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Basic video editing with FFmpeg on Linux

Here’s a small guide editing your DV/HDV clips with ffmpeg under Ubuntu Linux. All cutting, processing, and exporting is done via the command line (oh, the joy!). Sure, this method doesn’t have niceties like fades, titles, effects etc, but it works for basic editing. Please note that not all AVCHD formats from all such cameras are supported.

First, you need to install the right version of FFmpeg, that supports all codecs (the default Ubuntu version doesn’t, for legal reasons). Follow the “B” solution from this tutorial to install the full version of ffmpeg on the latest versions of Ubuntu.

Now, find the DV/HDV or AVCHD video files you want to trim, or slice & cut. Watch a video file on a video player (e.g. VLC or Totem), and on a text editor (e.g. gEdit) type the minutes/seconds you want to cut. For example, you can type:
video1.m2t
– section 1: keep from 00:00:01 to 00:00:15
– section 2: keep from 00:02:37 to 00:03:54
video2.m2t
– blah-blah…
– blah-blah…

Then, load your glorious terminal, navigate to your videos’ folder, and type:
ffmpeg -ss 00:00:01 -t 00:00:15 -i "video1.m2t" -acodec copy -vcodec copy "edited-video1.m2t"
This means that ffmpeg will only save to a new file the video from the first second up to the 15th second. Adjust the numbers according to your needs. The transcoding will be completely lossless and done in mere seconds. Do the same for all your other sections/files. The original files won’t be destroyed btw, so you can re-cut them if needed.

After you have done this for all your files, you can put together the various edited files in a single file!
cat edited-video1.m2t edited-video2.m2t edited-video3.m2t > chapter1.m2t
Warning: The files must be of the exact same type! You can’t mix and mash different formats!

Now, you might want to burn a DVD! Here’s how to create a widescreen PAL DVD:
ffmpeg -i "chapter1.m2t" -aspect 16:9 -target pal-dvd "chapter1.mpg"
Use “ntsc-dvd” for NTSC videos instead of “pal-dvd” above. Also, you can have many different “chapter” files, that can act as different chapters to your DVD. You can use an app like DeVeDe to put together the various edited chapters/videos, and burn your DVD.

And here’s how to export for YouTube/Vimeo/PS3/XBoX360 in 720p HD h.264/AAC .MP4. First, let’s put all the chapters in a single video (if you have gone that chapters route):
cat chapter1.m2t chapter2.m2t chapter3.m2t > myvideo.m2t
And then, do the final export:
ffmpeg -deinterlace -i "myvideo.m2t" -threads 2 -f mp4 -vcodec libx264 -level 41 -refs 2 -loop 1 -deblockalpha 0 -deblockbeta 0 -parti4x4 1 -partp8x8 1 -partb8x8 1 -coder 1 -subq 6 -brdo 1 -me_range 21 -s 1280x720 -r 30000/1001 -b 5120k -bt 8192k -bufsize 15000k -maxrate 16000k -g 300 -acodec libfaac -ac 2 -ab 128k "myvideo.mp4"
Use “-r 25″ instead of “-r 30000/1001″ if you are on a PAL instead of an NTSC region.

And one last tip, for those who want the ultra-widescreen cinematic look. Add the code below to your (final) exporting code of ffmpeg, and adjust the numbers accordingly to your taste and create horizontal letterboxing:
-padtop 44 -padbottom 44 -padcolor 000000

Then, sit back, and enjoy the video on your TV. Oh, did I mention before that my TV runs on Linux?

On Twitter

I’ve been against Twitter since the beginning. I still don’t get it really. I find blogs and IMs a much better way to communicate. I think it’s a fashion that will just pass eventually, just like MySpace, or Orkut, or whatever. I’ve been vocal against it too. But Twitter found a loophole to draw me over.

jbqueru: Yeah, I’m crazy :) http://twitter.com/jbqueru
Eugenia: why? :o
Eugenia: I want a divorce
jbqueru: :*
***jbqueru tweets about that… or not :D
Eugenia: now I HAVE to make an account to follow you, otherwise I won’t be seen as a supportive wife
jbqueru: You can just RSS me in your favorite reader
Eugenia: I don’t use RSS

So if you want to follow my shorter rants, follow me here: http://twitter.com/EugeniaLoli

Proxy Editing with Sony Vegas, Part II

A year and a half ago I wrote a tutorial about proxy editing with Vegas. There is now an automated visual solution, written by a French developer (update: ask *him* for support btw, for some reason people think that I wrote that script), that is much easier to work with. However, it requires Vegas Pro 8+. The Movie Studio versions of Vegas won’t work with it, as they don’t have scripting support, so if you are using Movie Studio, you will still have to use my own tutorial as a solution.

So, download Proxy Stream from here, unzip it, and copy the files on your Vegas’ Script Menu folder (on my PC it’s here: C:\Program Files\Sony\Vegas Pro 8.0\Script Menu\ ). Then start Vegas Pro, load the script from the Tools->Scripting->ProxyStream and tell it what kind of filetype you want to create proxy files for, and which files in which folder on your hard drive.

