Converting HD Video for use in an SD DVD project

Why a DVD, why can’t everyone just go digital…?

Unfortunate as it is, real world clients’ requirements tend to rely on 1990s technology.

I’ve been putting together DVDs for the New Wine conference, which is generally consists of:

  • complete the edit…
  • export full quality
  • export to MPEG-2 in Compressor
  • drag into DVD Studio
  • burn the disk

This doesn’t work very well for projects which originate in high definition, partly because of your finely rendered type and partly because of the poor transcoding magic performed going directly from 1080 to 576 for DVD.

WHY ME?

Like me, plenty of people out there have learnt everything they know about videography from working on pet projects and tinkering with the tools they have to hand, and stuff like this just isn’t really “in the manual.”

I think I might’ve finally worked out a workflow that should work, should you need wish to put your beautiful HD Video onto a standard definition DVD.

Starting point:

Most of my video projects are in Apple ProRes — captured live or post-event using my Ninja device. The specific variety of ProRes doesn’t matter, frame rates (60i or 50i) and colour depth aren’t the problem here. We’re in 1080 and it looks pretty great. On the computer. And in whatever web format we tend to use.

Output from the edit:

Using your editing software typically you will typically output a full resolution copy of the edit, or a reference movie — just the audio and rendered parts, with pointers to all your other source video files, hidden in a file much smaller than your full copy.

What you would do for the web:

At this point, I usually drag the reference movie into MPEG Streamclip. Sometimes it misbehaves and doesn’t understand the reference pointers; so it might be best just to output a full QuickTime file for transcoding.

Vimeo (the discerning videographers publishing platform of choice?) has a helpful guide on good settings for upload, but basically I do this (my saved “Vimeo 720” preset):

  • Choose MPEG-4 export, using H.264
  • Bump the quality to 100% (no point compromising here)
  • Limit the data rate to 3500 or 5000Kbps depending on how good you want it to look (I tend to choose 5000 for final exports, 3500 for key drafts, 1000 for quick previews)
  • Do whatever you want with sound, AAC / Stereo / 44.1 / 256kbps
  • I tend to scale to 1280 x 720 for output
  • Choose the right frame right
  • Select “Interlaced Scaling” and “Deinterlace Video”
  • Everything else should be right

And a visual representation of the above, if it helps…

vimeo-720-hq-settingsThis creates a pretty good image and the interlaced/deinterlace couplet fixes most “why did my text go fuzzy” issues.

When creating DVDs:

MPEG Streamclip is not the tool for this job. iDVD is Disney. Toast does burn video DVDs but it [ignorant assumption] won’t give you the ability to make the type of interface that you actually want.

So you need to use Compressor + DVD Studio Pro. Nightmare. But they can do pretty much everything you want them to.

Bad assumption:

You can just use the source file, make it convert using one of the provided DVD formats (in Compressor) or just drop it into DVDSP directly and it will create a useable disk. It will, but it won’t look good. All your rendered images and text will be of very poor quality and while much less noticeable the video itself will not be as good.

Larry to the rescue:

Often you’ll find the answer to a video question is answered on Larry Jordan and this is no exception, though it took me a few days of casual searching to find a link to the article entitled Solving Video Compression Problems When Down-Sizing HD to SD — you may notice some similarity in the title of this article…

The basic solution here is this:

  • Pre-compression” — resize the HD movie to an SD frame size without compressing (transcode to ProRes HQ from 1080 to 1024×576 if you’re working in the PAL world) — full details of which settings to use are in the article
  • Then use that exported file as your DVD track source.

Obviously this will take a bit longer to output, but it will provide far cleaner images from which to produce your DVD. In practice it takes significantly longer: on a 2009 iMac, transcoding five 35 minute files took just over 14 hours. Fine if you’ve nothing else to do!

P.S. If you spot any flaws, or have any suggestions or additions to this article please leave a comment below and I’ll consider updating it.

Mastered DVDs

NI Design Alliance: The Anatomy of Design #002

Just published, here’s part two of the Design Alliance’s series “The Anatomy of Design.”

In this, Matt’s first ever public talk, he discusses the processes involved in creating, managing and implementing design systems in complex products and large organisations; covering mistakes made and how good design makes everything look easy.

Filmed (with young Pete) and edited by yours truly, you can read more about it here.

A Vidiot’s Summer Travels

There’s a busy summer ahead!

(c) 2012 Chris Nelson/New Wine Ireland

First off: sleeping in field Thursday to Tuesday! The Summer Madness festival returns to Glenarm castle, and I’ll be heading up the volunteer technical team and running the on-screen visuals on the main stage. A circus tent. With the pros from Box42 (recurring theme?) we’ll be providing a bit of camera and vision mixer training to use on live screens; recording about 30 seminars; and finally mastering a take-home DVD on the final night, hoping to have a few hundred copies ready to sell to the campers and group leaders on their way home. All of that and hoping to get a few hours sleep each night.

Next step: I’ll be spending a week in [London*]Derry* (* delete where applicable) filming a practical youth service week on the streets of the city. The ‘On The Move’ project is a reimagination of the original ‘StreetReach’ concept and this year is being supported by the festival itself. Looking forward to using some new lighting gear and having loads of time to get good footage and create a cool promo for next year’s event.

Then: off to Sligo town for another big christian summer festival. This time we’ll be setting up projectors + screens, plasma and LCD TVs, cameras and mixers, sound gear and audio recording devices; both in the main meeting hall and around the event’s campus. Looking forward again to the craic and ‘holiday’ and getting to visit places that feel a lifetime away from Belfast!

The rest of July should be filled with video and audio editing. I’ve some available time in August (so if you have any need for a web developer or video bod get in touch!), but whatever’s spare will hopefully be used putting together a little video + community voting mashup website I’ve been plotting for some time.

