General Specialist


Eleven Ways to Play Back Your Renderings Without Paying $5,400

1. One of the cheapest ways to play back a sequence of frames or videos is by using QuickTime Pro ($29, OS X & Win.) However, QuickTime Player's RAM caching isn't exactly stellar so expect to get a lot of stuttering. Also, it's supported file formats is limited and you can only see certain channels such as the alpha. On the plus-side is the number of conversions that you can easily do directly from player.

2. If you add $249 you can get the GlueTools CineonDPX Pro components for QuickTime on OS X, which adds nice stuff like timecode, anamorphic correction and 16-bit support.

3. At a cheaper $99 you'll find the beta version of DrasticPreview (Windows only) which also supports Cineon files, among other features. Unfortunately it doesn't support OpenEXR sequences.

4. Another Windows-only software is tv-player ($139) which has some GPU-accelerated functions. A note-worthy feature is realtime field-swapping and an RGB histogram.

5. The current version of Tweak Software's RV ($299) runs on Linux and non-Intel Macs , but the new version with both Windows and Intel-Mac support was shown at Sigraph 2007. Like some of the others, RV can handle HDR images and it also has EDL support.

6. FrameCycler Professional used to cost thousands of dollars, but nowadays there's a version for $299 available for OS X, Linus and Windows.

7. Of course, if you can live without the ability to play back frame sequences, you'll probably love VLC which is fast and free.


8. ILM has a free and open source player for OpenEXR files available for OS X and Windows. Brendan Bolles (of the free OpenEXR AE plugin fame) has kindly compiled the
Mac OS X version and Windows version for those of us who are not comfortable around compilers.

9. Another PFClip is availbale for Mac OS X, Windows and several Linux 64-bit versions. Realtime 3D LUT support sounds promising, and the price is £199 excluding VAT.

10. Here's a dark horse; pdplayer doesn't have more than a small screenshot at the site, so if you know how to access the beta version, please post a comment.

11. Here's another tip via the comments: Jahplayer looks like a serious contender with GPU-based zoom and pan, RGB parades and 4K downsampling among others. It claims to play both DPX and OpenEXR and can also transcode into other formats. Add to that the fact that it's available for OS X, Linux and Windows, that it's free, scriptable and open-source (making it "easy" to integrate into current pipelines) and it sounds to good to be true. Please post a comment with your own findings!

So, what if you had $5,400 to spend? Well, you could get the FrameCycler DDS that plays directly from disk and outputs to external monitors via SDI.

Please post a comment if you know more players or have had good/bad experiences with any of them!

- Jonas

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The Reason AE CS3 is Faster On Windows than on OS X

Surprised that After Effects CS3 is faster on Windows XP than on Mac OS X on the same hardware?

There's two reasons that the current OS X version of After Effects is slower:
1. The code generated by Apple's compiler is not quite as fast as the Windows compilers that Adobe uses.
2. Windows XP has been around for years, so the Windows-specific AE code has been more optimized over the years than the brand-new Intel-Mac-specific code.

I'd expect both things to improve in the future: Apple's Xcode will become faster and Adobe will have more time to optimize the platform-specific Mac code. Another benefit of Apple's switch to Intel hardware is that the Intel-specific optimizations can now help both Windows and OS X users of After Effects.

Still, there's one BIG reason why Windows on Mac hardware isn't the ultimate solution; that the Apple hardware only gives the 32-bit versions of XP and Vista access to 2 GB of RAM on Macs. The solution is to use Vista64 or XPx64.

Photo by Bekah Stargazing

- Jonas



DPI in Video: Totally Useless

DPI = dots per inch is only relevant when you output digital images to an output device, such as a printer (or a display,) since DPI is a measure of how many of pixels the output device will show on a line that is one inch long.

That means that the DPI measurement is totally useless as long as you aren't printing. Video and things like DVD menus have a fixed size in pixels (called resolution) and DPI has no relevance. As long as you create the document with the correct size in pixels, you can set the DPI to 1 or 3,000, it doesn't make any difference.

To demonstrate this, open Photoshop with any picture and choose the command "Image Size..." from the "Image" menu and uncheck "Resample Image". You can then easily see that if you change the "Resolution" in pixels/inch, the actual pixel dimensions aren't altered, only the printed width and height are changed!

If you want to measure the DPI of a DVD menu, you must play the DVD and measure with a ruler on the TV set itself. You'll get a much higher DPI resolution on a small portable player than on a big hunkin' 60-inch plasma display, since you you are pushing the same amount of pixels to displays of different sizes.

The pixel resolution in square pixels (which is the preferred format when working in for example Photoshop) for NTSC Widescreen is 864x486 pixels, for NTSC 4:3 it's 720x540, for PAL Widescreen 1,024x576 and for PAL 4:3 it's 768x576. Don't forget the action-safe and title-safe either!

PS: The correct term is actually PPI (pixels/inch) for displays. The term "dots" comes from the raster dots that are traditionally used in printing presses.

PS. The only time the DPI/PPI is relevant is when importing/exporting graphics, like this Flash bug.

- Jonas

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