Then, select the format to convert to. I suggest you go with MainConcept mpeg2, but click “custom” to customize it, don’t use any of the templates offered there. So, click “custom”, and in the new dialog select “good” quality (no need for “best” that slows down encoding at this point), 640×360 resolution with square pixels, the right frame rate (NTSC or PAL or 24p), progressive field order, and no more than 640,000 bps constant video bitrate. Use 64 kbps for audio encoding. Then click “ok” to that dialog, and then “Convert” on the Proxy Stream dialog. It will take a bit of time to create the mpeg2 files, be patient.

When the conversion is done, set the project properties to the mpeg2 proxy files’ properties. Select “best” quality and “interpolation” for deinterlacing on that project properties dialog. Do your editing, save often. When all is done, load again the Proxy Stream script, select the “switch” tab, select “source files”, and then “switch”. Now all the mpg clips in the timeline have been automatically switched to the source files! Then, change the project properties again to reflect the source files’ properties (just use the “match media” icon in that dialog to set the right project properties). Then, export your high quality video using these source files.

If all that don’t work with a newer Vegas Pro version, use my manual proxy method, linked above.

Color grading of the week, Part 5

Patrick Sheffield has developed some very interesting FCP color plugins over the years, but his “Three strip technicolor” and “Luma Toy” plugins are of interest to me, having bumping to these looks often enough in hip-hop music videos. I tried to reproduce the looks with Sony Vegas, and it was tricky, although I got close. Here are some before and after pics. The process involved the Sony “Channel Blend” & “Color Corrector” plugins, the freeware “AavColorLab” plugin (caution, it’s buggy), and in one case, multiple video tracks in compositing mode. Download the project files here to see how it’s done (Vegas Pro 8 and Vegas Platinum 8 project files included).


Original picture

Read the rest of this entry »

Stay AWAY from iMovie/FCE

This is a public service notice: do not use iMovie and Final Cut Express if you respect yourself, and your footage. For the following two (and a half) reasons:

1. All HDV/AVCHD footage is imported using the ANCIENT, LOSSY, UGLY, DESATURATED, TERRIBLE “Apple Intermediate Codec” codec (AIC). Apple, on purpose, won’t edit the native streams of these files, and won’t use their much better, and newer technologically, intermediate codec “ProRES” that their FCP editor does. In other words, you are losing heaps of quality from the GET GO. Before you even start editing. And if that’s not enough, these editors won’t allow you to just drag’n’drop .m2t/.m2ts files on their editors, they have to be “captured” directly from the camera, otherwise Apple is treating them like pirated files or something, and refuses to import them! Apple 1, User Trust 0.

2. iMovie uses by default the UGLY, GHOSTLY “blend fields” algorithm to de-interlace interlaced footage when exporting for the web. So on top of the original loss of quality, here’s some added ghosting for you! I am not sure if FCE has a filter for “interpolation” support like FCP has, but it also uses “blend fields” by default. Personally, I never, ever, ever, export with “blend fields” because I want crystal clear, ghost-free footage even at the expense of some resolution. Of course, “blend fields” *is* a legitimate option and it has its uses, but it must be an OPTION, and not forcefully shoved down our throats.

[2.5: Despite FCE's $200 price point, it still doesn't support native 24p editing (for those who need it) even if a number of consumer cameras now shoot native 24p (e.g. the HV40 and some Panasonic ones). And of course, iMovie doesn't support native 24p either.]

So, Apple, shame on you! People spend $1000 to get an HD camera, and you fuck their footage up for them just for segmentation purposes. Oh, yeah, you can talk all day about “it’s faster to edit AIC files”, or that “most people won’t even notice”, but I DO notice. Each time I see such a video on vimeo, the first thought I have in mind is this: “Huh, here’s another iMovie export for ya!“. I don’t even have to look at metadata or ask the author if he used iMovie or not. I KNOW he did. I can SEE it. The ‘iMovie/FCE effect’ is that visible!

My suggestion to consumers who respect themselves: either buy FCP or Premiere CS4 ($1200+) for your Mac, or even cheaper, buy a $500 DELL desktop PC with 3 GBs of RAM and Vegas Platinum 9 ($80). Keep your Mac alright, but get a PC specifically for video editing. Vegas Platinum is able to edit the native files, lets you select a de-interlacing algorithm, and it is the only consumer editor that supports native 24p editing. But this is not about Vegas. And no, this is not a Mac vs PC thing either. It’s a real suggestion, that makes both financial and technical sense. Go figure.


iMovie result. Notice the ghosting and de-saturation over the native file.


Vegas result. Interpolation and native editing creates a clearer, higher quality result.

Oh, and why the hell we can’t deinterlace with Quicktime when exporting with the .mp4 container and not in .mov? And don’t let me start about their 1.5 years old bug where de-interlacing in .mov sometimes won’t work, even if the “deinterlace” checkbox is checked! Or the QT gamma h.264 playback problem that is biting everyone, including professionals. Bug reports are already in place (I personally made sure of that), Apple hasn’t fixed any of that.

