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Little Frog in High Def

Musings of an NLE ronin…
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Archive

Archive for January, 2011

No, you can’t do that now…not without third party plugins.  But I wanted to mention two situations of me needing to do this recently, and two of the third party options I used.

SITUATION #1:

I am working on a show business talk show that airs weekly on cable.  This show is shot in a small studio to three HPX-300 cameras, recorded onto P2 cards.  AVCIntra-100…1920×1080 at 23.98fps.  Now, we have a VERY fast turnaround time.  The show needs to be edited in three days.  But the biggest rush is getting the footage back from the set and ready to start cutting in the same day.  Because a producer comes in and pulls out all the selected bits he wants in the show…and we don’t want him to be here until 3:00AM!

Typically we backup the cards to small drives, then import the footage into FCP via Log and Transfer.  Well, the cards are all 64GB cards and each one has about 75-80 mins of footage total (4 cameras, multicamera shoot).  There are eight cards…four usually fill up, and the other four go about 1/4 full.  Offloading these takes a while.  We don’t have that Panasonic AJ-PCD35 PCIe card reader that makes this VERY fast.  Nope, we have to rely on my Powerbook G4 and ShotPut Pro.  It takes a while.  Offload the cards…then ingest into FCP.  Even coming in native AVCIntra took time.  And the first show did have the producer waiting forever.  So this wouldn’t do.

So I suggested an alternative.  Offload the cards immediately to G-Raid drives that we use for editing…then use CALIBRATED MXF Import to access the footage and allow editing to begin right away.  Then backup the cards again for archive.  This way we can start editing right away, after only 3-4 hours of offloading.  And we need this solution on multiple machines, as the main editor uses one machine, I, the online editor, use another, and the assistant yet another.  So we needed an economical solution we could all use.  I already had Calibrated on my MacPro, so it was an easy choice.

All we do is find the video files and drag them right into the FCP Browser.  They link to the audio right away and we can start multiclipping and cutting…well, after we do a bit of labeling of the bins as for what card they came from so we can group things properly.  It works rather well.  The only drawback is that the individual P2 files come in their original 4GB chunks.  So if you run the camera for a long time, you will have one shot broken into multiple clips.  Log and Transfer will stitch these together as one long clip.  That’s handy.  We had to work around this by Multiclipping the smaller 4GB clips, and then just stringing them out on the timeline.  It works fine.  And you do need to work in a ProRes timeline, as there is no setting for AVCIntra.  But that is fine, it renders quickly…well, quickishly…on my end.

SITUATION #2:

I am tasked to edit a promo for a product.  I am asked to do this on Friday.  It is due Monday.  The footage is all RAW P2 file backups on three 2TB USB drives.  I do have notes as for selects, but I have literally hundreds of hours of footage to look at.  There is no way that I have time to load all of that into FCP’s Log and Transfer interface and click through the footage.  Then choose my selects, and wait for them to import.  Nope…I need a faster solution.

For this I was on my laptop, that has MXF4Mac and P2 Flow.  MXF4Mac, like Calibrated and Raylight, offers you the ability to open the MXF files directly from the VIDEO folder.  And with the ability of the MacOS to allow you to preview footage without opening the application simply by clicking it and pressing the space bar is a big big bonus.  This allowed me to scan through all the MXF files by having that preview option open, and simply pressing the DOWN ARROW to select the next clip.  I was able to scan the footage VERY quickly.

When I found a shot I was looking for, I’d use MXF4Mac to send that shot to FCP…or P2 Flow to access and send the entire card to FCP (takes a matter of seconds).  After only a day, I was able to locate and import all the footage I needed, and work with the footage off of the USB drives.  I then cut the promo, output a QT of the rough cut for notes, addressed the notes, then exported the final.  All without converting one frame.

