May 24, 2015

Using Avid Unity Media Network on OS X 10.8+

Filed under: IT,media,video,workflow — Erik Dobberkau @ 18:18

The last supported version of Mac OS X is 10.7.x with MN Client v5.5.5 (Mac only — the PC version 5.5.4 still works on Win7-64bit) — because 10.7.x is the last OS X version to support 32-bit extensions. You think! With the respective hack I already described for (now deprecated) versions of the ISIS client with OS X 10.9, you can take the equivalent steps to connect your Unity on OS X 10.8.x (haven’t tested with 10.9+, maybe this works, maybe it doesn’t), just pay attention that the Unity kexts and other files have slightly different names.

And another freebie.. even though Avid recommends using ATTO FC cards, this works with the original Mac FC cards (by LSI) too. The only drawback is the “limitation” to a 2Gb/s throughput, but that’s sufficient for most HD projects.

July 3, 2014

Connecting to Avid ISIS 5000 on OS X 10.9

Filed under: IT,media,video,workflow — Erik Dobberkau @ 20:23

Though Avid doesn’t officially support this, it is entirely possible to connect your ISIS5000 < 4.6 using the respective ISIS client to your Mac on OS X 10.9, which currently only supports ISIS7000. Update: As of ISIS v4.6 this article is partially obsolete (see Avid KB).

To make it work, you need to have a Mac on which the ISIS client software that corresponds to your ISIS 5000 is installed. From there, copy the following items to a USB stick or network location, ideally you mimic the folder structure of your Mac HD in order to put everything in its appropriate place:

/Applications/AvidISIS (entire folder)
/Library/Application Support/Avid/AvidUnityISIS
(executable; use Cmd-Shift-G to go to folder)

Next, copy the files to your 10.9 machine’s system drive. You will need to enter admin credentials when modifying the /Library, /sbin, and /System folders.
Next, fire up Terminal to modify the permissions to certain files and folders, because those will very likely be “damaged” during the copying process off the original computer. You will need to enter your admin credentials when doing the following:

sudo chmod -R 0755 /System/Library/Extensions/AvidUnityISIS.kext
sudo chown -R root:wheel /System/Library/Extensions/AvidUnityISIS.kext

sudo chmod -R 0755 /sbin/mount_AvidUnityISIS
sudo chown -R root:wheel /sbin/mount_AvidUnityISIS

sudo chmod -R 0755 /Library/StartupItems/AvidUnityISIS
sudo chown -R root:wheel /Library/StartupItems/AvidUnityISIS

This will set the files and folders to the proper permissions. However, I strongly recommend verifying your permissions with Apple’s Disc Utility, because on one machine where I did this there was one admin user who couldn’t mount any of the ISIS workspaces (some error on the /Volumes folder), after repairing permissions everything was fine. And it is vital to perform these steps in this exact order, if you leave them out it won’t work.

Reboot your Mac, then you should be able to launch the ISIS client, and after properly setting up your connections you should be able to mount workspaces as usual.

Please keep in mind that this is a hack; Avid does not provide support for any problem that might occur because of this, neither do I. You’re doing this at your own risk. Make a backup copy before working on critical data or projects.

August 30, 2013

De-Interlacing roundtrip

Filed under: creativity,media,video,workflow — Erik Dobberkau @ 18:44

It’s quite amazing that hi-quality de-interlacing of video footage is still an issue not easy to be adressed, especially when it comes to encoding for web and mobile. The basic problem is that your footage inevitably loses sharpness, but it depends on the quality of your de-interlacer how much aliasing you will end up with. And just to make sure: for web and mobile (and Windows Media Player..), always de-interlace your video. TVs, in most cases, handle interlaced H.264-encoded MP4 files quite well.

