While I was in the middle of trying to finish my third pass at Act 2 on the current show I am working on, I was given a really interesting challenge. And while I needed to get this Act finished, and move on to Act 3…I did need a little break from the creative process, and I do enjoy a technical challenge
The company I work for needed some DVCPRO HD 720p60 footage converted into slow motion. From 59.94 fps to 29.97fps…a frame by frame transfer that makes for very smooth slow motion. That’s doable….no problem.
Issue #1 – This is an Avid shop, and older Avid’s at that. They did have an Avid Adrenaline that could read this footage fine, but it couldn’t do the slow motion conversion internally. With an Avid, if we wanted slow motion from DVCPRO HD, we’d make sure that we shot that footage on a separate tape so that we could take that tape to a post facility where they’d run it thru some process during dubbing that would then produce a tape with slow motion footage. And the budget on this series was getting thin, so they wanted to see if this could be done another way. Sure…no problem. Final Cut Pro has a tool that you can install to do that, the DVCPRO HD FRAME RATE CONVERTER (in the EXTRAS folder on the FCP install disk). I have a tutorial on this process.
Issue #2 – All the footage was shot on P2. But this wasn’t the issue. FCP can work with footage shot on P2. No, the issue was that the file structure of the P2 card was gone. Avid doesn’t need the CONTENTS folder or the LASTCLIP.txt file in order to work with the P2 files. All it needs are the Video and Audio files. So what the assistants do is make a folder on the media drives and copy into that ONLY the video and audio files…all of them lumped into one folder. I did spend about 30 min trying to rebuilt the fle structure of the P2 cards with no success. Without the PROXIE and CLIP files (the folders were empty, of course), FCP didn’t recognize the card as valid. I couldn’t import the footage.
Hmmm…think think think. OK…back to the cut. I need to make this surgery that really isn’t dramatic or exciting into, well, a dramatic and exciting surgery, and show that they are losing the guy. OK, cut this, pull up that…Oooo…nice CU of the young female doctor…ick, avoid the close ups of the open abdomen. This is a surgery show, but let’s not gross people out…
Hey! What about Raylight? I keep hearing on the Creative Cow and DVXUser forums (mainly from Barry Green, a huge Raylight advocate) that with this application, FCP can read the MXF files natively…no need to import. I could try this. Not long ago Marcus van Bavel, the owner of DVFilm, sent me a beta of Raylight to test. I hadn’t even unzipped the archived file. Lemme try this.
I launch Raylight. That really is all that is required…for it to be running in the background. There were a few settings I had to check…and it didn’t detect the MXF files right away, because the CONTENTS file structure wasn’t there. BUT, there was an option to manually input a path to the MXF files. I did this and Raylight saw them. I then HID the application and launched FCP. I created a DVCPRO HD sequence with the Easy Setups, imported the P2 footage and…and…
Hmmm…Since these aren’t quicktime files, I can’t use the converter on them. Now what?
My producer walks in and wants to see Acts 1 and 2 and see how they flow. Pretty good…I just need to bridge a couple of sections, but good. He wrote a couple VO lines to help there, and to help finish the act on a cliffhanger in the OR. Then off he went to address another issue in another edit bay. I finessed the bridges, started finishing the surgery to end the act on a…
Idea. The MXF files can’t be converted…but if I was to export them as a Quicktime file, DVCPRO HD 720p60 at 59.94, and reimport that, FCP should be able to convert that, right?
I tried a self contained Quicktime Movie. I reimported that and tried the converter and…nope. It said it couldn’t do it…”file 0014FG.mxf cannot be converted. The file needs to be a DVCPRO HD 720p60 file at 59.94 in order for FCP to convert this.” Or something to that effect. Why was it still reading this as MXF?
Hmmm… What if I export using Quicktime Conversion, and choose DVCPRO HD, and current settings. This took a WHILE (on my powerbook G4). After 2 hours (17 min sequence) it finished. I reimported that file, applied the frame rate converter and…SUCCESS! It converted the file into ultra smooth slow motion! WooHoo! The clip was now 34 minutes long, and slow. I broke the footage up into two segments, as I needed to lay the result onto tape so that it could be captured by the older Avids, and because Discovery requires source footage to be on tape…they do not accept data files..
So I set about doing the second sequence…following all the steps I did the first time and…well crap. It wasn’t working. No matter what I did, it kept asking for some .mxf file. So now what?
OK. Back to the cut. Trim here, add footage there…write some VO to explain what severe acidosis is and record it. Figure out where a good dramatic place to end the act on a tense moment would be. Find good footage to cover that. Play it back…looks pretty good. I think I need some VO to explain this one section…
It kept referencing a .MXF file. Why? (what, me…ADD? Nah…why do you ask?) I wonder…what if I quit Raylight, so it can’t link to that MXF file. Nope. OK…quit and restart the computer. Launch FCP…try again. Nope…same error…claiming that the exported QT file is an MXF file. Well…they have all the MXF files on the Avid…what if I threw mine out and erased them? So I do that, tried the converter and VOILA! It worked!
OK…back to the cut. Add the VO, cut in some dramatic music, edit that music…bridge a gap or two…and done. Whew.
Of course then I realize that this would ALL have been easier if they output the p2 clips to tape, Id captured those tape into FCP making them QT files by default…THEN using the converter. GAH!
Ah well…this is a great solution for the instances when you don’t have access to a deck.
Thank you Barry Green (if you even read this) for constantly mentioning Raylight on the forums, and URGING me to try it out.