Archive for June, 2009

Colour Grading and the Book Trailer

Posted in Technology with tags , , , , , , , on June 24, 2009 by evanbutson

Many of you may not know this but my wife (a significantly more talented person than I) has written a book, and it comes out later this year (September 1st to be exact). Set in LA, the main characters visit many of the spots where famous celebrities have died. As my area of expertise, motion video, generally has bugger all to do with the written word you might wonder where this post is going. Well, as her background is in PR, my wife was adamant that when this book was launched she would have every type of media covered, including websites, business cards, press, stills from locations that are covered in the book, you name it.

Hollywood Ending

So with that in mind earlier this year we set off for a holiday to LA, with the idea that we would also do a little bit of prep work for the book as well. As this was primarily a holiday I wasn’t going to be lugging round three or four Pelican cases of gear, so i set myself the rule that unless all my gear, still and video could fit in a single backpack, it wasn’t going. My video gear thus consisted of a Canon HV-30 set to shoot HDV 25p, a suction mount for mounting the camera to the car for in car pieces to camera and a few mics. Several weeks later and we had shot enough footage for the trailers that were to go up on the website leading up to the books release.

Now comes the grading stuff. I have been a user of the grading software Magic Bullet for years now, but I must admit I hadn’t upgraded for a few versions, it did what I needed and so I left it as is, that is until CS4, when my tried and trusty version of Magic Bullet would not install, bugger, oh well I suppose an upgrade is in order, well after contacting the fine folks at Red Giant Software as I couldn’t figure out what package most closely matched my old version, and I couldn’t see any upgrade options that matched what I already owned, I was offered a VERY nice upgrade price to Magic Bullet Looks.

And so after cutting the first of the little 3 minute teaser trailers for Kathy’s book, I went to do what I usually did with Magic Bullet, drop a look on, add a Vignette and be done with it, because, and I have to admit this in public, I never really messed with the Magic Bullet settings before, I just found the interface to confusing and it was hard to see what subtle changes would do to your image without exiting the application and then clicking in your timeline, back and forth it was just too complicated. And so, the first trailer went up and looked great. Nothing too complicated so far.

So time rolls on and now I have to cut the second trailer which I do, unfortunately I notice a problem with the in-car footage where I had mounted the camera to a suction mount on the window pointing at the driver, the exposure had been set based on when I had mounted the camera, however as anyone who knows the winding roads in the Hollywood hills around Mullholland Drive will tell you, it aint that easy, we ended up driving in areas that were completely in shadow and then rounding a corner into direct sunlight, the result being a particular piece to camera that I wanted to use was about 3 stops over-exposed, not enough to make in un-usable, as these videos have a doco style about them, but still not ideal. However, once I had locked the edit and I went about applying the Magic Bullet Look I had chosen for these pieces, I discovered that that 3 stops of over exposure resulted in a VERY ugly picture once the Looks had been applied. What to do, I first off tried turning off the looks, and trying to grade down the shot to match the shot before that was well exposed and then re-applying the Looks, that didn’t go so well, it seems that Magic Bullet Looks when applied to footage that has been altered by another filter will generally result in a different look than you expect. I was about to throw my hands into the air and give up when i remembered that Magic Bullet has a new interface for selecting looks (which I had used) but that interface also was a new way of dealing with looks, adjusting their setting and creating your own, they call it Toolchains. So I loaded up the interface with the problem shot selected, and as usual, instead of reading user manuals and understanding the different features I just started clicking around, the interface is a wonder of simplicity hiding great power (I wish someone would describe me that way, one day), when you select a look you can see the different elements in a chain that go to making up that look, clicking on any of those elements allows you to alter the individual settings. Want an extra element, just drag and drop into the chain, which is what I did, a simple drag and drop of the Exposure element, and then clicking three stops down and wammo, the footage looked perfect and interestingly with no real quality loss, a first for compressed footage like this for me.

Magic Bullet Looks Interface

Now that I know the software has such power, I am looking forward to having more of a play and really finding out what it can do. In the meantime you can check out the results at or the HD versions at

Adobe E-Seminar – Working with Stills in Video, Photoshop Extended and Premiere

Posted in Connect Recordings with tags , , , , on June 19, 2009 by evanbutson

Here is the link to the latest Connect Session, working with stills and Photoshop Extended in video with Premiere

Backup, RAID and Redundancy

Posted in Misc, Technology with tags , , on June 18, 2009 by evanbutson

OK so most of the people I talk to know how much of a fan of redundant arrays I am, the idea of trusting all your precious work to a single drive that can and often will fail at literally the worst time is scary. Since about 2003 I have stored all my working media on RAID arrays, first RAID 1 arrays and then when I could afford it I upgraded to a RAID 5 array, for those who don’t know a RAID 5 array allows any single drive on your array to fail and you don’t lose any data, you also only lose 1 drives worth of space as compared to half with a RAID 1 array. Now that being said I have seen RAID 5 arrays fail, sometimes for reasons other than a hard drive failing, I have had array controllers themselves go haywire and kill an array, as well as physical failures with  cabling (in my case a bad power cable) that caused three drives to fall out of an array and cause me to lose a whole bunch of my iTunes library. That’s why I don’t just rely on RAID 5 redundancy for my main server, I also have a NAS that my RAID array clones itself to each night, that way, if something terrible happens to my array (touch wood) I still have a backup that is within 24 hours of being current.

