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Super-8 to HD workflow recommendations?


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#1 Maya Allison

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Posted 22 May 2008 - 10:51 AM

Okay, I've shot 16mm and super 16, finishing to both video and 35mm, but I've gotten behind the curve on HD and Super 8 options, and now I am looking at investing in a new system.

Could you comment on this proposed plan for a DIY sync-sound short film intended for festival play. I'd avoid long sync takes as I expect crystal sync is beyond my budget (or is it?). Say the budget for camera, software, and audio recorder combined is $3K.

1) Shoot on super-8mm, on a camera with steady, but not cyrstal-sync, frame rate, so that I can record the sound "wild" and sync using an old fashioned clapper

1A) What sound recording device is affordable and recommended?

2) Transfer footage to HD (is there a house in the US that can develop and transfer in one place?)
-->question: if I do HD, can I edit it on Final Cut Express, as HDV? Or is this not compatible?

3) Edit on Final Cut -- Express or the full studio?

4) Finish to... ??? HD DVD? Blow up to 35mm? What is best for festivals, if it's a short?

Any and all advice on any of these stages would be greatly appreciated.

-Maya
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#2 Douglas Hunter

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Posted 22 May 2008 - 03:57 PM

1) For doing wild sync in super 8 head AND tail slates are a good idea. A crystal conversion by the Film Group is about $500 so its probably within budget.

1A) I own a Marantz PDM 660. Its a 2 channel digital field recorded, it records to 48K 16bit .wav files. It has very low system noise and is basically as good as the mic you put in front of it. The drawbacks are that it does not have time code and that if you want to ride the levels while shooting you will need to put a mixer in front of it. If you step up a bit the Marantz 670 is even better but its $700 rather than $400. Sound gear should be a rental item anyway, and then you could go for one of the Sound Designs compact field recorders which are amazing devices. Of these three devices the Sound Designs recorder is the only one that can do 24bit audio which is the HD spec. Its not a big deal at all, just something you should know.

2) Any particular reason you want to go to HD? I believe its doable but I don't know how many labs can go to HD. Currently no labs in LA offer Super 8 telecine to HD. As for the question you can edit on FCP as HDV but you would need to down convert your telecined footage to HDV from HD. When your cut is finished you would then relink to the full res media. One thing to watch out for is that FCP creates many large render files if you choose to work with hi-res footage. Right now I am finishing up a cut using 10bit 4:2:2 media and I have 33 gigs of necessary render files for an 18 minute film!!

Another way to do it would be to telecine to a hi-res codec and also do a simo DVCAM. ingest and cut with the DVCAM and then when picture is locked blow away the DVCAM media and re-link to the hi-res files. This keeps editing easy and keeps the size of your render files way down.

3) Never used express. studio or FCP 4.5 - 5 will do the job.

4) You will want to finish to a number of formats. If you telecine to a true HD codec than I would create a HDCAM final master and maybe also a DVCpro HD master, and also digibeta, DVCAM, and also make a bunch of DVDs. You ask about going out to 35 but is that really the look you want? and do you have the budget or that?
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#3 steve hyde

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Posted 22 May 2008 - 10:47 PM

Maya,

you can probably skip going to HD for your short. It's an added expense and is probably only worth it if you know you are blowing up to 35. I have a super 8 short in the festivals right now and I have been screening DigiBeta, BetaSP, DVcam and DVD. Digibeta looks really great and probably captures all the color information on a super 8 negative.

I use www.fsft.com for super 8 telecine and recommend them.

More and more festival are screening HD though. The festival I am at right now: Telluride Mountain Film has now upgraded all their venues to handle Sony HDcam projection. For a super 16 show I would say go the 1920x 1080 HD route, but for super 8 your money is probably better spent on higher shooting ratios or something like that and then just go for a high quality SD telecine to Digibeta.
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#4 Maya Allison

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 08:53 AM

Thank you both, this is very helpful!
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#5 Daniel Henriquez Ilic

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Posted 05 June 2008 - 01:23 AM

Hello Maya,



Concerning audio recorders

if stereo recorder is enough, the Fostex R-2LE seems to be interesting enough :
it do have two XLR mic. input (phantom powered), records Broadcast WAV Format (BWF) at 24bit 96kHz quality . It records on CompactFlash removable memory card. Price of the recorder (new) seems to be around USD 600.

