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Old June 19th, 2012, 10:40 PM   #1
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Using digital intermediates

Hi, everyone.

I am shooting footage using a Sony PMW-EX1R in 1920x1080ix25. The footage is shot mostly under office fluorescent lights. The footage is then imported as QuickTime .mov files. I maintain that this is correct because it's important for the disabled clients to be able to easily play the .movs from the iMac. They seem to get more pleasure out of that than any other element of video production. The XDCAM EX codec only works on Mac. It won't work on Windows without the purchase of a 3rd party implementation. Scrubbing through XDCAM EX footage is a little difficult. It plays forward okay, but scrubbing can be problematic.

Occasionally I shoot slow motion footage at 1280x720x25 (it's shot at 60, played back at 25). Most of the lighting is office fluorescent lights.

I've been making heavy use of the Neat Video reduce noise and Warp plugins for Adobe Premiere Pro CS6. Now I'm finding it almost impossible to edit my work, since it takes so damn long. A considerable amount of our footage needs colour correction, too. I'm going to get into the habit of recording a few seconds of a white matte at the start of every shot, to enable fast colour correction.

It occurs to me that using digital intermediates would enable all of this processing to take place ahead of time so that my computer doesn't chug while doing the editing process.

1) It would be nice to re-encode the footage with something that allows for scrubbing (ie intraframe compression), is lossless, and works on Windows as well as Mac. Any ideas what codec we should use?

2) Is it appropriate to do colour correction on each clip *before* creating the D.I. ? Or does that lose some information/quality? I definitely want to do noise reduction. Should I also use Warp on the relevant images?

3) Considering that the footage comes as both 1080i and 720p, what should the resulting resolution be? Should I convert everything to 1080p? Or keep it at the original frame rate?

4) There are about 2000 clips. Is there a way to automate this so I don't go insane?

Richard
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Old June 20th, 2012, 10:56 AM   #2
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Re: Using digital intermediates

Quote:
The XDCAM EX codec only works on Mac.
Who told you that? This is nonsense.
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Old June 20th, 2012, 11:43 AM   #3
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Re: Using digital intermediates

Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Cavell View Post
1) It would be nice to re-encode the footage with something that allows for scrubbing (ie intraframe compression), is lossless, and works on Windows as well as Mac. Any ideas what codec we should use?
You could do this. The Adobe software supports a lossless AVI. But.... the resulting files are just huge. Try it out on a clip or two before you commit to it as you may need a lot of disk space first.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Cavell View Post
2) Is it appropriate to do colour correction on each clip *before* creating the D.I. ? Or does that lose some information/quality? I definitely want to do noise reduction. Should I also use Warp on the relevant images?
The only thing you loose by pre-processing, that is, applying color correction, warp stabilizing, and noise reduction before exporting to a lossless CODEC for editing, is a whole lot of machine time. When you edit, you'll be dropping a lot of processing time on the cutting room floor as it were. If you're OK with that, then so be it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Cavell View Post
3) Considering that the footage comes as both 1080i and 720p, what should the resulting resolution be? Should I convert everything to 1080p? Or keep it at the original frame rate?
Keep it original. Else, why go lossless?

One last thought -- if you do more of this, consider throwing more light at it. I'm surprised you need it with the overhead fluoros, but if you are needing noise reduction, you need more light. Might be difficult, but find a way. This will not only get you out of noise reduction, but also improve your colors and your shadow detail which will make color correction much easier as well. If nothing else, good lighting saves buckets of time in post. Just sayin'.
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Old June 20th, 2012, 06:28 PM   #4
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Re: Using digital intermediates

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Originally Posted by Harm Millaard View Post
Who told you that? This is nonsense.
I think he means to say that XDCAM EX in MOV wrapper on a PC is readable only via third-party plugins.
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Old June 20th, 2012, 06:58 PM   #5
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Re: Using digital intermediates

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Originally Posted by Richard Cavell View Post
The XDCAM EX codec only works on Mac. It won't work on Windows without the purchase of a 3rd party implementation. Scrubbing through XDCAM EX footage is a little difficult. It plays forward okay, but scrubbing can be problematic.
* * *
It occurs to me that using digital intermediates would enable all of this processing to take place ahead of time so that my computer doesn't chug while doing the editing process.
I had reached the same guess as Bart, which makes me suspect that other digital intermediates might or might not help in this situation. However, I'm not clear if it is the Mac that is chugging on editing MOV wrapped XDCAM or the PCs.

Regardless, Richard, there is only one way for you to find out if digital intermediates would help in the way you want. Download some trial versions and test them. I suggest you start with Cineform which is now part of GoPro. (I suggest this as a starting point only because it is the intermediate software that I am familiar with.) Any version above the free GoPro Studio will also install the First Light color application. There are Mac and PC versions. These apps will allow you to:

(a) batch convert clips from XDCAM to HD-MOV and//or AVI files basically by converting everything to I-frames, and doing that will tell you if the time it takes will be worth your while; and

(b) do color matching in metadata via First Light which takes a large load off the system when running CS apps and do it before you need to subject the files to Neat Video denoising; and

(c) then run Neat Video and see if it goes through the intermediates any faster.

