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Little Frog in High Def

Musings of an NLE ronin…
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Archive for January, 2007

When naming folders to put footage from P2 cards into on the backup drive, avoid using symbols like #, &, /, @…pretty much any of the symbols above the numbers and next to the shift key. While the Mac will recognize the folders just fine, FCP won’t. FCP has issues with those symbols in general, so avoid them.

A buddy of mine, (Patrick Sheffield, the guy who invented the Popsicle Raid) tonight went to import footage from folders labelled thus:

When he selected the card all the thumbnails appeared, but when he tried to import he got an error. He called the camera assistant and the assistant said that they imported fine off the card. So that set his mind to thinking…what was different? The folder that contained the CONTENTS and LASTCLIP.txt. Then he saw the #…a-HA!

Label your folders Card 01 or B001.

I was showing a buddy of mine that the Broadcast Safe Filter was broken (as I stated HERE when I applied the filter, rendered and something interesting happened.

It worked.

That’s right, it worked. The levels DID NOT jump right back up…they stayed put. “Well?” he asked.

“Uhm…it…isn’t supposed to do that.”

“I see.”

“Well, it didn’t work on my LAST show…”

Apparently this filter was fixed with the FCP 5.1.2 update. Not only do the scopes now work and are spot on, but the Broadcast Safe filter works now as well. Which is why people lately have been claiming it worked and never had the issue I and others have had. Well blow me down.

Now…they just need to fix that pesky P2 IMPORT function. THAT they broke.

I finally finished recording and editing my tutorials on organization in Final Cut Pro. It is off to the able hands at the Creative Cow for encoding and mass production. When it comes out, I’ll annouce it here (among other places) and post links where you can order it.

To give tips to others on how they might organize their P2 media, I’d like to show how I organize mine. Take the ideas, or leave them. I am just putting them out there.

Now, the first time I imported P2 media, I did it rather haphazardly. I made one bin for each day and imported the clips. Each bin held over 1000 clips. YIKES! The next batch came in and I was a little bit better. I organized them in DAILIES bins…a separate bin for each card. That wen’t much faster, but still, I had lots of small clips. Most clips were under 1 min. A quick shot of a cannon firing, shots here and there of cannon teams loading and aiming cannons. Generic stuff so I couldn’t really organize it into smaller catagories. I ended up with HUGE bins of CANNON FIRE and CANNON DRILLS (no fire)…for both sides of the war. It was VERY time consuming to look thru all the clips.

But hey, I have a good excuse. This was not only the first time I dealt with P2 media on a professional level, it was the first time ANYONE dealt with P2 media on a professional level. We got the first HVX-200 cameras on the West Coast, and began shooting with them 2 days later. Loading footage one week later. While we had the process down for production (P2 Workflow Part 1, P2 Workflow Part 2, P2 Workflow Part 3), but I didn’t have the post part worked out yet. After that show I made a plan that if that happened again….generic footage of stuff…that I’d take all the clips from one card, lay them out into a timeline, then export a Quicktime movie that I’d then reimport…making a single clip that I can shuttle thru. I liked that idea. And one day, when that happens, that is what I’d do.

But that won’t work for the current show I am working on. This show is all docuDRAMA. Shot very much like a feature film, which means that I have SLATES! Well, that helps TONS. Sure, the HVX camera operator (Andy…great DP) might just shoot the slate for a second, but it lets me know what is coming up. So I organized my footage exactly like I would for narrative productions…Scene and take.

Well, lets start from the beginning. First I imported all the clips into DAILIES bins. Giving the bins the same naming structure that came from the set, and separated by day. So a bin for the day (Sat, Jan 13), and then the bin number (B001, B002). And I import the FULL clips. This is not only due to the fact that FCP 5.1.2 didn’t work for me (read a few articles below this) but because of another reason. If I lose a drive, or if the media gets corrupt or vanishes, then I’d be able to reimport and reconnect immediately. If I used the options available in FCP 5.1.2 or P2 Log or HD Log…the ability to mark IN and OUT points and import only portions of a clip…then I wouldn’t be able to do this. Not without noting IN and OUT times and manually re-importing all these clips again. And maybe that would work.

