General Specialist

2006-09-29

Mention "Mac Pro" to get a Discount: Dell Desperate?

I've been trying to compare the prices of the Mac Pro and a similarly configured Dell Precision, but since Dell won't let you choose their top-of-the-line processors from their webshop, I was forced to call Dell to get a quote.

I got a very friendly salesperson on the line and I happened to mention that I was choosing between a Mac Pro and a Dell. She was eager to help me, and within an hour she had emailed me an offer. As Dell forces you to get a Quadro graphics card for their high-end workstations, the prices didn't exactly match up, making a price comparison difficult.

When she later called me to try to finish the deal, I was reluctant since I thought the price was to high. The salesrep then told me she had already knocked off over $1.000 from the list price, since the standard prices were "ridiculous." When I still turned down her offer, she perplexed me by saying:
Well Jonas, how much do you want to pay? Give me an offer for the machine!

So after knocking off over 20% from the list price, she still had more to give? I'm not sure if Dell is finding the Apple competition feirce, or if they are coming close to ending a fiscal period, but only two weeks earlier I managed to get over 25% discount on two lovely 24-inch monitors by calling them and asking for a lower price instead of accepting their Internet price.

- Jonas


P.S. Sorry about the missing Flash-to-broadcast interview, I've been crazy-busy.

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2006-09-23

Read This and Never Turn Back: How to Subscribe via RSS

I'm constantly amazed how many smart people are still surfing the web in the same way they did five years ago.

I used to do the same; keeping a bunch of bookmarks to sites I knew where full of good stuff and regularly clicking my way through them to look for new info. That's until I finally got tired of trying to manage these bookmarks on several computers and having to visit sites that were never updated.

At last I discovered RSS, being able to subscribe to exciting stuff that is automatically delivered to my virtual doorstep once anything new is published.

Looking at my logs for this humble blog, it seems like very few of you are using any kind of news reader. I've been thinking about writing up a tutorial on RSS for beginners, but of course someone has already done it. Here's the Oprah Winfrey explanation:
RSS the Oprah Way: "Ready for Some Stories"

- Jonas

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2006-09-17

15 Minutes to Air: Real-time Broadcast Graphics via Flash

In 15 minutes the Swedish election TV-show airs, and we'll be outputting a lot of real-time graphics directly from Flash. The show will last almost six hours, so Monday will be dedicated to sleep, but I promise to finish the post about how it's all done when I recover.

- Jonas

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2006-09-14

QuickTime 7.1.3 Stops Flash Playback

There are a couple of bugs in Flash Player that could potentially let bad people do bad stuff. The Flash Player 9.0.16.0. updater fixes these, but the problem gets worse since the latest QuickTime 7.1.3 patch stops Flash playback.

As I promised before, I'll post more about SVT's bold move to use Flash as a real-time, fullscreen broadcast playback engine for the upcoming election on Sunday.

- Jonas

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DVCPro HD Decoder for Windows

The DVCProHD Decoder is good news for all HVX-200 users that have had to transcode the MXF files into some other codec before using it.

Via Digital Production Buzz

- Jonas

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2006-09-12

Mac Pro with 8 Cores, Plus Benchmarks under Windows XP

For anyone thinking about getting a Mac Pro to run both OS X and Windows XP, check out Anandtech's follow-up article on the Mac Pro with a solution to the low harddrive performance under Windows XP, plus info on how to optimally upgrade your RAM.

They've also replaced the current dual-core CPUs with new, unreleased, quad-core CPUs, bringing the total count up to 8 cores on one machine, so the upgrade path looks promising!

- Jonas

Photo by spullara

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2006-09-11

Must...Get...One... The RED ONE Camera Shows Off 4K at IBC

I might be more of a Dope than a DoP, but I can spot an industry-disruptor, and the RED ONE camera has just showed some test footage at IBC.


As usual, HD for Indies has a good couple of posts on the 4K projections (make sure you check out the comments on each post, they contain a lot more info!), and the RED site has been updated with more info (but no downloadable footage yet.) Also, check out the ultimate irony, a handheld video posted on YouTube showing the 4K projections and the following Q&A.

