|March 27, 2003 at 9:15 pm #114|
 Software Questions
 Software Questions
 Software Questions
[3-1] What software should I use to capture frames?
Most cameras come with software for capturing frames as well as creating your movies, these would be too numerous to mention; check the documentation included with your camera for details. Listed are below are the most popular third-party software tools for grabbing frames from your camera.
[3-1-1] Stop motion animator
http://www.animateclay.com/modules.php? … =24&page=1
Stop Motion Animator (SMA) is a video capture program designed especially for stop motion animation. It is designed to work with any Video for Windows compatible video capture board or similar video capture device, such as the Connectix QuickCam. It is not designed to work with scanners, digital still cameras, or other TWAIN devices.
SMA allows you to easily build stop motion animations by recording, or “grabbing”, a single video frame from your video capture device. In order to give you better control over your animations, SMA also allows you to do something impossible with film: you can play through all of the previously recorded frames before grabbing the next. You can also jump around between different frames to compare them before grabbing the next, and on some systems, the live video from your camera can be superimposed over a previously captured frame (often referred to as “onion skinning”). Doing so allows you to make sure that the motion between frames is smooth before you capture them.
In order to make it easier to see the video input as you are lining up shots, SMA allows you to resize the video viewing window to any size you want, without altering the underlying capture resolution. Say, for example, you want to capture a movie in 320×240 resolution. This may be hard to see from 5 or 6 feet away as you are moving the objects in the scene for the next frame. By changing the video viewing window to 800×600 pixels, you can see the shot better, but without changing the underlying capture resolution.
To facilitate faster work with the program, many common commands (Grab, Play, Mark, Step Back a Frame, etc.) can be easily mapped to hotkeys on the keyboard, thus freeing you from the mouse and allowing you to work farther away from the computer. (A long keyboard cord may come in handy.)
SMA also allows an easy way to “Shoot on N’s” by allowing you to determine how many frames are recorded with each Grab operation. In and Out Points are also supported, as is looped playing.
[3-1-2] Stop Motion Pro
http://www.stopmotionpro.com ($179, free-trial available)
BTV Pro is an application for the Macintosh that allows you to view, capture and edit video, and create stop-motion animations. It also has advanced capture features such as time lapse, motion detection, and DV input/output. It works with any Macintosh compatible video input source such as video input cards, TV cards, built-in video, USB, DV, and FireWire video sources.
BTV Pro is available as a classic application for Mac OS 8 and 9, and also a Carbonized application that runs natively under Mac OSX (the Carbon version also runs under Mac OS 8.6 or later with CarbonLib).
Available in 3 versions: Free, Basic, & Gold
MotionMage, written by Thomas Foote, is a camera control utility designed for stop-motion animation capture and editing.
CROSS-PLATFORM: MotionMage is written in Java, and it uses the Java Media Framework for video functions. This means that it works with both Windows and Unix/Linux systems. (Haven’t tested this on Macintosh yet.)
Full camera setting controls: All controls that are available from your camera’s driver software are also available through MotionMage.
Numeric color analysis: This optional display will analyze every pixel in the incoming video feed’s image, calculate the average red, green, and blue values, convert them to Hue, Saturation, and Light, and display these values numerically. These values are then updated in real time to allow you to measure light intensity before taking a picture.
Auto-Averaging picture smoothing: This optional function will take four successive incoming images and average them into a single image. This has a noticeable effect of smoothing out a picture. Designed for Chroma-key processing.
Adjustable performance with Frame Delay: Because computers with low memory resources (like mine) can be overwhelmed trying to process high resolution images at a high frame rate, cameras can be set to update at lower rates.
Multiple camera support: If it’s possible for your computer to use two or more cameras at the same time, MotionMage can use them all.
Synchronized Sequences: Use one sequence as a reference to create another sequence. Synchronized sequences will scroll through their frames together.
Frame-order editing: Delete, Reverse, Cut, Copy, and Paste frames within one sequence, or move frames between different sequences.
Import and export to AVI file format:
Onion-Skin and Strobe viewers: Compare two images from cameras or sequences with one drawn transparent over the other or have the two switch back and forth in a strobe-like fashion.
Embedded help: Full instructions and reference available within the program.
Disaster recovery: System crashes during a shoot? Make a mistake in editing? You haven’t lost anything. Frames are saved to a directory when taken, and automatically moved to a trash directory when cut or deleted. Barring a hard-disk crash, you cannot lose a single frame of animation unless you specifically delete it by emptying the trash.
