… for Codecs & Media

Tip #346: Compressor is Not Faster in Catalina

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.


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… for Random Weirdness

Tip #227: Place Audio Before Video in Motion Graphics

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

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.


… for Codecs & Media

Tip #308: Archive Active Versions of Compressor

Archives allow future access to earlier versions.

Apple Compressor logo
The file icon for Apple Compressor.

Topic $TipTopic

It is often necessary, especially if you are working with different clients, to have earlier versions of Compressor available to you. However, only one version of Compressor can be active on your system at a time. Recently, I read an Apple KnowledgeBase article that explained how to create archives.

NOTE: While this won’t get you access to earlier versions of Compressor, it does mean that you’ll have access to all versions going forward.

To back up the currently installed Compressor application:

  1. Create a new folder in the Applications folder, and name it after the application (for example, “Compressor 4.4.6”). To check your version of Compressor, open the application and choose About Compressor from the Compressor menu.
  2. Select the Compressor application in the Applications folder. Choose File > Compress “Compressor.” It will take a few minutes to compress.
  3. Move the resulting “Compressor.zip” file into the folder you created in step 1.
  4. Move the folder containing the .zip file to a backup drive.

EXTRA CREDIT

These ZIP files can be stored anywhere, but I generally try to keep all my program archives in the same place. Remember, before you revert back to an earlier version, archive or delete the version of Compressor currently stored in your Applications folder.

Also, if you revert to an earlier version of Compressor, it may also require an earlier version of the macOS, so keep a note of which version of Compressor uses which version of the macOS.


… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #306: Archive Active Versions of FCP X

Archives allow future access to earlier versions.

Topic $TipTopic

It is often necessary, especially if you are working with different clients, to have earlier versions of Final Cut Pro X available to you. However, only one version of FCP X can be active on your system at a time. Recently, I read an Apple KnowledgeBase article that explained how to create archives.

NOTE: While this won’t get you access to earlier versions of Final Cut Pro X, it does mean that you’ll have access to all versions going forward.

To back up the currently installed Final Cut Pro X application:

  1. Create a new folder in the Applications folder, and name it after the application (for example, “Final Cut Pro X 10.4.8”). To check your version of Final Cut Pro X, open the application and choose About Final Cut Pro X from the Final Cut Pro X menu.
  2. Select the Final Cut Pro X application in the Applications folder. Choose File > Compress “Final Cut Pro X.” It will take a few minutes to compress.
  3. Move the resulting “Final Cut Pro X.zip” file into the folder you created in step 1.
  4. Move the folder containing the .zip file to a backup drive.

EXTRA CREDIT

These ZIP files can be stored anywhere, but I generally try to keep all my program archives in the same place. Remember, before you revert back to an earlier version, archive or delete the version of Final Cut Pro X currently stored in your Applications folder.

Also, if you revert to an earlier version of Final Cut Pro X, it may also require an earlier version of the macOS, so keep a note of which version of Final Cut Pro X uses which version of the macOS.

[Thanks, and a tip of the hat to Mark Spencer for telling me about this.]


… for Apple Motion

Tip #307: Archive Active Versions of Motion

Archives allow future access to earlier versions.

Apple Motion logo
The file icon for Apple Motion.

Topic $TipTopic

It is often necessary, especially if you are working with different clients, to have earlier versions of Motion available to you. However, only one version of Motion can be active on your system at a time. Recently, I read an Apple KnowledgeBase article that explained how to create archives.

NOTE: While this won’t get you access to earlier versions of Motion, it does mean that you’ll have access to all versions going forward.

To back up the currently installed Motion application:

  1. Create a new folder in the Applications folder, and name it after the application (for example, “Motion 5.4.5”). To check your version of Motion, open the application and choose About Motion from the Motion menu.
  2. Select the Motion application in the Applications folder. Choose File > Compress “Motion.” It will take a few minutes to compress.
  3. Move the resulting “Motion.zip” file into the folder you created in step 1.
  4. Move the folder containing the .zip file to a backup drive.

EXTRA CREDIT

These ZIP files can be stored anywhere, but I generally try to keep all my program archives in the same place. Remember, before you revert back to an earlier version, archive or delete the version of Motion currently stored in your Applications folder.

Also, if you revert to an earlier version of Motion, it may also require an earlier version of the macOS, so keep a note of which version of Motion uses which version of the macOS.


… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #285: Tips for Library Management

The Library is the master container for all Final Cut projects.

