U kijkt naar de archieven van 2006.

Recently I had the pleasure to work on the final stages of postproduction for “Zonder jou”, a short movie by my buddy Roeland Vandebriel and Jeannice Adriaansens. “Zonder jou” is one of the few independent almost-no-budget shorts made in Belgium last year but IMHO it looks as good as any “professional” short. The movie came back from color correction as an HD image sequence on two FAT32 disks. I had to create a DVD and a subtitled HDV-master.

Here’s what I learned:

  1. FAT 32 may be the grail for cross-platform data transport but it ain’t holy. The trouble starts with creating the FAT32 partition: Windows 2000 or XP limit you to a 32 GB maximum size although FAT 32 has a maximum volume size of 8 TerraByte. You actually have to use Mac OS X if you want a larger partition than 32 GB.
  2. FAT 32 is not made for large numbers of files. Each directory can contain about 64,000 entries at most, but since each file can take as much as 3 to 10 entries, you can expect to the limit to be about 16,000 files in one directory. For “Zonder jou”, this meant that the 32,000 frame image sequence had to be split in two directories.
  3. Mac OS X’s Finder doesn’t like FAT 32 disks. It took about 10 to 15 minutes to show one of the 16,000 file directories in column view. The same directory on an HFS+ disk showed instantly.
  4. Final Cut Pro’s manual lists two ways to deal with image sequences. The first is: set the default still duration to 1 frame, import all stills into Final Cut Pro and drag them into the timeline. The second way is to use Quicktime Pro to create a movie out of the image sequence. You then use this movie inside Final Cut Pro.
  5. Final Cut Pro doesn’t like projects with 3000 items. It takes ages to open the project and memory consumption goes through the roof. I didn’t try with all 32,000 frames.
  6. Quicktime Pro is utterly unable to deal with long image sequences. Opening a 16,000 frame image sequence in Quicktime Pro took more than one hour, during which Quicktime remained unresponsive and was in fact “hung” according to Activity Monitor. Trying to paste both (see item 2) image sequences into one Quicktime movie was impossible.
  7. Don’t ever try to create a reference Quicktime movie out of 16,000 frames. Quicktime can do it, it will even save such a movie to a 6 MB file, but any attempt to access any frame of the resulting movie inside Quicktime or Final Cut Pro will result in a 15 minute or longer stall during which Quicktime does IDNTKW (I-don’t-know-what, also known as The Secret Innards of Quicktime).
  8. Don’t ever try to create an uncompressed movie out of 16,000 frames in Quicktime. Each access to a single frame takes the 15 minute Quicktime IDNTKW hit, meaning the movie will be ready only after the sun has exploded (theoretically).

In the end I ended up sacrificing one of the backup disks to create an HFS+ partition large enough to fit both image sequences. I used After Effects to create a single 8:2:2 uncompressed Quicktime movie. After Effects took 20 seconds to iterate through a single 16,000 frame image sequence. The final render took 8 hours though. I took the uncompressed file into Final Cut Pro and had the subtitled HDV master on tape about 3 hours later.

Of course, things could have been a lot easier. If I had the disk capacity and disk speed to deal with uncompressed HD and we had the money to hire on HDCAM deck (the color corrected movie was delivered in HDCAM too) everything would have been finished in half a day but in the end we managed. The movie was premiered from my HDV master…

The moral of the story is: don’t bother using Final Cut Pro or Quicktime with long image sequences.

This short by Spike Jonze is one of my all time favorite short movies but I like this IMDB user comment on it even more.

Mijn goede vriend Nick is gisteren samen met zijn vriendin Anja op halve wereldreis vertrokken, van Antwerpen naar Vladivostok. Ze reizen met het openbaar vervoer doorheen Bosnië-Hercegovina, Montenegro, Albanië, Macedonië, Griekenland, Turkije, Iran, Armenië, Georgië, Azerbeidzjan, Turkmenistan, Oezbekistan, Tadjikistan, Kirgizstan, Kazachstan, China (Xinjiang), Mongolië, China (Mantsjoerije), Rusland (Vladivostok-Moskou met de Transsiberische spoorweg) en Oekraïne.

Je kan hen volgen via Nick’s blog op site van Knack (of ga naar http://www2.knack.be/blog en klik op Weblog Nick Hannes.)

Langs deze weg wil ik Nick en Anja in ieder geval een fantastische reis toewensen!

