… for Codecs & Media

Tip #374: Constant Bitrate vs. Constant Quality

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Two new encoding options for Blackmagic RAW media.

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This article, written by Lewis MaGregor, first appeared in PremiumBeat. Let’s take a quick look at the two new encoding options in Blackmagic RAW.

  • Constant Bitrate. This makes sure your file sizes remain predictable and manageable because your media is never going to surpass the selected data rate. While Constant Bitrate is a surefire setting, to make sure the file sizes and quality will remain as advertised, it may cause issues when the footage being captured could do without the extra compression, ensuring that all details of a busy scene are clear.
  • Constant Quality. This has a variable bitrate with no upper data limit. This means if you’re filming a wedding and the guests start throwing confetti and rice, and more objects enter into focus, the bitrate will adjust to account for the increase in complex frame information, maintaining the overall quality of the entire image. Of course, this comes with larger file sizes that you can’t predict.

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… for Codecs & Media

Tip #380: Apple Compressor vs. Adobe Media Encoder

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Adobe Media Encoder is still the fastest.

AME (green) is faster than Compressor (blue) in 2 out of 3 compression formats. (Shorter bars are faster.)

Topic $TipTopic

Recently, I compared the compression speed of Adobe Media Encoder with Apple Compressor, both running on the same 27″ iMac (i5) and macOS Catalina. Here’s what I learned.

  • In general, Catalina is a shade slower for both apps than Mojave for compression, ranging from 0% to 14% slower, depending upon the task.
  • HEVC 10-bit compression is still extremely slow because it is not hardware-accelerated in either app.
  • Compressed file sizes are the same for both apps between Mojave and Catalina.

As you can see from the chart, while Media Encoder and Compressor are the about the same speed for HEVC 8-bit, Media Encoder is much faster for H.264 (50%) and HEVC 10-bit (180%).

EXTRA CREDIT

Read the full article with all the details here.


… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #331: Export & Translate Subtitles

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

The key is to work with your subtitles as plain text.

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Carsten Ress sent this in:

I was looking for a way to export subtitles (in a closed captions format) from FCP X as text, send it to translation, then import it back again as subtitles. I found this workaround that saved me a lot of time.

  1. Export the subtitles as an SRT File
  2. Change the file extension from .SRT to .TXT (ignore the warning that appears). This gives you a text file with the timecode to position the subtitles
  3. The translator substitutes only the text lines within this document with his translation
  4. When translation is finished, change the file extension from .TXT to .SRT
  5. Then import the SRT file into a new language Role and you have all the subtitles translated and with the right timing.

You need to be careful with the TXT document as small changes in the format (for example, adding additional text) can result in error messages during the reimport of the subtitles.

Also, there is a great plugin called “X-Title Caption Convert” from Spherico that allows you to convert closed caption into FCP X titles. This is really helpful if you want to burn the subtitles into the video file and want to have more formatting options.

EXTRA CREDIT

This workaround is delicate. In my last project the translator used double quotations marks which are not supported in SRT files. This led to an error message during the import.

You have to make sure that no “unpermitted” characters are used or search for them and replace them in case you get some error messages while importing the SRT into final cut or if only a part of the subtitles are imported. But if it works, you can really save a lot of time.


… for Random Weirdness

Tip #323: Practical Tips to Avoid Film-making Stress

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Common sense saves time and reduces stress.

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Lewis McGregor first reported this for PremiumBeat. I’ve summarized his key points here.

Often, stress during a project starts as a small thing that can be easily managed. Sure, these ideas might be common sense tips, but it’s the type of advice you don’t really think about until you find yourself in a particularly stressful situation.

  1. Set up as much as possible before you arrive on location
  2. Minimize the amount of “winging it”
  3. Store and label equipment like a grip truck, even if you drive a small hatchback
  4. Quash what-ifs with backups

Perhaps the causes of your stress are a little different than listed above. Regardless, you can minimize the general stress of shooting solo by focusing on setting up gear ahead of time and the organizing your equipment.


… for Apple Motion

Tip #343: Move Motion Assets to a Different Computer

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Copy a Motion project file to another computer.

