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Continuing Tales of an FCP Switcher - Our CS6 Workflow, for now

COW Blogs : walter biscardi's Blog : Continuing Tales of an FCP Switcher - Our CS6 Workflow, for now
Our third entry in the continuing tales of our switch from Final Cut Pro to anything else. Today we're talking Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 and the workflow we've developed for a current broadcast series. Before you read this, yep, it's a bit convoluted but we fully expect this to smooth out and get better as Adobe moves their product forward.



Native as much as possible

Gone is the "log and transfer" requirement of FCP and it does take some time to get used to the fact that you can literally jump right in without the need to do anything to your media. As much as we can, we just leave everything raw and native as it came in. Saves a lot of time initially and with some very fast "big iron" systems, we have cut our back end render times down to essentially "real time." Our 27 minute shows render in about 28 minutes.

Our biggest struggle is getting field cameramen to STOP converting the native files to quicktime files. QT files actually slow down Premiere Pro as they're 32 bit files. They're slowly catching on but it's kind of maddening when we get the QTs.

The other beauty is that Premiere Pro can read native cards even when information is missing, like those LASTCLIP.txt files that come along with P2 material. I can't tell you how many times that file was missing and FCP would not do anything with the camera data. Premiere Pro can read the data just fine so that's been a huge help.



Capture Scratch

As you know the "Capture Scratch" for Adobe CS6 is a bit different than in FCP. You have to set up the Capture Scratch yourself and we use the strategy laid out in "An Editor's Guide to Adobe Premiere Pro" as our guide to set up the folders correctly.

We create a single Project Folder at the root level of our SAN for each project. This makes it very easy for Archiving at the end of the process as we just simply drag that folder to an Archive Drive. We have to be very vigilant and ensure that all of the media is put into the correct location BEFORE we import anything to our Project. All of our native media and captured video go directly into the Captured Video folder while all audio goes into the Captured Audio folder. We then add additional folders as necessary for Graphics, Exports, Color Grading, etc....

At the moment, if we need to capture from video tape, we still use FCP 7 as we've not had reliable VTR control from our primary edit systems. We will be testing out tape capture via our Resolve system that has the Decklink Extreme 3D in it shortly. We're also receiving an UltraStudio 3D Thunderbolt box to test with our new iMac 27" machine.



Sequences

This particular project is cut at 1080i / 29.97 and we've found that AVC Intra 1080i / 60 Sequence Preset gives us a perfect starting point for our Sequences in this project. In fact, we use the AVC Intra Sequence settings as the starting point for just about all of our projects.

Most of our systems are set up with the AJA Kona boards for output to our Flanders Scientific monitors and KRK Rokit 5 audio monitors. For the editing process, it's basically the same as FCP though must faster since we're cutting all native as much as we can.



Sound Design

At the end of the process, an AAF is prepared along with a quicktime reference movie for our Sound Designer who mixes the show in ProTools. He sends us back a Stereo AIFF file for the Master timeline.

We prepare the reference quicktime file on our 12 Core Mac Pro for maximum render speed.



Color Grading

Davinci Resolve is our color grading tool of choice and at the moment, it does not support all the native resolutions we can use in Premiere Pro CS6. So a flattened ProRes Quicktime file is created from the final timeline to be sent to Resolve. Again, this file is created on our 12 Core Mac Pro.

Typically we can use an EDL to pre-conform that file to add all the cuts and dissolves back to the edit, but for whatever reason the EDLs being generated by our CS6 systems contain a lot of errors that are causing Resolve to crash. So I just use Resolve's "Scene Detect" tool which is just stupid powerful and generally it takes me between 10 and 15 minutes to prep a 30 minutes show for color grade.

At the end of the color grade process, I render out a flattened ProRes file to go back to the editor.

(Note: SpeedGrade does not support our AJA or BMD I/O devices so that's not an option for us at this time.)



Graphics

Lower Thirds and most on screen graphics are created in Photoshop. Full screen animated graphics are created in After Effects but without dynamic linking, I just render the self contained movies as they're short and easy to do.



Final Output

First off, we move the Project File to one of our 12 Core Mac Pros for final render. This is our Resolve system that also features dual nVidia graphics cards. Renders are a little faster than realtime.

For this particular series, we need to lay out to HD tape for mastering. Layback to tape is handled by our BlackMagic Decklink Extreme 3D card inside the Resolve system. Before starting the tape layback, we have to ensure that our Video In Point is the very first frame in the Sequence. For whatever reason, the BMD VTR controls don't respect an In Point in the Sequence. So we just have to ensure that the very beginning of the Sequence is the In Point for the Edit.

