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Preparing an HD master


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#1 GeorgeSelinsky

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Posted 08 June 2007 - 07:46 PM

I have a situation coming up. We're submitting our feature right now to a film festival. My decision is most likely to show an HD CAM version of our film, because we still may change the soundtrack and that will cost us much less on a digital medium than on an optical track.

My question is this, if I decide to go off the negative flats that I have right now, without a negative cut, will that significantly increase the expense of the HD transfer? This is a time sensitive issue as the negative cut will take at least a month - and we may or may not have that time. Some of you have working experience doing this, anyone have a realistic time estimate?

Also, how do they usually do it, go through each flat one by one and transfer the shots that are used in each flat, then the transferred footage is reassembled on an editing system? Or do they scroll through the flat and find each shot, transfer it frame to frame, then scroll to find the next one, etc?

Thanks in advance for any advice!

- George.
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 08 June 2007 - 11:33 PM

Using your EDL, the shots used on each camera roll would be scanned and then assembled to match the EDL using an Autoconform system -- but basically you are onlining HD to create an edited master, which will then have to go through a scene-to-scene color-correction to create a color-corrected master.

You're talking about a lot of money, probably $50,000 or so. I mean, it would probably be cheaper to cut your 35mm negative and show an answer print.
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#3 Michael Most

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Posted 09 June 2007 - 09:30 AM

.... if I decide to go off the negative flats that I have right now, without a negative cut, will that significantly increase the expense of the HD transfer? This is a time sensitive issue as the negative cut will take at least a month - and we may or may not have that time. Some of you have working experience doing this, anyone have a realistic time estimate?


You haven't said how long the piece is, so I'm assuming it's a "typical" 90-100 minute picture. You also haven't said how many cuts are involved, which becomes significant for finishing. Assuming you deliver a proper offline copy and an accurate, complete pull list and EDL, I would say that it will likely take the facility a day or two to organize the footage for transfer, about a week to transfer, two days to conform, and another 2-3 days to color correct. You'd then need another day or so for titling, sound layback, and creation of delivery elements. That's assuming they can schedule all of this within that time frame. So you can probably figure about 2 to 2 1/2 weeks from the day you deliver your offline and lists.

All of this also assumes that you're only looking to create an HD video master, because that's all it will get you (well, standard def downconversions as well, of course). If you want a film print, you should rethink how you're doing this and consider color correcting using log format scans in a DI theater. You can then create your HD video deliverable, but hold off on the film recording and answer print until you're ready - the color corrected film frames can be saved as files on a data tape backup. But working that way will allow you to do a film version that looks the way you want it to look (because you've color corrected in a theater environment on a large screen) and a video version that mimics that. It likely won't cost much more than going the video finish route, but it will add a day or two to the conform, and probably another day or two to the color correction as well. So figure about 3 to 3 1/2 weeks at the minimum for that approach.

Cost? David's $50K figure is not out of the ballpark, but it seems a bit high if you're not working in one of the major facilities in Los Angeles, New York, or London. There are a number of "boutique" type operations that can do a very good job, and should be considered. Feel free to contact me privately if you want more information.
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 09 June 2007 - 04:18 PM

Cost? David's $50K figure is not out of the ballpark, but it seems a bit high if you're not working in one of the major facilities in Los Angeles, New York, or London. There are a number of "boutique" type operations that can do a very good job, and should be considered. Feel free to contact me privately if you want more information.


Yes, that's a bit on the high side, but I'm figuring at least five days of color-correction when working from original negative (no corrections built-in) for a feature. So maybe $30,000? I have no idea how much the autoconforming process costs.

