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FilmHelp: Post-Production

Creating a burned in time code window in a FCP 7 sequence

Another hyper-technical FilmHelp article by Greg Pak
To deliver a rough cut of my new short film “Mister Green” to the funders at ITVS, I needed to create a file with time code burned into a window along the top or bottom of the screen. There’s a nice explanation at thefilmeditor.com about how to manage the trick by:

  1. Creating a nested sequence by hilighting the video clips in the sequence and hitting Sequence > Nest Item(s)
  2. Creating a window with time code for the sequence by hilighting the new single clip representing the nested sequence and hitting Effects > Video Filters > Video > Time Code Generator

But when I’d completed those steps, I saw that the burnt in time code was several minutes off by the end of the program. The problem was that the default setting for the Time Code Generator filter is 29.97 fps, while my footage was 24 fps.
Ordinarily, I’d just double click on the clip and change the effects settings in the source window that pops up. But clicking on a nested sequence opens up a different kind of window that shows the clips within the sequence. I could not find the effects settings that had been applied to the nested sequence that way.
I ended up going to the Effects tab in the browser window. Under Video Filters > Video I found the Timecode Generator effect. Double clicking on that brought up a window that allowed me to adjust the settings. I changed 29.97 fps to 24 fps, then dragged this effect to the nested sequence. And then the numbers synched up properly.
Finally, I exported via Quicktime Compression to m4v for delivery to ITVS. Word to the wise: It’s apparently not necessary to render the sequence ahead of time — the program renders the new file as it exports.

Transferring a project from a G3 to a Mac Pro and from FCP 3 to FCP 7

A FilmHelp article by Greg Pak
I recently bought my first new desktop in eight years and upgraded to Final Cut Pro 7 to edit my new short film “Mister Green.” I’ll be posting much more about “Mister Green” soon. But for now, here’s a painfully detailed report on the trials and travails of transferring a much older film project to the new workstation. Here’s hoping it helps someone out there avoid my mistakes.
Transferring the Media
The older project had files scattered across multiple drives on an old blue and white G3 desktop. Unfortunately, out of the box, the G3 and my new 2.66 GHz Pro Mac don’t communicate particularly well. The new Mac only has Firewire 800 ports; the old Mac only has Firewire 400 ports. A cheap adapter would let me plug Firewire 400 devices into the new Mac. But my dream of transferring directly from the old computer to the new computer using Target Disk Mode didn’t work out — the blue and white G3s apparently don’t work as target computers. Although, strangely enough, two of the drives on the B&W did show up when I connected it via Firewire to the new computer. (Your guess is a good as mine!) But for the bulk of the media, I had to transfer the data onto Firewire drives, then transfer it again from the Firewire drives to the new Mac.
Even that relatively straightforward process became a bit complicated when I discovered that my newest Firewire drives wouldn’t open on the old Mac — they’d been formatted to be bootable with Intel Macs, which means they don’t show up on old Macs running less than OS 10.4. So I used some older Firewire drives, which were a bit touchy and crashed once or twice.

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Steve Mallorca talks “Slow Jam King” — screening now in NYC!

Ron Domingo in Slow Jam King
Ron Domingo in “Slow Jam King”

A FilmHelp interview by Greg Pak
Steven E. Mallorca’s award winning feature film “Slow Jam King” is now screening at the Imaginasian Theater in New York City. Click here for screening times. And read on for an interview in which Mallorca talks about everything from his set getting raided by police to his favorite slow jams.
Greg Pak: Tell us a bit about the film and who should go see it.
Steven E. Mallorca:
“Slow Jam King” is an offbeat road comedy about JoJo Enriquez, a Filipino-American wannabe gangsta-pimp who, in his attempts to answer his call to the streets, carjacks Vance, a traveling perfume salesman with an affinity to country music. Stuck along for the ride is JoJo’s friend, Devaun, an ex-funkateer and reluctant family man, who tries to talk sense into JoJo and diffuse the situation. The motley trio embark on an escapist roadtrip to Nashville, where they discover truth, love, and the dirty underbelly of the Nashville country music scene. Anyone that’s looking for a good time, enjoys genre-bending films, and likes their humor on the irreverent side with a healthy dose of multi-cultural absurdity should come out to check out “Slow Jam King.” I sort of equate this film to early ’90s Native Tongues hip hop – it’s fun and a little absurd, but with a conscious voice to it – like if De La Soul, or Tribe Called Quest were a hip hop movie…. or better yet Prince Paul. So if you’re a fan of that kind of hip hop, you’ll definitely get into “Slow Jam King.” Also, I think that anyone who’s a do-it-yourself filmmaker or musician can enjoy the film, too.

