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FCP workflow advice: combining SD and HDV footage

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Jason O'Hara
FCP workflow advice: combining SD and HDV footage
on Jan 5, 2010 at 4:56:23 pm

I am starting to edit a feature length documentary and am seeking advice/tips to facilitate my workflow and avoid major headaches downstream. I am editing from a massive amount of raw footage – close to 200 tapes – most of which has already been captured – currently with 500GB of raw footage on my drive.
Most of our footage is HDV – 60i, however we have decided to edit our final output as SD for a few reasons. Firstly, about 25% of our footage was captured by a previous editor – though it was originally recorded on tape as HDV – he converted on capture to regular SD anamorphic – and we don’t have the time to revisit the original tapes. Also, we are using a bunch of archival historical footage from the 50’s which is fairly low-res. We figure that upscaling this footage for a hig-res output will contrast too harshly with our full res HD – so are opting for a final output of SD anamorphic - a happy compromise.
Had we known that we would go this route, we would have converted all of our HDV footage to SD on capture – as I know it would greatly facilitate my workflow if all our footage was the same format (SD)– unfortunately all our footage has already been captured in HDV – so we are forced to combine the footage.
About 75% of our raw footage will be HDV, often times whole scenes are exclusively HDV and so I have been editing these in HDV sequences – which I later drop on to the “final output” timeline – which is SD – and the entire sequence downscales to 50%. The nested sequence plays choppy, dropping frames, etc. vs. its smooth playback as an independent HDV sequence.
My primary query revolves around combining these formats, specifically issues relating to nesting sequences – but would be grateful for other tips regarding combining different formats. My secondary query relates to keeping organized in the browser – how to not become overwhelmed buy the enormous number of folders, sequences ,etc.
Any advice is very much appreciated, Thanks.


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Austin Reedy
Re: FCP workflow advice: combining SD and HDV footage
on Jan 5, 2010 at 5:26:05 pm

Hi Jason,

I'm actually currently dealing with a similar issue, only we have about 8 more formats to juggle, however the question we're still trying to answer is the best way to take multiple formats and make them co-exist peacefully. While I don't have an answer for you in that respect, I can give you a little info on how I've been working with organizing within FCP so hopefully you can find a good method for yourself.

Basically, everything is divided in FCP currently by source. While some sources are the same format, we're divided by source mainly to retain the integrity of our sources. In other words, a: we dont want to leave something out since we're referencing so many things, it'd be unfortunate to lose credibility by misquoting our source material, and b: because much of our footage currently is sample footage (meaning we have low res, timecode burned versions that we are editing with, only to online with the purchased footage later) so we need to know exactly what we're editing with so we can order the right stuff later.

My suggestion for organization is to make sure (either in FCP or in your outside storage) to retain all that information first so that its not lost. From there, I've essentially created sequences that correspond to various topics that we're discussing in the film, and from there I go through the source footage and select portions using in and out points, and then insert these selections into the sequences. This allows me to have specific stuff in sequences (further divided using text slugs) so when editing we can just go look for character b in sequence 2 or whatever, and pull in any footage of that person we want. Its similar to using sub clips, however this process allows us to link back directly to the source clip, so we don't lose any of the information as to where the stuff came from.

Hopefully this makes sense, good luck on organizing your project, and if you find anything out about how to work with multi format stuff let me know, as we're still trying to get a handle on all our stuff and how to edit it.

best,

austin

Austin Reedy
Freelance Post
Austin, TX


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David Roth Weiss
Re: FCP workflow advice: combining SD and HDV footage
on Jan 5, 2010 at 9:06:30 pm

Jason,

I have to say, I was pretty much blown away when I read your post early this morning. Please don't be offended, but, as a documentary filmmaker with decades under my belt, I've seen just about every example of "false economy" in filmmaking, and I have to say, you're post is just chocked full of it.

[Jason O'Hara] "Most of our footage is HDV – 60i, however we have decided to edit our final output as SD for a few reasons. Firstly, about 25% of our footage was captured by a previous editor – though it was originally recorded on tape as HDV – he converted on capture to regular SD anamorphic – and we don’t have the time to revisit the original tapes."

Do you plan on distributing this project? Did you discuss that decision with a distributor before embarking on that path? You've more than likely let that "relatively minor" error change the entire course of your project, which undoubtedly stands a very good chance of severely limiting its distribution possibilities.

In addition, as you've already discovered, because the majority of your material is HDV, you're paying the price of HDV editing, but you're receiving none of the benefits.

[Jason O'Hara] "Also, we are using a bunch of archival historical footage from the 50’s which is fairly low-res. We figure that upscaling this footage for a hig-res output will contrast too harshly with our full res HD – so are opting for a final output of SD anamorphic - a happy compromise."

There isn't a single historical documentary made that doesn't face this issue. Many 35mm feature films and even IMAX films use vintage stock footage as well. Again, that's not a good reason to edit as SD.





David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor/Colorist
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY ™


A forum host of Creative COW's Apple Final Cut Pro, Business & Marketing, Indie Film & Documentary, and Film History & Appreciations forums.


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Jason O'Hara
Re: FCP workflow advice: combining SD and HDV footage
on Jan 20, 2010 at 4:21:34 pm

many thanks for your thoughts - I'm relatively inexperienced so very much appreciate the helpful advice and certainly no offence taken. Your insights have caused us to reconsider and we are entertaining the idea of a final HDV output. At this stage we are not committed either way - as all of the HD footage has been edited on 1080/60i timelines. Currently, there are no plans for distribution beyond its primary audience at a conference in March, though of course we don't want to close any doors by making bad decisions.

Our constituent footage is as follows:
-70% 1080/60i
-10% 1080/24p
-10% SD/29.97 Anarmorphic - converted from what was originally recorded as 1080/24p (unfortunately by previous editor - from pile of 100+ tapes, and without his original log files, would be impossible to track originals down to recapture)
-5% SD/29.97/720x480
-5% archival footage from 1950s: some is SD/29.97/720x480 sourced from an archive house, some is MPEG-4, 320 × 240, 29.97 fps, 2.74 Mbps - downloaded directly from archive.org - despite the low pixel res, it appears to capture the full quality of the grainy original

Assumably a final output of 1080/60i is what we should be working towards?
What advice do you suggest for up-resing the SD footage, I don't have any of the plug-ins or hardware options and our budget very limited, what about using Compressor? Given our source footage, do you have any other advice for me, its very much appreciated.


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