The we simply choose File > Export > Tape and it brings up the BMD VTR controls. Enter in the In Point for the VTR itself and then click "Ok" and tape layback begins. Unlike FCP we don't see any sort of video playback on the computer screens, we just see it via the VTR output.

That's pretty much it. From there we ship out our tape. The use of FCP 7 to capture when necessary and the flattening of the file for Resolve convolute the workflow a little bit. Those are small tradeoffs for the tremendous time savings just editing the entire show natively. Editors can start working on stories in minutes compared to hours when we had to Log and Transfer everything.



The Caveats

You didn't think this was all roses, did you?

We have a nagging issue with "Media Pending" slates that interfere with the video output both in the software Program monitor and the AJA / BMD outputs. Whenever you launch a Premiere Pro project you invariably see the yellow "Media Pending" slate appear as the software loads your media. As the media loads up, the Media Pending slate should disappear.

For lack of a better term, it's "sticking" across most of our systems. Even after all of the media is loaded and Premiere Pro has finished re-linking, the yellow slates stay up on the screens preventing us from outputting video. Play the timeline, we can hear the audio, we can see the thumbnails of the clips in the timeline, but we can't actually see the video play out. We are talking to both Adobe and Small Tree Communications to see where the culprit may be.

We have also experienced unexplained instability with CS6. Systems that work perfectly for months suddenly come up with the "I'm sorry, your system has experienced a fatal error" message from the software before it quits. No rhyme or reason.

So the move from FCP 7 is progressing very nicely but not without a few bumps here and there. Come to think of it, you can say that about pretty much all software out there these days.



Posted by: walter biscardi on Jul 3, 2012 at 3:09:42 pmComments (9)

Comments

Re: Continuing Tales of an FCP Switcher - Our CS6 Workflow, for now
by Ken Robinson
Some 10 months later jumping in....

How have you found CS6 exporting prores? I have just done a comparison between CS6 and MPEG Stream clip... CS6 is unuseable! Serious quantizing issues. Native files are 5D2 h264.
@Continuing Tales of an FCP Switcher - Our CS6 Workflow, for now
by David Gaudio
Dear Walter,

I am very curious to hear about your results with a 27" iMac working with the Thunderbolt Ultrastudio 3D, as that's my equipment configuration exactly (I got the 2gb video card and 12 gigs of RAM, additionally). While I'm liking PPro CS6 as a successor to FCP 7, I've had serious stability issues within Premiere, as well as my external monitor lagging behind my computer monitor with sync issues. And I'm using a Thunderbolt drive as my media source, I should add. Haven't heard from BMD yet after I emailed them with my problem.

No sync or stability issues whatsoever in FCP 7, however...

Thanks in advance with any suggestions or findings. I find your posts probably more illuminating than anyone else's!

Cheers,

David (trailer & promo editor in L.A.)

@David Gaudio
by walter biscardi
I am very curious to hear about your results with a 27" iMac working with the Thunderbolt Ultrastudio 3D, as that's my equipment configuration exactly (I got the 2gb video card and 12 gigs of RAM, additionally).

We have already found something we don't like about the BlackMagic products compared to the AJA products we use all around. BMD products can only play out "true video signals" of 720p/60 and 1080i/29.97 (NTSC). The AJA products add pulldown or otherwise convert pretty much any video signal so we can view them on the external monitor or play them out to tape.

For a reality series pilot we've been working on, the shooters used 720p / 30 frame rate shooting all P2. When we brought all of that media into the system, we were on our one workstation that has a Decklink Extreme 3D card. When I tried to play the raw files, the external monitor was blank and no audio would play. I had to put the material into a 720p / 60 timeline to get playback via the BMD card.

With the AJA cards, I can see the raw files without the need to drop it into a timeline as the AJA card converts the footage to 720/60 on the output in realtime.

When you have 20 - 30 hours of raw material, you really want to be able to just play it out raw to the external equipment (monitors / speakers) to review / edit rather than have to drop it all into a timeline to see anything. Not sure why the BMD cards don't add the pulldown / convert the output, but it's something I didn't even know about until we did this project. I guess we're just used to being able to play pretty much anything out to our monitors via the AJA products.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author, Chef.
HD Post and Production
Biscardi Creative Media

"This American Land" - our new PBS Series.