MotionMage requires the Java Runtime Engine Version 1.4.2, and the Java Media Framework extension. These are both available from the Sun Java website. Links can be found on the MotionMAge site as well.
Frameworks is designed to capture frames of stop-motion animation (claymation) in PNG format. Using other software, these frames may be assembled into a video. Frameworks is designed to work easily with the GIMP Animation Plugin
Frame overlay or onion skinning. Overlaying previous frames ontop of the live display to assist with positioning of objects during animation.
Continuous preview. Preview the previous few seconds of animation, ending with the live feed from the webcam to assist with object positioning.
Frameworks is developed on Debian GNU/Linux and currently supports only webcams via the video4linux kernel drivers (not video4linux2). In theory, it should work with any video4linux webcam.
Frameworks is based off gqcam, and is free software (and therefore open source) licensed under the GPL.
[3-2] What software should I use for editing and creating my films?
There are many different tools available for taking your captured frames and turning them into movies. This process includes arranging the frames in the correct order, creating special effects directly in the computer, and converting movies from one file format to another.
[3-2-1] What should I use to put together the frames?
VideoMach is a powerful tool that can compile a large number of multimedia files into one. VideoMach is free for non-commercial use; be sure to download the latest version so that you have the option to click the “non-commercial use” button. According to LEGO, all films MUST be non-commercial.
[3-2-2] How do I convert my movie from file format “x” into format “y”?
See subject [3-4] for download locations for the software described below, and links to tutorials made by fellow brickfilmers.
QuickTime 6 Pro is the recommended player/encoder for the Macintosh. See the following link for a great guide on using Quicktime 6 Pro:
QuickTime 6 Pro can perform the following video conversions:
AVI to MOV
Keep in mind that when you convert any file from one format to another, there may be loss in quality and the size of the new file can be unpredictably larger or smaller than the original. These multimedia tools also have the ability to perform many different audio conversions as well, however this information focuses on the major video formats only.
Each of these tools has many, many features and options; detailed explanations of them is far beyond the scope of this FAQ entry. Each tool has lots of documentation and helpful information at their respective websites.
AVI to MPEG
TMPGEnc quickly creates MPEG files from AVI or MOV movies. Use the video button to choose the video file and any audio will be filled in automatically, or you can select which audio file tht you want to mix in. Then enter the name of the output MPEG file or take the one filled in automatically.
Note: in order to convert Quictime MOV files, you must have Quicktime installed on your machine and you must download and install a file called “QTReader.vfp” in the same folder as TMPGEnc (see the links below for each of these)
Then click on the button labeled “Start”. You can watch the progress of the conversion and the computer will sound a tone when the file is complete.
TMPGEnc can create MPEG-1 videos (VCD) and MPEG-2 (DVD) the MPEG-2 feature is available for 30 days unless you register.
AVI to WMV
To create and convert WMV files, Windows Media Video, try the small and very quick and easy program called STOIK. STOIK is a part of the Morph Man Video 3.1 package which is a image and video morphing tool. STOIK is free and can be downloaded seperately and run by itself.
After downloaded the program’s icon is actually named “VideoPak”
The STOIK program has a very easy interface:
- If you choose AVI, you will be able to select a codec and audio compressor
- Click the Start button at the bottom, and a small preview window will show the progress of the conversion
STOIK also has an advanced area where you can adjust framerates and sound properties. The built-in help goes into every available option in more detail.
AVI to WMV
For another way of creating WMV files, you can use the Windows Media Encoder, a very small but powerful and easy to use tool from Microsoft. After you extract the files from the setup application, you will need to go to the DOS command prompt to use it.
Once you have navigated to the correct directory on your hard drive where the tool was installed to, enter the following command at the prompt to begin the conversion process:
wm8eutil -input myfile.avi -output myfile.wmv
Where “myfile” is the actual name or full path of the AVI that you wish to convert. The process should take at most a few minutes and when finished, your new WMV will be up to 30 times smaller than the original AVI file. (A graphical (windowed) version is also available.)
AVI to RM
Real Producer will create content for the Real Player. RM, Real Media files are considerably smaller, up to 8x, but also can result in loss of quality.
Use the “record from a file” option to create an RM from a file on your computer. After selecting the movie file that you wish to convert, you can add information such as the name, subject, and copyrights to go with your movie. Next, you have various options for processing the audio and video to create content that is suitable for various computer setups and Internet speeds.
You may select where the output will go and then you are ready to create the RM file. To begin, click the button labeled “Start”. As the conversion is in process, there will be a window showing the movie as it is being processed.
AVI to MOV, MPEG TO MOV
To create an Apple QuickTime MOV in Windows, Graphic Workshop Pro is a tool that will do this for you. This tool’s interface resembles Windows Explorer in that as you browse your computer on the left, the video files that you have will appear at the right.
When you find the AVI or MPEG movie that you wish to convert, simply right-click on it, and then choose the MOV format. Graphic Workshop Pro also does conversions between different kinds of still images.
MOV to AVI
For this conversion, use RadVideo Tools, also called “Bink and Smacker”. Browse for the MOV, and select it. Then click the button labeled “Convert a File”. You will then have a number of options available, frame cropping and resizing, selecting the start and end frame range to convert, and adjusting the quality of the image and/or the audio.
When you are ready to convert, you can enter a file name and select a location for the AVI file. Then click the “Convert” button. You will have the ability to choose which codec (DIVX, Cinepak, etc.) that you wish to use before the conversion begins.
RadVideo Tools also has some very good tools for analyzing and providing information about the multimedia files on your computer.
RM to AVI
For converting Real Audio files, one option is to use TINRA (That Is Not Real Anymore). Although it has many limitations and does not appear to always work, it appears the only tool available to do this. Also, the RealPlayer G2 has to be installed (aside from any other Real players that you may have). To make this tool somewhat “easier” you should down the graphical user interface (GUI) version.
AVI to MPEG
A series of BMP, GIF, JPG still images into an AVI or a series of AVI files into one AVI
To begin, use File/Open to browse for the files in the order that you would like them to be compiled. Any audio in these files will automatically be added to a list for an audio-only compilation.
Before creating the final movie file, VideoMach offers literally hundreds of ways to adjust the video and audio output, and add effects. For simplicity this information will focus on the final processing of the video.
To create the movie file, click on the blue disk icon. Enter a name for the file and select a file type and compression method. Then click on the yellow lightning bolt icon to start the processing. When finished, your default player will start and play the movie.
VideoMach also can create a series of still frames from your MPEG or AVI.
[3-2-3] What software can be used to create digital (computer generated) special effects?
Lego Studios software has many editing options built into it such as transitions and the ability to add titles. It doesn’t have a function for special effects, however. Other editing tools include Axagon Composer, Animation Shop, Adobe Premiere and Flash. Axagon composer is free, while the others are not- they can be quite expensive.
Axogon is the Video Editor’s All-Purpose Power Tool. You can arrange movie clips into a single film, produce fades, do animated special effects, add multiple sound tracks, do chroma-key superimposing, crop, stretch, add titles, create fractal clouds, do motion blurs, and probably hundreds of other things I haven’t imagined yet. It also has an internal scripting language that allows you to write your own video effects if you can’t find what you need. It’s the most versatile program I’ve ever seen. (Also the video & audio file selector allows you to preview files before loading them. It’s a great help!) (Mod note: Axogon is no longer supported or released by it’s developers. It is now known as “MainVision”.) The link below at 3-5 is for version 0.93
For more details on how to create a specific effect, see the special effects sections of this FAQ.
[3-3]How do I add sound to my film?
Try DDClip Free, which allows you to add up to 4 tracks at once, and playback in real-time while editing, without having to render first. See below for a link to this program.
VideoMach also allows you to add an audio track to your film. Although you will need to render the film first to see that it matches up with the video.
[3-3-1]Audio Editing guide
Now that you have all of your sound effects, and audio needs worked out, you may also want to record some audio of your own. Check out the following link for an excellent and extremely detailed guide to capturing and editing audio. This guide was wriiten by brickfilms member Lowweek. It is a PDF document, which will require the Free Adobe Acrobat Reader.
http://lowweek.free.fr/dl.php?f2get=Aud … ypedl=misc
(click on the text “Audio Guide v1.1″ to launch the document.
The audio in your film will most likely be encoded as PCM (Pulse Code Modulation); what this basically means is that the sound has not been compressed and will cause your file size to be unnecessarily large. Compressing the audio portion of your films will help in lowering the overall file size.
