live shoot? Save those settings and put it on all 8 (or however many) cameras used for them to match. Calibration issues in what I just suggested, but you get the general idea.
Anyway, as you tweak the color settings, you're working from the 12 bit RAW source, manipulating in a 32 bit floating point color space - very precise. And of course, GPU accelerated as well. You can adjust colors WHILE the footage is playing back - very handy.
Oh - you can also define the color space you're working in - be it Rec 709 for HD destined work, or Camera RGB for the native color space, Adobe 1998, etc. as desired.
When you're done there, you can go to Output. From the Output settings, you pick what size you want to generate, what file format, what bit depth (auto-governed by what's possible with the format, so you can't try to create something impossible), and what codec. Now, for everyone who's concerned about will their NLE be supported, the answer is pretty much yes. If you can write to the codec you want to edit with on an Intel Mac or a Windows box, you're in luck. If you need a high end image sequence like TIFF, DPX, OpenEXR, JPEG2000, etc., you're also in luck - as all those formats are already working in the build shown at NAB. As for codecs, here's the drill - if you have a codec installed on your box that you could "normally" use, such as with After Effects or similar programs...you can write to it from Redcine. Simple as that. If you're on a Mac running FCP 6, you could convert to the brand new ProRes422 codec. If you're on a Windows box running Avid, you could convert to DNxHD 36 for your offline, and then later DNxHD 220 for your online. Or the same from a Mac with Avid stuff installed. Just bought the Sheer codec from BitJazz.com, or any other third party codec? Install in on your box, and you write to it from Redcine, no new version of Redcine required. It is that simple.
I mentioned offline/online - if you aren't converting to your final format (and if you're doing an indie feature, you probably aren't, or shouldn't), then convert the first time to your offline codec, save your Redcine Project, and Red is working on something they'll call a Red Pull List to help with your conform - you kick an EDL or XML out of your NLE, then bring that back to Redcine which parses it for all the shots and selects you used - those selects can then be processed to your online format of choice (frame size/codec/etc.) Software conform (easy with FCP I know, I'd imagine so with Adobe, dunno enough about Avid to say), and you're in bidness. Redcine and Red Pull List don't DO the conform for you, they just HELP in the conform process.
Or, if that all seems to complicated, there's another option...read next article posted.
If you have workflow questions about how Redcode RAW will fold into your existing pipeline, be it editorial, VFX, offline, online, hardware, software, whatever, I do exactly that kind of consulting for a living - contact me at the email address at the top of this page in the header. I charge by the hour, rates are indie viable/affordable.
UPDATE - I'll keep adding extra bits of info to this post -
Q: What about subclips?
A: you can "dupe" the shot in Redcine (doesn't replicate any data on disc, just makes another instance of it in the timeline...like making a copy of a clip in your NLE - no new media generated). You can set separate ins and outs for that VERSION of that shot...this is a big deal for doc makers that roll for an hour and want to pre-slice into shots, but not have to process that one hour shot for the online if all they need is 5 second subclip.
Q: What about conversion times in Redcine?
A: They haven't released official stats, because it'll depend on a lot of things - what clock speed your CPU/s, how many cores, what GPU, what bus speed, what read/write storage & speed; then on top of that what size frame are you rendering to, what color/cropping/repo are you doing, what quality and scaling settings are you using....lotsa factors. What they want to avoid is posting a "it took my box x.y secs/frame" on some pimped out 8 core box doing draft quality SD to a RAID, and some Moe Ronn getting upset stating "Hey! It took WAY longer than that for me!" ....on his Core Solo Mini cooking 4K Hi-Q DPX files to a USB 1.0 drive or somesuch. So they need to get organized and test in an appropriate fashion, and then publish the results in a detailed, well documented and qualified fashion.
All that said...if they are managing to play back at 1K on a Macbook Pro and 2K on a Mac Pro in REAL TIME...I'm not too worried about how long conversion is going to take in Redcine. Rob's on the job.
Friday, April 06, 2007
Kinda like my friends that lived in the house right after the sudden curve on Enfield. They dubbed their house "Casa Magneto" because drunken frat boy cars seemed drawn to end up in my friends' front yard about once a month, and bonus points if the car was upside-down after launching off the berm in the other neighbors yard Dukes of Hazzard style. They'd hear a screeeeeeeeeeeech....CRASH and pick up the phone, walk out on the yard dialling 9 and 1, waiting to see if anybody was hurt to dial the final digit. The fact that they had A System For It kinda informs you of the situation.
