Archive for September, 2008

The engineers

Jesus Diaz of Gizmodo wrote a silly article yesterday about no attention to detail on Android by the Google engineers. The silliness comes not from the facts (I don’t find Android/G1 sexy either), but for the blaming. You simply can’t blame the engineers for some marketing mistakes, or even for the overall UI. The engineers create whatever their specs say. You can only blame an engineer when you read the source code through and decide that the code design, or the algorithms used are bad. But you can’t blame all Android software engineers for the phone’s UI usability and graphics artists.

I often bitch about software too, but you will never see me bitch about engineers in the corporate environment. I usually simply name the company in general just because I don’t have real names in my hands. But I don’t go directly to bitch against their engineers. I do bitch about OSS developers, because these guys are working top-down: they are the marketing, bug testers, engineers, artists, web developers, project managers, etc etc of their app. They do all the work (badly, usually), and I can put a name behind their face. But in a corporate environment, there are different people who do the UI, who take the decisions, who do the marketing, who write the docs, and who code. While they work as a team, the decisions are not always taken together.

So if Gizmodo didn’t like the UI of Android or marketing capabilities of T-Mobile/Google, they should have tried to find out who really DESIGNED it and who APPROVED it. That’s journalism. And then give them hell. And I can give you one hint. It wasn’t the engineers who did so. Just don’t blame the wrong people.

Nice Vegas tips

Here’s a nice article with tips about Sony Vegas that you might not know yet. I followed its tip on how to create nice 3D text, and here’s the result below, after a bit of fiddling:

Vegas Tip: Re-timing your video

Special thanks to [too smart, too hawt] Sony engineer Dennis Adams for the tip!

This tip allows you to change the speed rate of your video at an exact percentage that makes it compatible with a target frame rate. For example, when you want to re-time a 24.00 video to 23.976 fps, or a 30.00 to 29.97 fps, or from 24p to 25p, etc. This method is how DVD makers export 24.00 fps film movies for PAL or IVTC 24p DVDs, for example. Also useful if your digicam doesn’t record in exact NTSC 29.97 (e.g. the Canon 5D, Kodak).

If you just drop a different-than-in-project-properties frame rate video in your timeline, your video will “resample” instead of “retime”, and that’s not what you want to do for media that they have similar but not exact frame rates. With this method there should be no ghosting introduced, and stretched audio will preserve its pitch. If you do see ghosting, “disable resample” for the media before step 10.

This trick should not be used with HDV PF24 or other pulldown-added formats. You need to first remove pulldown and have a “clean” progressive image before you do such frame rate transformations correctly.

1. In Project Properties set the ruler time format to “Absolute Frames”, and make sure that the ruler offset is 0.
2. Make sure that in the “Options” menu, “enable snapping” is ON and “Ignore Event Grouping” is OFF.
3. Set project frame rate to match the current media frame rate (e.g. 24p). You can use the “Match Media Settings” yellow button in the Video tab of the “Project Properties” dialog if it is not a common frame rate and you want to be exact (e.g. cheap digicams are never exact 29.97 or 30.00).
4. Place media at the very start of a video track (time 0).
5. Place cursor at the end of media. After Vegas 8, the cursor will snap at the end.
6. Hit Ctrl+G, Ctrl+C (Selection Start, Copy).
7. Set the project properties to the desired framerate (e.g. PAL 25.00)
8. Focus on the timeline again, make sure cursor is at the end of the media, and hit Ctrl+G, Ctrl+V (Selection Start, Paste).
9. Ctrl+drag right edge of media to new cursor position, snapping to it (like you are time-stretching it).
10. Now, export using a lossless codec (e.g. Cineform, Huffyuv) following your project properties as a guideline as to how exactly to export (e.g. for the Canon 5D 30.00->29.97 fps conversion, it would be 1920×1080, progressive, 29.97 fps, 1.000 aspect ratio).
11. Do the same (steps 1 to 10) for all your clips that need re-timing.
12. Import all the exported clips to a new project, and edit using project properties generated by the “match media” function for these new clips.

Once retimed, if you don’t want to transcode to an intermediate format in step 10, you are free to chop up and trim the clips and use them in your project as is. The step 4, about starting the clip at time 0, was to make the math easy, but clips can be moved later and will stay “retimed”. Just don’t time-stretch them even more (e.g. adding slow-mo) after using this method because they would lose their time frame sync (which is why I suggest you export to an intermediate codec first before really editing the retimed clips).

