Archive for September, 2006

Son of Ben Kurns

Quicker than I could scarf down a slice of deep dish in Chicago earlier this week, I got a comment from Steve K. on my last posting, imploring me to show how to do the Ben Kurns Effect (a.k.a. Pan & Scan, Pan & Zoom, Ken Burns Effect) in After Effects. Steve’s been the Product Manager of AE for years now, and it amazes me that he still never misses any opportunity to promote it. Besides, I love showing cool stuff in AE so I figured I’d take it a step further and show y’all how to do a 3-D Pan & Scan in AE. This has become a pretty popular technique, lots of doc-style shows and films are using it. The first film I saw that used this at length (and by “at length” I mean for the entire duration of the film) was The Kid Stays In The Picture. Almost the entire movie was photographs busted up into layers in Photoshop, then animated in 3D in After Effects.

When done correctly, this is a much more dynamic and interesting way of panning & scanning. The third-dimension adds tremendous depth (literally and figuratively) to what could be just another stab at “being like Ben Kurns.” Oh Ben, why did you step in front of that subway train all those years ago, why?

So, start off by opening your photo in Photoshop. Remember that you want your photo to be as high-res as possible, especially if you’re planning to zoom-in in great detail.

Then, you need to break apart the key elements of your photo into individual layers. In the case of my example, below, I need to separate myself, the airplane, and the background. To start off, create a selection around the foreground element (usually a person) by using the Magic Wand, Marquee, and Lasso tools (Photoshop 101 techniques).

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Once you have your foreground element selected, cut & paste it into a new layer. What you’ll wind up with is the foreground by itself, and the background with a big gaping hole in it.

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Next, use the Clone tool (a.k.a. the Rubber Stamp tool) to fill in the hole in the background. In my example, it was pretty easy to fill in the sky, but a bit more challenging to “recreate” the airplane since my body covers a good deal of it.

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Now it’s time to repeat the first two steps — this time selecting the airplane in the same manner as before, and cutting & pasting it into its own layer.

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Then, once again, use the Clone tool to fill in the blank areas in the background.

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So what you’ll wind up with is a Photoshop file with each of the key elements on its own layer.

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Now we’re ready to bring our Photoshop file into After Effects. Switch over to AE and select File>Import>File. Select your Photoshop file, but before clicking the Open button, make sure you have “Import As: Composition” selected in the pulldown menu in the lower-left corner of the Import File dialog. This will bring the Photoshop file into After Effects with all its layers intact. If you were to select “Import As: Footage” it would flatten the layers and then there’d be no point to doing anything in 3D.

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You’ll see a new Composition in the Project Panel, along with a folder containing the individual Photoshop layers. Double-click the Comp to open it, then change the comp settings to your desired format & resolution by selecting Composition>Composition Settings.

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Pull down the Preset menu and select your format (I’m using NTSC DV for this example), and at the bottom of the Composition Settings dialog enter your desired duration. 5 seconds is a good place to start (00;00;05;00).

Next, you need make your layers 3D by checking in their 3D Layer checkboxes.

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Then, add a Camera to your timeline by selecting Layer>New>Camera. The Camera Settings dialog appears.

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Pull down the Preset menu, and select 35mm. This will simulate a 35mm film camera lens – applying different lenses will give you much different results so after you complete this tutorial go back and experiment with the different lenses to see what’s possible.

Next, we’ll stagger our Photoshop layers in Z-space (depth). This will give them the effect of being in 3-dimensional space. Select all 3 layers on your timeline, then hit the letter P on your keyboard, which will solo the Position property. Each layer has 3 coordinate values: X (horizontal), Y (vertical), and Z (depth) – although you won’t see the values labeled as such. Adjust the Z position of layers 1 and 2 to bring them closer to the camera – in my example I moved Layer 1 (me) to -600 and Layer 2 (the airplane) to -300. Negative values bring the objects forward in Z-space, while positive values move them further away.

