One of the reasons many consider post production the most exciting arena for high-definition content creation is the burgeoning number of choices for editing and mastering HD projects. Last month's "Production Clips" column ("HD in post, part 1," November 2006) depicted case studies at three high-definition editing and finishing facilities. Below are four more facility case studies, each using a different software-based system to complete its high-definition project.
At the beginning of this year, Adobe Systems released Adobe Production Studio (part of its Creative Suite family). The bundle includes After Effects 7.0 for effects creation, Adobe Photoshop CS2 for image manipulation, Adobe Encore DVD 2.0 for authoring, and Adobe Illustrator CS2, a vector-art creation software for paint and rotoscoping. Recently, Adobe announced that the bundle's audio tool, Audition 2.0, is being replaced by the beta version of Soundbooth, an audio tool for soundtrack creation. (Audition will continue to be developed separately from Production Studio.) For pure editing, the key component of the software bundle is the Premiere Pro 2.0 NLE application, which gives full control over HD mastering.
Visual effects and post-production company Cinergy Creative mastered the HD elements of the film "Phat Girlz" using Adobe Premier Pro 2.0.
Adobe software is at the heart of the Hollywood visual effects/post-production company Cinergy Creative. Creative director Leslie Allen says his Adobe Production Studio applications and Premiere Pro editing software satisfies his client's needs from commercials to theatrical films. Four years ago, Allen chose the editor because it was one of the first software-based editing applications that could create 5.1 surround mixes. Now he is using version 2.0 to master HD elements for such TV projects as CBS' “The Amazing Race” and the Sci Fi's “The Outer Limits,” as well as current feature films, including “Phat Girlz” and “El Muerto.”
The Adobe Dynamic Link feature — shared by all Production Studio modules — allows Allen to move elements from one application to another without rendering. For example, during previsualization on “American East,” Allen's client watched as he quickly brought in sketches from Photoshop and used Dynamic Link to fine tune them in After Effects.
Allen has found that today's NLE offerings provide more options for a fraction of the cost of Cinergy Creative's legacy hardware-based post systems. Of course, it helps that his facility is using 2.5TB of fiber-optic RAID storage to move files between workstations. With that much material dedicated to his film projects readily at hand, Allen says that Premiere Pro lets him master HD and even 2K projects with the same flexibility he used to expect in standard definition.
One of the key attractions that led Grass Valley Group to acquire Canopus at the beginning of 2005 was the acclaimed quality of its HD codecs developed by Canopus' founder Hiroshi (Hiro) Yamada. Those codecs are a major reason KRON-TV, the PBS affiliate in San Francisco, has selected EDIUS as its primary editing software. In fact, Jim Swanson, director of KRON's local programming, oversees 60 edit systems using EDIUS Pro software for the station's remote productions. In addition to all of the station's SD news packages, KRON has five EDIUS systems dedicated to HD projects, including "Henry's Garden," "Bay Café" and "Bay Area Backroads." Most of these are shot with Sony HDV-Z1U cameras recording the long-GOP HDV format on mini-DV cassettes.
But for a new home show called "Bay Area Living," Swanson's production team has also recently introduced a Panasonic AG-HVX200 camera that records 110Mb/s DVCPRO HD video on 8GB P2 cards at about one minute of HD material per gigabyte. Several of the EDIUS Pro laptop systems have been upgraded to the broadcast version so they can ingest the MXF files recorded by the AG-HVX200 directly from its P2 cards without any transcoding. To start posting "Bay Area Living" in HD with this system, his editors take their laptops into the field loaded with EDIUS Pro software and transfer HD video from the P2 cards the laptop's hard drive at over 2X speed as soon as each card's capacity is filled. With two cards in each AG-HVX200, the off-loaded card then rotates back into the camera, and the editor can begin logging and cutting the footage on the laptop.
Back in the studio, editors finish "Bay Area Living" in high definition and output it to the station's on-air server. The station currently uses EDIUS Pro version 3.6, but Swanson plans to upgrade to the latest version 4.0 software soon. Using all off-the-shelf equipment, this NLE software lets KRON finish a growing number of HD programs at a cost level that would have been impossible just a few years ago.
In Tampa, FL, at PBS station WEDU-TV, Dax Bedell has been editing the monthly magazine show "A Gulf Coast Journal with Jack Perkins" for two years in standard definition. But this season the show switched to high definition. The show is shot in the Sony HDCAM format. Bedell now uses a Harris VelocityHD system, an upgrade from WEDU's previous SD VelocityQ NLE, to post the show for broadcast on the station's HD channel. The system is capable of handling two streams of 10-bit high-definition video in real time, and Bedell has the ability to post an entire show in HD without any rendering delays.
With its Altitude hardware, the system has a three-wheel key-frameable color corrector (primary and secondary) and, thanks to an intuitive software interface, presents thumbnail “EyeCons” representing all visible layers in an edited sequence based on the current play head position. This gives Bedell a constant visual reference along with associated SMPTE time code for all elements in the timeline, making the alignment of specific frames across multiple layers especially easy. In addition, audio EyeCons display a close-up view of the audio waveform at the play head's current frame.
Bedell has also just started posting "Small Business Academy" — a show structured around interviews interspersed by roll-in packages — on the VelocityHD. Until the station's full high-definition control room can be finished, Bedell uses the multicam capability of the NLE to simulate a live line cut of each episode. He digitizes all the iso camera footage into the system and simply switches back and forth between cameras. The show can then be mastered to HDCAM in real time for air.
Zoe Creative Services
Although Sony introduced its turnkey XPRI high-definition editing system in 2001, it's the software-based Vegas NLE system that Sony purchased from Sonic Foundry in 2004 that has created a buzz for HD finishing. Having started as an audio-only tool, the recently released version 7 can print multichannel 60i, 50i and 24p masters to HDCAM tape over HD-SDI using the supported AJA or Black Magic Design cards. In addition, it allows users to create high-definition Windows Media files for computer playback and MPEG-2 compliant files for the Sony Blu-print authoring system for Blu-ray discs.
Tim Duncan, senior editor at Zoe Creative Services in Nashville, TN, uses the XDCAM Explorer function built into Vegas to import all the proxies from a complete 23GB XDCAM disc for what used to be called offline editing and then re-conform an entire project from the full-resolution XDCAM source material. When finished, he simply writes the project back to the XDCAM disk to create an HD master.
Vegas even has a "Takes" function that adds all associated alternate takes to each clip on the timeline so if substitutions need to be accessed during mastering, every available option can be displayed with a single click. To see if it could be done, Duncan pushed the system to display 1000 takes with the help of some third-party plug-ins but he usually limits it to a couple of dozen layers to prevent confusing his clients.
Duncan recently mastered an HD music video by country star Marty Raybon. The video was shot in XDCAM and edited completely in Vegas. Duncan shot the video in multiple takes and was able to set up a 25 angle multicam configuration in a 5 × 5 split screen with an on-screen tally light identifying the selected window.
When done, he output a standard-definition version for DVD and VH1 cablecasting and also an HD master on XDCAM disc for the MHD, a new high-definition music channel from MTV Networks. About the only feature Duncan values as much as Vegas 7's high-definition video format flexibility, including native HDV rendering to disc, is its ability to import and export 5.1 ATRAC audio files as well as up to 32 WAV channels as a single file. That's enough to keep this Nashville editor singing.
L.T. Martin is a freelance writer and post-production consultant.