I sort of based the figure on what one of my features cost to master to HD after a week.
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#5 Douglas Hunter

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Posted 11 June 2007 - 08:26 PM

Michael's time estimates seem pretty good and would add that I would estimate around $500 an hour for telecine (not including stock), $500 an hour for the HD online and a little more than that for color correction in an HD bay. It sounds like this may be a lower budget project so if I was involved I would push for 2 days of color correction over David's week. I know feature guys like to have a week but a typical hour drama is done in two days, so with a good operator two days is reasonable.

so
1 week HD telecine: $20,000 (40 hours, no overtime)
2 days assemble: $8000 (no overtime)
2 days color: $8000 (no overtime)
also add also add up to 3 hours for your audio lay back.

So your looking at 36K+ easily.

Procedurally speaking you are correct that you would need to go through each reel of neg and telecine only the shots in your locked picture EDL. The best case would be if your re-telecine has time code that matches your previously made work tapes, otherwise you would have to ingest all the new footage and re-link your project to the new media and generate a new EDL.

Then your new master tapes and EDL go to the only where an auto assemble is done and an output created for your editor to check. after that is completed you can move into HD color correction.
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#6 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 03:37 AM

Should we assume that you have already transferred the footage once already?

I don't think you've shared enough information to get the most accurate workflow.
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#7 GeorgeSelinsky

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 12:22 PM

Should we assume that you have already transferred the footage once already?

I don't think you've shared enough information to get the most accurate workflow.


First I want to thank everyone who took the time to write such helpful replies!

Our feature is 132 minutes long, 35mm, we shot about 80,000 ft. I didn't yet do a cut count, I'm in the process of conforming our edit right now.

My problem is that we simply won't have the time to do a negative cut at this stage of the game. Negative cutters need at least a month to do it right, plus we have to retransfer our entire film and reassemble it before doing the final EDL since I was badly advised NOT to get keycode on my initial transfers. As of now I have mini DV transfers that I've been editing from. I'm hoping that with the HD conform maybe I won't have to spend 5 thousand bucks and two weeks on a retransfer, since if we make a mistake by a frame or two it can be easily adjusted.

We have a few segments that would require opticals, and this is much less expensive for HD than scanning the negative. etc.

To top it off, the way it's looking now we're going to have to settle with a temporary music track. To change a music track on 35mm costs around 4 thousand for the optical plus 4 thousand for another print (well, less if the change is on select reels but still fairly expensive compared to HD).

Thanks again for your time and suggestions!

- George.
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#8 Douglas Hunter

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 05:24 PM

After reading your last post I can only hope that you are editing on an Avid and not FCP! It sounds like you don't have a post super on the show, but I think you would be very pleased with the results if you went out and got one!
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#9 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 11:41 PM

......plus we have to retransfer our entire film and reassemble it before doing the final EDL since I was badly advised NOT to get keycode on my initial transfers. As of now I have mini DV transfers that I've been editing from. I'm hoping that with the HD conform maybe I won't have to spend 5 thousand bucks and two weeks on a retransfer, since if we make a mistake by a frame or two it can be easily adjusted....
- George.


Congratulations on getting into a festival, try to find someone who had their film in last years festival and was in the same exact predicament as you, with the internet it may be easier to find such an entry than you realize and their input will be very valuable.

Did you or did you not do a simultaneous transfer to both Hd and mini-dv, or at the very least, do a transfer to HD than do a downconvert to mini-dv???

I'm not sure you've been clear describing your prior transfer history. Is this for the Venice Film festival? I think they are way over the top in their projection requirements. If your 35mm to mini-dv transfer looks good, there are ways to project that mini-dv theatrically onto a big screen with line-doubling technology that should look just fine.

Perhaps the dealbreaker would be if you cropped your 35mm to mini-dv footage so the entire 35mm image fit, in which case you may have too few horizontal and vertical mini-dv lines of resolution with 35mm image on it (since a significant porportion of your mini-dv frame will just have a black border on the top and bottom of the video frame) to properly project the mini-dv copy and fill the theatrical screen. If you have a full frame of 35mm mini-dv, then go the cheapest route possible and just do a straight transfer to HD-CAM or ask to have a digital betacam or betacam sp copy to be projected with the line-doubling technology and then worry about a final version when you have more time to do it the best and most cost-effective way possible.

I think you're about to spend a ton of money, not get what you want, and then have to redo it AGAIN after the festival is over. Unless you've left out a step that I am not aware of OR your film has VERY LONG cuts and not that many overall cuts in it, I'd be very careful in rushing forward.
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#10 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 13 June 2007 - 11:41 AM

I have a situation coming up. We're submitting our feature right now to a film festival.

- George.


Oops, I thought you had already been selected to show your film and were trying to put together an HDCAM version of it.

Since all festivals are annual events, unless there is a dire situation that means you MUST enter a specific film festival, you should always do what is best for the completion of your film to your satisfaction rather than meeting a deadline just to enter your film in a festival.

There are reasons to break the above rule of course. Some festivals want first time entries so they can call the film a "premier" in their festival. At which point you should ask yourself which benefits you more, doing the best possible job and submitting the entry a year from now, or scrambling now to get it in, even if it then needs to be reworked after this years festival is over, and inevitably will cost you a lot more money because first you did all this work once, and then you did over.

It's a tough call because none of us know the inner workings of your production as to whether you should wait or not, or even if you can afford to wait.
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#11 Dan Goulder

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Posted 13 June 2007 - 01:09 PM

After reading your last post I can only hope that you are editing on an Avid and not FCP!

Can you please explain how the Avid would be advantageous over FCP in this particular situation? Thanks.
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#12 Douglas Hunter

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Posted 13 June 2007 - 02:16 PM

Sure, while both editing systems have plentlly of quirks, its my experience (and that of many others) that the cinema tools / FCP system is not as trust worthy when it comes to generating a frame accurate film cut lists. For example, in the early versions of Cinema Tools the saved in and out point for clips could shift! Talk about scary! Now, I realize that Cinema Tools has gotten better since I cut film with it but I think its a difficult system for people without a lot of experience matching back to film to use. It taks a lot of checking and double checking.

Since The OP said he didn't have a key code burn in on his editorial tapes, doing the necessary checking is more difficult. And since he did't go for the key code burn in I'm guessing that he lacks post experience which opens the opportunity for the introduction of human generated errors in the database etc. Cinema Tools was an after thought for FCP and I think it shows, while the Avid was designed from the start for creating accurate film cut lists.

Don't get me wrong I've been cutting on FCP since V 1.0 so I am somewhat "loyal" to the product but I'm also willing to admit that its got a lot of bugs and short comings.
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#13 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 13 June 2007 - 04:23 PM

FCP is king in many ways, however, it's also true that throughout it's entire development it's probably been an 80% of what AVID can in the film world for like 20% of the cost, so for most people FCP is a bargain.

From the beginning AVID has supported component and serial digital workflow whereas FCP took a long while to get that going and instead focused on mini-dv codecs. That one compression issue alone allowed FCP take make up huge ground on AVID and even surpass it in certain areas because the mini-dv codec made it easier to do many more things because ultimately mini-dv is a lesser but incredibly efficient codec when compared to a properly done component or serial digital codec.

I think AVID has always catered to the movie industry crowd whereas FCP has been a more universal product so it's not as focused on the needs of anyone particular industry or profession.
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#14 Saul Pincus

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Posted 16 June 2007 - 02:08 PM

I love FCP and I've been a dedicated owner and user since version 2.0. I've also cut features (cutting neg, or for DI) on Avid systems dating back to 1997, serving as a post supervisor on these projects and many others. I haven't tested FCP Studio 2 (I've been out of the country for a few months), but I sincerely hope Apple has improved their Cinema Tools integration. It's not just neg lists ? carrying audio EDL data and generating accurate lists is unnecessarily hassle-prone and not all that idiot-proof. But now we're getting into territory for another forum!

Edited by Saul Pincus, 16 June 2007 - 02:08 PM.

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