Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How To Convert .MOD files for Final Cut Pro

I've mentioned .MOD files before but thought I'd just update a bit of my workflow when using them.

I'm getting ready for a multi-cam project that involves many, many small Cannon cameras (all synced) which create troublesome .MOD files.

Now a .MOD file is just an mpeg2 file with another name. Look at a .MOD file using the File command in the terminal and you'll see:

"MOV001.MOD: MPEG sequence, v2, program multiplex"

So, it really isn't anything special but Final Cut Pro won't ingest them.

What happens if you rename one to say .mpg? Quicktime will open it (not sure if Perian helps here or a default install will do) and will report that it's an "MPEG2 Muxed @ 29.97 fps.

After renaming it FCP will ingest it but, as it's a Muxed file, there will appear to be no audio tracks; the same goes or when it's opened in Quicktime.

You must convert -actually transcode- it and my transcoder of choice in this case would be MPEG Streamclip.

Open the .MOD file in MPEG Streamclip and hit Export. But make sure that you've set it to the correct aspect ratio because depending on the type of camera and what it's set to the image may be 4:3, 16:9 and /or Squeezed…or not. That's what the handy "Preview" button is for. Oh, you don't need to rename it in order to transcode it.

I like to transcode them to ProRes (especially for multi-clip editing) but the export format is up to you. I recommend testing a small file (or portion thereof) first for testing your export settings.

Moving Just the Video of A Linked Clip Up One Level

Let's say you're cutting a long green screen project and during editing you forgot to set your target track to something besides V1 so you don't have a lower track to put the green screen background on.

You need to move all the video up at least one track but all the video is Linked to it's audio; how can you move just the video up a track quickly without Unlinking and Relinking the audio?

1. Hit Shift + Z to show the whole Sequence in the Timeline.
2. Hold down Option then click and drag-select just the video portions of the footage.

Holding down Option while you click on Linked footage temporarily Unlinks them. You'll be able to highlight just the video of Linked footage (or audio if you so choose).

3. Now, with just the Video highlighted, let go of the mouse and hit Option + Up Arrow which will move the highlighted video up one video track. Obviously make sure that the track above it is empty.

Now you have your video on V2 (or at least not on V1) and it's still Linked to it's respective audio.

Name Clips while They're Playing in the Viewer

You can begin playing a clip in the Viewer and while it continues to play you can rename the clip in the Browser which can speed up organizing a project.

I'll double-click a clip in the Browser, then tap the spacebar to play it.

Click on the clip in the Browser, type in the name I want then (for once you shouldn't use a keyboard command to return to the Browser as it will stop playback, use the mouse here. Yeah, I know…) hit Return.

Then hit Down Arrow to highlight the next clip then Return to load it into the Viewer, then Spacebar to begin playing it.

Use the mouse to click on the file's name in the Browser and begin naming…wash, rinse, repeat.

So the pattern is:

1. Double-click clip in the Browser
2. Hit Spacebar
3. Use mouse to click on file name in Browser and (re)name
4. Hit Return
5. Hit Down Arrow
6. Hit Return then goto step #2.

To stop playback after you name the last file I have the habit of hitting Command + 1 to highlight the Viewer but you can stop playback many other ways without using the mouse.

Turning Markers into Subclips for Batch Exporting

You've made a bunch of Markers along a long clip and now want to Batch Export them and find that you can't because Batch Export in the Menubar is grayed out and right-clicking on them in your Bin doesn't show Batch Export either.

No problem; you have two simple solutions:

Solution #1:

Highlight all the Markers you want to Batch Export and hit Command + U which will turn them all, instantly, into Subclips. They'll be loose in your Bin so prepare for the mess early by naming the Markers something helpful before you do this.

Then Batch Export away.

Solution #2:

Create a new Bin (Command + B) in FCP's Browser and then drag your Markers (helpfully named) into your new Bin and they'll automagically turn into Subclips.

I like this method because it helps a project stay organized in the Browser window.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Youtube's New Stabilization Feature and Rolling Shutters

Youtube has launched some new stabilization and 3D features and I thought the stabilized example was particularly interesting.

You can clearly see it zooms in on the image a great deal to avoid showing the frame edges as it stabilizes and produces (evident in the very beginning and near the end as well) the quite interesting problem of stabilizing video taken with a rolling shutter; specifically how the buildings are swaying back and forth a bit while everything else is mostly stable. It's fascinating that stabilization technology is now free, available to all when it was only once available to police, military and NASA which, back then, didn't have to deal with the amount of wobble and smear that modern rolling shutter cameras produce.

It effectively makes the footage look artificial or somehow doctored which for my money, is the exact opposite of what you want your real footage to look like after trying to improve it. I can imagine, in the near future, people recording  news events and whatnot and people calling foul that the footage was doctored somehow before we all get used to clips stabilized like this.

It's interesting how new technologies like this, which improve footage in one aspect, yet can cause issues in interpretation and believability overall, actually expand our "film language" once they are accepted. We as an audience have grown accustomed to shaky poorly shot footage but as technologies continue to improve and become cheaper to produce and buy, and as CPU's become more powerful, distributed and cheaper altering the footage becomes easier and hence our internal language which helps us interpret what we see continues to evolve.

I suspect there will be a flurry of people pointing at buildings seemingly swaying in a gentle breeze and crying out then, in time, the voices will subside and we'll collectively accept it as the new new thing and move on as our visual filters acclimate and block out the anomaly for us. That is, until someone uses the effect against us on false and/or doctored footage in order to give it that "real" feel of everyday stabilized rolling shutter footage.

Monday, March 21, 2011

QuickTime shows a 720 Video as 1248 X 702

You open a video and notice that it's Info window shows it as 1248 x 702 rather than 1280 x 720; what's going on?

It's a documented "feature" in QuickTime. I'm not sure why it gets set wrong but recently I was handed some footage and only after editing did I happen to notice the size shown was wrong. In fact Apple recently monkeyed with this setting.

What's going on is that QuickTime 7's "Conform aperture to" setting is set incorrectly. It's likely set to "Clean" rather than "Production". (Personally I think it should default to Production but that's me). However Apple believes differently:

"Additional Information
Note: QuickTime Player in Mac OS X v10.6 always displays movies using the Clean aperture mode."
The main reason I don't like this is because it tends to crop the image and for production that means seeing someone clear the frame or not clearing it…by pixels. From an editing standpoint, things like this affect the timing of the edit which in turn affects the mood of the edit so it's not just me expostulating for no reason.

What to do?

Open the QuickTime clip in QuickTime 7 and hit Command + J for "Show Movie Properties", then click on "Presentation" then at the bottom of the window look for "Conform aperture to:"

Checkmark it if it's not already, then set the pull-down to "Production".


I'm still looking for a way to do this to a multitude of clips simultaneously reliably.

How To Crop A QuickTime Movie

Cropping a QuickTime Movie is a hassle; but there are some ways to go about it to make it slightly less hassleful. (yes, I just made up that word)

A: Use an image editing program to make a mask.

1. Open the movie file in QuickTime and hit Command + C to Copy it. (You're actually just copying a frame)
2. Launch your image editor and paste in the clipboard's contents (the frame of your video file) into a new document. Make sure the document size is the same size as the image you just pasted.
3. Using the Selection, Paint Bucket, Fill or whatever tools you have available make the part of the video you want solid black. Make the part of the video you want to crop (to go away) solid white.
4. Save out your image as a .jpg or .gif or whatever format you like.
5. Open the movie to be cropped in QuickTime 7 if it's not already, and then hit Command + J for "Show Movie Properties".
6. Click "Video Track" in the top portion of the window.
7. Click "Visual Settings" in the lower portion.
8. Under "Mask" on the left hit the "Choose…" button. (or, even easier, drag your mask image file into the Well here.
9. You'll INSTANTLY see your opened QuickTime movie crop to the mask.
10. Notice that both the Movie Properties and QuickTime Player windows have "unsaved" dots in the close widget. Close the Movie Properties window.
11. Export away.

B: Use MPEG Streamclip.

1. Download and install the FREE program MPEG Streamclip if you don't have it already.
2. Open your QuickTime clip in MPEG Streamclip.
3. Hit Command + E for "Export to Quicktime".
4. At the top of the "Movie Exporter" window that pops up under "Compression" select the codec you want. (yes, you may see ProRes 422 listed twice; no I don't know why. It's likely the bottom one is actually ProRes HQ, but that's just a guess)
5. Monkey with all the rest of the options there if you know what your'e doing. If you don't, don't touch.
6. Near the bottom, above the "Presets…" button Checkmark the "Cropping:" checkbox.
7. At the end of this line you'll see a pulldown. You'll probably want to leave it on "Destination".
8. Now, how the heck do you know what numbers to put into here? Open the SAME QuickTime clip you're cropping in QuickTime 7. Yes, really.
9. Make sure it's full size and then hit this key combo: Command + Shift + 4 which will let you take a screenshot of a portion of the screen. Click-N-Drag out a box that has only what you want the exported QuickTime movie to have. Let go of the mouse. You'll have a screenshot on your desktop.

Note: You can just watch the cursor here to get the numbers right before you let off the mouse but it's up to you.