In my recent case I had some interlaced 1080i footage in DNxHD 120 which was being edited in Avid Media Composer 5.5.x and should be encoded to 720p25 and 1080p25 for mobile devices, and of course PC desktop playback. As it turns out, this version does a horrible job when it comes to aliasing, because the algorithm seems to be line-averaging only, no matter if your export from interlaced to progressive or import the interlaced footage to a project with progressive video setting. Though it takes ages, the edges of graphics, the part that is always the hardest to process for the computer but the easiest to spot for the viewer, are always quite jagged. So this was a no-no.

Why would you re-import the “baked” edit anyway? Well, I tried this because Adobe’s Media Encoder CC, which has the benefit of being a blazing fast encoder, also doesn’t offer any user-selectable de-interlacing algorithms. It just does its line averaging thing too, with equally inferior results. No-no.

So I gave Apple’s Compressor (I still use version 3 from Final Cut Studio 2) a shot, well knowing that the “better (motion adaptive)” algorithm yields good results but can be horribly slow (more on de-interlacing with Compressor here). And it was. On my 2011 Mac mini (on steroids) the encoding of a 30 second clip to a 10Mbit/s H.264 took 2 solid hours. With 130 clips in the pipeline, this was no approach worth pursuing.

Hence… putting each tool only to the function it’s best at, a working and quite fast approach with good results looks like this:

  • Export interlaced edit from Avid MC in DNxHD 120 (in my case, using a QuickTime mov container). Works in about half-real-time.
  • Either manually or by folder action, use Compressor only to de-interlace with motion adaption, again to QuickTime with DNxHD 120. This works in real-time speed.
  • Using a watch folder, process the Compressor output with AME CC to get your MP4’s. With parallel coding of two files, this is about 1/10th real time when using a 2-pass setting with a reasonably high bit rate.

Which is why dedicated encoding solutions make sense, if you need high throughput. For occasional use, it’s still good to know how to work this out on your machine.

P.S. Yeah, I know. HandBrake. Let’s just say I have my reasons for not using it a lot. One day, maybe. Then I’ll post an update saying how wrong I was yada yada.

January 6, 2013

Video quicktip roundup

Filed under: creativity,video,workflow — Erik Dobberkau @ 21:25
  • If you need to install Final Cut Studio 2 (FCP6) on a Mac running OS X Lion (10.7) or Mountain Lion (10.8), you should either have a Snow Leopard Installer Disc at hand to install Rosetta first (from the “Optional Installs” folder) or you can use Terminal to do it without the Graphic installer (which is the reason why it doesn’t install without Rosetta, it’s still PPC code (not the FCS apps themselves, to be clear), whereas Final Cut Studio 3’s installer is Intel only).
    The magic Terminal command is (one line)
    sudo install -package /Volumes/Final\ Cut \ Studio/Installer/FinalCutStudio.mpkg -target /
    Use your respective source directory if you copied the installer to disk beforehand. Hat tip to Jeremy Johnstone for solving this.
  • External disks which are supposed to be accessible for read/write on both Mac and PC should be formatted to exFAT (available since Mac OS X 10.6.5 and Win XP, for which you need to install an update filed under KB955704). This circumvents the 4GB file barrier of FAT32.
  • GoPro Hero HD footage (no matter what model) is best to be converted with MPEG Streamclip, especially if you need to go to SD formats. It’s way faster than Compressor and can merge all your files into one (open source files sorted by date), plus it takes everything to a “standard” codec (which GoPro’s CineForm Studio doesn’t, they have their own, which is not bad either, but…). Note that on the Mac you have the benefit of merging several clips into one, which doesn’t work that well on a Windows machine because the single clips are not always in the right order. You may circumvent this by (copying and) renaming the Gopro files to the correct sequential order.

August 24, 2011

Replace Edit in Final Cut Pro 7

Filed under: video,workflow — Erik Dobberkau @ 19:32

Two issues you’ll be running into:

FCP gives a damn about the In and Out marks in your sequence, it’ll edit your Viewer’s In mark to the current cursor position, so you need to make sure you’re at the first frame of the clip you want to replace.

FCP doesn’t only replace the footage, it also replaces all your transformations and filters applied. If you just want to swap the material, you need to copy the clip before editing and paste the attrbutes (Option-V) after editing.