So, once I import the clips, I add information to the clip name. Becuase “0001HG” and “0019XV” really isn’t that descriptive. I add the Scene and Take, and a short description, and leave the clip number in the name, but put it at the tail. This way, if I lose the media for any reason, I’d be able to look at the clip name, note the number, and after I reimport the P2 media, reconnect it. Like this:

Now, changing the name of the clip in FCP doesn’t change the name of the original clip on the drive. It remains “0001FQ” even though I have added “43B/2b B_CAM Weatherford talks to Indians about attack.” But I have the number at the tail to help me track the original footage. I haven’t lost media yet, but doesn’t help to be prepared.

I have also encountered several clips that were broken in two. This is due to the first part of the clip being recorded on the first card in the camera, then carrying over, or spanning, onto the other card. What I did in this case is first label them similiarly…45B/2a and 45B/2b…then drop them onto the timeline and export them as one clip. I’d then reimport that clip and lose the “a” and “b”…and since it isn’t a P2 clip, it doesn’t have a number at the end. Oh, and I label it RED so I know it is a spanned clip. Thus:

Now I hear there is an option in the P2 Import window to connect spanned clips. But, I haven’t seen it. Might be a feature of FCP 5.1.2, which I am not using for this procedure. I’ll look into it more and get back if I find anything.

I have always been worried about how I had my RAID tower connected to my G5. Having those wires feeding out thru the back:

Look here

Because the connections were internal on BOTH towers, connecting them and moving just one meant…well, it was a production let me tell you. So I wanted to have some way of getting the 4 internal SATA connections onto the outside via a bridge of some sort, so that I could simply unplug the wires…like I should be able to.

I went to one of my favorite window shopping sites, MacGurus (the first place I know of that started selling SATA Raids, BTW) and found this wonderful unit:


http://macgurus.com/productpages/sata/SATACables.php

I slapped it in there, strung the short SATA cables to the top 4 sots, then connected it to the tower and ZIOLÁ! And it only cost another $24.

I know my solution isn’t as elegant as a port multiplication unit, like the CalDigit drive solutions are, but it works for what I need right now. And is what I can afford right now. When I get a series, or after I finally pay off this system, I’ll invest in a CalDigit HD Raid. Until then, I’ll use this tower as backup to the two S2VR units I am editing on to review for CalDigit. So far…I’m loving them. But I still like my tower. It beat them in terms of quietness.

The drive is nearly full (copied footage over from the Quiet Tower)…only 13.9 GB remain of 500GB. So the drive is 3% empty. The recommended amount of space to leave for best performance when full is 10%.

At 3% I am still getting read/write speeds of 81MB/s. That is the base speed of my G-Raids when they are about empty. 85MB/s is what I get from them.

81MB/s still gets me 2-3 streams of DVCPRO HD…plenty.

I am importing a bunch of P2 footage shot with the HVX-200 for ANDREW JACKSON and I thought I’d take the time to update my P2 workflow tutorial at the Creative Cow. The import option for Panasonic P2 has changed now, you see. It used to be you’d only see a picture of the first frame of the clip, and then get the option to IMPORT one clip, or IMPORT ALL of them. But with the release of FCP 5.1.2, not only did they add support for PAL formats of DVCPRO HD, but they also modified the P2 Import window and added some new features. Very HANDY features like the ability to watch the clip BEFORE you import it, the ability to mark IN and OUT to get only what you want, the ability to name the clip something other than the arbitrary number that the HVX-200 assigns to the clips…tons of new stuff.

But somehow in doing that, they broke the basic function of that importer…the ability to import the footage.

Now I had read on the various forums I frequent that people were having issues importing footage with this tool. I mean a LOT of people. Initially I chalked it up to user error…inexperience with the format. After all, people had problems with the first version. And I never had one problem. So they were doing something wrong and I was doing it right (yeah, I get a little full of myself sometimes). So when this issue occurred I thought the same was true…user error. I didn’t have any footage to test it, however, until now.

So here I am, in the middle of a tutorial and I a getting error after error. 4 out of 14 clips import. The others didn’t because, according to the import window, they were corrupt. Really? I can see them in the P2 viewer and play them and do all sorts of things. They are corrupt? That can’t be. So I go back to a previous version of FCP that I have installed on my system as well, FCP 5.1.1 (read why I do this here: VERSIONS.

