Failure is an option; in fact it costs extra….

In general computers aren’t inexpensive, compared when the first IBM XT first made a home for itself in our living room back in the day, they are down-right free, but it’s still far too easy to pay $1,000 for a good desktop machine. So why is it that in order for us to get this much needed and heralded new productivity tool – we have to, and are expected to tolerate all of the complete failures of the industry? It is in fact, the only industry where you know the thing you’re buying isn’t going to work right, or even as advertised and/or designed; and yet the money is spent regardless.

Office Space - kill the printer sceneI’m working on some rather involved video projects at work right now, 3 separate ones in fact, and they all have to be done today and burned to DVD. I started working with the RAW footage 2 weeks ago getting it into After Effects, and since all our hardware and software is 4 years old – naturally things did not go well. About a week into it I started getting an error:

After Effects error: retrieving frame from video stream. (3) (53 :: 34)

The problem began rather benignly, and I was able to keep it at bay by turning the preview resolution down to one third, and continuing to work. On last Thursday, out of the blue, the video just simply would not render. None of it. Not an 18 minute clip or a 1.5 minute clip. After a little of freak out, I thought about what I had last done, and removed the filters applied to the video…. Negative. No joy.

Being the upgrade happy little boy that I am, I decided to download the 837 mb trial of After Effects CS3. After installing it and goofing around a bit – it worked like a charm! I was back in bidness! Well, not quite. I was back in bidness until Monday – then all hell broke loose. Some clips started to fail, so I switched CODECs, and that worked until Monday Evening when my over night render failed, and left my video machine running at like 75% capacity all night.

As a side note, I never did find a solution as to why this error started popping up. Some folks online decided it is a CODEC issue, but if that’s the case then how did switching to After Effects CS3 (from 6.5) help, when my version of Premiere is the same release version as After Effects? They should both be able to handle the same CODECS, and I used a CODEC that was available to both applications.

Since then, I have been left with no solution other than rendering out the clips from After Effects in small sections and recompiling them in Premiere to achieve the final output. WTF?! Okay, it works, but it’s retarded. Right now the only thing I can assume is that the machine could use another 2gb or RAM to max it to the Windows XP limit for 32 bit versions (4gb). I can’t upgrade Premiere, or migrate to the 64 bit XP because my stupid Matrox card isn’t supported any longer, and they end of life it.

Even with the resources available, I haven’t had any problems in the 4 years we have had this machine. I regularly use Premiere and After Effects in tandem to produce video for various events, so just saying that it needs more juice, doesn’t explain how all of the files can simply render one day and not the next. Is it a hardware problem or software, a double-whammy combo of the two?

I shouldn’t complain I guess. This is what I get for choosing a path in the computer industry right? Software and hardware manufacturers know their products are going to break when they sell it to you, so I should expect it by now. Just look at Vista; they had plans for releasing SP1 even before the OS hit the retail shelves – nice going on that one.

This sort of things happens all the time across the board, and you just get used to it. Whether it be reinstalling Windows XP every 12 to 18 months because the install just gets too dorked to work with, Flash just randomly booting you out for no good reason, Office 2007 files getting corrupted after running Windows Update, or any number of other glitches. What’s sad is that you do get used to it, you expect, and companies have built safeguards into their applications because of it, you probably have it enabled right now in fact; auto-save.

I’m glad my car works better than my computers.

:: update ::
The problems that I was experiencing in After Effects seemed to be directly related to system resources, and the fact that the machine I use to render video at work needs more. With greater than 50 layers, and no less than 30 gb of source footage – the Machine just doesn’t have the chutzpah to pull it all off. There are upgrades int he future – another CPU, and more RAM….

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