Another blog so soon? Why yes, Acolytes of Boo, another. Since my previous entry a great tech discovery occurred that I wished to share with the masses and anyone looking for this type of help since it was miraculous for me. This is aimed primarily for the video editors and graphics/animators out there, but the principals can be applied elsewhere. I also have an epic for lovers and haters of Microsoft ™ alike. 

As I already described, I have had a lot of work lately, a large portion of it being post production work. My tasks have ranged from the most rudimentary editing to 3D animated titles to emulating fire to creating whole animations. During all of this, I also had multiple computer crashes and other miscellaneous hardware/software problems.

First off, one day at the Tavares Teleproduction studio, I allowed the Microsoft “Windows Automatic Update” run. When it finished it asked me if I wanted to restart. I clicked on the Yes, and off it went. And then it never came back… This lead to a lengthy reformat/reinstall of not only Windows XP, but all the programs and hardware installations, all of which was during one of my busiest weeks in years.

The next day at my home studio, I let the basement computer install the automatic updates and when it asked me to restart, I cautiously clicked yes. On yet another computer within 24 hours, it failed to start back up into Windows XP. This lead to a 3.5 hour phone conversation with Microsoft…. In India where a gentleman with decent English (asking me where I was located at in the United States so he could use the appropriate American accent I am told). We get a fascinating error message telling me that the new “Windows Genuine Advantage Tool” says my copy of Windows XP is a bootleg copy… even though I’m using the real disc with the real packaging to recite the serial #. Even more interesting is that they are claiming it’s a stolen copy from me at my current home address and phone number. Funny… except that the most recent update that caused this ruckus was in fact the Windows Genuine Advantage Tool. Nice one Microsoft. Anyone else think this is a coincidence that I’m getting told to potentially “up sell” to the new Windows Vista?

After multiple attempts to boot in Safe Mode, Safe Mode with Command Prompt, and ever other basic option I had tried before calling, we finally went booted with the original disc (which I own a legal, legit copy) and used the REPAIR CONSOLE to try to copy over the initial boot files. Once that failed, we used the REPAIR installation and then I was able to boot into Windows XP. Elated, seeing my desktop as I left it, I thanked my new Hindu friend and said good night. I should have checked more.

None of the desktop items were linked to anything. My registry was wiped clean. In the CONTROL PANEL, it showed all of 2 items. So I could salvage files from the C: drive, but I’m still looking at a reformat, reinstall. Another one. This prospect made me as sick as I would soon become. My setup on the basement, “B” editing machine, is simply a 2.5 Gighertz Intel Pentium iV with 768 meg of RAM and a 60 gig C: drive, a 250 gig video storage drive, and a 160 gig video/audio storage drive, that currently are all IDE and quite full with a feature and many other projects being edited in Rossdonia.

Given the way Adobe Premiere Pro currently handles TEMP files and conformed audio files, it places them wherever you want, but I have them going to the C:. 60 gigs used to be a lot, but when you are dealing with a feature film with 13 DAT’s worth of audio without even taking into consideration the music and sound design, then it quickly dissipates. Now on my main editing machine upstairs, I have a motherboard that has SATA drives, which are faster than IDE, but I have a single 160 gig IDE drive up there along with the 160 gig SATA C: drive and a 300 gig SATA video storage drive. My idea was to buy a cheap new SATA drive and pull out the IDE 160 and make it the new C: drive in the basement, thus retiring the 60 gig.

I go to Microcenter intent on spending $79 on a SATA 250 gig drive, but they have a 200 gig for $59. I weighed out the $20 for 50 gig and thought to myself, this wasn’t about a big upgrade and that I need that $20 for taking My Sexy Fiancé Veronica ™ on a fancy dinner at some point. I get home and am too tired to consider the hardware switcharoo I have in mind. The box sits next to the machine upstairs for days.

An interesting sidebar was that one night I was sitting in the living room with a client working on a title sequence when the dastardly mister “V”, my oh so spoiled kitty, got mad he was not the center of attention and demonstrated the extent of his brain power. He got behind the desk of my main editing computer, used his teeth and pulled out the power strip from the wall. Lesson learned? Buy a UPS power supply as soon as possible to save your work. And also, lock up “V” whenever you have a client over.

Once Micah and Jeff, my intern from OSU, come over to work on Goodnight Cleveland, the 16mm feature being edited downstairs, I quickly re-install Adobe Premiere Pro so they can work because I have not yet reformatted and reinstalled, nonetheless put in a new C: drive. They can work, but the computer limps along with so little space on the C: and also with what seems to be a scant 768 meg of RAM. COMPUSA is going out of business, so I attempt to buy a single 512 RAM chip so I can get this machine up to 1 gig of RAM for a modest $50. I know I need PC2100 chips and the salesman (a cute term for a 19 year old with an attitude in an Izod) that the PC3200 chip will work on this board with my current RAM.

Of course, all sales are final as they shut down all of their Ohio stores. Upon putting this RAM in, the motherboard will only recognize 1 of the 512 chips in every configuration I try. With frustration, I try to put the 256 back in with my original 512 chip and then the board STILL only recognizes 1 of the 2 chips. The next day, I have to go and buy ANOTHER 512 Meg of RAM in the PC3200 so that I can have a full gig and the 2 chips match. Frustrating it is.

