Category Archives: Video Editing Tutorials

Tutorials and tips and tricks for video editing or visual effects applications, video plugins, video production hardware or all of the above. Applications we usually cover are After Effects, Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, & Davinci Resolve.

Speeding Up De-flickering of Time Lapse Sequences in Premiere

Time lapse is always challenging… you’ve got a high resolution image sequence that can seriously tax your system. Add Flicker Free on top of that… where we’re analyzing up to 21 of those high resolution images… and you can really slow a system down. So I’m going to go over a few tips for speeding things up in Premiere or other video editor.

First off, turn off Render Maximum Depth and Maximum Quality. Maximum Depth is not going to improve the render quality unless your image sequence is HDR and the format you’re saving it to supports 32-bit images. If it’s just a normal RAW or JPEG sequence, it  won’t make much of a difference. Render Maximum Quality may make a bit of difference but it will likely be lost in whatever compression you use. Do a test or two to see if you can tell the difference (it does improve scaling) but I rarely can.

RAW: If at all possible you should shoot your time lapses in RAW. There are some serious benefits which I go over in detailed in this video: Shooting RAW for Time Lapse. The main benefit is that Adobe Camera RAW automatically removes dead pixels. It’s a big f’ing deal and it’s awesome. HOWEVER… once you’ve processed them in Adobe Camera RAW, you should convert the image sequence to a movie or JPEG sequence (using very little compression). It will make processing the time lapse sequence (color correction, effects, deflickering, etc.) much, much faster. RAW is awesome for the first pass, after that it’ll just bog your system down.

Nest, Pre-comp, Compound… whatever your video editing app calls it, use it. Don’t apply Flicker Free or other de-flickering software to the original, super-high resolution image sequence. Apply it to whatever your final render size is… HD, 4K, etc.

Why? Say you have a 6000×4000 image sequence and you need to deliver an HD clip. If you apply effects to the 6000×4000 sequence, Premiere will have to process TWELVE times the amount of pixels it would have to process if you applied it to HD resolution footage. 24 million pixels vs. 2 million pixels. This can result in a HUGE speed difference when it comes time to render.

How do you Nest?

This is Premiere-centric, but the concept applies to After Effects (pre-compose) or FCP (compound) as well. (The rest of this blog post will be explaining how to Nest. If you already understand everything I’ve said, you’re good to go!)

First, take your original image sequence (for example, 6000×4000 pixels) and put it into an HD sequence. Scale the original footage down to fit the HD sequence.

Hi-Res images inside an HD sequenceThe reason for this is that we want to control how Premiere applies Flicker Free. If we apply it to the 6000×4000 images, Premiere will apply FF and then scale the image sequence. That’s the order of operations. It doesn’t matter if Scale is set to 2%. Flicker Free (and any effect) will be applied to the full 6000×4000 image.

So… we put the big, original images into an HD sequence and do any transformations (scaling, adjusting the position and rotating) here. This usually includes stabilization… although if you’re using Warp Stabilizer you can make a case for doing that to the HD sequence. That’s beyond the scope of this tutorial, but here’s a great tutorial on Warp Stabilizer and Time Lapse Sequences.

Next, we take our HD time lapse sequence and put that inside a different HD sequence. You can do this manually or use the Nest command.

Apply Flicker Free to the HD sequence, not the 6000x4000 imagesNow we apply Flicker Free to our HD time lapse sequence. That way FF will only have to process the 1920×1080 frames. The original 6000×4000 images are hidden in the HD sequence. To Flicker Free it just looks like HD footage.

Voila! Faster rendering times!

So, to recap:

  • Turn off Render Maximum Depth
  • Shoot RAW, but apply Flicker Free to a JPEG sequence/Movie
  • Apply Flicker Free to the final output resolution, not the original resolution

Those should all help your rendering times. Flicker Free still takes some time to render, none of the above will make it real time. However, it should speed things up and make the render times more manageable if you’re finding them to be really excessive.

Flicker Free is available for Premiere Pro, After Effects, Final Cut Pro, Avid, Resolve, and Assimilate Scratch. It costs $149. You can download a free trial of Flicker Free here.

Getting transcripts for Premiere Multicam Sequences

Using Transcriptive with multicam sequences is not a smooth process and doesn’t really work. It’s something we’re working on coming up with a solution for but it’s tricky due to Premiere’s limitations.

However, while we sort that out, here’s a workaround that is pretty easy to implement. Here are the steps:

1- Take the clip with the best audio and drop it into it’s own sequence.
Using A.I. to transcribe Premiere Multicam Sequences
2- Transcribe that sequence with Transcriptive.
3- Now replace that clip with the multicam clip.
Transcribing multicam in Adobe premiere pro

4- Voila! You have a multicam sequence with a transcript. Edit the transcript and clip as you normally would.

This is not a permanent solution and we hope to make it much more automatic to deal with Premiere’s multicam clips. In the meantime, this technique will let you get transcripts for multicam clips.

Thanks to Todd Drezner at Cohn Creative for suggesting this workaround.

Creating the Grinch on Video Footage with The Free Ugly Box Plugin

We here at Digital Anarchy want to make sure you have a wonderful Christmas and there’s no better way to do that than to take videos of family and colleagues and turn them into the Grinch. They’ll love it! Clients, too… although they may not appreciate it as much even if they are the most deserving. So just play it at the office Christmas party as therapy for the staff that has to deal with them.

Our free plugin Ugly Box will make it easy to do! Apply it to the footage, click Make Ugly, and then make them green! This short tutorial shows you how:

You can download the free Ugly Box plugin for After Effects, Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, and Avid here:

Of course, if you want to make people look BETTER, there’s always Beauty Box to help you apply a bit of digital makeup. It makes retouching video easy, get more info on it here:

Sharpening Video Footage

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Sharpening video can be a bit trickier than sharpening photos. The process is the same of course… increasing the contrast around edges which creates the perception of sharpness.

However, because you’re dealing with 30fps instead of a single image some additional challenges are introduced:

1- Noise is more of a problem.
2- Video is frequently compressed more heavily than photos, so compression artifacts can be a serious problem.
3- Oversharpening is a problem with stills or video but can create motion artifacts when the video is played back that can be visually distracting.
4- It’s more difficult to mask out areas like skin that you don’t want sharpened.

These are problems you’ll run into regardless of the sharpening method. However, probably unsurprising, in addition to discussing the solutions using regular tools, we do talk about how our Samurai Sharpen plugin can help with them.

Noise in Video Footage

Noise is always a problem regardless of whether you’re shooting stills or videos. However, with video the noise changes from frame to frame making it a distraction to the viewer if there’s too much or it’s too pronounced.

Noise tends to be much more obvious in dark areas, as you can see below where it’s most apparent in the dark, hollow part of the guitar:

You can use Samurai Sharpen to avoid sharpening noise in video footage

Using a mask to protect the darker areas makes it possible to increase the sharpening for the rest of the video frame. Samurai Sharpen has masks built-in, so it’s easy in that plugin, but you can do this manually in any video editor or compositing program by using keying tools, building a mask and compositing effects.

Compression Artifacts

Many consumer video cameras, including GoPros and some drone cameras heavily compress footage. Especially when shooting 4K.

It can be difficult to sharpen video that's been heavily compressed

It’s difficult, and sometimes impossible to sharpen footage like this. The  compression artifacts become very pronounced, since they tend to have edges like normal features. Unlike noise, the artifacts are visible in most areas of the footage, although they tend to be more obvious in areas with lots of detail.

In Samurai you can increase the Edge Mask Strength to lessen the impact of sharpening on the artifact (often they’re in low contrast) but depending on how compressed the footage is you may not want to sharpen it.


Sharpening is a local contrast adjustment. It’s just looking at significant edges and sharpening those areas. Oversharpening occurs when there’s too much contrast around the edges, resulting in visible halos.

Too much sharpening of video can result in visible halos
Especially if you look at the guitar strings and frets, you’ll see a dark halo on the outside of the strings and the strings themselves are almost white with little detail. Way too much contrast/sharpening. The usual solution is to reduce the sharpening amount.

In Samurai Sharpen you can also adjust the strength of the halos independently. So if the sharpening results in only the dark or light side being oversharpened, you can dial back just that side.

