Monday, December 12, 2005

Excellent day for CineForm powered music videos

After watching Alex's DVD (see last post) , my email in-box had another surprize. Jacob Rosenberg of Formika Films (Premiere guru and on-line supervisor for Dust to Glory) has released his latest project, Cactusflower, a music video for John Gold. The production of this music video received an excellent write-up and cover story in Video Systems magazine (see the article here.)

I have known about Jacob's new project for some time as I think this was the first production to use Prospect HD as a 24p disk recorder, bypassing the Sony F900 tape based compression. This allowed 10-bit for resolution 1920x1080 images to be captured rather than HDCAM's 1440x1080 8-bit. If he shot now, a Wafian HR-1 may have been an easier set-up, but the underlying technology is the same. A cool production fact: the F900 camera was shoot on it side, producing a tall 9x16 image, and the featured room was shoot in five slices to reconstruct a very wide anamorphic image, making a huge composite around 6000x2000 (from memory) to assemble all the slices into a seamless (very cool looking) frame.

See the truly excellent results here : “Cactusflower” video
Bonus : scroll down the page for a 720p WMV download version.

The best customer feedback

Early today I received a DVD of a music video produced by long time Aspect HD user Alex Raskin ( It is always great to see what customers are doing with the software we create, and Alex's project is a lot of fun. Customer DVD's arrive every so often, but I do hope to encourage more of this. Please send them our way, we want to know what you are up to.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Aspect HD 3.4 now available for download

Yes another free upgrade for Aspect HD users. The biggest new feature is Canon XL H1 24F/30F support. It seems again that we will have an exclusive on this for some time based on the competitor's slow rate of support for JVC 24p (added to Aspect HD 3.3 released 4 months ago.) Here is the list of new features (cut from the CineForm web page.)

- quality enhancements that triggered the recently published quality analysis performed using Connect HD in Sony Vegas have all been rolled into Aspect HD v3.4.
- upon uninstallation of Aspect HD, our decoder components (optionally) remain installed and active, allowing easy (and free) multiple-machine decoder installs.

Capture related:
- Batch capture with timecode supported for XL H1 and HD100U
- Batch capture now supports non-zero start timecodes
- Timecode extraction from HD100U streams now supported

Export-to-tape related:
- HD100U: both 24p and 25p exports now supported
- XL H1: 1080i and 1080p24 (pulldown added) exports
- Sony's HDR-HC1 and HVR-A1: now supported

24p modes:
- XL H1: Capture with pulldown removal yields 1080p24 progressive CineForm Intermediate files for pure 24p editing workflows
- HD100U: 24p capture already supported in Aspect HD v3.3 release
- 24p presets and editing modes supported for both the XL H1 and HD100U

25p preset added for HD100U

Standard definition 4:3 export now supported from 16:9 timeline (center crop) for DVD

For more information please visit the Aspect HD pages

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Aspect HD 3.4 beta

Aspect HD 3.4 is almost ready for release will support for the 24F modes for Canon XL H1. Here is a happy new user of a new Canon editing with a beta of Aspect HD 3.4. I hope to post the new feature list shortly.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Canon XL H1 24F over HD-SDI

Lots of new support is coming for the new Canon XL H1. The full CineForm product line-up will be upgraded (free) to support direct capture and editing of the 24F mode of the new Canon HDV camera (along with the 30F and 60i modes.) Support for HDV capture of 24F was straight forward, as the CineForm Intermediate approach bypasses all the ugly messing around with native MPEG, we had that running a couple of days after our first prototype arrived. (Note to camera manufactures, it is very helpful to get prototypes for timely software releases -- are you listening Panasonic?) Canon's 24F HDV stream is converted to a 24p AVI and the results are excellent. Yet the Canon XL H1 adds interesting possibilities via HD-SDI; as the 24F is presented with 3:2 pulldown over 60i at 1920x1080. The challenge was to extract the pulldown on the fly and only capture the 24 progressive frames (all in software of course.) This is what we achieved today, such that a pure 24p stream could be recorded directly to the disk in 10-bit CineForm Intermediate, ready for 24p editing. For these first tests I used AMD dual Opteron 275 workstation, a very nice system. Yet the pulldown and compression only uses 50% on the CPU resources, so this 24F capture mode will work on any qualified Prospect HD Ingest workstation (i.e. Opteron 250s or better.)

