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Combining odd and even frames in Shake

I've just finished helping a guy with a Shake issue via email and I think the solution would be useful to others. He had a situation where he had one movie clip with all the odd frames from a sequence and another clip with all the even frames, and he wanted to combine them into a single file.

At first glance, it would appear to be as simple as using the Select node to switch between them, however you would miss out half of the frames by doing this. Here's the solution that worked for him:

1. Import the two files into Shake via the FileIn node.

2. Add a TimeX node to the first clip and set it to 0.5*time (this doubles every frame) and do the same for the second clip.

3. Add a Select node and plug the output of the two TimeX nodes into it. So that it's not confusing later on, make sure the output of clip 1 goes to the first input and clip 2 goes to the second.

4. In the Branch parameter of the Select node, set a keyframe at frame 1 with a value of 1 (i.e. the first input), then step to frame 2 and keyframe the value to 2 (the second input).

5. Load the parameter into the Curve Editor by clicking the clock icon next to the Branch field so that a tick icon appears, and then click the Curve Editor tab.

6. In the Curve Editor, change the Cycle parameter to MirrorValue.

7. When you render the FileOut, make sure to double the frame range as the sequence is now twice as long.
Posted by Jon Chappell on Nov 7 2009 to Compositing, Software, Visual Effects

Comparing footage with difference mattes

It's a common question - how much quality do you lose when converting from Format X to Format Y or when you are forced to recompress footage? You can compare data rates and squint at it all day but that's not really telling you much.

Here's an easy way to tell exactly what has been lost.

Final Cut Pro
1. Take your Final Cut Pro sequence and export to the second format (the one that you plan to convert to). Or, if your footage didn't originate in FCP, import both versions (before and after) and place them into a new sequence.

2. Place the "before" version onto the bottom track and the "after" above it.

3. Ctrl-click on the "after" version and select Composite Mode > Difference.

1. Import the "before" and "after" versions into Shake using FileIn nodes.

2. Click on the Layer tab and click on MultiLayer.

3. Connect the noodles from the FileIns to the MultiLayer.

4. In the Parameters tab, change the composite mode of the second clip (the one listed at the top) to Difference.

Both applications will produce an image similar to the one below. This image tells you what has been lost from one version to the other. The clearer this image is, the more data has been lost. If you can clearly make out the edges of objects from the original image, this data loss is probably unacceptable. I personally would consider the image below unacceptable but how much data loss you can accept depends, of course, on the final destination of the clip. For example, web users will be much more forgiving than cinema-goers.

Posted by Jon Chappell on Jul 19 2008 to Final Cut Studio, Compositing, Video Editing

Shake error: Disk cache locked

When Shake restarts after a crash, you may be familiar with this message:

Disk cache is locked due to another Shake UI running or a previous session crashing. Remove lock and move current cache?

But what does it mean and which option should you choose?

Shake has two caches - one that stores whole frames and another that stores tiles (segments of frames). These two caches work together to speed up rendering and the responsiveness of the interface. These caches operate both in memory and on the disk. Although they are not quite the same, think of them as a similar concept to Final Cut Pro's render files.

When you quit Shake, it copies the memory cache to the disk cache (if you've ever wondered why there's a delay when you quit Shake, that's the reason) and leaves it on disk so that it is there the next time you open Shake.

If your machine crashes or you force-quit the application, this process does not take place and the disk cache becomes invalid. You are given the choice of moving the old cache to a temporary location and creating a new one (recommended) or disabling caching altogether (recommended only if you are running two copies of Shake on the same machine). Copying the cache to a temporary location allows you to salvage any required information from it before trashing it.

Speaking of which, if Shake crashes a lot, you will end up with lots of temporary caches cluttering up space (mine took up over 1 GB). Every so often, you should go to /var/tmp/Shake and delete all of the folders marked TempCache. Do not delete the one marked cache, as that is your current cache. Note that you will probably not be able to browse to the /var folder because it is hidden so it is recommended to go to the Go menu in the Finder and select Go to Folder and type the path in.

