When I first began writing this blog in 2016, its focus was on the production of guerrilla videos. That is still one of my major interests and goals. The name Unit One was a reference to a smaller video production organization. Many major films employ both a first and a second unit. “The functions of the second unit vary, but typically the first unit films the key face-to-face drama between the principal actors.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_unit
In the 1930s, there were several prominent film organizations, that used unit in their names, including the General Post Office Film Unit, in the United Kingdom, and the National Film Unit in New Zealand. Another source of inspiration was British Transport Films, that existed from 1949 to 1982, making documentary films, included training films, travelogues and industrial films, many about the British railway network. The name, Unit One, also paid homage to the original Unit One, an influential modern art movement that existed from 1933 to 1935 featuring Paul Nash, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson, Edward Wadsworth and Herbert Read. It is noted for revitalised British art in the inter-war period. The idea was that this Unit One could (re)vitalise video production in Inderøy.
The concept was that a small production facility using 20 square meters of space, and a spartan crew, could produce videos with a social conscience for assorted groups, including those working under the name Joyous Marmot Creations. At the time, it could also considering making videos at and for inmates at Verdal Prison, as well as for the local Friends of the Earth group in Inderøy. Because of this, I felt it was appropriate to separate the technical facilities from the more artistic ones.
The main reason neither Joyous Marmot Creations nor Unit One – as a video producer – got off the ground was a lack of dedication, although one serious misunderstanding was a contributing factor. Since I’m not particularly good at taking responsibility for my actions, I’ll ignore the hippopotamus in the river, and comment on a failed equipment investment.
The essence of the problem is that Canon, Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, Microsoft, Apple and Adobe all want to profit from my interest in video. Yet, they are doing nothing to ensure that their products all work seamlessly together to ensure that this happens.
In 2013, I thought I had made a prudent purchase when I bought a Canon XA-10 camcorder. I was aware that it used AVCHD file formats for recording. I was also aware that Sony and Panasonic developed this format, which was introduced in 2006, primarily for high definition consumer camcorders. Note the term used, consumer. Unlike many other camcorders, the XA-10 allowed one to record on removable SD cards. Other cameras used DVDs, mini-DVDs, HDDs (Hard Disk Drives), propitiatory memory cards and non-removable solid state memory.
The advantages of SD cards are their compactness and light weight. They contains no moving parts, their operation is (almost) silent. They allow the camera to be more compact and less prone to mechanical damage.They do not need time to spin-up and initialization. They are immune to variations in magnetic fields. They tolerate a wide range of temperatures, air pressures, humidity and vibrations. They can be backed up easily. They can store a wide variety of media content. A wide variety of devices, including computers, TV sets, Blu-ray players, and media players have built-in card readers and can play AVCHD video directly from a card.
Despite this there are some disadvantages. They are more expensive per minute of recording than some other formats. They are unreliable for long term storage and may wear out. This applies to cards made with MLC technology. Static electricity and high temperatures can pose problems. Data corruption from a bad memory card can result in a loss of clips.
Despite having a licenced version of Adobe Premiere Pro 6 provided by my employer on a HP laptop computer running Windows 7, with a 500 GB Samsung EVO Solid State Drive, the program would not edit my files, regardless of what I tried.
Searching the internet for answers, one finds comments like this one from Ease Fab ( https://www.easefab.com/topic-avchd/import-mts-files-to-premiere-pro.html ): “…it not easy to import MTS [an ACVHD file format] to Premiere Pro. Although Adobe claimed that Premiere Pro CS5 and above (Premiere CS6, CC) offer much better native AVCHD support than it predecessor, there are still some video, audio codec problems like the common missing audio tracks when opening and editing AVCHD MTS clips in Premiere Pro. Plus, even the Premiere Pro can ingest your MTS files directly, it takes a long time for rendering. Fortunately, there is an easy way to fix the issues. The easy workaround is to convert MTS to Premiere Pro supported file formats like MPEG-2, MOV or WMV with a MTS AVCHD Converter.”
In other words Ease Fab’s solution is for me to spend money on a converter, then edit in a sub-optimal format.
Another part of the problem is the processing power required. Compared to HDV format, AVCHD requires two to four times the processing power for real time playback. While being sold as a consumer high-definition format, AVCHD demands professional (read very expensive) equipment, in terms of memory, CPU and graphics cards.
At Leksvik senior secondary school, where I also worked, I had access to a Mac machine, with a licensed version of Final Cut Pro. This machine and software could not edit AVCHD clips directly, but converted them into the Apple Intermediate Codec format, which consumed exorbitant amounts of hard disk space (40GB per hour). The result was also sub-optimal. I also tried using another Apple machine given to me by my daughter. Again, it was not up to the task.
The OpenShot video editor is open-source, available for FreeBSD, Linux, macOS and Windows. Jonathan Thomas started work on the project in 2008. He wanted to provide a stable, free and user friendly video editor. OpenShot supports the AVCHD codec.
Unfortunately, by the time I was about to edit video films in 2013, OpenShot was criticized for its unreliability. Developers said that this came from the instability of the MLT library and GTK Timeline. Since then newer versions of OpenShot use their own library for video processing, making the software more stable (read, reliable). OpenShot uses AppImage for distribution of its Linux versions. This provides a single binary that can be run on most modern Linux distributions.
In 2018, the situation for using AVCHD has vastly improved. Multi-core CPUs and more powerful graphic processors allow AVCHD to be edited on consumer desktop and laptop machines. Unfortunately, this development has happened about five years too late, which brings us back to the Rhinoceros on the Savanna, and my lack of dedication.
Unit One: Woodworking Work Space
Since 2017 my interests have changed direction. I am returning to an interest in woodworking, that I first developed as a young teenager in 1962. While video remains one of my interests, Unit One is no longer involved in video production.
One Reply to “Unit One: Origins & Frustrations”
I recall we got multiple minutes of one scene edited. You have to love doing the editing in order to be in the video production industry. I learned this the hard way creating a wedding video once upon a time.