Sharpening Skin

The last thing you usually want to do is sharpen someone’s skin. You don’t want your talent’s skin looking like a dried-up lizard. (well, unless your talent is a lizard. Not uncommon these days with all the ridiculous 3D company mascots)

Sharpening video can result in skin being looking rough

Especially with 4K and HD, video is already showing more skin detail than most people want (hence the reason for our Beauty Box Video plugin for digital makeup). If you’re using UnSharp Mask you can use the Threshold parameter, or in Samurai the Edge Mask Strength parameter is a more powerful version of that. Both are good ways of protecting the skin from sharpening. The skin area tends to be fairly flat contrast-wise and the Edge Mask generally does a good job of masking the skin areas out.

Either way, you want to keep an eye on the skin areas, unless you want a lizard. (and if so, you should download are free Ugly Box plugin. ;-)

Wrap Up

You can sharpen video and most video footage will benefit from some sharpening. However, there are numerous issues that you run into and hopefully this gives you some idea of what you’re up against whether you’re using Samurai Sharpen for Video or something else.

Thoughts on The Mac Pro and FCP X

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There’s been some talk of the eminent demise of the Mac Pro. The Trash Can is getting quite old in the tooth… it was overpriced and underpowered to begin  with and is now pretty out of date. Frankly it’d be nice if Apple just killed it and moved on. It’s not where they make their money and it’s clear they’re not that interested in making machines for the high end video production market. At the very least, it would mean we (Digital Anarchy) wouldn’t have to buy Trash Can 2.0 just for testing plugins. I’m all for not buying expensive machines we don’t have any use for.

But if they kill off the Mac Pro, what does that mean for FCP X? Probably nothing. It’s equally clear the FCP team still cares about pro video. There were multiple folks from the FCP team at NAB this year, talking to people and showing off FCP at one of the sub-conferences. They also continue to add pro-level features.

That said, they may care as much (maybe even more) about the social media creators… folks doing YouTube, Facebook, and other types of social media creation. There are a lot of them. A lot more than folks doing higher end video stuff, and these creators are frequently using iPhones to capture and the Mac to edit. They aren’t ‘pro editors’ and I think that demographic makes up a good chunk of FCP users. It’s certainly the folks that Apple, as a whole, is going after in a broader sense.

If you don’t think these folks are a significant focus for Apple overall, just look at how much emphasis they’ve put on the camera in the iPhone 6 & 7… 240fps video, dual lenses, RAW shooting, etc. To say nothing of all the billboards with nothing but a photo ‘taken with the iPhone’. Everyone is a media creator now and ‘Everyone’ is more important to Apple than ‘Pro Editors’.

The iMacs are more than powerful enough for those folks and it wouldn’t surprise me if Apple just focused on them. Perhaps coming out with a couple very powerful iMacs/MacBook Pros as a nod to professionals, but letting the MacPro fade away.

Obviously, as with all things Apple, this is just speculation. However, given the lack of attention professionals have gotten over the last half decade, maybe it’s time for Apple to just admit they have other fish to fry.

Tutorial: Removing Flicker from Edited Video Footage

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One problem that users can run into with our Flicker Free deflicker plugin is that it will look across edits when analyzing frames for the correct luminance. The plugin looks backwards as well as forwards to gather frames and does a sophisticated blend of all those frames. So even if you create an edit, say to remove an unwanted camera shift or person walking in front of the camera, Flicker Free will still see those frames.

This is particularly a problem with Detect Motion turned OFF.

The way around this is to Nest (i.e. Pre-compose (AE), Compound Clip (FCP)) the edit and apply the plugin to the new sequence. The new sequence will start at the first frame of the edit and Flicker Free won’t be able to see the frames before the edit.

This is NOT something you always have to do. It’s only if the frames before the edit are significantly different than the ones after it (i.e. a completely different scene or some crazy camera movement). 99% of the time it’s not a problem.

This tutorial shows how to solve the problem in Premiere Pro. The technique works the same in other applications. Just replacing ‘Nesting’ with whatever your host application does (pre-composing, making a compound clip, etc).

Comparing Beauty Box To other Video Plugins for Skin Retouching/Digital Makeup

We get a lot of questions about how Beauty Box compares to other filters out there for digital makeup. There’s a few things to consider when buying any plugin and I’ll go over them here. I’m not going to compare Beauty Box with any filter specifically, but when you download the demo plugin and compare it with the results from other filters this is what you should be looking at:

  • Quality of results
  • Ease of use
  • Speed
  • Support


I’ll start with Support because it’s one thing most people don’t consider. We offer as good of support as anyone in the industry. You can email or call us (415-287-6069). M-F 10am-5pm PST. In addition, we also check email on the weekends and frequently in the evenings on weekdays. Usually you’ll get a response from Tor, our rockstar QA guy, but not infrequently you’ll talk to myself as well. Not often you get tech support from the guy that designed the software. :-)

Quality of Results

The reason you see Beauty Box used for skin retouching on everything from major tentpole feature films to web commercials, is the incredible quality of the digital makeup. Since it’s release in 2009 as the first plugin to specifically address skin retouching beyond just blurring out skin tones, the quality of the results has been critically acclaimed. We won several awards with version 1.0 and we’ve kept improving it since then. You can see many examples here of Beauty Box’s digital makeup, but we recommend you download the demo plugin and try it yourself.

Things to look for as you compare the results of different plugins:

Skin Texture: Does the skin look realistic? Is some of the pore structure maintained or is everything just blurry? It should, usually, look like regular makeup unless you’re going for a stylized effect.
Skin Color: Is there any change in skin tones?
Temporal Consistency: Does it look the same from frame to frame over time? Are there any noticeable seams where the retouching stops.
Masking: How accurate is the mask of the skin tones? Are there any noticeable seams between skin and non-skin areas? How easy is it to adjust the mask?

Ease of Use

One of the things we strive for with all our plugins is to make it as easy as possible to get great results with very little work on your end. Software should make your life easier.

In most cases, you should be able to click on Analyze Frame, make an adjustment to the Skin Smoothing amount to dial in the look you want and be good to go. There are always going to be times when it requires a bit more work but for basic retouching of video, there’s no easier solution than Beauty Box.

When comparing filters, the thing to look for here is how easy is it to setup the effect and get a good mask of the skin tones? How long does it take and how accurate is it?


If you’ve used Beauty Box for a while, you know that the only complaint we had with it with version 1.0 was that it was slow. No more! It’s now fully GPU optimized and with some of the latest graphics cards you’ll get real time performance, particularly in Premiere Pro. Premiere has added better GPU support and between that the Beauty Box’s use of the GPU, you can get real time playback of HD pretty easily.

And of course we support many different host apps, which gives you a lot of flexibility in where you can use it. Avid, After Effects, Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, Davinci Resolve, Assimilate Scratch, Sony Vegas, and NUKE are all supported.

Hopefully that gives you some things to think about as you’re comparing Beauty Box with other plugins that claim to be as good. All of these things factor into why Beauty Box is so highly regarded and considered to be well worth the price.

Back Care for Video Editors Part 3: Posture Exercises: The Good and The Bad

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Posture Exercises: The Good and The Bad

There are a lot of books out there on how to deal with back pain. Most of them are relatively similar and have good things to say. Most of them also have minor problems, but overall, with a little guidance from a good physical therapist, they’re very useful.

Editing Video while sitting on ice is rather unusualYou don’t need to sit on ice to get good posture!

The two of I’ve been using are:

Back RX by Vijay Vad

8 Steps to a Pain Free Back (Gokhale Method)

Both have some deficiencies but overall are good and complement each other. I’ll talk about the good stuff first and get into my problems with them later (mostly minor issues).

There’s also another book, Healing Back Pain, which I’m looking into and says some valuable things. It posits that the main cause of the pain is not actually structural (disc problems, arthritis, etc) but in most cases caused by stress and the muscles tensing. I’ll do a separate post on it as I think the mind plays a significant role and this book has some merit.


Back RX is a series of exercise routines designed to strengthen your back. It pulls from Yoga, Pilates, and regular physical therapy for inspiration. If you do them on a regular basis, you’ll start improving the strength in your abs and back muscles which should help relieve pain over the long term.


As someone that’s done Yoga for quite some time, partially in response to the repetitive stress problems I had from using computers, I found the routines very natural. Even if you haven’t done Yoga, the poses are mostly easy, many of them have you lying on the floor, and are healthy for your back. You won’t find the deep twisting and bending poses you might be encouraged to do at a regular yoga studio.