Roland Edirol R-4 could be an option , if you are looking for 4 channels portable recorder.
It is hard-disk based, also handle 24 bit 96 kHz audio, records WAV (and apparently also BWF) and seems to be around USD 900




Concerning Software,
I would recommend the latest Avid Media Composer or Avid Xpress Pro rather than Final Cut Pro, but FCP might be ok as well, and Pro Tools for digital audio post-production





Concerning workflow, from my experience, super-8 should be transferred to HD whenever possible, if data (as 2K...) is not an option due to cost or tech. availibity....... but :

(1)
the image aspect ratio of HD formats is aprox 1.78:1 whilst super-8 beeing 1.33:1, so you would need to frame accordingly, knowing that top and bottom of your picture will be loosed at the HD transfer stage.... for accurate purpose, I recommend you shoot a framing leader test during your overall camera pilot-testing , with the camera you have choosen. That test footage should be then transferred on the same Transfer suite , to the same codec/file format or video format output, and then ingested in your editing station. So you could check-out that framing issue , as well as all the other paremeters you would like to test. This test workflow is great, because you can detect any problem on camera, lens, framing, post workflow etc before the shooting of the project.
It is good to be aware that super-8 image tends to drift vertically (up or down) on the majority of telecines machine, so if you plan to transfer a lot of footage, the framing should be checked on a regular basis to mantain framing precision.

Other possibility is to transfer the super-8 full frame to HD, and you will get, the full original 1.33:1 aspect ratio of super-8, with pillar box on the lateral sides. This means that you would get 1080 lines vertical resolution, but you would be using only aprox 1436 pixels of the horizontal resolution (so each pillar-box would be aprox. 292 pixels wide). From that image you could then down-convert to SDTV at a later stage of your workflow or mantain it like this for HD finish.



(2)
for HD I am not referring to HDV. HDV is really a highly compressed format. Its bit rate of 25 Mb/s, is not too much more than the 14 Mb/s - 19 Mb/s you would encounter today for the HD stream on terrestrial digital television systems... I mean a bit rate used for the the final end, the TV distribution end..... at that bit-rate, MPEG-2 needs Long GOP (group of pictures) to be able to carry and reconstruct the image sequence..... so I don't see real advantage to digitize image quality of super-8 to HDV. Today it is each time more factible to digitize to HDTV resolution and get the result as file or image sequence on a hard-drive. Probably HD signal at 100 Mb/s could be a quite acceptable compromise, between flexibility of use (editing station performance...) and quality.
Other option, that I would recommend, as interesting, is just to get your footage transferred to HDCAM SR (as done for example in New Zealand, Park Road Post, through Spirit Datacine) or if not possible , to HDCAM, and get a down-conversion to DVCAM. You just would have to do an off-line editing on DVCAM and then re-conform at on-line stage with the HDCAM or HDCAM SR tapes.
HDTV workflow is interesting because, if your master is @ 24 fps , you could eventually blow-up to 35mm, with better results than if coming from a SDTV source, also because SDTV is getting obsolete , and in many places TV stations are preferring to acquire HD masters and finally because you would be nearer to the quality of super-8 image. No doubt about that. I still remember, when I was in New Zealand, and I saw a videoclip shot on color reversal super-8, beeing transferred to HDCAM SR, the quality was frankly impressive.



Good luck for your project
Daniel

Edited by Daniel Henriquez Ilic, 05 June 2008 - 01:27 AM.

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#6 Daniel Henriquez Ilic

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Posted 05 June 2008 - 01:36 AM

(so each pillar-box would be aprox. 292 pixels wide).



sorry, typo error , but the correct wide size, would be aprox 242 pixels per each pillar-box
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#7 Michael Lehnert

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Posted 05 June 2008 - 10:47 AM

Daniel, good to see you post again after many years. It's appreciated! Any news on your project being shown outside of South-America anytime soon... any London gig planned?

---

Dear all, just a note that this thread was added to the pinned FAQ at the top of this forum.

Although it has not received alot of feedback so far - certainly not as much as it should because it raises the most crucial question for S8 in the future, I think - the question and answers are very detailed and I hope more will reply here.

---

Dear Maya, after Daniel's anwser, I couldn't possibly expand or contribute as he covers all crucial bits, but maybe I can assist you by directing you to the FAQ thread, i.e. to this post here. The white paper attached might cover some additinal aspects that would be of interest for you.

CLICK ME HERE TO GO TO POST

I do not agree that filming in S8 and going for HD, even film-out with an ArriLaser (if, i.e. you have the budget for it), is an "utter exageration thing" to do. It depends on your quality approach and what aesthetics you want to achieve.

