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Old August 1st, 2008, 08:06 PM   #1
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Interviewing Final Cut Editors, need your input…

Interviewing editors and need some input as to what types of questions to pose to our potential editors.

Project: Feature film -- footage was shot with Sony EX-1, 24fps (23.97) and will be edited within final Cut Pro.

What questions should be asked to insure our editor is working at the highest quality and can provide a final master at the highest quality?

What formats (codecs) should the editor be working/editing with? What file type should we end up with?

We are not going for a film transfer now – only an edit for festivals, etc.

Any audio concerns/questions?

Workflow will be EX1 footage transferred straight into final cut pro via plugin – or rewrapped first via Sony clip browser. The raw footage is currently on external hard drives.

The audio files are also separate – recorded 24 bit 48k wav files. Audio files also have time code (via smart slate) meta-data embedded.

Thanks for your help --
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Old August 1st, 2008, 11:48 PM   #2
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you've already answered your own questions !

if you capture native, and there is no reason not to, most of the damage is already done.

the only option after native capture is to use uncompressed or prores for any TL sections that need to render. given that ProRes is very clean, I'd go with that as most folks aren't setup to play uncompressed 1080.

as for output, what do you need to deliver ? D5 ? HDcam ? HDcam SR ? BluRay ? XDcam HD ? any FCP setup with a Kona, Decklink or Matrox card and output whatever flavor of HD you need. as for data formats, well an uncompressed QT in 10bit is best, 8bit ok, but a ProRes HQ QT clip would be fine as the difference between it and uncompressed is very small.

the real questions you need to ask are about the editor's story telling abilites, sense of timing, experience cutting long form projects, organization (!), willingness to see the project to the end. if all you view an editor as is a button pusher or person to cover techincal aspects only ( EXCLUDING FINISH WORK ! ), you'll just tick the person off and they will walk on the project if they are any good at what they do.
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Old August 2nd, 2008, 12:38 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Oakley View Post
if all you view an editor as is a button pusher […] you'll just tick the person off and they will walk on the project if they are any good at what they do.
I would like to second that sentiment.

I had a (new and obviously inexperienced) director drag me out to meet for coffee in a mall just to ask what size monitor I work on, if I know what an "L cut" is, if I had "the 24fps plug-in" that apparently "makes footage look more cinematic" and a few other useless questions. Frankly speaking, they were dumb questions I could have just as easily answered over the phone and then gotten back to work instead of my wasting most of an afternoon.

I started feeling frustrated by the stream of technical terms the guy obviously picked up in film school and was now spewing in order to appear knowledgeable that I cut him off and said to him "I think what you really want to ask is if I am just some button pusher or an editor. I am an editor."
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Old August 2nd, 2008, 03:03 PM   #4
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Didn’t mean to strike a nerve – yes, of course we are not looking for someone to only push buttons. We would like to have an excellent editor who brings all of the qualities a great editor should, particularly in regard to aesthetics. However, ‘pushing buttons’ is part of the job and aside from being a great craftsman (or woman), I’d like to make sure they’re pushing the correct ones!

I edit on PC and know most of the answers on the PC side, but am not as clear on the Mac side.

How about questions relating to system specs? 8 bit vs. 10 bit? Pro res format?

What are some standards a Mac editor should meet in ordered to be considered for an edit job on a low budget feature? (aesthetic and technical)?



Thanks again –

Last edited by James Binder; August 2nd, 2008 at 03:47 PM.
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Old August 2nd, 2008, 05:36 PM   #5
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Whatever codec/format the editor uses it should be in 24fps (23.97), especially since your audio is synced to that. Transcode the footage as the last step when going to a format for an audience.

If the editing suite (Apple Mac) computer is fast enough, you could try editing in XDCAM and lowering the playback speed as needed. If not, ProRes422 can speed up playback. In addition, ProRes422 is useful for keying and speeding up the final render. But a lower resolution format like DV can make the "offline" editing process much more efficient & pleasurable. When you are ready to add graphics & special effects, you would then use the original footage.

8-bit is fine for general editing and in-program graphics. For 10-bit, you'll notice more of a difference if you're inserting higher end graphics, panoramas of beautiful scenery, or images with serious gradients.

