HMC150 > Cineform > PPro CS4 > AE CS4 for green screen?
I just finished a week of shooting interviews in front of a green screen using my HMC150. Now the question becomes, what is the best way to integrate these green screen shots into my already large project?
I should say this is my first HD project so I'm probably unfamiliar with some of the tricks that would make this much easier on me, so please point them out!
I have probably 10 hours of green screen interview footage, and will end up with 10 hours of B-roll footage, covering classrooms, labs, etc, as this is a promo for a local college. So around 20 hours total footage. The college has many departments that each need a video, so this is why there is so much footage.
We will be doing a bit of color correction, and perhaps some added effects on the project, so I decided I will probably buy Cineform Neo as my master codec. That and after some tests it seems Cineform keys much better than AVCHD in AE CS4.
This is however my first time using PPro and AE CS4. Can someone suggest some good work flow options? I'm under the assumption that it will go something like this:
1. Import footage onto PC
(Vista 64bit, I7 720 processor, 12gigs ram, ATI radeon HD 4850, 2 TB storage)
2. Batch convert all AVCHD footage to Cineform
3. Import all Cineform footage into PPro CS4
4. Edit down to a final cut
5. Dynamic link PPro sequence to AE CS4, key out green screen w/ primatte, add in any additional effects or text.
6. Final export to DVD and web from PPro or AE?
The College wants the finished products for DVD and for their web pages, but I believe in SD for the web page as they want to ensure it will run smooth for everyone visiting.
I suppose I could try to keep everything in PPro CS4 if they make a good keying tool for it, but I've heard using primatte in AE is best.
I'm sure I'm overlooking a lot here or I'm mistaken about how I should go about transferring footage from PPro to AE, so let me know what recommendations you would make. And if you need any more info on my project or setup to make a recommendation please let me know. Thanks!
[Shawn Whiting] "5. Dynamic link PPro sequence to AE CS4, key out green screen w/ primatte, add in any additional effects or text. "
Why not do the whole shot -- foreground AND background -- in AE? It's a whole lot easier to identify trouble spots in the shots. Not to mention color correcting.
I'm not a real big fan of Dynamic Link. If you're comfortable with it, that's great. I'm not. I'd prefer to export out only those shots that need AE work. Of course if you're doing all the color correction in AE, you make a good point.
[Shawn Whiting] "6. Final export to DVD and web from PPro or AE? "
Why don't you give Adobe Media Encoder a shot? You can set it up to make an mpeg2 file -- the only kind of video file you can use for an authored DVD -- plus something like an H.264 file for the web. Oh, and that since you're supplying DVD's, someone has to know how to AUTHOR DVD's. Authored DVD's are the only kind that DVD players can play. Adobe Encore can do the trick... but someone has to know how to use it. Will that someone be you?
[Shawn Whiting] "The College wants the finished products for DVD and for their web pages, but I believe in SD for the web page as they want to ensure it will run smooth for everyone visiting. "
That's a bit confusing. By its very nature, a DVD IS standard-definition. A DVD can also be 16x9. Are you confusing 16x9 vs. 4x3 screen aspect ratios for HD vs. SD?
[Shawn Whiting] "I suppose I could try to keep everything in PPro CS4 if they make a good keying tool for it, but I've heard using primatte in AE is best. "
If you're used to using Primatte, then stick with it. But you need to know that it's an additional purchase for AE, which has Keylight as the built-in Good Chroma Keyer.
[Shawn Whiting] "This is however my first time using PPro and AE CS4."
Ouch. I hope you're a reeeeeeeal quick study. If you've never used AE before, know that without a good understanding of The Basics, you can really hose yourself. No fooling.
Todd Kopriva from Adobe is this forum's resident Good Guy In The Know, and he's compiled an excellent selection of information for the neophyte. I recommend giving the following a VERY thorough read:
And as the sergeant used to say on Hill Street Blues, Item Last: the key to a successful chroma key is GOOD LIGHTING. If you've never done extensive chroma key work, you need to know how to light for chroma key. The surest route to disaster is to think, "Hey, how tough can it be?"
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA
Hey Dave, thanks for the fast reply!
"Why not do the whole shot -- foreground AND background -- in AE? It's a whole lot easier to identify trouble spots in the shots. Not to mention color correcting."
Yeah when i say Key out the green screen I guess i didnt say it, but I assume we will put the background in at that time too. My friend will be the one doing all the AE work. I just need to have a good idea of how I will be accommodating him in my workflow. We will both be working off of my computer as it is much faster than his.
"I'd prefer to export out only those shots that need AE work. Of course if you're doing all the color correction in AE, you make a good point."