Sage 50 Accounting Import CSVs

TL;DR Download Excel files provided for Sage 50 Accounting Import *

Trying to say nice things: Sage clearly love money. Any time I’ve had reason to get in touch with their cousins at Sagepay, they have always proved to be very courteous and helpful. Not so with Sage 50 Accounting.

I’m building an import tool to manage the flow between a client’s website and their office software. I tried calling Sage for some data documentation or advice. They took details of me and my client, but said no: you need to pay for the annual support and maintenance package for us to talk to you. Talk!

The annual package which costs over £1000.

You’ll want to provide a file in CSV (comma separated value) or Excel format for import but what, I hear you ask, is the specification? Click File > Import on the software package’s menu and you’ll see a recommendation to backup but no samples. However there’s a little green question mark button to the right hand side – if you click it, it will suggest sample files are available in the Program Files folder.

You can hunt for those or you can download the nine Excel files here. *

The hard part comes next – working out what each file is actually for and doing the import. Have fun.

* This zip file and the files it contains are provided as is, without any instruction or warranty, nor claim of ownership or copyright. They are merely provided to help fellow developers out, in the belief that developers are a software company’s best friend — they can sell your product for you to new clients, suggest improvements and give informed feedback.

Linkblog: “Things to Bring on a Trip Around the World”


Things to Bring on a Trip Around the World — Roaming the Earth — Medium.

Three days before my trip, I panicked—I hadn’t packed a single thing. I had procrastinated, hoping my backpack would magically pack itself. What do you bring on a long trip across multiple continents and climates? After much thought and research, I narrowed my belongings down to a select few. It was a painful process.

There’s something delightful about the idea of packing a bag and getting on a plane as Keegan is doing… where to go this summer…?

NI Design Alliance: The Anatomy of Design #001

Post updated with video — 10.6.2013 

Last night I attended the Northern Ireland Design Alliance’s first lecture of 2013 and the first in a new series called “The Anatomy of Design.” As I often say I’m not a ‘designer’, but this event had much broader appeal than just to the pixel pusher or crayon merchant.

Stephen McCarthy, a native of Dublin and graphic/print designer by trade, spoke on the acclaimed work of the UK’s Government Digital Services. Focusing on the 10 design principles of the GDS and the launch of GOV.UK (or boring.com as everyone’s favourite doom merchants would have you believe).

NIDA GDS Stephen McCarthy GOV.UK
NIDA GDS Stephen McCarthy GOV.UK

The video is now live on youtube. For updates on upcoming Design Alliance events follow @gooddesignni. The next scheduled event is on June 20th and Matt Coyne will be speaking.

Thanks to Richard and Sarah from CC Skills for hosting it and having us along!

This week’s effort: wordpress twitter aggregation plugin

Extracted from and developed for a new client website I’m building I’ve finished off an ‘MVP’ wordpress plugin “DL’s Tweet Aggregator“. Its’ purpose is to ingest tweets from a collection of selected twitter accounts and display them in whatever format you’d like on your site.

Currently the output comes in the form of a widget only, but to meet the needs of the website in question I’ll be adding a plain JSON API and a [short_code] for the data.

If you have the opportunity, please do try it out and let me know if you find any problems or have any suggestions for it. Full read me and instructions on my github profile. I haven’t had the opportunity to test it out on a Windows platform, but as I’m using the underlying WP_Filesystem API it shouldn’t be an issue.

https://github.com/davidlowry/wp-tweet-aggregator

Using FreeAgent for managing invoices

Money is difficult. Making it, estimating your own time as being worth a certain amount of it, and asking for it, is hard.

There’s lots of resources online for freelancers to help work out how much other freelancers in my area are charging and how to work out what tax allowances are permitted when working from home. But how to actually handle that money.

I bought a book to help do accounting, but reading is hard too — this one is more fun.

You could make spreadsheets and put them in your Dropbox (sign up + we both get free space) and while that works fairly well, who wants to install Excel or wait for it to open? (Business people, that’s who).

Instead of all that you can pretty much do it all with FreeAgent. Budget time with proposals, time-keeping, client/project tracking, invoice generation based on time tracking, a product inventory or fixed values. Pay staff, add expenses and track un-billable time, so you know that you’ll need to account for such time in the future. You can email invoices directly or output a pdf and print. It works really well, all you have to do is do you work, send your invoice and wait to be paid.

It’s not expensive, only £15/month if you pay annually, but if you sign up with my affiliate link and give it a go then you’ll get 10% off the subscription for life, as will I. Far cheaper than an accountant, and given that I’m not planning to invest in an off-shore tax scheme any time soon, just as worthile.

Bonus: they’re based in the UK (Edinburgh) and so all of their advice is aimed at UK taxpayers and businesses, their blog is up to date on changes to HMRC policy and all that.

FreeAgent Small Business Online Accounting

Showreel: Build 2012

Jeff Veen - Design for Disaster
The 2012 Build conference videos have been published today on the Build vimeo channel. My first fully HD video editing project, I think it’s come off quite nicely! It’s the fourth year I’ve been involved in the AV production at the conference and previously produced the video for year one, handing the reins over to Peter and box42av.com in the meantime.

My favourite talk was probably Jeff Veen’s, entitled “Design for Disaster”. You should file the album URL away for a rainy weekend. Like this one. Lots of good stuff in there.

Production credits:
Camera: Ross McCartan, Chris Ross,
Sound: Mark ‘Inferno’ Kernohan,
Graphics: Matt DiVito,
Music: Tycho,
Edit and production: me.

Sales pitch:
If you are in need of any web, video or event audio visual solution don’t hesitate to drop me a line.