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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Hard Drive Failure Rates

dead failed seagate 2tb hard drive HD

A week ago we saw this article about hard drive durability. Seagate did surprisingly poorly for this large user of drives. So guess what ? ya one of my Seagate 2TB's dropped dead this week. It wasn't complete failure, it had a lot of bad sectors and was having problems. Thankfully it was just the system drive for my Linux NAS box. I found a new drive, installed Fedora 20 and was back up and running quick enough. I was lucky it wasn't a data drive without back up. Its just made me be much more vigilent in doing backups. Its not that I don't do them across multiple machines, but sometimes its easy to go a while. back to regular back ups ! In fact I spent the week going thru some older drives looking for clips I needed in a current project. All went well. Of course this also made the point that I try to keep all the clips for a project on a single volume rather than being spread out all over the place. However with this project I'd found I'd taken clips from the NAS box and other local drives even though I'd tried to be careful NOT to do that. Well 2 days of on and off poking around and I finally have all the clips that matter. This has me wanting to pick up a disc catalogging app so I ca catalog all the 1tb drives I now have sitting around so the next time I need to find a shot, I'm not going thru all of them to find it.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

16mm Music Video From My Past

Once upon a time the film look required... FILM ! on the cheap 16mm, on the super cheap 8mm. No HVX200, No FillmLook from Roland House in MA or  tricks in AE.  Here is the first music video I shot, well about 50% of what you see on the screen - color shots, jib arm, some of the wild B&W club stuff on 8mm. I sold the Lowell Pro Light that did the crowd spot light stuff not too many years ago ! amazing to see this.

Whats more amazing is to see that that youtube copyright droid was all over this in seconds claiming infringement. Really ? how about my images ? first time every put up on youtube ! One of the band member just posted the song a few months ago. Completely ridiculous. I've had more hassle with the copyright droids that mindlessly flag licensed stock music or stuff like this that I'm clear to use. Its to the point I've even had a few randomish 1-4-5 chords on my guitar flagged as some copyright violation, RUBBISH ! to be polite. Maybe someday AI will join the YT copyright droid rather than shear stupidity !

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Final Cut 1.0 Intro Video

Final Cut Pro 1.0 Intro video to sell the product. Randy Ubilos makes an appearance. The music though is pretty bad, even for that era. In many respects its hard to imagine apple let this out the door but so it was. I"m sure you'll be dazzled by all the fancy transitions and PiP effects.

Its good to have a look at the UI to see it didn't change that much over the years, but of course thats where it also fell down. Failure to evolve with the times.  Oh well, I'm happily turning out projects on one of the products they put down, Preimere ( Pro ) . I'm also a former Media 100 X2 owner.

Meanwhile in the same year apple turned out this other sell video for the new G3 iMac. I had one of those. Perfect match for FCP at that time with FW and DV. However I used it for lots of PS and AE work. I guess they weren't sure that FCP thing would take off so they skimped out on the production as the iMac video is well lit and shot.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Planet 5D Writes Up My Short Film

Mitch over at Planet 5D featured my short film "A Great Life" - THANK YOU MITCH !. Exciting to see where this is going.... and watching the number of people who are getting to see it. Its on youtube at

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Film No More for Paramount

The sun is setting on film ever faster. Today Paramount announced it will not longer distribute film prints to theaters. Article Here. We knew it was coming. I'd expect the other major studios  to do the same soon now that one of them has broken out like this. Considering that Fuji has quit making motion picture film no surprise. This will all come down to Kodak at some point stopping too. I'd expect Kodak will nurse it along as far as they can getting to the point of where you'll need to place an order for what you want for your feature. Then they'll fire up the line for a month or two, produce all the orders and maybe a little over just to be safe and thats it. They could keep production running for a while like this. Of course the next problem will be processing as labs have become scarce and those that are still doing it have dramatically reduced the number of lines they have running. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

DVD's Aren't Forever

I was cleaning up some old junk around the studio and found this DVD. The inkjet printable surface had completely come off. Room temp, dark place, disc gone. I had a spindle of these and I was suprised to find I still had one. Then there was the batch that photoreacted and turned brown even in low light levels. 100% data loss on those X 50 or more. Bottom line - don't trust DVD-R's for long term storage. On the other hand I still have a couple of the first CD's I ever made. They are the ones with the deep green base and they still work every time I'll try one.  

Any one else had this happen ?

