|Two Works In Progress - Pt.1 - HDV Editing With FCP HD
In Progress - Pt.1 -
HDV Editing With FCP HD
Roll Your Own SATA Raid with
MacGurus Burly Box and the
Sonnet Tempo SATA Card
Note: Part 2 can be found here
have been deluged with so many questions about the various "teasers"
I have been posting on various forums and in communications with
my clients that I decided it is time to go public with some very
preliminary conclusions, opinions and yes-the very first recipients
of the Ned Seal of Approval.
Well, the Ned Seal of Approval concept
started several weeks ago over a gathering in the wilds of Plano,
Texas where a few users suggested that I needed a way to indicate
my seal approval of products which I have not only tested but
also formed some favorable opinions. So, if Circle U or Circle
K can indicate kosher foods which I can eat, I suppose that Circle
N should designate products which are "kosher" (meaning
fit and proper) to me.
So here are some of my preliminary conclusions
of testing in progress along with a few of the first Circle N's
which I am awarding. Stay tuned next week for my conclusions,
along with some photos and screen shots.
Let's Start With HDV
As I began to write this piece, I was
discussing with a documentary filmmaker a project on which I
am doing some consulting. He is just getting to the shooting
stage and told me he was just about to follow my advice offered
about six months ago to buy a DVX100A. "Whoa", I said. Six
months ago the DVX was the best option in the price range with
the greatest flexibility owing to both 29.97 and 24p possibilities.
The world has changed a bit now and HDV is becoming the new DV.
"But I really don't want to deliver in HD. DV is fine for
this project", he replied. I had no choice but at that very
moment to award the first Circle N. It goes to DV footage downconverted
from Sony HDV material. No visuals available yet, but I shot
a PD150 and an FX-1 side by side. The downconverted FX-1
material simply blows away the DV-originated material. More about
that process, though, when I get into workflows.
I have had only a few days with an FX-1
and just some fondling-time with a Z1U. I do have a Z1U arriving the first
week in April courtesy of my friends in the Irving, Texas Sony
office. My first assessment is that these cameras are a pleasure
to use. I found them well-balanced and easy to hold in a variety
of shooting positions. The manual zoom ring had a great feel
and I found myself preferring it to the still consumerish-feel
of the automated zoom. The controls were easy to access, particularly
the iris. I never tested JVC's entry into the HDV world, and
I anxiously await the new offerings at NAB 2005.
But I would offer an opinion that even
for DV use, I would recommend shooting the Sony HDV cameras.
I would be hard-pressed to recommend purchasing anything before
NAB, but I would borrow or rent as needed.
The questions are still basic to the
HDV transition, though, are how do we edit, how do we monitor
and how do we deliver? Are we going to shoot and edit HDV and
then present a broadcaster a mini-dv tape and say, "Here's
my documentary in HD." How do we edit in FCP considering
that Sony, Canopus and Pinnacle already offer native HDV editing
on the PC side?
We will no doubt learn the answers to
most if not all of these questions at NAB 2005. What I present
now is a very basic summary of my experience and other users'
experiences just distilled into a few points. Please feel free
to contact me with any other workflows you might have found successful
or with any questions, for that matter. The more philanthropic
of you might even wish to contact me with large donations of
cash to sustain the Circle N certification process.
Here we go.
It still amazes me that even as of mid-March
2005 I still find users who don't know that FCP 4.5 HD does not
edit native HDV. So, I repeat- FCP 4.5 HD does not edit HDV.
You need to find other means to get that HDV footage into FCP.
The iMovie or Final Cut Express HD
iMovie5 and FCE HD do capture HDV natively and lay
back to tape in HDV. Installing either of these applications
installs the Apple Intermediate Codec (AIC) which decodes the
MPEG2 encoding performed by the camera. You can capture, edit
and lay back to tape in either of these applications with all
of the limitations that FCE HD and iMovie entail. They have their
place but they are scarcely professional tools.
This workflow in FCP HD involves importing
the captured footage into FCP HD and creating a custom sequence
based upon the Apple Intermediate Codec. FCE HD will capture
footage to a folder as does FCP. That's easy footage to find.
To find the clips in iMovie5, control-click on the iMovie5 project
file and select Show Package Contents. Within in that package
you will see folder entitled Media. Copy that folder (don't drag
because it will remove the footage from the project) wherever
you like. You can then import those clips into FCP HD.
