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The John Lennon Education Tour Bus

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October 24, 2011

Codecs: Part II

Written by Jeff Sobel

 

In my last blog post we talked about some basic video codecs and their history.  This time we’re going to talk about a couple of popular post-production codecs, Apple ProRes and Avid DNxHD. Last time we talked about capture codecs like DV or DVCPRO and delivery codecs like h.264.  The two codecs we’re talking about today are post-production codecs. ProRes and DNxHD aren’t codecs used in cameras and they aren’t what you’d post to the web, burn to a disc, or send to someone for viewing.  They’re used during the post-production portion of the workflow.  These codecs are capable of virtually lossless quality at high bitrates (for online editing) or very good quality at lower bitrates (for offline editing).  They use algorithms that are very easy for modern computers to decode to minimize the impact on the computer’s CPU, resulting in the computer being able to devote more of its resources to FX processing than to playback of the raw video clips.  Post-production codecs are also designed to maintain the integrity of the video when multiple processes like FX, keys, and composites are layered.  This is something the more heavily compressed capture and delivery codecs usually fail at. There’s a correct tool for every job.  When you’re editing and finishing a video, the correct codec is probably a post-production codec like ProRes or DNxHD.  So do yourself a favor, and transcode to it before you begin working in your editor; you’ll get more power out of your editing system, fewer headaches …

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October 17, 2011

The Theory of Making Music Videos- Part 1 (Pre Production)

Written by Ryan L'Esperance

 

So we on the Lennon Bus produce a TON of music videos and we do it in a very little time frame. This is why it is so important to have a set method for production, with a check list of points that one must hit to make the whole production run smoothly. In any production, the process is split into 3 major steps: The first step is the “Pre-Production Phase.” Here the artist or students brainstorm on the concept for the video and create a basic shot list for the camera man and director to start thinking on a technical level of how to best compose the shots. These ideas are then put into motion by storyboarding. Storyboarding can take a few different forms. Typically we have one or a couple of the students, who are not working on the audio portion of our project, to go scout locations in the area. This can be anywhere. It is usually done by sending a student out with a digital photo camera and having them take pictures in each location. In our case though, since we don’t have a car, we are typically limited to our immediate area. We gather all the photos and make a story board, or sequence of shots or locations that are going to be the story or scenes in the video. So, when making decisions on shots, you need to factor in “the Look” and also “the Gear” that it you will need to haul around, to …

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October 10, 2011

Avid Scorch: An Insight Into Burning Away Wasted Time

Written by Hans Tanner

 

Chapter two!  As you may remember from my last post we focused on the iPad app known as Garageband.  This provided an easy and efficient way for beginning or mobile songwriters to get their ideas out.  So at this point we have your song, which you can now travel around listening to. You enjoy it more and more every day and it’s mixed just the way you like.  A great point to be at but there’s one problem: it’s exclusive to one person… yourself!  You’ve just realized you want to share this song with your friends who also play instruments with the intention of seeing how they could contribute to the components that make up your song.  Option 1: You gather your friends together and explain to each of them the melody, the chordal movements, the arrangement, the key and tempo.  All the while doing your best to translate for each specific instrument.  Unfortunately you keep hitting snags whenever a particular question arises regarding a part of your tune that wasn’t properly communicated.  Option 2:  Utilizing an iPad equipped with the Avid Scorch app in conjunction with Avid Sibelius, you create a notated document of your song also known as a score or sheet music.  This score has all the notes written out for each instrument with clearly indicated sections for your arrangement i.e. intro, verse, chorus, bridge, etc.  You now have an exact representation of the song within Sibelius, which you can then upload to Scorch and have your song …

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October 03, 2011

Photography in My Eye: Part 1: Glass

Written by The Lennon Bus

 

