MCA-I Madison Session Notes

Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking at a breakout session for the MCA-I Madison Spring seminar. The topic was tapeless post-production workflow (specifically for FCP, but we did briefly discuss Avid & Premiere Pro). I promised everyone there I would post links to resources and some of the software we discussed in that session (and some we didn’t get to), so here it is:

Canon EOS Plugin – The official Canon plugin for Log & Transfer. Convoluted download process: Select Mac OSX, then click find “EOS MOVIE Plugin-E1 for Final Cut Pro Ver1.2” in the list, and accept agreement.
Magic Bullet Grinder ($49) – Batch processing of DSLR footage, including proxies with timecode burn in.
5DtoRGB – Process DSLR footage with more control and bypass QuickTime.
5DDtoRGBB – (Unmentioned) Will launch multiple instances of 5DtoRGB for pseudo-batch processing.
Clipfinder 2.2 – Software to reconform FCP XML to RED proxies for passing to Color, among other advanced RED functions.
RED Final Cut Studio 3 Installer – Includes QuickTime codec, Log & Transfer plugin, and Color REDRAW plugin, as well as a useful whitepaper on RED workflow.
REDCine-X – 1st light color correction and transcoding of RED files.

RED User Forums – (Unmentioned) Community of RED users, including posts from RED staff.
Inexpensive Archiving for Tapless Media – Post from Little Frog in High Def (Shane Ross) covering some LTO solutions he found at NAB2011.
FCP 7 Digital Workflows (PDF) – (Unmentioned) Straight from Apple, covers working in several formats, including REDCODE, P2, XDCAM, and AVC. Unfortunately, it does not cover DSLR footage. And for obvious reasons, only covers Apple software.

So there’s the things we went over, and some items that didn’t make it into the discussion in the alloted time. Feel free to leave a comment or contact me if you have any questions.

Aspect Matte – Easier Letterbox/Pillarbox Matting in FCP

The Widescreen filter in Final Cut Pro can be anoying for two reasons: you have to apply it to each clip and it leaves transparent bars instead of a true matte. I’ve been using the method described here for quite some time now. Me being me, I assumed it was common practice, but perhaps not. So I’ve decided to share my extensive matte collection with everyone.

Below you will find a zip archive containing PSD files in common resolutions/formats (including HD & RED) with the following black mattes:

  • 1.33 (4:3)
  • 1.5 (3:2)
  • 1.67
  • 1.78 (16:9)
  • 1.85
  • 2 (2:1)
  • 2.39 (2.35)

Enjoy and feel free to share. The files are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.

zip Aspect Matte (Zip Archive)

What is HD?

The topic comes up every now and then and I wanted to pose the question here: What is HD?

I often hear people (and industry professionals) bicker about this camera or that format not being “real HD.” The common arguments seem to be:

  • 720p is not HD
  • HDV is not HD
  • anything less than 4:4:4 is not HD

At the heart of this post is an interview with John Galt, SVP of Digital Imaging at Panavision that appeared in Creative Cow in February. John made the statement that the 4k resolution of cameras like the Red One are “marketing pixels,” and that the Panavision Genesis (1080 at 4:4:4) should then be considered 6k.

If we’re going down that road, the only true HD is uncompressed 4:4:4 at 1080p. (And conversely, the only “true SD” was probably Digital Betacam, and even that was 4:2:2.) HD is not a strict definition. If anything, I think it means resolution. We have 720P, 1080i and 1080p. Any of those are HD. The rest is specifics.

Yes, some formats are more compressed than others, and some have better color sampling. That doesn’t mean it’s not HD. In the end, these are all details that factor into the decision of what camera and format to use. But to say the Red One is not 4k, or that HDV is not “real HD” is just nonsense.

Red delays Scarlet and EPIC

In an announcement on the Reduser forum this morning, Jim Jannard of Red Digital Cinema has stated they are no longer working overtime to push the release of Scarlet and EPIC. These cameras are still in the pipeline, they have just moved to a more typical development schedule.

I see no reason to continue to pay for rapid development and pushed schedules when the world is not ready to buy our product in the quantities that justify our urgency.  […] Retail camera sales are currently off 40-50%.

While it may be a blow to those who were hoping to get their hadns on one of those cameras once they were pre-announced, I can completely understand their decision. If the volume of sales won’t be there, it doesn’t make sense to push development as hard as they probably were.

Jon Chappell of Digital Rebellion highlights why this isn’t such a big deal, which I completely agree with. There may even be an upside. This may translate to more Red One sales, which could mean more support for the Red One in post. We’re getting there with RAW support in FCP, AE, and Premiere, but it could stand to be improved… especially 4k support in FCP.

Good read on FCP-L

A lengthy but interesting thread popped up on FCP-L. What started out as a simple off-topic post about the new Canon 5D-MkII evolved into tapeless vs tape, digital vs film, and even the evolution of nonlinear editing. At some point I will probably go through and pull out my favorite posts, but for now, I just wanted to get the link up. It’s definitely worth scanning through.

