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Jittery footage from DSLR - unable to solve

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Henrik Duncker
Jittery footage from DSLR - unable to solve
on Feb 3, 2015 at 9:11:47 pm

Hello. I am a photographer who ended up making a short film using Premiere. So, excuse me if I don't handle video terminology. In the making process I have struggled hard with jittery / choppy playback. I'm posting this to the Premiere Pro forum, as that is the app I've mainly used while looking for a cure.

The footage comes from a Nikon D800 (H.264 mov 720p 59,94fps). So far no software (Premiere, FCP, QT10, QT7, Media Composer) nor hardware is able to play back smoothly, but is randomly skipping (dropping) a frame or few. On each playback-round the errors happen in different places. The footage fully consists of slowly, smoothly rotating objects so random dropped frames spoils all the mood.

One more thing: to get the wanted smooth rotation I've shot at double frame rate and interpreted the clips to 50%. However, halving frame rate is not the cause:

To properly drill into the problem, I made a pendulum test (also H.264 from the Nikon) which fully eliminates man-made irregularities (of myself manually rotating the mentioned objects with a crankshaft). The issue also introduces itself with all camera fps settings (25, 50, 29,7 and 59,4 fps) and resolutions (720p and 1080p), no matter if the footage is reinterpreted 50% or not.

The pendulum footage was converted (both by Premiere and Media Encoder) to png sequences as well as to tiff sequences. Not a single one of the sequence frames is missing when observed frame-by-frame, yet Premiere nor any other software can play back smoothly. One would think that finally at this stage, when each frame is a separate image file, all potential frame rate or data rate issues or camera faults - would be left behind.

Also I've further converted the tiff sequences to ProRes422 with QT7: problem persists (also here checked that all the frames actually are there). Changing Premiere's timeline playback resolution has no effect on the issue, neither has rendering. Same was with FCP. The exported footage, no matter if 1080p or 720p or even less does not play nice. Also checked that all the frames do exist in the exported files.

I've shown the original footage, the various editing stages and the exported finals (of YouTube and Vimeo guidelines) to a few professional editors I know but so far no one has been able to find an explanation. I'm using a MacBookPro late 2013 (the fastest model). I've tried two different FW800 hard drives, tried via both Thunderbolts, also tested via USB3 and on the internal hard disk. To exclude possible Retina display challenges, also tested on an older MBP as well as an iMac of 2011. No matter what, it just keeps skipping frames. If the problem is in the camera, what could be the core problem if, like explained above, all the frames are there through the editing process…

It would be great if anyone here can think of an explanation. And even better, a fix.

If anyone is willing to give it a try, I've attached the pendulum test (about 20MB, H.264 720p 59,94fps).
You're expected to witness frame-dropping perhaps only once during the 8 seconds, the next round shows maybe 2-3 skips, or more. Keep repeating and can also happen that you get all 8 seconds flawless playback, there is no rule. 8498_pendulumtest.mov.zip

Best wishes,

Henrik


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David Baud
Re: Jittery footage from DSLR - unable to solve
on Feb 3, 2015 at 9:49:50 pm

I would try to convert to Apple ProRes and see if you are getting the same issue. I suspect the H.264 encoding being the culprit.

David Baud
Post & VFX
KOSMOS PRODUCTIONS
Denver - Paris
http://www.kosmos-productions.com



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Henrik Duncker
Re: Jittery footage from DSLR - unable to solve
on Feb 3, 2015 at 10:26:31 pm

Thanks David, but as mentioned I've done that already.
H.264 > ProRes > import to Premiere – no cure
H.264 > png sequence > ProRes > import to Premiere - no cure
H.264 > TIFF sequence > ProRes > import to Premiere - no cure
H.264 > TIFF sequence > import to Premiere - no cure
H.264 > png sequence > import to Premiere - no cure
etc.

Henrik


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David Baud
Re: Jittery footage from DSLR - unable to solve
on Feb 4, 2015 at 5:14:52 am

Henrik,

I just played your test video in PrP on my system and everything play just fine: no jitter, no skipping frame, nothing! I played a few times, in a loop mode.

At this point my guess is you have an issue with your computer configuration hardware/software.

