As one of soho’s rare FCP companies running FCP HD online, we began to get enquiries for HD projects. These needed responsible and realistic replies and so we went searching for hard facts. The two super-formats of 1080 and 720 are so smattered with frame rates and conformity issues it proved an impossible task to supply responsible quotes. Panasonic and Sony have created two market present formats and the suppliers are building what they can, but being so new made finding sympathy between format, hardware and not being in the US, difficult. We felt uneasy taking advice when each phone call would garner a different answer or a twist on another truth. What was practical HD?
It was time to make a problem into an opportunity and we decided to take on board a test project. With great help and patience from Apple, Hamlet, Optex, Panasonic, Polar Graphics and our fab resellers 1080Pro we undertook a music video supplied by @radical.media called “Sweet Dreams Baby” from Fast Lane Roogalator. Directed by the unforgettable Johnny Shahnazarian.
We were provided with a Panasonic 1200 HD deck and monitor to capture plentiful rushes and used a Kona 1 HD card. Johnny was keen to test Optex’s Panasonic Varicam to the limit with with some varispeed footage so we also took advantage of the Fame Rate converter that Panasonic build. The capturing procedure was at full online res. Why? Because we wanted to!
Soon the Medea drive was groaning with nearly 2Tb of media and the process was underway. Mixes and simple transitions have to be rendered on the timeline as the data movements are colossal and occasionally, a simple offline version was trialed before re-rendering at full res. Effects and grading were handled on Shake and Combustion in our other suite. Gary Tobyn and Diego Vasquez, our Editor and FX man respectively were working like a charm between the two suites. It was a very impressive sight to see footage flip between the two rooms and see the project appear in beautiful HD before our eyes.
Delivery was always going to be on D5 and Panasonic provided us with their top flight D5 deck to master onto. The last few masters were made to Digi-beta in both Full Height Anamorphic and letterboxed versions. All through Final Cut Pro.
To say that the whole process was easy would be a terrible lie. Our choice of format was happily Panasonic as the camera can really provide great shots, but not being able to use firewire and the native codec was a pain. The file sizes are much smaller and we could have saved on time and rendering but it’s just not available in 25fps, at least, not yet!
En route, we also lost a drive in the XRaid to the mystery Pogo illness, which then went on to claim victims of one of our Apples, One TV, One dual channel SCSI card, One Medea Raid and a lot of sleep.
Fingers also proved a problem as we kept pressing the wrong buttons. Configuring one piece of kit with another and ensuring that the right type of HD was moving around the place was hard. The varispeed footage is fantastic but keeping a close eye on the set up of the Frame Rate Converter is essential.
FCP performed generally well but as all things seem still so much in their infancy, there were a lot of hard resets taking place and much fiddling with the Audio visual set ups. Particularly important is the need for a tri-level HD sync pulse generator. And coffee, lots of coffee.
The whole job is done and looks very splendid. So much so it merited an IBC screening on the big digital screen on the Saturday. But my word, we have learned a lot. Principally that FCP HD hardware required is not totally robust yet and we await some imminent new boxes in September. We also await a 25Hz native codec for Apple FCP so we can edit at smaller file sizes.
Time is, of course, the one thing we could do with more of. No surprise there but HD does take more of it. SD is so taken for granted after all the years of development and deployment and we just don’t have that yet for HD. So allocating more time for just setting up is essential. We would have liked a further day or two to just play and test, not within a project’s post time though.
Resolution too is an area where we could have worked differently. We do no regret working at full online res’ all the way through, it made us work hard and learn. But for now, a return to traditional off lining with a conform seems essential especially with the lack of a useful codec to firewire around and the mad sizes of data storage needed. However, we do want to try some other systems and formats now and should hope that Sony will let us experiment too.
It’s a beautiful video and all are happy, especially us. But is it practical? – Phone us, we’ll let you know.