Vimeo, the service you love to hate.

Video and The Internet have formed a symbiotic relationship, each one driving the other. The rampant success of You Tube created a need for more sophisticated video hosting, and vimeo has gained a lot of traction as the arty alternative for many of us photographers turned filmmakers.

The great thing about vimeo is the community that has sprung up around it.

The bad thing about vimeo is that, although they have three levels of service, (free, Plus and Pro levels), they don’t make any provision for enhanced customer service with the extra money paid for the Plus and Pro accounts.

This would not be a problem except that hosting video content seems to have quite a few technical pitfalls. Things go wrong with uploads and streaming quality on a fairly regular basis and when that happens, you are at the tender mercies of a small handful of folks who address your concerns through an online forum: Unfortunately, vimeo doesn’t provide telephone or even online chat support.

About six weeks ago, I began hearing from viewers that some of my vimeo hosted videos were not HD by default even though they were all HD in size. HD could be turned on, but you’d rather not have your viewers have to do that, besides, many might miss that, and go ahead and view the video in SD.

As soon as I realized there was a problem, I went on the vimeo help forum. One of the disconcerting aspects of this help forum is that you will get several people responding. Some of them seem to have read the previous posts on the issue, but not always, so you feel like you have to keep explaining the problem and all its nuances. It would be far better IMHO if vimeo would put one person on the issue and have them stick with it until resolved.

The second disconcerting aspect is that the default response assumes that you did something wrong or have some incorrect setting. It usually takes a few rounds of posts before the vimeo “problem sorting team” actually does some testing on their own. In fact it took three weeks before vimeo acknowledged that my issue was an actual “bug”.

The third disconcerting aspect is that vimeo seems to be constantly overwhelmed with technical issues. Reading through their help forum makes it clear that they play “wack-a-mole” with technical bugs day in and day out.

As of this writing, vimeo still doesn’t have an answer other than to say “This is one of the more challenging bugs we’ve been trying to sort about because there are just so many variables. Our developers are in fact trying to pluck away at this issue and we’re moving as fast as we can to have it sorted out. We know how frustrating this must be, and I do sincerely apologize.”

Oh, and they gave me one free month on my Pro subscription, so maybe they do get customer service after all.

YouSendIt sucks Bandwidth & the work-around

Seems that living the digital life, as we must do now, requires us to deal with a steady stream of curve balls. When digital delivery of image files became mainstream a few years ago, I was very happy not to have to make those end of the day screaming runs to the nearest FEDEX box.

All was good until recently I noticed that when I sent files via YouSendIt, a popular FTP utility service, the rest of my internet activities came to a halt. YouSendIt (YSI for short) would max out my upload bandwidth and the result was that I couldn’t even send or receive emails, much less follow up on Kim Kardashian’s latest fashion mistakes while idly waiting for files to be delivered.

If it was just my digital life that was on hold, it wouldn’t be so bad, but I share the network with my web designer wife, and she gets in a really bad mood when the Internet shuts down. At first, I blamed Comcast, my ISP, since they have been implicated in nefarious plots to “shape” web traffic. Maybe they had me figured for a uTorrent type and threw a switch every time I hit “send”. Hours of tech calls convinced me that Comcast wasn’t to blame, so I turned my attention to YSI. Their tech people finally admitted that it was possible that their express service, with its increased upload speed, could use up all the available bandwidth.

What YSI really needs to do is either limit the upload speed to something like 80% of available bandwidth, or better yet, provide an upload throttle -much like vimeo does- so that the user can choose the ratio of speed vs. lack of internet for him/her self.

Since that though hasn’t occurred to the YSI folks yet (or maybe they don’t want to go to the trouble to implement it) I searched for a work-around. I found that web based FTP utilities, including the YSI web based utility sent files at about 50% of the upload speed of the YSI Express application so the problem was avoided, but at the cost of double the time to send files.

My current strategy is to use the web based YSI during the day (especially if the web designer was online) and to use the Express application late at night or when the resident web designer was taking a lunch or gym break.

If anyone out there has other thoughts or solutions, I’d love to hear them. You can email me at:

What’s up with Apple?

