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AE HD Animation codec -> FCP -> HDCAM-SR help?

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Michael Sheehan
AE HD Animation codec -> FCP -> HDCAM-SR help?
on Mar 16, 2010 at 11:06:21 pm

Hi all. I got pulled onto a project that had most of its work done without thinking of a post workflow, or indeed without a clear deliverable.

Now it's up to me to figure it all out. The gear is, to say the least, minimal, so I am trying to drive a smal yacht with an outboard motor here, if you follow me.

Basically the project is an animated "motion comic." Files are created in After Effects CS3 at 1920x1080 and output in the Animation codec. Huge files. Lots of gradients. The idea is to do some trims and minor edits in FCP and final it out from there.

The objective is to get the show onto HDCAM-SR.

In broad strokes my plan is to import the animation files into FCP, place them in a ProRes 4444 sequence, use that to edit in, and then switch the sequence back to animation to create final output files. This has worked in tests just fine (with caveats, see below).

On previous, similar animation projects, we'd worked solely in ProRes 422 HQ. Full res QTs were delivered to our online house, where they were loaded into FCP and output to tape from there. Worked flawlessly.

My notion was to take the final QTs in Animation codec form for online in the same fashion.

In this situation I have a couple of questions for this august body. :)

1.) Animation in the FCP timeline -- I have a couple of appointments pending with potential vendors but I would appreciate your wisdom and/or screams of horror at the notion of outputting an Animation codec QT from an FCP timeline at a post house. Is this even done? These files will run about 10-11 minutes but of course, they are large and unwieldy to say the least in that codec. And if I need to go ProRes let's talk about question 2 --

2.) Gradients -- which have really minor, look-at-it-under-a-loupe banding in the native Animation outputs from AE, have really noticeable banding when output in ProRes 4444 from FCP. When output in Animation, there is no such banding. There is also a gamma shift (it seems to me) which I am trying to address via a change to the AE XML file which tells AE what to do with its QT codecs, and also through combing through the many installs of AE here to make sure they are all patched to the most recent version, as there was a gamma issue going to QTs in version 8.0 that was addressed, if memory serves, in an 8.1.x revision. Might well be the gamma issue takes care of this concern all around, but do any of you folks have experience with gradient banding taking animated material in the Animation codec into FCP and rendering out in ProRes 4444?

Thanks so much for all your time and all the wisdom I've soaked up here lurking. There's hardly any reason to post as so many of my questions have been answered by y'all. Thanks again.

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Arnie Schlissel
Re: AE HD Animation codec -> FCP -> HDCAM-SR help?
on Mar 16, 2010 at 11:31:28 pm

Animation is an 8 bit codec. If they have a lot of gradients, there may be banding.

ProRes 4444 is a 12 bit codec, no banding. ProRes HQ and "plain vanilla" ProRes are 10 bits, no banding. Is it possible for your client to re-render in ProRes?

If they can't do ProRes, then maybe they can feed you 10 bit DPX or 16 bit TIFF that you can convert to ProRes.


Post production is not an afterthought!

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Michael Sheehan
Re: AE HD Animation codec -> FCP -> HDCAM-SR help?
on Mar 16, 2010 at 11:41:41 pm

Hi Arnie, thanks -- I am actually going to be doing the rendering of the final AE files feeding into FCP. There was banding and a gamma shift on a ProRes test output I did versus an output in Animation, but I am increasingly thinking that may have more to do with AE's handling of ProRes and the aforementioned resolvable AE->QT gamma issue (both if which I am trying to remove from consideration as we speak, making some updates to the software). It might well be that sorts the whole thing out. Your response is pretty much what my understanding of that part of the issue is, which is why I am at present puzzling over this whole deal. Thanks for your input.

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Rafael Amador
Re: AE HD Animation codec -> FCP -> HDCAM-SR help?
on Mar 17, 2010 at 2:27:04 am

Banding may occurs in an 8b YUB system when we have only 256 luma level.
Animation is an 8b codec, but RGB. That means that we (in theory) have 256 x 256 x 256 colors: No banding should happens.
Why don't you just export Prores from AE?
BTW, had you tried the Prores Gamma Correction setting?

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