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Canon 5d footage transcoding

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Nick Peck
Canon 5d footage transcoding
on Jun 11, 2010 at 11:39:33 pm

I am making a feature combining RED and Canon 5d footage. Since this is a NO budget movie(!) I am posting myself on my FCP and using a 2k ProRes444 timeline (transcoding everything to that). At this time I'm assuming I will finish the film this way (using COLOR etc).

My two-part question concerns the Canon 5d material.

1) I have been using MPEG Streamclip to convert the footage. Is Compressor a better idea?

2) Does anyone know anything about the post process used on the TV show 'House' - the recent finale screened in the US? I saw clips projected huge at the Paramount Theatre at Cinegear. Looked good and no banding. Yet I see banding and compression artifacts on my 30" Apple display from my stuff. What did they do?!


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Noah Kadner
Re: Canon 5d footage transcoding
on Jun 12, 2010 at 12:25:30 am

I'd suggest the Canon FCP Log and Transfer Plugin or Magic Bullet Grinder-

http://prolost.com/blog/2010/5/27/magic-bullet-grinder.html

-Noah


Check out my book: RED: The Ultimate Guide to Using the Revolutionary Camera!
Unlock the secrets of 24p, HD and Final Cut Studio with Call Box Training. Featuring the Sony EX1 Guidebook, Panasonic HVX200, Canon EOS 5D Mark II and Canon 7D.
Learn DSLR Cinematography.


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Ryan Mast
Re: Canon 5d footage transcoding
on Jun 12, 2010 at 5:29:51 am

To answer your second question...

What kind of footage are you shooting? For the House finale, they shot exactly what's best for those cameras -- organic textures, no sharp straight lines, no smooth gradations, no jittery motion, etc.

Grade in Color, not in Final Cut. I don't understand color science enough to tell you why, but I don't notice the banding as much when I grade in Color as when I grade using the 3-way color corrector in Final Cut.

--
Meteor Tower Films
We make music videos, design video for live theater, and build interesting contraptions.


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Robbie Carman
Re: Canon 5d footage transcoding
on Jun 12, 2010 at 2:11:10 pm

[Ryan Mast] "I don't understand color science enough to tell you why, but I don't notice the banding as much when I grade in Color as when I grade using the 3-way color corrector in Final Cut."

Part of this issue is that FCP works in Y'CbCr space or generically known as YUV (although technically incorrect) while color works in RGB space.

But one question I have for the original post. You're trying to enlarge the 5D footage to 2k right? While the blow up isn't that big its still a blow up. Its to be expected to see some artifacting with that. I'm a colorist (as my day gig!) and I just completed a feature doc that was shot RED and 5D as well. Finished at 2k. While we had pretty good results with Compressor doing the enlargement ultimately what we decided to do was layback the 5D footage to HDCAM SR and then re-ingest using our KONA 3 to 2k. The hardware scaling did a much better job then software. But not sure if you can do something like that in your budget

Robbie Carman
----------------
Colorist and Author
Check out my new Books:
Video Made on a Mac
Apple Pro Training Series DVDSP
From Still To Motion





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Noah Kadner
Re: Canon 5d footage transcoding
on Jun 12, 2010 at 6:11:54 pm

[Ryan Mast] " For the House finale, they shot exactly what's best for those cameras -- organic textures, no sharp straight lines, no smooth gradations, no jittery motion, etc. "

That episode was non-stop sharp lines and jittery motion, etc- that sorta stuff has little to do with how the final look was achieved. I wouldn't be surprised at all if the House episode went through several high end digital restoration & de-noising processes during post-production. Not too mention it was shot by a master DP with a big-budget Hollywood crew and full lighting/grip gear.

That the episode was shot on a 5D M2 is definitely a landmark achievement. But to turn that around and expect similar results out of the box on a stock 5D M2 would be like assuming painting with the same brush used by Van Gogh will somehow automatically produce identical art works. There's a lot of if's you have to satisfy along with the equipment involved if you expect similar results.

Noah

Check out my book: RED: The Ultimate Guide to Using the Revolutionary Camera!
Unlock the secrets of 24p, HD and Final Cut Studio with Call Box Training. Featuring the Sony EX1 Guidebook, Panasonic HVX200, Canon EOS 5D Mark II and Canon 7D.
Learn DSLR Cinematography.


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Ryan Mast
Re: Canon 5d footage transcoding
on Jun 12, 2010 at 6:16:05 pm

[Noah Kadner] "Not too mention it was shot by a master DP with a big-budget Hollywood crew and full lighting/grip gear."

You hit the nail on the head, good sir. :)

--
Meteor Tower Films
We make music videos, design video for live theater, and build interesting contraptions.


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Michael Sacci
Re: Canon 5d footage transcoding
on Jun 12, 2010 at 7:50:46 pm

Yeap, most people think the key to hollywood finishing is all in post, but it starts in production which gives them the material to work the magic in post. I'm not a House fan be I want to see that episode.

Also the key reason they went with DSLR is because the look fit the story they were telling. It was not a normal House, they have no plans to make DSLRs the camera of choice for next season. Which is not a knock but it puts it back into the thought that these are just tools, brushes. You need to choice the best brush for the job.


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Uli Plank
Re: Canon 5d footage transcoding
on Jun 13, 2010 at 11:07:55 am

The episode is already online. And I have to second this, it was the obviously the look they wanted for that specific episode. Works very well in the claustrophobic situation under the collapsed building, but in other scenes I found the very shallow DOF a bit distracting, just a tad too much.

Director of the Institute of Media Research (IMF) at Braunschweig University of Arts


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Robbie Carman
Re: Canon 5d footage transcoding
on Jun 13, 2010 at 11:30:13 am

[Uli Plank] "ut in other scenes I found the very shallow DOF a bit distracting, just a tad too much. "

I agree but its funny to me because its not like when they're shooting normally they're working with slow lenses and can't create shallow DOF. Seems like they wanted to push and as you said Uli create that look

Robbie Carman
----------------
Colorist and Author
Check out my new Books:
Video Made on a Mac
Apple Pro Training Series DVDSP
From Still To Motion





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Jef Huey
Re: Canon 5d footage transcoding
on Jun 13, 2010 at 7:17:25 pm

Here is a post from the DS Google group by the online editor of House. He describes their post process.

Jef

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We recently finished the season finale of House on DS 10.3 - the episode was shot entirely with the Canon 5D and 7D.

It airs Monday night on Fox here in the U.S.

We finished this season of House in 4:4:4 using the DS and a Nucoda coloring system, using DPX files in-house until we produced the final HDcamSR masters out of the DS. We captured all the h264s from the Canon DSLRs directly into the DS and made dailies "reels" which were then colored by a dailies colorist and synced and downconverted to standard def for offline editorial like a normal film-style show.

After much testing, we used the "legacy graphics" setting in DS to import the Canon files, and we always use the Rec 601/709 settings when importing and exporting DPX.

When shooting video, these cameras only capture 8-bit color, so there are banding artifacts. We added grain to all the footage using the Foundry FurnaceCore plugin set, just enough to obscure the banding and I ran the grain plug-in through a keyer so it was only applied to mid and hi luminance portions of the frame that needed the treatment; this kept the dark areas from looking too grainy and was a better solution than "debanding" plug-ins.

The grain also helps the picture out of the Canons, which is a little soft and tended to look a bit "inky"-we thought it looked a lot like reversal film.

The Canons are challenging for focus pullers, some shots were processed with aggressive sharpening applied to faces.

When we had finished the episode, I asked one of the co-producers if he felt that using the Canon DSLRs had cost less, more, or about the same as the 35mm process they normally use. He said it was about the same.

-Derek



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Nick Peck
Re: Canon 5d footage transcoding
on Jun 14, 2010 at 6:47:09 am


First of all, thankyou to everyone for your helpful comments about my questions.

I answered my first question by transcoding the same 7d clip with MPEG Streamclip and Compressor, dropping them into separate ProRes444 timelines in FCP and comparing them. There was NO difference that my (reasonably good) eye could discern. Bits of the waveform changed very slightly – but the pictures themselves looked identical. I have not tried the Canon and Magic Bullet plug-ins yet but I’m gonna guess there will be virtually no difference there either.

Regarding my second question about post treatment of the 5d footage on the ‘House’ I certainly take the point about the advantages of a good DP and a good budget for lighting. Much of my work (also as a British DP of 25 years experience in commercials and features) has been with comparable budgets and has aspired to similar standards of lighting. I may not have that budget on my little film – but I know how to make things look reasonable. Nice pictures are nice even if shot .,, on a camera phone. Certainly that should be the main point here.

Having said that, the article from the on-line editor of the episode was most informative – exactly answers my concerns – thankyou Jef. The banding artifacts caused by 8-bit color was what I was talking about. I knew that they had applied grain – Gale (Tattersall – the ‘House’ DP) had said that when I saw the projection at Paramount – but I did not know how, or that it had been selectively applied to mid and high luminance parts of the picture. I am so going to try that! The huge projection I saw of the clips from the episode looked amazing and even awed Gale and the director who had not seen the stuff projected before.

Finally a point about the depth of field. Gale said you will make enemies of your focus pullers! I know they had to aggressively sharpen certain shots in House to correct for focus errors. I say errors – but just what is the correct focus when your DOF does not even reach from one side of an eyeball to the other! Personally I love that crazy shallow focus look – it suits my film and it suits ‘House’. But along with the ‘reversal film’ quality of the images it’s definitely the Canon’s ‘look’ and would not be suitable for everything.


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Michael Sacci
Re: Canon 5d footage transcoding
on Jun 14, 2010 at 9:25:04 pm

Nick, the thing about comparing the native against the transcoded files is not at the start of process but at the end.

You would want to grade, composite, add graphics to a native version and compare the same process to the transcoded version. My guess would be there will be a world of difference.

Watched the House episode last night and totally see why they used it, since I'm not a House fan at all I also watched a normal episode. The entire discussion has be really good and talked about in so many places but the nice thing is from the people that did it there is a level headedness about it all, no, we are dumping film, RED is dead, type of things. Just we saw this tool and we thought it could do what we wanted it to do. And it did.

The other interesting thing is that it did not save them money, cost was the same.


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Nick Peck
Re: Canon 5d footage transcoding
on Jun 15, 2010 at 5:46:27 pm

Thankyou for you input Michael,

I actually read elsewhere (on Cow I think) that in the case of the 5d files - you should NOT use the original files. These are H.264 files and I believe hard to work with in FCP and you can't color correct them in COLOR. The post said to transcode them to ProRes 444 for a number of reasons. Do not remember the details. But .. guess what .. I'm going to experiment! I'll see what I can do with the native H.264 files within my limited post facility.

Of course the point about House spending shed loads of money on post to clean up the 5d files is well made. I have two things to say to that however - one is that I am not sure I can believe that they would spend the same as though they had shot on film. 35mm cameras, film stock, processing, telecine ... that costs a LOT!! My other point is that if they did spend that much on post - my thoughts are that they rather wasted their money. Sure the 5d stuff looked nice. To the untrained eye, very similar to 35mm projected. But at the end of the day - 35mm is very superior, and if they spent that much just to reduce the banding artifacts - then that's a disproportionate amount to spend on a fairly minor defect. My 5d stuff projected looks pretty damn good (albeit with some slight banding now and again) and that's just with some COLOR work (color correction, sharpening and grain addition). Small costs!

Let's not be in any doubt here - 35mm film is vastly superior. Not least in it's latitude. Various people (such as Shane Hurlburt) have said that the 5d is like shooting reversal film - you have to get the exposure and initial color balance close to the what you want in the final images.

As a chap from a lab here in Hollywood said to me - 'you DP's have spent years crying out for more and more stops of exposure latitude in the new digital cameras and now you're all excited by a camera that has very limited 8 bit pictures? What's going on here?!'


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Dan Schanler
Re: Canon 5d footage transcoding
on Jun 17, 2010 at 2:59:37 pm

The director, Greg Yaitanes, does an interview where he talks at length about the camera choice and their decision. (transcript)

http://philipbloom.net/2010/04/19/in-depth-interview-with-executive-produce...


Dan Schanler
NYC


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cowcowcowcowcow
Bill Davis
Re: Canon 5d footage transcoding
on Jun 14, 2010 at 6:46:09 am


I just think it's so weird when I read this kind of post.

Someone's making a "no budget" resume film. Yet they manage somehow to get hold of a RED to shoot on. Somehow, there's no budget to support HUMAN talent. Yet, there's ALWAYS somehow enough money to support the EQUIPMENT necessary to take their shot at the big time.

What seems so weird, is that the chances of driving ACTUAL quality higher has virtually NOTHING to do with gear - and EVERYTHING to do with the human talent that surrounds it.

I keep suspecting that if most of these folks grabbed a 1999 era Hi-8 camcorder and spent their life savings on talented PEOPLE to surround themselves with - script help, lighting help, sound help, directing help - that they'd have a FAR greater chance of ending up with worthwhile work in the can - AND they'd be leagues ahead in a real movie career - rather than gaining expertise in operating technology that's almost sure to be obsolete in a few years.

Weird.






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Nick Peck
Re: Canon 5d footage transcoding
on Jun 14, 2010 at 7:11:15 am

Bill, your response makes a lot of assumptions and is actually insulting. For a start, my film is not a ‘resume film’. With a 35-year career in commercials and features behind me, believe me, at my time of life – I really do not need to make a ‘resume’ film. This is a pet project I started 20 years ago on 35 and 16mm film. You know nothing of what I am doing or how I am doing it – yet you decide that I somehow do not value the human talent. The human involvement has been the key factor in this improvised ‘avant-garde’ film from the very beginning. Actors, dancers, performers of every type, all over the world, have been the driving force of the project. The formats I have shot on were what was available at the time and I have rejoiced in the changing textures of film sizes and video codecs.

Recent footage was shot on the RED because of the generosity of a DP friend. Likewise last month’s Canon footage. There is a dream sequence in the film shot on a phone camera (3gp codec). Pixels the size of postage stamps. I did this because I had no other camera available and the actor – the human talent – was available then and there and the setting was unrepeatable. The results (scaled to 2k) are amazing. If I could scrounge some short-ends and someone lends me a ... 435, I’ll shoot on film again. In fact I did shoot film just last week. On Super-8mm with a pre-1999 camera. A lab in Hollywood is processing and scanning this for me because they believe in the ‘art’ of what I am doing.

The general point of your posting is valid and one I would agree with, but if you cannot make such points without being insulting, may I suggest you keep them to yourself.


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John-Michael Trojan
Re: Canon 5d footage transcoding
on Jun 14, 2010 at 2:57:52 pm

It is also worth noting the grain processing done to "House". This is a very delicate art that can make digital footage come to life; when done properly (as in, an expert of the same caliber of the DP and focus puller on that particular show). In terms of banding, properly dithering the footage can make a big difference.

Also in terms of house - it is important to realize the amount of post done to get the most out of the files put the budget close to that if they had shot 35mm.


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cowcowcowcowcow
Bill Davis
Re: Canon 5d footage transcoding
on Jun 15, 2010 at 5:47:18 am

Excuse me?

If you have "a 35-year career in commercials and features behind me" and you are NOT paying the people you are working with for ANY reason - isn't that a bit self-indulgent?

I too have the same years of experience as you. And I know the incredible hours and Hurculean efforts that any worthwhile project in motion pictures requires.

Clearly, from your new description of your project, artistic, unusual, mixed media, multi-format - what you're actually doing is EXPERIMENTING. And if that's true, then you're setting up a situation where ONE person stands to gain exponentially more than others from the success of an effort like this. YOU.

In fact, if you were asking for volunteers for a STRICTLY commercial project in order to bootstrap something like a series, documentary, or other on-going enterprise with a reasonable chance of securing long-term employment for those pitching in - I'd have LESS issue with your approach.

BTW, I mentioned "resume" films because I think that's the SINGLE category where there is SOME inkling of justification for asking people to "pitch in and help without proper payment" - It PRESUMES someone is building a reputation on a shoestring.

That you are NOT personally in this category makes it more suspect, IMO.

I will suspect that at NO point during a single one of those features and commercials would YOU have accepted working without pay.

And if you've had 35 years of career success, YOU SHOULD HAVE SAVED TO PAY FOR YOUR EVENTUAL DREAM PROJECT. Period. End of story. Or not, Perhaps you got wiped out by medical bills, or uninsured mudslides, or whatever. But if so, IMO, this is NOT the time to ask people to volunteer crew for your fancy DREAM shoot on a whim. It's time for ALL of us to work hard to generate PAID work for everyone in our industry. To shelve the dreams temporarily and concentrate on finding and building PRACTICAL projects. Why? Because everyone is HURTING out there. And one practical project with PAID positions is worth a HUNDRED fancy "maybe someday it'll pay off" projects.

Right now, in our business, there is a HORRIFIC race to the bottom in terms of valuing the human assets REQUIRED to make films. One can stand WITH the "do it for nothing for me" crowd, or one can stand against them.

If you're content to stand with the freebee crowd, I have the PERFECT right to point out the discontinuity.

No. I don't know all your circumstances. Just what you wrote here. And that struck a very OFF note for me.

I acknowledge that I could be TOTALLY wrong in reading the situation and your intent.

HOWEVER - Like all the other long time professionals in this business I've watched with sadness as the Craigs list mentality has infected a lot of what otherwise would be life sustaining work.

And I'm tired of it.

Note please, that someone gave my view a 5 star notation, so I'm clearly not the only one who holds this opinion.

Perhaps your project is somehow NOT like the dozens before it - post after post on this board by "producer" after "producer" who want ALL the work for FREE and then want to come here and ask those of us with experience for FURTHER help by handing out our hard won experience, again for FREE.

Sorry, not playing today.




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