Creative Commons Soundtracks: Another 6 Weeks Worth

I"m still continuing my project to take the free 8Pack released by Sony each week, to turn it into something else and then release it under the creative commons licence. As before, these pieces aren't meant to stand alone but be used in video or other media pieces for soundtracks, although I've yet to hear of anyone using them for that purpose but me. But even if I'm the only one using them they serve as a great learning opportunity - I'm now confident I can go in and make something appropriate for a scene in little time.

Ready? Set.... by the other Martin Taylor

Hot & Heavy by the other Martin Taylor

Backyard Siesta by the other Martin Taylor

Lose Changeling by the other Martin Taylor

Forbidden DMZ by the other Martin Taylor

Reabsorbing The Infinite by the other Martin Taylor

Sony Vegas Movie Studio Platinum: Render Error Still Occurs in v11

Update: Since I wrote this post I upgraded to Movie Studio Platinum 12 - the program has gone 64-bit which seems to answer this problem that we were experiencing in prior versions.

I am a huge fan of Sony Vegas Movie Studio Platinum. For the money (around $100) it is impossible to beat on the Windows platform. However, ever since I started using it 3 versions back it has been plagued by a bug that Sony are either unwilling, or unable to fix.

The problem occurs when you are trying to render HD video out above a certain, unknowable complexity on a 64 bit platform. The error you see when you're trying to render out (just before the application crashes) is "The system is low on memory. You may be able to reduce memory usage by closing other applications." I'm here to tell you it doesn't matter how many programs you close, once you hit the threshold and start seeing this error your video will not render. I am also here to tell you it is not an issue with the amount of memory you have in your machine (unless you have less than 3gb). I have 8gb memory in my Vista 64 bit desktop and 3gb in my Win 7 64 bit laptop and both were plagued by this issue trying to render the same project recently - the project had 6 video tracks and 8 audio, with effects on most clips and tracks but it was only three and a half minutes long.

First an introduction to some boring Windows fundamental architecture. 32bit versions of Windows can only use a maximum of 2gb of memory. 64bit versions are not restricted in the same way which is one reason geeks like 64bit systems. Unfortunately many consumer pieces of software are 32bit. Now, you can run a 32bit program on a 64bit version of Windows but it won't be able to use more than 2gb of memory itself. With me so far?

Sony Vegas Movie Studio Platinum is a 32bit program (Pro is 64bit) which runs well on 64 systems but has had this memory leak issue when rendering in all versions I can see to date. Basically the render process is using as much memory as it can get (2gb) but at some point it doesn't release a part of memory it has reserved - it then tries to get more memory and the crash occurs. Why Sony haven't fixed this issue is infuriating - I was sure they would have it done in version 11 but no; I installed the software and the bug was back.

Luckily for us there is a tried and tested way to address this issue that has been documented for previous versions of Movie Studio and this is my update to those instructions for v11.

