… for Codecs & Media

Tip #703: What is GoPro Cineform?

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

This 12-bit, full-frame video codec is optimzied for speed and image quality.

Topic $TipTopic

GoPro CineForm is a 12-bit, full-frame wavelet compression video codec. It is designed for speed and quality, at the expense of a very high compression size. Image compression is a balance of size, speed and quality, and you can only choose two. CineForm was the first of its type to focus on speed, while supporting higher bit depths for image quality. More recent examples would be Avid DNxHD and Apple ProRes, although both divide the image into blocks using DCT.

The full frame wavelet has a subject quality advantage over DCTs, so you can compression more without classic ringing or block artifact issues. Here are the pixel formats supported:

  • 8/10/16-bit YUV 4:2:2 compressed as 10-bit, progressive or interlace
  • 8/10/16-bit RGB 4:4:4 compressed at 12-bit progressive
  • 8/16-bit RGBA 4:4:4:4 compressed at 12-bit progressive
  • 12/16-bit CFA Bayer RAW, log encoded and compressed at 12-bit progressive
  • Dual channel stereoscopic/3D in any of the above

Compression ratio: between 10:1 and 4:1 are typical, greater ranges are possible. CineForm is a constant quality design, bit-rates will vary as needed for the scene. Whereas most other intermediate video codecs are a constant bit-rate design, quality varies depending on the scene.

EXTRA CREDIT

Here’s a link to learn more.


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… for Visual Effects

Tip #694: What is Parallax?

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Reducing parallax is important in panoramic stills, VFX and Stereo 3D video.

Topic $TipTopic

Parallax is the difference in the apparent position of an object viewed along two different lines of sight; say from the left eye to the right eye, or each lens of a stereo 3D video camera.

As the eyes of humans and other animals are in different positions on the head, they present different views simultaneously. This is the basis of stereopsis, the process by which the brain exploits the parallax due to the different views from the eye to gain depth perception and estimate distances to objects.

In addition to its use in making stereo3D believable, parallax is also used in panoramic images, visual effects and web design.

EXTRA CREDIT

Even if your camera setup is perfectly level, you won’t be happy with the results for panoramic images until you eliminate image parallax. Image parallax occurs when near and far objects don’t align in overlapping images. For example, if you’re shooting a scene that contains a fence line, each fencepost in Image 1 should line up with its twin in Image 2. You can eliminate the effects of parallax by placing the optical center of the lens (not the camera) directly over the point of rotation.

Learn more here


… for Codecs & Media

Tip #690: H.264 vs. HEVC – What’s the Difference?

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Smaller file size, greater image quality; but requiring more CPU power to encode or decode.

Topic $TipTopic

This tip, written by Ana Rodrigues, first appeared in Medium.com. This is a summary.

Conceived to boost video streaming, High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC), or H.265, is a video compression standard designed to substantially improve coding efficiency when compared to Advanced Video Coding (AVC), or H.264.

With this new format, image resolutions around 8192×4320 become possible to display and stream. HEVC reduces file sizes 40-60%, depending upon frame size. As well, when compared to H.264, HEVC/H.265 delivers a significantly better visual quality, when compressed to the same file size or bitrate.

However, apart from the fact that the codec is patented by various parties and it is associated with high licensing fees, HEVC/H.265 comes with the trade-off requiring almost 10x more computing power.

Both codecs work by comparing different parts of a video frame in order to find the ones that are redundant within the subsequent frames. These areas are replaced with a short information, describing the original pixels. What differs HEVC/H.265 from H.264 is the ability to expand the size of these areas into bigger or smaller blocks, called coding tree units (CTU) in the HEVC/H.265. The pattern CTU sizes can be from 4×4 to 64×64, whilst H.264 only allows a maximum block-size of 16×16 (CTU is particular feature of HEVC). An improved CTU segmentation, as well as a better motion compensation and spatial prediction require much more signal processing capability for video compression, but has a significantly less impact on the amount of computation needed for decompression. Motion compensated prediction, another great progress in HEVC/H.265, references blocks of pixels to another area in the same frame (intra prediction) or in another frame (inter prediction).


… for Random Weirdness

Tip #678: A Guide to On-Set Film Terms – Part 2

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Topic $TipTopic

The intrepid team at MotionArray.com has compiled a glossary of film terms. This list relates to the key people on set. There’s the producer, who’s the money, and the director, the creative force, but who are all the rest of these people? 