It also encourages mind/body awareness and focuses a bit on breathing exercises. The book doesn’t do a great job of explaining how to do this. If you’re not already a yoga practitioner or have a meditation practice you’ll need some guidance. The exercises have plenty of value even if you don’t get into that part of it. However, mindfulness is important. Here are a few resources on using meditation for chronic pain:

Full Catastrophe Living
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction
You Are Not Your Pain

Gokhale Method

The 8 Steps to a Pain Free Back (Gokhale Method) is another good book that takes a different approach. BackRX provides exercise routines you can do in about 20 minutes. The Gokhale Method shows modifications to the things we do all the time… lying, sitting, standing, bending, etc. These are modifications you’re supposed to make throughout the day.

She has something of a backstory about how doctors these days don’t know what a spine should look like  and that people had different shaped spines in the past. In a nutshell, the argument is that because we’ve become so much more sedentary over the last 100 years (working in offices, couch potato-ing, etc) our spines are less straight and doctors now think this excessively curved spine is ‘normal’. I’m very skeptical of this as some of her claims are easily debunked (more on that later). However, it does not take away from the value of the exercises. Whether you buy into her marketing or not, she’s still promoting good posture and that’s the important bit.

Some of her exercises you will find similar to other Posture books. Other Gokhale exercises are novel. They may not all resonate with you, but I’ve found several to be quite useful.

Some good posture advice if you're sitting in front of a computerAll of the exercises focus on lengthening the spine and provide ways to hold that posture above and beyond the usual ‘Sit up straight!’. She sells a small cushion that mounts on the back of your chair. I’ve found this useful, if only in constantly reminding me to not slump in my Steelcase chair (completely offsetting why you spent the money on a fancy chair). It prevents me from leaning back in the chair, which is the first step to slumping. It also does help keep your back a bit more straight. There are some chairs that are not well designed and the cushion does help.

In both books, there’s an emphasis on stretching your spine and strengthening your ab/core muscles and back muscles. BackRX focuses more on the strengthening, Gokhale focuses more on the stretching.

But ultimately they only work if you’re committed to doing them over the long term. You also have to be vigilant about your posture. If you’re in pain, this isn’t hard as your back will remind with pain whenever you’re not doing things correctly. It’s harder if you’re just trying to develop good habits and you’re not in pain already.

Most people don’t think about this at all, which is why 80% of the US population will develop back pain problems at some point. So even if you only read the Gokhale book and just work on bending/sitting/walking better you’ll be ahead of the game.

So what are the problems with the books?

Both the Gokhale Method and BackRX have some issues. (again, these don’t really detract from the exercises in the book… but before you run out and tell your doctor his medical school training is wrong, you might want to consider these points)

Gokhale makes many claims in her book. Most of them involve how indigenous cultures sit/walk/etc and how little back pain is in those cultures. These are not easily testable. However, she makes other claims that can be tested. For one, she shows a drawing of a spine from around 1900 and drawing that she claims was in a recent anatomy book. She put this forth as evidence that spines used to look different and that modern anatomy books don’t show spines they way they’re supposed to look. This means modern doctors are being taught incorrectly and thus don’t know what a spine should look like. The reality is that modern anatomy books show spines that look nothing like her example, which is just a horrible drawing of a spine. In fact, illustrations of ‘abnormal’ spines are closer to what she has in her book.

Also, most of the spine illustrations from old anatomy books are pretty similar to modern illustrations. On average the older illustrations _might_ be slightly straighter than modern illustrations, but mostly they look very similar.

She also shows some pictures of statues to illustrate everyone in ancient times walked around with a straight back. She apparently didn’t take Art History in college and doesn’t realize these statues from 600 BC are highly stylized and were built like that because they lacked the technology to sculpt more lifelike statues. So, No, everyone in ancient Greece did not ‘walk like an Egyptian’.

BackRX has a different issue. Many of the photos they show of proper poses are correct for the Back, BUT not for the rest of the body. A common pose called Tree Pose is shown with the foot against the knee, similar to this photo:

How not to do tree pose - don't put your foot on your opposite knee This risks injury to the knee!  The foot should be against the side of the upper thigh.

Likewise, sitting properly at a desk is shown with good back posture, but with forearms and wrist positioned in such a way to ensure that the person will get carpel tunnel syndrome. These are baffling photos for a book discussing how to take care of your body.

Most of the exercises in this book are done lying down and are fine. For sitting and standing poses I recommend googling the exercise to make sure it’s shown correctly. For example, google ‘tree pose’ and compare the pictures to what’s in the book.

Overall they’re both good books despite the problems. The key thing is to listen to your body.  Everything that is offered may not work for you so you need to experiment a bit. This includes working with your mind, which definitely has an effect on pain and how you deal with it.

Computers and Back Care part 2: Forward Bending

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Go to Part 1 in the Back Care series

Most folks know how to pick up a heavy box. Squat down, keep your back reasonably flat and upright and use your legs to lift.

However, most folks do not know how to plug in a power cord. (as the below photo shows)

How to bend forward if you're plugging in a power cord

Forward bending puts a great deal of stress on your back and we do it hundreds of times a day. Picking up your keys, putting your socks on, plugging in a power cord, and on and on. This is why people frequently throw their backs out sneezing or picking up some insignificant thing off the floor like keys or clothing.

While normally these don’t cause much trouble, the hundreds of bends a day add up. Especially if you sit in a chair all day and are beating up your back with a bad chair or bad posture. Over time all of it weakens your back, degrades discs, and causes back pain.

So what to do?

There are a couple books I can recommend. Both have some minor issues but overall they’re very good. I’ll talk about them in detail in Part 3 of this series.

Back RX by Vijay Vad
8 Steps To a Pain Free Back by Esther Gokhale

Obviously for heavy objects, keep doing what you’re probably already doing: use your legs to lift.

But you also want to use your legs to pick up almost any object. Using the same technique to pick up small objects works as well. That said, all the squatting can be a bit tough on the knees, so lets talk about hip hinging.

Woman hinging from the hips in a way that puts less pressure on your back(the image shows a woman stretching but she’s doing it with a good hip hinge. Since it’s a stretch, it’s, uh, a bit more exaggerated than you’d do picking something up. Not a perfect image for this post, but we’ll roll with it.)

Imagine your hip as a door hinge. Your upright back as the door and your legs as the wall. Keep your back mostly flat and hinge at the hips. Tilting your pelvis instead of bending your back. Then bend your legs to get the rest of the way to the floor. This puts less strain on your back and not as much strain on your knees as going into a full squat. Also, part of it is to engage your abs as you’re hinging. Strong abs help maintain a strong back.

Directions on how to hip hinge, showing a good posture

There’s some disagreement on the best way to do this. Some say bend forward (with your knees slightly bent) until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings, then bend your knees. I usually hinge the back and bend the knees at the same time. This feels better for my body, but everyone is different so try it both ways. There is some truth that the more length you have in your hamstrings, the more you can hinge. However, since most people, especially those that sit a lot, have tight hamstrings, it’s just easier to hinge and bend at the same time.

But the really important bit is to be mindful of when you’re bending, regardless of how you do it. Your back isn’t going to break just from some forward bending, but the more you’re aware of how often you bend and doing it correctly as often as possible, the better off you’ll be.

This also applies to just doing regular work, say fixing a faucet or something where you have to be lower to the ground. If you can squat and keep a flat back instead of bending over to do the work, you’ll also be better off.

If this is totally new to you, then your back may feel a little sore as you use muscles you aren’t used to using. This is normal and should go away. However, it’s always good to check in with your doctor and/or physical therapist when doing anything related to posture.

In Part 3 I’ll discuss the books I mentioned above and some other resources for exercises and programs.

Taking Care of Your Back for Video Editors, Part 1: The Chair

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Software developers, like video editors, sit a lot. I’ve written before about my challenges with Repetitive  Stress Problems and how I dealt with them. (Awesome chair, great ergonomics, and a Wacom tablet). These problems are more about my wrists, shoulders, and neck.

I fully admit to ignoring everyone’s advice about sitting properly and otherwise taking care of my back, so I expect you’ll probably igrnore this (unless you already have back pain). But you shouldn’t. And maybe some of you will listen and get some tips to help you avoid having to take a daily diet of pain meds just to get through a video edit.

Video editors need good posture

I’ve also always had problems with my back. The first time I threw it out I was 28, playing basketball. Then add in being physically active in a variety of other ways… martial arts, snowboarding, yoga, etc… my back has taken some beatings over the years. And then you factor in working at a job for the last 20 years that has me sitting a lot.

And not sitting very well for most of those 20 years. Hunched over a keyboard and slouching in your chair at the same time is a great way of beating the hell out of your back and the rest of your body. But that was me.

