Friday, 23 December 2011

T-mobile Netherlands are a bunch of crooks!!! Updated!

This is way off my usual topics but I have to get this out there.

I am originally English but have been living and working in Holland for the last seven years (my wife is Dutch :-) I speak Dutch but can't really write it. I have had a contract with T-mobile since 2008

At the end of October to the beginning of November I had to go to Munich for a week for an event I was working on. I paid T-mobile 15 euros for "Travel and Surf" unlimited data in Europe so that I could check email on my iPhone.

The Hotel I was staying in had a T-Mobile Germany hotspot, so when I used my phone it asked me if I wanted to connect. I checked the login page to see if there was an agreement with T-mobile Netherlands and sure enough under "roaming partners" there was an option to login in with my Netherlands account. There was no warning that this would cost anything.

I received no texts or emails from T-mobile informing me of any charges to my account, but obviously their system knew I was connected.

If I had known that there would be charges I would never have connected to the Hotspot as I had already paid for connection via the data network.

I would typically arrive back at the Hotel in the evening, my phone would automatically connect to the Hotspot, I would check my mail for maybe ten minutes, then maybe go for dinner and later put my phone on charge and go to bed.

At the end of November I received my bill from T-mobile, including charges for connecting to the Hotspot in Germany. But not charged by use of data but by time connected. They want to charge me for 7872 minutes at 25 cents per minute!!!!

November invoice:

Internet in het buitenland
26.10.11                15:24     DATA     Internet Hotspot  507:00 min.         106,51
27.10.11                00:00     DATA     Internet Hotspot  854:00 min.         179,41
28.10.11                01:20     DATA     Internet Hotspot  1018:00 min.       213,86
29.10.11                00:13     DATA     Internet Hotspot  976:00 min.         205,04
29.10.11                20:49     DATA     Internet Hotspot  158:00 min.            33,19
30.10.11                02:30     DATA     Internet Hotspot  654:00 min.         137,39
02.11.11                22:40     DATA     Internet Hotspot  433:00 min.            90,96
03.11.11                06:59     DATA     Internet Hotspot  936:00 min.         196,63
04.11.11                00:00     DATA     Internet Hotspot  1219:00 min.       256,09
05.11.11                00:00     DATA     Internet Hotspot  1117:00 min.       234,66
Totaal Internet in het buitenland                       7872:00 min.                  1653,74

If you look at the time they're charging for it doesn't make sense. 1219 minutes is over 20 hours! I didn't stay in the hotel all day, I was working at an event 5 kilometres away!

I rang T-mobile customer services to ask what was going on. They told me I had to go to a T-Mobile store to make a complaint so I went to the T-Mobile store in Amstelveen and spoke to the manager. He told me this kind of thing happens all the time and they would probably cancel the bill. He said it would take 4 or 5 days and then someone would contact me.

I heard nothing until mid December when I received another bill, with another 2234 minutes of connection time. So now I am being charged for 10,106 minutes at 25 cents per minute.
That's 2,526.50 euro plus 19% tax!!!

December invoice:
Internet in het buitenland
06.11.11                00:13     DATA    Internet Hotspot  1241:00 min.        260,71
07.11.11                00:00     DATA    Internet Hotspot  993:00 min.          208,61
Totaal Internet in het buitenland                       2234:00 min.                   469,32

I tried to speak to T-Mobile customer support but if they don't want to deal with your case they just hang up on you. Eventually I spoke to a name removed in their billing department and she told me that the case had been decided and I had to pay.

I pointed out that I had paid for unlimited internet access but she said "Oh that's different"
I pointed out that I was not informed that connecting to the Hotspot was billable and she said "Oh we don't have to tell you"
I pointed out that the European commission had set a 50 euro cap for data roaming in Europe and she said "Oh that doesn't apply here"
I suggested that what they were doing was like stealing and she said "Oh we can't be doing anything illegal or we wouldn't be allowed to do it"
There was no negotiation, no apology and no option to speak to anyone else.

I am refusing to pay the bills until I have made my case with the Ombudsman and if necessary with the European Commission.

