Lord of the Rings Extended Edition DVDs on Kodi

Due to circumstances, my old Media Center and all its data were lost to me. I have recently replaced it with a new one and have begun once again laboriously rebuilding my DVD collection and ripping it to the server. In the course of doing so, I ran into a problem with my Lord of the Rings Special Extended Edition DVDs. The Movie Database, from which Kodi typically pulls metadata, doesn't contain any information about DVD releases, and it has no way of distinguishing between the four discs in the set. So using the usual scraper means that only Disc 1 of each movie is accessible.

I looked around a bit and found several people asking questions about this problem, and some even saying they'd solved it, but none of them shared how they'd solved it. So for your convenience, here's my solution and a downloadable package that makes installing it easy.

The How-to

First, if you already have entries from the movies in your Kodi library, you'll need to delete them. Next, download this file: LOTR_nfo_pack.zip. Unzip it somewhere convenient. The twelve folders inside contain movie art assets—a full-screen background, a poster for display of the film in the library, and a title logo with transparency, for those themes that support it. They also contain a VIDEO_TS folder, inside of which is VIDEO_TS.nfo. This file contains the actual metadata that tells Kodi what to do with the films. If you're using a DVD rip with VIDEO_TS folders, then all you need to do is change the names of each of the movie folders to match the ones in your server, then drop the entire collection into the folder containing your LOTR DVD files.

If you've got ISO files, then you'll need to move the .nfo file out of VIDEO_TS and rename it to match the filename of your .iso file. So if you have LOTR_The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) d1.iso, rename the nfo file to LOTR_The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) d1.nfo.

Start up Kodi and let it scan for new content, and it should pick up the information provided. Of course, you can change out the art for whatever you like. I was a little haphazard in selecting posters and backgrounds. As long as your new images are the correct aspect ratio and have the right name, they can be easily replaced. The Movie Database has plenty of high-resolution artwork in the correct aspects available for download. Likewise, you can change any of the data in the nfo file with a text editor. More info about nfo is available on the Kodi wiki.

One note about sorting: I've placed the collection into a Movie Set entitled The Lord of the Rings – Extended Editions and sorted them such that the films appear first, followed by the special features discs. But if you have your folder set to sort by year, the Appendices will appear before the movies. Sort alphabetically instead, and the sort order specified in the nfo files will take effect.

My New Server

And if you're wondering about my new server, I had mentioned the first time I wrote about it that the Seagate Blackarmor unit I'd purchased had some bad reviews. I never did have any problems with it (other than it getting stolen), but when it came time to buy a new one, I splurged a bit and went with a Synology. It's Awesome!

First, it has a utility that makes connecting to an Amazon Glacier storage vault super easy, and Amazon doesn't care that my data is on a NAS. It's also cheaper than Crashplan was, and there are no limits to the size of the backup. I haven't dug in yet to discover how it handles versioning, but at least I feel reasonably safe that Amazon probably isn't going to disappear on me two years from now.

Second, it has this cool expandability feature. Although the unit I have, a DS720+, only has two bays, it's compatible with a five-bay extender. From what I'm told, I can just add new drives in the extender, and it will automatically expand my storage into them, unlike the BlackArmor, which required me to make a new volume every time I expanded.

Third, it has two ethernet ports with support for link aggregation. If I ever buy a new switch that also supports that tech, I can double its network bandwidth to 2Gbps. I doubt that'll ever be an issue—1G transfer is more than sufficient for how I use the thing, but it's nice to have the option.

Blackmagic Fusion's Merge and Booleans Mathematics

This is an unfinished draft of one of the appendices to the unfinished draft of the book. I don't remember how far I got, but I believe everything currently stated in here is at least true, if perhaps not complete.

Now children, when a Foreground and a Background love each other very much, the Foreground inverts its Alpha channel and multiplies it by the Background. Then they add their color channels together and a new composite image is born.

You can take your compositing skills up a notch with a thorough understanding of the math behind Fusion's Merge and Channel Booleans tools. This article explains the various Operations available in the Channel Booleans node and the Apply Modes available in the Merge.

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New Reels for 2020

bryan-ray_compositing-reel_2020_v02 from Bryan Ray on Vimeo.

This Compositing and Lighting reel shows work from Legion, From Dusk Till Dawn, Charmed, Teen Wolf and Dog With a Blog. All clips are courtesy of Muse VFX and property of the respective productions.

The work was largely completed with Fusion, 3DS Max, Redshift, PFTrack and Houdini. There's a little V-Ray in there, too.

The Music is "Tension 2" from Audio by The Blue Man Group.

Tapered Bezier curve for Fusion

I want a better Lightning tool for Fusion. The existing one, a fuse that was available in VFXPedia prior to the Blackmagic takeover, was never really good enough for production. As a result, any time I've wanted electricity effects, I've fallen back on After Effects. I've had some ideas about how to improve the Lightning Fuse, but when it came time to actually open it up and make some changes, I ran into two problems: Fusion can't draw a tapered spline, and the BezierTo() method for the Fuse drawing API is broken. Solving one of those problems offered me the opportunity to solve both at once, so that's what I did.

In this developer's diary, I'll walk through the creation of a tapered Bezier curve Fuse. All of my testing was done in Fusion 9. I have no reason to expect that the fuse won't work in v16 or Resolve, but I haven't tried it yet. I hope that I'll be able to extend what I've done here into that Lightning Fuse, but that's a few steps down the road. I'll be certain to document it when I get there.Continue reading →

Fusion start-up troubleshooting

Let me lead by saying that I have no intention of being Fusion tech support. The information in this post is the only help I will offer, so don't send me emails asking how to get Fusion running. I will steadfastly ignore them (so don't take it personally when I don't reply; it's just a policy I'm using to maintain my sanity). I am interested in new solutions, though, so if you manage to overcome a start-up or crash problem that isn't detailed here, do let me know your solution so I can disseminate it. Or better yet, post it at both the official forum and We Suck Less. You probably already know that I frequent both of those sites, so I'm almost guaranteed to see it.

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Toolbox UI Script for Fusion

We use quite a few scripts and custom tools at Muse VFX, and using Fusion's built-in methods of organizing them was starting to get cumbersome. I built a little toolbox panel to ease the burden of keeping track of everything, inspired by SirEdric's ScriptScript script at We Suck Less. It's a nice example of a responsive script that is easy to maintain and attractive. It also extended my understanding of Fusion's UI Manager, enabling even more options in the future. Let's take a look under the hood.Continue reading →

Kill the Happyforms Ad in your WordPress Editor

I don't know if any of my small number of readers runs their own WordPress site, but I ran into an annoyance today related to the theme on one of my mine. When I entered the Editor page, an ad for something called "Happyforms" had been placed in the layout. Screen space is precious, and I sure as heck didn't want to give any up to an ad, so I immediately looked for a way to squash it.

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DeSharpen for Fusion

I've been dealing with some greenscreen footage at work from a client that doesn't often use visual effects. They had the in-camera sharpening filter turned all the way up, which creates a harsh black line around the subject, as seen to the left.

This artifact naturally causes problems when keying, so it needs to be smoothed out in order to get the best results. While it is generally impossible to perfectly remove such filtering once it's been done, it is sometimes possible to reduce it to the point where it no longer breaks the key.

For this technique, we'll investigate a common method of sharpening called the Unsharp Mask.Continue reading →

Redshift Camera Metadata in Fusion

Springboarding from Vito's excellent tutorial Exchange Cameras perfectly using the power of Meta-Data, which uses V-Ray, I developed a similar method for Redshift. Redshift's metadata format differs significantly from V-Ray's. First, it's not in an easily-accessed table format; instead, Redshift writes the transform matrix into a comma-separated list. Second, the rotation order of Redshift's matrix is ZXY instead of XYZ. These two issues prevent us from directly using the method Vito shows. Oh, and there's one further problem: The 3DS Max Redshift plugin doesn't yet write metadata to the image, so this won't work there. I have verified it in both Houdini and Maya, though, and I'm reasonably sure it will also work for Cinema4D.  In this article, we'll build a Fuse that reformats the metadata into something easier to apply to a Camera3D node. Take warning, though: There be trig ahead!

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Morality and Investing

Over the past few years I have been very blessed by an income that greatly exceeds my expenses. While I am still not out of the woods with regard to debt—my student loan still exceeds $60,000—the economy has been in a state where it is more efficient to invest my excess than to pay down the debt. I currently have four investment vehicles, and I'd like to take some time to explain each one and consider not only the financial pros and cons, but also the ethical impact of my decisions.Continue reading →