For a man who is used to the typical Avid offline/online workflow, using Final Cut Pro and cutting at full resolution, and using the Kona 3 to crossconvert to the required deliverable was quite an experience.
Before we began work on The Mexican American War, we did research. A LOT of research. We needed to figure out a workflow to go from DVCPRO HD 720p24 to the D5 deliverable that was required. We were thinking of doing the traditional offline/online workflow typical of what I would do on an Avid. But one of our consultants, Jon Thorn, an engineer at the DR Group, said that we didn’t need to do that. We could edit DVCPRO HD at 23.98 rather easily…and use firewire drives to do so. G-Raids to be exact, because of the firewire 800 connection, and the fact that they were two hardware raided drives. They could handle the footage at full resolution just fine. So we went with his advice and stocked up on G-Raids and captured and worked at full DVCPRO HD resolution.
When we started this project we had a deliverable of 720p 59.94 on D5. At that time the Kona 2 card was out and could take our 720p 23.98 footage and cross convert it to 59.94 no problem. We tested this at Lightning Media in Hollywood where they had an edit suite with a Kona 2. We not only tested the possibility of this kind of output, but also how the Varicam and HVX footage intercut, and how the mapping software looked when we output…killing several birds with one stone. All tests passed with flying colors so we began to edit with that workflow.
In the middle of editing our deliverable changed. Instead of a 720p master, the network wanted a 1080p 23.98 master on HDCAM or D5. This way they could convert the footage to any format, because downconverting was much easier than upconverting. OK…well, that threw a wrench into the works. So again we went to Jon Thorn again for advice. By this time he had left the DR Group and was working for AJA directly. He said that our best bet now would be to upconvert the footage to uncompressed 10-bit 1080p HD and then color correct so we could then directly output to tape. We went to PlasterCity Post in Hollywood and spoke with the president Michael Cioni and his colorist Ian and they confirmed this workflow. They laid out the entire workflow we needed to get them the files they needed to online, color correct and output. So this was the plan.
Editing progressed for quite some time. In the middle of the process the Kona 3 was released and was flush with many new features. But for some reason I didn’t note a very important one for I was overwhelmed with editing and other post production concerns like learning Shake for green screening footage, and mastering the Curious World Maps software for maps…and working the Panasonic booth at NAB. So I plodded on with the workflow we figured out in mind. We did a test output of Act 1 (because the network wanted some footage for promo) and color correct at FilmLook in Burbank, relying on the masterful skills of their colorist Alan. I did what we planned…taking the 10-bit uncompressed file to the editor who then dropped it onto their RAID and used the Kona 2 to output to HDCAM. Then we did a tape to tape color correct and sent the tape off to the network.
The workflow worked perfectly, so that was what I had in my mind to do. I built an internal RAID on my machine (the Popsicle Stick Raid) in preparation of playing back 10-bit uncompressed HD to make sure things worked properly. All was good.
As the summer progressed editing progressed and around July I took a small break. I and my family took a small vacation at Big Bear Lake with friends. One of them was my buddy TJ Ryan, the Post Production Specialist at the DR Group. I explained what I was editing and how I was planning on outputting. He asked “Why are you doing that? Why not just upconvert using the Kona 3? It will do this all thru the hardware.” Well, THAT was news. He said that I should finish the cut at DVCPRO HD resolution…color correct and everything…then output a QT movie and bring that to the DR Group and they would output to HDCAM via the Kona 3.
So I did, and it worked rather well.
A few days before the show aired, my producer sent out an e-mail to everyone involved on the project to announce the airdate. Jon Thorn responded giving his congratulations. He also mentioned that it was specifically due to our projects deliverable…the need to go from 720p 23.98 to 1080p 23.98…that he pushed the engineers to include that ability in the hardware of the Kona 3. That more and more networks might demand that, and that it would be a useful feature. Well that blew me away. Because of our History Channel show, and our struggles with the world of HD, our main consultant made sure that the next version of the Kona card would do exactly what we needed.
And it did. Nicely.
I would like to take this opportunit to thank Jon Thorn, the fine people at AJA…Michael Cioni, Ian and the wonderful people at PlasterCity Post…Robert, Anna, Alan and Ben and the talented people at FilmLook…and TJ Ryan, Nathan Adams and the great folks at The DR Group. I don’t know where we’d be without all your assistance.