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F.A.Q.

Frequently Asked Questions

General

How quickly can you get my project back to me?
Can I sit in on your sessions?
Do you offer postproduction services for films?

DVD Authoring

Why would I want a DVD with special features?
Why are there so few options for the DVD encode itself?
What do you mean by "prioritize image or sound"?

Deinterlacing

Can you talk more about interlacing and deinterlacing?
So should I use progressive or interlaced frames?

Image Touchup

Can you explain TV-safe scaling?
How about letterboxing?

Reproduction

Are burned DVDs compatible with normal DVD players?
What about non-burned DVDs? What if I want those?

General

Q. How quickly can you get my project back to me?

We are the videography equivalent of a handmade furniture shop. We'll do whatever you like, can meet any budget, and will hand-craft each piece individually, but we can't produce tables as fast as the factory down the street. One of the reasons that our prices are so low is that we do everything ourselves; we don't have a staff waiting to process whatever work comes in. That said, we should be able to get most basic projects back to you within in a week or two. Elaborate projects, with a full complement of sound and video processing, can take longer.

If speed is a priority for you, bring that up when we're planning the project; we can tell you what options will enable us to move more quickly. We pride ourselves on being flexible, so please tell us what's important to you and we'll work something out.

Q. Can I sit in on your sessions?

We don't currently offer "supervised" color correction or sound mixing because it would be difficult to schedule. We are often working on several projects at once, and having to book particular blocks of time is difficult and would slow everyone down. Also, we don't bill postproduction hourly, so pricing would be complicated as well. However, we don't see this as a problem, because, as opposed to film work, few things will need to be adjusted shot-by-shot. Before beginning a project, we will talk things over in depth with you until we understand your aesthetic goals. You can point to some of our samples as a guideline, suggest a look that we should try to match. We will also send you processed frames and bits of sound as we work to make sure that we're on the right track.

Q. Do you offer postproduction services for films?

Film is our main focus at Yates House Studios; in fact, we've taken to videography in order to help fund a film of our own, and we do all of our postproduction in-house. We do not, however, offer commercial postproduction services for films; such work would not fit into our pricing system or schedule, and we prefer to constrain our commercial work to videography. The one exception to this is DVD encoding; if you have a film that is already edited, color-corrected and mixed, and can provide it to us in a digital format, we will be happy to encode and author it for you at our regular rates.

Of course, Yates House Studios is also a film production company; if you have a piece that you want to produce through Yates House Studios, browse our main site to learn more about us, consider whether or not the piece would fit with the work that we do, and feel free to contact us if you think that it might. Since we would be taking the piece on as collaborative work, our working relationship would be noncommercial. However, since we are already in preproduction for a feature-length film, we are taking on very few projects at the moment.

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DVD Authoring

Q. Why would I want a DVD with special features?

If you intend to sell copies of your DVD on the open market, the answer to this is obvious. On the other hand, if all you want is a high-quality record of an event, special features might not be for you. Consider, though, who you're making the DVD for. Parents and friends of cast members will appreciate being able to jump to certain scenes. Professional productions should always include biographies and contact information. Educational events, forums, and so forth can benefit tremendously from Internet links and background material. DVD authoring takes experience, but it is not time-consuming; since we charge soley on the basis of how much time things take, we are able to offer extremely low prices for simple features such as chapter selection, and can provide a quote for a number of other features, depending on complexity.

Q. Why are there so few options for the DVD encode itself?

We don't believe that you should have to pay us extra to do a job well. DVD encoding is a complicated task; although the rise of consumer applications such as Apple's iDVD has made it easy to do an acceptable job, preserving the full quality of the original video involves juggling dozens of settings and options. We encode at the highest bitrates possible; all we need to know in advance is whether or not to prioritize image or sound, and this is a very slight adjustment.

