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January 19, 2014

Hong Kong in 4k on a Galaxy Note 3???

I recently visited Hong Kong on a business trip, and actually ended up with a rare free day to do something. Unfortunately, my DSLR is in for repair right now, and the only camera I had with me was the one on my phone – the Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

The Note 3 impressed me on its spec sheet by being able to shoot full motion video at 3840×2160, or UHD resolution. (Sometimes also called 4K) However, I was pretty skeptical whether this tiny camera could really be useful at that resolution. The tiny form factor and the sensor size didn’t seem capable of such resolution. Still, since it was the only camera with me, I figured it was worth a test. I decided to shoot everything in UHD, and then deliver an edit in both UHD and 1920×1080, taking advantage of the higher resolution source material by panning/zooming around.

I shot in a wide variety of lighting conditions, both during the day and at night, taking full advantage of my free day, and a little bit of extra time the day afterwards.

Here’s the cut, posted on YouTube in full UHD resolution:

HK4K: The Galaxy Note 3 Edit

Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised what I could accomplish with this little camera. It’s probably too noisy and compressed to be of much use to anyone really needing to master in 4k, but I enjoyed the latitude in reframing shots for 1080p. There are a couple of quirks that would keep me from using this in real, paid production work, but it would definitely be a camera that I’d set up if I needed extra coverage of an event.

 

The camera DESPERATELY needs some kind of stabilization. Rolling shutter is bad on this sensor, and the H.264 recording codec doesn’t like a huge amount of motion. I used 2 tricks to help fix this – first, I found a small cell phone clamp at a local electronics store for less than $10.

Tripod mount and mini-tripod for mobile phones.

Tripod mount and mini-tripod for mobile phones.

This one even came with a small tripod. The second technique I used was to press the phone onto the glass of a window. It worked great on several shots on board the trams. You get whatever the glass is facing, and don’t have any other options, but the image is rock-solid stable.

Auto-iris cannot be turned off on the phone, so I had to fix this a few times in Premiere Pro with animated Brightness/Contrast filters.

There are also moments where horizontal lines will appear in the frame, almost like the codec just couldn’t handle the content. These were rare, but visible in a few shots.

The most annoying problem, which I couldn’t fix, and you’ll see in the final video, is what I call the “focus Pop” or autofocus “snapback.” About every 30 seconds, you’ll see a moment where the entire picture seems to go “pop”. Seems like the lens just gets tired of holding the same focus for too long, and, for lack of a better phrase, it “blinks.” This is a real pain – I’m hoping Samsung has a firmware fix, or some Android developer takes a look at it. The only solution I found for this was to edit around it as much as possible. I left it in a few shots to show people what I’m talking about, and it kind of added to the future feel of the video.

Trying to play the clips back in QuickTime was painful. The MP4 files this generated wouldn’t play back smoothly from the operating system. However, the Media Browser in Premiere Pro performed well with the shots. So did the hover scrub thumbnails in the project bin.

(As an aside – set yourself up a “junk” Premiere Pro project on the desktop, and use it ONLY for media browsing. Makes life so much easier.) 

The footage drops direct into Premiere Pro without any need for transcoding. I found that setting playback at half res was perfect for my 2011 MacBook Pro. Premiere Pro uses a pretty straightforward way of adjusting quality/performance. In the Source and Program monitors, there’s a menu for visible resolution – full, 1/2, 1/4, etc. Set it as high as it’ll go, without dropping frames, and you’ve balanced your performance for your hardware.

In Premiere Pro, one thing you’ll notice right away is that the frame rate of the clips doesn’t always conform to 29.97fps. The majority of clips actually came in at 30.02 fps, and some had other frame rates. I tried using the default setting at first, but ran into trouble with some of the speed changes later on. Don’t use the trick of dragging/dropping clips onto the New Sequence Button. The wonky frame rate will create a timeline with a time base of 10.00 frames per second. For best results, I selected all the clips, and used Modify Clip -> Interpret Footage to set all the clips at 29.97fps. This can be done once and forgotten about – it’s not a rendered function. This didn’t affect the visible playback rate of the clips, which makes me think there’s something odd about the default rate in the clips. Maybe Premiere Pro isn’t detecting it properly, or the metadata in the clip is written wrong.

Rather than deal with the nonstandard frame rate, I created a custom sequence preset at 29.97fps at 3840×2160 resolution, and dropped all the clips into that.

The Warp Stabilizer was used on multiple handheld shots, trying to get slow, smooth motion. Don’t even try it for really shaky stuff – the wobble and the blurring are too much even for the Warp Stabilizer. But holding a high shot, and trying to be steady, worked really well with warp stabilizer. You won’t be able to tell those weren’t tripod shots.

