Editing in Widescreen

December 17, 2008 by Samantha Halfon · 2 Comments
Filed under: Editing 

Last year, our JVC Camcorder gave out after several years of good service and we decided to replace it this summer. In the meantime, we had got our Canon EOS 350D photo camera and really got to like it. So when the time came to pick a camera, we payed special attention to Canon. We ended up buying the Canon GL2. Our JVC was PAL, the GL2 is NTSC. We used the JVC as 1.33 aspect ratio (default, square) and started to use the GL2 as 1.66 (widescreen). Basically, everything is different.

When it comes to editing, there are a few things to know.

When you create your new project, you must select the right presets which can be:

  1. PAL Standard
  2. NTSC Standard
  3. PAL Widescreen
  4. NTSC Widescreen

The values that will change depending on the presets you select are:

  1. The frame size
  2. The frame rate
  3. The pixel aspect ratio

These settings will be important to have in mind when exporting the final movie and when importing outside elements like photos or animations. Of course you might also be editing in HD which is yet another format. I will not talk about HD here as we’ve not yet used it for our films.

Here is a sumup of these three values for the four availalbe presets:

Pal Standard

  • Frame Size: 720×576
  • Frame Rate: 25fps
  • Pixel Aspect Ratio: 1.067

NTSC Standard

  • Frame Size: 720×480
  • Frame Rate: 29.97fps
  • Pixel Aspect Ratio: 0.9

Pal Widescreen

  • Frame Size: 720×576
  • Frame Rate: 25fps
  • Pixel Aspect Ratio: 1.422

NTSC Widescreen

  • Frame Size: 720×480
  • Frame Rate: 29.97 fps
  • Pixel Aspect Ratio: 1.2

As you can notice, when switching from Standard to Widescreen, the frame size doesn’t change, the pixel aspect ratio does. If you need to import an image from a photo editing software, you will need to make sure your image respects this in order for it to fit (without distortion) into your movie. The same thing goes for an animation you might have produced before hand.

But why play with these odd pixel aspect ratios ? If pixels were squarred, the NTSC widescreen format frame size would be 864×486. So you can actually create your photo or animation using these dimensions and the standard squarre pixels. When using them in your movie project, these will look correct (no distortion). It’s a lot easier to handle them that way, even if it means remembering more numbers.

Here are the frame sizes (using a square pixel ration) for the two widescreen formats we are interested in:

PAL Widescreen

1024 [720 * 1.422]

576 [1024 * 9 / 16]

NTSC Widescreen

864 [720 * 1.2]

486 [864 * 9 / 16]

To illustrate these explanations, I used one of our photos and resized it three different ways then imported it to a NTSC Widescreen editing project.

  1. Resized it to a 720×480 squared pixels image
  2. Resized it to a 720×480 1.2 pixels image
  3. Resized it to a 864×486 squared pixels image

I imported these images into the project and displays them into the monitor.

  1. As expected, the first image doesn’t fit. It looks like a “Standard image” into a “Widescreen frame” with black empty lines on the sides
  2. The second image has the correct ratio, it is not distorted and fits the mointor.
  3. The third image is also correct
ntsc_wide_720-480-square

A 720x480 squared pixel image in a widescreen movie

ntsc_wide_720-480-pixel-12

A 720x480 1.2pixels in a widescreen movie

ntsc_wide_864-486

A 864x486 sqared pixel image in a widescreen movie

We had to study these issues recently as we switched to a Widescreen mode and hope our conclusions can help you understand these aspect ratio problems. We are also opened to any sggestions about working with widescreen you may have.

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DIY: Building An Editing Station

December 12, 2008 by Derrick Faw · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Computing, Editing, Equipment 

The two basic tools needed to film these days are a camera and a computer. Digital editing has brought filmmaking to a whole new level and availability. Now anyone with a half decent computer can do basic video editing in the comfort of their own home. Though it doesn’t take long to realize, a powerful machine can process video quickly and efficiently. The worst thing about computing has always been waiting on processes. Last year at Christmas, Samantha’s sister gave her a nice collection of flashy gadgets for a computer. We decided we should build a whole new computer to house these treasures. In the process it became apparent we would be building a whole new editing station to run on both Linux and Windows XP. We have never really liked off the shelf desktop systems. The low end models are too basic with junk for components The upper end models are way too expensive. Both are usually stacked with proprietary software and not to mention Windows Vista. I became interested in building my own machines about 10 years ago, and haven’t thought of doing it any other way since. To the novice it might seem frightening or too complex, but it is very easy and affordable. For film editing you basically have two platforms to choose from, Mac or Windows. If your choice is Windows or Linux or both then why not build your “dream machine”. If you prefer running a Mac operating system, you are probably better off to purchase a system from them. Though it is possible to build a machine to run Mac, there are legal issues in doing so.

