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DVDs not quite dead yet.

Ok, not a new record for many of you out there, but I think it's amusing with so many discussions all around the Creative Cow about how "tape is dead," "DVD is dead" "BluRay is dead" here we are purchasing a bunch of equipment for quick turnaround DVD production. We cranked out 400 DVDs in one day. The assembly line production here yesterday was pretty fun to watch. I called them "My Minions."

At least for another year or so, DVDs are not dead in our world and BluRay has now become the Film Festival delivery format of choice for many of the festivals we're shipping masters to. And why not? The players are sub $100 and the quality is far superior to DVD.

So keep proclaiming hard discs dead and stop purchasing any more duplication gear. Then send your clients to me so we can earn the profits you would have made if you still had any gear around.

We're the facility you wish your facility could be. I'm on a horse.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Sep 3, 2010 at 6:01:58 amComments (7) DVD, BluRay

My review of Telestream Episode Pro is up

I had the opportunity to really give Telestream's Episode Pro a test drive recently and I was pleasantly surprised at the results. Details here!

Posted by: walter biscardi on Feb 27, 2009 at 6:20:32 pm episode pro, telestream, compression, dvd, bluray, internet

Creating BluRays on a budget - Part 2 (DoStudio)

Well, we've got our HP workstation up and running with DoStudio's Trial Version now installed.  The Trial version is the complete application with only the commercial replication features turned off.

First impressions are this thing is definitely NOT DVD Studio Pro or Encore.  This is a very serious tool along the lines of Apple's Color compared to the 3 Way Color Correction filter in Final Cut Pro.  There is a learning curve as a lot of programming is manually done rather than simple drag and drop type of operations.   This feels more like a professional authoring tool and less like a toy.  Don't get me wrong, I love DVDSP and it's simple drag and drop functionality, but it's nice to essentially have almost endless possibilities open to us and forcing us to actually learn what we're doing.  Anybody can drag and drop, but it's nice to be able to get your "hands dirty" and go under the hood to see how to really operate authoring software.

In just one day, we've been able to get a nice main menu and chapter selection pop-up menu already underway.  A little snag on the pop-up where we can get it to pop-up but it's not going to the various chapters like we programmed.  NetBlender's support has been great to work with so far and we've uploaded the project file for them to poke around and see where we went wrong.  I'm sure it's operator error as we've been using the software all of about 6 hours.

One big thing that is missing as of right now is an "Undo."   This is reminiscent of Final Touch before Apple purchased it and turned in to Color.  Final Touch did not have any sort of Undo so you had to be very careful of what you were doing.  NetBlender tells me that Undo is a feature that will be added on this fall with an update and we're already looking forward to it!  :-)

The big adjustment is that we have to essentially "forget" the DVD mentality.  There are so many different possibilities in authoring BluRay that you have to design the menus and even the overall flow differently.   Still wrapping our heads around this, but using this software definitely calls for more planning and thought than just hurry up and get it done.

More soon! 


Posted by: walter biscardi on Sep 17, 2008 at 3:35:09 am dvd, hd, adobe, final cut pro, bluray, hd dvd, indie film

Creating Commercially Replicatable BluRays on a budget - Step 1

So many of you have read of our failings with Adobe Encore trying to create BluRay discs.  Today we start a new chapter in BluRay authoring by transferring all our needs to NetBlender's "DoStudio."  

NetBlender has instituted a really neat month to month licensing option that's approx. $250 per month to use the software.  This is truly a month to month deal.  So I can activate it for September for $250 and then sign up again in December.  There's no extra fees, nothing.   They have several plans for 6 months, 12 months or you can outright purchase the software if you want.   But in my case, we plan to produce maybe 10 BluRays all of 2009.   Probably in batches of 3 or 4, so I might spend $1,000 total next year in the licensing fees, which is significantly less than $8,000 for the permanent license.  So to start out, I can just go $250 per month which is easily charged back to the client per job.

The only caveat to this software is that it requires a Window machine, and we're a full blown Mac shop here.  So I did what I swore I would never do..... purchased an HP Workstation loaded with Vista.  Of course, the sad thing for me is this is a fully loaded workstation for less than $1,700 and I know that if I created a fully loaded Mac Pro it'd be around $5,000 or more.  So that's one good thing, I guess!  

One really neat little gadget I added on is a 160GB "pocket drive" that slips into the bottom of the HP machine.  We'll use this to transfer the large MPEG-2 files and graphics files from our Macs to the HP.  Neat idea to essentially put a portable drive that slips in like a USB stick. 

