Skip to content

Little Frog in High Def

Adventures in Editing
Little Frog In High Def

Whenever a show is delivered to a TV network, it is run through a process called “QC,” or “Quality Control.” Typically this is done on the network end, and if they spot any issues, like flash frames or audio hits or access luma (image is too “white,” IRE above 100) or temp footage…any number of things…then those issues are flagged and they provide us with a report of things that need to be fixed.   Typical process.

Often, to save time and money, a production company will have a QC done BEFORE the show is sent to the network. So any potential issues are flagged before we spit out the four to 10 masters and multiple DVDs or reference Quicktime files. Because if it’s flagged AFTER that, well, we need to redo all of those masters.  And besides, it looks good when you deliver a show and they check it and there are no issues.  All issues caught and addressed before they saw it, so we look good in their eyes.

Before we send a tape, or a file to the network or to QC, we editors, or perhaps the AE and post supervisor…people at the company…will watch a show down as it exports. Or watch back the export/output to tape after the fact, to see if we catch any glaring issue (like temp footage with burned in timecode, a flash frame, digital hit…something easy to see).  We want to make sure that everything is good, nothing is out of place, and nothing glaring has happened. This is our reputation, after all.

I’m used to doing a QC on my broadcast monitor…used to watching it output to tape. But lately, with digital delivery, I need to watch it down before I output (which I do with a producer), or I watch the exported file.  I USED to watch the exported file on the broadcast monitor…imported back into the project and played back. But recently I’ve taken to watching the Quicktime file. And I’m not looking critically at the color at this point, that was what I did when I screened with the producer. No, I’m looking for the things that only show up in the Quicktime file…some things that can occur OUTSIDE TV Safe (which is one reason to watch with OVERSCAN activated on a broadcast monitor)…or that is hidden in the shadows.  When the editor of the shows I online for has time, he watches them again too. And then gets me a list of fixes.

What do we normally catch? Well, I can show you. As I work on a lot of archival documentaries, we deal with SD footage blown up to HD, so the footage might not have been blown up enough, and the edge doesn’t quite fill the frame.

This is something that you might miss on a broadcast monitor if you aren’t watching in overscan mode. And sometimes, this has been missed even in overscan mode. It just shows up better in the QT file.

The other thing that I catch better on QT files are when we do moves on stills, or use stills as background for text. Or if you have footage that is very dark.  You THINK it fills the frame, because you see a dark image on the screen. But in the QT file, the image is usually washed out more, so because of that, the difference between the dark footage, and the black of “no video image” (often called, “vertical blanking”) is very obvious.

This is what I see on the broadcast monitor:

This is what I see in Quicktime. As you can see, there’s a large area that is darker than normal. This would have been flagged.

UPDATE: There’s a lot more involved in QT than just looking at the picture, and I did leave out a MAJOR thing that I do. Something I started doing ever since working at Disney in a promo department where we had to perform our own internal QC (three people checked the final files).


Another major thing that can kick back a QC is audio issues. Incorrect track assignments or audio off phase (one frame offset)…as well as audio hits and glitches. What I check for in the exported file is first, that I did, indeed, export multiple individual tracks, and not a stereo mixdown (which does happen). When a professional QC is performed, it’s done in multiple passes. Once for picture, and then again for audio…perhaps a couple more times depending on the number of tracks that need to be checked.

As you can see here, I have the audio stems laid out on my timeline.

Ch1 & 2 are a stereo mix…Ch 3 & 4 are Mix minus VO, undipped, meaning at full volume…Ch 5 & 6 are undipped stereo music…Ch 7 & 8 are stereo sound effects…Ch 9 is the voice over…Ch 10 is the dialogue. So I need to export a 10 channel Quicktime file. After I do that, I open the quicktime file in Quicktime 7 Pro and check the properties of the file, making sure that all the audio tracks are present.

And then I will uncheck all but one track, then assign that track to Left or Right…and then play the clip in various locations, spot checking to see that the track is indeed what it should be. If they are a stereo pair, I make sure to have both tracks checked. I have, on occasion, caught errors like the dialog track repeated, or a slight offset in the stereo pair.

If you don’t have Quicktime 7 Pro and I don’t expect many do, as it’s old and discontinued, then you can re-import the file into your editing application and check the tracks in there.