Monday, January 13, 2014

ProRes 422 VS AVChd 24

Click on image for full size frame


Real image from real job in progress right now. 1080p24 ProRes 422 (record on ninja2 via HDMI ) vs AVChd 24 on C100. Winner is ? You tell me ! both images are keyed using Ultra Keyer in Premiere Pro CC 7.2. Do you see any real difference ? Look hard. Guess what, on a still frame there is no real difference. When playing I can see some compression artifacts in the AVChd version but they are small. Both key equally as well. Impossible ? no. The green means that the AVChd codec isn't working nearly as hard as if it had an image filled with detail to compress. The codec is working easy and produced some great results for what it was even with 4:2:0 color space. This of course comes back to what I say a lot - get it right in camera and even a 8bit 4:2:0 GOP codec can be ok. Its only when you start pushing that codec with extreme color corrections, too much detail and motion that it can fall apart. Under these circumstances 422 intraframe codecs may do better. may do better, maybe not. I'm not totally sold that just because its more bits that it will produce a better image automatically. In fact given the GOP efficiency it might not matter.

Sometimes I think I see some very minor differences in the skin tones. I think the ProRes has a bit more gradation than the AVChd....sometimes. I can see the noise in the image is a bit cleaner in ProRes vs some compression artifacts in the AVChd. This is watching the images on a 42" LG screen closer than I should be looking.

Do you know what I'd like to see ? a short GOP h.264 codec of say 5 frames, 4:2:2 and 10bit. Certainly possible in the spec, you just have to set your encoder to do it. With this sort of compression at 150-200mbits I bet it would make for very reasonable file sizes and outstanding quality. You could even push it to 12bit for RAW recording. Anyone tried it yet ?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Shooting In The Extreme Cold

When work comes you take it. That sometimes means working in pretty extreme conditions. In this case that meant temps of -23F, Wind Chill -50F. You have to have the right gear. Oh don't worry the 5D worked fine besides the LCD panel on the camera having a ghost like sluggish response at those temps. Its about very seriously dressing yourself properly. When outside for hours on end in temps like this you can't be getting cold. Your feet and fingers will go first. I used some toe warmers. They are small pads you stuff in your shoes / boots that generate a little bit of heat. The most important thing I can say is that putting on top or bottom helps but isn't ideal. What does work best is using the built in adhesive on them to wrap your toes from top, around the front to the bottom. Once I figured that out my feet where happy all the time. However, these things don't last forever and I found after about 5 or 6 hrs they needed to be replaced, right about lunch time. Its also good practice to change your socks  as well every 6 hrs. I went with thick wool ones and polypropylene liners. That worked well. Keep your socks on an inside pocket to keep them warm if you have to change outside. Changing them means you don't have excess moisture which is the biggest problem to staying warm for extended periods of time in these conditions. 

The wind chill was brutal. When there was no wind it wasn't that bad at all, but the wind can and will find any crack or thin spot and get in. We had some great Polar Fire gear for jackets and bibs. Lots of pockets, water proof and wind proof. They kept us warm. Expensive ? yes of course you knew I was going to say that but compared to being cold, miserable and potentially being frostbit, very cheap. A trip to the ER costs a lot more than the right gear !

Fingers where another story and I never quite got my setup right on this trip. I had some thin glove liners with touch screen tips. They  basically fell apart over several days - the touch tips shredded and one of the seams tore open. The cold came in that hole for sure. Some times they kept me warm enough, especially when having some level of exertion to generate body heat. They did do what I expected - get me at couple minutes of work time when I wanted. The problem was basically that I needed that fine control for working with gear that has some really small knobs. I couldn't work the gear with  the thicker gloves I had. My big gloves where warm, but useless for working the gear. Next time I'm going up one thickness on the thin gloves. I've done the glove liners before in the cold.  Very often I can keep my fingers warm like this, but not this time, especially in the wind. I also tried using some hand warmers but they really didn't do that much for me most of the time unless I put my fingers in direct contact with them. 

Wires all got stiff in the cold. At -20 even some better wires that usually stayed flexible got stiff. Handle with care ! Batteries worked well but the choice was expensive Lithium single use ones for gear. They worked great right until they dropped. However using anything less would of been far far less reliable. In these conditions the last thing you need to worry about is your batteries randomly dropping dead after a couple hours of use. The 5D batteries worked fine. 

