Wednesday, 20 September, 2006

HDV in Quantel eQ, Autodesk Smoke, Flame, Lustre

HDV is to 'mainstream HD' what DV is to SD. A small, compressed, reasonable quality low-cost medium that brings tools of movie-making and general videography to the masses. And its not just weddings, birthdays, anniversaries that will be shot with HDV. TV shows, commercials and as I wrote last week, even full-length movies are being shot and will continue to be shot on HDV.

Almost anyone who's seen HDV will agree that it is no match for 35mm or even HD. But that won't stop anyone from using it. The lure of the medium and the promises are too much and most anyone will at least give it one try.

With HDV, after the shoot is over, the challenge of editing and finishing is a whole new enterprise. The so-called 'offline' systems like Avid XPress, Liquid, Final Cut Pro, Vegas, Premiere and others all can capture HDV directly from a camcorder/deck. But clients don't want to work on these systems alone. They want to finish their films on the so-called 'online' systems like Autodesk Smoke, Flame, Quantel eQ and even iQ. For colour correction, keying, stabilization, whatever.

But none of these can directly capture from HDV camcorder/decks. Unless one uses special converters and decks. Later this month I will be using a Miranda HDV bridge that converts HDV to HD-SDI and even sports RS-422 deck control. So with this and a HDV deck one will be able to capture to any of these online systems from HDV decks. As uncompressed HD.

Last night I completed a workflow where a client shot a commercial on HDV, captured to his FCP station as HDV 1080i50 (thats HDV native) and edited it. He then gave his rushes as one Quicktime movie and an EDL to conform it.

The rushes were one long 4o min Quicktime movie with the HDV 1080I50. Opening this in Autodesk Smoke/Flame/Lustre is out of the question. Those systems don't open these 'consumer' formats. So I took it to a Quantel eQ (new, ver 3.5 1.14 or something like that). This system can open Quicktime movies.

But even that couldn't do it. One issue is that Quantel systems (which are WinXP PCs) run Quicktime 6 and not later. And Quantel doesn't recommend Quicktime 7. Even if they did, HDV and Apple Intermediate codec doesn't work on QT Windows any version.

So I had to export the HDV 1080i50 movie to Uncompresssed Quicktime 1080i50. I did that using Compressor. Now the original 7 Gb file became 225 Gb. Just 40 mins of rushes. So thats another thing to think about when capturing from HDV to Smoke/Flame or eQ/iQ. Through the HDV bridge as HD-SDI, HDV quickly fills up hard disk space.

Even after exporting as Uncompressed HD, eQ couldn't really play it smoothly. Some field/frame rate issue cropped up. So the eQ artist had to do something like render it out so it could play smoothly. And incidentally, the conversion stripped the original HDV movie of its time code so the point of this excercise to conform rushes was lost. Hmmm.

Eventually we opened the conformed film in FCP, exported that out as one 30 sec QT, then manually extended all clips by one min head and tail and exported that 'spread out' edit. Converted both these to Uncompressed QT and sent that to eQ. So they would have handles there. What a drag.

So bottom line. If you're shooting HDV...
1. Check out the video quality against other mediums like DVCProHD, HDCam, HDCamSR, even DigiBeta.
2. Capture and edit on an 'offline' system.
3. Master back to SD DigiBeta or HD or whatever on the 'offline' system itself.
4. If there are shots needing work on an online system, then export them Uncompressed Quicktime, or DPX, separately.
5. Take the whole film as another large Uncompressed Quicktime, or DPX.
6. Work on the shots needing work and then assemble them with the full film in the 'online' system.
7. Master out of the 'online' system.

But there's still work needed. Some more research and trial and error before one can recommend this workflow. And for a film going out to 35mm? Will check that out soon.

And if you're looking at doing HDV, do take a good look at Sony Z1 alternatives like the Canon XL-H1, JVC GY HD-100 even Panasonic HVX-200. You might be surprised.


  1. Anonymous3:23 AM

    Hello Sir,
    My name is Sarabjeet Singh,i'm from Bombay, I'm an FCP Film Editor, Sir after reading ur articial about how v can use fcp while doing D.I of the film, almost my querries have gone, only few have left
    Sir can u pls tell me how v can export the 25fps edl from 24fps Timeline?
    and sir if v want to assemble the edl on fcp with dpx files, how v can do, because today when i was exporting the dpx image sequence on fcp, it was not showing it's original timecord, the timecord always starts from 09:09:09:00, i don't know wat was happening ?
    Sir, can u pls help me out from this problem, i'll thanxful to u
    Sarabjeet Singh

  2. Sareesh11:29 AM

    I just shot a film on HDV 720/25p, on a JVC GY-111E Camera. It's currently being edited. My workflow is something like this:
    1. Import *.m2t (native HDV) - Capture.
    2. Edit native in FCP or CS3. Cuts only.
    3. Import the timeline into After Effects (there's quite a lot of compositing/animation/Photoshop work to do) and convert the project to 16 or 32 bit.
    4. Finish the project in AE and render TIFF Files - uncompressed. It's about the same size as QT uncompressed.
    5. Color Correct using another software, and render the final master as TIFF and QT Uncompressed. This is my MASTER for DVD, Blu-Ray and Film-out.

    See any chinks in the armour? I guess this is the best workflow for a low-budget indie producer like me, without any unnecessary compression or intermediate codecs, etc.
    9930001800 (Mumbai)

  3. Sareesh, And Sarabjeet,

    Your questions are about specific issues. Why don't you write to me. At
    n e i l at s a d w e l k a r

    Remove the spaces and put everything in one line. Place the dot and the 'at symbol appropriately.

    I have to do this because otherwise bad people get your e-mail address.


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