Collect media options in Apple Motion.

Topic $TipTopic

This first appeared as an Apple KnowledgeBase article.

To move a Motion project file to another computer, you must also move all media that the project uses, including all QuickTime, still image, and audio files. In addition, any third-party Motion plug-ins or nonstandard fonts used in the project must be installed on the new computer, or they’ll be unavailable to your project.

Similarly, when you finish a project and want to archive it, it’s a good idea to archive the project file and all media, graphics, fonts, custom behaviors, filters, and third-party add-ons used in the project. If you need to restore the project for later revisions, you’ll have everything you need to get started quickly.

  1. In Motion, save the project file using File > Save as, then choose the Collect Media option and collect all project media into a folder.
  2. Copy the folder containing the saved project file and all media used in the project to another computer or location.

As you can see in this screen shot, archived projects can be saved anywhere.

NOTE: If you move a project to another computer without selecting the Collect Media option, media can go offline (even if you’ve manually moved the media files) due to broken links.


… for Codecs & Media

Tip #346: Compressor is Not Faster in Catalina

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

No speed improvements for H.264 or HEVC in Catalina

In all tests, average compression speeds in Catalina are slower than Mojave. (Shorter bars are faster.)

Topic $TipTopic

One of the new features in macOS Catalina is a revised graphics engine called Metal 2. Both Final Cut Pro X and Compressor were recently upgraded to support it.

Last week, I did an initial test comparing the speed of Apple Compressor running in macOS Mojave vs. Catalina. I ran these tests on the same computer (an i5) using the same data files and same compression settings using Apple Compressor. The Mojave tests used Compressor 4.4.5. The Catalina tests used Compressor 4.4.6.

NOTE: Additional tests indicate that H.264 compression is faster on iMac Pros and Mac Pros which use the T-2 chip. As well, compression speeds vary depending upon the number and type of applications open at the time of compression.

The short answer is that the latest version of Apple Compressor running on Catalina is slightly slower across all tests than Compressor running on Mojave. I will look at compression results using Adobe Media Encoder in the next Codec Tip Letter.

EXTRA CREDIT

Here’s the full article.


… for Codecs & Media

Tip #347: Codecs – Explained (Part 1)

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Always something new to learn about codecs.

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I’ve used the term “codec” for years. Still, there’s always something new to learn. For example, according to Wikipedia, “A codec is a device or computer program which encodes or decodes a digital data stream or signal. Codec is a portmanteau of coder-decoder.”

NOTE: A “portmanteau” is a linguistic blend of words, in which parts of multiple words or their phonemes (sounds) are combined into a new word. (Right, I didn’t know that either.)

“In the mid-20th century,” Wikipedia continues, “a codec was a device that coded analog signals into digital form using pulse-code modulation (PCM). Later, the name was also applied to software for converting between digital signal formats, including compander functions.

“In addition to encoding a signal, a codec may also compress the data to reduce transmission bandwidth or storage space. Compression codecs are classified primarily into lossy codecs and lossless codecs.

NOTE: See Tip #348 for a description of lossy vs. lossless.

“Two principal techniques are used in codecs, pulse-code modulation and delta modulation. Codecs are often designed to emphasize certain aspects of the media to be encoded. For example, a digital video (using a DV codec) of a sports event needs to encode motion well but not necessarily exact colors, while a video of an art exhibit needs to encode color and surface texture well.
Audio codecs for cell phones need to have very low latency between source encoding and playback. In contrast, audio codecs for recording or broadcast can use high-latency audio compression techniques to achieve higher fidelity at a lower bit-rate.”

Many multimedia data streams contain both audio and video, and often some metadata that permit synchronization of audio and video. Each of these three streams may be handled by different programs, processes, or hardware; but for the multimedia data streams to be useful in stored or transmitted form, they must be encapsulated together in a container format; such as MXF or QuickTime.

Here’s the original Wikipedia article.


