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COW Blogs : Little Frog in High Def : hd
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INTRO TO HD WORKSHOP

My producer from The Mexican American War and Andrew Jackson is teaching a 4 week workshop. Time permitting I might see if I can pitch in when it comes to the editing phase. Anyway, here is the press release for this event:HISTORY/DISCOVERY Channel Producer to conduct summer HVX-200/Final Cut Pro workshop at LA's Citrus CollegeLA’s Citrus College of the Performing Arts is conducting a 4-week summer INTRO TO PRO HD workshop with Emmy-winning HISTORY/DISCOVERY Channel writer/producer/director Jim Lindsay. One of LA’s best-kept secrets for arts education, Citrus has been the home of the Grammy Foundation’s summer “Grammy Camp”. Having offered terrific “real world” education in the recording and performing arts for junior-college tuition rates, Dean Robert Slack is moving into the video world, kicking it off with this workshop using Panasonic HVX-200 cameras and Apple Final Cut Pro. Jim Lindsay’s daughter Sara (former “Grammy Camper”) attends Citrus in the singing/songwriting track, thus the connection. Lindsay has been responsible for many of HISTORY’s highest profile specials including the 3-hour ALEXANDER THE GREAT, 2-hour MEXICAN AMERICAN WAR hosted by Oscar De La Hoya and most recently the 2-hour ANDREW JACKSON,(edited by Creative Cow Final Cut/P2 guru Shane Ross). Workshop will run Monday thru Thursday, 10 AM to 3 PM, June 23 – July 17, 2008. Cost is $400 per student. (No, that’s not a typo, $400 for 4 weeks, not 2 days. That’s why Citrus is LA’s best-kept secret.) Class size is limited to 24.Lindsay has “done it all”, from shooting, to editing, to screenwriting (Showtime’s CONVICT COWBOY starring Jon Voight), to directing NBC’s UNSOLVED MYSTERIES all 9 years, and writing/producing/directing 50+ hours of prime-time specials for HISTORY, A&E, DISCOVERY, NBC, CBS, FOX & LIFETIME. So this will be no “academic theory” workshop. It will be classic Citrus “real world”, warts and all. Every student will come out with their own short film, shot in DVCPRO HD on the HVX-200’s and edited in FCP. (Jim will be taking students through the exact same HD workflow that he and Shane use for their HISTORY/DISCOVERY shows.) Jim will be covering every aspect of production: from story/structure, to network pitching, to prepping, budgeting, shooting, lighting, editing, finishing, distribution, the whole enchilada. Depending on their schedules, several members of his production team, including Shane, may be contributing as well. Overall, a rare opportunity to learn from folks who really “do it” for a living at levels of very high standards both creatively and technically.For information on Citrus College, go to http://www.citrusarts.org/ or call the sign-up office at 626-914-8580. The workshop brochure page can be viewed hereJim Lindsay’s website is Jimfilm.com. Specific questions can be directed to Jim directly at jim@jimfilm.comDigital Content Producer also featured the Lindsay team and their workflow in this article

Posted by: Shane Ross on May 7, 2008 at 11:25:40 pm editing, hd, television, panasonic, p2, final cut pro
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NEW SYSTEM

(Freemont Street light show - I was in Vegas this weekend)I am on the verge of buying a new edit system for my next project, so I thought that I'd take this opportunity to talk about setting up a good working system. Unfortunately I won't get into exact details on OS versions and QT versions, because that is information that I and others keep closely guarded as this is information we use for consulting. But I would like to explain the general steps and reasons for those steps.First off, lemme get into the specs of the system. This machine will be one of four edit systems on an XSAN shared network storage, so the specs of this machine will need to match the other 3 exactly. Not that you MUST do it this way, but the more the machines are the same, the better. I will be getting a Dual Core 3.0 Ghz Mac Pro with 4GB of RAM and a 4GB Fibre switch. I will also be getting a Kona 3 with K-Box and the AJA HD10AVA mini converter so that I can convert analog signals into HD SDI, since those are the only inputs the Kona 3 has. Finally I will be getting an Intel Mac, after relying on my trusty Dual 2.0 GHz G5 for 2.5 years (It will still see regular use, just as my home system).On this I will install Final Cut Pro Studio, Adobe Creative Suite 3 (mainly for Photoshop and After Effects), Panasonic P2CMS and HDLog, as we will be dealing with P2 footage. I might get Firefox on there as I like it better than Safari, but that is about it, besides the drivers for the Kona card, which is a given. No games, no funky widgets, no neat little applications from versiontracker.com. The OS and versions of Quicktime will all be exactly the same as the other three machines. All of the Final Cut Studio apps will be updated to the exact same versions. AND WE WILL NEVER EVER EVER PERFORM ANY AUTOMATIC SOFTWARE UPDATES ON THESE SYSTEMS. It is never advisable to do that. Go into the System Preferences and turn that option off. Ignore every prompt iTunes sends you asking to update to the latest version. We are going to inform every editor to NOT update the machines in any way. Print out, in big bold letters on a sheet of paper, "DO NOT RUN ANY SYSTEM UPDATES ON THIS COMPUTER." Put it on the wall behind each edit station. A simple system update, even to iTunes, can throw a system out of whack and suddenly it won't work well with the others, and the system administrator will have to wipe the system clean and install everything from scratch, and that is not a way I like to spend my day. When an update says "adds enhanced functionality to Quicktime. Recommended for all Apple users," don't believe it. Apple is lying to you...well, that little blurb is lying to you. Sorry, but you have to believe this. This Quicktime update might be designed for Apple's new video rental system, and often very little consideration or testing was done with Final Cut Pro and the third party hardware you have installed, so there is no guarantee it will work. Don't do it. This is the key to a solid functional editing machine. And when you are in a shared editing environment, you really should use exactly same machines, versions of OS, Quicktime components and versions of the software. Any deviation from this can lead to issues. Very often I have seen on the forums people trying to work on the same project but on different systems. From completely different systems like an Intel iMac and a PowerPC G5, one running FCP 6.0.2 and the other running FCP 5.0.4....to two systems running FCP 6.0.2, but one is a Dual G5 and the other is a Quad Intel MacPro. Obviously you will have issues with the iMac and G5, as the versions of FCP are very different. The only solution there is to exchange XML files of your sequences. Obviously this is far from ideal. And you would think that the Mac Pro and the G5 running the same versions of FCP and QT should work, but often they don't. The wonderful "the project is unreadable or too new for this version of Final Cut" might rear its ugly head, and you are stuck. It doesn't seem to make any sense...you have the same versions of everything. Well, it could be that one computer is running a different version of the OS than the other computer. And if they are both running the same version of the OS, then it might be the fact that one machine is running a PowerPC processor and the other is Intel processor based. So many factors, and such small ones that you wouldn't think they'd matter. But they do.Why would that matter? Well, I am not an engineer so I can't even fake my way through an explanation. Other than small system enhancements and applications might run some system resource that interferes with FCP or QT in some way. So the need to not have your machine cluttered with applications, and the need for everything to match as exact as possible (even down to the RAM manufacturer) is very important in maintaining a solid shared storage editing solution. This has always been the rule on the Avid editing platform...specific versions of everything, and all the machines running the same version of everything. Big notes on the wall warning against running system updates. Being on a FCP system doesn't change the fact that specificBut what if you aren't in a shared storage environment, as I'll wager 90% or more of you will never find yourself in. Finding and maintaining the perfect balance can be a difficult and time consuming thing. Once you find it, DO NOT MESS WITH IT. Same advice on automatic updates applies. DON'T DO IT. If you are a professional, avoiding the updates and neat widgets and small cute applications might be an easy thing, because your work computer is only for work. If you use the computer professionally, then find your balance, install the applications you need to do your job, then leave your machine alone. This is a bit more difficult for all of you prosumers, semi-pros, independent film makers and hobbyists. You might use your machine for not just editing, but all of your e-mail and web surfing and playing games. So you might need that update to iTunes and Quicktime so that you can rent those movies online like you have been wanting to do forever. Just know that in doing that you might damage your ability to edit. If you can, have the one machine for editing and get a second machine for web surfing and word processing and e-mail. If you simply cannot afford to do that, I understand I've been there myself when I was starting out. I had an iBook that I used for editing and for everything else I did. In this case, before you updated it would be wise to clone your working OS to a firewire drive so in case the updates mess things up, you can always go back to your working OS. I use Carbon Copy Cloner (found at www.versiontracker.com) to clone my hard drive before I perform any updates. And I recommend firewire drives because they are bootable, and you will need the drive to be bootable if you want to clone this system back to your machine. You'll need to wipe the machine drive clean, then clone back the OS on the firewire drive. OK...sorry for the long post. I hope even though I had to be vague with details that the overall general points I make are helpful. I have spent many an hour and day fixing editing machines that have had some small update mess things up...dating back to Avid Media Composers running version 6.5 on NuBus Macs. It isn't fun to fix, and is frustrating to find that one simple extension was the cause for the edit system not working properly. Play it safe, err on the side of caution and never ever mess with a working system, unless the update provides functionality that you need in your workflow (added support for new camera formats). And always cover your ass by cloning your system.

