Archive for August, 2006

Reading Quicktime Timecode in After Effects Redux: A Solution

When we were last talking about reading timecode from FCP sourced Quicktime’s I followed a tangent into Spotlight and other OS X technologies. Well, recently I revisited this problem for another project I’m working on and I think I’ve got a working solution for reading embedded timecode in After Effects on OS X.

timecodereader is a command-line utility that takes a path from After Effects via system.callSystem() and returns either the embedded timecode or the string . Right now the included .JSX script just writes that information to the console, but there are a lot of cool uses for Quicktime timecode in productivity scripts.

How to Use timecodereader

Download the zip archive, and either compile a new binary from the included XCode project or move the already compiled binary from build/release to a local binary directory. Since this is a command line tool you will want to move it to a location in your Path statement so you can use system.callSystem(“timecodereader ” + String(thisItem.mainSource.file))” instead of system.callSystem(“/path/to/timecodereader ” + String(thisItem.mainSource.file)) .

Update 09-09-2006: Lloyd Alvarez points out at aenhancers that AE preferers ~/bin/timecodereader when we set up as below. I’ve adjusted the enclosed script.

In the default Bash shell

export PATH="$PATH:~/bin"
echo 'PATH="$PATH:~/bin"' >> .profile

will setup a path to bin in your User directory. Move the enclosed script to your Scripts folder, select a Quicktime file in the Project window and we’re done.

When I run the script, I get these results (The 1:00:00:00 timecode is due to the fact that I’m using writeln to write to the console so the previous lines scroll up until they are out of view).

After Effects Project Window with Quicktime selected
After Effects Info Window with timecode displayed

I’ve tried timecodereader with quite a few Quicktime’s but obviously there might be a few that aren’t handled well, so consider this a beta release. The compiled binary is a universal binary so it should work on both PowerPC and Intel platforms. One gotcha, is that if you have a codec that is not compiled for the supported platform you might get a dyld returns 2 log message that might futz with your script. You can either work around it via string handling or remove the codec since it won’t work anyway. You’ll need to turn on Allow Scripts to Write Files and Access Network and turn off Enable JavaSript Debugger so we can eat the errors.

timecodereader requires After Effects 7, and OS X 10.4+

Updated file: 09.09.2006

Fixed a problem with external Hard Drives and Mounted Volumes. After Effects does not add /Volumes/ to drive paths like OS X, so /Volumes/MyHardDriveName is reported as /MyHardDriveNameI’m basically checking all mount points and adding /Volumes when appropriate, unfortunately the response is a bit slower if you have disk images or a lot of volumes mounted. If anybody knows anything faster send it my way.

Also. I’m using metadata checks for to check whether the file is a quicktime file. This only works on volumes that are indexed, so it might not work on mounted server volumes. I can add alternative QT detection if anybody finds it useful or necessary.

Zip Archive of Binary, Script and XCode Project

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Kona 10bit RGB/Trillions+ with Endian Option producing black frames?

Update 9/11/2006 6:20PMI said I’d update this post when updated drivers were available, and it looks like the 8/29/2006 drivers from AJA have addressed this issue. Download them here.

Update 8/19/2006 2:50PM OK. It appears that downgrading the codec to version 1.2 fixes the issue. Run the uninstaller, and grab the 1.2 codecs at Aja’s site. I’m going to leave this up for any future Google searches and I’ll update it when there is an upgraded codec. Thanks to Evan on this one.

I’m running into a problem with Kona 10bit RGB output with trillions+ that I’m hoping somebody might be able to help with since I’m on a really tight deadline. I’ve been happily producing 10 bit RGB quicktimes with trillions + option for weeks now. I bought several new machines that have introduced a new endian option in the compressor options like so…

big endian option

This is what all of our older machines with the same version of OSX, Quicktime and Kona drivers look like…

no big endian option

All of the Quicktimes we produce from the computers with the endian option produce black frames no matter what combination we use when trillions+ is selected. I’m aware of endian issues with the new Intel Macs vs G5 Macs, but I can’t seem to produce a working combination and like I said all software is up to date on all machines. I’m guessing a firmware issue or something. I’m hoping somebody has a working workaround and can send a comment or email to dale(at)creative-workflow-hacks(dot)com. Normally, I’d just go through tech support options, but my deadline is pressing. Thanks folks.

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Interface Gripes: Is your After Effects document dirty?

After Effects 7 has debuted to decidedly mixed reviews at work. While most folks are excited about the new features, there is a general unease with the new interface. It’s as if we’re dealing with a new Adobe OS. I think as we get a few projects under our belt the unease will dissipate a bit especially since we have such a history with the application and it is strong in features and implementation. My personal opinion is that user feedback will moderate the interface in future versions and I want to point out one example of a platform specific UI cue that is an example of why you might want to not make an application too uni-platform.

A dirty document in OS X is a document with unsaved changes. There is a clear way to indicate this. Here are a few examples in some Adobe apps.

In Photoshop, a document before making a change

A clean document in Adobe Photoshop

In Photoshop, after making a change

A dirty document in Adobe Photoshop

In Illustrator, a document before making a change

A clean document in Adobe Illustrator

In Illustrator, after making a change

A dirty document in Adobe Illustrator

Notice the filled in bubble on the left? Now let’s do the same thing in After Effects.

In After Effects, a document before making a change

A clean document in Adobe After Effects

In After Effects, after, umm, making a change

A dirty document in Adobe After Effects

In After Effects we lose an OS X interface cue. My guess, is this is an oversight from creating the interface with non-standard GUI widgets and that’ll get fixed in a later verson. But it is a great example of what happens when you try to go it alone in interface land, especially with Mac users who are a notoriously finicky lot. So, when I talk to Adobe developers, I’ll be sure to put in my voice for letting each platform retain its own individual personality.

btw…I am aware of the asterisk next to the file name cue, but this isn’t an either/or situation, so many interface cues are practically subliminal, and if a quick glance to the left corner doesn’t give me what I’m looking for, I’ll just think that it isn’t Mac like without really knowing why.

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