So, after a lot of pain and an MRI showing a couple degraded discs, I’m finally taking my back seriously. This is the first of several blog posts detailing some of the things I’ve learned and what I’m doing for my back. I figure it might help some of you all.

I’ll start with the most obvious thing: Your chair. Not only your chair BUT SITTING UPRIGHT IN IT. It doesn’t help you to have a $1000 chair if you’re going to slouch in it. (which I’m known to be guilty of)

A fully adjustable chair can help video editors reduce back pain

The key thing about the chair is that it’s adjustable in as many ways as possible. This way you can set it up perfectly for your body, which is key. Personally, I have a Steelcase chair which I like, but most high end chairs are very configurable and come in different sizes. (I’m not sure the ‘ball chair’ is going to be good for video editing, but some people love them for normal office work) There are also adjustable standing desks, which allow you to alternate between sitting and standing, which is great. Being in any single position for too long is stressful on your body.

The other key thing is your posture. Actually sitting in the chair correctly. There are slightly different opinions  on what is precisely the best sitting posture (see Part 3 for more on this), but generally, the illustration below is a good upright position. Feet on the ground, knees at right angles, butt all the way back with some spine curvature, but not too much, the shoulders slightly back and the head above the shoulders (not forward as we often do, which puts a lot of strain on the neck. If you keep leaning in to see your monitor, get glasses or move the monitor closer!).

It can also help to have your abdominal muscle engaged to prevent to much curvature in the spine. This can be a little bit of work, but if you’re paying attention to your posture, then it should just come naturally as you maintain the upright position.

You want to sit upright in your chair for good back healthThere’s a little bit of disagreement on how much curvature you should have while sitting. Some folks recommend even less than what you see above. We’ll talk more about it in Part 3.

One other important thing is to take breaks, either walk around or stretch. Sitting for long periods really puts a lot of stress on your discs and is somewhat unnatural for your body, as your ancestors probably weren’t doing a lot of chair sitting. Getting up to walk, do a midday yoga class, or just doing a little stretching every 45 minutes or so will make a big difference. This is one of the reasons a standing desk is helpful.

So that’s it for part 1. Get yourself a good chair and learn how to sit in it! It’ll greatly help you keep a healthy, happy back.

In Part 2 we’ll discuss picking up your keys, sneezing, and other dangers to back health lurking in plain sight.

The Problem of Slow Motion Flicker during Big Sporting Events: NCAA Tournament

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Shooting slow motion footage, especially very high speed shots like 240fps or 480fps, results in flicker if you don’t have high quality lights. Stadiums often have low quality industrial lighting, LEDs, or both. Resulting in flicker during slow motion shots even on nationally broadcast, high profile sporting events.

I was particularly struck by this watching the NCAA Basketball Tournament this weekend. Seemed like I was seeing flicker on  half of the slow motion shots. You can see a few in this video (along with Flicker Free plugin de-flickered versions of the same footage):

To see how to get rid of the flicker you can check out our tutorial on removing flicker from slow motion sports.

The LED lights are most often the problem. They circle the arena and depending on how bright they are, for example if it’s turned solid white, they can cast enough light on the players to cause flicker when played back in slow motion. Even if they don’t cast light on the players they’re visible in the background flickering. Here’s a photo of the lights I’m talking about in Oracle arena (white band of light going around the stadium):

Deflickering stadium lights can be done with Flicker Free

While Flicker Free won’t work for live production, it works great for de-flickering this type of flicker if you can render it in a video editing app, as you can see in the original example.

It’s a common problem even for pro sports or high profile sporting events (once you start looking for it, you see it a lot). So if you run into with your footage, check out the Flicker Free plugin for most video editing applications!

Tips on Photographing Whales – Underwater and Above

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I’ve spent the last 7 years going out to Maui during the winter to photograph whales. Hawaii is the migration destination of the North Pacific Humpback Whales. Over the course of four months, it’s estimated that about 12,000 whales migrate from Alaska to Hawaii. During the peak months Jan 15 – March 15th or so, there’s probably about 6000+ whales around Hawaii. This creates a really awesome opportunity to photograph them as they are EVERYWHERE.

Many of the boats that go out are small, zodiac type boats. This allows you to hang over the side if you’ve got an underwater camera. Very cool if they come up to the boat, as this picture shows! (you can’t dive with them as it’s a national sanctuary for the whales)

A photographer can hang over the side of a boat to get underwater photos of the humpback whales.

The result is shots like this below the water:

Photographing whales underwater is usually done hanging over the side of a boat.

Or above the water:

A beautiful shot of a whale breaching in Maui

So ya wanna be whale paparazzi? Here are a few tips on getting great photographs of whales:

1- Patience: Most of the time the whales are below the water surface and out of range of an underwater camera. There’s a lot of ‘whale waiting’ going on. It may take quite a few trips before a whale gets close enough to shoot underwater. To capture the above the water activity you really need to pay attention. Frequently it happens very quickly and is over before you can even get your camera up if you’re distracted by talking or looking at photos on your camera. Stay present and focused.

2- Aperture Priority mode: Both above and below the water I set the camera to Aperture Priority and set the lowest aperture I can, getting it as wide open as possible. You want as fast of a shutter speed as possible (for 50 ton animals they can move FAST!) and setting it to the widest aperture will do that. You also want that nice depth of field a low fstop will give you.

3- AutoFocus: You have to have autofocus turned on. The action happens to fast to manually focus. Also, use AF points that are calculated in both the horizontal and vertical axes. Not all AF points are created the same.

4- Lenses: For above the water, the 100mm-400mm is a good lens for the distance the boats usually tend to stay from the whales. It’s not great if the whales come right up to the boat… but that’ s when you bust out your underwater camera with a very wide angle or fisheye lens. With underwater photography, at least in Maui, you can only photograph the whales if they come close to the boat.  You’re not going to be able to operate a zoom lens hanging over the side of a boat. So set a pretty wide focal length when you put it into the housing. I’ve got a 12-17mm Tokina fisheye and usually set it to about 14mm. This means the whale has to be within about 10 feet of the boat to get a good shot. But due to underwater visibility, that’s pretty much the case no matter what lens you have on the camera.

5- Burst Shooting: Make sure you set the camera to burst mode. The more photos the camera can take when you press and hold the shutter button the better.

6- Luck: You need a lot of luck. But part of luck is being prepared to take advantage of the opportunities that come up. So if you get a whale that’s breaching over and over, stay focused with your camera ready because you don’t know where he’s going to come up. Or if a whale comes up to the boat make sure that underwater camera is ready with a fully charged battery, big, empty flash card and you know how to use the controls on the housing. (trust me… most of these tips were learned the hard way)

Many whale watches will mostly be comprised of ‘whale waiting’. But if you stay present and your gear is set up correctly, you’ll be in great shape to capture those moments when you’re almost touched by a whale!

Whale photographed that was just out of arms reach. The whale is just about touching the camera.

Avoiding Prop Flicker when Shooting Drone Video Footage

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We released a new tutorial showing how to remove prop flicker, so if you have flicker problems on drone footage, check that out. (It’s also at the bottom of this post)

But what if you want to avoid prop flicker altogether? Here’s a few tips:

But first, let’s take a look at what it is. Here’s an example video:

1- Don’t shoot in such a way that the propellers are between the sun and the camera. The reason prop flicker happens is the props are casting shadows onto the lens. If the sun is above and in front of the lens, that’s where you’ll get the shadows and the flicker. (shooting sunrise or sunset is fine because the sun is below the props)

1b- Turning the camera just slightly from the angle generating the flicker will often get rid of the flicker. You can see this in the tutorial below on removing the flicker.

2- Keep the camera pointed down slightly. It’s more likely to catch the shadows if it’s pointing straight out from the drone at 90 degrees (parallel to the props). Tilt it down a bit, 10 or 20 degrees, and that helps a lot.

3- I’ve seen lens hoods for the cameras. Sounds like they help, but I haven’t personally tried one.

Unfortunately sometimes you have to shoot something in such a way that you can’t avoid the prop flicker. In which cases using a plugin like Flicker Free allows you to eliminate or reduce the flicker problem. You can see how to deflicker videos with prop flicker in the below tutorial.

Removing Flicker from Drone Video Footage caused by Prop Flicker

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Drones are all the rage at the moment, deservedly so as some of the images and footage  being shot with them are amazing.

