With the release of the Adobe “CC” versions of Audition and Premiere Pro, users now have access to a customized version of the tc electronic Loudness Radar Meter.
In this video from NAB 2013, an attendee asks an Adobe Rep: “So I’ve heard about Loudness Radar … but I don’t really understand how it works.”
I thought it would be a good idea to discuss the basics of Loudness Radar, targeting those who may not be too familiar with it’s design and function. Before doing so, there are a few key elements of loudness meters and measurement that must be understood before using Loudness Radar proficiently.
Loudness Measurement Specifications:
Program “Integrated” Loudness (I): The measured average loudness of an entire segment of audio.
Loudness Range (LRA): The difference between average soft and average loud parts of a segment.
True Peak (dBTP): The maximum electrical amplitude with focus on intersample peaks.
Meter Time Scales:
• Momentary (M) – time window:400ms
• Short Term (S) – time window:3sec.
• Integrated (I) – start to stop
Program Loudness Scales
Program Loudness is displayed in LUFS (Loudness Units Relative to Full Scale), or LKFS (Loudness K-Weighted Relative To Full Scale). Both are exactly the same and reference an Absolute Scale. The corresponding Relative Scale is displayed in LU’s (Loudness Units). 0 LU will equal the LUFS/LKFS Loudness Target. For more information please refer to this post.
LU’s can also be used to describe the difference in Program Loudness between two segments. For example: “My program is +3 LU louder than yours.” Note that 1 LU = 1 dB.
Meter Ranges (Mode/Scale)
Two examples of this would be EBU +9 and EBU +18. They refer to EBU R128 Meter Specifications. The stated number for each scale can be viewed as the amount of displayed loudness units that exceed the meter’s Loudness Target.
From the EBU R128 Doc:
1. (Range) -18.0 LU to +9.0 LU (-41.0 LUFS to -14.0 LUFS), named “EBU +9 scale”
2. (Range) -36.0 LU to +18.0 LU (-59.0 LUFS to -5.0 LUFS), named “EBU +18 scale”
The EBU +9 Range is well suited for broadcast and spoken word. EBU +18 works well for music, film, and cinema.
Loudness Compliance: Standardized vs. Custom
As you probably know two ubiquitous Loudness Compliance Standards are EBU R128 and ATSC A/85. In short, the Target Loudness for R128 is -23.0 LUFS with peaks not exceeding -1.0 dBTP. For ATSC A/85 it’s -24.0 LKFS, -2.0 dBTP. Compliant loudness meters include presets for these standards.
Setting up a loudness meter with a custom Loudness Target and True Peak is often supported. For example I advocate -16.0 LUFS, -1.5 dBTP for audio distributed on the internet. This is +7 or 8 LU hotter than the R128 and/or ATSC A/85 guidelines (refer to this document). Loudness Radar supports full customization options to suit your needs.
Loudness meters have “On and Off” switches, as well as a Reset function. For Loudness Radar – the Pause button temporarily halts metering and measurement. Reset clears all measurements and sets the radar needle back to the 12 o’clock position. Adobe Loudness Radar is mapped to the play/pause transport control of the host application.
The Loudness Standard options available in the Loudness Radar Settings designate Measurement Gating. In general, the Gate pauses the loudness measurement when a signal drops below a predefined threshold, thus allowing only prominent foreground sounds to be measured. This results in an accurate representation of Program Loudness. For EBU R128 the relative threshold is -10 LU below ungated LUFS. Momentary and Short Term measurements are not gated.
• ITU BS.1770-2 (G10) implements a Relative Gate at -10 LU and a low level Gate at -70 LU.
• Leq(K) implements a -70 LU low level Gate to avoid metering bias during 100% silent passages. This setting is part of the ATSC A/85 Specification.
In Audition CC you will find Loudness Radar located in Effects/Special/Loudness Radar Meter. It is also available in the Effects Rack and in the Audio Mixer as an Insert. Likewise it is available in Premiere Pro CC as an Insert in the Audio Track Mixer and in the Audio Effects Panel. In both host applications Loudness Radar can be used to measure individual clips or an entire mix/submix. Please note when measuring an audio mix – Loudness Radar must be placed at the very end of the processing chain. This includes routing your mix to a Bus in a multitrack project.
Most loudness meters use a horizontal graph to display Short Term Loudness over time. In the image below we are simulating 4 minutes of audio output. The red horizontal line is the Loudness Target. Since the simulated audio used in this example was not very dynamic, the playback loudness is fairly consistent relative to the Loudness Target. Program Loudness that exceeds the Loudness Target is displayed in yellow. Low level audio is represented in blue.
Each horizontal colored row represents 6 LU of audio output. This is the meter’s resolution.
Loudness Radar (click image below for high-res view) uses a circular graphic to display Short Term Loudness. A rotating needle, similar to a playhead tracks the audio output at a user defined speed anywhere from 1 minute to 24 hours for one complete rotation.
The circular LED meter on the perimeter of the Radar displays Momentary Loudness, with the user defined Loudness Target (or specification target) visible at the 12 o’clock position. The Momentary Range of the LED meter reflects what is selected in the Settings popup. The user can also customize the shift between green and blue colors by adjusting the Low Level Below setting.
The numerical displays for Program Loudness and Loudness Range will update in real time when metering is active. The meter’s Loudness Unit may be displayed as LUFS, LFKS, or LU. The Time display below the Loudness Unit display represents how long the meter is/was performing an active measurement (time since reset). Lastly the Peak Indicator LED will flash when audio peaks exceed the Peak Indicator setting.
If this is your first attempt to measure audio loudness using a loudness meter, focus on the main aspects of measurement:Program, Short Term, and Momentary Loudness. Also, pay close attention to the possible occurrence of True Peak overs.
In most cases the EBU R128 and ATSC A/85 presets will be suitable for the vast majority of producers. Setup is pretty straightforward:select the standardization preset that displays your preferred Loudness Unit (LUFS, LKFS, or LU’s) and fire away. My guess is you will find Loudness Radar offers clear and concise loudness measurements with very little fuss.
You may have noticed the Loudness Target used in the above graphic is -16.0 LUFS. This is a custom target that I use in my studio for internet audio loudness measurements.
Articles and Documentation used as Reference:
tc electronic LM2 Plugin Manual
ITU-R BS.1770-3 Algorithms to measure audio programme loudness and true peak audio level
EBU R128 Loudness Recommendation
EBU-Tech 3341 Loudness Metering
Professional audio Loudness Meters display Program (Integrated) Loudness using an Absolute scale measured in LUFS. For example the EBU R128 Program Loudness target is -23.0 LUFS (Loudness Units Relative to Full Scale).
In 2006 when the ITU defined new audio loudness measurement guidelines, the general consensus was that many audio engineers would prefer to mix/normalize to the familiar “0″ level as the compliance target on a loudness meter. A Relative scale option was implemented that displays Loudness Units (LU), where 0 LU equals the corresponding LUFS compliance target.
So for EBU R128 … 0 LU = -23.0 LUFS. (By the way 1 LU = 1 dB).
In the snapshot below you can see my Nugen VisLM Loudness Meter set to display Absolute scale (left) and Relative scale (right).
Of course in most cases this scale and corresponding target is customizable. For example I advocate -16.0 LUFS as the loudness target for audio distributed on the internet. By defining -16.0 LUFS as my compliance target in a meter’s setup options, 0 LU on the Relative scale would then equal -16.0 LUFS on the Absolute scale.
Below is a basic side by side comparison of EBU R128 Absolute and Relative scales:
Wide variations in average (Program/Integrated) Loudness are common across all forms of audio distributed on the internet. This includes audio Podcasts, Videocasts, and Streaming Media. This is due to the total lack of any standardized guidelines in the space. Need proof? Head over to Twit.tv and listen to a few minutes of any one of their programs. Use headphones, and set your playback volume to a comfortable level.
Now head over to PodcastAnswerMan.com, and without making any change to your playback volume – listen to the latest program.
