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February 09, 2012

Table of Contents

Tutorial: Encoding H.264 Video in Adobe Media Encoder CS5.5 and Apple Compressor 4
First Look: infiniWing LandingZone MacBook Air Connector Dock
Tutorial: Making Fast and Simple Color Adjustments in Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5
Tutorial: Setting Up a Greenscreen for Studio Shoots
Nikon Introduces 36.3MP D800 With 1080p/30 Video
Anton/Bauer Intros QRC-CA9840 Gold Mount for Canon EOS C300
Panasonic Opens 2nd Annual Shoot It. Share It Online Video Competition for AG-AF100 Users
Neat Video Announces OpenFX Noise Reduction Filter for ASSIMILATE SCRATCH

Tutorial: Encoding H.264 Video in Adobe Media Encoder CS5.5 and Apple Compressor 4

If you’re a streaming producer you have to know how to produce H.264 for both Flash distribution and for mobile devices. Fortunately, Adobe Media Encoder makes this simple with multiple presets for desktop and mobile players which I’ll show you how to find and customize in this tutorial. If you’re coming over from Final Cut Pro 7 and Compressor, you’ll be happy to know that Adobe Media Encoder is much easier to use than Compressor, encodes faster, and produces much higher quality output, as you can see in the video that accompanies this article.

Encoding Sequences from Premiere Pro

So let’s start our look at Adobe Media Encoder in Premiere Pro, which is the application from which you’ll access Adobe Media Encoder most of the time. To encode a sequence in Adobe Media Encoder, you choose a sequence to export and then select File > Export > Media. The Export Settings window opens (Figure 1, below)

.Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5

Premiere Pro’s Export Settings window

Choosing H.264 Formats

Any time you’re going to work in the Export Settings window, you should start by choosing a format. If you’re producing H.264 for streaming, there are two formats that you should consider. The first, H.264, is for general-purpose H.264 output including iPod and iPhone as well as exporting for UGC upload, with Vimeo and YouTube presets available at the bottom of the drop-down list box (Figure 2, below).

Adobe Media Encoder CS5.5

Figure 2. General-purpose H.264 Export Settings options

If you’re producing for Flash, there’s an F4V export option; there are also options for exporting for Blu-ray. One of the nice things about Adobe Media Encoder is that it supports a lot of different export formats. You’ve got FLV, you’ve got P2, you’ve got MXF—in short, a lot more export presets than you do with Compressor 4, and a lot more formats you can access without buying a plugin or using a separate tool.

Choosing Encoding Presets

After you’ve chosen your format, you choose your preset. The video used in this tutorial is a clip shot at Streaming Media West that I’m editing for upload to OnlineVideo.net. Because I’ve shot and encoded clips for OnlineVideo.net in the past, I’ve got two different custom presets customized for the site, which you can see at the top of the pull-down in Figure 2. One is for video and the other is for screencams.

Because I have a custom preset already available that I can use to encode this clip for the target site, all I have to do is choose this custom preset and then click the Queue button at the bottom of the Export Settings dialog. This will send the file to Adobe Media Encoder, which is what you’ll do most of the time. Alternatively, you can choose Export, which will export the encoded file directly from Premiere Pro (using the same encoding engine), but will lock up Premiere Pro during the Export period.

Working in the Adobe Media Encoder Interface

In most cases, you’ll want to choose Queue and launch Adobe Media Encoder (AME), whether it’s to give you more oversight of the encoding process or to keep the encode from interrupting your editing workflow in Premiere Pro (or both).

AME’s Queue Window

Figure 3 (below) shows Adobe Media Encoder’s three-window interface. On top is the Queue window, which shows you the files that are queued for encoding, with columns for the format, the preset, and the output file.

Adobe Media Encoder CS5.5

Figure 3. Adobe Media Encoder’s 3-window interface with the Queue window on top

AME’s Current Encode Window

Below the Queue window is the Current Encode window Figure 4 (below). You begin encoding files in this window by clicking Start Queue. Once your files start encoding, you’ll be able to see the files’ encoding progress in this window. If there are any obvious mismatches for aspect ratio, or if you see letterboxing or anything like that, watching the encoding process in this window gives you an opportunity to spot the problem before the encode is done. This is a nice feature that will save you some time every once a while when you do make a mistake.

Adobe Media Encoder CS5.5

Figure 4. AME’s Current Encode window

The Watch Folder Window

Below the Current Encode window is the Watch folder window. Compressor 4 also supports watch folders, but only if you know how to create and manage them via Apple script; Adobe Media Encoder, by contrast, supports watch folders in the interface itself.

Figure 5 (below) shows a single watch folder that I’ve set up to produce 5 separate files for adaptive streaming, so that if, at any time, I want to produce these files, I just drop the source file into a single watch folder and AME will encode all 5 of these files. This is a very convenient function if you’re producing for adaptive streaming.

Adobe Media Encoder CS5.5

Figure 5. A Watch folder in AME CS5.5

Customizing H.264 Encoding Presets

So that’s the overview; now let’s get into customizing your presets for H.264 encoding. If you click on a preset in the Preset column of the Queue section at the top of the interface, the Export Settings dialog opens once again. We’ve seen this before when exporting from Premiere Pro. Here you’ll see five tabs that control the basic options in the encoding interface.

The Filters Tab

The first tab on the left is the Filters tab. One filter that will be familiar in name and function to Final Cut users is the Gaussian Blur filter (Figure 6, below). If you’ve got very noisy video, you might want to try applying the Gaussian Blur at the encode stage (if not before).