They're also working on a codec that turns the raw capture of 323 MB/s (that's bytes, not bits) into 27.5 MB/s for 24p shooting.

- Jonas

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2006-09-10

HDMI Camera Capture and Online JPEG Codec for HD Resolution

IBC will bring a lot of goodies, but here's a couple from one of my favorite companies: BlackMagic Design.

Intensity and DeckLink HD Studio: HD Capture, editing and playback cards for HDMI. Conveniently, Sony just announced two cameras with HDMI output, the HDR-FX7 and the HVR-V1E.
Like FreshDV speculates, this would make it possible to ingest uncompressed HD from a really cheap HD camera into a really cheap card. However, there's no mention of the bit-depth or the color sampling rate either, so this might not be the HD-SDI-killer, but it sure is cheap.

On-Air 2.0: Live Event HD Mixer for OS X.

The new Online JPEG codec is designed for HDTV production. The press release mentions both "4:2:2 color sampling" and "full color sampling" so I guess the jury is still out on what the codec can actually deliver.

- Jonas

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New and Free: AlphaPlugins FirTree

Here's a plugin developer I'd never heard of, but what better way to get known than to offer a free download?

Even if you aren't forced to do Christmas jingles, I'm sure you can come up with creative uses for AlphaPlugins FirTree! Windows-only, unfortunately...

PS. If you like it, make sure to support the South Korean-based developer Maxim Chernousov by buying some of his for-pay plugins!

Thanks to Rich at AE Portal News for the tip!

- Jonas

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2006-09-08

Three-Way Color Corrector for After Effects 7

Here's a powerful color corrector for After Effects. It's actually the same plugin that ships with Premiere Pro 2.0, but you can only access it when you import a PPro clip, or by using this Animation Preset.

Unfortunately this PPro legacy makes it Windows-only. The other drawback is that you don't get the fancy GUI, only a whole lotta sliders...

Three-Way Color Corrector Animation Preset for After Effects 7

Thanks to Nicklas Larsson for the tip!

- Jonas

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Tutorial: How to Preview the Size of Text and Graphics for Broadcast and Film

Do you want to preview how big the text and graphics will look on a TV while still working on your computer? Here's how!

1. Create a document with the same height in pixels as your output format. Most software nowadays have presets that also includes the so called safe areas that shows you how much of the standard TV image is masked by the TV.
2. Make sure you are viewing the document at 100% in your graphics program of choice.
3. Then use a common ruler to measure on the screen according to the table below.
4. Multiply this distance by 2 for film shown at movie theatres/cinemas, 4 for standard TV (SD) and by 6 for HD TV, and place your eyes at this distance.






TV system

Document heightMeasure this on your screen
Standard definition PAL and SECAM:576 pixels518 pixels inside the "safe area"
Standard definition NTSC:540 (square) pixels486 pixels inside the "safe area"
HD TV 720p / 720i:720 pixels720 pixels (all pixels are shown on the HD TV)
HD TV 1080p / 1080i:1080 pixels1080 pixels (all pixels are shown on the HD TV)


Example: You've created a document for NTSC and want to preview how big your text will look.
Zoom your document to 100% magnification. Grab a ruler and place it on your monitor. Measure the distance inside the safe area. In this case it turns out to be 10 inches, so therefore you should put your eyes at 60 inches away from your computer monitor.

Here's the theory behind this method:
European viewers tend to sit approx. 2.6 meters (8.5 feet) or six times the picture height from their standard 32” widescreen TV. This distance can be described as 6H.


When the viewer upgrades to a new HD TV, the perceived picture will be bigger (unless the viewer redecorates the living room, tears down a wall and moves the sofa further away from the set.)


The viewer will therefore sit four times the picture height (4H) away from the HD TV, no matter what HD TV format is used (720i, 720p, 1080i and 1080p.)


At the movies / cinemas the viewing distance is of course very dependant on if you sit up front or in the back, but the general rule is that the viewing distance is around 2H.

Stay tuned for a tutorial on how much you must increase/decrease the size of your text and graphics when you go from a SD to an HD TV production.

Thanks to Lars Haglund and Gunnar Kihlander at SVT for the concept!

