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Little Frog in High Def

Musings of an NLE ronin…
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Archive for March, 2007

This weekend I will be flying to Bozeman Montana, where I will be a special guest speaker at my old film school, Montana State University. This all happened because I helped a graduate student with a Varicam issue on the creativecow.net. I found out she was a student there, she found out I was a graduate…and the next thing I know I am getting an e-mail from one of my ex-professors asking if I would like to be a guest speaker.

Me.

When I went to school there, the guest speakers were big. The underwater DP who did THE ABYSS, production staff from the TV series COACH to talk about directing a sitcom, all the producers of FAR AND AWAY (that was shooting 26 miles away) to talk about the various roles of producers, Andrew Lazlo, the DP of such great films as THE WARRIORS, FIRST BLOOD and STREETS OF FIRE (he lived nearby).

Now they want me.

I will be giving two talks. One to the graduate students in which I will talk about the changing face of the TV documentary and working with High Def. Then there is a general talk open to any and all comers (mainly the undergrads) about how to make it in Hollywood, the post production process and politics in the edit bay.

I fly out on Sunday, give the talk on Monday and I have Tuesday to kick around town. It’ll be good to get back and see the ol college town.

I miss Montana.

(Here’s Matrox MXO, Part 1 for reference.)

OK…so I finally got my hands on an Apple 23″ Cinema Display (ACD) to test with the Matrox MXO against my AJA Kona LH and Sony PVM-14L5.

So I hooked up the Matrox to my Powerbook G4 1.67Ghz and to the ACD. Then I exported a video clip from my current project…the trailer I edited for The History Channel all nice and color corrected and with a variety of footage from the Varicam and HVX-200. I copied this clip over to the Powerbook, and loaded the same clip up on my G5 and put the images up on the PVM and the ACD…side by side.

Holy shit. (The picture, of course, doesn’t do this justice)

Now…Jerry Hofmann told me that the MXO and the ACD would get you broadcast colors…and Wayne from Matrox, who I worked side by side with at the CalDigit booth, showed me the MXO side by side with a Panasonic HD LCD and they were identical. But I said “I won’t believe it until I see it next to my HD CRT.”

I believe it.

Now…first off let me state that when I first looked at the image on both it was like looking in a mirror. They were identical, only the ACD was, of course, bigger. Then my initial shock wore off and I looked closer, more critically. And I noticed that the image on the ACD was slightly greenish. I had to look close to see it, but it was there. I could see it in the white collar of the actor, and in the green of the plants (they were greener). So I loaded color bars in both and looked again. Yep…slightly greenish. I connected the MXO to my HD CRT via HD SDI out of the MXO box and compared the HD SDI signal coming from the Matrox to that of the ACD, just to see if it was the box or the monitors. The image on the ACD was still greenish in comparison. So the signal from the box is a true signal, the same I get from my Kona LH. I went into my Displays System Prefs and made sure the Matrox MXO option was selected. It was. So I needed to do something to remedy this.

I found a friend who had a monitor calibration device and software. ColorVision’s Spyder 2 Pro is what he had and what I used to calibrate my monitor. Then I tried again.

I looked at the Bars first. I didn’t see the green. Then I loaded the clip again and looked at the same spot. Now the image on both were nearly identical. Still just a hair greenish, but very negligible. At least to my eye. And I was scrutinizing this close. And, again, I compared images on the PVM and the MXO, with both signals coming from the MXO.

So…in conclusion, the Matrox MXO, in conjunction with an Apple 23″ Cinema Display (and monitor calibration software) will get you broadcast colors that match that of an HD CRT monitor. I myself would trust this combination when color correcting my shows for broadcast.

Just to remind people about the Matrox MXO, it connects to the computer via the DVI connection. From this DVI connection the MXO can extract a broadcast video image (HD SDI, analog component, composite), two tracks of unbalanced audio and up to 8 tracks of embedded SDI audio, timecode information, and deck control. It can downconvert HD to SD in real time with proper color space conversions. Hardware acceleration of DVCPRO HD, HDV, and Final Cut Pro Dynamic RT segments to full output resolution to save processing power for other operations. Allows output from not only FCP, but Motion, After Effects and other Quicktime based applications to the monitor so that you can ensure the quality of your image. And it works on PPC and Intel Macs…and best of all, works on a laptop.

It is a low cost, yet VERY effective solution for HD monitoring and color correction. You won’t see the post houses that color grade CSI, LAW & ORDER or “24″ jumping all over this…they have better high end monitors to work with. But it is a very viable solution for the budget conscious who still want to produce a great broadcast quality image.

EDIT: It was asked that if you use the MXO with your, say G5 tower or Mac Pro, that you might lose the use of that monitor as your second monitor. Not necessarily. With your monitor connected to the MXO, it still passes thru a desktop image, so you can have dual monitors. But when you hit VIEW>ALL FRAMES it will then turn the monitor into your production monitor, ready for color correcting your footage.

This article was posted on FRESHDV and caught my attention. As it should, I use P2 cameras in production. I’m glad that Matt is out there finding this stuff…I sure ain’t. Working on this cut and all. OH, and I was in Phoenix this weekend. DEAD tired.

ANYWAY…Here is the original article:

Camcorder Info.com

Basically is states that an 8GB SD card was released costing $190. And yet Panasonics 8GB card is $1200. Why the price difference? Well, they state that Panasonic has “external hardware” that makes them justify the price. Well, no, that ain’t it. There are 4 RAIDED SD cards in one P2 card…so take that $190 and multiply it by four. Then add the specially designed external case to make it rugged, all the electronics needed to make those cards record HD footage…Research and development…oh…all the things that Mike Curtis pointed out in a comment on the FresHDV site.

Here is the FresHDV post with a great comment by Mike Curtis:

FresHDV.com

But I do agree with Mike…the cost of the cards should fluctuate with the market price of the components used within. I know they did lower the price once…and they probably will again when the new cards come out. Only time will tell.

Still, the point I want to make is that a P2 card isn’t just a simple thing. It isn’t just 4 SD cards in a PCMCIA case. There is a lot going on to get the ability to record HD onto this. Yes, it is expensive technology…and yes, I’d like to see lower prices. Until then I am glad there are alternatives out there…albeit not cheap themselves. But more so than the P2 cards, based on storage capacity.

Thanks for finding that Matt.

My buddy Patrick Sheffield (a regular at the Apple FCP, Motion and Shake forums) created a set of plugins that color treat your footage in various ways. The classic TWO STRIP plugin that mimics the two-srtip color process of old films, and most recently seen in the early scenes of THE AVIATOR.

There is also the THREE STRIP and THREE STRIP EXTREME that make the colors very vibrant, and RICHER and CONVOLVE. The site has examples so head on over there and look.

Oh, and Capt Mike Mench (frequent Apple forum guy too, and the best amateur post guy I know) designed a Blowout Fixer in Shake to fix over exposed footage, and Patrick helped turn it into a plugin for FCP. That is available on the site as well.

Oh…yeah…the link:

Pluginz

The Apple 23″ Cinema Display finally arrived today. So I can finally dig into the Matrox MXO test. Unfortunately not this weekend as we will be in Phoenix watching Flogging Molly…on St. Patrick’s Day. Kids in tow so I doubt we’ll be drinking much.

ANYWAY…so I had this monitor sitting here and I got to thinking. My Dell’s have a component in, and my Kona LH has component outs, so I could use one of the Dells as my reference monitor (not broadcast colors, but still a nice image), as it is much bigger than my 14″ HD CRT. And I could use the Apple 23″ as my timeline/canvas/viewer window, and my other Dell for the bins. Hmmmm…

So I sandwiched the Apple between the Dells (I had to prop it up with my FCP 3 box, as the height doesn’t adjust) and stood back.

Well, that looks NICE. But then I sat down close to them. To look at what was going on with all three monitors I really had to move my head from side to side. I felt like I was watching a tennis match. After a while I am sure my neck would hate me. So I went back to my usual setup.

Ahhh. Two 24″ monitors is my limit.

This week Inside Mac Radio did an interview with Rodney Charters, the DP on the series “24.” He talks about why the show still shoots film, and even comments on the use of an HDV camera on the set. VERY interesting…and shows the resourcefullness of the editor to get what they need to make a scene work.