Adobe Media Encoder CS5.5

Figure 6. The Gaussian Blur filter

The Multiplexer Tab

The Multiplexer tab (Figure 7, below) is where you customize the multiplex settings for 3GPP (cell phone use), MP4 (general-purpose MP4 use), and None, which is separate audio and video files. If you do choose MP4, you’ve got 3 options to choose from. First is Standard, which includes upload to You Tube, upload to UGC sites, and general-purpose H.264 production. You’ve also got PSP, which provides stream compatibility that you can set for Play Station Portable, and the third option, iPod.

Adobe Media Encoder CS5.5

Figure 7. The Multiplexer tab

The Audio tab

In the Audio tab you’ll find typical parameters. First you choose your codec. Your choices include AAC, AAC+ Version 1, and AAC+ Version 2 (Figure 8, below). Typically, I’ll use just AAC because it’s the most broadly compatible.

Adobe Media Encoder CS5.5

Figure 8. Codec choices in the Audio tab

Output Channels choices include Mono, Stereo, and 5.1. You can also choose an Audio Quality setting–Low, Medium, or High—although that typically has no effect because the bit rate controls the quality.

You choose your bit rate in the Bit Rate Settings field below. You can also choose whether bit rate has precedence over frequency, which is typically the option that I select.

The FTP Tab

In the FTP tab, if you’re producing a file that you want to upload to a remote location via FTP after the encoding is completed, just select the checkbox shown in Figure 9 (below), fill in the credentials, and Adobe Media Encoder will upload the file to that FTP site once encoding is complete.

Adobe Media Encoder CS5.5

Figure 9. The FTP tab

The Video Tab

So let’s come back to the Video tab, which is where you do most of the heavy lifting when you’re encoding video (Figure 10, below). The first thing you’ll notice is that Adobe uses the MainConcept H.264 video codec, and that’s true for both H.264 production and H.264 production for Flash. That’s important because it’s much higher quality than the Apple codec that Apple uses in Compressor and we’ll see some examples of that later in the tutorial.

Adobe Media Encoder CS5.5

Figure 10. The Video tab

A lot of this stuff is going to look pretty standard if you’ve produced compressed video before: You’ve got your resolution, you’ve got your frame rate, and field order. All streaming files are progressive, so you can just leave the Field Order setting at the default Progressive (None).

Then you’ve got your aspect ratio. This is a 16:9 file that we’re using in this example, so Widescreen 16:9 is the right option. When I’m encoding files with the Adobe Media Encoder I toggle back and forth between the Source and Output windows because if there is a mismatch between the source file and that output pixel aspect ratio, it’ll show up here in the black bars (Figure 11, below).

Adobe Media Encoder CS5.5

Figure 11. The black bars in the video window indicate a mismatch between the source file and the output pixel aspect ratio.

So toggle this back and forth and then you can set the Pixel Aspect Ratio field to Square Pixels or you can set it for Widescreen 16:9. Both work, and you’ll know that it works when you toggle back and forth between Source and Output because there will be no black bars or other issues.

Profile and Level

Now let’s come back to Profile and Level, which are the two H.264 encoding parameters you can access directly in this interface (Figure 12, here). Typically you won’t select the Render at Maximum depth, because it doesn’t add any quality, and it takes a little bit more time.

Adobe Media Encoder CS5.5

Figure 12. Profile and Level, the two H.264 encoding parameters you can set in the Video tab

Bitrate Encoding Settings

Figure 13 (below) shows your Bit Rate Encoding Settings. For most general purpose encoding, you’re going to want to choose VBR, 2 Pass. If you’re encoding for adaptive streaming or encoding for limited-bit rate connections such as cellular, you may want to use CBR. If you choose VBR, 2 Pass, you can choose your target data rate, which we have at 6Mbps (six megabits per second) in Figure 13.

Adobe Media Encoder CS5.5

Figure 13. Choosing VBR, 2 Pass, 6Mbps for video encoding

With VBR (which stands for variable bit rate), you can also set the maximum bit rate. Typically I’ll set that at twice the target, so in this case I’d choose 12. If you want to set the keyframe distance (the interval between key frames in which the VBR encoder assesses and sets a bit rate), you select the Set Keyframe Distance checkbox, and then you can put in any interval that you want. Typically, when I’m producing for streaming or for upload, I’ll use 300 frames, which is 10 seconds with a 29.97 file.

At the bottom of the screen, selecting Maximum Render Quality, which will produce the maximum quality. It could cost you in encoding time, but not so much if you’ve got an NVIDIA CUDA card in your system, which I recommend for all CS5.5 production.

You would select the Use Frame Blending checkbox if you changed the frame rate between the source and the output footage. We didn’t do that with this clip. If you’ve previewed your video on a timeline, you might want to choose Use Previews, which could speed encoding time by using previews that were produced in the Premiere Pro. Again, we didn’t do that with this clip so that’s not an issue.

H.264 Parameters

Next, let’s come back to the H.264 parameters. First, we’ll look at encoding profiles. Your choices include Baseline, Main, and High. As we’ll see, you can choose only Main or Baseline in Compressor 4, and that’s probably one of the reasons that the quality isn’t as good in Compressor as what you get with the Adobe Media Encoder.

When I’m producing for computer playback of online video, typically I’ll use the High Profile. I don’t really care about Level in this scenario because that’s not relevant when you’re producing for computer playback.

If you’re producing for mobile device playback then you typically want to let Adobe Media Encoder choose the profile and the level (Figure 14, below). With mobile delivery, you don’t want to adjust the profile or level because if you do adjust them and you take the encoded video out of spec for the targeted device, the file may not load or it may not play.