I feel like that today. Not that indie filmmakers are akin to drunken frat boys (thank God), but that's the situational metaphor that popped to mind, so I'm going with it.
I just sent yet another email off to a client that approached me after all the shooting had been done for a doc or feature, and capture had been done, and once again, the classic mistakes had all been made.
DISCLAIMER: If you're a client and you've made these mistakes, this isn't aimed at you in particular, there are many, many of you out there. I may be grouchy here, but I am trying to help. Details have been changed or merged on some of these to better make the point. That Which Does Not Kill Us Makes Us Stronger (Nietzsche). Mike's Corrollary: That Which Does Not Kill Us Makes Us Want To Take A Nap.
It has long been said that most indies will gladly save a nickel Friday that costs them $20 on Monday, either because they don't know any better or simply don't have the $2 on Friday to prevent the $20 error on Monday. Add zeroes to amounts until it applies to you/your project.
So, even though this is potentially giving away some work, let me spell it out for folks out there, in no particular order:
1.) THOU SHALT NOT USE CINEFRAME MODE on Sony HDV cameras. EVV-ARR (that's "ever" with emphasis for the non-teenage literate out there). It looks bad, it isn't true 24p, there are Better Ways, even with that same camera. Somebody shot Cineframe to intercut with 720p24 and 720p60 in FCP - what a mess to resolve correctly (doable, but finicky & time consuming).
2.) If you want to "shoot a movie" on DV, shoot 24pA mode, or at least have only slightly bungled it and shot 24p. 30p is one of the worst frame rates to use. 24p doesn't compress as nicely as 24pA, therefore doesn't look as good. DV is already challenged enough, don't beat up the little bruised kid any further. The catch is in the capturing, which leads to Item 4 in a minute...
3.) If you want to "shoot a movie" on the DVX100/A/B, PLEASE shoot anamorphic. Anamorphic 24pA, to be precise. Having shot it letterboxed, or "Well, we'll just letterbox it and blow it up for the theatrical version!" is the usual self-pleased answer, not realizing they will have a grand total of 720x360 pixels to blow up to 1920x1080 - that's a threefold stretch vertically instead of 2.25 - congrats, you can reposition vertically, but you've thrown out 25% of your resolution - something you were already very thin on with the DV format. And even fewer if you want that 1.85:1 or 2.40:1 ultra-widescreen vibe. And plan for your festival HD uprez, and realize that bumping up DV to HD resolution looks several thousand light years not as good as having shot HD inthe first place, but that's a couple of other whole other long posts entirely....
Now, if you're going for regular 4:3 broadcast, skip the above. This only applies if you want a 16:9 deliverable.
4.) DO NOT FOR THE LOVE OF GOD AND ALL THAT IS EDITORIALLY HOLY capture 24p or 24pA as 29.97 "normal" DV if you want to "make a movie" and have a 24p master (which you probably do for more reasons than filmout). Easily 80% of the folks I talk to that shot on DVX100/A/B gladly and glibly capture all their footage INCORRECTLY at 29.97, which makes it a royal bitch to get to a 24p master. This happens with alarming frequency. It screws up your ability to make a 24p master, makes VFX harder, makes your DVDs look worse than they could, even if you're not going out to film. The fix? Go back and recapture all final selects again. UGH. Do it right the first time. EDIT - Jan Crittendon of Panasonic reached out to let me know that in my frothing fit I'd mis-stated the case - actually, technically, you DO capture at 29.97, but you're removing 3:2 pulldown and writing 24p do disc. My intent was to say end up with 24p footage on disc, not 29.97 for your timeline. Thanks Jan! Good eye.
5.) If you or your crew did screw up and shot 24p, 24pA, and 60i on your various tapes instead of just the intended 24pA during the shoot, label the tapes as what they are so you don't make the editor or asst. editor want to kill you. And then capture them correctly. Look at the captured footage to make sure it is right.
