In this review, Marco Solorio shares his real-world experience using the Nattress Standard Conversion Plugin set. Low-cost software doesnt always mean low-quality results and this software breaks the myth to the Nth degree. Read this review and discover how amazed Marco was with his initial results using this plugin to convert between PAL and NTSC media.
With all the big names in the post production industry, like Apple, Adobe, Discreet and so forth, the little guys tend to get hidden within the shadows of mega-marketing. But when you look hard enough, you sometimes come across a gem that you hope nobody else discovers because its so cool, you want to keep that new, creative secret all to yourself!
I recently did find one of these gems, and its Graeme Nattress Standard Conversion plugin. Albeit small and compact, this plugin packs a serious punch. Now, the plugin itself is fairly simple and straightforward, but the quality to which it renders its conversion process is nothing short of amazing.
I was recently working on a project in Edinburgh, Scotland. To make for an interesting project, the majority of footage was shot at 50i PAL while some other stuff was shot at 60i NTSC and finally to complete the chaos, some stuff was shot at 24p NTSC. Coming back to the United States, I needed to mix this stuff together in different PAL edits. And not to leave us Yanks short, the completed PAL edits I performed needed to be converted to NTSC for U.S. deployment as well. Even the DVD authors were created for both PAL and NTSC! So in the end, this was the perfect opportunity to try out Graemes plugins with everything and anything I could throw at it!
So what do you get for a hundred bucks? Well you get two plugins actually. They consist of G Converter and G Film Converter.
G Converter is the standards converter plugin that allows the conversions of NTSC to/from PAL. Whats more, this plugin allows you to turn interlaced footage into progressive footage. So if you shoot in 60i (30 FPS, interlaced) you can turn it into 30p if you dont like FCPs internal de-interlacing plugin. With G Converter, you even have control over the de-interlacing process through the De-interlace Option pulldown menu and the Tolerance slider. Slick.
G Film Converter goes a step further in the progressive conversion process over G Converter. With this, you can convert 60i to 24p, 50i to 24p or even add 3:2 pulldown from 24p to 60i. And like G Converter, you have control of the de-interlacing and telecine process. So for those of you that want a quick and easy way to turn that 60i footage into a filmic look (with regards to a telecine look), then this may be your inexpensive cup of tea.
Noteworthy is the fact that the instructions and added content on the nattress.com website is full of information. To further entice you, check out the free plugins on the Nattress website! Nice.
When I first downloaded the demo version of the Standards Converter plugin and used it for the first time, I literally did a double-take and had to make certain the footage I converted from NTSC to PAL was actually converted! I instantly emailed Graeme and told him about my exciting findings. Somehow Graeme has engineered a way to convert from PAL to NTSC while maintaining the interlaced fields, abstaining from any unsightly motion-jitter artifacts and keeping aspect ratios in order. My jaw simply dropped at the results. Literally.
Later I performed PAL to NTSC conversions. Again, my findings were better than I would have ever expected. The PAL to NTSC conversion actually has a slight filmic conversion quality akin to 24p going through a telecine with 3:2 pulldown.
While attending NAB this year, I visited the Snell & Wilcox booth and checked out their real-time standards converters. Their base unit, starting at around $30k USD, was nothing short of amazing... thats what you get for real-time accuracy! How would I compare the quality of the Standards Conversion plugin with the S & W unit? The conversion quality of G Converter might be just a bit short of the S & W quality, but for $29,900 less, Ill take the plugin and render!
So how does this plugin compare to Final Cut Pros built-in conversion process? Well for Final Cut Pros standards conversion algorithm, I have one word caca. If youve tried it, you know what Im talking about. Dont even waste 10 minutes of your time if youve never tried it... seriously.
Now why is it that whenever I come across these awesome plugins that give me superior results (read my Twixtor review), I get slow render times? Unfortunately the Standards Converter plugin is no different. Even on a dual G5 I got fairly slow render times, but it took an eternity on a dual 800 G4. But even in my Twixtor review, I mentioned that sometimes superior quality and accuracy can far outweigh render times.
Render times for 10-second clip. Time results are in minutes.
Dual 800MHz G4 (Quicksilver)
Dual 1.8GHz G5 (PCI-X Version)
PAL to NTSC
NTSC to PAL
It's funny that the G4 and G5 fair at roughly the same amount of time to render this 10-second clip. But lets not forget that it took about a 6:1 time ratio to complete the task. The G5 held its ground on the NTSC to PAL conversion but the G4 took almost three times the amount of time to calculate the same media in comparison to the G5. The G4 in total gulps down a staggering 18:1 render time ratio for the NTSC to PAL conversion.
Graeme has added some new features to the G Converter, namely progressive frame support. So if youre shooting in 24p, 25p or 30p, you can now perform standards conversion with no problem. Before, the lack of interlaced fields might have caused problems, although I didnt run into any myself.
If youre performing standards conversions within Final Cut Pro, this plugin is an absolute no-brainer. This will be the very best $100 youll ever spend! Download the demo and try it for yourself. After you see the results, youll spend that $100 faster than you can imagine.
If the render times were faster, Id give this a perfect 5 stars, but because the quality is so amazing, Im giving this a 4.5 rating. I cannot recommend this plugin enough.
Marco Solorio is a multi-award winning digital media producer and published writer working in the San Francisco Bay Area. He owns and operates OneRiver Media, a succesful post-production facility focused on bringing the highest level of quality to each and every project in a reality-TV-era of "cheap, fast and cheap". Marco Solorio is also credited for the internationally recognized OneRiver Media Codec Resource Site, a resource that compares various codecs for the benefit of end-users and developers alike.
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