From XDCAM EX1 to SD DVD - is this the way to go?
I'm preparing for the first shoot with the XDCAM EX1. After reading through several posts, I'm still not quite sure if my currently planned workflow is best-practice, and I'd really appreciate if anyone can confirm or correct.
We'll shoot at two locations, with two videographers and their own cameras and SxS cards. Format will be NTSC, 1080p (1920 x 1080), 24p, 35 mb/s. The final output will be primarily on SD DVD, but some of the footage might be used for an HD DVD as well.
One videographer will transfer the footage himself from the SxS cards onto an external drive, from where I'll get the stuff onto my Mac Pro. The other shoot is in London, and I'll likely bring along my MacBook to stick in the cards and transfer the material to the hard drive after the shoot (plus maybe back it up onto an external drive from there).
I've downloaded the XDCAM Transfer software as well as the SxS device driver, and am working with FCP 6.0.5
I intend to edit in XDCAM HD/EX, and use the ProRes render settings.
Once done, I'll use either try this http://www.kenstone.net/fcp_homepage/ex1_sd_output_young.html to get it down to SD and into Compressor for DVD Studio Pro. Or use Export > Sony XDCAM in FCP, which has delivered good results as per this discussion http://discussions.apple.com/message.jspa?messageID=8634337#8634337
Does that sound about right? Any pitfalls I risk running into? Anything I should change or improve?
Welcome to Creative COW.
Since your work will be down converted to SD one of the most important things to consider is how the EX picture's edge detail is handled during the down conversion process. It's been my experience that the more edge detail there is the more issues there are with horizontal and vertical thin lines (such as edges of high contrast objects, telephone/power wires, etc.)
The edge detail default settings with the EX cameras is excessive and my advice is to dial the settings down. One of the industry's well respected EX authorities, Simon Wyndham, has come up with a baseline edge detail setting and the reason why the settings should be dialed back but not turned off completely.
Quote from Simon on another forum:
"For a filmic look you can turn the detail off, but this doesn't help very much with the EX series because unlike cameras such as the F900 you cannot turn the detail off while leaving the Aperture correction on.
On most of Sony's full size cameras you can do this. Turning the detail off gets rid of edge enhancement across the board. But by tuning the Aperture (high frequency) detail you can get really fine adjustments that can mimic different film types much more closely.
This is not possible with the EX series of cameras though because they only have a broad detail adjustment with no separate Aperture Correction adjustment.
For this reason I would not recommend turning the detail totally off on the EX cameras. Instead I would suggest reducing the detail, for example to -20, and then adjusting the Frequency setting to, for example +40. The Frequency setting adjusts the coarseness, or width, of the edge enhancement. The higher the setting the finer and more subtle the effect is.
So it is possible to keep the edge enhancement but stop it from being intrusive. For documentary you may want slightly more enhancement than you would for a 'filmic' style. Turning the detail off can make things look a little too '8mm cine camera' to me.
One other tip I can give is that for low light shots with the gain kicked and shadow areas, you may want to experiment with the crispening function. This function is also useful when used in conjunction with the detail adjustment as it will not only allow you to fine tune the detail enhancement to avoid enhancing the noise, but it will also allow you to further fine tune the parts of the picture you would like enhanced of those that you do not."
Because you're going to be doing the standard def. DVD route I believe this edge detail adjustment is important to the overall quality of the finished SD picture. But you must do some recording tests and go through the entire process of acquiring footage, editing, downconverting, encoding to MPEG2 and burning to be sure that the results are what you're looking for. Probably if you were staying HD all the way the edge detail adjustment wouldn't be such an issue but for SD I think it is.
Your outline workflow for acquiring the EX footage seems to be logical and straight forward. Make sure you Clip Browser 2.0 with CRC error checking enabled to copy your entire BPAV folders to separate uniquely named folders on your portable hard drives in the field. The BPAV folders are considered the EX camera's video tape.
Hope this helps.
Don, thanks so much. I'll definitely discuss with the videographers. Having not commented on the FCP workflow, I assume it didn't sound that wrong to you. Good.
As with anything else to do with Final Cut Pro there are always at least 3 or 4 ways of doing the same thing. It all depends on how you like to work. Working in an HD timeline and exporting a SD version whether it be self-contained or a reference movie is up to you. Since some of my EX stuff up until now has been destined for the web I've chosen to work in an HD native EX timeline, set renders to Pro Res and when finished I have exported using Quicktime Conversion to create my web-sized movies. This has worked very well for me. Sometimes I don't even render the timeline prior to exporting as this will save hard drive space (no render files) even though the actual export process will take longer.
Your workflow will be a little different in that you're exporting for MPEG2 DVD encoding. It just so happens that I don't use Compressor for MPEG2 work but use BitVice instead. Therefore I can't advise you on how well Compressor will encode your EX stuff for a standard def. DVD.
You mentioned that you'll be offloading the SxS Pro cards in London to your laptop. I would recommend that you get a few FW800 drives and use those for your transferred media. With the Express 34 slot of a Macbook Pro I can transfer an hour's worth of footage (16 Gig card) to my G-RAID Mini FW 800 drive in about 5.5 to 6 minutes. Keep in mind that this is just dragging and dropping the BPAV folder from the card to the FW drive and is not the recommended way to do it, although it is the fastest way. As I said earlier, to do it safely use Sony's Clip Browser 2.0. with CRC checking active. Always review your copied clips using Clip Browser before deleting the originals from the SxS Pro card.
There are advantages to using the stand alone Sony Transfer Tool over the Log and Transfer Tool. One of the big ones is the ability to name your clips first before importing from the BPAV folders.
Anyway, that's all I can think of at the moment.