The problem for the filmmaker in the digital age is that there is absolutely no 
standardization between different screening venues. Some folks want files, but 
only take certain codecs and containers (and different ones at different 
places, of course...). And some folks want physical media: tapes (still a 
variety of formats) or discs... It all depends on what tech the venue has 
invested in, and what their 'projectionist'/tech-person can handle (and, alas, 
such folks are often less than competent to deal with any kind of curveball*). 

Unlike todd, I haven't had any problems with Blu-Ray, and I'd guess that 
Blu-Ray players are pretty common now. With any home-burned optical discs, the 
quality of the media matters A LOT. NEVER buy cheapo generic blank discs. Folks 
making shorts should keep in mind that up to a half-hour or so of material in 
MPEG2 will fit on a standard blank DVD5 in Blu-Ray format, and will play-back 
in any DVD player. If you do that, get some of the premium Taiyo-Yuden blanks 
from one of the internet outlets, and you should get good reliable results. 
(And always burn at the slowest available speed.)

At least Blu-Ray is better than the least-common-denominator default pretty 
much EVERYBODY can handle: a standard DVD (meh). And with Blu-Ray, as long as 
your disc plays at all, there's really no way the folks on the other end can 
screw it up.

Of course, if you're dealing with venues that take files, todd's thumb-drive 
idea is a great way to go. Flash memory just keeps getting cheaper. (32GB USB 
thumbs can be had now for just over $20... cheaper than 'professional' tape 
stock, not to mention film prints...)

So, I would say that an artisanal filmmaker needs:
• Decent software and hardware to author and burn Blu-Rays (and if you're doing 
the short-running-time BR on DVD5, you don't even need a Blu-Ray burner.
• Proper software to transcode your digital 'master' into whatever format a 
venue desires. On a Mac, that means a combination of Apple Compressor and the 
old-reliable (and free) MPEG-Streamclip. On a PC, I don't know... (Aaron??)

I suspect some of Moira's specific problem is that she's working in Avid (on a 
PC, I'm guessing), which uses some sort of proprietary codec and offers limited 
options for output to standardized formats. The closest we seem to be to a high 
quality file standard for distribution is ProRes 422. And as recently noted 
here, ProRes isn't available on PCs. Given what production houses charge for 
transfers, it might behoove PC based folks to invest in a used older Mac Pro 
(~$500) if only to make ProRes files.

Finally, if anybody wants you to send files via the Net, they'll probably want 
some kind of h.264 coded file (in either a Quicktime or .mp4 container). It's 
very compressed and lossy, of course, but it can look damn good if you encode 
it right. The thing to note here, is that different h.264 software codecs are 
not created equal, and Apple's version is notoriously meh. What you want is the 
open-source x264 encoder. (x264 is not a codec, it's just a means of encoding 
h.264). There's lots of settings inside this thing, most of which I don't 
understand, but if you set the right frame-rate, choose one of the higher 
quality presets ('Slower' or 'Very Slow') and throw in the 'use 3rd pass' 
option for good measure, you'll get the  best visual-quality-to-smaller-file 
size ratio in existence. And AFAIK, you can use x264 in the PC version of MPEG 
Streamclip, (and probably a variety of other PC-based shareware or freeware 
converters as well.)


* I will never forget my experience at a good-sized film festival, in a city of 
some 1.3 million residents, at which the organizers had hired a "professional" 
video projectionist. There were three pieces screening simultaneously in 
adjacent screening rooms of the rented multiplex, and EACH ONE was screening in 
the wrong aspect ratio: the ones that should have been 4:3 were stretched out 
to 16:9, and the ones which should have been 16:9 were squeezed into 4:3.

On Dec 12, 2013, at 11:25 PM, todd eacrett wrote:

> From a presentation perspective, I'd nix both of the rapidly obsolescing 
> HDCam and Blu-ray in favour of a ProRes file. Blu-ray is a pita for 
> screenings. I've had discs that tested fine one day then wouldn't read the 
> next. Even with a BR data drive and the software it's a slow and potentially 
> lossy process to rip it back to a file. 
> If you're sending out a physical object (hard-drive/memory stick) with files 
> on it, consider including multiple versions with different resolutions and/or 
> bitrates. When I have the time to re-encode a file I'm pretty careful, but if 
> I have to do so an hour before a screening, not so much.
> You don't mention the running time, but a file that can be up//downloaded is 
> theoretically cheaper/faster than shipping a tape or disc. At least it pushes 
> the economic and environmental costs of the server farms onto the next 
> generation.

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