Archive by Author

The Joys of Post Production


The Stars of Video Killed the Fairytale Star

I have nearly completed a rather large project – a DVD of Video Killed the Fairytale Star, Sunnyside Environmental School’s Spring musical.  I ended up only editing one complete performance, rather than cutting together bits and pieces.  But that is a two hour show, with a three camera shoot and 14 channels of field audio in Pro Tools.  Plus, there is the Wednesday music-only performance (only one camera, and only 5 additional audio channels).  And highlights from rehearsals…

The round trip between Avid Symphony (Media Composer is more or less identical, except Symphony has some added color correction functionality), and Avid Pro Tools continues to be a pain.  Both programs say they can export and import AAF files that just link to existing media.  But that mainly fails completely from Pro Tools field audio into Symphony.  And now, going from picture lock in Symphony back to Pro Tools is also a pain.

I have tried variations on the “Send to Protools” workflow, and there are problems.  Problems whether I tried to link to existing media or copy media.  In particular, including video doesn’t work at all.  Maybe I should have tried before I relinked to the original AMA media files – the lower-res proxy files, transcoded to Avid DNxHD 36, it might have gone more smoothly.  And maybe Media Composer 7 will work better – AMA is supposed to be further buffed.

Fine.  So I have to separately export a video file.  And you can’t export a QT reference with AMA, so it takes a while (45 minutes per hour long segment).  Then I’ll have to repeat that, using mastering quality, once the audio is mixed and laid back in.  Sigh…

Then, the Send to Pro Tools was working, except for the two audio channels associated with my mixed down former multi-cam video (e.g., A1 and A2 don’t get transferred, although A3-A16 do just fine).  WTF?

So, finally, I did an Export (to Pro Tools), consolidating the audio into OMF aiff-c files.  The only problem now is that the markers didn’t make it to Pro Tools.  So if I go back and – one by one – copy the markers onto one of the audio channels I am exporting, then they will come across.  Maybe I should put markers on audio tracks only to begin with, or the timecode track? I tried just exporting the two channels, A1 and A2, that have the camera audio from two of the three cameras on the shoot.  But for some reason, the Avid then does some really slow bit where it is “Copying media files…” that didn’t seem to happen when I exported all 16 audio tracks at once.  I guess it is the AMA media again?  Because I already had to import (instead of AMA linking) the field audio from Pro Tools to begin with – so only those A1 and A2 tracks are AMA linked.


Time remapping: Final Cut beats Avid and Adobe by a couple of lengths


Poster for Sunnyside Environmental School Spring Musical, 2013

It seemed so simple… Just speed up some clips, creating a faux-time-lapse sequence. It would be cute, save some space.

It seemed so simple…

I am editing the DVD (and BluRay) packages for Sunnyside Environmental School’s Spring musical, Video Killed the Fairytale Star. Three performances, each shot with three cameras – plus an 8 or 16 channel ProTools audio recording. And then there is about seven hours of single-camera material from rehearsals.  It is a lot of work – including trying to squeeze the best bits onto a DL DVD.

So I decided to time-compress some bits. Well, Avid Symphony and Boris BCC effects both have time-warp/velocity remapping effects – plus, there is Avid’s traditional clip speed controls. But – no good. They all work for video only.

Fine. I have ProTools HD, with a nice selection of Waves plugins (thanks, @Donny Wright at Super Digital).  I’ll just time-warp (or velocity remap) the video, then change the speed of the audio to match, and voilà…

What Waves Soundshifter only goes up to 400%?  Really?

OK, I’ll try going out to Premiere Pro for that bit, right?  No, wrong – at least I can’t see an easy way.  Probably not too hard in After Effects, but I didn’t go there.

OK, in desperation (well, really in pig-headed stubbornness) I fired up iMovie Pro  (also known as Final Cut Pro X).  I had to work a few things out, but in the end it was very easy to get just what I wanted.  I chopped up the tape into clips that needed retiming and clips that didn’t, applied a 20x speedup, and it was done.  There were only limited choices – 8x, or 20x, but nothing in between.  And no keyframes, so no easing in and out or such.  But a faux time lapse effect – for video and audio – with very little effort.

Bringing ProTools audio into the Avid was harder than it should have been.  I exported an AAF file from Protools, but the Avid would only ingest it if I exported an AAF with embedded media, then imported into Symphony.  I should have been able to export an AAF with links to the actual media, then linked with AMA into the Avid Symphony.  But no matter what I tried, it kept showing up as “media offline.”  Sigh…  It’s only hard disk space.

I am not brave enough to try a two hour multicam show with 14 additional channels of audio in Final Cut, though.  Are you?

Yet another film festival scandal!

Hanoi viewThere has been yet another film festival scandal. this one involving the Newport International Film Festival (among others).  It makes you wonder how common more subtle forms of cronyism or abuse must be…

See the Universal Film Magazine, Issue 9 article – look here:

There has been discussion (on Doculink, the D-word,  and similar boards) in the last year or two regarding the worth of film festivals to independent filmmakers.  The common wisdom has been that a path to success for Indies – including documentaries – was to submit your film to a bunch of festivals, win some awards, then sell to a distributor.  But that happens less and less, with self-marketing and educational sales maybe more important.