Hopefully, someone will step up to write a C# Vegas script for it, or even better, Sony adds proper support for it (by letting you edit the frame rate on the media’s properties dialog).

For DVX-100 users read here instead.

You are surrounded

L.A.P.D. That’s the name of a new TV comedy in Greece (L.A. here sarcastically means “lekanopedio Attikis” instead of Los Angeles, which is the name of the prefecture that Athens belongs to). This is just a trailer, but if it’s half as good as the trailer wants us to think, it might be the most well-done TV show that hits Greece since “Treis Harites” in the early ’90s. Given that I hate the Greek TV, it says much about this effort.

Some funny lines for those who don’t speak Greek:

[On 2′:07″ three cops pull guns at each other.]
Cop: “I am going to kill you!”
[A woman walks in, everyone starts looking innocently, while two of them hide their guns]
Cop [with his gun still visible]: “I am thinking of getting another gun, maybe one in silver color, what do you think?”

Mother: “…This reminds me of your late father”.
Son: “Mom, dad is still alive…”.

Cop (learning english): “you… are… sur… suruded… surrounded…”
Other cop: “Yes, dolby surrounded!”

Cheesy, sure, but better than what was there before in the Greek TV.

Update: Another series, drama this time, that seems to also be pretty rad. I am happy to see the MEGA Channel give money to filmmakers who can create new and interesting kinds of shows, rather than the shit Greeks have been watching for over 20 years now.

One of the ways to realize that this is a real push for something different in the Greek TV, is not just the plots/scripts of these new series, but the fact that all the actors are pretty much unknowns. This is obviously a grass root effort to REBOOT the Greek TV shows and gain back the youth audience (no under-30 person in his/her right mind watches the current shitty shows on TV). And the fact that both these series end up on the same network, Mega Channel, it means that someone at Mega has his fucking head still screwed on, and he has some decision power.

This is good, people.

Vegas workflow with the 5D-MarkII

Update April 2009: Cineform NeoSCENE+CoreAVCPro (when adjusting CoreAVC’s settings as per Cineform site’s tutorial) does the right thing now for just $150.

I got my hands on two Canon 5D-MII video files to try them on my new shiny PC (quad 2.4Ghz). Well, this shiny PC plays back the files in the astonishing 3 fps through Sony Vegas (and 15 fps in Quicktime). It’s of course impossible to edit at 3 fps. Here are the two solutions I found so far.

A. Use proxy files, as discussed here.

The only thing you need to do in addition before you follow the tutorial above, IF you want to export in NTSC 29.97, is to retime the video clip (5D shoots in 30.00 fps you see). Simply dropping a 30 fps video in the timeline and exporting as 29.97 asks for trouble (lost frames or ghosting will be the result if you don’t properly retime it).

B. Buy Cineform NeoHD ($600).

Unfortunately, Cineform’s HDLink utility does not support the MOV format of the 5D so far, while when rewrapping the MOV to MP4 (so CoreAVC/Haali’s h.264 codec can support it and feed it to Cineform), Cineform crashes (at least on my new PC). This means that to get this MOV h.264 format to Cineform’s AVI format, you need to do it via Vegas instead. Because as I said above Vegas is not fast to decode these MOV files, it will take an unusual longer time to export them. But at least it will work.

So, create a new project on Vegas. Use the “project properties” dialog’s icon called “Match Media” to match the properties of such a MOV file, but then manually change the frame rate to 29.97, change the quality to “best” and the de-interlacing to “none” or “interpolate”. Place only one of the MOV files in the Vegas timeline, right click its video event, select “properties”, and then “disable resample”.

Then, select “File”, “Render As”. Select the AVI filetype, and then press “custom”. In the Video tab select, 1920×1080 resolution, 29.97 fps, Progressive field order, 1.000 aspect ratio, and Cineform as the video format. Click “configure” and on Cineform’s 4.x version dialog, select “high” encoding quality and “up convert…”. Do not use “Higher” quality because I found this to actually have lesser quality than plain “High”! So, select “ok” a couple of times, and then “save” to render out the .avi file.

Do the same for the rest of your MOV clips. They have to be exported out one by one (until Cineform’s HDLink utility adds support for these files directly where you can export in batches). When you are finished, import the .avi files on a new project (where you “match media” in the project properties dialog, and use “best” quality again).