So that's why I haven't posted all week, been working in the cold. Now that I'm warm again should be back with some more this week.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

4K Now ?

Just when computer started handling 1080 HD like they used to handle SD, here comes 4K to mess it all up. Ok, if you have a machine made in the last 2 years or so it'll probably muddle through 1 or 2 streams of 4K all right. However it probably won't do so great with several. I know, we aren't always doing several layers of live video, but sometimes you do. Sure you can play 1 4K stream ok, even through on maybe one color corrector or scale  / position and you get through it. That may be good enough for a while but eventually like in the start of the HD era you'll want better performance. Some how the newest machines with massive internal bandwidth to push the image data around are going to matter. However, I think you could easily stretch out at least a year before needing to take the plunge. 

Wait, what did I just say ? Yes I think 4K is going to get shoved down everyone's throats and you'll have to do it. Consumer demand for HD started slow but then took off at a pretty steady rate to where we see 70-80% of the viewing market now has at least one HD set in their home, or computer screen. While 3D surfaces every decade or so and tries to become the standard but flops ever so badly, 4K is different. Its the next HD and it will come because it will. Its going to have far more marketing behind it because bigger is always more marketable. 4K panels are already out with prices that are acceptable to mid or upper end consumers. If you are going to spend $800-$1200 on a new set, will you buy a 1080 or 4K set for the same money ? in CONSUMER land the answer is 4K because, well its better, right ?

As a pro, you'd look at other things like contrast ratio, 6bit vs 8 bit vs 10 bit panel, color profile and adjustment, local LED dimming, and other features that mean a better more accurate picture over just the shear number of them. Another words you are looking at the quality of the pixels ! most consumers aren't outside of the stupid worries about refresh rate which is mostly bogus past 60hz, certainly past 120hz where a pixel can turn on or off in 1/2 a frame refresh so there should never be lag. 

Let me also say, I've seen native 4K and its amazing. I've also seen 8K which makes 1080 look like SD. There are days when 1080 just isn't enough for me, it looks a bit soft and lacking detail at times. This is especially true when you start to get closer to the screen. 

What this means quite simply is this : if the material you are shooting has any future value or life, say 5 years from now then 4K is something you need to get serious about now. Start figuring out what work you are doing or expect to be doing this year for which 4K will have future value. Nearly 10 years ago I saw HD coming the way it was. While many productions where shooting SD I was selling HD. My marketing was simple - is what we are shooting now going to have future value ? In almost all cases it did and I still pull shots from those shoots back then on occasion when I need them. While I decided on 720 back then, they scale up into 1080 just fine now with PP's high quality scaling. I made the 720 choice back then for a number of reasons : almost all HD sets where in fact about 720 in resolution, it looked great in SD deliverables, my G5 mac tower easily was able to edit it - 1080 was kinda of chunky at that time, storage requirements weren't as high, it was just easier to handle all around. Another factor was that the first affordable HD cameras at that point were also 720 - HVX-200's, JVC HD100/200/250's. I jumped on the JVC HD-100, shot a lot of great material with it and switched over to dslr's a few years ago. Its funny how I looked at the dslr material vs the JVC and saw the dslr material looked better, but now I do the same thing with my C100 vs everything else past. 

So my words of wisdom are : don't ignore 4K. Its coming, plan for it, find clients and projects for which its appropriate and get into it in a carefully planned way that doesn't leave you broke ! Also know when HD is just fine. Don't just go and sell 4K because you have a camera that can. The back end of editing / storing / achieving is very significant. Its also fair to say that 99.9% of the projects viewers will never see it in 4K for now, but maybe in 5 years they will. Take that into consideration as well if the project you are doing has a shelf life of a year, you don't need 4K for that ! Be wise, smart, careful !

A New Year

Its a new year, lots of things going on. If you haven't seen my short film yet... well... you're waiting for ???? skip down below and check it out. Better yet, share it on Facebook and Twitter ! I put a huge amount of time into it and it would be great if more people saw it, especially those beyond the production community. I've had some great comments and reviews on it that I didn't expect from some pretty critical reviewers. People got that it was about story, not about " gratuitous slide moves " or " over animated camera moves ".  How about great acting ? storying telling ? something that has a point beyond how shallow DoF can be and you still see the shot...oh and its not some homeless person smiling because I could. 

Meanwhile I'm getting ready for a shoot in South Dakota next week. -18F and we are shooting outside, sounds like fun !