Posted by: Shane Ross on Feb 11, 2008 at 12:34:36 pm editing, hd, television, apple, final cut pro, computers
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Capturing HDV as ProRes...via Firewire

Before I go into this, if you haven't read Chris Poisson's article here at the Cow on how to capture HDV as ProRes 422 via firewire please do so now. I'll wait.

http://library.creativecow.net/articles/poisson_chris/hdv-prores.php...Alright, let's talk about what I am doing now.I have been hired to edit a 5-10 min "Teaser" for a documentary...a teaser that will be used as a fund raising tool to solicit more money to finish shooting and editing this documentary. This documentary was shot on HDV at 1080i 29.97 using the Sony VU1 HDV camera...with another one as b-camera, and at one point a small DV camera for minor pickup shots. When I mix the footage, I might treat the DV to look really grainy or something else to set it apart. That I captured natively with my DSR-11 deck. But the HDV footage I have set about capturing as ProRes via firewire. And thus far (on the second to last tape...it is finishing the encode as I type) it has been pretty smooth.I rented a Sony HVR-1500 deck that is FLUSH with connections. Yes, I could have captured via HD SDI or HD Component...but because I am running an older Dual 2.0Ghz G5 (PPC), I can't capture it as ProRes via my Kona LH. You can only capture as ProRes with a capture card if you are running an Intel Mac. And I don't want to capture as DVCPRO HD...the old way of dealing with HDV...because I'd lose some resolution. Sony HDV is 1440x1080 (anamorphic)...and DVCPRO HD at 1080 is 1280x1080...I'd be losing 200 lines of resolution! Well, that's just not acceptable, not with ProRes out there. And ever since the FCP 6.0.2 update, you can capture HDV as ProRes via firewire even if you are running and older PPC Mac, like I am. How cool is that? Pretty cool in my book.Now...my first question was...why ProRes and not the higher quality ProRes HQ? Well, when I captured a couple short clips and compared...I couldn't see any difference. Yes, I used my HD CRT to judge them. I'm guessing that this is because the HDV format is already highly compressed...and that the HQ ProRes is for higher end HD formats like HDCAM and HDCAM SR...where you can tell the difference. And because ProRes was 15.1MB/s and ProRes HQ was 22.3MB/s...I opted for the lower bit rate one...since there was no visible difference. And the Caldigit S2VR Duo that I am capturing this footage to is handling it all beautifully. (FYI, I wil be backing up all of this footage onto my homemade RAID tower, that has been designated as footage backup.)So as the article describes, when I start capturing, the actual capture window does lag behind by 33%. And it plays back in slow motion...this is I wager is because it is transcoding HDV into ProRes. So to monitor the footage, I connected the deck to the HD CRT via the SUPER out, so I could see timecode. When the tape ends, I press stop, and then the system takes about 30-45 min to finish the encode. This would be shorter on a faster Mac, I am sure.And as advertised it breaks up the footage at the start and stop points on the camera. When the tape is full of interviews, that is fine. There are about 1-4 clips to deal with. But when we are talking about b-roll and scenings...suddenly I have 65 clips to deal with. But, this is no different than with P2...footage is broken up at the camera start and stops. While I might be used to this, it doesn't mean that I like it. I don't...I really really don't. I like my b-roll of the desert and the desert sunset to be in 10-20 min chunks, not 5 sec to 1.5 min bits and pieces strew about. This makes scrubbing thru footage a BIG hassle. I'll probably end up linking them all together either as a sequence, or more likely as a self contained QT file. Although that is dangerous, as the new QT file won't contain the original tape timecode. Gah..what a pain!So I do what the article states, delete the CLIPS (not the media, just highlight the clips and press delete) from the Browser and then on the finder level in the Capture Scratch folder, open and rename the footage more descriptively. Then re-import that into FCP and organize it. NOTE: There are a couple issues with this workflow that I'd like to point out. When you capture this footage, FCP does not assign it a reel number. This is a pretty important piece of info to have on the clip. Fixing that is simple enough, just add it in the Browser. You'll be warned that you are "Changing the source timecode on the file," that's fine...just click OK.Hmmm...this brings up a concern. When you do this capture, you do it pretty much as a CAPTURE NOW. Roll the tape and let it go. There is no LOG AND CAPTURE, no place to add REEL numbers. So let's say that you lose a drive, and your footage is lost. How will you get it back? With logging and capturing, simply BATCH CAPTURE your footage and it will reconnect in the Browser and timeline. But with this method, CAN you batch capture? Because of the camera starts and stops will the recapture start on the exact same first frame and last frame? If you have to recapture the footage and try to reconnect it that way, how can you assure that you get the same TC start and end times...and the same clip names? The more I think about it...the more this workflow makes me nervous. This is why I am backing up my footage. I think if I have the time, I will also capture the footage (only 8 tapes) via HD SDI as DVCPRO HD 1080i 29.97 and see how things look. At least with this format, I can log and capture, label my clips, assign reel numbers as I capture, have the ability to capture the b-roll as one long clip. And piece of mind that I can re-capture via "batch capture" in case footage is lost. Sometimes I think slight loss in quality might be preferable when it comes to a proven stable workflow. We'll see...still figuring this out. What are your thoughts about this?


