Thursday 19 July 2007

Editing on the cheap

As part of supervising the film DI process at a post facility I often visit editing suites all over Mumbai, where film edits are done. And I can't help thinking that editing systems - especially those used for editing feature films - are getting more and more 'on the cheap'.

Time was when - only a few years ago - if you wanted to set up a film edit suite, you had to get an Avid Media Composer. Avid charged a lot of money for those systems, but for the money they really gave you the goodies. Money's worth.

Large 20 in. monitors - NEC or Mitsubishi, the best. Good quality speakers. Fast and reliable Avid SCSI drives, and the latest fastest Mac with loads of RAM and a huge internal disk. You had to get all of this from them.

Then came the Media Composer ABVB systems. And the 'cheaping out' began. You could chose your monitor so many people got the cheapest TVM or ACI 14in monitors. some noname computer speakers or even a cheap amp and speakers, and 'assembled' beige SCSI cases with ugly ribbon cables.

FCP came along and the cheaping get worse and today its gotten really really low. FCP meant for the first time you could buy the Mac of your choice, start with the least amount of RAM and after the first few slow-downs add a gig or two. Few people even pirated FCP.

They got the cheapest monitors, because Cinema displays were so expensive. And for disks, bargained with the Lamington Road types and got the one that was just a thousand Rupees cheaper.

So I go to these dingy little 'editing rooms' all over Andheri.

Bad stinking chairs. Low light. Airconditioners that are noisy or uncool. Plywood walls. Tables of the wrong height and cluttered with no place for keyboards. Keyboards with no key caps. Cheap Logitech (or worse) mouses... and so on.
Software thats mismatched. Old versions of MacOSX sometimes incompatible with FCP versions. BM or Kona drivers with not recommended Quicktime versions. I mean updates don't cost money, do they?

So basically the freedom to choose your system specs and peripherals has been abused to the limit. This is manifest as EDLs that don't work, edits that hang the machine just playing them back, corrupt projects - a nightmare for DI.
The cheapening has also meant hiring the cheapest inexperienced machine-room-guy turned editor.

Avid systems are no better. Because of the initial cost many are still using old WinNT versions with no working USB or Firewire ports so taking out edits for reference means compulsarily doing BetaSP layoffs. On old Beta VTRs that have troubling recording a tracking free picture for feature length movies. Sound may or may not record to both channels. Timecode may or may not be consistent. Even Adrenaline systems 2 or more years old are no better.

Editors who work on these old systems are young in age but old in thought. They don't trust Quicktime movies, have no clue on image and video file formats haven't bothered to read up about Firewire or USB drives. But they are 25-30 years old and use the latest mobile phones.

But things will come full circle. And some new directors and editors are now seeing the value in getting systems up to spec for trouble-free edit finishing. And hiring assistants who are themselves up to speed on new technologies and formats.

For anyone who feels the same way I'm willing to throw my hat in the ring and set up, and even rent out systems that are up there and can guarantee you editing in peace. If you can get a clean decent place, I can give you the system to match. Any takers?

Friday 6 July 2007

24p and 25p in one camcorder

I wrote earlier that some camcorders can do 24p or 25p depending on where they are sold. But there are some that can do both - as well as NTSC and PAL in SD mode.

JVC camcorders for one.

An entire range of camcorders can do 720 at 24p as well as 25p. They are the GY-HD100, HD101, HD110, HD111, HD200, HD201, HD251.
The GY-HD100, HD101, HD110, HD111 can do 720 at 24p an 25p
and SD-PAL at 25p, 50p, 50i and NTSC at 60p
(but not 720 at 50p and 60p)

And the HD200, HD201, HD251 can do 720 at 24p an 25p and
720 at 50p and 60p
(but not SD-PAL at 50p and NTSC at 60p).

Very complicated, but JVC has all this in a table called 'hdv-comparisons_1.pdf' at their site somewhere.

Mind that all these JVC camcorders do 720 and not 1080. And whether or not these modes capture fine into FCP - can't say till I hav e actually tried al on the PAL version.


The Canon XL-H1 is another that can do both. It needs to be 'service-centre modified' to do that. The PAL version that can do 1080 at 50i and 25F natively, can, with the optional upgrade do 60i, 30F and 24F.
And, of course the NTSC version can do 60i, 30F and 24F natively and with the optional upgrade do 50i and 24F.

So you can get the camcorder from anywhere and still do a variety of formats. But this camcorder does 1080, and not 720.

What is the 'F' behind 24, 25, and 30? At Canon's site there is a document that explains it thus...

'These Frame modes have the same look as progressive frame rates, but are not labeled
“progressive” because they are created with an interlaced chip. The end result is exactly the
same to the editing system (and to our eyes) as 30p and 24p, respectively.'

Apart from the JVC and Canon cameras, I don't know of any other camcorder that can do 24p and 25p. Of course, if you're stuck with some other camcorder that can so one or the other, you can look up my CinemaTools workaround in and earlier post.