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Video preview to production monitor: Kona LH and motion graphics

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Will Dunsmure
Video preview to production monitor: Kona LH and motion graphics
on Jan 21, 2008 at 10:23:36 am

Okay, so here's the deal.

We have recently invested in some shiny new things to equip an edit suite - a Kona LH card and a Production Monitor. Along with a Sony HDV/DVCAM VTR. Specs of our set up are listed at the bottom.

Pretty much all of the work we have done in the past has been non-braodcast - we're looking to improve workflow and quality of final output. We work mainly with Final Cut Pro, but also with animation programs - Motion and After Effects.

We have connected everything and have marvelled at how much of a difference it makes having a proper video preview from Final Cut (v. 6) as opposed to what we had before - firewire to camera to TV... Of course we were expecting this marked improvement.

We were also expecting the key benefit of a video preview output from Motion and AE.

Now. We do get a video output through to the production monitor from Motion and AE. But this is where it gets weird.

When we do a preview of an animation, it looks really shoddy.

As a test case, let's take a basic text crawl in Motion 3. (The problems I will describe are very similar with AE, but it's an older version and so perhaps not as pertinent as a test case)...

Static graphics look great, but when you play motion graphics, the image quality is really jaggy and nasty. (even at full frame RAM preview, best render settings, full res - all of these options are apparently properly selected).

So we did some test exports. Usually we would export animations in the Animation Codec, with an alpha if intended for compositing on top of a video track in FCP... we tried a bunch of different formats - animation, photoJpeg, DVCPRO 50, Aja 2Vuy, Uncompressed 10bit...

All these play from Quicktime on the computer monitor just fine, but when playing from the AJA TV app to the production monitor, again the same problem. And then when you bring them into Final Cut, the same problem, even when you match the sequence settings and field order to the source video ...

In effect, it seems that anything generated in Motion (or AE) just doesn't want to look nice on our Production Monitor - even when imported into FCP.

HOWEVER - if you drop the Motion PROJECT into an FCP timeline, all is fine!

We know the AJA card and the Monitor are working because of this fact, and because when you generate titles from within FCP itself - the same text scroll, for instance, it looks perfect!

I have also found when working with old composited animations originating from AE that you can get FCP to pump these through to the production monitor beautifully when working in an uncompressed sequence setting - or in an Animation sequence setting. (For an Animation sequence to go the the production monitor from FCP, the Video Playback option in A/V Settings needs to be set to "AJA Kona 625i25 RGBA" instead of "AJA Kona 625i25 8 bit" or 10 bit).

The above point could be of relevance...? The only Video Output options from Motion or AE that apply to our setup and monitor are "625i25 RGBA" and "625i25 DV-RGBA" ... are we supposed to have more options?

In short, we could work around these issues - it just doesn't seem right however that we can't get a decent external preview from Motion or AE. A big reason for upgrading our setup was faithful video previews of animations from these programs...

We also can't understand why exports from these animation programs can look so poor. I can export a video with a text crawl generated from a DV PAL Final Cut Project with DV Pal compression settings and it looks massively better playing through AJA TV than our test Motion and AE exports.

It just isn't right.

Please help. Pretty please. Many thanks in advance.

For reference, here are the specs of our set up:

Apple Dual 2.5 GHz PowerPC G5
OSX 10.4.11
Graphics Card: ATI Radeon 9800 XT
Equipped with Kona LH Card (version 5)
2 x 23" Apple Cinema Displays

JVC TM-H1750CG Production Monitor fed via SDI (have also tried component, to no avail)

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