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HELP! Preparing 5 different videos, all different aspect ratios, for projection.

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HELP! Preparing 5 different videos, all different aspect ratios, for projection.
on Jan 10, 2006 at 3:25:24 pm

Hope someone can help with this.

I am making the video elements for a stage production of the opera Madame Butterfly. They are using a software called Watchout by the company Dataton. There are 5 videos to be made - all with different aspect ratios ranging from 1:1 to almost 1:2. The application calls for 60fps progressive material, and says I can use MPEG-1, MPEG-2, QT animation, QT PNG, and DV.

I'm used to just making :30 TV spots, so this is quite a challange for me. Here's what I plan to do and some questions regarding each point:

1. They gave me the size of the screens. How do I translate that into aspect ratio? For example, for the square screen, I am making the file 720x720. Will that hold up when projected? Am I right that I should use square pixels?

2. When I export from AE, I use the animation codec to make a master file, then I compress that to the playback file type. It would be horrible if the computer froze up during the show, so I want to make sure I use the right file type - balance of quality and functionality problem. I was going to use MPEG-2, but I can't figure out how make a MPEG-2 with a custom aspect ratio. Any suggestions?

I have a ton of other problems - but these are the 2 big ones.
Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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Dr Ugly
Re: HELP! Preparing 5 different videos, all different aspect ratios, for projection.
on Jan 10, 2006 at 5:16:50 pm

Hi Reins,

We've been using Watchout at the Royal Ontario Museum for the year or so in a pair of installations. I'll do my best to give some suggestions to your questions.

Have a look at the specs of the video card being used for each of your images-I'm guessing that there is 1 computer/screen. That will give you a good idea of what you have to play with. We do our editing w Final Cut and convert files using Flip4Mac to create WMV files. Our experience thus far shows that this is the best resolution with the smallest file size. It also allows us to work with custom sequence settings from start to finish.

I've taken some things for granted here. If your set-up differs from what I'm guessing, post a response and I'll check it out!


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Thomas Leong
Re: HELP! Preparing 5 different videos, all different aspect ratios, for projection.
on Jan 10, 2006 at 5:21:38 pm

1. I wouldn't worry about mixing pixel ratios between the various productions. Just produce all to one pixel ratio, whether it be 1:1 or otherwise. Watchout can re-scale XY perspective proportionately or non-proportionately.
Do not worry about the supposedly odd sized screen specs. For the widescreen stuff, the Show Designer using Watchout will have planned to split the playback between Slave Playback PCs under control of a Master Production PC via TCP/IP network - a specialty feature of Watchout.
I think you should ask them what maximum vertical resolution they want the production to be. Although Watchout will/can re-scale, the vertical resolution determines the projected quality. Example, if they are using projectors with native resolution of 1024x768, you would want to produce in 768 vertical in order to maximize the projected quality, rather than produce in a lower vertical res and let Watchout scale it up to fit...although the Watchout people are pretty proud of their scaling quality (up to 200% of the original, I believe)

2. There is no requirement to transcode on your part if they have not specifically asked for a file-type. Just provide QT Animation to them. Watchout will happily play that back without problems, provided of course the Playback PCs have the muscle power, which these days, would. However, clarify with them whether they need the alpha channel or not.
I think for a job of this size, you should dump all final output to an external harddisk as this would facilitate transfer of the huge QT Anim files to the Watchout Production PC.

Thomas Leong

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