Adobe Media Encoder CS5.5

Figure 14. When encoding for mobile devices, let AME pick the level.

Let’s come back to the preset that I was using for OnlineVideo.net. Figure 15 shows the profile and level that I have set for this particular file.

Adobe Media Encoder CS5.5

Figure 15. Encoding settings (including Profile and Level) for the file we’re encoding with our OnlineVideo.net presets

Entropy Encoding and B-Frames

How does Adobe Media Encoder handle entropy encoding and B frames, which are two pretty critical parameters to H.264 encoding? The chart in Figure 16, below illustrates that.

Entropy Encoding

Figure 16. Profile-Dependent Entropy Encoding and B-Frames

For most H.264 encoding, the profile that you choose controls both entropy coding and B-Frames. So if you choose the Baseline profile, you use CAVLC as opposed to CABAC, and you have no B-Frames. That makes sense because the Baseline profile can’t handle CAVLC or B-Frames. If you encode using the Main Profile, Adobe Media Encoder uses CABAC entropy coding and inserts 3 B-Frames. If you use the High Profile, it also uses CABAC, but it uses the two B-Frames.

The only exception to this is when you’re producing for Apple i-devices. If you produce in this configuration, Adobe Media Encoder will always use CAVLC and will not insert any B-Frames into the compressed stream. All other configurations let the selected profile control whether you use B-Frames and which version of entropy coding.

Saving a New Custom Preset

Now we’ve set our parameters. If you want to save the parameters you’ve chosen for a given clip as a preset, click the Save Preset button shown in Figure 17. The Choose Name dialog opens, and there you can name your new preset. Then next time you want to encode to these parameters, or any other saved custom presets, all custom presets will appear above the presets that come with the product itself.

Adobe Media Encoder CS5.5

Figure 17. Selecting Save Preset to the right of the Preset field in the Encode Settings window

Apple Compressor 4

So, compared to Apple Compressor 4—the version of Compressor that became available the same week as Final Cut Pro X—Adobe Media Encoder is a lot easier to use. As you can see Compressor uses different interfaces for mobile and desktop encoding (Figure 18, below). It doesn’t support the high profile, and it makes you work through three different screens to set your video encoding parameters.

Apple Compressor 4

Figure 18. Apple Compressor 4

Compressor is also slower than the Adobe Media Encoder. It encoded our test file in 7 minutes and 10 seconds compared to the Adobe Media Encoder, which produced the same file in 4 minutes and 17 seconds. Compressor's quality is also much lower, as you can see in the side-by-side comparisons in Figure 19 (below) and 20 (below).

Apple Compressor 4 vs. Adobe Media Encoder CS5.5

Apple Compressor 4 vs. Adobe Media Encoder CS5.5

Figures 19 and 20. Two side-by-side comparisons of encoded video quality in Apple Compressor and Adobe Media Encoder

Even in this low motion video footage you can see that there’s slightly more detail in the images on the right, and in the second set of images you can also see the start of fading in the shirt in the Compressor footage.

In the higher-motion clips shown in Figure 21 (below), again in the Compressor footage you see loss of detail, you see no pinstripes in the image on the left (Compressor) while they’re obvious in the image on the right (Adobe Media Encoder), and you’re starting to see a lot of fading in the Compressor footage.

Apple Compressor 4 vs. Adobe Media Encoder CS5.5

Figure 21. Higher-motion footage comparison

As we get into higher- and higher-motion video, such as the footage that yielded the screenshots in Figures 22 and 23 (below), you’re going to see even more evidence of that. You see much more detail in the face in the Adobe Media Encoder version than the Compressor version, much more detail, and very usable quality for the Adobe Media Encoder where the image is obviously faded with almost complete loss of detail for Compressor.

Apple Compressor 4 vs. Adobe Media Encoder CS5.5

Apple Compressor 4 vs. Adobe Media Encoder CS5.5

Figures 22 and 23. High-motion ballet footage comparison

So now you know how to choose and customize H.264-related presets in the Adobe Media Encoder. You’ve also seen that Adobe Media Encoder is faster and produces higher-quality output than Apple Compressor 4.

Back to Contents...

First Look: infiniWing LandingZone MacBook Air Connector Dock

A new attendee to Macworld—the annual confab that used to be dedicated to all things Macintosh—might be confused by the fact that the show, jointly held with iWorld, was much more about the apps and hardware surrounding iDevices—from the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch—than it was about the eponymously named laptop and desktop computers.

Still, in the midst of all the iDevice covers, keyboards, and apps—from entertainment to productivity—there were a few gems that caught our attention when it comes to streaming media production.

One new product showcased at Macworld 2012 in San Francisco last week has potential to be a single-stop connector for all your big-screen MacBook Air needs. At least for Core2 Duo machines.

Enter the infiniWing LandingZone

Kitae Kwon, CEO of infiniWing, Inc., proudly showed off the 11" version of his LandingZone product at Macworld 2012.

"You can see that the depressions in the main bar align with the feet of the MacBook Air," Kwon said, pointing to the dimple-like cut-outs on the LandingZone dock as he placed an 11" MacBook Air in position for the dock to work.

Then he flicked the connector bar's oversized handle, driving the USB and other connectors on either side of the MacBook Air into their respective slots.

LandingZone, which will be available in a few weeks for $199.00 in two sizes—11" or 13" designs—mimics all the connectors of a last-generation Core2Duo MacBook Air. Read on to find out about current model MacBook Air devices, which have Thunderbolt connectors instead of mini DisplayPort connectors.

infiniWing LandingZone

Why Should I Care?