What is important if you want to go down the HD route is to maintain the highest possible quality in every part of your chain - that starts with the camera and glass (quartz is optional and possible, and depending on your camera gear not more expensive than 200 USD for a engineered solution - it won't be SMPTE-compliant, but will sync your camera perfectly), continues with exposure care and the style of filming, with film stocks chosen (if you want to do HD quality, then keep to Kodak Vision2 or Vision3 negatives, unless you specifically want a reversal look), and try to stay in an uncompressed post-chain for as long as possible. Otherwise, the data loss really does no longer qualify for the original care in getting the most out of S8 (it would be like tuning a car to the max, and then only drive it in a 10mph tempo zone). As for presentation and distribution, the higher quality the have on the Master level, the more options you have. Distribution today should centre around your target group and the image you want to invoke among business partners. A high quality production chain with film origination and distribution will always give you a more serious appearance than those miniDV camcorder clowns with a CD-Video master at Cannes's marketplace (yep, that really occured :blink: ).

Check out Richard Boddington's work here re. "Dark Reprieve"... a good case in point - he chose 35 origination against the odds and many commenters here, and that paid out!

As regards sound recording, I use a über-simple rig: an old Sharp MD-MS722 recorder (sold only briefly for mobile reporting) that has no XLR or phantom, but the 3.5mm works better than anticipated, as the quality really comes from the mics, for which I use Sennheiser K6 with different capsules (ME66 or ME67) with Rycote softies. Easy to operate ye good enough not to deliver unprofessional results.
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#8 Michael Lehnert

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Posted 05 June 2008 - 10:57 AM

BTW, Maya, if you want concrete investment suggestions (exact gear name etc) which is not exactly clear from your original post, then it would be best to provide a hint of your budget. Evidently going for a Beaulieu 4008 ZM II with Schneider 11x6mm on the C-Mount, with a Cooke or Zeiss prime lens rented and attached via Arri or PL-Mount would cover the camera side. Quartz solutions are readily available. Alternatively: Leitz Leicina Special, Bauer A 512, Nizo professional. Other gear has more problems at hand, but these are the top 4 cams.

Sound: Aaton Cantar or any old Nagra or Uher (there are quartz'd Uher Report units easily found), but as I wrote; Compact Cassette-based devices are good, from Sony, but you will need them to be Direct Drive to have some assurance about their sync capabilities. My compressed ( :( ) MD solution works astonishingly good... but that's used only because of the size advantage and working in a very small documentary team. I try to avoid compressed whenever possible and would do so for short or features.

Stocks: current negative stocks

Labs: I can only comment on Europe: On Line Video 46, Zürich / Todd-AO, London / Andec, Berlin
True HD post chain uncompressed, editing with Apple FCP which I prefer over Avid that really lost its mojo over the past decade, from industry leader to also-ran. Express might be a bottleneck and lacking features.

Presentation: whatever your audience is most likey to see or festival requires, from iPOd downloads to DigiBeta to film-out on 35, if money is not an option.
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#9 Douglas Hunter

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Posted 05 June 2008 - 04:32 PM

A few bizarre things have been added to this thread in the name of post workflow. I won't address them all but the mention of HDCAM SR is particularly cute.

Please understand that the difference to the eye between HDCAM and HDCAM SR is non-existent they are the same thing with two differences.

HDCAM SR has 12 channels of audio.
HDCAM SR is either 4:2:2 or 4:4:4 color space.

These differences do not effect the appearance of the image to the eye.

There are a limited number of uses of SR in the professional world. The first is that it was developed for Sony's digital cinema workflow and for VFX work.

The second is that networks require it as the final delivery format, not because the picture quality is better but because it has 12 channels of audio so in most cases all the audio for a show can be delivered on a single tape, which is a very handy. Its great to be able to put LT / RT, M&E, and Dolby e or 5.1 all on the same tape, makes life much easier for everyone.

The third use of HDCAM SR is really the same as the first in that VFX folks for film and TV like it for compositing and other VFX work. The 4:4:4 color space gives them a little more to work with when doing keys.
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#10 Daniel Henriquez Ilic

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Posted 06 June 2008 - 12:53 AM

"Daniel, good to see you post again after many years. It's appreciated! Any news on your project being shown outside of South-America anytime soon... any London gig planned?"

Thank you Michael... Up to now the short film was projected in 35mm here in Chile, and one print (original version in spanish language) was sent to Germany (Small Format magazine) and France (Aaton) for specific projections. A free download HD version should be available late june or early july 2008 , through www.onsuper8.org and the official website www.filmhalogenuros.cl .

