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Why not usb-sticks at BIAFF?

Posted: Mon Nov 02, 2015 4:21 pm
by Willy
I remember one particular BIAFF very well. Urbain Appeltans, the Belgian winner of the top prize, the Daily Mail Trophy, wanted to show his film on format 16:9 at the winners' show. All films were screened on 4:3 at that time. But there was some discussion. I think that Dave and Michael Slowe witnessed that chat. It was about ten years ago. Time passes very quickly.

Now one of my friends asked me if he could forward a usb-stick to the BIAFF-competition manager instead of a mini-dv or a dvd. The BIAFF-rules are clear: "Entries should be on a dvd-tape or DVD-formats capable of being shown on a standard domestic player. High definition films will be accepted on blu-ray discs and HD-tape provided a standard defintion back up copy is also supplied... Films cannot be accepted in the form of a link to online location, except for the additional copy to help the judges to write the appraisal."

I told my friend that in my opinion it was wise to send dvd's or mini-dv-tapes. But he found it very unusual. Actually I agreed with him.

But maybe the BIAFF-rule is not clear for 100%, because the word should expresses "moral obligation" in English. So I wonder if the first sentence should not be changed into/must not be changed into : "Entries must be on dvd-tape..." Not should, but must.

In our Belgian regional and national competitions dvd's or mini-dv-tapes are not allowed. Our rules changed about five or six years ago. Why? Because not all standard domestic players accept all dvd-discs, they said. At competitions and festivals the organizers use their multi-media players or other machines. Even on club level. Each time when we are invited to show films in a different club we bring our usb-stick. Am I wrong to say that there are no international festivals where usb-sticks are accepted?

Personnally I think that nowadays all domestic players accept all dvd's, but my friend is right when he says that the image quality on a usb-stick is better. What do you think? Moreover blu-ray is history I fear... That's a pity in my opinion.

Re: Why not usb-sticks at BIAFF?

Posted: Mon Nov 02, 2015 5:19 pm
by TimStannard
I suspect the reason for DVD is that this is the most likely format to play on all machines. We have had bad experiences with USB sticks at my club. It is not enough to say "film on a USB stick" as some codecs will play on some media players and not on others. And then you have the whole issue of what bit rate to set (again we all want the highest bit rate possible, but some players will manage higher bit rates than others).

Blu Ray *should* have at least provided a standard (or rather several standards) for HD presentation, but has not really taken off and bitrates and resolutions now far exceed those standards. (What's more even BluRay doesn't always work as I found out when trying to play my daughter's wedding on her husbands XBOX One - it will not play a BD WITHOUT DRM protection! Thank you Microsoft)

I agree, the organisers need come up with a standard format or format, but it has to be a very clearly defined set of standards, and this is particularly difficult when the goalposts seem to change every 10 minutes. The last thing (volunteer) judges need to be doing (or Dave Newman, when compiling the shows for that matter) is scrabbling around trying to find a player capable of playing my latest 8K 22:9 400Mbps dodgy codec file.

Even then, the "backup DVD" seems very sensible.

Re: Why not usb-sticks at BIAFF?

Posted: Mon Nov 02, 2015 8:06 pm
by Michael Slowe
This is a topic that will run and run (and run). Personally I am a great fan of DVD's and BD's. I've never experienced a 'fail to play' and BD's in particular look fantastic on a big HD screen. However, as has been said, they are on the way out. The industry is all file based now since these can be uploaded and transferred so easily over the modern networks. If you are out in the country on 'dial up' wi fi then this of course won't apply!

I've been submitting films to festivals through the Withoutabox and FilmFreeway organisations and they ask you to upload a file of your film which they then make available to festival organisers. They will also accept a link to your Vimeo site if you have your film placed there. Many festivals are also accepting entries via discs but this is becoming less and less common.

I would have thought that BIAFF could continue with their current arrangements for a few years yet but, in the meantime, might consider providing the facility for files to be accessed on line. It is a debate for Council but a few experienced 'old hands' could be consulted.

Modern technology has progressed so quickly, the compression software is so efficient. A 50Gb ProRes file of a film (in HD), is now compressed for Vimeo down to 3Gbs, goodness knows what they then do to it but on playing on a computer it looks amazing. One wonders why our cameras are busy shooting such big files!

Re: Why not usb-sticks at BIAFF?

Posted: Tue Nov 03, 2015 2:39 pm
by Willy
Indeed, Michael, DVD's and BD's are on the way out. No discussion about it. I hate that evolution, but I must accept it. I have a few hundred DVD's in my own "library" and also a few hundred mini-DV-tapes, but what will happen to them in let's say ten or twenty years...? Now some of my films are on hard drives 1T and on SD-cards and ... I hate technical progress... but I feel I must live with it. I think it is also one of the reasons why older filmmakers like us are more and more discouraged. My grandsons, however, ... they love these new things.

A few weeks ago Screen Archive South East asked me to send them a hard drive. I hesitated, but they wanted to put an old documentary on it. Old footage. Very useful for my next film. I sent my 1 terabyte to them by parcelpost. A few days later they returned it, but they forgot to return my usb 3.0 cable. Now I have to try and find such a new cable. I have mixed feelings about technical progress.

But now back to the thread. We Transfer is more and more used by my clubmates and friends. One of them helped me to edit a part of my film. I always edit my films myself, but this time he insisted to do so because he had directed that scene for me. I accepted for once and after one week he sent me a file called "We Transfer". He explained what he had done. He asked me to download the film. Now it's in my computer and I am happy with this. How easy it was! Yes, why not using this system at festivals? My technical knowledge is very poor, but sometimes we must have the courage to change things.

My BIAFF-friend said that it would be so easy to send his film to the competition manager in that way. He is right. I agree with him.

Re: Why not usb-sticks at BIAFF?

Posted: Thu Nov 05, 2015 6:19 pm
by col lamb
Alas its not that simple.

At PMM we have a BR player and a DVD player recorder and on many occasions we have received a disc that will not play on one of the devices, the only time when neither player would play a disc was when the disc concerned was a rewritable.

To play any solid state file the player concerned has to have the correct codec in its software, so presently there is no guarantee that such a file will play in full SD or HD. The situation is better than it was a couple of years ago.

The best file format is MPG for DVD quality files and MP4 for HD, these should ensure the most compatible formats for playback on AN Others players/PC/Mac.

Files uploaded onto Vimeo and Youtube are of a low data rate and whilst OK for viewing on a smallish screen, there will be compromises if files produced for these websites are viewed via projection.

There are many media players now available and the quality of said players varies widely, I would still recommend any WD media player as the device of choice for any club etc

4k media players, well best wait and see for these as the reviews of those currently available are inconsistent in performance.