As for picking an editor, I think it's as personal as picking a wife or husband, you may be spending more time with them in closed quarters than you'll be spending with your significant other. Present your project and see which ones are a match. Take a good look at their reel and quiz them. Then find out if they "get" you, and also "get" your project. Ask them how much time it took to get assemblies, rough cuts, directors cut, producers cut up and running. How much time do they expect to finish those things (12-15 weeks seems average for a full feature - assuming the production team knows how to shoot for the edit). In their previous jobs, what types of problems did they encounter with the footage, workflow, working environment? How were they able to resolve those problems? What would they change? Do they feel good about the final product are they proud of it? What are the things that make working with them go smoothly? Etc. As a courtesy you may want to show them some of your footage, to see how they react to it. If they have a lot of experience, their reactions may be very instructive.
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Old August 2nd, 2008, 05:41 PM   #6
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Also, you may want to keep the contact info for several of the editors you decide not to use for later on down the road. It's very useful to have another editor come in close to the end of the editing process to get a fresh perspective. At that point everyone involved with the film usually can't see the forest for the trees anymore. A pair of fresh eyes can remind everyone what's really working and what's just "there" because it's always been there.
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Old August 3rd, 2008, 09:21 AM   #7
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Ask to see their reel. Get a reel you like and then assume they know how to press the buttons or hire a post-production supervisor. Most super pro editors are great aesthetically and they work with an assistant who does all the busy work with the tech nonsense...

Noah
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Old August 3rd, 2008, 10:50 PM   #8
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Noah is correct. These questions are things you decide on with a Post Production Supervisor before you even walk into the bay. A lot of the questions you are asking really depend on YOUR budget. The fact that you shot on the EX-1 basically throws the offline to online workflow out the window. The only reason to change to pro res is to speed up render time and give you the flexibility to send your project to Color for color grading. If your editor is set up on a station that can't support editing natively in pro res or xdcam easily then you are most likely dealing with an edit bay that doesn't have a I/O card. For audio I would say again, it is up to you and your budget if you want to send it to an audio guy or not. I would since a good sound engineer will do things like adding natural sounds and what not that will take your mix to the next level. If you want to find a editor that is a triple threat with audio then I would have to come to terms with him not being able to focus on the story.

For the transfer into final cut, it will be very easy as long as the media is just like it was on the cards. You can use the XDcam transfer tool to convert the files into .movs bypassing clip browser creating .mxf's and changing those to .movs.

As for deliverables, every film festival is going to have different requirements on what they want. I would send my finished timeline to HDcam via a I/O card like a AJA Kona and have that as my master which I could create a dub of for whatever the festivals need. Most will accept HDcam I'm sure especially since this is a feature length film, some only take shorts on Digibeta or other standard def stocks since the big movies get the big decks.
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Old August 7th, 2008, 01:41 PM   #9
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Thanks for the replies guys -- very informative and much appreciated. If anyone has anything further to add, I would welcome it.

BTW -- I was told that we should be working with RroRes 10 bit. Again, not being a Mac guy, I am somewhat at a loss regarding codecs and formats, etc. At what point should we be using this codec (if at all)? Final output? Does the editor have to edit in a 10 bit space/project? I'm still a little fuzzy with Michaels explanation re ProRes, etc. Clearly it's my lack of understanding and not Michaels very nice reply!

Thanks for the Mac 101 lessons!
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Old August 7th, 2008, 01:54 PM   #10
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I think I just answered my own question:

"ProRes is an intermediate codec, which means it is intended for use during video editing, and not intended or practical for end user viewing. The benefit of an intermediate codec is that it retains higher quality than end user codecs while still requiring much less expensive disk systems compared to uncompressed video."

Questions:

How does one go from the native EX1 files to ProRes? How is the conversion made?

Why not just edit .mxf>.mov files created by xdcam transfer tool?

What is the difference/benefits in editing with one of the two above formats?

And so that I'm clear -- xdcam is used for final output (in some situations)? How is that typically delivered (on what type of media)?

And finally, if anyone has the time or patients and also edits on the PC side, I edit in Sony Vegas Pro and would very much appreciate any explanation of the above equivalents as they pertain to formats/codecs within Vegas.

Thanks again -- having not too often ventured off of the PC messages boards here, I find this is a great forum!
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Old August 7th, 2008, 02:20 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by James Binder View Post
I think I just answered my own question:

"ProRes is an intermediate codec, which means it is intended for use during video editing, and not intended or practical for end user viewing. The benefit of an intermediate codec is that it retains higher quality than end user codecs while still requiring much less expensive disk systems compared to uncompressed video."

Questions:

How does one go from the native EX1 files to ProRes? How is the conversion made?

Why not just edit .mxf>.mov files created by xdcam transfer tool?

What is the difference/benefits in editing with one of the two above formats?

And so that I'm clear -- xdcam is used for final output (in some situations)? How is that typically delivered (on what type of media)?

And finally, if anyone has the time or patients and also edits on the PC side, I edit in Sony Vegas Pro and would very much appreciate any explanation of the above equivalents as they pertain to formats/codecs within Vegas.

Thanks again -- having not too often ventured off of the PC messages boards here, I find this is a great forum!
I have used Compressor to do my conversions from one codec to another, DVCPRO HD to ProRes when I was having to many issues with the DVCPRO HD codec in FCP. All of my problems went away using PR.

Just put all of your footage in Compressor, apply your Pro Res, point your footage to it's new home, and hope you have enough room on your drive/raid for the new footage.
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Old August 8th, 2008, 01:55 AM   #12
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Granted the horse is already out of the barn on this one, but in the future I'd recommend getting the editor involved during pre-production. The best way to attack, IMO, is to work backwards (let your final delivery format dictate your production format) and the best way to do that is to involve post production in pre-production. Having the editor involved during production will also speed up the process as the editor can view dailies and begin working on the edit while shooting is still going on. If the editor, w/a fresh set of eyes on the footage, sees something that's not right in the dailies (either artistically or technically) s/he can let you know so re-shoots can be planned for while the cast and crew is still readily available.

Quote:
Originally Posted by James Binder View Post
Questions:

How does one go from the native EX1 files to ProRes? How is the conversion made?
The quickest way is use an I/O device (Blackmagic, Kona, MXO 2, etc.,) to capture in real time out of the EX-1's HD-SDI port. As Jim Fields said, you can also use Compressor to do the transcode, but in my experience Compressor will "lose" the reel# associated w/the clip (although it does retain correct TC). Even though you are shooting tapeless keeping reel#'s is advantageous for two reasons. First, it allows you to trace the footage back to its source media and camera and this is very useful if there are problems w/the footage and you need to do some trouble shooting. Second, the Media Manager tends to foul up in my experience if the reel number field is left blank.

Quote:
Why not just edit .mxf>.mov files created by xdcam transfer tool?

What is the difference/benefits in editing with one of the two above formats?
ProRes will give you more RT performance and faster exports, but you'll need bigger and faster storage than if you stayed in XDCAM EX. Also, as previously stated, ProRes plays nice w/Color so even if you cut in XDCAM EX you'll want to export the final timeline as ProRes so you can take it into Color.
Quote:
And so that I'm clear -- xdcam is used for final output (in some situations)? How is that typically delivered (on what type of media)?
D5 and HDCAM/SR are the HD delivery formats of choice (at least in the US) although I have heard that some people deliver on DVCPro HD. Now, this is for b'cast though. What a film festival will want is up to them. Also, XDCAM EX is not the same as XDCAM HD which is not the same as XDCAM HD 422 which is not the same as XDCAM (an SD codec) so using "XDCAM" as short head is more confusing than not. ;)


-A
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Old August 8th, 2008, 10:24 AM   #13
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Apple doesn't let you control if ProRes is using 8 or 10bit. one wants to assume that the standard mode is 8 bit, and HQ is 10bit, but standard PR can be 10 bit. if you capture 10bit and feed it 10bit, it works that way. if you feed it 8bit, it uses 8bit mode. however, apple has chosen to hide most of this away from the average user.

as far as editing, you bring in your material in its native format. there is no real benefit to transcoding it to ProRes. however, you set your TL to the ProRes codec so that anything that renders will be ProRes. In FCP, you should set you TL to it to "render 10bit in high precision YUV " which mean floating point. for the most part, FCP completely manages rendering in 8,10,16,32 bit all on its own with out giving you much control over it... which is generally a good thing. the only thing you can do as a user is force it to always use 32bit renders. so be default, FCP will pretty much do the right thing automatically.

there was also a comment made by some about how an editor can't mix sound and watch story at the same time. I personally found that very insulting, and I think many good editors these days would also. that is such LA pigeon hole mentality. just for the record, as much as I am highly in tune with story editing, I'm perfectly up to delivering a finished mix as well. yes I can add SFX, ADR and music. I compose music on occasion. I'll also give any colorist you can name a run for the money on that end too as far as visual finishing.

oh... wait, I'm also a great VFX artist too. I've got my work on more then one FX software co's demo reels. I also do the mograph thing too.

and did I say I was an award winning DP too ? whole wall of awards for shooting over the last 20 years, national level stuff. I started as a DP. the editing side brought a lot to the shooting side as I always know when coverage is working or not, and when I really need to pick up some extra B roll shots to be sure edits in the main content can be covered, usually because the talent can't deliver all the lines in one take.

so to think that some one can only do one job well is seriously selling a lot of people short.
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