Lexicon Omega Studio As promised, here’s another review of a piece of equipement, this time the Lexicon Omega Studio. This is a 4-channel USB audio interface with 2 mic inputs, 4 line inputs, MIDI in- and out and SPDIF in- and out. Other interfaces like the Tascam US-144, M-Audio 410 firewire interface or Digidesign MBox 2 do a similar job. However the Lexicon Omega Studio has a few nice features:

  1. It’s cheap.
  2. It doesn’t need a computer to run.
  3. It doesn’t need drivers on Mac OS X.

The first item won’t need any explanation. The second one is perhaps a bit strange: why would I need an audio interface when my computer is not running? Well, this comes in very handy for connecting my camera to my speakers without the sound passing through my computer. Other interfaces can do this as well — the feature is called zero-latency monitoring — but they need a software app to control the routing from input to output. The Lexicon unit doesn’t, it is in fact a pure hardware mixer — in a funky form factor — and an audio interface in one.

The third item is the most important to me. This interface is USB audio device compliant, which means that you can plug it in to your Mac and it works. No drivers necessary, everything is included in Mac OS X. The interface works out of the box with all Mac software including Final Cut Pro, Soundtrack Pro, Logic, Audacity and everything else you want. The interface will keep working throughout Mac OS X updates. You won’t need to wait until M-Audio or somebody else provides a new driver for a new version of OS X.

Why is this “no drivers” thing so important? Well, 3rd party drivers are the first thing any knowledgeable computer technician will look after when faced with system instability. What’s more, the M-Audio 410 drivers on OS X 10.3.9 cause a multi-second delay when you change the master volume. That’s right, the volume knob on an M-Audio 410 is not some kind of potentiometer but a hardware front-end to a software program. Digidesign’s MBox 2 CoreAudio drivers limit you to 1 (one) active program at a time, no switching between Final Cut Pro and Soundtrack Pro.

So, after all this praise for Lexicon Omega Studio, what’s wrong with it?

It doesn’t have separate headphone volume control.

It doesn’t support ProTools — look at M-Audio and Digidesign for that — and the included version of Cubase LE is worthless for video since it can not import OMF files.

I’m not sure about the Mic preamps, but I don’t really need them as a video editor.

So after all, a cheap interface that works. What more could you want? A mixer, firewire audio interface and control surface all in one? Look at Tascams FW-1082 instead, but be prepared to install some drivers…

After Dinner still After Dinner won 1st price in the category of video-art at Kort Geknipt 2006! I got a cool black sheep, handed out by Alex Callier of Hooverphonic fame.

After Dinner heeft de eerste prijs gewonnen in de categorie videokunst op Kort Geknipt 2006! Ik heb een neig zwart schaap gewonnen dat mij persoonlijk overhandigd is door Alex Callier. Voor de mensen die van mijn belabberde bedankje niets hebben verstaan: ik ben heel blij dat er 250 man naar mijn – en alle andere kortfilms is komen kijken. Ik maak geen films voor prijzen maar voor een publiek.

* Step Right Up, Tom Waits

Oktava MK-012Based on multiple favorable reviews on dvinfo.net and dvxuser.com, I bought myself an Oktava MK-012, a cheap multi-capsule pen-type microphone. It comes with an omnidirectional, cardoid and hypercardoid capsule, of which the latter is the most interesting for videographers. I bought this microphone primary for indoor use because I wasn’t really happy with the sound of our schools Sennheiser 416 indoor. I’ve been using it for a few movies. Here’s my verdict:

The good: it works and it hasn’t failed yet. The sound is nice and detailed but is has more bass than I would like. It sounds a lot better than the Røde Videomic. Basically, what has been said on dvinfo.net and dvxuser.com is true: it’s a good mic for its price.

The bad: The Oktava MK-012 is extremely susceptible to handling noise and wind noise. Basically you can not use this mic without good wind protection and a good shockmount, all of which will cost you more than the mic itself. I’ve been using the mic either on a mic stand or harnessed in our schools Rycote Full Windshields system (aka Rycote Zeppelin) and even than it was hard not to make any handling noise. It’s enough to touch the microphone cable with the mic standing on a mic stand to ruin the recording. Don’t even think about mounting this microphone to your camera (you wouldn’t want to do that anyway…) and don’t think you can get away without wind protection indoors unless the mic is imobile. One – admittedly close – recording of a caged bird was ruined by the wind of the birds wings flapping.

After a long and good vacation I find myself back sitting after my desk with lots of things to do and a few things to write about. You may expect a few equipment reviews and a new movie…

Slaapkop stillLast year I made this simple movie together with the actors from youth theatre group “De Strontvliegen” whom I’ve been directing in 4 stage plays. The movie took us 2.5 hours, from conception to final shot, but the end result is fun nevertheless. Editing took a bit longer, mostly due to the slowness of my old PowerMac G4. The compression to H.264 alone took about 25 hours. Yesterdays hardware with todays software ain’t much fun…

It’s also the first time ever I’ve been editing HDV material. Guess what: my computer is too slow to play 1080i50 HDV fluently. But I’ve been able save a few shots where I wasn’t close enough by zooming into the High Definition material, up to 200%. I don’t think you’ll be able to spot the digital zooms since my main timeline was SD.

Enjoy it.

Slaapkop is een eenvoudige film die ik verleden jaar samen met de acteurs van jeugdtheatergroep “De Strontvliegen” gedraaid heb. We zijn van nul begonnen, hebben een eenvoudig verhaaltje bedacht en twee-en-een-half uur later was de film opgenomen. Geniet ervan!

After Dinner stillIt’s been a while seen I’ve shown a movie. This one called After Dinner has been quite long in the making. Both the shooting and the edit took quite some time.

The shooting took place in november 2004. We shot on and off for about 5 days inside the Hnita Jazz club. The crew consisted of Reinout (the hunter), Diana (the deer) and me, and it most certainly was too small. Being the camera operator, director, gaffer and grip all at once made the shoot more complex and tiring than it needed to be.

The thing I really like is the atmosphere we were able to create with a dozen plants, a few 500W spots and two projectors. None of the movie was filmed outside and no green screen or blue screen tricks were used, although there is some silly CGI at the end.

But above all I like the song. So what are you waiting for?

for people living in Europe.

Chances are big that you’ve crossed some heated discussion about the 24p capabilities of different cameras if you’re looking for a new camera yourself. This is just a quick note to let you know that 24p doesn’t matter at all in Europe.

Americans are used to material with to 2 different frame rates: film originated material at 24 fps and video at 30 fps (interlaced or progressive). Of course, the NTSC system can not display 24 frames per seconds, it’s strictly 60i. Therefore, 24p material gets subjected to what they call 2:3 pulldown. That is one frame will be split over two (2) fields or three (3) fields alternively. Adam Wilt has a very nice explanation here. I’ve never seen the result of this 2:3 pulldown process but I imagine it looks pretty strange.

Anyway, the important thing to notice is: Americans can immediately distinguish film originated material from straight TV because of the strange cadence that’s associated with film. Now every filmmaker want his stuff to look like a movie, not some sitcom. That’s why there’s a big demand for cameras with a 24p capability. This is what a 24p capable camera ideally does: it aquires images at 24p and adds the 2:3 pulldown when the footage is written to tape. Advanced 24p capable cameras add some special kind of pull down (2:3:3:2) which makes it easier to reclaim the original 24 frames. Being the first with a cheap 24p capable camera, the AVG-DVX100, was the big breakthrough for Panasonic in the USA.

Nobody ever watches footage at 24 fps outside the cinema in Europe. Film shown on TV or DVD is shown at 25 fps. This is a 4% speedup but I doubt anyone really notices. Since there isn’t any frame rate difference between film and video, there’s no incentive at all for a 24p capable camera. You just don’t need it, not even in the unlikely case that your movie will be printed to film. You can always slow your footage down from 25 to 24 fps, but you can’t display 24p footage on any TV nor put it on a DVD. The European version of the above mentioned DVX100 didn’t even have a 24p capability (and it didn’t do as well as the American version since the rest of its features were comparable to other cameras).

There is an important distinction between progressive and interlaced capture though. If you’re looking for the most movie like camera, you need one that’s capable of progressive capture. You can however convert interlaced footage to progressive with tools like Nattress film effects or DV Film maker or Compressor. The results are passable. Be warned that not everybody likes the choppy look of progressive material.

On an unrelated side note, it has been confirmed that Panasonic’s new HVX200 camera has 960×540 pixel CCD’s which it upsamples to 1280×1080 in 1080p mode. I think that this partly explains the low resolution of the camera as observed earlier. I don’t think there’s any use in using the camera out of 720p.