Forget about WebM

For the past 6 or 7 months, I’ve attempted to provide video to all types of platforms by encoding videos in both H.264 and WebM. WebM is the encoder of choice for Firefox, Chrome etc in other words “not-Apple” (though Microsoft has thrown in with Apple on H.264). I haven’t had much success. Most of the time, I was not able to play WebM encoded video in Firefox nor Chrome and it was an additional step in my workstream.

Over the weekend, I did two things; I re-encoded all of the videos using the x264 encoder and I deleted all of the WebM video. Hopefully, this hasn’t caused too many issues with my viewing public. Please contact me via the Contact page if so.

A coupe of quick notes:
1) I used x264 in Compressor by adding the x264 component to the Quicktime components in Library. Larry Jordan has a nice explanation of how to do this.
2) For most of the HD videos, I created half-size videos then upscaled them on playback. This results in a moderately small file size with nice quality.
3) The trick on using Compressor is to follow Larry’s advice of creating .mov files which is a Quicktime container. Most browsers will play a Quicktime container but my Nexus 7 had a problem. The key is to use Quicktime 7 to convert it from .mov to .mp4. Larry states one can do this without re-encoding but fails to advise how.

There is a “pass through” option when using “File -> Export -> Convert Movie to MPEG-4”. This will simply copy the file from .mov format to .mp4 format without re-encoding.  Click on Options on the Save window and select MP4 from the drop down menu at the top of the box and click on the Video button right below the dropdown. Below the Video button is another dropdown and on this one, select Pass through. Click OK and Bob’s your Uncle, you will have a file that has broader compatibility than the Quicktime container, .mov.

FCP 7 and ProRes

FCP 7 introduces a 3 new HD codecs for production work, ProRes 4444, ProRes 422 (LT) and ProRes 422 (Proxy). With these additions, this brings to five versions of HD codecs  available for production work. I did a simple comparison of Flip H.264 transcoding to all 5 versions, knowing full well that I wasn’t starting with the best source material.

The only version where I could see a difference was with ProRes 422 (Proxy). There were artifacts and a loss of detail. LT looked great, with no perceptible differences on up to 4444. Which means given the source, the best I could use is LT. That said, I did have striking differences in gamma between the new codecs looking identical to the source material and the “older” codecs, 422 and 422 (HQ) being much darker and losing details in the shadows.

I’ve tried to understand the gamma shift issue regarding H.264 and QT… this looks to add more confusion to the mix.

For me, going forward,  I’ll transcode the Flip to ProRes 422 (LT) then use it in FCP. I still need to test using ProRes 422 (LT) in iMovie.

Thanks, Norman!

I was thinking this, and was going to write about it but I didn’t have the depth of experience to make the point as clear as Norman does.

In his blog, Hollyn-wood (Norman, that is), Norman makes the point that the price cuts and the focus on ease of use sets this upgrade to Final Cut Pro/Studio as a significant push by Apple towards the low-end side of video editing. He doesn’t mean that Apple took features away or that Final Cut Pro isn’t capable of editing high-end feature films, what Apple did do was to introduce ways of helping the not-so-good be a lot better or sometimes, good-enough. AND, they dropped the price.

The point? A big push by Apple to become the perferred platform for all of the independent, YouTube, Vimeo, film-makers…

Thanks, Norman. My thoughts exactly!

Cameras, FlipShare and iMovie

I’ve been using the Flip Ultra HD for a few weeks and I really like the camera. What I don’t like or more accurately need is the FlipShare software. If you don’t have iMovie 09, FlipShare is probably worthwhile.  I do have iMovie and FlipShare is worse than superfluous, it auto-launches when I attach the camera to my Mac even though I want iMovie to import the clips. [iMovie importing isn’t cast in-stone… I might start converting the H.264 video to ProRes format, if iMovie can easily handle it. More to come on this.]

For now, I wanted to have iMovie startup when I plug-in the Flip and not FlipShare. For me, this was a two step process because I also have other cameras that I want to use as well.

Step 1 – Keep FlipShare from launching.

Apple has three places for a program to automatically startup. The easiest to find is “Login Items” in the Accounts preference pane. Nothing about FlipShare there. The next two places are essentially the same but one is for the user and one is system-wide. This location is either in ~/Library/LaunchAgents or /Library/LaunchAgents. [Remember “~” stands for Home folder in the Finder and a file path starting with “/” means it is at the lowest level of your directory.]  I didn’t find  a reference to FlipShare in my ~/Library/LaunchAgents but I did find “com.flipvideo.FlipShare.AutoRun.plist” in my /Library/LaunchAgents directory. Hmmm… That sounds like it might be what is causing FlipShare to launch when I plug-in my Flip. I moved it to my Desktop (just in case), re-booted (just in case) and plugged in the Flip. Nothing! Just want I wanted!

Step 2 – Open iMovie only when I plug-in the Flip.

The Mac uses Image Capture to set what happens when a camera is plugged in. It performs the same action regardless of camera, so if I change the preferences in Image Capture to “Open iMovie” when a camera is plugged-in, iPhoto won’t launch when I plug-in my Nikon. Hrrrrmph!

First a shout-out to LifeHacker, what a great site. It recently ran an article on cameras improves the way os x deals with connected cameras. Thanks! And many thanks to Flexbits who created Cameras. Cameras is a preference pane that allows you to select which camera opens which application. Sweet!

Now when I plug-in my Flip, iMovie opens. And when I plug-in my Nikon, iPhoto opens. And FlipShare never opens.  [And yes, I could have just deleted FlipShare but I might want to use FlipShare.]

Car, Flip and Fun

So thanks to Nathan Henderson, I tried filming my drive home. I didn’t have a Gorillapod, so I used the next best thing, a glue clamp ($3.99) and a pair of rubber bands. It worked great! I attached the clamp to the rear view mirror then used rubber bands to hold the Flip to the clamp.  Then I drove home… (click on image for Going Home)

I can hardly wait until we drive up Hwy 1!