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Little Frog in High Def

Adventures in Editing
Little Frog In High Def


Archive for October, 2006

The next project I am working on is BLOOD DIAMONDS for The History Channel. This documentary is set to coincide with the release of the Warner Brothers movie BLOOD DIAMOND (with Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou) due out in mid December. They both deal with the topic of the trading of diamonds from war torn countries that enslave the populace and mutilate and murder many more too keep them in line…thus the name “blood” diamond. How big diamond companies like DeBeers accepted diamonds from these countries, turning a blind eye to the attrocities.

I just began cutting this week. Last week I was capturing and familiarizing myself with the footage already in the system. The other editor (we need two due to the short delivery schedule) has been on for a week longer, beginning the capturing process. Again, this show is shot with the Varicam (same DP as my last project, interestingly) and will be edited with Final Cut Pro and output to HDCAM and downconverted to digibeta…same workflow as before. But now I have it down.

So last week I was reviewing footage on the main system in the office while capturing interviews and b-roll on my Powerbook G4. I bought a PCMCIA firewire adaptor and brought in one of my G-Raids. Both of us editors had laptops so we both did this “double duty” because we have a LOT of footage. Again, most of it VHS footage. We transferred it to DVCAM and will uprez later when we lock picture.

Interesting thing to note, is that sound is off sync on these tapes. Most of them are 2 frames off with audio occuring before picture. But I was used to this as it happened on my last show too. I just slipped the audio as I laid down the footage and things matched up. It became such a habit I forgot to mention it. Well, not only does that happen again, but some tapes are off by 7 -10 frames…again, audio hitting early. And it didn’t matter how the footage was captured. On the laptop (where I first noticed it), on the main system (where we re-did the captures thinking the lappy had done something wrong) or with the Kona LH via HD SDI to the Kona DVCPRO HD codec. 7-10 frames consistantly. That is a new one. But, we slip and move on. Can’t pause to figure this out…we have a show to cut and little time to do it.

Many many many people on the various Final Cut Pro boards I frequent are trying to work on the same project with different versions of the FCP software. The person writing might have the latest and greatest version, FCP 5.1.2, but his partner only has FCP 4.5, and for some reason or another won’t upgrade. It might be because the particular machine they are using cannot run the latest version for some reason, and they cannot afford to buy a new system much less an upgrade of the software. And why should they? FCP 4.5 on their machine works and works great. I am of the opinion that even if the machine and software is old, if it does what you need it to do, then all is good.

But now THIS issue arises. Where they are now needing to work with someone who posses a later version of the software…they need to collaborate on the project. Now, if this project were using a format that the older version did not support nor work with, then you have really no other recourse than to upgrade the software. Like needing to edit HDV but you only have FCP 4.5…or shooting XDCAM @ 35mbs where the only version of FCP that supports that is 5.1.2. In those cases, you either need to upgrade everything to work with that format, or bow out of the project. Unless you can figure out some offline/online workflow that all parties involved will commit to.

Let’s say for arguments sake that the project involves DVCAM footage, or digibeta footage…heck, even DVCPRO HD footage and one party has FCP 4.5 and the other FCP 5.1.2. Both can capture and edit that particular footage..the digibeta requiring a capture card on at least one system, and for both to have that cards codecs. ANYWAY…I am REALLY digressing. What to do what to do. Mess with XMLs…yeah, that is an option. As are EDLs. But that may or may not work…

I have another option. One that I learned from my friend Patrick Sheffield. He has to be one of the most resourceful people I know. I have learned much from him.

His tip? Keep a copy of all the previous versions of FCP on your hard drive. Yes…ALL previous versions that you own. For example, I have FCP 5.1.2 on my system, as well as FCP 5.1.1, FCP 5.0.4 and FCP 4.5. Now, I own FCP 3, but didn’t learn this little trick until I was going from FCP 4.5 to FCP 5. And yes, they can all reside on your system and all load and work normally. At least they do on my and Patrick’s systems.

For example. Someone came to me with a project that they wanted me to help with. They just wanted me to come in and fix the cut and add some style to it that they felt I could do better than they. They liked other projects I worked on and wanted me to “dress up” the cut. BUT they are using FCP 4.5 and don’t want the project “upgraded” to a later version because they will want to still be able to open it up on their machine. Since I have FCP 4.5 on my system, this was no problem. If I didn’t have that version, I’d have to edit on their system, which was in their house in their bedroom…and that would be awkward, to say the least. My bedroom has a few piles of laundry (a pile of dirty laundry, pile of clean laundry and a pile of clean and folded laundry that I have not put away for a reason that I cannot come up with right now…give me a moment). So because I have FCP 4.5 on my system, I was able to accomplish this. And if the person who needed to cooperate on a project with another person also had copies of previous versions on their system, they could exchange project files without a problem.

