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Novice DVD authoring workflow question

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Paul Ramsbottom
Novice DVD authoring workflow question
on Dec 19, 2008 at 11:39:51 pm

This post starts with a long preamble about Apple Color but it it is about DVD authoring so please don't flag it or move it as being OT.

I am working on a 60 minute feature documentary that was primary shot in HDV, with some additional material that was shot in SD then uprezzed to 1080i HDV using a tool by Digital Anarchy. There are also a few clips that were originated from still clips that I panned and scanned in AE7 and then also exported as 1080i HDV files.

I've assembled and edited this in FCPS2, and mostly I am editing the native HDV clips in the timeline, as I am only doing a limited amount of grading (just primaries) and no composites or other effects.

I tested the transcode to ProRes422 workflow recommended by all the 'get off HDV as fast as you can' folks (I don't want that to sound sarcastic, just that I have discovered there are a variety of pros and cons) and decided that it didn't make sense for this project.

Ultimately I have kept the majority of my material in HDV format. However, I have recaptured a few clips where the 8bit quantizing shows some very visible artifacting (sky shots mainly) and those shots sit alongside the HDV material as ProRes422(HQ) files. This seems to help a little, not much but some, with that specific issue.

Originally I was hoping to grade this project using Apple Color, which would obviously force my project into the ProRes intermediate format. However, a very large number of my clips have time-base alterations, and I ran into a significant number of the [known] issues with this in Color.

I am not sure if anyone else has seen this but basically after using the 'send to Color' command, and then tabbing through my clips in Color, many times the software just seemed to muddle-up my clips and would not display the file I was on at the time but rather another somewhere earlier or later in the project.

For now, I have gone back to using the 3-wheel color corrector in FCP. For now this is much more manageable on my Dual G5 PowerMac (ProRes422 actually seems to tax the PPC CPUs more than HDV) it also doesn't double the storage requirements (HDV v ProRes). I also know how to keyframe grades in FCP, which I haven't learned how to do in Color yet.

Caveat, I have not yet tried the Color update that Apple issued last night. If that fixes the time-base issues I have seen, then I may go back to the idea of grading this in Color.

So.... DVD authoring...

I've just finished the first 20 minute section of this film and wanted to do some tests to see how it would encode. Ultimately I would like to release this film as a limited DVD run, so I want to factor this into my encoding and compression plans early-on.

because I'm lazy and have never got off my backside and learnt DVDSP, I have been doing these tests using iDVD. So far I have only exported a ProRes422(HQ) file. This creates an intermediary that is liked by iDVD, it is faithful to the color and luminance that I see on my FCP rig (I use the Matrox MXO box and a 23" display and a secondary SD TV for viewing and comparisons.)

However, whilst 99% of the clips play back fine in SD, there are a couple where the motion in the clip has clearly stretched the codec to breaking point. In particular I have some shots of rice paddies where the wind is blowing a field of growing plans, so the whole shot is a mass of rapidly moving plan stems with many finely graded variances in color (I know this type of thing is a compression codec's worst nightmare).

BTW - I'm playing back these SD disks on a PS3 attached via HDMI to a Sony XBR960 1080i CRT.

So.. The tests don't really matter, it only applies to a few clips and when I view this material in FCP, it seems to be coping OK and displaying it reasonably well, suggesting that the breakdown is happening during my rough iDVD creations.

My question is, when ultimately I am finished and I want to hand-off my project to a DVD duplicator for my limited DVD pressing, what file format and media delivery options will give that vendor the best material to work with?

I thinking that maybe I'd play the project out over the Matrox box via SDI and record it to something like a HDCam tape, renting the deck for a couple of days to create the masters. I'm thinking this would give the duplicator the most pristine data available.

I'm probably not going to design the DVD menus myself and if I do they will be very simple ones, so I like the idea of sending a master to a DVD designer/ duplicator and having them do all of that.

My other option of course is creating a file, either a H.264, a ProRes422 or maybe a HDV file but I want to avoid the artifacting that I have seen thus far, and am curious whether the SDI-tape route would help eliminate if I was dealing with a professional authoring studio (maybe using a hardware-based encoder box).

Anyone have any thoughts?

Thanks and happy Holidays.

Paul.


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Noah Kadner
Re: Novice DVD authoring workflow question
on Dec 22, 2008 at 3:30:44 am

Depends on the duplicator- ProRes or Uncompressed would be the best way to go. H.264 is a compressed/lossy format that wouldn't be very suitable as a DVD source format.

Noah

Check out My My FCP Blog and my new RED Blog. Unlock the secrets of the DVX100, HVX200 and Apple Color.
Now featuring the Sony EX1 Guidebook,
DVD Studio Pro and How to Light Interviews.
http://www.callboxlive.com


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Paul Ramsbottom
Re: Novice DVD authoring workflow question
on Dec 22, 2008 at 8:12:14 pm

Thanks Noah,

Yes, my originally instincts told me to stick with the ProRes route, and that's also behind all my discussion of the grading workflow. Uncompressed is also an option for me in Color but the data there gets unmanageable very quickly, and there's no real way I can play even short uncompressed QTs on my current set-up, so previewing gets tricky

Looking at the ProRes master file again last night, there's some artifacting in those clips but nothing like I see in the iDVD-authored SD disk. Presumably the ProRes > MPEG2 encode that happens within iDVD is creating those visual glicthes.

I've heard that with high-end encoding systems (I've seen mention of a company called Terranex) the hardware-based encoders can do a much better job generally, and also it is possible for an operator to manually tweak the data-rates, increasing them temporarily in data-intensive sequences.

When I play my mixed HDV/ProRes FCP project out over the Matrox box it looks absolutely beautiful, my thought was to dump this onto a high-end HDCam or HDCAM SR tape, and hand that off to the good duplicator/encoding house, and be done with software-based encoding altogether.

Really trying to understand if there are any gotchas here (aside from the cost of renting the desk and the tapes).



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Noah Kadner
Re: Novice DVD authoring workflow question
on Dec 23, 2008 at 4:25:32 pm

I see no reason to actually rent the tape deck though especially as they'd be capturing back to hard drive from that tape again and losing another generation. I use ProRes HQ as my own internal master. Edit in FCP in DVCPROHD(because we shoot DVCPROHD), export final edit to ProRes HQ, use that as an MPEG-2 source master for DVDs and archiving. No tape ever.

So, find a DVD replicator/duplicator that takes footage on hard drive and send them your final output as a ProResHQ on hard drive. A cheap firewire drive would cost way less than an HDCAM deck rental and an HDCAM tape and save you a generation's quality loss.

Noah

Check out My My FCP Blog and my new RED Blog. Unlock the secrets of the DVX100, HVX200 and Apple Color.
Now featuring the Sony EX1 Guidebook,
DVD Studio Pro and How to Light Interviews.
http://www.callboxlive.com


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