So what's the big deal about the LandingZone? It provides more USB ports than a MacBook Air natively has, offers integrated Ethernet, and doesn't cover up some of the slots that other MacBook Air solutions are less tolerant of.

"We made sure we didn't cover over the headphone jack on the left side of the Air," said Kwon, "or the SD card slot on the right side."

USB

LandingZone has two USB hubs—well, more specifically, one USB pass-through connector and one USB hub. The pass-through USB sits at the extreme left of the LandingZone connector bar, next to the Kensington locking mechanism.

Located at the back of the unit, below where the rear of the MacBook Air rests, the four-port USB hub sports three USB connectors and a 10/100 Ethernet port. For those MacBook Air users that push a significant amount of content across a network, the Ethernet port is a missing link that didn't fit with the Air's ultra-thin laptop status. Until now, the only option was to use the USB-to-Ethernet dongle that Apple sells for approximately $39 (although better deals are available on Amazon).

Mini DisplayPort

The other connector on the back of the LandingZone is a mini DisplayPort connector, the same type that's on the back-right corner of both the 11" and 13" Core2 Duo MacBook Air models. The rear-right corner of the LandingZone has the exact same mini DisplayPort connector, allowing a large monitor to be driven by the diminutive laptop.

"To disconnect from a Cinema Display, just close your laptop," said Kwon, "and open the LandingZone's handle. Once the MacBook Air is disconnected, open its display and—just a few seconds later—everything on the big screen will appear on the Air's screen."

In our testing at the booth, we found we didn't even need to close the MacBook Air's lid for this to occur—often in about 1.5 seconds instead of the 6-8 seconds it takes for the Air to wake up after the lid is closed—but we also realize it may be a moot point since many users will close the lid of the MacBook Air to focus on a single large screen instead of working between the small screen and the external monitor.

Thunderbolt Support?

For current MacBook Air devices, which replace the mini DisplayPort with a Thunderbolt connector, Kwon was non-committal on the release schedule for a Thunderbolt-equipped version. Since Thunerbolt is a 10 gigabit (Gbps) bi-directional signal path, the ability to add gigabit ethernet is assured—something that would make little sense on the current USB-based Ethernet, which tops out at a theoretical 480 megabits per second (Mbps).

Ars Technica, however, reports that infiniWing says it's waiting for confirmation of a licensing agreement from Intel, and Kwon did mention to me that the Thunderbolt version would cost a bit more. Hopefully not too much more, since the $199 price point is appealing to a wider range of consumers.

Power

The most ingenious piece of engineering, in my view, is the way the LandingZone integrates the newer metal-encased MagSafe adapter in to the LandingZone's left-hand connector bar: a slot allows a user to slip their MagSafe adapter in at a 90-degree angle, aligning it perfectly with the MagSafe receiver on the MacBook Air, once the Air is dropped into place.

One other, often overlooked connector also sits between the USB ports and mini DisplayPort on the rear of the LandingZone: an external DC power connector. This connector, Kwon explained, is for USB power in case the power load on the three USB ports / Ethernet connector is higher than what the single USB port on the MacBook Air's right side can supply.

Bottom Line

Well thought-out design and functionality. In fact, when an Air is aligned with the connectors on either end of the LandingZone, the connections are solid and within very close tolerances, highlighting the fact that InfiniWing spent a good deal of time measuring twice and cutting once—or just doing a number of CAD drawings and prototypes.

For professional producers, this product would be very helpful to have in three locations: a live production studio, a nonlinear editing suite, and a field production unit.

Back to Contents...

Tutorial: Making Fast and Simple Color Adjustments in Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5

When you compress video for the web, the video can darken and colors can become muted. In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to correct color and adjust brightness and color saturation with Adobe Premiere Pro’s Fast Color Corrector. If you’re a Final Cut Pro 7 user, I’ll also show you that Premiere Pro’s tools work very similarly to those that you’re used to and should be much easier to learn than those used in Final Cut Pro X. Let’s take a look.

Figure 1 (below) shows the clip we’ll be working with, which was shot at Streaming Media West in Los Angeles last year. There are two problems: First, the color is a bit off—the sign is white and not brown—and second, my face is a bit too dark. So we’ll fix both of those with the Fast Color Corrector.

Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5

Figure 1. The clip we’ll work on, with multiple color issues.

(Go to page 2 of this article to continue.)

Working in Premiere Pro’s Waveform Monitor

Before adjusting brightness in Premiere Pro, open the Waveform monitor by first selecting Window > Reference monitor. The Reference monitor opens with composite video showing; change it to the Waveform monitor by clicking the Output button and selecting YC Waveform Figure 2 (below).

Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5

Figure 2. Selecting YC Waveform in the Reference monitor.

The Waveform monitor shows the Brightness value of the pixels on a scale from 0–100 IRE, with 0 being black. (The Brightness value of the black you see in Figure 2 is 7.5.) After the adjustments that we’ll make in the Waveform monitor, the black portions of the image will be close to zero and the whites will be close to 100. You can see my face in the Preview Monitor on the right, which is represented by the clump of pixels circled in Figure 3 (below). If I move the video back and forth, that clump of pixels moves as my head moves, which highlights the fact that the horizontal location of the pixels in the video corresponds to where they’re located in the Waveform monitor. So it’s pretty easy to see exactly what you’re adjusting in the Waveform monitor and that’s helpful for a couple of reasons that we’ll discuss throughout the tutorial.

Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5

Figure 3. The clump of pixels representing my face in the Waveform monitor.

