[ This article was first published in the November, 2009, issue of
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Over the last four months, Pia Sawhney and I had a long email chat about video formats. Here are the highlights. Pia writes:
My cinematographer filmed in Africa two weeks ago on a Canon XHA1 using the 1080 setting at 30 frames. This is still considered progressive on Canon, which I didn’t realize at the time, but from what I’ve been reading – the capture and edit still uses a 60i setting for the most part – am I right about this? Which codec would you suggest using for capture in this circumstance?
Larry replies: With this camera, try an Easy Setup of HDV 1080p/30 FireWire Basic first, if that doesn’t work, use HDV 1080i/60.
ASSUMING the following are true, working with native HDV is fine:
1. You are capturing HDV natively using FireWire and you do not plan to recapture it
2. You are not planning to deliver this program to broadcast
3. You are not planning on major effects.
If true, keep your sequence settings set to HDV 1080i/60.
If you plan to integrate other video formats, it would be better to convert the HDV to ProRes 422 during capture. Faster rendering, higher quality output, and ability to output to multiple tape formats. I would recommend this option. The easy setup is HDV to ProRes 422.
I do want to have the option of delivering this project to broadcasters; and so, perhaps an upgrade to ProRes 422 is, in fact, the right option. The film will have effects, and additionally, there’s a chance I may have to get additional footage from the field which would mean integrating other formats.
Larry replies: With HDV, ProRes 422 should be fine.
If you are outputting for broadcast, I don’t know any broadcaster that accepts HDV tape – you’ll need to find out what tape formats they support.
The conversion between ProRes and your ultimate format is generally done either during final compression or during ingest using the capture card.
AS ALWAYS, test your entire workflow before committing.
I’m capturing footage on ProRes 422 and it looks great. But I’ve been trying to output to DVD, and I’m getting all tangled up in compression. Any clues on how I might send ProRes footage to DVD? Once I master this workflow, I’ll be ready to start -good news, for sure.
Larry replies: You have several options. Keep in mind that DVDs are ALL SD, not HD. This means that you need to down-convert your HD footage to SD before burning to a DVD. Blu-ray Discs are HD, but can’t be created in DVD Studio Pro.
If all you need to do is burn ONE sequence to DVD, without any fancy menus, use File > Share > DVD from within Final Cut Pro.
If you need to create a DVD with menus:
Pia then sent another question:
You’re quickly becoming my spiritual master as I move forward on this documentary production. 🙂 Given budget constraints, we have had to shoot on DV and are now going to possibly have to shoot on PAL. I had a question — is it possible to shoot on HD in PAL and then convert the footage back to NTSC, and keep HD quality? I am still editing in ProRes on HD — and that looks just spectacular so I’m probably going to just up-res DV if need be. its fine with the story because I’m co-producing these segments with African artists. (Actually PAL may be shot in Copenhagen next week, so there’s really no excuse not to have these pictures in HD, which is why I certainly welcome any suggestions! :))
Larry concludes: Thanks for your gracious words!
You about to give yourself some very tricky problems in your edit.
1. Can you shoot PAL and keep HD quality? No. PAL is an SD format.
2. Can you shoot PAL and convert to NTSC? Yes, however, the quality and smoothness of movement will not be as good as if you shot NTSC directly.
3. Can you convert PAL to NTSC? Yes, however unless you spend a lot of money, the conversion takes a lot of time – 4-8 times longer than real time.
4. Can you shoot HD at 50 frames a second and edit it with HD shot at 60 frames per second? Yes, though transcoding to ProRes at the same frame rate before editing will save a lot of headache.
The key thing is to be SURE of your terms, and the terms your remote crews are using. PAL is standard-def. NTSC is standard-def. HD is high-def. Be sure they are shooting the same image size you are – 1080 or 720. Frame rates can be converted more easily than image size. It is easy to go from HD to SD, it is NOT easy to go from SD to HD.
UPDATE – Dec. 28, 2009
Matt Davis writes:
I think the questioner actually meant shooting HD at PAL frame rates (25p or 50i) then shifting frame rates to NTSC (24, 29.97 and so on).
its the start of a workflow I’ve been experimenting with for creating the best NTSC experience from a PAL project (even if it was filmed in HD), to whit:
- Film at 25fps at choice of resolution
- Edit at native rate, export master edit as Audio and Video files
- Change the header information to make the 25fps movie 24fps (actually 23.97) and cleanly scale to SD
- Change the audio to fit the new timebase (4%) either accepting slight pitch shift or processing it to achieve time without pitch shift
- Encode to multplexed format of choice (in other words, reunite video and audio into one file
Therefore using the 3:2 pulldown technique to get HD at PAL rates onto an NTSC screen in such a way that someone used to seeing 3:2 pulldown would not feel anything untoward has been done to the frame rate.
Larry replies: Thanks, Matt.
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