I rest my case.
In fact, there is a 10 LU difference in average loudness between the two. Twit.tv programs check in at approximately -22 LUFS. PodcastAnswerMan checks in at approximately -12 LUFS. I find this astonishing, but I am not surprised. I’m not signaling them out for any lack of quality issues or anything like that. In my view both networks do a great job, and my guess is they have sizable audiences. Both shows are well produced and it simply makes sense to compare them in this case study.
With all this in mind let me stress that at this particular time I am not going to focus on discussing Program Loudness variations or any potential suggested standard. I can assure you this is coming! I will say that I advocate -16.0 LUFS (Program/Integrated Loudness) for all media formats distributed on the internet. Stay tuned for more on this. For now I would like to discuss True Peak compliance that will be a vital part of any recommended distribution standard.
What surprises me more than Program Loudness inconsistency is just how many producers are pushing files with clipped, distorted audio. In many cases Intersample Peaks are present in audio files that have been normalized to 0 dBFS. (For more information on Intersample Peaks please refer to this brief explanation). Producers need to correct this problem before their audio is distributed.
One of the most useful features included in Adobe Audition is the Match Volume Processor. This tool includes various options that allow the operator to “dial in” specific average loudness and peak amplitude targets. After processing, the operator can examine the results by using Audition’s Amplitude Statistics analysis to check for accuracy.
Notice in the snapshot above I set the processor to Match To: Total RMS, with a -18.50 dB RMS average target. I’ve also selected the Use Limiting option. I’m able to dial in custom Look-Ahead and Release Time parameters as I see fit. Is there something missing? Indeed there is. Any time you push average levels you run the risk of clipping the input source. In Audition the Match Volume/Use Limiting option lacks the capability for the operator to set a specific Peak Amplitude Ceiling. I’ve determined that in certain situations Peak Amplitudes reach a -0.1 dB ceiling resulting in possible clipped samples and True Peak levels that exceeded 0dBFS. Keep in mind this is not always the case. The results depend on the Dynamic Range and available Headroom of any input source.
So how do we handle it?
Notice above the Match Volume Processor offers two Peak Amplitude options: Peak Amplitude and True Peak Amplitude. The European Broadcasting Union’s EBU R128 spec. dictates -1.0 dBTP (True Peak) as the ultimate ceiling to meet compliance. Here in the states ATSC A/85 dictates -2.0 dBTP. Since most, if not all audio formats distributed on the internet are delivered in lossy formats, it is important to pay close attention to True Peak Amplitude for both source (lossless) and distribution (lossy) files.
I advocate -1.0 dBTP as the standard for internet based audio file delivery. True Peak Limiters are able to detect and alleviate the possibility of Intersample Peaks from occurring. It is recommended to pass audio through a True Peak compliant limiter after loudness normalization and prior to lossy encoding. Options include ISL by Nugen Audio, Elixir by Flux, and (the best kept secret out there) TB Barricade by ToneBoosters. If you are running Audition, Match To: True Peak Amplitude and you should be all set.
The plugin developers mentioned above as well as Waves, MeterPlugs, tc electronic, Grimm Audio, and iZotope supply Loudness Meters and suites that display all aspects of loudness specifications including True Peak alerts. Visit this page for a list of supported Loudness Meters.
If True Peak detection and compliance is not within your reach due to the lack of capable tools, a slightly more aggressive ceiling (-1.5 dBFS) is recommended for Peak Normalization. The additional .5 dB acts as a sort of safety net, keeping peak amplitude at or below -1.0 dBFS. One thing to keep in mind … performing Peak Amplitude Normalization after Loudness Normalization may very well result in a reduction of average, program loudness. Once again changes to the processed audio will depend on the audio attributes prior to Peak Normalizing.
Below I’ve supplied data that supports this claim. The table displays three iterations of a test file: Input, Loudness Normalized Intermediate, and final Output. For this test I used the ITU-R BS.1770-2 “Match To” option in Audition’s Match Volume Processor. Bear in mind I pushed the average target to -16.0 LUFS. As noted, this is the target that I advocate for internet and/or mobile audio. This target is +7 LU hotter than R128 and +8 LU hotter than ATSC A/85.
After processing the Input file, the average target was met in the Intermediate file, but True Peak overs occurred. The Intermediate file was then passed through a compliant True Peak Limiter with it’s ceiling set to -1.0 dBTP. Compliance was met in the Output with a minimal reduction in Program Loudness.
Producers: there is absolutely no excuse if your audio contains distortion due to clipping! At the very least you should Peak Normalize to -1.5 dBFS prior to encoding your lossy MP3. Every audio application on the planet offers the option to Peak Normalize, including GarageBand and Audacity. Best case scenario is to adopt True Peak compliance and learn how to use the tools that are necessary to get it done. If you are an experienced producer or professional, and you come across content that does not comply – reach out and offer guidance.
Back in October of 2012 I wrote about my purchase and initial impression of MaxxVolume by Waves. Let me first say I’m so glad I bought this tool. Secondly, my timing was impeccable. I was under the impression (when I purchased it) that the price of this plugin was significantly reduced on a permanent basis from $400 to $149 for the “Native” single version. Not the case. It is currently selling for $350 and discounted to $320. Like I said – my timing was impeccable.
Anyway, I’ve spent many hours working with this tool. Before I discuss one instance of my workflow, let me also mention that I recently purchased a license for their Renaissance Vox Dynamics Processor. This is yet another stellar tool by Waves. It features three slider “faders”: Gate, Compressor, and Gain. The Gate (Downward Expander) is very impressive. It works well when it may be necessary to tame an elevated noise floor in something like a voice over. The Compression algorithm is what really makes this plugin shine. As expected this setting controls the amount of Dynamic Range Compression applied to the source. At the same time it applies automatic makeup gain. What’s special is as the output gain potentially increases, the plugin will automatically prevent clipping by applying peak limiting. It’s all handled by a single slider setting. It turns out the High Level Compressor included in MaxxVolume is similar to the Compression stage in Renaissance Vox …
I’ve settled in on an order in which I set up MaxxVolume to act as a leveler when processing spoken word. I load the plugin with all controls in the OFF state. First I turn on the Low Level Compressor. This is essentially an Upward Expander that increases the level of softer passages. It doesn’t take much of an increase in gain to achieve acceptable results. At this point I rely solely on my ears for the desired effect.
Next I turn on the Gate (Downward Expander) and listen for any problems with the noise floor that may have resulted from the gain I picked up with the Low Level Compressor. Since I pass all my files through iZotope RX2 before introducing them to MaxxVolume – they are pretty quiet. In most cases the Gate’s Threshold is set somewhere between -60 and -70 dB. By the way the processor is set to the LOUD mode. This setting uses a more aggressive release resulting in a slightly “louder” output signal.
Now that I’ve dealt with low level signals and any potential noise floor issues – I set the Global Gain to -1.0dB. If I am dealing with a previously (loudness) normalized file with a set average target, I almost never deviate from this -1.0dB setting.
The last stage of the processor setup affects the aggression of the Leveler and handles Dynamic Range Compression. As previously stated – the High Level Compressor also applies automatic makeup gain as it’s Threshold is decreased. What’s interesting is it also applies gain compensation to the signal where aggressive leveling may result in heavy attenuation. Here once again if I am dealing with a segment with a set average loudness target, I need to maintain it. So I turn on the Leveler and set it’s Threshold to apply the desired amount of leveling. When the audio passes (goes above) the threshold, leveling is active. The main Energy Meter displays the audio level after the leveler and before any additional dynamics processing functions.
I finish up by turning on the High Level Compressor, setting it’s Threshold to apply the necessary amount of gain compensation to maintain my average (Program/Integrated) Loudness target. I use Nugen’s VisLM Loudness Meter to monitor loudness. Finally I fine tune the Low Level Compressor and Gate.