And the cost of entering festivals is high – to “do it right,” you pay the entry fee, spend money on publicity, spend a lot of time on publicity, and shell out for travel.  Perhaps we are better off spending our time and money to build a niche audience – for example, screenings and appearances with organizations interested in our topic.

On the other hand, festivals can be fun, and a time to schmooze and network.

Got advice?


Morgan Spurlock? One Direction?

Boy Band

Boy Band One Direction

Really?  Who would have thought?  Morgan Spurlock, the filmmaker who made Supersize Me and The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, is making a documentary about a Boy Band?  My daughters will be ecstatic – they love the song What Make’s You Beautiful, and will happily sing along to it 20 times in a row.  Several times a day.  Every day.

I guess if you can make a film about a Sony advertising campaign…

Will he get liver disease after a month of listening to them?  Or maybe encephalitis?

Read more here –

Foxy Doxy Woozy Doozy

Fox parodyFox is being sued over a National Geographic made doc on real life in an Afghanistan combat ER that portray’s the death of a US soldier. Seems they never contacted or notified his widow…  They supposedly used family photos from his laptop in the piece. Has Nat Geo gone “Reality TV?”  I always thought of them as being for real fair and balanced, as well as tame.

Is this what happens when budgets and production schedules have every last bit of “fat” trimmed away?


War widow sues Fox over ‘Inside Afghan ER’ documentary featuring husband’s death

PBS Producers’ Academy

Oregon Public Broadcasting logo

Oregon Public Broadcasting logo

Has anybody attended the PBS Producers Academy in Boston?  I would love advice on the application process.  They say they want independent producers, not just PBS affiliate staff – is it true, not just lip service?  How about recommendations?

I approached OPB several years ago, seeking mentorship (both in general and for a specific grant application).  Not a single person I wrote to replied!  The leadership has changed, perhaps it is different now?  Certainly their web site offers to rent their facilities and crew to independent producers (while emphasizing that they can’t and won’t offer any funds or resources ever to anyone).

I’ll keep you posted.  In the meantime, if you have advice, please write me!

New Cameras for Filmmakers

The film and pro video world is abuzz this week about changes in the camera landscape.  Amidst the usual flurry of growing capabilities for shrinking prices, a couple of things have caused a lurch:

Red camera rig

Red rig for documentary work

  1. Red Digital Cinema announced impending price cuts.  Red’s  cameras have taken parts of the pro video business by storm because of their revolutionary price/performance ratio.  Cheap is relative, of course: the $40,000 Epic and the $10,000 Scarlett – both bare bones, so triple that price by adding lenses, matte boxes, viewfinders, and the like.  They have become accepted in TV and some film production, but especially in the TV commercial world.  Red’s camera’s are bricks – not very suited to documentary film production, although some have cobbled together FrankenRigs that work.  The noFilmSchool blog discusses Red’s price reductions in context (the takeover of film production by 4k or higher acquisition formats).
  2. Sony F5 and F55 cameras

    Sony F5 and F55 cameras

    Sony Professional has announced two new CineAlta 4K cameras, The F5 and the F55.  Both can record 4k raw video (at 16 bits) to SxS cards via an external recorder.  Both can record to a variety of other formats as well.  Their design, unlike bricks such as the Red or DSLRs (like those from Canon, Nikon, or now from Black Magic Design), allows for some degree of ergonomic use in a portable configuration.  Rumors place the F5 at $18,000, the F55 at $50,000, and the recordser at $10,000.  The SxS cards are at once pretty expensive (like $500 for 32GB) and more rugged and robust than CF or SD cards.  And raw recording (like the Red format) will at time, cost, and complexity to post-production workflows.  But still…  Is there an emoticon for drooling?

Sony and Red are vying for the mid-market, with the ARRI Alexa dominating the higher end market (like feature films), but with all of these blurring together into a pastiche of colorful choices, like a melted crayon painting, for filmmakers.  Of course, it means we’ll need bigger and faster hard drive arrays, and new monitors (to handle 4k!), and…

What does this mean for documentary filmmakers.  To tackle this question, you first have to specify what you mean by “Documentary filmmakers.”  Do you mean reality TV production companies, those union-bussting tabloids of TV that pretend they use unscripted real people when they really use scripted actors?  By eliminating union writers (and hiring them back for cheap) and union actors (instead giving amateur and aspiring actors a very low-paying “opportunity) and union editors and such – they can afford expensive gear, at least.  But if you are Chris Hegedus and DA Pennebaker, let alone an aspiring first time independent filmmakers, then $10,000 or $20,000 (plus lenses and viewfinders and matte boxes and follow-focus and…) starts sounding like a buying Ferrari.

Reality TV is not documentary film, by the way.

Skip to toolbar