If you have an account with T-mobile be very careful when you travel abroad.
If anyone has any information or advice that might help me in my case with T-mobile please feel free to contact me using the comments below.

I have also posted this information on a T-mobile forum and have now had a couple of replies from a moderator with the screen name CindyS. This was the first:

I'm sorry to hear you assumed using a T-Mobile Hotspot outside The Netherlands was for free. On our website you can find information about using Hotspots: There you can read that using a Hotspotconnection abroad costs €0,25 per minute. 

The €59,95 cap for data roaming only applies to using mobile internet on a mobile network, not a Wi-fi spot where a login is required.

To which I replied:

How convenient. It would have been nice to be TOLD that the hotspot was not free. Your system knew I was connected but there was no text or other message to warn me of the charges.

How do you explain the connection being on for over 1200 minutes in a day? 
Also, why do you charge by the minute rather than for data used?

This was her reply:

The connection time is registered with your simcard.

In what way T-Mobile charges the usage of a certain service is a policy decision.

Unbelievable! The connection time is registered with my simcard, so even if it makes no logical sense, it must be right. As we all know, computer systems never make mistakes :-)

And the way T-Mobile charge is "a policy decision" Well yes I can see it's T-mobiles "policy" to screw as much money out of their customers as they possibly can!

Thanks CindyS for the ammunition. :-)

Oh yes, if there is an ad for T-mobile under this post (how ironic) please click on it.
That way I might just get some of my money back! Haha :-)

Some more posts from the forum, my replies:

On Monday:

So you have no answer as to why I was not informed of the charges?

You think it makes sense that I am being charged for connecting to the Hotspot for 20 hours in a day when I wasn't even in the Hotel that long?
And the way you charge usage is "รค policy decision" , in other words, you can charge whatever you like?
Do you think it is fair and justified that I should be charged 3000 euros to check my email?


Nothing to say?

No corporate answer as to why I was not told about the charges?

You think 25 cents per minute for 10,000 minutes is perfectly reasonable?

Come on CindyS, make me smile :-)

Then today this:

T-Mobile in all fairness expects travellers are aware that the costs of the services they use abroad are higher than in The Netherlands. This information is available on our website.

It's the responsibility of the traveler to keep control of the duration of use and therefore also the costs. Though I really regret that this was not the case for you, it's T-Mobile's position that you are finally responsible for start and termination of a data connection.

I agree you are confronted with an extreme situation. Therefore I have brought up your case within our organisation, although I can not guarantee this will result in a different outcome. As soon as I receive an answer you will be informed.

At the moment there's a very high demand for our services and that is why you had to wait a while for a reply from a moderator.

Well, there's hope for the world yet :-) Thank you CindyS for this more human response and I look forward to hearing from you.


Had an email chasing the November invoice and threatening to block my phone if I don't pay.

I rang customer support and spoke to  name removed, who was very helpful.

He checked and found out that my complaint is being dealt with and I will be receiving a letter "shortly". In the meantime I don't have to pay the invoice and I wont be blocked. Phew!

I look forward to the letter and will post the content here. Fingers crossed :-)

I suppose it was foolish of me to hope that common sense might prevail. Sigh.
This is T-mobiles response to my situation:

First of all I paid for unlimited internet access (their words not mine) when I bought a "Travel and Surf" package.

Secondly I only logged on to the T-mobile WiFi Hotspot because it accepted my T-mobile Netherlands user name and password under "roaming partners" there was no mention of charges on the login page. 

At no point did I agree to paying 25 cents per minute for access to the Hotspot

There was no email or SMS message to tell me I was running up charges. There was no warning whatsoever. I do not call that "as much information as possible"

Thirdly, I only raised the issue of the data roaming cap after they tried to bill me 3000 euros for the privilege of checking my emails! I did not "assume" the cap for data roaming applied to the WiFi Hotspot. I believed I had already paid for access to the internet via the T-Mobile network.

So they apologize for the inconvenience? I don't call a bill for 3000 euros "inconvenient", I call it robbery. Charging 25 cents per minute for access to wifi is blatant extortion.