- Jonas

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2006-09-07

The Best AE List is Back Online

My favorite mailing list is back online after a disastourous thunderstorm over Stockholm. Listmaster René has been busy getting the disks fixed, but unfortunately the only subscriber list that could be salvaged is from February 2005.
That means anyone who unsubscribed after this date is going to find
themselves back on the list. That's annoying, we're sorry, but it's
the best we could do.

MORE IMPORTANTLY:
Anyone who subscribed with ANY email address (or an old timer who changed email) AFTER FEBRUARY 2005, is NOT back on the list and we must communicate to them how to get back on again. Please do your best to pass the word to anyone you know that they may need to resubscribe.

You can subscribe at media-motion.tv

- Jonas

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Get Poser 5 for Free (No Lunch Required)

If you hurry up you can get a full version of Poser 5 just for registering. Poser may get a bad rap from seasoned 3D pros, but you can't compare Poser's quick models to spending 500+ hours of modeling and rigging on a single character.

So hide your pride (just like ILM allegedly did when they put Poser figures in the background of at least one Star Wars film.)

Get Poser 5 for Free



- Jonas

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Please Update Your Subscription Address

If you're subscribing to this blog via a news reader (which you really should be) you might not see the entire posts with links and images.

As the song goes:
I blame it on the sun, I blame it on the moon, I blame it on Feedburner.com

I've updated to links to the RSS feed that will let you subscribe to this blog, but if you're already subscribed please change to the correct address:
 http://generalspecialist.com/feed/rss.xml

-- Jonas

2006-09-06

300+ New Plugins

The public beta is now open for the new FreeFrame Host for After Effects. It's Windows only for now.

Here's more info on FreeForm.

Thanks to Rich at AE Portal News for the tip!

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2006-09-05

Quite a Readership!

I just looked at the web stats for this blog for the first time, and realized that you guys have requested 10.997 web pages in August only! That's way beyond any expectations I had when starting this blog as a simple and ugly dumping ground for tips that I thought were good enough to share.

Thanks for your great comments and all the encouragement, keep'em coming! And if you find something useful, please: Each One Teach One

Feature Requesteritis: Adobe Comes to Town

Today, I made the kind folks from Adobe endure a two hour meeting about our wishes for future versions of their video and imaging products. Both Steven Warner-Swirsky, Director Engineering of the Digital Video Group, and Bruce Bullis who's responsible for the APIs of their video products, were most kind to come visit us in Stockholm. Thanks to Fredrik Johannesson for setting up the meeting!

In return, we much too quickly demonstrated what might be the world's first use of Flash for realtime data-driven broadcast election graphics in fullscreen. In two weeks we'll know if we can see the death of yet another broadcast dinosaur, or if the bleeding edge of realtime graphics became too sharp. :-)
I'll try to post an interview from behind the scenes of the development of the software and the system, plus some photos from the election night live show. I'll unfortunately be manning a realtime graphics system from the dinosaur, but I have high hopes for the future development of Flash as a broadcast system.

On top of my wishlists for AE was better support for import and export of 3D data and renders (I want my cameras, nulls, lights and render passes), 16-bit float modes like Shake, GUI-plugins like radio buttons so I can create easier-to-use Animation Presets with choosable options (unlike this one that consists of several presets,) plus integration of the entire feature set of Nucleo Pro right into the AE box. Oh, and throw in a script recorder so that I could easily create the foundations for a script that could then be tweaked.

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2006-09-02

Being Stuck on One Side of the Fence

In the early 90's I was an Apple zealot, hanging out at BBS:es where the finer details of ResEdit and System 6 were discussed. Since then, I've left the cult of Mac and have never looked back. But now, the recent Mac Pros have awakened a craving for a dual-boot machine where all the options can be available again -- if, and only if, it wasn't for all my licenses...

I can't be the only one who suddenly feels trapped by my license investments, can I? So many of my programs exist on both platforms, but I only have licenses for Windows. Buying extra licenses for OS X just to avoid rebooting, or running these apps via virtualization doesn't seem like real options. Who can I blame for being stuck only in Win land, but the vendors that force me to choose only one platform?

I'd gladly give up printed manuals, boxes and physical media if I could only use Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, After Effects, ImageModeler and all my AE plugins, regardless of OS.

--Jonas

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