Axiom in Boston on Sept 11

August 10th, 2009 · 3 Comments · Tools and Tech


We’re pleased to be a part of the Pulling Back the Curtain exhibition at Axiom in Boston from August 17th to September 27th, with a reception on September 11th from 6-9 pm. We’re projecting 5 videos in HD.

Which raises the question: how does one show HD video art content? Allow me to nerd out for a moment.

This question has bugged us for the last 6 months. This was one of the main reasons we resisted upgrading to HD. For the last three shows, we’ve tried the usual solutions to get around this problem and haven’t liked anything until now. Here’s what we’ve considered:

1) An SD (standard definition) disc playing on a DVD player. This is by far the worst way to see video art. It’s even worse than VHS. At least with VHS you get a authentic older technology feel. The compression (those jagged geometric shapes that live in the dark places) is absolutely horrific (unless the artist is making work about them). HD content on SD discs is much better than SD content on SD discs, but still: the low resolution combined with the high amount of visual artifacts is downright embarrassing. 

2) Blue Ray discs. We have several video artists friends who have successfully started to rely on this format. They all have battle scars though. One friend said it took 6 months to resolve a workable solution (his price for always being ahead of the curve). Final Cut Pro (standard pro video editing program we–and everyone we know–use) just came out with a new version that can burn Blue Ray. Sort of. I’ve talked to the Apple FCP reps and it’s not fully supported. It only works through Compressor (part of the FCP suite), not DVD Studio Pro (the program designed to master discs) and is filled with holes. Like for example you can’t custom design a menu or a disc without a menu (like for exhibitions). 

There are other programs like Toast that people use to burn BR discs, but I’m suspicious: Meg and I use too many funky formats and have such specific needs (being able to burn a disc with no menus that loop, being able to customize a menu, being compatible with 24P, 30P, etc) that I’m wary of investing the money into the software, burning hardware and playing hardware only to discover there is something we need that all this third party stuff mashed together won’t do. There are just too many variables.

Further: disc formats, including Blue Ray, seem already dead. Video is already going the way of computers and hard drives (see what has happened so quickly to music).

3) Multimedia hard drives. This is an exciting new development. Brands like Lacie have begun to spend a lot of energy here. Till now, they haven’t been able to handle 1080P (without uprezzing smaller files). Lacie just came out with a new one that apparently will. It’s a harddrive with a small computer attached that controls playback. You can load your digital movies on it and then plug it into a monitor or projector.  It’s even got the ability to auto play and loop (heads up artists). It’s not out yet but is coming shortly (it’s already on Lacie’s site so it should be here within weeks/months)

4) Ok so the future looks bright, what do we do now? The Mac Mini. We just picked one up for $634 to drive the Axiom show. We did a lot of research and recommend the cheaper Mini with 2 GB ram (with 2 GB the video card shares 256mb to help with large files–additional ram will not help). This unit plays our intense DVCPRO compressed 1080P HD videos without blinking. Without the additional compression that discs place on work, the images look stunning. Further: uprezzed SD content without disc compression looks SMASHING: better than we’ve ever exhibited it. 

You can easily hook these things up so that when the power comes on, they automatically turn on, open your video and loop it (using Automator–included on all Macs). This means we hand a box to the gallery and all they have to do is turn on and off the power strip to turn on or off a video show.

Category: Tools and Tech

3 Comments so far ↓

  • zack

    I ran this gauntlet last year. It’s good to see other people work out similar solutions. One method that I tried was an Apple TV- the video looked great but had no looping function. A 3rd path was making HD DVDs in DVD Studio Pro. My Toshiba HD DVD Player could play through the video well once, but got jammed up after multiple loops and would stall. At some point I almost bought an xbox! Its a long tedious road of research to meet hd bend in the road.
    What you didn’t mention though is what how you are displaying the videos- lcd tvs, 720p or 1080p projectors?

  • Murray McMillan

    Thanks Zach
    Checked out your site. Beautiful ideas and images.
    Good to know about those other strategies.
    We’re showing on the gallery’s 720P projector. I’m still stoked about zero compression so I’m feeling generous about the fewer pixels. Give me a year or two to get more picky.
    : )

  • zack

    Thanks for the compliment Murray.
    I have only been using LCD tvs and have yet to use HD projectors, but have heard really good things. 720p is quite a jump from interlacing. Enjoy!

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