I had to get artistic with the sunset – I’m still not happy with it, but I only was able to shoot it once. No second chances. The camera shoots really wide angle, and the time-lapse I did lacked any focal point for the eye, so I gave up trying to deliver in 4k at that point. I added a cut and zoomed in 200% to get a decent framing. Even at 1080p, that shot is soft and artifacted. I added some noise to balance out the blockiness, but it’s still visible.

I did some minor color work by using the new “Direct Link to SpeedGrade” function. I will say that my 2011 17″ MBP kept up admirably up until this point. SpeedGrade was great, but then bringing the project back to Premiere forced me to render some sections of the timeline before it would play back. The Lumetri Effect that SpeedGrade adds is heavy, and my 3 yr old GPU wasn’t up to the task. (Would love to try this on a Retina MacBook. Hint Hint to my boss! :-) )

Oh, one important note on rendering previews – In Premiere Pro CC 7.2 and higher, you can now edit the Sequence Settings! I was able to change the Preview settings to QuickTime, ProRes, 3840×2160, and get full 4k previews for the rendered sections of my sequence.

All in all, this was a fun project to play around with. I hope that someone fixes the lines and the “focus pop” in the camera – here’s hoping that it’s just a firmware issue or a camera app issue. If those two problems are addressed, this will make an excellent pocket “2nd coverage camera” for 1080p shooters, with lots of room to reframe what you get.

 

December 9, 2012

Avoiding RAM Starvation: Getting Optimum Performance in Premiere Pro

Something I wanted to share for all you “build-it-yourself” users. Recently, I helped a customer build out a really beefy system – 16 physical cores, plus hyperthreading, 24 GB of RAM, Quadro 5000, etc.

The system wasn’t rendering well at all. Bringing up the task manager was showing each processor only hitting about 19% – 20%. My MacBook Pro was actually handling the same tasks MUCH faster.

This was a classic case of Processor RAM Starvation. With Hyperthreading turned on, the system was showing 32 processors, and there wasn’t enough RAM to drive all those processors! Some processors had to wait for RAM to free up, and the processors that finished their calculations had to wait for THOSE processors to catch up. It’s a really bad state to be in. With multiple CPU’s, everything has to happen in parallel, so when some threads take longer to finish, everything comes to a screeching halt.

I turned off hyperthreading, and suddenly, the system started to just FLY – all the CPUs were being utilized effectively and roughly equally. Render times were over 10-20x faster.

I can’t stress enough the need to ‘balance’ the system to get proper performance. There’s never a danger of having “Too much RAM”, but too many processors is not necessarily a good thing!

You can check this on your system – using the stock effects, when you render previews or render your output files, you should see all the CPU cores being utilized. They won’t exactly be used the same amount, but roughly, they all should be about the same for common tasks.

Also, a BARE MINIMUM amount of RAM I recommend for Premiere Pro is 1GB per core. If your budget can afford it, 2GB per core is pretty optimal for a Premiere Pro system. 3GB per core isn’t required, but isn’t a bad thing. If you are trying to decide between 4 cores, 8 cores, 12 cores, or 16 cores, let the amount of RAM be your guide – look at the cost of 2GB per core, and pick the CPU accordingly.

UPDATE: Some of the feedback I’m getting on Twitter seems to believe that this points to Premiere Pro needing extreme amounts of RAM. No – that’s not it at all. RAM needs to be balanced with number of Cores. The days of just “getting the best CPU” are past. Modern processors are actually multiple CPUs on a single chip, and each one needs to allocate its own chunk of RAM to operate at peak efficiency.

On a dual core processor, 4GB of RAM is a reasonable amount of RAM to have, and 6-8 GB would be pushing into that “it ain’t a bad thing” category. A 4-core processor runs great on 8GB of RAM, which is what I have in my MacBook Pro. RAM is really cheap nowadays – I think I just paid about USD$40 for 8 GB on my son’s computer, and 16GB is less than $80 right now for a desktop system. Remember, it’s about balance, people…

SECOND UPDATE: If you’re an old Classic Auto tinkerer, like I used to be, think of it this way – the CPU is like the engine block, and the cores are the number of cylinders. Each cylinder needs fuel and air delivered to it. RAM is like the carburetor – it provides what the cylinders need. But, you have to match the right carburetor for the size of the engine. A wimpy carburetor on a V8 engine is a disaster – low horsepower, and because it’s heavier, it’ll be outperformed by a properly tuned 4-cylinder engine.

