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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.

 

April 24, 2013

NAB 2013 Sneak Peeks

Wow. Where to begin? NAB this year was one of the best shows I’ve attended in a long time. Attendance was up, great crowds at the Adobe booth, and the reactions to the sneak peeks were very very positive.

There are a lot of different videos showcasing what we showed at NAB here: http://tv.adobe.com/show/adobe-at-nab-2013/

 

Premiere Pro is adding so many new features, that some of my favorites have been overlooked:

1. It will now be possible for 3rd-party effects to be GPU-accelerated. Yep, for the first time, 3rd party effects can take full advantage of the Mercury Engine’s real-time performance. The engineering group is working with plug-in makers now to show them how it’s done. Can’t wait to see what comes from that.

2. Smart Rendering is now possible for many new formats. ProRes? Yup! DNxHD? Yup! Plus many more – including some added flavors of QuickTime. As soon as I have a full list of formats, I’ll post it. This is going to speed up a lot of renders by as much as 10 times, and will make the “Use Previews” function in final output render quicker too.

Those are just 2 examples of the multitude of new features coming soon – keep your eyes open for more examples coming soon.

 

October 12, 2012

Remembering Steve Sabol

One of the jobs I had in “a past life” was doing some technology work and training for NFL Films. I recently saw an article on the passing of Steve Sabol, and needed to take a moment and pause, reflect, and celebrate the life of a man I knew briefly in my career, but who left a lasting impact on me. I doubt he would’ve remembered me, but I definitely remembered him.

If you are a fan of the “mutant rugby” that Americans call Football, you need to thank Steve. The impact he had on promoting this game was unprecedented. He and his organization brought the drama, the conflict of Football, to television in a way that hadn’t been seen before. Some of the best camera operators worked at NFL Films, and week-after-week, they’d shoot plays at crazy frame rates – over 120fps – just to bring those creamy slow-motion shots you’re used to seeing. I still crave owning a high-frame-rate camera because of what I grew up watching from Steve.

Steve introduced the concept of metadata to me. Back in the 90’s, NFL Films was sitting on a HUGE library of film, dating back to something like 1947. He called for the creation of a computerized system to catalog, tag, and digitize this library, and his team created a custom system called SABRE. Using SABRE, an editor could search for all the clips of Green Bay Packers linebackers with cold breath at an away game, and SABRE would deliver a list of clips, with low-res proxie files ready to view. All the asset-management systems of today? Steve’s team had them beat back in 1999. I remember asking one of the production staff about my brother-in-law, who played for the Raiders, and within 5 minutes, he handed me a tape with all his highlights cut together.

Steve was also thinking about the future of broadcasting – the division I worked with was NFL Films Online – a team of people hired to create the next generation of NFL Films. A lot of those early attempts involved extending shows that were broadcast on ESPN or the big 4 networks. We would take a show brand, like Edge NFL Matchup on ESPN, and create original online content. Many of the traditional shows were limited to 24 minutes of on-air time, and couldn’t cover all the games, so our job was to bring the hosts in, let them talk about the games the same way they did on-air, and produce extended content that fans could watch on the web site. And, we had to do it at 1/25 the cost of the on-air version. I have memories of training the production staff how to use a virtual set system we set up in an old film storage room.  One of their virtual set designers was a 16 year old kid who impressed Steve enough to get a job.

One of the last projects I remember working on was a virtual set demo for an NFL Owner’s meeting in Baltimore. I had to tech-direct the demo, showing live internet streaming (with Steve holding a clock as “proof”!) from another part of the building. Steve was presenting his vision for “building the Brand online” and it worked – he convinced the owners to fund the project.

Steve was a class act, and what you saw in all those on-camera intros was what you got off-camera. He was a genuine, personable guy with a vision of what he wanted.

 

July 29, 2011

Road to Singapore

It’s been several months since I’ve posted anything here. Part of that has been because of my constant time on new Facebook groups, on Twitter, and elsewhere. The other major change in my life is definitely part of the Video Road. I’m now stationed in the Adobe Singapore office.