So I open FCP 5.1.1 and encounter the familiar Import window, navigate to the CONTENTS folder with the “corrupt” clips and promptly import all of them…without a hitch. I proceed to do the rest (31 cards in total) with only one “failed to import” error, that was easily rectified by importing that clip on it’s own (sometimes this happens when you IMPORT ALL. The solution then is to import this problem clips individually). Practically flawless.

What is it with Apple? They take a perfectly good WORKING importer and add a bunch of bells and whistles…and now it doesn’t perform its basic function. People complained that there wasn’t a way to preview the footage before they imported it, that they couldn’t only import sections that they wanted, that they had to import with the inane naming structure that the HVX records the clips with. So Apple addressed those issues and came up with what LOOKS like an elegant solution. But, it doesn’t work. It is like the prototype car at a car show. Looks really neat, but doesn’t really work just yet.

I wouldn’t recommend marking an IN and OUT and only importing part of the clip anyway. Or changing the name from the one the camera assigns. Because if you happen to lose that imported file (drive dies in a blaze of glory) then you cannot reimport that clips and have it relink because you can’t get the same IN and OUT points, or you don’t know the original name of the clips that you renamed. I always recommend importing them with the names, then naming them in FCP, but keep the original name at the tail, so that you can link to the original file in case your drive does commit suicide.

ANYWAY, it was really frustrating and I was looking forward to the new interface and to updating the P2 workflow tutorial (P2 Workflow) But it looks like it isn’t to be.

Ah well.

www.p2genie.com

The best $33 you will ever spend if you work with Panasonic P2 footage. And I mean it. Anders Holck (the author of the greatest companion tool to FCP…FCP RESCUE) has really outdone himself here.

First off let me describe what it does, then let me tell you how it came to the rescue. In a HUGE way.

P2 Genie is a small software application that automates importing footage from a P2 card. You can have it set on automatic, where once a P2 volume is detected it just goes off and does what it does, or manual mode where you press a button to make ti do what it does.

What does it do? It will automatically create folders on the backup drive you choose, and use a basic naming scheme that you set. Like B001 for B-camera, and C001 for C camera, and so on. Then it will erase the card after it verifies the transfer. You can have it transfer the footage to multiple backup drives, if you are that paranoid. It will do this automatically when you insert the card, or at the press of one button. It is pretty slick.

Normally I’d pre-make folders before the shoot, and name them and get them ready for copying. Then when I copied the footage I’d label the folder in RED to know that that folder is full. A small amount of work, but time that could be spent doing other things. The P2 Genie automates this process and makes it all painless.

Now, how did it save us? Well, first I direct you to this discussion thread at the Creative Cow: P2 Transfer Speeds to a G5

Offloading a P2 card to the P2 Store takes about a GB a minute. That is the general rule. Same thing if you copied footage from a P2 card to an external firewire drive using a G4 Powerbook or PC Laptop. But a few people were experiencing very low transfer speeds when backing up the P2 Store to an external drive at the end of the night. Like 20 min for 4GB. That was definately not right. Initially (last year at this time) when we did the transfer, we noted that this was slow as well, but not as slow as this gentleman noted. But then last weekend on a shoot my producer noted that the transfer times were VERY slow. As slow as pointed out on that thread…20 min for 4GB. What was going on?

Well, not wanting to hang around for that, my producer decided to use the P2 Genie that I recommended and have it automate things. Take each of the 16 NO_NAME partitions and create new folders and copy the footage over to those folders. All overnight.

But then he noticed something. The transfer seemed to be happening much faster. And I mean MUCH faster. The P2 Genie was transferring the footage at the rate of 2-5 min per partition…because the amount of footage in each varied. But still, 5 min for a 4GB transfer. That is what we had grown to expect….and we were now getting it.

Why? I dunno. He tried one by one manually and it wanted to take 15 min. He used the P2 Genie and it took 4 min.

What magical thing did Anders do THIS time?

Anders, if you read this…you are a frickin’ GENIUS! And I mean that. Hats off to you. I hope you make LOADS of money off this application. To make up for FCP Rescue that you gave us all for free.

Guys…If you shoot with the Panasonic P2 camera, support Anders and buy P2 Genie. And please, test it with the Firestore. We don’t have one and I would love to know how it does with that. Just make sure you prepare the footage as Panasonic P2 on the Firestore first. Don’t forget that.

I am off to MacWorld and most likely will not post anything, as I will be working and partying. While I am gone, I want to share a video with you:

FIELD OF VIEW: THE RECITAL

This video speaks volumes about production.