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RGB rather than CMYK solves oversaturation problem in Final Cut Pro

A quick FilmHelp tip from Greg Pak
While cutting images from “Incredible Hulk” comics into the “Planet Hulk Trailer,” I noticed that some of the art, which looked fine in Photoshop, appeared strangely oversaturated in Final Cut Pro. The problem? The images were CMYK rather than RGB. To change the color mode, I used Photoshop, navigating to Image > Mode > RGB Color. Imported into Final Cut Pro, the new RGB versions of the images looked just fine — no more oversaturation.
View the final product at Pakbuzz.com or YouTube.com

David Libby talks score — an interview with the composer for the “Planet Hulk Trailer”

Pakbuzz Q&A is proud to present an exclusive, in-depth interview with David Libby, the composer of the scores for the Greg Pak films “Happy Hamptons Holiday Camp for Troubled Couples,” “Super Power Blues,” and “Planet Hulk Trailer.”
[UPDATE: Libby has launched BroadwayDemo.com, a demo and website production service for musical theater actors — click here to visit the site.]
Greg Pak: We’ve worked together on three different short film projects now, but I’m realizing I have no idea how you work your magic — I email you video and tell you some of my ideas for the score and you email me back links to gorgeous music. Walk us through the process a bit. First, the technicalities — what kind of equipment and computer system do you use? Is all the music generated through synthesizers and computers or do you do any live performances? And how do you keep the neighbors from calling the cops with noise complaints?
David Libby:
I have very cool neighbors, no doubt! I’m always playing piano and my wife is a singer, and we’ve never had a complaint. Actually, we’ve even gotten requests to play louder because they like it! The only down side to this is that I can never move.
Once I get the video file you email me, I import it into music production software called Sonar. I have a Kurzweil PC88 keyboard which is connected to my computer, but I don’t use the keyboard for sounds. I only use it to trigger sounds that are generated on my computer by a software sampler called Gigastudio, which produces the most realistic sounds currently on the market. So, when I play my keyboard it triggers sounds that are generated on my computer by Gigastudio, and those sounds are recorded on my computer by Sonar. I also use Reason and Acid type loops for sound generation, and Sibelius for music notation when I want to write something out.

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In FCP, “Color Corrector” better than “Brightness and Contrast” for adjusting brightness and contrast

While working in Final Cut Pro on a new short film, I discovered that, strangely enough, the “Color Corrector” tool works far better than the “Brightness and Contrast” filter for adjusting the brightness and contrast of an image.
The Brightness and Contrast filter can be found at Effects > Video Filters > Image Control > Brightness and Contrast (Bezier). I could use the Brightness setting to lighten an image, but the image would appear washed out. And when I used the Contrast setting to fill in the blacks, the colors would begin to blow and the image would begin to look almost solarized.
The Color Corrector tool can be found at Effects > Video Filters > Color Correction > Color Corrector. Tweaking with the “Whites,” “Mids” and “Blacks” settings gave me the kind of control I needed to brighten the image and adjust the contrast without degrading the image.
System: Macintosh G4 533 MHz Dual Processor running FCP HD 4.5

In FCP, “Color Corrector” better than “Brightness and Contrast” for adjusting brightness and contrast

By Greg Pak
While working in Final Cut Pro on a new short film, I discovered that, strangely enough, the “Color Corrector” tool works far better than the “Brightness and Contrast” filter for adjusting the brightness and contrast of an image.
The Brightness and Contrast filter can be found at Effects > Video Filters > Image Control > Brightness and Contrast (Bezier). I could use the Brightness setting to lighten an image, but the image would appear washed out. And when I used the Contrast setting to fill in the blacks, the colors would begin to blow and the image would begin to look almost solarized.
The Color Corrector tool can be found at Effects > Video Filters > Color Correction > Color Corrector. Tweaking with the “Whites,” “Mids” and “Blacks” settings gave me the kind of control I needed to brighten the image and adjust the contrast without degrading the image.
System: Macintosh G4 533 MHz Dual Processor running FCP HD 4.5

Video darkens when converting to MPEG-2 for DVD production — problem and solution

By Greg Pak
I recently noticed that my new short film looked considerably darker on DVD than in Final Cut Pro. I hadn’t seen this problem with DVDs I’d made of other projects I’d cut in Final Cut Pro.
The problem: The project was shot with the Panasonic DVX100 in 24P. The sequence in Final Cut Pro was set at 23.98 frames per second. I had been exporting this sequence directly to NTSC MPEG-2 for the DVDs. Apparently, FCP makes images darker and more contrasty when exporting from a 23.98 fps sequence to an NTSC MPEG-2.
The solution: I exported the 23.98 fps sequence to a 29.97 fps DV/DVCPRO – NTSC Best Quality QuickTime file. I then cut that QuickTime file back into a 29.97 fps FCP sequence and exported to MPEG-2. And now there’s no noticable darkening of the image.
I did notice that the process of exporting the 23.98 fps sequence to the 29.97 fps DV/DVCPRO file seems to have affected the colors very slightly, making them a touch warmer. It’s a faint enough adjustment that it doesn’t bother me — and it’s vastly preferable to the darkening which had been happening before.
System: Macintosh G4 533 MHz Dual Processor running FCP HD 4.5