Here is a WM9 1280x720p24 clip showing direct capture from the XL H1. Not very exciting -- just me waving for a few seconds. I will post a full 1920x1080 p24 image when I have something more interesting to show.

This capture mode allows for 24p ingest while bypassing the camera's MPEG compression and preserving the full 4:2:2 color space the Canon places over HD-SDI. As a result this feature will also appear in the Wafian HR-1. Capturing this way is great for any project where quality needs to be at a premium. The 24p extraction greatly simplifies the post workflow. While you can record to other formats like HDCAM/SR, D5 or DVCPRO-HD, the resulting data stream is still 60i; the pulldown will still need to be extracted (which I understand can be tricky or cumbersome using off the shelf tools.) So again we have a first.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

10-bit workflow testing

In the last few weeks we a started a blog together with team of filmmakers in South Africa. This new blog (located here is allowing others to see and learn from a new independent filmmaker workflow. This is an effects heavy independent project that is really pushing the envelope; shooting multicam HD100s with 35mm lenses to Wafian disk recorders. CineForm and Wafian are optimized our tools to meet the needs of this project and the production team at Atomic VFX. This is all real, not a marketing exercise, if the filmmakers find bugs they will report them there.

In a recent thread on, there was some discussion of understanding the differences between 8 and 10-bit workflows. The Atomic VFX team was attempting to create a difference matte between 8 and 10-bit files, yet is turns out the compositing tools have some difficulty doing this. Read all the details at indiefilmlive.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Meet the Filmmakers

A couple of days ago I was honored to attend an event thrown by AMD, Microsoft and the Austin Film Society. This was my first trip to Austin (unfortunately only for a 20 hour visit) but I will definitely return. The event was very well attended by Austin area filmmakers for primarily a social gathering with some short presentations from some celebrity filmmakers : Mike McCoy (producer and star of Dust to Glory) and Robert Rodriguez of Troublemaker Studios (writer, director Sin City, Spy Kids 1,2 & 3, ...) I was attending as the sole demo artist, showcasing what CineForm products can do for the indie filmmaker. Now this was not a tradeshow, this is a party with an open bar in a 6th St. night club, hardly the venue to demo software technology. Yet many brave filmmakers did choose to approach the long haired geek (myself) amongst the glowing computer gear.

This was a great learning experience for me, as this was a far better cross-section of indie filmmakers, than those that go to NAB or SIGGRAPH. So even at an event thrown by AMD and Microsoft, there were a lot of Final Cut Pro users, but more amusingly many assumed I was demonstrating FCP (I repeat, at an AMD/Microsoft event.) It is true that Adobe Premiere Pro does look much like FCP, and for good reason, it is aiming to be the FCP of the PC (and has pretty much succeeded technically in most areas.) There is now no longer that great divide between the feature sets of the competing low cost (pro) NLEs on either platform. The market potential that created the FCP phenomena doesn't exist today, yet the illusion still exists. I think many viewers of my demo assumed I was using FCP; after all, they have seen FCP do cool stuff (and no one can market better than Apple.) When I explained that, no, this was Premiere Pro running CineForm's Prospect HD/2K, the follow up question was often, "Can I do that?" on FCP, and the answer, again, was no.

It's not what I was showing couldn't be done under FCP in the future, but some of the same forces that have PC dominating the desktop are again at work against Apple. Compared to Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro is a closed architecture, all major new features must come for Apple alone, third party vendors can only really enhance existing features within the product. Premiere Pro, on the other hand, is open, with a hardware abstraction layer (HAL) that allows thirds to add and extend beyond the core feature set. For example, integrated HDV editing within FCP could only come from Apple, whereas the intial Premiere HDV editing -- way ahead of Apple -- came from small third parties like Main Concept and CineForm. Apple's FCP certainly has lost some gloss over the HDV introduction, and even today users have no support for 24p HDV (unlike various PC solutions, including CineForm.) Not that Adobe alone has great HDV either, yet it is greatly supplemented by third party integration. Apple has plenty of compelling reasons to create a good HDV implementation, as this prosumer format is heading to become the new DV, which equates to lots of platform and software sales. However, the many smaller niche markets can't be served by Apple engineering, creating opportunity for companies like CineForm (but unfortunately for Apple this is easier to do on another platform.)

The niche market that has opened up though FCP's closed archecture are tools and workflows for independent filmmakers, the market that used to be FCP's turf excusively. The independent filmmaker is looking for the most cost effective solution to post his or her project, without compromising the final product. A simple enough desire, yet the allure of HD has complicated matters greatly for these filmmakers. It is very expensive to post and online HD production, forcing most into an offline workflow (an alien experience for DV shooters.) Even offline has additional expense such as the conversion cost from creating offline ready DV dubs from a HDCAM shoot (approx. $80 per 40 min HDCAM tape equals thousands for an average feature) -- then the online costs are still in the production's future. The offline then online approach is the typical FCP workflow, as it is for Avid, really it is the traditional workflow. Yet the indie filmmaker is not concerned with tradition -- neither Mike McCoy nor Robert Rodriguez were speaking at this event because they followed tradition.

So what did I demo at this event and how does it differ from the traditional workflow? I was showing the first 10 minutes of a feature shot on super-16 scanned at 2048x1276 10-bit log (26% more data than 1920x1080 HD) yet this 2K project fit in 10GBytes (which I had backed up on my iPod.) This project was playing on a dual opteron workstation, with the 2K media running from two drives in a simple striped RAID 0 configuration (inexpensive and standard.) On this system I showed that I could playback and mix three of these 2K sequences all in real-time. Three streams of 2K is simply not possible in any other practical workflow. What this all means is the tranditional off-line workflow can be entirely skipped. Now the workflow is free the the rigid ordering of : offline editing -> lock down -> conform to uncompressed -> complete FX work -> flatten the timeline (render, otherwise it won't even preview) -> color corrector (render) -> master out. With a compressed online workflow, steps can be performed in any order, and as you have the resolution image available at all times, HD dubs are ready available for marketing your project, all on much lower hardware costs. Under FCP for a 2K (film) or HDCAM projects, all you get is either a single stream compressed or single stream uncompressed -- no real-time, no workflow enhancement. For Apple to compete they need to open up FCP's achitecture to allow third parties to keep their product moving forward.

In the end, the idea of a compressed digital intermediate is not new; it has been around for may years as real-time DV editing. All CineForm has done is removed the bit-rate and resolution limitations of these camera formats DV, HDV, and DVCPRO-HD, and made film and HD resolutions edit as easy as a DV project without the quality compromise of all the camera based compression. An old workflow re-invented for a new filmmaker.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

JVC HD100U frame rates

Last weekend I went up to Hollywood Studio Rentals to demonstrate the CineForm products as part of the DV Camps training seminar ( I've done this show before when the JY-HD10 was first launched two years ago. This time around the gear was for more suitable for the filmmakers that were in attendance. The Prospect HD work-flow combined with the new Wafian on-set recorder was demonstrated operating with the new JVC GY-HD100U. For this demo we captured the JVC's 60p analog feed (through an AJA HD10A digitizer to output HD-SDI) into the Wafian disk recorder; then, just a moment later we sent the captures data via GigE to the Prospect HD editing system for playback and editing as either a 60p clip or a prefect 2.5X slow-motion at 24p. This seemed a crowd pleaser.

Although CineForm products fully support all the JVC's modes over FireWire, capturing directly from the analog feed has several quality benefits. Bypassing the MPEG compression of HDV is significant one, yet there is also the increased chroma resolution of 4:2:2 vs HDV 4:2:0. Even for users of the HVX200 will get both resolution and chroma image enhancements by bypassing that camera's DVCPRO-HD 720p compression which has a normalized (to 1280x720) sampling resolution of 3:1½:1½. There are also frame rate advantages, particularly for HD100 users. When the JVC camera is in 30p mode the analog output is at 60p, similarly for the 25p mode the analog feed is 50p; so what happens at 24p? I expected a 3:2 pulldown of the 24p into 60p (somewhat like the 24p mode does on tape), however the camera actually puts out a true 48p with a 1:1:1:2 pulldown into 60p. This means for standard shooting/slow-motion rates, that options are 24, 25, 30, 48, 50 and 60 frames per second. With additional selective frame recording, correctly cadenced frame rates of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 15, 16 and 20 fps are also available. How cool is that? Really, I want feedback on this so we can determine what sort of capture frame rate controls are implemented within Prospect HD and similarly within the Wafian recorder. The JVC HD100 is shaping up to be an excellent indie filmmaker camera.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Canon XL-H1 early results.

While one of our engineers is having fun learning about our newly-arrived JVC HD100U, that has left me some time to spend with the new Canon XL-H1, with a particular focus on its HD-SDI abilities. The HD-SDI feed is great for on-set monitoring and direct acquisition that bypasses the MPEG compression. Note: If you are using direct HD-SDI capture, you can't use the magnify feature for focus assist because the magnified image is sent over HDSDI. Anyway, you don't needed the magnify feature anyway because the peaking focus assist works very well.

I used a Prospect HD system to capture HD-SDI directly from the camera and compress on the fly into CineForm Intermediate. The results are nice. The 24F stream doesn't use HD-SDI's 24PsF mode (segmented frame), rather it delivers a 60i stream with standard 3:2 pulldown applied (although the data is presented with the proper 24p cadence.) We will be quickly adding real-time pulldown extraction to Prospect HD for direct support for the 24F mode, so 24P editing will be straight forward.

The image quality is excellent, really! The 24F image doesn't quite resolve the same image resolution as the 60i, but it seems higher than one interpolated field; we still have more to learn about 24F. I expect this will be a very popular shooting mode. The HD-SDI feed is 8-bit not 10-bit unfortunately, although someone at Canon had already stated that -- I really hoped to find that information incorrect. Please Canon, 10-bit support in a future update! That said, its clean uncompressed 1920x1080 8bit feed is still very nice. That is what I have learned to date.

Monday, October 10, 2005

New gear at CineForm

Thank you Canon! Having the new Canon camera before it hits the market will greatly help CineForm be the first to support ALL its features. We intend to directly support the Canon 24F/30F modes within Aspect HD and Connect HD, and Prospect HD will additionally add support for this camera over HDSDI.

Jeff (CineForm engineer) is pictured modeling the camera soon after its arrrival.

A second thanks also goes to JVC for getting us their deck way ahead of the HD100U shipment, enabling Aspect HD to be the first to support the ingest 24p from Pro HD source (are we still the only commercial NLE solution to support that mode?) Now that JVC has also shipped us a production sample of the camera, we will have some exciting new features/products for the now wide range of of inexpensive HD cameras.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Learning about the Canon XL-H1

This camera caught me by surprise as many of the camera vendors now contact CineForm before they announce their HDV camera (even many non-HDV vendors discussion CineForm implementations.) However this is a very nice surprise, and we all expect Canon to have a high quality solution. As the XL-H1 is a 1080i HDV camera it will be closely compared with the Sony HVR-Z1; neither camera offers a progressive imaging sensor, yet both have a pseudo 24 frames implementation -- speculation on this is great as the Sony method under-whelmed the market, Canon may/should take a different approach (see my speculation below). The good news is this new camera should operate flawlessly with all CineForm products as it complies with existing HDV and HDSDI (bonus) standards.

The clear difference between this unit and other HDV cameras is the addition of HDSDI. We already have several customers using live HDSDI feeds into Prospect HD workstations for onset capture, bypassing the camera compression of HDCAM/DVCPRO-HD etc, so the same work-flow will apply for the Canon XL-H1. So just like the high end HD solutions, the HDSDI feed is pre-compression, the raw data from this HDV camera is the highest quality feed, perfect for Prospect HD's 10-bit CineForm Intermediate compression (the HDV tape acts as a backup only.) There has been speculation whether the HDSDI feed is 8-bit or 10-bit YUV 4:2:2. I believe it is more likely to be 10-bit, counter to a few opinions, as there is no technical reason not to output 10-bit. The RGB CCDs capture light in a linear manner with 12 to 14 bits of precision (depending on the sensor), after in camera processing the resulting RGB linear data is converted to YUV 4:2:2 in a 709 colorspace. The RGB precision is plenty to support a 10bit YUV gamma corrected output. The top 8-bits would then be sent on to the MPEG compressor (where it is further down sampled to 4:2:0.) If the processed linear RGB data is converted directly to 8-bit YUV, that would have been an error on the part of Canon engineering (so I don't think they would have done this), particular as HDSDI is inherently 10-bit (8-bit data is sent as 10bit with the two least significant pixels set to zero.) So as soon as cameras are available it is straight forward to determine the bit-depth of the HDSDI feed.

As we will get an uncompressed 1920x1080 out from HDSDI (higher than HDV's 1440x1080) the sensor resolution is significant. Canon has increased the resolution over the Sony Z1's three CCDs of 960x1080 (which use a horizontal pixel shift of the green sensor to increase the effective resolution to approach that of 1440.) Instead the XL H1 has gone with 3 16x9 CCDs of 1.67M pixels each, suggesting a sensor resolution of around 1720x970 (assuming square pixels.) I just read that the effective sensor area for HD is 15.6M pixels, which would indicate of non-square pixel sensor of 1440x1080 (which makes better sense.) If the lens allows, this should resolve a sharper (or detailed) image. The down size of so many picture elements on a 1/3" CCD, is a reduced light sensitivity. Sony the 960x1080 CCD, with their extra elongated pixels, have a larger area to collect light, and therefore potentially slightly more sensitive.

The most anticipated element of the XL H1 will be how it achieves 24 frame acquisition using a interlaced sensor. Canon has been up front with the 24 mode not being acquired in a true progressive sense, but in one statement it seems it will not have the motion jutter of Sony's CineFrame 24, which suggests the sensor may be run at 48Hz rather then 60Hz for the 24F mode. This will be an excellent first step. However if all data is interpolated from a top or bottom field, the vertical resolution can't exceed 540. I don't give much weight to an intelligent de-interlacing process, as that will potentially introduce motion artifacts as the good algorithms would take too long for the camera to compute. Canon could generate a good resolution pseudo progressive image if they ran the green CCD with reversed field dominance (output a bottom field when red and blue CCD output a top field) this way the same pixel shifting technology that makes Sony's 960 res CCD output near 1440, could help the three 540 fields (red-blue and pixel shifted green) could achieve a progressive vertical resolution approaching 810 (which is about the maximum a normal interlace picture can achieve any way.)

One last note on the 24F mode. The "Advance" 2:3:3:2 pull-down of 24p DV is unnecessary in HDV as there in no frame compression used in the 1440x1080 mode (spec HD2.) As only field compression is used, the standard 2:3:2:3 pull-down will work perfectly well. A true progressive frame signal can be exacted with ease.

P.S. 10/12/05 -- Now that we have a camera I have posted some real world data.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

So many new HD cameras to choose from, so much misinformation.