Why Singapore? Well, to answer that, I have to first answer the question, “Why Asia in general?” The truth is that I’ve always found Asia to be one of the most energetic and dynamic parts of the world. This region is growing so rapidly, and the Adobe video business is really riding that wave over here. We are seeing a big growth in areas like broadcast worldwide, but the potential for growth in the next couple of years here in Asia-Pacific (or APAC) is huge, and I want to help it however I can. Earlier this year, I got the opportunity to come back to the region on a video tour, and it reminded me how much I’ve missed the area. Last year was a domestic-only travel year, and while I loved the Hollywood visits, my heart missed the world traveling; the world exposure to different production worlds, different challenges, etc.

Out of all of Asia, Singapore is the most cosmopolitan city. There’s a little bit of everything here. One thing my world travels has taught me is that America is the biggest exporter of chain branding, especially for restaurants. You name it, and we have it here. (It’s also a place for American chains that can’t survive in the USA – read this article to see more.) Still, the culinary adventures are numerous. 2 highlights so far – getting the kids to try Century Eggs one night (which I love) and to try the King of Fruit, Durian, the next. (not as well received.) The culture here is definitely the most “western” of the large Asian cities, but there’s still a wonderful blending of cultures. It does remind me a lot of San Francisco without the hills – a big city with a lot of diversity, but with a unified branding and identity.

It’s all still so new here – my furniture hasn’t even arrived, and I’m meeting with clients and planning travel in the region. The family is still getting used to it all. Most of my family had never left the USA before, so this was quite the adventure for them. I still have to get my daughter to remember to look right when crossing the street (instead of left like back home.) The humidity is really foreign to me, having grown up in the arid Sacramento valley. My body is still adjusting to that.

People keep asking me how long I will be here – although this is a 2-year contract, I’m treating it for the time being as a permanent relocation. I can’t predict the market in 2 years, but I love the location, the people, the culture, and well, everything about Singapore so far. :-) Some of the other expats that live here came over on even shorter contracts, and just never left. So, we will see what the future holds.

 

HELLO SINGAPORE!!

November 2, 2009

Thanks!

Thanks to everyone I met last week in Brazil! Answers to some of your questions are forthcoming!

April 19, 2009

My NAB Schedule

Hey Everyone,

NAB Madness is upon us!

Here’s a schedule of where I’ll be presenting and when:

Monday
(In the Adobe Booth Theatre)
9:00am – Accelerated Tapeless Workflows: Go from Shoot to Edit Faster in Premiere Pro CS4
9:30am – Everyday Timesavers: Edit Faster with the Top Timesaving Features in CS4 Production Premium
11:00am – The RED Workflow from On‐Set to Finish with CS4 Production Premium (With Ted Shilowitz & Lucas Wilson)
12:00pm – Technology Sneak Peeks: See What’s Coming in Adobe Creative Software

(In the FCP SuperBooth)
5:00pm – Integrating Adobe Production Premium into your FCP Workflow

Tuesday
(In the Adobe Booth Theatre)
9:00am – Life without Walls: Open Workflows with Avid and Apple
9:30am – Everyday Timesavers: Edit Faster with the Top Timesaving Features in CS4 Production Premium
11:00am – The RED Workflow from On‐Set to Finish with CS4 Production Premium (With Ted Shilowitz & Lucas Wilson)
12:00pm – Technology Sneak Peeks: See What’s Coming in Adobe Creative Software

Wednesday
(In the Adobe Booth Theatre)
9:00am – Accelerated Tapeless Workflows: Go from Shoot to Edit Faster in Premiere Pro CS4
11:00am – The RED Workflow from On‐Set to Finish with CS4 Production Premium (With Ted Shilowitz & Lucas Wilson)
12:00pm – Technology Sneak Peeks: See What’s Coming in Adobe Creative Software

(In the FCP SuperBooth)
3:20pm – Integrating Adobe Production Premium into your FCP Workflow

I’ll also be presenting at the RED Supermeet Wednesday night.

Thursday
(In the Adobe Booth Theatre)
9:00am – Life without Walls: Open Workflows with Avid and Apple
11:00am – The RED Workflow from On‐Set to Finish with CS4 Production Premium (With Ted Shilowitz & Lucas Wilson)
12:00pm – Technology Sneak Peeks: See What’s Coming in Adobe Creative Software

I’ll also be hanging out at the pods around the back of the Adobe theatre each afternoon, so come by and say hi!

April 13, 2009

Catchup on life, AdobeTV, and NAB

I recently came back straight from Moscow, and went down into the studio to record some new episodes of Short & Suite for AdobeTV.