One great advantage of living in Paris is Rue Montgallet. Located in in the 12th Arrondissement, this street and it’s surrounding neighbors are home of more computer stores than can be found anywhere I know of. Paris is funny in that way, if you want computer stuff you can go to the computer street, if you want a guitar you can go to the music street, the same works for photography and other areas of interest. Many of the stores there collaborate together in a website http://www.rue-montgallet.com/, but be forewarned, use it as a guide only. The stores are sporadic and prices and availability may vary slightly. The best thing to do is establish a relationship with an individual store, which we have, or you are doomed to walk the streets in crowed little shops looking for the right component at the right price. At any means by the end of the day you come home with better deals than you can find anywhere else. Back in North Carolina I found that the Internet is the best place to shop for computer components. For a good place to start, try places like B&H. There you can also find a full range of top quality computers for all your video, audio, and photo needs.

Maintaining a machine that has the best of modern technologies is tough. It takes no time at all for technologies to be replaced and advanced. We built our machine early this year, by now better components would be much cheaper. Though this might seem disheartening, if you build a machine that works good for you, stick with it. The number one advice I know to give in keeping your editing station working good is to keep it clean. It should not be your primary computer, limited exposure to the Internet and useless software will keep any Windows based system running a lot better.

There are many issues to consider when building your machine. What editing software do you want to use? What operating system is needed? How does your camera output? There are many guides online that deal with computer components and building systems. A few simple Google searches will yield a world of information. I will reserve any lengthy descriptions of components in this article. To build a machine the following hardware will be necessary:

  • Processor
  • Motherboard
  • Memory
  • Hard Drive
  • Video Card
  • DVD Burner
  • Case
  • Power Supply

Processor: We chose the Intel Core 2 Duo E6750 (2.67 ghz) for our machine. A good trick is to wait until a new processor is released and buy the previous version. The price will have been reduced and you still get something probably better than you had before. For editing video I recommend the best processor for the money you have available to spend, it will be the heart of your system. Research forums and reviews very carefully before you make this choice. For example at the moment Intel makes the best series, next week it could be AMD.

Motherboard: AKA mainboard. First it has to be a model which supports your processor. There are many companies making many models of boards, we chose the Asus P5K. The selection of a board is also critical to the performance of your machine. I would advise a large board with a lot of room for oversized video cards and to allow good air circulation. This was especially a concern for use because we have a Canapus DV Storm video acquisition card that we picked up on eBay a few years ago. Another important consideration is to have an adequate number of USB2 and firewire connections for your needs. Choose a motherboard capable of holding the maximum amount of memory (RAM), you will not be disappointed and it will help you get the most out of your processor.

Memory: We bought 4 GB G-Skill (6400 ddr2-800) of RAM for our machine, don’t go too cheep and get the fastest possible and also made by a reputable brand.

Hard Drive: Any new board you buy now will have SATA connections for hard drives. Which is really beneficial for video editors because of the increased speed. For any kind of serious editing I would advise having new hard drives, and even duplicates for backup. Don’t put yourself through the heartbreak of loosing all your data. There is only one hard drive I recommend, it is the Seagate Barracuda. Get one of sufficient size, recently we purchased two 1 terabyte drives for backups at a very reasonable price. You can do your own research but from our experience you will find nothing more dependable. For more information on how our backup system works, check out a post in Samantha’s personal blog about Building Our Backup system.

Video Card: Even if your computer has an onboard video controller, I highly suggest investing in a dual output video card. When editing it is very beneficial to have two screens running at the same time. We went with a fairly cheap card, the Nvidia Geforce 8400gs. For our purposes it works wonderfully. If you are handling 3D on the other hand, you should get something a lot better.

DVD burner: We went with a Pioneer DVR-212. It has a SATA interface and capability of burning dual layer DVDs. According to your specific needs, you may wish to have the capability of burning Blu-Ray, which we do not at this time since we do not film in HD.