This particular workflow is just one example of how I use MaxxVolume. The processor does an excellent job when setup to function as a speech volume leveler. In other instances I use it to attenuate playback of audio segments, programs, etc. that have been normalized to a much higher average loudness target than I see fit. With the proper settings MaxxVolume provides a highly customized method of gain attenuation that sounds so much better than just reducing output levels with channel faders in a DAW.
MaxxVolume is now an indispensable tool in my audio processing kit …
One of the great features of Final Cut Pro X is the availability of Apple’s 64bit Logic audio processing plugins (aka Filters). In fact FCPX supports all 64bit Audio Units developed by third parties.
Let me first point out I’ve tested a fair amount of 64bit Audio Units in FCPX. Results have been mixed. Some work flawlessly. A few result in sluggish performance. Others totally crash the application. I can report that Nugen’s ISL True-Peak Limiter and Wave Arts Final Plug work very well in the FCPX environment.
ISL is a Broadcast Compliant True-Peak Limiter that uses standardized ITU-R B.S 1770 algorithms. Settings include Input Gain and True-Peak Limit. ISL fully supports Inter-Sample Peak detection.
Final Plug allows the operator to set a limiting Threshold as well as a Peak Ceiling. Decreasing the Threshold will result in an increase of average loudness without the audio output ever exceeding the Ceiling.
Recently Flux released a 64bit version of Elixir, their ITU/EBU compliant True-Peak Peak Limiter. Currently (at least on my MacPro) the plugin is not usable. Applying Elixir to a clip located in the FCPX storyline causes an immediate crash. I’ve reported this to the developer and have yet to hear back from them.
The plugins noted above range in price from $149 to $249.
One recommendation that often appears on discussion forums and blogs is the use of the Logic AU Peak Limiter to boost audio loudness while maintaining brick-wall limiting. This process is especially important when a distribution outlet or broadcast facility defines a specific submission target. A few audio pro’s have taken this a step further and recommended the use of the Logic Compressor instead of the Peak Limiter. In my view both are good. However proper setup can be daunting, especially for the novice user.
These days picture editors need to know how to color correct, create effects, and handle various aspects of audio processing. If you are looking for a straight forward audio tool that will brick-wall limit and (if necessary) maximize loudness, I think I found a viable solution.
LoudMax is an easy to use Peak Limiter and Loudness Maximizer. Operators can use this plugin to drive audio levels and to set a brick-wall Output Ceiling.
The LoudMax Output Slider sets the output Ceiling. So if you are operating in the “just to be safe mode”, or if you need to limit output based on a target spec., set this accordingly. If you need to increase the average loudness of a clip – decrease the Threshold setting until you reach the desired level. The Output Ceiling will remain intact.
LoudMax also includes a useful Gain Reduction Meter. If viewing this meter is not important to you – there’s no need to run the plugin GUI. The Threshold and Output parameters are available as sliders, much the same as any other FCPX Filter or Template. You can also set parameter Keyframes and save slider settings as Presets.
Using the Logic Peak Limiter and/or Compressor is definitely a viable option. Keep in mind that achieving acceptable results takes practice. Proper usage does require a bit more ingenuity due to the complexity of the settings. I’ll be addressing the concepts of audio dynamics Compression in the future. For now I urge you to take a look at LoudMax. It’s 32/64bit and available in both VST and AU formats. The AU Version works fine in FCPX. I found the processed audio results to be perfectly acceptable.
At the time of this writing LoudMax is available as Freeware.
If you look in the FCPX Titles Effects Browser under the Lower Thirds Category you will notice an Information Bar Lower Thirds. The is a bundled FCPX Title. The title itself is actually quite stylish. It’s subtle, with a semitransparent black bar and customizable text positioned on two lines.
A few days ago I was sifting through a forum and noticed a post by a member who uses this title regularly. He was asking for help regarding the opacity of the “bar.” Basically it’s opacity was not customizable. It was preset to somewhere around 50%. The forum member politely asked if someone could possibly load up the title in Motion, tweak in an Opacity slider for the bar, and make it available. I knew this would be easy, especially if the default Title supported the “Open a copy in Motion” option. It did and the rest is history.
If you review the settings snapshot below you will notice I added additional options that makes my version much more useful, at least for me. I added support for Global Y Positioning (more on this below), Fade In/Out Frames, Bar Opacity, Bar Left Indent, and Bar Roundness.
By default the Title places the text within the 1.78:1 Title Safe Area located at the bottom left of the zone. The Global Y Position setting allows the operator to cumulatively move all Title elements up on the Y axis to 2.35:1 Title Safe positioning.
The Original version of the Title has two check boxes that control whether all elements fade in and/or out. I added Fade in and Fade Out sliders that support frame by frame customization. Setting the sliders to zero results in no fading.
Bar Opacity is now supported. I believe I set this up to default to 50% Opacity. Regardless – it’s now fully customizable.
Bar Left Indent is an interesting setting. Notice there is also a Bar Roundness setting that will change the shape of the bar. Since by default the bar is anchored to the left of the image frame, applying roundness to it results in a partially obstructed left edge. The Bar Left Indent setting moves the bar’s left edge in a few pixels to the right to compensate. In fact It can be used without any roundness applied as well for creative purposes.
There have been some reports of font change instability. In fact this behavior is also present in the original version of the Title. I found this to be not that big of a deal.
The Installer will place the Title in the FCPX Titles Browser under the Custom Lower Thirds Category/Information Bar Theme.
spotPoint Lighting Duo is now available for download. This version features simultaneous use and control of Spot and Point Lighting. I decided to build this out as an Effect. So there is no control for text as previously suggested.
Please read the following Notes prior to installing:
I decided to use a standard installer package as a delivery mechanism as opposed to the custom version that I wrote. I could have built a new custom installer for the Duo version and distributed it independently. Or I could have set things up to give the user the option to install one version or the other (Original / Duo) – or both. This would have required much more code. The package installer that I am using already supports this. It is easier to build and maintain, especially when multiple versions of a plugin are slated for distribution.
If you look in the Customize section of the installer you will see the original version of spotPoint Lighting as well as the new Duo version. spotPoint.1 is the same exact version as the original release. The only thing that is different is the FCPX Browser display thumbnail. If you have the previous version installed and elect to reinstall it – the existing version will be overwritten. You should not notice any difference except for the visual change of the browser thumbnail.
By the way these installer packages are easy to create. If you are developing and distributing Motion Templates and need help with creating an installer package, ping me. I’d be happy to walk you through it. I’m looking into building some sort of auto-notification system (like Sparkle) that would alert the user when new plugin versions or updates are available. The community needs something like this that is non-obtrusive to the user.
spotPoint Lighting Duo
I’m working on the next version of spotPoint Lighting. The next version will include simultaneous use and control of Spot and Point Lights. The example below is actually a Title as opposed to the Effect that was initially released. I’m trying to decide which format would be more useful. Having two independent text layers right within the package is definitely a plus. OTOH Effects are much cleaner implementations, and least for me – all due to their ability to be applied to individual clips. Titles are fine for timeline compositing. They do add a bit of clutter to the mix …
Below I used the Spot Light to warm up the sky independent of the Point Light.
I’m distributing a new effect that offers some interesting control for simulated Spot and Point lighting of your video shots:
As noted there are two Light Source options:Spot and Point. You can set the color of the light to suit your needs. Global controls include Intensity, Falloff, and Falloff Start. There are two dedicated controls for the Spot source:Spread Control and Edge Softener. The positioning of the light is controlled by a Drag Target. Incidentally both light sources are flat and frontal.
I really like the Point source lighting. You can create some very interesting looks and cinematic mood lighting scenarios., especially when experimenting with different color light sources.
Check out the produceNewMedia Vimeo Page for a demo. There is also a demo for Cinemascope Toolkit on that page as well.
In case you are wondering why I didn’t embed the video – for some reason I’m having problems with the Vimeo player when it is resized to fit into the supported area of my site theme (within a blog post). I am looking into it …
The custom installer will send the effect to a new Lightsource Category located in your FCPX Effects Browser.
