Saturday, June 16, 2012

Uberector M dot Strange presents: Heart String Marionette

The long anticipated film Heart String Marionette by fellow Uberector M dot Strange is finally out :) I've been waiting for this one for a while, and from the trailer it looks like it's over 9000 times better than We Are The Strange was. No screening at the Sundance film festical this time, where half the audience walks out of the theater: M dot is releasing this directly to teh int4rw3bs, and you can get your copy here. $5 for a full 1080p HD mp4 with no DRM or bullshit region codes or any nanny screens to sit through... Cough up the scrilla, download, play... easier than pirating, and you support an independent Uberector at the same time. This could be the first 'official' pure digima release... a film made on the internet, from the internet... and for the internet...

I'm downloading my copy right now and I'll be posting a review in the next couple days...

Music videos n shizz part 2

Music video time round two, this time with Nothing by Two Moons. They emailed me a while ago about using clips from Archon for a music video, and this kinda slipped off my radar since then but it's good to finally see the finished project ;)

Two moons is a musical project founded in 2009 from an idea of Emilio Mucciga, Giuseppe Taibi (MisterRips), Angelo Argento (Ngilinex) and Vincenzo Brucculeri (Nils), active musicians for very long years with the joint intentions and aim to set up a very ambitious and important musical project.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Music videos n shizz....part 1

Electronica group Jeannie Rides A Rocket have this video out (after asking me nicely...) from their upcoming album, with video from my "Legend of the Moon" short:

..more vids to come from other bands / musicians... once I get the word they've finished their edits...


A video for the song Lanark by Horsemen Pass By set to Archon Defender check them out here.

Tutorial: How to encode Digital Cinema Package (DCP )

As filmmakers we will at some point want to exhibit our films on the large screen, to a packed theater (hopefully... though I've been to a festical screening or two of Archon Defender where I was the only one in the theater) Most film fests will be capable of screening a DVD version (this format is getting old... but in a worse case scenario it's good to have as a fallback) or directly from a computer into a digital projector using an .avi .mp4 or .mov file.

For the occasional holdout festicals still stuck in the technological dark ages, they may insist on an actual 35 mm print (this can cost upwards of $10,000 for a single print, for a feature film, give or take a few grand 'pocket change') For 3D films (of which Origin: A Call to Minds is...) the only real option for theatrical screening in 3D is a Digital Cinema Package or DCP

A DCP is designed to keep all the expense and hassle of an actual film print while minimizing any actual benefit that a digital file would permit in terms of bringing ease of creation and access to the independent filmmaker. DCP allows for optional encryption, which prevents theater staff from sneaking in and copying a 2K or 4K perfect copy of a film onto a usb drive and uploading it to The Pirate Bay. Which is one reason why we're all still stuck with crappy cam versions of pirated films which in some cases are just as bad a watching the actual film in the theater... but I digress...

For the last couple of weeks (more on this later...) I've been using the freeware / open source application OpenDCP to create a 3D DCP in anticipation of upcoming film festival entries:

Software used:
Hardware required:
  • 2 TB or so of free harddrive

Step 1: Lossless AVI Master

The master for Origin is a sequence of .avi files using the lossless HuffYUV codec, 720p HD resolution, separated into "chapters" for convenience, and consisting of Left and Right eye streams, plus an audio soundtrack in .wav format.

There's a pile of these sequences and I use an avisynth script to join them all together into a master comp for both the Left and Right eye stream. From here I can do any encoding I want using *this* script as the input for another avisynth script, changing the resolution and comping the streams for:
  • DVD
  • Divx / mp4 @ 720p HD
  • 3D anaglyph 'optimized' for color
  • 3D Side by side or over-under for 3D monitors / TV's
  • Image sequence output
Avisynth will let you write out an image file sequence of your streams. OpenDCP requires a sequence of .tiff images in any of several 'compliant' resolutions, I used 2k resolution which is 1998x1080 'flat' aspect ratio. I mastered Origin in 24fps, OpenDCP accepts frame rates of 24,25,30,48,50,60 fps.

Step 2: Writing the .tiff files
Here's the Avisynth script I use to write the .tiff image sequence. This is the part that is going to eat your harddrive.

# Convert to 1.85:1 aspect 2K projection image
# which is apparently 1998 x 1080
# from 1280 x 640 2:1 aspect

# Load and prepare source files

# avisource( "ACM000 All Comps R.avs" )
avisource( "ACM000 All Comps L.avs" )

# process crop and scale
# source 1280 640
# target 1998 999 81 (40 top , 41 bottom)

BilinearResize (1998, 999)
AddBorders (0, 40, 0, 41, $000000)

# info

# ImageWriter(file = "H:\DCP\1 Source TIFF and AUDIO\Right
\OriginACM_R_", start = 0, end = 0, type = "tiff"
, info = true)
ImageWriter(file = "H:\DCP\1 Source TIFF and AUDIO\Left\
OriginACM_L_", start = 0, end = 0, type = "tiff",
info = true)

Origin is 80 minutes long. 3D means that there's twice that amount of actual footage to encode. At this point you now have 1.56 TB of images in two directories, one for the Left and one for the Right stream (folder 3 is for the audio...more on that later...):

Luckily the rest of this process is not nearly as data intensive.

