Archive for August, 2009

The Outpost

“The Outpost” is the second script I’ve written for the purpose of a short movie. I had the idea about it a few days ago. Right-click to download from here, I think you would enjoy the twist at the end (a’la “Lost”). Unfortunately, I won’t be shooting it (mostly because I live in a highly populated area), so I am giving it away under the liberal Creative Commons “BY” 3.0 license. Exactly because it’s so short and easy to shoot, some new filmmakers might want to take on its challenge for practicing reasons. If you do, don’t forget to story-board it btw, in order to plan each shot and get a better result. The only “difficult” shot in the whole script is the last shot, which can easily be done if you treat the sky as a green screen (which means that the heroes should not wear blue color clothes). Enjoy!

Keeping a perspective

I can’t understand some people. They just make no sense whatsoever to me.

Case in point, two forum threads over at HV20.com. One thread about the “Condition:Human” web series, and one about the “Manifest Destiny” short movie.

These are two examples of some of the most complex and involved HV20/30-related projects ever shot. There is a lot of work put into these shorts, much more than the usual wanna-be who gets a camera and shoots a “short movie” of complete and utter bullshit, handheld no less. In the case of Condition:Human there was a lot of preparation going on, changing the director’s living room into a green screen, shooting a various locations, and on top of that, implementing complex CGI too. And in the case of Manifect Destiny the sound was superb, the props were superb, the editing more so. Heck, even the sci-fi news site IO9.com wrote an article about the short! And the readers there, loved it! It’s only some HV20.com “I am a better filmmaker than you are” readers who “didn’t like it”.

Some of the HV20.com residents found it “cheesiest, dumbest short”, or said “color me unimpressed”. What the hell? These shorts are more involved and complex AND well-done than your average travel video posted on that forum. How do these people actually compare the god-damn thing? Comparing it to the latest Oscar-winning movie, or to the rest of the amateur filmmaking community? Because, if they are comparing it against the latest Spielberg flick, they should obviously shit on top of 99% of the HV20.com videos too, and not just nitpick the most evolved ones.

Are these films perfect? No, definitely not. But they are BETTER than the rest in that HV20/30 community. Everything is relative in this world, and these guys simply can’t keep perspective. Instead of being HAPPY that someone was able to pull off such a complex project with a $500 camera and no budget to speak of, they nitpick it to death. The better the project actually is, the MORE nitpicking they do! I would agree with the nitpicking only if the filmmakers were boasting that their movie is better than Hollywood’s. But they aren’t. And no, this is not a case of personal likes and dislikes. This is a case of being objective about something. Heck, I can nitpick Condition:Human’s sound problems all day long for example, but I also recognize that the project overall is way too impressive to ignore.

My JBQ also notes: “When stuff is shot with better equipment, jealous people will just say ‘well of course it’s better, they have better equipment’. But when it’s shot with the same equipment, they have to nitpick because they can’t admit that the result is better than what they get with the same equipment. Ken Rockwell said it best about ‘Equipment Measurbators'”.

This is no different than having a genius kid in the first grade class, able to solve the most complex math than any of the other kids, and then having that kid sitting on the chair next to him, who’s terrible with math no less, saying “eh, you’re no Einstein. Not impressed“.

Well, go fuck yourself. Bully. Motherfucking jealous bully.

A discussion with my husband

JBQ: I am sorry I woke you up this morning, I just wanted to kiss you and tell you that I love you before I leave for work.
Eugenia: Oh, I don’t remember waking up, just very faintly… What did I do?
JBQ: You kissed back, and you told me that you love me too.
Eugenia: Hmm… I didn’t call you Eric or anything, did I?
JBQ: No…
Eugenia: Good.
JBQ:

The Unfortunate

A great short film by Paul F. Disdier, shot with an HV20. HD version here.

The 3 ways of converting 30p to 24p

There are 3 ways to convert 60i/30p to 24p. Each one has its ups and downs. None is really ideal for all cases, so if you really need real 24p, get a real 24p camera. In detail:

1. Resampling (or motion estimation)
This is the default Sony Vegas mode when your project properties has a specific source frame rate and you export in another, or when you slow-down footage. There is a huge amount of ghosting introduced when resampling is ON. I personally always make sure that all the clips in my timeline are set to “disable resample” before I export. I suggest you do too. Vegas’ resampling is one ugly algorithm, avoid. Ghosting:

2. Drop frames
This method will drop 6 frames per second in order to convert from 30 to 24 fps. On Sony Vegas you do that with the “disable resample” option mentioned above. Other editors, use this method by default (it’s the simplest to implement). The problem of this method is that the video it produces is jerky. You see, the camera didn’t record 24 frames at 24 even times a second, but 30, and so there will be “gaps” in the motion of the video. These gaps will show up as jerky video. The good news is that many viewers never notice, the bad news is that this will still not visually feel like real 24p.