6.) If you are "making your own movie" and aren't a TRULY experienced editor, or sat down and had at least a 30 minute SOBER conversation with someone who is an editor about the exact and precise specifics of your project, odds are at LEAST 90% that you will screw up video capture sufficiently that someone else will have to come back and redo it ALL to get a proper 24p master done later on. Log your tapes properly too while you're at it. RTFM on that one. And get a real editor if at all humanly possible - it is what they do for a living.
I'm switching over to Q&A mode now, from a draft I'd never finished/published, and I was in a nicer mood. These aren't all "do not do's" but are still useful/informative I think.
7.) Question:I want to shoot my documentary fiilm on the HVX-200 out in the middle of nowhere and my budget is tight. Tell me how to do this without running over budget. I also don't have much crew."
Answer: You've hosed yourself most likely. If you're shooting a doc that doesn't lend itself to a small amount of footage shot each day, and ESPECIALLY if you need to shoot a lot of footage each day, the HVX200 doesn't lend itself well for that if you want to shoot HD remotely with small crew. For narrative projects with few and shorter takes, it can be a great solution if you have AC power and a backup solution or a P2 Store (the portable hard drive for offloading) - see this article for more on P2 workflows in the field. But with no AC power and needing to shoot a lot of footage, You Are In Trouble.
The HVX200 is a nice camera for a lot of reasons - I like the color on it, the Final Cut workflow is pretty good (still some rough edges), the over/undercrank ability is super sweet and easy to use, the flexibility of modes is great - DV, DVCPRO50, 720p, 1080p, 1080i - all good stuff. BUT...the P2 cards are the weak link - they are VERY pricey and small in capacity and you have to dump the data somewhere before you can reuse them, and this is what will kill a small doc shoot - you need too many cards, or too much extra gear (P2 Store is a good option though, or multiple P2 Stores, when are they putting a 160-200GB drive in that sucker? NAB I hope?), and the real killer - too many man hours tied up in managing all that stuff if you're a small crew. You also almost certainly need AC power as well, and in the boonies that can be a dealbreaker.
There are other options worth looking at. Email me about consultation.
Lesson to learn: tools that are great for one job aren't necessarily great for another. "I have a bucket of nails and my favorite shiny lovely screwdriver. Crap."
8.) Question:I want to shoot JVC GY-HD250 (because I can buy it cheap) to cut with my letterboxed DVX100 footage in Final Cut. I like that it shoots 60fps progressive that I can use for overcranking, and I like the idea of FireWire ingest. My post house suggests bumping it all to another tape format for ingest for HD conform and uprezzing with a Teranex for the DV footage, but I can't afford that.
Whew! OK, let's break down the many issues here:
-AFAIK, the JVC GY-HD250 isn't supported by Final Cut at this time for native FireWire ingest at 60p- anecdotally I'm hearing that 24p and 30p capture work, but I don't have a rock solid confirm on that. 60p is almost certainly out from what I'm hearing, but again I don't have a gospel answer on that one. Lesson here: Be SURE that not only does your camera choice make sense, but that your post options are as expected and affordable It is ALL to easy to pick the "wrong" format for your NLE or post workflow and end up spending more in post than you would have in production if you'd picked the "right" camera for the job. Dubbing to higher end HD tape formats has gotta be what, $75+ per tape? On a doc, that'd be lethal to the budget - shoulda bought/rented a different camera with a proven post workflow and saved money over the "I think this'll be cheap and good" approach.
-Next issue - intercutting with 4:3 DV. While you CAN just drop footage on an FCP timeline and mix sizes, codecs, frame rates, and aspect ratios, it has to render, and that is slooowwwww, even on fast modern boxes. And it'll render to the existing timeline's settings, converting your HD to SD if that is what the timeline is. Plus, there are other issues if you've shot letterboxed (mistake # 4 above) and want to intercut HD. There are ways around or to deal with these problem with minimal time and expense and quality sacrifice...available to my clients (See? I'm only SLIGHTLY evil....)
-Issue after that - conforming this mixed timeline to an HD master - because the 24p mode on the JVC is delivered as 2:2:2:4 cadence on a 60p stream, it is damn hard to extract to cut with a regular 24p timeline. The client's post house, an entity I've heard of from across the country, was suggesting an expensive and time consuming solution requiring dubbing ALL tapes to another tape format. I had a software based solution that wouldn't require that.
