Linux Video Production: the State of the Art
Using your editing program, print the video back to the format that will result in the fewest possible compression passes. If your originating medium was DV and you've done everything properly to this point, that should mean you have a total of one recompression on your footage and you can go out to a DV deck with little noticeable generation loss. Even better, take your multiplexed file and back it up, un-recompressed, to a tape or optical backup system.
Once you've multiplexed, you can use QDVDAuthor (see my article in the December 2005 issue) to author a well-tricked-out DVD for delivery to your friends and/or customers. Or, you can use one of the variety of front ends for mencoder, mjpegtools, or FFmpeg to compress your video for Web delivery or storage on your home machine. Kino includes such a front end, and other good ones include kencoder, konverter and Gmencoder. Whether to DVD or VHS or for Web delivery, this is the end point of the pipeline.
So, in short, it is now possible, with a little work, to get a competent and usable end-to-end video production studio working in your home or business, running solely on Linux. The few holes left in the pipeline, particularly in the compositing arena, are quickly being filled in and should be in much better shape by mid-year. We're on the cusp of a breakout year in the media creation field.
During the next few months, I'll be focusing specifically on potential problems in this pipeline, and keep you updated on new developments in both hardware and software. Take heart, fellow producer. There is now a video-production oasis in the open-source desert.
Acquisition Means and Formats
Linux's video pipeline can handle just about anything you throw at it, although some formats will limit your choice of editing software. The available formats include, but are not limited to:
Standard Definition: DV25 (MiniDV and Digital8): the most popular consumer and prosumer format both for its convenience and the quality of its image in the higher-end cameras; its compression makes some compositing work, such as color keying, problematic (though not impossible). MiniDV is captured through the 1394 port.
Beta/Digibeta: common in broadcast, rare everywhere else, this format is the granddaddy of TV video. Beta is captured through an analog tuner card (V4L-compliant with 720x540 capture capability), DigiBeta comes in through SDI and requires specialized capture hardware for optimal signal preservation.
VHS and derivatives: analog consumer mediums, lower resolution than MiniDV, must be captured through a V4L-compliant tuner card.
High Definition (HDV): this is the new consumer hi-def format being sold by Sony and JVC on some of their prosumer cameras. They record to MiniDV tape a highly compressed MPEG-2 signal having roughly the same bitrate as standard-definition DV25. It captures over 1394 or USB 2.0. At this point, it is unclear whether this format will be very useful or have any meaningful advantage over progressive-scan SD miniDV.
Hi-Def: the CineAlta and other high-end motion picture cameras are Hi-Def platforms. Capture is accomplished through Hi-Def capture cards of various sorts, available through Linux Media Arts (lmahd.com) and Specsoft. This format requires special high-speed disk arrays and capture software, both of which are available through Specsoft. Look out though—the price on the cameras begins at $50K for the cheapies.
Film: 8, 16, 35 and 70mm and all their various incarnations. The old-fashioned chemical emulsion is expensive, but can't be beat for charm and (in some cases) for look. Film can be brought into Linux in one of three ways: 1) Telecine: projecting a film for recording by a video camera, after which capture proceeds according to the dictates of the video format. 2) Home-brew film scanning: using a DigitalSLR, the film is recorded frame by frame. Some creative electronics work can automate the process. Time consuming, but it does give you 10-bit or better color depth. 3) Professional film scanning: done with very large machines, at very high prices, in very large buildings, which are usually located quite a long way away.
Here, then, are the programs discussed, with the ones that are used regularly in my own studio pipeline in boldface.
Acquisition: Kino, Cuisine, Cinelerra, Diva, MainActor
Editing: Kino, Cuisine, Cinelerra, Diva, Blender, MainActor
3-D Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI), modeling/texturing/animaition/rendering: Blender, The GIMP, YAFRAY
Motion tracking: Voodoo
Color correction and compositing: Jahshaka, Cinelerra, Blender, ImageMagick, GIMP, CinePaint Glasgow, MatteLab
Titling: Jahshaka, Kino, Blender
Looping, cleanup, sweetening and FX editing: Audacity, Ardour, ReZound, Sweep
Music: Rosegarden (scoring) and Ardour (recording)
Authoring: QDVDAuthor, kencoder, konverter, Gmencoder, Kino
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