  • Close Sony Vegas (if it hasn't already crashed on you.
  • Download and install CFF explorer from
  • Run CFFExplorer
  • File > Open "C:\Program Files (x86)\Sony\Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 11.0\VegasMovieStudioPE110.exe
  • In the left plane of CFF Explorer click NT Headers > File Headers
  • Bottom right of the resulting grid will read "Click here" - click there
  • In the resulting dialog window check "App can handle > 2gb address space" and then click "OK"
  • File > Save As and save the file to a local directory (somewhere in your documents or desktop)
  • Close the file in CFF explorer
  • In Windows file explorer make a copy of the original file you just opened (this is so, if things go wrong, you can get back to where you were)
  • In file explorer move the file you saved in a local directory over the one in the installed directory: whenever you try to copy or move a file in the installed directory Windows will probably ask you exactly what you want to do to try and stop you corrupting installed applications - Click "Move and Replace" and then hit "continue" if it says you need to confirm your administrator privileges. This may seem long winded but you have to get around Windows security that is trying to stop you messing up your system.
  • Repeat the CFF edit for the following files:
    • VegasMovieStudioPE110.exe (you just did this one)
    • vegasmoviestudiope110k.dll
    • all dlls in the FileIO Plug-Ins dirrectory - in my installation this was:
      • ac3studioplug\ac3studioplug.dll
      • aifplug\aifplug.dll
      • atracplug\atracplug.dll
      • aviplug\aviplug.dll
      • compoundplug\
        • compoundplug.dll
        • mc_dec_aac.dll
        • mc_dec_avc.dll
        • mc_enc_mp2v.dll
        • sonyjvtd.dll
        • sonymvd2pro_xp.dll
      • fhgaacplug2\fhgaacplug2.dll
      • flacplug\flacplug.dll
      • gifplug\gifplug.dll
      • lpecplug\lpecplug.dll
      • mcmp4plug2
        • mc_dec_aac.dll
        • mc_dec_avc.dll
        • mc_enc_aac.dll
        • mc_enc_avc.dll
        • mcmp4plug2.dll
      • mcplug2
        • mc_config_mp2m.dll
        • mc_config_mp2v.dll
        • mc_config_mpa.dll
        • mc_dec_dd.dll
        • mc_dec_mp2v.dll
        • mc_dec_mpa.dll
        • mc_demux_mp2.dll
        • mc_demux_mp4.dll
        • mc_demux_mxf.dll
        • mc_enc_mp2sr.dll
        • mc_enc_mp2v.dll
        • mc_enc_mpa.dll
        • mc_enc_pcm.dll
        • mc_mfimport.dll
        • mc_mux_mp2.dll
        • mc_mux_mp4.dll
        • mc_mux_mxf.dll
        • mcplug2.dll
      • mp3plug2\mp3plug2.dll
      • mp4plug3
        • aacaenc.dll
        • mp4plug3.dll
        • savce.dll
        • sgcudme.dll
        • sgocldme.dll
        • sgpuclb.dll
        • sony4vem.dll
      • mvcplug
        • mvcplug.dll
        • sonyjvtd.dll
      • oggplug\oggplug.dll
      • qt7plug\qt7plug.dll
      • rm9plug
        • rm9plug.dll
        • pncrt.dll
      • sfpaplug\sfpaplug.dll
      • stl2plg\stl2plg.dll
      • swfplug\swfplug.dll
      • wavplug\wavplug.dll
      • wicplug\wicplug.dll
      • wmfplug4\wmfplug4.dll
This fixed the crashes while rendering for me and I hope it works for you but if you're not comfortable messing around with dll files please be careful - you could do more harm than good .If you can't see the dll files of the folders they are in you may need to make hidden files visible. All the dlls in the file IO directory that I listed may seem like overkill but I just wanted to never face this error again ... until the next time when Sony release v12 and I've forgotten all about this pain. Then again, Sony might actually get its act together and fix this issue for us ... fat chance :)

How 3D is spoiling 2D

This weekend I saw the last Harry Potter twice: first in 2D and the next day in 3D. I am a fan but not that big of a fan but it was just a accident of circumstance that led me to see it twice in quick succession but it did allow me to compare the 3D and 2D prints while each was still fresh in my mind.

Quite a few critics are citing HP as an example of 3D done right. I'm not so sure. I know you're rolling your eyes and dismissing me as yet another 3D hater but hear me out as I think I've finally put my finger on what it is about the current 3D movies that doesn't work for me.

Harry Potter demonstrates the problems that still remain in state of the art 3D technology. I am not an expert in this technology so I can only report what I perceived through my own eyes. As I understand it, there are two ways of making a 3D movie: during production (with 3D cameras) or in post (on 2D source material). HP is the latter (except for one scene). Converting 2D source material to 3D is a big, labor-intensive industry. Artists go through by hand rotoscoping the elements in the frame which can then be set on different 3D planes. So, if you have a character in the foreground, another in the mid-distance and then the setting as the background you would separate the three elements so you can put one in front of the other, in front of the other. It does give an illusion of depth but, as far as I can see, it doesn't convey the subtitles of real world 3D.

In the real world there aren't just three 3D planes in the scene described above. The character in the foreground is 3D in his own right - his nose is closer to than his ear and the perspective between the two points is gradual. As a child did you ever make a 3D diorama peep box, or shadow box, or cardboard puppet theater? It seems to be the same principle. One thing is in front of another giving the illusion of 3D but each of those things is flat which ruins the illusion in a paper model and a multi-million dollar movie.

To my eye these flat 3D movie planes layered over each other actually look flatter than and normal 2D movie. When you're watching a normal movie you quickly forget that you're watching something flat and 2D. 3D is represented by depth of field, lighting changes and camera movements and by the viewers own, intrinsic, visual intelligence. In someways that is taken away from you in a 3D movie. The flat areas layered over each other look flatter because you're fighting to interpret the flat areas within a layered 3D environment. It's also hard to become unaware of this visual trick and once you see flaws you constantly get pulled out of the illusion as a result.