----

Maya ; audio recorder Roland/Edirol R-44 4-Channel Portable Recorder seems also to be a great option. Price is about the same, and It differs from the R-4 model, in that it records directly to SD an SDHC cards...
----

Hello Douglas Hunter,

I would like to discuss some points , you have wrote, because video specifications of HDCAM SR are frankly superior to HDCAM.


For instance HDCAM do have a video signal bit rate or aprox 140 Mbps for a video sample structure of 3:1:1 . It do have 1080 lineas but the horizontal resolution is down-rez'd to 1440 instead of 1920.
Bit depth is only 8 bit per channel.
And it is sometimes referred that this format do have an "overall" compression near 10 to 1.



Whilst HDCAM SR, do have a video signal bit rate of 440 Mbps (SQ mode) for a video sample structure of 4:2:2 and a compression ratio of 2.7 to 1.

If recording RGB (HQ mode) instead of 4:2:2 , the compression is 4.2 to 1
but some decks as SRW-1 provides 2 times speed for applications like 3D stereo (4:2:2 recording).
This 2 times speed would allow also to record RGB signals at 880 Mbps , for a compression ratio of 2:1

And HDCAM SR do have a much better video codec : MPEG-4 Studio Profile.



HDCAM SR is intended for high end workflow, masterization, creation of video master/archives, and in fact present much more range for color correction and keyer operations than HDCAM, specially if working in 4:4:4 mode.




Best Regards
Daniel

Edited by Daniel Henriquez Ilic, 06 June 2008 - 12:56 AM.

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#11 Daniel Henriquez Ilic

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Posted 06 June 2008 - 11:29 PM

concerning portable digital audio recorder, for aprox USD 1000-1200, the Tascam HD-P2 that records two tracks (up to 192 kHz sampling rate and a bit depth of 24 bits) is another option.
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#12 Glen Alexander

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Posted 07 June 2008 - 05:36 AM

I was and have been thrashing through portable audio recorders, just because something says 24bit/192khz doesn't mean everything. here's my .02 so far

the key is preamps, if you sample garbage, you still get garbage.

eridol r4 pro or r44, preamps not that good
Tascam Hd-P2, everything is mediocre, built quality-poor
Fostex FR2, preamps-mediocre, S/N-mediocre,
sound devices- excellent
nagra-excellent

i'm going to bite the bullet and get either a sound dev or nagra, these hold their value. basically i will buy to save long term rental costs and resell when done with the shoot.
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#13 Daniel Henriquez Ilic

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Posted 07 June 2008 - 02:05 PM

well, mikes and pre-amps are very importante of course, I agree complteley wth you... and thank you for your user report, as it's great to know about real experience with those "recent" dihital recorder....
another solution is to use a sound-devices mixer as pre-amp, may be, but will depends also on specific output of that mixer . Given the budget she mentionned for those specific production items, digital Nagra's might be over-budget, and the cheapest Sound Devices just on budget. Or as other member said just buy analog Nagra, and digitize later, there is currently a bid on eBay for a Nagra IV-STC for under USD 1000, but as it is a bid, the final price can be much highier.
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#14 Glen Alexander

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Posted 07 June 2008 - 02:11 PM

well, mikes and pre-amps are very importante of course, I agree complteley wth you... and thank you for your user report, as it's great to know about real experience with those "recent" dihital recorder....
another solution is to use a sound-devices mixer as pre-amp, may be, but will depends also on specific output of that mixer . Given the budget she mentionned for those specific production items, digital Nagra's might be over-budget, and the cheapest Sound Devices just on budget. Or as other member said just buy analog Nagra, and digitize later, there is currently a bid on eBay for a Nagra IV-STC for under USD 1000, but as it is a bid, the final price can be much highier.


nagra will usually pop up to about 1400usd or so. even then if you resell it in a few months you won't lose much of any money. sound dev, they are rock solid but twice the cost. sound dev302 is a sweet preamp unit.
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#15 Daniel Henriquez Ilic

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Posted 07 June 2008 - 03:13 PM

nagra will usually pop up to about 1400usd or so. even then if you resell it in a few months you won't lose much of any money. sound dev, they are rock solid but twice the cost. sound dev302 is a sweet preamp unit.


... Which Nagra are you considering for that price ? .. thanks
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#16 Glen Alexander

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Posted 07 June 2008 - 03:34 PM

... Which Nagra are you considering for that price ? .. thanks


search ebay used, that's about what the IV S TC go for. you can get those D's cheap but they don't have sync.
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