Archive for the ‘Files’ Category

Old School Audio Ripping – Music to my ears

Friday, April 17th, 2009

There are a million reasons to want to record the audio off of your Mac when it doesn’t want you to do so. For example, sometimes I want to burn a CD of a podcast to listen to in my car that only has a CD player (and certainly doesn’t have an iPod jack). Audio books are also nice to burn for the same reason. There are countless times when iTunes gives me the error message “can not burn because you have reached my burn limit for that song.” But it doesn’t take into account that my last burns were mistakenly made from the wrong playlist. Sometimes I want to burn live streams to a file or CD, but Mac doesn’t make it easy.

And for years, I was able to easily burn any audio my computer was “hearing” using a freeware called WireTap. But that was in OS9. My Wiretap doesn’t work right anymore. There are lots of other applications that allow you to capture the audio from your Mac, but many of them cost money or are ultra buggy.

So I say, go old school. That’s right. Use the oldest, most analog trick in the book. Simply use the wire that goes from your computer to your speakers and stick the RCA (red and white) plugs into some kind of recording device. I like to use my MiniDV deck, but even a VHS deck has great audio quality and will do the job.  But with the MiniDV deck, I can easily recapture the audio to my Mac via firewire.

Then re-import the audio into your Mac and you will get a file that has no copy protection and no metadata issues. It’s a clean, unrestricted audio file that you use to your “fair use” clause’s delight.

Yeah, it may take real time to create the real file, but the quality sounds great. Don’t poo poo analog audio too quickly. For more than a hundred years, analog audio was fantastic for recording the greatest stars of stage, and screen. In fact, the only recordings we have of such legendary talent as Caruso, were recorded in analog.  The freakin’ Beatles recorded every single song in analog!

And now for the audiophile test.

1) Play a CD in your computer

2) Take the audio out of your speaker wires and plug them into a MiniDV recorder.

3) Digitize the resulting MiniDV videotape back into your Mac via firewire.

4) Now, in a blind test of your friends, play the MiniDV file using Quicktime player and then… compare it to the live CD playing on the same computer.

Nobody will be able to tell you which is which.  And even if, they are aurally gifted with uber hearing powers, they will say that both sources sound perfectly acceptable for feeling the mood of the music and for transporting you from the worries of your day.

Analog, baby. It’s the forgotten tool of yore!

Size Matters! How to create a small Quicktime for pushing across the web

Friday, March 14th, 2008

There are so many codecs for digital movies out there that is becomes really confusing when you are trying to make a small file to place on Youtube, an ftp site or to email to everyone in your address book.  By the way, a codec is the formula used to compress and decompress a digital movie.  For example, you can compress your video clip using H263, H264, Animation, Sorensen, Cinepak, Animated GIF, DV, DV  Stream, MPEG-4, MPEG-2, M4V, FLC, SWF, and on and on.


You could literally test and play with settings and parameters for days and you will eventually drive yourself crazy trying to get the perfect file that is small enough to email but vivid and snappy enough to get you the recognition and accolades you deserve.


Here’s a fool proof, easy way to do it…


Buy Apple’s Quicktime Pro application for  around $40 bucks. Then open your big, uncompressed monster of a movie file, then say “EXPORT” in Quicktime Pro and choose “FOR iPOD.”


That’s it. Your file will be tiny and look amazing. Even though you ended up with merely an .M4V file that you could have done that yourself, you would never be able to compete with the genius eggheads at Apple who have spent hundreds of hours in R&D to have the perfect codec settings!


This is also a great file to upload to YouTube. Their upload robot LOVES this file. However, if you want to make it absolutely perfect for YouTube, you should create your original big file at 400×300 pixels, because otherwise YouTube will scale your file and cause it to lose some resolution. I understand that 400×300 is a non-standard aspect ration in computer land, but that’s what YouTube is, so you might as well create your original file that size. Be sure to make the file with those dimensions PRIOR to crunching down with the “EXPORT TO iPOD.”



AAKK!!! The large mac files on my hard drive don’t show up on a PC!

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

Yeah, this is something that comes up once in a while with us. Producers or editors send us a hard drive to which we are to transfer their master videotapes as Quicktime movies.

But when we ship back the drive with the new Quicktimes (.MOV files), they can’t open it on their PC. Then the dialogue goes like this:




But you told us you wanted to use the files on a mac for Final Cut Pro?



