Friday, November 16, 2007

DVD Package Almost Complete

Well, I've resolved the issue with the chapter skip button; turns out it was a problem with Encore itself and a quick update solved it. The DVD is basically locked down. I've made a test disc to make sure all of the navigational links work correctly and think it's shaping up pretty nice. We should have a bunch of cool features for you, including a commentary track, a deleted scene (audio only - since I never did any animation for the sequence), an alternate version of the main title sequence, an alternate version of the movie made up of quick Poser test-renders, the teaser trailer (2D and 3D), the trailer (2D and 3D), trailers for Raven and Raven 2, and a never before seen trailer (2D and 3D) for Raven 3-D, which was made from test footage.

All that's left to complete the package is the soundtrack.

Speaking of which, tomorrow I am due to pay a visit to the Darkhouse Studio to generate the final couple of sound fx and begin work on sweetening the fx and vocal tracks.

Stay tuned...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

As Good As It's Gonna Get & DVD Authoring Problems

I've settled on an anaglyph version of the movie that's going to have to do... it works reasonably well on my Panasonic HDTV and very well on my CRT monitor. This will be the one going out on the DVD.

And, speaking of the DVD...I'm using Adobe Encore to author the disc, but despite the playback preview offered up within the Encore program itself, when played back on a set-top DVD player the disc does not match Encore's file directory. In fact, many of my programmed commands seem to be completly ignored.

For instance, I've programmed the disc so that when a user clicks the special features menu a short intro plays, and when that ends the special features menu appears. If the intro is allowed to finish, the disc does as it's supposed to and launches the special features menu. However, if the user presses the chapter skip button the disc jumps ahead to another video file on the disc. If the user keeps pressing chapter skip, he can continue through all the video files on the disc without encountering the menu at all (which is the desired result when the chapter skip button is pressed.)

I'm reading the Adobe help logs and forums to see if there's a solution to this problem...

Friday, November 9, 2007

3-D Headaches Continue

I've made multiple test discs now and tried them out on multiple NTSC monitors and none of them produce satisfactory results. I've been doing my research and determined that, as far as I can gather, there is no foolproof way to get perfect anaglyphic stereo reproduction on a television monitor. Two factors that figure into this are a) your NTSC television screen, and b) limitations of MPEG 2 video encoding.

From what I've read, MPEG 2 bleeds a bit of the green & blue channels into the red channel, resulting in a red channel that is not 100% red, and therefore it is impossible to reproduce the red that is needed to be cancelled out by the left eye of the 3-D glasses.

I am having better success playing the DVDs back on my HDTV display, which makes the ghosting more tolerable but still not a complete success. I am still frustrated that I cannot replicate the effect that I get with the Windows Media-encoded version that I stream from my PC to my Xbox 360.

What's more baffling is that on the same computer monitor, I had fine results watching the DVD using Cyberlink's Power DVD player and so-so results (more pronounced ghosting) via Windows Media Player's DVD player!

This raises all sorts of issues. I have prepared at least six different versions of the movie now, and testing suggests that there will never be one that works in all situations. I do have a version that works better on a computer monitor, or one that works marginally better on a TV set - which version do I put on the DVD? On a computer monitor, the effect is noticably better. There is still some ghosting, but it's within a tolerance range that I am willing to accept. Do I make the DVD for computer viewing and put a disclaimer on the front of the anaglyph version? I notice that the Spy Kids DVD has a similar disclaimer.

The field-sequential version remains unaffected and the preferred way to experience the movie in 3-D. The question remains about how this latest problem will affect theatrical exhibitions of the movie... if a theater can project the movie off of the Windows Media file, they'll get the best result. But can most of the film festivals take digital files? Will the DVD work better if projected?

Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The House of Cards Begins to Fall

It looks like when I said that the MPEG-2 compression did not affect the red/blue 3-D effect, I was wrong. I've had time to make a test disc and try it out on my progressive scan 16x9 TV and two other standard def NTSC television sets, and in all three cases we have massive ghosting - so much so that the anaglyph movie is almost unwatchable.

How did this happen?

My original test movie was rendered out from After Effects via the Windows Media 10 codec, and streamed to my TV via the Xbox 360 - and it looked perfect. The best red/blue 3-D I've ever seen on a television. (This version, incidentally, will be made available for download - likely via BitTorrent.)

This new version is rendered out via After Effect's MPEG-2 compressor, and it appears that it has subtlely altered the shade of red. This MPEG shade is darker than it needs to be, so the red eye of the glasses can't filter it out properly, resulting in double images.

Yesterday, I went and rendered out another MPEG 2 compressed version. For this one, I cranked the Red Gamma of the left eye channel up from 1.5 to 2.0 (a significant difference.) When I tested it on my home TV, it actually did work much better. Not quite 100% ghost free, but acceptable. The downside is that all color information is completely lost. The movie is basically purple, and the red eye version is starting to get a bit washed out.

I've sent this disc home with Andy for testing on a standard TV, so we'll see how he says it works. In the mean time, I got to thinking that since the luminance of the red needs to be brighter, what would happen if I increased the Red Gain instead of the Red Gamma? So, I've rendered out yet another version! This one resets the gamma to 1.0 but boosts the red luminance, resulting in an extremely bright red. The image retains more of the original color information, so hopefully I'm on to something that will work.

Unfortunately, I'm out of DVD-Rs at the moment.