There is much heated discussion on the various HD and HDV forums regarding sensor resolution, compressed types and bit-rates of the new crop of prosumer HD cameras. So much is focused on these elements, yet the numeric data is often less significant than the quality of the lens and the physical size (not resolution) of the CCD/CMOS. This is encouraged as so much of the marketing of these cameras is rooted in the numbers -- three CCDs is assumed to better than one, chroma sampling 4:2:2 better then 4:2:0, and 100Mb/s is better than 25Mb/s, all seems so true, yet in most cases the impact of image quality is far more complex than that, with the numbers often hiding more significant characteristics.

What is the true resolution of a camera? Put a resolution chart in front of its lens and you have better information than any of the marketing data. However the ability to resolve detail will be impacted by the sensor resolution, physical pixel size, compression resolution and chroma sampling. I in the next few post I intended to go into interesting technical details on a range of these new cameras, pointing out where I think the marketing information based on the numbers are either misleading or significant to the final out image quality.

Here are the range of the sub-$20k HD cameras that are annouced or currently available.

Canon XL-H1
Grass Valley Infinity
Panasonic HVX-200
Sony HVR-A1
Sony HVR-Z1

I intend to discuss a little on each. Please point out if I have missed any interesting new cameras.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Extending the Prospect 2K work-flow on Lbs

Our next major film project Lbs will be using the upcoming Prospect 2K editing engine. Prospect 2K is a work in progress and we aren't currently marketting or selling it. I will occassional discuss the product's updates as will learn from the post-production of this film.

One of the post-production requirements is to monitor the timeline via HDSDI even though the scanned frame resolution is 2048 x 1276 , larger frame size than HDSDI generally supports (at full frame rate.) As the feed is primarily used for color correction we will window the 2K source so that most of the image (80%) can be seen across HDSDI. For this project will are sending out the center 1920x1080 image. This HDSDI feed will pass though a BlackMagic HDLink box to enable the mapping of log density image for accurate viewing on an HP 24" DVI LCD panel.

All of this has been working perfectly well. The trick now is to come up with the necessary curves between the log images and the 2.2 gamma LCD such that color correction performed, with this simple workstation setup, will match the final film out. This will involve correcting for the errors / distortions in the film final out -- we will be performing film out tests and using that data to help generate the curves. This is the next big stage of this project, and no small feat. It should be a lot of fun.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Sorry it has been such a long time since posting. This is due to large number of things happening rather than the lack of events. Just in the last weeks:

  • The scans for the Lbs project where completed and the conform within Prospect 2K is basically done. The source for the whole movie, ten 20 minute reels of cut negative, scanned at 3028x1276 (10-bit log) fits on a single 300GB drive. If that doesn't change filmmaking...
  • The recut of the 3D-IMAX movie Santa vs the Snowman from O Entertainment was completed (and looks awesome.) I will be showing some of this at SIGGRAPH with the AMD booth.
  • Aspect HD 3.2 was released, rolling in many quality enhancement from Prospect HD.
  • Connect HD 1.8 was released (yesterday.)
  • And personally, I directed a short for the 48 Hout Film Project (San Diego division) last weekend and had a complete blast. This was an HDV project shot with two Sony Z1s in CineFrame 25 and edited in 24p using Aspect HD 3.2. The screening is tomorrow night a Landmark La Jolla Village, 7pm. The film is called the The Disc. Today I just re-mastered the film at 1280x720p24 using Window Media 9, looks very cool for writing, shooting and editing within 48 hours.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Deep AVIs within After Effects Pro.

The professional version of After Effects has the very import feature of 16-bit processing. This is something CineForm loves and we made extensive use of this on the production of Dust to Glory. To allow greater than 8-bit AVI support within After Effects, CineForm has created its own I/O module to offer importing and exporting of deep AVIs. Cool huh? Yet this comes with some resistance from Adobe themselves as we had to override their existing After Effects importer. The concern is fair, just as AE doesn't support deep AVIs (annoying to our customers), the CineForm importer doesn't support DV (annoying to many of their customers.) Unfortunately the two importers can't play well together, as After Effect is missing the mechanism that Premiere has which enables multiple importers to co-exist. Sigh.

