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FCP workflow and tutorial for narrative work?

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Adam Claude JonesFCP workflow and tutorial for narrative work?
by on Mar 3, 2011 at 7:41:30 pm

I have been using FCP for a while but have never done any long form project on it. But I have recently been asked to edit a feature film with several hours of footage and I was wondering if there are any video, DVD or books which focus on FCP for narrative work? I guess the main difference will be media management and workflow.
Also, the feature has several green screen shots which I will have to edit before compositing work is done. But the thing is the green screen material is in DPX format. What would be the best workflow to edit this material?

Thanks.


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Rob GrauertRe: FCP workflow and tutorial for narrative work?
by on Mar 3, 2011 at 10:26:02 pm

I don't have much to offer, but I can say that post will be much more manageable if you break the project up into segments instead or working in one big 60 or 90 minute timeline. Even a 22 minute project I did for someone was broken up into 4-6 minute segments

Once you plan what you want to include in the segments, it's sorta like planning a bunch of short form projects.

That's been my experience, at least. Hope that helps a bit.

Rob Grauert, Jr.
http://www.robgrauert.com
command-r.tumblr.com


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Adam Claude JonesRe: FCP workflow and tutorial for narrative work?
by on Mar 3, 2011 at 11:24:16 pm

Thanks. Any tips on the DPX workflow issue?


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Adam Claude JonesRe: FCP workflow and tutorial for narrative work?
by on Mar 4, 2011 at 1:05:29 pm

Should I post the question on the FCP Basics forum? I didn't think it was a basic question but as I'm not getting any replies here.


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Rob GrauertRe: FCP workflow and tutorial for narrative work?
by on Mar 4, 2011 at 2:11:15 pm

Oh, I just thought or something!

I think Shane Ross's Getting Organized in Final Cut Pro DVD talks about getting organized for narrative work.

http://store.creativecow.net/p/63/getting_organized_in_final_cut_pro

Sorry, I have no answer to the DPX question though. I don't even know what that is :/

Rob Grauert, Jr.
http://www.robgrauert.com
command-r.tumblr.com


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Matt LyonRe: FCP workflow and tutorial for narrative work?
by on Mar 5, 2011 at 3:31:33 pm

Hi Adam,

Long form narrative films are typically broken up into "reels." Each reel corresponds to 2000 feet of 35 mm film (roughly 20 minutes of screen time). Although "reel breaks" are becoming less relevant, you still need to think about them if your project might get theatrical distribution. The first reel is usually shorter, to allow for leaders that might tacked on the reel.

Regardless of how your movie is shown, working in reels is still a useful organizational system. In my experience, this is how post production folk are expecting to receive material (not to mention sound designers and composers). All editors work differently, but I would typically start assembling scenes as the rushes arrive, and then start compiling everything into reels once the shoot is over.

As for DPX files, have you checked out GlueTools?

http://www.gluetools.com/products_dpx.html

I haven't tried it myself, but it might be what you are looking for. The other option is to convert the files to match the codec and resolution of your main footage. I would probably also put a per-frame burn in on the converted footage, to show the source file name of the DPX frames. This will make it easier to identify the source files and do the media breakouts for the VFX people.

Typically, once the film is locked for time, you would sit down with the director, producer and VFX lead and do a spotting session to identify all the effects and discuss the creative objectives of each shot.

To keep things organized, each VFX shot should get a unique name and text overlay in the FCP timeline. In the past, the VFX company has given me an empty hard drive, on which I'll make a folder for each shot. In each folder, I would put the source DPX files that correspond exactly to the length used in the locked project (with handles, if requested). It also helps to start a spreadsheet to track all the VFX shots, where you can list the timeline in-outs, source file in-outs, source media file name, notes, etc...

Hope this helps,

Matt Lyon
Editor
Toronto


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Adam Claude JonesRe: FCP workflow and tutorial for narrative work?
by on Mar 5, 2011 at 5:52:20 pm

Hey Thanks for the extensive reply Matt! Truly appreciated.

Yeah, I have heard of GlueTools. But honestly, at $600 it's not an investment I'm sure I want to make, specially that I'm almost never asked to work with DPX. But I think this is the only option if I want to work with DPX in FCP right?
Besides of course converting it to a QT flavor. But I'm not sure that would be good for the VFX, since DPX is uncompressed. So I'm not sure they would like to receive ProRes for example. Or what would be the best format to convert the DPX to in order to edit in FCP?

