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Little Frog in High Def

Musings of an NLE ronin…
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Archive for June, 2007

The .01 updates for every application was released today…as you will no doubt read on EVERY blog that covers FCP

FCS 2 updates

A bunch of fixes…as .01 updates usually do. But this one also goes a bit farther and adds something:

FCP 6.0.1 Update

“- Support for the AVCHD format through the Log and Transfer interface”

DUDE! Huge! OK…all those with their Panasonic AVCHD cameras can rejoice.

When editing, I tend to back up a few things. I have my project files on my main hard drive, and I back them up nightly to my media drive and to a thumb drive. But that isn’t the only thing I back up. I also have all my media backed up as well. I have a main raid that I use as my media drives…what I edit from. Then I have a few firewire drives, and a cheap Raid (the one I built) that I use to back up my media.

Why do this, you ask? Well, I didn’t used to. I used to always say “hey, if you have the tapes, and the project file…and the P2 MXF files…you can always recapture and reimport and reconnect. That is a lot of re-ing. But then something happened that changed my mind. I lost a Raid with 78 hours of footage on it. BUT…I was lucky…I had it all backed up. I was reviewing the S2VR Duo for CalDigit…so I copied all the footage I captured on my Dark Tower raid onto the Duo and used it for a few months. When I was done with my review, I moved back to my Dark Tower Raid (to continue to test it, as I JUST built it). SO here I was, happily editing along when…I lost the raid. It simply vanished from my desktop. All that footage gone. I determined that I had a bad drive (it happens) and replaced it, and recreated the Raid. But now, I still had the Duo sitting here…with all my footage backed up. Whew! A few hours later and all the footage was back on the Tower.

A FEW HOURS.

Now…if I DIDN’T have this footage backed up, I’d be looking at a week of recapturing and reimporting and reconnecting the footage. Again…all those REs. Let’s look at that in terms of money. I’d be looking at Deck rental for 5 days (weekend included in the 5th day)…I have sixty-four 40-min tapes to capture. Then I have 104 4GB P2 cards to re-import. All of this takes time…so you have my rate for the week, then my bay rental for a week. Which means that we are pushing the show a week. All that adds up…to a pretty penny.

Now, a couple 1TB firewire drives with all the footage backed up to them would be a good solution. No need for the really good ones I use for editing. A LaCie or Seagate or OWC firewire drive will do. Or a few 320GB drives…what ever runs cheaper and is considered reliable…will do. The cost of these drives is small compared to what you can lose in time and deck rental. AND…they are a renewable resource…you can use them from project to project. A buddy of mine, Walter Biscardi, does this as well. He uses 1Tb and 2TB LaCies. And yes, he has had to resort to them on more than one occasion. Luckily, I have only had to resort to my backups once.

You just have to ask yourself, “how much is my time worth?”

EditShare to add project sharing to Final Cut Pro.

“EditShare on Tuesday announced the addition of Apple Final Cut Pro (FCP) Project Sharing capabilities to the EditShare product family. The company’s EditShare Project Sharing technology provides tremendous collaborative workflow benefits by enabling multiple editors to work on the same project simultaneously…The new EditShare Apple FCP Project Sharing feature allows multiple Apple FCP editors to simultaneously open and work from the same projects.”

Interesting. Because I know how Avid can have people work on the same projects at the same time. Projects consist of a folder with separate files that represent bins and sequences. So more than one person can access the project. But whoever has a bin open is the “owner” of that bin, meaning that they control all the changes that occur in that bin. Same with sequences…whoever opens it first is the owner. Other people can open it at the same time and see what is in there, but they can’t make changes.

Final Cut Pro is different. A project is a SINGLE FILE. Bins, sequences, titles…all contained in the FCP project file. This is why for shared storage environments it is wise to have several project files related to that project. Manually do what Avid does in a way. How they managed to make it so multiple users can open and make changes to a single project file…simply amazes me. I’d like to know how they do it.

