Archive for November, 2006

Flash Video Encoding Tutorial and Tips

Digital Web Magazine has been running a short series of articles entitled “The Rise of Flash Video”. Part 3 of the series covers in detail what you need to know about encoding flash video for the web.

“Some folks take issue with Flash video, and they do have a point. There is a lot out there that makes watching Flash video a painful experience. They talk about pixelated and jerky video, and point to poorly re-compressed YouTube content as evidence that Flash video sucks. These shrill claims are misguided, but many people hear them and blindly agree that Flash video stinks.

Get clear on this: It isn’t the technology. It is the person that encoded the video in the first place who made the mistake”

Read on for assistance in avoiding those mistakes. You can also read the two previous parts to this article here and here.

Motion Smarts is a handy little resource I just ran across, they have a growing collection of tutorials and presets/project file downloads for Apple Motion users.

Mike Curtis interview with Red’s Graeme Nattress

Following an extensive q&a session with Ted Schilowitz, Mike Curtis has posted yet another detailed interview with a member of the Red Digital Cinema team. This one is with pixel-magician Graeme Nattress, and focuses on compression and codec options as well as post production. Once again, required reading for the Red faithful.

They kick it off with a quick rundown of Redcode, the wavelet compression codec that Graeme has apparently been devoting much of his time to:

“Redcode is a compression scheme designed especially for the RED camera. It’s a wavelet based compression that works in 10bit or 12bit (the camera is 12bit natively) and with RGB or RAW data. When you’re using 10bit mode, you have the choice of either a standard Log curve, or a REC 709 gamma curve, so that you’re immediately compatible with whatever NLE or DI program you’re using.”

They cover more specifics on what framerates and resolutions are available when recording to specific media types, and spend some time discussing REDCINE, the software app that can apply basic corrections to Red One images and export them in any one of a myriad of formats. A quick note on the REDCINE application…it makes full use of CPU + GPU and also offers/will offer a “draft mode” for quick and dirty format conversion tests. Another interesting feature will be “RPL”, or the Red Pull List…a tool to ingest XML/EDL files and assist with automating the online/offline process. More details on the RPL tool from Stuart English @ DVXuser. The app will ship with the cameras and will also be available as a standalone purchase (price not yet determined).

Tons of additional details towards the end of Mike’s article; frame-ramping, more info on recording options and formats, and a word of warning about checking the Red Format Options Chart before assuming you can record the format of your choice…to your media of choice. For example, RAW S35mm (uber-big 2540p) can only be recorded using the “RAW Data Port”, which may require 3rd party hardware when the camera ships. In contrast, 4K RAW can be captured at that data faucet or to some REDCODE option (Flash mag or other onboard media, etc). It’s not terribly confusing, just take a few minutes to understand that chart and what limitations you can expect.

Iconix HD-RH1 update with pictures

Mike Curtis was kind enough to share a few pictures he took of the Iconix HD-RH1 remote camera head system, and I’ve added them to a recent FresHDV article on the RH1 (with his permission of course).

The hands-on images give a much better idea of the physical size of the system, which isn’t readily apparent even at the company website.

Mike Curtis interview with Red’s Ted Schilowitz

Mike Curtis has posted a lengthy and detailed interview with Red Digital Cinema’s “Leader of the Rebellion” Ted Schilowitz. This interview transcript should be required reading for anyone with even an inkling of interest in the forthcoming Red One camera system.

The interview reveals a few more details about the camera form factor and design. Ted mentions a hardened metal body with mini-XLR audio and mini-HD-SDI “1.0/2.3″ video connections to save exterior real estate. He also states that the Red One will feature a 35mm PL locking ring mount with accessory options for adapting to 35mm still lenses from Nikon and Canon, noting further that older manual iris and focus lenses would be required. The camera would not be able to utilize newer electronic still lenses, as there is no control interface for them (just a mount adapter option).

A few other critical points of interest are noted by Mike…originally it appeared that a working camera would be shipping to some end users by the end of this year. Now it seems that a limited subset of advance testers will have their hands on the camera in late 2006 or early 2007, buyers may have to wait until March or April to get their hands on one. Another emerging limitation are a few caveats on recording options when capturing footage untethered.

