Moving Images has been offering 24p HD post for close to three years. "We do a lot of feature and short [films] finishing in 24p 10-bit D-5 HD for film-outs," says editorial director Joe Zito. "24p is a great frame rate for feature finishing because it relates to film, and you can strike so many different kinds of masters from it, whether it's an NTSC Digi Beta downconvert, a PAL version or a film out."
Street Survival was shot and finished in 24p HD.
Moving Images (www.mipost.com/), which is based in New York City, is outfitted with a host of 24p HD-capable equipment, including Discreet Smoke and Flame, Avid DS HD, the Thomson Spirit and Cintel C-Reality DSX telecines, and D-5 HD, HDCAM and other HD format decks. Apple Macs have Blackmagic cards to capture uncompressed 10-bit HD as well.
Much of the 24p HD post process feels familiar to clients because the Discreet interfaces are the same for SD or HD, notes Zito. "In many cases, the offline edit is done at 29.97 non-drop frame. A simple conversion of the EDL to 24 frames is all that's needed for the transfer and conform.
"Finishing in 24p HD is a new thing for so many people, but we're starting to see it become more streamlined," he continues. "It's important to meet with the company that's finishing your film before you even start shooting. If you don't, it can lead to complications or situations that need solutions later on. A lot of clients come in with scripts, we go over what effects they'll need, ideas for title design, whether they want HD dailies instead of NTSC dailies, how to deliver EDLs. The earlier you talk, the smoother the post process."
Approximately 90 percent of the features posted in 24p HD at Moving Images originate on film, Zito estimates. A 10-minute short shot on Super 16mm, for example, with an hour of coverage and about 100 cuts might be well served, in terms of efficiency and cost, by HD dailies. "In that case, we transfer everything up front to HD dailies, downconvert the transfer tapes from HD to SD, the client does the edit and gives us the EDL, we convert the list to 24fps and conform in Smoke from the original HD dailies tape," Zito explains. "The colorist does an HD dailies pass that leaves all the range specified for the HD finish. After the conform we'll do a final tape-to-tape color correction.
"However, for a full-length feature it may be more beneficial to do a selects transfer," he notes. "You have to consider every option - each project is unique."
Battle Medialab onlined - in its Avid DS HD suite -
The Dragon of St. George Street (pictured, right), which mixed 24p, 30p and 1080i HD sources with DV footage
Two recent indie films posted in HD at Moving Images include Headspace, directed by Andrew van den Houten, and Lucky, written and directed by Melissa Berman.
Right now about one-fifth of the clients of the nonlinear HD post and broadcast design house Battle Medialab (www.battlemedialab.com/) post in 24p HD. The bulk of these primarily corporate customers, who tend to come from the video world, prefer to shoot and edit in 30p or 1080i HD.
"It's less costly but there are more technical issues to consider with 24p HD," notes Mike Murphy, who is partnered with Rod Molina in the Boca Raton, FL-based Battle Medialab. "And there's a difference in look. A large real estate developer may want the more hyper-realistic look of 30p or 1080i, while independent producers and music video producers prefer the more filmic look of 24p HD."
Creative Groups Joe Castellano suggests being "prudent when using speed ramps" on 24p footage while editing at 30fps. The 4400 for USA was a recent 24p HD project.
"We do promote 24p HD as a universal master if a corporate client has a worldwide audience," says Molina. "But for corporations with US interests only, 24p HD has been an issue of cost and workflow."
Battle Medialab "preaches that the post production team should be involved in a project from the beginning," Molina continues. "There should be a post supervisor involved in prepro if not in production so what is done during the shoot won't cause problems during post. What's more, a lot of people automatically assume that shooting 24p will give them a film look. That's not always the case: You need to take into account the way you shoot, the lenses you use to create that look in camera. Some of the best results we've seen come from film DPs who have migrated to HD."
Matt Radecki in DXD's online room, where he posted the independent film Me and You and Everyone We Know.
Following a 24p HD path from acquisition to finish means "audio issues are taken care of along the way without a lot of transcoding or conversions," says Molina. "Graphics that always start at 24p HD resolution integrate much better. You have about 20 percent less frames to render so that can translate to big-time savings. And you get a universal master."