Butter-smooth slow motion

The following tutorial shows you the best way to get as smooth slow motion video out of your footage. It’s a bit involved, but it’s worth it if the slow motion scenes of your videos are central to what you are trying to show (e.g. skateboarding slow-mo). This method uses the bob+weave de-interlacing algorithm that makes 50i or 60i interlacing streams to become 50p or 60p (progressive), before we slow them down. This way, the slow-motion algorithms have more frames to work with, therefore creating a smoother slow-mo effect similar to what some get from expensive high-frame rate cameras. Here’s how this 60p method looks like, compared to the default slo-mo methods of Sony Vegas:

Sony Vegas can do this too, but it requires a train of thought that most users don’t know about. So, if you want to use the more complicated but video editor-agnostic AviSynth/VirtualDub method, use the one directly below. If you want to use the easier Sony Vegas-only method, go to the bottom of the article.

Preparation (needed for both methods)

1. For footage that you know you want to slow-mo later, record at the highest frame rate that your camera is capable of (e.g. 50i or 60i for most camcorders), and at high shutter speed. Anything between ~1/300th to 1/1000th is good. If your camera does not have shutter speed manual control, then you are using the wrong tool for the job.


Method 1: Software setup (needs to be done only once)

1. Install the stable 2.5.7 version of the AVISynth application. Follow the default options during installation. Once it’s installed, you can safely delete its downloaded installation file.

2. Download the DGIndex application. Unzip that downloaded .zip file, select all files and folders in it, and drag-n-drop them on C:\Tools\DGIndex\ (create the folders if they don’t exist). From within that last folder, copy the file called “DGDecode.dll” and paste it on the C:\Program Files\AviSynth 2.5\plugins\ folder (make sure you do a “copy” and not a “move”). You can delete that downloaded .zip file now.

3. Download and unzip the MPASource plugin. Inside that zipped folder, you will find a file called mpasource.dll. Drag-n-drop that .dll file on the C:\Program Files\AviSynth 2.5\plugins\ folder. You can safely delete that downloaded .zip file now.

4. Download the Lagarith lossless codec. Unzip that downloaded .zip file, and drag-n-drop on your desktop the two files that their names are starting with the word “lagarith” (these are: lagarith.inf and lagarith.dll). Right-click on the file that’s called either plainly “lagarith” or “lagarith.inf”. From that right-click menu select “Install”. After about 10 seconds, the Lagarith codec will be installed. You can safely delete the two lagarith files from your Desktop, and their downloaded .zip file.

5. Download VirtualDub from here. Unzip that downloaded .zip file, select all files and folders in it, and drag-n-drop them on C:\Tools\VirtualDub\ (create that folder if it doesn’t exist). You can delete that downloaded .zip file now.

6. Download the Smooth Deinterlace plugin for VirtualDub. Unzip that downloaded .zip file, select all files and folders in it, and drag-n-drop them on C:\Tools\VirtualDub\plugins\ folder. You can delete that downloaded .zip file now.

7. In a text editor, type the following (just copy/paste it from below). Then save the above script file on C:\Tools\ with the name “avisynth.avs” (make sure its suffix is .avs and not .txt).
LoadPlugin("C:\Program Files\AviSynth 2.5\plugins\DGDecode.dll")
MPEG2Source("F:\Tools\Videos\XXXXX.d2v")
ConvertToRGB(matrix="rec709")
SeparateFields()

Method 1: Procedure

1. Double-click to load the C:\Tools\DGIndex\DGIndex.exe file. Select “File”, “Open”, change the “Files of type” to “All Files”, select the .M2T HDV file you want to open, and press “Open”. Click “Ok”. If a “Warning! Opening GOP is not closed” error message appears, ignore it. Then click “Video”, then “YUV->RGB”, and then “TV Scale”. Then, press “File”, “Save Project”, and save this .d2v file on C:\Tools\Videos\ (create the folder if it doesn’t exist). When the dialog says “FINISH” you can close down DGIndex.

2. Load the C:\Tools\avisynth.avs file with a text editor, and replace the XXXXX word with the file name of the d2v file that DGIndex produced above in the C:\Tools\Videos\ folder. Each time you work on a different video file you need to manually replace the filename inside this avisynth script file. Save the file.

3. Double-click to load the C:\Tools\VirtualDub\VirtualDub.exe file. Then click “File”, “Open video file”, and load the C:\Tools\avisynth.avs file. Click “Video”, then “Frame rate”, and make sure that it reads “59.940 fps” for your NTSC footage (or 50 fps if you are on PAL). Click “Cancel” to discard that dialog. Click “Video” again, and then “Filters”, then “Add…”. From the list, select the “deinterlace – smooth v1.1″ option, and click “Ok”. Click “Ok” in the new dialog to load the plugin, and then “ok” again to discard the Filters dialog. Now, click “Video” again, and then click “Compression”. From the long list, select the “Lagarith lossless codec” and then click “Configure”. Select “Use Multithreading” if you are using a somewhat modern PC, and then select either the “RGB (Default)” mode or the “YUY2″ mode. The RGB one has a tiny bit better quality, but it creates 2-3 times the filesize. We are talking about GBs per minute here, so you need to make sure you have a lot of free hard drive space! Click “Ok”, then “Ok” again.