“…they were very big and clear on the capability of the camera to record 60fps full aperture (4 or 4.5K), and up to 120fps windowed down (16mm sized aperture). While the SENSOR and the CAMERA are still capable of that, it now appears that those speeds will only be capable of being recorded offboard – the onboard processing can only handle up to 4K RAW @30p or 2K res RGB @ 60fps.”

Thats not particularly shocking to hear. 2K and 4K at higher framerates can’t be easy to implement, particularly when limited by onboard processing and storage media speeds. But it is a concern nonetheless.

“…the only way to shoot the maximum frame rate (120fps) at the maximum quality onboard will limit you to 720p resolution (not 2K), most likely derived from the windowed sensor at 16mm aperture…To get the maximum frame rate, you’d need to use the high speed optical port, which they haven’t settled on a bus topology for as yet…The CAMERA can still shoot 120 fps 2K, but you can’t record it onboard with the accessories they are discussing openly at this time. And since there hasn’t been a clear answer as to timetable on REDRAID & REDRAM, that means it is sounding likely that the camera may ship in a way that there aren’t recording options for 4K+ @ 60fps nor 2K @ 120fps.”

The tethered recording options so far look like HD-SDI and some kind of optical, Infiniband, or 10Gig-E interface. Ted noted that they would like to keep it based on an open standard (like gigabit ethernet), and build it onto the camera in such a way that it could be upgraded at a later date. Red has stated both in the past and in this latest interview that they intend to build the camera modularly, and with the future option of an upgradeable sensor. Keeping the door open for new standards and upgrade options seems very wise, and would go a long ways towards keeping this camera system relevant for years to come.

Free Tickets to HDFest Los Angeles for FresHDV readers

FresHDV and HDFest are once again offering free tickets to the HDFest World Tour event in LA. The first 15 FresHDV readers to respond will receive free passes to all panel discussions at the festival. The HDFest event will begin on December 1st at Dolby Laboratories Larry Umlang Presentation Theatre II, and continue through December 3rd. Discussion panel descriptions and times are listed below.

The first 15 respondents to email admin@hdfest.com with the following information will receive complimentary passes:
*Full Name
*Email address
*Include “FresHDV.com Ticket Giveaway” in the subject line
*Specify which discussion panel(s) you wish to attend
If you are among the first 15, you’ll receive an e-mail confirmation and can pickup your will-call tickets in person at the HDFest Dolby box office (any day of the event).

HDFest Panels:
Saturday Dec 2nd 2:30pm-3:45pm
Achieving Great Results with HDV: A Look Inside The Mojave Phone Booth
A look behind the scenes of the HDV Feature Film “Mojave Phone Booth” Director John Putch and DP Keith Duggan will take a look at their film shot on the HDV Z1U from conception to completion. Topics include camera choice, experiences on location, and post process including color correction. This panel will also include a 15 minute behind the scenes video, and a look at HDV taken out to film (a look at footage projected on 35mm).

Saturday Dec 2nd 5:30pm-6:30pm
HD Filmmaking in Transition
If you are a filmmaker considering using HD in any form this is really the key opportunity at HDFEST LA to hear industry experts giving their input on working with HD from start to finish. Experienced and Visionary Filmmakers who have completed films shot with High-Definition video compare and contrast experiences. This panel will also cover where HD filmmaking is going in the future, and what new tools and methods of creation and completion lie on the horizon. Filmmakers on this panel include the Director and DP from Postcards from the Future which was shot on the DALSA Origin Camera.

Sunday Dec 3rd 4pm-5:30pm
Surviving the Low End of HD: Issues and Solutions for HDV: Moderated by Larry Jordan
HDV has captured the attention of both the independent film-maker and the video professional looking to make an inexpensive jump into HD. However, a format that was originally designed for the hobbyist has significant problems when used at a professional level. This session will present the limitations of this video format regarding shooting, editing, effects, and distribution; provide clearly defined solutions a professional can use to workaround these issues and provide ample time for answering questions.

