Isadora Best Practices

Getting the Most from Isadora v2.x

The following tips, given originally in the v2.0 release notes, are so important that we felt we needed to repeat them here. Take the time to read them! Understanding these points allows you to unleash all of Isadora 2.0′s power.

TIP 1: Use the Right Codec for Fastest HD Playback

There is a detailed discussion of this topic in our online knowledge base, but here is the short version:

For Smoothest HD Playback: use H264 on MacOS and WMV on Windows. Set the ‘optimize’ input of the Movie Player to ‘performance’.

For Real-Time Interactive Control: Use Photo JPEG or, if you have an SSD, Apple Pro Res. Full HD resolution will react more slowly than lower resolutions. Set the ‘optimize’ input of the Movie Player to ‘interaction’

Solid State Drives: The importance of using an SSD drive when playing multiple HD clips cannot be overstated. If at all possible, get one for your setup.

HAP: Vidvox’s HAP codec offers good performance on Mac and excellent performance on Windows. If you are going to play more than one clip, you must have data drives that can handle the required transfer speeds; an SSD drive is recommended. HAP codec movies can be used with vid-gpu video streams on Windows, and vid-gpu or vid-ci video streams on Mac.

Please note that HAP codec clips are incompatible with CPU based video (vid-cpu) streams because of their compressed format. If your Movie Player is set to output vid-cpu, HAP movies will not play. (See Tip 2 below for more info about these video stream types.)

Beware of MP4: MP4 files might contain H264 (aka avc1) or they might contain the older, less efficient mp4v codec. Hover over an item in the Media View, and the tooltip shows you a four letter code for the codec. If it says ‘mp4v’ we recommend you re-encode your clip to H264 (avc1).

TIP 2: Know Your Video Formats.

In Isadora 1.x, video was processed on your computers main processor (CPU) as opposed to the super-fast graphics processor (GPU.) Isadora 2.0 supports GPU based video, but maintains support for CPU video so that older Isadora patches can still run. But, from this point forward, you should always be using GPU based video.

Video streams are identified at the inputs and outputs by these three labels:

  • vid-gpu = an HD Compatible, GPU video stream
  • vid-cpu = an Isadora 1.x CPU video stream
  • vid-ci = an HD Compatible, Quartz Composer/Core Image video stream [Mac OS X Only]

Avoid vid-cpu when you can.

TIP 3: Don’t Run HD Video Through CPU Based Video Effects

The older CPU based video effects from Isadora 1.x are very slow when processing video at HD resolutions. Use more than one effect, and your frame rate will drop drastically. We’ve changed the color of all CPU based actors from blue to red to help you know which actors to avoid. If an actor is red, you’ll know that the actor is CPU based, and that you should avoid using 1080p or 720p resolutions. 

Creating more GPU based effects to replace those CPU based actors is a top priority on our road map. If you must convert GPU video to CPU you can use the GPU to CPU Video Converter actor and set the resolution to standard definition (SD) sizes using the ‘width’ and ‘height’ inputs. (If you are doing camera tracking with the Eyes or Eyes++ actors, scale the video down even more.) Keep the CPU based video resolution low to keep your FPS high.

TIP 4: Avoid Converting from vid-gpu or vid-ci video streams to vid-cpu

Pulling data from the graphics card back into the CPU is expensive. Use the GPU to CPU Video Converter and CI to CPU Video Converter actors sparingly.

TIP 5: Avoid actors with the word “Classic” in their name

These are Isadora 1.x modules that have been kept for compatibility, but are destined to be removed. Some, like the Classic Movie Players, have a tendency to crash on recent Macintosh operating systems. By the time we get to Isadora 3.0, you can be certain these actors will be gone. All of the critical actors all have GPU based replacements, so now is the time to stop using them. (GPU updates of Isadora actors like Eyes and Add Alpha Channel are coming very soon.) Like the CPU based video effects, these actors are red instead of blue to make it clear that they are to be avoided.

To encourage you in the right direction, we’ve hidden the Isadora 1.x CPU based actors from the toolbox in Isadora v2.1.  While these actors will still function in older patches, we strongly recommend that you avoid using them in new patches. (In the General tab of the Isadora Preferences, there is an option to reveal these actors in the toolbox, but try not to use it!)

TIP 6: The “Eye” Icon Reveals Hidden Inputs and Outputs

We wrote about this in the previous 2.0 release notes, but it is worth pointing out here again. Some actors have less frequently used inputs or outputs hidden by default. The Movie Player and Projector actors are two important examples where this new feature comes into play. If you see an “eye” icon at the top left of an actor, it means that some of its input or output properties are hidden. To change what properties are visible just double-click the eye. A dialog window will appear that allows you to show/hide inputs and outputs. 

For example, there is no longer a Sound Movie Player actor in Isadora 2.1. Instead, you need to reveal the hidden ‘audio trks’ input, and specify the number of audio tracks in the movie. Once you do, you have the same functionality as the old Sound Movie Player.

If no inputs or outputs are hidden, the eye will not be present. If you want to hide inputs or outputs for an actor without an eye, select the actor and choose Actors > Show/Hide Properties to see the editor dialog. There is a checkbox there that allows you to make your preferred setup the default when adding new actors.

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