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basic question about timecode

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jeanne hilarybasic question about timecode
by on Sep 5, 2010 at 10:37:33 pm

I am just starting to use after effects and it's the big love. I have used flash extensively, so I'm finding after effects very intuitive, it's all good.
However, I am having one problem I just can't figure out.
The problem: I can't get things to line up properly in the timeline. My final cut edit is locked, and I've gone through and noted the timecode for where I want things I'm making in ae to start and end, but when I render from ae, things are a bit off, although, obviously, they don't appear to be when I preview in ae.
I haven't been able to find any information about it, which makes me think what I'm doing wrong is exceptionally idiotic. Please forgive me, but I thought I would ask to find out first if there's a simple explanation that will allow me to go through the project one time and fix the problem, before I start taking things apart to try to figure out what the matter is by trial and error.
Thanks for your help.

Jeanne


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Steve RobertsRe: basic question about timecode
by on Sep 6, 2010 at 4:09:32 am

First thing: AE uses 23.976 (correct), not 23.98 (incorrect).FCP says it's 23.98, but FCP and AE both work in 23.976, which is 4/5 of 29.97.

Beyond that, we need to know some specifics.Specifically, the frame rate of your imported footage, your compositions, and your rendered footage.

Also, exactly how are things messing up? How are you viewing the messed up file? In which app? Alone, or imported into FCP? What is the codec of the FCP sequcne, what is the codec of the AE rendered footage?
Under what conditions does the timing look correct, and when does it look incorrect? What are the difference between the two situations in terms of apps, footage?

Also, what is your process? Your workflow between FCP and AE?



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jeanne hilaryRe: basic question about timecode
by on Sep 6, 2010 at 3:24:06 pm

First thing: AE uses 23.976 (correct), not 23.98 (incorrect).FCP says it's 23.98, but FCP and AE both work in 23.976, which is 4/5 of 29.97.

Beyond that, we need to know some specifics.Specifically, the frame rate of your imported footage, your compositions, and your rendered footage.


Also, exactly how are things messing up? How are you viewing the messed up file? In which app? Alone, or imported into FCP? What is the codec of the FCP sequcne, what is the codec of the AE rendered footage?
Under what conditions does the timing look correct, and when does it look incorrect? What are the difference between the two situations in terms of apps, footage?


The frame rate for the fcp import and the ae compositions are both 29.97. The fcp export codec is dvcpro hd 1080p30, the ae composition preset is hdtv 1080 29.97. All the material I'm working with in ae comes from photoshop, so there's no framerate. I'm exporting the ae project to quicktime using the animation codec for viewing set to best quality and full frame rate. It's in the output that I see the problem. When I preview in ae, I everything seems to line up properly.


Also, what is your process? Your workflow between FCP and AE?


The fcp sequence is locked, that is to say, I may be changing things in it, but not the length of clips or the overall sequence. What I'm adding in ae is animation using a combination of photographs and drawings saved as psd files and imported either as footage (individual images) or compositions (layered psd files).

Thanks for your help!

Jeanne


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Walter SoykaRe: basic question about timecode
by on Sep 6, 2010 at 4:05:34 pm

[jeanne hilary] "I'm exporting the ae project to quicktime using the animation codec for viewing set to best quality and full frame rate. It's in the output that I see the problem. When I preview in ae, I everything seems to line up properly."

How are you viewing the rendered output?

The animation codec is not designed for playback; it's intended instead as a lossless intermediate format between applications. Very few computers have disk subsystems fast enough to keep up with the extremely high data rate of an animation-encoded movie.

If you're just watching in Quicktime Player, it could be that your computer can't keep up with the high data rate required for realtime playback, so it may appear to lose sync or drop frames.

Instead, try bringing your render onto your FCP timeline and rendering, or try compressing the animation-encoded movie to something intended for playback, like h264.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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jeanne hilaryRe: basic question about timecode
by on Sep 21, 2010 at 1:34:04 am

Thank you so much for this information, it made things normal enough so that I was sort of able to meet my deadline.
I am intrigued by your advice to send the project back to FCP--I learned elsewhere not to do this because FCP compression is murder on AE files. But someone else told me it has to go back to FCP in order to output an mpeg-2--intuitively this doesn't seem to make sense. Can you comment on this?
Once the movie was playing back normally, I found two other problems. One has to do with the timeline and nested compositions, which I don't fully understand yet, but would seem to be for another thread.
The other is that I noticed that there is about a 3 second difference in my quicktime file (a total of 11 minutes) between FCP and AE. Inconvenient, and how can this be possible?


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Dave LaRondeRe: basic question about timecode
by on Sep 21, 2010 at 3:33:27 pm

[jeanne hilary] "I learned elsewhere not to do this because FCP compression is murder on AE files. But someone else told me it has to go back to FCP in order to output an mpeg-2--intuitively this doesn't seem to make sense. Can you comment on this? "

When exporting from FCP, the video assumes the codec of the edit timeline BEFORE it begins exporting to the desired codec.

