Archive for October, 2007

Take those black mattes off your web movie for faster download

Monday, October 22nd, 2007


Do you have Quicktime movie clips on your website that were shot in 16×9? Guess what, you can save 1/3 of your bandwidth by excluding the (4×3) black letterbox from your Quicktime Movie. Just crop into your Quicktime Movie using After Effects, Quicktime Pro, or similar software and recompress your film without the lame black space that does nothing for your movie except choke the download speed and use up valuable hard drive space. Not only that, but a 16×9 movie looks so much more professional when it is at the right shape and doesn’t have the black bars junking up the composition. And if you think that looks cool, do the same thing with your 1.85 or Panavision Quicktime movies. Welcome to Hollywood, baby!


Dang! You can’t find the “A” frame! Use the MAGIC 9 TRICK!

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

If you don’t know what the “A” frame is, then skip this post because it is way too esoteric.
However, if you’re an editor and trying desperately to digitize an HD tape or film transfer that has been down-converted to a digibeta, there are a couple ways to find the A-frame:

1) Digitize the footage with a particular starting timecode. Then check to see if the material looks wonky in the editing system (like an Avid). If it looks wonky, start your TC In Point one frame later and try again. Do this about 6 times and you will find the A frame.

2) Or, use the magic 9 trick. Start with any tc number you want as long as the non-drop frame TC ends in “09.” So like 01:00:12:09 would be a perfect place to start your digitizing. You will ALWAYS hit the A frame everytime. Why is that? I always stunk at math, but I just know it works like a charm.

Trouble-shooting 101 – Break this mutha down!

Monday, October 8th, 2007

This post may seem really lame or rudimentary, but I gotta tell ya… some people just don’t know how to trouble-shoot. Over my years in post production I’ve seen so many editors and other crafts people who can’t seem to trouble-shoot even the most basic problems.

When computer tech support facilities get a call from a consumer having a computer, the first question the tech wants to know is: “Is your computer plugged in?”

Some people are insulted by this elementary question, but 20 percent of the time, that is the ACTUAL problem!! Can you believe it?

But it’s a great illustration of how so many people don’t do even the most basic trouble-shooting.

So whether you are having computer problems, video equipment issues, or whatever, here are the big questions to ask in order to locate the trouble:

1) Has the unit ever worked before?
2) Does the unit function as a result of some other process?
3) Is that “other process” functioning?
4) If the unit is swapped out, does the replacement unit work?

Okay, now let’s take this into a practical situation.

The lamp in my living room doesn’t seem to work. Time to trouble-shoot it.

1) Has this lamp ever worked before? YES

2) Is there another lamp that is currently working and available to swap it out for a test? YES

3) When the lamp is swapped out, does the replacement work? NO

4) Ah ha! This tells us the outlet is dead, right? MAYBE

6) Are there any wall switches associate with this outlet? YES

7) When you flip the switch(s), does the replacement light work in the “bad” outlet? NO

8) Hmm. Must be the circuit breaker. Has the cicuit breaker been tripped? YES

9) After re-setting the circuit breaker, does the replacement light work? YES

10) Cool, now we’re getting somewhere! Now we swap back to the “bad” lamp. Does it work in that outlet now? NO

11) Okay, now we know either the lightbulb is dead or the lamp is broken. So when we switch the lightbulb over to the working lamp, does it light up? YES

12) Bingo! The original lamp must be broken. When we put the good lightbulb in the bad lamp, does it light up? YES

13) Yes?? What the heck is going on here? Both bulbs work in both lamps.

CONCLUSION… The original bulb wasn’t screwed in all the way. Good thing you didn’t throw that bulb or lamp in the trash! Good thing you didn’t call an electrician either!


Your feature film won’t fit on a BetaSP. Sorry. Really, it won’t.

Thursday, October 4th, 2007

We get a lot of calls from filmmakers wanting to submit their film to a tv station or film festival on BetaSP. This work-horse professional tape format is also known as Betacam SP. It’s the analogue little brother to DigiBeta.

Unfortunately, BetaSP has a maximum running time of 90 minutes. Maybe 92 if the tape has been over-spooled at the factory. But basically, most feature films won’t fit on a single BetaSP videocassette.

The solutions to the problem can be…

1) See if you can deliver on another, longer-running, more expensive tape format such as digibeta or DVCAM.

2) Split your show into two reels (old school though it may sound) and have the tv engineer or the festival projectionist tie them together. Sometimes this is done live, and so you will need to provide the exact timecode of the change-over. The projectionist will probably have two decks and slave the timecodes together for a seamless transistion. The tv station engineer will probably dump the movie to a hard drive and tie the two reels together electronically.

3) See if they’ll allow you to send a hard drive with a GIANT quicktime movie on it.

4) Make a shorter film. Trust me, I’m a professional editor and I can take a three hour movie and make it rock at 90 mins. So you can certainly cut down your 102 minute film to 90 mins. Just take the best, most killer stuff and leave the rest on the cutting room floor. You’d be amazed how little you miss that extra footage!

And by the way, not to just rant here, but I can’t stand when directors make a movie longer than 2 hours. C’mon people! It ain’t that precious. Audiences lose patience and have a limited attention span. Plus, the babysitter costs a hell of a lot more. Oh, and the parking, too. Why is it that cinematic films have always been shorter than 2 1/2 hours? “Wizard of Oz” is 101 minutes. “Citizen Kane” is 119 minutes. “Star Wars” is 121 minutes. “Jaws”, 124. So what changed everything in the 1990’s? For crying out loud, some people gotta pee.

Home video Mini DVD camcorders – 10 reasons why they’re a very bad choice!

Monday, October 1st, 2007

Clever gadgets are fun to play with but not to record your important family events. In fact, just don’t use them. Seriously.

These are the type of cameras we’re talking about here:

Sony DCM-M1, Sony Handycam DCR-DVD108 DVD, Samsung SC-DC164, Canon DC-100, Canon DC-20, etc.

The problem with mini DVD camcorders:

1) The DVDs are very incompatible with many computer DVD trays.
2) A simple scratch when handling the disc and your memories are hosed forever. Look out, it’s a toddler with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich!!
3) They usually only hold a miniscule 10 minutes of recording time at best quality! Ten minutes!!
4) Once finalized, the discs are done for. You can’t re-record over them like you can standard videotape.
5) The discs are expensive.
6) Special “ripping” software is usually required to edit the material on the discs.
7) There is substantial compression used on the image. If you try to project it for an audience on a big screen or do any kind of video compositing, the footage is going to have tons of really unpleasing artifacts.
8) They are really hard to clone for friends and relatives due to the compatibility issues.
9) People try to stick them in sideloading CD slots on computers it jams in there, resulting in repair fees and/or downtime.
10) Watch out for that toddler with the peanut butter sandwich… Oh my God!! he’s grabbing the disc off the table.

Yeah, this format wasn’t the greatest idea of gadgets. Please copy your material ASAP to a different format and dump that camcorder as fast as you can.

By the way, a good way to copy the disc to a better format is to use the factory-provided wire and connect it to a MiniDV camcorder or a standard DVD recorder.