XDCAM HD Mastering - Lessons Learned & Issues
We've been mastering programs (mostly 26 min) to XDCAM disk and ingesting them to a broadcast server (Omneon) for about 18 months now.
We record, edit & master in the HD (35mbs VBR) mode using FCP 6.0 on 8 processor machines running OS 10.5.6 with Kona Lhe cards. We ingest and export using (several generations of) Sony XDCAM transfer software in the FAM mode. We use PDW-F330 cameras, and PDW-F30 and F70 decks. We do not work with the EX format.
If we export a complete show to XDCAM from the timeline, the audio clips in the timeline pan to their original pan settings as recorded in the camera. No settings or audio mods in the timeline that we've discovered affect this.
Key workflow workaround #1: After the final edit, we export the entire program as a standalone Quicktime movie to our hard drive (not "using Quicktime conversion") which maintains the XDCAM sequence settings/codec. We then re-import this QT into the FCP timeline, set our audio output channels to 4 dual mono (as required by XDCAM tranfer) and use the "export to XDCAM" function. This basic process has worked for over a year... for the most part.
Issue #2: This above process means that we do not have to render the timeline again upon "layback", but we still have to wait for the render/conversion process that is always triggered by the export to XDCAM function. This can take several hours, even with our 8 core machines. If anyone knows how to shortcut this we'd be happy campers.
Issue #3: We've tried to play back from the timeline through the Kona card and record to the PDWF70 deck through SDI or component in. In this case the audio and video signal lose sync, even when the audio is SDI embedded. Our impression is that FCP and/or the Kona can't keep up with the render requirements, although this seems odd. We know editors who output HDV masters in this way.
Issue #4: Since recently updating the firmware on the decks and the transfer software to 2.9 we've had a lot of "out of memory" errors. These sometimes occur only at the very end of the export process (several to many hours). Which leads to...
Key Workaround #2: After final editing and before mastering, shut down and restart the computer. This seems to clears some sort of cache and we are more likely to get a proper output. Also checking the "recompress" checkbox on the XDCAM mastering dialogue seems to help. This was never necessary before the software & firmware updates.
Issue #5: Sometimes we have general errors or crashes when exporting the Quicktime movie (in XDCAM format.)
Key Workaround #3: We export the Quicktime movies in five minute segments and reassemble them in the final timeline. This serves two purposes. The system allows it without crashing, first. And second, it helps us identify if there is a problematic part of the program. We've found a variety of still images, filters and layered effects that simply foul things up.
Issue #6: Sometimes we have errors or crashes on final export to XDCAM disk.
Workaround #5: move to another edit bay and try again.
Help, thought & feedback much appreciated.
Director of Production & Programming
Mountain Lake PBS
I am also mastering on XDCam at 35MBps. Not sure why you have to re-render when exporting your self contained movie to XD. Are you getting grey or dark green above the timeline? Maybe a light green line for "preview"? That's about all I can think of. My 28 minute programs take roughly that amount of time to write to disc.
We have also had problems with pictures and stills going half opaque if there is any movement. This is also an issue in proresHD, though not an issue at all in SD.
Good to know you've found workarounds for most of this stuff. Hopefully more people can post and solve some of the more pressing issues.
[Colin Powers] "Issue #1:
If we export a complete show to XDCAM from the timeline, the audio clips in the timeline pan to their original pan settings as recorded in the camera. No settings or audio mods in the timeline that we've discovered affect this. "
This will ALWAYS be the case. Sony assumes that all tracks are mono audio tracks thru their transfer program. This has been true since the first release of the software about five years ago with XDCAM SD.
And... what you are doing is exactly what we had to do, too.
[Colin Powers] "Issue #3: We've tried to play back from the timeline through the Kona card and record to the PDWF70 deck through SDI or component in. In this case the audio and video signal lose sync, even when the audio is SDI embedded. Our impression is that FCP and/or the Kona can't keep up with the render requirements, although this seems odd. We know editors who output HDV masters in this way. "
This one.... you have me stumped on this because this is how output everyday since the beginning of XDCAM. FCP and AJA have worked awesome for us until FCP7 and the 1440 issue.
The other issues... not sure but I will ask you this. How much memory do these systems have?