Friday, June 27, 2008

The funniest scam spam email yet:

I just have to wonder: how could anybody have the absolute gall to think anybody would ever, in a million years, believe this (contact info obscured with *********s). This is definitely a spammer who is taking the "more is more" approach. I was originally going to take this on line by line, but I think you should just read the whole damn thing first. Trust me.

From: "United Nations" *********************
Chairman Committee On Foreign
Contract And Inheritance fund Payment Notification
From United Nations And USA Government
Sir. Eric Ben.

Attn: Beneficiary,

U.S.A Government, World Bank And United Nations Organization Official Has Approved To Pay You Part Payment Of Your Inheritance Fund And Lottery/Award Winning Payment Valued Of USD8.5m.

The British Prime Minister in conjunction with U.S.A GOVERNMENT, WORLD BANK AND UNITED NATIONS ORGANIZATION do hereby give this irrevocable approval order with This Release Code: GNC/3480/02/08 In Your Favor For Your Contract Entitlement And Your Inheritance Fund Which You Have Not Received Yet, Now It Was Approved By The World Bank, That Your Contract/Inheritance Fund should be released through UNITED NATIONS ORGANIZATION. So You Are Advised To Present Any Of Your Choice Among This Two Option Of The Payment, On How You Want To Receive Your Fund, Either By WIRE TRANSFER OR IN CASH THROUGH OUR DIPLOMATIC COURIER SERVICES, AS YOUR INHERITANCE PAYMENT, So In Regards To The Transfer You Will Provide Any Of Your BANK ACCOUNT DETAILS For The Transfer Of Your Fund With Out Delay. Anyway, I Am Contacting You In Regards To The Instruction Given By United Nations, Please I Will Urge You To Try And Indicate On How You Want Your Fund To Be Released To You From The Two Options Above.

Now your new Payment, United nations Approval No; UN5685P, White House Approved No: WH44CV, Reference No.-35460021, Allocation No: 674632 Password No: 339331, Pin Code No: 55674 and your Certificate of Merit Payment No: 103, Released Code No: 0763; Immediate Citibank Telex confirmation No: -1114433; Secret Code No: XXTN013, Having received these vital payment number, therefore You are qualified now to received and confirm Your payment with the United Nation immediately within the next 72hrs.

As a matter of fact, you are required to Deal and Communicate only with MR. ROBERT BISCHOFF, HEAD OF INTERNATIONAL REMMITTANCE CITIBANK, UNITED KINGDOM, with the help of monitory team from the CITIBANK OF NEW YORK which is our official remitting bank, Committee On Foreign Payment Matters in United Nations, has look up to make sure you receive your Fund. So contact: MR ROBERT BISCHOFF on his contact information, Direct Citibank Telephone No +****************, Cell/mobile +****************** or cell/mobile +******************** Fax Number: +**********************
, Telephone Number: +*********************, Email: *********************, For immediate release of your contract/inheritance/Award Winning claim be informed that you are not allowed to correspond with any person or office anymore, you are required to send bellow information for your transfer.


Note: Your Personal Contact/Communication Code With Citibank Is (011), You Are Advised To Send Your Full Banking Information To The Citibank London, International Remittance Director Headed By Mr. Robert Bischoff And Make Sure You Speak With Him, With Your New Payment Code For The Release Of Your Payment And Send To Him All Your Banking Information Now.

Contact Person: Mr. Robert Bischoff
Position: Head Of International Remittance Citibank Of London.
Telephone Office/Bank: *******************************
Fax Number: ***************************************
Cell/Mobile, ************************************
Email: *************,

Chairman Committee On Foreign Contract And Inheritance fund Payment Notification from United Nations And USA Government.
Sir. Eric Ben.

Wow. I'm speechless.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Post-Production Woes

When I set out to build a system for HD video editing, I was limited by a few factors:
  1. I needed to edit in 1080i (rather than 720p)
  2. I needed to be able to color correct accurately
  3. I needed to mix the sound up to broadcast standards
  4. I didn't want to use any more power than I absolutely needed
  5. I needed the computer parts to be no more than around $3000
So, like so many independent video folks do, I began my quest to build the perfect cheap HD editing system. At the price point, I couldn't afford the hardware to do uncompressed HD editing, and I wasn't about to get into the mess of natively editing HDV MPEG-2 files. This means that I would have to convert the HDV footage into some other compressed codec first before editing.