Let VideoMach do the video compression, then move on to VirtualDub. Set Video to “Direct Stream Copy” (which means no re-compression, no further loss of quality), and audio to “Full Processing Mode”, choose MP3 for compression. You may need another codec, such as the LAME codec, to allow for 44 kHz sound.
CODEC, it means COmpressor-DECompressor, it is a method used to compress and decompress video and/or audio data to produce files that are smaller, so that they are easier to distribute, and manage. CODECs control the video settings like frame rate, resolution, the amount of data that is used to encode each second of video/audio (bit rate) The CODEC, and the way it is used can dramatically affect the final playback quality of your files. Your choice of CODEC will also determine file compatibility and how large your file will be.
Most CODECs are lossy, which means they throw away parts of the original data in order to reduce file size. The CODEC will try to only remove data that people are not likely to notice, but if you set the bitrate too low for the resolution or amount of motion in your file, the CODEC will be forced to loose data that WILL be easily perceived by the watcher, in most Video CODECs this causes symptoms such as pixel “Blocky-ness”, dropped frames, causing jerkiness, in Audio CODECs a bitrate set too low it usually results in an audible hiss, making the sound much less dynamic, or making it sound “tinny”.
AVI and Quicktime – are, strictly speaking NOT CODECs, they are simply file formats, a “shell” that contains other audio and video CODECs In the past the most common CODECs used with AVI and Quicktime were the Cinepak and Intel Indeo. I would recommend neither of these, as they’re old, unsophisticated and do not offer very good quality or compression.
MPEG 1 – One of the most common video CODECs know to the digital world, and as such can be played back on just about any computer in use today, It offers quite good video quality, but creates files with large sizes. It’s most common use these days is for VCD’s. It usually uses MPEG Layer 2 Audio, which isn’t as efficient as other audio CODECs
MPEG 2 – is similar to MPEG 1 in that it offers excellent video quality. But was designed to support high resolution, high bitrate videos. DVD’s use the MPEG 2 format. And this should be your first clue as to the quality, but large file sizes this CODEC is capable of.
ASF – “Advanced Streaming Format” is Microsoft’s ‘Streaming’ format based around the MPEG 2 format. The quality is not as good as it’s MPEG heritage suggests, but it does offer a much better file size to quality ratio. The CODEC had good specs on paper, but unfortunately, this CODEC can have serious synchronization problems on older PC’s or even the newest Macintoshes, where the video and audio slide out of synch with each other.
Sorenson Video – Most commonly used in Quicktime .mov files. It produces a higher quality video at lower bitrates than some other formats. You can choose whether or not you’d like the encoder to drop frames when the action gets too intense in a video, not quite as good as the variable framerate in MPEG 4 and Realmedia, but still useful for keeping the file sizes down (if you don’t mind some choppy-ness) When encoding a video, Sorenson converts the input format to the YUV9 color space. This negatively affects the quality prevents accurate retention of the original color information.
Real Media – Real Media is designed as a streaming format, but also makes a very good “download than play” choice. Also based around MPEG 2 formats, but unlike Like ASF, it is a much better implementation. it can be a bit processor hungry depending on the bitrate and resolution chosen, but for the large part most systems won’t have any issues. It offers very good video quality and it’s audio quality is surprisingly good even at low bitrates that would render an MP3 almost un-listanable. Real offers a ‘free’ encoder (as well as a free player), but to get full encoder which has expanded functionality and more control, you have to pay. And you’ll have to have your eyes sharply peeled to spot the links to the free versions on their website, as they try to hide ‘sm to get you to pay… sneeky bastards.
MPEG 4 CODECs – MPEG 4 is the newest addition to the MPEG family. Basically It does the same thing for video that MP3 does for audio. It uses a *very* complex algorithm to compress and decompress video. Because it is so complex, MPEG 4 is also quite processor intensive. MPEG 4 is quickly becoming a very popular CODEC for online distribution, as it can offer one of the the highest quality to file size ratios available.
The verdict? – go with Divx or Realmedia, both are very good at what they do, both are cross platform CODECs (available for PC, Mac, and Linux users, the the vast majority of operating systems in use.), And both have significant benefits for Brickfilmers.
To find codec links, be sure to take a look at Bluntman’s resources article at:
[3-5] What software do I need to view these films?
Just as there are many ways to create movie files, there are countless different viewers available. This list features the most popular movie players; most of which are available as a free download.
