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Little Frog in High Def

Musings of an NLE ronin…
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Archive for July, 2012

After a long hiatus, the Edit Bay podcast is finally back. The thirty-ninth episode of THE EDIT BAY is now available for download.

This one is all about how the stuff I watch on TV doesn’t look nearly as good as when I color corrected it in my edit bay.

To play in your browser or download direct, click here.

To subscribe to this podcast in iTunes, CLICK HERE.

OK, this has been an odd couple weeks, as I took half a week off to vacation up at Lake Arrowhead, and then I had a tight tight deadline to get this show done.  But I’ll keep this short and sweet too.  I’ll mention the obstacles I faced, and how I solved them.

OBSTACLE #1: The heat.

Yes, it was getting hot in LA.  In the 90’s in the valley where my office…er…garage…is located.  And my garage lacks one major component…insulation.  So while I did buy a 12,000 BTU air conditioner, it really didn’t cool the office down at all.  And that made working out there intolerable, and dangerous for the equipment.  So, I did the only thing I could do at the time…moved into the house.  I set up a small table in my bedroom and set up my new 2012 MacBook Pro (non-retina) along with one of my Dell 24″ monitors and a speaker so that I could continue editing in a nice cool setting. I brought in my nice chair, bought a Griffin laptop mount to get the computer up to a reasonable height to match the Dell, connected the hard drive and was ready to go.  This setup helped with obstacle #2.

OBSTACLE #2: Slow computer

Even though it is a tower with loads of RAM (if you think 16GB is loads) and a nice graphics card (Nvidia 285GT) with a Kona 3 card…Avid Symphony seemed to struggle. I would get beach balls periodically that would last about 30-45 seconds, then finally go away. The system would lag behind my keystrokes, meaning I’d hit 5-6 keys…then wait two seconds for the Avid to catch up to me.  And I would get consistent FATAL IO ERRORS…related to the Kona.  And this horrid “K” key bug where I’d press “K” to pause playback, only it wouldn’t, it just slowed playback down until I released it…in which case it resumed at full speed.  I’d need to his the spacebar to stop.  That happened periodically.

So in moving into the house, I began using my laptop to edit.  And let me tell you, most of those problems went away. By most I mean the “K” key issue persisted, and I got one FATAL IO ERROR…but only after I installed the AJA IoXT box to the system.  And then it only happened once in two weeks. And I didn’t use the IoXT all the time, as my reference monitor had to be left out in the office/garage, as I have no room on my bedroom setup for it.  Ah well.  But overall, the laptop performed a lot better than my tower.  Even encoding an H.264 with TC burn was faster on that laptop.  My 2008 MacPro is showing it’s age.

OBSTACLE #3: lots of footage, lots of scenes, music to be added…

Basically…time.  I was running short on time, and I had a lot of footage to cut.  In the end I went a couple days over my deadline, and ended up with a 57 min rough cut.  The cut should be in the 48 min range for international, with three minutes removed for domestic.  So I am 10 minutes long.  No biggie, that just means that the episode will have to be attacked with a machete to cut out enough stuff to get me to time.  It took me longer than usual as I had a small library of music that I needed to choose from, and I’m a bit too much of a perfectionist when it comes to music editing and temp audio mixing.  It’s a blessing, and a curse. My cuts sound good…but take longer to do.  It turned out to be fine, as the producers were still focused on the first episode that another editor cut…so I had some breathing room.  Still, it took eighteen 12-14 hour days to get this cut done.  3 days more than I was allotted for this.  I hope the next episode will go smoother.  I think it will.

OBSTACLE #4: other things

Yes, other things needed my attention.  I was on vacation, so was busy trying to work and pack at the same time. Then trying to work with the kids constantly coming in because they heard some cool moment they wanted to see, and they wanted to watch me edit (at that point I switched to using headphones so they couldn’t hear things), and I was trying to deal with two onlines for MSNBC that needed tweaks here and there (Defending Casey Anthony and Ted Bundy: Death Row Tapes.  Casey already aired).