10. If you didn't memorize the numbers the cursor showed in step 9 before you let off the mouse go and look at the Get Info of the screenshot (on your Desktop) that you just took. Depending on how you have your Finder options set up, you make see the size of the image listed under it or next to it. If you don't, highlight it, tap Command + I for "Get Info" and look for "Dimensions" under "More Info:"

Lets just say it's 604 X 636, for fun.

11. While you have your QuickTime clip opened in QuickTime hit Command + I for "Show Movie Inspector" and jot down the size under the "Format" line. Let's say ours is 830 X 876 to make things interesting.

12. MATH TIME!!!!  Now we can rough in the crop numbers.

For the top to bottom take the actual height and subtract the desired height: 830 - 604 = 226. Now divide (we're distributing it equally) it by 2 and we get 114.

For Top and Bottom in MPEG Streamclip's Cropping line enter 114.

Now for the side to side: 876 - 636 = 240 and divided by 2 that equals 120. Type 120 into both the Left and the Right boxes in MPEG Streamclip.

13. Hit the bottom-left "Preview" button at the bottom.

Is it close? Told you we roughed it in.
Adjust the cropping numbers until you're happy.

In my test my final numbers were:

Top: 114  Left: 120  Bottom: 127  Right 124
instead of:
Top: 114  Left: 120  Bottom: 114  Right 120

Oh, and fee free to monkey with the Center options in this window as well. The Positive Numbers in the first box will move your image to the RIGHTWARDS while Positive Numbers in the second box will move your image DOWNWARDS.

Honestly, I'm not sure why it's off like that but I've used this method to rough it in for a while. I discovered it when I was on a company's Mac that didn't have an image editor at the time and the IT people (Grrr…) REFUSED to allow me to install an image editor to make an image mask with.

Sure there are other ways but they usually involve people mentioning VisualHub which is getting mighty long in the tooth and is totally unsupported now (sniff…) or they're even more convoluted than these two methods. If you have another way you like please pass it along.

QuickTip: Keep a flash drive on in your pocket with Gimp installer (it's FREE) on it but it's not much help if you don't have Admin access to the machine anyway. There are ways around this though.

Viewing Files While They Are In The Trash

Here's a quick one:

A file is in the Trash, you double click it and get the familiar "The Document Can't Be Opened Because It Is In The Trash" dialog. What to do?

Sure you could drag it out of the Trash but unless you know or Get Info to find out where it was you may have to copy it someplace which, if it's a large file, may take up time and space.

You could use the "Put Back" command but won't show you where it went.

A: You can use QuickLook (Spacebar while something is highlighted) to preview it if the file type is supported.

B: You can also view the Trash in Column View and preview a file with the Preview column.

Ingesting & Importing A Screen Recording .mov into Final Cut Pro

As if we didn't have reason enough to hate QuickTime X here's another:

You can't just ingest a Screen Recording you make into FCP. Nope. You have to convert it first to something else.

I suspect it's because of the odd frame rates that screen recordings are in. Take a look at this example:

8.23 FPS.

If you try and ingest it into FCP you'll see this:

What's going on? How can  you load a QuickTime movie (a format by Apple) made by Quicktime X (software from Apple) into Final Cut Pro (Video editing software made by Apple)?

Insane, right?

I think it has something to do with the frame rate. Although I can't fathom why, FCP seems to want some "normal" frame rates in this case.

Test #1 - Export using QuickTime 7 to H.264 @ 29.97 FPS

Result: FCP will accept.

Test #2 - Export using QuickTime 7 to H.264 @ "current" FPS (8.23)

Result: FCP will NOT accept.

Test #3 - Export using QuickTime 7 to ProRes (non HQ) @ "current" FPS (8.23)

Result: FCP will NOT accept.

Test #4 - Export using QuickTime 7 to ProRes (non HQ) @ 29.97 FPS

Result: FCP will accept.

Bonus Test #1 - Export using QuickTime 7 to ProRes (non HQ) @ 8 FPS

Result: FCP will accept.

Bonus Test #2 - Export using QuickTime 7 to H.264 @ 8 FPS

Result: FCP will accept.

I have no idea why QuickTime X records Screen Recordings at a frame rate that FCP doesn't like. Likewise, I have no idea while FCP won't accept certain frame rates, but at least there's a work-around.

Btw, this is FCP 6.0.6. I haven't tested it under FCP 7.x yet.

I'd recommend transcoding your Screen Recordings into ProRes at 8 FPS which will make them a bit smaller compared to 29.97 (obviously) and less CPU intensive.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

2011 MacBook Pro's Are Locking Up Under Load

I had a few calls about laptops locking up while on location while editing, running prompter software, audio recording etc... and it turns out it's a Thing™. You can read the pretty long (30 pages so far) post about it here.

My guess is it's too much thermal paste like in the past but thats an off-the-top-of-my-head guess.