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Little Frog in High Def

Musings of an NLE ronin…
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Category: Premiere Pro

GoPro Hero cameras are everywhere lately. It seems like there isn’t a production I am working on that doesn’t utilize this camera in some way. They are mounted in cars to either see the driver and passengers, or aimed at the road. They are mounted on back hoes as they dig, mounted on drills as they burrow into the ground. They are mounted on people as they do crazy things. They get angles that you normally cannot get.

First, let me mention the three models currently available from GoPro:

Hero 3 White Edition can shoot video at 1080p30, 960p30 and 720p60, and 5MP photos at up to 3 frames per second. It can shoot timelapse from half second to 60 second intervals. It has built in WiFi, and can work with the GoPro WiFi remote or a free smartphone app.

Hero 3+ Silver Edition does all that, but shoots up to 1080p60 and 720p120, and shoots still photos at 10MP up to 10 frames per second.

Hero 3+ Black Edition does all that the Silver Edition does, but adds 1440 at 48fps, 960p100, as well as 720p100 and 720p120.  It also shoots in ultra-high resolution, going to 2.7k at 30fps and even 4k at 15fps. And it has an option called SUPERVIEW, which enables ultra-wide angle perspectives.  It can shoot stills at 12MP stills,  30fps.  All cameras have built in WiFi and work with the remote, or smart phone app, and all perform much better in low light situations than their predecessors.

For this post, I was provided with a Hero 3+ Black Edition camera, and a slew of accessories.  What is really handy about the Hero 3+, is that it can shoot in a wide variety of ways that might suit various aspects of production. For example, The ultra high speeds is shoots makes it great for smooth slow motion conformed shots.The ultra-HD frame size it shoots allows for repositioning the shots in post to focus on the areas of interest we want to focus on. They all can be controlled wirelessly from an iPhone or Android device with a free app…and you can change the settings in those apps, far easier than the in-camera menus.

OK, so the GoPro Hero 3 line of cameras prove to be very useful cameras, enabling you to get all sorts of useful footage. But the point of this post is to showcase workflows for ingesting the footage into various edit applications so that you can take advantage of these advanced shooting modes.

AVID MEDIA COMPOSER

Let me start with Avid Media Composer, only because that is what I have been using the most lately. If you set up the camera to shoot in normal shooting modes, like 1080p30 (29.97), 1080p24 23.98 or 720p60, then importing is easy. Simply access the footage via AMA, and then transcode to DNxHD…either full resolutions like 145, 175 or 220…or an offline codec like DNxHD36, DV25 or 15:1 so you can cut in low resolution, and then relink to the original footage and transcode to a higher resolution when you go to online.

First, go FILE>AMA LINK and you’ll get the following interface. Select the clips you want to link to:

Once you have all your clips in a bin, go to the CLIP menu and choose CONSOLIDATE/TRANSCODE:

If you shot 720p60, so that you can use the footage either normal speed, or as smooth slow motion in a 29.97 or 23.98 project, then you need to first import the footage in a project that matches the shooting settings…720p60. Then copy the bin over to your main project and cut the footage into the sequence. You will note that the footage will appear with a green dot in the middle of it, indicating it is of a different frame rate than the project:

The footage will play at the frame rate of the project, or you can adjust it to smooth slow…take all of the frames shot and play them back at a different frame rate. First, open the SPEED CHANGE interface, and then click on the PROMOTE button:

That enables more controls, including the graph. When you open the graph, you’ll note that the playback speed is different. If you shot 60fps and are in a 29.97 project, then the percentage will be 150%. Change that number to 100% and now the clip will play back in smooth slow motion.

If you shot at a higher frame rate and want it to be slow motion…say 720p 120fps, then you’ll have to use the GoPro Studio app to convert that footage. The cool thing about that application is that it’ll conform the frame rate, and convert the frame size to suit your needs. I’ll get to that later.

NOTE: You can edit the footage native via AMA. When you bring it into the main project, and drop it into the timeline, it’ll be 60fps, or 120fps (note the image above of the timeline and green dots…those are AMA clips, thus why one shows 119.8fps). So when you promote to Timewarp, and adjust the percentage, it will play in slow motion. But know that editing MP4 native in Avid MC is anything but snappy. It will cause your system to be sluggish, because there are some formats that Avid MC doesn’t edit natively as smoothly as it can Avid media.

One trick you can do is to AMA the GoPro footage, cut it into the sequence, promote to Timewarp and adjust the playback speed…and then do a Video Mixdown of that. Then you’ll have a new clip of only the portion you want, slowed down. The main issue with this trick is that any and all reference to the master footage is gone. If you are doing an offline/online workflow this might not be the best idea. It’s a simple trick/workaround.

