Archive for March, 2010

TEDxYYC – Calgary’s TEDx Videos

I’ve finished editing all the TEDxYYC videos, but they’re not yet indexed on the official TEDxYYC website. Until they do, the 2010 TEDxYYC videos can either be found at YouTube’s TEDxYYC Playlist, or right here (in chronological order)…

Rick Castiglione – Storytelling

John Manzo – Third Wave Coffeehouses

Chris Turner – Great Leap Sideways

Decidedly Jazz Danceworks – Wise Apple

Jennifer Martin – Innovative Spaces

Garnette Sutherland – Imaging, Robotics and Surgery

Eden Full – Changemaking & Solar Panels

Lorrie Matheson – Creative Process

Ben Cameron – Live Performing Arts in the 21st Century

Ruben Nelson – What Calgary Must Become

Dan Lui of provided me access to additional coverage (footage swap!), and access to BNetTV’s mixing board audio. And thanks to Sarah Blue for letting me capture the event.

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Sony Vegas 9.0c Bug vs Hottie Hookups

Hottie Hookups is a new iPhone game by Calgary’s own Big Stack Studios. It features some pretty innovative gameplay mechanics: Swiping, shaking and tilting are all used to keep swarms of nerds from disturbing the mating rituals of Jocks and Models on a dancefloor…

…as you can see, the promotional video introduces the Hottie Hookups team using “Guy Ritchie on a budget” style title cards. In theory, a Sony Vegas workflow for such dynamic titles isn’t terribly difficult… grab a frame from video, manually trace around the Hottie Hookup developer’s image so they’re masked out. GIMP or Paint.NET can both mask and stylize, so Photoshop is not required.

A single masked out image can then have multiple effects applied, each slightly different looking effect saved as a separate file. Rapidly alternating between different versions of these masked images, at slightly different positions (be sure to use “hold” keyframes, or the images will slide instead of jump), an editor can use Sony Vegas to manually create extremely dynamic title cards.

Unfortunately, the story does not end there… at least while VEGAS PRO 9.0c 64-bit is SONY’s latest release. Because Sony Vegas 9.0c does not like my masked images.


This is an inconsistent issue, and I’m finding it does not matter what format the image is in. What does matter, is the complexity of the timeline at that instant (how many layers, how many masked images), and the pan & scan movement being applied to the video element.

While Hottie Hookups title cards features jerky motion, such an error is best illuistrated by a slow pan and zoom. When previewing the video in Vegas, I see the image flicker and disappear, instead of expanding and filling the screen. This may be some sort of caching error, since I found I needed at least 5 images in any single project before one image would flicker and disappear. Occasionally, I could return to a “trouble” spot on the timeline, only to see the video suddenly preview correctly.

This inconsistency also applies to rendering the final video. Not being able to edit the video in a WYSIWYG manner is bad, but lucking out when editing (so that the image remains visible) does not guarantee your final render will contain the image.

Fortunately, there is a work-around. Unfortunately, it is extremely tedious and makes Sony Vegas a giant time-suck for complex title sequences.

  1. Create a new (temporary) Sony Vegas project. Set project resolution either as big as your masked image, or as big as possible.
  2. Import your masked image into Sony Vegas.
  3. Export your image as a short uncompressed video clip (AVI version 2 with alpha channel enabled).
  4. Instead of using images in your “real” Sony Vegas project, use your exported short video clips.

No, seriously. It does not matter if my images are JPG, or PNG. They don’t even have to be high resolution (I see this problem with images only 1280×720). And it doesn’t take much complexity for images to start disappearing.

Those dynamic title cards you see consist of layers of static video, and not images. Because Sony Vegas could correctly render a complex timeline filled with many alpha channeled video clips, but not alpha channeled images.

I realize not everyone uses Sony Vegas for animation, but to quote Gob, “Come on!

Sony Vegas 9.0c came out in 2009-10 (October 2009). Since then, VideoLAN Media Creator has been announced.

Sony Vegas currently maintains the lead in supporting a wide variety of file formats (AVCHD is why I’m using Vegas today, and not Final Cut), but the only other significant advances I’ve seen Sony make since 6.0 are multicam editing and 64-bit support. How about basic UI issues, like freeing aspect ratio for more than one clip at a time? Or directly exporting old-school FLV?

In fact, I had a complex project on hold for 6 months until I happened to upgrade my Windows box to 64-bit, finally allowing the project to render successfully. In 32-bit land, no memory warning was given. Sony Vegas simply crashed while rendering.

So Sony Vegas 9.0c 64-bit solves one problem, while introducing another. Given VLC Media Player’s fantastic support for playback of various file formats, one has to wonder if Sony Vegas’s strongest feature, broad file format support, won’t be soon surpassed by a free and open source application.

VideoLAN Media Creator will support all 3 OSes (Linux, Mac, PC) just as VLC Media Player does. Give me stability and consistency, I’ll take that over multicam any day.

“$600?!? Come on!”

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TEDxYYC – Coffee and Leaping Sideways

While helping provide video coverage of TEDxYYC, I learned more about the sociological aspects of coffee houses than I’d bargained for.

Did you know that Calgary is on the cutting edge of coffee subculture? No, really.

Did you know that Phil & Sebastian’s (despite their flash-only landing page) is a perfect example of Calgary’s dominance in the field of “Third Wave” coffeehouses?

In Marda Loop, Phil & Sebastian’s is no more than 5 blocks from my house. I go there every single morning for Americano. Given my schedule (and their hours), they don’t need to make coffee as well as they do to get my business.

But they make great coffee. The atmosphere is open. It is something I hadn’t experienced before, although I’d never been able to articulate quite why. John Manzo to the rescue!

My other favorite TEDxYYC talk was given by Chris Turner, entitled “The Great Leap Sideways“.

Problem: Ocean Acidification + Economic Instability + Peak Oil = Big Trouble

The 3 solutions Chris presented are straight-forward and already demonstrated as cost-effective:

  • Transportation Infrastructure
  • Energy Policy
  • Urban Design

TEDxYYC was a fantastic experience… forcing lectures down to under 20 minutes really lets the audience consume a lot of content in a day. And clearly there are Calgarians with interesting content to share.

Hopefully TEDxYYC it will be an annual event.

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