They want to offer me the possibility to pay in instalments? I am not going to pay one cent of the charges for the Hotspot. I will see them in court trying to defend their charges.

T-mobile customer service has to be some of the worst in the world. It's not surprising they can't even spell customer.

This isn't over. 
Over 1000 people have seen this page now. 
Please forward the link to everyone you know. 
We wont be treated like this.

Continued here:

Saturday, 17 December 2011

New version of Sony Vegas Pro 11

Sony have released new versions of Vegas Pro 11.

Version 11 uses GPU (Graphics processor unit) acceleration quite extensively and there have been some teething problems getting it to run smoothly on some systems.

The latest builds, 510 for 32 bit systems and 511 for 64 bit systems (downloadable here), address a lot of these issues and I have found them to be more stable and with faster performance than the previous builds.

There are release notes here with details of the improvements.

Go ahead and download them and let me know if you have any comments.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

New Vegas Pro 11 info

There is new page on the website with more information about Vegas Pro 11 and a great video showing the kind if work that can made in Vegas using some of the new tools and plug-ins that are now available.

It also confirms that Vegas Pro 11 can now use Camera RAW files by taking advantage of support for over 200 camera RAW formats in Windows Vista and Windows 7.

I'm going to do a bit of testing today at the show and will update this post with my findings.

It's the last day of IBC today. It's been hard work but fun. Come check out Vegas if you're at the show! :-)

Saturday, 10 September 2011

IBC 2011 - Vegas Pro 11

On my way to IBC at the RAI in Amsterdam. I am demonstrating Vegas Pro 11 on the Sony stand.

Specifically I am showing integration with the new Sony SRmaster memory cards which allow recording of media at up to 4K resolution and 5.5Gbps! Unbelievable!

We also have some gorgeous OLED monitors which show the material in it's best light.

Vegas Pro 11 is currently in beta and is expected to be released in the next few weeks.

If you are at the show, drop by and say hello.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Final Cut Pro X = iMovie Pro?

Final Cut Pro X

I've had a couple of hours to play with FCPX and I am amazed, both at the performance improvements and at the missing features.

Firstly let me state that I was not a big fan of FCP 7. I found the UI to be old fashioned and needlessly complicated, hanging on to the editing methodology first used by Avid. Having come from a Lightworks background I was comfortable in a more flexible environment, which is one of the reasons I use Sony Vegas.

I bought Final Cut Studio a few years ago and learnt how to use FCP, just to see if the grass really was greener on the other side, but I was never very comfortable working with it. Having said that I understand how for many editors FCP allowed them to break free from the limitations of Avid and at a far lower cost. Like all Apple products FCP commands a fierce loyalty from it's users.

There had been rumours that FCP was being dropped by Apple, but then we were told to expect "something awesome". The sneak peek at NAB created quite a storm and raised more questions than it answered, but now we have the chance to see for ourselves (provided you've got $299 to spare)

My first impression of FCPX was "WOW!" This is no clunky Avid clone, this is a genuinely new product, written from scratch with the aim of making the editors job as easy as possible. I found the responsiveness of the UI when "skimming" clips to be amazing, and previewing effects was a dream. But I ran into some issues that I think anyone could have trouble with, even if they don't have an FCP background.

Firstly, I found FCPX to be very picky about media. I have a collection of different media formats that I used to test media import and I was disappointed in the results. FCPX would not import any flavour of mpeg2 files. Not .mpg, .m2v or .mts. It would also not import AVCHD files. Worse than that, some of the files it did import just showed up as red tiles with a yellow exclamation mark, with no explanation of what went wrong. Some others just showed a solid green tile, again with no explanation.

Secondly, Editing in the "magnetic timeline" was interesting but frustrating, how do I stop things rippling if I don't want them to? (disclaimer: I have not RTFM) I also spent far too long trying to get a picture on one layer to fade in over a picture on another layer, without success. If I tried to drag a transition to the start of the clip, FCPX insisted on putting it on the nearest transition on the layer below. (yes I know, there are no "layers")

I found the lack of "save as" unnerving. I always work on projects incrementally and sometimes end up with dozens of versions. The only way I could see to do this in FCPX was to keep duplicating my project.