Case: Now you have all you need to process and you need a house to put it all in. I do not suggest getting a case with a built in power supply. These can be noisey or not carry enough watts to keep your system healthy. Since we had all the bells and whistles from Samantha’s sister, we needed a case with a window. Cases can be bought for half the price we paid for ours, but for both of us it was love at first site. We got the Antec Nine Hundred hardcore gaming case. It is simply loaded with features and looks good too.

Power Supply: Don’t go cheap! Get yourself at least 500 watts and preferably by a superior brand. Cheap supplies tend to be unreliable in their power delivery and very noisey. Again, as with all components, Do The Research.

We also added a simple 16 in 1 card reader on the front panel. So with a lot of screwing, plugging, and arranging, we built a great editing machine for a bit less than €500. Note though that price does not include screens or the Canapus card, which we already had. Note: a video acquisition card probably isn’t necessary for your machine, it is an added luxury you can probably do without. Also, you will of course need an operating system, e.g. windows and or linux and your favorite editing software. The night we put it together we took a few pics, the end product looks like this.

OK it looks like a night club, a bit unnecessary for video editing. But it gets the job done and life should be enjoyed.

Index your DV Tapes

December 11, 2008 by Samantha Halfon · 3 Comments
Filed under: Computing, Editing 

As video and photo cameras went digital, it became cheaper to shoot. Ten hours of high quality DV tapes costs about 10 euros and with one 30 euros Compact Flash card (4 gigabytes) we can take around 800 raw pictures on our camera. Of course, with increasing footage quantities, the necessity to archive and index images becomes an urging issue.

We have several DV tapes of edited and non edited footage to edit soon. We do not erase and reuse our tapes. We keep them in case we want to go back and re-edit something. We also sometimes archive edited films back on DV tape in addition to the hard drive copy. One problem though is to be able to quickly find a scene to recapture it if we need to. All this material is useless unless we can quickly get to it.

A second thing I like to have when I edit, is printed out sheets showing shot thumbnails, timecodes and a description. When editing a movie, over a long period of time (sometimes month) it comes very handy to be able to annotate scenes and to visualize the rushes without browsing through the tapes everytime and without having to keep everything handy on the editing drive.

I recentely came across a software that could answer bth these needs. Cassette DV is a free (for non commercial use) software that offers to index a DV tape content and to browse the indexed sequences. When browsing, we can also select a scene or several scene and mark them for capture. The software will then automatically batch capture the scenes we need to edit a given movie. It’s a great gain of time as well as of hard disk space. Cassette DV can also capture the video while creating the index using either the dv format or a preinstalled DivX codec. In my case, I really appreciate the first option which is to get a serie of images showing the first frame of every scene and later on capture the sequences I really need.

Cassette DV is pretty simple to use and seems to work very well with my configuration: Win XP SP3 and JVC DV Camcorder (the one I used to record these tapes). To index your scenes with Cassette DV, just follow thes easy steps:

  • Download and install Cassette DV from it’s developer’s site.
  • Plug your camera using your firmware port and launch it in VCR mode.
  • Launch Cassette DV. The software recognizes the camera and is able to control it.
  • Open the preference pane to enter your tape name and eventually set the capture format (avi or divx) if you wish to capture. Launch the indexation by cliquing on “GO”.
  • The tape starts playing and the different scenes, auto detected, appear at the bottom. That’s all

The indexation completed, you can enter the catalog mode to browse through your scene, add a description to each shot and prepare a capture list. The indexation format (.scn) is also compatible with Pinacle Studio.

Cassette DV is developped by Paul Glagla who wrote several other tools for video makers. They are all listed on his website. I yet have to test DV Date myself.

Here are some screenshots of the application I took while indexing my first tape:

Cassette DV: capture window

Cassette DV: capture window

Cassette DV: detected scenes thumbnails

Cassette DV: detected scenes thumbnails

Cassette DV: preference pane

Cassette DV: preference pane

Cassette DV: browse catalog window

Cassette DV: browse catalog window

While indexing, I ran a quick search for similar products and found two worth testing:

  • ScenAnalyzer Live, a software dedicated to batch capturing and scene indexation compatible with Canopus products.
  • DV Quick Scan Digest which is part of the Ulead Video Studio suite developped by Corel. The software provides the same features as the above with the addition of an html export of the thumbnails. That makes the printing of my editing sheet a lot better and I will more than likely give that application a tryout very soon. Stay tuned.
ScenAnalyzer tape index

ScenAnalyzer tape index

As always, we welcome your input. If you have any tips to share about archiving and indexating photo and video content, please drop us a comment.