News for November 2007

Toilet Guy Post on Digital Media Net…

Digital Media Net is running an article on the post-production of The Toilet Guy and how we used Scratch.

Digital Media Net

Posted: November 30th, 2007
Categories: News
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Production 2.0 Seminar at Pinewood…

Codex digital, The Hat Factory, Sohonet, the Director’s Guild of Great Britain and the Production Guild have teamed up to present a seminar on digital production workflows.

Register online here

Update: This has been postponed to January 2008.

Posted: November 29th, 2007
Categories: News
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Combustion Alive After All…

I’d previously written off Autodesk’s Combustion as being dead in the water, with seemingly no development having taken place for a long time, and a seemingly endless list of bugs (on the Mac version at least). Today however, Autodesk announced Combustion 2008 for Windows and Mac (with a whole slew of features), so maybe there’s still competition for After Effects.

The popular Colour Warper tool, found in the Autodesk Flame visual effects system, has been added to Combustion 2008. The new release also includes improvements to the schematic view.

The Colour Warper in Combustion 2008 performs primary and selective colour correction. It also allows for precise fine-tuning with multiple levels of adjustment in a single pass. Colour Warper features include:

·         Interactive adjustment of gamma, gain, offset, hue, saturation, and contrast

·         Intuitive hue shift and a tint colour wheel for fast, accurate colour balancing and a visual colour sampling palette for precise colour matching

·         Interactive Histogram and curves editing modes for subtle, precision tweaking of colour components

·         Independent controls for colour correcting the image’s shadow, midtone, and highlight regions

·         “Match” feature for fast scene-to-scene colour correction

·         “Selective” feature for sampling up to three different colour regions for isolated correction

·         User interface features: high-quality RGB vector scope, and a 3D histogram for precise colour monitoring

Pricing and Availability

Autodesk anticipates that Combustion 2008 will be available in December 2007. The 2008 release will be supported on Macintosh and Windows operating systems. Autodesk suggested retail pricing is £850 or EUR 1,200*. The suggested upgrade price from Combustion 4 to Combustion 2008 is £165 or EUR 235*.

Posted: November 29th, 2007
Categories: Tools
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Glue Tools Cineon/DPX Quicktime Components…

Mac users: Get Cineon & DPX functionality with Glue Tools’ Quicktime Components…

The full version will also integrate nicely with FCP, giving you access to metadata such as timecode. At $400 per license, it’s a bit too pricey for us to use here but the demo mode will at least let you see DPX thumbnails in the Finder. I tried out a folder of DPX files with Leopard‘s QuickLook and it actually plays through the sequence (although with red bars in demo mode). I did notice a few problems though, such as the image preview in Finder’s detail pane only shows the first frame of the sequence rather than the selected frame, and the thumbnail preview seems to select a random frame from the sequence and then use that as the thumbnail for every frame. I’ve still yet to find anything that shows DPX files quickly and correctly in Coverflow view.

Posted: November 26th, 2007
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Bad Bytes – Part 1: Introduction…

It’s been a bad year for data at Surreal Road. We’ve had a lot of disk drive failures, unreadable CD/DVD discs, and the usual slew of corrupted copies, but to a significantly higher degree than last year. Fortunately, most of it was either recoverable or backed up somewhere, so the real issue was the time spent reloading from tapes, re-rendering and so on. I’m not certain why there has been an increase

With that in mind, I figured an article on data integrity would be very timely. The sad fact is, at practically every company I’ve worked at, there is no policy on data verification (let alone preventative measures). This is strange, considering the high volume of data that is turned around. It is perfectly normal to send a terabyte-or-so disk drive somewhere, without any way for the person on the other end to verify that it’s intact. And guess what? Phone-calls about corrupt data, incomplete copies and (ultimately), film-out problems abound, followed by the obligatory re-exchange of disk drives, and time & money being wasted.

Here’s the solution: you can include verification files with any data you send anywhere. A verification file is like a digital signature for other files. You take your set of data that you know to be good, generate the verification file, and send it along with the data. The person at the other end then cross-references the verification file against the data they’ve received. Any files that fail the test have been altered in some way (note that the file’s metadata, such as creation date, can usually change without the check failing), which usually indicates some sort of problem.

Sound simple? There are some caveats, and these tend to be the reason that people who are aware of file verification neglect to use it. First of all, it’s not 100% bullet-proof. A mismatch will always mean there is a problem with the data, but on the flip-side of that, a match won’t necessarily mean the data is correct, just that there is a high probability that the files are the same. Secondly, there are several different file verification algorithms that can be used. They each differ in some way (the main ones are covered below), but you need to be sure that the algorithm used to verify the data is the same as the one used to create it. Finally, there is the issue of speed. Generating verification files is typically a slow process. If you’re in a rush (which is the normal state of being for post-production), generating verification files is an additional process that needs to be accounted for. In the next part of this article, we’ll be comparing different methods to see just how long they take. Stay tuned for that.

The most common verification methods are:

  1. Checksum: This works by adding up all the 1s and 0s in a file and storing the total. This is not particularly robust, as it can generate false positives in lots of situations. However, it is the fastest method of the bunch.
  2. CRC32 (32-bit Cyclic Redundancy Check): This is similar to the checksum method, but it encodes additional information about the position of each digit in relation to the others.
  3. MD5 (Message-digest algorithm 5): This is much more robust than CRC32, and is commonly used to indicate that a file hasn’t been deliberately tampered with. In addition, it is built into most major operating systems.
  4. SHA-1 (Secure Hash Algorithm 1): This was designed by the NSA to be more secure than the other methods, and thus maybe slightly more robust.
Posted: November 23rd, 2007
Categories: Articles
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