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HD 16:9 to letterbox 4:3 for blu ray cinema screening

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Ken Barnes
HD 16:9 to letterbox 4:3 for blu ray cinema screening
on Oct 27, 2011 at 4:00:04 pm

A film festival says they will screen in 4:3 but will accept blu ray. I have no idea why they can't project 16:9.

I've got a 86min. feature sitting on a FCP sequence with HDTV 1080i/1920X1080/ProRes 422/Square Pixel/Upper Field settings. Originally shot on Canon 5D2.

I would like to end up with the highest quality video in letterbox 4:3 that does not crop any of the original image (basically hoping to get a 'mini-16:9' that fits into a 4:3 box) I'm hoping the conversion won't affect the final quality much, if at all. I hope burn it to blu ray as I hope to keep the 13gb file size more or less.

I've already created a nice looking 16:9 blu ray in Toast Titanium after compressing through FCP's File>Share>BluRay option, but there doesn't seem to be any 4:3 letterbox settings in there, nor in the Toast Titanium burn options (well, there are some in TT but when I set them, the file size became a zillion gigabytes and couldn't burn obviously).

Questions:

1. What's the best way to do it for max quality and what settings are required (please be specific, Compressor for example has a number of tabs where things like 'letterbox' appear and combinations of settings get confusing)
2. I've read I should de-interlace at some stage, correct? Or is this done automatically?
3. Should I convert my FCP sequence before exporting? (including changing the Pixel Aspect and Field Dominance) Or do that elsewhere? Or doesn't matter?
4. What's the Cow skinny on using some of the filters in Compressor (if that's the weapon of choice)? I've read on KenStone.com that it's important in many cases to fiddle with black levels and sharpening, etc. but that was published a few years back. Somehow I can't see applying a blanket filter to a whole film when it might only be useful for a few shots or scenes.

Thanks so much for any advice on this. Looking forward to your replies. (I searched but couldn't find the specific answers before)

Ken

ps. Anyone who happens to be in New York on Nov. 18 at 2pm can (hopefully, if this gets done soon) see The Dream Cages, my first feature at the Quad Cinema in Greenwich.


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Mark Spano
Re: HD 16:9 to letterbox 4:3 for blu ray cinema screening
on Oct 27, 2011 at 5:40:43 pm

[Ken Barnes] "A film festival says they will screen in 4:3 but will accept blu ray"

This film festival is crazy. I don't know anyone who would ever ask for a 4x3 letterbox Blu-Ray. It makes no sense, considering that you'd be better off giving them a DVD if that's really the case.

If this is true...

Well first of all, what is your source footage? You say it was shot with 5D - why are you editing in an interlaced sequence? 5D footage should all be progressive. Can you tell what the 5D stuff was originally? It might only be progressive - worse, it might be a different frame rate altogether.

These are some crucial questions. If you understand why I'm asking them, and you've already considered that for other reasons, then read on, and we'll get into your compression/encoding questions.

[Ken Barnes] "I've read I should de-interlace at some stage, correct?"

Only if your output requires progressive. The answer to my first question will influence this answer obviously, but the rule is that if you shoot interlaced, keep it interlaced. If you shoot progressive, keep it progressive. Only break these rules if you are required (TV broadcast delivery likely would require interlaced delivery, web delivery should be progressive, etc.).

[Ken Barnes] "Should I convert my FCP sequence before exporting? (including changing the Pixel Aspect and Field Dominance) Or do that elsewhere? Or doesn't matter?"

The rule for FCP is, whatever happens in FCP stays in FCP. In other words, don't change resolution/frame rate/aspect/etc. in FCP unless you absolutely have to. FCP is the worst product in the suite to handle resizing and retiming. Compressor here is your friend.

[Ken Barnes] "What's the Cow skinny on using some of the filters in Compressor (if that's the weapon of choice)? I've read on KenStone.com that it's important in many cases to fiddle with black levels and sharpening, etc. but that was published a few years back. Somehow I can't see applying a blanket filter to a whole film when it might only be useful for a few shots or scenes."

You're absolutely right. Don't mess with any of those filters. The only ones that are good for anything really are the ones that overlay (time code burn, watermark). Anything that changes picture quality or audio quality is much better done in an application dedicated to that (Color, Soundtrack Pro, etc.).

[Ken Barnes] "What's the best way to do it for max quality and what settings are required"

OK. You want to make an SD 4x3 letterbox and burn to Blu-Ray. Hmm. OK. Well maybe you don't want to do that, but they want you to. OK.

Export Quicktime Movie of your sequence using Current Settings from FCP. Bring that into Compressor. Now you're going to do the resizing in one step, and then the encoding/burn in a separate step. I'll give you a couple of presets - put these in your home/Library/Application Support/Compressor folder and you'll see them. You can also see how I've set it up so that you understand what it's doing. Start with the ProRes Intermediate preset. This will do the resizing and flip fields for SD letterbox. Once that file comes out, you can check it in QuickTime Player and see that it made a proper SD letterbox ProRes file, fields intact. Then you'll take that file into Compressor and do the encoding step, with the H.264 for Blu-Ray SD and Stereo AC3 presets. You can add a Job Action to create a Blu-Ray image as well, or do the authoring somewhere else.

This all sounds more confusing than it is, only because they're asking for something way out of the ordinary. I would definitely find someone to call to ask how the projection will happen - there is a strong chance they (being a busy theater in Manhattan) know how to project full-res 16x9 from a Blu-Ray...



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Ken Barnes
Re: HD 16:9 to letterbox 4:3 for blu ray cinema screening
on Oct 27, 2011 at 6:06:00 pm

Wow. Thanks Mark. I'm truly sorry to take your time with a question that isn't relevant anymore. I had emailed the festival to ask for clarification and the delay in their reply and the upcoming deadline meant I had to assume they wanted 4:3, weird as it was. Turns out they sent off old information. I wonder how many others are/were freaking out.

HOWEVER, your question about why my footage is interlaced is a good one and maybe I've been doing something wrong.

It was shot in NTSC 60 (or 30?) before Canon's firmware upgrade came out. Not sure if that makes a difference. I sent all the footage through Mpeg Streamclip to convert to ProRes422 because FCP (and or my older MacPro) doesn't handle the H264 files from the camera very well. The default in MPeg Streamclip is 'Interlaced Scaling' and I think I ticked HDTV 1920X1080 when I did the conversions. The only preset in FCP 7 sequence settings that shows 1920X1080 is the HDTV preset which is interlaced. I suppose I might de-selected 'Interlaced Scaling' in Mpeg Streamclip and then made a Custom sequence in FCP of 1920X1080. Strange there's no sequence setting for that that is not interlaced. Should I have chosen something else? Never had any rendering problems, etc.

The big question now is: Have I affected the quality of my film by doing this? Would it be worth it to re-import everything de-interlaced (or more properly non-interlaced)? I did figure out a cool workflow to replace multiple clips a while back... if I can remember. I think I posted it here or maybe another forum. But is it worth the effort? Certainly not for this festival. No time. But for others?

Thanks and once again apologies, but maybe some good info has come out anyway. I hope to hear from you again about this last question.

Ken

'It's not a question of becoming. It's a question of uncovering what you really are, of letting everything that is not yourself fall away'. - Journey to Ladakh

I think this applies to editing as well....

Ken Barnes, Producer, Director, Editor
http://www.blissmonkeyfilms.com


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Mark Spano
Re: HD 16:9 to letterbox 4:3 for blu ray cinema screening
on Oct 27, 2011 at 7:06:04 pm

Good thing the festival came to their senses...

Now about this other stuff:

[Ken Barnes] "Should I have chosen something else?"

Well, yes. But it's more than that. If the stuff was shot at 30.0, then this is what I would have done. Batch process in Streamclip to keep frame rate the same and resolution the same, uncheck interlacing (since 5D footage is always progressive), make ProRes. Then, I would have (with Cinema Tools) conformed all of the source footage to 29.97.

The reason why I would conform is that if you bring 30.0 footage into a 29.97 timeline in FCP, there is a constant retiming that will blend a frame or two here or there, and drop a frame here or there, to get it all to work at 29.97. Conforming eliminates this from happening, as it just tells the file to play at 29.97 speed instead of 30.0, and FCP reads it in as if it were 29.97 all along. Audio gets sample-rate converted, but since it's 5D camera audio, I usually wind up only using that for reference and throwing it away in favor of second-system sound.

[Ken Barnes] "Have I affected the quality of my film by doing this? Would it be worth it to re-import everything de-interlaced (or more properly non-interlaced)?"

This may or may not be noticeable in your cut, probably depending on the length of footage between edits. It'll look like a slight smear when frames get blended, and I assume you already know what a dropped frame looks like. If the frame rate thing wasn't an issue, and all you were dealing with was having 'interlaced' your previously progressive footage, then there's only one place where the quality would need judging, and that is: are there any titles/effects used in the timeline? The footage itself does not necessarily suffer when interlaced, because basically you're taking a whole frame and splitting it up into two fields - no information is lost. However when you do fades, transitions, other effects, those are all now created/rendered in an interlaced timeline, so the motion will be finer (60 field motion over the 30 frame motion of your source footage). That stuff may just look like it's slightly out of place compared to watching sections where it's just source footage. These are subjective judgement calls - you have to look at it (on a video output to an actual video monitor) to make a proper assessment.

In the future, knowing how the footage is made in camera goes a long way to figuring out how to handle it in edit. The ultimate determining factor though is you. If you're OK with the way it looks, then any attempts to 'fix' it would have to be weighed against how much better it could be. If the difference in your eyes is negligible, then it's not really worth trying to go back.



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Ken Barnes
Re: HD 16:9 to letterbox 4:3 for blu ray cinema screening
on Oct 27, 2011 at 10:11:00 pm

Thanks for the detailed and clear response. Much appreciated. I'm sure I'm not the only one to benefit from your generosity, although the subject line might not grab as many folks as it could. Maybe this should be part of another thread where workflows are covered.

In my case, I haven't really noticed any dropped frames or loss in quality so I don't think I'll be changing things. Even the subtitles, scrolling credits and the few effects look pretty good.

But for future projects, it's definitely what I'll do.

It's strange but whenever I drop a H264 file straight from the camera onto a new FCP 7 sequence timeline and it says 'match sequence to clip?' and I click 'OK', the timeline immediately goes to HDTV 1080i (interlaced!) Weird. Do you have any idea why that would be? The clip has not gone through Mpeg Streamclip or Log and Transfer. Imported right off the CF card. And it doesn't seem to matter what the sequence preset is set to. It's not that I'd edit in H264 but it would surely be progressive so I find this odd.

Finally, what should the final sequence/timeline be set at for clips converted to ProRes422 (non-interlaced)? Do you have to type in a Custom Frame Size? There doesn't seem to be a 1080p option on the pull down menu in sequence settings.

Thanks again. Ken

'It's not a question of becoming. It's a question of uncovering what you really are, of letting everything that is not yourself fall away'. - Journey to Ladakh

I think this applies to editing as well....

Ken Barnes, Producer, Director, Editor
http://www.blissmonkeyfilms.com


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Mark Spano
Re: HD 16:9 to letterbox 4:3 for blu ray cinema screening
on Oct 28, 2011 at 2:05:37 pm

[Ken Barnes] "It's strange but whenever I drop a H264 file straight from the camera onto a new FCP 7 sequence timeline and it says 'match sequence to clip?' and I click 'OK', the timeline immediately goes to HDTV 1080i (interlaced!) Weird. Do you have any idea why that would be?"

The nomenclature in that dialog is wrong and has been since Final Cut gained HD capability. They're using "HDTV 1080i" to mean 1920x1080 resolution. It's just a misnomer. The thing you should look at is Field Dominance. That is the thing that determines whether it's interlaced (Upper/Lower) or progressive (None).

[Ken Barnes] "Finally, what should the final sequence/timeline be set at for clips converted to ProRes422 (non-interlaced)? Do you have to type in a Custom Frame Size? There doesn't seem to be a 1080p option on the pull down menu in sequence settings."

Yes - set as above. "HDTV 1080i" for frame size, "Square" pixel aspect, and "None" for field dominance.



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Ken Barnes
Re: HD 16:9 to letterbox 4:3 for blu ray cinema screening
on Oct 27, 2011 at 5:40:53 pm

Hi All,

Well it turns out that the festival's information was copied, pasted and sent from some prehistoric festival and that it's fine to send them 16:9 bluray after all. Hallelujah. Never want to look at 4:3 again, ever.

Anyway, the invite to the Quad cinema in Greenwich NY on 18th Nov. at 2pm still stands! Come one, come all.

I couldn't have finished the film without all the great advice on the Cow so hats off to all who helped.

Ken

'It's not a question of becoming. It's a question of uncovering what you really are, of letting everything that is not yourself fall away'. - Journey to Ladakh

I think this applies to editing as well....

Ken Barnes, Producer, Director, Editor
http://www.blissmonkeyfilms.com


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