The preset effects and transitions are good, but of course the preset is never quite what you want. Getting under the hood seemed tricky. I wanted to add a drop shadow to a text effect, only to find it was already being used to create the reflection.

Of course the biggest issue from an FCP users point of view is the lack of options to collaborate with others. The only import option is from iMovie. There is no XML, OMF or AAF import. Not even an EDL. Likewise there is no way to export your project to another system like ProTools or smoke.

iMovie 11 - Look Familiar?

I'm not quite sure what happened at Apple. This was obviously developed by the same team that did iMovie 11 but it has a lot more power than iMovie. So should it have been iMovie Pro? It certainly isn't FCP 8, it is a completely different animal and expecting FCP users to adopt this in their existing workflows is a non starter.

I'll keep playing with it to see if it grows on me, but I understand the pain of all the FCP editors who were promised something awesome only to have their hopes cruelly dashed.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Vegas for the home user

Sony have just released the latest version of Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 11 (Hereafter called VMS11 ;-) which has lots of new features and brings 3D editing within reach of the home user.
Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 11
Sony's Studio line of products are cut down versions of the Pro applications with a few of the more complex features taken out to make them more accessible for the home or semi-pro user. Having played with the latest version of VMS11 I have to say that I could do 90% of my projects on this software and there are even a couple of features that I want to see in the next version of Vegas Pro!

The new version of VMS features support for Standard and High Definition video with colour correction, stabilisation and chroma keying. Projects can be put on DVD or Blu-Ray discs or even uploaded directly to YouTube.

The Vegas Movie Studio interface
The user interface is very similar to Vegas Pro and is very clear and simple. There are even built in tutorials which teach you all the different features of the program.

The new version features the ability to edit 3D footage from the new generation of 3D camcorders such as the HXR-NX3D1 or the HDR-TD10 which I mentioned in earlier blogs. Together with these cameras VMS11 provides a low cost solution for editing your own 3D material and then delivering either a 3D Blu-Ray disc or uploading your masterpiece directly to YouTube (which now supports 3D formats.)

There is a very cool new text tool with some fun animation templates and there is a new "Make Movie" wizard which takes a lot of the guesswork out of choosing a rendering format. All the technical information can be found on Sony's website.

There are also two suites of software which include VMS11: The Platinum Production Suite which includes VMS11, DVD Studio 5, Sound Forge Audio Studio 10 and Vocal Eraser software and Imagination Studio 3 which also includes Acid Music Studio, Photo-Go photo editing software and 360 music tracks for your productions. A complete production package in a box!

Sony have some special pricing until the end of the month. VMS11 starts at just $49.95 and even the imagination studio is only $124.95! That's incredible value for money and would make a great gift for Fathers day!

Thanks for reading, any questions or comments gratefully received.


Thursday, 2 June 2011

Sony's new 3D baby!

One of the products on the Sony stand at Dimension3 which drew a lot of attention was the HXR-NX3D1 mini 3D camcorder. I had a chance to play with it and was very impressed with the functionality and quality of the output from such a small package.
Sony HXR-NX3D1 Camcorder
It basically consists of two HD camcorders in a single housing, with separate lenses, sensors and processors.
The distance between the lenses (Inter-Ocular Distance) is fixed at 31mm but the convergence can be adjusted manually or automatically to vary the convergence plane and hence the 3D effect.

The Camcorder has 96GB of onboard flash memory, which is enough for about 7.5 hours of 3D material, but there is also a slot for Memory Stick or SD cards to expand the capacity. It is also possible to connect an external hard drive and copy media direct to that without a computer.

The handle on top of the Camcorder has a professional audio interface with two XLR connectors for line or mic level inputs, it even has support for phantom power. The mini shotgun mic is also part of the kit.
The whole handle and audio section can easily be removed from the Camcorder to reduce size and weight as can the lens hood.
Handle and Audio interface
The whole thing weighs just over a kilo with mic and battery attached and is very comfortable to hold, although it was a little right heavy when held by the handle. I would love to get it on my little Steadicam rig!

