News for January 2008

New possibilities from Production 2.0?…

Production 2.0

The delayed “Production 2.0″ event… took place in Soho, London last night. There was nothing to get that excited about, certainly not much on the nature of digital production… I haven’t covered previously.

The organisers presented a workflow using a Panavision Genesis that basically allowed rushes to be viewed immediately after shooting on a laptop, projector, or even an iPod. Most of this is thanks to the Codex Digital Recorder, a disk-based uncompressed video recorder that can transcode on-the-fly to a variety of different formats. All good stuff.

Also present were the Hat Factory to provide on-set VFX and editing capability, though that was very much a case of –insert VFX facility here– rather than them presenting anything in the way of innovation. Also present were transmissions bods Sohonet, though their exact role in all of this was very unclear. I would guess that if it’s your aim to bounce data around the world, that’s where they can help. I certainly wouldn’t consider them an integral part of the system though.

It was interesting to actually see it all come together in the flesh as it were. There were no apparent hiccups anywhere along the line, it seemed to work fairly smoothly (although we were practically in laboratory conditions), and I have no doubt that Codex Digital can in fact deliver on what they’re offering (although I am still waiting for the promised email to say that the footage from the event is available to view online).

Also of interest was the discussion about the workflow for the Wachowski (siblings?) forthcoming film, “Speedracer”. They made use of up to 7 Codex Digital Recorders, and their workflow was to send data off to the four corners of the Earth after each shoot, where it was colour-corrected, composited, and edited overnight as needed, and then sent back. At the dailies session the next day, the results were auto-conformed, and the production was able to watch a segment of the finished film rather than individual takes in isolation. Absolutely incredible, but I can almost feel the pain and heartbreak that the overnight crew must have gone through to make it happen.

The entire event left me wondering what the actual, tangible benefit of all of this really is. The only conclusion offered by the seminar was that it allows things to happen faster. “And it’s easy”, but as the fellow sat next to me pointed out, “of course it’s easy if you’re the designer of the system”. Because, at the end of the day, is browsing through a set of folders and files to find a shot as easy as spooling through a tape for “most” people? It remains to be seen.

UPDATE: The edited highlights can be viewed online now… 

Posted: January 31st, 2008
Categories: Opinion
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Comments: 2 comments

Run 3DS MAX 2008 on a Mac…

The latest version of Parallels Desktop for Mac runs 3D Studio Max 2008 in OS X.5 (Leopard), seemingly without any problems (well no additional problems that the two products don’t have independently). It also works in Parallels “Coherence” mode, so you get a seamless experience, for example dragging and dropping files from the Finder into the 3DS Max interface.

max-parallels

The catch? DirectX rendering doesn’t seem to work, so you’ll have to use software rendering for the viewports.

Posted: January 30th, 2008
Categories: Tips & Tricks
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Resizing Shots in Final Cut Studio: Basic Scaling with QuickTime Pro…

What if you’re not concerned about quality, and don’t have access to your Final Cut Pro system? Then turn to QuickTime Pro.

Anything you can view in QuickTime can be scaled to a different size. Unfortunately this method uses basic interpolation at best, and so the results will almost certainly be lacklustre. However, this can be a good choice to resize a lot of footage where quality is not an issue, and the more technically-minded can put Applescript to work to batch resize lots of clips without needing Compressor.

To scale footage in QuickTime Pro:

  1. Open the clip (or an image sequence).
  2. Select Window/Show Movie Properties.
  3. Select Video Track and click the Visual Settings tab.
  4. Type a new height or width (in pixels or percentage) under Scaled Size.
  5. Save or export the resized clip.

qt-resize

Tip: QuickTime Pro can also be used to scale image files or sequences

In the next part of the series, we’ll be looking at different cropping methods.

Posted: January 22nd, 2008
Categories: Articles, Tips & Tricks
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Comments: 2 comments

Resizing Shots in Final Cut Studio: Basic Scaling with FCP…

To resize footage quickly and easily, you can’t beat using the options built into Final Cut Pro’s interface. The results can be quite pleasing, and this method works particularly well for making images smaller, such as when adding 1080p HD footage into a 720p HD timeline.

FCP makes it very easy to resize footage directly from within the interface. In fact, this ease can be a bit of a double-edged sword; in many occasions it can be difficult to tell precisely which shots are being scaled and which are not.

The problem with this method is that you don’t have much control over it. There are three different methods available (Linear, Normal and Best), and images will almost certainly fall to pieces with a lot of scaling.

To scale footage in Final Cut Pro:

  1. Double-click the shot in the timeline or bin.
  2. Tear off the Motion tab so you can see it alongside the image. You should also stretch the canvas out as big as possible so you can see the effects of the changes.
  3. Select Sequence / Settings…
  4. Under the Video Processing tab, set the Motion Filtering Quality to the desired level (Best is usually the one you’ll want unless you’re in a hurry, and Linear will perform only very basic interpolation, good for fast previews).
  5. Adjust the Scale parameter percentage to suit.

fcp_resize

Tip: Shake can be used to resize individual QuickTime movies too, and includes a much bigger selection of filters, such as Mitchell and Lanczos, each of which is better for different types of footage.

Posted: January 22nd, 2008
Categories: Articles, Tips & Tricks
Tags: , , ,
Comments: 6 comments

Resizing Shots in Final Cut Studio: Introduction…

There are many situations in post-production which require the picture size of a shot to be unchanged. Unfortunately, the process of resizing digital images is far from perfect. Intuitively it should be a very simple process, like using a zoom lens on a camera to get closer to the action, or even like using an enlarger in a photographic darkroom to make the picture fit a bigger page.

Both of these examples use an optical process that magnifies details that were previously too small to see clearly. With digital images however, you’re limited to what’s already there. And because what’s already there is just pixels, tiny coloured square boxes, when you enlarge a digital image too far you get… big coloured square boxes.

Most of the time this effect goes unnoticed in the digital world. Excluding vector images (which we’ll get to later in this series), the main reason you don’t see scaled-up pixels in digital images very often is because almost every image processing application automatically performs some sort of complicated mathematics, called interpolation, on the raw data to produce the resized result.

Being aware of this interpolation is important for several reasons. First of all, it’s a cheat. Not in the sense that it has five aces up its sleeve, but in the sense that it’s making a sort of guess as to what the hidden details might look like. Very occasionally it will guess wrong, making the picture look worse. Most of the time it will produce fairly convincing results that are passable.

This series isn’t about how to get passable results though. It’s about how to get the best possible results out of Final Cut Studio, because there’s one more interesting feature of image interpolation: there are many different ways of doing it, each of which is useful for different situations and types of source footage. Although it’s incredibly convenient to just reach for the scaling control in Final Cut Pro, using other methods can produce much sharper, more vivid results.

Tip: In general, it’s best to avoid resizing footage whenever possible. At best it’s a time-consuming process, and at worst it can really take the shine off of those beautiful images. However, when working with media from different sources, some form of resizing is going to be inevitable.

Posted: January 22nd, 2008
Categories: Articles, Tips & Tricks
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