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Little Frog in High Def

Musings of an NLE ronin…


Archive for January, 2017

Where we last left off, I was installing Windows 10 onto my Hack, dipping my toes in the Windows waters in anticipation of a full on transfer. After playing around with it for a few days I was getting a little frustrated with the slowness of it. That wasn’t the fault of Windows…it was the fact that I installed it onto a normal spinning SATA drive. And I’ve been using SSD drives on my home and work system for quite some time now, so I’ve gotten used to that speed. Windows was already frustrating me.

So I decided to buy an SSD and clone over the drive.  When I asked online (and friends who are Windows experts) what cloning software will accomplish this, as Carbon Copy Cloner is Mac only, I was given several options.  Acronis and Aomei were on the top of the list, and the guy at work who manages our edit systems had a code to activate cloning software that came with all the SSD drives he bought to upgrade the systems at work. Since they were all mac, he let me have this one. (Forgetting the name of it, might have been Acronis)

I also planned on cloning my Mac OS drive, as I tend to do this every 6 months so that anything I install on the working system is there. But first, the Windows clone.

So I installed it, and ran it…and it crashed the system…blue screen.  Restarting Windows says that there was some damage it needed to repair, so it did. I ran it again, it crashed again…and repaired again. So then I tried Aomei, it also crashed the system, ran it one more time and it crashed again…and this time I got the error that the system was so damaged that it couldn’t be repaired, would I like to archive my files and reinstall the OS.  Well, great.

Since I really hadn’t done much with that system, other than installing Resolve and Avid Media Composer, and a couple test projects, I decided to not restore that system, but rather install fresh on the SSD drive…forgoing all the issues I have with cloning.  So remove the SATA drive, install the SSD…boot from the installer, and look for the drive. It is a 250GB Samsung, and was listed right there as DRIVE 0.  I ran the installer…and it failed.  And failed again. Then I realized that I needed to put in my Windows SN as I wasn’t connected to the web.  So I go to install it again. Now, every time I go to install, I need to wipe the drive…not FORMAT it, I need to delete the partition so the installer can partition it. Only it partitions it into 3 parts, so I have to delete them all, otherwise I end up with MANY fragmented formatted bits.

I try to install a 3rd, 4th time. NOPE.  What the hell?  So I boot to my Mac Partition, format the drive Fat32, and then go back into Windows installer and see if that helps in any way.  No…it didn’t. Now, oddly, the Drive 0 is showing up as 380GB, not 250, and has one other partition that’s 90GB. So formatting it with the Mac was making this drive show screwy numbers (or so I thought). OK, dammit. Back to doing it here, so I click on the partition, delete it and…

Wait, a 380GB partition, and a 90GB partition….that added up to the size of my MacOS. OH SHIT! SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT! I just erased the partition on my MAC OS! before I cloned it! My project files are gone! MONKEY’S UNCLE, CRAP! Yep, I try to boot to the Clover Hack boot screen and nope…it’s gone. GONE!  And I haven’t backed up for 6 months! Crap, I need to get a Time Machine drive on this machine…shit shit. Why the heck was my MacOS drive NOW called DRIVE 0, when before the WIN drive was Drive 0? Drive assignments are through the connection on the motherboard. I don’t understand, but that’s what lead me to partitioning the wrong drive…the Drive 0 assignment. Ugh.

OK, cut to the chase.  I did get Windows installed finally, the issue was my Thunderbolt RAID was connected and detected and that threw Windows for a loop. When I disconnected ALL drives but the one I was installing onto, installation was easy.  On the MacSide, I bought Disk Drill to recover my files, and I was able to grab the two Avid Project Files I needed, but NONE of the Resolve project files, because those are buried in the System Library, and Disk Drill didn’t get any of the system files.  LUCKILY I had exported all of the finished projects to individual archive drives, and had done so for all the projects I graded. The only issue was that I had QC notes that I addressed on a project that weren’t backed up, so I need to redo those. Although I had already exported the QT files and delivered them, so I was covered in that respect.

I was able to reinstall the HackOS (Clover build)…this time without any help. I did have to google a couple things, and remember a couple others, in order to get it to install properly, but I was able to do it. I’m now back up and running.  I just need to go back and redo those fixes so that they are in my project file as well as the exports.

(The crashing might have been due to the cloning software only compatible with Win 7 and Win 8…at least that’s the theory floated to me. I do know that Carbon Copy Cloner on the Mac side is slick and simple…bing bang boom, done.)

This is a tough thing to admit, but I’m seriously considering a move from Mac to Windows.  Tough, because I’ve been a Mac user ever since I bought my first computer in 1991, a Mac Classic.

