My HDV Workflow with the XHA1 at DVinfo.net

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Canon XH Series HDV Camcorders
Canon XH G1S / G1 (with SDI), Canon XH A1S / A1 (without SDI).


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Old March 20th, 2007, 09:34 AM   #1
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My HDV Workflow with the XHA1

I get questions all the time about my workflow so I decided to document it. It really is quite simple.

First, it has been difficult for me to find a "one size fits all" NLE. I really like the interface of Premiere Pro 2.0 but I don't necessarily like the quality of its exports.

If I try to export my finished HDV film to a DVD format, for instance, the resulting quality (no matter how high I set the bit rate) always comes out soft and looking worse than what I shot on my DVX.

I also own Vegas and, while I have never really cared for the interface because it feels clunky to me, the quality of the exports Vegas is capable of is the best I've experienced. It runs rings around Premiere.

For the Web I am now using the 1280x720 24p preset and I set the bit rate to 10mbps.

There is a default DVD setting for widescreen 24p projects which I use to downrez to an SD DVD. The results are really dramatically different to Premiere. The resulting file looks better than anything I could shoot with the DVX in terms of retained detail.

So back to Premiere...
I can capture footage using the HDV preset from Adobe which gives me raw mpeg files. The problem with this is that they are not very robust and there is a noticeable drop in quality when you throw in a levels adjustment and/or color correction. What to do?

Cineform has a plug in called Aspect HD (around $500) that will allow me to capture robust Cineform AVI files into Premiere. They hold their quality through the post process and I've been very happy with the overall performance of this plug in.

So those are my tools of choice. Here's my process.

CAPTURING and EDITING:

1. Capture via the Cineform Aspect HD plugin using Premiere Pro 2.0 via firewire
2. Create a basic edit
3. Add color correction and establish a baseline look
4. Create a nested timeline containing the master edit and apply an overall levels correction. I name this timeline "Levels"
5. Create another timeline and nest the "Levels" and apply a Cinemascope matte. I use the crop tool and crop top and bottom 12.5% each.

Render this final timeline out to a Cineform AVI master.

EXPORTING:

1. Import Cineform AVI master into Vegas 7
2. For DVD, export as MPEG using the default DVD Widescreen 24P option.
3. For sharing on the Web: Use the 1280 x 720 24p option (with square pixels) and adjust the bit rate to 10 mbps
4. For a master for upcoming Bluray or HD DVD, I export using the 1080 x 1440 24p option (with pixel aspect ratio set to 1.33) and a bit rate of 25 mbps

Hope this helps some of you working in Windows.
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Old March 20th, 2007, 11:28 AM   #2
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Hi Steven,

Interesting workflow for pc users.
Of course FCP users have different options and there
are lots of opinions floating around on the mac side of
this issue too.

Your end 'look' is just great.

David
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Old March 20th, 2007, 11:41 AM   #3
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Steven -

From my tests, DVD authored in NLE is never as good as with specialized DVD application. I mostly use Adobe Encore and though it has its weaknesses and workflow weirdness, the quality on DVD is fantastic. I don't compress to MPEG in Premiere. I export AVI and let Encore do the rest. I think it's the best way. Even more than 2 hours of material on single layer DVD generated on Encore looks very good.

Did you try Encore or prefer Vegas?
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Old March 21st, 2007, 02:51 PM   #4
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I have never tired letting encore do the actual encoding. I usually let Premiere encode it but now that I am downsampling HD material, it seems kinda weak. Perhaps I'll try it in Encore. I also have Vegas so I could try that too.

Peace!


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Originally Posted by Bogdan Tyburczy View Post
Steven -

From my tests, DVD authored in NLE is never as good as with specialized DVD application. I mostly use Adobe Encore and though it has its weaknesses and workflow weirdness, the quality on DVD is fantastic. I don't compress to MPEG in Premiere. I export AVI and let Encore do the rest. I think it's the best way. Even more than 2 hours of material on single layer DVD generated on Encore looks very good.

Did you try Encore or prefer Vegas?
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Old March 21st, 2007, 11:41 PM   #5
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Thanks Steven. I was looking for that info.
I don't have an XH-A1 yet, but I have been playing with some downloaded m2t's.

So, it IS possible to capture in Cineform avi FROM the cam/deck in HDV
for editing? I have the codec and 3TB's of space.. what has been troubling me is that I read you must capture in m2t, encode to cineform, edit, then encode back..and that to me is just not worth the time/money etc to invest in HDV.

I imported 10-40 hours of footage at a time. I would shoot myself if that were the case.

Regarding DVD, I have created dozens using DVD Architect with stunning results. It's a great program and integrates very well with Veags.
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Old March 22nd, 2007, 01:25 AM   #6
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Yes, PPro has notably bad down-sampling via its Adobe Media Encoder interface. Hopefully, this will be remedied on its next incarnation (this summer).

Short of Cineform, another PPro workflow possibility is to frameserve from the timeline to a separate encoder like TMPGEnc Express ($99), Mainconcept, ProCoder, Squeeze, etc.

Just another way,
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Old March 22nd, 2007, 02:02 AM   #7
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I have same feeling about PPro as Steven. I like the interface, and many features. However, I find myself editing HDV in Premiere, and then rendering out to .m2t files, then taking that to Vegas to render to whatever. I am just getting a handle on Vegas 7, and am beginning to feel better about its GUI...

One thing you might want to try in Premiere if you are going to DVD is to Render to DV first. If my original footage is interlaced, I will deinterlace in that render, or if you want to go interlaced, you need to select lower field first in the render process. Otherwise you have a real mess that look out of focus and blurry...
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Old March 22nd, 2007, 07:32 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eric Weiss View Post
So, it IS possible to capture in Cineform avi FROM the cam/deck in HDV
for editing? I have the codec and 3TB's of space.. what has been troubling me is that I read you must capture in m2t, encode to cineform, edit, then encode back..and that to me is just not worth the time/money etc to invest in HDV.
OK. Let me clarify so you understand what actually happens as it sounds like you might be over-complicating it.