Cinemascope Toolkit ver.1.2 has been released. The Crop Guides popup now displays one of three options:Letterbox, Film Zone, Letterbox and Film Zone. The Film Zone is essentially a set of colored cropping guides less the letterbox matte(s). Viewing the underlying clip with the Film Zone displayed on it’s own makes it easy to view what is being cropped. Also, the Film Zone display works well when the underlying clip is very dark at the top and/or bottom of the frame. You can set the Film Zone color to orange (default), black, or white.
Also new in this release is the capability to reposition the clip manually by clicking and dragging the center point object (Drag Target). When doing so the clip positioning sliders in the EFX UI will update accordingly.
Here is a look at the new controls:
In the image matrix below you can see the top clip was repositioned (and scaled). The visible Film Zone clearly displays the 2.35:1 frame. In the middle image the 2.35:1 Safe Zones are displayed along with the Film Zone. Note the clips reduced opacity. The bottom image is the cropped output.
Please note you must set the FCP X Player Background to Black when using Cinemascope Toolkit. Do this in the application Preferences/Playback. When you switch on the Safe Zones display the clip opacity is reduced. This provides a clear view of the zones. If the player background is set to Checkerboard, there’s nothing behind the clip – it’s transparent. The clip’s opacity reduction will be prevelant and this feature will be useless.
Also – I designed the matting system to be independent of the clip’s image layer. Any agressive grading or exposure adjustments will have no effect on the visual state of the letterbox matte(s).
Cinemascope Toolkit ver.1.1 was released yesterday. I added the ability to display 2.35:1 Safe Zones (Yellow or Blue) to clip(s) where the filter is applied. When the Safe Zones option is switched on the underlying clips’ opacity is reduced to about 30%.
Below I use the Yellow Safe Zones for better visibility.
The Rotation parameter is also new. Instead of publishing the default Motion circular knob object to control this effect I used a slider. Moving it in either direction rotates the video image CW/CCW up to +/- 20°. Keep in mind you may need to adjust the scale of the image to compensate for the rotation of the frame. It all depends on how you decide to frame your image within the letterbox matte(s).
I needed to export a still of the shot below @2.35:1. Notice in the top example the image framing is off. Pulling the Rotation slider slightly to the left fixed the problem. The exported (cropped) image looks much better.
One slight issue with this tool is that it is an “Effect.” This means it is applied on a clip by clip basis. Not a problem. However if for example you switch on the Safe Zones and reduce the clip’s Exposure/Highlights – the visibility of the Safe Zones are equally affected. If the toolkit was built as a Title or Generator, this would not be the case. OTOH Titles and Generators add additional clutter in your timeline. Also, any image manipulation to the underlying video (scale, position, etc.) from within the Title or Generator would be applied globally to everything below it. Obviously a problem. The ability to apply this kit as an Effect makes it much more useful …
I’ve released my Cinemascope Toolkit. The package includes a basic 2.35:1 matte (“Cinemascope Crop”) created in Motion and wrapped in a FCP X Effect. The Effect supports video Scale control and X/Y positioning. I’ve also included four Compressor Presets that output cropped MPEG-4/H.264 videos. Frame things up in FCP X and output using one of the presets for 2.35:1 aspect ratios.
The Installer is hard coded in Objective-C. All asset routing will be handled automatically when you run the installer. The Effect will be installed in a Matte Category under a Widescreen Theme in the FCP X Effects Browser. The Compressor Presets will be located in the Settings window under the Custom/CinemaScope Presets – Settings Group.
You can edit whatever is defined by the installer. For example I did not edit the naming convention that I use for my Compressor Presets. They all begin with the first four letters of my name. And of course the preset parameters can be edited to suit your needs.
You can customize the FCP Category and Theme as well. After installing the toolkit – pull the Cinemascope Crop folder out of the ~/Movies/Motion Templates/Effects/Mattes folder. Use my toMotion application to customize.
The latest addition to my audio processing toolset is MaxxVolume by Waves. This dynamics processor has been on my radar for the past few years. I was always under the impression that Waves plugins required an iLok account/key. It was for this reason I never bothered to pull down the demo and test it.
A few days ago I noticed that a few online plugin resellers were advertising a price drop for MaxxVolume. I believe the original price was $300. Sweetwater and DontCrack are currently selling it for $149. I decided to purchase a license. By the way prior to doing so – I realized Waves has moved away from the iLok requirement. They now provide a standalone “Waves License Center” (WLC) application that can be used to manage both purchased and demo licenses. Licenses can be transferred to a host machine and/or a standard (FAT32 formatted) USB Flash Drive. You can then move and manage licenses via the Flash Drive or within their proprietary License Cloud.
After making a purchase you simply register the new product on the Waves site, run WLC, login to your Waves account – and move your license(s) from the cloud to your target destination. I must say the process was easy and seamless.
So what is MaxxVolume? The plugin is a four module dynamics processor: Low Level Compressor, Gate, Leveler, and High Level Compressor. All four processing stages run in parallel.
The Low Level Compressor is essentially an expander. So any signal that falls below the set threshold gets compressed upward. It’s controlled by a Threshold fader and Gain fader. The Gate feature is controlled by a single Threshold fader that applies gentile downward expansion affecting any signal that drops below the threshold setting. The Leveler is essentially an AGC (Automatic Gain Control) controlled by a single Threshold fader. Lastly the High Level Compressor is controlled by a Threshold fader and a Gain fader. This compressor functions just like any standard compressor – when the input signal exceeds the threshold it is attenuated. The Gain setting compensates for the attenuated signal.
Waves notes “It’s a Broadcast tool, bringing any program to a fixed destination level; ideal for radio and TV, podcasting, internet streaming, and more.” It took me some time to get a feel for how the four processing stages interact. So far I like what I’m hearing. The AGC is pretty impressive. I’m using Adobe Audition CS6 as my host. The processor works fine in the Adobe environment.
I will say this tool is not your sort of cut and dry loudness maximizer. It may not be suitable for less advanced or novice users. In my view a clear understanding of upward/downward expansion, AGC, and compression is a necessity.
When preparing to encode MP3 files we need to be aware of the possibility of Intersample Peaks (ISP) that may be introduced in the output, especially when targeting low bit rates. This results from the filtering present in lossy encoding. We alleviate this risk by leaving at least 1 dB of headroom below 0dBFS.
Producers should peak normalize source files slated for MP3 encoding to nothing higher than -1.0 dBFS. In fact I may suggest lowering your ceiling further to -1.5 dBFS sometime in the future. Let me stress that I’m referring to Peak Normalization and not Loudness Normalization. Peak Normalizing to a specific level will limit audio peaks when and if the signal reaches a user defined ceiling. It is possible to set a digital ceiling when performing Loudness Normalization as well. This is a topic for a future blog post.
Notice the ISP in this image lifted from an MP3 wave form. The original source file was peak normalized to -0.1 dBFS and exhibited no signs of clipping.
You can also avoid ISP’s by using a compliant Limiter and setting the digital ceiling accordingly. During source file playback this type of limiter will detect when ISP’s may occur in the encoded MP3. This allows the operator to set the digital ceiling for the source as high as possible prior to encoding.
For podcast and internet audio a limiter set to a standardized ceiling of -1.0/-1.5 dBFS works well and is recommended.
One of the most useful features in the Final Cut Pro X/Motion 5 workflow environment is the ability to create, edit, publish, and share media content created in Motion 5. Creations like Effects, Titles, Generators, etc. can easily make their way into FCPX for widespread use. What is astonishing is these robust media tools can be created without writing a single line of code. Efficient distribution of these tools sparked my interest and lured me back into Xcode.
Before I preview my new application, let me explain the current (and kludgy) method of incorporating distributed Motion content into the necessary location(s) on the user’s system.