4. If you want to slow-mo only parts of your .m2t HDV file, then you can set “start” and “end” points on VirtualDub. Move the slider in the VirtualDub timeline on where you want the starting point to be, and then click “Edit” and “Set selection start”. Then move the slider to the finishing point, and then select “Edit” and “Set selection end”. This is now marked with a blue-ish color, and if you attempt to render out, it will only render that part of your video. If you want to render out the whole thing, just go directly to the rendering part: select “File”, “Save as avi”, give it a filename of your choosing, and save on a folder that it’s easy to find back. After a while, you will be having a big .avi file. You can now safely close down VirtualDub.

5. Load Sony Vegas. On Vegas, it’s very important to have the right project settings before you start editing. From the File or Project menu select “Project Properties”, and a new dialog will pop up. In there, click the right outmost icon called “Match Media”, the one that looks like a yellow folder. From there, select the .avi file produced on step 3, and click “open”. Vegas will now automatically fill up most of the project settings for you, after analyzing the video file you picked. You will notice that the frame rate is reading either 59.940 (NTSC) or 50.000 (PAL), and it’s progressive! Finally, do a few changes manually to that dialog: For the de-interlacing option select “interpolate”, and for the Quality option select “Best”. You can save a new template with these settings (e.g. name it “slow-motion”), so each time you start a new project with the same kind of footage, you can just pick it from the list! So, after your project settings are set, click “Ok”.

6. Now bring that huge .avi file on the Vegas timeline. Slow-motion it the way you want to (there are three ways to do slow-mo on Vegas, pick any — and if you don’t know what I am talking about, read its help files). When you have it slow-mo in the timeline, right click on the clip, click “Switches”, and then “Disable resample”. Now it’s ready to render it out. Select “Project” or “File”, and then click on “Render As”. Select the “Video for Windows (avi)” in the “Save as type” option, and then click “Custom”. In the new dialog that poped up, select “Best” for “Video rendering quality”. In the second tab named “Video”, select the following options: 1440×1080 frame size, 29.970 (NTSC) or 25 (PAL) or 23.976 (film) frame rate (export at the same frame rate as your main project this clip will be incorporated into), “None (progressive scan)” field order, 1.3333 aspect ratio, and then select either the Cineform or the Lagarith option from the “video format” menu (any will do, although Cineform is faster and smaller). Then click “ok” to close this dialog window. Finally, give a filename to your “Render As” dialog (e.g. slowmotion.avi), and click “Save” to save it in a folder that you can easily find back. After a while, the video will be ready.

7. Now, bring that slow motion avi file to your main Sony Vegas project! If Vegas doesn’t recognize the file as progressive (some Cineform files are not recognized as such), then right click on the clip in the Media Bin (before is dropped in the timeline), and click “Properties”, and set its progressiveness in that dialog. Just make sure your main project is also correctly setup in the Vegas’ “Project Properties” dialog (your exported avi file above should have been exported at the same frame rate as your main project). Now, edit as you please and enjoy!

Method 1: Important Notes

1. If you are using AVCHD instead of HDV footage, you must buy CoreAVC’s Professional Edition decoder ($15). Install it, register it with the system, and then load its “Preferences” dialog, and disable de-interlacing (select “None”), and also disable “Aggressive de-interlacing” in there. Then, omit the first step about DGIndex in the procedure, and use this avisynth script instead:
DirectShowSource("C:\Tools\Videos\XXXXX.m2ts")
ConvertToRGB(matrix="rec709")
ComplementParity()
SeparateFields()

Replace the XXXXX.m2ts with the .m2ts or .mts filename you want processed. If your footage appears to be jumpy, remove the ComplementParity() line and retry. On step 5, you might want to be careful about the frame size you export (it might be 1440×1080 with aspect ratio 1.3333, or 1920×1080 with aspect ratio 1.000 — use the same size as Vegas auto-configured in the Project Properties dialog earlier). Every other step is the same as in my tutorial. BTW, I do suggest you buy CoreAVC Pro and not use the freeware AVCHD decoders, because they crap out the frame rate decoding, and so it becomes impossible to get good 60p out of them. CoreAVC Pro is cheap, and it’s worth every dime.

2. If you are using plain miniDV (DV AVI) footage, use this avisynth script instead:
AviSource("C:\Tools\Videos\XXXXX.avi")
ComplementParity()
SeparateFields()

Again, replace the XXXXX.avi with the right .avi filename of your video. If your footage appears to be jumpy, remove the ComplementParity() line and retry. Pay attention to the frame rate, resolution and aspect ratio you need to use & export from Vegas, depending if you are using NTSC or PAL, and if it’s widescreen or not. For widescreen miniDV footage you might need to manually set the right aspect ratio in the clip’s properties the first time you import it on Vegas (before you drop it in the timeline).

