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Marco Solorio reviews Nattress Standards Conversion Plugin

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Marco Solorio reviews Nattress Standards Conversion Plugin
A CreativeCow.net Product Review



Marco Solorio reviews Nattress Standards Conversion Plugin

Marco Solorio
Marco Solorio
OneRiver Media
Walnut Creek, California, USA
www.onerivermedia.com

Article © 2004, Marco Solorio


Article Focus:
In this review, Marco Solorio shares his real-world experience using the Nattress Standard Conversion Plugin set. Low-cost software doesn’t 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 it’s so cool, you want to keep that new, creative secret all to yourself!

I recently did find one of these gems, and it’s 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 Graeme’s plugins with everything and anything I could throw at it!



The Goods

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. What’s 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 don’t like FCP’s 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.


Quality

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... that’s 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, I’ll take the plugin and render!

So how does this plugin compare to Final Cut Pro’s built-in conversion process? Well for Final Cut Pro’s standards conversion algorithm, I have one word… caca. If you’ve tried it, you know what I’m talking about. Don’t even waste 10 minutes of your time if you’ve never tried it... seriously.


Performance

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 01:08 00:59
NTSC to PAL 02:56 00:56

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.


New Features

Graeme has added some new features to the G Converter, namely progressive frame support. So if you’re 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 didn’t run into any myself.


Conclusion

If you’re performing standards conversions within Final Cut Pro, this plugin is an absolute no-brainer. This will be the very best $100 you’ll ever spend! Download the demo and try it for yourself. After you see the results, you’ll spend that $100 faster than you can imagine.

If the render times were faster, I’d give this a perfect 5 stars, but because the quality is so amazing, I’m giving this a 4.5 rating. I cannot recommend this plugin enough.


I give this plugin 4.5 out of 5 Cows.

Price:

$100 USD - Standards Conversion V1.5


Link: Nattress Plugins - http://www.nattress.com/standardsConversion.htm



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.

::: Page design and layout by Marco Solorio of OneRiver Media
::: Article © 2004, Marco Solorio



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