When you install Motion 5 a folder structure is created in the user’s ~/Movies folder. The top level folder (below “Movies”) is called Motion Templates. Below Motion Templates, 5 sub folders are created: Compositions, Effects, Generators, Titles, and Transitions. It’s important to note that each one of these folders pick up a .localized file extension. This was a very important issue that I needed to be aware of when developing the new application. More on this later …
Anyway, if a user is running both Motion 5 and FCPX, it is very easy to move Motion content to and from FCPX. This content is ultimately located and accessible in the FCPX Effects Browser. For example an Effects package can be “Published” from within Motion to FCPX and sent to a user appended “Category” located in the Effects Browser. This creates a very well organized list that makes it very easy to manage and access Motion tools while working on FCPX projects.
Here is where things get a bit confusing: As previously noted, Motion content authors can also share their creations. With this in mind I realized the user on the receiving end was forced to dig into the existing Motion Templates folder structure and manually place their acquired tools in the proper location. The minute I saw content authors including a snapshot similar to what I have inserted below, and using it to display where to place distributed content … I knew there had to be a better way.
I won’t get into too much detail here. In fact I built a webpage, also accessible from within the application that explains the concept in full. It’s available HERE. Basically toMotion is a sophisticated folder routing tool that interacts directly with the Motion Templates sub folders and their underlying contents. You simply drag in acquired Motion content folders, set a destination with or without appending a custom Category, and fire away. The source folder is automatically moved to your targeted location. Keep in mind this is *not* a copy operation. The source input folder is in fact moved to the targeted location.
It also came to my attention that user’s who have not yet purchased and/or installed Motion 5 may still utilize distributed Motion content. The caveat here is they will not have the required folder structure in their ~/Movies folder. Without this folder structure it will be impossible for the content to be incorporated into the FCPX Effects Browser. To alleviate this I built in support for the creation of this necessary folder structure. The user can access this option from within the Application Preferences. Upon completion of this action the Motion Templates folder and it’s 5 subfolders will be in place and ready for content.
Finally I decided to add a Backup Solution. The user can select an existing folder located on their system, or create a new folder, and designate it as the backup repository. The backup action copies the the Motion Templates folder and it’s contents, appends a date, and sends it to the designated location.
I think the application turned out pretty well. I learned allot, which of course is my ultimate goal when writing these Cocoa Applications. By the way – I previously mentioned this .localized folder extension issue. I must admit this was an oversight on my part. I knew my code was working regarding folder creation and movement of folders to specific locations. I just could not send folders to the Motion Templates folder or any of it’s subfolders. I finally initiated a Get Info (⌘ + i) action on one of the folders and realized they all shared this .localized extension. I edited my code and I was good to go ..
New Software Updates:
checkDefinitions 1.5 … with a customized Authentication Panel, a date string that displays the last attempted forced update, and UI tweaks.
aspectRatio 1.12 … with improved key mapping for custom conversions and UI tweaks.
The one feature missing from the current version of checkDefinitions is the ability to manually trigger a sort of “update now” operation for your Security Definitions. What most people are recommending is that users open System Preferences and navigate to the Security pane. You then need to click the lock that will display the Admin Password Authentication dialog. After authentication the user must toggle the Automatically update safe downloads list preference flag. This will force your system to ping Apple and check the status of your current Definitions.
The second way to do this is by running a unix sudo executable from the Command line. This operation will also require Password Authentication.
Anyway … there are a few developers out there offering applications similar in concept to my checkDefinitions app. From what I can see (in most cases) they are implementing AppleScripts to access the Security preference to force the check update operation.
One thing I’ve been doing lately is experimenting with the Terminal. I thought it would be cool to write a shell script, make it an executable, and figure out some way to integrate it with checkDefinitions.
After design and testing I decided not to bundle the shell script file with the application source. I need to figure out why the addition of the script file to the source bundle results in successful Builds and unsuccessful Runs. In other words – the code compiles and the main UI window fails to run.
At this point the shell script executable needs to be placed in a specific folder on the users system. After doing so pressing the Eject button on the main window quits the app., the Terminal launches, and the script does it’s thing. After the user authenticates the system’s Definitions will be updated (if necessary) and status is reported. The next time you run checkDefinitions the current status of your Definitions will be displayed.
It sounds a bit hack-ish, but to be honest it works pretty well. In fact the shell script executable is a handy little utility that can be used on it’s own for customized use. By the way I forgot to mention I’m using Apple’s PackageMaker application for distribution of this version. The advantage of this is I am able to add both applications (checkDefinitions and the shell script) to the distribution bundle and specify where they need to be placed on the user’s system. The important thing here is I am able to send the shell script file to where it needs to be and checkDefinitions will know where to look for it …
Version 1.3 of checkDefinitions including the Force Update via Terminal feature is now available for Download and in the Sparkle feed.
A few notes:
Please read the update notes and Disclaimer displayed in the auto-update (Sparkle) window or in the ReadMe file included in the direct download disc image. I was able to figure out how to include the shell script(s) in the application bundle. It is for this reason package installers are no longer necessary.
I’m just finishing up on another new application: checkDefinitions.
This application provides an easy way to check on the Version/Date status of your Security Definitions. Running the application points to the .plist file buried somewhere on the user’s system that contains the status data. It then parses the file and displays the necessary strings on the main UI.
You can view the contents of the .plist file and also edit the behavior of checkDefinitions in the event apple changes the default file name, it’s path, or the Date value key. There is also an action located in the Preferences to reset the application to it’s default state.
You will need to make sure that the Automatically update safe downloads list option is turned ON in: System Preferences/Security/General.
Last eve I was sifting through the Apple App Store looking for a simple utility to quickly convert RGB color values to corresponding float values (RGB integer / 255 = float). I decided to build my own Cocoa application with a few added enhancements.
High-res Image: colorFloat
Run the standard OSX Color Picker and press the second toolBar option (Color Sliders). Select the RGB Sliders option in the popup menu. Notice each RGB value changes as you move through the color spectrum. We can divide each one of the displayed values by 255 to return float values that can be used in source code authoring. In colorFloat the user adds an input RGB value (x3), converts, and appends each conversion result to the desired color channel. The final action displays the corresponding color for confirmation.
I also built in support for what I refer to as Dynamic Floats. Notice the Dynamic Floats HUD located in the high-res image. The Float value strings change dynamically as you move around the color wheel or change the values of the RGB sliders. This feature allows the user to easily sift through the color spectrum to view corresponding floats in real time.
Lastly, I added a simple Palette that consists of five Color Wells. The user can store colors for future access.
The app. turned out pretty well. I found it interesting to take a break from QTKit and explore a few unfamiliar Cocoa Classes.
When I find the time I’ll be writing about a bunch of new stuff, mainly Adobe Audition for the Mac, Final Cut Pro X, and a new media playback application that I am finishing up with interesting support for images captured with one of my favorite iPhone apps. – Panascout. Lastly, FiRe 2 … an awesome iPhone audio recorder that supports waveform editing and audio processing.
This is the updated version of a neat utility that I built about 5 years ago. Radio Stations sometime use what are referred to as upTimers to track live programs and air time. Hardware versions are available from main stream broadcast gear suppliers and can be quite expensive. In fact many of these devices can be remotely controlled using a console link. I thought a software version would be cool, so there you have it.
New options include the capability to set the timer Ceiling (60 or 90 minutes), HUD window interface, and date display. I decided to use a HUD window instead of a basic textured window. Clicking away from the running timer window does not affect clear visibility. The physical size of the window is now 840 x 365 pixels. This makes it easy to see from a distance.
I need to add the Sparkle Framework for automatic updating support before I release it …
I replaced the current date with a Running Time display. Sparkle has been added as well …
You can download upTimer 2.0 here.
Introducing my “new” stereo …
… Well, not really. It’s a long story.
Back in the late 1960′s though the 1980′s nothing (besides family, school, and work) was more important to me than music. Growing up my Dad blessed us with one of those retro console stereo cabinets that included a recessed turntable and AM/FM Tuner. I forget the brand. However I remember every aspect of it: the Tone Arm, the Tuner, and the mesh panels that covered the front firing stereo speakers. The piece no longer exists. The memories of using it will be with me forever.