Other highlights of this year’s HDFest World tour include screenings of the reknown documentary “The Mars Underground”; HD animations “Vaudeville”, “Arrest Assured”, and “The Toll”; DreamWorks animated short “First Flight”, as well as “Mantis Parable”, and “Elephant’s Dream”. There will also be a special screening of the critically acclaimed experimental film “Sound of Eternity The Mass in B-Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach”. So if you are in or around LA next week, consider taking some time to educate and immerse yourself in the world of High-Definition Filmmaking.

Graphics card upgrades for Mac Pro editors

Christoph Vonrhein compares the NVIDIA GeForce 7300 GT, ATI Radeon X1900 XT, and NVIDIA Quadro FX 4500 graphics cards on the Mac Pro, and concludes:

“Most editors will be perfectly suited with the NVIDIA 7300 GT. It is a fast high quality graphics card that suits the needs of the average video editor. The ATI Radeon X1900 XT is faster then the 7300 GT and makes the workflow with advanced 3D much more efficient…this graphics card should be the first choice for the professional video editor.”

(Via DVGuru)

David Fincher’s Tapeless Workflow on Zodiac

Mike Curtis has rounded up a veritable plethora of links detailing the tapeless workflow used when filming David Fincher’s “Zodiac”.

“They’d shoot and record data, copy the data to a SAN, verify it was good, make two copies to LTO3 tape, use Shake to process the footage to DVCPRO HD for editorial, then later conform back to the original high resolution footage.”

Great stuff and a ton of links in Mike’s HD4NDS article, check it out.

Adam Wilt takes a first look at the Sony V1

Another great DVMag article, in this one Adam Wilt takes a quick first look at the new Sony HVR-V1U camcorder. Lots of details, pictures and size comparisons, and finally he concludes:

“Sony squeezed out some features in the quest to put HDV into a PD170-sized package: analog-in recording, 50 Hz/60 Hz switchability, low-light capability, and standard video connectors on the camera body. But the result is a compact, lightweight Handycam that shoots sharp, clean HDV while offering the best laid-out controls found on a small Sony, and true progressive capture to boot. Rolling shutter will be an issue for some, but overall, the V1 looks like a worthy addition to the choices available to HDV shooters.”

What remains to be discovered is how the V1 performs in low-light compared to the FX1/Z1U. The only mention I’ve seen about it’s light-gathering capabilities was basically a passing “it does just fine” (paraphrasing) in the short review by Douglas Spotted Eagle. Has anyone seen any real comparisons or examples that show just how the camera performs in less than ideal lighting?

HDV to 35mm Film Transfer Tests With The JVC HD100

DVMag did a HDV > Filmout test earlier this year, using video sourced with the Sony HVR-Z1U camcorder. More recently, John Jackman has done a similar test using the JVC GY-HD100U. Here’s a few recommended JVC settings, from the lab that did the filmout.

“…stay away from the filmout gamma setting as well as black compress, make sure motion smoothing is off, set white clip to 108 percent and turn detail down or off (I prefer the Minimum setting). Feel free to experiment with black stretch and knee level depending on your scene, but not unless you have a good monitor to evaluate your results.

Pay close attention to exposure, because the HDV format does not allow big corrections in post. Focus is also critical when you shoot for the big screen. If you are shooting for a filmout, do not shoot at 30p unless you intend to slow the footage down in post.”

While the HD100U has several significant differences vs the Sony, offering a 720p 24 mode, and a shorter 12-frame GOP HDV encoding, a lot of the principles should transfer well to other cameras and formats. Overall, this is a very informative and lengthy article, HDV filmmakers will appreciate the read.

Kendal Miller pointed me to this gem, an extensive video tutorial on Motion Control systems by Mark Roberts Motion Control. In some ways it’s an advertisement for the systems they create, but there is a lot of knowledge shared that transfers to planning, shooting, and compositing with lesser tools. A ton of fantastic commercial and music video creative work is shown, with shot breakdowns explaining how the motion control rig was utilized.

I must caution you, watching this video may induce the urge to mortgage your home and buy one of these MoCo systems. At the very least, you might wet your pants like an excited puppy. You’ve been warned.

Free backfocus chart from DSC Labs

DSC Labs, makers of high-quality colorimetry and camera setup chart systems is offering a free backfocus chart, available as PDF. Get it while it’s hot. And while you are there, check out the selection of charts they offer. The Camette series of setup charts looks extremely handy, and won’t break the bank.