The thing is the DPX files were actually converted from Cineform files. So the original files were Cineform. So I could also work with the original Cineform files in FCP, if FCP would accept that. But I heard FCP doesn't recognize the Cineform files as 10 bit for some reason. Have you worked with Cineform files in FCP?

Then there's the problem with Color. Even if FCP accepts the Cineform and recognizes it as 10 bit, Apple Color will not. So how do I do to grade it in Color? This is why the DPX may make more sense. But for DPX I will also need a RAID etc and GlueTools.

I could of course try to do some sort of offline workflow. Convert the footage to some QT for editing, send the original to the VFX but when it's sent back to FCP after FX is done it will come in DPX (or TIFF) and I have the same problem. I need GlueTools and a RAID. Man, I'm on a jam here. :(


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Matt LyonRe: FCP workflow and tutorial for narrative work?
by on Mar 5, 2011 at 6:57:22 pm

No problem Adam, I'm happy to help.

I have used the a free cineform enabler for FCP, but only for a very short project. IMHO, I think it would only make sense if your whole project is going to be edited in Cineform. I'm not sure about the 10 bit issue you describe. You should check their documentation or try contact their tech support.

[Adam Claude Jones] "I could of course try to do some sort of offline workflow. Convert the footage to some QT for editing, send the original to the VFX but when it's sent back to FCP after FX is done it will come in DPX (or TIFF) and I have the same problem. I need GlueTools and a RAID. Man, I'm on a jam here. :("

I don't think you are in a jam here! I think you are getting too caught up in worrying about image fidelity right now. There is no reason to edit at "full quality" at the moment. Keep your cineform files in a protected place on your HD. Convert the footage and edit away. You'll have a much more reliable editing experience when you aren't mixing and matching resolutions and codecs.

Is there any reason your final VFX clips couldn't be delivered as quicktime files? You could ask for 10 bit uncompressed quicktimes, which you could then use natively in FCP or convert as needed (to ProRes, for example). Any PC or Mac with quicktime should support this codec. You will need a very fast hard drive to play these back though.

Matt Lyon
Editor
Toronto


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Adam Claude JonesRe: FCP workflow and tutorial for narrative work?
by on Mar 5, 2011 at 7:18:05 pm

Thanks again Matt.
So you think offline is the way to go here?
What format do you advice me to convert the DPX to? ProRes?
I'm just a bit nervous because I have never done offline before because this is my first long form project. Specially given DPX sequences don't really have time code, so how will I go about conforming the shots later, if not manually?

About the final VFX clips being delivered as quicktime files, the only reason would be quality and also practicability. VFX shots are normally rendered as image sequences because if you need to re-render something or add more at the head or tail, it's just a matter of re-rendering the needed frames. While if you render the finished shots as video clips you would need to re-render the whole clip. It's just the usual way of doing it in the VFX industry, going with image sequences. The other reason is quality. Converting the DPX to ProRes for example would take a hit in quality.
But when you say to render it to 10 bit uncompressed quicktimes, I think you mean the Apple Animation codec?
Yes, the hard drive speed need is insane for those, but it may be a viable option.

Thanks once more.


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Matt LyonRe: FCP workflow and tutorial for narrative work?
by on Mar 6, 2011 at 4:47:41 am

[Adam Claude Jones] "will I go about conforming the shots later, if not manually?"

When I've worked as an assistant editor, prepping shows for VFX work, I put text overlays in the timeline to mark every shot that is designated to have effects work. When I receive the completed work back, the media names match the text overlays exactly and the clips are already to length (possibly with handles). So, yes, conforming is a manual process, but a quick one. Inserting shots manually, on a separate track, also lets me A/B the material for the director and/or producer, which is often asked for.

If you are really nervous about the process, I suggest you try to find an experienced feature assistant in your area who'll let you shadow them and teach you the process. That is how I got trained.

[Adam Claude Jones] "About the final VFX clips being delivered as quicktime files, the only reason would be quality and also practicability."

I get what you are saying, but unless you are using GlueTools, FCP is quicktime based and you'll have to convert your media to a format that plays nice with the rest of your timeline.

[Adam Claude Jones] "VFX shots are normally rendered as image sequences because if you need to re-render something or add more at the head or tail, it's just a matter of re-rendering the needed frames."

I guess this is a matter of philosophy and approach, but my preference is that when revisions are called on a shot, the VFX artist makes an entirely new version (with a new version number), and delivers the full frame range. I know some facilities don't work this way ... but I find it is the least error prone. Of course, there are downsides to this approach.

[Adam Claude Jones] "But when you say to render it to 10 bit uncompressed quicktimes, I think you mean the Apple Animation codec?"

I mean the "10 bit uncompressed 4:2:2 codec." Check the codec list in FCP and quicktime, it's in there! Another high quality option that people like is ProRess 4444 (which I haven't personally tried yet). The animation codec is 8 bit RGB, and isn't really a good choice anymore, IMHO.

But there is no reason why you can't get DPX image sequences delivered to you, and then convert them to the codec of your choice.

If you have to hand off the project to another facility for an online or DI or whatever, you can give them an HD with folders of the original DPX files, so they use the highest quality source in the conform.

Matt Lyon
Editor
Toronto


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Adam Claude JonesRe: FCP workflow and tutorial for narrative work?
by on Mar 7, 2011 at 1:51:46 pm

[Matt Lyon] "So, yes, conforming is a manual process, but a quick one. Inserting shots manually, on a separate track, also lets me A/B the material for the director and/or producer, which is often asked for."

Well, given that the majority of the project is green screen plates this will be almost like re-trimming the whole project then. What if I just re-connect the media and point FCP to the folder where the finished shots are contained and these shots are exactly the same name as the untouched green screen clips on the timeline? FCP would automatically replace them with all transitions and cuts in the right places etc, no? Or it would not work because of the fact they are the same name but a different format? At least I don't think FCP would look at that. Just the path and name. But I may be wrong.
So I could for example convert the DPX to ProRes or any QT format for easy editing and name them the same as the DPX source. Then send the DPX to compositing and when FX is finished, output with the same name to a DPX sequence. Then convert the DPX finished shots to uncompressed 10 bit QT and put these finished shots in a folder and re-connect the media in FCP to this folder and have it replace all the unfinished ProRes clips with the finished Uncompressed 10 bit finished clips. Is this a sound workflow here? By having the finished shots output to DPX, in case something needs to be worked on later, VFX could still only re-render the needed frames and a new conversion to uncompressed 10 bit QT of the whole shot or just what is different could be done and have it cut in the FCP timeline to add what's missing in case it was just a matter of the shot needed to be longer or start earlier. This would avoid a lot of re-rendering etc, which can take a lot of time depending on how complex the VFX shot is. How does that sound? Do you see any holes in this workflow?

Thanks once more for your advice Matt.


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Matt LyonRe: FCP workflow and tutorial for narrative work?
by on Mar 9, 2011 at 2:05:14 pm

Hi Adam, I didn't realize the majority of the show was green screen. I understand now why you want to automate the process more.

Your process sounds like it might work in theory, but I think you should do a test on a small timeline to make sure it works in practice.

One potential gotcha: if you have split up a clip into multiple smaller pieces, that are placed in non-consecutive parts of your finished timeline, how are you going to deal with the fact that they will all have the same name? For your system to work reliably, all the plates you send to VFX need unique names.

You should be able to reconnect clips to different media that is a different format. You can even "force" reconnect to clips with a different filename or reel name. What will be a problem is if the timecode doesn't line up. But you should do a test ... round trip a couple shots through your pipeline and see what happens.

But that being said, if you are doing a long format show that is mostly DPX files, are you sure you can't drop $600 for GlueTools? It sounds like you are trying to jump through a lot of hoops when the right tool already exists for your job. (At least in theory -- I haven't used GlueTools myself).

As for hardware -- you'll need a disk array that can handle 10 Bit Uncompressed data rates (with a healthy amount of overhead). You should be able to Google all that info. You'll also need a 10 bit capable video I/O device and a good broadcast monitor.

Matt Lyon
Editor
Toronto


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Adam Claude JonesRe: FCP workflow and tutorial for narrative work?
by on Mar 9, 2011 at 2:42:54 pm

Hi Matt, yeah, the majority of it is green.


[Matt Lyon] “One potential gotcha: if you have split up a clip into multiple smaller pieces, that are placed in non-consecutive parts of your finished timeline, how are you going to deal with the fact that they will all have the same name? “

Well, when you split a clip and use different parts of it in the timeline the source points to the same clip anyway right? It’s just know what parts of it you are using where in the timeline because of what you did on the timeline, no? It would be the same. Let’s say I use the start till 00:30 and then the end from 02:30. Both point to the same clip and just use different parts of the clip based on how I have it on the timeline. The same would work with the VFX shots which would be exactly the same length and name as the low-rez clips. Or did I misunderstand what you meant?


[Matt Lyon]”For your system to work reliably, all the plates you send to VFX need unique names.”

They will have the same names as the original low-rez clips.

[Matt Lyon]” What will be a problem is if the timecode doesn't line up.”

