Greetings. My name is Shane Ross, and I am an editor. But not to worry, I am part of a 12 step program…just kidding.
I live and work in Los Angeles, and my main area of expertise is television documentaries, although I have been known to edit narrative episodic TV shows, commercials (two), short films and corporate videos. And my main tool for doing so has been the Avid Media Composer. Starting in college (Montana State University) with Avid version 5.5 and currently using version 11.0.2 Meridian systems. But, as most the editors I know, I have a Final Cut Pro system at home. I started out mainly just playing with it for home videos, because I was unsatisfied with iMovie (having control over all aspects of the timeline is a must), then ended up using it to edit actors demo reels, then moved up to using it for a TV Movie of the Week cutting a show open for a fake TV show (mainly After Effects) then onto a feature (news footage in David Mamet’s SPARTAN) and then onto a spec TV pilot, a commercial for Philips Electronics, short films and corporate video.
I started out on an iBook 500 (that I won in a company raffle), an external 120 GB firewire drive, and a GL2. When SPARTAN came along I needed more power and bought a Dual 1.25 G4 Dual boot (OS9 and OSX) because my versions of Photoshop and After Effects only worked in OS9. And up until now I have been cutting footage shot with or transferred to DVCAM.
But now I am venturing into HD. This isn’t the first time I have cut an HD show. I offlined CONCORDE: THE FINAL FLIGHT for Discovery HD, and currently cutting THE SCIENCE OF THE BIBLE for National Geographic, using an Avid Meridian and cutting at offline quality. But this will be the first time I will be dealing with HD footage in its native format, and on my home system.
I have been hired to cut a History Channel show on the Mexican American War, and it is being shot with the Panasonic Varicam at 720P24. The producer/director is a big fan of FCP, having bought a system himself for a corporate spot he did. And both he and I are impressed with Final Cut Pros claim to edit HD material at its native resolution, and relatively cheap. Right now, the only thing Avid has to offer that handles HD is the Avid Adrenaline HD, but we are currently having difficulty onlining and laying back a show cut on the Meridian at offline quality and onlined with DVCPRO HD.
My producer has done A LOT of research on the subject, and talked to bigwigs in the Final Cut Pro world, and many places that sell FCP systems: Larry Jordan, the folks at the DR Group just to name a couple. And I have been keeping tabs on the HD world both on the web in various forums such as www.creativecow.net and such web sites as HDforIndies.com Initally we were looking at investing $13,000-$15,000 on an HD system, purchasing a G5, capture card, fibrechannel array and HD monitor (or the means to view HD footage on an Apple 23″ display)…but as we have been going along he have decided that editing at the DVCPRO HD level is the most viable and cheapest solution.
Here is the setup we have decided upon:
-Dual 2Ghz G5 with 2.5 GB RAM
-Final Cut Pro 5 (the Studio package for all the applications it comes with)
-Two G-Raid 500GB FW800 drives. These have a sustained throughput capable of 8-bit and 10-bit uncompressed SD, and can handle DVCPRO HD.
-Dell 2405 24″ Wide Aspect LCD monitor.
This system is a good and relatively low cost solution for editing HD offline. If we were going to online the show as well, I’d then need to add a capture card and fibre channel drive array, and HD monitor to the setup as well.
But we aren’t going that route.
We are going to offline at DVCPRO HD resolution, and when it comes time to output, take the drives and the final locked picture to a post facility with a Final Cut Pro HiDef system, upconvert the footage to 10-bit uncompressed HD (not recapture, but rather drop the cut into a 10-bit timeline and render) then output to D5. At this point we will then color correct the footage on a DaVinci color corrector, the run the tape thru the FilmLook process. (This is where we are divided. I believe that the film look process can be handled with the Film Look plugin that Graeme Nattress has written, but the producer is convinced that only FilmLook can provide the look he is after. I will do some tests with Graeme’s plugin and show them to him, and he will have FilmLook do a pass as well for us to compare.)
And we have come up with a rather interesting workflow as well. My producer is located in Long Beach. I am located in Sherman Oaks. Without traffic issues, we are bout 40 minutes apart. But, this being LA, the only time you don’t have traffic issues is at 2 AM, so the commute is more like 60 minutes to an hour and a half. So we wanted a way to make it so that I could work from my home, and he work from his. And this is what we came up with:
The Producer is going to have an assistant capture all the interview bytes to a set of G-Raids. Then while they are shooting the recreations, he will take his machine on-location and have the assistant load the footage onto the same drives. When one is full, he will ship it to me. I will then COPY the footage from his G-Raid onto mine, and sent it back. When the other drive is full, and shooting is completed, he will ship that out to me and I will copy all the information off of it, and retrieve the project file the assistant has started. Then I will ship the drive back. At this point, we will have two sets of drives with the same information…and the same project file. So when I finish my rough cut, instead of outputting to tape with timecode, I simply e-mail my project file (archived, to retain the files integrity) and then he’ll open it up, reconnect the media, render…and watch the cut and give notes. Remote editing. If I need, I can also use iChat A/V to watch the cut with him in realtime for us to discuss particular sections. That is cool. And if this all works out, when I move to Maryland (which I plan to next summer) he can still hire me as his editor and I can work from my home in Maryland and he still have the main base of operations out of Los Angeles…or Long Beach. Now THAT IS COOL.
Anyway…That is enough of an introduction to the process we have planned out. We will be performing tests and all sorts of stuff, as I have PLENTY of time before the actual editing begins. Filming of the recreations has been slated to just after Thanksgiving, so I will beginning to cut in December.
But I will have plenty to write about. Next time, I will write about my experience at the DV Expo at the Directors Guild of America, and my experience with my new G5 that arrived yesterday. And soon…a test of a Kona 2 system provided by Apple…delivered to my home office.
Until next time.