Now let’s adjust the Waveform. I prefer to show only brightness adjustments so I’ll deselect the Chroma checkbox at the top of the Reference monitor (Figure 4, below).

Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5

Figure 4. Deselecting Chroma so we see only Brightness adjustments represented in the waveform.

I like my blacks to be set at zero IRE, so I’ll click set up and bring the blacks down to 0. I like the intensity set to 100 because it’s easier to read, but these are subjective and you can find the settings that work best for you. When we look at a Waveform, there are two things we care about: First, we want the maximum whites to be up close to 100. Second, we want the blacks to be around zero; once the blacks come off of zero, everything starts to look faded. Whatever adjustments you make, you want to make sure that blacks portions of the image stay at zero, and for a subject in my skin tone range, you want the face to be between 70 and 80 IRE. So when I say the face is too dark, basically what I’m saying is that the values are clumped between 50 and 60 and I would prefer to see them between 60 and 70, or even 65–75.

We need to adjust the face without pulling the blacks off of the 0 IRE value and without boosting the whites way into the 110 or 120 range.

(Go to page 3 of this article to continue.)

Making Simple Color Changes in Premiere Pro’s Fast Color Corrector

But let’s tackle color first. The Fast Color Corrector—which you’ll find under Video Effects—is a very, very simple tool for making simple color adjustments. Click the disclosure triangle adjacent to Fast Color Corrector to reveal the White Balance control. Click the eye dropper and click a pixel in the frame that’s supposed to be white. In our example, the color chip is brown. That tells us that the clip is brownish and corrects for that (Figure 5, below).

Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5

Figure 5. The color chip next to Fast Color Corrector shows that the clip is more brownish than it should be.

To boost the adjustment a little bit further, drag the little circle in the color wheel or scroll down in the Effect Controls tab and adjust the Balance Magnitude value, as shown in Figure 6 (below).

Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5

Figure 6. Adjusting Balance Magnitude in the Fast Color Corrector

If I want to preview with and without the adjustment applied, as with any filter in Premiere Pro, click the Fx button next to the Fast Color Corrector effect to toggle the effect on and off. You can also do a splitscreen view in the monitor, which is most useful if you do it vertically, which allows you to control the location of the adjustment. In this example, if I set it at about 45 it’s positioned in the middle of my face, and I can see that in the White Balance color chip that it’s yellowish before the adjustment and corrected after.

(Go to page 4 of this article to continue.)

Adjusting Brightness Using Input Levels

When adjusting the Brightness in this image, our sole goal is to boost the clump of pixels called out in Figure 3 to above the 60 line. Still working in the Fast Color Corrector, the tool we’re going to use the Input Levels (Figure 7, below). Moving the marker at the left edge of the Input Levels slider adjusts the black values, the darkest pixels in the image; moving the marker at the right edge adjusts the whitest pixels; and moving the marker in the middle of the slider makes adjustments in the midtone region.

Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5

Figure 7. The Input Levels slider in the Fast Color Corrector

As you drag the midtones slider to the right you’ll increase primarily the pixels in the brighter regions. In this example, we’ll see the clump of pixels associated with my face (as highlighted in Figure 3) rise to well over 60, into the 70 range, which is a good value. If we look at the splitscreen view again, we’ll see a clearer split between the corrected and uncorrected versions.

Now we’ve got the values where we want them. The blacks are still up around zero so there should be very little fading, and we’ve boosted the whites a bit closer to 100 IRE. The face still looks a little bit washed out and, as we talked about up front, sometimes you want to boost the Color Saturation to correct for that.

I’m wearing a blue shirt and where we started at 100, you really can’t tell what color it is. If we bring the Color Saturation up to 150 you get a nice balance of facial color and blueness in the shirt (Figure 8, below). I probably went a little bit too far to prove my point but compared to where we started, we’ve got much more contrast in the video, we’ve got a brighter face that will withstand compression a lot more effectively, and we’ve got correct colors. So at this point I would probably call this edit done and just move on to my next edit in this project.

Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5

Figure 8. Moving the Color Saturation up to 150 brings out the blue in my shirt.

Making Color Adjustments in Final Cut Pro 7

Now if you’ve been working in Final Cut Pro, all of this should look pretty familiar. In FCP 7, your Waveform monitor is on the right. You adjust colors the same way using the familiar color wheel on the left (Figure 9, below). You boost brightness in the midtones the same way and you adjust saturation the same way.

Apple Final Cut Pro 7

Figure 9. Making color adjustments in Final Cut Pro 7

Correcting Color in Final Cut Pro X

On the other hand, if you’re transitioning from Final Cut Pro 7 to Final Cut Pro X, you’ll find the tools pretty foreign (Figure 10, below). You’ve got a cramped waveform here that’s kind of psychedelic and a color board instead of a color wheel. Saturation and brightness adjustments are pretty straightforward, though it’s hard to argue that placing all these controls on four separate screens is a huge step forward in interface design.

Apple Final Cut Pro X

Figure 10. Color adjustment controls in Final Cut Pro X

A Familiar Color Correction Paradigm

So that’s it. Premiere Pro makes it fast and simple to adjust the color and brightness of your clips so that they look great after compression and if you’re coming over from Final Cut Pro 7, Premiere Pro uses tools and an interface paradigm that should look instantly familiar.

Next time out we’ll explore how to produce multiple video files for adaptive streaming in the Adobe Media Encoder.

To see more tutorials in our Adobe Production Premium CS5.5 series, go to Page 5 of this article.

