HD Editing Workflow: Getting
HD editing workflow is an everchanging landscape. Every new piece of equipment or software upgrade adds to that terrain and opens up even more possibilities. The base of all this change has a lot to do with the capture or conversion of HD footage to digital files. Once the HD footage is digital, DVD dailies are created for screening, and of course digital files are put on a FireWire drive the editor can use for editing. Yet creating an HD editing workflow is not a “one size fits all” proposition.
Pete Fausone is the owner of 24PTV and consults with producers on how to streamline their digital workflow when shooting HD. In 1997, he was hired as CTO to build Steven Bochco’s new post facility, Westwind Media. Fausone believes that customizing a specific workflow for a project can yield better results than putting it through an existing workflow at a large postproduction facility. “If you’re approaching it the right way and you really want to save money, you make sure to do certain things during production,” he says. “For example, the sound should already be on the tape, and the time code should match audio.”
The mainstay of Fausone’s workflow is Apple’s editing software, Final Cut Pro HD. According to Fausone, FCP HD allows you to capture footage for editing that is in the same aspect ratio and frame rate of your originating HD material. “Instead of being forever locked into 29.97 fps [frames per second] and 720×486 [aspect ratio] like the Avid, FCP HD with an inexpensive DeckLink card by Blackmagic will let you do whatever you want,” he says.
Fausone gives a specific example of creating a Standard Definition file that behaves just like an HD 24P file. “I make a 23.98 fps, 720 x 405 Photo-JPEG QuickTime file that’s less bandwidth than a typical DV file and saves disk space. The editor has the same frame rate as HD and is working with the same aspect ratio, so every effect—even precise DVE [digital video effects] moves—come across to the HD online without any extra tweaking.”
The trick with this process is that you have to stick to the fine details in order to make the workflow successful. Says Fausone, “The problem is most people don’t [stick to the details] and they get off on the wrong foot.” Fausone uses as an example a film he recently did where the producers did not follow a “custom” workflow but instead followed the suggestions of a post house. “Instead of getting dailies custom-made for them to take advantage of this workflow, they got regular down-converted DV tapes like you would load into the Avid. From the start they were sunk because they worked in FCP at 29.97 instead of 23.98, and used DV files that were 720 x 480 instead of 720 x 405. Wrong frame rate and wrong aspect ratio.”
One might think those few frames and pixels wouldn’t make a big difference, but Fausone explains why they do. “This movie was almost completely DVE boxes—two or three on screen at the same time [a similar format to the Fox series, 24]. If they would have used the custom workflow, their online could have been just a recapture of their timeline into uncompressed HD.” However, moving an editing project from one frame rate (such as 29.97) to another (23.98) requires a conversion process in which all of the Final Cut Pro DVE moves are lost. “This one day online turned into seven days of repositioning effects,” remembers Fausone.
Fausone’s created a top-to-bottom workflow for the MGM series She Spies. It was the first episodic show that he did end-to-end with FCP, with the support of producer Dennis Duckwall, who gave him the go-ahead to create the custom workflow without going to a post facility. “Dennis didn’t let anyone stop us from using this new workflow,” says Fausone. Duckwall dealt with the editors, who were used to cutting on an Avid, while Fausone took care of the technical systems design for offline and online, as well as recording the digital dailies and doing the final HD online on his FCP HD system.
According to Fausone, “If the proper workflow is followed, producers can save 40 to 50 percent of their overall post budget.” He sees a bright future for HD post. “More and more can be done for less and less of an investment, making these new tools very empowering.”
Diana Weynand is co-owner of Weynand Training and consulting. She can be reached at [email protected]