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cameronellis
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After Effects really slow with footage from Panasonic (but not with Canon footage).  Help?!

Mar 6, 2013 3:42 PM

So I just got a new Panasonic DX-1 camera, that I love.  But I imported my first clip into after effects and it is really slow.  It chokes my CPU (Brand new MacBook Pro Retina 16GB RAM).  I think is has something to do with the formatting that my new camera uses... but I don't know what the issue is.  Thanks!!!

 

Cameron

 
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    Mar 6, 2013 3:47 PM   in reply to cameronellis

    You are probably right. MPEG formats take a bunch of processor power to decode. I'd transcode the footage to a production codec.

     
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    Mar 6, 2013 7:15 PM   in reply to cameronellis

    MPEG 4 is a highly compressed delivery codec. Don't use it for production. You should learn a bit about codecs. I'd suggest ProRez if you are on a mac or Apple Intermediate or PNG or JPEG 2000 compressed quicktimes. There are lots of options. Production codecs are lossless or nearly lossless and they give you every frame. Delivery codecs are things like MPEG4, H.264... They use both visual and temporal compression schemes that guess at the information of most of the frames you see. When you use a delivery codec in production the quality of your output and the speed of your production suffer.

     
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    Mar 6, 2013 9:02 PM   in reply to cameronellis
     
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    Mar 7, 2013 8:24 AM   in reply to cameronellis

    I think the slowness has something to do with the ACVHD, which I think I'm stripping in Premier... is that a codec?

     

    This is a very basic thing that you need to learn.  AVCHD is a codec, and MOV is a media container. 

     

    Here's a metaphor: think of a media container  -- MOV, AVI, MP4, MXF -- as a can, able to hold various liquids.  Those liquids are the codecs.

    Some liquids are good to drink: soda, iced tea.  Some are bad to drink: gasoline, battery acid. 

    If you're working on your car, gasoline is good.  If you're thirsty, gasoline is bad.

     

    If you're working in AE, a lossless codec -- PNG, ProRes 444, Animation -- is good; you won't lose any image quality, and AE can work with them quickly and easily.

     

    But some codecs compress the video signal in ways that either throw a lot of image information away or are very difficult for AE to work with.  AE can slow down a lot using them, because they don't limit their video compression to a single frame -- they look at a group of video frames, and throw away the redundant video information.  If you use such footage with any kind of feature involving time,  AE must keep looking backward & forward to reconstruct complete video frames in order to do what you tell it to do.  That's not a very efficient use of AE's capabilities, is it?  AE slows down.

     

    AVCHD is one of those bad codecs.  You're doing work that alters time.  Export your footage as Quicktime Movies from Premiere using Quicktime's PNG codec, import them into AE... and watch how AE picks up speed.

     
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    Mar 7, 2013 8:33 AM   in reply to cameronellis

    I also discovered that my camera shoots MPEG4 too, which works worlds better than the AVCHD in AE... but maybe I should still be transcoding it to the PNG?

     

    Tell you what: run a test.  Pick an MP4 clip, and export it as quicktime in PNG.  Import both into AE.  Use both clips under identical effects and circumstances.  See what happens.

     
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    Mar 7, 2013 1:42 PM   in reply to Dave LaRonde

    Wow, I think I'm finally starting to get this!  Thanks Dave!

     

    To make sure I understand, all my footage from my Canon 5D is currently in a crappy codec for production, namely H.264, which is delivered via a QuickTime .mov container.

     

    To avoid making all my work becoming more degraded the more I work on it, I need to transcode it from the H.264 BEFORE I begin work on any 5D file in either After Effects or Premier Pro.


    Otherwise it is a COMPLETE waste of time if I care ANYTHING at all about the video quality of a project I spend hundreds of hours on.

     

     

    Have I stated what is undeniable objective reality correctly?

     

    If the above is correct, my next step would seem to be to learn which production codec offers the VERY highest video quality AND can be recognized by both Premier Pro and AE.

     

    This is all still pretty terrifying to me and I appreciate the kindness of friends here helping me!

     

    Matt

     
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    Mar 7, 2013 1:58 PM   in reply to Matt Dubuque

    To avoid making all my work becoming more degraded the more I work on it, I need to transcode it from the H.264 BEFORE I begin work on any 5D file in either After Effects or Premier Pro.


    Otherwise it is a COMPLETE waste of time if I care ANYTHING at all about the video quality of a project I spend hundreds of hours on.

     

     

    Have I stated what is undeniable objective reality correctly?

     

    Unfortunately, no: you did not state reality.  The H.264 codec does its damage as the recording is made.  That's when it tosses away its color nformation.  The parts that suffer the most are the edges, even on the best-lit shots.