Talking of Steadicam the Camera has active stabilisation which does a very good job of smoothing out bumps when shooting handheld or walking. The Camera can sense when it is moving and adjusts the stabilisation accordingly.

The 3.5" touch screen screen display allows access to all of the features of the Camcorder with the ability to select automatic or manual control for many of the settings.
The screen is also Auto-Stereoscopic so you can see your 3D shots when you are shooting or when you play them back later without the need for 3D glasses. The screen can also be switched to show Left only, Right only or a combination of Left and Right images which is very useful when setting convergence. There is also a mini-HDMI output so you can play your 3D footage back on a domestic 3D television.

Material is recorded as Full-HD AVCHD at 28mbits per second in a file format called "MVC" (Multi-View Coding) which carries both streams of HD video. This can be loaded directly into Vegas Pro 10d and is recognised as 3D footage. I did have some problems with this at Dimension3 but I believe that was because we had a pre-production unit. Sony are also working with Cineform to make the format compatible with their Neo3D format.

The HXR-NX3D1 is expected to be released this summer with a street price of around $3000 which I think is amazing for the capabilities of this camera. This will open up 3D production for anyone who would like to get into 3D but who cannot justify the cost of a full sized 3D rig.

There is more (preliminary) information from Sony here.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Let the Train take the strain.

On my way to Paris on the Thalys Hi-Speed train from Amsterdam. First class cabin, comfortable seats, power for my laptop and free Wi-Fi. No check in and security hassles and it's just over three hours from the centre of Amsterdam to the centre of Paris.

Dinner and refreshments are on the house and all for only 79 euros. (depending on when you book and travel)

Much better than flying :-)

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Vegas Pro 3D at Dimension3

Hello all,

Just a quick post to let you know that I will be presenting 3D editing in Sony Vegas Pro at the Dimension3 exhibition in Paris next week from the 24th to the 26th.

There is more information on the Dimension3 website

Maybe see you there!


Saturday, 7 May 2011

Sony Vegas Pro 10.0d update available

Sony have just released a free update to Vegas Pro 10, version 10d.

You can download it from here Vegas 10 updates

Sony have added some new features and fixed a lot of issues. I'll just give you the highlights.

Support has been added for the latest 3D cameras from Sony including the HDR-TD10 which I mentioned in a previous blog, the 3D Bloggie HD and the range of Cyber-Shot cameras with the 3D sweep panorama feature. You will be able to load media in the .MVC or .MPO formats and edit in Stereoscopic 3D. Sony have also added the ability to burn a 3D Blu-Ray disc directly from the timeline so this now gives the home user a complete solution for shooting, editing and viewing their own 3D material.

GPU acceleration for AVC media encoding has been expanded to AMD graphics cards as well as Nvidia graphics cards by supporting Open CL. You will need a Radeon HD5700 or newer and Catalyst 11.2 drivers (not 11.3 or 11.4 at the moment as there are issues) Nvidia users need a GeForce GT 200 or above and driver version 185.00 or newer.

GPU acceleration currently supports the Sony AVC codec only and if you have a fast CPU it may not make much difference to your render times.

They have added mute and solo buttons to track groups which was a common request on the forum and have added the ability to export multichannel audio to Quicktime formats. They have also fixed a lot of issues related to plugins, particularly OFX based plugins.

So go ahead and download the update if you are already a Vegas user. If you haven't tried Vegas yet you can download a 30 day trial of the new version from here.

UPDATE: Sony are offering 30% discount on purchases and upgrades until May 31st.
If you are currently using another editing package you can upgrade to Vegas Pro 10 for under $280! Details here.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Size isn't everything - why uncompressed isn't always best.

I've run into this issue a few times recently so I thought I would write a post about it. When I am creating Watchout shows the media can be delivered in various formats. Audio can be .wav or .mp3, Images can be jpegs, .png's or Photoshop files and video can be MPEG-1 or 2, Windows media files or Quicktimes.

Now of course you want the quality of the show to be perfect, so when you are shooting and editing you work with the highest possible quality. RAW images, uncompressed quicktimes or files encoded with lossless codecs.

These are production formats and as such they are suited to editing and distribution without any loss of quality. However, they are not ideal for final playback of the material. I have had a few occasions where clients have delivered production quality content as the final media. Uncompressed Full HD quicktimes or print resolution Photoshop files.

These files are huge (Uncompressed HD can be up to 200Mb per second, that's 12 Gigabytes per minute!) and although they look fantastic they require extremely fast hardware to play them in real time. You would need a RAID array on every playback machine.

Once the editing is completed the final delivery format for video or graphics can be a compressed format, as long as the settings are correct the picture quality should still be excellent.

For HD video I normally recommend either MPEG-2 at a bit rate of 24Mbps or Quicktime using the H264 codec at around 16Mbps. The MPEG-2 files will be slightly larger (although nowhere near the size of uncompressed) but they require less intensive processing for decompression and so will playback on lower specification hardware. H264 is a great codec for distribution as it provides extremely efficient compression whilst maintaining very high image quality. (H264 is the codec used for Blu-Ray discs) However, it does require more processing power and so it should only be used when the display computers are sufficiently powerful. Some graphics cards have H264 acceleration in hardware so this might affect your choice.

It is a good idea to do a test render of a small part (choose something complex) and experiment with codec settings. Check it looks good on your computer but also test it on the playback system.

Graphics files should be RGB, not CMYK, and should not be too much larger in resolution than the display. If the display computer has to scale a huge image down to the resolution of the projector the performance will suffer.

I normally use JPG's at the exact resolution of the screen for background images and PNG's with alpha for logos and titles that will be overlaid over other content.

This also holds true for other systems than Watchout. There are many different types of media players and they all have their preferred playback formats. If somebody asks you for uncompressed video ask them why? Most media players will accept compressed formats, you just need to make sure you use the right settings.

At a recent show the client spotted a typo in a text animation which was part of an HD video. The production company work with After Effects and Final Cut Pro on a  Mac and they had to make the change and deliver a new version within four hours. They rendered a new version and then drove 100km to deliver a hard drive with an uncompressed version of the video. I have Sony Vegas Pro on my laptop so I rendered their uncompressed version to MPEG-2 and loaded it into the show. The quality was identical but the file size was 20% of the original. We had high speed internet available at the venue so they could have saved themselves the trip :-)

So remember, size isn't everything. Huge files are OK for post production but they can bring a playback computer to it's knees. They are also a pain to move around as the file sizes make ftp or other transfer systems too slow.

Find out which formats will work on the desired playback system and create the media with the best balance between quality and size.

Thanks for reading and I appreciate any questions or comments. Neil

Monday, 25 April 2011

Which software is used to edit Movies?

I recently replied to a question from Dheeraj Gautam on the Sony Vegas group on Linked-in and I also posted it here.This was his response:

Thanks for such an informative reply Neil , much appreciated.  Now I have another question. I have seen people using final cut pro for video editing, but what about Big budget Hollywood or Bollywood films? Films like Terminator, Avatar, 127 hours, are they also edited on final cut pro or are they using different software to edit like Autodesk smoke?

You're welcome Dheeraj. To answer your question I need to explain a bit of History.

Originally all films where edited by physically cutting the film and then viewing the edited sequence on a Moviola or a Steenbeck. I'm sure there are still some editors working like this somewhere.

In the early 90's non-linear editing arrived, giving the editor enormous freedom to experiment with the material and create multiple versions of sequences until they arrived at the final cut (pun intended ;-)

So you have editors using Avid, Lightworks, Final Cut Pro and other systems to edit feature films. The manufacturers were keen to promote the fact that their software was being used in Hollywood, because if it's good enough for them it must be good enough for you :-) They used to have lists of films on their websites (Here is a list of films edited on Lightworks and Final cut Pro ) but films would often appear on multiple lists. How could a film be edited on Avid and Lightworks?

