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Little Frog in High Def

Musings of an NLE ronin…
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Archive for August, 2010

Working with Tapeless Formats in Final Cut Pro 7 via Log and Transfer.

This covers P2 (AVCIntra and DVCPRO HD), XDCAM EX, AVCHD, Canon DSLR (5D, 7D and T2i)…and one possible RED workflow. The basic workflow on getting footage off the cards and into FCP for editing.

Conforming 60p Footage to Smooth Slow Motion using Cinema Tools.

This is a quick tutorial that addresses the question “How do I get this great 60fps footage I shot into slow motion 23.98 or 29.97?”

Yeah…I’ve been busy with Tutorials.  This is what happens when I don’t have a steady job…

CalDigit VR Mini

My buddy Jared over at CalDigit sent me a drive and asked me to give it a test run. This drive was the CalDigit VR Mini. I own the big boy, the Caldigit VR, and I used it on a recent project that required me to travel (see my JFK post for the details on that). The drive was big and bulky…not fun to travel with, but had the speed, and the connection types I needed. Jared said “Why not test out the smaller model, and see if it would help you when you need to travel.” (I’m paraphrasing) Sure, why not, I’m always up to testing things (note how many drives I have tested lately). The VR Mini sports a quad connection interface: USB, FW400, FW800 and eSATA.

The drive I received was the 1TB model. I loaded the drive with footage from a promo project I was hired to do. Shot on XDCAM EX, converted to ProRes 422, 1080p24. The footage took up 644GB of the 1TB. The drive was set up as RAID-0, for speed. (The unit was very quiet. No fan, but rather heat dissipation via the case…one big heat sink.)

When I connected it via FW800, I got these numbers:

59 Write, and 82 Read. Pretty much what I expected. Firewire 800 has a 85MB/s limit (800Mbps…give or take), even with RAID-0. Just for comparison I wanted to see what a SINGLE drive, FW800 drive would do. So I grabbed my G-Drive Mini…single drive in an enclosure…and connected that via FW800. I ran the test and i got 52 Write, and 58 Read. So there is a difference between a two drive enclosure and a single drive one. Two drives are faster.

So I spent two weeks editing the promos. Not one dropped frame. Straight cuts, a couple of layered shots (to cover up a grips ugly head), a couple filters I got two layers of ProRes 422 to work just fine. It performed admirably. But hey, lets see how fast this can go. If I need to capture ProRes 422, I want more speed, so I can hit that comfort zone.

So I attached the unit to my computer via eSATA (via the CalDigit Express34 eSATA card). With the VR Mini, you first connect the eSATA cable, THEN you connect the FW800 cable. What this does is tell the drive that the data will go out via eSATA, but power will come from the FW800 cable. This keeps the drive bus powered, but gives you the speed of eSATA. Let’s see what I got for numbers:

156MB/s Write, 158MB/s Read. NOW we’re talking. TWICE as fast. VERY nice indeed. Good for 3-4 streams of ProRes 422. And for ease of mind when capturing ProRes…even on my laptop. And CalDigit informs me that their 2TB unit can get up to 180MB/s. If someone gets that model, can they run the AJA test and confirm? That’s a lotta speed for a couple small 2.5″ drives.

Alrighty then…let’s switch things to RAID-1 and see what we get for performance. Doing this is relatively easy.

The VR mini has this digital readout on the front that has menus…navigate through the menus to set up a Raid configuration of your choice. What I liked about it was that it warned you like 3 times that “what you are doing will erase the drive…are you SURE?”

I copied some footage back to the drive (from a backup), until I had the unit filled to around the 60% mark again.

61MB/s Write, 78MB/s Read. Yup…still very similar to what I got with it configured Raid-0…hitting that 800Mbps limit.

Just for yucks I thought I’d try the RAID-1 setting with eSATA. How fast is RAID-1 without the 800Mbps limit?

78MB/s Write, 79MB/s Read. About the same I got with FW800 RAID-1. No advantage there…so with RAID-1 might as well just stick with FW800. Less cables anyway.

The VR Mini is slightly more expensive than other similar drive units. But, there are many features that this unit offers that make that price worth it.

- The front LCD. With this you can monitor the temperature, RAID configuration, version numbers, and RAID degradation (if any were to occur). You can also use it to change the RAID configuration, like I mentioned earlier.