Well, here I am, in the middle of color correction. Stalled a bit while I dropped in my master stills (pictures) and adjusting them, and getting in the full res maps (courtesy the man who did them last time for Mexican American War – which was a task because I don’t have the Curious mapping software here, so instead of rendering them out myself, I he send them via YOUSENDIT.com…took a while) and prepping the show for an audio mix (compressing the file, exporting the OMF with Automatic Duck). But now that is behind me and I can dive fully into color correction.

Am I using Color? No. If you look back a few days (week?) in my archives you’ll note that I have not upgraded, and won’t for a while. Plus I hear there are more than a few bugs and issues that need to be worked out. Nope, I am using Magic Bullet COLORISTA, by Red Giant Software. Best $200 I spent.

First, I’d like to mention a bug that I discovered with Colorista (sheesh, bugs everywhere). Well, I didn’t “discover” it…I saw it, mentioned it to Walter Biscardi who also uses Colorista and he said “yup, known bug. They are working on it.” Good. Nice to know. In the meantime I can correct for…oh…wait, I didn’t tell you what the bug was. If your video levels are above 100 IRE…say they are at 110 IRE…and you apply Colorista to the shot, the levels are immediately crushed to 100 IRE.

Wait…so it takes levels that are WAY above legal, and crushes them into the legal level…this is a good thing, right? Well, no. Because when it does that, you whites go yellow, you lose detail…it just chops it off. In a not nice way either. So, the workaround? To drop on the 3-way color corrector and drop the whites down overall, or adjust the plugin to only drop the levels of the bright areas (limit the effect to the upper LUMA range, there’s a drop down arrow in the plugin that does that). Once you adjust that, than you can drop on Colorista and color away. Then the image looks great! I have been dipping into the Magic Bullet Looks Suite to get ideas of what I might want, then adjusting Colorista to match as close as I can. Coming out pretty nice. I can’t wait for Magic Bullet Looks Suite…or Color…both. I like playing with color correction.

Now…onto the topic of the COLOR BAY. The bay that you color correct in. This was a topic that came up on the Digital Production Buzz a couple weeks ago. At the end of the show…the last 10 min or so. The topic was about COLOR and color correcting and people doing all this from their home edit bays…and I was mentioned as a “classic” example of this. A lot of people, including myself, are color correcting in rooms that are…less than ideal…with less than ideal equipment. An IDEAL color correction bay would have gray walls (a specific tone of gray), and lighting behind the color correction monitor (specific level and color of lighting), and the colorist would not only have access to a nice HD CRT, but also hardware video scopes and a color correction interface.

I have the HD CRT….that’s about it. My room is, well, off white and wall to wall bookshelves…light wood bookshelves. Behind my desk is a wall of glass facing outside…a sliding glass door. I have drapes, but they are tan. Hardware scopes? Nope…I rely on the ones in FCP. Color Correction Interface? Nope…I have a mouse. Less than ideal…well, yes. A few weeks ago I was color correcting in such a bay, and it was nice. Perfectly lit. But, at home, a little less than perfect. But, I am a renter so no tearing out the bookshelves (which are REALLY handy, BTW) and painting the place gray. I’ll have to save that for when I get a small office AWAY from home.

So, what do I do? How can I possibly color correct properly with such a room? Well, I do this. I get it CLOSE. I color correct to what I think looks good. I do have the lights off, and the drapes block a LOT of lite, so it is pretty nice in here. BUT…I do rent a bay for a day before I lay off to tape to do “touch ups.” That bay will have the gray walls, the proper lighting, and hardware scopes. Not to worries about the scopes. The ones in FCP are DARN good, and when we export I put on the Broadcast Safe filter, AND run the output thru a hardware limiter to make sure we are legal. So all my concerns are getting the colors just right.

Am I being a purist? Sorta. I have to be. This is network TV, and one hiccup, one level over legal and the show gets kicked back. Then you have to rent a bay again, do the corrections, redub, re-closed caption…a lot of costs. Would I be legal by just adding the BS Filter (heh heh) and using the hardware limiter? Yes. But I just want to make sure that my REDS are RED, and not maroon. Because the light reflected off the walls hits my eyes and the monitor, and can skew things. Does everyone need to be this critical? No. Doing it from home might be considered “good enough.” I did Mexican American War that way. But when I got to the output I did notice the subtle difference in the colors. Small, but noticable. Would that small difference be seen by the time it is downconverted to Digibeta, compressed for the airwaves and landing on the TV sets of America, who is no doubt NOT watching it in a gray room with special lighting and a professional color correction monitor. But, you want to make it as good as you can, so that it doesn’t look too bad by the time it gets there.

OK…more color grading.

I finally locked picture on Andrew Jackson for The History Channel. Locked picture, in case you don’t know, means that I am done editing the video. The show is cut to the exact timing required by the network. In case you are wondering what my 90-min timeline looks like, here it is:

TIMELINE

When I cut the show, I don’t work on one big timeline like this. I break up the show by Act…so the computer doesn’t slow down…ah but I am going into details that I cover in my tutorial DVD. Click on the link on the right to order that. (shameless sales plug)

Now I have to prep it for audio sweetening…mixing. For this I will send the audio Act by Act to the mixer. When he is done I’ll import his mix, sync it to my picture and verify that sync doesn’t drift, then output it to tape.

I also am beginning the color correction phase. For this I will be using Colorista by Red Giant Software. I found that it handles extreme changes in color better. And the ability to have “secondaries” where I can adjust small areas of the picture is also a huge plus. I’ll have to go into that in more detail later….giving examples of each. Well, Stu, the author of this plugin, already did. But when I am done I’ll have to give a detailed explaination of my impressions of it.

OK…I have a LOT of clips to color correct…as you can see. I gotta get back.

I show you this mainly because of #47. It is where I get my name and my e-mail address.

Via Matt Jeppsen…via Scott Simmons

7 ways to save THE LOT.

I don’t like reality shows. Especially stuff like AMERICAN IDOL. When I started watching The Lot…I liked it. Not only because I am in the film industry, but because it treated the process…the contest of making films…right. At least, in the beginning. It gave the people the task of coming up with a pitch…then threw at them a “24 hour film festival.” And the best part, WE GOT TO SEE THE PROCESS. This was like PROJECT GREENLIGHT, where it followed the people thru the process. You saw them agonize over the pitch…you saw how they shot their films. Saw the brilliant…and stupid…decisions they made. Demystified the process a little…showed what was involved. You could tell who the talented people were by watching them work. Saw them make decisions. This is what I want to see…and what the judges should see. In this respect the first two episodes were great.

Then it turned to CRAP. Utter…total…complete crap. Bringing in “blockbuster” directors to comment? I groaned when I saw Michael Bay up there. Even Brett Ratner. Sheesh. Carrie Fisher and Gary Marshall I can see…they had long successful careers, working on quality films. The host? Yeah, she’s pretty. But that doesn’t a host make. What happened to the blonde lady from the first two shows? Why did they axe her? For the more “ethnic” demographic? Should have thought of that to begin with.

AND WHAT IS IT WITH THE FAKE TOTALLY STAGED F*&#ING TENSION? “And the person eliminated is……….something we’ll find out after this commercial break.” Or there is a good 10 second pause. Stupid stupid stupid…

Live on stage…that’s what we get. Someone standing up going “here is my film.” We see it…the judges…who have NO bearing on the outcome (note the films they said were awful that somehow not only made it, but one was in the top 3…proving that the average American who votes on these stupid things is a moron)…then we wait until next week to see who was eliminated…with as long of a pause as possible. Wasn’t there a time when dead air was a BAD thing?

They keep saying that they put Hollywood crews and actors at the disposal of the filmmakers, yet we keep hearing how they had to “pull favors” to get films made. Some shot on film, some on video…I thought they were given talented crew and were to direct them? Is this NOT the case?