  • 1st AD. The first assistant director is basically the second in charge on any set. They serve as the all-important link between the head honcho director and the entire cast and crew and are responsible for ensuring that the production runs like a well-oiled machine. Did someone say presssshhha?
  • 2nd AD. Working directly under the 1st AD, the second assistant director is responsible for drafting up all the logistical documents (call sheets and the like) and making sure that the 3rd AD has the cast and crew in check.
  • 3rd AD. The third assistant director is basically one big people wrangler. It’s their job to ensure that all members of the cast and crew are in the right place and the right time.
  • Gaffer. Head electrician responsible for setting up all of the lighting equipment used in a given production. You might also hear them being referred to as a Spark or Juicer.
  • Key Grip. Head technician responsible for setting up all the non-electrical lighting equipment. (Think lighting modifiers, flags, cookies, etc).
  • Best Boy. Assistant to either the Gaffer or Key Grip, distinguished by the titles Best Boy Electric or Best Boy Grip.
  • Second Unit. A completely separate crew charged with filming any takes that don’t involve face-to-face interaction, such as inserts and action sequences. Second units usually work simultaneously alongside the main unit to help speed up the production process.

… for Random Weirdness

Tip #677: A Guide to On-Set Film Terms – Part 1

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

These eleven terms are heard daily on virtually every production set.

Topic $TipTopic

The intrepid team at MotionArray.com has compiled a glossary of film terms. Here’s a sample that relates to the gear on set.

  • Blonde. A type of light but much brighter than a redhead. (1,000-2,000 watts).
  • Boom Mic. A directional mic mounted to the end of a long pole that is then wielded by sound technician folk to capture close-range audio.
  • Clapper. So it turns out that black-and-white striped board that someone snaps in front of the camera before every take does have a name. And that name is clapper. Or clapboard. Or a clacker. This does two very important things: It displays all the scene and take info that the crew needs to sort through the footage at a later date, and the snappy sound it makes is essential for syncing video with the audio during post.
  • Dead Cat. A fuzzy black cover that goes over the end of a boom mic.
  • Dolly. A wheeled cart onto which you mount a camera in order to capture smooth horizontal shots. Ever since steadicams came onto the scene, the use of dollies has been reduced in production.
  • Hot Brick. A walkie-talkie with a fully charged battery.
  • Legs or Sticks. Simple slang for a tripod.
  • Redhead. A type of light with a power rating in the vicinity of 800 watts.
  • Squib. A tiny explosive device used to simulate a bullet hitting an actor. You’ve probably seen squillions of these throughout your movie-watching career.
  • Steadicam. This stabilizing contraption enables you to strap a camera to your big ol’ belly (or rather a vest that you’re wearing around your big ol’ belly) to get those super smooth shots.
  • Stinger. An extension cord

… for Adobe Premiere Pro CC

Tip #666: Productions Overview

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Productions can help both single editors and teams.

The Productions folder, showing all available projects.

Topic $TipTopic

Productions are a new way for editors to organize and collaborate on projects. Here’s a quick overview of this new feature:

  • You can edit in Premiere as always without ever using Productions.
  • Productions can be used by a single editor using local or shared storage, or a team, using shared storage.
  • Productions don’t require Internet access.
  • Productions are available to any Premiere editor who has updated to the latest version (April, 2020).
  • Productions easily support breaking large projects into manageable chunks.
  • Only project files can be stored in a production folder.
  • There is no limit to the number of projects stored in a production folder.
  • Only one production folder can be open in Premiere at a time, however, there is no limit to the number of production folders that can be created.
  • Different editors can work in different productions at the same time.
  • Any project can be opened Read-only, however only one editor can have read-write access to a project at a time.

EXTRA CREDIT

I created a recent webinar that shows how to use Productions in detail. You can find it here: here.


… for Adobe Premiere Pro CC

Tip #667: Productions: What the Icons Mean

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

The icons tell the story of file status and ownership in the Productions folder.

A typical Productions folder, showing file status and current owner.

Topic $TipTopic

Productions are a new way for editors to organize and collaborate on projects. This is a summary of what the icons and colors mean in the Productions panel in Adobe Premiere.

  • Hollow rectangle. The project file is not open on any system.
  • Solid rectangle. The project file is open on at least one editor’s system.
  • Name. The owner of the file, or, if the file is open, the name of the editor with read-write access.
  • Red lock. The file is currently locked as read-only. However, if no one is using the file, it takes only a single mouse click, after opening the file, for an editor to switch the project to read-write.
  • Green pencil. The file is open on your system and you have read-write access.

Productions allows multiple projects to be opened on multiple systems at the same time, though only one editor has read-write access to a project at a time.


… for Adobe Premiere Pro CC

Tip #668: Productions: Toggle Read-Write

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Switching between read-only and read-write is a single mouse click.

Green indicates you have read-write permission. Red indicates read-only.

Topic $TipTopic

Switching a project between read-write and read-only (and back) is a single mouse click. Here’s what you need to know.

First, if someone else has the file open read-write, you can’t take over the file, you can only have read-only access until the other editor releases it to the group.

Open the file from the Production panel. If someone else has the file open or if you are the only person who has the file open but were not the creator, it will open as read only.