3. Audio is not included in the procedure described above. Not much of a point most of the times, but if you need it, use the following .avs script instead. You will have two XXXXX filenames to replace in that .avs file each time (one for the .d2v and one for the .mpa). Also, sometimes DGIndex craps out on the m2t files, and it creates shorter waveforms compared to the video, so this introduces an audio/video synch problem.
LoadPlugin("C:\Program Files\AviSynth 2.5\plugins\DGDecode.dll")
video=MPEG2Source("F:\Tools\Videos\XXXXX.d2v")
audio=mpasource("F:\Tools\Tools\Videos\XXXXX.mpa")
AudioDub(video,audio)
ConvertToRGB(matrix="rec709")
SeparateFields()

4. Sony Vegas is not required to follow the tutorial. Any video editor that allows you to disable resampling (aka motion estimation/compensation), and let’s you define a progressive 50p or 60p timeline, it’s fair game. Such editors include Premiere, After Effects, FCP etc. iMovie, Ulead and most other basic editors that don’t let you define less popular frame rates won’t do though.

5. If you are using a 64bit variant of Windows, then you need to replace all instances of “C:\Program Files\” in the tutorial to become “C:\Program Files (x86)\”.


Method 2: Sony Vegas-only way

1. Load Sony Vegas. On Vegas, it’s very important to have the right project settings before you start editing. From the File or Project menu select “Project Properties”, and a new dialog will pop up. In there, click the right outmost icon called “Match Media”, the one that looks like a yellow folder. From there, select the video file you want to slow-motion, and click “open”. Vegas will now automatically fill up most of the project settings for you, after analyzing the video file you picked. Now, you need to do a few changes manually to that dialog: For the de-interlacing option select “interpolate”, and for the Quality option select “Best”. For frame rate use 59.940 for NTSC videos, or 50.000 for PAL videos. Then, change the field order to “none (progressive)”. You can save a new template with these settings (e.g. name it “slow-motion”), so each time you start a new project that’s destined to become slow motion, you can just pick it from the list! So, after your project settings are set, click “Ok”.

2. Load your file in the Vegas timeline. Make sure that resampling is set to “smart resampling” (in the clip’s properties dialog). Now it’s ready to render it out. Select “Project” or “File”, and then click on “Render As”. Select the “Video for Windows (avi)” in the “Save as type” option, and then click “Custom”. In the new dialog that poped up, select “Best” for “Video rendering quality”. In the second tab named “Video”, select the following options: 1440×1080 or 1920×1080 frame size (same as what Vegas used in your project properties dialog), 59.940 (NTSC) or 50 (PAL) frame rate, “None (progressive scan)” field order, 1.3333 or 1.000 aspect ratio (same as your project properties), and then select either the Cineform or the Lagarith codec option from the “video format” menu (any will do, although Cineform is faster and smaller — Lagarith’s installation procedure is detailed in method 1 above). Then click “ok” to close this dialog window. Finally, give a filename to your “Render As” dialog (e.g. slowmotion1.avi), and click “Save” to save it in a folder that you can easily find back.

3. Create a new project on Vegas. Use again the “Match Media” function on Vegas’ Project Properties dialog, and select the new slowmotion1.avi file. Make sure field order is still “none (progressive)” and frame rate of NTSC 59.940 fps or PAL 50 fps (or just use the “slowmotion preset that you might have created in step 1). If Vegas doesn’t recognize the file as progressive (some Cineform files are not recognized as such), then right click on the clip in the Media Bin (before is dropped in the timeline), and click “Properties”, and set its progressiveness in that dialog. Then, drop the slowmotion1.avi in the timeline. Slow-motion it the way you want to. Then, right click on the clip, click “Switches”, and then “Disable resample”. Now it’s ready to render it out. Select “Project” or “File”, and then click on “Render As”. Select the “Video for Windows (avi)” in the “Save as type” option, and then click “Custom”. In the new dialog that popped up, select “Best” for “Video rendering quality”. In the second tab named “Video”, select the following options: 1440×1080 or 1920×1080 frame size (same as what Vegas used in your project properties dialog), 29.970 (NTSC) or 25 (PAL) or 23.976 (film) frame rate (export at the same frame rate as your main project this clip will be incorporated into), “None (progressive scan)” field order, 1.3333 or 1.000 aspect ratio (same as your project properties), and then select either the Cineform or the freeware Lagarith option from the “video format” menu (any of the two will do, although Cineform is faster and smaller — Lagarith’s installation procedure is detailed in method 1 above). Then click “ok” to close this dialog window. Finally, give a filename to your “Render As” dialog (e.g. slowmotion2.avi), and click “Save” to save it in a folder that you can easily find back. After a while, the video will be ready.

4. Now, bring that new slowmotion2.avi file to your main Sony Vegas project! If Vegas doesn’t recognize the file as progressive (some Cineform files are not recognized as such), then right click on the clip in the Media Bin (before is dropped in the timeline), and click “Properties”, and set its progressiveness in that dialog. Just make sure your main project is also correctly setup in the Vegas’ “Project Properties” dialog (your exported avi file above should have been exported at the same frame rate as your main project). Also, in the final edit prefer “interpolation” as the de-interlacing algorithm, and don’t forget to disable resampling on all clips in the timeline. Now, edit as you please and enjoy!

