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Little Frog in High Def

Musings of an NLE ronin…
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Archive for August, 2008

EDIT: I have been at home playing more with Avid 3.0 on my Dual 2.0Ghz G5…and things seem to be going swimmingly…so I have to edit this…

While awaiting for my Mac Pro to come out of production so that I can install the new Avid 3.0 software on it (the only machine I have that is on Avid’s requirement list), I tried it on my Powerbook G4 and Powermac G5, both running Leopard. Well…it loaded…and it opened. But it didn’t work. I did get Avid 2.8 to work on both machines, and I did capture and edit DV and DVCPRO HD with no problems. This remains true…I cannot capture DVCPRO HD on my laptop. HOWEVER…I did import Panasonic P2 footage DVCPRO HD 720p24 and it played back fine…AND…it works for editing DVCPRO HD tape footage captured on my G5. HA!

But Avid 3.0 is a different animal.

I did try to capture footage on the Powerbook. I was able to capture DV footage, but that’s it. I tried DVCPRO HD and it dropped frames like mad. Just unusable. I tried the G5…and it was better, but still, 4 frames out of 30 are gone.

EDIT: I am an IDIOT! A freakin’ idiot. GOSH! Uhm, this footage is 720p24…running at 23.98. OF COURSE frames are missing. Pulldown was removed. God I feel stupid.

And every time I try to play back, the first time I press play I get an error, then I click OK and it plays…but that is no way to work. Well, a restart seemed to have fixed that. I have been editing that footage all night an no errors. Mixing in the DV I captured and P2 footage…real time. No issues. Huh. And when I went back to the DV footage I captured, the Powerbook worked for a little while, but after a few minutes it too started spitting out errors. I didn’t really dig into testing until last week, that’s why I didn’t have any issues. So when Avid says you need an Intel, they are right. You need an Intel. I’ll wager that is how they get all that speed in the software.

HA! Proved myself wrong. I have gotten this software to work on a G4 laptop and a G5 Tower. Can’t vouch for the reliablility, but it does capture DVCPRO HD via firewire perfectly fine, and P2 import is slick…and works on both machines.

A friend pointed out to me that I was mentioned on a video podcast called “THAT MEDIA SHOW,” episode 4 (find it on iTunes). They mention Avid 3.0 reviews from The Editblog and Splice Here, and then mention that I tested the software on my Powerbook G4, and that I got it to work. I need to clear the air here that when I claimed that I got Avid 3.0 to work on my Powerbook in this post, that I hadn’t fully tested it yet. And for me to report that I got it working before I really sat down and dug in was irresponsible. I was excited that it loaded and captured some footage. And before I could play around for a bit, I had to go on two trips and wrap up a show.

Please accept my apology for my early reporting and misinformation.

I hope to get the software…and a MOJO DX…installed on this system next week so that I can really see what it can do. And I need to buy a MacBook Pro…I am just waiting for a better excuse than to test software and hardware. I don’t make money doing that, so I can’t justify the cost.

EDIT: OK, I read Scott’s comment (thanks Scott) and decided to go back and play a little more. Turns out things are better than I thought. Missing frames were the redundant ones. Error seems to be some fluke that a restart fixed. I can edit mixed formats…all seems OK. Even on the laptop, I was able to play back P2 footage and the DVCPRO HD footage I captured on my G5. So I seemed to have jumped the gun on my “IT WON’T WORK” comments. Ahem. So in a pinch you can use Avid 3.0 software on machines that are not on the recommended list. Just don’t expect them to work flawlessly. I have only been doing fiddling tonight. If I was working on a show 10 hours a day for a few weeks, issues would no doubt crop up. OK…first impressions later. I have Interview footage to capture and transcripts to wrangle so I can test out the ScriptSync features.

So I downloaded ShotPut P2 and checked out what it can do. I can say that I am REALLY impressed. Here, look at the interface:

First off, you can have the application create an name folders for you (Include Prefix). I like to name them with the project or location, plus the date, and the consecutive numbers.

Second, you can have the application offload to THREE locations at one time. This is great. On location I like to offload to two bus powered firewire drives. So that I have identical information on both. If you are EXTRA cautious, or want to hand a drive to a client, then you can offload to a third drive.

Fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh…the application will play a sound when the offload is done, automatically format the card, name it to whatever you want, and eject it. Automation rocks! Oh, but it still is very nice in that it warns you before it formats, in case you had that preset from a previous shoot and don’t want to format for the next one.

And now the card is formatted with a custom name!