- The VR Mini ships with monitoring software. In case you like to monitor things like the heat and other information, you can do it within software. An IT persons dream. I hear there’s a lot you can do with this software, but I’m not that much of a tech head to use it myself. Nice option to have though.

- The drives inside are accessible via a removable rear panel, and the drives can be removed. This serves many purposes. If a drive were to fail, you can take out only the failed drive, and replace it. Instead of shipping off the whole unit to be serviced. This is also very useful if you use the drive to offload tapeless media onto. Set the unit up as RAID-1, and offload the dailies, you have the footage on both drives. You can then take one drive out and ship that back to the office, keeping one on set. That leads us to…

- The unit can be set up as JBOD. This means that you can read the drives individually. You aren’t limited to RAID-1 and RAID-0, in both cases the drives show up as one single drive. With JBOD, you can get the one drive from the field, put it into another unit at the office, and access the drive…copying it to your main archive solution.

If you want something to carry your VR Mini with you can order a small hard case on the site for $15, that holds the drive and ALL the cables, including power, that ships with it. (http://www.CalDigit.com/store.asp#VRmini).

CalDigit always comes out with great products with features that go beyond the competition. This is why I not only like and use the drives, but always put them at the top of my recommended list.

(The 1TB unit retails for $499 US)

(I was offered to and did keep the review unit. But this in no way swayed my decision.)

iStoragePro Pocket II

When I was at NAB 2010, in April, walking around the floor, and I stopped by the iStorage booth. They had a few hard drive solutions and I am always looking out for options to recommend to people. I asked about a few models, as on more than one occasion I have needed to edit on-location with my laptop, or I need to edit while travelling (say on a plane), and I don’t like lugging around big drives. They asked if I’d like to try out the iStoragePro Pocket II and see how it handled. I took them up on the offer

This drive connects via USB, FW800 (two ports) and eSATA. Nice to have options with connections.

They shipped the iStoragePro Pocket II set up as RAID-1. They wanted me to first test it as a protected RAID solution, and then later test out the RAID-0 option. They know that more and more, people want protected RAID…a backup in case a drive fails. The RAID-1 configuration means that the data on one drive is mirrored on the other, so if one drive failed, you’d still be safe. Often RAID-1 solutions are slow, so they wanted me to see that their drive could be RAID-1, and fast. For the test I put a family video that I shot with my Canon T2i, converted to ProRes 422 1080p24. This drive was 640GB, but as RAID-1 I had half that, 320GB, to work with, and I filled it with 210GB of footage (a lot of family video…a trip to Seattle, and I tend to shoot a lot).

First, the numbers.

With the iStoragePro Pocket II connected via FW800, I got 60MB/s Write, and 82MB/s Read. That was with the drive over 60% full. And editing was trouble free. I mainly did straight cuts and in one spot, I used two video layers. I got the GREEN render bar and didn’t drop one frame. I was comforted by the fact that I was editing RAID-1, because this is family video (yes, I had the masters backed up) and I wanted to get a cut done quickly. If a drive died, it’d take a while to reimport. The only issue is that your available space is reduced. From 640GB to 320GB. That was fine, I only needed that small amount. And that piece of mind made it worth it.

At one point I wanted to see if I connected the drive via eSATA, how much faster it would be, because the ceiling for FW800 is about 85MB/s. Still RAID 1, I got better numbers for the write speed, but the read speed was the same. So for RAID-1, that seems to be the ceiling as well. But that was fine for what I was doing…two streams of ProRes 422. And you can still keep this drive as bus powered when you do this. Just order the optional Firewire to power converter cable.

When the project was done, I cleared off the drive to do further testing. This time at full capacity, RAID-0. Let’s see how fast it could go. The Pocket II has dip switches on the back for configuring the RAID MODE:

Put them into the mode you want…while the drive is powered down…and then power the drive up while holding down the RAID RESET button, watch the red drive lights turn blue…boom…new raid type. Here is a PDF with the step by step process.

Now I ran the tests again. Well, after I filled the drive up again to the 60% mark.

64MB/s Write, 84MBs Read. Still falling in the same area. But I suspected this. Remember, FW800 has a ceiling of 85MB/s.

Next I tried the eSATA connection. And eSATA is faster than firewire. So let’s look at those numbers, shall we?

164MB/s Write and 164MB/s Read. Wow, twice as fast! Nice…I like this eSATA thing. And the fact that you can connect this drive to the computer via eSATA, and still be bus powered, I find very appealing.

How did it perform? Well, I had no dropped frames, no drive failures, and nothing but smooth sailing. ProRes 422 at about 60% full, set up RAID-1 connected via FW800…and via eSATA (Mainly FW, as less cords were involved, and the speeds weren’t any better). There was no hesitation in either when I pressed play or pause. No more than I get with my tower and bigger plugged-in drives. The unit stayed pretty cool, even after 5 hours of editing, and the fan, while you can hear it, wasn’t too distracting.

One think I liked about the Pocket II is that it came with this great soft case, that held both the drive, and has a spot to tuck a cable or two away.

I can say, without hesitation, that I recommend the iStoragePro Pocket II drive to anyone who wants a good portable drive that won’t break the bank. It works with ProRes, is bus powered, has a decent footprint (not too big) and has a great self-contained carrying case for easy transport.

Now, one thing I really like about RAID-1 drives (that I didn’t test this on), is that for offloading tapeless media, they are perfect.  No need to hook up TWO drives and offload the footage twice…copy it twice.  With RAID-1 bus powered drives, you offload once, and the footage is securely backed up.

(The 640GB unit retails for $395 US)

(I was offered to, and did keep the review unit. But this in no way swayed my decision.)

This past week, while I have been between jobs, I have been busying myself by making a few tutorials for FCP. I have one more planned, but until then, enjoy these:

How to Set Up FCP to Output Mulitiple Discreet Audio Channels…to tape and to Quicktime movies.

The Tapeless Offline/Online Workflow in FCP

How to Add Visible Timecode to Your Quicktime Exports.

To see all the tutorials and articles I have on the Creative Cow, click here.

I got an email the other day from a company that I have been hoping to work with for some time.  This email was a job offer.  A quickie.  A day, maybe two.  He needed someone to online a short film, but the budget was tight so all they could afford was one day.  It was shot on film, telecined to HDCAM SR 444, and offlined on an Avid.  Could I come in an online on their Symphony?  Basically recapture, and do minor corrections to make sure shots match.  The bulk of the color correcting happened at the time of telecine…the DP sat in on a supervised session, so I didn’t need to worry about that.

Sure, I’ll take it.  I have done plenty of Avid onlines…on Media Composer Meridians, with Symphony, Adrenaline.  Lots.  But…a while back so only in SD.  You’ll see why this is relevant in a bit.

So I come in, do my usual online prep of making a new project, one that matched the settings I intended to capture as (in this case, 1080p 23.976), bring over the bin with the final locked cut, duplicate it, drag that into a new bin, strip out the audio tracks and decompose the cut with 1 second handles.  I then go to batch capture when…

ERROR.  The clip you are trying to capture does not match the settings of the project.

What?  I look at the fps of the clips…they are all 23.98.  The project is 23.976.  What could be the issue?  So I look at the sequence and clips.  Wait…the numbers go up to 29, then to 00.  Even the burned in code is 30 frame.  But, pulldown has been removed so they are running at 23.98.  But the timecode is 30 frame…and the master tapes are all 23.98psf.  Great…now what?

I haven’t had to deal with this before.  I have always onlined 29.97 or 23.98…not converting.  I have no idea what to do.  To make things worse, it’s 10:30 AM and the client will be in at 4PM to review the online.  No pressure or anything.  GAH!  So I quickly post the question on the Avid.com forum, and the Creative Cow Avid forum…hoping someone would chime in soon.  No such luck.  So I do some google-searching on the issue and stumble across this:

http://www.24p.com/30_24.htm

OK…wow.  That seems over my head.  But, it seemed pertinent.  Did the editor get 29.97 dubs of the HDCAM SR masters, then remove pulldown, edit…and now I need to convert this to 23.98 code?  I didn’t know what to do.  The project wasn’t a 29.97 project…the EDL I spit out was 23.98, just with different numbers.  So how could I convert that?

I called around.  My first go to person, Terry Curren, was in a session so I left a message.  I called a few more people and all offered one suggestion or another.  And I knew that I was in over my head, so I was also calling around to find someone else to take this over from me.  I don’t want the company to lose the job because of my incompetence.

Then Terry Curren called back.  And I chatted a bit with him about the FCP vs AVID argument that we have been having online here an there…and then I asked him my question.  How do I deal with this.

