Friday, September 25, 2009

Apple, FCP, Love/Hate

Why does "think different" so often not translate to Think Better?

FCP has a big bug in it's workflow for anything smelling like 24 frame video. There aren't that many cameras shooting 24 FPS (were not talking "24P" which shoots 23.97 FPS, not 24 as the name implies). But there is one that is being used more and more and that is the Canon 5D Mark II. It's a still camera that can shoot video, but only 30 frame video. Why???? WEll it was just supposed to be for the web. Indi filmmakers live up to the Apple slogan and they started shooting films with the 5D Mk II.

For those that don't know there are only two uses for 30FPS footage. The first is for B&W TV in the 50's (not a lot of call for that now) and the other is in the FILM to VIDEO transfer process. It gets complicated but US Video runs at 29.97 FPS and FILM at 24 so they copy the film frame for frame (with a few dupes) to 30 FPS video and then slow it down a touch.

Anyway FCP sees 30 frame video goes"hey that's really 24 and I thinks (for you) that this is film transferred to video so it's slowed down and any sound you might want to add I will slow down also so everybody's happy. Unless of course you thought differently and didn't shoot film and bring it into FCP. And if your camera doesn't do a great job of recording audio so you want to record separately well then you have a problem. Because FCP will change the speed of ANY sound file you bring in to the sequence.

And if you do audio post... Well then it really gets interesting because nobody but FCP "Thinks for you" on this topic and those clips that wouldn't stay in sync in FCP are fine in say Pro Tools. Until you send it back to FCP! Of course if you spent time re syncing all those clips in FCP, they are all off in PT (or anything other than FCS).

So what to do?

The trick it turns out is to wrap your WAV file in a MOV wrapper and tell FCP that the package is 24 FPS, so it will leave it alone.

The only smooth way to do that is with

Sebsky Tools. It's free but it was made by a studio that went under so it's hard to find. I will put it on my site in the files section and add a link here if it's not simple to go there.

There is an ongoing thread on this issue on the DUC. and it's late but I'll go over how to use S.T. next post.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What's been happening

Waiting around for file transfers again, seems like it's happening a lot these days, so I though I would go over some recent projects that aren't in the resume yet.

Lots of Clean up and edit and just a touch of SFX (no time or $) to a short that is pretty good HABITUAL AGGRESSION. Worst production audio ever, only a deaf person could have been on headsets and thought it was acceptable. I don't think anyone was listening.

Quick cleanup and Mix for a nice feature FIONA'S SCRIPT. Low budget but used well. Good story good acting good editing. It was fast and low$ but it shows how good indi's can be when they are done smart.

A hand full of very short shorts for the African Development Bank, promos sort of. Mostly mixing. On going, we only have done the first one. This project has shown some poss problems with FCS3? or maybe not, further investigation will figure it out, I hope.

Seven short plays for UCB. This one is really just starting.

A horror feature on the most insane schedule ever. The jury's still out on how this turns out, hair pulling nightmare or "damn how did we pull that off, let's go get a drink".

Oh and there are these concerts coming up... but that's a different story.

Earlier in the year I had another film poached by this jerk (unnamed - maybe later) who because he doesn't need to make a living from it likes to poach shows from local post folks. He just finds out about a show and cold calls and bids ridiculously low. Really pisses off the sound post community. And from what I hear he's not very good (not sure if that makes it better or not?).

Well transfer done, back to the trenches.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Joys of over work, the hell of Sundance

Well I have a few moments to add to the blog while some new mystery files download. Maybe it's music, though the folder says ADR? so...
Anyway from a really bad week of crazy work, car towing and the death of my long time compatriot in post (Bently the sound dog). I'm heading into 5 days of mad hell to get a feature to Sundance by the deadline. As an aside I just wish Sundance disappeared. It's like a lotto ticket with a crack chaser for indi filmmakers. They all NEED to submit but none are going to get in. The "indi" films that get into Sundance are 5-10Mill "Indi's". But every film that has a budget that you could buy a car for kills their editors to make the deadline. They never plan with the deadline in mind though. If you want to shoot a feature and submit to Sundance, take the deadline (Sept. 24th assuming your going to FedEx it) and figure four to six weeks for sound post and six months for picture edit then two months to shoot and a month of prep. That means you start your prep in Nov. the year before, NOT June the year of.
The sad fact is that even if you planned it out and got a great cast and a great editor,and a great script, score and sound. If you don't have a name attached that people know with out having to search IMDB, or a budget over 5 mill it's a waste of time.
BUT, I hear the screams, What about Little Miss Sunshine... Look at the budget, name the cast... Next.

