How To Fix Apple’s Compressor

Over the last month or so I’ve seen a couple of problems with Apple’s Compressor just acting goofy. Typically a batch will begin to render and then I can’t cancel the batch and compressor is responsive, but isn’t doing anything. It won’t cancel my batch and it won’t render anything new. I found a couple of trouble shooting options.

Option 1: Reset background processes. This is from the compressor application menu/ Reset Background Processing

Option 2: Compressor Repair:. This week I accidently dropped an audio file onto a .wmv droplet I have and compressor locked up. It would cancel the batch and resetting the background processes didn’t work either. But this little app worked like a champ.

Hope this saves you a headache down the road.

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May 13, 2010. Tech Stuff, Video. Leave a comment.

Mediashout Problems

I know I’m biased. I’m not a fan of PCs or Mediashout. I hope I don’t come across as a zealot because I’m not. I’m a fan of the right tool for the right job.

I haven’t used PCs since 2000 so I always feel like a fish out of water when I use one. I don’t think PCs are bad, I’m just quicker and more efficient on a mac because that’s what I know.

Here’s my biggest gripes about Mediashout:
– Ugly user interface. UI is so bad it hides features. Example is the cue editor UI. You don’t realize certain boxes are options because they are grayed out.
– Way too many clicks to do simple operations. Better than version 3, but still a lot of clicks.
– Based on windows media player and can be fickle with the formats it plays. Creating WMV files on the mac adds an extra 40 minutes of encoding per minute of video.
– Lack of documentation/ training (version 4 refers to version 3 in it’s help menu)

My biggest gripe is we’ve had a problem with certain song files locking up the program. Mediashout’s response was to create a new cue and not use the old one. That’s a pretty crappy workaround.

Just to be fair I do really like the feature in Mediashout to play a cue at a certain time. We use it every week to fire our countdown videos.

For the most part Mediashout does what we need it to do. But I am looking at Propresenter and hoping in the not too distant future we’ll be able to make the switch. Especially when it comes to the ability to modify the hue, saturation and brightness of background video clips.

October 14, 2009. Tech Stuff. 2 comments.

Review: iStoragePro iT4UFER RAID

I’ve been a fan of G-Technology for awhile. I’ve written about the G-Speed eS before. I was contacted by iStoragePro to do a review of their 4 drive RAID the iT4UFER.

First impressions of the iT4UFER are:
-It’s a hard name to remember not to mention pronounce.
-The enclosure is huge compared to the G-Speed but it does give more features. It’s close to double the size.
-There is a menu accessible via the LCD menu but I did not receive nor could I find documentation online about what I’m able to do via this menu
-You have more connections (FW400, FW800 and USB). These speeds are dramatically slower than eSATA but it’s nice if your eSATA card fried, your tower died and you needed to access the RAID from a MacBook Pro.
-It’s cheaper than the G-Speed. I’ve seen it listed online for $1k with four 1TB drives. The G-Speed is $1,350 and lacks the FW & USB ports. Both drives perform best via eSATA so you’ll need an eSATA card in your machine.

Using AJA drive tests the iT4UFER performed well. Write speeds of 167 MB/s and Read speeds of 184 MB/s
 iT4UFER eSATA

That was faster than the G-Speed which posted a Write speed of 153 MB/s and a Read speed of 173 MB/s
g-Speed eSATA

So at first look the iStoragePro RAID is cheaper, more versatile with it’s connections and cheaper!

But I’ve heard that that drive speed tests like AJA and Blackmagic don’t reproduce real world experiences. This is because these programs use much more efficient programing calls for moving data on and off a drive than applications like Final Cut, Premiere Pro and Avid. HD Speed Test uses the same programing calls most video applications use and there fore reproduce real world examples better.