Jan Ozer (jan at doceo.com) is a frequent contributor to industry magazines and websites on digital video-related topics. He is chief instructor at StreamingLearningCenter.com and the author of Video Compression for Flash, Apple Devices and HTML5.

Back to Contents...

Tutorial: Setting Up a Greenscreen for Studio Shoots

I produce lots screencams, and some customers like having a live greenscreen video intro in front of the screencam. "What's the harm," they ask? It's only 30 seconds of video, how long will that take to shoot?" Well, if you're like me and you don't have a dedicated studio and staff for such productions, they can take awhile.

If fact, this week I had to shoot two video intros, and it took three hours to produce them. So, just to have ammunition for higher fees next time, I figured I would detail the gear I had to set up and configure to get the job done.

Figure 1 (below) is the big-picture establishing shot. Sharp-eyed readers will discern two sets of lights—one on the greenscreen, one on me—plus the lens of the Canon XH A1 I'm shooting with and the ProPrompter teleprompter that uses my iPad 1 for the electronics.

Greenscreen establishing shot

Figure 1. The big-picture establishing shot

Setting Up the Greenscreen

It all starts with the greenscreen, of course, which is the cheapest and easiest part. Rather than buying a stand, I pinned the green screen to a scrap piece of 1x4 lumber and hung it on my wall with some picture hooks (Figure 2, below). There's another scrap 1x4 board at the bottom maintaining the tension and minimizing the wrinkles. I'll build a similar one in white for future shoots.

Greenscreen setup

Figure 2. My greenscreen setup

Lighting the Greenscreen

Optimally, you light thegreen screen separately from the subject, and I have a set of cheap compact fluorescent softboxes for that chore. Specifically, I bought the fancier Studio 3000 Watt Lighting Kit With 3 Stands and 3 softbox Lighting Kit for about $160, primarily because it came with three lights, one with a boom to serve as a hair light. The two lights were perfect for lighting the greenscreen, but the hair light was too unfocused and created highlights on my forehead, so I didn't use it. A good backlight really needs a focusable element, whether a lens, barn door or egg crate, to avoid that problem. Still, for $160, I marvelled at how cheap and effective lighting has become.

I positioned both lights about head level on the background, trying to produce even lighting on the portion of the screen that showed behind me in the shot. In the small setup shown in Figure 3 (below), these four-bulb lights worked perfectly.

Lighting setup

Figure 3. The four-bulb light setup

You need separate lights for the subject, and for this I used some ePhoto softboxes that I've had for awhile, specifically, the ePhoto VL9026s 2000 Watt Lighting Studio Portrait Kit, which now costs $167 on Amazon (Figure 4, below) . I’ve had these for just under two years, and they provide lots of cheap, undirected light, which is perfect for office shoots like this one. You don’t have the control for moody, nuanced lighting, but for flat or slightly shadowed lighting, they're ideal. Both sets of lights are daylight balanced, so I didn't have to put shades on my windows.

ePhoto softboxes

Figure 4. The ePhoto softboxes

If you look at Figure 1, you can see that I've positioned these lights slightly above my head pointing towards my face, both about 45 degrees from my nose, with one light using 3 bulbs, the other 5 to create a slightly shadowed look to model the face. You can see that in the final video below.

HD Camera Setup for Office and Studio Shoots

My go-to camera for office shoots like this one is the Canon XH A1 (Figure 5, below), which is now 6 years old but produces exceptionally crisp images and offers fine manual controls with three rings around the lens which I absolutely love (iris, focus, zoom).

Canon XH A1

Figure 5. The oldie-but-goodie Canon XH A1

The most important feature in this instance, however, is the one relating to the cable poking out the back, which is the FireWire cable that lets me connect to my computer and use Adobe OnLocation for the waveform and as a DVR. Getting proper exposure is always hard, but when you're shooting yourself, it's nearly impossible without a software waveform.

In the screen in the image below (Figure 6) you can see the zebra stripes on the left (you get two sets of zebras) plus the waveform on the upper right right. I confess that I don't use the Vectorscope on the bottom right beyond making sure that skin tones fall on or near the appropriate line at the 11:00 position.

Adobe OnLocation CS5.5

Figure 6. Monitoring the shoot live in Adobe OnLocation

Working With a Teleprompter

I can wing my screencams pretty well without a script (and with lots of editing in post), but when I'm on camera for intros like these, I need a prompter. What you see below is my ProPrompter HDi Pro2 Teleprompter Kit for iPad, which cost around $800 when I reviewed it back in May 2010. The short story is that it uses your iPad as the computer that drives the system, you can see it poking out of the device in Figure 7 (below).

ProPrompter HDi Pro2 Telelprompter

Figure 7. The ProPrompter HDi Pro2 Teleprompter Kit for iPad

You upload your scripts to your iPad over the Internet and you can control scrolling speed with another iDevice, like an iPod touch or iPhone. Works great, and is much cheaper than any other teleprompter system that I've seen, assuming that you own the iPad of course.

Capturing Audio

For audio, I used the Azden 330ULT 2-Channel UHF Wireless Microphone System Figure 8 (below). I love the battery-powered operation, the on-camera placement for the receiver and the quality of the UHF system.

Azden 330ULT Wireless Mic System

Figure 8. The Azden 330ULT 2-Channel UHF Wireless Mic System

Obviously, the Canon has XLR connectors that can accept the incoming feed from the Azden, so no converter box was required.

Getting Good Exposure

Overall, the gear took about an hour to set up, then it was time to configure and adjust. Getting good exposure took the longest, as it always does. Audio was pretty simple to connect and test, and it took about 30 minutes to get the prompter up and running. Then it took about eight takes until I got what I considered a keeper, then breakdown and cleanup. Like I said, about three hours soup-to-nuts.