Take a clue from a former actress and "Just say NO".
"But it would be great if I got in!"
Not particularly and the race to get "done" in time hurts your film a LOT. Why? Because you didn't start your prep in Nov. you started it in May, maybe, and you are shooting yourself in the foot by racing to finish. Big films (ones that people watch and make money and GET into Sundance) don't try your proposed schedule and you shouldn't either. Every once in a while there is the big push to make the date but that is pushing a six mo. post into five mo.s. And they have crews, you probably have an editor, a post sound person (or maybe not) someone doing some music. Maybe a few more but that isn't a CREW it's a collection of artists trying to make your dream happen in too little time with too little money and too few people.
Give them a break and put down the Sundance crack pipe, have a Martini and plan on submitting your film when it's DONE. You can even do Sundance if you want to. But finish your film and make it art, then submit. You only get to make your movie once, Sundance happens every year.
I cant tell you how many films with potential end up going nowhere because the filmmakers blew their wad to get into Sundance and "finished" the film with out FINISHING the film. Screen it, take notes, reedit, and screen it again. Your big strength with a micro budget indi is that you have time on your side. A BIG budget film is paying through the nose in completion insurance till the film is finished and screening (and they still take a fair amount of time in post... SEE how important it is), you on the other hand are not. If it takes you a year to finish it cost you about the same as if you did it in a month. A big film is paying your total budget (often many times your total budget) every day till they have a marketable film. You have so little going for you as a low budget filmmaker that is is just moronic to use one of the few advantages you do have.

Back to the trenches...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

How to get from FCP to Protools

This is the first draft, well second and it still needs some work but, it's close.

What you want to give sound post IS,

An XML of your sequence. - see below

An OMF. - see below

A video file. This should be from the start of your timeline to the end of the film. Do NOT have FCP add pops or leaders etc. The file should start exactly where it does at the head of your timeline. POP's Tone and count down are fine IF they live as clips in your time line but not if FCP is generating them on out put. Did I repeat that enough times? Hope so. The reason, for those that are curious, is that IF the file starts at the start of your project you can drop the finished mix back into FCP and it will sync. If FCP adds stuff then the mix will start BEFORE your time line and it will take a lot of work to get them in sync - no fun.
My current preferred format is H.264. It looks good, supports HD is a reasonable size and works well with ProTools, IF you make it as outlined below. The other option is DV, but that will be a MUCH larger file and not look as good and doesn't support HD. Any flavor of HD or ProRes et all will have to be converted.

Video, h.264 is good but it needs to have key frames set to every frame.

(In have this shot quality is set to best but I think HIGH is probably fine. Also in newer versions of QuickTime there is an option of "Every" under key frames and that should do the same as setting it to 1.

This shot I need to change, probably. HDTV 1080i makes for a large file that plays a bit sluggishly on a G5, probably fine on an Intel. At least one I just got has been sluggish and improved a lot with a little shrinking. But that probably also has a lot to do with data rate AND what size you are going to use the file at. It's probably fine IF your going to work with it a full resolution.

Time base should be what ever the FCP is at and sound should be 48/16.

Make sure the film is SELF CONTAINED.

This is so that the sound editor can "conform" to the small changes that almost always happen after you hand off to sound. Even if the editor doesn't own any auto conform software there are ways to do it for a small fee over the Internet, with out this file though it's a SLOW by hand process that the editor SHOUL charge you extra for.


An OMF of the audio with 4 sec. handles.
Include levels and pans.
MAKE SURE to Remove all disabled clips from timeline.

And there you go.

The demise of a sound dog

OK so what does the demise of my dog have to do with sound? Well other than his being the mascot for MANY small films that have come through here he has also "performed" in countless adds and films. He was the "lapping tung" of California Cheese cows, the toilet lapping dog (voice of) in a Dial soap commercial, he did vocals for dogs in a bunch T Mobile spots. He also has been monsters and all kinds of animals that made noises in many different projects. He also made me take breaks and kept me going. Ironically his "career" also spanned other media, he was in Art Week and once made the cover of the San Francisco Chronicle (back when it was still a newspaper).

What's the moral,? point? Well it's good to stay active and diversified. He lived to the equivalent (about) of 107 in human years and only really slowed down in the last seven (human years). If we could all be active and productive till 100... But also from a sound perspective, you don't need to record the REAL thing, you need to record what you want the FILM thing to sound like. A 60 lb Springer Spaniel CAN be the tung of a 1200 lb cow. AND a 20 lb terrier. Even a 10 ton dinosaur. So don't get locked by reality, take breaks, go chew a bone... it's good for you.

Bently, the sound dog 5/30/94 - 9/10/09