Using this test the G-Speed edges out the iStorage RAID with a sustained speed of 128 MB/s vs 93 MB/s.
iT4UFER HD Speed Test
GSpeed HD Speed Test

Both will give RT capture & playback of multiple 720p & 1080p up to 4:4:4 and even RED 2k and 4k footage. The GSpeed should give you one stream of uncompressed HD. You can see the details in the graphs above.

Bottom line:
The iT4UFER is a great value for the money. It gives you more features and connections than the G-Speed but is larger physically and seems slower according the the HD Drive Speed Test. In my real world use of the drive the both performed identically when it came to moving files around and editing HD footage from the Sony EX-1.

October 12, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , . Tech Stuff. 2 comments.

Switching To Google Apps

About a month ago we had some staff changes at the church. The guy who was our facilities manager/ IT / wore several other hats around the church left. He’s still around the church just changed his job. Some job duties were shuffled around and I’ve become the point person for IT. We have a contract with a company for them to provide the day to day IT support when needed so I mainly just call them.

I find it funny because I’m the only mac user and I haven’t used a PC since 2001. So most request for IT go like this:
Step 1: Restart
Step 2: Call IT support guy

But I know a few things about myself. I like solving problems. Since I’ve came on staff at Lakeshore we’ve had an old Exchange server that’s needed to be replaced. In order for it to deliver emails in a timely manner most of it’s features have been turned off. It doesn’t even sync changes made in a blackberry or the web access with your Outlook/ Entourage mail box.

So we looked at several solutions:
1. New Exchange server. High upfront cost and needs care and feeding by someone who knows what they’re doing.
2. Hosted Exchange. No upfront cost but about $10/user per month
3. Google Apps. Typically $50/user/year but non profits are eligible for their free education program. In other words it’s free for churches in the US with 501(c)3 IRS status.

It didn’t take much persuasion to see the benefit of switching to Google Apps. The process went pretty smooth except for a few details that I’ll get to at the end.

Here’s the process we went through:
1. Sign up for Google Apps standard account
2. Submit an application for a non-profit/ edu account (took about 2 weeks for Google to approve us).
3. On all PCs installed Google Talk (this gave everyone intra office IM and notifies them when they have email), Google Apps Sync (This utility migrates their data from Outlook to Google and allows them to use Outlook as their front end if they want).

So we made the switch about a week ago and here’s what I’ve learned so far:
– Outlook mailing lists don’t migrate to Google Groups. We have one person who is using Outlook as a contact management solution instead of our Church Management Solution and has several thousand contacts on over one hundred mailing lists. FYI he’s still using Outlook.
– Only a few people had their old emails migrate over. This is because most people on staff had Exchange email boxes that were 500Mb+ and we have a slow internet connection. So if you do the math of pushing up the data, then pulling the data down it’s going to take several days to get their old email’s migrated. So far most people don’t need them but what I’m going to do this week is if they have old emails that need to be migrated is to have them delete what they don’t need out of their mailbox.

Most the guys on staff have blackberries. We’re using Google Sync for calendar and contact sync and the Gmail application for email. So far it seems to be working well.

A few of us have iPhones and now that Google Sync supports email on the iPhone life is great. One gotcha I had to figure out is to sync multiple calendars with my iphone I had to navigate to m.google.com, sign into my Google Apps account then I was given some preferences to adjust.

October 7, 2009. Tags: , , , . Tech Stuff. 1 comment.

LakeShore Architectural Projection

One of the areas I’m enjoying being creative is with the lighting and visuals we use in our services at LakeShore. Here’s some of the tools we have to create an atmosphere in the sanctuary:

– 16:9 Center Screen: We use this for video playback (preservice countdown, video announcements, bumpers, etc…, visual themes during worship, main sermon points
– Two 4:3 Side Screens: We use these for announcement loops before service, lyrics during worship, scripture passages during the sermon
– Three Architectural Projectors: They are the same feed off the same computer. I’d like to add a Matrox Triple Head 2 Go in the future. We don’t use the center screen as the sight lines blind the band and singers
– 12 Par Can lights with color scrollers

These are a lot of elements to change during a service. But I like simplicity and themes. So when this last sermon series started I wanted to create visuals and lighting that echoed the sermon graphics.