Zacuto Camera Shoot-Out 08

Zacuto recently held a camera shoot-out (video also embeded after the break) to compare image quality. Actually, it’s more of a format comparison. The cameras/formats compared:

  • 35mm Film
  • Red One
  • Sony EX3
  • Panasonic HVX200 (w/ Letus & Redrock Micro adapters)
  • Panasonic HPX170
  • Panasonic HPX300
  • Canon XH-A1
  • Canon 5D MkII
  • Nikon D90

You can probably skip through the first six minutes or so to get to the footage comparison. Copied & pasted from my IM with Dembro, here are my impressions:

  • Film: Awesome.
  • Red: I know for a fact Red footage looks great, what did they do ((Not to knock Filmworkers, but some Red footage we had color graded there & down-converted to SD also looked a little off as well. But I’m sure they, like the rest of us, are still working out our Red workflows.))?
  • HPX300: DOF is terrible, color is nice.
  • HVX200 (Letus Ultimate): Noisy, soft.
  • HVX200 (Letus Elite): Same.
  • HVX200 (Redrock): Same.
  • EX3: Not bad, but something seems strange with the focus.
  • HPX170: Okay, but a bit dull.
  • XH-A1: Blah.
  • 5D MkII: What did they do? That camera is praised for its low light capabilities, but the blacks are completely crushed.
  • D90: Flat.

Dembro & I both came to the same conclusions: 1.) Film looks pristine and b.) It looks like Zacuto is really trying to push their low end cameras to people who otherwise wouldn’t have even thought of renting one to begin with.

In all honesty, though, the closing statement is spot on: Any of these cameras in the hands of a skilled professional can produce great results.

Read More…

Native R3D Support in Final Cut Studio

According to ProVideo Coalition, a recent update to Final Cut Studio now supports R3D files. At least, the same way it handles P2: re-wrapped as QT files.

We could always transcode to ProRes or work with proxies, but this now gives us the ability to work with the full 12-bit RGB data. This will be especially usefull in Color ((While I’m still relatively new to color grading and Red in particular, apparently DPX didn’t even support this. Which means we can really pull more highlight data.)).

There are a few caviats, such as being Intel-only, still no ability to work with full 4k (just the 2k data), and no Raw or Redcode timeline, since these are still read-only. Still, I’m very, very happy to gain the ability to work with the raw data instead of transcoded ProRes files or the proxies.

[Thanks John.]

Scarlet & Epic are (Almost) Here


If ever there was pro-gadget porn, this is it.

Basic info for the Scarlet and Epic:

2/3″, S35, or FF35 sensor
3k-6k resolutions
$2,500-$12,000 (body only)

S35, FF35, or 645(!) sensor
5k-9k resolutions
$28,000-$45,000 (body only)

Or you can get 28k for $55,000. What?

To jump right to the jucy bits, take a look at the full brochure. I can’t wait to get my hands on that footage. 28k? I want it.

[via pro•active•ly]

Film is not Moving Photography

Wired has a piece up about the new breed of DSLRs with the ability to shoot HD video. Now, the main objective of the piece is to point out that new chip designs have lead to this ability, but I take issue with comments like this:

“The single biggest difference between still photography and a movie, aside from motion, is lens choice and depth of field,” says Vincent Laforet, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer who is part of a Canon marketing program, “Explorers of Light.”

Okay, first of all, I’m not sure that Laforet is aware that professional film cameras, including digital cameras like the Red One, do have the ability to changes lenses and offer a shallow depth of field as well. Later:

Laforet predicts that this low-light sensitivity will lead moviemakers to dispense with expensive, bulky, and obtrusive lighting equipment, shooting their movies entirely with available light.

Documentary, maybe. But as a professional photographer, I would think Laforet would know that light use is not simply utilitarian, only to expose the shot. Light can and should be an artistic choice. This alone means the “expensive, bulky, and obtrusive lighting equipment” isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

Laforet is correctin one area: these cameras will be a great asset to news photographers who can now get snippets of video.

Now, call me elitist ((Listen, I recognize that the democratization of technology is generally A Good Thing™, but it also leads to an ever decreasing signal-to-noise ratio.)), but while I am excited to see the potential of these new DSLRs unlocked by the tallented people who use them, these cameras will not turn photographers into cinematographers or filmmakers. Just as having Photoshop does not turn one into a designer. They need to realize film (both documentary and narrative) is not simply moving photography. There’s story. There’s sound ((Please, use a good microphone! I’m glad to see the Canon 5D Mark II add an external mix jack, the lack of one on the Nikon D90 is sad.)). There’s pacing.

My predictions: at first, we will see a lot of beautiful moving photography. Then, once people get over that, we will begin to see the true potential of these cameras. But just remember: if the content isn’t there, it doesn’t matter how pretty the image is, it will still be boring ((I do sound like an elitist, don’t I?)).