Indie Film Live

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Technical_05: Post-production near end.

"SPOON the Movie" Server is operational.

It comes down to 6.8TB of total available storage which will hold all source footage and lower resolution off-line CineForm versions of the same source. On the server that we are using 16 x 500GB HDD's in RAID5 configuration on Promise EX16350 16 SATAII unit (only available card on our side of the world). To keep 16 drives together we used custom build (from one8six) aluminum cage (can hold up to 32 drives) with 8 CM 4into3 HDD converters (box that converts 3 x 5.25" space into 4 x 3.5" with 12mm fan front of it).

Choice of the Operating System happens to be Linux Ubuntu 6.10 64bit.

File system is meant to be XFS, but its performance was substandard for a number of reasons. The main reason being that XFS’s read speed is slower than its write speed. In our pipeline read speed is more important than write speed, which is why we have decided to use JFS - IBM Journaling File System. Our tests show that JFS, compared to any other file system, gives outstanding performance and is stable all round. Its reading speed varies from 540MB/s (under 1GB) to 200MB/s (for larger files +/- 10GB). Its write speed is slightly less.

Network - Four “Link Aggregation” enabled CAT5e cables (from four port server adapter) run from the Linux box into a 1000BT switch from where two link aggregated cables run into Edit Suites.

Work Flow :
Initially we planned to work in on-line mode only, but we realized that it is more efficient to work with lower resolution proxies and have every artist share the media. Adobe Premiere needs a bit of a work around to account for scaling but Discreet Combustion uses “target size” to scale to High Definition no matter what the input is.

DV versions :
If you are working with CineForm you would know that it comes with a tool named "HDlink" that can be very beneficial to you. One of the features it has is down conversion of high resolution footage into DV version (for example PAL 16:9). The new down converted file is 1/6th the size (in MB) of the original and it gives you an opportunity to work with it on a much lower level PC with less intensity on the network. Now your medium range Pentium 4 computer can be your Edit Suite.

Given we have more or less 260 hours of footage, converting it to lower resolution files will take a very long time. Render farm capabilities here would be cool, but, some sort of auto proxy in the read process that does not render a new file would be much better. Alternatively have a mirror update folder which monitors the source folder and auto converts any new files in the directory tree and saves them to another identical folder tree but containing lower resolution proxies.

Current state :
Footage Server 6.7TB out of 6.8TB is full. Audio Server/Workstation 1.56 out of 1.6TB is full.
And "Spoon Tenth Assembly" is completed... :)

Target :
Shoot the missing scenes and Lock the Edit.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Technical_04: Production Phase Complete.

"SPOON"' The Movie.

EVE - SI1920

Imagine a recording device the size of any prosumer camera like the Sony HVR-Z1 or the JVC GY-HD100. Small enough to be comfortably mounted on a steady-cam, yet all the power of a professional HD camera with 1920x1080 resolution image acquisition. EVE is the fist camera to revolutionize the “indie film” world in both size and performance. The ability to record in HD 1920x1080 depth as film stock and all of the benefits of a digital environment.
No more having to waste money on digitizing film stock or having to shoot less footage due to budget constraints. Now you can shoot clean "True Eye" footage on set with immediate access for editing, animation or grade. Imagine the amount of time saved, shooting a film with the same depth as film stock and all of the benefits of a digital environment.
What does one gain from a digital environment. More control on what you shoot, changing the color matrix and comparing footage before you even shoot the scene! Exposure meter, color meter, digital zoom, element zoom, element spotter, focus assist... All of these tools are available to make for a less painful shoot, spending less time having to calculate things which can be done in the comfort of your VT workstation. All this while the footage shot is still RAW!
EVE is really easy to setup. A PC attached to the CMOS camera head with a PL mount for the prime lenses, 16mm or 35mm. Think of having a bigger monitor to watch your footage and compare sharpness, contrast, etc?.. It can be done. Want to edit your footage immediately while on set? It can be done.

Lets assume EVE is the chicken then MINI EVE is the egg. What do I mean by this? Allow me to explain...
Tight spaces to shoot in... Front of a car POV (Point Of View), while driving at high speeds. Shooting interior of a mini cooper while driving and looking around like a first person POV. How about shooting live action first person shooter? Now you can without having to lug around a heavy camera. The only down side to this configuration is that you are limited by a network cable used to record the footage and a VT workstation fast and powerful enough to capture full frame master footage and not reference image. This chip is easily mountable to a car or even a hard hat without the heavy weight attached to it, in other words the body of the camera...