I’ve moved the camera to the side in the screencap below to give you a sense of how the layers look staggered in Z-space.

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Now it’s time to animate the Camera to create the 3D Pan & Scan. Click on the little triangle to the left of Camera 1 in your timeline to twirl down its properties. Click on Transform, then click on the stopwatch icons for Point of Interest and Position to set an initial keyframe for these properties. Position represents the actual position of the Camera in 3D space (thus the X, Y, and Z values) and the Point of Interest is what the Camera is pointing at. We’ll animate both of these properties.

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Now, scrub on the X, Y, and Z values for Position to move the Camera to its starting point. Then, scrub on the values for Point of Interest to get your Camera pointing in the direction you want. Once you’re happy with the starting position, hit the End key on your keyboard, which will bring the Current Time Indicator to the last frame of your timeline (you can also drag the CTI all the way to the right). Then, modify the Position and Point of Interest to position the Camera in its ending position.

In my example, I’m starting zoomed-out with the Camera down and to the left, and over the course of 5 seconds I’ll animate it up, to the right, and move it forward to zoom-in.

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After Effects will animate the Camera between the start and end keyframes. To see your animation, select Composition>Preview>RAM Preview.

You’ll notice that the Camera starts & stops on a dime – not very natural or elegant looking. Typically a real camera will ease out of its initial position, then gently ease in to its final position. Drag across the initial keyframes for the Camera’s Point of Interest and Position, then right-mouse-click and select Keyframe Assistant>Easy Ease Out (you can also select this via the Aniimation menu).

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Repeat for the ending keyframes, but this time select Easy Ease In. RAM Preview again to see the difference.

OK, now we’ve got a nice, interesting, 3-dimensional pan & scan, but as Steve K mentioned in his comment, you have way more control of your animation in AE than you do in Premiere Pro. The Graph Editor (which we introduced in AE7) gives you an incredible variety of ways to tweek your keyframes – open it by clicking on the Graph Editor button on your timeline.

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You can click directly on the keyframes in the Graph Editor to modify how the Camera animates – try pulling on the Bezier handles to change the curve of the Position and see how you can get a different feel by adjusting how the Camera moves out of its initial position and into its final position.

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This whole technique I’ve just taught you is used pretty heavily in motion design these days, not just for panning & scanning photos – you see it all the time in TV commercials & promos. You can take it a step further by adding lights (Layer>New>Light) and adjusting the Camera’s depth-of-field, enabling shadows, etc. Hitting the letter “A” key twice on a 3D layer in the timeline reveals its Material Options where you can make these kinds of adjustments.

Well, that’s an intro to panning & scanning in 3-D using After Effects and Photoshop. Of course, you can also do this in 2-D without breaking the layers apart, and then it’s more-or-less the same as doing it in Premiere Pro (although AE does give you much more control with the Graph Editor).

Now I’m gonna go get me a slice of deep dish. Oh, wait, I flew back home to SF yesterday. Don’t know where I am anymore . . .

The Ben Kurns Effect

There’s nothing more boring than something just sitting there on a movie or TV screen doing nothing. Think test pattern here – boy, I remember being a 5 year old, sitting in front of the TV at 6 in the morning waiting for that test pattern to go away and for Davey & Goliath or New Zoo Review to come on (if you watched D&G as a kid and haven’t seen Moral Orel on Adult Swim yet, you neeeeeed to go see it right now, don’t ask questions just do it).

Documentary filmmakers have long known this, because they often have more archival photography available on a subject than film or video footage. They use a technique called “pan & scan” (also known as “pan & zoom”) to do camera moves on still images to make them more interesting to the viewer. You’ll often see this referred to as the “Ken Burns Effect,” as his documentaries (the one on Jazz, in particular) use this technique extensively. But it’s been going on for way longer than Mr. Burns has been around. We used to do this with camera stands, which you still find in the odd studio here & there – basically a flat, well-lit surface where you lay the photo with a video camera mounted on a pole, pointing down to the photo. The signal from the camera runs to a tape deck, and the camera is either panned & zoomed manually or mechanically, depending on the sophistication of the particular camera stand. Some of them are pretty tricked-out, with the ability to control the camera’s position & zoom with precision via remote control.

