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XDCAM workflow: Avid to After Effects and back

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Adhish YajnikXDCAM workflow: Avid to After Effects and back
by on Oct 1, 2010 at 5:09:37 pm

I'm editing a sequence in Avid in the latest version of Mac Leopard using HD footage shot on the Sony EX1 with the XDCam EX 35 MBits codec/import settings. The footage is 1080p24, and the color space is HD 601-709 (16-235).

I've opened up some of my footage in After Effects CS5 (straight from the MP4s that the EX1 creates natively) and done some effects work without any problem, and now I'm wondering what the best format is to output so that I can seamlessly integrate it back into my Avid timeline without problems.

My original export settings were:
Quicktime
XDCam EX 1080p24 (35 Mb/S VBR)
Quality: 100
Color Management Output Profile: HDTV (Rec. 709) 16-235

When I brought this into Avid, it just gave me black video.

I'm wondering what codec and color space I should use so as to not create problems later on.

I also have an XDCam HD codec as well as an XDCam HD422 codec. Would those work better?

Or am I better off exporting as an Apple Prores or Animation and importing into Avid with the XDCam settings which will get implemented when it converts my files to MXFs?

And should I just export in the color space I'm using (709 16-235) or convert to RGB and let Avid convert it to the correct color space on import and conversion to MXF?

Thanks!

~ Adhish



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Dave LaRondeRe: XDCAM workflow: Avid to After Effects and back
by on Oct 1, 2010 at 5:15:28 pm

[Adhish Yajnik] "XDCam EX 1080p24 (35 Mb/S VBR)"

First thing:

DON'T EXPORT UNLESS YOU ABSOLUTELY HAVE NO OTHER CHOICE!
RENDER USING THE AE RENDER QUEUE!


Then: your video codec does NOT hold up well when re-rendered, as you're doing. So it's a good thing you see black. Consider that DVCPro 50, a standard-definition codec, has a bitrate of 50 MB/sec. Yours is HIGH-definition, yet it only has a bitrate of 35 MB/sec.

Do you think there may be a danger of image information getting distorted or thrown away?

Besides, AE 10 doesn't EXPORT Quicktimes well. Since it's a 64-bit application, and QT's a 32-bit application, AE can't access much of the less-sophisticated QT code that allows exports in all codecs.

What's that really good Avid codec? DnxHD, or something? Use that.

Personally, I would NEVER leave any HDV-type-codec footage in its acquisition codec. I would select the favored codec for my edit application and capture the footage in that codec. If that's not possible, I would convert the footage to that codec prior to editing.

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


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Adhish YajnikRe: XDCAM workflow: Avid to After Effects and back
by on Oct 1, 2010 at 6:02:03 pm

Thanks, Dave.

Unfortunately, the XDCam edit settings are mandated by my university, so there is no way for me to change them. So discussing better codecs, higher bitrates, and converting footage prior to edit is a moot point.

Additionally, I used the term "export" as shorthand for using AE's render queue. As I have about 7 years of experience in AE, I know that the Render Queue is far superior to a simple export. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

So the question stands: what codec and color space--and possibly container--should I export (using AE's render queue) from AE to seamlessly integrate my effects footage back into an Avid timeline with XDCam EX 35 Mb/s 1080p24 HD 601-709 (16-235) settings?

~ Adhish



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Dave LaRondeRe: XDCAM workflow: Avid to After Effects and back
by on Oct 1, 2010 at 6:16:07 pm

[Adhish Yajnik] "Unfortunately, the XDCam edit settings are mandated by my university..."

Yeah, well, then make up a tiny little XDCam EX project and let THEM try to work in your workflow.

For a university -- where one would presume the students, faculty and staff are of above-average intelligence -- mandating a certain codec is the most foolish, myopic thing I've ever heard. Absolutely DUMB.

Okay then, export in QT's Animation or PNG codecs from Avid, use the footage in AE, and render in DNXHD.... if you're allowed to do so.

Mandating codecs... for heaven's sake. Somebody's got a highly-developed anal-retentive streak where you work!

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


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Adhish YajnikRe: XDCAM workflow: Avid to After Effects and back
by on Oct 1, 2010 at 6:29:55 pm

Although I may be of above average intelligence in regards to the technological aspect of film and video, most of my classmates prefer to focus on the less rigorous artistic side of the filmmaking process. As a result, the university mandates certain project formats and settings so as not to cause large-scale problems on their Avid systems caused by students with little to no knowledge of stuff as simple as codecs and bitrates. With kind of ridiculous time constraints placed on us to shoot, edit, and do sound for our films, there isn't a whole lot of time to run tons of tests with different codecs and such. We're given settings and we have to stick to them, otherwise our films can't be screened. Sorry to disappoint you about the hopeless state of education these days.

And I just did a couple of comparison renders from AE using Apple Prores, Animation, XDCam HD (50Mb/s), and XDCam EX (35 Mb/s) codecs. There was no appreciable difference in image quality between any of these codecs. I guess Sony just has a pretty good idea of what they're doing. So I think I'd be better off working with the least cumbersome filesize, generated by a bitrate of 35 Mb/s.

I'll bring all of these test files to the lab, see which is the smallest file that works in Avid, and then render the rest of my effects shots with the same settings.

~ Adhish



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Dave LaRondeRe: XDCAM workflow: Avid to After Effects and back
by on Oct 1, 2010 at 6:43:36 pm

Oh, this is just for a CLASS! I thought this would be seen by people outside of school: over the air, new student recruitment, what have you. Knock yourself out in your all-HDV workflow. And good luck pulling a nice-looking chroma key.