“Oh, that’s simple.” And proceeded to tell me how to fix this.  Dang…it was simple.  Just need to find the right person to talk to.

You see, Avid thinks that I’m working on an SD 29.97 project with pulldown, and it wants 23.976.  Plus I  want to online in HD, so I need to change things.  If this was FCP, I’d use the Media Manager to CREATE OFFLINE and then choose the settings I want to online.  Well, here’s how you do it in Avid Media Composer/Symphony.

Right-click on the sequence and choose MODIFY.  Then click on the drop down menu and choose SET FORMAT.  

Then choose the format you want to online the project as.  In my case, 1080p 23.976.  

When I did that, the Symphony made a new sequence and modified the name to add “.1080p.01.”  When I decomposed that, and chose BATCH CAPTURE…everything went smooth as butter.

Thanks Terry.

OK, here’s the deal. You want a RAID…a PROTECTED Raid, and you are a do-it-yourself kinda editor…really hands on. There are lot of choices out there for all-in-one solutions, but you, like me, might like to do things yourself. Or, you want to start small and add as you go…but not get too crazy with the cost. I think I found a pretty good solution to that. The SOHOTANK ST8 by RAIDON.

Lets get the technical details out of the way…

The SOHOTANK comes in a couple configurations, eSATA or mini-SAS. The eSATA model, ST8-S2P, works with the SJ20-x8 8 lane 4 port PCIe to eSATA card or any port multiplied eSATA card (including Express34 adapters for laptops). For this option you can only use the drives as JBOD (Just a Bunch of Drives). So they can show up as individual drives, or you can raid them via software using the Disk Utility. This method restricts you to Raid-0 and Raid 1. The mini-SAS option, ST8-U5, requires a third-party mini-SAS card, so for that you’ll need to get the ATTO R380.

The unit I tested had the Mini-SAS connection and was populated with eight 1TB drives for a total of 8TB (which works out to be 6.37TB RAID-5), and connected via mini-SAS via the R380. This configuration may sound pricy, but it is cheaper than you think…more on pricing at the end.

You can populate the unit as you go…start out with say four 1TB drives and set them up as a RAID 5. Or as a RAID 0…or RAID 1…or JBOD…whatever you want. For this you used the ATTO Raid software, and the interface was pretty straight forward, not too difficult to figure out. The unit did come already formatted and set up as a RAID 5, but I did it again, to see how difficult it was (it wasn’t), and to see how long it took to build the raid. It took just over two hours.

NUMBERS

Now the numbers. But fair warning…these numbers are wrong. Well, not wrong, but not as good as they could be. I’ll explain that in a bit.

EMPTY: I got 569 WRITE, and 529 READ. Now, this seemed to be a bit lower than I was told this would run. I did contact the RAIDON guys and told them this, and they were working on getting me an answer when I filled up the unit to 25% and tested again.

25% FULL: 648 WRITE and 572 READ. Wait…what? The numbers IMPROVED? Well, now they were in the range I was told to expect. Odd that empty it was so low. I asked Raidon why the numbers would do this. They checked with ATTO. More on the reply later. OK, adding more footage.


60% FULL: Just past half-full I got 710 READ and 687 WRITE. The speed is still increasing? This goes contrary to all the stuff I have learned about hard drives. They are supposed to get slower the more you fill them up.


88% FULL: Pretty much the fullest people recommend to have drives…I got 644 READ and 606 WRITE. Now the numbers went down…but still hover in the range I got with 25%. So this seems to be the average speed. Darn fast too. But, I wanted to push things a bit. While it is recommended to stay around 80% – 85% empty, in the real world, we tend to fill the drives up a tad more. Let’s go to 95%.


95% FULL: I filled this sucker to 95% capacity. What did I see? 591 READ and 561 WRITE. Dang…still blazing fast. Barely a dip. I didn’t want to push it much past that. That’s my limit.

Those are pretty good numbers. More speed that I’ll ever need really. With ProRes and DNxHD, you don’t need really fast speeds. Unless you like to layer your footage rather deep, or you work with RED or other 2K footage. But as I said, those were my initial numbers. The ones I got by using the default settings in the ATTO software. When I checked with Raidon and ATTO, just to verify that my numbers were what they expected, they said “those aren’t quite high enough.” And they gave me instructions on how to format the unit using the ATTO software. Here are those instructions:

- Build a RAID 5 group with a 256k interleave size
- Once the group is built, right click and choose “Properties”
- Enable “Speed Read” (change from auto to always)
- Change “Prefetch” = 3
- Test AJA using 2048 x 1556 10-bit RGB (Disk Read + Write Test)

Now, these settings were specific to the application and specific configuration used.
If using these settings under different configurations, results may vary. After having made these changes, I ran the tests again. And sure enough, I got far better numbers.


EMPTY: 718 Write, 862 Read. Nice, but an empty RAID is of use to no one.


25% full: 706 Write, 860 Read. 860! That’s pretty impressive.


50% FULL: 683 Write, 832 Read. Half full and still above 800 Read.


85% FULL: At the sweet spot…the fullest we are told to keep RAID units, 701 Write and 712 Read. Still way up there.


95% FULL: Again, I go to 95%. This, realistically, is about as full as I fill these things when I work on some gigs. I jam them full. This full I got 579 Write and 554 Read. Still very very good for the footage that I work with.

But lets look at the really high end stuff. The footage that can most benefit from these really high speeds. For these tests I stayed at the sweet spot, 85% full.

First, RED. I encoded some footage as ProRes 4444 2K…for the really high quality finish. And then I encoded some footage Redcode Native 4K. With the ProRes 444, I was able to get 7 streams streams to play back smoothly…when I hit the 8th video layer things started to stutter…not play back smooth. I didn’t start dropping frames until I hit 10 layer. So 10 streams of realtime playback at ProRes 4444, 2K. When I did Red Raw at 4K, I was able to get 3 streams to play smooth, and the 4th started stuttering. Five caused dropped frames. So 5 streams of Red 4K. Nice. I ran the tests again at 50%…the hig high speeds. 11 streams of playback of ProRes 4444, and still 5 of native 4K.

Now onto the formats I deal with most…1080i and 1080p ProRes and ProRes HQ.

I was able to get 8 streams of ProRes HQ to play smoothly. As soon as I hit 9 streams, playback stuttered, but didn’t drop frames. This seems to be a limitation of FCP smooth playback, as I got this with ProRes HQ 2K as well. I went to 24 streams before I finally hit a dropped frame. More streams than I can imagine myself using. At 50%, I was able to get 25 streams of realtime playback.


I also tested plain vanilla ProRes 422 and got the same results for 8 streams of smooth playback. But I was able to get up to 30 streams of playback before dropped frames started happening. At 50% I got up to 32 streams. (The picture only shows 24 streams. But I thought it impressive enough an illustration.)

On the Avid side, The highest I could go was DNxHD 220…and the unit played back 10 streams of that before stutter. And 24 before Media Composer cried foul.

ACTUAL USE

I edited a project on the unit, regular ProRes 422, for a week. No issues. No dropped frames. And it was darn quiet. Small too…a smaller footprint than the CalDigit HD One.

Let’s see…how else did I abuse this unit. At one point I simulated a drive failure by yanking out a drive. Did the unit stop? Did my video stop? Dropped frames warning? Unit disappear from the desktop? Nope, nope and nope. All I saw was that in the ATTO interface, the unit went from eight drives to seven.

And you know what was cool? I slid the drive back in and the ATTO interface then had it reappear…as if it just left for a moment and came back. As if nothing had happened. No rebuild of the RAID. The reason it was that easy is that the ATTO software looks at MetaData on the RAID header to determine its timestamps and whether or not the drive is OK to be placed back into the group. If it is, then it just goes back in. If not, then the drive will have to be reformatted and the RAID rebuilt.

I wanted to make it appear as though the drive was damaged. REALLY damaged. So, I pulled it out. Connected it to my MacBook Pro via a SATA to USB adapter, and reformatted it. When the drive was placed back in I saw it marked as “Degraded” which caused the RAID group to be marked as Degraded. I added the drive to the RAID and the software took just over two hours to rebuild the RAID with the new drive. Slick.

In the case of a real drive failure, you would have two options:

1.) Clean the RAID data off the drive previously pulled (erase and reformat) and rebuild it.
2.) Replace this drive with a clean new one and rebuild.

In the case of a drive failure, I would highly recommend getting a new drive. The old one failed for a reason…so it won’t be trustworthy. ATTO Technology does have auto-rebuild options which will be used if the drive pulled was replaced with a new/clean drive.

How else did I abuse it? How about keeping it in my home office (aka, garage) and running those 30 streams of video day and night for four days? And how about knowing that one day, while we were in the middle of a hot streak here in the Valley (in Los Angeles), and that my garage got up to a toasty 102 degrees? And that I left the unit running (ONLY the unit…I powered down my system, I’m not stupid) for 3 days during that streak? I’m sure the RAIDON guys might not like to hear that I abused it like that, but that tells you something. It works in pretty hot temps for a while…if you need it to.

What I really like about this unit was the flexibility it offers. You can do two RAID-5 setups…four drives in each RAID. So you can start with one, then add the other. Or, you can do a seven drive Raid-5, and one as a single drive. Or two as Raid-1, and six as Raid-5, or all as individual drives. And you can buy your own drives. Forget being tied to only the drives the RAID manufacturer wants you to have. You can get what you want, when you want.

I’m not saying that single vendor solutions are bad. No, they are darn good for many reasons, especially for people who aren’t too technical and just want something that they can install simply and that will work. But there are many people out there that like getting all the separate pieces and assembling the unit themselves. Populating the RAID with drives that they buy. For that, this unit is a pretty good solution.

PRICING…

You can buy the unit empty for $690 at places like Otherworldcomputing.com. This will get you the chassis only, no drives, no RAID card for the computer. The ATTO R380 runs about $1050 MSRP. Buy your own 2TB drives for about $140 each…$1120… and you will have a 16TB unit for about $2860. Or if you want a unit populated with drives and bundled with the ATTO mini-SAS card, you can find it for $2999 – $3999, and this will include support for the entire package, which you might find worth it. Compare that to other solutions that run from $7200-$8600 for the same storage and similar connection type. Darn good if you ask me. And I need lots of storage lately. I often have six projects that are off and on and spread about on…well…too many drives. Having one unit with everything, and a protected RAID at that, is much more desirable.

The units can be purchased unpopulated from:
www.powermax.com
www.timelinedigitalinc.com
www.createmore.com
www.transintl.com
www.mbs-direct.com
www.carbonsp.com in Canada.

(The test unit I received was returned at the conclusion of testing.)

READ THE COMMENTS! There is a lot of good information being said in there.

Last year I worked on a National Geographic special called JFK: THE LOST TAPES. This show (currently up for an Emmy for editing….congrats to the producer/editor Ron Frank) followed the events surrounding the assassination of JFK, but told entirely with TV and Radio news reports. No interviews, no narration…only audio that existed at the time of JFK’s visit to Fort Worth and Dallas. It was a really neat and unique way to approach the subject…and the technical side of things was pretty unique too. Especially since this show needed to be in HD, and every single bit of footage was SD.

That’s where I came in. I not only onlined the show, but worked with the post supervisor to figure out the best workflow.

All the footage that was supplied to us was stored on DVDs and audio CDs. The CDs contained the radio news audio, and the DVDs were all viewable DVDs of all the footage the John F. Kennedy Library in Dallas had on the news reports from the time. All of them had window burn timecode (well, not the audio CDs). There were 35 audio CDs and 78 DVDs, each one between an hour and two hours long.

The audio CDs were easy…converted all of the audio from the 44.1Khz CD files to 48Khz, 16bit stereo files using Compressor. When it came to the DVDs, that took a little more effort.

First off, we ripped all the DVDs using MPEG STREAMCLIP, free software that needs to be in every editors APPLICATIONS folder. We ripped everything to DV/NTSC. But of course this footage wouldn’t be the final footage. We’d need to go back and capture the master tapes when it came time to online…so in order for that to go smoothly, we needed the timecode of all the footage to match the window burn. It took a few days to rip the footage, and then time came to adjust the timecode. This was relatively easy, but very time consuming as there was a LOT of files.

To do this all you need to do is load a clip into the Viewer, then park the playhead on a frame. Note the timecode. Go to the MODIFY menu and choose TIMECODE.

You then are presented with this simple interface. You can add an AUX TC if you want, but for this one I want to modify the MAIN timecode, so that when I go to recapture, I will be able to do so frame accurately. This also helps in accurate EDLs for ordering footage too.

Now, this wasn’t without a few roadbumps. A handful of clips had timecode skips in them. The video skipped and left out a few numbers, meaning that after a certain point timecode was off, or the DVD contained two tapes tied together. In this case, we used Quicktime Pro to break the clips up into two or three separate QT files, so that when we modified the timecode, it was all accurate. (By we I mean the post supervisor and assistant editor.)

Then editing proceeded. While it was happening we were discussing the logistics of delivering an HD show consisting entirely of SD material. Initially the network wanted us to blow things up full frame…fill the screen. This would mean losing the top and bottom of the image. But the JFK Library came back saying that they would really prefer that no part of the image be cropped off. So we came to an agreement to pillarbox the entire show. That means capture 4:3 into a 16:9 frame…having black bars on the left and right side of the screen. We did toy with ways to fill in that area, like layering the footage and stretching the image to fill the side, and reduce the opacity and blur it…but found that it was too distracting. So a straight pillarbox was the better idea.

Now, the online of the show was going to be tricky.  The issue we had is that the museum wasn’t about to ship us the masters, and we couldn’t afford to get dubs of the full tapes, and we just needed bits and pieces from each tape. So just dubbing those bits and pieces would be a logistic nightmare. So we decided that it would make the most sense for me to go to Dallas and do the capture on site. We opted to save money on a bay (and if I recall, the company did FCP systems, but not with cards capable of a hardware upconvert) by sending me down with a mobile bay.

I flew to Dallas…I went to the JFK museum…I walked around Dealey Square and looked at the spot where JFK was shot. I stood on the grassy knoll. Things are a LOT closer than I expected them to be. It was amazing to be standing in such a historical location. Words cannot describe it.

So I won’t try…back to the workflow.

I set up shop in the machine room of a post company that the JFK museum. See?


For the next two days I sat with Gary Mack, from the JFK Museum. I’d say a tape number, he’d grab it and load it, we’d shuttle to the shots we needed, and we’d set the exposure (and at times the color) of a shot using the controls on the Digibeta deck. Adjust things BEFORE we captured. This meant darn little time coloring afterwards. We spent two days doing this. And it was a good thing I went. Because often we’d find a shot that was on one tape, and Gary knew that there was another tape that had a better film transfer of that shot. So we’d find the shot, capture that one, and I’d cut it into the sequence.

Oh…that reminds me…I didn’t mention how I prepped the sequence for online. I media managed the locked cut to CREATE OFFLINE and DELETE UNUSED, with handles…meaning that it would make a new sequence, with the capture settings of my choosing (in this case, ProRes 422), and make clips that only referenced media used in the cut…with two second handles, so that I could slip shots one way or the other, to make sure things matched up. Because when you online, some slippage of a frame or even a half second, often occurs. Yes, even on an Avid. On top of the online sequence…on the top-most layer, I cut in the QT movie that I exported of the locked offline cut. And then I dropped the opacity down to 50% so that I could see if shots lined up.

So after the first day of capturing, I went to my hotel, ordered pizza, and set up my laptop and drive to go over all the footage we captured into the cut, and made sure that things lined up.

It took a while. And I found that some clips were actually off by more than the allotted 2 seconds. So I marked those for manual capture the next day. It was odd, the TC on the DVDs was off from the master in a couple cases. I know because the QT of the offline had burned in timecode. Having that reference Quicktime file is pretty important.

The next day I finished capturing the remaining clips, then captured the ones I had issues with. I went through the cut to make sure things all lined up. And when they did…high fives and hand shakes were exchanged, and I headed home.

Now, one thing that I didn’t mention earlier is that I didn’t have one version to online, I had four. And this created a logistical…speed bump. I needed to online the main two-hour cut-to-clock, meaning the cut with the commercial breaks, the two hour seamless international…with extra footage so that it made up for the lack of commercials on the international markets. But then there was also a one hour version…cut to clock and international seamless. Making sure that I didn’t capture the same clip four times took some planning.  The solution to that was relatively simple:  Put ALL the sequences into one sequence (Copy/Paste) and then use the Media Manager.  This way I got one bin with all the clips that are referenced by all the sequences.  I then copied the smaller sequences out of the the media managed sequence   And that first night at the hotel was a late night, as I had to check FOUR versions to make sure they all lined up.

Phew…that was quite a long article. I best stop now. If you read it in one shot…I salute you! I think this would take me two or three nights to get through. Unless I made it fun enough to have in one go.

Well, I don’t often post press releases here for companies…I feel that I want to more share my experiences than just repost press releases.  BUT…I like Matrox, I rely on their hardware for my bay and it works great for me.  And not long ago Phil Hodgetts and Terry Curren were talking about how the new FCP should do away with the tape capture tool (stupid idea, sorry guys)…and how only AJA hardware had a separate capture software option. Now Matrox does too, or rather, SOON will:

http://www.matrox.com/video/en/press/releases/mxo2_ventura/

(Note the capture to AVID codecs in there…)

Montreal, Canada – August 5, 2010 — Matrox® Video Products Group today announced Matrox Vetura Capture for Mac OS X, a stand-alone capture software application compatible with the Matrox MXO2 family of I/O devices. Matrox Vetura Capture lets users quickly and easily capture QuickTime files using popular codecs installed on their editing systems. With Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 the Matrox MPEG-2 I-frame codec and Apple Uncompressed formats are supported. With Final Cut Pro 7, ProRes, DVCPRO HD and other popular Final Cut Pro codecs are supported. With Avid Media Composer 5, the Avid DnX, DnXHD, and other popular Avid Media Composer codecs are supported.

“Matrox Vetura Capture enables new on-set workflows when used with a Matrox MXO2 device and a Mac Pro equipped with a Matrox CompressHD H.264 encoding accelerator card,” said Wayne Andrews, Matrox product manager. “While recording XDCAM EX, P2, or RED footage as usual, users can also feed the output of their camera through their Matrox MXO2 device and capture directly into H.264 .mov files using Matrox MAX technology that is built into the CompressHD card. Dailies are immediately available as low bit rate, manageable-sized files for delivery to the client.”

“We’re continuing to add value to the Matrox MXO2 product line,” said Alberto Cieri, Matrox senior director of sales and marketing. “With Matrox Vetura Capture we have started to implement our vision of expanding the capabilities of Matrox MAX technology beyond simple H.264 export acceleration.”

Matrox Vetura Capture will be demonstrated at IBC 2010 in Amsterdam, September 10-14, on the Matrox stand 7.B29.

I love these. And this is the best one I have seen yet.

I recently acquired a Matrox MXO2 Mini to use on my system.  Mainly for use with the new Avid Media Composer 5.0 for monitoring, but I got the MAX version to help speed up H.264 encoding.  I do a LOT of that for client approvals.  Yes, I still have the big boy, the MXO2.  But when I boot to my Avid partition, I swap a couple cables (control cable and HDMI) to my MXO2 Mini.  To have access to Compressor on my Avid partition, and to have access to a few FCP codecs like DVCPRO HD, XDCAM EX and HDV, I installed the full Final Cut Studio package.  Currently, they both have the same system requirements, so all is good.

Turns out I am now using this partition a lot for my current project.

I am editing a TV pilot and the producer and I don’t live close to each other.  On occasion he would come up when we are making major changes to the cut, but for the most part he will stay where he is on the beach (who wouldn’t?  I live in The Valley of L.A…even I don’t want to be here).  He will give me notes, and I will address them, and then compress them for him to watch.  Now, I would use iChat Theatre for these quick approvals, but the producer has a PC…no iChat.  And this doesn’t seem to work with his chat client.

So I found myself rendering out a lot of H.264 versions of the cut for him to watch.  Normally, I just activate QMASTER and then use the multiple processors to aid in the rendering of the files, but even that takes time.  This MXO2 Mini with the MAX option really speeds up this process.

For example.  I have a 5min14sec show that I want to export for him to watch.  I export a reference QT and take that into Compressor.  When I choose the H.264 LAN STREAMING at 960×540…if I use ONE processor, it takes 8 min and 51 seconds to complete.  If I use my QuickCluster I made with QMASTER, that process is sped up a tad… 5 min and 54 seconds.

OK, but if I use my MAX option, and a preset of theirs I made an adjustment to (to get 960×540), and use the one process, but the MAX technology, it takes 4 min and 2 seconds, faster than real time, and faster than all the processors working on it.  Nice.

Oh, yeah.  And this is with the TIMECODE READER filter enabled.  Running on an Octocore 3.0Ghz MacPro with 8GB RAM.

Now if I can only make my upload speeds faster. Stupid Cable modem…

8/17/10 EDIT:  A new driver has been released to address an audio issue in FCP 7.  Details can be found here.