Why am I doing this? Well, Apple used to be the front runner when it came to computers for production and design professionals. Graphic designers and photo artists, and those of us in TV production have been Apple’s target audience for, well, a long time.  Everyone else could get a PC, but if you wanted ease of use, and a powerful machine for graphics, you would look to Apple and the Macintosh.

But now that’s all changing. PCs have been powerhouses for a long time now, something driven no doubt by the gaming world.  And many productions…especially visual effects artists…have been using PCs for years.  Apple? It’s focus has shifted from the professional production world to a more profitable one…the consumer market and iPhones and iPads and smaller, thinner computers.  It’s a bigger market, and more money can be made…so who can blame a business for chasing that?  But in doing this they are falling behind in the high end production world…their MacPro hasn’t been updated for 3 years, and the last one, IMHO, was a pretty lackluster one. Very expensive with little to show for it. Smaller, sleeker, but expandability was sacrificed, as was the ability to customize the machine. And the D700 graphics cards had issues and a recall was made to repair these.  And now their top of the line machine is the iMac….also lacking in customization.

Those were all the reasons that I build my Hackintosh, as I laid out here and here.  Figured that I’d build a better machine than Apple does, but still use their OS.  The drawback to this is that making it was a task, and required a bit of tech knowhow, any updates have to be very carefully done.  But I knew the OS very well, and felt comfortable sticking with it.

But then I looked at what software I used…Avid Media Composer, Davinci Resolve, Adobe Premiere Pro, Photoshop, After Effects. All software that has PC versions.  So why not look at installing Windows on the Hack and get all that software running on that as well?  Get to know the OS.  After all, I don’t really need to know it TOO well…I am just going to be running the same software that I know on it. And updates will be easier to manage, I can upgrade the hardware later to ones that I don’t need to make sure work on the MacOS.

So I did it…I plunked down $199 and got Windows 10 and installed it…pretty darn easy.  And then I installed all the software I use.  So, I’m just waiting for a job to come in for me to use my home system and I’ll jump right in!  Oh, except that lately all the work I’m doing on it is with Resolve, and the final output needs to be ProRes files, as that is what the networks demand…so I’ll be sticking with that on the Mac for now.  Although I am noticing that Resolve on Mac, when I do final deliver renders, peg my processor hard and make it really hot, which then can cause the system to restart. Whereas the Windows version keeps the temp at a manageable level.  That’s one big reason I want to move to Windows. Just not worth the double encoding time to do it.

But, it’s a step…my second step into the Windows world.  The first being the REALLY cheap PC I made so that I could play a video game with a friend of mine in Portland. Totally worth it at the time. Great game.

I was faced with a problem.

I finished exporting the 9 masters needed for this program…five HD masters and four 4K masters…when the network contacted us saying there was an issue with the open title, and they needed to supply me with a new one. Why was this a problem? Well, this 15 second title sequence change means that I need to re-export all of my masters, a process that took nearly two days to do, and was pretty taxing on the system (4K, with noise reduction on many archival sources as well as motion stabilized shots). Also, they needed these files FedEx’d to them ASAP, as we were very close to the air date, and they needed time to QC and create their on air masters.

Back in the days of tape, this would be no problem. Just drop the new title into the sequence, and then do an INSERT EDIT onto the tape…just the change. Something that could be done in an hour. That is the one thing that I miss from the tape mastering days, the ability to make small fixes and then just insert where needed. In the current days of tapeless, a small change means exporting the whole file again.

Or does it?

I let out my frustrations on Twitter, and got a few people who consoled me on the issue. But I also got a good half dozen responses with the solution to my woes…Cinedeck. More specifically, cineXinsert. And not only that, I had a representative from Cinedeck contact me to offer a trial so I could test out this software solution.

Cinedeck primarily offers hardware solutions…production recording and playback hardware, but they also offer software based insert-editing on a Quicktime file….that is the aforementioned cineXinsert. But wait! Why not just use Quicktime Pro to do this insert editing? It’s capable of that, right? Yes and no. While it can do a lot, it’s not as frame accurate as I need, and it doesn’t quite to the insert correctly. I can’t explain the tech reasons for this, I just know it doesn’t do it in a manner that will pass any tech evaluation.

I wasn’t able to get this software in time for my current dilemma…for that I had to resort to re-exporting everything. But I did get it in time to test it for future application. First thing I needed to do was buy a dongle, as the license for the software is tied to a dongle. For that I needed to buy an iLok2. Many people might have one already, they are used for many audio plugins for Avid and ProTools.