Create a custom sequence in FCP HD with
a custom aspect ratio, check anamorphic, frame size 1440x1080,
upper field, 29.97 editing timebase. For a codec select Apple
Intermediate Codec. You can then edit in FCP and apply any filters/transitions/keyframes,
etc which you can do in FCP. The problem that I discovered is
that the Apple Intermediate Codec looks terrible in FCP. There
are interlacing artifacts galore and it just looks bad. No Circle
N here. If, however, you then export a Quicktime movie and bring
that back into FCE HD or iMovie HD, it looks fine. That, I believe,
is because Apple has already optimized these apps for HDV while
we still await the next stage in FCP's development. Remember
that laying back to tape requires a re-encoding and this takes
The Third Party Capture Solutions
Here we have software only solutions
and combination hardware/software solutions. In all of these
instances, we are going to capture the HDV footage on tape but
transcode to a higher codec, generally DVCPRO HD 1080i. This
gives us the ability to work in FCP HD and because of the data
rates of DVCPRO HD, not to require a raid. Raids, of course,
are better, and that comes in the next part of this work in process.
Hardware solutions add HD monitoring
and even capturing capabilities as well as accelerated rendering
times depending upon the hardware used.
Let's start with software.
Apple has a utility on its developer's
site entitled DVHSCap which allows capture of material
from HDV devices (or even the DVHS deck) and also the ability
to lay back to these devices. It is free. To use it to its best
ability, combine that with another freeware application, MPEG Streamclip. Capture in DVHSCap, open the file
in MPEG streamclip and convert to the codec of your choice. You
can upconvert to a higher HD codec or downconvert to DV. I recommend
letting the camera downconvert, however, since that is totally
LumiereHD and HDVxDV
appeared at NAB 2004 to allow users of the JVC HDV camera to capture MPEG2 from the
camera and then convert to a different codec. After the appearance
of the FX-1 and the announcement of impending support across
the whole Apple line for HDV, Lumiere recommended that users
not purchase the product and just go native. After seeing some
of the problems with HDV footage that I mentioned above, the
developer believed that there was still some life in his product,
so he produced a beta update to LumiereHD which support the FX-1/Z1U
cameras and the HDV deck as well.
LumiereHD beta did a credible job of
capturing from the FX-1 and converting to DVCPRO HD quickly.
Screenshots of all of these UI's to follow.
LumiereHD, though, lacks a major feature
found in HDVxDV - timecode. HDVxDV will capture the m2t stream from
the camera along with timecode. This proved to be a problem since
FCP continued to report timecode breaks in the downsampled HDV
footage during capture. HDVxDV failed to take any action, but
merely ceased writing the output file where it thought there
was a timecode break. Interestingly enough, that is the exact
same spot on the tape where FCP reported the DV-downconverted
timecode break. LumiereHD has a wonderful XML export feature
which gets you right into FCP- very nifty implementation of XML.
In their testing, TM Television of Dallas
noted to me that they encountered reports of timecode breaks
as well. Our initiail speculation is that this might be more
related to the current version of QuickTime or even of FCP. I
am going out on a limb to relegate these timecode breaks to 10.3.8,
since FCP is reporting timecode breaks on my capture system even
on strictly DV footage.
Back to HDVxDV, this $80 utility, like
LumiereHD, gives you no preview window when capturing. After
completing the capture, HDVxDV does provide a preview window
with the ability to mark in/out points. Those points will define
the range transcoded to a higher codec. I recommend DVCPRO HD
The Hardware Option
For the hardware option, I am using an
Kona 2 with the K-box breakout box and a HDP SDI to DVI converter box. I will be
receiving in the near future the HD10A
component to SDI converter as well as a M-Audio Flying Cow audio converter.
The Kona 2, or your favorite capture
board for that matter (mine just happens to be the Kona 2) really
isn't essential. You can edit in a DVCPRO HD timeline in FCP
HD from this upconverted material. Monitoring, though, is another
story and the capture card helps you out here.