To switch a file between read-write (green pencil) and read-only (red lock) simply click the pencil or lock icon in the extreme lower-left corner of the Premiere interface.

EXTRA CREDIT

A good reason to switch a file to read-only is to allow another editor to add graphics or titles to an ongoing project.


… for Random Weirdness

Tip #660: Test Yourself: 25 Common Grip & Electric Terms

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

How many of these terms do you know?

A still photo studio.

Topic $TipTopic

This article, written by Matt Webb, first appeared in IndieFilmHustle.com. This is an excerpt.

Have you ever been puzzled by the lingo floating around the set? Or, do you want to test your knowledge? Here are 25 grip and electric terms used on virtually every set.

  • Apple Box – A wooden box that can be used for almost anything. Comes in various sizes and is commonly used as steps, seats and to raise props, dressing or actors.
  • Barndoors – Folding doors that are attached to the front of lamps so they can be opened and closed to control the output of light.
  • Bazooka – A camera mount similar to a tripod but only has one center shaft that raises the camera up and down.
  • Beef – The output of light.
  • Best Boy – The second in command of the grip or electrics department. They often do most of their work off set in the truck as they plan for the future shooting days.
  • Black wrap – Black aluminum foil that is used to cover light leaks or shaped into flaps to cut the light.
  • C-stand – An extremely versatile metal stand used for holding lights, floppys, cutters and anything else you need stabilized.
  • Dance Floor – When it’s impossible to lay a track in the set or the camera move is more complex than a simple push in, the grips will lay smooth timber or plastic sheets down onto the ground to create a perfectly level floor. The dolly can then be pushed in any direction with minimal bumps and vibrations to the camera.
  • Diffusion – A white material used to soften the light source.
  • Dimmer – A device used to control the power of the lamp.
  • Dingle – A piece of cut-off foliage to provide the lighting effect of a tree shadow on the subject.
  • Dolly – A heavy piece of equipment that the camera can be mounted onto to give a smooth moving shot. The dolly slides along a track that looks just like a train track. This is extremely heavy; avoid being too close to the grips when they are looking for a hand carrying this up the stairs.
  • Duvetyne – A thick, black cloth used for blacking out windows, and covering equipment and crew members when they are in reflections.
  • Floppy or Flag – Square or rectangular frames with black material used to control the light. They can be used to cut the light off a certain subject or to black out an area for the director’s monitor.
  • Gaffer – The head of the electric department.
  • Gel – A transparent colored filter that is applied to the front of a light to manipulate the color output.
  • House Power – Using the location’s power as opposed to power supplied by the electrics generator. Always good to check with the electrics department that it’s okay to plug into house power.
  • Key Grip – The head of the grip department.
  • Key Light – The main source of light on a subject.
  • Lamp – Just another word for a light. The electric department tries to be all fancy and such.
  • Scrim – A type of material similar to diffusion to manipulate the intensity of the light source. Typically scrims are quite large, either 10’x10’ or 20’x20’ and used to diffuse the harsh sunlight when shooting exteriors.
  • Shot bag – A heavy bag full of lead shot used to weigh down stands. Looks like a sand bag.
  • Stinger – A single extension power cord left ‘hot’ by the electrics for occasional use.
  • Track – Steel or aluminum track that the dolly glides along to create smooth camera movements. The track is laid level by the grips across all types of terrain using apple boxes and wedges.
  • Wedge – Small timber triangles used to level the dolly track.

… for Visual Effects

Tip #654: What is a B-spline curve?

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

The key benefit of B-spline curves is their smoothness.

A simple B-spline curve, emphasizing it’s smoothness. (That corner isn’t a corner, it’s where two lines cross.)

Topic $TipTopic

A B-spline function is a combination of flexible bands that passes through the number of points that are called control points and creates smooth curves. These functions enable the creation and management of complex shapes and surfaces using a number of points. (That’s what it says here, not that I fully understand it.)

The term “B-spline” was coined by Isaac Jacob Schoenberg and is short for basis spline. B-splines are more general curves than Bezier curves. More simply, a Bezier is a special case of a B-spline.

The big difference between B-splnes and Bezier curves is smoothness. B-splines are made out several curve segments that are joined “smoothly.” Bezier’s on the other hand, can have corners.

A B-Spline curve can be a Bezier curve whenever the programmer so desires. Further B-Spline curves offer more control and flexibility than a Bezier curve. It is possible to use lower degree curves and still maintain a large number of control points. B-Spline, despite being more useful, are still polynomial curves and cannot represent simple curves like circles and ellipses. For these shapes, a further generalization of B-Spline curves, known as NURBS, is used.

EXTRA CREDIT

I’d share the math of B-splines with you, but, frankly, I don’t understand it. A Google search will turn up lots of university references.