3. 25% slow down
This is my preferred method. Basically, by slowing down the playback rate by 0.800, we essentially emulate the 24p capturing process perfectly. There is no jerkiness, everything gets a smooth, dreamy look, which is very cinematic. And no, the vast majority of the viewers will never realize that the footage was slow-motion’ed! It is the perfect way to shoot music videos (using this trick), artistic/abstract pieces, and anything else that doesn’t require synchronized speech. See, this method has a drawback: you can’t resample audio with the same effectiveness as you do for video, it will sound real slow and bad (even after correcting the pitch). So basically, this method is out from the moment you want to use the audio captured along the video. You can only add music/narration during post processing, but no sync’ed speech. This method takes out the ability of shooting short movies where people have to talk on camera, but it’s good for everything else.

Showing all 3 methods visually:

My model is Emily Palen, from the band Dolorata

Here are the playback rates you need to use for the 3rd method:
60i (via interpolated de-interlacing), or 29.97 fps to 23.976 fps: 0.800
60i (via interpolated de-interlacing), or 29.97 fps to 24.00 fps: 0.801
30.00 fps to 23.976 fps: 0.799
30.00 fps to 24.00 fps: 0.800
Of course, always disable resample just before you export, on all your clips in the timeline.

Shooting a wedding

I am shooting a wedding for a friend this weekend, and along enough tapes, a second battery, and two additional HD digicams (Panasonic FX150 and Canon SX200 IS) sitting on tripods, the following Canon HV20 camcorder will be the main rig that I will be using.

JBQ will be shooting still pictures with his Canon 5D, and he will be taking care one of the two digicams (video recording must be restarted every 15 minutes, because of FAT32 limitations). I just need to find a second person at the wedding (possibly a kid) to take care of the second digicam.

Color grading of the week, Part 9

The film look is traditionally low-contrast, and low-saturation.
Before:

Picture by Raveesh Vyas, licensed under the Creative Commons “Attribution Share-Alike” 2.0 license.
After:

Before:

Picture by Matt Lemmon, licensed under the Creative Commons “Attribution Share-Alike” 2.0 license.
After:

Footage stabilization with Vegas

There is currently no stabilization plugin for Vegas Platinum since the only third party plugin that used to be available from BorisFX was discontinued a few weeks ago, while Deshaker/Mercalli only work with the Pro version of Vegas. So I decided to write this little Deshaker/VirtualDub tutorial to show you how to stabilize your footage, especially if you are running Vegas Platinum.

Update: Below, I’m suggesting the Lagarith codec, but you can try instead the new Matrox MPEG-2 AVI intermediate codec.

Vegas Pro

For Vegas Pro you simply have to install “New Deshaker” script. Install the New Deshaker .msi or .zip file (choose one of the two, files are to be installed on the Vegas Pro’s “Scripts” folder if you choose the .zip file), and the VirtualDub package also from the same page.

Then, install the 32bit version of the Lagarith codec from here. If you are running a 64bit version of Vegas, install both the 32bit and the 64bit version of Lagarith, otherwise, just the 32bit version (regardless if your Windows is 32bit or 64bit).

Load Vegas, load the file you want to stabilize, setup the right project properties (this is important, follow step 1 from this tutorial). Place the file in the timeline. Click “Render As” from the main menu, select the AVI filetype, and then click “custom” to make everything look similar to this (depends on what footage you used. Also, ignore the project properties step, since we did that above). Then, give a new name to that tweaked template, e.g. “Lagarith”, and then click the save icon in that “Custom Template” dialog. From now on, you can reuse that template directly.

Discard the “Render As” screens, save the whole Vegas project and give it a name. Now select the clip in the timeline, and select the New Deshaker option from Tools/Scripting. In the new window that’s loading, make sure the paths to VirtualDub/Deshaker are correct (for 64bit operating systems you might need to tweak them), set a “render to” path (e.g. c:\videos\myVegasProject\temp\), and select the “Lagarith” template we just created above in the “Outbound Template”. Then, in the “VirtualDub Compressor” option, delete the “0” there, and type: “lags” (without quotes). Then, “Save settings” in the bottom of the New Deshaker window, and then select “Start”.

The script will now start stabilizing your video, it might take 3 to 8 minutes to stabilize just 10 seconds of footage depending on the speed of your CPU, so use this ability wisely. After it’s all done, the new stabilized video will be inserted as a new “Take” on top of the existing clip in the timeline. By pressing the “T” key on the keyboard, while the clip is selected in the timeline, is going to interchange the take between the original file and the stabilized one.

Please note that the new stabilized take, which uses the Lagarith codec, will be slow to edit, this is to be expected. Unfortunately, there is no freeware AVI intermediate lossless codec that’s fast to decode, so Lagarith is your best option. The filesize is going to be big as well (~2 GBs per minute), as it’s true for any intermediate lossless codec.

Also, if you find that a Vegas Pro process still running on your Windows after you have closed down Vegas, then you must kill that process using the Windows task manager (New Deshaker doesn’t always clean up after itself).

Finally, in the New Deshaker dialog, you can create a new template instead of the “Default” one, to optimize the stabilization even more. For example, in the “Pass 1” tab you can change “Half” to “Full”, and “Every 4th” to “All”. Doing these changes will add more stabilization into the video, but it will also make the calculation process 4-5 times slower (and don’t forget that it’s already slow).

Vegas Platinum

Install this. Then, install the 32bit version of the Lagarith codec from here.

Load Vegas, load the file you want to stabilize, setup the right project properties (this is important, follow step 1 from this tutorial). Place the file in the timeline. Click “Render As” from the main menu, select the AVI filetype, and then click “custom” to make everything look similar to this (depends on what footage you used. Also, ignore the project properties step, since we did that above). Then, give a new name to that tweaked template, e.g. “Lagarith”, and then click the save icon in that “Custom Template” dialog. From now on, you can reuse that template directly. Now, from the main “Render As” dialog, render out the file.

Load the VirtualDub.exe application from its “Program Files” folder (navigate there with Windows Explorer). Select “File”, and “Open Video File”. Load in it the .avi file you just rendered above. *If* your VirtualDub is freezing while loading any AVI file and it shows just black screens, then you need to go to its Preferences panel and select OpenGL for output, and VSync (at least, this fixed the issue for me). Anyways, when the AVI file is loaded on VirtualDub, click on “Video” from the main menu, then “Compression”, and from the long list that pops up, find the “Lagarith lossless codec” and select it. Click “Ok” to that dialog.

Then, from “Video” again, select “Filters”. Click “Add”, scroll and select “Deshaker 2.4”, then click “ok”. Select the “Deshaker” entry in the Filters dialog and click “Configure”. Set the “Source Pixel Aspect” the same way as it’s on your Vegas’ project properties (e.g. for HDV it’s 1.333, for most AVCHD it’s 1.0). For “Video Type” select “Interlaced, upper field first”, provided your video is HD and was shot interlaced (if unsure, then again consult Vegas’ Project Properties as you are supposed to have the right properties). Finally, click on the big “Pass 1” button. Then, click “ok” and “ok” again.

Now, click the “play” button on the VirtualDub icon bar on the bottom of its window. Make sure you click the play button that has the little “o” in it, not the one with the “i”. It will now apply the Pass 1 of Deshaker, have patience.

When it’s done, select again Video/Filters, and select the Deshaker plugin, and then click “Configure” again. Then, select the “Pass 2” big button. Click “ok” twice again. Now, click on “File”, and “Save as AVI”, give it a filename. It will now export the stabilized video in the Lagarith AVI format.

The new stabilized file is now ready to be edited on Vegas in your main project, so bring it in! *If* Vegas recognizes the stabilized file as 4:3 instead of widescreen, then while it is still in the “media bin” holding area of Vegas, right click on it, “Properties”, and from the “Video” tab set its aspect ratio to 1.3333 instead of 1.000. You can even tell Vegas to remember that setup for that specific video format, by clicking the little “save” icon in that dialog.

Please note that the new stabilized version, which uses the Lagarith codec, will be slow to edit, this is to be expected. Unfortunately, there is no freeware AVI intermediate lossless codec that’s fast to decode, so Lagarith is your best option. The filesize is going to be big as well (~2 GBs per minute), as it’s true for any intermediate lossless codec.

Finally, in the Deshaker configuration dialog inside VirtualDub, you can optimize the stabilization even more. For example, in the “Pass 1” tab you can change “Half” to “Full”, and “Every 4th” to “All”. Doing these changes will add more stabilization into the video, but it will also make the calculation process 4-5 times slower (don’t forget that it’s already slow).