Sunday, 26 February, 2006

Watch DVDs on your iPod video.

there comes a time when one finds oneself saying. "I wish I could watch DVDs on my iPod video."

Far too many people I know are getting themselves an iPod video. And there's no ITunes store here in India where one can download videos or episodes of TV serials for 2 dollars per epi. Imagine what it would do to the store if one could download the saas bahu serials.

For those who came in late there is and has been an iPod video for some months now. This looks just like any iPod but the screen a bit bigger and can show video films. Not a very large screen, but then when held at arm's length, it looks just as big as my 25" TV across the hall when I sit on my sofa.

So, for the rest of us, after the novelty of the iPod wears off, there comes a time when one finds oneself saying. "I wish I could see DVDs on this thing." Hey, why not, after all you always have the iPod handy when you have lots of time on your hands. At airports, inside aircraft, at boring meetings, wherever.

Here's how to watch DVDs on your iPod. The process below is for an Apple Mac. If you have a PC, write to me and maybe I'll find a way.

The process consists of the following steps.

1. Converting the DVD tracks into MPEG-2 movies. .m2v for video.
2. Converting the DVD tracks into corresponding audio. .ac3 for audio.
3. Converting these .m2v into a Quicktime with, say, DV-PAL.
4. Converting the .ac3 into .aif
5. Merging the DV-PAL Quicktime video with the .aif audio into a 'merged' movie.
6. Converting this 'merged' movie into iPod video.

For step 1 and 2, load the DVD, let it mount and launch DVD Player on its own. Then quit DVD Player without seeing the movie. This steps is cometimes nbecessary for the system to 'register' the DVD.
Get an app called 0Sex from MacUpdate or versiontracker. This makes DVD tracks into m2v for video and .ac3 for audio.
Else use Mactheripper.
0Sex -
MacTheRipper -
Either of these make DVD tracks into .m2v and .ac3

For Step 3 use MPEGStreamclip or DivA, both free and from the aforementioned sites.
MPEGStreamclip -
DiVA -
Either of these convert .m2v to Quicktime .mov

For step 4 use mAC3dec.
mAC3dec -
This converts .ac3 into .aif

For step 5 use Quicktime. Open the video, then open the audio. Keep both open simultaneously.
Then do Edit > select all or cmd-A to the audio to select all. Then do Edit > Copy or Cmd-C to copy all audio. Go the the video QT, and do Edit > Add to movie or opt-cmd-V.
Save this married video either as self-contained or as a reference movie.

Use this to convert to iPod. File > Export. And 'movie to iPod (320x240)' in the export dialog.

Then with iTunes 6.0.3 or above you can send it to your iPod.

More on how to convert movies to iPod here...

and on how to send it to your iPod here...

All the links I've mentioned may have to be copied and pasted in your browser to make them work.

Happy movie watching. This is positively a defining moment in the history of cinema.

Sunday, 12 February, 2006

What's all the fuss on DI resolution?

It's been over 3 weeks since I posted. Just what I feared the most about maintaining a blog.

Anyway, while speaking to a film director the other day a colleague mentioned that there was no point doing a film digital post-production (called Digital Intermediate or DI) at a resolution of 4k because with conventional means when one finishes a film optically, one has a print that has a resolution of barely '1k'. The Director was aghast and I was apalled at this comment.

Later I discussed this with the DOP (Dir of Photography, or Cinematographer) of this forthcoming film. I explained that there is no real inherent resolution of 35 mm film that can be expressed as pixels, since it is an analog medium. It is generally assumed that scanning a film at '2k' or 2048x1556 yields a digital picture that captures all that the film 'contains'.

The later digital correction and compositing stages do not reduce this resolution like the conventional optical process can - the act of making prints or dupe negatives. So going digital may induce some losses at the initial conversion stage, but further work does not add losses.

And incidentally, on projection, '1k' doesn't look sharp enough, while '4k' doesn't seem to look vastly better than '2k'. In part because we don't really have any viable 4k projector or monitor yet.

Further, to put this '2k' and '4k' thing into perspective, I mentioned to this DOP that 2k while seeming like a lot, isn't much when you consider that it amounts to '3 megapixels'. And most any cheap digital camera can match that. And now, 5 and even 8 megapixel cameras are getting quite common. Even mobile phones have 1-2 megapixel cameras - which is nearly the resolution of HD. Suddenly HD which stands for 'High Definition' seems puny. Right?

Well, not quite.

While digital cameras can easily do 3 Megapixels or 2k, they cannot do it 24 times each second. And even if they did, they would run out of memory in seconds. They store images on memory cards, maybe a hundred to a thousand images to a card. Film digital post needs 24 each second, 1440 each minute and 86400 each hour of shooting. And all these images have to be uncompressed, not jpeg. And they have to be held securely for as many months as the post production takes. A tall order.

But when you come to think of that, this storage and access is the current bottle-neck in the progress of truly digital cinema. By digital cinema I mean 'filming', storing, editing, finishing, and releasing digitally. At full resolution, uncompressed, with full 16-bit (sort of like 16 stops) latitude, just like 35 mm film can do right here right now. And hey, HD does not come close to this, yet. Probably never will. I mean, just look at a 2k image projected on a large screen side by side to an HD image and you'll know what I mean.

It was a scant 3-5 years ago that people spoke the same about still photography going digital. They said, it didn't have the latitude, how would you store images, how would you process them? etc etc. And now, we have very few photographers, even pros, fashion and industrial photographers using still cameras with 35 mm film. I too have my Canon A-1 with a variety of lenses, locked up in a cupboard.

So it looks lik a matter of time before film will be truly dead. Which it surely will, but nowhere near when it was supposed to be. Like in 1986 when I first heard this 'film is dead' thing when U-matic machines were introduced for TV production. Seems really funny now. Its 2006 and film is still doing roaring business - in India at least.

But finally, when film is really dead, along with it will go the film scanners, the conforming and grading systems, colour management systems, processing labs, and all that paraphernalia. Don't count on it happening in 2006 though. I would say the process will be probably start by 2010 and happen gradually till 2015.

Just in case this word Digital Intermediate or its short form DI has you wondering, head over to my DI pages, the link to which is in the margin to the right 'My DI pages'. Or you can go here
you may have to copy and paste this link in your browser.