My system:

. Mac Pro
. Blackmagic Design Decklink Studio PCI card
. external reference video monitor
. Premiere Pro CC2014
. Internal HD Raid-0 4-drive

Good luck,

David Baud
Post & VFX
KOSMOS PRODUCTIONS
Denver - Paris
http://www.kosmos-productions.com



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Henrik Duncker
Re: Jittery footage from DSLR - unable to solve
on Feb 4, 2015 at 6:11:08 am

Thanks David. Could I perhaps ask you to try one step further: if you could slow down the footage to exactly 50% (interpret as 29,97) and see if that might make skipping more evident – or if it's till nonexistent.

I'm so confused as it's been tested here on two different MacBook Pros, on an iMac as well as an ordinary MacBook, also by playing the footage from various other hard drives.

My own set-up is:

MBP late 2013 model, quad core
2.3 GHz Intel Core i7
16 GB 1600 MHz DDR3
NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M 2048 MB + Intel Iris Pro
500 GB internal flash drive (of which 200-250 GB free)
External LaCie FW800 hard disk (with all project files there)
OS X 10.9.5

Henrik


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David Baud
Re: Jittery footage from DSLR - unable to solve
on Feb 4, 2015 at 11:48:41 pm

Ok now I see some problem: as soon as I try to change the frame rate interpretation to 29.97, it looks like the file is not read properly inside of Premiere. In Quicktime it seems fine.

At this point I would question the way Nikon creates these H.264 file? I understand H.264/AVC (MPEG4 Part 10) can be implemented a little bit differently from one constructor to another, by using a different profile inside the standard format.

Have you tried different frame rates out of your Nikon? do they all act the same way? In my case it seems like if you do not change the recording frame rate the file is read just fine.

Could you post one of your problematic file on Youtube or Vimeo to see if we see the same things?

David Baud
Post & VFX
KOSMOS PRODUCTIONS
Denver - Paris
http://www.kosmos-productions.com



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Henrik Duncker
Re: Jittery footage from DSLR - unable to solve
on Feb 5, 2015 at 11:15:30 am
Last Edited By Henrik Duncker on Feb 5, 2015 at 11:44:00 am

Yes David, I've fiddled with similar pendulum tests: The issue introduces itself with all camera fps settings (25, 50, 30 and 60 fps) and resolutions (720p and 1080p), no matter if the footage is slowed down or not.
Last night I wanted to rule out a potentially faulty Nikon camera. The pendulum test with a Panasonic Lumix GF1 gives me the same problem. Lumix gives H.264 as well, and its frame rate seems to be fixed at 30fps.

About the pendulum tests:

I've reinterpreted the footage slower in Premiere, also tested the route of converting to tiff sequence (thus leaving behind any frame rate data) and importing back to ProRes422. Also, a colleague at the film university used a special software to change the frame rate directly in the original footage's metadata. Nothing seems to solve occasional frame dropping.

As you mention David, slowing down the footage to 50% seems to make jittering more evident. However, I feel that this is only because skipping over a frame or two is easier for our eyes to notice at 30fps or 25fps than it is at 60fps.

[Tero Ahfors] on this forum pointed out that my Premiere's frame dropping indicator does not give a warning: "If it's not dropping frames then the issue is probably with your monitoring or monitor refresh rate."

I guess this is narrowing down to monitor / display card issues.

Here is a Vimeo link to a pendulum test with playback problems.
https://vimeo.com/118794321
password "pendulum"

Having just watched it in Vimeo, I saw some 5-7 definite spots with dropped frames (i.e. suddenly the swinging teacup jumps clearly ahead of its otherwise consistent pace. During the second watching it happened tens of times, however not as dramatically, and not in the same places.

It is a 25fps sequence from Premiere Pro. As I already had problems with original footage imported directly to Premiere, my colleagues suggested experimenting as follows…

The first half of this file is produced
1. Nikon H.264 @ 60fps
2. with Media Encoder: export as tiff sequence
3. tiff sequence imported to QuickTime7 as being 25fps
4. exported from QT7 as ProRes422 @ 25fps
5. imported to Premiere and double checked that clip is correctly 25fps and put on the 25fps timeline.

The latter half is produced
1. Nikon H.264 @ 50fps
2. imported to QuickTime7
3. exported from QT7 as ProRes422 @ 50fps
4. imported to Premiere, interpreted footage as 25fps and put on the same 25fps timeline.


