Hi All,

I need help from the pro on how to go about recording a live session. So far I've been using a video camera filming the screen, but the result, unsurprisingly, is pretty awful. I've tried looking for another solution but I'm not even sure where to look or what to look for, and the prices I've seen so far are rather sobering.

What I need is a device that will take video input from my Mac (but of course without preventing output to a projector) and audio input from another source (I have a small Zoom HD recorder, it's probably not the best technically but I think it could do for a start) and record this so that I can review it later, and make videos for posting to social networks, or for posterity maybe...

I forgot to say, by live session I mean a session where I'm painting live on my Mac using Studio Artist, and a musician (or musicians) is/are playing live too.

I hope this is clear enough? This is a whole new field for me and I'm not even sure where to look, as I said. What are you guys using, what is it called, where can I find one, how much does it cost...?

TIA

Florence

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Florence, can you somehow send your final video stream not only to the projector, but to a recording device as well?

I have used different gadgets for recording my live sessions, from a DV camcorder to an old PowerBook G4, there’s got to be some cheap(er) options.

But if you are ready to spend a bit of money, have a look at the following device, I mentioned it earlier, it would not only allow you to send your image stream to a recording device (camcorder or Mac with QT Pro or whatever), it would also find a creative use in your live performances (not just recording) and augment greatly your resources.

Good luck!

Hi Jean,

Yes, all I need for this, supposedly, is a HDMI splitter. Unfortunately Atomos recorders don't seem to work very well with this. It didn't work with the first cheap splitter I got, so I called a reseller called Visual Impact for advice, and they sold me a much better device, the Kramer VM-2HXL. But everything the Ninja sees when I use it is a black screen.

The Ninja 2 I bought initially was behaving erratically and asking me to reinstall the firmware repeatedly, so I sent it back, but I was informed that the delay for handling repairs was on average 6 weeks. I didn't want to take the risk, so I bought another device recommended by Visual Impact, this time an Atomos Ninja Star, which is smaller and probably better suited to my needs than the Ninja 2. But it's still not working with the HDMI splitter.

So now I have two HDMI splitters and two video recorders, and still no way to record my sessions. Arg!

The HD equivalent to the device you recommended would be the Roland V-1HD I think, which looks neat but is definitely overkill for me at about 1000 euros. It's very unlikely that I will ever need a video mixer, given how I have worked so far. And I'm not sure that it would work with the Ninja anyway, given how particular it seems to be about its HDMI inputs.

On Monday I will carry the Ninja Star with me to the shop, and if I buy anything there I will TEST it first on the spot!

As a last resort, I can always connect the MacBook to the Ninja, and then the Ninja to the projector. However I am very reluctant to do so, because if anything happens with the Ninja it's likely to mess up the whole performance. I might prefer to just not record anything (apart from using a video camera as I've been doing so far) rather than endanger the performance in any way.

Florence,

I just looked into HDMI splitters (which I have yet to use) and saw that they seem to suffer from the same problems RCA splitters (which I have used) do: they seem to need an external source of power (a power supply) to reliably operate more than one output.

So this is a shot in the dark, but if your HDMI splitters do not come with a power supply, that could explain your black screen on the Ninja.

I had what seems to be a similar problem with RCA splitters when they did not have enough juice to power a demanding signal to a large display.

Also, and this is something I have encountered when using equipment I am not familiar with: when you are setting the specs for the output in your Mac’s System Preferences > Displays control panel, you need to set the refresh rate of the secondary output (projector) at something that is compatible with the Ninja (I know I often have had to settle for 60 Hertz when using secondary digital displays/projectors), so this may be related to what you are running into?

Good luck.

Jean, both my HDMI splitters have their own power supply. And I have tried all the settings available (I think!) for the HDMI splitter AND the monitor settings on the Mac. Although of course there might be a magical combination I have missed... I sent a message to Atomos support and I hope they can help me with that.

OK, things are looking a lot better now. Jean, you were right. I had made some tests with the monitor settings, but they were not systematic enough evidently. I now know that the monitor settings must be on 1080i 50 herz. Now all I need to figure out is how to de interlace my video afterward. Oh, and I'm still having problems with the sound input but that's not too big an issue. I'll try to fix it but at worst I can add the sound later from a separate recording.

Good to see you’re making progress, technical issues can be such a pain, I thoroughly dislike all that plumbing.

De-interlacing can be done in many ways (of course, the ideal is to work with progressive video only, leaving interlaced material behind altogether).

Here’ one freebie that has been really helpful to me for many years: JES Deinterlacer

I don’t know how useful it would be for your needs, I use it exclusively to prepare source material for processing in SA (there are other options in Final Cut Pro, but this one works great and is very easy to use).

If you have to use a separate device to record the sound, give yourself a helping hand by making sure you set a “marker” that is noticeable in both the audio and video, making the synchronization easier (that’s why they use clappers in movies). It will save you a ton of work when editing the recorded performance.

Again, good luck.

Well I'm back to the beginning now, nothing seems to be working. I spent an hour on Monday with the very helpful people at Visual Impact and we concluded that the setup I wanted was just not working. I made more tests yesterday by connecting the Ninja recorder to the computer, then the projector to the Ninja. It worked, more or less. There was a moment where the display of the projector was all messed up. When I tried again the projector was fine, but the recording the Ninja made was usable but strange (the image is smaller than 1080 and there is a black box around it, plus the recorder stops at some points so that there are interruptions). According to the people at Visual Impact, this may be due to my MacBook Pro which is not sending the right signals. I'm beginning to think that the Ninja 2 I sent back for repair was in fact working fine, and the whole problem comes from my old 2009 MBP.

I need to buy a new MBP anyway, but (aside from the financial impact) is it really wise to do this so close to the performance, I'm not sure. And will it really work better, I'm not sure either.

Here’s another shot in the dark: years ago, I had a piece being premiered in Pittsburgh, with music performed by the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble.

Musicians were great, the projector was okay, but my images looked completely different from what I knew I had been working on/with.

I was there for the rehearsals, but all the hardware was that of the PNME conductor, Kevin Noe. I saw that I knew more about calibrating monitors, configuring dsplays and more than he did, so I offered to try to make the videos look better.

Nothing I did made a sigficant difference, I was stumped.

To make a long story short, it had nothing to do with my files, nor the projector or the Mac, it was a bad converter cable running from the Mac to the projector.

As soon as it was replaced by a similar unit, everything finally looked the way it was intended to.

More about those rehearsals here.

As for the black around the less than 1080 video, I occasionally see that with JES Deinterlacer. The Ninja may have pillars and letterbox settings not adjusted to what you are aiming at? (I don’t know what kind of control you have over those settings, as I said, this is another shot in the dark).

And again, I find that having organized a setup by which I capture my final mix during performances onto a Mac has solved a lot of problems. I’ve also had similar success (and have colleagues who use that setup exclusively) by running a video signal (in my case from the Edirol mixer) to a camcorder capable of recording such a stream.

Wishing you good (or better) luck (“merde”).

Thank you Jean! I'm feeling a bit better now after more testing and another hour spent at Visual Impact. I'm starting to feel that I have at least some idea of what to do to make this work. I'm not going to change my MacBook now, it would be crazy. I found that with the monitor setting on the Mac set to 1080p 30 Hz, WITHOUT checking the full screen option, the display on the monitor and the Ninja's recording are good, except for this black box around the image. Apparently the Mac is not sending a full HD image, so I'll have to crop it and reduce the size to 720p. Not a huge problem. And now I can finally record sound, the Visual Impact guy showed me how to.

I don't think the HDMI cables are responsible for the bad signal, but it could possibly be the mini display port to HDMI adapter, although we did make a test with another one at the shop. Most likely it's the Mac itself, or the graphics card. Now I have a reason to get a new Mac, but I'll do that AFTER the performance.

My adrenaline level is slowly starting to drop down from "nuclear attack alert" to just normal "OMG I'll never make it" levels. I think I'll take a break for the rest of the day.

OK, I give up, this performance will not be recorded. Something is wrong in my setup, probably in the computer itself, and I no longer have time to figure it out, I need to concentrate on the important thing, which is getting the performance itself right.

This afternoon as I was starting another test/rehearsal session, everything seemed to be going well until suddenly the projector image was replaced by a bunch of ugly horizontal lines. Interestingly, this happened precisely at the same second that I pressed a button on my Wacom tablet. This is not the first time, in the very beginning the same coincidence happened when the Ninja 2 started misbehaving. Okay, I know, statistically two occurrences are far from enough to suspect it's more than a coincidence. And anyway there is nothing I can do about that, I need those buttons (after years ignoring them, hating them even because they took up so much space, I have finally found a use for them!). I don't NEED to record the session, although of course I would very much like to. I'll try again next time, but for now I'm done losing sleep over this.

Florence, there is a possibility that your tablet’s ExpressKeys are triggering an action that is not desired. Those keys are powerful, they could be set up, intentionally or not, to do all sorts of things. In case you’re not familiar with how they can be mapped to specific actions, here’s a basic video explaining that (made by Wacom). You may already know that but just in case, I am sending you the link.  I use those keys a lot in Studio Artist, in studio work as well as during live performances, they are priceless. Good luck.

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