After working with HDV for just over a year, I am finally working with Panasonic P2 again.  I was finally able to convince my boss to shoot some recreations with the P2 Varicam.  We were able to do this because his normal shooters were busy, and he wanted to see what all the hullabaloo was all about.  Sure, we’d be mixing this footage with the bulk of a program that was shot on HDV, captured as ProRes,  but because of the style of this recreation, it should stand out fine.

We shot in the office, and I told my boss that I’d bring in my Powerbook G4 to offload the footage.  I have this machine ONLY for P2 offload.  It has ShotPut Pro and Proxymill and a nice bus powered drive to offload to.  And it hasn’t seen action in…a long time.

At one point when the DP was setting up, I came wandered out of my dark cave to ask my post super a question.  I saw the DP and a producer setting up the background, and the DP took one look at me and said “Hey Shane!”  This took me aback a bit, because I didn’t recognize the guy.  And I am really good at faces.  But then he continued.  ”Hi, I’m Helmut.  I’m a fan of your blog.”

Aha!  Helmut…that name I know.  Not only has he commented here (hey Helmut!), but I have also seen him contributing regularly to the Cow in the P2 forum.  And we both beta tested P2 Flow from MXF4MAc.  We are both big P2 guys.  Man, what a small world.  And he was the shooter for the day, shooting with his nice HPX-2700 and four, count them FOUR 64GB E-Series P2 cards.  Thank goodness that at the end of the shoot he only filled up one.

OK, moving past the “small world” part of the story…

Now, when the shoot was over, the owner of the company, the producer, and the production manager all piled into my office to look at the wonder that is P2.  They wanted to look at how immediate this tapeless format really was.

Well, it wasn’t quite as immediate as they thought.  Sure, theres no digitizing from a deck, and sure the import process is faster than real time, but I first had to backup the P2 card.  So they all sat there as I put the card into my computer (and interestingly enough the E-Series card showed up without any special drivers beyond the main ones for P2 cards), launched Shotput and began the backup process.

They sat there for 5 min before I said, “you know, this part will take a while.  Yes, I can immediately import the footage into FCP and begin editing, but I like to play things safe by first backing up the card.  So why don’t you all go about your business and I’ll call you when it is done.”  They were a bit put off by the lack of the immediate…immediacy of the process, but they were fine with this.  Because normally this offload process is done either in the field, or back at the hotel after the shoot, so that when you arrive at the production company you can immediately start the import process.

So after 45 min (offloading 52Gb with verification) I called people in and showed them how this worked.  They were impressed that when I would import the footage, after the first clip imported, I could start playing the footage and start logging or editing, all the while the rest are importing.

And yes, I did the typical Log and Transfer to QT because we are on a SAN and the footage needs to be seen by multiple machines.  So the native MXF software would need to be put on all machines if we wanted IMMEDIATE immediate access. Maybe if they finally decide to start shooting with P2.  We’ll see.  One thing I might REALLY suggest is that we either work with pre-loaded scene files, or get P2 Flow so that we can log the footage and add settings before we import.  Use that to export a batch import list that will include a lot of the metadata that the regular L&T ignores.

It’s so nice to get back to a GOOD HD format.  And hey, Helmut Kobler, it was a pleasure putting a face to the name.