'So, why not just go and see it in 2D you Luddite?' I hear you ask. Well, because the emphasis is on 3D the 2D print suffers. What do I mean specifically? You seem to see some artifacts in 2D as a result of the 3D process. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 there was a specific scene that made this obvious to me. After Harry, Hermione and Ron have dropped into the lake off the dragon's back they are walking around a hilly area, getting warm and talking about what they are going to do next. When I saw the scene first in 2D something didn't feel right. It almost felt like they had been filmed separately from the background and green-screened in - like they were stuck on to the background rather than really being in it. If it was a still photo I was examining I would have said it was clumsy use of in PhotoShop - the kind of thing you see when someone hasn't used shallow depth of field when they took the shot but they have faked it after the fact by masking the subject and then blurring the background. You can always tell - there's something about the edge of the subject, a slight halo or something, and the background is too uniformly blurred. It's not how natural bokeh looks. Whatever the equivalent is in filmic terms, that's what I'm seeing and that's what I object to.

This all said, I loved the final movie and am very sad that the decade long journey is now over. I still give it two thumbs up in 3D or 2D but a lesser movie I might not feel so magnanimous towards. 3D is not an evolution from traditional 2D movies but an alternative to them. For the moment it is still a matter of personal preference but I'm still far too aware of the technology and process to get sucked into a 3D movie as easily as I can slip into the world of a traditional 'flat' movie.

You pays your money and makes your choice....

Editing Exercise: Vincent Laforet Edit Contest

If, like me, you're relatively new to the world of film editing Vincent Laforet (yes, the person behind Reverie) and creativeLIVE have a great exercise and competition for you. It's the “Complete the Edit - Win Vincent Laforet's Redrock Kit” CreativeLIVE challenge. You download the takes you want created at a recent workshop Mr Laforet held - unfortunately, if like me, you're not a Vimeo pro user you have a limited number of downloads available per day so assembling the footage you want can be the longest part of the process. You then edit the clips into a finished piece and submit them to the vimeo group. You could win some great Redrock Kit but real benefit of entering is the exercise of piecing together an edit from someone else's footage (warts and all).

This is my first time editing anyone else’s footage but my own and was a lot of fun and very educational. It took a lot more time than I anticipated to even get a first assembly and then I spent even more time tweaking everything to get to a final cut (I've already re-uploaded my entry 4 times):

I edited it using Sony Creative Software Movie Studio HD Platinum 11($76 from Amazon) on a sub-$500 laptop. The score (little more than atmospheric sounds and a couple of string swells) was also created by me on Sony Acid Music Studio 8.0 ($36 from Amazon) and footage audio edited, augmented and sweetened using Audacity (free). Color adjustments and titles also done naitively within the consumer version on Sony Vegas. I’m hoping that the results from my budget/amateur system measures up to those with more professional suites - in an ideal world I hope that you don’t even notice I’m using consumer, cut-down versions of NLE and DAW software.

I purposely edited it in a linear way (no Memento tricks) in keeping with what I felt was the old-school, 50’s feel of the footage and script. In my imagination the man’s back story has to be that he is a gum-shoe detective getting his comeuppance. In keeping with this classic 50’s feel I edited the dialogue slightly to remove the overtly sexual lines and a couple of other phrases I personally felt weren’t in keeping with the scene. I’m not usually that prudish but I wanted the details of the affair more implied than stated.

I found myself spending as much time editing the audio as the visuals. From a visual stand point the footage is very clean but the audio took some work to normalize, and remove clothing, static and breath noises (probably from wireless lavs?) and the off camera dialog. Any unwanted noises I removed I then had to replace with room sound or Foley sounds from other footage which I did in Audacity. After I added the soundtrack you couldn't even hear the room noise anymore so this may have been wasted effort but it was a good exercise even so.

The only visual challenges I couldn't address included the hand grabbing the letter opener from the desk being very white compared to the lead actor but I wanted the footage to move from the desk to the door. Also, the clock at the beginning is an hour behind the clock at the end but again, I needed the footage so left it in and, hopefully, nobody will notice but me. Finally the reflections in the picture frame glass I just decided to live with.

This said, I am far from an expert so any constructive criticism is gratefully received. Seeing the other creative entries I doubt I will place but I feel like I already got a lot out of the exercise just by taking part. If you wanted to give it a try yourself the competition runs until 12th August, 2011 so you have lots of time to obsesses over every frame between now and then. Good luck.