The conversion tools above also double as players, to help you work with the film as you are working on the file.
To view this type: use this player
AVI: Windows Media Player, DIVX Playa – http://www.microsoft.com – http://www.divx.com
[3-6] Where do I get the software?
Brickfilms is not a wares site, do not ask anyone in the forums for illegally pirated or cracked copies of software. The links below are all subject to change at any time.
The first set of links are geared toward PC/Windows users (though many have Mac versions available).
The next set are some Macintosh links. If you know of any LINUX, or BeOs or other system video software, please let us know in the forums.
Axogon Composer: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BricksInM … com093.exe
Adobe Premiere ($495 – free trial available)
Graphic Workshop Pro ($40)
LAME MP3 Codec
RealProducer/Helix Producer (ver. 9.0)
Windows Media Encoder
WinMorph and Wax
BTV for video capture
|February 11, 2009 at 4:31 pm #405947|
To every brickfilmer: Please don’t go with/use RealMedia!
Situation has changed also:
To view almost everything, download and install a true MULTI-media player!
Here is a short list of a few popular media players:
Original page: http://www.mplayerhq.hu/design7/news.html
->Media Player Classic:
There is missing some important info:
A multimedia codec is a shorter word for multimedia compressor-decompresser, and is used for compressing data like video or audio. It can stand for a certain way of storing data or a piece of software that is called a codec because it compresses/decompresses data.
A codec alone is not enough, you need to encapsulate the data into a container. A container is a shell for your codecs, data. More generally: a container or wrapper format is a file format whose specifications regard only the way data are stored (but not coded) within the file.
All the data is held in a file and is stored in what we call a file format. This means that a file format is a particular way to encode information for storage in a computer file.
A file format can have a file extension (the letters behind the name that tell what it is, windows hides this from you by default, which is a bad thing).
Now some examples:
Providing a few flavours is safest, most reliable and best way of practice for any brickfilm.
There are a few best practices described here.
>A handy thing for a brickfilmer is a container that handles everything. This way, you don’t have to worry about codec any more.
>When choosing a codec or multimedia container, features are at least just as important as compression efficiency is.
>It’s important to have a master file of all your films in lossless codecs
>It’s recommended to save a high quality (lossless if possible)version with the program you use. It’s a general (best practice/)work flow in the film industry to work with lossless formats and export to lossy as a last step.
>Also important to notice that container and codecs which are open source, free and patent free enjoy preference.
Notice about ogg:
It’s also interesting to use cortado: http://www.theora.org/cortado/. It’s a java applet with a HTML5 tag around it. If the browser support html5 and ogg it will use that. Otherwise the browser falls back on the streaming applet and still plays it just fine.
You can experiment with
There are DirectShow filters available for windows (Media Player) and QuickTime components for the Mac on the website of Xiph.org, http://www.xiph.org/downloads/#third_party.
It could be in maybe 2010-2012(under reservation of change without prior notice, I’m not sure it will be that year)
Here’s an example of different flavours and a recommendation.
(WARNING: There are codecs that have serious legal issues for using in a custom media player and is best to be avoided.
Speaking about codex’s:
Admiral FAQbar why haven’t you mentioned the ogg media formats and containers?
And why haven’t you mentioned free media converters that can do a lot of the formats you have discussed?
Like (just an example) MediaCoder
Oh yes, almost forgotten to add this list:
More information about multimedia containers and how they compete with each other is here:
And more information about codec is here:
(EDIT: All the free software that I have mentioned here is legal, under licenses like the GPL.
|February 12, 2009 at 12:16 am #405988|
This is very old. Please check the date before posting.
Also, you’re more or less advertising. If you wish to make contributions to the FAQs, please PM a moderator (such as me) or an admin (such as ahnt).
|February 12, 2009 at 8:35 pm #406017|
I will be more carefull in the future.
But what do you mean about advertising?
Okay then could you please add the information about the ogg stuff and the other program’s I’ve mentioned to the FAQ?
|February 13, 2009 at 2:43 am #406033|
I’m actually hoping to start some kind of process to get the Getting Started forum more up to date, accurate, and re-organized, because I think it’s a little messy right now. If this takes off, I’ll do my best to get it added in when it’s all finished, if not, I’ll do my best to integrate what you wrote into it (or at least what I deem necessary).
Thanks for your concern.
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