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Sony a7s + Ninja Assassin = Recommedations for Post?

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Jason Scherer
Sony a7s + Ninja Assassin = Recommedations for Post?
on Sep 14, 2015 at 2:25:47 pm

This is the fun of being the only gearhead in a micro/mini budget film and being tasked with line producing, amongst other things. I'll be as specific as possible:

Thriller film, lots of outdoor night"ish" shooting (hence he a7s as the camera). DP wants to shoot from the a7s to the Ninja Assassin so he can get 4K in the ProRes 10-bit 4:2:2 wrapper - which if I'm not mistaken is 339 GB per hour of footage. Film looks like it'll run about 1.5 hours, so I'm counting on about 10-15 hours of raw footage when all is said and done.

So here is my question - our editor knows FCP 7, FCPX, and Premiere Pro. He has a Mac. I have been reading of the pain and suffering dealing with this high-end 4K ProRes in Premiere Pro CC on a Mac. If we have to build a PC to handle the footage, then so be it - what's another $3K amongst friends, right? And admittedly the ability to use SpeedGrade and Bridge for metadata (though I understand the Ninja can do the metadata on the fly) would be useful. All that being said . . . I have read that FCP X has improved drastically and can handle high bitrate ProRes without hiccup (provided you're getting enough throughput from the HDD array and have enough RAM, of course). Me personally, I've only ever dealt with HD footage, so this is new territory for me. They want to keep in 4K as long as possible for color grading, etc, until the eventual output for Blu-Rays to be sent out, and of course keep the 4K file if we're ever lucky enough to be shown in a movie theatre with a good digital projector.

So - knowing the equipment and intended delivery format for online editing, would anyone care to comment on their experiences in any of these areas so we can figure out where to go? I'm doing everything I can to keep the pre-production, shooting, and post-production budget in the $30K range, and the "artistic demands" (and I get it, I've seen the demos of what that camera can do with the right lenses and I am damn impressed) are starting to put a strain on that budget. So if I can use existing stuff for online editing, great. If the best bet is build a new PC with Premiere Pro - well, here I come Newegg. So any and all personal experiences with this workflow are welcome.


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Aaron Star
Re: Sony a7s + Ninja Assassin = Recommedations for Post?
on Sep 15, 2015 at 1:38:04 am

Your DP wants to shoot on his DSLR to a device that records in ProRes.

Your Editor works in FCP X.

That's sounds pretty much like a what ever Apple has on the shelf you can afford type of problem. Why do you need to build a PC? My guess the issues with FCP X stem from people that do not like the change or do not have enough MAC to work the footage. If you cannot afford a trash can and array to edit the media directly, Proxy edit and then you are working with footage that any MAC that can run FCP can edit. Ask the MAC store to demo you a system that can do what you need with samples you bring in.

800Mbs is not that much bandwidth these days. A multi disk array or SSD can deliver 400-500MBs. I would recommend nothing less than Raid 1 on your media, and then also have backup copies of your camera media.

If you plan on projecting DCP, consider renting something RAW, like an ARRI, RED, F55, or Blackmagic. Then edit in ACES. The DCP will have much better color, and you can always go down to BD.

Also the LPs I know would not let their DPs bring their own gear, lights, and in some cases crew. Mainly because if the DP becomes an issue, only he leaves the set and not his toys. If the DP is renting the production gear, make sure the employment and rental contracts are separate.


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Jason Roberts
Re: Sony a7s + Ninja Assassin = Recommedations for Post?
on Sep 15, 2015 at 3:35:24 pm

Aaron, thank you much for your input. I find myself in the unenviable position of having to play peacemaker on so many things because the assistant director isn't doing her job, the producer isn't doing her job, and the director - well, let's just say he thinks he's the cock of the walk. So I get to be combination peacemaker and bad guy. You should see the email string in which I explained that shooting on anamorphic lenses (original plan was a GH4 and Lomos - yes, Lomos, which wouldn't work in most of our locations at all, the DP thinks he's a combination Robert Surtees and Gordon Willis) was going to put us way over budget - it's hilarious in a schadenfreude kind of way.

Fortunately, the DP and the equipment come separate, so I'm not worried about that. The editor - well, he just hates FCPX and wants to find an alternative. Said I would ask what others were doing, so I ask. I wish we could afford a trash can and array - sadly, it got out that I'd built a Hackintosh or two in my time, and now they think I can build a Hackintosh for something like this is we need to, despite my protests that Hackintoshes aren't stable enough for work like this.

And yes, I would rather rent a RED and rent the editing station for this project, but they won't hear of it - they want to own the editing station and rent the shooting equipment. But hey, the producer didn't even form an LLC for this, it's all going on his credit card - how old school of him. Suffice to say, I'm pretty damn close to walking myself.


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Aaron Star
Re: Sony a7s + Ninja Assassin = Recommedations for Post?
on Sep 16, 2015 at 7:05:12 am

I understand your situation better.

If you want to try the hackentosh route that could work, I always wanted to try that myself.

However, since your editor will work in Premier, shooting ProRes and editing in Premier might be easier to do, and the pc hardware better in the end. This due to the limits of what MAC OS supports. Building an X99-Core i7-5960X, 32-64GB DDR4, 1000w PSU, R9-390x or Fury X would have much more crunch power than a Mac Pro. The Fury X with HBM is like 8000 GFLOPS of Single point processing, vs the 2000 GFLOPS of the Mac Pro. Install all that in a case with a couple 5 1/4 bays, then works some Icydock ToughArmor MB998SP-B, and you could use the Raid integrated on the X99 with 1TB SSD. 339GB/h times 10 is only 4TB, so one Icydock would give 8TB, plus the internal slots. The X99 has enough PCI lanes to support internal cards beyond the chipset ports. Add an internal Raid card, and another MB998SP-B and would have a pretty small unit with a bunch of power and killer amounts of storage. Keeping your storage directly connected to the PCIe bus will be faster and more responsive than traversing the Thunderbolt bus. Of course this route would be Win7 or 10.


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Jason Roberts
Re: Sony a7s + Ninja Assassin = Recommedations for Post?
on Sep 17, 2015 at 10:05:53 pm

Aaron - again, thank you so much for the thoughts! I have been going back and forth between the 5960 and the new i7-6660 (Skylake), the reason being that Haswell is now a two year old architecture, and looking at Anadtech Bench, there is a huge advantage in rendering times even with the 2 cores and four threads - performance in heavily threaded workloads shows about a 10% advantage, and it seems the cost difference between 2011 and 1151 (processor and motherboard wise) might not justify the 10%. And the pricing on LGA 2017 is just . . . disgusting, so waiting for a Skylake Hexacore may not be worth it. I do think a AIO liquid cooler and overclocking the hell out of whatever processor I buy will be in order, however.

As for the array, I'm wondering if a RAID 10 might be the way to go to get both the read and write gains while having the fault tolerance (along with some random external 8TB as a backup) - it seems most of the good hardware RAID cards support 10, and if I'm buying 8 drives the 4x increase in transfer speeds will be nice just for the sake of the footage dump.

So let's assume I build ye old Premiere Pro machine. Can anyone speak to the Ninja Assassin's metadata tagging capabilities? It would be nice if they were nice and robust since that would cut down on time spent in Bridge or Prelude for metadata. Jus a thought, as always - I think too much :)


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Aaron Star
Re: Sony a7s + Ninja Assassin = Recommedations for Post?
on Sep 17, 2015 at 11:06:52 pm

The difference I see in Skylake(z170) vs x99 are:

x99 has 4 channel memory using the same memory as z170. This means greater through put. See the block diagram difference.

X99 has more PCIe lanes than Skylake for things like, an SSD intel 750 operating in NVMe vs AHCI. NVMe is the future of things. Verify the benchmark configurations of the tests you are referring to. http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/samsung-sm951-nvme-versus-ahci-sata,413...

X99 supports the 5960X which is 8 cores and not 4, 16 threads vs 8. This makes it closer to a Xeon class machine.

Skylake is fine too due to the lower costs.




RAID 10 will work, or spreading you media out across multiple Raid1 configurations would work too. If you use quality SSD, they will keep up with bandwidth needed for 100MB/s sustained. Failed raid configurations can lose more data than Raid 1 which simple mirrors media. A raid 1 drive can be pulled and installed stand alone into another machine and be retrieved, should the controller fail.


I cannot speak to the Ninja Assassin's metadata tagging.


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Jason Jenkins
Re: Sony a7s + Ninja Assassin = Recommedations for Post?
on Sep 18, 2015 at 11:45:41 pm

[Jason Roberts] "Can anyone speak to the Ninja Assassin's metadata tagging capabilities? It would be nice if they were nice and robust since that would cut down on time spent in Bridge or Prelude for metadata. Jus a thought, as always - I think too much :)"

Jason; the Ninja Assassin's metadata tagging consists of the following presets:
Favorite
Reject
Talent1
Talent2
Over Exp
Color
Bad Audio
Cut Away
Close Up
Wide Shot

You can set in & out points as you review, so the tags don't have to apply to an entire take.

Jason Jenkins
Flowmotion Media
Video production... with style!

Check out my Mormon.org profile.


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Jason Roberts
Re: Sony a7s + Ninja Assassin = Recommedations for Post?
on Sep 20, 2015 at 12:29:21 pm

Jason and Aaron, thank you both so much for the further thoughts - I truly appreciate it. At this point, it may become a moot point - I'm on the verge of walking off this mess - I think I'm the only one doing actual pre-production work. The AD still isn't doing anything, and the DP has got the director hot on shooting anamorphic again, and now are wondering if they should use a 5D Mark III with the custom firmware and an Anamorphot adapter. I have explained that the EF lenses will not take the Anamorphot adapter, that you need lenses with smaller than a 50mm thread, and that you can kiss shooting at night without lights geared for shooting in the night goodbye, and that the 1.33 Anamorphot doesn't accomplish quite as much of the anamorphic "look" as the 2x, but that would require the GH4 in 4:3 mode, which really won't work because of a maximum aperture of 4.0 . . . and the DP was looking at me like I had multiple heads. I proposed sticking with the a7s and doing the matting in post. Is is a cheat? Yes. I also pointed out that Roger Deakins never shoots anamorphic and basically uses only three lenses (32, 40 & 50 - that's by his own admission on his discussion board) shooting on standard 35mm film, and so all his films are matted in post (and most would consider him the best cinematographer working today (Yeah, you could make arguments for several others, but Deakins is the man as far as I'm concerned - should have won 5 Oscars just for the look of "No Country for Old Men" alone). And the DP - I kid you not - actually said, "Who's Roger Deakins?" I almost cried.

I just looked at the post above and realized it's a rant. If I'm ranting this much and we are still three weeks out from rehearsals, I'm feeling like maybe walking would be the best. I have no investment in any of this except time and aggravation.


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Gary Huff
Re: Sony a7s + Ninja Assassin = Recommedations for Post?
on Sep 26, 2015 at 1:45:43 pm

[Jason Roberts] "And the DP - I kid you not - actually said, "Who's Roger Deakins?" I almost cried. "

Considering that's the only DP you probably know about (in a pool that includes many talented ones), I don't think that's something you can really hold against him.

[Jason Roberts] " I also pointed out that Roger Deakins never shoots anamorphic and basically uses only three lenses (32, 40 & 50 - that's by his own admission on his discussion board) shooting on standard 35mm film, and so all his films are matted in post (and most would consider him the best cinematographer working today "

And it would be a very blah world if everyone tried to emulate Deakins. I bet even Deakins doesn't always emulate himself.


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Jason Roberts
Re: Sony a7s + Ninja Assassin = Recommedations for Post?
on Sep 28, 2015 at 5:55:42 pm

[Gary Huff] "Considering that's the only DP you probably know about (in a pool that includes many talented ones), I don't think that's something you can really hold against him."

Mr. Huff, I decided to wait a couple of days before responding to you, because the day you posted I most likely would have responded with a rather flamish and immature response - I was having a bad day. Therefore, I have waited to respond.

It seems to me that you may not have read my entire post, as earlier in the thread I referred to both the Master of Darkness and one of the best Cinerama cinematographers, so therefore Deakins is not "the only DP" I "probably know about". I am well versed in the work, theories, and applications of many talented DPs, editors, and 2nd unit directors, both current and historical - the people who are often overlooked in the process when people give a film accolades because their work is fundamentally important to the final product, and if I am to be involved in the filmmaking process on multiple levels, it is in my best interest to learn all the history I can.

Your assumption, based on one post which I talked about Deakins in a particular way and the statements you made based on my (admitted) ranting on a bad day, are both specious and unfounded. I do approve of your attack on my character or knowledge when you know nothing of me, my background or training, and I suspect that your attempts to discredit me through an attack on my authority for which you have no proof is a classic example of appealing to people's ethos in a negative fashion - and that I consider unacceptable. Sir, you owe me an apology for your first statement.

[Gary Huff] "And it would be a very blah world if everyone tried to emulate Deakins. I bet even Deakins doesn't always emulate himself."

And on this I agree with you completely. I don't think everyone should try to be Deakins - he tends to keep a greater distance from subjects than most (perhaps part of the Coen's reputation for "coldness" in much of their work) Concurrently, there is nothing wrong with studying a master working at his or her top form - as legend has it, Orson Wells spent weeks watching "Stagecoach" over and over again to study John Ford and Bert Glennon's techniques so he could make decisions about shooting "Citizen Kane". And there are of course other master DP's today and in the past who should be studied - broad and deep study is best. And yes, Deakins does not always emulate himself - "Barton Fink" does not look like "True Grit" does not look like "Skyfall" (though I have to say that the shots of the hallway, particularly the climatic fire-ridden shots, will always hold a special place in my heart, as well as Bond silhouetted against the inferno of his house across the distance of the swamp, and almost anything from "No Country"). The best in the business adapt to what the material requires - which is why someone like him is a master, I consider one of the best working today, and should be studied.


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Gary Huff
Re: Sony a7s + Ninja Assassin = Recommedations for Post?
on Sep 30, 2015 at 11:09:08 pm
Last Edited By Gary Huff on Oct 1, 2015 at 12:41:27 am

[Jason Roberts] "Your assumption, based on one post which I talked about Deakins in a particular way and the statements you made based on my (admitted) ranting on a bad day, are both specious and unfounded."

I went back and re-read your post and my opinion still stands. The attitude that it represents is one that grates on me (you having a "bad day" notwithstanding) and frankly, as a DP, having someone say to me:

Roger Deakins never shoots anamorphic and basically uses only three lenses (32, 40 & 50 - that's by his own admission on his discussion board) shooting on standard 35mm film

would instantly make me discount their opinion on further matters. That you actually expressed this verbally to the DP blows my mind.

[Jason Roberts] "you know nothing of me, my background or training"

But what you say and how you have chosen to express what I have picked up specifically indicates that you've watched some interviews and read a lot, but have no practical experience outside of knowing some technical stuff and what other DPs do on a superficial level.

[Jason Roberts] "Sir, you owe me an apology for your first statement."

Get over yourself.

[Jason Roberts] "someone like him is a master, I consider one of the best working today, and should be studied."

He's just the fad name (not that he isn't good at what he does), and it's telling that out of all the names you've dropped, his is the only actual DP name, and the only DP you've named out of referencing anyone in your last post. Frankly, I find Dariusz Wolski to be better, given what he's done with the Red Epic MX in Prometheus (one of the best looking live-action 3D films I have seen to date), Emmanuel Lubezki with Tree of Life (that everyone agreed was a tremendous cinematography reel even if they didn't like it as a movie), and Hoyte Hoytema replacing Deakins on Spectre (after amazing work on Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Her, and Intersteller)

What if Spectre looks even better than Skyfall? It could.


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