Now let’s say you shot a higher frame size, such as 2.7K or 4K, and you want to reframe inside Media Composer. First thing you do is use AMA to access the footage. But DO NOT TRANSCODE IT. Once you transcode, the footage will revert to the project frame size…1920×1080 or 1280×720. Avid MC does not have settings for 2.7K or 4K. I’ll get to the workaround for that in a second.

Once you add the clip to the timeline, you’ll notice it has a BLUE DOT in the middle of the clip. Similar to the GREEN dot, except where green indicates a frame rate difference, blue indicates frame size difference. If you then open the EFFECT MODE on that clip, FRAME FLEX will come into play.

You can then use the Frame Flex interface to reposition and resize the shot to suit your needs. If you shot a nice wide shot to make sure you captured the action, Frame Flex will allow you to zoom into that action without quality loss. Unlike zooming into footage using the RESIZE or 3D WARP effects on regular 1080 footage.

One drawback is you cannot rotate the area of interest. The other is that you cannot convert the footage to an Avid native format…something I mentioned earlier. So you can either work with the 4K MP4 footage native…which might prove to be difficult as Media Composer doesn’t like to work with native MP4 footage natively, much less at 4K. So one workaround is to do your reposition, and then do a VIDEO MIXDOWN. This will “bake in” the effect, but at least the footage will now be Avid media:

ADOBE PREMIERE PRO CC

The workflow for Premiere Pro CC is by far the easiest, because Premiere Pro will work with the footage natively. There’s no converting when you bring the footage in. Simply use the MEDIA BROWSER to navigate to your footage and then drag it into the project.


(the above picture has my card on the Desktop. This is only an example picture. I do not recommend working from media stored on your main computer hard drive.)

But I highly recommend not working with the camera masters. Copy the card structure, or even just the MP4 files themselves, to your media drive. Leave the camera masters on a separate drive or other backup medium.

So all you need to so is browse to the folder containing the media, and drag it into the project, or drag the individual files into your project. Bam, done.

CHANGE IN FRAME SIZE

Ok, let’s say you shot 720p60…but you want to use your footage in a 1080p project. When you add the clip to the timeline, you’ll see that it is smaller:

That’s an easy fix. Simply right-click on the clip, and in the menu that appears select SCALE TO FRAME SIZE:

But what if you want this 720p 120fps footage you shot to play in slow motion? Well, that’s very easy too. Right-click on the clip in the Project, and in the menu select MODIFY>INTERPRET FOOTAGE:

Then in the interface that appears, type in the frame rate you want it to play back as. In this example, I choose 23.98.

Done…now the clip will play back slow…even if you already have it in the timeline.

FINAL CUT PRO X

Importing is really easy; File > Import > Media. You can either work natively, or choose the OPTIMIZE MEDIA option. Optimize media will transcode the footage to ProRes 422.

You get a nice box to import with an image viewer.

Now, as I said before, you can work with the footage natively, but I’ve found that GoPro, because it’s H264, it likes to be optimized. I haven’t worked with GoPro native extensively in FCPX so I cannot attest to how well it works compared to how it does in Premiere Pro CC. Premiere has the advantage of the Mercury Engine and CUDA acceleration with the right graphics cards.

OK, so to transcode all you need to do is right click and choose TRANSCODE MEDIA:

Get these options:

You can create ProRes master media, and proxy media at the same time if you wish. Or just full res optimized media (ProRes 422), or just Optimized Media (ProRes Proxie) that you can relink back to the masters when you are done editing, that you can transcode to full res Optimized Media when you have locked picture. When you create the optimized media, or proxy, the frame rate of the footage is retained.

When it comes to speed changes, unlike FCP 7 and earlier that required you to use CINEMA TOOLS, you conform the GoPro footage internally in FCPX. As long as you set the timeline to the desired editing frame rate, 23.98 for example, then you can conform any off frame rate clip to it by selecting it and choosing Automatic Speed from the retime menu.

OK, lets say you shot 4K, but want to use it in a 1080 or 720 project. FCPX has what is called Spatial Conform. When set to NONE the clips go into a timeline at the natural resolution. For example, a 4K clip will be at a 100% scale, but will be zoomed in. All you need to do is scale back to like 35% to see the entire 4K image.

GoPro STUDIO

All right, let’s take a look at the tool that GoPro provides free of charge…GOPRO STUDIO. I use this application quite a bit, not only to pull selects (only portions of clips), but also to convert the footage into a easier to edit codec. H.264 works OK in Premiere, better if you have CUDA acceleration. But my laptop doesn’t enable that, so I choose to use the CINEFORM codec that GoPro Studio transcodes to. I also use it to convert higher speed rates for use in Avid Media Composer…like I mentioned earlier. If I have a 120fps clip, I cannot bring that directly into Avid and transcode it to that same frame rate. So I will convert it here first, to match the frame rate of the project….then AMA link and transcode.