Here’s the sermon graphics that the children’s church pastor/ graphic design handed off to me:
reFRESH

I took the wave elements and created:
-Wall Graphics
-Lyric Loops
-Center Eye Candy Loop (no lyrics)
-Countdown

I then used the lights and used the blue, yellow and green color palette. Here’s how it ended up looking:
LakeShore

It’s a lot of work at the beginning of a series but then we kept this look throughout the series. I have to say I really like it. It’s using the media with a purpose. It’s not just random images/ loops but setting a tone for a season.

If you want to see some of the HD elements in motion you can check out LakeShore’s YouTube Channel.

Here are the various elements embeded (RSS Readers will have to check the original post)

Bumper:

Countdown:

16:9 Loop No Lyrics:

4:3 Loop:

16:9 Loop:

July 2, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Graphic Design, Tech Stuff, Video. Leave a comment.

Mac to MediaShout Workflow

I’ve been used to working with an all Mac workflow. FCP or After Effects to ProPresenter. At LakeShore we’re using MediaShout on PCs. So I’m having to figure out a workflow to reliably play videos back within MediaShout.

There have been a few staff changes but the Mac to PC workflow has been a problem at LakeShore. I’ve heard that the K-Lite codec package should allow MPEG4s to play within Windows Media Player which means it should play within MediaShout. I’ve been told we’ve tried that and it’s not working like it should. The codecs show that they are installed but the MPEG4s are not playing correctly.

I tried AVI and MPEG1 which are both very lossy and old codecs. So I looked into WMV conversion. I have an old copy of the now defunct Visual Hub. The output looked as good as my MPEG4 files but as the video played there was some serious compression errors. A couple of times in a video a chunk of the screen would be seriously pixelated, then it would snap back to looking great.

I then went looking to other solutions. I’ve settled on Flip4Mac HD Studio. It comes with several presets geared towards various target delivery formats. I’ve had to adjust some of the settings to get videos to playback smooth on older machines. They main downside with Flip4Mac is it doesn’t engage all the cores on the Mac Pro Octo.

May 8, 2009. Tech Stuff, Video. 2 comments.

New Video Camera Time…Again

I’ve been at Lakeshore for just over a week now. It’s interesting to step into a job where I get to create my own job description. As I’m starting to see the direction we want the video production to go I’m realizing our current equipment is not going to get us there. I’m basically starting from scratch.

At my last job it was about a year ago I started looking at a new camera. I wrote about the cameras I was looking at, my process for choosing a camera and the camera I ended up with, the HVX-200a. I wrote about it here and here.

First off I don’t have a budget yet or a timeframe. The immediate video production projects are going to be:
1) Weekly video announcements. Primarily shot on green screen
2) Sermon videos. My pastor has the personality and style and wants to pull of object lessons similar to what Craig Grochell does at LifeChurch.tv.

I like tapeless workflows and don’t want to work with HDV. So here’s the cameras I’m looking at and what I’m thinking so far:

HMC-150 around $3,500
Pros:
-Cheapest camera I’m looking at with a price tag around $3,500
-Records to SDHC cards. Most cost effective. Most minutes per gigabyte.
-Records full frame image
Cons:
-AVCHD. Most compressed and lowest bitrate. GOP based format

Panasonic HPX170 around $5,000
Pros:
-Highest bit rate
-4:2:2 color depth
-DVCProHD codec is easy for computers to handle
-Intraframe Codec
-Variable frame rates
-HD-SDI output

Cons:
-P2 highest cost per GB
-Lowest minutes per GB
-Not full frame. Loose 25% of horizontal image

Sony EX-1 about $6,000
Pros:
-1/2″ chips
-Best optics
-Variable frame rates
-Sharpest picture
-Full frame images
-Can record to sdhc with adapter bit can’t do extreme over cranking.
-HD-SDI output

Cons:
-Most expensive
-CMOS sensor can run into rolling shutter problems.

