Archive for December 12th, 2007

DJ Spider – “Tried By 12”

Shot with the HV20. Amazing atmosphere! Higher-res version here.

From 4:3 to 16:9 with Sony Vegas

Sony Vegas offers a preset of how to transform your 4:3 footage to a 16:9 one (you use that if you shot in 4:3 but then you decide you want a widescreen DVD instead). Basically, what this preset does is butchering down your footage by removing large parts of the top and bottom of your image. Some directors don’t like that, and so sometimes they either stretch the image to fill the screen (looks unnatural), or they use vertical letterbox (“old”).

However, there is another way of doing all this, which is the average of all techniques. It involves some cropping and some stretching. This technique is used by Sharp HDTVs. Sharp calls this “smart stretch”, and having looked at a number of TVs and how they go about the problem, it is a much better solution to the completely unnatural look of let’s say, the Mitsubishi HDTVs. So, we are going to apply the trick below using Sony Vegas.

Open Sony Vegas and create a widescreen NTSC or PAL project. Click on each and every clip on your timeline, right click on them and select “Video Event Pan/Crop” and make it look like the picture below. Make sure all the icons and options are selected/unselected as in my picture. For PAL users, the “width” number should be around “900” and the height should be “576”. After you do that, your video will have smaller letterboxing left and right.

Now, click the “track motion” icon on the left of each and every of your video tracks, and change the following for NTSC: width “790” and height “520”. For PAL use “830” and “650” respectively. Make sure the “lock aspect ratio” icon is not selected in the Track Motion toolbar. Then edit as usual and at the end, export using the widescreen DVD template.

Using the suggested technique the aspect ratio is a bit off, but it’s hardly noticeable, and it allows for more visible area. Here are the results of each technique, side by side:

And another sample, showing a real person. A similar technique can be used to export 1920x1080p HD source footage for 2k cinema theaters (2048×1024), for those lucky ones that their indie film was picked up for theater release.

Proxy Editing with Sony Vegas

UPDATE: If you are using Vegas Pro 8+, you can use an automatic proxy workflow via this script. If you are using MovieStudio/Platinum, you will have to use the tutorial below.

You know these new digirecorders (e.g. Sanyo Xacti, Aiptek HD) and digicam HD (e.g. Kodak HD, Canon’s HD digicams) video that’s been around lately? The Mpeg4 video these devices are recording is very slow to edit on Vegas. Truth is, Vegas is not optimized for either .mov or mpeg4-SP editing — at least not yet. When editing becomes unbearably slow, you have to use what it’s called “proxy files”. Proxies are low resolution, low bitrate copies of your source footage in a format that it’s easier editable (e.g. mpeg2). When you are done editing your masterpiece using this low-res footage, you switch to your high resolution source footage, and you render out in full quality. Here’s how to do it, step by step. This workflow should be similar for other video editors too.

The only weak point this proxy method has is that it doesn’t support the creation of proxy files for AVCHD, because the open source community doesn’t support AVCHD files well yet, so the utilities suggested below can’t deal with such files out of the box — in most cases. However, if you have CoreAVC Professional installed, or if your input files are Lagarith AVI files (e.g. after following my pulldown removal tutorials), you can check the “DirectShow decode” checkbox option in the SUPER utility to force it to use the Windows-wide codecs rather than the open source ones. Then, you can use this tutorial with AVCHD files as well! How cool is that?

1. Save your HD footage on a new folder, e.g. C:\Documents and Settings\YOUR_USERNAME\Desktop\HDVideo\Source\
Create a new folder called C:\Documents and Settings\YOUR_USERNAME\Desktop\HDVideo\Proxies\

2. Download and install SUPER (it’s a bit difficult to spot the actual download link on this guy’s messy web page, but look around — alternative download server here, download from the RO mirror, not the US one). Once loaded, right click on the SUPER window and select “Output File Saving Management” and instruct the application to set its exports to the C:\Documents and Settings\YOUR_USERNAME\Desktop\HDVideo\Proxies\ folder.

3. Modify SUPER to look exactly like this. The only things you might have to change is the frame rate (depending if you are on PAL or NTSC, or if you shot in 24p), and enabling de-interlacing or not depending if your source footage is interlaced or not. If you don’t know if your footage is interlaced or not, load it on Vegas’ “project media” window, select the clip, and read the status bar if it says “(none) progressive scan” or “lower/upper field first”. If it says “(none) progressive scan”, then you don’t need to de-interlace via SUPER. So, after you have it all setup, drag-n-drop your files onto SUPER, and press “encode”. Encoding in mpeg2 won’t take that long. [As I said above, *if* you are trying to decode a format that SUPER doesn’t support by itself (e.g. AVCHD, Lagarith), click the “DirectDraw Decode” option, and so if you happen to have a Windows-wide codec installed for that format, then SUPER will use the Windows sub-system to decode your files rather than its own.]

4. After the conversion is done, close down SUPER. Download and install the open source utility Rename-It. Load Rename-It, click its “Rename” menu option and select “Filename with Extension”. Click “Add filter” and “Search and replace”. In the “find what” input box type (without the quotes, but with the stop character) “.MPG”. In the “Replace with” input box, do not type anything (leave blank). Click “Ok”.

5. In the main Rename-It window, click “Add files”, navigate to the folder where your proxies are, and select all the .MPG files there (by click-n-dragging, or by using the SHIFT key so you can select multiple files). Now, you can see a “before” and “after” preview, e.g. “myvideo.m2t.mpg” now becomes “myvideo.m2t” (or similar, depending what your source footage’s extension is). Click “Rename Files”. When the renaming is done, close down Rename-It.

6. Open Vegas (Pro or Platinum). Load the proxy files through its “project media” tab. Open the File/”Project Properties” dialog and click its “Match Media” yellow icon. Through there, select a file from the C:\Documents and Settings\YOUR_USERNAME\Desktop\HDVideo\Source\ folder. Change the de-interlacing method to “interpolate”, and the quality to “best”. Now the project properties will reflect the properties of your original HD files. Click “ok”. Right Click on the preview window and make sure that: Simulate Device Aspect Ratio is ON, Scale Video to fit preview window is OFF, and the “Preview” quality in the preview toolbar is set on preview(“auto”). Then, edit your proxy files as usual. Save and exit Vegas.

7. Using Windows Explorer, rename your ~\Desktop\HDVideo\Proxies\ folder to ~\Desktop\HDVideo\Proxies-OLD\. Then, rename your ~\Desktop\HDVideo\Source\ folder as ~\Desktop\HDVideo\Proxies\. Open Vegas again using the edited project. It will take some time to re-read the HD versions of your footage, but the project will remain intact, and all the editing you did will be in place. Now, export in progressive mode, in high quality! That’s it!