In my current job I am working on two TV series for Investigation Discovery. One is a half-hour series that is currently running called CALL 911. The other is a 10-episode, one-hour series called TRUE CRIME with APHRODITE JONES that will start airing in March. Both have very different workflows, as CALL 911, due to the fast turnaround needed, is kept fairly simple to finish, while TRUE CRIME is more typical documentary, with LOTS and LOTS of footage, and stock footage, so it is a tad more complex.
CALL 911 is shot on HDV and captured as ProRes. It only consists of interviews and some b-roll, and recreations. Not a lot of footage. So onlining this is a snap and takes only 2.5 days. Media manage the timeline to the local drive, with handles. Send to COLOR, color correct, send back to FCP. Put back in the text (spell check that text), add credits, a slate…the mixed audio…output. Done.
But TRUE CRIME…that takes a tad longer.
It too is shot on HDV, but this is captured as DV anamorphic to save space. Because we have to also include not only the interviews and b-roll (of which there is far more than Call 911), but also lots and lots of stock footage and stills. THIS online takes a tad longer. More like 5-7 days, depending on how many stills there are.
You see, that is the main bottleneck in the system…those stills. Because all the moves on those stills, many of which are low resolution, are done at 720×480. When I online the show, I need to bring everything into a 1920×1080 sequence, and replace the low res stills with high res ones. So that means recreating each and every still move, manually. That can take a while. BUT, my post supervisor, also a graphic artist skilled with AE, stumbled on a plan to use Automatic Duck to send the still sequence (I separate the stills from the rest of the footage into their own sequence, but keep their relative positions) to After Effects, where adjusting the keyframes, mainly the scale, is far simpler. Replacing the low res with high res and keeping the same relative scale is apparently relatively easy as well. So we are hoping that this will shave a couple days off the online process.
Because I will be busy with other things, like recapturing all the HDV tapes, capturing the new stock footage masters, going through the sequence shot by shot to make sure that the footage hasn’t slipped sync (this happens occasionally), redoing some of the text…building a credit list, replacing transition effects that go beyond broadcast legal (like VAPOR ACROSS!)… and then building the TEXTLESS ELEMENTS to appear at the end of the show. And note the start and end times of acts, locations where the network can put in those big lower third promos for other shows (they need 40 second gaps with no on screen text)…Oh yeah, and send the footage to COLOR to color correct and render and send back to FCP. Making sure all the text is broadcast legal (they can’t be at 100% white, that puts them at 105 IRE). Then dropping in the audio stems (separate tracks of audio) from the audio post house, assigning them to the proper channels. Making sure that the SPELLING is right in all the text we have (all the text for the 911 calls, in the CALL 911 show…wow…lots of text), because editors tend to be horrid spellers. Blur license plates…keyframe the movement… blur the addresses in legal or personal correspondence, blur faces of people in pictures that aren’t involved in the show. Redo those blurs because when we go from SD to HD…locations shift.
So many small details. But that is the job of the online editor…all of the small technical details. Making darn sure that every detail is taken care of. If not, you will fail QC (Quality Check) and the show will be kicked back to you for fixes. And we don’t want that.
This offline process will be better once the office upgrades to FCP 7 and we can start using ProRes Proxy. That is a FULL SIZE HD offline codec, with a data rate close to DV. That would make this process a LOT quicker. Because I tell you, I much prefer the CALL 911 onlines.