Last week, on Thursday (March 13th for those who really want to know) we needed to output the rough cut of the first show and send it to the network. In actuality it was the SECOND show, but episode one was still being edited…but that’s besides the point. So on Thursday I was pulled off my editing of a segment for show one (EP 101) and assigned to cut the tease for show two (102).

“Cut the tease”….sorry, that always makes me giggle a little.

Anyway…this was the beginning of a series of “missteps” that caused a couple complications with the assembly of the show. For the record, we are editing DVCPRO HD footage mainly shot with the Varicam, at 720p 23.98 This footage was captured via the Kona card and not via firewire, as firewire capture throws the audio off sync by two frames…audio leading by two frames. Instead of adjusting the sync on each and every clip we drop in the timeline, we captured via HD SDI from the Kona 3 ensuring perfect sync. Because of this, the Easy Setup we chose was AJA KONA 3-720p 23.98 DVCPRO HD Varicam:

OK…that in mind, let’s move on to the series of events that caused a few complications.

We are in an XSAN environment. Each machine connected to shared storage, with multiple editors editing sections of the final show. One editor handling two segments, another on the third, and me working on the tease. When we were all done and ready to “stitch the show together,” something odd happened. The lead editor opened our projects on his system, copied the contents of our sequences then pasted them into his main sequence and…the aspect ratio and dimensions of the clips were off. They were wrong from both me and the editor working on the third segment. The image was squished and stretched. And when we looked at the MOTION tab of one of the clips, the scale was 133%, and it was distorted at -33. Hmmm…odd. Why was this? Well, I looked at my sequence settings, and they were…well…wrong:

1280×720…not 960×720. Square pixels…compressor was 8-bit uncompressed. What the…? How did this happen? Well, I looked at my Easy Setup…I chose the wrong one. AJA Kona 3-720p 23.98 8-bit Varicam…8-bit UNCOMPRESSED, not DVCPRO HD. That means square pixels, uncompressed timeline. And that any clip dropped into this timeline would be scaled to fit that timeline.

But you ask “how could this be when FCP 6 prompts you to change the sequence settings to match the clip settings? Surely THAT would have made the sequences right…right?” Well…yes, that does happen, but only when you CUT or OVERWRITE footage into the timeline. This DOES NOT occur when you copy and paste footage into the sequence, like I did. I was cutting the tease…meaning that I culled scenes and soundbytes from the main sequences from each segment…copy and paste. And then we have the great OPEN TIMELINE of FCP 6. Because of this, I can put footage that doesn’t match the sequence settings into said sequence and NOT have to render. No more RED render bar…dark green. A very unnoticable dark green I might add. So I copy and pasted merrily along blissfully unaware that I was doing anything wrong.

THIS is the proper sequence settings I should have used:

The other editor was in the same boat. Apparently he too had the same Easy Setup (I believe I set up that computer as well…ahem…) and he took bits and pieces of a couple sequences full of selects to start building his cut. So too did not get the “settings” warning.

Whew. OK then. Now we need to fix this.

We fixed one clip…scaled to 100%, distort back to 0. Then we selected the clip, hit Apple-C to COPY, then highlighted the other clips and hit OPTION-V, Paste Attributes, and chose BASIC MOTION and DISTORT. This fixed the other clips. We had to do this carefully, as not all the footage in the sequences were DVCPRO HD. We have plenty of archival footage that was captured at DV resolution, and loads of stills with moves applied to them. Fixing the DV clips was easy, just did the same Paste Attributes thing. But the stills…the moves were now all wrong, so we needed to fix those.

Needless to say, editing went on longer than anticipated and we missed FedEx (started the final assembly at 5PM for a 5:30 PM output to be gotten to the LAX FedEx drop off with a late drop of deadline). Since we missed the deadline, we took a little longer to tweak the show and then output it as H.264 that we then uploaded to an FTP site for the network to download and view.

Oh, and when I say “we did this” and “we did that,” I mean the OTHER editors did most of this fix and output. I had to leave at 6PM sharp to get home to watch the kids as my wife had an important meeting to get to. So I got to miss out in all the fun. At least locally. I was on the phone for a bit of this.

This is the sort of thing that happens when one is deep in the “creative” aspect of cutting. You attention is so focused on story and content that you aren’t really paying attention to the technical. When I was an assistant I’d notice this a lot in the other editors. They would render to the wrong drive, or mix AVR (Avid Video Resolution) formats in the timeline, typically titles rendered in the wrong format, causing the WRONG FORMAT error to pop up. Now that I am the editor, I am the one not paying attention causing the WRONG FORMAT errors.

Needless to say I won’t make THIS mistake again.

COMING UP: On the next episode of Little Frog in High Def…

Shane’s edit station goes from the occurance a few small minor annoyances to a complete system meltdown.