July 28, 2011

Quick Tips: Final Cut Pro 7 SmoothCam & Apple Color

Filed under: creativity,IT,video,workflow — Erik Dobberkau @ 06:56

Not having posted for a long time, I thought a share some tips as a comeback teaser.

In various forums, people have reported problems with camera stabilization inside Final Cut Pro 7 using the plugin SmoothCam (which orginally comes from Shake, no pun intended), but not in Final Cut Pro 6. For comparison I ran some tests on both systems and came to the conclusion that FCP7’s SmoothCam does not work properly with interlaced footage no matter which codec you use. FCP6’s SmoothCam does the job with whatever kind of video.

Two more tips for Apple Color:

Always de-interlace when using Color, especially when working with Color FX. There are two ways to do this, one via the Clip Settings Tab and the other in the Color FX Tab. I haven’t compared whether they give different results but my guess is it’s not going to be that dramatic (we’re talking video ‘ere).

Last one: When migrating a Color project from Version 1.x (Final Cut Studio 2) to 1.5.x (Final Cut Studio 3) and you want to keep a copy of the old version, be careful to keep them in different folders. Thing is, when you rename the .colorproj bundle (it’s not a file, but a file package), Color will crash when opening the project (because he filenames inside the package don’t match). So you can either re-name the backup, open the current version, update & save-as the project and then re-rename the backup file, or just use different folders.

April 13, 2011

Final Cut Pitfalls

Filed under: video,workflow — Erik Dobberkau @ 20:59

Since the Editing Community will have to wait some more weeks for the release of the long awaited Final Cut X, I thought I’d share some insight of my latest work with Final Cut Pro 7.

Log and Transfer:
When importing footage from card media, it is possible to start editing with the imported clips while the others are still being ingested. However, I cannot say this is advisable. I encountered some random errors, such as clips only being partially transferred (with correct metadata, meaning FCP displays a duration of 3 seconds, and the clip (which should be 2 mins long) really is 3 secs. Other clips were fully imported, but with wrong metadata (you can shuttle through the entire clip of 2 mins, but FCP displays a duration of 5 secs in the browser window). So the old rule applies: Never touch a running system! Which is why you should ingest overnight, if you don’t have an assistant.

Working with clip files:
When I realized that FCP screwed up during the ingest, the only thing I could do was to re-run the Log & Transfer for the corrupted clips. So I selected these in the browser window, right-clicked and chose “Make offline…”, then picking the “remove from disk” option. And this is where you should stop and check in the Finder if these files have been properly removed. In my cases, some were still on the disk, which resulted in a major hassle I’ll explain in the next section. Remember: Double-check if files you want to be removed really are removed.

Renaming files:
One sweet feature of FCP is the ability to rename files to match the clip name. However, if the file you’re trying to rename already exists, Final Cut won’t do it — without any prompt of the failed action. Here’s the story: I offlined the corrupted clips and ran the Log & Transfer again. Let’s say the clip (and file) name was “”. What happens is when Final Cut detects a file of this name in the Capture Scratch folder, it automatically increases the index number to the next one available, like “”, if files ranging from 5612 to 5677 have already been captured. But it displays “MVI_5612” in the browser window. Again, you can only rename file “” to match its clip name (“MVI_5612”) if the file “” does not exist in the same folder. Seems logical, but any decent piece of software would at least give you an obscure error message. Or crash with an exception. But I’m not getting into Avid here.

Media Manager:
Also known as the Media Mangler, it’s not advisable to use the Media Manager when you’re working with mixed footage. I had a project containing ProRes4444 FullHD 25p footage and DVCpro 720p50 footage. I had already figured out that there is no way to convert the 720p50 footage to 25fps without crushing the metadata (making re-capturing at a later time impossible, or at least very cumbersome), but the problem remains when you’re consolidating your project to get rid of unnecessary footage. Though all images match in the new project, edited audio gets totally mangled. My workaround for now is to render your audio coming from footage that is not in the timeline codec (in my case that’s all 720p50 audio because the timeline was ProRes4444) to a hard file. Make as many tracks as you need to have all padding for later edits, and then use the Media Manager to consolidate the project.