So my advice is, always always watch down your export, if going to tape…or playing back the tape and watching that. Or watching the Quicktime file. Yes, I know you’ve seen the show 45 times if you are the editor, or 5 times if you are the online editor/colorist. But that small little extra time of watching…be it 22 min, or 43 min, or 90 min, or two hours….catching those mistakes before you send it increases your reputation as “reliable,” and “always turns in work with little to no errors.  Some things are still missed..small audio hits, red condition errors, many things that are beyond the range of human eyesight and hearing. But everyone can understand those getting through. But the 10 second shot with a watermark and burned in timecode…or the 4:3 clip not pushed in on to fill the frame like the rest of the footage…looks sloppy.  Strive for greatness.  Your reputation will thank you.


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…

“Are there supposed to be two of these?” My wife texts me at work.

“I thought you were only making one of these.”

On Friday the parts for the computer arrived. And apparently something happened with the order, as TWO computer cases arrived. So my wife, who knew I was building ONE computer was confused, as TWO arrived. Actually, I know what happened. I ordered several things from Amazon and they all cleared, but the order for the case for some reason needed validation from my bank. I answered all the bank questions, but got one wrong, so they declined the order. So I ordered from another source (manufacture direct) and that order cleared. And then unbeknownst to me, the other order cleared too and the item shipped…although the notification for that didn’t arrive until it already arrived on my doorstep.  OK, no problem…I’ll RMA one of them, ship it back. But this seemed to be an omen of things to come…

So, here it was, Friday night and all my stuff arrived. Time to assemble the computer! My buddy Patrick wanted to come over for that so after dinner he arrived and we set to building the computer.  First to put a few things on the board before I put it in the computer…RAM and Processor. First thing to do is the processor. So Patrick made sure that I bought some good thermal paste, for the connection of the processor to the cooling fan. Both Patrick and Stefan said that I needed to get a good cooling fan, as the one provided was…well…lacking is the term. As you can see, the difference is huge.

If this baby was going to render in Resolve and deal with high end video, it would kick into TURBO mode, and for that, it needed really good cooling. So I put the processor in place, wiped it clean with an alcohol wipe (that Patrick brought with him in his “Hackintosh kit”) applied thermal paste, spread it with a small spatula (provided with the paste) and screwed everything into the motherboard. Then I went to install the RAM… Wait. Where’s the RAM?  Dammit! The RAM didn’t arrive. I look at my web orders and sure enough, I FORGOT TO ORDER RAM! Lordy. No worries, in Patrick’s Hack kit there were 2x4GB sticks and 1x8GB stick of RAM that we used for this install.  Install those, go online to order RAM. OK, whew.  So we inserted them and then mounted the motherboard into the case.   OH…I should mention that when I found that the motherboard was available, I ordered it right away, before anything else. because I knew it was in short supply. And Patrick ordered one too, for when he was going to upgrade his machine. His arrived quickly, mine did not. After two weeks I emailed to ask about it, and they responded, apologized, and got one out to me ASAP, and included a “goody bag” of a few neat items (alas, not RAM, like I hoped, given my current situation).

Then came time for the power supply. Installed that, and then with all the power cords that came with it, set about plugging them into the power unit, and then into the motherboard. Then I plugged various cables onto the motherboard for power, the Power LED light, the FANs, the USB connectors, audio connectors. This I had done before, having made a hack before. But when I first did it, Patrick was a great help. I’d have been a bit lost in the manual on this…or slowed down a bit.  But I soon got things into place. And connected the hard drive power to the power supply as well.

So I had this 2.5″ SSD drive for my main system drive, and it doesn’t fit into the standard 3.25″ drive bay, not without an adapter. I knew this and had ordered one with all the rest of the stuff. But it was cheap and plastic ($4) and it broke in a couple places. Joy.  But that’s when I discovered that the case I ordered appeared to come with some sort of mount on the other side of the case where I put the motherboard. Patrick figured out that that’s where one can mount two SSD drives.  COOL!  That meant that I’d have more room in the three 3.25″ drive bays for three SATA drives I had. Perfect

OK, I now had everything installed and was ready to install the Mac OS! We were going to install Yosemite, as it was the best one for this specific setup.

Now…one doesn’t simply install the OS that Apple has. Oh my no. You need to go to the Tonymac site and download one of their modified installers, and follow their specific install guides (brilliant coders modify the install to work with certain off the shelf parts, thus why you follow a guide for what to buy).  I followed this one for Yosemite and made an install flash drive. This is the one Stefan recommended as rock solid, and the one he used to make several Hacks. And it was very similar to the one I used the first time I made one.  BUT, first things first, we need to modify things in the BIOS (that’s the motherboard OS) before we install. turn off certain things, enable others. It’s all in that guide.