The room features Apple Final Cut Pro HD wth an AJA Kona 2 card.
If clients remain in 24p throughout, Battle Medialab may opt to post entirely in the online mode on its Avid DS HD. "Our 1TB of storage allows a couple of hours of online-quality footage," Murphy points out. For longer projects, Murphy and Molina may elect to offline on the DS HD at one-quarter resolution, then finish on the same platform at full resolution. "The main issue is space on the system and processing speed: When you work compressed you work faster."
What are these pros looking to find at NAB?
Riot's Jason Frank and crew worked on the indie.
A music video for Dead Star Assembly shot 24p HD and followed a full 24p post path to maintain the film look established by a longtime film DP. A big-screen corporate presentation for Starwood Resorts, featuring still photography, HD media and motion graphics, was posted in 24p HD and projected from the HD master.
Projects are more likely to mix sources, though. Battle Medialab onlined a PBS special on folk artist Earl Cunningham, The Dragon of St. George Street, which mixed 24p, 30p and 1080i HD sources and DV footage. All the material was downconverted to DVCAM for the offline in Adobe Premiere at WMFE/Orlando. The program was the station's debut HD telecast. Battle Medialab brought its mobile DS HD for an on-site online in 1080i, the format required for broadcast.
film Keep Your Distance in 24p HD.
WHAT IS THE DELIVERYFORMAT?
Michael Taylor, managing director of Riot Santa Monica (www.rioting.com/) cites a major commitment to HD post. "Across the Ascent Media Creative Services group we've probably spent $50 million on HD infrastructure in the last two or three years," he reports. "A lot of this is driven by entertainment television: We have a least four shows working in HD all the time. Many are shot on film, transferred to HD and posted, although more and more are being acquired in 24p HD."
The "high-fidelity experience" of 24p HD finishing, as well as the versatility of the universal master, is readily apparent to entertainment television clients, Taylor notes. But productions shot in 24p HD don't necessarily require a 24p HD finish, adds Fire artist Jason Frank.
"The most important thing I can ask a client is, 'What do you need to deliver?'" says Frank. "If they want to do a film-out, that's a perfect scenario for finishing in 24 frames. If they need multiple formats, that fits with the universal master. But if they're delivering standard definition, I often recommend they not finish in HD unless there's some possibility they'll need HD resolution down the line. An HD finish leaves the door open a little wider for whatever the future holds for a given project."
Frank's 24p HD work on Fire has often been in tandem with Riot Santa Monica's linear HD online bay, which is equipped with a Snell & Wilcox switcher, Axial 3000 edit controller, HD Deko CG and Panasonic D-5 and Sony HDCAM decks. He was part of the remastering to HD of the first two seasons of The Sopranos, which were then released on DVD, and he has remained with the hit series, which is about to begin post production for a new season. "Fire has been through a few software upgrades since the remastering," he notes. "Each has improved the way the system handles HD. Working with multiple resolutions - whether NTSC, PAL or HD at 24 or 30 frames - is easier now."
Currently The Sopranos ships its film dailies to Riot Santa Monica, where they are transferred to D-5 HD and then downconverted to DVCAM masters for the show's Avid editors. They return to Riot with EDLs, which are conformed in one of the company's linear HD online bays. "Because HD post requires so much hard drive space, working on tape in the realtime linear online bays is very efficient," Frank explains.
Since he is often busy on Fire with commercials and music videos, Frank now uses the system for The Sopranos's main titles, end titles, optical effects and speed changes. When he's done, the company produces a non-color corrected D-5 master, which then heads to an HD tape-to-tape bay for color correction. The audio mix follows, then the numerous, different-format dubs required by HBO are made.
They also recently worked on the indie film Keep Your Distance, directed by Stu Pollard.
START AT THE END, WORK BACKWARDS
West LA's Different By Design, or DXD (www.dxdproductions. com), is a producer of films and a leader in production services for indie filmmakers working in film and HD formats. The company's partners, Matt Radecki and Greg Lanesey, have a strategic partnership with Jeff Blauvelt's HD Cinema. Together they provide HDCAM camera rentals, downconverts and HD online editing. Radecki and Lanesey also produce their own HD features, including Zerophilia and the coproduction The Curse of El Charro, both shot in 2004.