Oh, and one of the most important thing, is that it verifies the data that it offloads. You can choose file size verification, or file contents. File size is a little quicker, but I am cautious, so I do file contents. This ensures that the offload is good…and that is VERY important.

A while ago I touted P2 Genie for this purpose, but now I can’t…for two reasons. First off, it didn’t have any sort of file verification. And second, there is no Leopard support. In fact, it is no longer offered for the Mac. So really, that trumps the first reason. But now I highly recommend ShotPut P2.

If you want more than offloading capabilities, then I still recommend the other Imagine Products…er…products. P2 Log Pro for offloading, and if you want to convert to Quicktime or maintain a log of the footage, and the HD Log product line, that does the really cool thing of making small QT aliases of the MXF files and allow you to create XMLs for import into FCP, and allow you to MAP THE METADATA to FCP columns so you can take full advantage of the P2 cameras and data.

EDIT: A reader of the blog brought up a very good point to me in an e-mail. When you insert the card into the computer, the best practice is to have the COPY PROTECT TAB flipped on, so that you can’t accidentally erase the card. So when you do this you cannot format the card with the application. True…and that is the best practice. So thanks for that catch.

OK, I will go on record how much I HATE the Avid “dongle.” This is a little USB device that connects to your computer that enables the Avid software to work. Don’t have this, your software won’t work. Period.

I mean, I know why it exists…to stop piracy. FCP claims over 1 million users, and I have no doubt that there are another 500,000 copies out there that were downloaded or installed from a friends disk. So I get it, but I still don’t like it.

Why? Because I misplaced mine. I have been testing it out on my laptop mainly, so I kept it in my backpack. But then I was flying to New Jersey for a week, then off to Montana. I didn’t want to lose it so I put it somewhere for safe keeping. Where? I hadn’t a friggin’ clue! I spent 6 hours tearing apart my office, bedroom, living room…pretty much the entire house…looking for this thing. I finally had the time and resources to begin my testing and review of this new version, and now I couldn’t find it.

This was pissing me off. FCP doesn’t do this to me. Premiere doesn’t do this to me. Why the HECK does Avid? My ability to work is tied to a $5 hunk of plastic. Lose it and getting a replacement means a lot of money and time. At least it used to. I recall working at a production company where they lost one, and a post facility that lost one. The replacement cost a pretty penny, and the bays were down for days. And those were computers that were locked down. In this day and age of mobile editing, the dongle isn’t attached all the time nor locked to the desk with a cable, so losing it is more possible than ever.

Anyway, my wife found it. She searched my desk and found a pouch that contains my Elgato Turbo.264 and tucked inside the OTHER pocket was the dongle. Worse part is, that I don’t recall putting it there. Now I need to figure out some way to secure this to my backpack or something.

So now I can start testing out the new Avid Media Composer 3.0 software. And what I think is cooler, is that my next job might have me editing on an Adrenaline or older Media Composer, so I can compare features and speed.

Imagine Products, the company behind HD Log and P2 Log have now come out with a great standalone automated offloading application, SHOTPUT P2. (They also have Shotput RED for, well, RED, and Shotput EXpress for the EX1)

It does a LOT. Take a look and see all that it does.

I haven’t tried it yet, but it sounds like it does what P2 Genie does, only better. Good thing, since P2 Genie is no longer available for the Mac. Currently I use HD LOG GOLD, but that is out of many people’s price range. This goes for $49… a good price for something that offloads and VERIFIES the offload.

When I get a copy I’ll review it and let you all know how it is. I just wanted to plant the seed in your minds for now.

I just got back from training at Panasonic in NJ (I am a Panasonic consultant…nothing to hide here) and learned quite a bit. So I will be posting a lot of blog posts about the various things I have learned. The first one I will post is something I learned on the last day…in the last meeting…after an exhausting week of training meetings.

Panasonic makes a product called the P2 Gear (actual product name/code is AG-HPG10). This little unit, although priced at $4000, has many features that make it worth the higher price tag. Even though I knew about this unit and can explain how to use it to people on the convention floor and on the forums, I never really mentioned it in this blog because, well, I didn’t feel the price met the features it provided. Now I do.

So, here’s a quick rundown on what this great little box can do:

1) It has two P2 card slots and an LCD screen. This allows for easy review of the footage by the producer/director so that they can determine if a shot is good, or if they need to shoot more…whatever reasons are needed for reviewing footage.