Well worth a listen. Click on the following link to download the episode into iTunes:

INSIDE MAC RADIO

This site will help ease that transition:

Avid2FCP

“LONDON, UK (14 March 2007)
Avid2FCP website launches – unique resource for Avid editors learning Final Cut Pro
*******************************************************************

Apple’s Final Cut Pro has made significant strides over the past few years to the point where it is a direct competitor to the long established systems from Avid Technology. A growing number of professional editors have added FCP to their skill set or switched completely and while there are numerous sites for FCP, none are aimed specifically at the Avid editor.

Avid2FCP (http://www.avid2fcp.com) aims to change that. The main focus of the site is a forum where industry experts Martin Baker, Jude Cotter, Victoria Parks-Murphy, Mark Raudonis and Shane Ross will be on hand to help with editors’ questions as they learn FCP.

The Articles section of the site will provide tips, tricks and introduction to FCP features. ‘Myths and Misconceptions’ and ‘What we like about FCP’ are two of the articles already available.

Switcher Stories is expected to be a highly popular part of the site. These personal articles from a wide variety of editors provide a fascinating insight into their journey towards FCP.

“As one of the pioneers in switching a large scale operation over to FCP and Xsan, I receive a lot of calls asking about how we did it, if it worked and if we’re happy. Avid2FCP will be an invaluable resource for Avid editors learning FCP and I’m thrilled to be a part of the team.” – Mark Raudonis, VP Post Production, Bunim-Murray Productions

To coincide with the launch of the site, Avid2FCP is seeking editors who are about to start learning FCP and would be willing to share their progress in regular blog posts. Closing date for submissions is Friday 6 April.”

This isn’t Avid bashing, but meant to help editors who have come from Avid backgrounds and find themselves in front of Final Cut Pro.

A little break from HVX land and into higher end territory.

Red released the pricing of their cameras and accessories today.

RED PRICING

At $17,500 for the basic camera, that is definately a good deal. Compare that to a Panasonic Varicam and Sony F950. And it comes in only $1000 more than the anticipated cost they mentioned at last years NAB. With the lens coming in Just under $5000… and some accessories that you need like the BATTERY, and basic production pack of accessories like handles, that means that you have a 4K camera for around $30,000. I have seen some images from this camera and they made me whistle.

I can’t wait to see them this year at NAB…

This is so simple it makes me smack my head. Who knows why I didn’t try this in the first place. Here I am jumping thru hoop after hoop trying to update the firmware on the camera (which I did, BTW…I’ll blog about how to do that later, and link to the file you need as it was a bitch to track down) and it has NOTHING TO DO WITH THAT.

Are you ready? Set?

Turn off the REMOVE DUPLICATE FRAMES option in the P2 Import preferences. The default setting is for this option to be checked. Simply uncheck it and click OK.

That’s it. That simple. Once I did that all of the clips from card 1 imported just fine…when previously only 4 out of 10 would import. I didn’t think about it because I didn’t find that option until recently. And I didn’t think it was the solution until it was suggested that I uncheck it, then try again. When I did…boom. Success.

Here is where you find the preferences, in this drop down menu:

And this is the box to uncheck:

For all of those with issues importing Panasonic P2 footage with FCP 5.1.2, this should solve that issue. If it doesn’t, please let me know and I’ll mention it to the higher ups.

Take a look at some footage I treated with the Water Color 2 plugin from Lyric Media’s FINAL CUT EFFECTS package.

Cool!

I also really like the FILL LIGHT one. Brings out the details in the shadows. Adds a bit of noise, which is to be expected when you brighten the black areas, but with a few adjustments, it looks really good. I get the same look with DFT 55mm’s Silver Reflector. But Lyric is a tad cheaper…

Just thought I’d share. So many people asking “How do I get the SCANNER DARKLY look with FCP?”

Here you go.

EDIT: CLIP HAS BEEN MODIFIED TO BE SPLIT SCREEN. To show you the original clip and the effect that the filter causes.

So you have an HVX-200 camera and shoot to P2 cards, but the laptop you have (MacBook Pro) only has a PCIexpress card slot. How the heck do you get your footage off the cards without using the camera? Or having to buy the 5-slot P2 reader or P2 store from Panasonic?

Here is your solution: Duel Adapter

According to the Resources page, it offers P2 support.

This is huge.

According to people at the Creative Cow, this has been tested with the P2 cards and works.

Sweet.