However, one problem that occurs is that if the drone is shooting with the camera at the right angle to the sun, shadows from the props cause flickering in the video footage. This can be a huge problem, making the video unusable. It turns out that our Flicker Free plugin is able to do a good job of removing or significantly reducing this problem. (of course, this forced us to go out and get one. Research, nothing but research!)

Here’s an example video showing exactly what prop flicker is and why it happens:

There are ways around getting the flicker in the first place: Don’t shoot into the sun, have the camera pointing down, etc. However, sometimes you’re not able to shoot with ideal conditions and you end up with flicker.

Our latest tutorial goes over how to solve the prop flicker issue with our Flicker Free plugin. The technique works in After Effects, Final Cut Pro, Avid, Resolve, etc. However the tutorial shows Flicker Free being used in Premiere Pro.

The full tutorial is below. You can even download the original flickering drone video footage and AE/Premiere project files by clicking here.

Speeding Up Flicker Free: The Order You Apply Plugins in Your Video Editing App

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One key way of speeding up the Flicker Free plugin is putting it first in the order of effects. What does this mean? Let’s say you’re using the Lumetri Color Corrector in Premiere. You want to apply Flicker Free first, then apply Lumetri. You’ll see about a 300+% speed increase vs. doing it with Lumetri first. So it looks like this:

Apply Flicker Free first in your video editing application to increase the rendering speed.

Why the Speed Difference?

Flicker Free has to analyze multiple frames to de-flicker the footage you’re using. It looks at up to 21 frames. If you have the effect applied before Flicker Free it means Lumetri is being applied TWENTY ONE times for every frame Flicker Free renders. And especially with a slow effect like Lumetri that will definitely slow everything down.

It fact, on slower machines it can bring Premiere to a grinding halt. Premiere has to render the other effect on 21 frames in order to render just one frame for Flicker Free. In this case, Flicker Free takes up a lot of memory, the other effect can take up a lot of memory and things start getting ugly fast.

Renders with Happy Endings

So to avoid this problem, just apply Flicker Free before any other effects. This goes for pretty much every video editing app. The render penalty will vary depending on the host app and what effect(s) you have applied. For example, using the Fast Color Corrector in Premiere Pro resulted in a slow down of only about 10% (vs. Lumetri and a slow down of 320%). In After Effects the slow down was about 20% with just the Synthetic Aperture color corrector that ships with AE. However, if you add more filters it can get a lot worse.

Either way, you’ll have much happier render times if you put Flicker Free first.

Hopefully this makes some sense. I’ll go into a few technical details for those that are interested. (Feel free to stop reading if it’s clear you just need to put Flicker Free first) (oh, and here are some other ways of speeding up Flicker Free)

Technical Details

With all host applications, Flicker Free, like all plugins, has to request frames through the host application API. With most plugins, like the Beauty Box Video plugin, the plugin only needs to request the current frame. You want to render frame X: Premiere Pro (or Avid, FCP, etc) has to load the frame, render any plugins and then display it. Plugins get rendered in the order you apply them. Fairly straightforward.

The Flicker Free plugin is different. It’s not JUST looking at the current frame. In order to figure out the correct luminance for each pixel (thus removing flicker) it has to look at pixels both before and after the current frame. This means it has to ask the API for up to 21 frames, analyze them, return the result to Premiere, which then finishes rendering the current frame.

So the API says, “Yes, I will do your bidding and get those 21 frames. But first, I must render them!”. And so it does. If there are no plugins applied to them, this is easy. It just hands Flicker Free the 21 original frames and goes on its merry way. If there are plugins applied, the API has to render those on each frame it gives to Flicker Free. FF has to wait around for all 21 frames to be rendered before it can render the current frame. It waits, therefore that means YOU wait. If you need a long coffee break these renders can be great. If not, they are frustrating.

If you use After Effects you may be familiar with pre-comping a layer with effects so that you can use it within a plugin applied to a different layer. This goes through a different portion of the API than when a plugin requests frames programmatically from AE. In the case of a layer in the layer pop-up the plugin just gets the original image with no effects applied. If the plugin actually asks AE for the frame one frame before it, AE has to render it.

One other thing that affects speed behind the scenes… some apps are better at caching frames that plugins ask for than other apps. After Effects does this pretty well, Premiere Pro less so. So this helps AE have faster render times when using Flicker Free and rendering sequentially. If you’re jumping around the timeline then this matters less.

Hopefully this helps you get better render times from Flicker Free. The KEY thing to remember however, is ALWAYS APPLY FLICKER FREE FIRST!

Happy Rendering!

Beauty Work for Corporate Video

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We love to talk about how Beauty Box Video is used on feature films by the likes of Local Hero Post and Park Road Post Production  or broadcast TV by NBC or Fox. That’s the big, sexy stuff.

However, many, if not most, of our customers are like Brian Smith. Using Beauty Box for corporate clients or local commercials. They might not be winning Emmy awards for their work but they’re still producing great videos with, usually, limited budgets.   “The time and budget does not usually afford us the ability to bring in a makeup artist.  People that aren’t used to being on camera are often very self-conscious, and they cringe at the thought of every wrinkle or imperfection detracting from their message.”, said Brian, Founder of Ideaship Studios in Tulsa, OK. “Beauty Box has become a critical part of our Final Cut X pipeline because it solves a problem, it’s blazing fast, and it helps give my clients and on-camera talent confidence.  They are thrilled with the end result, and that leads to more business for us.”

An Essential Tool for Beauty Work and Retouching

Beauty Box Video has become an essential tool at many small production houses or in-house video departments to retouch makeup-less/bad lighting situations and still end up with a great looking production. The ability to quickly retouch skin with an automatic mask without needing to go frame by frame is important. However, it’s usually the quality of retouching that Beauty Box provides that’s the main selling point.

Example of Brian Smith's skin retouching for a corporate clientimage courtesy of Ideaship Studios

Beauty Box goes beyond just blurring skin tones. We strive to keep the skin texture and not just mush it up. You want to have the effect of the skin looking like skin, not plastic, which is important for beauty work. Taking a few years off talent and offsetting the harshness that HD/4K and video lights can add to someone. The above image of one of Brian’s clients is a good example.

When viewed at full resolution, the wrinkles are softened but not obliterated. The skin is smoothed but still shows pores. The effect is really that of digital makeup, as if you actually had a makeup artist to begin with. You can see this below in the closeup of the two images. Of course, the video compression in the original already has reduced the detail in the skin, but Beauty Box does a nice job of retaining much of what is there.

Closeup of the skin texture retained by Beauty Box

” On the above image, we did not shoot her to look her best. The key light was a bit too harsh, creating shadows and bringing out the lines.  I applied the Beauty Box Video plugin, and the shots were immediately better by an order of magnitude.  This was just after simply applying the plugin.  A few minutes of tweaking the mask color range and effects sliders really dialed in a fantastic look. I don’t like the idea of hiding flaws.  They are a natural and beautiful part of every person.  However, I’ve come to realize that bringing out the true essence of a person or performance is about accentuating, not hiding.  Beauty Box is a great tool for doing that.” – Brian Smith

Go for Natural Retouching

Of course, you can go too far with it, as with anything. So some skill and restraint is often needed to get the effect of regular makeup and not making the subject look ‘plastic’ or blurred. As Brain says, you want things to look natural.

However, when used appropriately you can get some amazing results, making for happy clients and easing the concerns of folks that aren’t always in front of a camera. (particularly men, since they tend to not want to wear makeup… and don’t realize how much they need it until they see themselves on a 65″ 4K screen. ;-)

One last tip, you can often easily improve the look of Beauty Box even more by using tracking masks for beauty work, as you can see in the tutorials that link goes to. The ability of these masks to automatically track the points that make up the mask and move them as your subject moves is a huge deal for beauty work. It makes it much easier to isolate an area like a cheek or the forehead, just as a makeup artist would.

Removing Flicker from Stadium Lights in Slow Motion Football Video

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One common problem you see a lot is flickering from stadium lights when football or other sports are played back in slow motion. You’ll even see it during the NFL football playoffs. Stadium lights tend to be low quality lights and the brightness fluctuates. You can’t see it normally, but play video back at 240fps… and flicker is everywhere.

Aaron at Griffin Wing Video Productions ran into this problem shooting video of the high school football championship at the North Carolina State stadium. It was a night game and he got some great slomo shots shooting with the Sony FS700, but a ton of flicker from the stadium lights.

Let’s take a look at a couple of his examples and break down how our Flicker Free plugin fixed the problem for him.

First example is just a player turning his head as he gazes down on the field. There’s not a lot of fast movement so this is relatively easy. Here are the Flicker Free plugin parameters from within After Effects (although it works the same if you’re using Premiere, FCP, Avid, etc.)