So that's Step 1 - get an HP Workstation!   I went by NetBlender's recommendations and picked up the following machine:

HP Pavilion Slimline s3500t PC- Genuine Windows Vista Home Premium with Service Pack 1 (32-bit)- Intel(R) Core(TM) 2 Quad processor Q9300- 3GB DDR2-800MHz dual channel SDRAM (1x2048,1x1024)- 512MB NVIDIA GeForce 9500GS, DVI-I, HDMI, VGA adapter- 1TB 7200 rpm SATA 3Gb/s hard drive- 802.11 a/b/g/n Wireless LAN card- Blu-ray DVD writer/player & Lightscribe SuperMulti DVD burner- 15-in-1 memory card reader, 2 USB, headphone port- No TV Tuner w/remote control- None (Integrated 5.1 capable sound w/ front audio ports)- Microsoft(R) Works 9.0- No additional security software- HP keyboard and HP optical mouse- 160 GB 5400rpm HP Pocket Media Drive

- HP Home & Home Office Store in-box envelope 

I'll give you folks regular updates as we move forward with this new BluRay authoring tool! 

Posted by: walter biscardi on Aug 25, 2008 at 4:33:18 pm dvd, hd, apple, adobe, final cut pro, bluray, hd dvd, indie film

BluRay launches 3 documentaries for 2009

I'm really happy to report publicly for the first time that we'll be providing all post production for 3 feature length documentaries that are currently destined for major film festivals and network HD broadcast in 2009 and 2010.   We can trace at least part of this announcement to our investment in BluRay and in-house self-publishing of the high definition discs.

Yesterday a sample 9 minute version of the first of the three proposed documentaries was presented to the Carter Center here in Atlanta.   Among the people present were both hollywood executives and an executive of an international television network and most importantly, President Jimmy Carter.  It has been Mr. Carter's mission to eradicate major diseases to impoverished areas of the world and in this particular presentation, the story was Guinea worm and its debilitating effect on people, especially the very young.   I'm going to be very honest and say that for the first week I had a very difficult time cutting the piece and had to walk out of the suite multiple times a day to get away from the screams of the little girl who serves as the primary focus of this presentation.  It was a natural sound story told through the stories of the man who oversees the eradication program for the Carter Center and the volunteers on the ground.  All in all, it presents a very powerful emotional punch.

In order to present the project properly, we authored and created a BluRay disc and the production company purchased a Panasonic DLP HD projector for the event.  Actually that part is kind of cool because now we have full access to a large format DLP HD projector anytime we need one.    In addition to the presentation disc, we duplicated 20 BluRay and 30 DVD copies for all the board and associated personnel to take home.  All packaged in proper DVD and BluRay cases with full four color sleeves designed in Photoshop and printed on our own laser printer.  The discs themselves were printed on our new FlexWriter IV DVD duplicator / printer.

The fact that we were able to deliver and present the project on BluRay made an immediate impression before the viewing even began.  At the conclusion of the presentation, the accolades for both the story and technical quality of the presentation were overwhelming.   We will most likely debut at least one of the documentaries at the Sundance Film Festival and it is very likely that all three documentaries will appear on a major international H.D. network in 2009 or 2010.  The narrator will be a major hollywood star or potentially several stars, talks are already underway.

What we were able to accomplish by not only jumping in to the BluRay authoring realm, but also the duplication and finishing was to allow our client to look incredibly good in front of a very demanding audience.  It's because of this ability to not only tell the story on screen, but deliver it in the highest possible quality anytime, anywhere, that we were granted the offer to be a part of these three documentaries and essentially have one edit suite already fully booked for 2009.

BluRay self-publishing is here and it works.

Equipment used:

Apple Final Cut Pro, AJA Kona 3, Apple Compressor 3, Adobe Encore CS3, FastMac BluRay Burner, Panasonic BluRay Duplicator, FlexWriter IV DVD Printer, HP LaserJet 3000 Printer .




Adobe Encore Button Routing still not correct for BluRay

7 months into our BluRay authoring experience with Adobe Encore and button routing still does not work correctly in the BluRay mode.  We're trying to create a very simple Chapter Selection menu, but no matter what we do, the last button in the menu is always auto selected when you choose the menu and when you want to return to the Chapter Menu, you can't, you always go back to the Main Menu.

We notified the head of the Encore team of this issue on May 28th and also notified him that we had a July 1st deadline for 5 retail BluRay titles.   They were supposed to download the files that day and get to work on it.   Then June 20 we were asked to upload the files again so they could get to work on it.

To date we have no solutions and essentially had to scrap the Chapter Menu on the titles.  Just a word of warning to anyone who wants to plunk down money for Encore CS3.  DVD authoring is fine, but if you intend to do BluRay discs, be prepared to make major concessions to the failings of this software. 

