document and publish settings for transfer to tape?
I made an 11 minute movie in flash that has no interactivity, but does have video, photographs, drawings, and some visuals generated in flash, including text. The document size is presently 1280 x 640.
Now I have to prepare the movie for Beta SP and HDCAM for projection on a cinema screen. The transfer house wants a file with Apple ProRes4444 codec.
What would be the procedure to get the best image/playback quality? This could include starting over in After Effects. Really, I never thought I would be showing the movie under these circumstances, or this big.
You are probably going to be working with very large file sizes. Do you have disc space, and some way of carrying the files to the facility house - a large removable drive?
You will need to liaise closely with the transfer house. They should be able to accept a wider range of compression formats than just ProRes444 - some might think they are being a little over-prescriptive. ProRes 444 will play nice with HDCAM SR - an excellent format, but not that much of an improvement on HDCAM. ( http://www.versluis.com/2010/02/whats-the-difference-between-hdcam-and-hdca... )
But if that's your distributor's chosen facility, you may have to work with them. You could try telling them that you do not have ProRes nor much video experience (if either of those is true), and that you'd like to give them the Flash file (maybe the source fla and all its imported or source files) and have them render it.
Otherwise you could contact other facility houses looking for one willing to accept your Flash file and transfer it for you, and offer their comments and price to your distributor. This will probably be your easiest option, and if you have a distributor involved the costs should seem insignificant to them.
ProRes is an Apple codec supplied with FCP. I'm not sure that you can get it without getting FCP on an Apple. ProRes444 is a high-quality variant with 444 (rather than widely-used 422) colour compression - a little better colour handling, at the price of a lot of extra data.
After Effects is good, though remaking your project could be a lot of work for you. If you are not on an Apple with Final Cut Studio / FCP installed, you still won't have ProRes export options.
Frame size-wise your 2:1 aspect ratio is not one widely used - HD video is mostly 16:9. Your project might scale to either 1920x1080, or 1280:720. You'll want to make a choice on that.
BetaSP, while used for widescreen in Europe, has largely been used for 4:3 aspect ratio in the USA, so depending on where you are may have to consider making a 4:3 version (or adding black bars to fit).
Thanks for your reply, and thank you so much for the link.
I had a look before I started the thread, and Flash CS4 does allow you to choose ProRes4444 when publishing a .mov. My question is about determining the best workflow.
I'm working on an Mac Pro Quad Core with 16 gigs of RAM and a 2 Terabyte external drive. I have Final Cut 7, After Effects CS5 and Flash CS4 installed (along with a bunch of other Adobe programs.) I have lots of little portable external drives up to 500GB.
I'm guessing that with this setup, file size for this short film won't overly tax my system, even at high resolution.
Before I had this situation, I was always keen to keep file size small. In this case, I'm more concerned with ultimate visual quality for the projection.
The format is weird, I know. The project includes square photographs. To avoid cropping them, they alternately fade in and out side by side, hence the choice for 2:1. My plan is to "letterbox" the movie myself, and deliver a file that conforms to the output format.
Do you think the resolution at 1280x640 when projected will be tip-top?
Alternatively,my current thought is to make a new document to match the 1080 dimension of the hd video; the new document size would be 1080x2160--before letterboxing.
My other concern regarding the video is the possible quality loss when converting to a .flv to import it into the flash document. This is why I am wondering whether it might not be a better quality choice to make the new document in AE.
I like the way photographs, computer-generated text and drawings look in AE (but not so much in Final Cut). I'm guessing the choice between Flash and AE for those project elements would be fairly equivalent?
It is a rough cut that was accepted for this screening, so I have to finalize and reassemble the movie anyway. I thought it best to take the opportunity to rethink the project for best practices for this kind of project, which includes these different elements.
Thanks so much for your help.
It sounds like you are well set on the hardware side, and since you have FCP you are good to go for ProRes
File sizes - I think with variable bit rate codecs it's hard to be exact, but you could be looking at 150 - 200 gigabytes per hour in ProRes 444, unless I've miscalculated - so at 11 minutes that's not going to stress you. Might be worth running a minute-long test on material similar in mix to your intended output, to see where you are.
Workflow - I've used Flash and AE a lot, and would personally always prefer AE for assembling a movie ... Flash is great for interactivity and web delivery, but for me AE has a stronger toolset for movie making, though if you'd felt that way yourself you'd probably have done your rough cut in AE ..
720p is not going to give you as much resolution, of course, as 108p(1280x720 vs 1920 x1080) so if your transfer house is happy with 1080p that could be the one to go for, for quality. You also need a frame-rate choice - I'm not in the NTSC world, so lean to 24 fps or 25 fps, but if your are your choice may be more to render at 29.97 /59.94
For me, to I'd tend to make my AE (or Flash) project at final output size ... so assuming HD (and not cinema-style 2k) output I'd be thinking a 1920x1080 project, at a suitable framerate, and try to talk the distributor and transfer house about whether you have to letterbox your SD / betaSP version, or would they consider using "squeezed" wide screen at standard definition - if you think people will be able to play their betaSP copy out to widescreen ... .
What was I thinking?
Of course for 11 minutes I'd be thinking of generating short sequences in AE and then assembling in an editor - FCP would be great, though you may also have access to Premier, which is also great and integrates very tightly with After Effects. That will give you much easier control of timing and audio, and easier and faster previewing.
And to see your ProRes444 and work with it, I guess you might want a board for AJA or Blackmagic Design, or maybe a box from Matrox, all linked up to a colour-calibrated HiDef screen .... !
Thank you so much, Mike!
Now I can finally see the cliff I'm going to drive off.
It's not really a cliff ! You've already done the hard part, in mastering your tools, creating your project and finding interest in the project. The rest is just mechanics - so keep the faith.
There's a lot of things you can take on if you want to, in terms of monitoring in HD and ProRes444, but you don't need to feel too stressed. If your Apple Display is well set up and you check your originals in Photoshop and After Effects, then you know they are going to be pretty good for colour in final output (though there are some gamma shift issues in ProRes to consider, you should see them in your AE output and be able to work out a method.
It really might be good to do a short sample piece, if your transfer house is friendly and helpful, and take it in to look at with them. No doubt they will have good monitoring in place, and you would be able to see exactly what any issues might be. Sometimes people get a little hung up on extreme technical correctness and accuracy, which is not necessarily a bad thing - so long as it doesn't inhibit or damage the creative flow that made your project interesting in the first place.
Thank you so much Mike!
This is all incredibly helpful, and thank you so much for being so forthcoming and supportive. And thanks again for these links.
I am definitely going to see if I can take a sample to the transfer house, I had no idea you could even propose that.
The only reason I made the movie in Flash is that it was the program I knew at the time! I started out a few years ago making things for the web that included some short video components. Putting this movie together in Flash was so tedious I began to feel something was not quite right...But it wasn't until I was asked to make a straight-ahead movie earlier this year that I learned AE, which is I discover much better adapted for this kind of project. I was still unsure about where the best image quality could be obtained when combining video, illustrations, photographs and computer-generated imagery. If I were to show this kind of project on the web, I think I would still want to make an .flv, though.
You can trust me that I am the last person on earth in danger of getting too caught up in technical things at the expense of the creative side! I don't want viewers to be distracted by technical problems though.
Without wanting to abuse your goodwill, I have two last questions about final output.
Is this correct: there is no difference between rendering the final .mov from AE or from FCP? I had heard that FCP compression is hell on AE files, but it would seem that the expert that expressed that opinion might not be using the proper codec.
Is this correct: what I will do is make the project in AE at 1080x2160, drop it into a container that has the proper aspect ratio, then reduce the size to 1920 wide when rendering the file I will give to the transfer house so they have something standard to work with. This means I will have to slightly scale up the video clips when they are full-frame, and crop these to match the height of the document. But that will be better quality for the video than scaling it down to 1280 in the workfile and then back up to 1920 for output.
How nice not to be in NTSC region--I wish I were!
So search results suggest there's someone with your name who is an artist / photographer, with a Paris connection ... which may be you. Whatever, I salute such work. Perhaps you are the one who should be giving us advice.
Many facilities houses are stuffed with people willing to be helpful and give of their skills and time in the preparation and planning stages. They want to make projects better, as well as making money - and they know that the two are often linked. So time upfront working out workflow, even if it costs someone (you or them) can work out tying a potential customer to a supplier as well as producing better results and better value for money. Good all round. I hope it works for you.
Flash - a tough tool to use, to animate stills (and text) at length, but of course great for web delivery. There's no problem rendering AE files to flv.
Comp sizes first: I tend to the convention of giving the width first, so I'm thinking your plan is 2160x1080,scaled down to 1920x 860 with black bars top and bottom to fill out a standard 1920x1080 frame. I don't think the scaling up and then down again in AE will do much harm - the scaling in AE is very good - but I do wonder whether that will be better for you that just working at your final output size from the off ...
For you, I would expect either AE or FCP should produce excellent (and identical or virtually identical) files when compressing to ProRes444. I haven't tested this, though, but you could do that for yourself, with a few seconds of very varied footage or images - compress to ProRes444 in both, then look carefully at the files, a frame at a time. Whether you compress with FCP or AE, the codec in use - the piece of software doing the compressing - is identical, and supplied by Apple.
Often, AE is used at full quality / uncompressed - slow to work with, but beautiful footage easy to combine, carry out effects work on.
But most HD editing uses compression - to keep data rates and file sizes manageable, and to allow realtime playback on more modest disc arrays than those needed for HD uncompressed. And any "lossy" compression - some data gets lost along the way - risks image quality loss. And nearly all production compression - including ProRes444 - is lossy. Many newer codecs like ProRes (or Avid's DNxHD, or Cineform) do an excellent job at holding quality together while still substantially reducing file sizes.
More typically, FCP users will be working with compressed or heavily compressed footage. So taking your beautiful uncompressed AE output into FCP and then seeing, for example, an H264 version - nice small file, decent quality for distribution, but nowhere near as nice as your source - can upset people.
Apple's strengths have not, in the past, been in developing codecs / compression algorithms, and they've relied on third-party developers for many of their early codecs. In the past (before ProRes) many people felt there were workflow issues with FCP and editing HiDef, and that Apple's Compressor (the compression tool in FC Studio) fell a little short of the industry's top compression standards for producing files for distribution. Apple has been working hard on both issues.
ProRes was designed to (and largely has) fix those editing issues, and Apple has worked hard on Compressor to give the user more choices, and to make sure that top quality encoding is possible. Compression is always a trade-of between ease of use and speed against image quality and file size. Most of us, most of the time need our output good enough but also quite speedy and easy - for top end work people will sacrifice speed and ease for final quality. It's always a challenge for software engineers to produce something speedy easy to use, but with the depth and options to allow the user to get top quality, slower, if so that is her wish.
I hope this (rambling response) is helpful, and that your project works out.
That is indeed I. Thank you so much for your kind words!
I'm putting the new document together now, and it's looking very good.
Thank you so much for all your help.