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Gear, gear, gear…

My Premiere Pro multi-cam premier

Sometimes, you get all wet.

Sometimes, you get all wet.

So we did this little shoot.  Three cameras, plus multitrack audio.  Slated most of the takes, like I said…

Here is the workflow we evolved:

  1. Shoot seven takes total of three different pieces by the aerialist team, Charity and Jon.
  2. Ingest –
    • Broadcast wav in multitrack Pro Tools sessions for audio
    • Canon AVCHD files from two Canon Vixia cameras
    • Canon MXF files from the XF 300.
  3. Manually edit any clips that spanned two takes (i.e., where we left the cameras rolling between takes) in order to create usable chunks for Plural Eyes.  Otherwise, with multiple takes using the same backing tracks, it all got messed up.  I used MPEG Streamclip, but it couldn’t edit the native Canon MXF files.  So I had to first use Sorenson Squeeze to transcode to ProRes – I could as well have used Apple Compressor or Adobe Media Encoder, I suppose.
  4. Manually load media into Plural Eyes.
  5. Manually align one or two media clips that Plural Eyes couldn’t handle (most synched fine).
  6. Export from Plural Eyes to Premiere Pro flavored XML.
  7. Ingest a total of seven sequences back into Premiere Pro.
  8. Rearrange tracks to standard order of cameras and audio tracks…
  9. Select all, then “Edit in Audition” to fly the audio tracks out to Adobe Audition.  I couldn’t easily export to ProTools – Premiere couldn’t’ extract the audio from some of the camera files to export separately, I think.  Also, Premiere didn’t send audio track names to Audition – they seemed to go ‘poof.’
  10. Save Multitrack audio mix for each take (sequence) from Audition.
  11. Back in Premiere, the next step is to Nest these synchronized sequences for multicam editing.
    • Before Nesting, though, add color correction to make the cameras match (and cut together nicely).
    • Unfortunately, with this process you need to mix audio down to just two tracks – not exactly conducive to the normal workflow of edit -> lock picture -> only then send out audio for sound mixing.  Hence the extraction of audio tracks first…
    • Also, the Nest command doesn’t behave as I expect.  It opens a dialog, asking you to pick a name for the nested sequence.  But that sequence is the original, but with blank tracks removed.  Then it actually nests the sequence you originally had open…  Sheesh!
  12. Make copies!  Then edit MultiCam…
  13. Finally, mix and fly back in the audio.


Guerilla filmmaking at its best!

My first short film, Kid Stuff, featured some guerilla filmmaking – shots of a pawn shop, in particular. So I am always heartened and intrigued to learn of the guerilla tactics of others. This is quite a coup, though: shooting a feature at Disney World!



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?

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.

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