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


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Adhish YajnikRe: XDCAM workflow: Avid to After Effects and back
by on Oct 1, 2010 at 7:11:50 pm

Don't intend to green screen anything, so no worries there... but just so you know, I've managed to pull good keys from some pretty badly shot interlaced handycam footage using mostly tips and tricks from the Creative Cow tutorials. And little to no roto work.

And this film is festival eligible, so if selected, we're screening from an HD beta tape master. And then it will be seen by people outside of school.

So yeah, I think I will knock myself out in my all HDV workflow, since we can't all have the luxury of shooting with expensive cameras, editing on high end systems, and not having to deal with a little bureaucracy. Not even when we're making blockbusters. But I'm sure you know that, right Dave?

~ Adhish



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Dave LaRondeRe: XDCAM workflow: Avid to After Effects and back
by on Oct 1, 2010 at 7:46:11 pm

Fancy cameras, schmancy cameras. I do my work on an HVX 200 shooting DVCPro HD at 720p.

The nice thing: DVCPro HD has 4-2-2 color resolution. It's criminally easy to pull a well-lit key. A couple of days ago I keyed one of the station's new Emmy awards on a turntable.

Nice, shiny and very reflective gold statue rotating against a green screen -- potential color spill woes! I brought the shot into Keylight, played with two parameters, and the key was good in about 20 seconds.

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


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Gary HazenRe: XDCAM workflow: Avid to After Effects and back
by on Oct 2, 2010 at 2:11:37 pm

[Adhish Yajnik] "my classmates prefer to focus on the less rigorous artistic side of the filmmaking process. As a result, the university mandates certain project formats and settings so as not to cause large-scale problems on their Avid systems caused by students with little to no knowledge of stuff as simple as codecs and bitrates. "

This clearly illustrates the disconnect between the what educators teach and skills needed for survival in the marketplace. The days of the "artist" in the edit suite are long gone; today it's artist, engineer, compressionist, comedian and any thing else that is required to keep the clients happy. The university is doing a disservice to their students. The students aren't being prepared for the challenges they will face once they enter the market. On the upside you have a huge advantage over your fellow "artistic" classmates.

For the sake of all mankind please tell me that your university doesn't have a school of medicine.


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Stephen MarkRe: XDCAM workflow: Avid to After Effects and back
by on Jan 15, 2011 at 8:56:37 pm

I was reading this thread because I have the same question Adhish had -- despite the fact that I am an experienced film editor and part time university level teacher. So I was fascinated by Gary's commentary on the state of education and the role of editors given changing technology. I know this reply is off Adhish's topic, but I would love to engage Gary and anyone else interested in dialogue on the very point he brings up. Not sure where to begin doing that or even if this website is appropriate as it is certainly a technologically based resource. But I do think that editing -- call it "art" or "craft" or "skill" -- has fundamentals, many of them instinctive and subjective, that are universal, equally applicable to scissors or pixels. I also think understanding editing is valuable to would-be directors, writers, and cinematographers even if they will never have to transcode a file format. I throw this out and if anyone knows a good place to start a discussion on the topic, I'd appreciate a thought about where to do it.


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Chris KeanRe: XDCAM workflow: Avid to After Effects and back
by on Oct 1, 2010 at 11:27:22 pm

What Avid product are you using? Assuming it's Media Composer v.5.x, have you tried to link the XDCAM EX media with AMA? I don't work with EX footage, but MC 5.0.3.2 should play it just fine (AMA or import).
I would definitely try exporting prores then link to AMA files in MC if you can. I no longer use the animation codec. Im not sure i understand this mandated codec thing you mentioned... but if you can give this way a try... if it works, you save yourself ALOT of hassle going back into Media Composer. Then, export whatever you need as a delivery codec from MC.

As for the color space, I convert my color space prior to exporting from AE. I dont have a scientific reason other than I just want to make sure i don't get any surprises downstream. Perhaps someone here has better way for better reasons.


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Adhish YajnikRe: XDCAM workflow: Avid to After Effects and back
by on Oct 2, 2010 at 6:28:20 pm

Hi Chris,

Thanks for giving me a straight answer.

We are linking to AMA volumes in Avid 5 to ingest our footage from the BPAV folder generated on the SxS cards.

I did indeed export from AE as a Prores in the Rec. 709 (16-235) color space, and then upon importing into Avid, I made sure that the MXF that Avid created used the appropriate XDCam preset and the 709 color space as well, and it was perfectly fine.

And I set up my AE project to work in the 709 color space before even importing my raw footage into it, and then set it to export in the working space.

To the rest of you, I'm sorry you're not running our universities these days. I've gotten used to dealing with the bureaucracy by learning about workflows and compression and such myself and I guess I'll have an advantage over my classmates when we get out into the real world. For now, I just want to make my movie.

Thanks again.

~ Adhish



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Josh CockfieldRe: XDCAM workflow: Avid to After Effects and back
by on Oct 8, 2013 at 8:29:50 am

Probably shouldn't bump such and old thread but I couldn't resist adding that 3 years later across the other side of the world, at one of the highest regarded Australian film schools I have pretty much the same situation. Editing in crappy codec because school mandates it to save space on their server. I constantly have major issues with VFX round tripping due to their rigid workflows. But hey, you do what you have to do. Equipment is crap but teaching is great!


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