"We feel we can really help clients because we sit on both sides," says Radecki. "They feel very comfortable with us because we wear the producer hat a lot of the time."
HD Cinema's camera rentals are often the starting point for getting clients on the 24p HD path; Radecki can begin to develop the client's post workflow before the camera changes hands. "I tell people to start at the end and work backwards," he says. "You have to know how you're going to finish before you start shooting."
DXD was "deeply involved" in the technical aspects of writer/director Miranda July's debut feature, Me and You and Everyone We Know, an IFC Films production which was developed at the Sundance Lab and well received in competition at Sundance this year. "The producers decided on a 24p HD online with plans to film-out because IFC already had a release planned for the film," Radecki explains. "We did the downconvert to DVCAM and they offlined in Final Cut 4.1 at 23.98, which worked beautifully. We captured their effects shots at HD resolution, which lends itself nicely to effects work, and assistant editor Scott M. Davids used Apple Shake to do some of the shots." Additional visual effects for Me & You were done at Video Minds in Portland, OR.
Then it was back to DXD for the online using the company's Final Cut Pro system with AJA Kona 2 card. "It was incredibly smooth because we had worked together from the get go," says Radecki. "Working closely during the offline limits surprises in the online which, in turn, saves a lot of money."
Color correction was done by Kevin O'Conner at Global Entertainment Partners in Sherman Oaks, following assembly. "One of the most important things you can do on an HD film is spend time with a talented colorist in a high-quality color environment," Radecki reports.
Currently there's "no magic bullet for putting all the audio you need on an HDCAM master. HDCAM has four audio channels now and needs a lot more for [things like the] M&E and 5.1 mix," he notes. Radecki has seen filmmakers create "a beautiful-looking movie with a brilliant soundtrack and Dolby 5.1 digital mix, then they discover they can't easily get 5.1 onto an HDCAM master." The only method he knows is via Dolby E, which then requires special encoding, Dolby E-capable playback decks and theaters with Dolby E decoders - something few film festivals have.
At New York City's Creative Group (www.creativegroup.tv), clients "who want to finish on film should choose a 24p path through post," notes VP/partner Joe Castellano. "We cut our teeth on Michael Moore's Bowling For Columbine. As the first shop in Manhattan with a Sony HD linear room we had the pleasure of figuring out how to finish the documentary in 24p HD so it could be image transformed back to film. Columbine was rife with challenges since it included upconversions from all flavors of video, transfers from both 35mm and 16mm film and 24p HD-originated footage, all combined in a huge, moving target of an edit decision list."
Presently, to a lesser degree TV program producers are also opting for 24p HD post. Creative Group recently gained ESPN's EOE original entertainment division as a client; its producers shoot in a mix of 720p HD and 24p HD so Creative Group expects to see an increased demand for 24p HD finishing.
"As a high definition format, 24p is unique in that its frame rate is that of film, so its timecode presents some challenges," Castellano notes. "Most editors prefer to use their existing 30-frame [29.97] systems to edit their 24p footage, often requesting downconverts to a letterboxed, standard definition format such as Digital Betacam. When downconverted, 3/2 pulldown is added to get to a standard def frame rate, just as we have been doing with film for years. Some pitfalls exist when converting the 30 fps lists back to 24p for conforming.
"The biggest pitfall is a timecode problem introduced when shooting 24p in a drop-frame timecode mode or accidentally creating and editing from an ill-advised drop-frame downconvert from 24p camera-original footage," he continues. "Matching back to precise frame locations becomes compromised, creating a manual, eye-matching nightmare. Plainly put, drop-frame timecode should never be attached to 24p-originated material. I would actually like to see equipment manufacturers disable drop-frame timecode when 24p modes in cameras are switched on."
For producers who choose to offline at 30fps, Creative Group has had success using its Discreet Smoke's conversion scripts to convert 30fps lists back to 24fps, but the company still prefers to use its Sony HD-9100 for the process when it's available.
Castellano advises producers and editors to "be prudent when using speed ramps on their 24p footage while editing at 30fps. These effects are tricky to conform at times at 30fps. Add to that a list conversion, and you may create a very difficult conform."