Step 3: Encoding the jpeg2000 files
Now we use OpenDCP to convert the .tiff image sequence into jpeg2000 images. OpenDCP coverts these from the RGB format that a normal computer uses to one called XYZ which the engineers of digital cinema projectors came up with to make life more complicated than it needs to be:
Notice how I've circled the nice option where you can restart the encoding if the power goes out, and not have to start over from the beginning... this is handy because encoding will take you a while:

Step 4: Encoding jpeg2000 files is finished...
How long of a while, you say? Funny you should ask:

Apparently Jpeg2000 encoding is really slow... must be why nobody ever uses it for anything, ever, except the DCP bunch... meh.. w/e this is something that you just have to put up with and be patient with... having a faster computer than a Core2duo might help... splitting up your frames to multiple computers to convert in parallel might help, but it'd be something that you'd have to babysit... This is one place where OpenDCP could benefit from some network enabled task sharing...

Step 5: Packing up the Jpeg2000 images into an MXF file
The next step is to take all the converted images and pack them into a single file called an MXF file. For 3D films, this stores the left and right streams, alternating the frames, so the projector will effectively project at twice your frame rate, 48 fps for a 24 fps source.

This step kept giving me an error at about 4%: Turns out that when the power went out the *first* time during encoding, it wrote a Jpeg2000 with a bad header. So, when this happens it's always a good idea to check the last few frames that got written before restarting the convert process.

I did a 3D and a 2D version at this point.

Step 6: Converting the Audio stream into a separate MXF file:
OpenDCP can encode stereo or 5.1 channel sound. These have to be 48 khz 24 bit wav files, mono, so one wav for Left, Right, (stereo sound mix) etc... I used an Avisynth script to extract each sound channel, then I used VirtualDub to write the sound file as a wav. The bitrate conversion is handled by the Avisynth script.

Step 7: Creating the DCP file
At this point you're ready to make the final product. The DCP spec has a standardized naming convention which gives the projectionists the most amount of information that you can possibly squeeze onto the tiny el-cheapo LCD character displays which grace these multi-thousand dollar pieces of hardware. Luckily, OpenDCP has a little tool, the Title Generator that handles all this for you, just enter the appropriate data and hit OK

Now it sits there for a while, and then spits out all the files you'll need to get onto a harddrive to take to your film festival:

Now at this point I haven't checked this on an actual DCP server (I used to have one kicking around collecting dust, but I just can't for the life of me remember where I put it... oh well, easy come easy go... oshi~~~ I think I left it in the trunk of my second rolls royce...) So at this point I'm still going to have to see if a normal usb harddrive will suffice to transport this, or if (probably) there's some ridiculous and more expensive hardware requirement... :/

Step 8: Checking the DCP:
Stereoscopic Player will play DCP's.. and more importantly it will play 3D DCP's The trial version only plays back a low res version, and you're limited to 5 minutes of playback at a time. Enough to check and make sure that everything has worked:

The final product... I set up the player to show "Cross Eyed" freeview, the easiest way to check this on a flat monitor... At this point you want to make sure the audio is synced, and the colors are played back correctly. The Jpeg2000 decoder here automatically converts back from XYZ to RGB color space.

So now it's on to the film festivals...
In eye-popping 3D:

Monday, June 4, 2012

Waiting for film festivals and DCP encodes...

Department of Waiting Dept.


Yup... it's been a bit since I had anything exciting to post... and since the big "crunch" to get Origin: A Call to Minds done in time for last months (may 5 ish) deadlines for the Toronto International Film Festival, Ottawa International Animation Festival, Dragon Con film fest, another entry into MIFF, Fantasia Montreal... to name some of the "big" festivals I'm looking to get into with this film...

(...considering that it's actually good this time instead of that old kludge of a film Archon Defender...) though I can't actually prove that to you yet because I have to wait for the 'privilege' of being 'selected' to screen at these highly prestigious festivals. Amongst festivals I've screened at, MIFF and Dragon Con were two of the best... In fact it's thanks to the MIFF crew that I have the contacts with the amazing voice actor talent, and actually doing things the proper way this time (ie: recording the voices first and not using computer voices and then trying to match those... :/ makes all the difference in Origin.

Now the big festivals want to be the super exclusive world premiere of your film... some festivals will reject your film if they're not the super 1337 0day hax0r Uber-awesome over9000 d00ds who get to see your film first. And if you've released your film on the internet: forget it. Why would people go to see a film on a super huge screen with an audience of like minded fans where they can ostensibly meet the filmmaker (secret: we're not actually that interesting to talk to... but we will accept free beer...) ... and watch the film in 3D with super expensive popcorn and sticky floors covered in pop... when they could sit at home and watch a little 1/4 screen youtube window with blocky compression whilst wearing el cheapo anaglyph 3d glasses that just make everything blurry :( (note: slight exaggeration... anaglyph is perfectly fine, done properly...) (note 2: sorry James Cameron, I totally watched a pirated version of Avatar... in anaglyph >:P buwahahah) (note 3: terrorists forced me to watch their pirated version at gunpoint)

We are the filmmakers... WE dictate where and how the films get shown. Why? we create the films. No Films = Black screen (and silent soundtrack... watch out John Cage doesn't sue you if he finds out you're stealing his silent piano concerto again....)

The audience wants to see our films. We want to connect with our audience, show them our films, (sneak behind them while they're so engrossed that they don't notice us pickpocketing...oh shi~* forget that last bit....)

I've gone to films... I've gone to film festivals... I've never been to "A Festival"

And I'm itching to get Origin: A Call to Minds out to the my audience :P I'm sure some of you are itching to see it... having gotten a bunch of emails to that effect already ;) The good news is that by the time you do manage to see it, I'll be well under way with production on the NEXT one... ;)

movie cards... soon it's storyboarding time again ;)