Photography, to me, is a means in which I can alter the way I remember things. I can see things a certain way with my eyes and thus my memories are formed but my eyes always see things the same way. If I change the lens of a camera and take a picture, or edit that picture in a certain way, then we can really alter our memories of reality. A day that you saw in one way will look different in your mind when you look at the photos you have taken as the camera saw something different than you. Not better, not worse, but the camera can make subjects pop, it can blur out buildings, it can zoom across a field. So I want to start a blog series explaining how I use photography to remember things and what it means to me as I go around the country and also how it can help you change your world. With each of these lenses, the first set of number reference the aperture of the lens while the second set of numbers is the zoom of the lens. We will get into the specifics of zoom and aperture in another blog post, but for now, we can see some photographic evidence of how each of these numbers react to one another and how each of different types of glass shape how a picture can be taken. The first is the Sony Wide 4.5-5.6/11-18, the “wide-angle lens.” If you notice for …

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September 19, 2011

Codecs: A Brief History

Written by Jeff Sobel

 

If you’ve worked in video you’ve certainly been in contact with codecs.  Probably many codecs, in fact.  So what is a codec?  Codec is an abbreviation for “Compressor-Decompresor” or “Coder-Decoder” (technically speaking, it’s a portmanteau, an amalgamation of two words (a favorite tool of tabloid sites who live to gossip about ScarJo or Brangelina), but i digress). The vast majority of digital video is processed by a codec, each of which has its strengths and weaknesses.  In the broadest sense, there are two types of codecs:  Lossy and Lossless.  Almost all commonly used video codecs today are lossy, but many “lose” so little information in the encoding process that the resulting video appears identical to the original video source under normal viewing conditions, yet achieves much lower bandwidth than uncompressed video.  Another upper-level classification of codecs is “Intraframe” or “Interframe.”  Intraframe codecs compress each frame of video discreetly, while interframe codecs look at sequences of frames and compress them in groups by looking for the elements in the group that change from frame to frame (anything in motion, for example) and applying more bandwidth to encoding those elements while omitting the repetitive data inherent in the static elements (backgrounds, for example) of the group (groups of frames are referred to as “GOPs” (Group of Pictures).  There are pros and cons to both types of encoding and this frequently results in choosing different codecs for capturing, processing and delivering video content (more on that in a later blog). The first popular consumer …

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September 13, 2011

Making Midi Magic

Written by Ryan L'Esperance

 

Hey everybody! So the Lennon bus staff recently went through some really cool Pro Tools training. We learned a ton of cool new things and most definitely enjoyed the Avid facilities. One of the cool things we went over is writing music from scratch using midi. A cool way to write from scratch is to use loop playback with midi merge. Check out this quick demo on how to build a drum performance using this easy and fun technique! Let’s build a basic drum beat… first lay down your kick normally, for a one bar loop. Now you want to add more elements to the beat, but you don’t want to have to play the whole performance at once. Here’s how you build one from scratch! The next step is to enable Midi Merge, shown above, and you’re good to go. Just record enable the track in loop playback and add the other elements to the kit. If you do not see the Midi section in the toolbar, simply right click on the toolbar and add it to the shown tools. Once you have your rough parts added into the loop like kick, snare, and hat, there may be a couple timing issues that you want to fix. The next process is simple.  Just select the loop, and in the Event menu select Event Operations > Quantize. This will allow you to snap your beat to the grid by a specified grid value or apply preset grooves to your beat for …

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September 06, 2011

The iPad: A Songwriting Singularity

Written by Hans Tanner

 

  With Steve Jobs’ recent step down from Apple, I feel it may be an opportune moment to show the team over in Cupertino a little love.  This will be chapter one of an on-going segment highlighting one of Apple’s more recent innovative creations, the iPad.  Along with a set of these device’s for every Lennon bus crew member with extras for people to demo when on-board, Apple has been donating a significant amount of hardware and software to the bus every year, equipment which has become integral to achieving our daily mission.   I don’t know about you, but when the iPad was first announced I had extremely low expectations for its arrival.  I initially pegged it as an oversized iPhone, reminding everyone of the fact that tablets had their go some years back and failed miserably.  Man, was I jaded!  After spending a significant amount of time with the “iDevice,”  I’m currently of the belief that this thing is the absolute future of a number of industries, and may or may not lead to the singularity. Most pertinently, however, I strongly believe it can change education forever, and for the better.  Imagine at the start of kindergarten, High School and College that you are given an iPad, complete with all of your lessons, books, homework and projects for the entire year.  Any of which can be updated or added to at any time.  The cut in costs of foresting each year would aggressively decline, the current book selling scam …