MXF4Mac is a bit more expensive than Calibrated, but it offers a few more features.  Like the ability to stitch the footage so that one take is not broken into several small chuncks, but actually imports as one chunk.  And you can view and edit metadata, and even MAP metadata so that you can then send a batch capture list to FCP, or just send the MXF native, and have that metadata appear in existing FCP columns.

Yes, I do primarily advocate converting your footage to QT when working with P2.  Why?  Because more often than not I am working in situations with 4-6 editors, and multiple seats of third party MXF readers can get expensive.  And organizing that amount of footage in that format is easier for assistants and editors to manage.  But, if you are a sole editor, and want access to all that metadata, and want to edit quickly, I do recommend these third party options.

The twenty-seventh episode of THE EDIT BAY is now available for download.

This one has someone else watching the cut, and giving me darn good notes.

To play in your browser or download direct, click here.

To subscribe to this podcast in iTunes, CLICK HERE.

This is pretty motherfucking awesome.

The kickoff of the third season (apparently I do 13 episodes in a shot), the twenty-sixth episode of THE EDIT BAY is now available for download.

This one analyzes how the cops on the TV show, THE WIRE are similar to those of us in post production.

To play in your browser or download direct, click here.

To subscribe to this podcast in iTunes, CLICK HERE.

I have a new podcast sponsor…Blackmagic Design. So that means that very soon, like this week, THE EDIT BAY podcast will be starting up again. Bi-Monthly. And due to this sponsorship, I have some new equipment to play with: A Decklink Extreme 3D capture card and RESOLVE.  And to ensure that RESOLVE works, I also added  an NVidia GTX 280 graphics card.  Things are quite tight…double wide GFX card, and a two slot capture card (HDMI uses up a slot).

Anyway, I started out my capture card ownership with a Decklink SD card…but then move on to an AJA Kona LH card, then used the Kona 3…then the Matrox MXO 2 and MXO2 Mini.  So for at a few years I have used the AJA Kona cards, and for a couple of years I used the MXO 2…and I feel that I know both systems very well.  It is time that I kicked the tires on Decklink and see how things go with them.  Plus, I want to see how RESOLVE might fit into my workflow, especially since I use Avid quite a lot recently.

I like being well rounded…and able to give honest working opinions on hardware and software.  So let’s see how this year goes.

When I first started color correcting in FCP I used the built in 3-way color corrector.  When it first was introduced in FCP 3, it is what first drew me to FCP.  And I have been able to do quite a bit with it.  But when Magic Bullet Colorista by Red Giant Software came out, and I was able to push the colors further than the 3-way…take things more to the extreme.  And lately, while I have been glued to COLOR, there are many instances when I can’t use it.  Such as times when I have projects with mixed formats, and no time to conform everything to one format.  It happens more often than I’d like.

Such was the case on a recent project I was slated to online.  And when you are the online editor, handed the project only when picture has locked, you don’t have the luxury of getting everything converted to a uniform codec for editing.  Editors often do what they want, and if it works, they keep doing it.  This project was mainly DVCPRO HD from P2, but also had a lot of stock footage, in many formats…DV, DV50, Photo JPEG (SD and HD) and ProRes.  All on a DVCPRO HD timeline.  And as most of the projects I work on lately, it was a LOW low budget project, and I only had 2 days to color correct it.  Given that time constraint, I didn’t have time to convert all the footage to DVCPRO HD, or ProRes, so that I could take it into COLOR and do my work there.  I did have a lot of converting to do to get frame rates to match, and that was already eating into my allotted time.

Because of this, I opted to go with Colorista…because I feel limited by the 3-way color corrector, and I really like the ability to use SECONDARIES in Colorista.  But now I was psyched because a NEW version of Colorista was released, Colorista 2, and with this, many new improvements.  I still had the great control and ability to push colors as much as I can do with COLOR, and I still have access to the easy to use Secondaries that allow me to target color correction, or create vignettes…but now I have access to a great thing called the HSL KEY, and other small improvements.