Clear as mud? :-)

August 5, 2011

ProRes Workflow in Premiere: Advanced Options

I’ve already seen some great questions out there regarding my last tutorial. There are a couple of advanced options that I skipped over in order to get the basics out there for everyone.

Question: What about using an AJA or BMD card with these ProRes Presets? I thought I had to use manufacturer-specific presets to get a reference video output.

Answer: Not so! To make a preset that take advantage of your monitoring hardware, you need to click on the Playback Settings button in the Sequence Settings panel:

Inside the Playback settings, you can choose your display device under Realtime Playback here:

(I’d love to show you a screen grab of this, but since my desktop computer is in a cargo container halfway across the Pacific Ocean, you’ll have to trust me.)

This setting is saved as part of the timeline preset, and can also be turned on later by selecting a sequence, going to Sequence – Sequence Settings, and clicking the Playback Settings button found there.

 

Question: I’ve heard that Premiere Pro only uses 8-bpc color. How does this affect my 10-bit ProRes files?

Answer: Premiere Pro can actually work in 32-bpc floating point color, which would be the preferred mode for anyone working with 10-bit source media. In order to use this higher color bit depth when rendering preview files, you need to turn it on here in the Sequence Settings:

 

This setting can also be changed on any existing timeline sequence by selecting the sequence, and going to Sequence – Sequence Settings.

If you are doing precise color work, you also may want to limit yourself to the effects that have the “32″ icon next to them. These are the effects that are full 32-bpc, floating-point color effects.

 

Question: Okay, now that you’ve explained what Maximum Bit Depth does, what about Maximum Render Quality?

Answer: That affects how sharply Premiere Pro scales clips. For example, if you work with 1080p media, but put it into a 720p timeline, and resize/reframe, then you are scaling the clips in size, and would definitely see better quality with this turned on. The only downside is that it increases the render time. It’s also a setting that you can turn off and on later.

 

 

August 4, 2011

A ProRes workflow end-to-end

With the radical change going on right now in the world of Final Cut Pro, I’ve had some FCP7 users ask me about maintaining an end-to-end ProRes workflow in Premiere Pro. There are questions whether it’s even possible. Well, I’m here to show you it IS possible, and how to make it go.

What do I mean by an “end-to-end ProRes workflow”? This means ingesting ProRes clips, dropping them right to the timeline, rendering previews when necessary to a new ProRes file, and outputting back to a ProRes master. While Premiere Pro works great with a wide variety of native camera formats, there are times when this workflow is a good idea. For example, using an AJA KiPro for capture, shooting with the ARRI Alexa, or working with ProRes media from an FCP timeline.

This particular workflow does only work on a Mac system that has the ProRes encoder installed. There are a couple of ways to get this component, but unfortunately, they are not free. For most people using this workflow, you probably already have Final Cut Pro 6 or 7 installed, so you won’t have to worry. If you’re equipping a new Mac, you can also buy Motion 5 for under US$50 from the App Store. This will also get you the necessary codecs.

For Windows users, unfortunately, there is not a ProRes encoder component available. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use ProRes files. QuickTime for Windows does include the decoder. It just means that, if you render preview files in the timeline, you’ll need to use another codec. So, technically, it won’t be a “full” ProRes workflow, but you’ll still get great results. On the bright side, Windows users have more options for Nvidia cards, which is a worthwhile investment, since it ELIMINATES the need to render previews in most cases anyway. Also you won’t be able to output back to ProRes. Until a ProRes encoder is released for Windows, that’s sadly going to be the case.

What makes this possible is the flexibility of Premiere Pro to input and output in pretty much any format that the system has access to. Unfortunately, since Premiere doesn’t ship with ProRes encoding components, this’ll take a bit of time setting up. But, once it’s set up, using it is really easy.

Setting Up Timeline Presets:

You’ll need to first set up some timelines that use ProRes as the Preview File format. It’s a good idea to create as many as necessary for the different resolutions and frame rates you’ll be working with. For this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to make a 1080p/24 timeline preset.

Open up Premiere Pro, and set up a “dummy” project. We just need to have a blank project open to access some of the settings in Premiere. In this picture, I’m using a project called “Untitled” that I use for stuff like this.

My universal "Untitled" New Project.

My universal "Untitled" New Project.



In the New Sequence panel, ignore all the existing presets! Most people assume incorrectly that these presets are the only formats that Premiere Pro can work with. I’m going to take you into the “guts” of how a Premiere Pro timeline is set up. Find the Settings Tab near the top:

 

Find the Settings Tab

Find the Settings Tab



 

Custom Sequence Settings panel - where the magic happens...