… for Codecs & Media

Tip #348: Codecs – Explained (Part 2)

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Lossy is smaller, Lossless is better

Topic $TipTopic

As we learned in Tip #347, there are two types of codecs: lossless and lossy. In this tip, I want to explain the difference. For this, we’ll turn to a Wikipedia article.

LOSSLESS

Lossless codecs are often used for archiving data in a compressed form while retaining all information present in the original stream. If preserving the original quality of the stream is more important than eliminating the correspondingly larger data sizes, lossless codecs are preferred. This is especially true if the data is to undergo further processing (for example editing) in which case the repeated application of processing (encoding and decoding) on lossy codecs will degrade the quality of the resulting data such that it is no longer identifiable (visually, audibly or both). Using more than one codec or encoding scheme successively can also degrade quality significantly. The decreasing cost of storage capacity and network bandwidth has a tendency to reduce the need for lossy codecs for some media.

LOSSY

Many popular codecs are lossy. They reduce quality in order to maximize compression. Often, this type of compression is virtually indistinguishable from the original uncompressed sound or images, depending on the codec and the settings used. The most widely used lossy data compression technique in digital media is based on the discrete cosine transform (DCT), used in compression standards such as JPEG images, H.26x and MPEG video, and MP3 and AAC audio. Smaller data sets ease the strain on relatively expensive storage sub-systems such as non-volatile memory and hard disk, as well as write-once-read-many formats such as CD-ROM, DVD and Blu-ray Disc. Lower data rates also reduce cost and improve performance when the data is transmitted.


… for Random Weirdness

Tip #227: Place Audio Before Video in Motion Graphics

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Motion graphics and animation need a different audio workflow.

Timecode - or frames - display in Apple Motion.
Click arrow to change between frames and timecode in Apple Motion.

Topic $TipTopic

When it comes to creating animation or a motion graphic video, the hardest thing for folks new to the art is to figure out the timing. How long should a scene last? Or a piece of text hold on screen? How fast are the transitions? Here are some thoughts that can help.

The short answer is that the audio track for anything animated is built BEFORE you create the video, while the audio track for a “normal” video is built after the video is edited.

You could determine timing by dividing a motion graphic video into specific scenes by the clock, then create a storyboard for each scene. But, the problem is that music is not based on the clock. If you are adding a music bed, you need to respect the rhythm of the music, as well as make sure the end of the music in the video is at the end of a musical phrase. This makes your motion graphic sound complete.

NOTE: It is far more important to focus on where music ends than where it begins; because audiences remember the end of something more than the beginning.

Once you start adding dialog or narration, you have two different rhythms working: music and voice. There’s no way you can animate that without carefully listening to and setting your timing based on the actual audio. Which means the audio needs to be complete before animation starts.

This is a key reason why animators prefer to work with frame counts, more than timecode. Frame counts provide a very specific reference that ties perfectly to the sound track. Timecode is better suited to watching video.


… for Visual Effects

Tip #329: Blurs and Mosaics are No Longer Safe

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Blurs are no longer safeguards against protecting identity.

New graphics technology, combined with AI, recreates high-resolution images from blurry, low-res source files.

Topic $TipTopic

For years, editors have used mosaic and blur effects to hide the identity of on-screen talent. However, recent research has found a way to reverse-engineer a high-quality image of the speaker’s face from a low-resolution blur. Here’s what you need to know.

Research published in Sept. 2018, from universities in the US and China has revealed a technology that “learns to reconstruct realistic [image] results with clear structures and fine details.”

Using a low-resolution image (on the left), their technology creates a high-quality result using off-the-shelf computer hardware and nVidia GPUs. Using AI, the researchers discovered an algorithm “to directly restore a clear high- resolution image from a blurry low-resolution input.”

“Extensive experiments demonstrate that our method performs favorably against the state-of-the-art methods on both synthetic and real-world images at a lower computational cost.”

Here’s a link to their scientific paper. The text is highly technical, but the images are frightening, if you are a producer charged with protecting someone’s identity.

KEY TAKEAWAY

If you want to protect the identity of an on-camera speaker, don’t shoot their face. Today’s technology makes blurs, mosaics and low-res images completely ineffective.