Q. What do you mean by "prioritize image or sound?"

Before we can answer this directly, we have to talk about compression. DVDs, like most digital video formats, uses compressed video. The compression here is "lossy" (as opposed to "lossless" compression, usually used for data); the computer, guided by its operator, looks at each frame and decides what information isn't important to the human eye. The same basic idea is behind the .MP3 format, which, when used correctly, removes only those sounds that the human ear can barely perceive--if a very soft tone is played behind a very loud one, the soft tone can't be heard and can therefore be removed.

DVD video is actually more compressed than basic DV, although, since the compression doesn't have to happen in real-time (i.e. as you're filming), it ends up being better at high bitrates. Two factors must be considered when deciding on a bitrate: size and speed. A normal DVD can hold several hours of maximum-quality footage, but to encode 16 hours of footage on one DVD, the bitrate must be reduced considerably. In addition to this, there is an upper limit on how fast the DVD player can read data from the disc.

The available bitrate must be divided between audio and video. If the audio is left uncompressed, the video has to be compressed slightly more. The difference between uncompressed and compressed DVD audio is similar to the difference between CDs and high-quality MP3s, but, in many cases, the loss of video quality caused by using uncompressed audio is imperceptible, which is why we normally recommend prioritizing audio, but we leave the choice up to you.

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Deinterlacing

Q. I'm confused by this "interlaced/deinterlaced" business. Can you talk more about it?

First of all, you're not alone. Interlacing is one of the most confusing things in the video world (along with pulldown, drop-frame timecode, and 23.976fps); there is considerable disagreement among video professionals about the implications of interlacing and the best ways to handle it.

To really understand interlacing, you have to understand how TVs display images. In a typical TV, electrons are constantly being fired at the screen by a gun that is scanning back and forth, painting lines from left to right. This gun, however, cannot scan fast enough to make motion seem smooth, and so, to avoid flickering, it paints the odd lines (1, 3, 5...) on the screen first, and then jumps back to the top and paints the even lines. Thus, even though the typical North American frame rate is 30 frames per second, North American TV actually displays at 60 fields per second, since each frame consists of an odd field and an even field.

Although the technology used to make DV cameras is actually better suited to progressive frames than to interlaced ones, it was decided early on that DV cameras, for maximum compatibility with TVs, should record in an interlaced format. Thus, the camera is actually recording sixty half-height images per second--first the odd lines, then the even lines, and then the odd lines again. This means that if you look at a full frame--that is, both fields at once--you see a "combing" effect where the fields don't match up; half the information from each frame is essentially thrown out.

This is important for two main reasons. First of all, interlaced footage feels very different than progressive footage does (as discussed below). Second, a host of problems are created by the fact that TVs are the only commonly available display devices that use interlacing. The guns in CRT computer monitors move faster, and therefore don't have to paint only half the lines per pass. LCD monitors don't use electron guns and are therefore capable of displaying truly progressive images. Most different of all, movies display true progressive frames at a rate of 24 per second. (Whole industries were created because of the fact that 60 is not evenly divisible by 24. If North American TVs ran at 48 fields per second, connecting video to film would be much easier.)

Q. So should I use progressive or interlaced frames?

Although we normally recommend progressive frames, there is no simple answer to this question. If you want your footage to display correctly on a computer, it has to be deinterlaced at some point; most software DVD players can do this during playback, but they tend to do a fairly poor job. (Some even replace all of the even fields with the odd ones, cutting the vertical resolution of the image in half.) Progressive frames compress better, providing more quality in less space; this is particularly true for 24fps progressive, which takes up 1/6th less space than 30FPS progressive because the frame rate is lower. On the other hand, interlaced footage can track rapid motion more precisely, and, if the camera is moving quickly, a kind of motion artifact (often called "judder"), which sometimes appears at 30 frames per second and can be quite distracting at 24, is avoided.

Ultimately, though, the question is an aesthetic one. We have come to associate the high-speed, always-incomplete pictures found in video with "reality," but the same hyper-real quality that makes a video news broadcast feel immediate and urgent is often poorly suited to narrative film, and can be quite distracting when applied to the performing arts. There have been many attempts to describe this effect, but most come back to the basic observation that a rapid sucession of frames, which captures more of "reality," can actually feel somewhat alienating, whereas reducing the frame rate can actually make a piece feel more involving, more compelling, or more real.