Since AJA gives some hardware boost to
DVCPRO HD in the Kona 2, I chose to edit in a Kona DVCPRO HD
1080i timeline. It did require rendering the material brought
into FCP, but it was a very quick render.
monitor with the Kona 2 card in HD, you could either go out component
to a monitor (made very easy by the K Box which has component
out connections). This could be a broadcast or reference HD CRT
or LCD panel (such as the Sony 14/20L5 or the new LCD panels in the
LMD series), or a flat panel monitor such
as an Apple Cinema display, HP2335 or (my new favorite but no Circle
N since I have not tested it yet), the Dell 2405. Going component to these monitors
(the HP or Dell, since the Cinema Display does not have component
inputs) produces a distorted pixel ratio (see Adam Wilt's comments
on the HPL2335 on www.adamwilt.com).
Here is where the AJA HPD comes in. Connect SDI output from the
Kona 2 to the HDP and then a DVI cable to the monitor. While
this works best with a 1920x1200 monitor, the Kona 2 board will
scale the image to the resolution of the monitor. It is not optimal
monitoring for HD, but it is at least a way of viewing your image
in HD. The Kona 2 K-Box has an analog audio out which allows
audio monitoring without a D to A converter. That alone makes
the K Box worth the $300 and earns it-you heard it here-the first
add-on product to receive the Circle N Ned seal of approval.
There is one acquision stage I have not
attempted as of this writing since I still await the converter.
And that is capturing directly into the Kona 2 going from the
analog component output of the camera to SDI to the Kona 2, in
either DVCPRO HD or 8-bit uncompressed HD (my drives will barely
handle 8-bit compressed HD so I will not even attempt 10 bit).
This requires going component from the camera to the AJA HD10A
component to SDI converter and then SDI into the Kona 2. Since
component does not include audio, it is then necessary to convert
the analog audio of the camera to AES audio for the Kona. This
is accomplished by routing the analog audio out from the camera
to the Flying Cow and the digital output from the Flying Cow
to an AES input in the Kona. Finally, in capture, connect the
firewire port of the camera to the Mac and specify firewire as
device control. You may need to set a 3 frame offset in FCP.
The result here is goreous HD footage which you could then lay
back to DVCPRO HD or potentially even HDCAM or D5.
Again, for this summary article, I really
am not dealing with all of the details-just am outlining some
More will follow before NAB 2005 as I
conclude this phase of testing.
But here are the preliminary conclusions
HDV is the new DV and the FX-1/Z1U is
to HDV as the VX1000 was to DV. This is the first serious generation
of 3-chip cameras in a new flavor of HD. It is not for everyone
and it is not to be compared to a Sony CineAlta or a Panasonic Varicam. HDV has its niche as
DV still has its niche. DV will not have that niche very long
and I really caution extreme care in purchasing any camera at
this point until things shake out a bit. But I can unequivocally
favor downconverted DV or native DV. Take that as you might.
At the moment, I prefer capturing in
HDVxDV and transcoding to DVCPRO HD 1080i, editing there in FCP.
I recommend the capture card as well as an ability to monitor
the HD signa. I still prefer the Sony 14/20L5 CRT's over LCD
panel monitors, but I know that the world is also moving away
from CRT monitors.
I would by-pass the iMovie or FCE HD
approaches completely and concentrate at the moment on those
secondary applications which allow us to capture HDV and then
Stay tuned for more.
Let's welcome the arrival of the SATA
For under $1000, I was able to roll my
own 1 TB SATA raid with only a little frustration and a little
humiliation to show for it. This was to be a quick process of
assembling the MacGurus 4-drive Burly Box with 4 Hitachi
250 gig SATA drives and using the Sonnet Tempo 4x4 SATA card to control the
drives. So, I put together a volunteer crew to do a 2-camera
shoot to post on the web site. Four hours and many tapes later,
I got it together. I have since swapped the Tempo 4x4 card for
the Tempo-X eSata8 card, with 8 external connections.
The Burly Box is a wonderful metal enclosure
with a heavy-duty fan, heavy-duty power supply and a sturdy feel.
MacGurus bundles mounting brackets for the drives as well as
all necessary cables both for creating the enclosure and connecting
to the Mac. The problem arose with my general inability to assemble
anything. I find now that if I merely had a magnetized screw
driver and had used some petroleum jelly or soap on the screws,
the multi-hour multi-cursed enterprise of screwing the brackets
into the drives would have taken no time at all. So, let's assume
that the typical do-it-yourselfer is smarter than I am when it
comes to assembly. The Burly Box is then a snap to assemble.
Start running the tab: $254 plus $11 shipping for the 4-enclosure
BurlyBox. MacGurus also supplies 2, 5 or 8 drive enclosures.
Additionally, there are hot-swap enclosures but they will not
do you much good with the Sonnet as of yet since the Sonnet does
not yet support hot swapping. Sonnet engineers are looking into
this and plan to deliver a firmware upgrade which will allow
chose to use the Sonnet Tempo 4x4 card to control my raid since
that was what was available in early February when I built the
first raid, and it receives a Circle N seal of approval. Unlike
other products on the market, the Sonnet requires no drivers.
It is true plug and play. You can also configure the Mac with
multiple Sonnet cards. The 4x4 card ($199) has 4 external and
4 internal ports. My Burly Box is connected, of course, to the
4 external ports. Each drive occupies a separate channel, so
there are 4 external SATA cables between card and box. It is
possible to add 4 internal drives to the card using any of the
internal products for G5 (such as ProMax solution, Wiebetech
products). Personally, I think that is too much heat for the
G5, but others have not reported problems. The other option is
to use a slot on the Mac and add the $25 internal to external
connector from MacGurus. That would allow 8 drives.
I now have installed the eSata 8 card.
If there is such a thing as a 2-N seal of approval, this card
My test G5 system now includes a Kona
2 board occupying the PCI 133 slot and the Sonnet Tempo eSata8
card in Slot 3. Note something about the eSata8 card. It requires
different external connectors, called eSata connectors. They
are only available from one manufacturer at the moment, so they
are a few dollars more per cable than external SATA cables. Both
Sonnet and MacGurus sell the eSata cables and, since the release
of the eSata8 card, MacGurus offers the BurlyBox with an option
Also note that the eSata8 has a slightly
raised daughter card to handle the extra ports. It cannot be
used in Slot 4 (the PCI-X 133) slot of the G5. That makes little
difference, in my opinion, since most likely you would want to
put a capture card in the 133 mhz slot.
Creating the raid with Apple Disk Utility
is as simple as just clicking raid and dragging the 4 drives
into the raid window.
Below are benchmarks for this 4 drive
raid using AJA's Test Utility and the eSata8 card. The Tempo
4x4 card returned similar results. My own tests have given me
6 layers of realtime in DVCPRO HD 720p from footage captured
from the Varicam as well as the ability to playback 8-bit 1080i
HD. Granted this is from footage which was supplied to me and
not captured on this system form HDCAM deck. It also was tested
on a relatively empty drive. I would not recommend 8-bit uncompressed
HD on this configuration. Based upon these benchmarks for a 4-drive
raid, I do believe that an 8-drive raid would handle HDCAM.
The downside here is something to note
very strongly. We are talking raid 0 configurations. There is
no parity as in raid 5 meaning that losing one drive takes with
it all of the data. When dealing with a higher end raid with
a dedicated controller, that raid controller allows a hardware-based
raid 5 as well as hardware-based integrity checks on the media.
Sometimes the least expensive solution is not the best. So, I
offer this solution of the inexpensive roll it yourself raid
as an example of where the technology is taking us.
The next part of my testing will involve
creating another BurlyBox with 4 more Hitachi drives and then
creating a raid of 8 drives. This will coincide with testing
the Z1U capture via component to SDI into the Kona 2 board. With
an array of 8 drives, I intend to test full HD to determine if
I can sustain a 200 mps data rate needed for 8-bit uncompressed.
Both Sonnet cards can be used to control
individual drives or drives configured as a raid. They are solid
worthy performers and can form the basis of this inexpensive
raid for both the capacity and the speed that raid storage provides
us. At $299, the eSata8 is $100 more than the Tempo 4x4. It is
worth the difference if you wish to create an 8-drive raid and
still use only one slot. And the whole exercise led me to my
nearest home improvement warehouse to buy a screwdriver magnetizer.
Stay tuned for more reports and more
Ned Soltz is a passionate advocate of technology which
enhances the creative process. He only wishes that he were more
creative. Ned is among the founders of lafcpug, as well as a
published author of numerous articles and reviews on all things
NLE. The author of several books and technical editor of still
others, Ned is often on the road with his Powerbook G4 and mobile
FCP studio. Catch him at home or on the road at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ned also moderates several forums on 2-pop.com