Archive for October 14th, 2010

Premiere Elements 9 now supports 24p

The new Premiere Elements 9 has quite a few new features, features that you can read about at Adobe’s own page. What I would like to talk about instead, is about its brand new 24p support, a feature that mysteriously was not mentioned anywhere in their marketing material, or other reviews — even if it’s a major feature for people who are even a tiny bit serious about video!

So, as you can see in the screenshot below, there is now AVCHD and dSLR 24p project presets. There is 1080/24p & 720/24p for dSLRs, and 720/24p for AVCHD. Unfortunately, and I hope Adobe fixes this with a free update, a 1080/24p template for AVCHD is missing. Also missing is HDV 720/24p. If you have an HD digicam instead (e.g. a Canon one), you must use the app’s… “Flip” presets.

Running files on their non-native frame rate or resolution, reduces performance (it’s only normal, this behavior applies to any video editor). This is why the way to go around the multiple choices project settings problem, is to let users pick their own project properties (res, fps, aspect ratio, field order, etc), like Sony Vegas Platinum allows you to (Elements’ main competitor).

Premiere Elements 9 now has a brand new Mac support! This is the ONLY Mac video editor that supports 24p but doesn’t cost thousands of dollars (costs just $80-$90 instead). You see, both iMovie, and the $200 Final Cut Express, don’t support 24p timelines!

Regarding h.264 performance, there’s a huge improvement! Even on my old P4 at 3 Ghz, without any hardware acceleration, 720/30p digicam h.264 files were real time! Vegas Platinum 10 was slower than Elements 9 on the same files! On 1080/24p, where both editors had trouble, Elements had an easier time! I expect 1080p to be real time on a faster machine than this old P4 computer. AVCHD performance was pretty good too, and again, I expect a real time preview on a more recent PC.

Where the application loses points in terms of performance is in its user interface. The app itself is slow. Slow to load, slow to carry through actions, and there’s a lot of “order prints”, “sign up here and there”, and other such useless garbage all over the interface. It feels like an Adobe ad, more than an app. The UI is simply overloaded, and confusing.

Regarding color grading, the Channel Mixer plugin is the most interesting tool in the app, but a 3-way color wheel would have been as useful too if it existed.

One other problem I encountered is with the logic of the app. For example, if you have a 1080/24p dSLR project and such files loaded, and then you load a 1440x1080x1.333 Cineform file, your Cineform file will load up as 4:3. Premiere only recognizes it as having aspect ratio 1.000 instead of 1.333, and there’s no way to tell the app that the file is widescreen. Vegas provides ways to do that.

There are also a few bugs. The timeline cursor doesn’t always move when you preview, the “Organize Media” doesn’t always show you the file you’re trying to load, etc. Oh, the app also crashes:

I believe that the app is in urgent need of a software update, but here’s hope. Since there’s now 24p support, and good h.264 performance, things are looking brighter. It just needs some polishing.

Shutter speed control on video digicams

If you ever wondered why small digicams/digirecorders/cellphones don’t have shutter speed controls for video (they usually shoot in high shutter speeds outdoors), here’s an IM conversation I had with JBQ this morning on the subject. Basically, these small sensor cams have to go super-high shutter speed to compensate for their design shortcomings. Adding just shutter speed control on a cam that can’t physically go down to 1/48th or 1/60th under “random point & shoot sunny outdoors conditions”, makes no market sense (if anything, it would be a support nightmare). The chat:

Eugenia: Could you explain quickly why small digicams can’t have shutter speed controls for video that can go all the way down to 1/48th outdoors?
Jean-Baptiste Queru: They have very fast lenses (large relative apertures, i.e. small f-numbers), they need that because of their small sensors. fast lenses -> fast shutter speeds.
Jean-Baptiste Queru: Chances are, they can’t close more than about f/8.
Eugenia: ic
Jean-Baptiste Queru: f/8 is called Av 6 (Av is “aperture value”, f/1 is Av 0, f/1.4 is Av1, f/2 is Av 2, f/2.8 is Av 3, etc…)
Jean-Baptiste Queru: For shutter speeds, there’s the Tv scale (“time value”): 1s is Tv 0, 1/2s is Tv 1, 1/4s is Tv 2… 1/250s (technically 1/256s) is Tv 8. 1/48s is about Tv 5.5.
Jean-Baptiste Queru: In bright sunlight at ISO 100 without ND filters, Av + Tv needs to be about 14.6 for a proper exposure.
Jean-Baptiste Queru: So, if a camera can’t stop down further than f/8, it can’t go beyond Av 6, so it needs at least Tv 8.6 to expose properly, and that’s 1/400s.
Eugenia: So for the Canon S95 lens, how low the shutter speed can go outdoors, on ISO 100?
Jean-Baptiste Queru: well, if depends on how much it can stop down. If it can stop down to f/8, the lowest it’ll be able to get is 1/400s.
Eugenia: the S95 specs are 6.0 (W)-22.5mm (T) f/2.0-4.9 (35mm equivalent: 28-105mm)
Jean-Baptiste Queru: Yes, but that doesn’t tell how much they can stop down.
Jean-Baptiste Queru: (it tells how much it can open up, i.e. the other end of the Av range).
Jean-Baptiste Queru: I assume it’s f/8 because that’s common for such digicams.
Eugenia: ic
Jean-Baptiste Queru: At f/8 you’d already be losing a huge lot of sharpness because of diffraction.
Jean-Baptiste Queru: (and you’d have a huge depth of field)
Jean-Baptiste Queru: So, if you wanted 1/50s f/2.8, that’d be Tv 5.6, Av 3. The sum is called Ev (exposure value), and it’s 8.6. Since the light is Lv 14.6, you’d need to cut 6 units (6 stops, D=1.8, 64x).
Eugenia: And that’s almost impossible on these cams…
Eugenia: why the STILL image mode, in manual control, lets me go to 15″ shutter speed, outdoors, looking at the sun, on ISO 100?
Eugenia: of course it’s completely over exposed, even at f/8
Eugenia: or are we talking about values where the image is not over exposed?
Jean-Baptiste Queru: In manual control, you can set anything you want, but you could end up overexposed or underexposed, and you have to figure out with other means which values will produce a proper exposure.

Jean-Baptiste Queru: BTW, another way to think about it is that small sensor cams can’t deal with as much light, so they need to use higher shutter speeds to reduce the amount of light that comes in.
Jean-Baptiste Queru: The sensor in a Canon 5D MarkII dSLR is 64 times larger than in a 1/3.2″ sensor camera, so it can take up 64 times as much light when setting up a similar shot (that means that the shutter can stay open 64 times longer).

Conclusion: That’s why you should try buying a filter tube for your digicam, and then buy a few ND filters at various strengths. ND filters will act as sunglasses, and will force shutter speeds to go down, by opening up the aperture.

Even with a dSLR, you’d have to stop down a lot to get to 1/50s (at ISO 100 you’d need f/22, and that’s too much). A 3-stop ND would be a good idea in such conditions. The good news is that a 3-stop ND filter in SLR filter sizes is super-common. A 6-stop ND in P&S digicam filter size isn’t (so you’d need step-up rings too).