(Via HD For Indies)

Digital Cinema Primer from SMPTE

SMPTE/ASC held a meeting recently and presented on the topic of Digital Cinema. The presentation covered the basic issues and background info of emerging and established digital tech, with slide topics such as “What is a Pixel?”, “Bayer Pattern”, and “4:4:4 or 4:2:2″. The presentation is available as a Powerpoint slideshow, or PDF format (mirrored here).

(Via HD For Indies)

Stop Motion with a DSLR camera used on My Name is Earl

Mike Curtis tracked down a great DVMag feature on a short stop-motion sequence used in the sitcom “My Name is Earl” during November 2006 sweeps. The article gives a nice general overview of the tools and techniques used.

“Matlosz shot with a Canon 20D, 8.2 MP digital still camera, locked down on a Bogen tripod bolted to the floor of the set and braced with a 35-pound sandbag. Matlosz used a variety of stock Canon still lenses.”

“Our original plan was to shoot RAW files. I’m a purist. I like to go to the best possible extreme I can, from lenses to acquisition. I wanted to go RAW. But I was saving to hard drive via USB 2.0 and to a 2 GB Flash card in the camera. And it was taking too long for the camera to write to the card and the computer, frame by frame, in RAW. So we decided to go large JPEG, which gives us a 3,000 x 2,000-pixel JPEG image. That, as far as I can tell, is still above what film can affordably scan.”

“The longest shot consisted of only 200 frames, but Matlosz shot on twos-animation-speak for shooting two frames for every change of image, a practice common in 2D animation. Shooting on twos produces motion that’s more cartoony, and it expedites the animation process, because you’re only shooting 12 unique frames per second, versus the full 24 fps of the live-action footage the animation is being intercut with.”

This article doesn’t touch as much on the post-production processes, those looking for more info on that topic should check out the July/August 2005 back issue of Editors Guild magazine (article no longer available online) for a feature on the production of “Corpse Bride”. That article and a few more links relating to DSLR video production were mentioned by FresHDV about a year ago.

Hands on with the Panasonic HDX900

Barry Braverman recently reviewed the Panasonic HDX900 camera, which some are calling the “Varicam Lite”.

“I found the three Film Like (FL) settings rather baffling: FL 1 and 2 appeared to offer little visible difference onscreen. FL 2 appeared to capture additional detail in the brightest highlights of scenes featuring, say, a hot exterior window. FL 3 offered the most pronounced lowering of the knee, as evidenced in the expanded mid-tones.”

“Image processing is accomplished at a robust 14 bits and is substantially more precise than the Varicam 27H, which utilizes 12-bit sampling.”

“The camera features 720p and 1080i resolutions and frame rates of 24, 25, 30, 50, and 60…While the synchro-scan shutter permits shutter angles up to 250 degrees at 24p, there is no Varicam-like variable frame rate function in the HDX900. The HDX records at all times to tape at 60fps (actually 59.94) with the appropriate pulldown applied. The HDX900 limits the main shutter selections to six settings expressed in time only, with a clever “halfâ€? option that sets the shutter speed at 50 percent of the frame rate — a small but convenient little aid. Many Varicam users will miss the extensive image controls of that camera, because the HDX offers fewer handles to tweak color matrix, gamma, and black pedestal, among other functions. In this way, the camera has the look and feel of the SDX900.”

Barry also used the HDX at a dimly-lit shoot, and seemed pretty pleased with the results.

“The camera performed much better than might be expected at such low light levels. Blacks appeared firmer and quieter than what I’m used to seeing from an HD camcorder. And while some noise was evident — especially in the smooth, monochromatic surfaces of the theater seats — increasing the camera detail coring to +10 mitigated the most egregious noise.”

“The effective ISO 640 rating of the camera, combined with the approximate 9.5 stops of latitude in the HDX, allowed for excellent tonal reproduction in the bright rimming of the theater seats, while still maintaining a modicum of detail in the densest shadow areas. This latitude in the HDX compares to about 11 stops in the Varicam and only eight stops in the HVX200, so HVX users considering the big move up to the HDX900 can expect to see a dramatic improvement in the dynamic range of their images.”