The format is cheap…cheap to produce and cheap theatrics. I tried to stick with it (thanks to the wonders of TIVO and the ability to skip a LOT of crap)…but I won’t be watching anymore. They had a good idea…they started out right…giving people tasks and resources…and following them as they did it…then they descended into cheap cookie cutter TV. I for one am GLAD the show is failing. Shows that just because Burnett and Speilberg have their names on something…it isn’t gold. Talent, thought and EFFORT go a long way.

OK…rant done. Man…three…four posts today. Bedtime.

Tim WIlson of CreativeCow.net has a great article on ProRes 422. Starting with what it isn’t, then moving to what it can do.

Must read.

EDIT: Link fixed.

That is my motto. Well, my motto in the production world. This is because to stay on the cutting edge…to buy things when they come out…just because it is the latest thing…is expensive. New computers hit the market every 6 months, so it is easy to left behind. New editing software updates…major ones, come about every 9 months to a year. And while the software upgrade itself might not be expensive the upgrade might require the newer hardware in order to use all of the major features it offers.

Case in point. Final Cut Pro Studio 2. GREAT update…major enhancements. Color, ProRes 422, multiple codecs in one timeline in RT, 3D space in Motion, Soundtrack Pro…the simple fact that the timeline in FCP conforms to the first clip you drop in it is major. No more making sure that you have the proper Easy Setup chosen, then deleting Sequence 1 and making a new sequence. MAN I hated that. ANYWAY…I am straying. This new update offers SO MANY COOL THINGS…but…BUT…you need an Intel Mac to take advantage of man of them. The multiple codecs in RT on one timeline has the dark green line (good resolution) on an Intel, but the light green line on older PPC Macs. Color works OK on an older Mac (although you need a DARN GOOD graphics card), but shines on an Intel Mac. ProRes…capturing to ProRes 422 without the AJA I/O HD requires an Intel Mac Pro.

So, this nice $499 upgrade won’t get me much of anything, unless I also upgrade my hardware. That means getting a Mac Pro, RAM, a new capture card (seeing that my Kona LH is PCI-X), and a new eSATA card…at least. This isn’t an inexpensive proposition…this means another $6000. No drop int he bucket. Yes, I cut network TV, but I ain’t made of money.

Lets take a quick look at the upgrade path for Premeire Pro. If you have Premiere Pro, and you want to get the latest version of Premeire Pro CS, you have to pay more than the upgrade cost of FCP. The UPGRADE cost of this suite is the RETAIL cost of FCP Studio 2. While Adobe Creative suite is $1699 for all the AMAZING apps it offers, the upgrade path from Premiere, or Photoshop, or Adobe After Effects…is $1299. Wow…chunk of change. Since I am not a Premiere guy, I am not sure about the hardware requirements. And I am too lazy to look.

And Avid upgrades are notoriously expensive, which is why may of the production companies I work at STILL HAVE and use Avid Meridian v11 on G4s running OS 9. Why? Well, it works. It still does what it needs to do. And since it cost upwards of $65,000…by god they are gonna use it until it works no more.

Which brings me to my point.

I have Final Cut Pro 5.1.4…I have a two year old Dual 2.0 G5…an AJA Kona LH…an assortment of firewire and eSATA drives. I edit DV, uncompressed SD on occasion and DVCPRO HD. The version of FCP that I have works with the workflows that I deal with. Everything I have…works. Heck, I went from FCP 3 to FCP 5.0…skipped FCP 4.5 entirely. Why? Didn’t have the need for it. Didn’t need what it offered at the time.

Now, this new version has all these nifty things. But, do I have a need to edit multiple codecs on the same timeline? Not yet. Not since my stint on BLOOD DIAMONDS. But when that need arises, I might make the leap. ProRes 422? I definately want that. Even though I can’t capture to it, I don’t need to. I capture native DVCPRO HD and edit that, and then transcode when it is time to online. Motion 3…now has true 3D. Do I need that? Use it? Not really. Although it might be fun to play with and FIND uses for it. Color. Need it? Not really, I have done fine without it. Will I get better results with it? HELL YEAH. But, I get good results with what I have…using Colorista with GREAT results.