Posted by: walter biscardi on Jul 12, 2008 at 4:38:22 pmComments (10) dvd, adobe, bluray, hd dvd

Adobe Encore Flash Build does not work on the Mac

Well we thought we had things starting to go well with Encore after we figured out that the buttons would turn into blobs and figured out a workaround, but alas, more things just don't work.

One of the supposed really cool things about Encore is the ability to build your entire DVD in Flash. This allows you to upload a working version of the DVD in a flash based format for a client review. Well, we've tried this multiple times on both our Mac Pro Quad 3.0 and our new Octo Core 3.2 and all Encore does is build maybe 10% of the project and then it simply hangs. Really disappointing.

Supposedly this issue has to do with Leopard and the latest Quicktime, but the Mac Pro Quad 3.0 is currently running Tiger and it doesn't work there either.

Also, we've discovered that Encore CS3 is incredibly unstable on the new Octo Core 3.2 as well. Crashing at least every 10 minutes if not more.

Posted by: walter biscardi on May 15, 2008 at 4:12:57 pmComments (2) dvd, adobe, bluray, hd dvd

Encore buttons turn into blobs

Looking for a little help here from folks familiar with Encore. Creating a custom menu in Photoshop using one of the stock Encore Menus as a template. Got nice looking icons in the Photoshop file, but they turn into blobs when they get into Encore. See below.

So here's how the menu appears in Photoshop. Notice the icon next to "Original Songs for Projects" is a nice bow and arrow icon and you can see the file naming structure to the right is correct from Encore.

So now look at the button as it appears in the Preview Mode in Encore next to "Original Songs for Artists." It's just a red blob. And yes, it also appears this way on a burned DVD.

So anyone have any thoughts on why my icon turns into a blob?

Posted by: walter biscardi on May 8, 2008 at 3:20:58 pmComments (8) dvd, adobe, bluray, hd dvd

A DiscMakers Lesson: Don't let it happen to you

So a while back I wrote about our new DiscMakers Medley and how it was a so-so DVD Printer / Replicator.

Well, I have to tell you, this thing is a piece of garbage and if you're considering one of these "all in one" DVD copier / printers, stay away from anything with the DiscMakers name.

To date, we've been able to duplicate and print about 250 DVD's. Then the printer stopped working. We've called tech support for approx. 6 straight days. Oh and tech support is not DiscMakers, it's a company called XLNTIDEA INC . They actually make the duplicators, and in fact if you look on various websites of companies that sell duplicators, you'll see the exact same machine with differnet names.

So Tech Support finally ran out of options and asked us to ship the unit back. 250 discs and it's already going back. Not that it has ever really worked well to begin with. We've probably thrown away over 100 discs due to bad printing problems. Wrong colors, low resolution, poor photo replication, etc... Our Epson Photo R200 easily out prints the Medley and it's a heckuva lot cheaper than the $2,000 I shelled out for the printer and computer.

And the worst part for me is that DiscMakers simply doesn't care. They won't return any emails. I've contacted the sales rep who was a really swell guy when he was selling me the unit telling me how much better this unit would work after my problems with the Bravo II. Now. Nothing. What do they care, if they sell 10,000 crappy units and people keep 9900 of them, that's a good margin.

You all do what you will with your money, but I can tell you from personal experience, DiscMakers has not been a company that I have enjoyed doing business with and they will certainly not get any money from me again. Fool me once, shame on me.........

Posted by: walter biscardi on Apr 17, 2008 at 6:36:53 pmComments (5) dvd, apple

Warner Bros tilts High Def DVD's to Blu-Ray

The New York Times reports that Warner Brothers has now lined up in Blu-Ray DVD corner effectively giving the Sony format about 70% of the high definition DVD market. They'll continue to release movies on both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray until May and then switch exclusively over to Blu-Ray. This leaves Universal and Paramount along with Dreamworks as the only major studios backing HD-DVD.

As a production company that had to jump into Blu-Ray production in support of one of our clients, this is welcome news for us. I have to say, if you have not seen Pixar's "Cars" and "Rattatoule" on Blu-Ray disc, you have not seen the true capabilities of Blu-Ray. Jaw dropping is the only way I can describe what these movies look like in HD. Better than what it looked like in the theater.

Full article on the New York Times website.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Mar 20, 2008 at 4:41:14 amComments (1) dvd, hd, platform wars, entertainment, apple, sony, bluray, hd dvd

Hello Apple! BluRay is the Winner! How about it?

Hello Apple Engineers! Word is Toshiba is dropping HD-DVD. BluRay is the winner by a knockout!