On the preview window, right click, and select “simulate…”, but uncheck “scale video…”. If you don’t use a second monitor, select “preview(auto)” for your preview quality. If you do use a second display as a preview monitor, select “preview (half)”, as at least on my machine, that’s the only setup that provides full 30p playback without stutter (before adding plugins/transitions that is) for Cineform files. Apparently, “preview(half)” is a bit faster than the “draft(full)” quality, without missing out in the quality. However, always use “preview (full)” or “preview(auto)” if you use the proxy file method instead of the Cineform method. Then edit, and finally export to your liking.

There are pros and cons between the two methods. Here are some:
– The first method is free, the second one costs $600 (or $400 for HV20/30 users).
– The first method is faster to encode to.
– The first method creates much smaller files.
– The first method creates much faster files to edit.
– The second method creates high quality video that helps you to make educated guesses while editing as to if a scene is worthwhile to keep or not.
– The second method can somewhat handle color grading before exporting, while on the first method, because the color grading must be done after switching back to the high-res MOV files, it will make previewing impossibly slow.
– The second method is generally faster during the final export because the Cineform decoder is faster (and so it feeds the encoder faster).
– The second method is a better intermediate format solution, especially if you are collaborating with others for your video projects.
– The SUPER utility used in the first method only works in Windows administrative mode. If your Windows account is a plain user one, you are out of luck.

This guide is relevant for AVCHD too, provided that:
a. SUPER’s AVCHD support is better than it used to be a month ago, which sucked.
b. Cineform’s HDLink utility requires paid solutions to read AVCHD.

24p: again

You know that I am not really a proponent of 24p. However, I DO like the choice of shooting in 24p when the situation warrants it (and that’s not for casual situations of course). The lack of NTSC and IVTC Film frame rates in the Canon 5D-MII is the reason we are currently not going for it. I am holding off my husband from getting one because of this (if we replace his existing 5D, it would be for the usage of both of us). And he blogged about it.

So what do you think? Is asking for 24p too much? Is it even needed? Leave a comment on his blog with your thoughts.

AVCHD editing speed, Part II

A few months ago I wrote about how slow AVCHD is to edit. Some people emailed me and said that on their computers it’s smooth. So now that I have a brand new machine, a plenty modern quadcore 2.4 Ghz with 6 GB of RAM (a pretty fast PC for today’s standards, don’t start telling me that it’s not), I retried AVCHD. Here’s what I found (Vegas Pro, preview “auto” mode):

1. 1440×1080/60i clips barely run full speed on Vegas. If you start editing and add more clips in the timeline, expect to barely make it through full speed (and that’s without plugins, transitions).
2. 1920×1080/60i clips average a 22 fps playback, which make it impossible to edit real time clips from the newer AVCHD cameras.

Now, there’s always the possibility of buying quad 3Ghz machines, but these are machines that cost $2500 onwards, and are something that normal people don’t buy — although the same people do buy AVCHD camcorders for $800.

So I am a bit perplexed if I should buy an AVCHD or other AVC camera, or just stay with the HV20 for the time being. The other option is to re-encode all AVCHD clips in Cineform NeoHD 1080/30p, as these playback plenty fast, almost as fast as HDV does.

New PC

The new PC is here, it’s fast and all. I have registration problems with 2-3 applications moving them over from one PC to another though. I can’t wait to do some more rendering comparison tests with it when things get better.

Comcast’s 250 GB limit SUCKS

This 250 GB limit per month on Comcast is going to kill me. I downloaded a bandwidth monitor utility earlier, and I have consumed already 600 MBs of data — just by browsing (ok, and a bit of Vimeo in SD mode).

This means that we (I) consume at home an average of about 10 GBs of data daily. WITHOUT any pirating. Not only that, but I am using the NoScript Firefox addon that doesn’t allow ads/scripts/data to be loaded from external sites. If I didn’t have that we would be looking at around 13-15 GBs of data daily!

At the current rate, at 30 days a month, that’s about 300 GBs. I am off by 50 GBs of data every month! I experimented earlier with turning off images on the web, but it makes usage of most CSS pages impossible. I am fucked. I really need to be less in front of the computer, or upgrade our plan.

Eugenia loves sheep

Shot with an HV20 by “Subtracting”. HD version here. Baaah…