Thursday, February 18, 2010

Apple apparently lays off 40 Final Cut engineers.

Ex-Apple employee Pete Warden has said on Feb 12th 2010 "Apple laid off 40 of my old Final Cut team yesterday, lots of good people, despite high profits. Apple can be pretty evil."

The original post is here. There's some more insight into this here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Shrink PDFs by a bunch with ShrinkIt

A friend emailed this to me earlier today.

ShrinkIt is a FREE...
simple, small, Panic-internal tool (for Mac OS X Snow Leopard) that will automate the process of stripping needless metadata from PDFs by re-saving them using Apple’s PDF processor. For app resources and icons that aren’t using high-end Illustrator features, this should be lossless — Apple’s PDF code is not compressing anything, just removing cruft. Simply drop a bunch of files (not folders) onto it — such as the contents of your app’s Resources folder — to have it find the PDFs and do its magic. The original files will be renamed with the prefix “_org_” for backup safety. That’s it!

Turning EXIF data into something useful

There's a FREE app called EXIFRenamer which...well...renames files based on their EXIF data. This is handier than you'd think:

The program allows to rename photos by their embedded date+time information in a much more usable way. Most downloaded pictures are named like "pic0001.jpg" or other cryptic names.
ExifRenamer reads the embedded date+time information and renames the picture to for example "2001-11-18_11-16-34.jpg" (YYYY-MM-DD_hh-mm-ss.jpg). This naming style lets you easily create a large photo library with the chance to sort your pictures in chronological order just by displaying it alphabetically sorted in the Finder.

You can check it out and download it here. It also integrates with Image Capture, the scanning, camera downloading multi-tool Apple app everyone seems to forget...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

When the Client can't Play the QuickTime File

If you haven't gotten this 3am phone call will in time. It's inevitable.

A client will one day call you late into a quiet evening saying they can't play the QuickTime files you've sent them. Since they need them in HD and regular DVD's can't (technically unless you mix HD-DVD with some prestidigitation) do HD content you need to send them something they can use...NOW! THE PRESENTATION IS IN 10 HOURS ZOMG!!!1!!1!

You have two options overall:

Send 'em a disc:

1. Send them a Blu-Ray. But, wherever they're playing the thing it won't have Blu-Ray so don't even bother. Seriously. Check this link in a year or seven for updates.

2. Send them a data DVD, wait I should hyphenate that, a data-DVD and tell them to play it on their MacBook Pro hooked up to a projector or whatever using QuickTime or VLC. However, it's likely they won't have a Mac/it won't mount/the file won't play/the projector won't see the laptop... It's possible that not even "marketing" will have a Mac nor will the "creatives" over in advertising. They can edit in After Effects anyway, right?

So you need to send HD content to someone with a PC who is likely still using XP who can't download much at work because the IT guys are scared of those darned h@x0rz who are gonna steal all their creative sekr3tz.

Send 'em a file:

Flash drives are cheap. Macs understand FAT-32 (but not NTFS fully, sorry). I mail flash drives to clients regularly.

I don't allow clients to have .wmv's or .flv's. I don't. I'm like that because I'm not a huge fan of either format, neither is any good and few clients (or the presenters at least) have the cpu to play them smoothly since they're using 48 year old laptops issued by the company that sometimes don't even have CD-ROM drives (but that's for another post/rant).

It's for the client's own good really and I tell them as much. See, your job as editor/shooter/writer/person-who-knows-stuff is to not just deliver what the client wants, but let them know what they want because 99.9854% of the time they have no idea. Dale Carnegie said people are just waiting to be told what to do, and with corporate clients it's thricely true. They need guidance because without it they'll suggest their son or nephew or daughter or someone can do it. They play with neckties and Lotus Notes all day in between bouts of blackberry gazing, lunch an "officeing", they don't know. And honestly, they don't care, they just want it to work. NOW!!!!!...

That's for corporate things; for broadcast or features hand them exactly what they ask for. That way, when it goes ka-bleewy, they can only blame themselves.

So, a real option is to export the HD project as one of the following files:

Animation. Huge files.
Motion JPEG. I've had PC people complain that the video "stutters."
Apple Video. Should work, people seem reluctant.
ProRes. They'll have to download the free codec from Apple.

I'd go with Animation or ProRes for the project. These are easily transcoded to something else. Others work, sure but these are the most reliable I've found. If they're going to play it from a laptop these are good options except for maybe Animation which likes lots of CPU. If they want a standard DVD, tell them that it won't be HD. If they demand HD and their computer/laptop situation is lacking then...

Here's a secret:

The client needs to show an HD video at some convention/presentation/meeting/agency/sub-clientle lunch/what-ever-it-is... tell them to buy one of these:

WD TV Live Media Player. Get them to buy a big 32Gig or larger flash drive (the WD TV Live Media Player understands HFS+ [not journaled]). Encode the HD content to a nice H.264 file then hand them a flash drive with the file, or upload it to them and tell them to transfer it to the flash drive and you'll be done. (Test the set-up though, always test set-ups)

It's small, has a remote, plays tons of formats, shows pictures, plays music, hooks up to the net to stream stuff and has two USB ports. They'll look like a hero because you'll be a hero. And when the next project rolls around you just need to send it to them as an H.264 or even a .mkv and you're done.

There are some codecs you can install or have them install here and try your luck with if they insist on a laptop. Up to you.

QuickTime 7.6 supports these formats.

Just keep repeating this bit from Apple over and over to yourself:

We strive to ensure backward compatibility with content created with older versions of QuickTime. In fact, movies created with QuickTime 1 still play today in QuickTime 7.

Then FedEx them at least two copies or upload it to someplace like or (because they won't have an FTP server or it'll be down or they won't know the password) or send a FAT-32 formatted flashdrive and unplug your phone. Do not send them the codecs that come with Final Cut Studio. Seriously. Charge them for transcoding instead, silly.

Burning VIDEO_TS folders from Disk Utility

I haven't had a problem that I recall using this method but "Dewshi" over at commented that sometimes the files are in the wrong order which explains why burning a VIDEO_TS folder in Disk Utility will result in a DVD that will play on a computer but not on a standard stand-alone DVD player.

I'm curious to test it out though and see if this does happen depending on thy way a VIDEO_TS folder is burned.

The reason a DVD player is unable to recognise the disk is that it requires the files in the VIDEO_TS to be physically in the correct order, in particular the VIDEO_TS.IFO file should come first. When you insert a disk into a DVD player it scans the first few sectors looking for this file which contains a list of sector offsets to find the title sets on the DVD. If the DVD player can’t find the IFO file or finds another file first it generally gives up.

Unfortunately, alphabetically the file “VIDEO_TS.BUP” comes first and the mac writes this file first when burning a plain data disk. A computer DVD player, on the other hand, understands the file system on the disk and can therefore find any file it wants with out having to know the offset values. That’s why the mac can play the disk OK, but not a DVD player.

It is also important that the VOB files are in the correct order as a DVD player just plays the data it finds, ignoring file boundaries, until it reaches the end. In fact a DVD player doesn’t even understand files and only uses sector offsets to find data.



So the problem is to structure the files in the required order on the written disk, and not just alphabetically. I’ve experimented with various disc images & software tools (e.g Burn), with no success. How do you burn a disk with files in a certain order?