In 1977 I purchased my first personal stereo system that consisted of a Pioneer Integrated Amp, a belt drive (fully manual) Sansui turntable with a Shure cartridge, and a pair of Ego speakers. It was through this system that I enjoyed early music by classic Rock Bands of that era that for the most part became legends. Queen, Led Zeppelin, Journey, Bad Company, Boston … there was just something about placing that Shure stylus on a spinning LP.
Fast forward to sometime around 1983. I was 23 and working as a Clerk on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. An afternoon stroll up Broadway to J&R Music World would turn out to be a life changing event. On that day I was exposed to Compact Discs for the very first time. The immediate access to tracks, the connivence, and the allure of digital audio playback swayed me, and marked the beginning of the end of my passion for vinyl LP’s.
Throughout the 1990′s I managed to accumulate quite a collection of compact discs. Indeed I repurchased every album that was important to me in the CD format that I originally owned on vinyl. But something happened. For reasons that I have yet to figure out, at this stage of my life I have totally lost interest in listening to music. Occasionally, and I mean that sincerely – I’ll listen to Frank Sinatra/Nelson Riddle collaborations recorded in the 1960′s … on CD. That’s it. A week ago I decided to do something crazy. As a result, I think I may have figured out why I lost interest in listening to music.
I’m not sure why … but I decided to fire up a few of my old LP’s on my “old” Sony linear tracking turntable that my brother Mike had stored in a Brooklyn storage facility. In order to play LP’s through my modern gear I needed to purchase a phono preamp to bring the turntable up to line-level. I bought a $50 ART preamp from B&H, wired everything up to my Mackie console, and decided to spin the first Boston album originally released in 1976. I must admit I really wanted to play my favorite album of all time: Queen II (1974). My thinking was if I was disappointed, Queen II would not be responsible for my dismay.
My goodness. I’m still coming to terms with what I experienced when I fired up that Boston album. I *cannot believe* how much better vinyl sounds compared to CD! I’m amazed how I simply forgot about the vinyl experience. The warmth, the nuances, and yes – the clicks and pops … there’s just something about it. It sounds nothing like CD. I’m totally immersed in this. I proceeded to dig out all my favorites on vinyl and I’ve been listening non-stop. My listening experience of choice is through headphones. It’s been really cool.
As I noted I am using my old Sony linear tracking turntable. It’s fully automatic, with a tracking arm and cartridge that moves in a straight line horizontally from the right side of the turntable platter to the center spindle. After cleaning it up and fixing a few mechanical problems, it functions well – with one exception: no manual control of the tonearm. A few day’s of research and a bit of eBay browsing solved this problem.
This week I’m expecting two pieces of gear that I remember well: the Marantz 2216 Stereo Receiver and the Technics SL-Q2 Direct Drive turntable. Both pieces are circa 1977, and are in mint condition. I purchased them for almost nothing compared to their original cost. Some 33 years later – I will be able to enjoy two pieces that I could have never afforded back in the day. Best of all, I get to relive what has left me for so many years. That would be sitting back and enjoying my favorites on vinyl through vintage gear. This whole experience made me think of a line sung by Freddie Mercury many years ago (1973?) on a very obscure and rare track: “… I think I’m going back … to the things I loved so well … in my youth.”
It has been documented that the newly released feature film “Eat Pray Love” staring Julia Roberts was edited entirely on a Final Cut Pro workstation.
I found this most interesting:
“The editors found an efficient solution in ProRes 422 (Proxy), a new version of the Apple ProRes codec introduced with Final Cut Pro 7. As soon as dailies arrived from EFILM, Assistant Editor Doc Crotzer would transcode the files from ProRes 422 (HQ) to ProRes 422 (Proxy), organize the footage into bins, and prepare the material for editing.”
Review this chart, and notice the variations in data rates of the ProRes family of codecs:
Obviously lower data rates = smaller file sizes. The bottom line is working with ProRes Proxy files (Offline copies of original ProRes 422/HQ files) creates a much more efficient workflow that is less taxing on any system.
I’ve adopted a slick method using my iMac for rough cutting ingested AVCHD footage that has been transcoded to ProRes Proxy via Final Cut Pro’s Log and Transfer. Depending on the complexity of the finished project sequence, I can finish and output on the iMac, or – move the project and it’s assets over to my MacPro for finishing. The key is prior to outputting, the edited Proxy clips can be re-captured and replaced with higher quality ProRes versions.
If you edit on an iMac, a Mac Portable with an external FW800 hard drive, or if you are looking for a more efficient large-scale project workflow – try this method. It works well for me …
One of the many aspects of Final Cut Pro that I would like to see improved is how project clip attributes are displayed. Currently right clicking on a media file located in the Browser or Timeline and selecting Item Properties/Format displays a sort of bloated window with a table. In most cases I am only concerned with the datarate, framerate, codec, and aspect ratio. I decided to build a simple HUD style file inspector, and I found an easy way to integrate it with Final Cut Pro.
I’m calling this tool movieData. It is in fact a stand alone application that needs to be installed as normal in the Applications folder. In order to use this tool to display clip attributes, the user must access the FCP System Settings/External Editors preference and set movieData as the default Video File Editor. Now if you right click on a clip in the Browser or Timeline and select Open in Editor, the HUD runs and displays the supported clip attributes. I built in an On/Off HUD Transparency preference. It’s pretty cool.
I’m sure there is a more seamless method of integrating this inspector with FCP. At this point the Open in Editor option suits me just fine …
If you would like to check it out, get in touch.
I’ve consolidated the design and functionality of the aspectRatio version 1 series UI.
The main (and only) program window now consists of two individual views: Fixed and Custom Calculations. The user can select a view with the Segmented Control, located at the bottom right of the application window. Additional fixed calculation actions that were previously accessible on various “sheets” are now located in a new lower drawer.
I rewired all the application objects and edited a good amount of code. I need to test the application before I release it. I think it turned out pretty well …
Update: aspectRatio ver.1.10 has been released.
Let’s assume you are finishing up a rough edit for client review consisting of multiple clips and sound. The client requests visible timecode in the review movie. Final Cut Pro includes a Timecode Generator Filter located in Effects/Video Filters/Video. Since this is in fact a filter, it must be applied to each individual clip. The problem with this implementation? The TC Generator will reset on a clip to clip basis as the playhead moves through the sequence.
Our objective is to have the TC Generator display a continuous representation of the entire sequence timecode. I have two suggestions …
The image below represents a Nested sequence:
The original sequence consisted of multiple independent clips. Nesting a selection of timeline assets creates a new self contained sequence without any reference to previous edit points.
To create a Nested Sequence, select the timeline assets. Head up to the FCP Sequence Menu and select Nest Item(s). You can also use the keyboard shortcut ⌥ C. Apply the FCP Timecode Generator Filter to the Nest. The filter will display the RT playback timecode in the Canvas. The Timecode will be visible in the output movie.
Andy’s Timecode Generator
There is another way to do this using a (free) third party generator. Andy’s TC Generator allows you to add a TC Generator directly to your existing sequence as an overlay on a upper video track. The developer notes that you can adjust the offset to match your sequence, or use it as it’s own free running reference. Very cool.
One final note about one of Final Cut Pro’s newest features: The Timecode Viewer HUD.
The resizable Timecode Viewer (Tools/Timecode Viewer or press Control-T) makes reading current timecode very easy. The Timecode Viewer displays the timecode for either the Timeline/Canvas or the Viewer as well as the corresponding sequence name or clip name. You can customize what is displayed by right-clicking either the upper or lower display areas of the HUD.
Tip: for easy access, add a Timecode Viewer Shortcut Button to a Button Bar in the FCP window of choice – (Tools/Button List/Timecode Viewer).