“But Shane, how do I do this?” You ask. “When I install the later version it OVERWRITES the version on my system already. So all I am left with is the new version. How do I keep the previous version?” I know you asked this, because this is what I asked Patrick.

“Simple,” he said. “Just rename the application from FINAL CUT PRO to FINAL CUT PRO 4.5, drag it out of the Applications folder and into a folder on your desktop that you created and named FCP 4.5. When you install the upgrade, it won’t see the application, but will see the components and that will be enough for the upgrade (a few upgrades don’t require a previous version, just the serial number for that previous version). So when the installation is complete, you will have the new version in the Applications folder, and your OLD VERSION on the desktop in the folder. Now drag that folder back into the applications folder, and drag the old version onto your dock so that you can manually open the version you want to work with and viola!”

I am paraphrasing, but you get the idea. But now you ask “Does FCP 4.5 work with the latest version of Quicktime?” Well, thus far I haven’t had any problems. But I am also prone to having things work for me that don’t work for others. I can, for example, capture DV from a Canon GL1 to my system drive and not drop one frame. Not short clips either, but 15min, 30 min clips. And my internal drive is 5400RPM. This is something I preach AGAINST each and every day, yet I can do it. Most people can’t. I can also daisy chain camera to drive to computer just fine. Most people can’t. I can capture DVCPRO HD using my laptop (deck connected to PCMCIA firewire card, G-Raid connected via FW800) while I am typing this blog and checking e-mail and ichatting with a buddy. Something that I should not be able to do…but I can.

Oop…I have strayed again…sorry. I guess I felt like bragging a little. My apologies.

ANYWAY…FCP 4.5 works fine with Mac OS 10.4.78 and QT 7.1.3, at least on my system. So I am presenting it as an option for others who might be in the situation I have laid out. “But I already have FCP 5.1.2 on my system, how do I get FCP 4.5?” Good question. Well, you can reformat your drive and start from scratch…but I wouldn’t if I were you. If you have a spare drive laying about that has nothing on it, reformat it and install the OS on that, THEN install FCP to that drive. Then just copy the application (after you have renamed it) to your main system. Then upgrade to the next version and do it again. I haven’t tried that, but it seems viable.

OK…I have blathered on for FAR too long. Filled up a blog in a way that only Mike Curtis can do on a daily basis. I am just twiddling my thumbs as I am capturing footage.

Oooo…look, this tape is done. OK guys…bye.

So after 10 months of working at home I finally return to working at the company that hired me. For months I only had the company of my family in my workplace. Which is a little difficult seeing that then I am around them ALL the time. I much prefer to have other people around to talk to. To be able to get out of my bay and pop into another and have a quick chat. Or to go out to lunch with my co-workers. Phycial face to face contact with other humans. MAN is that necessary. For 10 months the “other bay” was iChat. I would chat with about 5 other people on occasion…all editors. BUT, I didn’t get face time (unless you count Video Chat) and it certainly isn’t lunch out of the office. I would like to stress how necessary it is to be around other people.

So now I finally get that…sort of. I work nights…the second editor on a History Channel show with a very quick delivery date. Being that I work nights means that…well, I am alone in the office. I do get an hour or two of people in the office as they wrap up their work, but then the are gone and I am alone. COMPLETELY ALONE. No wife or kids to pop in and pull me away from my work for a moment or two.

Ah well, at least I get the hour or two of crossover time.

Not long ago I did a tutorial on how to upconvert DV to DVCPRO HD…what settings to use. Well, I figured, I already have the settings, and Compressor makes it very easy to share those settings by allowing us to create Compressor “Droplets,” why not just share them?

So here are two droplets for Compressor 2.1. You will need to be signed into the site first and logged in to access the downloads section. Here is the main site:

And here is the direct link:

DV to DVCPRO HD 720p Droplets

These convert DV to DVCPRO HD 720p24 & DV to DVCPRO HD 720p60.

You will need Compressor 2.1 to be able to do this…and what you do is drag your QT file onto the droplet and release, then click SUBMIT on the window that appears. Then walk away as these will take a while. So it is bet to save them for when you have locked picture and know EXACLTY what footage you will be using.


Next week I begin work on another History Channel show. Different production company, but one I have worked with before. Again, it was shot with the Varicam…interestingly enough the same DP as The Mexican American War, my last gig. It is a two-hour show about the bloody diamond trade in Africa, and we have a VERY short time to cut this. We deliver mid December. Because of the short delivery date there will be two editors on this one. I will be working with a man I know by reputation and from the Apple Discussion boards.

