Friday, October 28, 2011


Richard Stallman makes a distinction between "free software" and "open source" that I don't really understand.
Act I
By and large I'm a proponent of open source and we release movie elements (like sound effects and digital models) into open source under a variety of Creative Commons licenses.
Act II
We do use a number of proprietary standards. One standard for delivering a motion picture is a 1920x1080 progressive scan image in a Quicktime format with ProRes422 compression. We use this format and compression in our shop a lot. Quicktime and ProRes422 are both owned by Apple. They make a reader for a PC but there's no way I know of for a PC to encode a ProRes422 with a Quicktime wrapper.
Why is this important? Because almost any lab we deliver a drive to can handle a quicktime movie encoded as ProRes422. It's a perfectly reasonable output codec. "Broadcast quality" -- whatever that means. And making the deliverable format a Quicktime movie means you can imbed a whole bunch of different audio tracks (stereo english, stereo M&E, 5.1 English, 5.1 M&E, stereo commentary...)
Every lab has Final Cut Pro 7 and can read these formats just fine.
So Apple is doing away with FCP 7 and gone right to FCP 10. Obviously a lot of houses are going over to other kinds of editing systems which aren't as favorable to ProRes422 as we've been up until now. What if your go to a lab and they're all like "We just have FCP X and a couple Digi-Beta decks. Oh, but we have an Avid and a Premiere system we do our serious work on, but those are both PC's."
Oof. Aaf. I don't know. Now this is getting harder. When Apple's FCP was the obvious go-to professional program, the codec that worked so well with it was perfectly fine to deliver in.

Tom Rowen, Joe Chapman, and Juanita Arias in Android Insurrection. Rebecca Kush calls this picture "Lord of the Quarry Dance".
So what do we do now? Will we be delivering picture as OpenEXR? Politically that's very appealing. And obviously if ILM is using it, there's some serious industry level backing for it.
Act IV
Are we going to abandon proprietary Quicktime format for OpenEXR image sequences? For many uses image sequences are pretty awesome. Not for everything though. Sometimes a Quicktime or an .avi is just nice, right? It's not a directory filled with a bunch of individual image files.
Act V
So I'm just wondering what we're going to end up with. Will Apple relinquish the high end of video delivery to Avids and Premiere systems? Will they work with OpenEXR? Blender does. AfterEffects sorta does.
Final Cut Pro certainly doesn't. It likes Quicktime movies* and really prefers one of a handful of codecs (including ProRes422). Premiere, on the other hand, will import image sequences directly but unfortunately does not support OpenEXR as far as I can tell.
Yeah, I got no idea. We'll use FCP7 for the remainder of the year and probably through 2012. And we'll deliver in ProRes422. Other than that? I got no idea.

*It is possible, and not too big a pain the the butt, to import still image sequences inside Quicktime wrappers.


Kangas said...

My distributor wanted an uncompressed .avi, which I delivered. Yeah, it was big, but so what? Firewire drives are cheap now. (cheap enough)

Andrew Bellware said...

Well firstly: congratulations on getting your distributor to accept a hard drive!
And secondwise: yeah, I had a distributor insist on "uncompressed". And I ignored him and gave him ProRes422. I think what they mean by "uncompressed" is no Cinepak.
But what do I know? Distributors confuse me.
On PC's there's this really interesting legacy codec and I TOTALLY FORGET THE NAME OF IT. And I built Solar Vengeance out of it. It looked pretty good.
Maybe one day we'll be delivering in .mts format. Although that is a file format I simply do not understand at a fundamental level.
It would be lovely to have an open-source universal standard. Cross-platform too. Hell, while I'm being like this I'd like to do all my work on Linux...

Lindsay Stewart said...

All this. It makes me crazy. I need to rebuild on a few levels, from cameras to computers to software. I'd dearly love to say farewell to Mac but I have a big software and plug-in investment there. Final Cut Ex is a turnip, the hardware is extra money for fewer options and you can't trust them not to totally bugger things beyond use. So in my searching I've kept an eye on these guys...

They have a Mac and Linux beta due for release in December, very interesting. As it is I'm looking at maybe a used Mac 8 core and a switch to Premiere. The corporate pig wrestling that is keeping this stuff from being easy is getting very tired.

Andrew Bellware said...

Ha! Calling FCP X a "turnip" is the funniest thing I've heard today. Thanks!
Also. Lightworks? Dude. I mean Dude. Dude!
I'm totally going to stalk them.
You know, a Linux machine is a bit cheaper than a dual quad-core. But either way. Oh yeah. Lightworks. Very interesting.
If someone were to make an open-source AfterEffects then ooh...

Kangas said...

As to getting them to accept the master that way, I find it helps to tell them that's all you have to deliver. Their main worry is that you don't actually know how to export your movie properly(which is valid, since some people don't).

Andrew Bellware said...

Obviously your method is better than mine, which is made up of getting on my hands and knees and crying "Please! Please accept a hard-drive master!"
To which they just laugh and throw things at me.