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Lightworks Switches the Lights On

June 25, 2010 Leave a comment

Apparently I missed the announcement back in April this year that EditShare is to release an Open Source version of their award winning non-linear video editor, Lightworks. Let me say that again; a well known, if not quite industry leading, professional non-linear video editor, as used in a number of Hollywood studios, is to move to an open source distribution model.

Before going any further, there’s a couple of things to note here. The first thing is that Lightworks is a “professional” video editing solution, in the same way that Avid Nitris and Final Cut Pro are high-end professional video editing applications. This is not iMovie or Windows Movie Maker open sourcing their code base. As such, there’s probably not a lot of competition with other open source video editors, such as OneShot, PiTiVi and Kdenlive, that target the home user. Lightworks is likely to fall into the same category as Blender, Cinelerra and the yet to be released Lumiera, with high end appeal.
As I missed the previous announcement, I thought it would be a good idea to follow up and find out what’s actually available from EditShare as open source at this time. And the answer is, nothing. Although the initial announcement was made in April, there doesn’t yet appear to be any download available. An update from the developers in May, confirmed that their aim is to support Linux and OSx, as well as Windows. There’s an interest registration page available, where presumably those who have entered their details will be informed first of updates. The page counter tells us that a little over 12,000 people have done just this. Sadly, the Beta testing programme is now closed, which was limited to just 80 people (not really the open source community way!).
Overall, exciting news and as Q3 starts next week, which is when EditShare hope to release the first publicly available open source version of Lightworks, we can all hope that it won’t be too much longer before we can all play with it.
If you’re interested in seeing something that’s been edited using the current closed source version of Lightworks, try to find the movie Centurion.

Updates on WebM Support – All Aboard!

June 2, 2010 Leave a comment

As could probably be predicted, there’s been a lot more press around WebM over the last ten days or so. A few articles are worth noting.

CNET posted a reasonably ordinary piece regarding the quality of WebM, when compared against H.264. However, there were two interesting links in this piece. 
The first pointed to a WebM project page where the indepth encoding parameters for WebM content are outlined. If you’re planning to create WebM files, reading this page is essential. 
The second link, to the quAVlive website provides some various examples of H.264 (using x264) encoding compared against WebM. I can’t really see a lot of visual difference in the “Sunflower” example. However, it is easily clear to my eyes, without even enlarging the screenshots, that in “Park Joy” and “Riverbed” H.264 is certainly superior. I would like to have seen more information regarding the time taken to transcode these examples, with each codec, and the resulting file sizes. Picture quality isn’t always everything, transcode time and storage requirements should also be taken into consideration.
Everyone’s jumping on the WebM bandwagon with software and hardware support. Gstreamer claims full plugin support, which means in turn there is Moovida support and the Transmaggedon transcoder can also output VP8 codec files, although not in the Matroska/WebM container yet. Not to be outdone, Flumotion, will also stream live VP8/WebM content. The Miro Video Converter will also output valid VP8/WebM files, claiming to be the first to do so. The list could go on, but the easiest thing is to probably just keep tabs on the WebM project page listing all the supported devices and software tools, both commercial and open source.
Also worth a shout is the fact that both Mozilla and Opera are pushing for VP8/WebM to be specifically included in the HTML5 specification. Previously, major browser makers couldn’t agree on one specific video file format – Mozilla and Opera backing Ogg Theora and Apple sticking with H.264. I can’t see that particular situation changing now. 

WebM – The New Open Source Codec on the Block

May 27, 2010 Leave a comment

In August 2009, Google acquired codec developer On2 Technologies for a rumoured $106 million. The flagship On2 codec was VP8 and it was also rumoured at the time that Google may open source this technology in the future, although a number of challenges lay ahead.

Late last week this rumour became reality and WebM was born. Alongside Theora and Dirac, WebM now enters the open source HTML 5 ready codec battle. Almost immediately all major web browsers, except one, but including Internet Explorer announced support for the codec. Using the might and muscle of Google WebM must have a solid chance of taking on the dominance of H.264 in the web video delivery battle. This really will be a solid kick in the pants for Theora, which now seems destined to remain a reasonably niche product, even with direct HTML 5 support from Firefox.
In short order some early comparisons between H.264 and WebM appeared online. Some with more technical detail than others. The debate also began as to whether Google was benevolent or evil. Did WebM contain submarine patents that not even Google were aware of?
Producing WebM video for the masses was the next step. Easy to follow FFmpeg tutorials are available and just a few days ago a major commercial transcoding software vendor announced WebM/VP8 support.
WebM video is already available on YouTube, in experimental form. How long before at least all new YouTube video is transcoded to this format? If WebM quality is on parity with H.264, and the jury is still out on that, what is the unique selling point of H.264? Why would anyone continue to use it? 
There will be a substantial legacy component to overcome. Many people and organisations have invested heavily in H.264 technology, and a move to WebM may represent an operational, although not licensing, cost. However, with Google behind it, many of Big Business’ concerns around open source projects may be alleviated.
Adding to this, H.264 video within a Flash player still has significant advantages over HTML 5 delivered video content, in terms of presentation flexibility and perceived security.
H.264 video is of course still dominant for web delivery, just as VP6 and VP7 was in the past. However, WebM is an exciting development with a bright future. Using the collective power of open source development, and no small amount of corporate backing from Google, watch out for WebM to challenge MPEG-LA’s codec in the future.

PiTiVi 0.13.4 Release

March 16, 2010 Leave a comment

Missing the announcement again by a few days, we see that this week open source video editing tool PiTiVi has just released version 0.13.4.