I think all cameras can produce good results 90% of the time. The final destination is going to be projected during services and/or on the web. As much as I’d like the EX-1 I wonder if it’s overkill. But it’s optics are great and it produces the sharpest image of the group. The 170 shoots DVCProHD which is easy to work with and keys great. The 150 looks great on paper and the budget but is it too good to be true? It’s almost $2k cheaper than the 170 and almost $3k cheaper than the EX-1.

The budget comes up because I need so other items as well:
-Tripod. I’m looking at the Caroni HiDV System. I was very impressed with this tripod at a trade show but decided on a cheaper tripod at my last job that I was never really happy with.
-ENG Wireless Kit. Leaning towards Sennheiser G2 100 kit
-Raid. I like G-Tech’s G-Speed eS set up as RAID 5
-Light Kit. I’m up in the air but I’ve been a fan of Lowell lights as a good bang for the buck. I’m looking at the DV Pro 55 Kit

If you guys have any input on anything I’m looking at or other suggestions I’d appreciate it!

April 27, 2009. Tech Stuff, Video. Leave a comment.

First Week At Lakeshore…

So I just wrapped up my first week at Lakeshore. I’m enjoying my first full day off in um…18 days as I count. Change and transitions are not always easy but I’m really excited to be a part of the team at Lakeshore.

Most of this week has been me just getting settled in, meeting people, learning the ropes, etc… Oh yeah and setting up my toys… I mean tools to work with.

They set me up with a MacPro. It’s the 8 core 2.26 GHz with 16 GB of Ram. To say the least it’s fast. At Grace I was working on a 2007 MacPro Quad (2.66 GHz I think) with 8GB of RAM. And this new MacPro blows it away. I created some basic countdowns this week but just to push the machine a little bit I decided to make some templates in 1080p and 720p and this machine tears it up.

One odd thing is what activity monitor shows.
ocho

If you count it’s showing 16 cores and they’re pegged while compressor was encoding. I don’t know if it’s supposed to show 16 cores or if it’s actually showing something else. But this machine is fast.

To go along with the MacPro I got setup with some Blue Sky Exo monitors. Blue Sky has a good reputation in the studio and these are their budget/ entry level system. For the type of work I do they work great. They give me a full range sound at a decent price.

For a display I’m using a 24″ Dell. I’d love an Apple Cinema Display but I just can’t justify the price.

April 24, 2009. Tech Stuff. 1 comment.

Getting The Most Out Of Time Machine

OK So last post we talked about some back up strategies. Basically different strategies for different work flows with the value of your time and data being the biggest factors. 

I’ve been using Time Machine on my laptop for awhile. It’s easy to set up and forget about it. I wanted Time Machine to backup my documents and media files on my internal drive. But Time Machine’s default setting backup the entire drive. I think restoring your entire drive from a Time Machine backup takes up a lot of time and I don’t know if I trust the way it would reinstall my applications. Instead I’ve only used Time Machine to restore lost files and when doing a clean install I brought over my user files and preferences. 

So how can we get more out of Time Machine? 

1. Limit what gets backed up. Time Machine is a data hog. Because of my classes at http://www.fxphd.com I’m down loading several gigs of data each week. Plus podcasts and other video files I create and put a temp version on the desktop. Guess what it all gets backed up to my Time Machine drive. Here’s how: 

  • Open Time Machine Preferences
  • Click on Options. This window lists everything not to backup. If you have other drives by default they should be listed here
  • Start excluding folders and drives you don’t want backed up by clicking on the + button. For me, on my MBP I excluded: Applications, Developer, Digidesign, Library and System. Under my Users folder I excluded the Shared folder. Doing this excluded about 65 GB of data from being backed up. Data that for me I can reinstall if/ when something goes bad. 
  • I don’t keep my personal pictures of my kids and home movies on my internal drive. I use an external drive for that. You can use Time Machine to backup external drives to your Time Machine disk as well. So that’s what I did. I removed that drive from the excluded list and now I’m getting incremental backups of my pictures and home movies. 