New in this Release:
• If custom calculated output dimensions are not evenly divisible by 16, the aspectRatio Custom Conversion utility will now suggest evenly divisible high/low values.
Select MPEG formats are based on 16×16 macro-blocks. Output dimensions evenly divisible by 16 will maximize encoder efficiency and yield optimum results.
• New Preferences Panel with a new option to set the font color of the calculated numerical output displays.
• The code for the Main Window formats display has been rewritten.
• New multi-view Help panel.
• A Main Application Window selection option has been added to the Window menu. If the main application window is inadvertently closed while the application is still running, this option will re-display the main window.
• Updated the Sparkle Framework to ver.1.5 b6. This includes DSA Signatures for enhanced security.
Aspect Ratio Converter
Here is a glimpse of a new internal use application that I am finishing up. I’m calling it Credenza.
The inspiration for the name is based on my personal interest in Mid-Century Modern design, furniture, and architecture. A Credenza is essentially a furniture cabinet popular in the 1950′s and 1960′s that may have included space to store folders, media, barware, or anything else for that matter. Credenza the application is a custom designed storage repository or database intended to support my subjective methods of logging data relative to my work.
The pictured chart below displays the flow of data based on how I manage personal business records on a monthly basis: The sourceView contains a list of active clients who submit groups (Batches) of monthly assignments (Jobs). For example September Post Production … Program 1, Program 2, Program 3 … and so on. I’ve added a Task Manager that is linked to each individual Job, detailed contact/account information, a text editor, billing/payment records, and past due information. The only thing Credenza lacks is support for generating invoices.
For the past year I have been studying the process of building Cocoa databases using Core Data and Bindings in Xcode.
Credenza takes advantage of the basic Core Data principals with the addition of custom code that enhances the functionality of the application.
There were two significant challenges:
• A user option defining the state of the application at runtime
• Migration and Versioning
Credenza is a Document based application. By default a “new” blank document is displayed when launching the application. This can be a handy option, allowing the user to create multiple unique databases within the application. But what if the user uses a single dedicated database? In this case the default blank document would need to be closed, and the user must manually navigate to and open a previously saved database from the File Menu. With a bit of research I figured out how to make this behavior (blank or previously saved) a user defined option. It is now available within the application Preferences.
By default Core Data applications will not display data that was input and saved using a previously created data model. Data Models consist of Entities, Attributes, and Relationships. Using the concept of Credenza as an example: Clients would be a cumulative Entity, and a specific client’s email address would be an Attribute. Relationships create interaction between Entities.
This excellent documentation was a tremendous help. The implementation worked perfectly. The bottom line is that as application development continues to progress, I am no longer at risk of data incompatibility issues. Incidentally the database format is SQLITE, and all saved documents maintain Credenza as the default application by way of a custom file extension (.credenza).
This project is an example of designing and building a useful customized application, all made possible by taking advantage of Core Data’s robust capabilities and simplicity.
It’s been two weeks since I installed Final Cut Studio (3).
I spend most of my time working in Soundtrack Pro 3, and I’m happy with the new features. Most notably, RMS Normalization, Voice Level Matching, the “Enhanced” File Editor”, and a few additional editing features within Multitrack Projects (trim in point to playhead/trim out point to playhead, for example).
Final Cut Pro: I’m happy that apple finally added a customizable Timecode HUD, improved clip Speed Controls, and enhanced the process of Exporting work. Upon release of the suite the professional user base was up in arms with regard to the absence of dedicated support for Blu-ray authoring in DVD Studio Pro. However there is now a nifty (but limited) Blu-ray export option available from within Final Cut. Authoring templates are fairly basic, and of course a supported Blu-ray drive is necessary. So far this new feature has been well received. Incidentally, I heard from a reliable source that apple’s FC Studio Product Manager stated that “DVD Studio Pro is designed to author standard definition DVD’s.” Does this mean we will never see embedded Blu-ray support in DVDSP? Time will tell.
And let’s not forget about the new additions to the ProRes Family of codecs. In fact the Proxy and LT versions of ProRes will help with my AVCHD projects and workflows in a big way. It is now possible to ingest and edit transcoded camera footage using the reduced data rate ProRes Proxy codec.
I’ve been importing the contents of entire disc images that include the native AVCHD footage from my camera’s SDHC card and storing locally on a high capacity internal hard drive. This allows me to easily Log and Transfer multiple ProRes formats for editing, and for high quality ProRes (422 or HQ) reconnects in preparation for final output. I’ve been duplicating project edit sequences and adjusting settings accordingly prior to reconnecting to higher quality clips. This method works very well.
As far a disappointments: I was sure that apple would implement a major Final Cut UI overhaul for version 7. This was obviously not the case. Apple’s Product Manager also noted, and again according to sources – that the FC Pro UI “just works”, and there is “no reason to change it at this particular time …”
Anyway, as I move forward I will be spending more time working in and experimenting with Motion. I feel my Final Cut and Soundtrack Pro skills are where they need to be. Not the case with Motion.
As noted I purchased a Canon HF-S100 camcorder and returned it immediately. In fact the camera was repackaged and shipped back to B&H on the same day it was delivered. Besides my careless research (see the previous post), the camera felt like a $1K toy. B&H provided a full refund.
I moved forward and purchased the solid state Panasonic AG-HMC150 (AVCHD) Hi Definition AVCCAM. The camera is in short supply due to it’s enormous popularity. It debuted at NAB 2008 and hit the street in October. After a few months in circulation shooters embraced it and the rest is history.
The camera records to inexpensive SDHC memory cards. Footage is easily ingested into Final Cut Pro using the Log and Transfer mode. Due to the high efficiency of the AVCHD format you can record approximately 100 minutes of the highest quality (1080/24p) video on a 16 gig card that sells for about 70 bucks. AVCHD is essentially high definition H.264 (MPEG-4) video. The tapeless workflow is a major plus.
Additional features worth noting:
• 28 mm Wide Angle lens
• Full manual control. Large manual focusing ring with focus assist
• Recording Formats: PH (high quality) mode: 1080/60i, 1080/30p (over 60i), 1080/24p (native), 720/60p, 720/30p (over 60p) and 720/24p (native). Lower quality settings are limited to 1080/60i.
• Waveform monitor for accurate exposure control
• Dual XLR audio inputs (mic or line) with 48v phantom power
• Extensive support for operational presets. Panasonic refers to presets as “Scene Files.” The default scene files can be edited/backed up and saved on to the camera’s SDHC card and transfered to a computer for future use (the files are standard .txt files).
• A host of professional picture control and operational settings
Let me also mention that iMovie ’09 supports AVCHD video with one caveat relative to this camera: no support for 24p footage. You’re limited to 30p (29.97 fps). The full 1920×1080 resolution is supported.
A few minor issues:
For serious extended shooting the stock battery is insufficient. The optional 3 hr. battery runs about $150.00. The on-board stereo mic is of low quality. Not a surprise. A logical choice is the Audio Technica AT875R ($199.00).
So far the camera is impressive. I’ll be posting additional information about the camera in the coming weeks …
I recently purchased and returned a Canon HF-S100 AVCHD camcorder. I misread the camera’s specs and incorrectly assumed the camera shot native 24p. Besides this I was not happy with the camera’s manual focusing features. Specifically, there is no focus ring on the lens. There is a small roll mechanism located just behind the lens on the left side of the camera. In my opinion this is a poor implementation.
Pictured to the right we have two new camcorders by Panasonic and Canon. The Panasonic HDC TM350 (AVCHD) was announced in Japan last week. So far no news with regard to US availability. The Canon HV40 (HDV) is the latest edition to the very successful line of Canon HV camcorders.
Notice the placement of a traditional lens mounted focus ring on the Panasonic. Very nice, indeed. What puzzles me is Canon continues to design their prosumer camcorders with this roll focus mechanism (located between the silver buttons at the front of the HV40, pictured right). This design strategy has been widely criticized by the public at large.
