Audio sync issue with MTS video files

Recently I faced a problem with MTS files (AVCHD from Panasonic and Sony cameras) with audio getting out of sync after file edit.
MTS file plays fine with sound in sync (e.g. with Daum Potplayer). However after editing, sound is not in sync anymore. Searching internet I found my problem isn’t uncommon, but I didn’t see a definitive solution.

Note that I haven’t touched MTS files for several months; and in the past I haven’t had any sync issues. During the break I had Windows reinstalled, so the problem must be somewhere on my PC.

The issue shows up with some video editing software but not all (e.g. VirtualDub, Corel Video Editor have the issue). It seems to me it’s related to AC3 encoding of audio stream in MTS files. I haven’t found precise root cause, I guess some codec version or settings on my PC might be the reason; however I found several workarounds that suit my needs.

  • BlackMagic DaVinci Resolve doesn’t have an issue with MTS files. So I can do color correction in Resolve and then save file with an in intermediate codec (e.g. CINEFORM) for editing with other video editing software. Once MTS file is converted to another format, the issue is gone…
  • I can convert audio to another format using AVANTI/ffmpeg. Copy video stream as is; and convert audio to PCM for example – then the sync issue is gone, file can be edited.
  • VSDC Free Video Editor doesn’t have an issue with MTS files. The basic version is free. Unfortunately the latest update of Video Editor made the use of waveforms a paid option, but it isn’t expensive; or you can use an older version which has waveforms enabled for free.

Looking back

I had a conversation with my friend a few days ago. We talked about how much our life changed in the last 10-15 years.

I believe there were 2 main things that had revolutionary impact on many millions of people: I mean internet and mobile telephony. People became accessible – any time, anywhere; and the world became accessible; and the news became accessible.

Just a few consequences that come to my mind:

  • The Wall Street business model is challenged in the last years because the news about companies now affect shares instantly; and the news about shares are now known instantly. And shareholders now can make transactions instantly.
  • Newspapers changed their role because it’s too late nowadays to bring the news next morning.
  • I just saw a picture of  a plane ticket facebook – I mean a traditional paper ticket. And I realized that it’s a very rare thing these days – I haven’t touched a real paper plane ticket for about 10 years. I was doing electronic booking via internet since ~2002 if not earlier.

Do you remember what were the first steps that brought Apple where they are today? In the 90s they were one of the niche computer companies slowly loosing it’s share. Then in 1998 they made the first step: they turned their face to consumer and changed dramatically the design of their computers¹. Instead of boring grey/beige office-style boxes they made semi-transparent colorful nice looking iMac G3. But that wasn’t a revolution yet. The huge boom started with their iPod. And it wasn’t the device itself which was revolutionary. It was iTunes – and again it wasn’t iTunes itself which was revolutionary. It was that Apple persuaded media companies to sell songs via iTunes one by one instead of albums. That was the revolutionary step that allowed Apple to make a huge success. And that step wouldn’t have been possible without internet.

Digital photography is part of the world change in the last years – but it wouldn’t have been without internet. It is most obvious for documentary photos which can now be delivered to news agencies in a seconds after being taken; but if affects other areas too. Stock photography is now entirely internet-based. Even in commercial photography internet plays a big role when client can get samples of work via internet; and when complex postprocessing is done by several agencies sharing files via internet.

We don’t realize how much our lives changed in the past years – and more changes yet to come. We will see…

1) Yes I know it was thanks to Steve Jobs getting back to Apple but that’s not my point.

2011 year end post

Apologies to my readers for not writing for a long time. Thus this year-end post will include several notes I would have normally posted between April and the year end.

I just made a major WordPress upgrade before writing this post. All seems to work fine.

Looking back in May my friend photographer and I organized a studio session with the same model I mentioned in November of 2010. This time it was done at home. Although we were not very happy with the stylist the model performed great and I am happy with the result. And the whole evening was very joyful.

For a number of reasons I didn’t upload any new stock photos from July until the end of the year (except uploading my existing portfolio to some new sites). Following up my April blog post I need to mention that I was doing surprisingly good at microstock despite the break in uploads. I didn’t experience any decline and I even had growth of sales in September and October. November was lower; and traditionally December is always lower.

Now I have made some new pictures and I’ll start uploading them in January – hopefully the sales will grow again.

Speaking about new photos I had an outdoor session at the end of November with a very kind “weather-proof” model. It was a dark grey overcast, it was raining/drizzling most of the day, and the wind was strong. The temperature was around 8 degrees (centigrade). Nevertheless we decided to go ahead with the planned outdoor shoot. Fast lens and a strobe helped to make it a sunny day – at least on pictures 🙂

Importance of proper processing

Young man in spa

In 2009 I had a studio session with a handsome blond man – most of it was a spa theme. (It was done during the photographers meeting in Yuri Arcurs studio in Denmark in August 2009).

I was expecting the pictures to sell well – good subject, handsome blond man, positive emotions…. However the sales were not impressive during several months.

Usually I don’t go back to the photographs already processed and submitted, but in this case I was really curious. So I looked at similar photos from the other authors that were selling well and tried to analyze what was wrong with mine.

I noticed that the skin tone on my pictures was too red though the white balance was technically correct. It was very hot in the studio, so the model was truly sweat and red. So I selected several un-processed photos from that session  and edited them differently than the first time – made them higher contrast and different skin tone.

I also re-did the keywords as a noticed some difference between my pictures and other ones.

My original batch included several tens pictures. Newly edited was 5 or 6. However the trick worked well. When I submitted the new pictures, not only they started to sell well, but the original ones started to sell better too. Now, a year later I see the man in spa selling several times a week.

Growth of sales

Happy Successful Young Businesswoman

Many micrstock photographers reported reaching a plateau in sales at certain point. I experienced it myself several times. I mean I continued to upload new photos but my sales per month remain flat.

On the other hand,  if I stop uploading for a long time my sales remain flat too, though at a lower level. Some other photographers mentioned the same phenomenon: they stopped uploading for some reason, sales drop at first (up to 30% or less), but then they remain stable for a long time.

For example, Jonathan Ross has mentioned that he continues to get a stable income after he didn’t upload to microstock for 2 years.

The conclusion from these 2 observations is simple:

Every portfolio has a threshold. If you supply the number of photos above the threshold your sales will grow. If you supply below the threshold the sales will stay flat.

The threshold goes up with the growth of sales.

My current threshold is around 60 photos/month. If I upload 50 in a month, the sales remain flat; if I upload 75 or more I am starting to see the growth. Thus I am trying to produce 80-100 photos a month. And I know I will need to produce more than that when I’ll reach a new level in a few months, to keep the sales growing.

Microstock in March

The good thing about microstock for me is that I see the result each time I am starting to put more efforts. I mean when I start uploading 80-100 pictures a month my sales start to grow. Unfortunately I haven’t been able until recently to keep up the pace. Microstock is my part time activity and there has always been some other priorities emerging…

Now I keep the pace for 3 months and it works well: February was my BME in microstock in general and in iStock, thanks to several EL sales at IS and good sales at Alamy. Now March is closing tonight – it is not my BME in general but it was a good solid month with BME in Dreamstime.

So my 2 short-term objectives are to keep the pace of uploads and to go beyond 100 photos/month mark.

One picture from my last session:

Young woman with face paint

My blog has moved

My blog is moved successfully to my website. I will not update it on Blogger anymore, the version you see on miklav.com is completely separate instance. It is running on WordPress, it is integral part of my website, and I have full control over it.

It didn’t take long to customize WordPress layout to fit with my website. I still need to do a few minor adjustments, but most of the work is completed.

I have also made a few minor adjustments to miklav.com website content and design.

Moving my blog…

Just installed WordPress on my site. I still need to fine-tune it, and I’ll need to transfer the posts from my old standalone blog…

Microstock in February

I should have posted it earlier…

February, 2011 was my Best Month Ever (BME) on microstock. I started to put more efforts in that business a couple of months ago and it started to pay back. Very nice indeed.

What is very surprising is that it was my BME on iStock despite lower commissions and my non-exclusive status.

Also Alamy was performing nice in February. The sales there are irregular, but I see them more and more often as my portfolio grows.

One very important thing with microstock for me is that I do see the result every time I am starting to put more efforts. Every time I start shooting and uploading more actively I start see increase is sales very quickly. That is indeed a good motivator 🙂

Microstock – hobby or business?

Many microstock photographers treat their photography as a hobby not as a business. That is very natural when you make just a little supplement out of it rather than a full-time income. Some photographers who have grown their microstock activity to a full time job still a kind of a hobby attitude. That is also natural taking into account the background and the speed of the growth from a pure hobby to a job.

Recent changes in microstock, particularly commission cut at istock and fotolia caused a lot of negative reaction from the photographers. Of course it’s extremely unpleasant when the agencies reduce the share paid to photographers. Although legal it is perceived by many as a very unfair step.

How to react besides expressing your thoughts in various forums is the question for many. Is it worth to boycott such agencies, is it worth to unite the forces? Are there any other options?

I tried to summarize my thoughts on these 3 questions:


Boycott it or not?

I think it mainly depends on whether you have significant revenue from these agencies or neglectful. If it’s neglectful you can easily stop working with the agency. You should realize that you would only please yourself doing that but the agency wouldn’t notice your leave.

If your revenue is significant I would take a step away and try to look at it as one of your income streams, emotions aside. If the stream is significant, and if it will remain significant after the commission cut I would rather keep it. However I would explore other possibilities to extend other streams and/or add more streams.

Can photographers influence the behavior of the agencies? There are suggestions to unite forces which is supposed to increase the negotiation power. The fact is that about 80% of the agencies’ income is generated by approximately 20% of top photographers. That means that even uniting 80% of average contributors that isn’t too much value for the agencies. It would only make sense if the very top photographers would unite to negotiate the policy of the agencies. If you aren’t one of them any attempt to unite with your peers is pretty much useless.

One other part of the picture is ever increasing competition. The growth of supply is higher than the growth of demand. I suppose that will cause further saturation of microstock contributor with the middle layer being affected the most. I mean top contributors making a full time income for several people in their “picture production factories” will certainly be able to survive. They will have to optimize costs but I have no doubts they will stay successful. The low layer of hobbyist contributors will not be affected much. The main difference will be increased threshold for the acceptance of their pictures as the agencies can afford to become more selective. Other than that the hobbyist making a hundred or a couple per month will just continue at similar level… I suppose еhe most affected by competition will be the middle layer, i.e. the people just making the living from microstock but being around the threshold of their survival level. If they will not be able to grow significantly they will probably be pushed towards the low tier.

It’s again about the same story about 20% of people making 80% of income. Most of increasing competition are eating from the 20% piece of the pie. Even the pie is growing too, number of eaters is growing faster. If you manage to get to the top tier you’ll compete for a portion of 80% piece of the pie – the piece is much larger and the number of competitors is much lower.

Is it still possible to get to the top tier, or did it become a close club? It’s very difficult but is certainly possible. Daniel Laflor is one of the recent examples, Cathy Yeulet is one before; and there are some other too.