Video Footage of Football Player with Flickering LightsNotice that ‘Detect Motion’ is turned off and the settings for Sensitivity and Time Radius. Well discuss those in a moment.

Here’s a second example of a wide receiver catching the football. Here there’s a lot more action (even in slow motion), so the plugin needs different settings to compensate for that motion. Here’s the before/after video footage:

Here are the Flicker Free plugin settings:

Football player catching ball under flickering lights

So, what’s going on? You’ll notice that Detect Motion is off. Detect Motion tries to eliminate the ghosting (see below for an example) that can happen when removing flicker from a bunch of frames. (FF analyzes multiple frames to find the correct luminance for each pixel. But ghosts or trails can appear if the pixel is moving) Unfortunately it also reduces the flicker removal capabilities. The video footage we have of the football team has some pretty serious flicker so we need Detect Motion off.

With Detect Motion off we need to worry about ghosting. This means we need to reduce the Time Radius to a relatively low value.

Time Radius tells Flicker Free how many frames to look at before and after the current frame. So if it’s set to 5, it’ll analyze 11 frames: the current frame, 5 before it, and 5 after it. The more frames you analyze, the greater the chance objects will have moved in other frames… resulting in ghosting.

With the player looking our the window, there’s not a lot of motion. Just the turning of his head. So we can get away with a Time Radius of 5 and a Sensitivity of 3. (More about Sensitivity in a moment)

The video with the receiver catching the ball has a LOT more motion. Each frame is very different from the next. So there’s a good chance of ghosting. Here we’ve set Time Radius to 3, so it’s analyzing a total of 7 frames, and set Sensitivity to 10. A Time Radius of 3 is about as low as you can realistically go. In this case it works and the flicker is gone. (As you can see in the above video)

Here’s an example of the WRONG settings and what ‘ghosting’ looks like:

Blurry Video Caused by incorrect Flicker Free settings

Sensitivity is, more or less,  how large of an area the Flicker Free plugin analyzes. Usually I start with a low value like 3 and increase it to find a value that works best. Frequently a setting of 3 works as lower values reduce the flicker more. However, low values can result in more ghosting, so if you have a lot of motion sometimes 5 or 10 works better. For the player turning his head, three was fine. For the receiver we needed to increase it to 10.

So that’s a breakdown of how to get rid of flicker from stadium lights! Thanks to Aaron at Griffin Wing Video Productions for the footage. You can see their final video documenting the High School Football Championship on YouTube.

And you can also view more Flicker Free tutorials if you need additional info on how to get the most out of the Flicker Free plugin in After Effects, Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, Avid, or Resolve.

Easy Ways of Animating Masks for Use with Beauty Box in After Effects, Premiere, and Final Cut Pro

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We have a new set of tutorials up that will show you how to easily create masks and animate them for Beauty Box. This is extremely useful if you want to limit the skin retouching to just certain areas like the cheeks or forehead.

Traditionally this type of work has been the province of feature films and other big budget productions that had the money and time to hire rotoscopers to create masks frame by frame. New tools built into After Effects and Premiere Pro or available from third parties for FCP make this technique accessible to video editors and compositors on a much more modest budget or time constraints.

Using Masks that track the video to animate them with Beauty Box for more precise retouching

How Does Retouching Work Traditionally?

In the past someone would have to create a mask on Frame 1 and  move forward frame by frame, adjusting the mask on EVERY frame as the actor moved. This was a laborious and time consuming way of retouching video/film. The idea for Beauty Box came from watching a visual effects artist explain his process for retouching a music video of a high profile band of 40-somethings. Frame by frame by tedious frame. I thought there had to be an easier way and a few years later we released Beauty Box.

However, Beauty Box affects the entire image by default. The mask it creates affects all skin areas. This works very well for many uses but if you wanted more subtle retouching… you still had to go frame by frame.

The New Tools!

After Effects and Premiere have some amazing new tools for tracking mask points. You can apply bezier masks that only masks the effect of a plugin, like Beauty Box. The bezier points are ‘tracking’ points. Meaning that as the actor moves, the points move with him. It usually works very well, especially for talking head type footage where the talent isn’t moving around a lot. It’s a really impressive feature. It’s  available in both AE and Premiere Pro. Here’s a tutorial detailing how it works in Premiere:

After Effects also ships with Mocha Pro, another great tool for doing this type of work. This tutorial shows how to use Mocha and After Effects to control Beauty Box and get some, uh, ‘creative’ skin retouching effects!

The power of Mocha is also available for Final Cut Pro X as well. It’s available as a plugin from CoreMelt and they were kind enough to do a tutorial explaining how Splice X works with Beauty Box within FCP. It’s another very cool plugin, here’s the tutorial:

Using a Nvidia GTX 980 (or Titan or Quadro) in a Mac Pro

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As many of you know, we’ve come out with a real time version of Beauty Box Video. In order for that to work, it requires a really fast GPU and we LOVE the GTX 980. (Amazing price/performance) Nvidia cards are generally fastest  for video apps (Premiere, After Effects, Final Cut Pro, Resolve, etc) but we are seeing real time performance on the higher end new Mac Pros (or trash cans, dilithium crystals, Job’s Urn or whatever you want to call them).

BUT what if you have an older Mac Pro?

With the newer versions of Mac OS (10.10), in theory, you can put any Nvidia card in them and it should work. Since we have lots of video cards lying around that we’re testing, we wondered if our GTX 980, Titan and Quadro 5200 would work in our Early 2009 Mac Pro. The answer is…

Nvidia GTX GPU in Mac Pro


So, how does it work? For one you need to be running Yosemite (Mac OS X 10.10)

A GTX 980 is the easier of the two GeFroce cards, mainly because of the power needed to drive it. It only needs two six-pin connectors, so you can use the power supply built into the Mac. Usually you’ll need to buy an extra six-pin cable, as the Mac only comes standard with one, but that’s easy enough. The Quadro 5200 has only a single 6-pin connector and works well. However, for a single offline workstation, it’s tough to justify the higher price for the extra reliability the Quadros give you. (and it’s not as fast as the 980)

The tricky bit about the 980 is that you need to install Nvidia’s web driver. The 980 did not boot up with the default Mac OS driver, even in Yosemite. At least, that’s what happened for us. We have heard of reports of it working with the Default Driver, but I’m not sure how common that is. So you need to install the Nvidia Driver Manager System Pref and, while still using a different video card, set the System Pref to the Web Driver. As so:

Set this to Web Driver to use the GTX 980
Set this to Web Driver to use the GTX 980

You can download the Mac Nvidia Web Drivers here:

For 10.10.2

For 10.10.3

For 10.10.4

Install those, set it to Web Driver, install the 980, and you should be good to go.

What about the Titan or other more powerful cards?

There is one small problem… the Mac Pro’s power supply isn’t powerful enough to handle the card and doesn’t have the connectors. The Mac can have two six pin power connectors, but the Titan and other top of the line cards require a 6 pin and an 8 pin or even two 8-pin connectors. REMINDER: The GTX 980 and Quadro do NOT need extra power. This is only for cards with an 8-pin connector.

The solution is to buy a bigger power supply and let it sit outside the Mac with the power cables running through the expansion opening in the back.

As long as the power supply is plugged into a grounded outlet, there’s no problem with it being external. I used a EVGA 850W Power Supply, but I think the 600w would do. The nice thing about these is they come with long cables (about 2 feet or so) which will reach inside the case to the Nvidia card’s power connectors.

Mac Pro external power supply

One thing you’ll need to do is plug the ‘test’ connector (comes with it) into the external power supply’s motherboard connector. The power supply won’t power on unless you do this.

Otherwise, it should work great! Very powerful cards and definitely adds a punch to the Mac Pros. With this setup we had Beauty Box running at about 25fps (in Premiere Pro, AE and Final Cut are a bit slower). Not bad for a five year old computer, but not real time in this case. On newer machines with the GTX 980 you should  be getting real time play back. It really is a great card for the price.

Creating GIFs from Video: The 4K Animated GIF?

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I was at a user group recently and a video editor from a large ad agency was talking about the work he does.

‘web video’ encompasses many things, especially when it comes to advertising. The editor mentioned that he is constantly being asked to create GIF animations from the video he’s editing. The video may go on one site, but the GIF animation will be used on another one. So while one part of the industry is trying to push 4K and 8K, another part is going backwards to small animated GIFs for Facebook ads and the like.