Way back when, my first computer was a PC running Windows 3.1. By 1999, I was ready to get a “real” computer, meaning something I could use for Photoshop, so I bought my first Mac. It was an OS 9.0 G4 tower. Ever since then I have bought a new tower every 2-3 years. I currently have a 2010 2.4 ghz 8 core machine. Its been great for Photoshop, Lightroom and everything else. Now that I have moved into video production, no amount of tweaking has given me the video editing machinery that I really need.

It’s sort of like upgrading a bicycle. You can hang all kinds of fancy parts on it- but if the frame isn’t up-to-date, you are throwing money down a rat-hole.

Over time I have added large fast drives, upped the RAM to 36 GB, and installed an NVIDIA Quadro 4000 graphics card to take advantage of the CUDA acceleration built into Adobe Premiere Pro. I also upgraded to Premiere Pro 6.0 since Adobe has been improving performance with each new release. The last thing I did was add a Matrox Mojito card in order to speed up exporting .h264 files and also to add a calibrated LCD TV monitor to do color grading.

I have been able to get by hanging new parts on the thing, but the bottleneck is clearly the out of date processor- the “frame” so to speak. I keep the Activity Monitor app open constantly as I work in PP, and usually see a solid cube of green as all 8 cores are at the limit. “Riding on the rivets” in bicycle terminology.

In previous years, whenever this happened, I’d splash out for a new tower, and enjoy 2-3 years of (more or less) smooth workflow. Now Apple has let me down. Even a laptop or an i-mac has more modern processors then a new Mac Pro. These newer intel CPU’s have circuits specially designed to unwrap .h264 codecs. This has become an essential feature, largely because of the DSLR video revolution.

Although there are many variables to consider when designing a video editing workflow, the root decision is whether to edit a large lightly compressed codec, or a smaller (in terms of disk space) more highly compressed codec- such as one of the .H264 variants. Apple developed their Pro-Res codecs at a time when computers really couldn’t handle editing the highly compressed .H264 codec. Over time, it appears that Apple became wedded to the so-called transcoding workflow, while Adobe became the innovator with Premiere Pro designed to playback & edit .H264 in real time. The advantage is that you save the time it takes to transcode footage, and you save considerable disk space since Apple Pro Res creates a disk footprint 1.6 x greater than the original footage. If you are like me, you’ll probably want to hang onto the original footage as well, so you are looking at storing and backing up almost 3 times more data than if you used the Adobe-decode on the fly-workflow. Final Cut 7 users didn’t really feel the pinch of not having 64 bit processing so much because they had to use Pro-Res for editing anyway. Sure 64-bit would have made things better, but 32-bit still worked. On the other hand, putting the footage on a fast RAID 0 arrangement was one way to speed things up because Apple Pro Res is disk intensive rather than processor & RAM intensive. Adobe Premiere Pro is just he opposite, being mostly processor intensive, then RAM intensive and then GPU (graphics card) intensive, in that order.

OK, so where does that leave us with the Mac Pro? Maybe folks at Apple don’t even consider the needs of folks who use Adobe Premiere Pro, but it has become painfully obvious that the need for a multi-core, high ghz, modern CPU with .h264 decoding built in, is not being addressed. You can still buy a new Mac Pro, but it won’t have what you need for native DSLR video editing.

The need has become so great that many previous Mac folks are switching to HP workstations and others willing to suffer in other ways are building “Hackintoshes”.

I’m still holding out hope that Apple will build a new Mac Pro, perhaps using the new Ivy Bridge processors. Unfortunately similar rumors surfaced last year after the release of the Sandy Bridge processors and nothing materialized.

All of this wouldn’t be quite so bad if Apple had chosen to create a Final Cut 8, designed for 64-bit processing and therefor suitable for .H264 editing. Instead they came out with Final Cut X, which by all accounts, was not what video professionals had been looking for.

Clearly Apple has turned it’s back on the creative community that put the panache in Apple’s reputation to begin with. After years of creating a strong niche market in the video community, Apple has seemingly treated that niche market with a corporate shrug.