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Little Frog in High Def

Musings of an NLE ronin…
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Archive for June, 2009

OK, so on this side doc that I am apparently taking FOREVER to finish, I have a challenge. The challenge is that 60% of it was shot with the HVX-200 at 720p24…and about 40% of it was shot HDV 1080i…but at 24p. So I have DVCPRO HD 720p at 23.98 and HDV 1080i 29.97…but with pulldown somewhere in there. How am I going to get this HDV footage to the format I need?

Well, I knew that I needed to first remove the pulldown. But you can’t do that with GOP formats like HDV and XDCAM…you need to convert it first. BUT…DVCPRO HD 720p is a 59.94 format and only 29.97 formats can be reverse telecined. What a pickle! So I had to convert to ProRes 1080i 29.97. I did that easiliy enough with Compressor. Then I reverse telecined with Cinema tools…and that looked fine. But then i remembered this article:

Final Cut Pro 6: 1080p24 workflow for Canon HV20 camcorder

Ahhh…I could do this in one pass. OK, I used Compressor to convert HDV 1080i 29.97 to ProRes 1080p 23.98. That looked good. But I needed DVCPRO HD 720p 23.98. OK then, ANOTHER pass in Compressor to get it to 720p DVCPRO HD. OK, that worked and it looks fine…but now I have transcoded twice…and I have quality loss.

Hmmm…Why not do it all at once? Convert to DVCPRO HD 720p and reverse telecine the footage (that is 29.97) to 23.98? I thought that since HDV was a GOP format, I’d need to first convert to an I Frame format…but the article proved that I didn’t. It converted and reversed…it must have done it in that order. So I did the exact same steps, but chose DVCPRO HD 720p instead of ProRes.

Looked great. Perfect. So one pass conversion of HDV 1080i 29.97 to DVCPRO HD 720p 23.98. This only worked because they shot 24p…or 24F rather…on a Canon HV20. I this won’t look right with regular HDV 1080i60. Well, it might not, I don’t have footage to test.

So ALL I have to do is separate out all the HDV footage, media manage it to another location, batch transcode/rev. telecine with Compressor (that’ll take a while), and then manually cut it back into the show. Whoooo….that is a lot of footage.

This great step by step tutorial comes to you from Nick Holmes, from across the Pond.

USING MPEG STREAMCLIP TO MAKE QT FILES FROM DVDS THAT YOU CAN EDIT WITH IN FCP

There’s this marvellous piece of free software called MPEG Streamclip, many of you are already using it or have heard of it. If you don’t have it, download it now! This is an invaluable tool that every video editor should have at their disposal.

So, what does it do?

MPEG Streamclip converts a bunch of video formats to something that you can use in Final Cut Pro and edit with. It also converts video that you just need in another format for whatever reason you might have.

Sometimes we get clients that turn up with something that absolutely must be in their project. The problem is, all they have is a DVD and there’s no chance of getting the original footage. Well, that’s clients for you. Welcome to the world of video post production.

If you look at the structure of a DVD in the Finder, there are several files with cryptic names -IFO, VOB, VTS…. What’s all that about?

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Don’t worry. Copy the entire DVD to a local hard drive. Open MPEG Streamclip. What?… OK, then download it now.

Click on File > Open Files. MPEG Streamclip knows what you want and only the relevant files are highlighted.

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Choose VTS_01_1.VOB -you don’t usually need 1_0 as this is just black padding between the menu and the stuff you really need.

You might be asked if you want to fix timecode or data errors -click OK, it’s better. Trust me.

You might be asked if you want to join files. I prefer to say no at this point -give me the individual files, I’m a professional video editor after all.

The spinning wheel does its thing….. Hey look, it’s a scene from the DVD!

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Now we need to convert it to something that Final Cut pro can use. This is the only setting of any interest to Final Cut Pro editors:

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Click it and we are where we really need to be:

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MPEG Streamclip will always show this screen as a default. For the most part the DV codec is fully acceptable, after all its coming from a highly compressed source to begin with. Lets change it:

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What do we learn from the above illustration? you will notice that I have checked the reinterlace chroma box, Why?
Because I am an unwashed English dog that works in the PAL format. That’s why. No really, it looks nicer -do it.
All you have to do now is save your movie. Click the “Make Movie” button then give it a name and place to live.

If you are working in an uncompressed Timeline and your client brings a DVD that absolutely must be cut into the movie, then choose an appropriate setting from the list of those offered by MPEG Streamclip. If you are working in a HD Timeline and your client… Oh Noes! They be already in your office!
You were supposed to have your armed, drunken grandfather guarding the door. Check that he has not fallen asleep!

That’s all for now. In part two we will discuss converting batches in MPEG Streamclip.

A friend of mine made a discovery today. He found that he could view a ProRes file on a computer that DID NOT have Final Cut Pro installed. This was amazing, because as far as we knew, and in our past experience, this should not be possible. ProRes, like DVCPRO HD, HDV and XDCAM (and XDCAM EX) encoded quicktime files could NOT be viewed on any machine that didn’t have FCP installed. They were proprietary QT codecs that came with FCP only. So when you captured your footage and then gave the raw files to your client to view, all they’d get is a white screen and a notice that they needed to download some codec…that of course they couldn’t do (not available online).

But then Apple was nice to come out with free Quicktime decoders for ProRes, for both Mac and PC.

NOW…the interesting thing is that my friend did not download and install the decoders on this other machine. He just went to open the files, and after watching them said “hey, I shouldn’t be able to do this.” He wondered if this was some part of the latest QT update, 7.6.2. So I tested too. I grabbed a ProRes file (small one) and took it to the reception desk to the iMac sitting there…FCP not installed, but QT 7.6.2 was. And sure enough, it showed up in cover flow, and opened in QT.

I’ll be damned.

Looking into this I noticed something. On the download page for ProRes for Windows it says something…

“Apple ProRes QuickTime Decoder is also included in QuickTime 7.5.5 and later.”

Well blow me down. Did you know that? I didn’t know that? Where was that in the release notes? Well even if it WAS there, I wouldn’t have seen it. Who reads those anyway? Well, I guess it is time to start. Interestingly that note is not a part of the ProRes for Mac. Being a Mac guy that would be the only one I really look at…but being a help forum whore who posts links like this across 5 forums, you’d think that I’d READ them.

So apparently this decoder was included with QT for Macs too…at some point. At least in QT 7.6.2…maybe earlier. Experiment with this on your own if you can. If you have a ProRes file…you can simply transcode anything you captured into ProRes by using compressor…take it to a Mac without FCP installed and try it out. Report back if it does or does not work, and what version of QT that machine had. This way we can track when it was deployed.

Now I have tested and this is not true for DVCPRO HD…darn it all. I hope they do that soon. And HDV….and XDCAM.

OK, if you haven’t heard me talking about the Flanders Scientific monitors on the forums (mainly The Creative Cow), then let me mention here and now that I like these monitors. I did mention this before in my NAB WRAPUP for 2009, but not much.

I have the 1760W in my bay for a few weeks. I quickly swapped out the HD CRT (PVM-14L5) that I am using and put this in it’s place. The PVM replaced the utterly horrid LMD 2450W that was sitting there. I am using the PVM because I have to, but I am getting tired of the small 14″ monitor. When I first saw the Flanders I was blown away…GREAT color reproduction. Best monitor in it’s class…the sub $8000 market. Better than the JVCs, slightly better than the Panasonic 1760.

ANYWAY, I am not going to go into tons of detail because I am not an engineer. I just know that this monitor shows me a more accurate representation of the footage than most I have seen in it’s class. I wanted to say that if you are in the LA area and wanted to come and see it for yourself, please let me know. FSI doesn’t work through dealers, so there are no floor models on display anywhere. The FSI guys tend to fly around and show them off in person. The head guy Dan was just leaving LA for a few weeks, so instead of throwing the monitor into a storage locker, he lent it to me. So if you are interested, and local, either e-mail me at comeback@mac.com, or leave your e-mail in the comments.

Thank you.

When I think that I might have to learn MORE about HD…I quiver. I haven’t even touched RED yet and already my brain is full.

My buddy Patrick Sheffield of Sheffield Softworks has been busy. Not editing like he normally does, but making more plugins. One in particular, TOON-A-MATIC. Yeah yeah, you have a few choices when it comes to plugins that “cartoon” your footage, but this is one of the better ones, and importantly, one of the LESS EXPENSIVE ones.

Check it out…a demo is available. Here’s the press release:

I thought you might be interested in our new Toon-A-Matic plugin. The Toon-A-Matic plugin gives your clip a “Toon Shaded” look that has been compared to A Scanner Darkly or those Charles Schwab ads. This filter uses a proprietary Toon Shader algorithm to produce a look similar to conventional ‘Cel Shaders’. It also has a “Caricature” setting to produce organic distortions to exaggerate or minimize features. The effect works best on HD material.

It is my first released FxPlug plugin, and as such, it is available in both Motion and Final Cut Pro. It requires Final Cut Studio 2, and the Leopard operating system

For more information, and to download a demo, visit Sheffield Softworks. The plugin’s normal price is $79, but currently has a one month introductory price of $10 off or $69.

Ben King of LAFCPUG has a great review of the new DROBO Pro that ALSO includes a simple way to set up a quick simple low rent shared storage network.

Nice Ben…

ACQUISITION AND DELIVERY WORKFLOW LINKS

I came across this yesterday on the Apple site. I list of video formats and links to the vendor sites and workflow examples. Pretty good launching pad for people considering their options when trying to figure out where to start.

Here is a nice tip for you Avid folks out there who edit with Avid and use DVD SP to make your DVDs. This comes from Evan’s Editing Brain Dump blog, and was pointed out to me by Jim of FinalCutUser.

Converting Avid locators into DVD Studio Pro chapter markers.

Still irks me that the Avid software bundle doesn’t ship with DVD Authoring software for Macs. It includes one for PCs, but my last three jobs were all on Macs running Avid. Every place had a copy of TOAST for this task. Ehh…it’s cheap enough.

ANYWAYS..good tip.

Ok, after reading this article by Philip Hodgetts with his thoughts on the removal of the Express34 slot from the 15″ model…I think I am calming down and seeing things in perspective. He said something that I didn’t know. I didn’t watch the key note…I just read the updates on MacRumors. So I missed this:

Phil Schiller said during the presentation, only “single digit” numbers of their users use the ExpressCard34 slot. At least 90% of people were paying for a feature they didn’t use.

Single digit number of users use this slot. A vast majority of people don’t use that connection, so to them it is a waste of space and money. Most people use SD cards. OK then…I get it. Why include something that 90% people don’t use? But it isn’t like they ENTIRELY did away with this…it is still available on the 17″ for the editors who want it. And since the prices were lowered across the board, the 17″ starts at $2499, which is where most 15″ fall in price on average.

OK..so it is still an option, it didn’t go away, you just have to pay a little more. And there are still adapters out there for the SxS cards like there are for P2 cards. And I know that a lot of shooters with the EX line don’t use those expensive SxS cards anyway, they use the Compact Flash adapters for a cheaper reliable alternative. Still sucks for adding a Firewire bus or eSATA, but, as Philip also said (and something I have noticed as well):

Frankly, my experience with the ExpressCard34 slot has hardly been stellar: cards unmount with the slightest bump.

These are really delicate connections.

Anway…if are still jonzing to buy a 15″ model with the Express34 slot now is the time to leap. As the End of Life models will go for a deal, and re-firbs as well.

Man…another FCPUG SUPERMEET, and this time in one of the coolest places to go, London. I mean, Vegas, sure, it’s fun, but you lose a lot of money gambling and drinking and taking cabs everywhere. And there is always construction. But LONDON! Well, I hear things are spendy there, and you still need to take a cab. But DUDE! It’s LONDON. There are houses and building there that are older than our ENTIRE COUNTRY! History man.

And they are having a Supermeet for all the good people on that side of the pond who couldn’t make it to Vegas. These are fun to go to, as you meet people and network and that is only a good thing. Remember, to make it in this business it is who you know and who knows you…with a little dash of ability.

Here are the details:

http://www.lafcpug.org/UK_2009.html

Oscar™ and BAFTA award winning film and sound editor Walter Murch will be
the Keynote speaker at the First Annual FCPUG SuperMeet to be held Thursday,
25 June 2009 at the The Great Hall at the Kensington Conference and Event
Centre in London, England. Mr. Murch will discuss his Final Cut Pro workflow
and show clips from the soon to be released film “Tetro,” written and
directed by Francis Ford Coppola.

In addition we have booked Jason Levine of Adobe who will show off workflows
between Final Cut Pro and Adobe Creative Suite 4 Production Premium
including RED workflow. Martin Baker of Digital Heaven in the UK will share
his top ten favorite “Killer Final Cut Pro Secret tips and tricks.” This
will be followed by filmmaker Philip Bloom of the UK who is scheduled to
show Canon 5D Mark II DSLR footage 24P Final Cut Pro editing workflow.
Blackmagic Design will announce a special guest this week sure to help you
solve most of your problems and cure many of your ills. Rounding out the
evening with be the always raucous World famous Raffle where currently over
$35,000.00 worth of valuable prizes will be handed out to dozens of lucky
winners.

Doors will open at 4:30PM (16:30) for the “FCP Showcase” featuring over 14
vendors and developers showing off their solutions. The SuperMeet will begin
promptly at 7:00PM (19:00) Food and drink will be available.

Tickets for the London SuperMeet are on sale online only for only £15.00
each (£10.50 for Students with Valid ID). It is expected this event will
sell out as historically SuperMeets always sell out. For daily updates as
well as directions to the Kensington Conference and Event Centre in London,
visit click here:

http://www.lafcpug.org/UK_2009.html

Adam Wilt has a great little snippet on the Express34 slot topic as well, over at ProVideo Coalition.

Yup…the Sony EX3 people will now feel the pain that us P2 people felt when PCMCIA went away.

Apple has a magical way of making my 6 month old computer feel SEVERELY outdated when it announces new products. “This laptop is 2.x5 time faster than the last one, with double the battery charge, and three times the battery life. And the new monitor displays colors you have only DREAMED of.”

That feeling lasts mere minutes, because after the dazzle they get to the nitty gritty and mention specs. Then I am quite happy that I bought the previous model computer.

For example, I bought the Powerbook G4 when the MacBook Pro was first introduced. Sure, it was INTEL and it was FASTER…but my Powerbook had a PCMCIA slot with many supported adapters, including the ability to import P2 directly on the machine. That was huge. But one thing that Apple did when they introduced the MacBook Pro (first revision) was to DO AWAY with firewire 800. That’s right, these new computers DID NOT HAVE Firewire 800. Well, here I am with three G-Raids, all FW800 and all with DVCPRO HD footage. FW400 wasn’t really fast enough for my needs. That was a really odd decision. Especially since they have lately dropped FW400 from the later models of the Mac Pro line and ONLY included FW800.

Another example is when I bought my wife a MacBook. 4 months later the new one came out, and that one did away with firewire ALTOGETHER! Gone! The ability to edit video on the consumer laptops…gone. No way to injest DV or HDV (Apple claimed that people are now shooting with tapeless cameras that are all USB anyway, so they don’t need firewire). Did they forget that you need a separate hard drive to store the media on? Oh, wait, with iMovie you don’t as they use the highly compressed Apple Intermediate codec. Still, the cheap platform for people to start editing, with their EXISTING DV and HDV cameras (who upgrades cameras every 4 years? Who isn’t rich that is…).

Well, let’d jump ahead a little. Today at the World Wide Developers Conference Apple announced a lot of new products. One of them was a new MacBook (odd since they just released a smaller revision just a few weeks ago)…and in their great wisdom they added the firewire port back. YAAAY! Now we can…

Wait, what? What about the PRO line? The MacBook Pros? Well, let’s take a look. Cool, they added an SD card slot, right where…where…

Wait, where is the Express34 slot? Gone? Are you kidding me? GONE? What? They replaced the EXPANSION slot…one of the things that made this computer a PRO computer was the EXPANSION slot. Why? Well, it has one built in firewire port. Even if it had two (like my model does), it only has ONE firewire bus. What that means is that if you had two, both are on the same spigot. So capturing video from a camera or capture card via firewire and then trying to send that signal OUT via the other port to a hard drive is like…well…a big traffic jam. DV, HDV…this might work. ProRes? No way. With the Expansion slot you could add more firewire ports, or better yet, eSATA ports, on another separate bus and the capture video fine. So this messes up people with cameras that capture via firewire.

But who does this really effect? Who does this really TOTALLY screw over? AJA and Matrox.

The AJA I/O HD connects via firewire, no problem there. OK now…where is your media drive? Well, it WOULD be a nice eSATA drive that I would connect to an eSATA Express adapter, but that is not an option. USB? Nope, that won’t work for video…DV maybe, but not ProRes.

The Matrox MXO 2 connects via the Express34 slot. With that gone, the MXO2 is not an option. Now, the MXO2 Mini and the AJA I/O Express also connect via Express34, so they are similarly shut out.

And then there’s Sonnet with the Fusion F2. And on top of that the Caldigit.VR and the G-Raid3 and any other hard drive that connects via eSATA via the Express slot and an adapter. No more will we be able to get the impressive speeds those connections afforded us.

So now the MacBook PRO is really no longer pro when it comes to video. You are limited to firewire connections only, so this would really only work with tapeless…uh, wait. Doesn’t the Sony EX-line of cameras shoot to SxS cards, that are Express cards that fit into the old Express34 slots? Why, yes they are. OK, that’s gone. And the PCMCIA slot was done away with a while ago, so people have been using the Dual Systems adapter for their P2 and that connects via…Express34. That too, is gone. So now you have to buy SxS readers, or expensive P2 card readers, or use the cameras themselves (taking them out of shooting) to do the transfers.

Well Hell’s Bells! Now what?

Oh, you have the 17″ MacBook Pro. That still has the Express34 slot. So now you are being limited to using a HUGE computer for this, and shelling out $500 more than you might have wanted (original MBP 15″ models started at $1999), and you need a bigger backpack…and forget editing on the airplane on that cross country flight. You barely had room with your 15″ model. So Apple first forced you to use the Pro computers for higher end professional editing, now they are forcing you to use the most expensive model of the Pro line. When I started out I was on an iBook G3 with DV.

OK…the rant is winding down.

How can Apple call the 15″ MacBook Pros a PRO computer? Without expansion it is a consumer computer. That is what set aside the professional machines from the consumer line. iMac, MacBook, Mac Mini…consumer, no expansion. MacPro, MacBook Pro…expandible. That and they are really screwing their professional video partners….long time AJA partnership and newer Matrox partnership (well, re-established partnership), and this might cause them to scramble for a solution.

Or people will be limited to using 17″. All I can say is that I am glad that I have my 6 month old model.