Posted by: Shane Ross on Jan 12, 2008 at 9:41:37 amComments (4) editing, hdv, hd, final cut pro, indie film
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HD LCDs

Quite a bit ago, back on August 3, 2007, Alpha Dogs in Burbank CA had what they dubbed the "HD LCD Monitor Shootout." This was a comparison of many HD LCDs...all presented side-by-side in a proper gray room, all showing the same footage...for people to look at and judge for themselves what is the best HD LCD.The models displayed were:TV Logic LVM 240DFront NicheJVC DTV 24L1DTeranex ClearVueDIT DTS-OR23.NS4DIT DTS-OR23.NS3eCinema DPXPanasonic BTLH2600WSony LMD-2450WHD Now, the eCinema wasn't an HD LCD, but is what they call the "CRT Replacement." And it wasn't quite ready yet...the demo model didn't dislay any real image. It was there just to show us that it could "do black." Well, that it did. But priced at $37,999, that is a BIT out of the reach of most of us. This monitor is destined for Post Houses only...ones that can charge $350-$750 an hour for color correction. So I'll leave this one out of the equasion.Now, I have seen the Panasonic monitor in action at NAB and a few peoples editing setup, and I was impressed. But for this monitor shootout, it was REALLY CRANKED UP. Something that Terry Cullen (the host) dubbed "something you would see at Circuit City." This was very disappointing to us, because we knew that the manufacturers representatives that brought the monitors also set them up. The Panasonic rep really did their monitor s disservice. That being said, I would like to point out my favorites...my TOP THREE. The top three because these were ones that were easily head and shoulders above the rest. All the models presented were of the 24" variety.#3 - The Sony LMD-2450WHD. Good colors, decent blacks. Good controls. Off axis viewing made RED turn to SALMON...but, you get that with most (note I say "most") of these monitors. This one goes for about $5500.#2 - JVC DTV 24L1D. This is all around the best monitor I saw there. Good price range, decent off axis viewing (a little better than the Sony), good blacks, great colors. If I was pressed to give up my Sony PVM-14L5, this would be the monitor I would get, because it is in my price range...and looks very good.But...the monitor that REALLY impressed me, the one that I would get if I could afford it, is:#1 - TV Logic LVM 240D. This is a monitor by a Korean manufacturer and MAN, have they got it! This was an AMAZING monitor. Off axis viewing was by far the best. Very little color drop off. Great blacks, vibrant colors. Just an amazing monitor. Cost? $7999. Yes, a lotta scratch, but man, if you have it, get this one. I had the pleasure of seeing the LARGER models at IBC, and every one of them was just sharp. The 42" is what I'd love to have in my bay...but the price was...a wee tad higher than the 24".So there. The best deal is the JVC, but the best of the batch (eCinema not ready for primetime at the time) is the JVC.Oh, why did I mention "off axis" viewing? Well, this is because when color correcting with a producer or director of photography in the room, you both need to see the monitor, so it needs to be angled in a way that you both have a good view. But in doing that neither one of you is looking directly at the monitor, but slightly "off axis." If a monitor displays RED as SALMON or PINK off axis...that isn't a good thing.

Posted by: Shane Ross on Oct 27, 2007 at 2:23:37 am hd
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