To overcome Adobe's concern and the After Effects limitation, the new release of Prospect HD (v1.1 is due out any day now) will allow you to select which importer you will use on the launch of After Effects. You can permanently select deep AVIs, or stay with 8-bit processing, or dynamically select which you are using in each AE session. The beauty of this approach is it actually overcomes the AE limitation for all AVI types (with a little user work-around.) It turns out the AE limitation only applies to the action of importing, not to using multiple AVI types loaded in previous sessions (weird I know.) If you're working with deep AVIs but you still need to mix in some DV clips, here is how you can do it (in PHD v1.1.) Starting with a project with deep AVIs, to add DV elements:
1) save your project and close AE.
2) re-open AE (while holding SHIFT+CTRL) which will open the CineForm importer control panel.
3) Select 8-bit AVI mode from the CineForm pop-up.
4) reload you project and import all the new DV elements.
You are done. Now all the media types work together while gaining the benefits of deep pixel processing. If you need more deep AVI elements, simply repeat the steps and switch back into deep AVI mode. This shows AE is so close to working as we all would prefer, yet this work-around allows the highest quality output without compromissing your source flexibility.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Putting the team back together for the 48 Hour Film Project.

The 48 Hour Film Project is a touring guerrilla film making competition. Last year was the first time in San Diego for this competition, so CineForm put together a team. This was a team of software engineers (camera, lighting & sound), technical support staff (editing), the wife (writer & acting), even the company's insurance agent (boom operator) all lent a hand. With actors from Criag's list we had a total blast and made a fun, but not yet a winning film. This year we are back to try again.

Like last year, we will be shooting HD, totally overkill for this type of project (SD only projection.) We do it because can -- it was also a plus to shoot a little wide for very fast setups, then crop in within post (HD giving us the extra definition for the crop.) The whole film was written, shot, edited, and mastered out in 48 hours so HD actually helped us save time. We where the only team last year with HDV cameras, this year I expect to be competing with other HDV teams (some may competing using our software.) Last year was shot with two JVC HD10U cameras, this year it will be either a couple of Sony Z1s or any upcoming prototypes I can get my hands on. What every we shoot with, we will be using the latest Aspect HD (hopeful a beta of the next release as nothing finds bugs faster than a competition like this.) I hope we can shoot something worth while to post online.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Scripting the rendered world.

It seems that there is an increasing number of customers using primarily computer generated sources. Customers are showing up with large number of Targa (TGA) or TIFF sequences and trying to work out the real-time editing work-flow. Although Premiere and After Effect happily import TGA sequences it becomes a very labor intensive task to convert tens or hundreds of sequences into separate AVIs. So I have been working on a simple shell tool to help batch convert image sequences CineForm Intermediate AVIs. This was is an off shoot of the work required by Pixel Havest (Lbs project); a version of this tool now runs on the film scanner. This is in an alpha version today, but I will make it available to Prospect HD customers upon request. Feedback is welcome.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

3D CineForm

Prospect 2K is CineForm's next big thing for film-makers, but it is still in the development stage. We are working with partners to beta test this on real film projects like Lbs (see my first post.) In addition to Lbs we have another project with a partner I can't yet name. This is a cool project working with elements from a 3D IMAX film. Each frame (and for each eye -- left and right images) is 2048x1501 -- although I recommended that they reduce the resolution to 2048x1500 (that odd number simply bothered me -- although I tested to confirm no technical limitations with such weird vertical sizes.) This is a computer generated project so the images are razor sharp.

This new partner was having issues trying to edit from a mixture of Targa files, SGI files and PNGs -- about 100,000 of them. Playback was very slow. So I helped out with a few scripts to batch convert these frames into CineForm Intermediate AVIs. These new files are about 8 to 10 times smaller even while using a quality setting above what was used on Dust To Glory -- computer graphics are easy to compress as there is no noise component. Originally, the frames required 700+ GBytes; now they could nearly fit on a 60GB iPod (my yardstick these days -- I believe I can fit the entire 12 minute 4096x1714 StEM project on an iPod without visual loss.) Now as C.I. AVIs the playback is real-time and with multiple streams. I even tried successfully (for fun) playback of left and right channels as two picture in pictures so I could "cross-them-in" to view the 3D.

I'll tell more when I'm allowed.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Wavelets Seen Everywhere

As most will know by now, CineForm uses a variation of wavelet compression. What that means is not so important for this discussion, but it is good to know that most compression is either wavelet or DCT (discrete cosine transform) based. Both wavelet and DCT have been around for a very long time, but for historical reasons DCT has been more prevalent (it was easier to put in silicon); DCT is used at the core of many common compressors like DV, DVCPRO, MPEG, and WM9. Despite the historical adoption of DCT, wavelet is considered a better compressor for image data but unfortunately it is not used widely (yet -- we are helping change this.) So it is very amusing to me when I read on several HD forums that CineForm's compression competitors, AVID DNxHD and Canopos HQ, are also attributed to being wavelet compressors -- which they're not. Why would this be, as neither company makes this claim? It seems the CineForm marketing message (with zero advertising dollars from us) has lead people to equate wavelet with high quality (nice, thank you, we totally agree.) So I guess some users assume the solutions of AVID or Canopus are also using wavelets to achieve their own quality claims. They might very well be nice codecs but they are not wavelet based.

Monday, June 06, 2005

So Apple is moving to Intel

Do we port to the Mac or does Apple come over to our camp? Not that I'm going to reveal CineForm's plans for Apple support, but it is clear that CineForm has always had an interest in porting to the Mac, to offer compressed Digital Intermediate work-flows under Final Cut Pro. The announcement today doesn't change our interest, but it potentially makes our work much easier. Porting to Quicktime has never been a big concern, but maintaining two optimized CODEC engines, one for Intel's SSE2/3 and another for the PowerPC's Altivec, is a bigger pain. Compression speed is of such high importance to CineForm, so optimization is key. If only the changeover was sooner.

Of course purchasing a G5 Mac today for post-production has got to be a hard decision. Final Cut Pro loses some of its gloss if it doesn't keep up with CPU performance (until it switches to Intel in 2007?)

Friday, June 03, 2005

Aspect HD sold to The Daily Show.

Even our HDV editing software is finding its way into broadcast. This Aspect HD system is installed on a very beefy laptop built by DV411, and is apparately going to be used for mobile HD production for Comedy Central's The Daily Show. I love that show. When I learn more I will post info here.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

First Post

I've been asked to start this blog many times to cover the technical happenings at CineForm. But it is the recent post-production work for Lbs (Pounds) from CAVU Pictures that has led me to start this blog. Many other technical players behind this new film will be writing their stories, so I will be linking over when I find them. For information on Lbs the film : check out imdb and

It is in the technical aspects where CineForm is getting involved. This feature will be running a variation of Prospect HD, the same editing engine used with Premiere Pro to complete the Dust To Glory project. This time we are using Prospect 2K -- the soon to be released big brother of Prospect HD. The Lbs project differs in many ways from Dust To Glory : here are some technical comparisons.

Dust To Glory Lbs
HD workflow :
telecined and scanned
Post res. 1920x1080
input : 35mm, 16mm, HDCAM & DV
BT709 color space 2.2 gamma 10-bit
Film workflow :
Scanned at 3K
post res. 2048 x 1276
input : Super 16mm
Cineon log 10-bit

For the D2G project, data was entered into the Prospect HD workstation via standard HD-SDI from HDCAM or QBit servers, so ingesting of data was very simple. Export was also a simple matter of playback from the timeline back out HD-SDI. Lbs is a different beast. We are working with a film scanning company (Pixel Harvest) to convert scanned frames directly into CineForm Intermediate (CI) and then using FireWire drives as the deliverable. Export will be to Cineon files for output to the film recorder. It is everything that happens in-between the scanning and the output to the film recorder that I hope to discuss here -- this is an interesting project, and just like D2G, we will be breaking new ground in film post-production.