Method 2: Important Notes

1. To use the Vegas method with miniDV footage, you need to change all resolutions and aspect ratios mentioned in the tutorial to mirror your camera’s format. E.g. MiniDV NTSC Widescreen would be 720×480 with aspect ratio 1.2121. For the rest of the combinations Vegas has the info you need if you look hard enough.

Sony Vegas hints and tips

[Originally posted on HV20.com, reposted here for archival reasons]

What’s the difference between Vegas Pro and Vegas Movie Studio Platinum
Info about it here. Discussion about it and more details here. There are several DVD authoring applications out there to fill the void of DVD Architect (in case of the OEM version purchase of Vegas Pro 8 which doesn’t include a DVD authoring companion app). I would suggest the freeware DVDFlick which does the basics well. If you are just an amateur or enthusiast, the Platinum version is all you need. It will be enough for your needs, since it’s already the most advanced consumer editor.

How do I learn how to use Vegas fast?
Follow the links here.

Can’t capture from the HV20/30
Connect your camera to the firewire cable (not to your USB cable), put it into “play” mode and rewind the tape. On Vegas click “File” and then “Capture video”. A window will popup asking you if you want to capture DV or HDV. If you don’t get this window you must re-enable it at the Vegas’ preference panel. Select HDV. Then, in the Capture window/tab, click the little down-arrow next to “Prefs”, then “Device” and select the HV20 from there. You can also specify where you want the captured files to be saved. Then, on that same Vegas window, press “play” and then press “record”. You will find your .m2t files on the folder you set it to save, and on the “project media” tab (next to the capture tab). If you still can’t capture, make sure your HV20 doesn’t have its “DV Locked” setting ON, and that the date/time is set in your camera. As a last resort, reset your camera’s settings with the button behind the battery compartment. Finally, you could try capturing with the HDVSplit freeware utility — if HDVSplit can’t capture either, the problem is with your Windows/PC or the hardware of your camera, not with Vegas.

Tape capture stops all by itself
When capturing HDV video, Vegas has the bad habit of stopping the capturing if you moved your window/mouse focus to another application. To change that, click the “Prefs” button on the “Capture” tab and uncheck the “Stop device on loss of focus”.

Optimize Vegas for speedy video preview
You can speed up the Vegas video preview with the following tips:
1. Make sure that you use your files with the right “Project Properties” template. If you don’t use the right template, both Vegas’ speed and visual quality can decrease. If you don’t know what files you have, or you are using 24p and there is no available template for that kind of footage, then click the icon “match media” on the “Project Properties” dialog and navigate to one of these files you want to edit. Vegas will read that file and will figure out automatically the format and will fill up the right settings in the “Project Properties” panel. The only manual work you need to do on the Project Properties dialog after that, is to select “interpolate” for De-interlacing method, and “Best” for the Quality option.
2. Set the preview quality (in the preview window) to “preview (auto)“. If you use a single monitor try editing at 1/4 of the original size (that would be 640×360). If you have two monitors and one of the two is a full 1080p monitor, set the preview quality to “preview (full)”. If you are using a full 1080p monitor as a secondary preview monitor, expect the preview speed to reduce, as the graphics card and CPU will have to work extra hard serving you in this large resolution.
3. If you run Vegas on a Mac, make sure that you use Windows on its own partition, and you cleanly reboot to it via Bootcamp. Do not use virtualisers like Parallels or VMWare.
4. It is recommended that Vegas’ temp folder remains on the C:\ drive, but the footage itself on another drive. This way the hard drive don’t have to spin back and forth between locations, as the job will be shared within two drives. I can’t recommend USB/Firewire external drives as on some systems the media become “offline” and never wake up (seems to be a Vegas bug). Your mileage may vary.
5. Right click on the preview tab/window and de-select the “Scale video…” option. Make sure that “Simulate device…” option is selected.
6. Go to Vegas’ settings/preferences panel and on the Video tab tell it to use 4 threads. If you experience random crashes, go back to 2 threads. The fewer threads the more stability, but the more threads the more speed (for a hyperthreaded/multi-processing/multi-core CPU, that is). It’s a trade off until Sony fixes all their multi-threaded bugs.
7. Do not use plugins or pan/cropping if you need every bit of previewing speed while editing. Same goes for transitions and transparent tracks/media. Add all these at the very end, just before exporting, when your cut is already finalized.
8. If you are using the Pro version, stay with 8bit color depth editing and not 32bit. While 32bit editing can offer a tiny bit better visual quality when using plugins or transitions, it is extremely slow to edit as such.
9. Despite Sony’s claims, you need at least 2 GBs of RAM for HD editing. Otherwise, Vegas will start swapping sooner than later and everything will get really slow.
10. Vegas does not use special graphics functions like some other NLEs do. It will work with any DirectX 9 card. However, it does benefit (up to 10%-15% sometimes) from graphics cards that have fast bandwidth throughput, e.g. some of the latest ones from nVidia. Since Vegas version 10+, h.264 mts/mp4/mov/m2ts support is better too.
11. On pre-10 Vegas versions there is also a method to enable dual-core support on the preview screen, by clicking CNTRL+SHFT while clicking to load the Vegas preferences panel. This will enable a secret tab called “Internal” where you can enable preview support for dual core CPUs to speed up things even more. You need to turn to TRUE the option that reads “Enable multi-core rendering for playback”. Use this option with caution, might not be very stable. Don’t use it if your CPU is not an actual dual-core one.