Here's the video. I'm not quitting my compressionist day job, and I'll do better next time, but I think it looks credible from a lighting and audio standpoint, particularly the background, which keyed out wonderfully in Premiere Pro using the fabulous Ultra Key. I know I need to do something about the dark spots under my chin (reflector maybe?), and make sure that any green tint in my face is gone after compositing, but it's not bad for a one-person shoot. And the hair does have a Max Headroom feel, but cripes, no one is perfect.

All navel-gazing aside, if you're a marketing or compression pro and have wondered why it took so long to shoot a simple 30 second video, well, now you know. And if you're on the production side and have clients who wonder the same, just send them this way.

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Nikon Introduces 36.3MP D800 With 1080p/30 Video

The Nikon D800 renders levels of texture, nuance and detail to photography that, until now, have been the exclusive domain of the complicated medium-format system. Define every eyelash, every line in tree bark, and every shimmer of light. Savor the exceptional depth in your still images — with the astounding 36.3 effective megapixels, you can. Enlarge them as big as A1 poster-sized prints (23.4 x 33.1 in./59.4 x 84.1 cm) at 200 dpi, or crop aggressively to reach the composition one desires, all without sacrificing the detail and tonal range of the original. In order to maintain clean, high-resolution images, 14-bit A/D conversion within the sensor and a high signal-to-noise ratio deliver phenomenal images in a diverse array of situations.

The image sensor’s incredible potential does not stop with photography, either. For cinematographers ready to put their exceptionally sharp NIKKOR lenses into action, the D800’s 36.3 effective megapixel data is efficiently processed for exquisite 1080p broadcast quality video at 30p. Combining both high-resolution performance and a wide ISO sensitivity range has finally become a reality. Nikon engineers have developed intelligent new methods to manipulate light transmission to the sensor’s photodiodes; from the optical low-pass filter and on-chip gapless micro lenses to the image sensor’s internal design, every measure has been taken to maximize and improve light transmission in order to deliver crisp, brilliant images with significantly less noise. All this is possible under a wide variety of lighting conditions, enabling you to get the most out of your NIKKOR lenses.

A full cinematic experience
Filmmakers, multimedia professionals and event photographers—record Full HD 1080p at 30/25/24p or 720p at 60/50p in AVC format. Produce to your exacting vision when working in manual mode, controlling aperture, ISO, AF and shutter speed. Record uncompressed files via HDMI to an external recording device via HDMI. Widen production perspective using either Nikon FX or DX lens formats at Full HD 1080p and 16:9 aspect ratio. Attach headphones and check audio levels or monitor input via peak audio meters as displayed on the camera's LCD monitor. Microphone sensitivity can be adjusted in up to 20 steps. Remotely start and stop video. Simultaneously Live View footage on the camera's LCD monitor and external monitor during recording are possible.

Render every megapixel with precision
Fast, precise 51-point wide area coverage
Precise AF detection is critical to sharply render every pixel of the D800's massive resolution count. An improved 51- point AF system with 15 Cross Type AF sensors, versatile AF area modes and superb AF detection in even the dimmest lighting deliver immediate, pinpoint focus. Fast shot-to-shot time, full resolution frame rate up to 4 fps, 6 fps in DX crop mode using MB-D12 Multi-Power Battery Pack and ultra fast CF and SD card write times. For more productive workflow, high-speed data transfer using USB 3.0 is realized. For demanding professionals, the D800 responds immediately and precisely.

EXPEED 3 image processing
Nikon's EXPEED 3 technology extends and assures breathtakingly rich image fidelity and reduces noise, even at high ISO's. EXPEED 3 is so powerful that it handles data-intensive tasks such as Full-HD video recording at 30p with ease.

Expand dynamic range with built-in HDR
Create a single image revealing an extremely wide dynamic range, but with less noise and rich color gradation than ever before. Combine two exposures at up to 3EV.

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Anton/Bauer Intros QRC-CA9840 Gold Mount for Canon EOS C300

Anton/Bauer®, part of Vitec Videocom, a Vitec Group company and a premier global provider of batteries, chargers, lighting and other mobile power systems for the professional broadcast, video and film industries, is pleased to introduce its QRC-CA940 Gold Mount(R) solution for the new Canon EOS C300 camera. This latest introduction furthers the company's commitment to developing power solutions for the industry's top cameras.

The Canon EOS C300 was designed specifically to meet the demanding needs of today's cinema industry professionals. Featuring a unique Super 35mm Canon CMOS sensor, revolutionary Canon DIGIC DV III image processor and 50 Mbps 4:2:2 codec, the EOS C300 provides outstanding cinema-quality movie capture in a modular and portable system. To help streamline battery management for Canon EOS C300 users, Anton/Bauer will simultaneously introduce the QRC-CA940, a 7/14 Gold Mount that provides 7.2V power to the camera via DC connector.

"While the QRC-CA940 operates similar to our other 7/14 Gold Mounts, this particular mount will have three PowerTap(R) outputs where typically we only have one," says Shin Minowa, vice president of marketing and business development. "The more accessories we can power in addition to the camera, the better. Understanding our customers' professional applications and goals, this Gold Mount was designed so that users will not have to monitor multiple batteries, therefore reducing downtime in the field, as well as the number of chargers needing to be transported."

The QRC-CA940 was designed to be compatible with the company's mounting bracket for 15- or 19-mm rod systems, the MATRIX Cheese Plate, or adapted to third-party support systems (15- or 19mm clamp kits sold separately).