Custom Sequence Settings panel - where the magic happens...



This is where the real power and flexibility of Premiere Pro lies – Premiere can essentially edit any format or file type that it can decode, and this includes working with QuickTime files.

What you’ll want to do here is to start by making a Timeline preset for ProRes 422 at a resolution of 1920×1080, 23.976fps. There are a lot of setting in here, so let me list them:

Editing Mode: Custom

Timebase: 23.976 frames/second

Frame Size: 1920 horizontal, 1080 vertical (should show 16:9 aspect)

Pixel Aspect Ratio: 1.0 (square pixels)

Fields: No Fields (Progressive Scan)

Display Format: 24fps Timecode

Audio: 48000 Hz

Now, up until this point, you’ll notice that nothing is format-specific. All we are doing is setting up the size and frame rate all our media will conform to in the timeline. That’s how Premiere operates – in general, it is format-agnostic, meaning that you can mix and match ANY format on ANY timeline. The main settings for any timeline are just resolution/frame rate settings, period.

The bottom half of the panel is where formats start to play a role:

Video Previews

Video Previews



The Video Previews setting only affects things when you render the timeline. When you are playing back unaltered video clips on the timeline, it has no effect. If you are using GPU-accelerated effects on your clips, again, this preview file format has no effect. But for people using non-accelerated effects, or working on a system without GPU acceleration, you probably will want to render the red-bar portions of your timeline.

Set the Preview File Format to QuickTime (Desktop) and set the Codec to Apple ProRes 422. Also, make sure the Width and Height match the other timeline settings.  Now, STOP! BEFORE you hit the OK button, locate the Save Preset button:

Save your new Preset!

Save your new Preset!



 

To make this easy, you’ll want to be as descriptive as possible in saving your preset. I recommend using a naming convention, and WRITE IT DOWN as you make these. That way, all of your ProRes timeline presets will have easy-to-understand, logical names. I’m going to call this one “ProRes 422 1080p24.”  If you need some additional descriptive help, make whatever notes you like in the Description field. This information will be visible each time you select the preset.

Once you have saved your preset, Premiere Pro will take you back to the Sequence Presets panel, and you should see your shiny new preset appear at the bottom, in the Custom folder:

Your shiny new ProRes 422 1080p24 preset!

Your shiny new ProRes 422 1080p24 preset!



 

Now that you understand the steps to create your first ProRes preset, you’ll want to repeat these steps again for each type of ProRes format, size and resolution you typically work with. Go back to the Settings tab at the top, and modify the settings again to make another preset. Then save and name the second new ProRes preset.

Back to the Settings Tab. Wash, Rinse, Repeat.

Back to the Settings Tab. Wash, Rinse, Repeat.



You may want ProRes 422 (HQ) presets, 1280×720 presets, or frame rates other than 23.976fps. This is up to you, and totally dependent on what type of ProRes clips you are working with. On my system, these are the presets I’ve created:

Just a sample of potential ProRes presets you can create.

Just a sample of potential ProRes presets you can create.



 

Setting Up Output Presets:

Just like the Timeline Presets, we will need to set up some Export Setting Presets for ProRes as well. To do this, we need a timeline with at least one clip in it so that we can access the Export Settings panel.

Go ahead and choose one of your ProRes Timeline presets so that the full Premiere Pro interface opens up. Import a clip, any clip, and drop it onto the timeline. If you have no clips on this system, you can just create a Countdown Leader file by choosing File-New-Universal Counting Leader. Drop it onto the timeline.

Now, with the timeline selected, go to File-Export-Media.

Export Settings Dialogue

Export Settings Dialogue Box



 

In the upper right of the panel, Choose Format: QuickTime. Then, click on the Preset button, and look at the puny list of QuickTime presets that Premiere Pro ships with. I’ve had several people assume from this list that Premiere Pro can only export DV format QuickTime files! NOT SO!!

Is this all QuickTime can do? OF COURSE NOT.

Is this all QuickTime can do? OF COURSE NOT.



To access other QuickTime formats and flavors, including ProRes, we need to create additional QuickTime Presets. These are one-time setups – in the future, we can just choose the preset and output without additional setup.

To get started, head down to this part of the Output Settings screen, and click on the Video tab:

Where the Output Magic happens...

Where the Output Magic happens...



We are going to make a matching Output Preset for our earlier ProRes 422 1080p24 Timeline Preset.

Change the Video Codec to Apple ProRes 422.

Change the Width to 1920.

Change the height to 1080.

