Saturday, March 24, 2007

Combustion + Premiere

A match made in... well, some place where a crude pidgin is spoken and the inhabitants, while all being kind of the same shape, are nonetheless wildly different in their outlook on the world.

Hmm... did I just compare digital film post production to being some kind of Dutch East India Company Trader doing business with the natives of some exotic land? Is there no subject into which I cannot inject some form of oblique reference to pirates, or at the very least, the world of their romanticised heyday?

No, there is not.

Anyhow, what I'm actually here to talk about is doing low budget digi film making, and specifically how not to lose quality as you export your DV footage from Premiere, import it into Combustion, then out of Combustion, back into Premiere, then out again to your DVD authoring tools.

I've been doing some stuff on this for the last few months, and I was losing colour depth at every step of the way it seemed, so by the time I got to watching a DVD, any shot I'd done any sort of vfx work on (down to colour grading) stuck out like a sore thumb.

I tried different codecs, I tried changing the 3:2 pulldown modes, I tried switching the upper and lower fields' firstness... everything looked just not quite right.

The solution? (or at least - my currently workable solution - I'm sure there's a real, correct way, but I'm a self-taught compositor/grader, so bear with me) is this:

Use TGA's.

It's actually been that simple for me - exporting from Premiere as a sequence of TGA files, then importing and exporting from Combustion as the same (I use 32-bit even though at those stages, I'm not actually screwing around with alpha) then finally re-importing into Premiere, I don't lose/change the colour quality I'm after, and the shots look infinitely better.

There are size issues - a shot exported this way seems to be a little bigger than a DV file, but it's not huge, and hell - if you're dealing with digital video, you'll have enough storage/bandwidth to deal with it!

I hope this helps anyone who's been bashing their head against a similar problem, and if there's anyone reading this who can tell me the correct method for doing this stuff, I would be most pleased to learn how.

At this stage, it's very rudimentary, and the footage on show doesn't have the benefit of being put through any of the above described process, but this is what all this is heading towards:

The Course!

Neeeeeaaaarly finished!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Blast from the Past

Inspired title eh?

Apparently, once upon a time, long before man had crawled out of the swamps and invented the electric toothbrush, the government used to run, well, anything that actually needed running. Post Offices, Roads, Education, Telecommunications, the Arts... that kind of gumpf. If it was expensive, but necessary, they made sure it got done.

Now it appears one of our partial government departments has decided to return the heady days of yore and go into the 'business' of taking physcical items from one location and getting them into the hands of, that's right - you guessed it - citizens at home. And who might be making these bold moves? Why - our very own one third owned Telstra -bless 'em. What more do I need from my national telecommunication provider than a damn dvd I should be able to download in a fraction the time it takes them to stick it in the damn post*?

I know, I know, this is old news, and in a moment I'm going to go over the 'economic rationalism' of selling off Telstra in print in the hopes that the stupidity of it stops kicking around in my head after all these years.

So instead of doing something useful with my tax dollar and two dollars of some stock market gambler, like, oh, I don't know - laying enough cable so that people in the bush can A) not pay $100+ a month for blistering 256k 'broadband' and B) maybe make a phone call to a flying doctor or two when one of their relatives is dying - the powers that be have decided that it makes sense for Telstra to become an entertainment content provider. What gives? Well many things, but I discovered something the other day that points to that old saying: "Never ascribe to malice what you can put down to incompetance"

They're just plain stupid.**

So, there's this dude. Greg Winn they call him. According to this article on ZDnet he is "considered Telstra's second-in-charge and oversees most of the carrier's big product decisions."

Fine. All well and good. I'm sure he's got an MBA*** so he must be suitable to run a company, er, semi-former government department. So what pearls of wisdom does Mr Winn have to share with us about Apple's new iPhone?

"You can pretty much be assured that Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and ZTE and others will be coming out with devices that have similar functionality."
"Will be coming out with..." Will be? Ok, so, I'll forgive the guy for not being a Mac tragic and not watching the keynote address where the iPhone was announced, but please - Steve Jobs said it himself - all these other so-called 'smart' phones have this functionality already. They're not going to follow Apple's lead by putting web browsing on a phone because they simply don't need to - they already do it. All Apple have done is create a phone that people will actually be able to USE these existing functions on.

If the 2IC of our national carrier doesn't even know about the current state of the industry, how the hell can he help lead it into the future?

Ok, enough ranting from me. But before I go, let's throw some numbers around, with regards to 'making money by selling Telstra'

Let's say, pre-sale, Telstra was a fantastically elaborate work-for-the dole scheme, that employed a lot of people, and made approximately three billion dollars a year and just about kept to its mandate of allowing all the people who live in our country to talk to each other. Let's say that you wanted to sell it off - to make more money. So you ask for fifteen billion dollars. Wow - that's a lot of money! Great. So, after a year, you're ahead - even after two or three. But, wait - six years have passed (and because someone somewhere hates us all, that same government is still in power) and now we get no more money from them. For ever. How on earth does that make sense? If someone can tell me how, I'm actually quite curious to know.


* I should say at this point, I do love Australia Post - sure, they're not the fastest in the world, but for some reason I actually really enjoy going into post offices - I actually had to post something to Beverly Hills - that's 90210 - the other week, and damn did it feel good!

** I would have also accepted 'uninformed' or 'They just plain don't give a flying rat's monkey'

*** I'm sure it's like lawyers with this bunch - the 99% giving that 1% the bad name. Ok, to be fair, people I've met with MBAs have all been fine. MBA students, particularly the ones I sold books to over 5 years, can all go to hell