He points out that "the tools which exist today in our HD Smoke/Flame suites, have definitely eased the workflow of multiformat projects in just a few years. Projects within Smoke can be switched between HD and SD rather easily, and HD and SD clips can reside together in the same Smoke library. Discreet tools also include the ability to scale multilayered DVE effects between HD and SD, as well as using lower-resolution proxies while creating complex HD effects, which can be viewed much faster than if actual HD was being manipulated."
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH HD EXPERTS
When self-described "film guy" Carlos Hernandez-Adan decided to shoot his new feature, Street Survival, in 24p HD and finish in the same format, he made the wise choice to tap the extensive HD experience of DP Jesus "Chuchi" Rivero and Buenos Aires-based editor Paul Rodriguez Groves. As a result, "the whole experience went pretty smoothly," says Hernandez-Adan. "I surrounded myself with people who know HD."
Hernandez-Adan, who heads Miami's Autumn Lightning Films (www.autumnlightningfilms.com/) shot Street Survival, an English-language action/adventure, in South Florida in 24 days. His first film, the martial arts-themed Mortal Contact, was distributed internationally and went to home video domestically. After taking note of the HD track record of Robert Rodriguez and other filmmakers, and reviewing the previous HD work of Chuchi Rivero, Hernandez-Adan decided to shoot his new feature on 24p HD. "I was able to shoot a lot faster, and it was fantastic to see what I shot right there on the set," he recalls.
Hernandez-Adan began to consider the post process during preproduction. He spoke to Leitch about using the company's VelocityHD editing system, and Leitch recommended veteran editor and longtime Leitch user Paul Rodriguez Groves who owns Argentina-based Irix Producciones (www.irixtv.com.ar/) a post house whose five edit suites include multiple VelocityQ and VelocityHD systems, as well as Avids.
Rodriguez has been posting primarily features and spots in 24p HD for more than two years. In a situation analogous to Canada, Argentina's favorable exchange rate against the US dollar has spurred an influx of production and post. "This has benefitted everyone in the industry, particularly those companies that have positioned themselves for HD," notes Rodriguez. "HD is in its birth state. Indeed, it has been a new experience for my company as well as for myself."
During the shoot, Hernandez-Adan and co-editor Carlos Torres-Fletcher captured SD footage on their laptops' - a Hypersonic and a Sony - 300GB exterior Maxtor hard drive (in addition to the HD original footage). Every night that material was dumped to an editing suite outfitted with an Adobe Premiere offline system. "These were steps I wasn't used to with film," says Hernandez-Adan. "We didn't have to recapture again until we went to HD when we recaptured only the footage we were going to use in the online."
Once production wrapped, Hernandez-Adan and Fletcher spent about five weeks on the rough cut. Then they gave their EDL to Rodriguez, now in Hernandez-Adan's Miami office, who began the online on VelocityHD. "The offline was a timesavings process as it assisted in the base selection of scenes for subsequent online editing, [but it] could have been a much smoother process had the EDL been in 24 [23.97] not 30 [29.97] frames," notes Rodriguez. Although a conversion software was used, "we encountered problems with the integrity of the conversion, [so] the EDL generation for batch capturing was not as efficient as we would have liked.
"Thanks to a 2.4TB dual storage device from Huge Systems we were able to edit in 10-bit uncompressed with excellent performance," he continues. "This was crucial for two reasons: the need to achieve the highest quality possible and the requirement for guaranteed, realtime performance during the editing process without any compromise. Reliable system performance was mandatory, not an option."
Hernandez-Adan was impressed by Rodriguez's ability to handle visual effects and titling in realtime with Eyeon's Digital Fusion and Inscriber's Title Motion HD running on the VelocityHD platform. "All of the sound as well as sound effects were edited directly with the VelocityHD," Rodriguez adds. "For color correction and signal test and measurement, we [employed] Videotek's VTM-450 multiformat HD/SD-SDI on-screen monitor."
Hernandez-Adan says, "a lot of credit goes to Paul for a smooth HD online. I really like the interface of VelocityHD; it's very simple. The process seemed very similar to an SD digital video online to me."
"The evolution of digital camera technology and the feasibility of 24p editing has given tremendous benefits to the industry as a whole," Rodriguez says. "[I think] 24p has changed the industry forever."