2. Control when Time Machine backs up. Time Machine’s options are limited. If you don’t like the default setting of backing up every hour you can change it by manually adjusting a system preference file with a text editor or using Time Machine Editor. This little application allows you to change the backup schedule to your liking. Since it is adjusting a system preference file if you delete this application remember to reset your default setting from setting/ show default settings. 

That’s a quick look into how I’m using Time Machine and my other backup strategies yesterday.

February 12, 2009. Tech Stuff. Leave a comment.

Backup Stratagies

First let’s talk about backup strategies. Depending on what type of work you use your computer for you’re going to have different needs. I’m a Mac user so I’m going to focus on Mac solutions I’ve used. Let’s tackle a few backup tools I’ve used:

SuperDuper & Carbon Copy Cloner

I’ve use both these programs at times to create a bootable backup. I did this for mission critical systems like my media computer. Once I had the software installed I used one of these programs to create a bootable backup. That way if I updated some software that jacked up my system (like a few QuickTime updates have), I could pop the other hard drive in and I’m up in running in a matter of minutes. If you can’t live with the 1-2 days it takes to rebuild your system because you don’t have the time or a backup computer to work on this is important. You’re talking about a $100 or less hard drive to get you up and running again. 

Lately I’ve bounce between working on my MacBookPro or the MacPro in the media room. If one goes down I work on the other. So lately I don’t use a bootable backup, but I have when I didn’t have a beefy laptop or backup computer. 

ChronoSync

Since I bounce between my MBP and the MacPro I don’t keep my media files on the internal drive. For the MacPro I use a G-Speed eS RAID. Because I shoot on an HVX-200a with P2 cards the G-Speed is setup as a RAID 5 so if a hard drive crashes it can rebuild on the fly. I use ChronoSync to sync my Design, Digital Signage and current video projects to a G-Drive Mini (it’s a bus powered firewire drive). This way I have my most important files on a RAID 5 and I have them on another drive. I like ChronoSync for this because it doesn’t create a backup per say but synchronizes content across drives. You can schedule the synchronization for certain times but I choose to synchronizes when the computer detects my portable drive connected. 

Time Machine

Time Machine is an incremental backup program bundled with Apple’s Leopard. It has a very slick interface for retrieving files that have been deleted or modified from the past. I use it on my MBP but not on the MacPro. I’m going to talk more on the next post about getting the most out of Time Machine. I use Time Machine on my MBP but not on the MacPro. My main use for it is to make sure I have a backup of my personal media files (music, videos and pictures). You can use Apple’s Migration Assistant to restore your user, files and settings to your computer if your drive fails or if you’re moving to a new machine. 

So what’s the best backup strategy for you? It depends, but you do need a backup strategy. I think the biggest variables are how valuable is your time and the data on your drives. Let’s break it down: 

-Clone/ Bootable Backup: If you can’t handle down time in case of a software problem or hard drive problem this is for you. Once your operating system and applications are stable create a bootable backup. This way you can plug the backup drive in and get to work within a few minutes. 

-Incremental Backups: This is what I do on my media drives with Chrono Sync. The most valuable files (my design, digital signage and current video projects) are synced on multiple drives. This gives me assurance in case one drive dies, the building catches on fire, one drive is stolen, etc…

-Time Machine: Time Machine is a simple backup plan. It gives you good assurance to restore deleted/ modified files. It comes bundled with Leopard and is a set it and forget is tool. I’ll talk more next post about how I get the most out of Time Machine.

February 11, 2009. Tech Stuff. Leave a comment.

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