Importing is easy. In the main window, on the left side, simply click on the “+” button, that allows you to import the clips. Grab as many clips as you want to. And then when you click on a clip to select it, it opens it into the center interface, and that allows you to mark IN and OUT points…if you only want portions of the clip:

To adjust the speed of the clip, click on the ADVANCED SETTINGS button. You’ll be presented with the following interface:

In here is where you change the speed to what you want. Simply click on the frame rate drop down menu and choose the one you want:

You can also remove the fish eye distortion from the footage if you want.

If the speed change is all you need to do, then click on ADD TO CONVERSION LIST and be done with it. But since the 120fps frame rate is only available at 720p, and most of my projects are 1080, you can also up convert the size to 1080 in GoPro Studio as well. And the conversion is pretty good. For that you go into the Advanced Settings again, and in the Frame Size drop down menu, choose the frame size you want:

If you want to convert 720p 120fps to 1080p 23.98, then the settings would look like this…I also removed FishEye:

So there you have it. Some of these workflows are just the basics, others go into more detail. But I’m sure there are lots more tips and tricks out there that some of the more “power users” of the edit systems employ. My hope is that these tips will enable you to use your GoPro Hero cameras to their fullest.

(Thanks to Scott Simmons (@editblog on Twitter) of the EditBlog on PVC, for helping me with the FCPX workflow)

A GoPro Hero 3+ Black edition was provided to enable me to test various aspects to the workflows. GoPro was kind enough to let me keep the unit, enabling me to shoot family activities in super slow motion, or in “Ultra HD” resolutions.  It was used to shoot a sledding outting, including a couple crashes…and a couple cat videos. They weren’t interesting enough to post…my cats are boring.

I know what you all are asking yourselves: “What did Shane edit that NAB wrap-up video with?” Plenty of you asked on Twitter, and I know you WOULD have asked on my blog in the comments…but I offered up the information before you could.  Because I knew you’d ask.

So yes, I used Adobe Premiere CS5.5 to start the edit…mainly the inputting and organization part…and pulling the selects I wanted to use. Because that’s what I had on my laptop, and that’s what was on the work machine I used while I had some downtime.  But then I did the bulk of the editing using Adobe CS6.something-that-is-in-beta.  So that I could do my part in testing and bug hunting, and so that I could dip my toes in the app and see how it works.

I will say that this project was PERFECT for Adobe Premiere.  I shot the NAB video with my Canon T2i (550D for all you Europeans) and a GoPro Hero 2, and I edited the footage from both cameras natively…without transcoding. This was…OK on my laptop and the work computer, but only OK. Because neither had a graphics card to enable CUDA and let the Freddie Mercury Engine loose on my footage. So scanning the footage was stuttery, playing back was as well.  But once I opened up the project on my Octocore 3.0 Ghz MacPro with 12GB RAM, NVidia GTX285 card…it was butter. And it was really cool to have external monitoring AND the Mercury Playback working at the same time.

The opening sequence and me drinking the fantastic strawberry shake from the Mad Greek in Baker, CA was done with the GoPro.  The bulk of the interview and all of the b-roll done with the T2i. And I used a condenser mic connected to the camera via a simple adapter. I did attempt to use the GoPro as an off-angle b-camera, but because I lacked the LCD attachement, I only guessed at the shot, and all but one (the MOTU interview…although that was bad too) was very poorly composed.  I blame the camera operator for not having his shit together. Oh…that was me.)


 
The really fast stuff was shot in timelapse mode with the camera taking one picture every 60 seconds.  Then when I took the exit to Baker, took a sip from the shake, and got back onto the freeway…I shot normal speed and sped up.  Then back to timelapse for the rest of the way to Vegas.

Now…when I shoot timelapse with the GoPro, and want to use the footage in FCP…I need to use Quicktime Pro to import the image sequence and produce a playable QT movie. The only issue is that the frame dimensions are not standard TV dimensions, so I cannot export to ProRes at full size and have it play in real time in FCP.  I either have to squeeze it and have it be squooshed.  Squashed? Squished? Whatever… Or render it out Animation or something big, drop it into FCP, repo where I want it to go, and then render.  Oh, didn’t like that positioning…repo again, render.  Not so with Premiere Pro.  Even CS5.5 allowed me to import the image sequence and have it appear as a clip in the native dimensions, and allow me to repo it how I wanted…and play it back. But not smoothly.  No new media was created, so the machine staggered a little. But once I rendered it, it played smoothly.  At least that eliminated one step…the QT image sequence render part.