So a couple days later I got the iLok, got the license in place and was ready to test. And as luck would have it, just in time, as another show I delivered had two minor QC notes that needed addressing. And this show was a two hour show, so the export times were pretty lengthy. And I needed to fix four masters.

The interface might look daunting, but it’s pretty simple. Load your patch video into the Player (SOURCE), and then your master into the Recorder (TARGET) and set your in and out points. For a workflow on this, watch this video here.

This is when I ran into a snag. You cannot insert edit into VBR (Variable Bit Rate) ProRes file…only CBR (Constant Bit Rate) video. And unfortunately, all my masters were ProRes HQ, and ProRes video is VBR. If this were DNxHD, no problem, that’s CBR. But alas, mine wasn’t. But, CineInsert has a tool to convert the video files from VBR to CBR. Well, it’s not a “conversion” really. As a representative of Cinedeck told me, they call it “CBR PADDING,” and what they do, essentially, is add zeros to pad each frame so they are the same size. It’s an encoding magic (technology) that I don’t fully grasp, but I do understand that VARIABLE BIT RATE is a series of frames all saved using varying amounts of data…and CBR PADDING just wraps the file in a way that they are all equal, so that an insert can work. It’s not a re-encode, it’s just making sure all the frames have the same data rate.

Got it? If not, don’t worry, just know that it needs to be done in order for the tech to work.

So I used the RE-WRAP AND AUDIO VERSIONING tab in the application to re-wrap my files for inserting. This took a while, but not as long as exporting the whole file again. It took about half the time. But as I needed to do this to four files, I set up a batch and came back later to deal with inserting. One thing to note is that the file size of the exports will increase. What started as 143GB ended up being 168GB, which was to be expected as the frames were no longer variable in file size, but uniform. Now, when you are finished inserting you can simply deliver these files, or use them as “mezzanine” masters where you then encode to your various other needed deliverables. Higher end post facilities tend to keep these masters as CBR. Or you can wrap back to VBR. There is no need to wrap back to VBR, networks and clients who want ProRes files won’t have issues with them being CBR vs VBR…except for the few that actually require VBR files, like ABC/Disney.

Once you convert to CBR, you can now insert your patch (note, the patch also needs to be CBR, but the conversion tend to be quick). As noted in the video tutorials, if the timecode of the patch matches where it will go in the source, simple mark IN, mark OUT, and click the SEND IN POINT and SEND OUT POINT to the record and then hit INSERT…a couple seconds and you are done.

This really couldn’t be easier. And since I’ve been mastering tapeless only (no tape delivery) for over 3 years now, having an option to insert edit is a real time saver. Because when you export a full file, every now and then a glitch can occur. One thing I do when I export is watch the whole file down, to make sure there are no glitches…this is like watching an output to tape. Making sure it outputs correctly. Not needing to re-watch a fixed export is a HUGE time saver. I know the rest is OK, I just need to fix this one section, watch it, and I’m done.

And it has many other uses, like re-striping timecode, adding audio tracks or re-mapping audio…that ALSO save you from needing to re-export a new file. I recall exporting a master an I had the same audio track repeat on Ch 3 and CH 4 by mistake. CineXinsert would allow me to drop in the right track in the right place and simply save…no need to re-export.

CineXinsert works with HD, UHD and 4K files…which is great as many of us are dealing with UHD and 4K deliverables. It can insert into ProRes, DNxHD, DPX, AVC-I and XDCAM, as well inserts to Op1A MXF for both DNx and XDCAM. It is Mac and Windows compatible (which is great as I am slowly migrating towards Windows).

The one drawback for me (other than needing to convert ProRes files to CBR) is the price…$1495 for the standard version that does DNxHD and ProRes, and $1895 for XDCAM. It is a bit steep for a one-person shop that has a short list of clients, but if you are a full time shop, even a one-person shop, the amount of time it saves will be worth it. But they do offer subscription plans…so you can only pay up to $480/year for the standard option.

NOTE! The iLok2 key is no longer required for the software. You now have the option to use iLok2 or you can install the license on your computer

Final opinion? CineXinsert is a must-have tool for anyone who does finishing. It is a huge time saver.  The days  of owning, or renting, expensive decks for outputting final masters might be gone, but we still need on the many options that they provided. Insert editing of video and audio for quick fixes so your finishing machine isn’t tied up for hours outputting full shows and watching them down again.

*CineDeck provided me with a 3-month trial version of this application for the purpose of real world testing. But it is on my list of future purchases. Now to convince networks to take DNxHD over ProRes…