Change the Frame Rate to 23.976

Change the Field Type to Progressive.

Change the Aspect to Square Pixels (1.0)

Now switch to the Audio Tab:

Audio Settings Tab

Audio Settings Tab



Change the Sample Type from 16-bit to 24-bit. This will match most source ProRes files, but if you know that your source media uses a different sampling rate, use that.

Double-check your settings in the Video Tab one more time, and if everything looks good, save your preset by clicking here:

Click to save your Output Preset

Click to save your Output Preset



Again, make sure and give your preset a descriptive file name. I’m calling mine “ProRes 422 1080p24 (24-bit Stereo).”

Now, when it’s time to output, I can output a ProRes master that matches my source footage, my preview files, and my Timeline Settings.

Oh, one last tip for longtime FCP users – I’ve heard from FCP users that they are used to ProRes outputs taking less time. That’s probably because, by default, FCP uses the preview files, and just copies the frames into the output file. To make Premiere Pro mimic this behavior, you need to check this box:

Check this box to use your ProRes Preview files.

Check this box to use your ProRes Preview files.



 

Because a lot of native file formats are extremely lossy, Premiere, by default, doesn’t use the previews for final output. It prefers to re-render the effects in the timeline from scratch to get the maximum quality. But, with an end-to-end ProRes workflow, that’s not really necessary. So, using the preview files will speed up the output when going back to the same ProRes format.

You’ll want to make a number of different Output Presets following these steps – one for each format of source material. Again, I’ve created output presets that match the same timeline presets:

My ProRes output Presets

My ProRes output Presets



 

Whew! Okay, now the hard part is done! In actual use, now you can open up Premiere Pro any time, choose a ProRes timeline, and start editing. Previews will automatically be in ProRes format, and when you choose to output your timeline, you can output to the same ProRes format by choosing QuickTime, and then choosing the appropriate preset from your list of ProRes presets. End-to-End Workflow!

 

May 31, 2010

New Video Actions for Photoshop

Rich Harrington has posted some new video actions for Photoshop, including some specific ones for working on Encore menus:

http://www.richardharringtonblog.com/files/videoactionsv2.php

December 3, 2009

Using Adobe OnLocation

There’s a new episode of Short and Suite up on AdobeTV that covers using OnLocation in the field. Check it out here:

November 23, 2009

After Effects Scripts!

After Effects is one of the most versatile apps for pushing pixels on the planet. But, what makes it a truly world-class application is how easy it is to expand its capability beyond what ships in the box.

Most people are familiar with AE plug-ins, but not as many people are aware what you can accomplish using Scripts. Scripts are written using Javascript, and can be highly useful for organizing projects, automating output, or even modifying and adjusting values within a comp. And, many many scripts for AE are available for low or even NO COST online.

Here are a couple of different links for some free or low-cost scripts:

Chris Green’s Scripts: http://www.crgreen.com/aescripts/
Chris has written some nice free scripts for rendering multiple areas of a single comp, and creating lights and cameras that automatically point to a selected layer. They’re free, but feel free to donate to Chris’s efforts.

Jeff Almasol’s Scripts: http://www.adobe.com/cfusion/exchange/index.cfm?event=extensionDetail&extid=1698043 Jeff wrote a number of scripts that are available as a free download from the Adobe site, but not many people find them. :-)

AE Scripts http://aescripts.com/ AE Scripts has some really nice scripts available at low cost (many around US$10,) including some marked “Name your own price.” Some examples include scripts that provide new ways of interpolating keyframes for specific effects, get better integration between Mocha AE and After Effects, and more. Again, super useful stuff.

November 18, 2009

Premiere Pro 4.2 released!

If you haven’t checked for updates in the past week or so, Adobe has released Premiere Pro 4.2 for both Mac and Windows. This adds support for the AVC-Intra format from Panasonic, adding to our existing award-winning P2 tapeless workflow.

David Helmly has a great video demonstrating the use of the new Premiere 4.2 features here:

June 19, 2009

Another new Short & Suite episode

As my friend and coworker, Jason Levine, heads off to the UK, here’s a shiny, brand-new episode of “Short & Suite” to check out:

Jason will be presenting at the FCP Supermeet in London on Thursday, June 25th. Check it out!

June 10, 2009

Announcing… Premiere Pro Bite-Sized Training!

One of the things I’ve noticed on Twitter is a LOT of people jumping into Adobe Premiere Pro, and feeling sort of lost from the beginning. Many people are always asking me how to get started using Premiere Pro for the first time, and I’ve decided to do something about it.

(more…)

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