The point is, while FCP Studio 2 offers a lot of advantages…a lot of great new things…do I NEED IT? Well…yes. I can get a better quality image by transcoding into ProRes and using Color. I can work on learning Motion 3. Will I upgrade my hardware? No. Well, not ALL of it. I can’t afford to, and have no need to, upgrade all of my hardware. I will, however, get a new graphics card. I’ll get the Nvidia x800 to replace my 9800 Pro. But this still is an expensive proposition. $499 for FCP, $499 for the graphics card…$998.

But seeing as my current project is winding down (one week left), and my future prospects for work mean working on edit systems provided by the production company, I really don’t have that money to invest into my system. So…what to do? Most likely I’ll get the graphics card before they sell out…but wait for FCP 6. This will be tough for me on the FCP forums as I won’t be able to answer as many questions, as it seems like EVERYONE is upgrading to FCP 6. But hey, I need the break anyway.

And as I said…”buy when you need.” Is Studio 2 cool? Yes. Advantages galore. Do I need it? No…not yet. So, I will wait.

OK…I am WAY late on announcing this. I mean, Matt Jeppsen of FresHDV gave me a heads up, blogged about it…and I looked at it and commented that I thought it was COOL! But I wrote nothing. Then of course Mike Curtis of HDforINDIES blogged about it not only once, but TWICE! Maybe I should follow Mike’s example and find some interns. HA!

Digital Production Buzz, the FCP-L forums…LAFCPUG…man. I am so slow.

Well, if you haven’t read about it in any of those places, and I am your only guide (which really would be sad…read the other guys too)…then here it is:

MOTU V3HD

And in case you didn’t read about it on all the links I posted, it is an I/O box that connects via Firewire 400 or Firewire 800, and can capture from a variety of formats and capture into a variety of codecs…most notably DVCPRO HD. This is a driect competitor to the AJA I/O HD (which I ALSO failed to blog about…bad Shane…bad bad), only it doesn’t have a hardware ProRes 422 encoder built in. But it does have more advanced audio I/O…which makes sense, coming from an audio equipment manufacturer.

The V3HD is CROSS PLATFORM! Meaning that it works for both Mac and PC…so you can use it with FCP or Premeire (possibly other PC NLEs) The device can be controlled via software or via a knob on the front. And you need not have it connected to a computer to do a lot of the conversions. It also is a standalone converter box with no computer connection required. The input volume monitoring, input and output levels are controlled vua that same knob on the front. It has timecode display and audio meters…so a little MORE functionality than the AJA unit.

Here are the video I/O specs from MOTU:

• 1 x HD-SDI in and out (4:2:2 10-bit) on independent BNC connectors
• 1 x SD-SDI in and out (4:2:2 10-bit) on independent BNC connectors
• 1 x extra HD-SDI output connector
• 1 x extra SD-SDI output connector
• 1 x HDMI output (4:2:2 10-bit, YCbCr or RGB)
• Support for DVI output with HDMI-to-DVI adapter (sold separately)
• 1 x HD component in and out (10-bit, YPbPr or RGB) on independent BNCs
• 1 x SD component in and out (10-bit, YPbPr or RGB) on independent BNCs
• 1 x composite in and out (10-bit)
• 1 x S-video in and out (10-bit)
• 1 x 400 Mbit (1394) FireWire A
• 2 x 800 Mbit (1394b) FireWire B

No pricing as of yet…but a target release date in the 3rd quarter…so…soonish.

Looks sweet. I know it doesn’t do ProRes, but it does just about everything else, and I can transcode to ProRes later if I want. I like the audio options…I like the timecode display and knob (more than just pretty lights on the front)…and it is rack mountable. Where the I/O HD pushes how portable it is…this is designed to be stationary. Still…I like the look of it. And I love competition.

FIREWIRE VR

“The 1st Truly Configurable 2TB FireWire RAID with 64MB of Cache Memory.

June 6, 2007 Placentia, CA: CalDigit proudly announced today that the FireWireVR 2TB dual drive FireWire product has been added to its’ lineup of storage solution products.

