Compression

Final Cut Pro Mobile: Touch Your Edit

It is with great excitement that I am finally able to make an announcement that has been eating at me for nearly a year now. In June of 2009 when the iPhone 3GS was released I had a flash of what the future could hold for editing, and it’s that moment of inspiration that gave birth to the product I’m announcing today.

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Our new groundbreaking product, Final Cut Pro Mobile, is now available on the iPhone 3GS. It will also be available on the iPad later this year. You heard me right – the full suite of FCPS apps have been ported to the iPhone 3GS, and in some cases, we’ve been able to add additional features not found in the current offerings from Apple.

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Much of our inspiration at SuiteTake.com to create this mobile suite was inspired by the growing interest in editing projects outside of the office. While the edit suite has been the traditional place to get your project done, technology no longer limits us to just a single location. And it was with that vision in mind that we marched forward with the project. Here is a quick overview of what the new suite includes.

Have FCP, Will Travel… Please Let Me Travel!

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This week I have the good fortune of getting out of the cold Chicago weather and editing in sunny California. I’m was brought out to do some on-site editing for Fender at the NAMM convention in Anaheim.

Like every travel job that I do, there are unique needs that needed to be addressed. No two jobs are exactly the same.  The needs of this job resulted in me having the most sophicated travel setup I’ve had to date. Here are the details of the job.

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NAMM is a convention that showcases manufactures of musical instruments and gear. It’s kind of the NAB of the music industry. Fender has one whole floor of the convention center, and my job is specific to what they’re doing here. There are 3 main areas of their venue. The Stage, where there will be live performances, both planned and as people walk up and just want to jam. There is the exhibit area where booths are setup for all of the separate companies that are under the Fender umbrella. And then there’s the “floor”, where people are just socializing and moving from one place to the other. All of these are being covered by video, and as quickly as possible edited down and posted to the web on the Fender website as well as many social media sites.

Review: Matrox CompressHD PCIe Card

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Video compression has come a long way from the days of using Cinepak on a Quadra 950 tower and the old NuBus slots. For the most part, the wars between online formats has been settled with Flash leading the way. But behind that Flash Player is often H.264 encoded video, ever since it was introduced with Flash 9 in December of 2007. Even video powerhouse YouTube is pushing out H.264 video wrapped in a flash player. If that’s not enough, one of the officially supported video formats for Blu-ray is H.264.

So from on-line video (SD or HD) to high end Blu-ray DVD’s, h.264 is a huge player. It’s all good, right? Well, mostly. Have you ever compressed an h.264 video file? It can be unbearably long. We first started running into this bottleneck when we switched from doing mpeg-1 client web approvals (something that was very fast to compress and widely compatible) to h.264. We switched mainly because we wanted to post high resolution web approvals for our clients at higher quality, and MPEG-1 just wasn’t cutting it. H.264 really filled that need. But even a shorter video, say 10-15 minutes could take 60-90 minutes to compress on a Quad Intel MacPro, and some of our videos are more in the 30 minute range. If you have the time, leaving it running overnight is no big deal, but most of the time we’re doing these web approvals close to 5 or 6pm and they needed to be posted and sent to the client that same day. Waiting around just to finish a web post feels like a waste of time (although we did minimize this to some degree using LogMeIn as covered in my previous post).

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After hearing others brag about how great it was, we finally decided to try the “to good to be true” Turbo.264 USB key from Elgato (the non-HD version). I really fought it because I had a hard time believing that a little USB key could do what my huge expensive multi-processor MacPro could not. But also because it did not integrate with Compressor, which is part of our workflow. For the price though, we decided to give it a try.

For what you end up paying, the Turbo.264 does a pretty good job. It is FAST for sure, and the output is not too bad, but it’s not perfect either. It gave us the speed that we wanted, but not the quality. One of the main reasons it’s able to do what it does so fast is that the very first thing that’s done is resize the video frame, and then pass it off to the USB key for processing. This is key, because the rest of the processing is done on a lower resolution frame instead of working with the original uncompressed frame. Great for speed, but not optimal for quality. But for many people, this might just do the trick depending on your needs and budget. You end up seeing compression artifacts in places that you wouldn’t when using compressor with similar settings, typically areas of fast movement, effects or dissolves. But it did take care of the time bottleneck that we were having. So we decided to sacrifice some quality for the sake of actually getting home on time but continued to look for other options.

Sony EX-1/EX-3 and Final Cut Pro, What’s Your Workflow?

Late last year we added a new camera package to our offerings at Edit Creations. In part because we wanted to diversify the services we had to offer, and also because it played into a spinoff company we’ve been working on. That new company would be a lot more production based then Edit Creations currently is.

We looked at all the options out there in the sub 10K price range, and after weeks of research ended up with a Sony EX-1. That really surprised me because when we started the search I was pretty much set on the Panasonic P2 format and the AG-HVX200A model. Not only do I have experience with that camera, but almost everything else we do is shot in the DVCPro HD format, so we have a nice workflow in place. More then that though, I can’t stand editing in the MPEG-2 format. It’s fine for shooting and can capture great images, but once you get it into the edit system you can be assured you will rendering more then ever before. But in the end, the Sony EX-1 won hands down in image quality, built in features, and price. There was just no denying it.

So, what to do with the workflow?

On the first several projects we tried multiple different ways of attacking the projects. Everything from working in the MPEG-2 format natively to converting everything to ProRes and editing with the converted files instead. We also have extensive experience working with the Sony software, which includes XDCam EX Clip Browser and XDCam Transfer.

In addition to all of this trial and error, I was training a client on how to handle the workflow for his own project (he was renting our camera). But it seemed every time I met with him I was saying “OK, I know I said do it like this, but now there’s a whole new way to do it”. Nothing like learning on the job to keep everybody on edge!

So here we are now, about 6 months later, with what I believe is a solid workflow. So if you’re using EX-1 (or XDCam footage of any kind) you can learn from our mistakes and start off on the right foot.

iTunes in a Final Cut Pro workflow? Are you crazy?

Believe it or not the built-in tools in iTunes can be useful in a Final Cut Pro working environment. In this quick video tutorial I’ll show you some hidden features in iTunes that can help you maximize your efficiency and better your organization when importing music tracks into FCP projects.

Compressor Cluster Submit Problems, and Solution

When Compressor (part of FCP Studio) works, it works well. And when it doesn’t, it can be a really pain and waste of time trying to get things working again. For me it’s a true love/hate relationship.

Have you ever went to submit your batch compression only to find that you don’t have the option to submit it to anything?

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When you try to click on the cluster as shown above, you don’t have the option to select the default “This Computer”, or anything else for that matter. If you just try to submit it anyway, you’ll get an error telling you to re-install Compressor. But don’t (at least not yet).

There is a simple Terminal command you can run that will, at least for the moment, fix the problem. Try the following.

Flash Encoding: VBR or CBR? It depends.

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It’s been a few years now since the battle over which video format would dominate the web. It’s hard to argue that over the last few years Flash is by far the clear winner. From entertainment sites like YouTube to news organizations like CNN, when you watch video changes are it’s Flash encoded.

I would argue that as far as quality, bit rates and file sizes go, Flash is not the best choice out there. But its cross platform ubiquity is unquestionable.

This post is not going to get into all of the ins and outs of Flash, but I want to discuss one point. VBR (variable bit rate) and CBR (constant bit rate) encoding.