For more information, please visit http://www.AntonBauer.com.

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Panasonic Opens 2nd Annual Shoot It. Share It Online Video Competition for AG-AF100 Users

Panasonic today debuted its second annual "Shoot It. Share It" on-line video competition for users of its popular AG-AF100 large image HD cinema camera. From February 6th through March 7th, Panasonic is accepting video contest entries from users of the AF100--the industry's first professional micro 4/3-inch video camcorder optimized for high-definition video recording--for the opportunity to showcase their creative work and win valuable production equipment.

At www.ShootItShareIt.com, contestants* can submit up to five videos (each up to five minutes in length) in six categories -- nature, short film, commercial, music video, documentary or student -- demonstrating their creative work with the AF100. A grand prize, consisting of a Panasonic 42" TH-42BT300U Pro Plasma Reference Monitor plus a Vocas Micro Four Thirds to Prime Lens Adapter (valued at more than $5,000), will be awarded to the contest winner. A Vocas Matte Box and Rail system will be awarded to each of the category winners.

From March 12th through April 4th, the public can choose among 18 semi-finalists (three per category) and vote on-line at ShootItShareIt.com for the first-place winner in each category. A panel of judges will select the grand prize winner.

The category winners and the grand prize winner will be announced during the NAB 2012 show in Las Vegas, NV (April 16-19), as well as on the contest web site.
For complete contest rules and to learn more about the "Shoot It. Share It" video contest, visit http://www.ShootItShareIt.com.

* Eligibility: Shoot It Share It (the "Contest") is open only to legal residents of the fifty (50) United States and the District of Columbia who have Internet access and access to a Panasonic AG-AF100.

About the Panasonic AG-AF100
The AF100 incorporates a large 4/3-inch, 16:9 MOS imager (with an imaging area just slightly smaller than 35mm cinema film) that minimizes skew with fast imager scanning, and incorporates an optical low pass filter for elimination of aliasing and moire. The camcorder records 1080 at 60i, 50i, 30P, 25P (Native) and 24P (Native), and 720 at 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p and 24p native in AVCHD's highest-quality PH mode (maximum 24Mbps). The AF100 also records in AVCCAM's HA (17Mbps) and HE (6Mbps) modes, 1080i only. Ready for global production standards, the camcorder is 60Hz and 50Hz switchable. Equipped with an interchangeable micro 4/3-inch lens mount, the AF100 can utilize an array of low-cost, widely-available still camera lenses as well as film-style lenses with fixed focal lengths and primes. Variable frame rates (VFR) are available in 1080p, selectable in 20 steps from 12p to 60p at 60Hz and 20 steps from 12p to 50p at 50Hz. The camcorder has a built-in stereo microphone and features two mic/lines, switchable XLR inputs with +48V Phantom Power capability. For more information, visit http://www.panasonic.com/broadcast.

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Neat Video Announces OpenFX Noise Reduction Filter for ASSIMILATE SCRATCH

The Neat Video team announced that they have delivered the Neat Video Pro video noise reduction filter as an OpenFX plug-in for ASSIMILATE’s SCRATCH® and SCRATCH Lab™ digital workflow tools. Previously only available for video editing and compositing applications, this new version of Neat Video brings its industry-leading grain and noise reduction technology to Digital Intermediate (DI), Finishing, Production Dailies and Visual Effects Dailies workflows.

Neat Video Pro OpenFX Plug-in
The Neat Video filter reduces visible noise and grain in video footage produced by digital video cameras, camcorders, TV-tuners and digitizers of film or analog video. Neat Video incorporates the most advanced noise reduction algorithms in the industry, building on device noise profiles to make noise reduction custom-tailored to video capturing device.

Neat Video combines the best-in-class intra-frame noise filter, which reduces noise and grain in individual frames, with an intelligent temporal noise filter, which further reduces any remaining imperfections by using data from several adjacent frames. Working closely together, these two filters reduce more noise and better preserve sharpness and actual details than any single filter.

Neat Video is multi-core, multi-CPU and multi-GPU optimized to provide the best performance with modern CPUs and CUDA-capable NVidia graphics cards.

"Neat Video is widely recognized in the industry as the preferred solution for high-quality noise reduction”, said Vlad from the Neat Video team. "We’re excited to expand our support from editorial and compositing systems into the DI, finishing and dailies workflows. SCRATCH has have been at the epicenter of digital filmmaking from the very beginning and has built its reputation on adopting new technologies such as support for OFX plug-ins. We believe that SCRATCH and Neat Video Pro make the ideal combination for digital workflows.”

“The addition of the Neat Video Pro de-grain tool really makes SCRATCH the ultimate finishing system for us”, said Leandro Marini, Founder of Local Hero Post in Santa Monica Ca. “Now I can work in a single environment from dailies through the entire DI. SCRATCH’s support for industry standard OFX plug-ins such as Neat Video Pro, RE:Vision’s Twixtor and GenArts Sapphire is an extremely important feature for me. This means that I no longer need to switch between SCRATCH and other applications like After Effects to complete a shot. Not only does this streamline my pipeline, but it makes my client sessions so much more fluid and creative.”

Price and Availability
Neat Video Pro is available immediately both at http://www.neatvideo.com or on the ASSIMILATE Store™ (store.assimilateinc.com). The OpenFX plug-ins are priced at $199.90 per one copy; volume discounts are available.
Click below to download a demo/trial version of Neat Video OpenFX plug-in:
Download for Windows (64-bit) , Download for Mac OSX.

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