If i did choose to only export out certain clips, i would need to collect them all on a timeline and export them all out as one large clip, otherwise it would take forever if i had to do them individually. For one large clip, i guess I would want to export as cineform as its supposed to be able to maintain fine over multiple encodes.
I was assuming AE had better color correction, and I would say about half the shots will have some sort of brightness or color correction.
I believe the CS4 Master Collection comes with a DVD authoring program. I dont know which one it is, but yeah im assuming ill be able to handle encoding to mpeg2 then importing into that program and adding some minor menu buttons and graphics.
"That's a bit confusing. By its very nature, a DVD IS standard-definition. A DVD can also be 16x9. Are you confusing 16x9 vs. 4x3 screen aspect ratios for HD vs. SD?"
no i meant that they want DVD copies and a SD web export. So in both cases a SD output, which i guess is irrelevant to say because we all know DVD is SD, just poor choice of words.
Heh yeah my friend is the one who will be doing the AE work, he seems to have a good handle on using it for keying, not sure about other effects.
I suppose the real question now is whether I want to try to dynamic link my whole project into AE then export a final version from that or PPro. Or if it would be easier to export only half the clips from PPro, import into AE, then back into PPro for the final export?
[Shawn Whiting] "...If i did choose to only export out certain clips, i would need to collect them all on a timeline and export them all out as one large clip..."
That's fine, just understand that you won't be able to use the same key settings for that entire big clip. Ain't no way you assiduously maintained the same ratio of light on the subject to light on the green screen across every setup and every location.
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA
Right, but i should be able to cut up that large clip into separate clips once its inside AE right? I'll just leave a bit of fat on the clips when i compile them into one large clip in PPro.
Since this is your first time using AE and PP... I think you are going to make one very fundamental mistake that will really mess with your mind and potentially cause a whooole bunch of grief...
That mistake is using the left and right arrow keys instead of Page Up and Page Down key in AE to move from frame to frame. In AE the arrow keys will move the layer and NOT the keyframe.
A simple concept (too simple in fact) that can really mess with your mind when using a compositing software and an editing software.... specially if you are constantly switching between the two.
I'd strongly advise against shifting a large clip from PPro to AE with the intention of splitting it up.
AE is not a program you want to have long unwieldy clips in. And what happens after you've done your keying, gone back to PPro and realise you have to do some edits/fix something? Exporting the whole thing again might shift clips in AE out of sync. So you will be left moving single clips back and forth anyway. It could get very messy. You don't want messy in a very large project.
Just make sure you name everything consistently both in PPro and AE and export/import each clip seperately. That way you can make as many changes as you need without losing control.
In PPro put all clips that need a trip to AE on a seperate track and/or colour them so you can distinguish them easilly.
Don't really use PPro myself, but you may be able to subclip all the clips and batch export them.
The most important thing is to find a good way of naming/numbering clips to you keep control of everything.
Editor - London, UK
Avid - FCP - After Effects
"I'd strongly advise against shifting a large clip from PPro to AE with the intention of splitting it up.
AE is not a program you want to have long unwieldy clips in. And what happens after you've done your keying, gone back to PPro and realise you have to do some edits/fix something? Exporting the whole thing again might shift clips in AE out of sync"
Humm, I'll be working with hundreds of clips, do I really want to have to import and work on them one at a time?
In general... you want to work in small edits... specially if are going to use a compositing application such as AE.
In fact, I think you will find it more advantages to work in groups of edits that make logical sense to the project.
At first it may make more sense to edit in larger groups (or all at once)... but, that is not the best approach.
Hundreds of clips - ORGANIZED ... will most likely result in less headaches than larger and fewer clips.
Organization is simple to achieve compared to trying to deal with software conflicts and application failures. It is easier to locate and fix problems if the edits are small... not to mention, reduce the chance of application and hardware failures in the first place.
I am not a fan of the linking between AE and PPro... it tends to be very unstable for my projects... which happens to involve a combination of 3D graphics and HD source material (plus, if you are using Cineform as an intermediated render step you only added one more application that can cause unexpected problems).
Frankly... in my opinion, there are much more stable editing softwares available than PPro... specially with regard to AVCHD and MTV file formats. If it was me, I would use AE for your green screening needs and use another NLE as your primary editing software. But... then again... if PPro is all you have, then it will work... but, expect some unexpected issues to creap into your project. It is when those kind of "hair pulling" problems come into play that you realize that short edits are a god send. Rendering completed projects in AE then transfering them in a completed format to your NLE is likely to result in fewer problems than trying to link. Linking is a cool concept that in real world application can cause lots of mental anquish if things go bad.