Let's say you render Animation-codec video out of AE. You put it in an FCP DV-codec timeline. You want to export H.264. Before you get to H.264, FCP will first turn that nice Animation-codec video into God-awful-looking DV video... and then begin the export.

But if you use a ProRes 422 edit timeline in FCP, things will look great.

Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA


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Walter SoykaRe: basic question about timecode
by on Sep 21, 2010 at 10:06:35 pm

[jeanne hilary] "I am intrigued by your advice to send the project back to FCP--I learned elsewhere not to do this because FCP compression is murder on AE files."

Like Dave said, this totally depends on your sequence preset. I do all my work in ProRes to keep quality high and file sizes down.

[jeanne hilary] "But someone else told me it has to go back to FCP in order to output an mpeg-2--intuitively this doesn't seem to make sense."

Well, you could use FCP > Compressor to get MPEG-2. In many workflows, AE is not the final step; you are usually creating assets in AE that will be used in editorial. For effects, I roundtrip from FCP to AE, then back to FCP.

[jeanne hilary] "The other is that I noticed that there is about a 3 second difference in my quicktime file (a total of 11 minutes) between FCP and AE. Inconvenient, and how can this be possible?"

It shouldn't be. Are you sure everything matches and that you haven't accidentally clipped off the beginning or end of one of the clips somewhere along the line? What exactly is your workflow, step by step?

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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jeanne hilaryRe: basic question about timecode
by on Sep 21, 2010 at 11:32:02 pm

[jeanne hilary] "I am intrigued by your advice to send the project back to FCP--I learned elsewhere not to do this because FCP compression is murder on AE files."

Like Dave said, this totally depends on your sequence preset. I do all my work in ProRes to keep quality high and file sizes down.

Sorry to be so simple-minded, but by this do you mean that you are using ProRes in the FCP sequence and in all subsequent steps through to the final output file?

[jeanne hilary] "But someone else told me it has to go back to FCP in order to output an mpeg-2--intuitively this doesn't seem to make sense."

Well, you could use FCP > Compressor to get MPEG-2. In many workflows, AE is not the final step; you are usually creating assets in AE that will be used in editorial. For effects, I roundtrip from FCP to AE, then back to FCP.

What I meant to say was to make an mpeg-2 as in DVD. My film has animation composited with video throughout--lots more animation than video, which serves as background in some scenes. I am assuming the intermediate file will be a .mov to send to DVD studio 4--unless you tell me otherwise. Is there a preference to output this .mov from FCP?

[jeanne hilary] "The other is that I noticed that there is about a 3 second difference in my quicktime file (a total of 11 minutes) between FCP and AE. Inconvenient, and how can this be possible?"

It shouldn't be. Are you sure everything matches and that you haven't accidentally clipped off the beginning or end of one of the clips somewhere along the line? What exactly is your workflow, step by step?


This actually seems to be a FCP problem, and some, ahem, operator error: I added a slug to the beginning of my sequence (where I had left some blank space for aep animation that start the movie) and the time difference is now smaller but nevertheless it is there. Some of my scenes are very short, and even this difference of almost a second is very annoying. And as you say, in the first place, it shouldn't be.

fcp sequence compressor: DVCPRO HD 1080p30
(sequence length in FCP): 11:17:11
quicktime output settings:
current settings
make movie self-contained
(.mov file length) 11:18
import file to aep
(.mov sequence length) 11:18:01

The overall concern that ties these questions together is this: what I am trying to avoid having to do things multiple times for technical reasons. What I want to achieve in the end is the best possible image quality for all the elements in the film on the DVD, with the option to maintain this in a later transfer to HDCAM or BetaSP.

Thank you all so much for your help!


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Dave LaRondeRe: basic question about timecode
by on Sep 22, 2010 at 3:08:23 pm

[jeanne hilary] "....by this do you mean that you are using ProRes in the FCP sequence and in all subsequent steps through to the final output file?"

Yes, ma'am. That is precisely what the gent means.





[jeanne hilary] "...the time difference is now smaller but nevertheless it is there. Some of my scenes are very short, and even this difference of almost a second is very annoying."

I very strongly recommend that you go back through your entire workflow and double-check the frame rates everywhere. I suspect you have frame rate mismatches that you may have overlooked.



[jeanne hilary] "What I want to achieve in the end is the best possible image quality for all the elements in the film on the DVD, with the option to maintain this in a later transfer to HDCAM or BetaSP. "

I presume you understand that HDCam is 16x9 HD, and Beta SP is 4x3 SD, and that you already know how you're going to handle the screen aspect ratio differences.

Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA


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jeanne hilaryRe: basic question about timecode
by on Sep 23, 2010 at 6:57:17 pm

Hello David,

I apologize if my question was unclear. Partly I don't know what I'm doing, partly I didn't know when I started the thread that the output would be anything other than dvd, which now is the case since the rough cut has been accepted into a film festival and I am now on a deadline for the screening. It would be very helpful, as I finalize the project, to set it up so I don't waste time doing extra work.

If I can frame the question in a better way to get a more useful response, please let me know.

Like photoshop,FCP and AEP are both fairly deep programs. Learning both simultaneously and using them in the same project, I do find it's easy to get confused at this point and make what must seem like silly mistakes. It's also not easy to find information on how best to use these two programs together. I thought that consulting people with more experience was what this forum was for.

The fc manual says use the capture codec throughout the project, and the ae manual says use no compression when roundtripping to final cut, this is the reason for my question regarding using proRes422.

The timecode is the same throughout, this was the first thing I checked.

I have made a few more tests, and the difference is consistent: 20 frames more in the .mov and then 22 frames more in .aep.

Thank you for your help on this timecode issue. Since it is not completely cleared up, my concern is that it may indicate a problem that would affect image quality in the final output, which I now learn will be Beta SP or HDCAM, depending on the screening venue. If there is one best way to set up the project so I can output it to several formats, I would appreciate your advice.

When I want to goof around you will find me of an summer evening in a field with my pals, a bottle of vodka and a jar of pickels. For the purposes of a good laugh, a CC forum is just not the first place that comes to mind.

Perhaps I should be more broadminded. If you ever need help making a platinum print or getting through an armed checkpoint in a Central Asian country, just let me know. These are both areas in which I have lots more experience than I do FCP or AE. I have never tried it before, but who knows? Maybe you know something I don't. Maybe it will be fun to pretend to answer your question, or just leave you there on the side of the road with all those guys and their AK-47s. On my own, the thought wouldn't have occurred to me. And somehow, even when I try to imagine it, I don't see you finding that very funny.



Jeanne


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Walter SoykaRe: basic question about timecode
by on Sep 23, 2010 at 7:26:24 pm

Dave is one of the most knowledgeable and helpful guys here on Creative COW, and I think everyone on this thread has been making good suggestions to help you solve your problem.

I think you have a few different questions, so separating them might be helpful:
  • What's the best workflow for round-tripping FCP and AE?
  • Why don't the durations of my sequences, renders, and comps match?
  • How can I work toward an HDCAM master, while also planning a BetaSP downconvert?
  • How can I make DVDs from my project?

To answer all these, we'd need to know more details about your workflow. In broad strokes, what is your project like, and what are you trying to accomplish, creatively and technically? More specifically, what you have in FCP, what and how you are exporting, how you're bringing it into AE, what you're doing in AE, how you're sending it back, etc. Screen shots from FCP of your item settings for footage (Cmd-9) and your sequence settings (Cmd-0), as well as screen shots from your AE comp settings (Cmd-K) and project settings (Cmd-Opt-Shift-K) might help us diagnose any discrepancies.

Personally, I prefer to send single shots from FCP to AE and back, rather than round-tripping the entire timeline. I use AE for composites and motion graphics (with handles), then handle all the editorial in FCP. This makes editorial changes down the line a lot simpler. It wouldn't solve your problem -- there is still some mismatch somewhere (perhaps drop frame versus non-drop frame timecode?) -- but it would certainly help you work around it.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Dave LaRondeRe: basic question about timecode
by on Sep 23, 2010 at 7:30:00 pm

[jeanne hilary] "The timecode is the same throughout, this was the first thing I checked. I have made a few more tests, and the difference is consistent: 20 frames more in the .mov and then 22 frames more in .aep. "

That's a telling remark. It tells me there may be a frame rate mismatch in your workflow. How do you resolve it? You go back through your entire workflow, and dealing with the consequences of an error in the process is a very painful thing indeed for the novice.

You need to examine the frame rate at which you shot, the frame rate at which the footage was recorded (they can be two different things), the frame rate at which you edited, the frame rate at which you exported from FCP, the frame rate of your AE comps, and the frame rate at which you rendered out of AE.

Since we don't KNOW any of these things, it's difficult to give you any concrete advice.

There is one thing I do know: if you took shortcuts at the beginning of the project, it will most surely come back to bite you now that crunch time is here. There is only so much we can do to alleviate that.

This makin' movies stuff is a lot more complicated than it first appears, isn't it?

Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA


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Dave LaRondeRe: basic question about timecode
by on Sep 23, 2010 at 10:11:22 pm

I think Walter mentioned this earlier, but it bears repeating:
could this shorter length be due to your thinking that TV runs at 30 frames/second, and it's actually 29.97 frames/sec?
Or could it be a difference between NTSC drop-frame time code (which is almost always used, but a little confusing) and NON-drop-frame time code (which is rarely used, looks right, but is misleading)?

Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA


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