So in summary, when you get that message, you are recommended to click Ok and delete the temporary cache later. You might experience a loss of speed and responsiveness (most likely not noticeable) but Shake will gradually speed up as the cache is refilled with data over time.

P.S. I really should write more Shake articles. If you have any suggestions as to what you'd like to see, please let me know.
Posted by Jon Chappell on Mar 20 2008 to Compositing

How to banish the Final Cut Pro registration screen forever

Update: We've now developed an automated solution for this with System Toolkit in FCS Maintenance Pack.

Everyone hates it - the annoying "please register" screen that pops up every 5 or 6 launches of Final Cut Pro and Apple's other ProApps. Of course, the easiest way to get rid of it is to just register but that may not always be practical or advisable. Many companies do not connect their editing machines to the internet (quite rightly) and some of the tinfoil hat-wearers among us might not be keen on giving their personal data out to Apple.

Whatever the reason, here is a method of stopping the Final Cut Pro registration screen from appearing again without having to register.

1. Make sure all Final Cut Studio applications are closed.

2. Go to /Library/Application Support/ProApps and open the file Final Cut Studio System ID.

3. In Property List Editor, click the arrow next to Root and you will see some details about the unique ID that FCS has created for your machine. On this machine, I upgraded from Final Cut Studio 1 to Final Cut Studio 2, so I have two IDs listed under 100-1 and 100-6. If you look under fullKey1, it tells me that the original ID is marked 100-1 so the new one (FCS 2) must be 100-6.

Yours may differ a little but if one doesn't work, try the other.

Update: If you don't have the Apple Developer Tools installed, you won't have a copy of Property List Editor on your system. In this situation we recommend using System Toolkit in FCS Maintenance Pack.

4. On the 100-6 option (or whatever yours says), double-click the data under the Value tab to select it and then copy it to the clipboard.

5. Go to /Library/Preferences and open

6. Click the arrow next to Root and delete all of the entries in the list.

7. Now select Root and click New Child. Enter the name AECoreTechRegInfo, select Data as Class and paste the value you copied earlier into the Value column.

Update: For Final Cut Studio 3, you need to add an additional String with the name AECoreTechRegister and value of YES.

8. With the entry you just created still selected, click New Sibling up the top and type AECoreTechRegSent, keep the Class as String and enter a value of YES. Your final plist should look like this:

9. Save the file and enjoy a nag-free Final Cut Studio experience. It works for all applications in the Studio, not just FCP.

It is worth noting that this works for all of Apple's ProApps including Shake, Aperture and Logic. For Shake, use /Library/Application Support/ProApps/Shake System ID and /Library/Preferences/ The issue is especially annoying with Shake because if the registration screen appears, Shake will "forget" the project or file you wanted to open, so you have to open it again.

Also, if you do want to register but don't want to keep opening and closing the application until the registration dialog appears, just delete the file, launch FCP and it will appear immediately.

Posted by Jon Chappell on Mar 15 2008 to Final Cut Studio, Compositing, Video Editing

List of video / image formats supporting alpha channels

I had a request for this list, so here it is. It is a list of video and image formats that support alpha (transparency) channels.

(Note: "Unknown" means I couldn't find specific information on the maximum alpha bit depth, but it's commonly the same bit depth as the other channels in the file.)

Codec Maximum Alpha Bit-Depth
Apple Animation 8-bit
Apple ProRes 4444 16-bit
Apple ProRes 4444 XQ 16-bit
AV1 Unknown
Avid Meridien Compressed 8-bit
Avid Meridien Uncompressed 8-bit
Avid DNxHD (RGB) Unknown
Avid DNxHR (RGB) Unknown
AVIF 12-bit
Cineform 12-bit
Cineon 16-bit
DPX 16-bit
GIF 1-bit
H.265/HEVC Unknown (probably 8-bit)
JPEG XL 32-bit
Maya IFF 32-bit
OpenEXR 32-bit
PNG 16-bit
RLA 32-bit
RPF 32-bit
SGI 16-bit
SGI RAW 16-bit
Targa (TGA) 8-bit
TIFF 32-bit
WebP 8-bit
Posted by Jon Chappell on Feb 2 2008 to Compositing, Video Editing, Visual Effects