Other related issue - how to make deliverables - if an SD 4:3 and an HD 16:9 are requested, then how do you optimally prepare each deliverable? How do you conform to the HD version without expensive tape dubbing, uprezzing the DV footage using a Teranex, etc.? I have solutions for all this, and I've done it before. All it takes it some proper prior planning and some relatively inexpensive computer time...and the knowledge to drive it all.
If you're having trouble figuring out how you're going to conform or deliver to HD, especially from a mix of SD & HD acquired footage, I have extremely high quality, affordable solutions for you that don't require a lot of time on traditional "heavy iron" at a post house. As Stu Maschwitz of The Orphanage put it so well in his book on indie post, desktop tools can offer BETTER quality than the high end post facility tools, they just aren't as fast. You just have to know how to use them well.
Lesson to learn: look at your ENTIRE production process and costs in their entirety. It is all too easy to change a solid plan and think you'll be saving money, and end up hosing the production or the budget.
9.) Question, phrased in many different ways: "Will you work on deferral?/Will you take less money if I give you a better credit on the film?
Answer: Let me explain - almost all of my clients are making independent content. I don't do commercials, I don't do industrials, mostly indie content. There are so many independent films out there being made, by so many earnest, well intentioned people, that will never even recoup their hard costs, let alone sell for enough profit to pay full residuals. Everyone thinks that their film will be different, and sadly, regrettably only a slim few will be correct in that assessment. Look at the recent SXSW, for example - over 3000 films were submitted, they ran roughly 100 or so, and of those, if you take out the ones that already had distribution before they got there, and just look at the ones that truly walked into the festival seeking full size theatrical distribution...the number will be dishearteningly low. Probably fewer than can be counted on one hand. So based on those odds, I really can't.
The same thing applies for film credits - it doesn't behoove me to do so. I've had more than one discussion with clients where we walk through a whole range of options, often including them suggesting they edit the film themselves when they've never edited before, and want me to defer my fees "until we get distribution." I wish I could, but if I did, I'd go broke Waiting For That Day. Especially for self-edited films. Not to be mean, but that bumped up credit that is supposed to help me out? Everyone in the business knows what Executive Producer means these days, and if it is on a small film that wasn't acquired, how exactly does that help me? I'm uncomfortable claiming a title I didn't earn. I do what I do, no more, no less.
10.) Question, again phrased many different ways: "Will you just answer me this ONE more question for free? Then this one? Then this one? Then this one? (Repeat ad infinitum) or more bluntly "Will you spend lots of time on my project for free? It is a REALLY good project. C'mon, you know the answer already, just TELL me!"
Answer: I'll try and calm down and be nice on this answer, and it similarly applies above - answering questions is what I do for a living. I don't work at a post house or a rental house or have another business where this is a sideline - consulting is my living. Unlike working professionals who share information with peers freely because it isn't going to affect their business (and I do help out my friends and peers frequently), I can't afford to spend time answering all the questions that come in, especially without charging. I'd be at it all day. And moreso, answering questions, especially well, thoroughly, and accurately, takes time, even if it is just finding a link to something I wrote in the past. If you can't find it easily, I probably can't either.
Also, stating "I have no budget/I'm a student" does not change anything on my end about my time availability nor effort required to answer.
Kindly, respectfully, there are forums out there where you can get free advice, although the quality of that advice varies wildly. When in doubt, pray to Google, but YMMV. It never hurts to ask, but if I (or someone else) says no thanks I/we/they don't have time, please respect that. Asking nicely up front appreciated as well. Nothing turns my generosity of soul sour more lately than folks complaining, repeatedly, that I won't help them out for free. Sigh.
OK, that's a lame Item 10, and isn't really something to really avoid (nor is #9), but that rounds it out to a nice round 10, and lists need 10 items according to the advice I read on the Interweb tubes. But back to the general point:
It is not your fault that you didn't know before you started. But it IS quite arguably your fault that you didn't ask and find out before you started shooting.
Addenda - stating "I just want to make my movie/I'm the creative, I don't want to focus on the tech" is an excuse...and not a valid one. Stating you don't want to be an auto mechaic doesn't fix your blown engine, nor excuse you from never having changed or checked the oil before it blew.
I could probably whip out another 20 (or 50) tips like this, but it boils down to planning and research.
The key to making a successful indie project, AFTER you have a great script and good actors and DoP and all that other stuff, is to plan, Plan, PLAN it to death. Then have contingencies, preferably what I like to call graceful contingencies - so that if the big goal isn't met, it isn't an all or nothing deal, you can just slide down one rung on the ladder rather than fall all the way to the bottom. And how do you do that? You plan. You research. You ask questions. LOTS of questions. If you don't know, or don't have someone willing to spend a lot of time helping you figure it out who does know, find folks who do. Maybe even hire a consultant, but that isn't the only way.
OK, end of rant, apologies for the rude tone, but it had to be said.
ADDENDA: Commenters have said CineFrame24 is troublesome but CineFrame 25 & 30 are OK....but you're still tossing res, and I'd rather use a better software deinterlacer like Nattress' anyway for better results. I still don't like it.
When I say capture as 24 fps, I'm shorthanding to mean 23.976 fps. But that doesn't matter really, as the inexpensive cameras can't do 24.000 fps, they always do 23.976 anyway. Higher end production gear can do either, but if you're working with those and get it wrong...you REALLY should have known better.
When I mention shooting 24p as opposed to 24pA, 24pA is by FAR the preferable. when I mentioned capturing 24p as 23.976 not 29.97 fps, I was thinking of a particular project where we recaptured via SDI - FireWire based 24p capture is a different thing as someone noted in the comments, but it can be captured that way.
As for 60fps out of the HD250, 24 & 30 are claimed to work just like the 100/110, so that shouldn't be a problem. 60fps, however, is claimed to have same frame flags as DVCPRO HD and be capturable over component analog. That statement does NOT make sense to me, since a.) where are the flags on an analog signal as compared to HD-SDI, and b.) the patterns are different - one uses 2:3:3:2, the other uses 2:2:2:4. Anybody clarify that for me?
Tuesday update - just talked to the editor on one of these challenged projects - more on self-edited films:
One of my clients discussed how the filmmaker editted the film himself, capturing 24p as 29.97, and because timecode was giving him trouble he turned off abort on timecode break and just captured entire tapes as individual files...thus guaranteeing cadence breaks and making it impossible to correctly capture the footage.
This is the post production equivalent of snapping the key off in the lock then liberally applying superglue all over it.
Now that the footage has already been captured and edited as 29.97, it would almost be an entirely manual process to rebuild the edit correctly as 24p and still maintain best possible quality. There are fixes to get it to be 24p, but so far all involve quality losses due to either DV recompression, >100IRE highlight clipping, or both.
The fillmmaker also shot letterboxed not anamorphic as his coup de grace.
So if you'd like some help avoiding these and other other problems, or just want to know how to save money, make your movie look better, and stay flexible in your options, get in touch - mike [at] hdforindies [dot] com.
PS - another short way of summarizing a lot of this - never commit to a camera until you have a known, proven, MATCHES EXACTLY way to post that footage. If you need to change NLE package or camera for some reason, make sure you still have a working match.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
Cineform announced a new codec - 12 bit "CineForm 444" codec - 12 bits/channel, 4:4:4 RGB. Note that this is different from their Cineform RAW codec that they've been using with the SI-2K.
So, this new codec details:
-targetted at high end of digital cinema & broadcast acquisition
-pitching as a competitor to HDCAM SR
-tested HDCAM SR vs CineForm 444, CineForm bested SR by 3 to 5 dB in peak s/n ratio testing
-used StEM (Standard Evaluation Material, is scanned film)
-see results here
-same results discussed on David Newman's blog here
More on the codec from their press release:
-12 bit RGB
-member of the CineForm Intermediate codec family, called CineForm 444
-up to 2048x2048 pixel resolution (why not 4Kx4K? -Mike)
-Prospect 2K for Premiere Pro supports real-time, multi-stream editing (oh, that's why! -mike)
-a version of CineForm 444 for Intel Mac QT "will be released in the near future"
-"Intended for professional film, digital cinema, and broadcast applications"
-it now offers realtime direct-to-disk capability over dual link HD-SDI onto Windows now and OS X "soon"
-alternative to tape based recording, much lower price point
-setup allow for picking AVI or QT wrappers
-recorded files IMMEDIATELY editable with no conversion or transcoding required IF using Premiere Pro on Windows (currently). Can also open directly in After Effects on Windows for compositing using native, recorded files
-Final Cut support coming
-tested using a Wafian prototype recorder (hardware computer solution using CineForm recording) recording off a Viper, compared to HDCAM SR deck, as well as StEM footage
-comparing peak signal to noise ratio (PSNR), the CineForm solution bested HDCAM SR by 3 to 5 dB
This all sounds very good - the Wafian recorder is simply a customized Windows portable system that has the horsepower and storage to record the CineForm codec format, but you could lug a suitably hoss system onto a stage/set for DIY recording for greenscreen etc. shoots. The Wafian makes it easier and productized, but the CineForm codec is the magic inside.
The point being they now have a very high quality recording option to meet or exceed the bit depth of the high end production being down these days over dual link HD-SDI. The F950, D-20, Genesis, & F23 will all kick out a maximum bit depth of 10 bits/channel over dual link HD-SDI.
I know just enough math to know that PSNR is important but not the only factor that matters when evaluating compression techniques. As someone on CML pointed out, 20 seconds or more of rolling footage viewed in a critical viewing environment is one way to evaluate material, and running compressed footage all the way through post processes to make sure nothing non-visible to human eyes but software visible (think keys and aggressive color correction).
The Davids were kind enough to point out all this material to me in recent weeks, but I've been too busy to sit down and thoroughly evaluate the material in the rigorous methods needed to give a comprehensive and definitive analysis.
But this all sounds very good and promising and it is great to have new options.
The ability to have a 2K master that edits in realtime with a reasonable datarate for high quality work. Wait, what datarates? I emailed David Taylor and he was kind enough to respond quickly:
But as a quick summary, using the StEM material (which is a bit more complex than most material, the average bitrates were:
CineForm 444 Filmscan 1: 350 Mbps (=43.8 MB/sec -mike)
CineForm 444 Filmscan 1-Keying: 410 Mbps (=51.3 MB/sec -mike)
CineForm 444 Filmscan 2: 415 Mbps (=51.8 MB/sec -mike)
CineForm 444 Filmscan 2-Keying: 480 Mbps (=60 MB/sec -mike)
Source in all test cases was 1920 x 1080 24p 10-bit dual-link HD-SDI.
Those datarates are stretching beyond the bounds of what is reliably doable on a single SATA drive. Modern single SATA drives run from about 30-55 MB/sec (full to empty rates) for slower drives to 40-65 MB/sec for faster drives. So really, you need a RAID to run these - if you're using 44 MB/sec footage on a drive that falls below 40 MB/sec when full, you aren't going to get reliable, no frames dropped performance. So a RAID of some sort is a practical necessity, esp. if you want a realtime transition (where two streams must be sustained).
But even a small native SATA RAID 0 could suffice, and they are quite affordable (starting under $1000).
That said, some issues:
1.) At present, the only native editing solution is Premiere Pro on Windows. That's at least 3rd on the list of NLEs high end professionals (target for this product, remember) want to work on. Avid is serious editors #1 pick, Final Cut tends to follow, and then it devolves to "everyone else" of which Premiere Pro tends to be at the front of that line. Final Cut support is coming but not quite here yet (it is in beta). When it does get here, will he have realtime support for things like cross dissolves and color correction? That is a mission critical feature as far as I'm concerned.
So no Avid native support at all at present or on the foreseeable horizon (and they historically Don't Play Well With Others unless others are camera companies). But then again, you can always downrez (software easy but slow, hardware realtime but cumbersome esp. for timecode issues) for an offline edit and conform on PPro/AE. Then, if needed, kick out to uncompressed for online if you want to do so on a different system (DPX sequences, SR tape, whatevah).
2.) As the last bit of the above alludes, data migration. Right now you can get that footage into some desktop type apps on Windows, soon on Macs, but lets face it - most shoots working with HDCAM SR are likely to also be using heavy iron production equipment that is often Linux/Unix based, and expects a DPX sequence. While you CAN convert to that format, you're losing the storage, time, and One Master File convenience offered by CineForm. You could acquire and archive with CineForm, then convert to offline editorial codec and uncompressed full res for VFX - your "digital negative" would remain conveniently small.
3.) I have yet to do my own testing to verify how well this compressed format holds up to heavy post - aggressive color correction and green screen keying the two items of greatest concern.
OK, gotta go run...
Got an email from David of CineForm and that got me thinking:
1.) You CAN just treat this like a deck, with data copied off as your "tape". Wafian HR-2 (designation of new model) DOES have dual link HD-SDI, so you could shoot on set, bring it back to studio/editorial, ingest over HD-SDI any way you want (DVCPRO HD for offline edit, downconvert to SD for edit, whatever), and have SOME kind of sync system to go back for the high res masters.
2.) OR you could batch process the Wafian files down to whatever you want for offline/online/VFX pipelines as needed using After Effects or possibly other tools. After Effects isn't built for batch conversion, but you can do it.
3.) High quality file based compressed wavelet source captured to hard drive that lets you convert to offline/online formats of choice - that's pretty much what Red is doing, but they're building their own conversion utility as well, with the added benefit that there is a shipping solution to edit it now with realtime effects (on a duly pimped system).
Stu Maschwitz, the brains behind the original Magic Bullet and more recently Colorista, couldn't help himself but to talk a little bit about the next version of Magic Bullet that is due to be demo'd at NAB.
Some tidbits of interest from his blog post with commentary, his in italics, mine in plain
Rather than a regular plug-in with a ton of sliders, Magic Bullet Looks features a standalone application with its own UI.
Hmm....I'm not sure about that, I'll have to see it in action. So much of what needs to be done gets done on THAT shot rather than applying a look. Stu gets workflow, so I'll have to trust him on this one until I can see it.
Interjection: I'd emailed Stu to talk about this, and he replied back:
I totally hear you -- the standalone UI is a double edged sword, but we're working to make it as non-modal as possible, and when you see the UI you'll understand why there was no other way.
Like the previous Look Suite, this tool isn't meant to be a color corrector in and of itself. The classic use would be Colorista followed by Magic Bullet Looks. You'd use MBL as a kind of LUT over your corrections. That way all the shots in a sequence have the consistent look but their own shot-by-shot corrections underneath. So there will be at least one mode of working where MBL will be somewhat fire-and-forget.
That is certainly an interesting concept - Colorista for the tweaky tweaky color balancing, then MBL for applying a look. One key detail will be how the architecture in your app works - does it do Colorista in 32 bit floating point, then return results as what? Hopefully at LEAST a 10 bit space, not 8 bit RGB before THAT result gets sent to the next plugin (MBL). I don't know all the details on how exactly that works in each app, but it can make a substantial difference in the final quality results.
Back to quoting his blog entry...
Called Looks Builder, this application is launched when you apply the Look Suite 3 plug-in in After Effects, Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, Avid, or Motion.
I like that modularity, and the ability to use same looks in all those apps (don't forget Premiere Pro is coming to Macs this year)
Within Looks Builder, you build and edit looks using Look Tools; modular mini-effects for things like bleach bypass, gradient filters, and film stock simulation. All of these tools work in realtime and can be tweaked and edited in context. All processing is done in floating-point color.
Floating point GOOD, preservation of >100 IRE better - Stu tipped me to this in my own workflow issues, so I'm guessing he'll handle it right, or as rightly as the software & APIs allow him to do so.
With over 30 Look Tools to assemble however you like, you can create an infinite variety of Looks.Or choose a preset. Pop open the Looks Theater to see 100 different preset looks applied to your image (not a canned thumbnail) in realtime.
This bodes well for him "getting it" the way I want it to work.
Magic Bullet Looks was designed to be easy and fun to use, but it's powerful enough for pros too. Filters and exposure adjustments work in real-world units. Color corrections obey industry standards. Cineon film scans and digital cinema images, such as those from the Panavision Genesis camera, are interpreted correctly and can be converted to video or left in their native color spaces. The same look that you develop on an Avid rough cut in video color space can later be applied to a 35mm scan.
BINGO. If he's supporting Panalog, that bodes very, VERY well that he'll be handling a lot of other high end things I want to be able to do (Viper balanced LUT?). And all this with hardware acceleration on an 8 core Mac Pro with a good GPU? Bwahahahahhahaaa.....the POWER! Now, if he could just get secondaries in Colorista...