Hardly anybody uses camera stands anymore – it’s much easier to scan the photo and do the pan & scan in software. You get more precision, can experiment more easily, and you don’t have to purchase & maintain the camera stand itself. Of course, if you’ve got a digital photo then this is the only way to go.

You can pan & scan high-resolution photos in both After Effects & Premiere Pro while maintaining their full resolution. This means you can zoom in on details without having the image get all pixilated and cruddy. If you’re editing a piece that involves using stills, then it’s better to do the pan & scan in Premiere Pro. The steps are basically the same whether you do it there or in AE.

First of all, import your photo using the standard File>Import command. Premiere Pro imports photos at a duration of 5 seconds, but you can change this.

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The project panel tells me that my photo is 2592 X 1944, which will let me zoom in very close at full resolution.

If you’d like your image to run for a longer or shorter duration, right-mouse click on your image file in the Project Panel, select Speed/Duration, and enter your desired duration.

Then, cut the image into your sequence in the same way you would a video clip. Once it’s in your timeline, click it and then open the Effect Controls Panel (usually docked behind the Source Monitor), and click on the triangle to the left of “Motion” to twirl down the Motion properties.

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If you don’t see the Current Time Indicator on the right side of the Effect Controls, click the white button with the 2 left-facing triangles to reveal it.

For this example, we’ll start out zoomed in real close, then zoom out to reveal the entire image. If you want to start zoomed out you can do the next steps in reverse, but before you do anything you need to make sure that the Anchor Point is set on the object you want to zoom out from or zoom in to. When you click on the word “Motion” in the Effect Controls, the Anchor Point (the little circle with the “X” in the middle) appears on the center of your image. To move it over your “object of focus”, click & drag on the Anchor Point values in the Effect Controls until the Anchor Point is centered over your object (or face, or whatever).

Now you’re ready to animate. We’ll begin with a basic camera move, and then you can modify to your taste. Let’s have the image start out still for 1 second, then zoom out over the course of 2 seconds. Move the Current Time Indicator (CTI) in the Effect Controls Panel ahead by 1 second (use the timecode in the lower-left corner as a guide). Then, set initial keyframes for Position, Scale, and Rotation by clicking on the stopwatches to the left of their names. Double-click the Rotation value and set it to -40 degrees, or something similar. This is the starting position of your camera move.

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Next, move the CTI ahead by 2 seconds. Set Rotation back to 0, and click-and-drag on the Position and Scale values to “zoom out” to your final camera position. Premiere Pro automatically adds new keyframes at the current CTI position.

Go ahead and roll back in your timeline to the shot right before your panned & scanned image and play back to see how your camera move works in the context of the timing & pacing of your edit. You might want to adjust the duration of the camera move, which can be done simply by moving the keyframes, or you might want a more fluid camera motion. By default, Premiere Pro creates a camera move that starts & stops on a dime – in other words it’s not particularly elegant. Now, if you’re cutting an MTV-style piece with really fast pacing, this might be what you want, but in most cases you’ll want the camera to ease out of its initial position and ease in to a smooth landing. Start by clicking-and-dragging across the initial 3 keyframes to select them all. Then, right-mouse-click on any of them and from the pop-up menu select Temporal Interpolation>Ease Out.

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Repeat for the ending keyframes, this time selecting Ease In. Roll back and play your adjusted camera move.

At this point you can treat your image as you would any video clip – e.g. you can add effects and transitions if you wish. With some photos, you might notice a certain degree of “interlace flicker” as the image pans & scans. If that’s the case, increase the amount the Anti-flicker Filter in the Effect Controls and that should make it look much nicer.