Online advertising is driving the trend, and it’s probably something many editors deal with daily… creating super high resolution for the broadcast future (which may be over the internet), but creating extremely low res versions for current web based ads.

Users want high resolution when viewing content but ads that aren’t in the video stream (like traditional ads) can slow down a users web browsing experience and cause them to bounce if the file size is too big.

Photoshop for Video?

Photoshop’s timeline is pretty useless for traditional video editing. However, for creating these animated GIFs, it works very well. Save out the frames or short video clip you want to make into a GIF, import them into Photoshop and lay them out on the Timeline, like you would video clips in an editing program. Then select Save For Web… and save it out as a GIF. You can even play back the animation in the Save for Web dialog. It’s a much better workflow for creating GIFs than any of the traditional video editors have.

So, who knew? An actual use for the Photoshop Timeline. You too can create 4K animated GIFs! ;-)

animated GIF

One particularly good example of an animated GIF. Rule #1 for GIFs: every animated GIF needs a flaming guitar.

Odyssey 7Q+ .wav Problem – How to Fix It and Import It into Your Video Editor

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We have a Sony FS700 hanging around the Digital Anarchy office for shooting slow motion and 4K footage to test with our various plugins ( We develop video plugins for Premiere Pro, After Effects, Avid, Final Cut Pro, Resolve, etc., etc.) . In order to get 4K out of the camera we had to buy an Odyssey 7Q+ from Convergent Designs (don’t you love how all these cameras are ‘4K – capable’, meaning if you want 4K, it’s another $2500+. Yay for marketing.)

(btw… if you don’t care about the back story, and just want to know how to import a corrupted .wav file into a video editing app, then just jump to the last couple paragraphs. I won’t hold it against you. :-)

The 7Q+ overall is a good video recorder and we like it a lot but we recently ran into a problem. One of the videos we shot didn’t have sound. It had sound when played back on the 7Q+, but when you imported it into any video editing application. no audio.

The 7Q+ records 4K as a series of .dng files with a sidecar .wav file for the audio. The wav file had the appropriate size as if it had audio data (it wasn’t a 1Kb file or something) but importing into FCP, Premiere Pro, Quicktime, or Windows Media Player showed no waveform and no audio.

Convergent Designs wasn’t particularly helpful. The initial suggestion was to ‘rebuild’ the SSD drives. This was suggested multiple times, as if it was un-imaginable this wouldn’t fix it and/or I was an idiot not doing it correctly. The next suggestion was to buy file recovery software. This didn’t really make sense either. The .dng files making up the video weren’t corrupted, the 7Q+ could play it back, and the file was there with the appropriate size. It seemed more likely that the 7Q+ wrote the file incorrectly, in which case file recovery software would do nothing.

So Googling around for people with similar problems I discovered 1) at least a couple other 7Q users have had the same problem and 2) there were plenty of non-7Q users with corrupted .wav files. One technique for the #2 folks was to pull them into VLC Media Player. Would this work for the 7Q+?

YES! Pull it into VLC, then save it out as a different .wav (or whatever) file. It then imported and played back correctly. Video clip saved and I didn’t need to return the 7Q+ to Convergent and lose it for a couple weeks.

Other than this problem the Odyssey 7Q+ has been great… but this was a pretty big problem. Easily fixed though thanks to VLC.

4K Showdown! New MacPro vs One Nvidia GTX 980

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For NAB this year we finally bought into the 4K hype and decided to have one of our demo screens be a 4K model, showing off Beauty Box Video and Flicker Free in glorious 4K.

NAB Booth Beauty Box Video and Flicker Free in 4k
The Digital Anarchy NAB Booth

So we bought a 55” 4K Sony TV to do the honors. We quickly realized if we wanted to use it for doing live demos we would need a 4K monitor as well. (We could have just shown the demo reel on it) For live demos you need to mirror the computer monitor onto the TV. An HD monitor upscaled on the 4K TV looked awful, so a 4K monitor it was (we got a Samsung 28″, gorgeous monitor).

Our plan was to use our Mac Pro for this demo station. We wanted to show off the plugins in Adobe’s AE/Premiere apps and Apple’s Final Cut Pro. Certainly our $4000 middle of the line Mac Pro with two AMD D500s could drive two 4K screens. Right?

We were a bit dismayed to discover that it would drive the screens at the cost of slowing the machine down to unusable. Not good.

For running Beauty Box in GPU accelerated mode, our new favorite video card for GPU performance is Nvidia’s GTX 980. The price/performance ratio is just amazing. So we figured we’d plug the two 4K screens into our generic $900 Costco PC that had the GTX 980 in it and see what kind of performance we’d get out of it.

Not only did the 980 drive the monitors, it still ran Beauty Box Video in real time within Premiere Pro. F’ing amazing for a $550 video card.

The GTX 980 single handedly knocked out the Mac Pro and two AMD D500s. Apple should be embarrassed.

I will note, that for rendering and using the apps, the Mac Pro is about on par with the $900 PC + 980. I still would expect more performance from Apple’s $4000 machine but at least it’s not an embarrassment.

iPhone 6 vs Sony FS700: Comparison of Slow Motion Modes (240fps and Higher)

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Comparing slow motion modes of the iPhone 6 vs the Sony FS700

The Sony FS700 is a $6000 video camera that can shoot HD up to 960fps or 4K at 60fps. It’s an excellent camera that can shoot some beautiful imagery, especially at 240fps (the 960fps footage really isn’t all that, however).

The iPhone 6 is a $700 phone with a video camera that shoots at 240fps. I thought it’d be pretty interesting to compare the iPhone 6 to the Sony FS700. I mean, the iPhone couldn’t possibly compare to a video camera that is dedicated to shooting high speed video, right? Well, ok yes, you’re right. Usually. But surprisingly, the iPhone 6 holds its own in many cases and if you have a low budget production, could be a solution for you.

Let’s compare them.

kickboxing at 240fps

First the caveats:

1: The FS700 shoots 1080p, the iPhone shoots 720p. Obviously if your footage HAS to be 1080p, then the iPhone is a no go. However, there are many instances where 720p is more than adequate.

2: The iPhone has no tripod mount. So you need something like this Joby phone tripod:

3: You can’t play the iPhone movies created in slow motion on Windows. The Windows version of QuickTime does not support the feature. They can be converted with a video editing app, but this is a really annoying problem for Windows users trying to shoot with the iPhone. The Sony movies play fine on a Mac or Windows machine.

4: The iPhone will automatically try and focus and adjust brightness. This is the biggest problem with the iPhone. If you’re going to shoot with the iPhone you HAVE to consider this. We’ll discuss it a lot more in this article.

5: The iPhone does let you zoom and record, but it’s not an optical zoom so it’s lower quality than the non-zoomed image. With the FS700 you can change lenses, put on a sweet zoom lens, and zoom in to your hearts content. But that’s one of the things you pay the big bucks for. We did not use the iPhone’s zoom feature for any of these shots, so in some cases the iPhone is a bit wider than the FS700 equivalent.


The Egg

Our first example is a falling egg. The FS700 footage is obviously better in this case.

The iPhone does very poorly in low light. You can see this in the amount of noise on the black background. It’s very distracting. Particularly since the egg portion IS well lit. Also, you’ll notice that the highlight on the egg is completely blown out.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do about this except light better. One of the problems with the iPhone is the automatic brightness adjustment. It shows up here in the blown out highlight, with no way to adjust the exposure. You get what you get, so you NEED to light perfectly.

In the video there’s also an example of the FS700 shooting at 480fps. The 960fps mode of the FS700 is pretty lacking, but the 480fps does produce pretty good footage. For something like the egg, the 480fps has a better look since the breaking of the egg happens so fast. Even the 240fps isn’t fast enough to really capture it.

All the footage is flickering as well. This is a bit more obvious with the FS700 because there’s no noise in the background. The 480fps footage has been de-flickered with Flicker Free. Compare it with the 240fps to see the difference.


The MiniVan

In this case we have a shot of some cars a bit before sunset. This works out much better for the iPhone, but not perfectly. It’s well lit, which seems to be the key for the iPhone.

Overall, the iPhone does a decent job, however it has one problem. As the black van passes by, the iPhone auto-adjusts the brightness. You can see the effect this has by looking the ‘iPhone 6’ text in the video. The text doesn’t change color but the asphalt certainly does, making the text look like it’s changing. This does make the van look better, but it changes the exposure of the whole scene. NOT something you want if you’re shooting for professional uses.