All in all I like my cut.  I will need to go back and “fancify” things…rock and roll it a little.  Add speed effects and cool transitions and the like.  I did a bit while I was doing the rough after seeing what the first cut had, I had to try to keep the same style, and make it “not boring.” I did mainly focus on the story, but also wanted to have SOME cool things to make it stand out.  And that cool stuff takes a while.  I wonder how long the editors of AMERICAN HORROR STORY get to cut a show?  I’ll see if the assistant editor Misha comments here and lets us know.  He follows me on Twitter, and we’ve had pizza together…so I hope he might.

OK…the cut is done, and I’m off to eat dinner and watch a movie with my family.  Here’s a picture of my timeline:

OK, time for another review for a hard drive enclosure: the RAIDAGE GAGE104U40SL-SAUF 1U 4 Bay RAID Enclosure from iStarUSA. This one is cool…it stands out. That’s why, when the makers asked me to review the unit by commenting on a previous post, I leapt at the chance. Well, after first starting to compose the email gently letting them down… “Thank you for your interest in my blog. I’m sorry, but I no longer do hardware reviews for drive enclosures as I find them dull and the same old same old…” But then I got a wild hair and clicked on the link to look at the thing.

I liked what I saw.

Here’s why I liked what I saw. This is a slot loading TRAYLESS hard drive enclosure. I can take bare SATA drives I buy off the shelf at Fry’s or order at newegg.com and put them in the unit right away. No trays to screw onto the drives first. Pop open the door, and in they go.

I’m a HUGE fan of this type of enclosure, because I use bare SATA drives to archive all sorts of things. Camera masters, media managed show masters, show outputs, stock footage, music, and sound effects. And I also use them on occasion to edit from, although that is rare. You see, I currently have a SansDigital unit connected via eSATA that I use as a trayless enclosure, although it isn’t designed to be one. Yes, you can slide the drives in, but the unit wants you to then screw them in, to keep them in place. The drives aren’t as snug in their beds as they should be…they are only held in place by the connectors. So it isn’t the best solution, which is why I mainly use it only for archive solutions.

But this unit is designed for the bare drives. It holds them in place without the need for trays.

And it has nice release handles to aid in getting the disks out.

And it’s VERY quiet. There are fans for cooling, but I don’t hear them. I hear the drives more than them, and when you close the big front door…even that sound becomes very minute. Barely noticeable. My MacPro is louder.


And there are indicator lights on the front so you can see which slots have drives in them, and if they are active.

OK, so we have one cool feature… that the unit takes bare SATA drives without trays. Let’s add a couple more cool features.

CONNECTIVITY.

This unit pretty much has it all. It covers nearly all the bases. It has eSATA (my current connection of choice), Firewire 800 (two connectors), Firewire 400 (one connector), USB 3.0. You can connect this to just about anything (Yes, for Thunderbolt you will need an adapter). Perfect! I can connect it to my MacPro via eSATA, or to my 2012 MacBook Pro via Firewire 800 or ultra fast USB 3 and use it to back up tapeless media or files from my laptop. Or use it as my media drive. Macs used to lack USB 3, but now they are available on their laptops…and they are a Windows workstation standard, so on a Windows PC you have ultra fast USB 3 connect-ability as well.

To answer your question before you ask it…no, you cannot connect it to your tower via eSATA and another computer via Firewire or USB 3 and have it show up on both at the same time. It won’t work, I tried. And why two firewire 800 ports? Loop through. Daisy chaining drives is possible with this.

FOOTPRINT.

Well, it does have a pretty major footprint. Meaning that it does take up a big part of your desk. But you can set one of your monitors on top of it, or put it off to the side under your decks. Unlike my SansDigital that stacks the drives vertically, this design has the drives side by side. But that is to enable it to do the other cool think I liked about it.

IT’S RACK MOUNTABLE!

It takes up 1 U of rack space. That stands for ONE UNIT…one width high. In that respect, it takes up very little space. And since I happen to have a rack or two under my desk, it fit in perfectly. So perfectly that I’m most likely going to buy the unit when testing is over. I like it that much.

RAID TYPES

The unit can be configured in many ways.
- JBOD (Just a Bunch of drives), meaning that each drive shows up as a separate drive. Put four drives in, you see four drives appear on the desktop.
- RAID 0
- RAID 1
- RAID 3
- RAID 5

Don’t know what those all mean? Then go here for some light reading:

Most people use JBOD like I do, for archiving, RAID 0 for speed, or RAID 5 for speed and redundancy.

SPEEDS

Yes yes…”how fast is the thing?” I know that’s what you want to know. Alright, I tested it only as a JBOD unit. That’s the default setting it ships with. I tested it in this manner as I didn’t have four drives of the same make/model/size in order to test the other RAID types. Those are all in my other RAID. I did have four drives of varying size, so I tested the speed of the unit in JBOD mode via firewire 800 and eSATA. Those being the fastest and more common connector types.

With eSATA I got speeds in the 98MB/s to 108MB/s range. A bit faster than I get with a G-Raid connected via eSATA, or my SansDigital. VERY nice.

Firewire 800 resulted in between 69MB/s and 82MB/s…which is typical for the other drives I have as well.

For the RAID 0 and RAID 5 testing, I relied on the manufacturer to provide the numbers. I’m sure if I had the 4 drives to test with I’d get the same numbers they did. I’m confident they were truthful in their reporting. They connected it via eSATA to a windows machine.

Here are the RAID 0 numbers:

Between 111MB/s and 123MB/s using the AJA test…but upwards of 140MB/s using the ATTO benchmark. I think I trust that one better on a PC.

And the RAID 5 numbers:

RAID 5 gave pretty much the same numbers as RAID 0. Between 111MB.s and 119MB/s, and upwards of 140MB/s using the ATTO test. Now, the reasons the numbers are a LOT higher like 300MB/s, is the limitation of eSATA connections. That’s near it’s limit. For faster speeds, look at GigE Ethernet, Fibre and SAS connection speeds. But for the connection types it has, that’s pretty dang decent. Perfectly fine for multiple layers of compressed video formats like ProRes and DNxHD. 3-4 streams in my tests.

No, it isn’t a speed demon, but what it offers is ease of use. Easy to get drives in and out, so you can buy bare SATA drives (cheaper than ones with enclosures) and swap them out for archiving camera masters, show masters, or going back and forth from project to project. And because it is rack mountable taking up only 1U of space…it’s compact and out of the way.

By the way, they have a pretty cool video that shows off the unit on YouTube. Check it out.

Now that I have a laptop with USB 3, and my Tower sporting eSATA…this is on my wish list.

The units run for $375, and can be found on Newegg.com

(The unit was returned at the conclusion of the review)

Week 2 was a full week.  A LONG full week.  There is a lot of footage to go through, a lot of script pages to go through…so my days are ending up being 12-14 hours long.  It’s a good thing I enjoy editing…otherwise that’d be a bit much. But I love what I do.  I guess in this situation that’s a good and bad thing.

Well, I cannot say enough how good the C300 footage looks. It looks great.  And they are using prime lenses, so it is really sharp. And it does very well in low light.  Some scenes are very dark, but I can still see what is going on.

Now, this show is pretty unique in that it employs interviews, narration, and recreation audio. But the narration and interviews do tend to cover a lot of the scripted scenes.  I just have to let a few key lines be heard.  So this makes editing a bit tricky.  I have to cut the scene like you would a scene, yet make sure I leave enough room for narration and interviews to cover up the parts that need to be covered up, yet let the lines I want to hear be heard at the right time.  And I want these scenes to make sense if I turned off narration and interviews.  So, what I do first is cut the scene like I would cut the scene.  Then I drag in the narration and sound bites and try to fit them in.  If I need to extend the scene a bit to cover more of either of those, before I can do a sound up on my lines, I then deal with that.  Typically adding more pauses, looks, reactions…breath.  If i need to shorten the scene, I do so but still try to have the dialog make sense. Yes, it is going to be covered up by voiceovers, but still, I want it to work.

On the technical end, I am working slightly longer hours because I need to group the clips myself…multicam them.  The Assistant Editor will do them for the next episode.  This episode I was told that it wasn’t done (something I agreed to), because most times both cameras don’t cover the same action, and it might be best to just treat them as separate takes.  I agreed to that, and thus why they weren’t grouped, but then I found that grouping them helps me speed up the process.  First, I can watch both angles at the same time when previewing footage.  Second, I’m finding that more than a few times, the lines being read differ from each other.  They aren’t sticking to the script strictly…mainly in scenes with the kids.  They want the kids to act natural, so they are having them adjust the lines sometimes to best fit how they say things. It does help the kids give better performances, but it does make editing more…challenging. I prefer the better performances…let me deal with getting them to match.

As for the Avid performance, one thing is plaguing me.  Well, a couple things, but the biggest is that the PAUSE button…the K key…isn’t pausing. It isn’t stopping playback about 1 times in 4.  25% of the time, it doesn’t pause.  It’ll just slow down the footage. I then have to press the space bar to get it to stop (space is PLAY, but that also STOPS).  I’ve mentioned this on the COW forums, and the Avid ones.  And I have found others posing the same issues. And there are no solutions, there are workarounds.  One person suggested I remap PLAY to the K key.  And I did, and that stopped the issue. But then raises more issues, like when I press the K key, then press L…things go double speed. Don’t ask why I do that. Habit I formed in FCP that when I pressed play, then moved the playhead with the mouse, FCP then picked up playing…because it doesn’t stop unless you tell it to, even if you move the playhead. Whereas Avid will stop if you move the playhead.  8 years of habit…tough to break.

Now, I did try fixing it.  It first appeared under Avid 5.5.  But then I updated to 6.0…then 6.0.1.  Still happened.  I Patched using 6.0.1.1…same thing.  I switched to my laptop…SAME THING.  It’s taunting me.  So many people say they don’t have this issue, but I have it on several machines, using several versions of the app.  And others report this issue, so somethings up.

The second issue is that Avid still seems to not be able to keep up with my keystrokes, and often will lock up with a spinning beachball.  After the 4th I’m going to try to get my laptop set up to the main editing machine…and hope that cures that. But my MacPro tower is running 16GB of RAM, is running an NVIDIA card…is running in 64 bit mode, so I don’t get why this is still happening.  On more than one occasion I’ve had to force quit because it was just locked up.

There is a third issue, one that plagued Walter Biscardi…and that is one of TAPE NAME.  Or rather, the lack of one.  Unlike FCP, and Adobe, that assign the reel number a name based on the name of the folder you backed up to…or the name of the card if you import directly, Avid Media Composer or Symphony don’t do that.  They don’t assign any source to the clip.  This would help me greatly in tracking down footage masters. And this is a big issue when it comes to going to Resolve, as Walter found out.  And we don’t know how we’ll be finishing the shows just yet. So this is an issue that might affect us more, later.

But Angus of Avid did say that they know of the issue and will be dealing with it.  Can’t wait guys, thanks.

While I’ve been editing this, I’ve been onlining a couple other shows on the side.  TED BUNDY: DEATH ROW TAPES and DEFENDING CASEY ANTHONY, both for MSNBC.  These were editing with FCP, and on CASEY I’ve had to go in and do some touch up editing.  And I prep the shows for online and man, is FCP snappy and pain free, and no beach balls.  All the Avid slowness and locking up has made me really miss FCP.

On the plus side I sent out Act one for review, just to show them the style I’m employing, and I got back good notes.  They like it…and that is a load off. And I’m really digging the trim mode editing Avid utilizes.  I’m able to make tweaks to the sequences so fast, and I am always tweaking shots to fill the void, or to shorten so that the lines I need to be heard, are heard.