Since I needed to do accurate color correction, didn't have a $2,000+ broadcast-quality LCD monitor, and did have a professional NTSC video monitor, I opted for the Blackmagic Intensity Pro card, a $250 wonder that uses HDMI to input HD, then your captured/edited HD can be viewed over an HDMI-equipped HDTV/monitor or analog component video-equipped TV/monitor. Using the latter, it worked just fine, since my monitor can do pseudo-HD (Only 800 lines, but enough for color correction).

If you're wondering what any of that has to do with a codec, here's the catch: In order to use the video output features of the Intensity Pro, I would have to use one of the Blackmagic codecs to edit in. Two of the codecs were uncompressed (8-bit and 10-bit HD), so that left an MJPEG variant. The upside of "Online JPEG" (as they named it) was that the storage requirements (both disk space and throughput) are about 1/10th the size they would be for uncompressed 8-bit HD. The downside (I found out) is that it's a processor-intensive codec to use.

In order to get the most bang for my buck (remember, this is towards the start of 2008), I decided on an Intel Core 2 Quad 6600 CPU. All the video benchmarks I could find put it way ahead of equivalent (and even more expensive) CPUs in video encoding benchmarks. I didn't want to fork over the insane cash to get a Quad-core Xeon, or I would've used that.

To make a long story short, I use Premiere Pro CS3 to edit, and I started to notice that just playing back the footage on the editing timeline was eating up 40-60% of my total processing power. That's a little worrying, but it's nothing compared to trying to use more than one video layer unrendered. All of a sudden, attempting to play back a simple transition or still made the CPU jump to around 95% usage, which means frames were being dropped in playback. Sometimes it would crash Premiere Pro entirely. Add to this other problems, including Premiere Pro randomly refusing to render (or even pre-render) footage, and I began to realize I had a problem.

After checking out help files and forums, I upgraded the following programs/drivers (in more or less this order):

  • Premiere Pro CS3
  • Intensity Pro (including a new firmware)
  • NVIDIA Geforce 8800GT
In the case of the first two upgrades, this seemed to help things a little bit... for a while, but only with rendering/pre-rendering. CPU usage was still ridiculously high, and so what I've had to do for the stuff I've done so far (Trailers and a rough cut) is upconvert segments of edited DV footage, and use only minimal titles and transitions. The crazy multi-layered timelines I used to do (in DV) wouldn't work here, so it's looking more and more like I'll need to do all my still usage in After Effects somehow, either by rendering out cut sequences (messy and storage-intensive) or by importing the timelines into After Effects (messier - I have to re-create all my titles, filters, and audio level work).

Update - I finally found a way to design titles and put in pictures, as well as edit DV footage natively. I recieved some XDCAM EX footage, and in the process of converting/importing it, I noticed it ran smoothly and stable (as well as using about 1/3 the processor power). Then I had an idea. I took my existing MJPEG project and imported it into a new XDCAM EX project. The source files were still MJPEG, and I can't do too much preview rendering, but I can now work unrendered with everything. Even Magic Bullet doesn't crash the system unless I have too much open. So, problem solved, but man, what a stupid work-around.

Update 2 - Turns it this didn't solve the full problem after all. During rendering a whole rough cut, Premiere Pro kept crashing on the end credits. Turns out, the titler was doing most of the crashing. The solution? The Windows XP "/3GB" switch in boot.ini, which basically allows individual programs to access more of the total system memory. Now, the titler doesn't crash, and not even the multi-layer Magic Bullet "misfire" effects crash Premiere Pro. The downside? Slower overall file access. I can live with that, though.

I also tried re-importing my XDCAM edit of the project back into an MJPEG project, but unrendered stuff still wouldn't play back well (although it didn't crash), so I;m going to continue to work with the XDCAM project until I'm ready to release the final cut.

Update 3 - Looks like either the /3GB switch causes some sort of memory leak if you try to run several programs in succession, or I have some odd other problem. If I use the computer for an extended period of time (say over 6 hours) or use other programs in the background while Premiere Pro is open, it starts to getting buggier and less responsive, until it needs a forced reboot. I'm going to look into this some more.