Right, but we also need the files to work on a PC so our client can use them.



Oh, in that case… You’re screwed sucka! Just kiddin’ ya. Let’s say you have a 25 GB file that you want to put on a hard drive for cross-platform viewing.  There is no easy and free way to do that unless you by software called MacDrive to install on your PC.



But…. But… But…



No buts. Let me break it down for you:

Hard drives need to be formatted as either Mac OS Extended, FAT32, or NTFS.

OS Extended holds unlimited file sizes on Mac, so that’s cool if you want to use the files on an Apple machine.

FAT32 works on both platforms perfectly. But guess what? FAT32 has a file size limit of 4 GBs!  Jeeze. That’s not even big enough to hold an hour of video. Ridiculous!! Further more, FAT32 has a maximum partition size of 32 GBs.



What??!! Are you kidding me?!



Yeah, that’s pretty damn lame, considering your iPod can hold more than that! 32 GBs is so 1994!

NTFS formatted discs, on the other hand, are capable of holding terabytes of info in one folder. But watch out, that format only works for PCs.



So what am I supposed to do with big files that need to play on both PC and MAC?



Okay. Here are the solutions to choose from:]

1)    Break your files into small junks of only 4 GBs or less and use the FAT32 format.


2) Buy software such as MacDrive for your PC


3) Transfer your large files onto one disc formatted with MAC OS Extended, and another disc formatted with NTFS.


4) Scrap the whole idea and go surfing here.


– Kirk

How to ruin your career and embarrass yourself in half a second flat!

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008

Here’s something we encounter all the time, a major client with an insane deadline sends us a precious file of their motion picture to be laid off to BetaSP or Digibeta for use in a critical film festival screening where the audience includes top studio scouts and distributors.

At the screening, the lights dim, the projector fires up, and the film hits the silver screen with all its glory and charm. The distribution execs are cracking up at every joke and displaying the perfect body posture for the dramatic parts. The screening is going to be a hit… until… OH MY GOD! THERE’S SCRATCH DIALOGUE COMING FROM THE CHARACTERS’ MOUTHS! AND, WHERE DID THE MUSIC GO IN THAT SCENE? AAAAAK! A TEMP TITLE CARD THAT SAYS “SCENE MISSING”!

Poooof. There goes the distribution deal. There goes my life!! Anyone need a bartender out there?

But how could this have happened? The file was proofed and re-proofed and watched by several people. The film was perfect back in the online bay. And the file that was transferred for the screening was called “LOST IN PARADISE NEW FINAL VERSION REVISED”.

And therein lies the problem: The file name. The wrong file was used to make the transfer.

This is a dramatic illustration of the consequences of naming files without the use of a clear emnaming convention.

I don’t understand why so many actual professionals name there files things like:

Now when there are a bunch of discs floating around the office with various versions of these “FINAL” masters, it is really easy to see how things could go terribly wrong at the dub house when the incorrect file shows up for transfer.

For that matter, with everyone working from servers and hard drives all over the world, it’s super easy to see that a mis-named file in a folder could be mistaken for the correct one. In fact, people accidentally delete critical files all the time on their very own computer for this exact same reason.

So the trick is, ALWAYS NAME EVERY SINGLE FILE WITH A VALID NAME. Here are some excellent ideas to include in your name:

1) The date the file was made. THIS IS ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL! If there is no other info in the file name, you must use a DATE. With the real date in the file name, it is almost impossible to grab the wrong one since an actual date is so easily cross-referenced by invoices, production schedules, and other records of processes. Also, make the date read in reverse European-style syntax: YEAR/MONTH/DAY/TIME (military). That way, the date will always sort in perfect order and it will be crystal clear which file is the latest one.

Example: 2008_12_31_1325

2) The project name or abbreviation. “Lost in Paradise” becomes ”LIP”.

3) The status of the project, such as “RuffCut_No_Music” or “ColorCorrected_Master”

So your wonderful new, final, final, really truly master corrected revised file will end up looking like this:

Ain’t it a a beautiful thing? And if that file name is too long for a given purpose, you can still get by with:

God, that’s clean. MMMMMmmm. It’s delicious to behold and to archive. Oh, and by the way, you will be able to actually keep your job if you name files like this.