2) Add metadata comments to the clips, such as location and camera operator, which camera was used, longitute and latitude, user clip name…whathaveyou. Now it is best to set the camera up with this metadata first via SD card upload to the camera (something I’ll show you at a later date), but if you needed to add anything, this allows you to do that.

3) Connect it to a laptop via firewire and use it as a card reader to offload cards onto hard drives.

4) Connect directly to a bus powered USB drive for offloading WITHOUT a computer. And the battery life on the Gear, even with a drive attached, is long. Between 6-8 hours, depending on how heavily it is used. For field work this is great. No need for a laptop, just the camera, the Gear, and a couple hard drives. And the offload is a VERIFIED offload. Meaning that it checks the clips to ensure the transfer was good. And you can do it twice, to two separate drives, for added backup and piece of mind. This way you can keep a drive and send the other back to the office and have a backup in case either drive is lost or damaged.

You can connect it to a firewire drive for offload too, only it cannot power the drive via the FW bus. The firewire drive will need it’s own power.

5) You can connect it to a Panasonic camera via firewire and add additional cards to the chain for longer recording times.

6) The Gear has HD SDI out, so you can connect it to a production monitor and review your footage there.

7) Now…on that note, we have a great feature that just makes this box a sweet sweet deal. You can connect the Gear to your NLE via firewire….be it Avid, FCP, Premiere…and send a signal to the box, which in turn can connect to an HD production monitor via HD SDI or Component…and BOOM, you have broadcast quality monitoring. Basically an HD capture card only use for playout only to a monitor. Now, there are a couple restrictions. Like you might not be able to use this to output your final show to tape on the Avid side…not with sequence timecode accuracy. But it will allow you to “crash record” (press record on deck, then press play on timeline) to a deck. I don’t know if this restriction is limited to Avid or also affects FCP…this I will need to test. I hope to receive a test unit to dig further into this capability.

This feature does allow you to record your finished sequence back to a P2 card. Then play from the Gear out to a monitor or deck…a huge deal for people in the news business and on location. I did hear that Avid might have an issue with play back of 720p 23.98 footage…but I didn’t get as many details as I would have liked, so when I get the test unit, I’ll test that feature. Since I have both Avid and FCP, I can test both platforms.

So the fact that you can use this device for field backup of footage, review of shot footage, as an additional P2 recording device AND as a way to view your timeline on a broadcast monitor makes this box a pretty good deal. I’ll post more details when I finish my testing.

Off the editing and post and camera track for a bit as I rave about my iPhone. The OLDER iPhone…rev1. Not the new 3G iPhone. Just so we’re clear.

I relied on my iPhone for just about everything. Calling people and arranging last minute details for an online (secured an 8TB EVO HD Raid unit from MaxxPower with very little notice…thanks guys). Talking to the wife and kids so that they remember who I am and that I still love them.

E-mail, of course. And web. The airports don’t have free internet (except in Vegas…oddest thing…the only free wireless in Vegas is at the airport…oh, and at the Denver airport) at the hotel I was staying at, nor at Panasonic (obviously). And being a cheap bastard I wasn’t going to PAY for it. The only time I was at my hotel was when I was sleeping, so that wasn’t worth it. So I used the phone for e-mailing, google, my addiction to forums, checking in on my flight. Everything.

MAP. I spent my last half day in New York city with a guy I met during the Panasonic meetings. He was supposed to meet friends at a bar that they knew generally where it was. So I looked it up, found it, found where we were (Penn station, Madison Square Garden), and then plotted our route. Yeah, we walked. It’s NEW YORK! We did hop a few cabs after the bar. Mainly because walking was a challenge at that point.

Watching movies. Yup…on the plane I watched a movie on my iphone. The seats were so cramped that I couldn’t fit my laptop in my lap. Stupid airplane.

Camera. Take notes on the power point presentations? Heck no! Snap a picture of it and do it when I have time. And it is always nice to have pictures of you and your friends drunk in NYC. Blackmail material.

Calendar. I put my entire schedule and flight information into iCAL and it synched right up with the phone. Who needs paper?

Everything…just friggin everything. I no longer need to drag my laptop with me wherever I go. Unless I need it for editing. And that is very freeing.

And I am glad that I have the iPhone with Edge. I hear that not only does 3G eat up your battery twice as fast, but also it interferes with some people’s reception. On…no bars. Off, 3 bars. I don’t have that problem. Woot!

What do I mean by “transport drive?” Well, let me explain by going into the finishing workflow we are using on this current History Channel series (title TBD).

