Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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!


Aspect Ratio – Please don’t squeeze me, baby!

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

The whole aspect ratio thing is way too big to tackle in a single post here, so let me break it down for you to give you (almost) all you need to know.

There are different screen shapes like 1.78 (16×9), 1.33 (4×3 – also called “academy”), 1.85 (the shape of normal theatrical movies), 2.35 (the shape of Panavision movies), and on and on. In fact, when Edison invented motion picture film, he experimented with all kinds of different shapes to see which was the most useful and pleasing. Other folks even toyed with round screens. Whatever.

The there are square pixels and non-square pixels, each of which affects the image presentation shape.

Chicks hate it if they were shot in 1.33 and squeezed down to 1.78. They hate it because it makes them look fat. This is a common site at sports bars when their monitors are high def 16×9 and then the commercials are in 4×3.

Chicks love it when they were shot in high def 16×9 and squeezed into the 4×3 shape; they look tall and skinny like the supermodels they are inside.

So rather than give you all the ways to solve these issues here’s the tip for always getting it right:

1) In photoshop (or using a scanner and construction paper) Make a perfect circle the that is the same height as the original image footage.

2) Do whatever process you intend to do with the real footage, whether it’s converting it, exporting it, burning it to DVD, making a dub or whatever.

3) Check to make sure that the finished test circle after your processing looks exactly like a perfect circle. If it looks like an EGG, then you messed up somewhere. Go play with the settings until you get a perfect circle.

4) Forget reading endless blogs and wikipedia about all the things that could be causing the problem. Just test it a couple times with different settings and behold… A BEAUTIFUL CIRCLE. Kiss it.

MiniDV – The miracle down-convert and archiving format!

Monday, September 3rd, 2007

MiniDV is the most under-rated and maligned standard definition video format!

Many people think of miniDV as a low-grade, consumer “home movie” format, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.  MiniDV is the most ubiquitous standard format out there.  If you’re not shooting high-def in your home camcorder, you’re shooting MiniDV. Most people shooting MiniDV aren’t professionals and know little about proper lighting, exposure, stabilization, pleasing camera angles, etc. So consequently, most MiniDV footage looks terrible.  Also, the cheapo lenses on the front of your average home camcorder exacerbate the problem.

But the actual technology of MiniDV is quite remarkable. Not only can it easily import into any computer via Firewire, but when properly mastered, the footage can knock your socks off. It’s the old “Garbage in equals garbage out” adage.

Here at BetaSp To we have transferred some really stiking footage to MiniDV. For example, we had a high-end music video that was shot on 35mm film by one of the greatest DP’s (director of photography) out there. The video was editing, color-corrected and mastered to a pristine Digibeta tape. The digibeta master looked absolutely phenomenal.

A few months later, the client wanted to create a demo reel for their company using the video. They had Final Cut Pro in their office but they didn’t have a digibeta deck. I suggested they just transfer all the footage to MiniDV and then import it directly via firewire into their computer. The client was resistant, due to the amateur reputation of MiniDV.

So I told them that transferring to MiniDV from Digibeta is done entirely as 1’s and 0’s, completely digital.  It’s also a really robust and CHEAP archiving format that looks fantastic.

The clients wanted to see a test. So we transferred the Digital Betacam to MiniDV. Then we all sat in dark room with a large Sony standard definition television and played the MiniDV and Digibeta tapes in a blind test 5 times. After 5 viewings in random order, we took a vote and asked people to guess which tape was which.  Low and behold, nobody in the room came up with the same guess consistently. In other words, in a blind test, nobody could tell the difference between MiniDV and Digital Betacam.

Digital Betacam is far superior to MiniDV in it’s technical specs and it Digibeta is a much better choice for the first digital master in the chain of post production. But ultimately, if the audience can’t tell the difference in later processes or editing, then why spend the money to stay in the digibeta format?

Further more, if you are submitting a film to a festival that accepts MiniDV, then everyone is going to be watching MiniDV anyway.

We often run into people with resolutionitis. It’s a disease that makes filmmakers think they must have the absolute highest resolution and quality no matter what. But they forget that content is king. Films on YouTube can have tens of millions of views, even though the video quality looks terrible. Remember the “Blair Witch Project?” That film was shot on crappy Hi-8 video and it still grossed tens of millions! Content is king.

MiniDV is cheap, easy to import via firewire, and makes a great archive tape (that doesn’t take up a lot of shelf space). And since almost every standard def camcorder out there is a MiniDV camcorder, it couldn’t be easier to find one to borrow to import your footage for editing in Final Cut Pro or Avid.