PiTiVi has been on the scene for a few years, and development has been a little slow. It’s around 6 months since the last fresh release. Built using Python, and relying on the GStreamer Multimedia Framework, PiTiVi used to be included in Ubuntu Studio a few versions previously.

It’s good to see a new release of this tool, which includes the following enhancements:

  • video mixing/transparency support
  • icon view in source list
  • smoother scrolling
  • modeless splitting
  • seek on click
  • faster waveforms
  • zoom slider
  • UI beautifications
  • Speed optimisations
  • dbus/hal dependency now optional
  • translated in 30 languages

More information and a fresh download are available on the PiTiVi website.

Categories: PiTiVi, Video Tags: ,

Kdenlive 0.7.7 Released

February 17, 2010 Leave a comment

From the Kdenlive Release Notes page

Kdenlive 0.7.7 was released on the 17th of february 2010.

This release fixes a lot of bugs reported against Kdenlive 0.7.6, including timeline corruption and various crashes. We also fixed a compatibility issue with Qt 4.6. We hope that this new release will make the video editing experience easier and more comfortable for everyone!

Kdenlive requires the latest release of the MLT video framework (0.5.0)

Some of the new features

  • User selectable color schemes
  • Improved keyboard navigation
  • Timeline editing mode (normal, overwrite)
  • Fix compatibility issue with Qt 4.6
  • Allow shutdown after render when using Gnome Session manager
  • Improved titler (now supports font outline)
  • Editing properties for several clips at once (for example aspect ratio)

A complete list of the fixed issues can be found on our bugtracker.

Categories: Kdenlive, Video Tags:

New FFmbc Release 0.3

November 19, 2009 1 comment

Just days after I first wrote about FFmbc (FFMedia Broadcast) the team have released a new version, marked as 0.3.

Enhancements in this version include:
  • Sync on FFmpeg svn r20539.
  • Write Quicktime timecode track.
  • Set closed gop flag for first gop when encoding with b frames.
  • Search relative path when opening Quicktime reference files.
Download the latest source, or a Windows binary, from the project homepage.
Also now included on the FFmbc wiki is a list of requested enhancements. These include support for additional codecs, bitstream validation for MPEG2 files and support for DNxHD 10-bit files. Go to the requested enhancements page to review and add your own requests to the FFmbc-user discussion group.
Categories: FFmbc, Video Tags: , ,

FFmbc – A Broadcast Media Alternative to FFmpeg

November 12, 2009 Leave a comment

FFmbc (FFMedia Broadcast) is an off-shoot of the FFmpeg project that is targeted squarely at the broadcast media world. The project while still in its infancy, but available for around 6 months already, is currently at release version 0.2. Launched and managed by Baptiste Coudurier, well known for his work on the FFmpeg project, FFmbc rolls out the following enhancements:

Import your files in Final Cut Pro or AVID Media Composer by

Creating XDCAM HD422 files in .mov or .mxf

Creating XDCAM IMX/D-10 files in .mov or .mxf
Creating AVID DNxHD files in .mov

Transcode your MPEG-2 4:2:2 Tranport stream files containing S302M audio.
Transcode your AVCHD Camera files correctly.
Merge and split your audio tracks.
Create Quicktime files containing time code tracks.
Advanced Metadata support.

ID3v2 complete support.
Itunes complete support.

We’ve been meaning to test some of FFmbc’s functionality for a while now and after a couple of false starts, we’ve been successfully able to convert a generic MPEG2 50i (50Mbps all Intra-Frame) 4:2:2 Transport Stream to IMX D-10 in a .mov container. This file contained PCM audio, which version 0.1 of FFmbc baulked at, but the latest version handled perfectly. The output IMX D10 file was imported without error directly into Final Cut Pro for editing. FFmbc has not yet renamed any FFmpeg libraries, so the same conversion syntax and commands can be used across both. Although, be careful as this may create some library conflicts if you try to have both FFmbc and FFmpeg installed at the same time.
Why would we want to use an Open Source transcoding tool in a predominantly proprietary video production environment? The answer is simple. Every commercial product we’ve investigated (Telestream’s Episode Engine and Flip Factory, Rhozet’s Carbon Coder, Digital Rapid’s Streamz) wanted to transcode our MPEG2 source file to IMX, rather than simply re-wrap the essence into IMX. Transcoding takes a considerable amount of time and will always lower the quality of the final output, no matter how minutely. FFmbc instead took our video and audio essence, extracted it from the MPEG2 Transport Stream and re-wrapped it all to IMX D10. 
Our 30 minute test file was around 16GB in size. Our test machine was a puny eeePC, with an Intel Atom N280 1.66Ghx processor, running Ubuntu Karmic Koala Netbook remix (hardly ideal for transcoding video). The entire conversion process took a little over 7 minutes, at a rate of approximately 110fps (frames per second). Pretty impressive!
There are a couple of caveats to mention with regards to FFmbc. The software is very new and Baptiste is very busy. I’m sure more developers would be a welcome addition to the project. We used the earlier Stream#0 tutorial for installing FFmpeg to achieve the same for FFmbc. However, FFmbc v0.2 didn’t like the latest SVN of x264, which is a bug that won’t be fixed until the next FFmbc release. Instead, we used the packaged libx264 from the Ubuntu repository. FFmbc then compiled and installed without error. Checking out the latest FFmbc from GIT also caused some issues The source compilation complained and failed regarding the absence of swscale. However, working around these small issues, we’ve achieved our goal – a quick conversion of a generic MPEG2 file to something that can be edited using Final Cut Pro.
FFmbc is an exciting prospect, targeted directly at the broadcast media world. If you’re looking for an open source file transcoding solution, to integrate with your Avid or Final Cut Pro editing environment, give FFmbc a chance to prove itself.
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