     

    There's a reason why DSLR's are so cheap.  They don't record very good color information: only good enouth to fool the human eye, but not a computer.  Sure, they have fine optics, but fine optics sometimes can not overcome missing color information.

     

    Now this doesn't mean you CAN'T pull acceptable chroma keys, but you have to be really careful about the shot.  For example, shooting a blonde-haired lady with flyaway hair in a breeae would be the kiss of death.

     
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    Mar 7, 2013 2:15 PM   in reply to Dave LaRonde

    Thanks Dave,

     

    Let's agree that I start off with damaged goods just by shooting with anything on a cheap camera like the Canon 5D. 

     

    I do know that 5D footage, husbanded carefully, is capable of producing work nominated for an Oscar as the magnificent work of James Longley (nominated for two Oscars) has demonstrated. 

     

    http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=Longley+pakistan&FORM=HDRSC3

     

    So the issue is how to carefully preserve my flawed image so I don't turn an unfortunate situation into a catastrophe.

     

    I really want to avoid the vicious cycle of image degradation through successive edits in trash production codecs that you so perfectly described above.

     

    Is H.264 one of those bad codecs like AVCHD you described above?

     

    If so, I NEVER want to edit in it, starting right now.  I have time, but I don't have time to waste.

     

    Thanks for taking the time to help me on this.   Matt

     
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    Mar 7, 2013 2:39 PM   in reply to Matt Dubuque

    It depends on what you're going to be using your footage for.  H.264 works well with YouTube which is where all of my video is going so I use it all the time.  It all depends on how much you need to compress the footage.

     
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    Mar 7, 2013 3:00 PM   in reply to DaftlyPunkish

    Thanks Daftly, my deliverables are to Blu-Ray discs for a very, very picky audience to be played on a 10 foot screen.

     

    I know I'm starting off with flawed images, but I know if I play my cards right I can put this off on the bigger screens.

     

    James Longley won Best Cinematography at Sundance and an Oscar nod for this exquisite DVX 100B footage, a far cheaper camera, albeit with a cult following for its dynamic range.

     

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Z39tD1wK6wA

     
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    Mar 8, 2013 9:38 AM   in reply to Matt Dubuque

    DSLR's are fine if you don't use them for EFFECTS work, and chroma keys in particular;  DSLR's stink on ice for anything other than chroma keys intended for the "weather forecaster against the map" sort of look.

     

    The best way to handle any image degradation is to immediately transcode DSLR footage out of its acquisition codec and into a better one.  If you have FCP, ProRes 422 is an excellent choice.  If you're on a windows machine, Avid's DNxHD codec is an equally good choice... and it's free.

     

    Both codecs are equally good at balancing image quality with file size.

     
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    Mar 8, 2013 10:57 AM   in reply to Dave LaRonde

    I have to differe with Dave a little here. DSLR's are way better for keying work than AVCHD cameras and even way better than a DigiBeta SD camera originally used for broadcast and costing upwards of $100,000 with lens and support gear. DSLR footage must be handled very carefully and you must make sure to shoot and light your footage very carefully if you want to pull maximum detail out of the format. Good process shots (chroma keying) has always been more about lighting and wardrobe than about the format used.

     

    Here are some hints if you are stuck with a DSLR.

    1. Use plenty of light so you can use the smallest ISO number possible (IOW eliminate as much noise as you can)
    2. Use an opposite color backlighting. If you are shooting green screen use a warm backlight. If you are shooting blue screen use an even warmer backlight to KILL screen color reflections in the highlights
    3. Avoid fly away hair. Keep it as tight as you can. Brunettes are better than redheads, redheads are better than blonds. Folks like me with nearly white hair are very hard to shoot because our hair reflects any color behind it. People with shiny or oily black hare are equally difficult to shoot because of reflections in their hair.
    4. Get your talent as far away from the screen as possible. The more acute the angle the smaller the area of reflection.
    5. Keep the light value of the screen at least 1 stop darker than the value of the lightest skin tone or hair tone in your scene. Most greenscreen work is shot with the screen way too hot. You have to leave yourself some room to work with the color values.
    6. Unless absolutely necessary to tell the story don't move the camera, don't zoom, don't pan, don't hand hold. If you must move the camera use a dolly and keep it steady and slow. Camera movement, especially zooms, give you all kinds of problems with jittering edges even with RAW footage from a Red or an Epic or anything else. Even from IMAX film scanned at 6K... Don't zoom.
    7. Do not try to pull a complex key with one copy of your footage and one use of Keylight. I've done keys with all kinds of footage including 4K film scans where I had eight or 10 copies of the footage each with it's own area of interest keyed to achieve the best result.
    8. Once you have a good key pulled learn all you can about light wrap and use it in your project. You don't need 3rd party plug-ins to do this but they make it easier. If you look at someone standing just a few feet from you in any situation you'll see light wrapping around the edges of their body and hair. The dead giveaway for a quickly done process shot (green screen) is the lack of light wrap. Learn about it, use it.
    9. If you have to do a lot of manipulation of your original footage to get it ready for keying don't be afraid to transcode DSLR footage to a production codec that's at least 10 bit and set your project to 32Bit.
    10. Last of all, and this is my magic little secret, don't be afraid to create a combination matte from your keying software. For example, from Keylight used on multiple copies of your footage choose Combined instead of Final Resut, screen all of the copies over each other, then pre-compose this big black and white matte and use it as a track matte for your original footage. I've pulled off nearly perfect keys from horribly lit an poorly shot material from a really cheap camera using this technique.

