Archive for April 11th, 2009

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.

Canon HF-S100 review at CamcorderInfo finally posted their review of the Canon HF-S10/S100 camera, which is supposed to take over HV20/30’s reigns. The camera has been in the market for a month now, so we already knew most of what was noted in the actual review. After 30+ pages of discussion over at, we now know this camera pretty well.

Here are the good points:
1. Sharpest camera in the consumer market today, when light is adequate.
2. More manual controls than other consumer cameras.
3. Other stuff, as I have mentioned here before.

Here are the negative points:
1. High levels of noise when light is inadequate, and terrible low light support in general.
2. Terrible image stabilization (especially compared to the Sony HDR-XR520V).
3. Other stuff, as I have mentioned here before.

I think that Canon will have no choice but to use larger sensors in the future to make up for the bad low light support and noise. One thing is for sure: I won’t be buying that camera. Neeeext…

This is a good buy if you already don’t have a Canon HD camcorder. But if you do, wait for the next generation, next year.

Terra: do mistake repeaters deserve to live?

Every few days I get down all existential on me. This time, it was because of the upcoming animated movie, Terra, written & directed by fellow Greeks Evan Spiliotopoulos and Aristomenis Tsirbas. The movie is set to be released this May in the US theaters.

The story is as such: “A peaceful alien planet faces annihilation, as the homeless remainder of the human race sets its eyes on Terra.” So basically, these future humans are the bad guys, having gone through several planets already, by using their resources up. They are portrayed as a species that doesn’t learn from its mistakes, as they keep repeating them on every new beginning they do on a new planet that they find to colonize. So these last remnants of humans, find this peaceful alien race living in a planet that it’s “almost” compatible with what humans need, and with some light terraforming it can be used by them. But if they do that, the very intelligent but not very tech-savvy alien race will have to die, as they are not compatible with the changes.

So the big question posed by the movie is if the humans have the right to annihilate this peaceful alien race in order to use up that planet too, and save their species once more. Here’s what I think. The answer is two-fold:

1. Speaking as a Darwinian cheerleader, it’s the right of every species to survive, no matter the cost or the ethical questions posed.
2. Speaking as a cynicist though (Diogenes being my favorite of all ancient philosophers), the humans deserve to die. They didn’t learn from their mistakes over and over again, so they should disappear from the galaxy’s face and leave it to those who do have respect for their surroundings.

Maybe the right answer is to let the humans die, but save their history, art, and DNA in a sort of a galactic museum. This way their existence will always be remembered, and their achievements will be respected, but they won’t be around to wreck havoc anymore.

Kind of like the dinosaurs. They had their time. Huh.