Final Cut Pro X Project Properties settings displayed in the Inspector.

Topic $TipTopic

The Library in Final Cut is the master container that holds everything related to a specific set of projects. However, what you may not know is that you have a lot of control over where FCP X actually stores files for that library – and many of them don’t even need to be in the Library!

To see your options, select a Library in the Library list on the left side of the interface. The Inspector then displays the image shown on this screen shot.

These options include:

  • Media Storage Locations. This allows you to specify where media, Motion templates, work files and Library backups are stored. All but backups can be stored in the Library, however, you can choose to store them wherever you want.
  • Motion Content. If you have Motion templates scattered across different locations, this allows you to consolidate them into the location specified in the Media Storage Location, above.

The next three segments are display only:

  • Cache files. The amount of space occupied by render, analysis and other work files.
  • Backups. Displays the location of Library backups.
  • Storage used. Displays the volumes where media for this project is stored and how much space is involved.

Overall, Library Properties provides you the control you need to know how much space your project takes, where files are stored and the ability to move them if needed.


… for Random Weirdness

Tip #039: A Project Code System to Organize Media

Here’s a system I borrowed from Hollywood

Topic $TipTopic

Years ago, when I was editing behind-the-scenes documentaries for Hollywood DVD releases, I noticed a consistent project and media naming system from one of the studios. While the studio version was more complex than necessary for independent or corporate work, I modified the system to share with my students.

If you have a system to help you track your media, great! If not, use mine until you can develop your own. ANY system is better than no system when it comes to tracking media. Because the worst thing for any editor is losing a shot that you were sure you had.

Here’s a sample folder name to explain how this system works:

JM03_191022_A03

Translation:

  • JM. A two-letter code that represents the name of the client. (For example: “Just a Moment Productions”)
  • 03. A two-number code that represents the project number for this client. (For example, this is the third project we’ve done for Just a Moment.)
  • 191022. The shoot date, in YearMonthDay format. Most often, scripts and other production notes will indicate when a particular scene was shot. This date ties the folder back to the script. Using this date format means all folders will sort in the correct date order.
  • A. The camera on a multi-camera shoot. (For example, “A” or primary camera, “B” or “C” cameras)
  • 03. The number of the camera card or hard disk shot by that camera for that day. (For example, this is the third camera card we shot that day.)

To implement this, on my media storage system, I start by creating a master folder for that client (i.e. “Just a Moment Productions”). Then, inside that Master folder, I create folders for each project for that client. Next, inside the Project folder I create a Media folder. Then, finally, inside the Media folder, I create a folder for each camera card that I shoot.

Most of the time, we can’t rename individual clips on the camera card because renamed files will break on import. So, I use this system to name the folders that I store the camera card media into rather than individual shots.

The good news is that, just by reading the folder name, you know the client, project, shoot date and camera angle of the media it contains.


… for Visual Effects

Tip #176: 3 Better Chroma Key Tips

These tips improve how your actors look

A green-screen example.
As long as the background is evenly lit, you can light talent however you want.

Topic $TipTopic

This tip first appeared in Screencast-o-Matic.com.

It is impossible to over-state how important flat, even and well-exposed lighting is to creating a clean chroma-key. However, these three other tips also need to be considered.

  • Use separate lights for talent and background. The background needs to be bright and evenly lit top to bottom and side to side. The talent can be lit however your story requires. Never try to use the same light for both talent and background.
  • Avoid fly-away hair. Each strand catches green, which makes it flicker in the key. Bundle hair or put a hat on your talent.
  • Avoid wearing colors that match the background, unless you are looking for that “hollow body” look. Also, avoid clothing with closely arranged stripes or patterns. Herringbone and pinstripes are both no-nos.

… for Visual Effects

Tip #101: What’s the Difference Between Color Grading and Color Correction?

Both involve color, but in different ways.

Topic $TipTopic

The short answer is that color correction fixes problems, while color grading gives images a “look.”

Typical color correction involves:

  • Removing color casts
  • Setting proper highlight and shadow levels
  • Controlling any excessive highlights (speculars)

For example, the top image was color corrected to boost highlights and increase saturation.

Color grading, on the other hand, takes what we have done in color correction and tweaks the color and grayscale levels to match the story. For example:

  • Boosting saturation for a romantic comedy
  • Decreasing saturation for dystopian scifi
  • Removing color for a film noir

And so on.

Generally, you fix problems first, then create looks second.