My Ears is Ringing

That’s Bronxese, for those of you non-native English speakers. That’s not correct English, and The Bronx is no place to be if you’re concerned with speaking correct English. That’s where I grew up, and by the virtue of the fact that my Dad is an English teacher I managed to come out of that place not sounding like Gilbert Gottfried. My building was beside an interstate highway and across the street from a fire house. Add to that the normal din of New York City noise and I was lulled to sleep each night by cars & dogs, shouts & shots. When I try and fall asleep someplace completely quiet, my ears ring and it kind of makes me crazy.

So for me, ambient noise on a piece of audio is normal. I even miss it if it’s not there sometimes. But for most of the world, the air conditioner or refrigerator or camera motor that wound up on your audio is not desirable. In fact, it can be downright irritating. Of course I think youse guys is crazy, but if you insist, I’ll show you how to get rid of such noise from your audio.

First, let’s assume you’re starting with audio that’s in your Premiere Pro edit (if it’s not, you can just import it directly into Audition). Right-mouse click on the audio clip in your timeline and select Edit in Adobe Audition.

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The audio will load into Audition and the waveform will display. Now you want to find a section of the audio that contains only the noise — at the very beginning is usually a good place to look, but you may have to play through the clip to find a spot where there’s only the ambient noise (also referred to as “room tone”, which is always a good idea to record at the beginning of each scene). Then, click-and-drag across the “room tone” on the waveform to select it. In the Effects panel, double-click Restoration to expand it, then double-click Capture Noise Reduction Profile.

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What this does is analyze the frequencies present in the room tone and create a profile of those frequencies. Next, in the Effects Panel double-click on Noise Reduction (process). The Noise Reduction dialog appears. First, click the Select Entire File button (which will remove the frequencies in the profile from the entire clip) then click OK.

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The noise is removed from the audio clip — go ahead and have a listen. In some cases, the noise removal can cause unwanted side-effects (I’m sounding like a pharmaceutical ad here), so if you’re not happy with the results, Ctrl+Z to undo, then go back to Noise Reduction and use the Noise Reduction Level slider to reduce the amount of the filtering. You can always find a happy medium (mine usually being more towards the green side of that slider, for reasons I’ve already made clear).

Some Background Information

Animated backgrounds are used in just about every area of video postproduction. You see them all the time behind “talking heads”, as part of DVD motion menus, as the foundation of interstitial graphics on TV (e.g. “here’s what’s coming up next”), and as elements in complex motion design pieces. In After Effects 7.0 we include an entire set of Background Animation Presets, which make it easy to get started, but it really isn’t hard to create your own animated backgrounds from scratch if you learn a few basic concepts.

The first thing you need to know is how to manipulate the Fractal Noise effect in After Effects, which is by far the most useful effect for creating animated backgrounds. To start off, create a new composition in the format of your choice (my examples below are in NTSC DV) and make its duration 5 seconds. Then add a new solid to your comp by going to Layer>New>Solid, and in the Solid Settings dialog click the “Make Comp Size” button. It doesn’t matter what color it is, just go ahead and click OK.

Then apply the Fractal Noise effect by going to Effect>Noise & Grain>Fractal Noise and your comp will look like this:

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Next, to animate the noise, set an initial keyframe for the Evolution property by clicking on it’s stopwatch icon in the Effect Controls panel. If you can’t see the Effect Controls panel, hit the F3 key on your keyboard to reveal it.

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Then, hit the End key on your keyboard, which will bring your Current Time Indicator to the last frame on your timeline. Turn the Evolution dial in the Effect Controls clockwise 2 rotations, which will animate the noise 2 cycles over the duration of the comp. To preview the animation, go to Composition>Preview>RAM Preview.

Not too interesting, eh? Well, that’s just the starting point. By learning how to manipulate the controls in Fractal Noise, and then adding some complimentary effects, you can achieve an incredibly wide range of looks. For starters, go back to the Effect Controls and pull down the Fractal Type menu at the very top of the effect. Try selecting each of the options and doing a RAM Preview to get an idea of the basic look of each. Once you’ve finished, select Dynamic Twist (which will look like fig 1. below).

