Friday, October 24, 2008

What we saw in the wilderness

October's meeting, which kicked off our 5th year saw a presentation by Dilesh Korya, editor of renown in these parts, and long-term wefcpug member. Dil has been working on 'Wilderness Explored', which has just finished its first series run on BBC4 here in the UK. It's always great to get the inside track on current projects, and they don't come much more current than this one! The programme was a mix of library (drawing on the huge back catalogue of the BBC Bristol's Natural History library - but with much of the footage previously untransmitted rushes from their block-buster round the world series as well as historic archive material), new interview and a lot of motion graphics and layered effects. All achieved in FCP, and in a couple of cases, right before our very eyes.

The usual warm-up acts came from Richard, who, in response to an audience request last month, worked the changes on Motion to do an (almost) instant moving face blur. We could tell you who requested this feature, but we'd have to kill you...

and by way of even lighter relief, Phil (c'est moi) gave a first-impressions report on Dirac, the open-source video codec which has emerged from BBC R&D. (I nearly wrote a 'report on what I understand about Dirac' but that is something of an exaggeration - and it would have made a very short presentation). Brief advantages are: it's good quality, at lower bit-rates than current codecs (mpeg-2) - one example quoted by the Beeb is the use of an SD circuit from Beijing to carry a Dirac-coded HD signal; it's scalable, meaning it's a possible competitor for H.264 in streaming/downloads to home - see the iPlayer next year; it's open-source, meaning there are no royalty payments for developers/users - and you're free to tinker with the code yourself.

Yeah, right, I hear you saying. But if you are so inclined, head over to http://diracvideo.org/ for the unexpurgated technical details, or a (slightly) more readable intro from the horse's mouth at http://www.bbc.co.uk/rd/projects/dirac/ . There are links on the dirac project pages to a couple of mac-specific projects. One is an experimental codec for Quicktime (the Shroedinger project) and another is for playback through VLC. I'm pursuing these, though I don't think I'll be doing much rewrites of code (!) and will report back one day.

Keep watching for news of our exciting big plug-in night in November....£2500 worth in prizes already garnered by Richard, with promises of more to come.