Exporting tips
In the “Project Properties” window, even after having selected a template or you had let Vegas auto-configure itself, there are two options that you want to mess with manually.
1. Set “full-resolution rendering quality” to “Best”.
2. Set “De-interlace method” to either “Blend Fields” or “Interpolate” depending on the content of your video. If it’s a very fast moving video, use interpolate (at the expense of losing half of the resolution, but you get clean shots). If it’s a pretty static video, use “Blend Fields”. While people are swearing for one or the other, truth is that are both algorithms are useful for different things.

You can’t have a single kind of export for every possible need. For example, if you are interested in archiving your project, you might want to try exporting in Cineform or .M2T. If you want to export to DVD Architect, you need to export in mpeg2/AC3. If you want to export for Vimeo or YouTube HD or for your viewing pleasure in your PC, you want to export in WMV or MP4 in 720p.

If you are interested in saving only the media files you used in a project and nothing more (in order to save hard drive space), you can click “File”, “Save as”, and then check “Copy and trim media with project”. This will create a new folder in your drive that will only save the parts of the M2T files and other media you used in the project and not unused media.

No mpeg2/AC3/AVC exporting available, or no M2T support
If your Vegas doesn’t offer you these codecs to export it means that either:
1. You forgot to install the companion application DVD Architect (offers mpeg2/AC3).
2. You pirated Vegas and so these codecs refuse to work without online registration (mpeg2/AC3/AVC h.264).

24p support in Platinum
While Platinum does not have any preset 24p templates like Pro does, it does work with 24p timelines and footage. Just manually set the frame rate in 23.976, or use the “match media” icon to let Vegas auto-configure itself after you select one of these 24p video files.

Please note that Vegas (Pro or Platinum) won’t remove pulldown off of PF24 footage (the format that most Canon consumer cameras shoot 24p as). You first need to remove pulldown using an external utility, and then bring the resulted pulldown removed files into Vegas for editing in 24p mode.

Vegas can’t read Cineform files
If you remove pulldown with Cineform’s Neo/AspectHD utilities and Vegas can’t read these files then close down Vegas. Go to the C:\Program Files\Sony\ folder and find your Vegas installation. There, rename the cfhd.dll to cfhd.dll-OLD. Then, re-open Vegas. Now Vegas will use the system-wide Cineform codec instead of the old and outdated licensed version that comes with Vegas.

Formats that Vegas doesn’t like editing
Vegas is optimized to edit fast Cineform, DV AVI, mpeg2, AVCHD and some other types of videos. But expect extremely slow editing with MOV and MP4 containers, and WMV. Additionally, Platinum doesn’t seem to like XViD/DivX files (even if a third party codec might be installed it usually doesn’t like it much), while Pro fairs better in that regard. Vegas may have issues with files captured by HDVSplit.

Proxy Editing
If your PC is not fast enough to edit HD, you can use this tutorial to utilize proxy editing.

Ghosting on slow/fast-motion, or when there’s too much motion
Vegas has a pretty mediocre resampling algorithm. If you see ghosting where there shouldn’t be, select the clip in the timeline that shows the problem, right click it, select “Properties”, and then “Disable resample”. Please note that Vegas’ default slow motion technique is not very good. Use this tutorial for best results, if you shot in 50i/60i.

Crash when too many pictures are part of a project
Some versions of Vegas will crash if you have way too many huge megapixel pictures in your project. So for example, if your digicam is 10 megapixel, you will have to resize these pictures to the Vegas project size in order to ensure not only the best quality and speed, but also stability So, first download this batch resizing utility from Microsoft and install it. Then, you must decide on the correct size that you need to resize your pictures to, depending on the aspect ratio of your current project.

Blu-Ray and HD-DVD burning
Vegas Pro 8 and Platinum 9 can burn your current open project on the timeline in a Blu-Ray or plain DVD disc, in HD format. There is no support for menus or other beautifications, just a straight HD burning. A Blu-Ray player is needed to playback the disc back, but not necessarily a Blu-Ray burner. Vegas Platinum 8 does not have this ability, but there is a free alternative way to achieve the same thing. For HD-DVD burns on plain DVD discs, check here.