When importing from HDV camera, it captures the m2t stream first. At the same time it converts the files to the Cineform codec. On my machine it is performed in realtime. The Cineform file is no longer HDV. It is now a more robust file that can withstand a lot more processing. You can set Cineform import to delete the original .m2t files and leave only the more robust Cineform files. Or you can have it retain both. You can even have it just grab the .m2t files if you like.

At this point you can open the Cineform project, drag the files in and edit until you are happy. Then export the final .avi as a Cineform HD file. This would be the perfect master to keep as it will be of the highest quality, short of uncompressed.

At this point, you can render it again to .m2t file and export it to your camera if you so choose. But this is optional. You do not need to do this. You can simply archive your master Cineform .avi and leave it at that. Most of us feel another pass of "HDV" encoding really degradates the quality. The big idea here is that the only time your images see HDV is in the initial encode inside your camera as you record it. Once you import it to your PC, HDV no more!

In short, the initial conversion from .m2t is in realtime as you capture. As soon as you are done capturing, you drag into your editor of choice and you are off! When done editing, render to Cineform and you are done.

At this point, if you have a target medium (DVD, WMV, HD MPG) you can render to that format. But this step is necessary in any project if you plan on actually delivering the content to anybody.

The only place that HDV is going to really cost you some "time" is in the capturing process. If you record an hours of footage, it will take you an hour to capture it. If you were shooting on P2 you could theoretically edit right from the card and not capture at all. However, even that benefit of P2 is slightly negated by the very short amount of footage a couple of P2 cards will hold. You will need to spend time offloading to a laptop or hard drive if you want to record a lot of footage. This would need to be performed "on-site" where you are shooting. So you will technically save time capturing but you will lose some time during the shooting. Unless you can afford infinite number of P2 cards. Even then, the files would need to be transferred to a hard drive for editing in order to free up the P2 cards for more work. Again...this adds time to the process.

Good Luck!
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Old March 22nd, 2007, 07:51 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steven Dempsey View Post
5. Create another timeline and nest the "Levels" and apply a Cinemascope matte. I use the crop tool and crop top and bottom 12.5% each.
So, this is the way you are doing it Steven! I was wondering how you managed to archieve it with the XHA1, now I know!

Are you taking this into consideration when you are filming? Have you done any marking on the viewfinder or are you just used to how it will be after cropping?

You have inspired me much with your beautiful camerwork, Steven. Think I have to order your DVD soon!

Best;
Per Johan
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Old March 22nd, 2007, 08:15 AM   #10
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Could be wrong as I have never done the cinamascope thing but the LCD can be setup to display Aspect Guides one of which is 2.35:1 which is what Steven uses I think.

Canon XH A1 - Menu -> Display Setup -> Aspect Guide -> Off - 4:3 - 13:9 - 14:9 - 1.66:1 - 1.75:1 - 1.85:1 - 2.35:1
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Old March 22nd, 2007, 08:21 AM   #11
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Yes, thanks guys. I use the in-camera 2.35:1 guides when I am framing although, to be honest, I have been framing for that aspect for years so I just know the feel of it by now.
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Old March 22nd, 2007, 08:25 AM   #12
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Hey glad to see you got the DVD up and are selling it Steven, I had replied to your email but it may have ended in your Junk pile again, that or you are very busy, has been very nice to see your work in this forum now that you have switched cameras :)
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Old March 22nd, 2007, 10:09 AM   #13
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Marty, THANK YOU!

So it's roughly the same as importing DV, except your using a lot more HD space to accomodate 2 versions of the same clip. That's fine.

My other problem is that once I have the 1440 footage edited, I need
to supply it via FTP as HD 1920x1080 60i for broadcast.

Is that possible or is it going to going to degrade the video?
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Old March 22nd, 2007, 10:12 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marty Hudzik View Post
When importing from HDV camera, it captures the m2t stream first. At the same time it converts the files to the Cineform codec. On my machine it is performed in realtime.
Marty - what are the specs on your machine? Does anyone know the minimum specs one could use with the Cineform codec and still get realtime performance?
Steven - how long are your Cineform HD avi downrez 24p mpeg for DVD's renders in Vegas? And what type of machine do you use? I've got a dual core Athlon 3800+ X2 system with 2GB of RAM and a couple of 300GB SATA drives and my 24p mpg renders in Vegas (DVX100) run between 1X and 2X realtime (usually closer to 2X) depending on how many layers/effects. So I'm wondering if downrezzing HD for standard DVD is more process intensive than a normal 24p .avi to mpeg render.
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Old March 22nd, 2007, 10:54 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eric Weiss View Post
Marty, THANK YOU!

So it's roughly the same as importing DV, except your using a lot more HD space to accomodate 2 versions of the same clip. That's fine.

My other problem is that once I have the 1440 footage edited, I need
to supply it via FTP as HD 1920x1080 60i for broadcast.

Is that possible or is it going to going to degrade the video?
Well first of all you don't have to keep the m2t files. So there is no absolute reason to keep 2 versions of the same clip. Still, the Cineform avis are going to be larger than the original .m2t files. But good HD footage is going to take up more space than SD DV footage. That is a given.

Second, you will need the client that wants 1920x1080 60i to let know what format to supply it them in. If it is a higher end format than Cineform then you will see no apparent loss in quality. If it is more compressed than Cineform then you may see a loss. That is really up to what format they require.

Simply uploading the files will have no affect on the quality whatsoever...although I can only imagine how long it would take to upload big HD files!
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