Deck settings for using an AJ-SD930 with FCP

By Greg Pak
I’m working on a short film which we shot using DVCPRO50, which I learned we could edit on my G4 533 MHz dual processor machine, provided I upgraded to OS 10.3 and Final Cut Pro 4.5. Which I did.
The next challenge was getting the footage into the computer. We rented a Panasonic DVCPRO50 deck — the AJ-SD930, which can be connected to a FCP system via Firewire. But for some reason I couldn’t control the deck via the Lo and Capture screen. And I couldn’t see digitized footage through the monitor.
After searching the web, I found a helpful document which provided some settings. Here are the settings I’ve ended up with, which seem to work:
Audio and Video Input are set at SDTI/1394.
SUPER: OFF
REC. INH: ON
TCG: INT – PRESET
MODE: EE
CONTROL: REMOTE
Finally, to get digitized footage to play back from the computer, through the deck, and out to the monitor, the video out cable needs to be plugged into Video Out 3 (Super).
I freely admit I don’t understand all of these settings fully — I only know that at this moment in time, they seem to be working for me.

Avoiding and Dealing with FireWire Harddrive Crashes

By Greg Pak

We edited my feature “Robot Stories” using a Macintosh G4 533 MHz dual processor running Final Cut Pro 1.2.5 with eight (count ’em, eight!) external FireWire hard drives. During the six months of post production, we had a number of crises with our FireWire hard drives, including three or four occasions in which drives would crash, giving us an error message saying the drive could not be recognized and asking us if we wanted to reinitialize.
    
Now when you have five hours of footage on a sixty gig hard drive, you don’t particularly want to want to reinitialize, which would erase the drive and require you to spend a day redigitizing your footage.
    
At least twice, we did just that, because none of the disk utilities programs (Norton Utilitles and Apple’s Disk First Aid) were able to help us. But I’ve recently been able to save drives which have crashed in this way using my new favorite program, DiskWarrior.

 
Why drives crash.

 
In most cases, I have no idea why our drives crashed. At least twice, my editor Stephanie and I watched in horror as images which were playing in Final Cut Pro began to break up. Broken horizontal strips of color would flash across the screen until the images disappeared altogther. Upon restart, we’d discover the computer would no longer recognize the drive on which the media was living. We had no idea why these problems surfaced.
    
But yesterday I saw these problems crop up while I was in the process of unplugging and replugging the FireWire connection to a camcorder attached to the computer. Now theoretically, messing with the camera shouldn’t affect the drives, since I had the drives plugged into a separate FireWire jack. But I’m pretty sure the events were linked. Perhaps messing with the camera cable sent a static electricity shock into the system? We’ve had incredible static electricity in the office this winter — I suspect that’s somehow to blame.
    
At any rate, my current thinking is NEVER MESS WITH CABLES OR MOVE DRIVES when your computer is on or when you’re running your programs.

 
A success story

 
Yesterday I was messing with the FireWire cable connected to a camera while playing a project on Final Cut Pro. I glanced over and saw the tell-tale breakup of images on my computer monitor. I shut down the computer and on restart, the computer couldn’t read one of my FireWire hard drives and asked if I wanted to reinitialize. It was a 60 gig Maxtor FireWire harddrive which I’d bought in October 2001.
    
Instead of clicking “Initialize,” I clicked “Eject.” Then I popped in my DiskWarrior CD and tried to run the program. But the program didn’t list the bum drive in its menu. The drive wasn’t mounted and the program couldn’t see it.
    
It seemed like a Catch 22 — the drive wouldn’t mount because it was damaged. But the program to repair the damage couldn’t work unless the drive was mounted.
    
I tried using the Maxtor Utilites to get the computer to recognize the drive. No luck. But I was using version 3.2 of the software. I visited the Maxtor website, downloaded and installed Maxtor Utilities version 3.4. Which recognized the bum drive. And then Disk Warrior recognized the drive. So I was ran DiskWarrior, which successfully repaired the drive and saved my data. Woo hoo!
 
Lessons learned:

  1. Don’t mess with cables when the computer is running.
  2. When in doubt, download the most current software and drivers for the hardware.
  3. DiskWarrior rules.

A sob story

 
While I was out of the office shooting a short film, a couple of friends were using their FireWire hard drive with one of my computers. The drive mysteriously crashed. On restart, they got a message asking them to eject or reinitialize. Since they’d done little work on the drive, they reinitialized. But they’d screwed up — they’d just crashed MY FireWire drive and reinitialized it. Now if they’d just left things alone, we probably could have used DiskWarrior to bring the drive and its data back to life. But reinitializing the drive has put its repair beyond the ken of mere mortals such as myself. I’m now researching professional data recovery companies — preliminary conversations indicate that it’s very likely they can recover my data, but the names of the files will probably all be lost. And (here’s the kicker) it’ll cost me anywhere from $600 to $2000.
    
Ouch.

 
Lessons learned:

  1. Don’t let people borrow your equipment/computers unless you’re clear about what they’re doing and you’ve taken precautions to safeguard your data.
  2. Never reinitialize unless you’re ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN of what you’re doing. Namely, never reinitialize your drive unless you’re absolutely certain it’s actually your drive.

 

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