The answer is that film editing is a collaborative process. The editor cutting the film may be using Lightworks but the editor putting the effects sequences together could be using Avid so the film would end up credited to both systems.

The other issue is that using non-linear systems meant eventually going back to the film negative. So all these systems needed extensive metadata management to be able to track Keycodes and timecodes and be able to assemble the final edit from the original material. See Apples digital Cinema Tools.

Now we have electronic cameras like the RED and Silicon Imaging, editing systems capable of working with the footage at full resolution and digital projection, so it is possible to shoot, edit and project the movie without having to leave the digital environment.

Sony Vegas Pro can work at resolutions of up to 4K (4096 pixels) and has been used to edit some films like Paranormal activity and Deuce of Spades. It works well with footage from DSLR cameras like the Canon 5D Mk II and 7D and the new Sony PMW-F3 and NEX-FS100U. If you are on a budget and can complete all your work in Vegas that could be one way to go.

Autodesk Smoke is a finishing system more than an editing system. It is often used for the final assembly of digitally shot films before transferring them to film, (the "Digital Intermediate" process.) It can work at up to 8K (8192 pixels) resolution and has powerful grading and compositing capabilities. If you want to assemble a 90 minute feature at uncompressed 8K you'll need quite a bit of storage :-)

In Hollywood today the software is the choice of the editor. Walter Murch famously cut The English Patient on Avid, then cut Cold Mountain on Final Cut Pro and now has apparently gone back to Avid. Thelma Schoonmaker cuts all of Martin Scorsese's movies on Lightworks. The late Sally Menke cut all of Quentin Tarantino's films on Lightworks. The Coen Brothers cut all their movies on Final Cut Pro, under the alias of Roderick Jaynes.

I suppose at the end of the day the real answer is you can use whatever you like as long as you have a workflow that works for your project. If you have the ideas and the passion to create your movie it doesn't matter which software you use.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

3D or not 3D?

It seems the whole world has gone 3D crazy over the past year with more and more 3D TV's for sale and now a whole crop of 3D camcorders coming out.

The problem with 3D of course is how do you edit and deliver your 3D footage?

Sony Vegas Pro introduced the ability to edit stereoscopic 3D in version 10 of the software and the latest update extends it's capability to enable burning of 3D Blu-Ray discs direct from the timeline.

Sony HDR-TD10
Sony are also about to release the HDR-TD10 a full HD 3D camcorder which basically has 2 HD camcorders in one at a price of $1499. The camera records in MVC format (H264 with 2 video streams) which can be edited in Vegas 10d, or you can just let the camera do the edit for you:
Why spend hours editing your movies when you can let your camcorder do it for you? Highlight Playback identifies and compiles key scenes into a short, entertaining movie complete with music and transitions.
Hmm, I'm hoping to get my hands on one of these cameras soon to shoot some test footage so I'll be sure to give that a try :-)

Seriously though. Do I need to be shooting and editing 3D? Well it's not really my decision. If my clients ask for 3D I need to be able to provide it.

It is of course very easy to shoot 3D but still produce 2D masters by just ignoring one of the video streams. So by shooting 3D now I am future proofing my content. If things carry on the way they are soon everything will be expected as 3D. So I need to be able to shoot 3D, edit 3D, deliver 3D and watch 3D.

It's that last one that has been one of the main hurdles. 3D TV's are expensive and the whole glasses thing is not something that viewers take to. The majority of 3D TV's to date use "active" 3D where the 2 streams of video are displayed sequentially and active glasses block the left and right eyes to create the 3D effect. The problem is those glasses are heavy, expensive and they need batteries, adding to the hassle of watching 3D.

In 3D cinemas the glasses are lighter and need no batteries, so how do they work? These are using "passive" 3D. The left and right eye images are displayed using circular polarised filters, one clockwise and one anti-clockwise. The glasses have circular polarised lenses so each eye only sees the correct image. Until recently it was impossible to use this method for TV's but now there is a system where there is a polarising filter in front of the screen, with alternate lines of the TV image polarised either clockwise or anti-clockwise.