This new unit allows for the universal connectivity of FireWire 400, 800, and USB 2.0 without the need of additional cards. The FireWireVR 2TB allows for RAID settings of 0, 1, and JBOD. The control for the different RAID settings is right on the box. The FireWireVR product utilizes SATA 3Gb/s drives with 32MB’s cache per drive to meet the high-speed demands of application, such as with Final Cut Studio 2 and Adobe Creative Suite.

“CalDigits’ FireWireVR product is fully compatible with the new AJA IoHD product & can take full advantage of the new Apple ProRes 422 HD workflows” said Jon Schilling, CalDigit Account Manager. “We’re proud to be the 1st truly configurable hardware RAID, shipping the largest FireWire 2 bay solution.”

Up to 2TB capacity
Daisy Chainable without performance loss
Compatible with Apple’s ProRes 422 HD workflows
Compatible with AJA IoHD
Store up to 30 hours of HD Video
Removable, Replaceable Drive Modules
Largest Hard Drive Cache size in the industry, 32MB per drive, up to 64MB total.
Hardware RAID functionality RAID 0,1 & JBOD
HD seek time, 8.5ms (FASTEST HD seek time).
Progressive, Rugged Modular Design
Aluminum Housing for Excellent Heat Dissipation
Multiple Interfaces: FW 400,800, USB 2.0
Quiet Ball Bearing Fan / 60 W Power Supply / Drive Module
Mac & PC compatible
2 Year Warranty

An option offered with this line is our FireWireVR archiving box; this option allows storage of additional drive modules for your projects in the same form factor as vertical-standing VHS tapes. Since most computer users already have shelving systems in place for their entertainment centers or media storage, they can simply utilize existing storage to keep projects organized.”

No shortage of news today.

Specialized Communications announced today that due to lack of market interest, because of larger P2 cards at lower prices, the Cineporter will no longer be in production.

I would liked to have a chance to try one of these out. I am too wary of the Firestore.

Marcus van Bavel…the creator of the Raylight plugin for Adobe Premiere and Sony Vegas, on the PC side of editing applications, has just announced the release of Raylight 1.0 for the Mac.

RAYLIGHT 1.0

What does Raylight do? Well it allows your editing system to see and work with MXF files (such as those created by the HVX-200 camera) NATIVELY. Meaning that you don’t need to convert the footage to QT before you can work with it. You insert the P2 card, or connect the drive with all the P2 footage backed up to it and within seconds you can see the files and begin editing them.

This is VERY handy if you need to start editing right away. I still recommend editing with backups of these files…have the masters stored somewhere…JUST IN CASE. I’ll be playing with this plugin over the next week or two and report back. But after hearing from editors that use Premeire and Vegas, this plugin is very handy.

I’ll admit that when it comes to adding an RSS feed to a site I am absolutely clueless. I am an editor, not a webmaster! (to semi-quote a famous starship doctor). But Mike, an avid reader of my blog, pointed to a service that makes the blog an RSS feedable thing…I think.

ANYWAY…here is the link to add LFHD to your RSS news server…thingys.

http://feeds.feedburner.com/LittleFrogInHighDef

I’ll try to figure out how to make that a button on the site….but no promises.

EDIT: OK…two things. First off, I added the RSS link to my LINKS section. But as Adam noted in the comments area, Safari (and I see it with Firefox as well) has an RSS feed link in the URL window…AFTER the site address. You can click on that and add this site to your RSS news reader.

In case you didn’t know, FCP Rescue…the OLD one that you have on your system for FCP 5…doesn’t work with FCP 6.

But Anders Holck, they guy who wrote the single most helpful third party companion application to FCP, has just updated it.

It can be found at the same place you downloaded the previous versions, FCP Rescue.

He has FCP Rescue for FCP 4, FCP 5 and now FCP 6 are all available for download.

For those who might not know what it is for, it is an application that automatically trashes all three FCP prefs, which can get screwed up from time to time. It also allows you to backup good copies of those prefs, and restore them after you trash the bad ones.

Thanks Anders.