First, the small improvements:

- Along with EXPOSURE controls, I have PRIMARY DENSITY which deals more with the gamma and the blacks, and HIGHLIGHT RECOVERY, which allows me to pull in detail from the highlights, that I tend to lose when I push the highlights up really high.

- I not only have a PRIMARY 3-way, and a SECONDARY 3-way…but a MASTER 3-way, that is not unlike COLOR’s PRIMARY OUT.  You can make primary corrections, secondary corrections, then adjustments to the overall image.  I don’t often use this, but I have, and it is nice to have.

- CURVES!  For those who don’t like the the color wheels, but rather like to adjust the image via CURVES, you can.  But there is the drawback that you can’t adjust the curves directly on them, but rather by using the sliders.  The sliders control CONTRAST, SHADOWS, MIDS and HIGHS for the overall RGB space, or for each individual color.  Nice for those used to using them.  And I have gone to them on occasion.

- FLIP IMAGE.  Nice thing to have if your footage was shot with a camera that used a lens system that flipped the image.  Color correct and flip in one plugin.

- Render using GPU (graphics card) or CPU (computer processors).  If you have a kick ass graphics card, you can opt to use it to render.  Yeah, it does speed things up.

And then my favorite, the HSL KEY.

This amazing tool allows you to target a specific color, and only effect changes to that color.  For instance, if you have one color that is too bright, straying into the illegal chroma zone (say really bright RED), then I can grab the RED control and knock in down only…instead of reducing the saturation of the entire image.  This is something I do in COLOR in the SECONDARIES, SAT CURVE area.  You can also do this in the 3-way color corrector, by playing in the LIMIT EFFECT area of the color wheels.  But this is much faster.  Much much faster, and with better control.

Another great improvement that Colorista 2 has made is that it no longer instantly gives you the RED render bar.  I got the orange render bar and was able to play the footage.  And the new version renders faster than the original version.  I’m thinking it is due to the ability to render using the GPU.

There are a few drawbacks to Colorista 2.  First is that the original issue of it instantly cropping the highlights to 100 IRE is still present.  You might think it is a good thing, because it ensures that your levels are under 100 IRE for broadcast, but it isn’t.  Your highlights are cut off, and white becomes yellow.  So I still had to use the Proc Amp or 3-way to adjust the highlights before I added Colorista 2.  And if you open the project in a computer that lacks the Colorista plugin, you are unable to play the sequence.  You get a RED screen and a missing plugin warning.  Not the best thing when you need to swap sequences with other editors, or hand it back over to the client.  Unless they get the plugin too.

Another drawback is that this version doesn’t work in the Avid Media Composer.  The original version did.  But the new one uses modern programming that the Avid MC simply cannot work with.  Sad, but true.  If it did work with Avid MC, then I won’t be so tempted to bring everything to FCP so that I could use Color.

But one of the biggest joys of this plugin is the ability to color correct with a powerful color corrector right inside FCP.  I can color correct, and play back the correction with audio…which isn’t always necessary for colorists, but it is a nice added bonus.  Most of the controls I have with Color, but I get to stay in FCP.  And not have to worry about variable speed changes, freeze frames, still images, and mixing formats.

And that is exactly what I was dealing with on this project. As I said, no time to convert everything, so the ability to use Colorista 2 meant that I could dive right in, push the colors as much as I could in Color, not worry about speed changes…color correct DVCPRO HD from one shot, PHOTO JPEG in the next shot…and then have it all render out to ProRes when I was done. Oh, yeah…I copied everything from a DVCPRO HD sequence to a ProRes sequence, so that when I rendered out everything I was rendering 10-bit and not 8-bit. A big thing when it came to rendering out graphics, and the PHOTO JPEG files…and the other ProRes files in the project. If I wanted to do this in Color, it would take another day or two of prep to convert everything to 1080i 29.97 ProRes. But because I could use Colorista 2 right in FCP, I saved the client time and money…and made them very happy.