That’s all well and good but my NAS isn’t really expandable, and it is not redundant, if a drive in it fails it is toast, so I have for some time been investigating possible solution that wont break the bank. I have tested and was looking at setting up a NAS using FreeNAS, it worked, and was pretty good, but I hadn’t gone as far as rolling it out as two of my hoped for features it didn’t really support, I wanted to be able to use JBOD so that if a drive did fail I didn’t lose all my data at once, and I also wanted the drives to be able to spin down and sleep (my power bill is getting silly), well a helpful episode of Tekzilla yesterday (and also the last sadly) offered a solution, that, whilst not free fulfills all my needs and adds a few things I didn’t even know I wanted.

unRAID by LimeTech is a sollution that sort of sits squarely between RAID 5 and a JBOD NAS. Basically think of it as a JBOD where you have a series of drives (they dont have to match, and can be any size), that appear as one large pool of drive space, the data is written to the first drive in the pool first until it is full and then continues onto the next and so forth, that way if a drive fails you only lose that drives data not everything, this also means that as each drive is not really dependant on another they can all spin down and sleep and thus not use power, and when accessing the data or writing, only the drive that is needed is spun up. Then add a parity drive which gives you RAID 5 like Protection, so that you can lose one of any of the drives in the array and still not lose data, then just swap in a replacement drive that is equal or larger than the failed drive and the data is repaired onto that drive. Best of all it runs off a thumbdrive and has modest hardware requirements. As I said it isnt free, there is a free version that support 3 drives, but for the 16 drive version I want your looking at around $180 AUD. But that, an old motherboard, a big case with a decent power supply and I can start throwing old drives into it as they become free and I have a protected NAS that doesnt draw too much juice.

I will let you know ho my testing goes, just waiting for some free time to go ahead and build the array and then try randomly killing drives to see what happens 🙂

Adobe eSeminar – Working with Photoshop and video – Photoshop is an integral part of the video workflow and CS4 Production Premium has all the integration.

Posted in Upcoming Connects with tags , , , on June 14, 2009 by evanbutson

Another Connect Session this Friday, this one is covering stills and video production, including using Photoshop CS4 to deal with video layes. Hope to see you there. As usual, the sessions are free but you need to register here

Jon Barrie’s First Connect Session

Posted in Connect Recordings with tags , , , , , on June 12, 2009 by evanbutson

Here is the link for Jons first Connect on using FCP with Adobe Premiere CS4

Flash Video on Websites

Posted in Technology with tags , , , , , , on June 10, 2009 by evanbutson

So I have been getting a lot of work recently that has involved deploying video to websites, normally as FLASH videos. I have always used the built in Flash interface that ships with Adobe Flash. Recently, I decided that for a new site I was working on I wanted a bit more control, a short websearch later and I came across Flow Player

Flow Player

It is a remarkably easy to deploy FLASH player that is in my opinion faster and easier to implement than the built in Adobe player.

Here’s a sample of it in use

The one thing it has brought into sharp focus for me is, traditional delivery methods such as VHS tapes, DVD and even BluRay are becoming more and more uncommon. I cant even remember the last time I delivered a master or a job as a DV tape, BetaCam SP or even Digital Betacam. Clients are embracing web video, especially in today’s painful economic climate. Web delivery is seen as a low cost solution that still gets the message out. That being said I am still amazed at how badly some webclips are encoded. I think that a lot of editors, just choose the default setting on their encoder of choice and that’s it, there is no finessing of the settings to get as good as possible an image within the desired limitations. I think I can best sum it up with a job I did recently where the client, a supposedly web savvy person, demanded that a 40 minute video be 10 meg or less. Now despite the fact that a 10 meg, 40 minute video will look like ass, I had real trouble getting the point across that the file size doesn’t matter, that the bitrate was the only important figure, the file could be 30 seconds long or an hour long, the bitrate was the important number. So what did I do, I ignored her instructions and created a file that looked good, had a bandwidth that meant the file would play well over their intranet and did I mention it looked good.

Moral to the story, if your an editor, learn the dark art of compression, never use a built in preset without looking through the settings and making sure they are the best for your particular need. And test, test, test. Encode a 1 minute file at a variety of bitrates, frame sizes and frame rates to see what happens, that way, when a client requests you deliver a file, you will already know what you can and cant get away with.

Adobe Connect Session – Using the RED Digital Camera System with CS4

Posted in Connect Recordings on June 5, 2009 by evanbutson

Here’s the lin to my latest Connect Session on using RED files withn CS4

Upcoming Connect Session – Working with the RED Digital Cinema System and CS4

Posted in Upcoming Connects on June 1, 2009 by evanbutson

Another Connect Session this Friday, this one is covering editing HD materialfrom the RED Digital Cinema System. Looking at the workflows and systems to cutting HD material in CS4. Hope to see you there.

As usual, the sessions are free but you need to register here