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September 06, 2011

Lennon Bus Gets Trained: Avid in San Francisco

Written by The Lennon Bus

 

In all of my years of recording music, I have never received any formal training in that area. Unlike some of the other engineers, I got my degree in English Literature, which put me a step behind when it came to knowing how to use all of the technology on the bus. In addition to that, my newly knitted passion for video had not training basis to exist on either. Much to my joy, we were brought to Avid in Daly City for five days of hands on training in Avid Media Composer with Bryan Castle and Pro Tools with Eric Kuehnl. In the two days of Media Composer training, the fabulous Brain opened his brain to us and we were able to figure out things with Media Composer that will make the flow of editing video on the bus easier and quicker. It was fab being able to see how Media Composer gets used in a professional setting and then seeing the cool little features that make me want to do some more interesting videos. Like Auto Title, which was mind blowing. Seriously, check it out. On our last day with Mr. Castle, we all got delicious Indian food out in San Francisco at Chutney. We then had three days of Pro Tools training with Eric and we got to have some hands on experience working with my new love, the Avid Icon D-Control. That combined with the live room that we got to do some tracking in was a …

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August 29, 2011

Recording On The Road, And In Forest

Written by The Lennon Bus

 

One of the stranger aspects of living on a mobile recoding studio is that you become confronted with different ways of recording your music. While we were posted up in forest of South Carolina during Warped Tour 2011 , it allowed an opportunity me to reflect on how each of the engineers that live on board can utilize the aspects of the bus to our own creative advantage. There were a series of obstacles that were posed to us while we were in South Carolina. First of all, we were there because the generator of the bus was getting repaired and thus, we were deprived of most of the electricity that we would be normally. Second, we were also in a forest, which was an environment that is not normally akin recording good takes. With the M-Box, however, I figured out that recording off of the bus is not only a viable option but also can be a part of the recording workflow. I discovered that the following workflow through usage of Pro Tools 9 allowed for a seamless passage between creativity and output. Step 1: Demo guitar on M-Box. Thanks to the M-Box being bus powered, I found out that it was effortless to record the guitar through DI and then listen back to it through the outputs.. Step 2: Play back drums to the demo-recorded track. Once the basics of the track was laid down, I could either put down drums by using the electronic drum kit on …

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August 22, 2011

A Bokeh (BOH-Kay) for You to Behold

Written by The Lennon Bus

 

All right all you video and photography buffs, let’s talk Bokeh (which is pronounced BOH-kay). What is it?  Why is it there? How can we manipulate it?   First off Bokeh is pretty darn cool.   Essentially, Bokeh is the area of a video or photographic image that is out of focus. It is generally associated with the highlighted regions, or light sources, that are out of focus. When you are shooting (either video or still images) and you have a low aperture setting (which allows more light into your camera), you get a shallow depth of field, meaning you get a very selective focal region. That shallow depth of field will then cause bokeh to occur everywhere that is not in focus. This is what I’m talking about:       Using our array of Sony video and still cameras on the Lennon Bus, such as the Sony EX-3 and Sony Alpha-900, we can achieve some pretty cool effects with bokeh.Sometimes, lens aberrations or aperture can change the way the out-of-focus area of the image is perceived, creating either good bokeh or bad bokeh. The shape of the aperture is directly related to the shape of the bokeh.  Most lenses have a sort of polygonal aperture opening, thus, unless the aperture is all the way open, the defocused areas will be made up of a bunch of polygons.   Like This:       When the aperture is all the way open, the shape of the aperture is then a …

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