Tips for AVCHD support
1. Make sure you have installed the free updates for either Vegas 8+ Pro or Platinum from Sony’s website. Without these updates for your Vegas there are bugs & even incompatibilities with some camera model formats.
2. If your AVCHD camera snaps full 1920×1080 video (instead of the usual 1440×1080) and you insert that video on Vegas Platinum 8, Platinum 8 will resize that video to 1440×1080 (because that’s the maximum resolution it supports), and you will lose this way both resolution and quality. You will have to either upgrade to Pro if that’s the case, or get Platinum version 9.
3. Editing AVCHD can be slow as it is a much heavier format than HDV. You can use proxy files, or import your AVCHD files in the timeline, match their format in the “project properties” window, and then directly export one by one your clips to the Cineform format which is much faster to edit (and it’s visually lossless, so you don’t lose quality during the conversion). You will find the Cineform codec under the AVI filetype rendering option: click “custom”, select the Cineform codec in the video tab, and fill up the right options for resolution, frame rate & aspect ratio in that same panel too. When you are done convert all your clips, you start a new project, match your AVI footage in the project properties window, and use these AVI Cineform files to edit. Update: Vegas 9+ doesn’t carry Cineform anymore. You will need to either use proxy files, upgrade your PC, or buy the Cineform NeoSCENE utility ($129, can also remove pulldown, it’s handy).
4. Platinum 8 can not export your edited video in AVCHD format back to the camera. Pro and Platinum 9 does though (at least for Sony cameras).

No way to export h.264 AVC from Platinum 7/8
While Pro has two h.264 encoders under its belt to choose from and Platinum 9 has one, it is a mystery why Platinum 8 has zero. There are several ways to go around the limitation:
Export either in a lossless codec using exporting options that match your source footage (I suggest Huffyuv because it’s supported by the vast majority of applications), or by using a frameserver. Then, use either ffmpeg as per my tutorial here or download the freeware utility “SUPER” which can will work equally well. Here’s how to export with SUPER in h.264 MP4. Even easier, try Handbrake.

Photoshop’s ease of use

As sketched:

The Vision

As colorized with GIMP:

The Vision

As traced and colorized with Illustrator and Photoshop CS4:

The Vision

I didn’t use any advanced tools to get this result with Illustrator/Photoshop, but compared to Inkscape/Gimp it was more intuitive. Photoshop’s truly magical magic wand worked better too. With Gimp I even had trouble setting a transparent background layer, I had to google it to find out where to get the option.

Update: The best I could do with Ginp/Inkscape using the exact same tools as in PS/Ai (not the same colors). I couldn’t get these apps to give me a solid, artistic bitmap tracing like Illustrator did (note: the “photocopy” plugin was ran before the tracing in both cases):

The Vision

Operating System stories

If you ever visit Seattle, make sure you visit the SciFi Museum and their airplane/space museum close to Boeing’s factory. So, here are a few interesting tidbits from our vacation in Seattle:

– A lot of people with iPhones in the Seattle airport. iPhone here, iPhone there. But wait! Here’s a person with just a RaZR. Oh, what is he doing? Ah, he’s taking his iPod out of his pocket!

– Virgin America, the airliner we flew with, runs a touchscreen, flash-based system in their per-seat screens. It’s based on a Red Hat Linux 2004 release, it has 256 MB RAM, and it uses a flash-based filesystem. They also use Google Maps for their geo-tracking. Looked impressive and worked well. They even offered video podcasts of Diggnation for viewing. Only thing missing was internet access.

– While in the museum of music in Seattle, we used an interactive key-learning system that tried to teach you how to play a “hook”. I sucked at it, and started playing random keys, and voila! A blue screen of death! It apparently ran Windows.

The same museum ran an automated version of the open source audio editor Audacity too (in the same hall as the interactive demo one).

Latest ubuntu failure: wifi

I have a b43-based broadcom BCM4311 802.11b/g WLAN (rev 01) chipset for wifi on my 1.5 years old DELL laptop (almost the same model as the one DELL originally sold Ubuntu with), but the b43 module is very unstable: it drops the connection after a few minutes. So I have to use ndiswrapper. I installed the firmware just fine, and blacklisted ssb, and b43 in order to force ndiswrapper to load.

Unfortunately, even after having blacklisted ssb, it still loads and takes control of the wireless chipset and simply does not let ndiswrapper to do its thing. It loads the “b43-pic-bridge” driver instead of letting ndiswrapper to use its “wl” one.

The reason for ssb loading EVEN if it’s blacklisted, it’s because of the b44 ethernet driver which is loaded automatically, that also needs ssb. You see, this DELL laptop has both a b43 and a b44 chipset in there, and so even if I have b43 and ssb blacklisted, b44 keeps loading ssb back before ndiswrapper is. And so ssb takes control of the wifi chipset (with the b43 driver blacklisted, so it doesn’t load any driver, it just keeps the control tight), and poor ndiswrapper fails.

This is a chicken and the egg problem btw, but I didn’t have these problems with the older Ubuntu, because it didn’t use the b44/b43/ssb modules back then for these chipsets. Now that it does, this needs to be fixed somehow. Either they need to fix the b43 module to be rock solid so I don’t need to use ndiswrapper, or fix the ssb problem to allow ndiswrapper take control over the wifi chipset.

I filed a bug report. The way to go around it is to also blacklist b44, and then manually load it on startup after the ndiswrapper line on the /etc/modules file (so it loads ssb after ndiswrapper has already taken control of the chipset). But obviously this needs fixing.