Sony have used this for some new professional monitors but it looks like LG have beaten them to it for the home with their Cinema 3D range. These TV's come with 7 pairs of passive 3D glasses and new ones can be ordered for $10 each, compared to active glasses at up to $150 per pair!

Passive 3D also has a wider viewing angle and viewers report less headaches when watching passive 3D than when watching active 3D.

Of course the holy grail of 3D is "glasses free" 3D sets. There are some sets that use a micro-lenticular or parallax barrier layer in front of the screen to give a 3D effect without glasses but it is very dependent on the viewing angle and not very clear. Useful as an eye-catching display in a department store maybe but not suitable for watching movies at home.

So for now my money is on the passive 3D systems. I'm sure other manufacturers will be bringing out their own passive 3D sets soon and the active TV models will follow HD-Ready sets into oblivion.

Thanks for reading, Neil

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

YouTube announces change to encoding format

YouTube Blog: Mmm mmm good - YouTube videos now served in WebM

All new videos uploaded to YouTube will be encoded to WebM an open, royalty-free, media file format for the web, based on On2's VP8 codec for video and Vorbis for audio. It uses the Matroska file structure.

Supported web browsers are Firefox 4 and later, Opera 10.6 and later, Chrome 6 and later and IE 9 (with plug-ins) So no Safari?

So what does this mean to the average YouTube user? Well... nothing. YouTube will still continue to work in the same way it always has.

In the future it means that browsers will have to support WebM and it removes any licensing issues that YouTube might have had with other codecs. I think it is also going to make it easier for YouTube to support live streaming of events.

For professional users who want to be able to encode their material for YouTube so as to maintain the highest possible quality it means we need to find an encoding solution that enables output as WebM. At the moment I can encode to VP8 for video and to Ogg Vorbis for audio but I don't have a tool to combine them into a WebM file. There are some tools mentioned on the WebM site here but I will need to experiment.

As usual any comments gratefully received.

Thanks for reading, Neil

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

What is the difference between Sony Vegas pro 32 bit and Sony Vegas pro 64 bit ?

Dheeraj Gautam asked this question on the Sony Vegas user group on Linked-In. I thought the answer might be useful to others so I am posting it here too.

32 more bits? Sorry couldn't resist :-)

Vegas pro 64 bit is a fully 64 bit application. What this means is that on a 64 bit operating system like Windows 7 64bit Vegas can use far more RAM.

On a 32 bit system the maximum amount of RAM available is 4Gb. With HD footage and larger and larger files to deal with this is often not enough and so the computer has to keep swapping data from memory to the hard disk. Causing slow performance and sometimes crashes.

On a 64 bit system you can address up to 192Gb which provides far more room for data to be kept in RAM. (Theoretically up to 16Tb but Windows limits this to 192Gb :-)

The down side is that your plug-ins also need to be written for 64 bit in order to use them in 64bit Vegas. There are new 64bit plug-ins coming out every day and the OFX architecture that Sony have adopted means we will get access to many more plug-ins.

I personally run Vegas on a 64bit system (with 8Gb of RAM), but I have both the 32 and 64 bit versions installed. I can work on a project in the 64bit version with all the performance benefits that brings and then if I need to use a 32bit plug-in I can open the same project in the 32bit version of Vegas. Best of both worlds and one of the reasons I love Vegas.

Any comments or questions gratefully received. Neil

Monday, 18 April 2011

FCPX wins Videomaker's 'Best Editing Software' award and it hasn't even been released yet!

I find it amazing that Videomaker could give the award to Final Cut Pro X when it hasn't even been released yet (unless they were part of the beta :-)

It's even more amazing how many of the features shown at the sneak peek (64 bit, native formats, drag audio fades, etc.) Have been in Sony Vegas Pro since version 8 which was released 2 years ago. (at about the same time as FCP7)

I have FCP7 but find the interface clunky and old fashioned and I find it very inflexible in letting me work the way I want to.

I am interested to see what improvements Apple have made but I think I'll wait until I have had a chance to use it before I hand out any awards. :-)