So how about including BluRay authoring support in DVD Studio Pro now? I mean hasn't Apple been on the BluRay side of things since the format was announced? Doesn't Compressor already create files for both HD-DVD and BluRay? Don't BluRay burners for the Mac already exist?

Why am I asking so many questions?

For some reason, despite Compressor supporting BluRay and HD-DVD, despite BluRay burners being available for the Mac, despite Apple supporting the BluRay format (how I'm not sure), we can't author BluRay using Apple products.

So we own Adobe Encore CS3, which of course required us to purchase Adobe Premeire in the process. We own the FastMac internal BluRay burner (excellent) and even own a Panasonic Dual Burner Blu-Ray Replicator (excellent). We've authored 4 BluRay titles to date and will probably author 8 to 20 more before the end of 2008. At some point, I would much rather prefer to work across the Apple Studio Suite rather than having to go from FCP to Compressor to Encore to Toast to the FastMac burner.

So hello Apple Engineers! BluRay Authoring! Please!

Posted by: walter biscardi on Feb 18, 2008 at 6:52:47 pmComments (1) dvd, apple, bluray, hd dvd

Links to update your BluRay or HD-DVD Player!

Amazon has put together a nice links page to update your HD-DVD and BluRay players. If you don't already know, many machines require firmware updates to be able to play the latest discs, particularly the recordable discs, such as BluRay BD-R discs.

If your machine won't play that latest HD disc, check to see if there's an update for your machine.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Feb 1, 2008 at 6:58:14 pmComments (2) dvd, hd, entertainment, bluray, hd dvd

DiscMakers Medley a so-so DVD Replicator / printer

For those of you who followed my blog about the issues with the Primera Bravo II DVD Replicator printer, you know that I purchased a DiscMakers Medley unit to replace it.

Well, while DiscMakers claimed the print quality of this unit would be equal to the Bravo II, in reality it isn't. This is disappointing because they both feature the same printing unit from Lexmark. The difference appears to be in the Bravo II drivers as there are many more options available to the user to achieve incredibly sharp text and good solid colors. What was printed as a solid color on the Bravo II is a mottled mess on the Medley as it is just not capable of printing a very tight dot pattern, even at the 4800dpi print setting. And this is using the exact same 300dpi TIF image and exact same DVD stock that was originally printed on the Bravo II so we're comparing apples to apples here.

On the upside, the Medley does reproduce the correct colors on the disc from the original file with minimal tweaking. That was a major issue with the Bravo II as we would have to throw the colors and shading out of whack in order to get acceptable color results on the Bravo II.

As a straight replicator, the Medley performs as expected, absolutely no issues there. But if you are looking for a very high print quality, this definitely would not be your unit. Print quality is decent, but not something you would want to present to demanding clients. 

Posted by: walter biscardi on Jan 29, 2008 at 5:21:25 amComments (2) editing, dvd, apple, technology, adobe, final cut pro, bluray, hd dvd

Blu-Ray Players, shop wisely

Hi all. We're entering the wonderful world of Blu-Ray authoring and with it, we've discovered that not all Blu-Ray DVD Players are created equal. To author our discs, we have to use BD-R media, as in Blu Ray Disc Recordable. We're using Sony Discs and to my surprise, my $999 Sony Blu Ray player does NOT support BD-R.

Worst part about it is we purchased this machine two months ago, it's been used a total of one hour, and Best Buy will not let me exchange it for a machine that does support BD-R. I even said I don't care about the 15% restocking fee, I just wanted to purchase the correct machine.

So now we have to go out and purchase a new Blu Ray machine while also trying to sell off this machine. So if you plan to start doing any Blu Ray authoring anytime soon, be sure to verify that the machine supports BD-R so you'll be able to play back whatever it is you burn in-house.

Funny I haven't been able to find a Sony model yet that does, but Samsung has one for only $599. Heading down to Fry's tonight to pick it up.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Aug 17, 2007 at 7:08:51 pmComments (9) dvd, hd, entertainment, apple, bluray, hd dvd

Professional Video Editor, Producer, Creative Director, Director since 1990.

Credits include multiple Emmys, Tellys, Aurora and CableAce Awards.

Creative Director for Georgia-Pacific and GP Studios, Atlanta. Former Owner / Operator of Biscardi Creative Media. The show you knew us best for was "Good Eats" on the Food Network. I developed the HD Post workflow and we also created all the animations for the series.

Favorite pastime is cooking with pizza on the grill one of my specialties. Each Christmas Eve we serve the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a traditional Italian seafood meal with approx. 30 items on the menu.

If I wasn't in video production I would either own a restaurant or a movie theater.



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