This show will not have the HVX-200 as a B-camera. This one is a classic single camera documentary with no recreations. So current day footage of locations, interviews, and stock footage. Just to make things interesting the stock footage, which is not only standard definition, is all VHS tapes. That’s right…VHS MASTERS! The news organizations in Africa shot VHS field tapes. So this will make for one interesting project…how to incorporate all that footage. How to UPREZ IT!

I love a challenge.

I am taking this 3 week hiatus to hang out with my family, and to do a little something that will make money. This is something I have seen as a need for quite some time. Very often I will se a post on one of the various forums I frequent that deals with people having footage EVERYWHERE and how to they consolidate it into one area. Or how do they organize a project from the start. How do they organize a film project? Multi-station project? What bin structure should they use? What frame rate? What kind of drive should they get to capture to and how do they set it up? How do they back up a project…archive? A SLEW of things that all relate to being organized. And since I started out my career as an Assistant Editor (After managing the vault at AMERICAS FUNNIEST HOME VIDEOS) I figured I knew organization since the entire job of the assistant is to organize the project and keep it organized. I assisted on features, narrative TV and tv documentary, so I have several project types to convey.

This is being done thru The Creative Cow (link on the right) and will hopefully be available in December. I am having a dickens of a time recording them. 9 takes for one 5 minute segment. Sheesh.

I hope to make it fun too…and show of just how much of a dork I really am.


If you follow this blog you will know that I had an issue with video levels when I output the show. They were too hot. In some cases they pushed 103 IRE, and in more than a few they pushed 109 IRE. VERY unacceptable in my book…and in the broadcast world. The max IRE allowed is 100. This is because anything above that can cause AUDIO noise. Yes…if the video levels are too hot they can cause noise to occur in the audio. So you want 100IRE to be your peak brightness. You not only adjust this with the color correction tools like the 3-way color corrector, but you can also use the filter BROADCAST SAFE, which is supposed to knock anything above 100IRE down to 100IRE, or below, and bring the blacks up, if they are too crushed.

Supposed to….but doesn’t.

I would color correct my shot (DVCPRO HD footage) and then find that there were sections where the gunfire was too hot, or the sunlight was too hot. But if I brought the brightness level down to get it below 100IRE, then by picture was too dark. Thus the need for the Broadcast Safe filter. I’ll chop off (or compress) the area above 100 IRE and make my show legal…but it didn’t. It did at first. I would apply the filter and get the bright green render bar…and sure enough the whites were brought down.

Then I rendered…and they popped back up to where they were before I applied the filter. I adjusted settings, the green render bar came back, the levels dropped, I rendered…and they went right back up. WHAT THE HELL?!?! This never happened to me before. I tried a bunch of things and eventually came across a great trick thatdid just what I needed. But that required exporting the cut and bringing it back in, and that took a while.

I thought it was just me. But it wasn’t. (Do you like these dramatic short paragraphs? I do!)

I had lunch with Mark Raudonis the other day. He is the head of Post Production at Bunim/Murray…creators of THE REAL WORLD for MTV, and THE SIMPLE LIFE for FOX. They are flush with Final Cut Pro stations and XSAN and online stations. They are a very high end post facility…and THEY suffered the same issues. Now, where I was editing with DVCPRO HD (and thinking the codec was the issue), they were editing uncompressed 8-bit SD timelines, and DVCPRO 50 timelines, and getting the same problem. Once the Broadcast safe filter was added, the levels jumped up. He went as far as to say that there was a 10-point increase in levels. Their solution? Color correct to 90 IRE then load the filter, and it pops them up to 100IRE.

This isn’t something that I noticed too much with the old scopes. It was only when my levels were hot when I went to output that I really encountered the problem. I tried to use the Broadcast Safe filter (interesting that the initials for this filter are BS) but once I rendered, my levels went right back up.

So…a word of warning. Be cautious of the Broadcast Safe filter. Don’t just slap it onto your sequence and think that it will make things legal. In more than one instance, that wasn’t the case.

For a man who is used to the typical Avid offline/online workflow, using Final Cut Pro and cutting at full resolution, and using the Kona 3 to crossconvert to the required deliverable was quite an experience.