We capture DVCPRO HD camera masters at full resolution. We import Panasonic P2 footage at full resolution. And stock footage we bring in in a variety of ways, but mainly using the DV codec for offline editing. Stills might be very low res JPGs, and the music and sound effects are all full quality and the finals that will be in the show.

We edit the show at the production company on four FCP systems using shared storage on an XSAN.

When we lock picture (get the show to proper delivery time, and make sure that all the blank spots are filled with footage), we prep for online. This means that we order the master stock footage, order the master stills, and then replace all the offline resolution materials. Stock footage we capture in the same codec as our source footage, DVCPRO HD. Since most of our stock footage is on beta or digibeta, we use the Kona 3 to upconvert this to match (full article on this process coming soon). Sometimes our master footage is on DVD…so we import as DV50 using DVDxDV and MPEG STREAMCIP. The result we take into Compressor and convert to DVCPRO HD (using a modified DVCPRO HD 720p24 preset, to get rid of the interlacing and make the 29.97 to 23.98 look smoother). Stills are replaced with high res stills, and movements are recreated. Often these final moves are exported as self contain QT files so that they are now video media that matches our source codec.

Why? Because we export the project for color correction in Color…and the Color workflow goes much smoother when you have the same codec throughout.

Now what we do is media manage the project so that we have only the footage that is used in the show, with some handles…to an external drive. We give that drive to the colorist who does his magic and then renders out a final, that he too puts on that external drive and sends back to us. I then look over the cut, make sure things are all well and good. Then I duplicate the sequence, add text, like subtitles and lower thirds (chyrons, identifiers, whatever people call them) to one version (the TEXTED version), make sure the other is completely void of text and that all the graphics are provided without text (the TEXTLESS version). I then export a self contained file back to the external drive and take to the post facility for output to tape.

Thus far we have delivered 5 shows this way, and the workflow is slick.

I did want to mention the drive I use for this transport, because I love the darn thing. It is the MaxxDigital EDIT VAULT, what they have listed as a “desktop drive” on their website. I like this drive for many reasons:

1) Quad interface. eSATA, FW400, FW800 and USB 2.o. I use eSATA at work for quick transfers, and the post facilities can use whatever connection works for them.

2) NO POWER BRICK! I cannot tell you how much I like this feature. Sure, the drive is a little bigger, but there is no cord with a huge brick on the end of it. It takes standard 3 prong plugs. If you lose the cord…no biggie. Get another from an electronics store.

3) Size. 1TB…I can fit a LOT of data on this drive. All five shows are currently on it, and backed up on our SAN, but still, everything in one place.

4) Comes with a handy-dandy carrying case. Looks like a little briefcase, keeps all the cables together.

I used to use the G-Drive-Q for this…but the one I have is too small. 250GB. The company I am at has newer 1TB models, and they use them for this as well. We need two drives because one will be at the colorist while I need to work on a show, or it gets shuttled off to the post facility for output.

Both drives are great for editing too. And I use them in this manner. When we get them back from the colorist, I leave the footage on the drive and just make the adjustments I need to make. Since everything is already linked. I just backup the footage to the XSAN so that I have a backup. This way if a Color hiccup occurs (and it has) or an output hiccup occurs (and it has), we can simply hook up the drive and work off of it.

Darn cool.

I just got Avid 3.0 working on my Powerbook G4 (1.67Ghz). When I first installed it, I couldn’t launch it because I didn’t have enough memory. 2GB are needed, I had 1.5. I ordered another 1GB stick, it arrived today. I installed it and Avid launched beautifully. I prepared for this installation by installing Leopard…and running it for a few days to make sure it was good. I did the whole ERASE and INSTALL…I want to ensure a working system. Although this is also my e-mail and iPhone machine…I still want to make sure I stick with the recommended components Avid requires, like QT 7.4.5. There is a version of Avid 3 that works on Tiger, 3.0.1. And that might be a good option for many, but I decided to how it works under Leopard.

So thus far I have Avid installed on my Powermac G5 and my Powerbook G4…both machines that are NOT on the system requirements for Avid 3.0. While I have an Intel Mac, it is currently tied up in production, so I can’t install anything just yet. I will soon, but in the meantime I wanted to see how things worked and see a few of the new features. When it comes to the main testing, I’ll be using the MacPro when it becomes available.

Hopefully tomorrow I will have time to capture some DVCPRO HD footage from tape. See how Avid removes the pulldown on firewire. Then I will read up on the P2 workflow with Avid…since I deal a lot with P2 footage.