3.2 Creating Custom Standards

11 Jul, 2017 | PFCLEAN, TUTORIALS

In our previous extended study material for Level 3 (3.1 Importing via EDL) we covered using an EDL to import footage into PFClean. Find out more about The Pixel Farm training Academy and register for the next available class here.

In this tutorial we will be creating custom standards so that we can use our footage with the Digital Wet Gate, Telerack and Standards nodes as well as take advantage of some other aspects of the standards based workflow.

If you haven’t completed the previous level 3 tutorial, or level 2 training, I would suggest going back and starting from there as some of things we will be covering build on the knowledge we acquired in the previous level.

NOTE: To follow along in this tutorial, you will need access to the clips provided for the class. If you don’t have them to hand, below you will find the link to download the footage again.

Tutorial Footage

To learn this tutorial you will need to download and use the footage below.

Footage: PFClean_footage_level_03.zip

Download

01. Imported Clips

When we imported the clips in the previous tutorial we noted some of the clips were of an unknown standard.

A couple of examples of this might be proxied archival footage and over scanned film elements. Archives and more often footage libraries will transcode material to a proxied web format to allow for easy browsing via a web page. Unfortunately sometimes the original elements are lost or damaged and the proxied web version is the only element left.    

Film elements can be scanned beyond common standard formats. This is sometimes to allow for full resolution extraction of the picture area rather than cropping into the standard format and resizing. The extra information/resolution around the frame is also useful for archival purposes, meaning decisions about cropping are not made during the scanning process. The problem comes when non standard resolutions are used for scanning and this is where we will be creating our own set of custom standards specifically for our project.

02. Non-Standard Formats

This would mean if your footage is of a non standard format you would be limited to using the Workbench or Remaster nodes, both of which will provide you with everything you need to restore your footage. But there are occasions where for example you might want to take advantage of the speed and workflow of the Telerack and Standards nodes. The lack of a common film or video standard will also prevent you from using the standards filtering in the Workflow Manager.

Let’s open a separate blank text file in any text editor of your choosing. We are going to use the media admin to make a note of all the formats in our project which are non-standard. The three things we will have to make a note of are, resolution, frame rate and pixel aspect. When you click each clip you will see the details you require in the panel at the bottom of the Media admin.

NOTE: We will only need to make a note of the different formats not every clip.

Now we have gone through the clips, we should have taken down notes for the following standards which we will need to create:

  • 800x600,   25fps, Pixel Aspect 1
  • 640x480,   25fps, Pixel Aspect 1
  • 2076x1582, 25fps, Pixel Aspect 1

03. Locating The Format Standards File

We will be making our new custom formats outside of PFClean so let’s go ahead and close the program.

There are a few of ways of creating our new custom standards. This part of the tutorial will require you to have the administrator’s password and permission for your machine as well as a suitable text editor to create an .xml file.  

For this guide we will mostly be looking at one of way to create a standard and I will be using the text editor Atom which is freely available online for all platforms. The default text editors that come with operating systems can be problematic due to the extra information they insert during the creation process.

Creating custom standard involves writing a small script either as a separate file or as a modification to an existing one. The syntax of what we will be creating needs to be correct in order for it to work properly. For this tutorial we will be looking at the existing file for reference and creating a new file and placing it in another location.

The first file we will be looking at is the “formatStandards.xml” stored in this location for Windows: C:\Program Files\The Pixel Farm\PFClean 2017\ and the following location for Mac: /Applications/The Pixel Farm/PFClean 2017/. Once we have located the file, let’s go ahead and open it in the text editor. If we scroll down we can see it is split into three sections. At the top of the file we will see all the framerates that are currently available inside of PFClean. Below is an example of the syntax.

<frameRate>
    <name>30</name>
    <fps>30</fps>
 </frameRate>

Beneath the frame rates we have the pixel aspect ratios.

<pixelAspectRatio>
    <name>Square Pixel</name>
    <ratio>1:1</ratio>
</pixelAspectRatio>

Finally towards the bottom of the file we have the formats themselves. These are organised by TV Standards followed by Film Standards and then lastly DCI Standards. An example of which can be found below.

<formatStandard>
    <name>DCI Spec 4K</name>
    <resolution>4096 2160</resolution>
    <frameRate>24</frameRate>
    <pixelAspect>Square Pixel</pixelAspect>
    <cacheType>4k</cacheType>
 </formatStandard>

Although it is possible to directly modify this file I recommend that we create a separate file and place it in a different location. If you modify this file there is a risk of the software not running at all if the syntax is incorrect, additionally any software updates or reinstalls will overwrite this file and in effect delete your custom standards.

However if we create and place our new standards .xml in the following location:

Win C:\Users\USERNAME\AppData\Roaming\pfclean\

Mac $HOME/.pfclean/

This would enable us to keep our new custom standards even if we re-install or update the software. Any standards created here will be concatenated with the main format standards file installed with the software.

Ref Windows Locations:

  • The system directory C:\Program Files\The Pixel Farm\
  • The application directory C:\Program Files\The Pixel Farm\PFClean 2017\
  • The user’s application preferences directory and is C:\Users\USERNAME\AppData\Roaming\pfclean\

Ref Mac Locations:

  • The system directory /Applications/The Pixel Farm/
  • The application directory /Applications/The Pixel Farm/PFClean 2017/
  • The user’s application preferences directory $HOME/.pfclean/

04. Creating our Custom Formats

So now we know where we will be placing our new custom standards let’s start creating them. Let’s go ahead and open a new window or file in your text editor.

Two things we will have to do ideally before we start creating the file is firstly save the file as, formatStandards.xml, if we don’t do this PFClean will not be able to reference the file. Secondly make sure we have saved or moved the file to the following location:

Win C:\Users\USERNAME\AppData\Roaming\pfclean\

Mac $HOME/.pfclean/ or ~/.pfclean/

Linux ~/.pfclean/

NOTE: Some files may be hidden in Windows so you will need to reveal hidden folders.

In the text editor let’s copy the following script and use it as a base.

<data>

  <frameRates>
    <frameRate>
      <name>Film</name>
      <fps>24</fps>
    </frameRate>
  </frameRates>

  <pixelAspectRatios>
    <pixelAspectRatio>
      <name>Square Pixel</name>
      <ratio>1:1</ratio>
    </pixelAspectRatio>
  </pixelAspectRatios>

  <formatStandards>
    <formatStandard>
      <name>2K</name>
      <resolution>2048 1556</resolution>
      <frameRate>Film</frameRate>
      <pixelAspect>Square Pixel</pixelAspect>
    </formatStandard>
  </formatStandards>

</data>

Looking at the script we have copied as a base we can see it is formated in the same way as the previous .xml we opened earlier in the PFClean directory. The formats we will be creating have a frame rate and aspect ratio that is already in the software so we can go ahead and delete this portion of the script. If we wanted to use a custom frame rate or aspect we would simply modify those and make sure we reference them in the <formatStandard> part of the script. After deleting the top part we will be left with just the <formatStandard> section.

<data>

  <formatStandards>
    <formatStandard>
      <name>2K</name>
      <resolution>2048 1556</resolution>
      <frameRate>Film</frameRate>
      <pixelAspect>Square Pixel</pixelAspect>
    </formatStandard>
  </formatStandards>

</data>

Let’s go ahead and start modifying the <name>, <resolution> and <frameRate> portions to match the first of our custom formats. For the first custom standard we are going to call it SVGA as it corresponds to the SVGA computer display standard. We should end up with something like this:

<data>

  <formatStandards>
    <formatStandard>
      <name>SVGA</name>
      <resolution>800 600</resolution>
      <frameRate>25</frameRate>
      <pixelAspect>Square Pixel</pixelAspect>
    </formatStandard>
  </formatStandards>

</data>

The next thing we are going to do is duplicate this standard and place it directly underneath keeping it between <data> and </data> so we can use it as a base for the next format. Now let’s fill in the details for the next format which I shall call VGA until we have something that looks like this:

<data>

  <formatStandards>
    <formatStandard>
      <name>SVGA</name>
      <resolution>800 600</resolution>
      <frameRate>25</frameRate>
      <pixelAspect>Square Pixel</pixelAspect>
    </formatStandard>
  </formatStandards>

  <formatStandards>
    <formatStandard>
      <name>VGA</name>
      <resolution>640 480</resolution>
      <frameRate>25</frameRate>
      <pixelAspect>Square Pixel</pixelAspect>
    </formatStandard>
  </formatStandards>

</data>

Finally let’s repeat the process again for the last format so that we have three standards one underneath each other. The final format I have called 2K overscan.

<data>

  <formatStandards>
    <formatStandard>
      <name>SVGA</name>
      <resolution>800 600</resolution>
      <frameRate>25</frameRate>
      <pixelAspect>Square Pixel</pixelAspect>
    </formatStandard>
  </formatStandards>

  <formatStandards>
    <formatStandard>
      <name>VGA</name>
      <resolution>640 480</resolution>
      <frameRate>25</frameRate>
      <pixelAspect>Square Pixel</pixelAspect>
    </formatStandard>
  </formatStandards>

  <formatStandards>
    <formatStandard>
      <name>2K overscan</name>
      <resolution>2076 1582</resolution>
      <frameRate>25</frameRate>
      <pixelAspect>Square Pixel</pixelAspect>
    </formatStandard>
  </formatStandards>

</data>

All that is left to do is click save in the text editor making sure we have followed both the naming convention of the file and the save location described earlier on. Let’s now open PFClean again and test our new custom standards.

05. Testing our Custom Formats

Let’s open our project again and go to the Workflow Manager. Now with the Smart bin 1 selected add in a Workbench node and click on the drop down to select a standard. If this is has worked correctly we should now be able to see two available standards to filter by, VGA and 2K overscan. Let’s filter both into separate Workbench nodes. Now let’s select Media bin 2 and repeat the process. We should now see an additional format in the standards selection drop down for SVGA. Let’s continue to filter all of our standards in Media bin 2 into separate Workbench nodes.

Now all our clips have selectable standards we can take advantage of the workflow managers standards based workflow. These new standards will be available for any project we create from now on. If in the future we need to add more custom standards, simple open the .xml file and add a new one just underneath.

Now that we have prepared our footage we are ready to move onto the next tutorial where we will be using tracking panel in the Workbench.

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