The FS700 on the other hand, we can fix the aperture and shutter speed. This means we keep a consistent look throughout the video. You would expect this with a pro video camera, so no surprise there. It’s doing what it should be doing.

However, if you were to plan for the iPhone’s limitation in advance and not have a massive dark object enter your scene, you would end up with a pretty good slow motion shot. The iPhone is a bit softer than the Sony, but it still looks good!

Also note that when the FS700 is shooting at 480fps, it is much softer as well. This has some advantages, for example the wheels don’t have anywhere near as much motion blur as the 240fps footage. The overall shot is noticeably lower quality, with the bushes in the background being much softer than the 240fps footage.


The Plane! The Plane!

Next to the runway at LAX, there’s a small park where you can lay in the grass and watch planes come in about 40 feet above as they’re about to land. If you’ve never seen the underbelly of an A380 up close, it’s pretty awesome. We did not see that when doing this comparison, but we did see some other cool stuff!

Most notably we saw the problem with the iPhone’s inability to lock focus. Since the camera has nothing to focus on, when the plane enters the frame it’s completely out of focus. The iPhone 6 can’t resolve it in the few seconds it’s overhead, so the whole scene is blurry.

Compare that to the FS700 where we can get focus on one plane and when the next one comes in, we’re in focus and capture a great shot.

The iPhone completely failed this test, so the Sony footage is easily the hands down winner.


The Kickboxer

One last example where the iPhone performs adequately.

The only problem with this shot is the amount of background noise. As mentioned the iPhone doesn’t do a great job in low light, so there’s a lot of noise on the black background. Because of the flimsy phone tripod, it shakes a lot more as well. However, overall the footage is ok and would probably look much better if we’d used a white background. This footage also has a flicker problem and we used Flicker Free again on the 480fps footage to remove it. You’ll notice the detail of the foot and chalk particles are quite good on the iPhone. Not as good as the FS700, but that’s not really what we’re asking.

We want to know if Apple’s iPhone 6 can produce slow motion, 240fps video that’s good enough for an indie film or some other low budget production. (or even a high budget production where you have a situation you don’t want to (or can’t) put a $6000 camera) If you consider the caveats about the iPhone not being able to lock focus, the auto-adjusting brightness, and shooting in 720p, I think the answer is yes. If you take all that into consideration and plan for it, the footage can look great. (but, yeah… I’m not trading in my FS700 either. ;-)

Samsung Galaxy S5 Does NOT Shoot 240fps. It Shoots 120fps and Plays It Back at 15fps.

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Apple’s iPhone 6 and the Samsung Galaxy S5 both shoot 240fps (or so you might think… 1/8th speed at 30fps is 240fps). Since we make Flicker Free, a plugin that removes flicker that occurs when shooting at 240fps, I thought it’d be cool to do a comparison of the two phones and post the results.

However, there was a problem. The footage from the Galaxy S5 seemed to be faster than the iPhone. After looking into a number of possibilities, including user error, I noticed that all the S5 footage was playing back in Quicktime Player at 15fps. Could it be that the Samsung S5 was actually shooting in 120fps and playing it back at 15fps to fake 240fps? Say it’s not so! Yep, it’s so.

To confirm this I took a Stopwatch app and recorded it with the Galaxy S5 at 1/8th speed (which should be 240fps if you assume a 30fps play back like normal video cameras). You can see the result here:

If the S5 was truly shooting at 240fps, over one second the frame count should be 240. It’s not. It’s 120. If you don’t trust me and want to see for yourself, the original footage from the S5 can be downloaded HERE:

Overall, very disappointing. It’s a silly trick to fake super slow motion. It’s hardly shocking that Samsung would use a bit of sleight of hand on the specs of their device, but still. Cheesy.


You might ask why this makes a difference. It’s still playing really slow. If you’re trying to use it in a video editor and mixing it with footage that IS shot at 30fps (or 24fps), the 15fps video will appear to stutter. Also, from an image quality standpoint, where you really see the problem is in the detail and motion blur. As you can see in this example:

iphone 6 vs samsung galaxy s5 240fps

Also, the overall image quality of the iPhone was superior. But that’s something I’ll talk about when I actually compare them! That’s coming up next!

How Final Cut Pro X Caches Render Files (and how to prevent Beauty Box from re-rendering)

What causes Final Cut Pro X to re-render? If you’ve ever wondered why sometimes the orange ‘unrendered’ bar shows up when you make a change and sometimes it doesn’t… I explain it all here. This is something that will be valuable to any FCP user but can be of the utmost importance if you’re rendering Beauty Box, our plugin for doing skin retouching and beauty work on HD/4K video. (Actually we’re hard at work making Beauty Box a LOT faster, so look for an announcement soon!)

Currently, if you’ve applied Beauty Box to a long clip, say 60 minutes, you can be looking at serious render times (this can happen for any non-realtime effect), possibly twelve hours or so on slower computers and video cards. (It can also be a few hours, just depends on how fast everything is)

FCP showing that footage is unrendered

Recently we had a user with that situation. They had a logo in .png format that was on top of the entire video being used as a bug. So they rendered everything out to deliver it, but, of course, the client wanted the bug moved slightly. This caused Final Cut Pro to want to re-render EVERYTHING, meaning the really long Beauty Box render needed to happen as well. Unfortunately, this is just the way Final Cut Pro works.

Why does it work that way and what can be done about it?

Continue reading How Final Cut Pro X Caches Render Files (and how to prevent Beauty Box from re-rendering)

Why Doesn’t FCP X Support Image Sequences for Time Lapse (among other reasons)

In the process of putting together a number of tutorials on time lapse (particularly stabilizing it), I discovered that FCP X does not import image sequences. If you import 1500 images that have a name with sequential numbers, it imports them as 1500 images. This is a pretty huge fail on the part of FCP. Since it is a video application, I would expect it to do what every other video application does and recognize the image sequence as VIDEO.  Even PHOTOSHOP is smart enough to let you import a series of images as an image sequence and treat it as a video file. (and, no, you should not be using the caveman like video tools in Photoshop for much of anything, but I’m just sayin’ it imports it correctly)

There are ways to get around this. Mainly use some other app or Quicktime to turn the image sequence into a video file.  I recommend shooting RAW when shooting time lapse,  so this means you have to pull the RAW sequence into one of the Adobe apps anyways (Lightroom, After Effects, Premiere) for color correction.  It would be much nicer if FCP just handled it correctly without having to jump through the Adobe apps. Once you’re in the Adobe system, you might as well stay there, IMO.

No, I’m not a FCP X hater. I just like my apps to work the way they should… just as I tore into Premiere and praised FCP for their .f4v (Flash video) support in this blog post.

Time Lapse image sequence in Final Cut Pro failing to load as a single video file


What’s wrong with this picture?

Why does Final Cut Pro handle Flash Video f4v files better than Premiere Pro?

First off, if you want Flash’s .f4v files to work in FCP X, you need to change the extension to .mp4. So myfile.f4v becomes myfile.mp4

I’ve been doing some streaming lately with Ustream. It’s a decent platform, but I’m not particularly in love with it (and it’s expensive). Anyways, if you save the stream to a file, it saves it as a Flash Video file (.f4v). The file itself plays back fine. However, if you pull it into Premiere Pro for editing, adding graphics, etc., PPro can’t keep the audio in sync. Adobe… WTF? It’s your file format!

Final Cut Pro X does not have this problem. As mentioned, you need to change the file extension to .mp4, but otherwise it handles it beautifully.

Even if you pull the renamed file into Premiere, it still loses the audio sync. So it’s just a complete fail on Adobe’s part. FCP does a terrific job of handling this even on long programs like this 90 minute panel discussion.

Here’s the Final Cut Pro file, saved out to a Quicktime file and then uploaded to YouTube:

Here’s the Premiere Pro video, also saved out to Quicktime and uploaded. You’ll notice it starts out ok, but then quickly loses audio sync. This is typical in my tests. The longer the video the more out of sync it gets. In this 30 second example it’s not too out of sync, but it’s there.

Breaking Down Using Beauty Box in a Music Video

It’s always cool to see folks posting how they’ve used Beauty Box Video. One of the most common uses is for music videos, including many top artists. Most performers are a little shy about letting it be known they need retouching, so we get pretty excited when something does get posted (even if we don’t know the performer). Daniel Schweinert just posted this YouTube and blog post breaking down his use of Beauty Box Video (and Mocha) for a music video in After Effects. Pretty cool stuff!

Here’s a link to his blog with more information: