Sunday, September 30, 2012

My Video Hell

I am right now (in between other, more decisively-deadlined jobs) hard at work on the next episode of "The Game OverThinker." It MIGHT take a little longer than I wanted it to take, read below to learn why...

Every episode of "Game OverThinker" from the beginning until right now have been made entirely using two programs - one for manipulating images, one for arranging and editing video files - made by the same Very Famous Software Company. I won't use their name here because it's still slightly plausible that the problem might be my doing (not looking likely), but let's just say they are Very Famous and are named after a type of building material.


I've spent about a full week (in total hours) shooting footage and building FX for the ending sequence of this next TGO episode (the middle part I'm doing last so everyone can get their "Ask Ivan" questions in) and have managed to finally this afternoon cut it together into proper format. It's a complicated sequence - one actor playing about a dozen characters via greenscreen with a lot of effects and sound elements - but also a short one, not even five minutes in length.

The "Media Encoder" that Very Famous Software Company's video-editing software allows as it's SOLE option for exporting those elements as one solid video file refuses to complete that task - constantly crashing a few seconds through the timeline with no available description of what's causing the crash or what can be done to fix it. My assumption is "too many elements," but A.) I cannot be certain because this is apparently 1983 where it's still "okay" for software to give error messages with no troubleshooting and B.) for the amount of fucking money these programs cost (seriously, figure out who I'm talking about and look up how much they ask for their products) this should NOT be an issue... especially for less than five minutes of footage not even in HD.

Now, normally, this is something you'd fix by calling a customer service person. Oh! But, you see, Very Famous Software Company doesn't have reps available "overnight" (because, as we all know, if people with jobs that involve the use of high-end video-editing software are known for anything it's for keeping reliable 9 to 5 business hours) ...or even in the evening. Or even on weekends. Apparently I can order a Domino's pizza at 2am but I can't get service for a product I'm paying... egh. You get the idea.

SO! After many hours of self-research (because, y'know, no customer service whatsoever) it seems that a seperate "effects specific" product ALSO made by Very Famous Software Company might handle this sort of project better AND I can just pop the "raw" timeline from it's current place into THAT with little difficult. Okay, cool... granted, it's another HUGE chunk of change and there's no garauntee this is going to fix the problem (sure would be nice to talk to a fucking customer service person about that, huh!?,) but it's something...

Wait! Wait! Very Famous Software Company knows their products are expensive, so they graciously offer downloads for FREE TRIALS on their website! Well, that's good news! So I go to download it, and instead of just downloading immediately via that little "do you want to download ______?" window like every other website on the fucking planet it instead asks me to install Very Famous Software Company's PROPRIETARY downloading service (which requires a login ID) onto my system. Of course it does, it's Very Famous Software Company. So I download the proprietary service that I need to download the free trial... and it won't work. Error message after error message. There is nothing wrong with my internet service. More error messages.

I have other priorities to get to at that point, so I set about those while periodically trying to make this proprietary downloading service work. Several hours later, my work is done and the download service still doesn't work.

But wait! There's another option! Very Famous Software Company offers a "Cloud" service whereby you pay a monthly fee and get to use various versions of their products... which includes the trial you've been trying to download! Hurray! And there's even a free trial of the "Cloud" service itself - double hurray!

...except once I've signed up for the "Cloud" trial, I don't see the option on it's "Apps Menu" for the product I signed up to gain access to. It turns out that the "free" trial of the product I signed up for is ONLY available through the paid version of the "Cloud" service. Of course it is. It's Very Famous Software Company.

I'm angry at this point. Like, Incredible Hulk angry. My Twitter looks like the private diary of an intern for the Romney campaign. Just burning up with hatred for Very Famous Software Company, their products, my inarguable professional need to keep using their products and most of all for the fact that once again something I was actually really enjoying doing (I honestly love doing what I do on this show, and this sequence was coming together spectacularly) has now been drained of it's joy and may even need to be scrapped altogether because of all this. I work hard on this stuff, and the parts of it that are fun are often the ONLY fun I really get for days on end.

So... fine, fuck it. It's only money. I sign up for a month's worth of paid "Cloud" service. The level I paid at lets me have full access to ONE product. I pick the one I came looking for a 4th of a DAY ago. They process the transaction. It goes through. The "order summary" pops up with a big button for "DOWNLOAD." I click it...

..."DOWNLOAD" takes me back to that same useless "Apps" menu on the "Cloud" service. The option that I'm looking for, that've now paid them to let me use for a MONTH... is not there. I sign out. I refresh. I sign back in. Try again. No change. My account, billing summary, email reciepts, etc show that I paid to be able to download this and it's not letting me download it.

And there's NOTHING I can do about that tonight. Or tomorrow. Or until Monday. Even though that means two days out of 30 that I've paid for will now be wasted.

Because I can't call their service line and ask why I am not able to access and use this product because Very Famous Software Company cannot be bothered to have a customer service line available on evenings or weekends.

Because, apparently, it is acceptable for a software company that operates a Cloud-based download management service that caters specifically to people who need constant, ready access to products and material to run their customer service on fucking BANKER'S HOURS. ...Oh! Except that term is no longer accurate, because I can call my bank 24 hours a FUCKING day.

The sun is about to come up here, and I'm fucking done for the night. The lone "upside" to this nightmare is that this is, fortunately, NOT happening to a show/project with a contractual deadline - if it was, I'd be losing my mind for real right now.

I'm telling myself it might just be some kind of service delay and I'll be able to access it tomorrow, but I know that's bullshit. I know I'm going to spend monday morning/afternoon on the phone with Very Famous Software Company working this out, either getting the trial that I paid for actually downloaded or at least getting my money back... money which will then go into the fund for the many, many hundreds of dollars I'll be spending to buy either a better computer (who knows, maybe this heap just isn't "strong enough" to render that biiiiiig scaaaaaary 4 1/2 minutes of video!) or to buy the full version of this Very Famous Software Company's "Effects" program because apparently it'll help and I'll be damned if all this work I've already done go to waste.


Chris said...

u wouldn't have this problem if u stopped th storyline!!

now you don't have to wait for it ;)

Anonymous said...

What Chris said.

Lucid said...

And "Very Famous Software Company" wonders why so many people pirate these programs... Disappointing really.

David said...

I feel lucky that as a digital artist Very Big Software's programs are not necessary. They may be the "standard" but I flat out refuse to use them because of things like this. I ran into a similar issue and vowed to never give them my money again. I know that's small consolation but I definitely feel for you. I hope everything works out and I will continue to proudly NOT give them money.

The Mason said...

I love that the GIMP is a free alternative to Very Famous Software Company's ImageStore photo editing software, but someone really needs to make the same thing for their video software.

Evilkinggumby said...


This kind of frustration really sucks. I've been there on other projects. What kind of a computer system do you have now that seems like it may possibly be inadequate? You mentioned it'll cost you many many hundreds o dollars to upgrade to a new system, I'm wondering what you figured you'd need. Are you running strictly off a Mac or off a regular windows PC?

I remember when researching similar software to what you're talking about by BigBoxco one particular recent suite was actually fairly cheap but also massively ridden with bugs and issues, most (but not all) were fixed in a slightly newer version. It is pretty sad to see a company so large and widely used be so lax in their customer service and their quality.. sheesh.

Have you tried taking the original video and converting it to a different format prior to bringing it into the project and 'baking' them together to their one final format? Also, do you know if your current system is running a 32 or 64 bit OS. When I was looking, it seemed BigBoxco's stuff got mighty twitchy in 64 bit environments despite supposedly running better in it.. maybe divert the project onto a flashdrive and baking it on a diff pc that is the other bit version.. not sure.

I was actually in the boston area this weekend, turned out one of the gaming tournament events was happening at our hotel. Was amusing to see so many gamers congregating and talking shop.. Fighting games i think it was. I actually half hoped to spot you poking around, but I guess you are not much for fighting games despite all the battles you have in your vids? hehehe.

Good luck with getting this new video up and going. It really would suck to nip off the last 5 minutes of work because of this glitch, but it sucks more to have the part of these video's you really enjoy have to suffer...

antecedentless said...

Having just fired up my version of encoder, yes it does support output (somewhat) uncompressed AVI. If you have space on your hardisk for many gigabytes per minute, outputing to avi and using some other tool for generating an MP4 for upload like handbrake (never tried it) may be your best option.

MPEG Video compression and many related codes has relied on something called Motion estimation for decades now. The codec is taking potentially thousands of 4x4 to 16x16 pixel chunks of each neighboring frame and finding which direction each of those chunks move from frame to frame. It's a resource intense operation, especially for modern video formats like h.264; and I assume that is where your problem is: not "rendering" the video (compositing), as I am sure you can see a preview just fine, but taking those rendered frames and compressing/packaging into an MP4.

vlademir1 said...

I feel with you here Bob. Having spent ages looking for a good FOSS non-linear video editor, let alone anything more advanced in terms of video, has left me in despair over the last few years. I've tried essentially every open source video product at some point or another and they all fail on some point or another, whether that be interface or actually producing usable output. This is especially true as someone who has code included in several OSS projects.
I wish you luck getting this working as you want it to.

hevendor said...

This makes my heart sink, because I know how annoying rendering with ***** ******** can be. I hope it all works out.
This is a dumb suggestion, but back up your project file so that even if things get deleted, you can imitate all the edits.

Graham said...

I've heard horror stories from other editors who have used that software and the company that makes it.

I find it amazing how these guys can make amazing industry-standard software and apply groundbreaking updates and features, but they never fix any of the bugs from the older versions, no matter how much customers have begged for tech support to fix them.

Since other people in these comments have suggested free alternatives to that company's other software (since they are quite good), might I recommend Lightworks? It's a video editor that has been around for decades (and yes, it HAS been used for feature films), and only a few years ago, it has been released as freeware.

I hope things work out for you, Bob. "Very Famous Software Company" is pretty good, but they're so ignorant of their own flaws that it's frustrating.

Anonymous said...

At top two posters: empathy, guys. You might not enjoy the story segments but now is not the time for bitching and moaning. Bob has already made up his mind and doesn't need any backchat at the moment: if you dislike the story skits so much then either stop watching the show or shut up, don't whinge like toddlers in the (vain) hope than Bob will change his mind.

Anonymous said...

Have you tried checking the memory usage during attempted rendering? Assuming you're using some version of MS Windows, crack open "Task Manager" and see if it's running out of RAM. If it's just that an upgrade should only be a few tens of dollars.

Anonymous said...

You know, if you're spending all this time and effort on something that is ultimately justifiable only on the merits of looking like its "suppose to" look like campy, low budget shit....something has gone horribly wrong.

Anonymous said...

Hope you've had better luck since.

I'd have taken the "ask a friend" approach. Usually if something isn't downloading right, or just is a pain to access, a friend may be able to do it without issue. After that, it's only a matter of getting them to send it to you through Skype or an other file transfer protocol system.

Anonymous said...

Try Blender's video editing. It's free, and any the support comes from the Blender community of users, but it can do basic film editing, greenscreening and some full-screen effects pretty easily.

As a bonus you also get a full suite of 3D modelling and animation tools you'll never use. Did I mention it's free? And it can export to several popular video formats right out of the box, which it doesn't come in, because it's free.

On a completely unrelated note, the other day I tried to build a wall out of sun-dried bricks and the damned thing completely fell apart on me. Fuck adobe! It's a terrible building material!