I found a very cool piece that may solve this problem for disgruntled HV line camcorders. Irv Design Inc. offers a manual focus ring attachment designed to enhance manual focusing for these Canon camcorders. The ring is made of anodized black aluminum and it is designed so that it will not “block or hinder camera functions.” From what I can see rotation of the ring interacts with the camera’s rolling mechanism and it controls focus adjustments. You simply slip the ring over the outer edge of the camera lens and it locks into place.
It appears the piece is currently out of stock. The next batch is expected in mid to late June. Irv Design states plans are in the works for new models of the focus ring for Canon and Sony camcorders.
Confused by the term Pulldown, or Telecine?
Here are the facts:
24p = 23.98 fps (Progressive)
29.97 fps = 59.94 interlaced fields per second, aka 60i
• Interlaced video displays 60 half frames per second
• Progressive video takes entire video frames on the go
• Progressive video requires 2x the bandwidth of interlaced video
This is the conversion process: 24p (film or video) — 29.97 (video).
• 2:3, or 3:2 (aka 2:3:2:3): 60 fields / 24 = 2.5. So each frame of 24p material needs to last for 2.5 frames of video
• 2:3:3:2 is referred to as Advanced Pulldown
Here’s how it works: we are transferring 24p to 60i, which means we are converting 24 frames per second into 60 fields per second. The first frame of film is transferred to the first two fields of video and the next frame of film is transferred to the next three fields – 2:3. This results in some frames of film spanning two different frames of video or, to put it another way, some frames of video that are composed of fields from two different frames of film.
Final Cut Pro, Logic, and Aperture all include searchable keyboard shortcut databases. Soundtrack Pro does not. Oddly enough I was never a keyboard shortcut power user. I find it confusing trying to remember specific shortcut banks that vary from application to application. I’m now realizing things flow much more efficiently when using various shortcuts to execute repetitive application functions.
proKeys is a customizable shortcut repository. The left source list includes various (user defined) applications. Specific shortcuts are listed in a basic NSTableView with three columns: Function, Shortcut, and Category. This concept matches the PDF user manual implementation provided by apple. You can store what I refer to as “Quick Tags”, or tokenField strings that support drag and drop. Their purpose? Add and store keyboard shortcut symbols (⌘,⌥,⌦) for repetitive use. Keyword tagging is supported, and I’ve also included a Category Log that simplifies searching for and displaying an entire “bank” of shortcuts that are part of a specific group.
I built the application using a Core Data Model with Bindings. I also implemented a custom file extension that supports SQLITE file/data format backups. The demo dbase includes the entire group of Soundtrack Pro shortcuts.
Now I need to consider distribution. I think it’s a well designed, simple tool that many will find useful.
More news to follow …
Here is a glimpse of what I have planned for the next release of aspectRatio:
At this point I’ve implemented a suggested dimensions method that displays values evenly divisible by 16. The results are triggered by the Target Width and returned Output Height calculation.
Select MPEG formats are based on 16×16 macro-blocks. Evenly divisible (by 16) output dimensions will maximize the efficiency of the encoder and yield optimum results. For example: a purist would prefer a small 16:9 distribution video to be 480×272 instead of the common 480×270
Also included in this release: a user defined output font color preference setting [orange/red], and a Menu option that re-opens the main UI window if the user inadvertently closes it while the application is still running.
A release date has yet to be determined …
aspectRatio ver.1.8 is now available.
New in this release:
• The Main Interface (front panel) now displays the selected NTSC preset
• Film Standards and PAL Conversions panel
• NTSC D1 Conversions panel (square and non-square pixels)
• Updated Controls HUD (available in the Help Menu)
I updated the application website as well.
Below is a snippet of Objective-C code using the NSColor Class to set the background color of a textField.
Notice the color (a shade of blue) is set with float values for Red (0.1336), Green (0.5266), and Blue (1.0000). I opened Photoshop and I didn’t have much success finding a way to return RGB float values for displayed colors. I’m sure the feature is available. I’ll dig deeper when I have some time.
A while back I purchased a copy of iPalette Pro and tucked it away. This is a nifty design tool that supports custom color management and storage. It’s very well designed and fun to use. It’s another example of a $10 Mac Shareware gem.
Take a close look at the data located at the bottom of the RGB Test window. Exactly what I’m looking for: RGB float values.
I’m glad I bought iPalette Pro. It’s worth taking a look at …
How did Ford Models become one of the hottest things on YouTube? The sub heading on the cover of the latest edition of Inc. Magazine states: “A viral video makeover helped it [Ford Agency] boost revenue 140% and land a big private equity deal.”
It’s important to note this agency has been in existence for six decades. In 2002, Katie Ford decided it was time to enter the new media space. A headhunter pointed Katie to John Caplan, formally the president [till 2001] of About.com. His challenge? Could Ford Models profitably enter the new media world, and if so – how?
Currently the agency has produced and distributed 1000+ short format videos that feature an informal style. The segments include Ford models and associates engaged in the informal chatter and interaction that typically takes place backstage during fashion shows, photo shoots, and shopping excursions. The videos have attracted ad agencies and apparel manufacturers, expressing interest as potential sponsors. Ford also received a “significant investment” from Stone Tower Capital, a New York based investment firm that manages $14 billion in assets.
The Ford article documents a specific example of how the agency and their production staff strive not to produce what the subscriber base may classify as a commercial. For example – an apparel manufacturer teamed up with Ford to produce a campaign consisting of four videos. In one segment a few Ford models chatted and one mentioned picking up a pair of jeans available from the apparel creator. It wasn’t an ad, just a reference. A rep. from the apparel company points out “People don’t pay much attention to a brand when it’s the brand doing the talking. What people listen to are neutral influencers, and models are perfect for that.” This campaign, along with a few additional incentives was responsible for $500,000 in register sales in one month.
The article also mentions the videos are viewed by thousands, and the best part of all – they cost as little as $200 to produce.
Welcome to the new media space …
** I highly recommend Inc. Magazine. This month’s edition also features A Complete Guide to Marketing in the Digital Age.
[this is not a paid endorsement]
Audioarts Engineering, a division of Wheatstone Broadcasting recently debuted their attractive small footprint Air 1 professional audio broadcast/production console. The company states the Air 1 was “specifically designed to meet the needs of on-air, production, news applications, remotes, and the emerging podcasting market.” Features include Dual program Buses, Cueing support, Long Throw Faders, Switchable PGM meters, 2 Monitor Outs, 2 Mic Preamps, Headphone Amp, Solid State Illumination on all switches along with a useful On-Air Indicator light.
Additional features include balanced 1/4″ I/O, external power supply for cool – hum free operation, and bottom mounted Dipswitches designed for easy programing. Lastly, the mic inputs can be programmed to automatically MUTE the Monitor Output when activated. The Air 1 is 2.5″ high, 15.25″ wide, 11.5″ front to back.
No doubt this is a slick device. My guess is professional fans of the Audioarts product line will find this console very attractive. It’s perfect for small scale operations and remote productions. However due to its $1800 price tag, I don’t anticipate wide adaptation within the new media/podcasting space. Standard, sub $1K audio mixers seem to be satisfying the needs of *most* new media producers.
While we are on the subject of software development …
I’ve just completed building a new Software Development Kit that explains how to implement standard Java based site popup windows. I’m referring to the basic method that I am using on this site to display Screencasts via the siteMediaConsole link, located in the upper right sidebar.
The SDK includes two HTML documents that can be customized and edited to suit your needs. I’ve also included a short sample Quicktime movie that can be used as embedded media based on the preexisting code in the files. Simply upload the movie to your server and prepare the files.
The HTML documents require a few simple edits prior to uploading [URL references that will point your browser to these files]. After all is said and done you will be able to test the popup implementation prior to customization.
Lastly I included detailed documentation, as well as a Quick-Start Guide to bring you up to speed in no time.
Disclaimer: This implementation requires basic HTML authoring skills. Apply at your own risk.