Video's Unique Requirements

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Video is a unique creature; it does not enjoy the careful management that other formats do. Web designers have the benefit of designing on computers, for computers. Print designers have precise control during the printing stage, with dedicated professionals calibrating their output devices.

In the world of video, the general population installs $199 color televisions but won't even read the instruction manuals. To make things worse, there's a standards war going on between multiple formats, digital versus analog, standard versus widescreen. Let's just say, your job isn't easy. I want to establish a few key terms immediately to help us move forward. Many of these may seem familiar, so I will keep the introduction short.

Canvas size. This is the area in which you will work. In Photoshop, specify your work area in pixels. It is a good idea to check with the manufacturer of your video software for requirements. These can be found in your owner's manual or on the manufacturer's Web site. You can also check the appendices for recommendations on popular NLE, motion graphics, and DVD authoring programs from top manufacturers.

Aspect ratio. Television is generally a 4X3 aspect ratio, while widescreen is a 16X9 aspect ratio. You will find more information, as well as information on templates, in Chapter 2, "Pixels: Time for Tech."

Image mode. Photoshop supports eight image modes, including bitmap, grayscale, RGB, and CMYK color spaces. For video, work in RGB mode for consistent results with video software.

Bit depth. Also called color depth or pixel depth; a measurement of how much color information is available to be displayed for each pixel in an image. Photoshop users generally work in 8 Bits/Channel mode, because it provides a full set of tools. These 8 bits combine to a total of 24 bits for an RGB image or 32 bits for an RGB image with an alpha channel. Some high-end scanners can capture information at 16 bits per channel. These files are approximately twice the size of their 8-bit counterparts, but contain more detail.

Adobe After Effects and Apple Motion can work with 16-bit images. Starting with Photoshop CS, Adobe now supports layered 16-bit images. However, when working in 16-bit mode, many of the editing tools and filters do not work. You will most frequently work in 8 Bits/Channel mode. Additionally, video editing systems vary on their ability to import 16-bit images. Some will only import a 16-bit image as a flattened file; others will not import it at all.

Luminance ranges. The range of colors supported by video. There are two major color spaces in use for nonlinear edit systems: RGB mapping and 601 Mapping. You should check your syste m to see which is in use. For more details, see Chapter 2, "Pixels: Time for Tech."

Alpha channels. An alpha channel contains information about all of the transparent areas in your composition. All objects should be on transparent layers when creating an alpha channel. Do not place any of your objects on the background layer. For more details, see Chapter 3, "Why Layers?" and Chapter 4, "What About Transparency?"

Anti-aliasing. Anti-aliasing causes a gentle blending of the colors along the edge of an image. It is often used to reduce flicker. This technique is effective for straight lines and text, to create a smoother composite of foreground and background elements. It is most common for low-resolution output (such as video or Web). There are four different types of anti-aliasing that can be accessed from the Options bar or the Character palette.

Nonsquare pixels. Nonsquare pixels are your own personal demon. These cause more problems for more people than anything else about Photoshop. In a nutshell, computers and Photoshop traditionally work with square pixels (1.0 aspect); most standard-definition digital video works with nonsquare pixels, while high-definition works with both square and

16-bit Archives

If you need to archive an image, a 16-bit scan is the best format. You may have to down-convert to 8 bits for compositing or if your NLE does not support the mode, but at least you have the extra data for future applications.

Anti-aliasing helps low-resolution elements containing curved lines (such as text) appear smoother on screen.

Anti-aliasing Essential Information

I Anti-aliasing is critical for smooth edges. However, for really small type, leave it off to improve legibility.

nonsquare pixels. Thankfully, Photoshop supports nonsquare pixels, but you will still need a thorough understanding of square pixels. I attempt to squash this problem thoroughly in Chapter 2, "Pixels: Time for Tech."

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