Overall, your work flow isn't bad a plan... but, you should reconsider the linking idea... as well as, the size of each edit. I think this is specially true since you don't have enough experience working with either program. Good Luck....
BTW, let me put small edits into perspective... I just now am completing a project that is about 7 mins. long... there are over 242 pre-renders and about 62 diff. comps in AE with about 60 plus hrs of final render time (not including the pre-render time)... in my editing program (AVID)... there is a pre-editing of 2 hrs. of HD footage narrowed down to about 36 mins. which was then reduced to the 7 plus min. project containing 14 tracks and 6 containers of sub-tracts color corrected and timed to audio (which is a whole 'nuther story in and of itself).
Even by my own admission this is more than normal... but, it is an example of how I do projects to prevent problems and when problems occur (which they will), you can more easily fine them... and... in this projects there were about a half dozen problems that I never really undestood why they occured, but I was able to find the source and location of the problems and eventually solve the problems. Without short edits, that would have been almost impossible to do... and, yes... it took A LOT of planning to cut the render times down and (believe it or not) reduce the number of short edits to a managable size for organizational purposes.
Editing is a lot like wrestingly a gorilla... your not through till the gorilla is through. It's best to take the gorilla on in small doses.
[Joe Moya] "Frankly... in my opinion, there are much more stable editing softwares available than PPro"
While PPro handles AVCHD native...converting the footage to CineForm handles any runnability issues (though PPro still would probably cut AVCHD native sufficiently well, CineForm will be much faster, but allow for bigger files).
CS4 is far more stable with large projects than CS3 was, and on a 64 bit machine, it's a pretty reasonable tool. I've got a project that I've been working on that has 8 EXcam 35 Mbit 60-120 minute rough footage timelines and one 65 minute master edit timeline. And (for reasons too tedious to bother with here) it's on a WinXP 32 machine. I've been surprised at the stability of the project, frankly.
Now...that said...I'll echo the remarks regarding dynamic link...it's a fantastic idea, but in practice it's promise just doesn't play out on today's computer systems.
To deal with your edit-to-compositing workflow, I'd suggest a slightly different route.
I'd do your edit in PPro, and put all your greenscreen shots on one (or two) video tracks. Then I'd take your draft edit sequence for a given video and duplicate it...call it "draft video 1 green screen" or whatever...and delete all the video from the sequence except the green screen material (your original sequence preserves your complete edit). Save your PPro edit project.
Then...open an AE project and import a PPro sequence. You can access a PPro project and then pick any sequence from inside the project you wish to import. Import the draft 1 greenscreen sequence. Each clip will show up on it's own layer. You could then key each clip with their own settings and render each clip as needed (keeping them in small bits will avoid rendering a bunch of empty timeline) if a huge clip is unwieldy.
I don't know how much greenscreen you've done, but Keylight in AE is a pretty solid tool. I typically load solid layers underneath to check my key settings...I tend to use red, white and black...it's a matter of what helps you track any anomalies before you key over a real background.
Interesting perspective Joe, it certainly makes me reconsider how im going to go about getting footage between PPro and AE.
Has anyone else had big problems with dynamic link or exporting large compilations of clips between PPro and AE?
I've had good and bad experiences with Dynamic Link.
The bad: I made a series of lower thirds, each on a different comp within 1 AE project. In Premiere the lower thirds kept randomly changing between different titles using the DL. I think this had something to due with duplicating elements within the AE project to make the additional titles.
The Good: I've also done titles where everything worked perfectly and every time the client changed there mind it was easy to make changes with no need to re-render.
It also seems that AE projects render slower when dynamic linked into premiere. So for AE comps with a gazillion layers I prefer to render in AE but for more basic AE comps the DL has worked great.
I think the safest way to use DL is to edit the piece in Premiere, then use the "replace with AE comp" command for each clip you want to key and save it as it's own AE project.
Great info all around, thanks so much everyone I really appreciate it!
[Shawn Whiting] "...do I really want to have to import and work on them one at a time?"
You haven't really said, but I expect you did multiple setups when shooting the green screens, which means multiple lighting configurations, and the lighting pretty much drives the key settings.
If I were doing the keying, I'd organize the clips to be keyed by interview subject and shooting session. There would be much more commonality in the keying settings.
Tim Kolb uses Premiere A LOT, so you should listen to his advice on moving video from Premiere to AE. Just keep in mind that AVCHD is a temporally-compressed codec, and AE does not like it one bit. AE likes codecs that use within-frame compression, not across-frame compression. If you can get an acceptable key in Premiere, I'd consider using Premiere simply because it will save you time. Use AE only for the problematic keys.
It sounds like you got yourself immersed in one big honkin' project. Do what you need to do to stay afloat.
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA