Wednesday, July 4, 2007

P2 Workflow, laptops, etc...

Ever since I bought a Panasonic HVX200, my production life has changed for the better. Proof being in the pudding, I won a Telly award this year for a green screen project done on the HVX.

Quality issues aside (the image does look extremely good), the workflow has become all-digital, which I love, but also with pluses and minuses:

WORKFLOW

On shoots I record to P2 cards, then offload the media to a Windows laptop using P2Genie. Back in the edit bay, I copy this media to a hard drive dedicated to the project, then ingest using Final Cut Pro's native P2 import tools. Works like a charm.

PLUSES:
  1. Never have to fool around with tape, and the associated problems, again.
  2. Very limited possibility of dropouts; no possibility of head clog or failure.
  3. Easy to use in rough environments.
  4. Using auxiliary equipment (eg, DV Rack, P2 Store or Focus Enhancements FS-100), recording time to disk can be greatly extended. However, I still recommend P2 cards as one won't have to fool with the camera tethered to another piece of equipment.
  5. Flexibility: P2 cameras can link to auxiliary DV gear, such as decks, etc, for extended recording on tape in DV, DVCPRO, HDV or other formats. I've done this when hired to record day-long events.
MINUSES:
  1. Requires management of media, both on site and in post, and even after wrap-up to ensure retrievable media in the event of a re-edit down the line. It ain't like saving a tape.
    1. Saving the raw media on a high-quality hard disk drive that is dedicated to the project seems to be the answer for me.
  2. Depending on the number and size of P2 cards one has, it may require an interruption in shooting to offload the media to disk or laptop.
  3. Cards are expensive. But, you never have to buy tape again. Nor will you explain to your client why you missed a shot because the tape failed.
  4. Must be careful when selecting a laptop.
    1. For example, HP laptops have difficulty reading P2 cards. This was confirmed by HP support. And this is true for P2 cards connected to HP laptops through the Duel Adapter, as well.
    2. I was sure to buy a laptop that had native card support for both PCMCIA and Expresscard. The best I could find was the Toshiba P105-6217. I like this laptop, but think it's now discontinued. Figures.
    3. Win Vista can be a problem. Everything runs under Win XP, but to get some production software (such as DV Rack) to run under Vista might require extra effort. See this for more info.
CONCLUSIONS

For me the pluses far outweigh the minuses. I find I shoot more and better in this all-digital scenario.

Feel free to add comments about this, but it's a workflow that really fits the bill for me.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Using PowerPoint Slides in a Video Presentation

This is often a problem, because, even though PowerPoint can output JPG files, they look terrible.

I recently completed a job that had over 650 slides from PowerPoint included - 7 hours worth. To say I am experienced with this is an understatement.

One solution is to print the files as Acrobat PDF files. Even though the sildes will be created as JPGs within the PDF, the quality is considerably better.

Another solution is to output to TIFF files; this format is lossless, and has much better output at the expense of file siaze.

However, none of this can work well enough if you don't set the page size properly.

More later...

DV Rack HD 2.0 and Vista

I am a filmmaker and video producer, using digital equipment exclusively. One of the pieces of software that I use is called DV Rack. Please bear with me, because this is complex, and is written with the hope it will help others.

DV Rack ran well on all versions of Win XP, but then along came Vista. I'm not going to trash Vista outright, but I will say Microsoft made it hard for it's customers to be kind to them. One of the ways in which this has affected me is trying to install and use the software on which I rely for my work. Enter DV Rack.

DV Rack has always had problems with the manner in which it authenticates ownership. I really thought we were beyond weird copy protection schemes, but apparently not.

Note that I have installed into Vista the Microsoft .net framework 1.1 . This is required for other software, such as P2Genie. Newer versions will not work properly.

Note also that I purchased DV Rack starting with version 1.0, and have upgraded to DV Rack HD 2.0 along the way. Therefore, installing and getting it to run properly in Vista is probably the most complicated it could be.

INSTALLATION

Once DV rack installs, it will run another program for authentication. That app will ask for your name, email address, and sometimes the installation key; sometimes the key will be automatically entered. In my case, because I had used the software on another computer and had already registered, the authentication app wouldn't take my information, and repeatedly crashed, no matter what combination or order of things I tried. It was very frustrating, and took days to figure out the proper order of things.

Cutting to the chase, here's what I had to do:
  1. Install DV Rack 1.0. Do not authenticate.
  2. Download and install the PATCH for DV Rack 1.0. It's important that this be installed before authentication.
  3. Authenticate DV Rack 1.0. In my case, I had to use a different e-mail address, getting error messages. It was not clear that DV Rack had been authenticated at this point, but it had.
  4. Install the HDV upgrade. Authenticate. I had to use the original e-mail address I used long ago when I registered that software upgrade (not the address used to authenticate V 1.0). Again, it may not be apparent that the software has authenticated.
  5. Install the upgrade for DV Rack HD 2.0. Authenticate, and use the original e-mail address, if you authenticated previously.
Voila, for me, HD Rack HD 2.0 installed in Vista and is working.

Zebron and James


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