That said, intermediates like Cineform may or may not help because there are a lot of other possible issues here.

First, I do understand you have CS6 on some Mac computers, but what are you running on the Windows PCs: CS 6 or something earlier?

Second, are these PCs with only a single harddrive that is used for project files, operating system, and program files? If those computers have only a single drive, or even if they have only a system drive and single media drive, you've got a disk-throughput problems with CS6 that digital intermediates will not fix. Basically, SATA drives are "half-duplex" which means they cannot read and write at the same time. Because of this, putting full HD video files onto a system drive will give you scrolling and/or playback problems in almost any editing application when working with 35 Mbps XDCAM . Add-ons and digital intermediates will do nothing to help this.

Third, how are you sharing the footage from the Macs to the PCs? Do your group's PCs not have CUDA GPU display cards that allow hardware MPE? Are you running Neat Video and Warp stabilizer on on older PCs? What are you exporting from the Macs to put on the PCs; MOVs, AVIs, something else? All of this can affect your workflow. Also, be aware that digital intermediates basically decompress the video into I-frames so the file sizes grow immensely. For example, a 1 hour HDV file of 13 gB will become a 75gB or larger digital intermediate file. It takes a lot of time to move or copy files that large between computers although the files may be easier for the others to play and scrub.

Fourth, when shooting footage with the EX1, what gain settings were you using? High gain settings will produce a lot of the kind of noise that Neat Video may help clean up. I do not specifically remember if the EX1 has an auto gain setting, but if it does, turn it off in the menus. Check the menus and see if you can reduce the gain settings. Checking the gain settings won't help with the existing 2000 clips, but it might help with future footage.

Finally, after all of that, I'm not sure digital intermediates would help with Neat Video. It does a pretty good job by working at its own pace. My experience is that its own pace is slow and steady. Once again, you need to download the trial versions of GoPro etc. and try them out.
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Old June 20th, 2012, 10:37 PM   #6
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Re: Using digital intermediates

Thanks everyone for your suggestions. I think that all of your suggestions could be summarised as, "buy some lights and a fully-loaded Mac Pro". Ha ha!

Some of my footage has been shot in appalling low-light conditions. Not much I can do about it. For an example of +18dB on the EX1R, see here:

Richard
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Old June 21st, 2012, 12:18 AM   #7
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Re: Using digital intermediates

I think that all of your suggestions could be summarised as, "buy some lights and a fully-loaded Mac Pro". Ha ha!"

Maybe you are frustrated with your systems, but the quoted response came across as unnecessarily rude. Those were not our suggestions and the sarcasm is not helpful.

On the other hand, the video is very helpful. Everybody can now see your need for Neat Video de-noising.

And that brings us back to your original question about using digital intermediates with the 2000 or so clips you already have. The answer to your question is that: it depends on a variety of factors including your machine set-ups. While "it depends" is not a very satisfactory answer, you will get a lot more information by simply running a functional trial version of an intermediate conversion software package.

I told you tthe intermediates package I am familiar with, Cineform/GoPro , will certainly handle batch processing, that its First Light app may help with faster and easier color adjustments and that it is cross-platform compatible. Those were three of your objectives. That is hardly suggesting lights or new computers.

Whether an intermediate like Cineform will speed up Neat Video on your computers is something I cannot answer for you. I can tell you, as I did, that there are some constraints on CS6 which might or might not make intermediates irrelevant. But, again, there is one sure way to quickly and definitively figure out whether Cineform/GoPro will help or not: go to Cineform to find information and downloads of the trial.

If it works for you, fine, If not, then you can rule it out and move on to try something else.
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Old June 21st, 2012, 03:47 AM   #8
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Re: Using digital intermediates

I didn't mean to be rude. I have to work within the constraints that are on me. That means, no lights and limited computing power.

I suspect that any time that I'll spend creating digital intermediates would be better spent on other matters. Myself and my co-worker are rostered for a total of 12 hours per week, and that's barely enough time to boot the computer, check email and go home.

Richard
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Old June 21st, 2012, 04:17 AM   #9
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Re: Using digital intermediates

The BPAV directory on the SxS card contains .MP4 files, they are not .MOV files. They can be imported directly into PR on a PC via Media Browser and edited natively.

As Jay said, using intermediates means much more stress on the disk I/O system, but less CPU stress in comparison to editing native. Luckily, XDCAM-EX is a very easy codec that most modern computers can handle with ease, so the impact of less CPU load will be marginal with this specific codec and probably offset by the increased disk I/O requirements. If it were a difficult codec like AVCHD, then you would see more benefit from using an intermediate.

Having a very fast car (computer), like a Porsche, and a couple of large suitcases stuffed with clothes (clips) may get you faster from A to B if you leave the clothes inside the suitcases (editing native) then unpacking the suitcases to avoid wrinkles, because the Porsche does not have the space (disk I/O) to get it all inside and go from A to B in a single trip. It will require multiple trips (intermediates) or getting a luggage trailer (more disks) and driving at a slower speed. Not a very good analogy, but I expect you get the drift.
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Old June 21st, 2012, 09:14 PM   #10
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Re: Using digital intermediates

I think we may be able to offer more help than we have if we treat this as several distinctly different problems, each having a distinctly different solution or set of possible solutions or answers. Here’s what I think is the outline based on what I’ve heard so far:

1. There is the problem of the existing 2000 or so XDCAM clips already on the Mac, all apparently in MOV wrappers which, as is:
(a) won’t scrub and do not always play smoothly under CS6-Mac;
(b) won’t play on the PCs used by the group’s clients (apparently under CS6-PC)

2. New XDCAM clips to be imported from the EX1 that:
(a) needs some processing, trimming, noise reduction in CS6-Mac; and
(b) then needs to be moved in some manner to PCs for use by the clients without having to buy translation software that can read Mac based XDCAM-MOV conversions.

3. Is there a way to speed up de-noising with a Neat Video plug-in under CS6?

4. Advice on workflow to accommodate the OP’s very limited working hours?

The constraints on solutions are that the OP has no budget for hardware upgrades or additions and cannot buy Mac-to-PC software, and has a very limited number of hours.

Let’s start with item 1(a) and lead off with a question about why all those 2000+ XDCAM clips are in MOV wrappers? My guess is that Richard’s folks did that in order to use the clips under FCP or some other NLE on the Mac before they acquired CS6. That kind of XDCAM-mov is a problem for CS6. For the last few weeks, I’ve been seeing reports that XDCAM-MOV files which were optimized for FCP are problematic when used in CS6. I did not pay close attention as I hardly ever work on Macs, but I think there was a suggestion of converting FCP XDCam MOV files into ProRes422 which you will have on your system if you had FCP previously. Some searching should turn up these discussions and maybe some better solutions.

That brings us to 1(b): I believe CS6 on PCs can open and read ProRes422 files if you download and install the free Apple QuickTime ProRes decoder. Install it on the PCs. It would be nice to skip this step but, as you already have discovered, there does not seem to be any other free software that will allow PCs to read MOV wrappered XDCAM from a Mac.

So, maybe an intermediate might be able to help, after all. It will be free if you had FCP on the Mac. If you don't have access to an FCP computer, I'm not sure that there is any way to get a ProRes encoder. (The free ProRes decoder is only a decoder, as its name implies.) Also, check the Sony EX tools and utilities. There might be a utility for unwrapping the XDCam Movs. (I'm thinking you might need something like that in order to write files back to a card that an EXCam could read.)

For new XDCAM – items 2(a) and (b), the prospect is much simpler. According to Adobe, CS6-Mac is supposed to take in XDCAM without needing any wrappers, intermediates or conversions. That is what Harm was talking about in his last post. So, you just bring the files into CS6 on the Mac, do the clean up work and then export the clips as media for transfer to the PCs. Or, maybe you are making short projects which a client could open on a PC. (Maybe the clients only need specific files and do not need to access all of the files all of the time.) Adobe says that CS6 PCs can open and work with CS6-Mac projects. No extra decoders or codecs would be needed.

On topic number 3, the speed of de-noising with Neat Video, intermediates will not help or hurt. AFAIK, Neat Video has always been forthright that their app takes time to work.

What that suggests to me, and what I accordingly suggest to you, Richard, is that it will be faster to do your rough trimming, warp stabilizing, etc. before applying the Neat Video “Effect” to the timeline clips that need it. That way, it only needs to run on the clips that are actually selected for use and only needs to run on the parts actually being used. That has the possibility of saving a lot of processing time.

One thing to check in the hardware department: check the Neat Video settings and be sure that you have enabled support for multi-core processors. Maybe this is automatic now? I believe it used to be under the "settings" menu on the "general" tab, at least on PCs.

As for topic number 4, whether to apply denoising before or after color correction, my recollection --- which is hazy as I have not had to use NV recently and it has been a while since I read the manual --- is that generally it does not matter whether you do color correction before or after denoising. Specifically, it does matter for a few effects like sharpening, warp stabilization or resampling. You want to run those before applying NV because they can considerably change a clip’s noise properties. The manual or the NV web site may have more detailed or updated info.

Beyond these suggestions, I think the limitations are probably inherent in the hardware you have on hand to work with. You do what you can with what you have within the budget and time you have available. That's reality, not criticism.
.
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