It is not about the tools, it is about the talent BEHIND the tools.

The day after I posted the numbers I was getting from the CalDigit S2VR unit I am reviewing, I received a conference call from the guys at CalDigit. They didn’t like the numbers. I was confused at first, thinking that they were wondering how I got such high numbers. Because I was impressed with my results. But no, that wasn’t it. My numbers were too LOW. I should be getting much faster transfer speeds and they wanted to help me figure out what I did wrong.

Let my list the computer specs of the G5 that the unit is attached to.

Dual 2Ghz G5, 3GB RAM, no other cards installed other than the CalDigit controller card, which is located in Bay 4.

When I first configured this unit, I used the S2VR Configuration software that came with the drives. The RAID setting I chose was JBOD, or Just a Bunch of Drives. Then I used the Disk Utility to RAID the drives as a Striped Set (RAID 0) and there I had it. Apparently I did it wrong. But that is the configuration the documentations picture indicated…JBOD.

I was told by the guys at CalDigit that I needed to use the configuration software and select PERFORMANCE when I create the RAID. And I did. Then, instead of using the Disk Utility to create the Raid I used it to create one partition. Then the drives showed up as one.

I ran the test again.

For DVCPRO HD 720p60 1 GB file, I got:
Write: 146.6 MB/s
Read 144.4 MB/s

CONSIDERABLE difference. Wow. Just to check I went back and reconfigured it as a JBOD and striped using the Disk Utility and ran the test again. I got similiar numbers to the ones above.

Huh…I think I did something wrong the first time. I must have…those are far bigger numbers than what I initially received.

Anyway, those are the numbers I am getting now, close to 140 MB/s with all the formats I tested…just what the guys say I should be getting. To be fair, when I ran the first test (Using the AJA KONA System Test) the S2VR Duo unit had 338 GB of footage on it…and it is a 500GB unit. So the unit was 67% full at the time. The above numbers reflect what I am getting with an empty drive. I will copy over the files again from my main system and run the test again…see what the numbers say then.

OK…I copied the footage back. 338GB of footage. Again, the unit is 67% full. I ran the test again.

DVCPRO HD 720p60 1 GB file:
Write: 109.1 MB/s
Read 105.0 MB/s

Uncompressed 10-bit SD 1 GB file:
Write: 109.2 MB/s
Read 108.1 MB/s

So those numbers are closer to what I got in my original tests, but slightly higher. So I think that initially I did do something wrong when I first formatted the drive. But it also shows that drive performance does indeed dip lower the fuller the drive gets. Still, those are very acceptable numbers. Great numbers in fact. I can get several streams (layers of video) with those numbers. I’ll have to test how many in the coming weeks.

OK, FINALLY sat down to do a little testing. Since I haven’t started editing yet, I haven’t run the CalDigit S2VR thru it’s paces yet, and I will have a complete article on this soon, I just wanted to share some numbers I got comparing the S2VR Duo to my G-Raids.

Ready? Are you sure? Alrighty then.

G-RAID connected via FW800: DV/NTSC (1GB file)
Write: 46 MB/s
Read: 66.8 MB/s

S2VR Duo connected via Superlace eSATA: DV/NTSC (1GB file)
Write: 105.9 MB/s
Read: 106.2 MB/s

G-RAID connected via FW800: Uncompressed 10bit SD (1GB file)
Write: 53.6 MB/s
Read: 78.5 MB/s

S2VR Duo connected via Superlace eSATA: Uncompressed 10bit SD (1GB file)
Write: 107.9 MB/s
Read: 106.3 MB/s

G-RAID connected via FW800: DVCPRO HD 72060 (1GB file)
Write: 46 MB/s
Read: 66.8 MB/s

S2VR Duo connected via Superlace eSATA: DVCPRO HD 72060 (1GB file)
Write: 105.7 MB/s
Read: 106.3 MB/s

Not only did the S2VR Duo out perform the G-Raid, but was TWICE as fast. Always in the triple digits, and always consistent numbers. I like this new drive. I like it a lot. Quiet too (although not as quiet as my Quiet Tower. Nothing will beat that).

Next week I am at MacWorld. Then after that, capturing dailies for ANDREW JACKSON…so then I can start running the unit thru the paces.