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Next, you’ll make the noise more abstract by lowering its complexity. In the Effect Controls, click on the setting for Complexity (the default is 6.0) and change it to 3.0 (figure 2, above). Next, to stretch it out and make wavy lines, twirl down the Transform property in the Effect Controls by clicking on the triangle to the left of its name. Uncheck the Uniform Scaling checkbox, and set Scale Width to 600 (figure 3) and Scale Height to 35 (figure 4).

Now RAM Preview again to see the results. Quite different from where we started out, eh? And the best part is the animation is the result of just 2 keyframes set on the Evolution property.

In order to make this more interesting, we’re going to apply 3 complementary effects: Levels, Fast Blur, and CC Toner. Levels (which works the same way as Levels in Photoshop) will let us adjust the brightness & contrast with a great degree of control, Fast Blur will make the background more abstract, and CC Toner will let us colorize the final result.

First, apply Levels by going to Effect>Color Correction>Levels. By moving the 3 triangles below the Histogram, you can adjust your black and white levels, as well as the gamma. Move the triangles so they’re about where I have them below.

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You can see the result is much different from the Fractal Noise effect by itself. Try playing with the sliders below the Histogram to see what kind of looks you can get, then go back to the settings in the figure above.

Apply the Fast Blur by going to Effect>Blur & Sharpen>Fast Blur. Set the Blur Dimensions to Horizontal, click the Repeat Edge Pixels checkbox, and increase Blurriness to 300 by clicking & dragging on its value to the right, which will allow you to see the adjustment in the Composition Viewer as you make it.

Then add some color to your animation by going to Effect>Color Correction>CC Toner. Click the color swatch for Midtones, and select a vibrant blue color.

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Finally, RAM Preview to see your finished animated background. Experiment by changing the Fractal Type, tweeking the Levels settings, blur amount, and mapping different colors in CC Toner.

Most of the Background Animation Presets in AE7 use this formula, or a variant thereof. Since the Presets are just a stack of effects & keyframes, applying them and then “looking under the hood” to see how they were created is a good insight into how to create more varied backgrounds. A good keyboard shortcut is “UU” (i.e. hit the letter U key on your keyboard twice in rapid succession) which shows you what properties on a layer have been modified from their default settings. By applying a Background Animation Preset, then hitting the F3 key to reveal its Effect Controls, then hitting the UU keyboard shortcut, you can get a good overview of how the preset was constructed. Then to see how it was animated, hit the “U” key on your keyboard which will reveal on the timeline only the properties that have keyframes. The example I just took you through is very similar to the “Red Speed” Background Animation Preset in AE7.

If you create an animated background that you really like, save it as a preset for future use by dragging the effects & keyframes from the timeline to the Effects & Presets panel. You’ll get a dialog asking you to name your new preset, and then it’s yours to use again and again (or share with others).

Manic Compression

At some point in the life of a digital video clip, it gets compressed (often several times). The whole idea behind compression is to lower the amount of data in the video in order to make its file size smaller, and/or make the data rate lower. Smaller files take up less storage space, and are easier to move around, while video with a lower data rate can be streamed over the internet, or be played back on a slow computer. If it were not for compression, there would be no way to cram a feature film onto something as small as a DVD, or to record high quality video onto a tape as small as the ubiquitous Mini-DV format.

There are two kinds of video compression — lossless and lossy. Lossless compression lowers the amount of data in the video without any visible quality loss (although I know quite a few television engineers who will debate this point ’til somebody gets punched). Lossy compression degrades the video to some extent, sometimes noticably sometimes not. It all depends on the Codec used, and the settings of that particular Codec.

Codec stands for Compressor/Decompressor. There are Codecs that are hardware based (like the Codec used in a Digibeta camera) and others software based (like the On2 VP6 Codec used in Flash Video 8). The video on DVDs is compressed with the MPEG-2 Codec, which is also used for satellite and digital cable transmission (you know how the picture falls apart a bit on some of those esoteric channels on your digital cable? That’s your old pal MPEG-2 !).

Both Quicktime and Windows Media have many Codecs within them, and knowing which one to use when is a fundamental in digital video postproduction.

Let’s take a look at the most common workflow: DV. A Mini-DV camcorder records a compressed video signal to tape with its internal lossy DV Codec. DV compression is 5:1, meaning for every 5 bits of data, it only writes 1 to tape, throwing away the other 4. The resulting loss in quality is not generally noticeable to the untrained eye, but for those of us that do this for a living the loss of color range, digital artifacts, and plain old noise in the compressed video is easy to recognize (and debate until somebody loses a tooth).

When you capture your tape to hard disc using Premiere Pro or other software, the video becomes an AVI (Windows Media) or Quicktime file written with its DV codec.

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The AVI Video Compression dialog in After Effects, showing the Microsoft DV Codec selected, within a pulldown menu showing all the AVI Codecs installed on my system.

Essentially, the compressed DV data is copied from video tape to hard drive via a Firewire cable, with no further compression taking place. If all you were to do is edit the video without rendering anything and lay it back to tape, it would never undergo any further compression.

But here’s the thing, if you render a DV Codec clip with the DV Codec, it will get compressed again. 5:1 lossy compression. That means you take something where you’ve already thrown away 4 bits out of 5, and then throw 4 bits out of 5 of that remaining 1 bit away. In other words, you wind up with something that looks like it went through a meat grinder. It’s not pretty.

So how to conquer this? Render uncompressed, or even better, to a lossless Codec. As you can see in the figure above, you can select “No Compression” and your rendered video will suffer no quality loss. You will, however, wind up with a huge wonking file, so this method means that you’ll need to have plenty of hard drive space if you’re doing lots of renders. A better solution is to render using the Animation Codec, which is part of Quicktime.

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Quicktime’s Animation Codec, set to “Best” quality, which results in lossless compression.

When its Quality slider is set to “Best”, the Animation Codec’s compression is lossless. The files are much smaller than uncompressed files, but there is no noticeable loss in quality. This is one of the main Codecs used in the After Effects workflow, and is great “intermediate” Codec to use when working with DV material. As long as you render this way, you’ll never lose quality — although if you’re going back to Mini-DV tape you’re going to have to render your final results to a DV Codec eventually (a good reason to avoid doing this).

There are two Quicktime Codecs you should absolutely, under no circumstances, ever use. Those are Cinepak and Video (ironically). Starting with the latter, the Video Codec is a legacy Codec within Quicktime, dating back to the early ’90’s, and is simply not suitable for Video (although it must have been at some point back in the day). Cinepak is another oldie-but-baddie and was the first Codec used for cramming video onto CD-Roms. Like the Video Codec, it’s now obsolete, and is still included in Quicktime for legacy file support, but that’s the only reason it’s there so like drunk driving just don’t do it.

If you’re putting your video on the internet, you want to use Flash Video 8, which compresses and decompresses using the On2 VP6 Codec (a Codec we license from a company called On2). You can encode to Flash Video with Premiere Pro 2.0 by going to File>Export>Adobe Media Encoder. In After Effects 7.0, go to File>Export>Flash Video. You can also use the standalone Flash Video encoder that comes with Macromedia Studio 8, or just do it in Flash Professional 8.

To get your video onto a DVD, encode it to MPEG-2 using the Adobe Media Encoder, or bring it into Encore DVD which can also encode MPEG-2. In either case, it will be compressed with the super high-quality Main Concept MPEG-2 Encoder which is included with both Premiere Pro and Encore DVD.

The iPod uses a proprietary MPEG-4 Codec (by the way, “MPEG” stands for Motion Picture Experts Group), and you can encode your video for iPod by dragging and dropping it into iTunes. Mobile phones use Codecs such as H.263.