The Wafian HR-1 is a direct-to-disk recorder with HD-SDI & HD component video. It has been our front line VT Station - footage recorder on location for the movie. It is now our edit suite. Recording to the Wafian HR-1 improves the visual quality of f
ootage by avoiding on camera compression and limited bandwidth of HD tape formats. Unlike fixed bit rate codecs such as DVCPRO HD and HDCAM, camera sensor data is recorded directly to a CineForm RAW format preserving the original pixel data.
With the HR-1 footage is immediately available for instant preview and on site editing via Adobe Premier Pro software. Saving you time and money from recording to film stock, developing the negatives as well as transportation costs, etc... The HR-1 is capable of recording approximately 18 hours of footage at 1920x1080 progressive capture, edit ready.
Other than being a direct-to-disk-recorder it can be used for many applications such as computer animation, compositing, rotoscoping, post production, green screen, etc... The all in one solution for on-site editing.

The MOTU was used for recording approximately 4 to 6 channels of audio to a laptop at 24-bit, 96KHz sample rate recording ability, it can record 192KHz as well. Reason for using the MOTU Traveler over other hard disk recorders is that you have the ability to edit on-site with the Traveler acting as your sound card. So it basically becomes an on-site sound editing suite, with the ability to record at high sample rates and have instant playback as well as better file management. For the movie we recorded using 2 condenser microphones, 2 wireless lapel microphones plus the addition of a background microphones. It is compatible with most programs, but the software of choice happened to be Adobe Audition which has an easy to use interface and pristine sound quality up to 192KHz, 32-bit.
It has 4 XLR balanced inputs with an addition of 4 extra balanced/unbalanced quarter inch jacks, analog inputs. ADAT optical digital I/O, SPDIF and AES/EBU digital I/O provide a total of 20 inputs and 22 outputs. The unit is also bus powered from the computer's FireWire port or standard battery pack for complete portability.

CineForm has developed new patent-pending technology called CineForm RAW. CineForm has extended acclaimed wavelet codec algorithms to lightly compress the raw data from the camera into 10-bit CineForm RAW files. Directly compressing the sensor data eliminates the multiple stages of transform processing traditionally performed inside the camera, ensuring the highest dynamic range and visual quality for the images. The data which is lightly compressed into CineForm RAW at a ratio of about 5:1 for 1920x1080 10-bit data, substantially less than any other in-camera format. For more information on CineForm RAW codec check out their site at:

The production phase of the movie has come to an end... Total figures are 6TB of total storage, of which 230 hours of RAW 1080P footage for the feature "Spoon", 20 hours of 720P "Spoon" coverage and 70 hours of behind-the-scenes coverage in DV format... 230 hours edited to approx 100 minutes... Good Luck with the edit “Inspired Minority”.
A very big thank you to everyone involved in the pre-production and the production of our feature film, THANK YOU for all your support, dedication and patience during this process.

Special thanks to: CineForm, Silicon Imaging, Wafian, One8Six, CineGate.

This is Phase 2 – COMPLETE.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Technical_03: Performance

3 March 2006: On this day we shot two day’s work in one day. We started at 5am and finished at midnight – and this to capture a grand total of 7 minutes of the final movie.
The technical setup that we used for this shoot consisted of two film cameras, both with composite output to two Wafian boxes and from there to two broadcast monitors for the directors to preview the live feed. The sound also feeds from the tape deck to the Wafian boxes as a reference.
The film camera has a reference output of 720x576 that we record to the Wafians. We ended up with 80GB of Cineform footage, which represents 90 minutes of actual shooting. Besides that we had 4.6GB of still behind-the-scenes images and 5 full DV behind-the-scenes tapes. All the departments, from make up, hair, behind-the-scenes, camera and continuity made use of the Wafian like central data server on set. When all was done, we went back and digitized the film to high definition video (Telecine, just using Wafian) with resolution of 1920x1080 23,976 psf – this gave us another 100GB of data to store and backup.
After a very stressful day, with many problems along the way, I can testify to the fact that the Wafian boxes performed superbly and the hiccups that did occur were quickly taken care of. It seems that Cineform and Wafian together form a winning combination and is the one part of the whole setup that I am most satisfied with as far as performance and quality is concerned.
As it turns out, the dual Wafian box setup made life much simpler for contr
olling continuity. It became possible to watch a recording of the scene before lunch on one box while monitoring the live feed on the other box. Apart from the broadcast monitors, we also had two 23” flat panel screens sitting next to the Wafian boxes. Eventually I had both Continuity and Directors standing around my VT setup so that they could see the action better on the big monitors.
We are learning all the time. We now have to discover all the weird and wonderful things that will emerge from using the new high definition technology.

Just to let you know.

It’s been a while since this blog was updated – so let’s just catch up with some developments:

Spoon, the Movie experienced some setbacks when it turned out that we could not have all our actors in the same place at the same time. This meant that we had to shoot three scenes of the movie on the 3rd of March 2006 and delay the rest of the shoot until May and shoot through to July 2006.