So I did all that…correction, Patrick did all that…

And we modified things and started the boot! We did it in what is called VERBOSE MODE, meaning it shows all the code as it starts up. So you can see what process is happening. So if something bad happens, or the install fails, you can see why.

What I found fascinating about this is that this code was filled with very casual conversation instructions. “THE TIMEOUT KEY IS NO LONGER RESPECTED. IT NEVER DID ANYTHING ANYWAY.”  “THIS KEY DOES NOT DO ANYTHING, PLEASE REMOVE IT.” “THE HIDEUTILCHECKIN UTILITY IS AN ARCHITECTURAL ISSUE. PLEASE TRANSITION AWAY FROM IT.” Can you believe that? POLITENESS! IN THE CODE! “Please’s” all over the place.  And while this is the modified installer, all of this code is actually the real installer…this is code from Apple.

Ok, we see that code for a while and then it stops. And stayed stopped. It was hung. It did say something about the NVIDIA driver, so hmm.  A bit of research on that and we found a post on Tonymac where someone had a similar issue. They solved it by Typing some code in the install options to disable the NVIDIA driver.

So we did that…and it froze again. Hmmm.  Well, let’s look in the BIOS…did we miss something?  No, not that we can see. Let’s disable THUNDERBOLT, just in case. We try that.  Nothing. Patrick was prepared for this, and in his Hack kit he had a different installer, one that he made based on instructions from another site. So we try that one. Freeze. Hmm…let’s disable a couple things. Freeze. DRAT. The drive isn’t formatted yet, perhaps that is it. It was something I planned to do when we were in the install screen. So I mount it in a drive doc and connect that to my laptop. I format the drive MacOS Extended, and put it back into the Hack.  Boot…freeze. Well, OK then. Stumped. And by this time it’s midnight and we have things to do in the AM. I’ll research more and he will, and Stefan will (I was keeping him in the loop via Skype) and we’d tackle it later.


Saturday afternoon arrives…and so does my RAM. Wow…that was fast. I just ordered it the night before, at like 10 PM. Crucial seems to be giving AMAZON a run for it’s money in terms of delivery speed.  OK, I install that RAM and make another install drive, based on another site. I try booting that and…boom, the computer restarts. Odd. I try again. The computer gets so far, and then restarts. Damn. I try another method. That one too restarts the computer. Patrick was busy today, but Stefan was available, so he drove over with HIS install flash drive. The one that he knew was bullet proof, and what he used to make his Hacks. So he arrives and takes over the command chair. He looks at the BIOS, adjusts a few things, and then boots off the flash drive.

We watch the goes…goes…then the code goes away and I see a white screen! Wait, something is happening. I lean forward looking at the screen…this is truly a LEAN FORWARD moment.

BOOM! THE INSTALL SCREEN! YES YES YES! OK, let’s install this. We start the installer, it starts installing. YAY! OK, this is working. I must have messed something up on my end with the installer. 13 Min remaining….11, 10, 9…black screen. What? Then the BIOS popped up again. DAMN, restarted. install failed. What? OK, so we try again, but we need for format the drive first, as it has a partial install on it. So we go to the Disk Utility and go to wipe the drive…erase failed…couldn’t dismount the drive. Try again, same message. Try to just partition the drive…failed, couldn’t unmount. So we google the issue. One solution was to use TERMINAL to do the wipe. We try…fail. Damn. Well, I had to format it with my computer. So I do that, put it back into the Hack. Try the install again. 13, 12, 11…REBOOT.


Stefan starts googling and reading about similar events.  Finds some post on an Apple forum about this. One suggestion is that the SATA cable might be bad. STUPID solution, but what the hell. So we swap out the cable. Boot the installer, go to wipe the drive…IT WORKED! BAD CABLE! YES, that was the issue! We run the installer again. 13, 12, 11…reboot.

DAMMIT. OK, what is this? Disabled the NVIDIA card, the RAM I ordered bad? I take it out, put back in the RAM Patrick bought. Reboot, reformat the drive, start the install. 13, 12, 11…reboot.  Crap. OK, let’s unplug the Nvidia card and plug the monitor directly into the motherboard DVI. 13, 12, 11…reboot. CRAP!  Ok…it was 1AM, and I started a job the next day and needed to get up early. And Stefan needed a break too.  This perplexed us both…these are solid installs.


Monday. After work I get home to a package. RAM.  Yup, MORE RAM arrived. This was actually the RAM I ordered when I realized that I didn’t order RAM. Only I DID order RAM, it just invoiced separately (this happens on Amazon, apparently…happened with the CASE too). So now I had two orders of RAM. OK…guess I need to RMA this. But…let me try it in the computer first.  After dinner Patrick came over with an installer that he made custom for this build, using yet another method. Same base installer as before, but more modifications. Install the new RAM… fiddle with the BIOS, boot the installer…fiddle with boot options…then go to install. Get to the installer, reformat the drive, run the installer. 13, 12, 11, 10, 9….8.  I LEAN IN AGAIN!  This one is going to work it’s going to…


DAMMIT! We both curse and hit the desk at the same time. We thought for sure this would do it. But alas.  So more fiddling, more install attempts. No go. This just wasn’t working. And it was getting late again, the kids school started tomorrow, and I needed to be up at 5:30, so Patrick offered to take my machine. I take the RAM out and set about RMAing it. He takes my machine and I bid him farewell.


Patrick texts me in the evening.  “Dude. Bad news.” Uh oh.  “I literally disconnected one computer, put yours in its place and hooked up keyboard and monitor, pressed power, the light flickered and nothing, then I smelt burnt electronics.” CRUD! The computer is fried! NUTS! “I suspect power supply, but I have to open the case and test.”  Actually it was his son that first discovered the smell. “Dad, why does it smell like that?”  And he quickly unplugged the machine.  I had a question for him. “Don’t happen to be missing your glasses are you?” “Um. Yes…”  “Well, I have some bad news too…”

I found them in the street near where he parked his car. BUT, they were cheap reading glasses so it wasn’t horrible news. It wasn’t a fried computer.

Patrick bought a power supply tester and tested my power supply. It tested good. OK, so it wasn’t the supply that sizzled. That meant that it was something else…the motherboard. Great. BUT…do you recall early on that I said that he bought an identical board? That evening he was nice enough to take apart the computer, unplug all the power and computer connections, take the board out, take out the processor, clean it off, and reinstall it and the heat sink and all the connections to his motherboard.

Can you guess what happened next?

Dude! I transferred your CPU and memory (cleaned the CPU of all heat sink compound and re-applied). Mounted it in your case, hooked all the cables. Went with internal gfx to start and adjusted the BIOS settings, put in your SSD, and booted and bam! It all worked. No glitches or errors, ran Cinebench just fine. Of course the internal GPU is only 24 fps as opposed to 124 for the Nvidia, but damn. It all worked.”

IT WORKED! The damn thing worked! It was the motherboard…the whole time it was the flipping motherboard. This is actually something that Stefan said might be the issue. This install not working didn’t make any sense, and with the amount of troubleshooting we made, he was fairly certain it was the motherboard

“Get an RMA for that motherboard, it’s clearly bad.” Patrick messsaged. “You can smell the burnt electronics on it.”

The machine boots just like a Mac, Apple load screen and all…

But, when you first turn it on you encounter this start screen, that asks which drive you want to boot from. It defaults to the main installer, so all I have to do is press enter, and then it boots normally.

The computer info makes the claim to be a 14,2 iMac. Now, I know that the 15,1 is the most current model, but the system acted…wonky, when we put that info into the config.list. 14,2 is more stable, and really, I don’t see what difference it makes in the computer performance.

And there you have it. The Saga of the Amphibi-hack. ALL of this trouble installing things, all of the issues and errors, and it was the motherboard. Some flaw in it caused the install to fail. The next day Patrick brought it back, and I hooked everything up and it booted just fine. And QUIET too (it is a QUIET case).  It’s running 10.10.5, and I was able to install Avid Media Composer 8.6.0, Resolve 12.5 and even FCP 7 and DVD Studio Pro. I haven’t gotten around to installing Premiere Pro yet. I let my subscription lapse as I don’t use it for anything yet, I have CS6 on my laptop and use that for quick family videos. I hope to install it soon.

But Avid works fine…great actually. I spent two days working with it, addressing network notes on a show and cutting 5 min of extra footage for international. Renders were fast, and the export was quicker than real time (review quality export). What took me 48-55 min for a 45 min sequence on my laptop takes 35-38 minutes on the Hack.  And I was able to test Resolve as well, grading DVD extras for a feature doc. Whizzed through corrections, the interface was snappy…and went to render it out. It rendered in what looked like two times speed, and sure enough, the 45 min of extras rendered out in 23 min. I did the same output with my laptop…48 min. So yes, huge improvement.

Here’s a test I ran on the system…CINEBENCH. The processor tests better than a current iMac, although slower than a current MacPro (if 2013 is considered ‘current’).  That’s pretty good, if you ask me. But what I really like is that the GPU tested higher than both. And the GPU is the main thing Resolve relies on, and that, along with Avid Media Composer, are the main apps I intend to use. And Avid doesn’t require fast processor nor high end GPU.  When I do finally get a Premiere Pro project, I think this machine should handle it just fine…fast processor, lots of RAM and a GPU that has CUDA.  And note, this measures up between an iMac and late model MacPro…but it cost a fraction of what they do. Here’s the link to a page that shows the iMac and MacPro benchmarks.

And, as you can see, doing all of this required help. If this were a smooth install, were the motherboard a good one, the initial installer would have worked fine, and I would…should…have been able to do this fine on my own. The instructions are pretty clear on what BIOS settings to adjust and what boot options to enable and disable. But man, when things go wrong, it’s nice to have someone who knows better at your side. Even better, two.

So yes, I deem this a worthy venture and I have a very nice new computer…EXPANDABLE computer…to work with (note the three internal SATA drives…and remember, the SSD is on the other side). And thus far it’s running gangbusters. And the Hacks my friends made all work great too, and are their primary work machines. So if you want to embark on this adventure, I encourage it. It helps build ones technical knowledge and gets you invested in your computer. But I do advise you try to find someone to help out, if you can. Because as you can see…shit happens.


Building a Mac with PC parts…

Before I get into this build saga, I want to say a word of warning. Unless you are a very technical person who knows how to navigate a basic PC BIOS (motherboard OS) or how to swap out some computer code or know some specifics about piecing together a computer from scratch, I suggest getting help. Even though I am a pretty technical person, and I have built a Hackintosh before, I still needed help. Even after getting help with the first Hack, I still needed help. A lot of it was advice on parts, but the vast majority was in installing the modified OS, and making sure that everything in the BIOS was set for the computer to work. Yes, there are step by step instructions online, but some of these assume you have some basic assembly skills, and BIOS knowhow and a bit of troubleshooting chops. I had that, but still needed help. So if you intend to do this, I suggest you find someone who has done this before, or someone who is technical enough to help decipher what some of the code and tech lingo means. I could not have done this without the gracious help, and patience, of Stefan Avalos and Patrick Sheffield. The reasons will become clear as the saga unfolds.)


My old tower is a 2008 MacPro, 16GB of RAM, with a decent graphics card (great for Apple Color). But it’s 2016, and the machine is 8 years old, ancient in computer terms. But it has served me well. Lately I’ve been relying on my 2012 MacBook Pro when cutting in my home office. And I have fully decked it out with 16GB of RAM and two internal SSD drives. It does well too, but really only with Avid and simple Resolve and Adobe projects. Since most of the jobs I do in my home office are online and color grading, and I’ve been getting more and more into Davinci Resolve, even this laptop is getting long in the tooth, it’s only four years old, and it still has some life left in it, but forget trying to do 4K with it. And I have several 4K projects on the horizon.

So I need a new computer.

One big stumbling block in this quest for a new computer is that I am a die hard Mac user. I have been since I bought my first computer in 1991. I’ve only owned one PC, and it was solely for gaming. But Apple is fairly behind in their professional line of desktops. The latest MacPro came out in 2013…it is THREE years old. One year younger than my laptop. Sure, the latest iMac came out in Oct, 2015, but I have issues with the expandability of the model. BOTH models to tell the truth. Neither one allows one to swap out the GPU for a better one…one more suited for Resolve and Adobe Premiere Pro. Neither one allows for more internal drives to be added. Neither one allows me to be able to install any sort of card to add ports like eSATA or Fibre or SAS or an internal capture card without using an external box. Apple is dropping the ball on the professional computer needs for video post, this much is clear.

So what about the other option? A PC running Windows. And yes, there are great computers out there for this…the HP line is especially popular, and a solid choice. You can get a decent machine for $2900 and put in one or two very high end graphics cards, as well as additional hard drives. And they can go to upwards of $5000 and $7000 (a good place to look for these is These are decent prices for companies or individuals that use them all the time, and have rental income on them year round. I don’t, I do projects here and there. And have small budgets.

But I have another issue…most of my clients require ProRes exports. They are either coming from FCP-X (or even FCP 7)…and need either to be round tripped, or they need ProRes Quicktime exports to meet network delivery requirements. So if I went with a PC, I’d have to keep an old Mac around to convert the exports (my MacBook Pro will do that). It’s a BIG issue on Windows, as recently Apple announced that it would stop supporting Quicktime on Windows altogether, so just having it installed is an issue. But this would also mean double encoding (DNxHD and then ProRes) and risking the dreaded gamma shift.

This had me looking at Apple options. I spoke to many people and they said that interesting enough, the Retina iMacs were more stable with Resolve and Premiere Pro than the late-model MacPro. And there were reports of graphics cards issues on the MacPro…an issue so bad that Apple offered a repair program for it. Many people recommended that I get the best iMac there is, and maxed out with everything…better processor, the most RAM it could get, best graphics card offered. I priced that out and it came to be $3600. 4Ghz processor, turbo to 4.2, 32GB RAM, 500GB SSD, and AMD Radeon M395X with 4GB RAM graphics card. Pretty decent…but spendy. And any expansion, as I said, is all external, which means a more cluttered workstation. And no Nvidia options, that Adobe and Resolve tend to like more.

That got me to thinking…what about a Hackintosh? (That’s a computer built with off the shelf computer parts that runs the Mac OS…one that’s been modified a little to work with these components) I’ve built one before. And I have a couple friends to have also done this before, quite a few times. They have built multiple systems for themselves and others..Hackintosh models that they use professionally, for years. So I got to looking into that option.

NOTE…in order to build a Hackintosh need to get very specific computer components that have been tested to work properly with the modified Mac OS.   I set about researching this starting with the go-to site for this, There you can see builds for MacProsMacMinis, and MacMini Deluxe. And see posts of people’s success stories, and what components they’ve used…as well as failure stories where they explain why certain OS versions or certain hardware components don’t work. So it’s a good place to see what to do, and what not to do.

In looking for a basic motherboard, I found one that many people used…it has two Thunderbolt 2 and lots of USB 3 ports, and it one of the MacPro build options. The issue was that it was a couple years old, and I couldn’t find it anywhere. When I looked for more current motherboards, I found some with Thunderbolt 3, but people said that when they built their hacks with them, the TB3 wouldn’t work. The MacOS doesn’t have drivers for that yet…one place where Apple is falling behind in tech that IT introduced. I found the other components I wanted, but without that motherboard that has Thunderbolt 2…I was stalled.

Why so adamant about Thunderbolt 2? Well, none of the boards have Firewire (I’m flush with Firewire drives and clients provide me with Firewire drives), but I have a Thunderbolt bridge from OWC that has Firewire on it. I also have a BlackMagic Extreme 4K capture box that has Thunderbolt…so I pretty much need a board with TB2 in order to be able to connect to most of my hard drives, and my video IO box that I used with all my editing apps.

So, as I said, I was stalled, and set about saving up money for that iMac, or one of the PC options. And just when I was about to do that, I started chatting with Stefan about this (one of the hack makers), and he was trying to convince me to make the hack (one thing he said was “friends don’t let friends use Windows!) . And he was able to look up a couple builds and track down the board I needed…right on the manufacturers website (At the time of writing this, they seem to have appeared back in stock in several stores).

Here’s the list of components that I chose for this build:


GA-Z97X-UD7 TH LGA 1150 Z97 Dual Thunderbolt 2 ATX

RAM:   $166 ($183 w/tax and shipping

Crucial 32GB Ballistix Sport DDR3 SDRAM Memory Module – 32 GB (4 x 8 GB) – DDR3 SDRAM – 1600 MHz DDR3-1600/PC3-12800 – 1.50 V – Non-ECC – Unbuffered – 240-pin – DIMM – BLS4KIT8G3D1609DS1S0


Intel Core i7-4790K Devil’s Canyon Quad-Core 4.0 GHz LGA 1150 BX80646I74790K Desktop Processor Intel HD Graphics 4600


COOLER MASTER RR-212X-20PM-R1 120mm 4th Generation Bearing CPU Cooler


EVGA GeForce GTX 980 4GB SC GAMING ACX 2.0, 26% Cooler and 36% Quieter Cooling Graphics Card 04G-P4-2983-KR


SAMSUNG 850 EVO 2.5″ 500GB SATA III 3-D Vertical Internal Solid State Drive (SSD) MZ-75E500B/AM

CASE:  $120

be quiet! SILENT BASE 600 WINDOW ATX Mid Tower Computer Case – Black


CORSAIR RMx Series RM750X 750W 80 PLUS GOLD Haswell Ready Full Modular ATX12V & EPS12V SLI and Crossfire Ready Power Supply

Tax & Shipping for all of these components came out to $130.65. So the total cost of all the parts was $1593.65.  Less than half the price of the iMac, and four times cheaper than the MacPro (it can be equipped with slightly faster processors, and it has dual GPU…down the line I intend to add another GPU) I already owned the two 23″ displays, keyboard, mouse, and Thunderbolt 2 Bridge. And this configuration doesn’t include a wifi card or capability. Patrick (the other helpful guy) had a wireless ethernet receiver that he had sitting unused, so he gave that to me. Otherwise, you’d either need to get one, or have the ability to connect your internet router directly to the computer.

The processors in build is more on par with the high end iMac. If you configure it, you can equip it with an 4.0Ghz i7, which is the same general model I purchased. But mine can turbo boost to 4.4Ghz, where it caps off at 4.2Ghz.  And while it is called a QUAD CORE processor, it has 8 threads, so essentially an 8 core processor. As for the MacPro, those processors are called 6-core, 8-core and 12-core, but from research I can see that Apple disables hyperthreading in them. Don’t get me wrong, they still will out-perform the processor I have….but I’m also not shelling out what it costs for those machines, and their iffy GPUs.

OK…so the saga begins. I ordered the parts and soon they arrived. In part two of this saga, I’ll tell the tale of getting this machine up and running. It’s a wild tale filled with ups and downs, week long late nights, swearing…and a couple lean forward moments.

A mini review for a mini color panel. This is an unsolicited review…Tangent didn’t ask me to do it. I wasn’t supplied with a review unit. I rushed out and pre-ordered it from Flanders Scientific (where I get my broadcast monitors)…and then anxiously awaited it’s arrival for a couple months.

It arrived late June in a classy little box.

When I unpacked it, I noted that it was nice and light. Not too light, but not too heavy. Some might think that it feels cheap and plastic, but it really isn’t. The plastic is solid and the balls are pretty hefty…cheap build is NOT how I’d describe it.  Lightweight. Has a Wacom lightness to it. The construction of it is part of what keeps the cost down. Yes, it’s plastic, but it doesn’t feel like toy plastic. It’s very solidly built.

One thing I noted is that it didn’t ship with any software. No big thing, the booklet enclosed gives directions to download and install the minor plugin it needs.  The unit plugs in via USB, and that’s the only cord on the device, getting power from it as well as using it for connectivity.

For the test run, using Resolve, I brought some test footage from my BMPCC that I shot in order to test out lenses. In the preferences I chose the TANGENT WAVE setting, as the instructions stated to do. And that’s all I needed to do. I was ready to go.

The unit is very simple, and has only the most basic controls. Which is fine by me, I’m a basic colorist. I am more of an online editor, and my focus is documentary work, leaning towards historic docs with old footage. A few interviews thrown in, or decent b-roll, but my main goal in color grading is to simply make the footage look good. I don’t do commercials, or scripted TV or feature films, where one does a lot of work on each shot, perhaps using 5-10 nodes and all sorts of power windows. For that work I would tend to recommend the larger color panels. But for what I do, the controls this unit offered were perfect.

Here’s what you have… the knobs adjust the brightness level of the blacks, mids and highlights. The balls allow you to adjust the color.  The buttons are mappable with the TANGENT MAPPER app. By default, the A button is empty, the B button bypasses the grade, so you can, with one click, see what the footage looks like graded and ungraded…and buttons next to the balls are reset buttons. But the mapper app will allow you to map what you want to those buttons.

Using those controls in my little test was a great experience. The responsiveness is just what I want, not too sensative. I had issues with another panel I used, I couldn’t seem to get it just right. This was just right out of the box.  I took to it right away.

As I said, it’s a simple control surface, but I’m a simple colorist, without the need of complex controls. To that end, the Ripple is just what I needed for all my professional, and family video, needs. In short, I really really like it.

(For a more in-depth review, check out what Scott Simmons has to say over at ProVideo Coalition)

ClipWrap is dead…long live CLIPWRAP!

On Tuesday, July 28, 2016, ClipWrap from will no longer be available for purchase. It is being end-of-lifed. It is a sad thing to see this go…it has been one of the most useful software tools in my kit for many many years, it not the most useful.

This application (Mac only, sorry Windows), in case you didn’t know, converted AVCHD .MTS camera masters into Quicktime files. You could either re-wrap it as MOV and still retain the H.264 codec, just in another wrapper…or convert it to various flavors of ProRes, DNxHD…DVCPRO HD, Apple Intermediate Codec, HDV, XDCAM or DV….editing codecs that many editing systems preferred, because H.264 can be difficult to work with.