    Good keying is not a simple background below a single copy of your footage with a garbage matte and Keylight applied. Good keying is a lot of work even with the best footage from the best DP shot on the best gear money can buy. Here you can see a typical 4 section track matte made with Keylight, 4 masks, and 4 copies of the footage to clean up all of the edges.

     

    Screen Shot 2013-03-08 at 10.52.13 AM.png

     
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    Mar 8, 2013 5:07 PM   in reply to Rick Gerard

    LOW REZ FINAL SECOND JAPAN SHRINE ORIGINAL.jpg

    Thanks fellas!

     

    I don't do any keying work, for better or for worse, but I would like to use lots of other capabilities of After Effects on my film about how tree planting programs over the last 600 years from 14th century Oxford University to 16th century Tokugawa Japan, on down to Johnny Appleseed and the creation of Golden Gate Park continue to benefit hundreds of millions of people around the world today.

     

    I'm on an Apple machine, a MacPro tower, November 2008 as I recall, without CUDA unfortunately.

     

    Let's say I've narrowed down my choices to just two production codecs, ProRes and PNG with a custom alpha channel that I create somehow.

     

    And let's say that I want my film to ultimately be shown on 10 foot screens from a Blu-Ray disc and the 22 minute film is rich with way cool typography layer effects with lots of bizarre bevels and embossing and drop shadows and 3d cubes with different videos streaming on each face, as they spin through 3D environments for my short transitions, as well as hand painted images like the attached screen shot.

     

    Which of those two codecs would you choose, assuming you had been cursed enough to have shot this footage very carefully, custom white balanced, ONLY filmed on the day after it rains so you can get PRISTINE, gorgeous images, on a Canon 5D?

     

    Thanks as always!

     

    matt dubuque

     
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    Mar 9, 2013 12:44 AM   in reply to Matt Dubuque

    If you don't have to comply with prescribed requirements, then choosing a production codec is the matter of finding optimal 'quality/render time/file size' ratio. Here is my comparison of several production codecs. Check this discussion on transcoding - it contains the description of some testing techniques. Run your own tests and decide which codec serves your needs better under particular circumstances (such as project complexity, your rig capability etc.).

     
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    Mar 9, 2013 3:58 AM   in reply to Matt Dubuque

    You are way over obsessing about this. ProRez 422 HQ should be on your Mac. Use that unless you need transparency then  use ProRez 444. PNG Quicktime at best is also just fine. It dissent matter whether the picture is like the one you showed or whether it's grandma's birthday shot on 8mm in 1952, ANY production codec will hold up just fine in your production. The difference in the final product will be impossible to see with with the naked eye.

     

    Once you've completed the project use your BluRay authoring program or Adobe Media Encoder to render for distribution. This is where your choice of settings and compression software make the real difference. To preserve the highest image quality you should render to the highest data rate your playback device can handle using the best multi pass compression available within your budget Adobe Media Encoder or Encore will do a very good job of producing the final render simply by using the BluRay preset.

     

    Your color grading and the quality of your design have more to do with the final 'quality' of your image than anything else. Graphics that move at the wrong speed can jitter, images with detail levels set to high can have moray patterns, colors can be too saturated.

     
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    Mar 9, 2013 7:37 PM   in reply to Rick Gerard

    Thanks Rick, that's reassuring and informative.

     

    A couple things had informed my concerns.

     

    I recall, for example, a link posted by Bill Hunt (who is quite talented) in the Premiere Pro forum with some pretty explicit advice about the necessity for fonts without serifs and drop shadows for workflows in that program and I did not see any exceptions with respect to certain codecs being immune to difficulties with complex formatting on titles.

     

    Matt

     
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