Postponing the shoot gave us an opportunity to investigate (on the camera side) a better digital solution with better high definition specs, which we will now use for the main shoot. Unfortunately it takes time to set everything up for this new camera. To be safe, we decided to shoot the first three scenes using a normal film camera.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Technical_02: Mobility

“Spoon” will have some scenes shot on two cameras simultaneously. Now we need to make a box (something like VT rack) to keep inside two 1000VA UPS’s and two “Wafian” boxes together. Must have mobility on the fly, be weather proof and be in separate parts in case unit A and unit B have to be in different locations on set. Long story short – does anybody know of a “Meccano” set for industrial use? It would be nice to be able to try out different possibilities. Each UPS is about 25kg and the whole system could add up to over 70kg. The two systems must be able to work as one mechanical unit or as two separate units as the need arises. There should be a patch board of some sort mounted on the rack so that somebody tripping over a cable only results in the cable pulling out of the patch board and not all the equipment landing on the floor. The UPS’s should be “direct” and not “in-line” so that we don’t have to worry about generator voltage jumps unless it is over 380V. We will keep you posted.

What we were really wondering is where we can get a military size helicopter to drop the VT operator with the equipment to the ocean for testing purposes and leave him there for a few hours to see if “Wafian” will survive any unsuspected situations on set.

By the way I have not introduced myself – My name is Pavel Orlov, I am the Technical Supervisor for project “Spoon” and System Administrator for “Atomic VFX” company.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Technical_01: Cables and Storage

Here it comes, Ladies and Gentlemen…

Finally the Atomic VFX guys have started posting something.
If it is useful – great, if it is not useful or
something in your opinion not true – post a comment please.

Statistically speaking if you want to make a 100 minute movie, you shoot about 700. Not true anymore. Now it is all digital. Our last “Test Shoot – Day 1” showed that we end up shooting a lot more just because we can… We can view footage on set straight away. If a director isn’t happy, no problem: let’s just have another take. And VT roll before camera, say up to 5 seconds - that is 150MB of wasted space, just like that. If this were uncompressed, it would be 1.1GB. Thank goodness for “CineForm” mathematics and support. Without them and with our independent budget, this project would never have kicked off from the start line.
In our case we will have a few shoots with special visual effects and some of them may be so important that we want them to be uncompressed anyway. For this we need at least 4 SATAII 7200rpm drives. However the motherboard must have SATAII support and all four drives must have the “3Gb/s” switch enabled. Stripe them together and “Hitachi” HDS725050KLA360 model will give 224MB/s. This just makes it - for real uncompressed we need 221MB/s. But hold your horses; “Wafian” is planning to release a software update with uncompressed capture ability (to RAM with 24p extraction option). This means that we don’t need unsecured RAID0 configuration and we can stick to the RAID10 that is on the “Wafian” already. If we plan our shoots carefully, we will have the entire movie on each box (930GB is about 9 hours of “CineForm” footage).

Yes cables, not satellite transmission. With 221MB/s from component output of “JVC” GY-HD100E camcorder, it is still too expensive to transmit data wirelessly. So we decided to use normal off-the-shelf coaxial cable. When we started there was no component capture card on the market, so we used “AJA’s” HD10A HD-SDI converter and captured the feed from that. “Wafian” now have a “AJA’s” video capture card with component input that saves us having to use the extra conversion. We can now take the feed directly from the camera into the ingest box. What I discovered is that digital data requires very expensive cables to transmit over long distances: with SMPTE292 cable the maximum distance will be under 26 meters. Over that length the capacitance and resistance of the cable starts filtering out the higher harmonics of the digital signal. This results in the digital square wave becoming rounded and ultimately impossible to read accurately. The analog signal from the component output can run much further because it does not contain the high harmonics of the digital signal. But the analog signal can easily pick up external junk like electromagnetic interference from the generator. Such a sensitive cable is better to pull last and take away first and run over 20cm away from any power cables on the floor. However, it is still easier to pull 30 meters of cable to the camera on the middle of the set rather than moving the entire VT system closer to the camera.
The most important factor that we found on set is the quality of the cable itself. Don’t save money on things that are cheap anyway. We used two sets of the cable, flexible and non-flexible… Non-flexible breaks too easily, after 3 hours of heavy usage only.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Discussion on using the P+S Mini-35 with HD100

While trying to keep up with everything Spoon related I noticed two of the filmmakers discussing the camera setups and using the P+S Mini-35 over on As they do refer back to here, I thought I should link back. Here is the thread.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Mobile direct-to-disk captures.

Come on guys, share the fun. It seems that it will still take some effort to get the Atomic VFW guys to post some of their cool and interesting experiments. I do know they are preparing a lot of material. In the last weeks we have been doing boring stuff related to determining what compression settings work best for chromakeying from the JVC HD100, and doing initial 24p capture tests with the Wafian HR-1. But the last email of these pictures I had to post. This is a Wafian recorder being crushed by a large CRT (where did they find one of those these days) in the back of a small car set up for mobile direct-to-disk recording.

One interesting note is the Wafian HR-1 is A/C powered, so to gain mobility they run this unit of a UPS system, given them 15+ mintues of capture time while moving. I understand there is a wireless device used to start and stop the captures remotely.