Aha! Yes. This may indeed be a problem since once I convert the DPX to Prores it will give it a timcode, where the DPX has not time code, just duration. Hmmm.

[Matt Lyon]”But that being said, if you are doing a long format show that is mostly DPX files, are you sure you can't drop $600 for GlueTools? It sounds like you are trying to jump through a lot of hoops when the right tool already exists for your job. (At least in theory -- I haven't used GlueTools myself).”

Well, the problem is not just Gluetools. It’s that to have an enjoyable experience editing DPX I would have to have a super machine, a super RAID etc. It would mean invest on Gluetools, a new Mac Pro or upgrade mine and a super RAID. As you opened my eyes, there’s no reason to worry about editing in full quality. I think this is the main problem rather than just buying Gluetools. Prores will be a much faster edit.

[Matt Lyon]”As for hardware -- you'll need a disk array that can handle 10 Bit Uncompressed data rates (with a healthy amount of overhead). You should be able to Google all that info. You'll also need a 10 bit capable video I/O device and a good broadcast monitor.”

I already have a 10bit I/O card (Blackmagic). I will research about the RAID.
But as I was speaking to another FCP editor, he said that once the VFX shots are back, in a perfect world my edit should be locked/finished. So it’s just a matter of rendering a quick low rez version of the whole movie to watch and approve and then just render the final version out. So technically I could do without a RAID which I would only need if I wanted to playback my timeline with the 10bit uncompressed. Of course it would be limiting though.

Thanks again Matt. It has been very productive to be able to count with your expertise.


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Matt LyonRe: FCP workflow and tutorial for narrative work?
by on Mar 9, 2011 at 3:15:32 pm

[Adam Claude Jones] " Let’s say I use the start till 00:30 and then the end from 02:30. Both point to the same clip and just use different parts of the clip based on how I have it on the timeline. The same would work with the VFX shots which would be exactly the same length and name as the low-rez clips."

This is true, but typically you would not send the full clip to the VFX artist. So let say you have a five minute clip, and you are only using from 00:00-00:30 and 02:30-03:00. You would only send the two, thirty second chunks to the VFX team (maybe with 12 frame handles). Otherwise, they are comping and rendering 4 minutes of unused footage, which is expensive and a waste of time.

So in this example, you've sent two clips to get VFX treatment. When they come back to the edit suite, at least one of them will have a different name, and both will have timecode that starts at 00:00:00:00 (unless you embed TC into the DPX files to match your source clips, which you should be able to do -- provided your tools support this).

[Adam Claude Jones] "in a perfect world my edit should be locked/finished."

Very true indeed! Most shows are scheduled so the creative part of editing is totally finished before VFX begins. Your show should really be 100% LOCKED before you send shots for VFX work. Of course, in the real world, this isn't always possible.

Matt Lyon
Editor
Toronto


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Adam Claude JonesRe: FCP workflow and tutorial for narrative work?
by on Mar 9, 2011 at 3:29:57 pm

[Matt Lyon]"This is true, but typically you would not send the full clip to the VFX artist. So let say you have a five minute clip, and you are only using from 00:00-00:30 and 02:30-03:00. You would only send the two, thirty second chunks to the VFX team (maybe with 12 frame handles). Otherwise, they are comping and rendering 4 minutes of unused footage, which is expensive and a waste of time."

Yeah, you are very right here. Could I just create a sublcip or something then?
Also, there are performance (dialog) in these green shots and most likely the whole scene won't use the same take. It's starting to get messy.
Would subclips with unique names work? Or what other option is there?
Also, when sending the DPX counterparts to VFX, I would either have to tell them what frames I need (by notes) or go through the trouble of separating those frames and sending only them. Wish I could automate that somehow. Actually, I wish I was back editing video. :)
Much simpler.


[Matt Lyon]"So in this example, you've sent two clips to get VFX treatment. When they come back to the edit suite, at least one of them will have a different name, and both will have timecode that starts at 00:00:00:00 (unless you embed TC into the DPX files to match your source clips, which you should be able to do -- provided your tools support this)."

Well, the timecode would be the problem. The DPX have no real timecode. Just duration. So starting at 00:00:00:00 is the only mark. Meaning VFX would have to comp full takes for timecode to match or clips will have to be split (subclips) so they are perfect matches and can be automatically replaced by FCP once I re-connect the media. :(
Hassle, hassle. Where is mini-DV? :)

Thanks again Matt.


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Matt LyonRe: FCP workflow and tutorial for narrative work?
by on Mar 10, 2011 at 7:56:17 am

[Adam Claude Jones] "Wish I could automate that somehow. Actually, I wish I was back editing video. :)
Much simpler."


Ha ha, I hear you :) I get where you are coming from in wanting to automate the process (which I'm all for, when appropriate). But bear in mind your job here is NOT to make things simple for editorial. It is to makes things as clear as possibly for the VFX people, so they don't waste any resources. You need to be crazy meticulous and totally detail oriented.

Prepping a show for handoff to VFX can take hours or DAYS, depending on the complexity of the work and the number of VFX shots.

[Adam Claude Jones] "Also, when sending the DPX counterparts to VFX, I would either have to tell them what frames I need (by notes) or go through the trouble of separating those frames and sending only them."


Yes to both! You should be making detailed spreadsheets, that note every VFX shots, organized by reel, with timeline In/Out, source media In/Out, source media name, source media reel, director's notes, and any other relevant info. (This is typically the assistant editor's job -- actually, everything I'm describing in this post is).

And again, each VFX shot should be given a unique name (usually via text overlay slug in the timeline). You would create a corresponding folder on your delivery hard-drive, and place JUST the separated frames for that shot in it (with handles, if requested). The way you name these shots would be based on some agreed upon convention, for example, the first VFX shot in the show might be:

ABC_001_0010

then the second shot would be:

ABC_001_0020

Where 'ABC' is a short form name of the movie, '001' is the reel number and '0010' is the shot number. These shot numbers have no correlation to the name of your source media. Notice how I'm skipping numbers, in case you miss a shot and need to go back to add one. The "in between" shot would be named "0015."

You should also be sending reference quicktimes, with burn in timecode and the VFX name overlays, for every reel, so the VFX artists can see their shots in context.

You'll have to forgive me for probably glossing over large parts of the process, but there is simply too much to write! Your best way to learn more would be by talking in person to other editors who've done VFX heavy shows.

[Adam Claude Jones] "The DPX have no real timecode."

I can't claim to have a lot of experience using DPX, but my understanding is you can store timecode info in the metadata.

Anyway, this is just one way of doing things, YMMV!

Matt Lyon
Editor
Toronto


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Adam Claude JonesRe: FCP workflow and tutorial for narrative work?
by on Mar 10, 2011 at 6:36:16 pm

[Matt Lyon]"And again, each VFX shot should be given a unique name (usually via text overlay slug in the timeline). You would create a corresponding folder on your delivery hard-drive, and place JUST the separated frames for that shot in it (with handles, if requested). The way you name these shots would be based on some agreed upon convention..."

That sounds good. But just one thing I'm still confused about.
If each VFX shot has to be given an unique name, but FCP links the shots to the original media, how will FCP replace these shots aromatically once I point it to the new folder containing the now finished VFX shots to re-connect to the media? The unique names of the VFX shots won't match the original file, which is the raw footage before the cutting.
Like if I use 00:00-00:30 from take1 and then 04:00-04:30 of the same take1 and name the 2 shots VFX1 and VFX1B and send just these frames to VFX, how will FCP know where to put the clips once I re-connect the media? It will not longer point to Take1 but to VFX1 and VFX1B whihc FCP has no idea about. Do you know what I mean?

[Matt Lyon]"You'll have to forgive me for probably glossing over large parts of the process, but there is simply too much to write! "

Matt, you are helping a ton here and I'm extremely thankful for it.


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Adam Claude JonesRe: FCP workflow and tutorial for narrative work?
by on Mar 7, 2011 at 1:54:12 pm

Also, what type of hardware set up would I need to work with the uncompressed 10bit QT clips? Keeping in mind that I would not actually edit with uncompressed but only work with it once the finished clips came back. So it would be just basically the final approval and the color grading in Apple Color, if it makes any difference. Thanks!


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Neil SadwelkarRe: FCP workflow and tutorial for narrative work?
by on Mar 17, 2011 at 7:02:38 am

I've addressed your DPX question and workflow in a later post that you sent. It's entirely do-able using Color and FCP reconnect.
I do similar things.

Meanwhile, what's the source of the Cineform files?

-----------------------------------
Neil Sadwelkar
neilsadwelkar.blogspot.com
twitter: fcpguru
FCP Editor, Edit systems consultant
Mumbai India


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Adam Claude JonesRe: FCP workflow and tutorial for narrative work?
by on Mar 17, 2011 at 3:37:27 pm

Hi Neil. Yes, I saw and already replied.

I'm not entirely sure what is the source of the Cineform files but I guess it came from the camera that way?


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