The best way of making this decision is to watch our sample DVD. We have downloadable clips showing the options for non-interlaced footage, but, since computers always display progressive frames, interlaced video simply looks incorrect; the difference in effect can only truly be seen on a TV.

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Image Touchup

Q. Can you explain TV-safe scaling?

The edges of most TV screens are covered with an opaque border called a "baffle," which normally blocks between 5 and 10 percent of the screen on each side. This masks the fact that TV tubes don't look good at the edges. (It is also what lets TV manufacturers sell 17 1/2-inch TVs as "18 inches.")

For projects where seeing the full width of the frame is important, we recommend reducing the size of the video by around 5% so that, on modern TVs, nothing is cut off by the baffles. This means that a slight black border may be visible on some TVs, and a larger border will be present on computer monitors. This decision should depend on your personal preferences, the nature of the footage, and how it will be used.

Q. How about letterboxing?

Letterboxing is a way of changing the aspect ratio of an image. A standard TV screen is 1.33 times as wide as it is tall; we're not using a widescreen camera because the film we're shooting with it will have an aspect ratio of less than 1.33--closer to the ratio of old silent films--but we can letterbox the image to standard film ratios such as 1.66 or 1.85. This can work very nicely for proscenium-style theater recording if you want to de-emphasize the space above the actor's heads, but for lectures and the like it may seem strange.

Since aspect ratio affects composition, this decision should be made before the shooting begins.

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Reproduction

Q. I've heard that burned DVDs don't always play back on normal DVD players. Is this true?

This is a difficult question, and different people will give you different answers. The makers of DVD burners will usually say that there are no compatibility problems, while pressing houses, which specialize in large runs of "regular" DVDs, often stress the incompatibilities. There are also two kinds of video DVD blanks--DVD+R and DVD-R--and supporters of one or the other argue that compatibility problems mostly affect their competitor's format. The truth, we think, lies somewhere in between. We've distributed a large number of burned DVDs and have had very few problems with incompatibility, but it is true that older players have trouble playing some burned DVDs--usually DVD-Rs. Likewise, older DVD drives have trouble with some DVD+Rs, although DVD-Rs are almost always compatible. For most clients, we recommend that a large proportion of the run be burned onto DVD+R, with a few DVD-Rs for people who have older computers.

Brand and quality also have something to do with compatibility, though in a year or two this problem will almost certainly disappear. When CD burners first appeared, some CD players couldn't play back certain brands of blanks, and others couldn't play back CD-Rs at all. Now, most CD players can even play back CD-RWs. We provide our sample DVD on several brands and grades of blank in both DVD-R and DVD+R, so if you want to run some tests yourself you're more than welcome. If you're extremely concerned about compabitility, the only solution is to have non-burned DVDs pressed at a reproduction house.

Q. What about non-burned DVDs? What if I want those?

Our goal in the reproduction stage is to save you as much money as possible. We're not a DVD duplication service, nor do we want to be; we burn DVDs at slightly above cost as a service to our clients, and, if you have a DVD burner yourself, we're just as happy to have you do it. For small runs, this is usually more economical, since there's a considerable startup charge for DVD pressing, but for large runs, you may save quite a bit of money if you have your DVDs pressed. In other words, burned DVDs will always cost a certain amount per blank whether you're making one copy or one hundred; pressed DVDs, after a large initial fee, cost very little per blank. Moreover, although burned DVDs are becoming more and more plausible as a distribution format, pressed DVDs should pose no compatibility problems whatsoever.

For a small service fee, we're happy to deal with the pressing house ourselves, or we can simply give you the master copy and let you do it. Pressing houses often provide integrated packaging as well, but if you don't want a large number of DVDs it may make more sense to have us print packaging ourselves; we are also able to offer a wider selection of formats and paper stock than most pressing houses are. This is best worked out on a case-by-case basis.

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