Archive for September 10th, 2008

No intermediate codec, no sex for you

To me, a video editor that doesn’t come with a multi-platform, fast, and lossless intermediate codec, is not serious. I am writing this because Vegas Platinum 9 doesn’t offer Cineform anymore and I feel like bitching about it. This all means that older Vegas users who had export in Cineform AVI can’t read back their files unless they re-install their old Vegas versions and re-export these projects in another format. You see, the freeware Cineform codec at Cineform’s site that lets non-Cineform-aware apps to read Cineform files, is not 100% compatible anymore with the old version that Sony had licensed and used in its software.

Sony possibly stopped including Cineform because of the license fees, but also because of the reason stated above: the licensed version was an old somewhat-incompatible version and so they wanted to get out of the mess before it was too late. I can understand and respect that.

What I can’t respect though is the fact that Sony doesn’t have a replacement intermediate codec to offer its users instead. Sony seems to think that HDV M2T or AVCHD are good enough for most people to use as an intermediate codec, which is the lamest excuse I heard in a while. M2T, a 25mbps format, produces major artifacts. Since I got this full HD PC monitor I am able to see my HV20’s HDV artifacts clearly. They are very visible without trying hard. To me, M2T is nowhere near as good as an intermediate solution; you would need to put a gun in my head to force me to export to this format. Besides, the “no-recompression” feature on Platinum 9 only applies if your source footage is HDV/AVCHD in the first place, and if you didn’t use plugins/transitions/pan/crop (which most people do).

Then of course, someone could say “use a freeware lossless codec, or buy Cineform”. Well, here’s the problem. Aside from Cineform’s $300+ price, the freeware Huffyuv and Lagarith are nowhere near as good as Cineform. They create 3x-5x bigger files than Cineform, and are very slow to edit. They are lossless alright, but besides that, they are useless for actual editing work (yeah, right, like I am going to create proxies for everything now).

My point is, that Sony did this wrong from the very beginning (back in 2004, or whenever it was when they first licensed Cineform). They were either shortsighted or short-pocketed for not keep licensing newer versions. If buying the actual Cineform company or licensing newer versions was too expensive, then buying off Lagarith would have been the clever thing to do. The [poor] student who wrote Lagarith would have been more than happy to sell all rights to them and let them bypass the GPLv2 license that might not play well with Sony’s lawyers. And if Lagarith would not scale or its architecture sucks beyond repair, well then, employ 2 new engineers and sit their ass down to write a good lossless codec for you.

And because the whole point of intermediate codecs in interoperability with other apps, you make that codec free, open source, and able to run under any Windows app & Mac Quicktime app. Instead, Sony piggybacks the cost of the intermediate codec to the user instead. In other words, there is no way for any serious videographer or filmmaker today not to buy the closed source & proprietary Cineform. And so that $300+ price is naturally added to the cost of Vegas. So saying that Vegas costs $500, is a fallacy. It costs $800+. It’s like buying a car without the seats.

Editorial on sci-fi shows

A good editorial by SyFy Portal’s Wayne Hall about the future of sci-fi on TV (and apparently movies, as this year there was not a single one space-oriented major movie). Some excerpts:

“…the future of science-fiction on television is “Eureka,” not “Battlestar Galactica.” As costs to produce expensive shows like BSG continue to escalate, we’ll see more and more Earth-based shows like “Eureka,” […] ” The question is, is it science-fiction?” […] “But if every episode worries about how they are going to pay their bills and survive action-oriented plots, is that any different from a cop or mystery show?”

Worth a read.