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@walter biscardi
by David Gaudio
Thanks for the reply, Walter. I've gotten emails from BMD people that there is a known bug in CS6 regarding the action of hitting the cursor keys in the timeline, and then the space bar, which creates a distinct disparity between the computer display and the external monitor in terms of sync. I've certainly seen it on my iMac. Apparently, it's an all third parties vs. Adobe situation (not limited to BMD products). Have you experienced this yet? The problem is, I can't edit comfortably just scrubbing with a mouse as opposed to doing exacting work with the cursor keys, so as of now it's kind of a dealbreaker for me. Beyond that, I'm still having ridiculous video stuttering issues (again, only in CS6, not in FCP 7 or Symphony, which I have as well). Would be very curious to see if you experience the same sorts of problems once you get your iMac with the Ultrastudio 3D going...thanks again!

Re: Continuing Tales of an FCP Switcher - Our CS6 Workflow, for now
by Robert Ober
The biggest problem really with X right now is that they completely changed the language of what we do. Projects are sequences, Bins are Events, and so on. Very difficult to communicate with other editors when you don't talk the same language.

Exactly. I have not understood why this fact was not a bigger deal for folks when they were/are complaining about FCPX. Seems to be real important for professionals like you and even more important for folks like me that do not edit everyday and may need or want to use multiple edit programs. Some things are not broken. Bins, etc. have been used since the standard physical workflow evolved.

Folks were whining about no tape support, etc in FCPX when they could use an AJA or Blackmagic utility to do that. Changing the terminology/timeling/etc seems to be a much more important issue.

Enjoying the series and appreciate your help in the forums.

Take it EZ,
Robert:)

Re: Continuing Tales of an FCP Switcher - Our CS6 Workflow, for now
by Mike Cohen
Opening CS projects with local storage sometimes includes waiting for Premiere to conform media, even if it conformed the media the last time you opened the project and is quite annoying. I've had it re-conform media randomly while a project is open. How is the behavior using network storage?
Mike Cohen
@Mike Cohen
by walter biscardi
When you open a project with any machine other than where you were working when you last closed the project will result in PPro going through the Conform / Generate Peak Files routine, this is true with the networked storage as well. Turns out PPro defaults to the internal drive to create these conformed files.

Richard Harrington just told me how to change this behavior and we're going to try it on Monday to see if this helps. Preferences > Media > Save Media Cache Files Next to Original When Possible

Supposedly this will put all the Conform / Peak Files on the SAN so when we open a project on a different machine, it won't have to redraw everything, it'll use the files on the SAN.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author, Chef.
HD Post and Production
Biscardi Creative Media

"This American Land" - our new PBS Series.

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Re: Continuing Tales of an FCP Switcher - Our CS6 Workflow, for now
by walter biscardi
I've got it and I play with it from time to time, but not really into using it much. I was about to try it out on a reality series pitch because of the multicam features, but then I started playing more with CS6's multicam. It's just silly good.

The biggest problem really with X right now is that they completely changed the language of what we do. Projects are sequences, Bins are Events, and so on. Very difficult to communicate with other editors when you don't talk the same language.

And quite honestly, here in Atlanta, I'd be hard pressed to find many X editors to run the software. Avid and Adobe editors are all over town. I have a business to run and can't just be testing everything under the sun just because it exists. I'm glad Apple is making strides with their software, but they're not even close to where 7 was when they killed it.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author, Chef.
HD Post and Production
Biscardi Creative Media

"This American Land" - our new PBS Series.

Blog Twitter Facebook
+1
Re: Continuing Tales of an FCP Switcher - Our CS6 Workflow, for now
by Santiago Pérez Rocha León
I just simply love your post, and i'm definitely with you in CS6, but just out of curiosity... have you tried FCX again after the new updates... i mean i know why you would never go back to apple centric workflow, but i will really love to read about your thoughts after all you been thru.

Keep the good work, its always a nice read!


Professional Video Editor, Producer, Creative Director, Director since 1990.

Credits include multiple Emmys, Tellys, Aurora and CableAce Awards.

Creative Director for Georgia-Pacific and GP Studios, Atlanta. Former Owner / Operator of Biscardi Creative Media. The show you knew us best for was "Good Eats" on the Food Network. I developed the HD Post workflow and we also created all the animations for the series.

Favorite pastime is cooking with pizza on the grill one of my specialties. Each Christmas Eve we serve the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a traditional Italian seafood meal with approx. 30 items on the menu.

If I wasn't in video production I would either own a restaurant or a movie theater.

 




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