aspectRatio ver. 1.9 Released …

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.

aspectRatio(1.9).jpg

Download

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Core Data: Credenza

Here is a glimpse of a new internal use application that I am finishing up. I’m calling it Credenza.

credenza-pnm.jpg

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.

credenza-flow-pnm.jpg

Core Data

For the past year I have been studying the process of building Cocoa databases using Core Data and Bindings in Xcode.

Two specific resources sparked my interest in Core Data: The Core Data exercise in this Cocoa Programing book by Aaron Hillegas, and this Core Data tutorial movie supplied by Apple.

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.


screenshot_01.jpg


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.

-ptfigg.

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ProRes Proxy …

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.

prores_prores_icon20090722.jpg

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.

Notes:

I’m now running the latest version of Final Cut Server (ver.1.5) and I have ordered a copy of Logic Express 9. I’ll be in touch…

-ptfigg.

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Panasonic AG-HMC150 AVCCAM

hmc-150-for_blog.tiff 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.

SDHC_for_blog.jpeg

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 …

-paul.

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Prosumer Camera Manual Focus …

cameras.jpgI 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.

-paul.

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Pulldown

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

Pulldown (Telecine)

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

Excerpt form Videomaker Magazine:

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.

-paul.

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proKeys for Mac …

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.

Enter proKeys:

proKeys-for_pnm.jpg

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 …

-paul

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aspectRatio: Divisible by 16 …

Here is a glimpse of what I have planned for the next release of aspectRatio:

custom_16.jpg

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 …

-paul.

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aspectRatio ver.1.8 Released …

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.

-paul.

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RGB Float Values with iPalette Pro …

Below is a snippet of Objective-C code using the NSColor Class to set the background color of a textField.

code_snippet.jpg

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.

i_palette.jpg

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 …

-paul.

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Ford Model Agency Embraces New Media …

20080201.gifHow 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.”

Interesting …

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]

-paul.

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Audioarts Air 1 Console …

air_1.jpgAudioarts 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.

-paul.

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Java Popup SDK …

for_sdk_post.jpgWhile 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.

Quicktime Java Popup SDK

-paul.

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