I get the new RAM, I put it in and I get it to work with a certain amount of giggle. I now have 768 Meg of PC2100 RAM with no place to put it. I also spent more $$$ than I ever intended. I thought I knew what frustration was. Then I tried to reconnect my DVI to VGA adapter to hook up the monitor on this (basement) machine. Most of the pins are bent, some are even broken off. I need to get a new AGP graphics card. Great, MORE money spent that I can’t afford.

I walk across the street to STAPLES to get the only AGP model card they still carry as they are phased out in favor of the current PCI Express cards which none of my motherboards have. I get all the way home on foot when I realize I need to check the card since the box says nothing. It’s VGA only with 2 ports, but no DVI output, which means, I have a video card that still does me no good since my big monitor only takes DVI and my adapter is busted. I have about 3 minutes of freak out until I make a realization.

In my main editing computer upstairs I have 2 monitors running from 1 nVidia graphics card that has 1 DVI port and 1 VGA port, but both of these monitors are VGA only, and one of them has a DVI to VGA adapter. I can put this brand new AGP card into that computer and take the one in it with DVI to the basement machine. All the monitors will be running native with no adapters, and they both will have 256 Meg of RAM on each card.

I decide that since I’m cracking open my main editing machine, I might as well get the new drive in at the same time. God doesn’t hate me that much does she? My luck has to change, doesn’t it? I pop in the new video card, connect the new drive (leaving the IDE drive in to copy everything off of it before making it a C: drive downstairs). It all works, and works well. Sometimes you get lucky. I take the DVI card downstairs and plug it in, and that not only works, but that big ass monitor looks better than it has in months. DVI has a substantially better, brighter look to it than VGA, which is essentially an analog signal whereas DVI is purely digital.

Instead of putting in the 160 gig drive to replace the 60 gig and start the whole format/install process, I put it off. I tempted fate too much and I’ve got until Wednesday when work resumes on the feature downstairs. So far, this is as much as my little brain can take.

One interesting side note to all of this and the new AGP card I bought, thus sending my expenditure far far beyond my intent and budget would allow, came about just last night. I was working on a unique project where I was creating an animation for a company that bought product placement in an animated feature film. They wanted their logo animated for a billboard in the animated film, but I had to create it in full 2K resolution (that’s 2048×1524 pixels for the uneducated).

Recently I have been working more and more in HD (High Definition) at resolutions of 1280×720 and 1920×1080 so I’ve been seeing the limitation of my current edit systems on these projects. It’s not impossible, but it takes time to get these done.

It reminds me of when I worked on my short NEW WORLD, an atrocity to filmmaking with its crude 3D animations (except the ones done by Don THE DRAGON Drennan). Doing the animations in Caligari TrueSpace and the compositing on machines in 2000-2002 took many many hours to render. To render is the process of letting the computer actually calculate between the key frames. You can set certain points so you don’t have to animate every single frame yourself and the computer does the hard work of working out the difference in perspective, shape, lighting, etc. in between each key frame.

Working in standard definition (aka SD or 720×480 for NTSC peeps) on my current machines goes pretty fast. I don’t even have any dual core processors in the house and I can still rip through most SD projects pretty quickly. Now with HD and especially with this 2K animation, I was experiencing 11-16 hour render times for a 22 second piece with only 4 layers. Previewing a single frame of my key frame animation could take up to 29 minutes to render by itself because of the complex lighting and effects.

Once we had the animation set in SD and approved by the client, the producer who hired me said we were a go to create the 2K version. This entailed just making the Photoshop source files at 11,000×7,000 so we could get the sun ray effects to appear to shine outside the area. Well, making files that size seemed to make the producer’s graphics computers beg for mercy at every attempt to render. Finally, I asked that we try to render here since my main editor was a faster machine with more RAM (1.5 gig to be exact). Upon the first try, 6 frames in on a 568 frame animation, it crapped out. I tried resizing the canvas of each Photoshop file down to something more manageable and found that 3,000×1,500 was too small and the light rays didn’t extend off the edges, and that 6,000×3,000 was still too much for the CPU and RAM to handle. The compromise of 5,500×2,800 worked like a champ, but the render time was still going to be 11 hours.

I noticed a button on the current release of Adobe After Effects that said, “use OpenGL render”. I knew little about OpenGL, but knew enough to know that it was an aspect to video cards that enhanced 3D gaming. Now my rudimentary knowledge of product boxes of graphics cards recalled something about how you tap into the memory and processing of your card rather than the computers CPU, or somehow share these resources when you use OpenGL. I checked the box and let a new render fly. My 11 hour render of the nights before got cut down to 44 minutes on the exact same computer, at full resolution and full color. That’s a pretty significant time difference and I don’t technically know exactly why beyond my aforementioned theory, but who really cares? I can get my work done significantly faster now, even at HD and 2K film resolution.

I wish I had known or even experimented with that button 2 weeks ago because it could have saved me many hours work and render times. Like all things that speed up the process in this type of work, it doesn’t really buy you “time” back, but allows you more time to be CREATIVE, which is the most fun part of this.

There. I got my geek on. I hope the techies and computer nerds enjoyed this little stroll down loser alley. Thank god My Sexy Fiancé Veronica ™ already said yes. After a blog like this, my only hope would have been MySpace Porn Profiles for any kind of inter-gender correlation.

Peace out, and may the farce be with you, Spock.

Categories: blog

Peter John Ross

A filmmaker, a dreamer, and the world's only Dan Akroyd Cosplayer


Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder