[ This article was first published in the January, 2008, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Updated April 2008. Click here to subscribe. ]
Jerry MacKay, of Full Circle Studios, writes:
I got a 24P question: am I the only one who thinks that 24P shot on video looks stuttery?
I recently DP’d a short film and shot it with the Panasonic HVX200 in 1080i 24PA mode. The film was edited in Final Cut in a 24P timeline, and authored with DVDSP to a DVD. Looking at the film both in Final Cut and off the DVD, the footage is stuttery, almost like it’s playing at 15 fps (at least to my eye it looks like that).
I also recently directed my own film, which we shot it with the Sony Z1U in 1080 60i. I edited in FCP and used Compressor to deinterlace the final films into 30P, and they look great. I think they have a great “shot on film” look, but without the stutter of 24P.
Everyone seems to love 24P for the film look, but I’ve never seen a film on television that stutters like this. What’s going on here? Is it…
A. Shooting in 1080 is the problem (which is why many people shoot 720P).
B. The footage is being edited in Final Cut the wrong way.
C. Compressor is not encoding the right way.
D. DVDSP is messing something up.
E. Hollywood post-production houses have multi-million dollar converters to make 24P look good on TV.
F. Everyone who likes 24P is crazy.
G. I am crazy.
Larry replies: Jerry, even attempting to answer your last two questions could cause a range war.
Here’s my take. I don’t think there’s any magic in 24 fps material. For me, a better indicator for the “film look” is a progressive image, with good lighting and whites that aren’t blown out.
For example, I can see a slight stutter in 24 fps film – which I don’t in 30 fps material.
As for the rest of your questions, while it is entirely possible for settings to be incorrect in FCP, DVD SP, or Compressor, when used properly your video should come out looking the same as it was shot.
UPDATE – April 2008
In reflecting on this further, here are six things you can do to make your video look more “filmic.”
1) Put your camera on a tripod. Hand-held shots look much worse in HD.
2) Shoot progressive video, not interlaced. Interlaced video is more sensitive in low-light situations, but progressive video removes all the interlace lines making images look better on a computer.
3) Don’t overexpose whites. One of the big giveaways with video is blown-out highlights. Keep your white levels down, don’t overexpose your images and your pictures will look much better.
4) Provide good shadow detail, don’t crush the blacks. The richness of a picture is in the shadows. Make sure you have enough light to see them, don’t let them go solid black.
5) Decrease your depth of field, that is, make your focus shallower. You can do this by reducing light levels, adding an ND (neutral density) filter, zooming in, or using a narrower lens. The shallow depth of field decreases background distractions and throws focus onto your talent.
6) Use lens filter to improve the look before even going to editing. A 1/4 warm black Promist filter will do wonders for interview guests. A polarizing filter will improve sky shots. Every cinematographer uses lens filters when they shoot film. Do the same for your video.
Notice that nowhere in this list of options does it say to shoot 24 fps video. 24 fps tends to have more motion blur, juttery pans and tilts, and lots of hype.
There are only three reasons I can think of to shoot 24 fps material:
1) Your ultimate output is film. It is easy to go back to film from 24 fps video.
2) You need to convert to PAL. Converting 24 fps to PAL involves speeding up your video by 4%. This is easier than down-converting 30 fps. However, it is even easier to shoot PAL in the first place, rather than convert 24 fps.
3) You want to reduce the file size of your video on DVD. This is a good reason, but this is a different reason than making your video look “filmic.”
Just some things to think about.