Before we began work on The Mexican American War, we did research. A LOT of research. We needed to figure out a workflow to go from DVCPRO HD 720p24 to the D5 deliverable that was required. We were thinking of doing the traditional offline/online workflow typical of what I would do on an Avid. But one of our consultants, Jon Thorn, an engineer at the DR Group, said that we didn’t need to do that. We could edit DVCPRO HD at 23.98 rather easily…and use firewire drives to do so. G-Raids to be exact, because of the firewire 800 connection, and the fact that they were two hardware raided drives. They could handle the footage at full resolution just fine. So we went with his advice and stocked up on G-Raids and captured and worked at full DVCPRO HD resolution.

When we started this project we had a deliverable of 720p 59.94 on D5. At that time the Kona 2 card was out and could take our 720p 23.98 footage and cross convert it to 59.94 no problem. We tested this at Lightning Media in Hollywood where they had an edit suite with a Kona 2. We not only tested the possibility of this kind of output, but also how the Varicam and HVX footage intercut, and how the mapping software looked when we output…killing several birds with one stone. All tests passed with flying colors so we began to edit with that workflow.

In the middle of editing our deliverable changed. Instead of a 720p master, the network wanted a 1080p 23.98 master on HDCAM or D5. This way they could convert the footage to any format, because downconverting was much easier than upconverting. OK…well, that threw a wrench into the works. So again we went to Jon Thorn again for advice. By this time he had left the DR Group and was working for AJA directly. He said that our best bet now would be to upconvert the footage to uncompressed 10-bit 1080p HD and then color correct so we could then directly output to tape. We went to PlasterCity Post in Hollywood and spoke with the president Michael Cioni and his colorist Ian and they confirmed this workflow. They laid out the entire workflow we needed to get them the files they needed to online, color correct and output. So this was the plan.

Editing progressed for quite some time. In the middle of the process the Kona 3 was released and was flush with many new features. But for some reason I didn’t note a very important one for I was overwhelmed with editing and other post production concerns like learning Shake for green screening footage, and mastering the Curious World Maps software for maps…and working the Panasonic booth at NAB. So I plodded on with the workflow we figured out in mind. We did a test output of Act 1 (because the network wanted some footage for promo) and color correct at FilmLook in Burbank, relying on the masterful skills of their colorist Alan. I did what we planned…taking the 10-bit uncompressed file to the editor who then dropped it onto their RAID and used the Kona 2 to output to HDCAM. Then we did a tape to tape color correct and sent the tape off to the network.

The workflow worked perfectly, so that was what I had in my mind to do. I built an internal RAID on my machine (the Popsicle Stick Raid) in preparation of playing back 10-bit uncompressed HD to make sure things worked properly. All was good.

As the summer progressed editing progressed and around July I took a small break. I and my family took a small vacation at Big Bear Lake with friends. One of them was my buddy TJ Ryan, the Post Production Specialist at the DR Group. I explained what I was editing and how I was planning on outputting. He asked “Why are you doing that? Why not just upconvert using the Kona 3? It will do this all thru the hardware.” Well, THAT was news. He said that I should finish the cut at DVCPRO HD resolution…color correct and everything…then output a QT movie and bring that to the DR Group and they would output to HDCAM via the Kona 3.

So I did, and it worked rather well.

A few days before the show aired, my producer sent out an e-mail to everyone involved on the project to announce the airdate. Jon Thorn responded giving his congratulations. He also mentioned that it was specifically due to our projects deliverable…the need to go from 720p 23.98 to 1080p 23.98…that he pushed the engineers to include that ability in the hardware of the Kona 3. That more and more networks might demand that, and that it would be a useful feature. Well that blew me away. Because of our History Channel show, and our struggles with the world of HD, our main consultant made sure that the next version of the Kona card would do exactly what we needed.

And it did. Nicely.

I would like to take this opportunit to thank Jon Thorn, the fine people at AJA…Michael Cioni, Ian and the wonderful people at PlasterCity Post…Robert, Anna, Alan and Ben and the talented people at FilmLook…and TJ Ryan, Nathan Adams and the great folks at The DR Group. I don’t know where we’d be without all your assistance.

While I was working on The Mexican American War I was able to re-create a color style I liked from Magic Bullet. I recreated the look with the 3-way color corrector, which drastically reduced my render times (it didn’t require a render). I liked it so much I wanted to share it with others. But I couldn’t. I tried to send an XML of the clip but that didn’t seem to do the job. I knew my buddy Graeme Nattress was “the man” when it came to plugins, so I asked him how to do it. He walked me thru the very basic process and I came up with this plugin:


I have posted how to do this in a video tutorial at


Oh, and remember how I was able to upconvert DV footage to DVCPRO HD for my show? I used Compressor and it did a bang up job. I have a tutorial on how to do that to, also at