By the way, AdobeTV is now 1 year old! 1 year ago last week, Adobe launched the AdobeTV site with 210 videos. Today, Adobe TV has almost 3,000 videos, including offerings in English, German, Japanese and French. The content is growing weekly, and all of the evangelists just wrapped up shooting new episodes in the brand-new studio in San Francisco.

This week is a prep week for NAB, which will be action-packed. In addition to many presentations in the Adobe Theatre, I’ll also be attending user group meetings for FCP and RED users, presenting in the FCP SuperBooth, and also covering a couple of Adobe-specific user group meetings. I’ll be posting a full schedule later in the week.

On a completely unrelated note, I ordered a gift for my friend and coworker, Jason Levine, way back in December. It was backordered until very recently, and now it’s sitting on my desk. I’m going to present it to him at NAB, but I thought I’d have some fun in the meantime seeing if he can guess what it is. Here’s one of the very blurry photos I’ve sent Jay over the past couple of weeks:

photo.jpg

Any guesses?

March 19, 2009

Wrapup on Moscow Creative Future 2009

Thanks to the team in Moscow, we had a spectacular event, with over 1200 people attending. The crowd was super energized, and I am very much looking forward to coming back in the future!

I usually shoot a lot of video on my travels, but I rarely have enough time to get anything produced before I’m off to the next event. This time, I made the time on the flight back. This edit is VERY rough, and I wanted to insert some of the great photos that were taken into it. This was shot on my HV-30, all handheld (it really shows – sorry for all the shakycam!) and captured into Premiere Pro as a single clip, which I then created a massive amount of subclips from. In CS4, subclips perform just great, plus I added metadata to each of the subclips, so my media can be organized by location, content (buildings, people, etc.)

Here’s the video:

You’ll see Rufus, Paul, and myself, plus Roman and Olga from the local office. Both Roman and Olga took personal time to show us around Moscow, each on different days. Thanks again, Roman & Olga!

The music track used is “As the Rush Comes” by a group called Motorcycle. Copyright by Armada Music, and the track is available for purchase and download here: http://www.armadadownloads.com/

March 10, 2009

Red Square in Moscow

I made a startling discovery tonight – the AVI files that my little still camera shoots are NOT readable by the Adobe Media Encoder on the Mac. Solution? Use Photoshop! Using the new Adjustments panel, I also quickly added a Curves preset (increase Contrast) and used a blue filter to lessen the sodium yellow caused by the lamps. Here’s the result:

I stood in the center of Red Square, and shot this video as the Kremlin Clock on Spasskaya Tower struck 8pm. the video starts with Spasskaya Tower, shows the walls of the Kremlin, shows Lenin’s tomb (with Roman waving at the camera,) the Iberian Gate and Chapel (with Slava waving,) the GUM department store all lit up, and then St Basil’s Cathedral.

Thanks for the comments, everyone! Looking forward tot he event Friday!

March 10, 2009

1st time in Moscow

It’s a balmy 32 degrees F (0C) here in Moscow. It actually feels warmer. I was braced for really cold conditions, but this feels warmer than some days in the Sierras skiing back home. Moscow has a reputation for incredibly cold conditions in the winter, and most of the locals are commenting on how this almost feels like an “early spring.”

The ground is covered in what’s called “Moscow Cocktail,” which is a gray slushy mixture of snow, ice, water, and road salts. It’s EVERYWHERE. You can’t avoid it when walking down the streets. I step carefully.

In the Adobe office, I’m sitting next to a map of the entire Russian federation. This is the first time I’ve seen a Russia-centric map. Globes and world maps don’t do justice to the size of this country. It just amazes me. Slava, the sole Sales guy here, says it takes 8 hours to get from Moscow to the Eastern shores. That’s 2 weeks by train. In the US, I’ve driven Coast-to-coast in under 52 hours before (not recommended, but it’s possible.)

Today is a prep day for me, along with the possibility of meeting with a high-end broadcaster here. Tomorrow, Rufus and Paul will be joining me here to brief our partners on CS4, and Friday is the Creative Futures event. The early attendance numbers for the event on Friday are astounding – 3,000 people have registered! This is the first time for an event like this in Moscow, so that’s a HUGE number! If you’re reading this in the Moscow area, come on out and say hi.

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