I could go on and on, but the main thing is to get to know the Codecs you work with on a daily basis – what their settings are and how to manipulate them to get the best results (although some Codecs, such as DV, don’t have adjustable settings). With lossy Codecs, it’s always a trade-off between quality and file size / data rate. You don’t have to become a Compressionist to get good at this, but if you want to dig deeper there’s some great reading out there. My favorite author/authority on the topic is Ben Waggoner, who explains this somewhat complex topic in an easy-to-understand way in his book Compression for Great Digital Video.

Amsterdarnit!

Just back from a month in northern Europe – my last stop on the trip being the IBC (International Broadcast Conference) in Amsterdam. The “NAB of Europe” if you will – a huge gathering of the television industry, and related fields, the long days being rivaled only by the long nights of carousing with customers, partners, and various other interesting individuals.

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Biking my way through the no-stop-signs-or-traffic-lights-anywhere streets of Amsterdam on my way to work.

The best way to handle being in a foreign country for awhile is to live as the locals do, and in the case of Amsterdam that means renting a bike and commuting to work on 2 wheels. According to a recent article in the NY Times, there are over 2 bikes for every person in the Netherlands, and as far as I could see the bikes outnumber the cars by a longshot. The only thing to get used to is the rather chaotic riding style. For example, as a cyclist you always have the right of way over cars. Cars will always stop for you, except when they don’t. And when they do stop, they wait ‘til the last possible minute. So the first day on my rented Dutch-style 1-speed, pedal-brake beater, I’m thinking “I’d better stop now or that taxi will cream me,” but when you stop suddenly with 50 cyclists right behind you, you’ll get creamed anyhow. I did learn all of the Dutch curse words fast, because I had them yelled at me constantly by other cyclists.

You see, there are no stop signs in downtown Amsterdam. People just go. Every intersection was a game of frogger.

So back to business — we had a really successful IBC exhibit, with some great Adobe users such as Angie Taylor showing off their work. Angie is a super-accomplished UK-based broadcast designer who uses After Effects as her main tool. Her book Creative After Effects 7 was just released, and I was psyched to find a copy sitting on my desk when I got back to my SF office today.

At conferences like IBC, people always ask each other “have you seen anything cool or interesting?”. To be honest, I don’t usually get a whole lot of time to walk around and check things out (what with my busy schedule of presentations, meetings, and trying not to get turned to a Dutch Pancake by a garbage truck), but I did manage to check out a rather intriguing (albeit propellerhead) device from DK Technologies called the Spinner display, which uses a completely new method of displaying the chroma and luma levels of a video signal, something usually done with a traditional waveform/vectorscope.

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The DK-Technologies Spinner display showing the chroma and luma levels of the cow licking my bicycle.

It usually takes a while to learn how to accurately read a waveform/vectorscope, and mistakes can be costly as if you’re creating something for broadcast, it needs to fall within a specific chroma and luma range, otherwise the station won’t air it. You’ll get your tape back with a nice little note from the engineering department suggesting you may have a bright future in the foodservice industry.

For years, I thought it would be a great idea to simplify the display of chroma/luma levels so that a non-engineer such as myself could accurately monitor and correct their work. This looks like it could be a big step in that direction. According to the company’s CEO Karsten Hansen, “we have been able to devise a display that is simple to understand, even for those with no specialist knowledge.” TVB Europe Magazine has an article about the Spinner and more detail in their September issue.

It’s not shipping yet, and I’ve not been able to find pricing information anywhere (aah, the bleeding edge), but if this device lives up to its promise (and isn’t too expensive) it could really make life easier for tons of us.

So, as for the near future, I actually get to be home in SF next week and work out of the office, but the week after I’ll be in Chicago, speaking at the Final Cut Users Group on September 27 (yes, you heard that right) amongst other things. I’ll also be speaking at Flash In The Can in Hollywood on October 6, so make sure to come say “hi” if you’ll be at either of those.