Uncharted Territory

Well, here we go… It started a while ago, and to say the least I’m quietly excited. Our creative team at church has been asked to film and edit stories of people who have gone through struggles, and share where God is in it all.

We have a larger that usual team for this job, using various lighting, multiple cameras, steady-cams, slides, tripods and other gear. So far, the biggest challenge has been using footage from a RED camera. Now, 4k footage is brilliant and beautiful in it’s raw nature. It was great to be able to have the use of it, but in doing so, there have been other issues that we wouldn’t usually face when doing a simple one or two camera shoot.

The biggest problem with the RED footage, is that we have to down sample it to match the other formats, of 1080p@25f. Why you ask? Well, when using 1, 5 and 7 D cameras, they all shoot in H.264 footage. The reason we aren’t leaving it in 4k or using the raw files in the time lines, is because simply because of editing software compatibility, and currently the footage won’t be shown on a 4k device anyway.

The audio was recorded two ways, using wireless lapel mics directly in to a MacPro, and using a small boom mic, initially plugged in to a H4N Zoom with phantom power in the XLR input, and then directly to the RED camera – after we overcame some technical problems.

When you shoot 4 cameras, have various audio sources and the event is shot over several hours, organisation of the footage has to be paramount. Various folders were set up for each of the sessions, video footage, the shooter and camera they were using, as well as audio paths to store the correct files. Project files/folders were also set up and arranged for later conversion and the shifting of between programs during the colouring and sound edits.

The other challenge that would have taken hours to do was to syncronise all the footage so that it was in line. Before the shoot started, we syncronised all of our cameras to at least have a time stamp to roughly refer to. Making all the footage line up was going to be the biggest challenge, however a program I’d heard about many times and dismissed as not being need proved essential. It’s called Plural Eyes, and you just load the footage and audio of each session in a timeline, export as FCP-XML and load that file to PE. It then does the calculations and produces a new XML file ready to import back in, with everything synced. AMAZING! The new XML imported beautifully in PrProCS5.5 and FCP7 without any import dramas.

So now what is left? We are still awaiting the conversion of the RED files – which is still using 8 cores maxed out. This could take a few days at this rate… (update: 18 hours)

Because of program compatibility issues between software editing versions, we will be duplicating the project structures on portable disks, and then sharing the FCP-XML files for the main edits. It sounds crazy, but when you are working with PrPro5, and PrPro cs5.5 and FCP7, something has to give and you do what works… or will in theory.

When this has all happened and the initial story edit is complete, the round trip will be to add other footage, clean up things, colour it and then add and fix the audio and other music effects.

I’ll keep you posted on how it goes… It’s exciting.

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