Rarevision offers an alternative to Compressor and FCP’s Log and Transfer to convert Canon 5D footage that I couldn’t test myself up to now, but the images on their site looks very promising.

March 10, 2011

It’s working, but different (Apple Compressor)

Filed under: video,workflow — Erik Dobberkau @ 13:59

This week I’ve been quite busy converting a series of videos into iPad-compatible format (which is h.264 video with AAC audio in an MP4 container), and I encountered an annoying glitch in Apple’s Compressor 3.5.x which is part of Final Cut Studio 3.

It’s been reported that when working with interlaced footage, de-nterlacing and downscaling leads to bad results. My experience and the solution I’m giving here has worked with DVCpro 1080i50 material, I can’t say if it works for other formats as well. Here’s the thing: When deinterlacing, you have to leave the Deinterlace Filter off. Here are some screenshots to show the massive differences between Compressor’s Preview and the actual results.

Compressor Preview with Deinterlace on

Fig. 1 — Compressor Preview with Deinterlace on

Compressor Preview with Deinterlace off

Fig. 2 — Compressor Preview with Deinterlace off

Once again, the source is 1080i, and I want the output to be 720p. The Image Processing settings are “better” for both Scaling and Deinterlacing, because “Optimum” takes ages to render. The output fields are set to “Progressive”.

In Fig.1, the Deinterlace filter in the Filters Tab has been added with the “even” setting. As you can see, the result (right side) is promised to look very smooth. In Fig. 2 the Deinterlace filter is off, all other settings are the same. Notice the jagged edges and compression artifacts on the right side.

Compressor Output with Deinterlace on

Fig. 3 — Compressor Output with Deinterlace on

Compressor Output with Deinterlace off

Fig. 4 — Compressor Output with Deinterlace off

But the results are just the other way round. In Fig. 3, which is the output from the processing with the filter enabled, the edges are all jagged and the whole image looks like a blow-up from one with half the resolution. But the file with the filter disabled (Fig. 4) looks all sweet.

Oh, by the way, should you experience Compressor abort encoding with a “NewMovieFromFile failed” error when converting WMV with Flip4Mac 2.2.x, my current workaround is to export the WMV from QuicktimePlayer 7 with a ProRes 422 Setting and then use Compressor on the ProRes file to make whatever format.


February 27, 2011

Compressor Troubleshooting

Filed under: video,workflow — Erik Dobberkau @ 11:38

If you’re working with Final Cut Studio , you might have experienced some trouble with Compressor. For instance, after some time on one machine at my workplace you couldn’t transcode on the machine itself, only other machines available on the network (for insiders: the qmasterd service not launching story). Or in another case Compressor (or rather the Batch Monitor) kept aborting the transcode with strange Quicktime errors.

In order to fix this, Apple put a Troubleshooting Guide online, but before you start try’n’error with it, I suggest you download Compressor Repair from Digital Rebellion, it really works wonders and fixed both of the problems I was talking about above without the hassle of a reinstall. Speaking of which I also recommend the FCS Remover app from the same company to get the software off your disk in the first place.

January 5, 2011

Different vs Better

Filed under: creativity,marketing,video — Erik Dobberkau @ 00:19

One year back, I was creating a TV trailer for a crime thriller feature, and when discussing the concept with the feature editor she insisted on having a certain shot in the trailer: “These wooden stick figures, they’re like the ones in The Blair Witch Project, that’ll help sell the thing.”

Except that the whole feature had nothing else in common with The Blair Witch Project. Whenever there’s something in your product that’s a reference to another product, you really need to question hard if that reference will do any good, because people can easily distinguish between “same but different” and “same but better”. And they choose accordingly.

[Just to tell the end: For me the only selling point were the two main actors. I’ll leave it to you to make up why the feature went successful.]

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