With the image sequence brought in, it was time to bring in the other footage.  I copied the camera masters from the backup drive to my media drive. The full card structure.  Made a folder based on the project…and in that I made a folder for the project file, one for the footage, one for the audio (the music and SFX I would be using), and then others for outputs and whatever I needed. 

See, I start organizing myself right from the start.  The first thing I do is set up folders to organize the material.  That is the key to a quick edit…being organized.  So just like I did with FCP, I did the bulk of organizing on the finder level, then brought the footage into PPro.

I used the Media Browser to browse the camera masters and drag in the footage. I did them en masse, and when i did that, I noticed that PPro was “conforming” the media. (I saw this on the timeline, lower right). I wondered what it was doing, as I thought PPro dealt with the footage natively, without converting it.  So I posed the question on the Adobe forum at the Creative Cow…what’s happening here? (OK, fine, I asked that BEFORE I started on this project…) It turns out that PPro conforms the audio.  “The audio needs to be all in the same bit and sample rate in order to be able to mixed together. Whereas FCP would wait until you wanted to play a timeline and then render the audio needed (remember the BEEP BEEP BEEP?), Adobe Premiere (like ProTools) just conforms all audio to the same, 48khz, 32-bit file type upon import so you don’t have to wait when you want to play it back in the timeline.” At least that’s what Ryan Patch told me. I believe him.  And it did this while I was able to do other things (so I guess that is a background process…even though it causes the app to slow down).

After I brought in the footage, did I start editing right away? HECK NO! I organized things. 

I watched everything I had, labelled the clips (keeping the original file names, but adding a description in another field). That’s a big part of the editor’s job…watching everything and knowing what you have. I didn’t sit and watch it all play in real time.  I did scrub through the b-roll. But I took the time to label my footage, make bins by category (Blackmagic design, MOTU, Autodesk, AJA, Avid…etc) and organize the footage into those bins. Only after the footage was organized, did I start editing. Yes, I could access the footage natively, but that doesn’t mean I started editing immediately. I wonder about all the marketing people who tout this “you can immediately start editing!” Who does this?  Well, I can see it in certain areas like news, or if you promised a wedding video to play back at the reception. But for most of the stuff…you need to watch what you have, and organize it.

The editing progressed much like I did things in FCP. Throwing clips onto the timeline in rough order…then rearranging things as editing progressed.  Although it was really fun to be able to scrub through the thumbnails and mark in an out.  That was a fun and a great speed advancement. (Yes…I know that FCX does this too…moving on.) 

Note…the IN and OUT points STAY PUT when I come back to the clip.  Something FCX’s version does not do.  It works when roughly getting the points you want. For more fine tune editing, I resorted to the VIEWER/Program method.

I did have to drop the audio way down.  Without the ability to use the audio mixer to do this (it only works on a track level, not clip level. So adjust the levels down in the mixer and the WHOLE track audio dips) I resorted to adjusting the audio on the timeline via my mouse.  The audio levels went down in big steps.  2.6dB, then 4.46dB, then 6.83dB, 10.10dB, 15.5dB, 22.8dB…then infinity. 

So what I had to do is ballpark it, and then hold down the option key to get more fine tuning of the levels.  And I couldn’t adjust more than one track at a time (if I am wrong about this, please comment and enlighten me)…so audio mixing took a bit longer than I am used to.  I did use a lower third preset that was built into the app…because motion graphics are not my forté. I’m thankful to have those.

One thing that I noted while editing this is that, well, I didn’t get all that I wanted, and that most of my stand-ups where I am alone and describe the product were…well…dull.  Flat.  A few jokes didn’t work, and on two occasions my mic wasn’t connected fully, so the audio was either not there, or dropped in and out. That’s fine, something always ends up on the cutting room floor.  (I don’t know if half of you reading this will get that reference, having only edited on computers). So I had to write some voice over to cover things that didn’t work out, and I ended up running with it. I’m glad it turned out well, because I felt, while shooting it and when I watched the dailies, that it was going to be a huge failure. Thank goodness I’m a great editor.  (Modest, too.)

When I was done, I sent it to Media Encoder and went from the shooting format right to the delivery format…no in-between codec or step.  Encoder has lots of great presets for people like me who know jack diddly about encoding…and it was really fast. Chalk that up to 64 bit I wager.

All said and done, editing was pretty much second nature, as I come from a Final Cut Pro mentality. It also helps that Premiere has a FCP keyboard layout option.  But I was also able to do some trimming that I could only do on the Avid…so it is a bit of a hybrid.  I really enjoyed editing with it.