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David Baud
Re: Jittery footage from DSLR - unable to solve
on Feb 6, 2015 at 12:09:12 am

What was your shutter speed setting when recording these clips? does the Nikon let you change it in video mode? if so I would try to slow it down. If not you can recreate the motion blur in post using a plugin like the Revision FX RSMB.

David Baud
Post & VFX
KOSMOS PRODUCTIONS
Denver - Paris
http://www.kosmos-productions.com



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Henrik Duncker
Re: Jittery footage from DSLR - unable to solve
on Feb 10, 2015 at 6:33:55 am

Hi David,

I used as long (or almost as long) exposure times as the camera allows for a given frame rate. I do recognize that using a 1/60 shutter speed with 60fps may not be ideal and can cause too much of motion blur. Unfortunately I did not make notes on the shutter speeds used when I shot the actual footage I started working with, nor did I make notes on my first pendulum tests. However I certainly did not use too short shutter speeds, wanting to avoid strobe like effects. Further, I recognize that when working with slow motion effects (like in my case) the shutter speed / frame rate relation may need extra consideration.

Nevertheless, I have now got enough feedback from people who can't see any frames dropping (stutter), so that I can quite safely assume that the camera is fine, and so are the files that I've produced. What remains is the question why my computer is giving the hick-ups. System upgrade to Yosemite and possible further talks with Apple are the next steps.

Anyway, thanks for the input. I will take the linked pendulum test offline as it won't serve a purpose any longer.

Henrik


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Tero Ahlfors
Re: Jittery footage from DSLR - unable to solve
on Feb 4, 2015 at 5:09:41 am

[Henrik Duncker] "If the problem is in the camera, what could be the core problem"

The shutter speed might be too low for the frame rate and/or movement so it might look like it's jittery but it really isn't. Is Premiere really dropping frames? There is a dropped frame indicator that you can turn on.


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Henrik Duncker
Re: Jittery footage from DSLR - unable to solve
on Feb 4, 2015 at 6:19:59 am

Hi Tero. No this is not about shutter speed. I've used the slowest shutter speed the camera allows for a given frame rate, exactly to avoid that stroboscope type jittering. Instead I came up with this peculiar issue of occasional random dropping of 1-3 (my estimate) frames at a time. The dropped frame indicator is on in Premiere Pro but it gives all but green light. With the help of a professional we tested the footage also on another computer running Avid MC and a multitude of other software: same issue.

Henrik


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Tero Ahlfors
Re: Jittery footage from DSLR - unable to solve
on Feb 4, 2015 at 7:07:37 am

If it's not dropping frames then the issue is probably with your monitoring or monitor refresh rate. I can't see any jittering on that clip on my Sony reference monitor using a Blackmagic I/O.


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Henrik Duncker
Re: Jittery footage from DSLR - unable to solve
on Feb 4, 2015 at 7:39:41 am

Thanks Tero. I will keep sending the files to other MBP users, to find out if Apple laptops in general have trouble with playing video smoothly. I think yesterday we excluded possible Retina-display related causes by running it on a non-retina iMac, again with frame skipping.

Henrik


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Jon Doughtie
Re: Jittery footage from DSLR - unable to solve
on Feb 5, 2015 at 2:23:59 pm

Is your footage stored and [playing back from the system drive - that is, the same drive on which your edit software is located?
If so, this is a big no-no which may be the root cause, or is masking the real root cause of your playback problem.


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Henrik Duncker
Re: Jittery footage from DSLR - unable to solve
on Feb 5, 2015 at 2:59:35 pm

No, it is on external FW disk.
But I also have tried to play from the start-up disk and several other externals while looking for a cure.
Henrik


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Kevin Monahan
Re: Jittery footage from DSLR - unable to solve
on Feb 6, 2015 at 12:10:22 am

Hi Henrik,
What happens if you change the extension from .mov to .mpg? This helps a lot of other Nikon DSLR users.

Thanks,
Kevin

Kevin Monahan
Support Product Manager—DVA
Adobe After Effects
Adobe Premiere Pro
Adobe
Follow Me on Twitter!


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Henrik Duncker
Re: Jittery footage from DSLR - unable to solve
on Feb 10, 2015 at 6:19:21 am

Hi Kevin,
Changing the extension from .mov to .mpg only causes QuickTime to start a conversion process if I try to play the movie (i.e. it wont play the file as such).
Best
Henrik


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