Yes, many editing software applications had the ability to import AVCHD and convert it…but the issue with the AVCHD standard is that, well, there was no standard. Every single camera maker had their own variant of AVCHD. So when a new camera was released that shot AVCHD…it utilized a different AVCHD format than the editing software was used to and so it wouldn’t be able to import footage from that camera until the application was updated, more more likely, a new plugin was released by the camera makers to allow the editing software to see the footage.

What was great about ClipWrap is that Mike, the main guy over at Divergent Media, seemed to always be on top of the new formats, and would release updates to ClipWrap much faster than the camera makers would release plugins. Which was very helpful for those times your producer buys the latest camera, shoots a sizzle reel, and then needs you to edit it right away. If I had to rely on the camera makers and editing software companies…I’d be waiting a long time before things would work.

For example…quick story. A producer of mine bought the brand new Sony NX camera and shot a pilot with it. Of course, FCP 7 had issues bringing this in. If a clip was shorter than 5 min, all was good. Anything over, would take HOURS to import. Odd bug. And Avid? Couldn’t even see that camera. (Premiere Pro wasn’t on my radar at that time…sorry Adobe) So I tried to tackle it with ClipWrap, which had recently come out with an update. I tried it, and it worked! But there was a small glitch in the first 2 seconds of the clips…every clip. So I emailed Mike with the issue, he asked for a small sample file, I sent one his way, and within a day an update was released that made that glitch go away. How’s THAT for customer service!

So yeah…ClipWrap, that amazing app, is going away. BUT DON’T PANIC!! Divergent Media isn’t going away. No…they have a better option going forward. Everything that ClipWrap was and is, is available in EditReady…and has been for quite some time. And where ClipWrap only worked for AVCHD, EditReady works with a lot more. Not only AVCHD (MTS), but also M2T (HDV), MP4 and MXF Camera masters. It too will re-wrap, or convert to DNxHD and ProRes. AND…it will do it a lot faster than ClipWrap does. Up to three times faster in many cases. And you can make adjustments to the image like flipping, rotating, retiming and applying LUTs. Everything ClipWrap is, plus a whole lot more.

So stop recommending ClipWrap to people on help forums. Move on to the more improved EditReady. Exact same price, but tons more features. And yes, a trial is available.

Notice: Yes, I was approached by Mike to do a write up on this. But no, I’m not getting compensation in return. I didn’t want any. ClipWrap has saved by bacon more than once. And Mike has always been nice, personable, and quick to address any issues that came up.

The fifty-eigth episode of THE EDIT BAY is now available for download.

This one is a show that was cancelled midway through production.

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

To subscribe to this podcast in iTunes, CLICK HERE.

This is the FIFTH episode of THE EDIT BAY that I did many years ago…but when I was looking for it to link to it on a forum post answer, I realize that I didn’t ever post it on my blog! It’s one of my favorite stories…so…it might be new to some of you, even though it’s pretty old.

This one is about bidding on a job where we doubled our budget….but still lost to a competitor. Because the client thought “there must be something wrong with your bid…it’s much too low.” Yup…dealing with ad agency people.

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

To subscribe to this podcast in iTunes, CLICK HERE.

The fifty-seventh episode of THE EDIT BAY is now available for download.

This one is about a New Media company that bit off more than it could chew.

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

To subscribe to this podcast in iTunes, CLICK HERE.

The fifty-sixth episode of THE EDIT BAY is now available for download.

This one is about the time I was THIS CLOSE to meeting one of my favorite actors…

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

To subscribe to this podcast in iTunes, CLICK HERE.

The fifty-fifth episode of THE EDIT BAY is now available for download.

In this episode, I get a little help from camera operators…

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

To subscribe to this podcast in iTunes, CLICK HERE.

The fifty-fourth episode of THE EDIT BAY is now available for download.

A producer I work with loves telling old Hollywood History stories. I share a couple.

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

To subscribe to this podcast in iTunes, CLICK HERE.

The fifty-third episode of THE EDIT BAY is now available for download.

This one uses making a puzzle as a metaphor for cutting a documentary and reality show. No, really…it’s a cool metaphor, as metaphors go. Here… “Editing a documentary is like assembling a 1000 piece puzzle with 40,000 pieces.” See? Cool, right?

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

To subscribe to this podcast in iTunes, CLICK HERE.