Bird Brains: Workflow
Bird Brains, apart from being great fun, was designed to test a exclusively Final Cut Pro workflow, where traditionally After Effects and other applications may have been used, to see what was possible with both the in-built tools, 3rd party special effects filters and processing.
The genesis of Bird Brains comes from puppets that Wendy Nattress had made at film school for a final year TV production. On seeing the puppets and having the idea for the FCP workflow experiment, Graeme Nattress enlisted Wendy's help to produce the short movie.
The video camera used is a Sony PDX-10 DVCAM, fitted with a Century Optics DV Matte Box and 0.65 Wide Angle lens. The Matte Box was used to hold a Tiffen Ultra Contrast 3 or Ultra Contrast 5 filter.
Video was captured using a Sony DSR-25 DVCAM deck into an Apple iMac (17" LCD, 800mhz, 512MB RAM, OS X 10.3.2). Two Lacie Firewire 400 drives are used for captured footage, but there was only 40 minutes of DVCAM shot, so only a small amount of one drive was actually used. A Wacom Graphire 2 tablet was used throughout editing instead of a mouse.
The Software used was Apple's Final Cut Pro V4.1.1 video editing software, Compressor & Soundtrack (part of the FCP suite of applications) and Adobe Photoshop. The plugins used in FCP were from Nattress Set 1, Set 2, the forthcoming "Big Box of Tricks", Film Effects and Standards Conversion.
Lowell Tota and Pro lights were used.
The Editing Workflow - 60i to 24p
One of the goals of the project was to use Film Effects and Standards Converter to produce a true 24p end product for better compression for the web (and no interlace artifacts) and to DVD.
The footage was shot in standard 60i NTSC on the Sony DVCAM in anamorphic widescreen. The PDX-10 has a most excellent widescreen mode that, in tests, provides an excellent resolution. However, the wide angle on the camera is not too wide, and although wider in 16x9 mode than standards 4x3, we thought that the Century 0.65 wide should be used throughout, especially as Bird Brains was produced within the confines of a small basement room. Additionally, we had found that the Ultra Contrast filters really helped the video produced from looking to video-like (in a bad way) by reducing contrast, and after Film Effects processing, helped with the overall film look that was to be achieved. Normally I shoot the PDX-10 with the sharpness control fully off, but for this production it was felt that putting the sharpness up one notch would help provide the optimum quality.
FCP was set to capture the footage using the standard NTSC 29.97 anamorphic preset, and all editing was done on a standard NTSC 29.97 anamorphic timeline. The DSR-25 deck performed excellently to quickly capture the footage and to serve as a Firewire DV to Video converter so that editing could be viewed on the JVC monitor.
The majority of editing was completed before effects were added. Most of the Nattress effects were used on the production of Bird Brains, and some, like G Laser were written especially for it. The video also makes extensive use of some of the Telly's FX that were written by Graeme for Kevin Monahan's new book on Effects in FCP.
Once all the effects had been added, tested and rendered, Film Effects was added. First the Film Effects Presets Explorer was used to help decide which preset looked best. It was hard to decide between "Warm Diffusion" and "Basic Bleach", so the explorer filter was removed and replaced by G Film Plus with the settings changed to incorporate both the bleach bypass and warming diffusion effects. At this point, the film speed 24p processing of Film Effects was turned off so that Standards Conversion could be used instead to produce a 24p finished sequence rather than a 24p converted to 60i via 3:2 effect, which is Film Effects normal operational result.
Before finishing the conversion to 24p, a 60i reference movie was saved out so that the music could be produced in Soundtrack, the new audio application that comes with FCP. The finished music was saved back out to an AIFF and imported into FCP for mixing with the recorded speech and the effects track.
To Standards Convert to 24p, a new sequence was created at the same anamorphic NTSC size as the standard DV sequence used to edit on, but the timebase was changed to 23.98fps. When converting from NTSC (which is 29.97fps) to 23.98fps, there is no conversion performed upon the audio so that it will remain at full quality and in perfect synchronization with the picture. The edited sequence was dropped into the new 23.98 fps sequence and the Film Converter was applied, and set to function as NTSC to 24p. All other settings were left at default, apart from changing the source size to 720 x 480. Dropping the original edit NTSC 29.97fps sequence into the source video well in the Film Converter completed the conversion procedure so that final rendering could begin.
The finished 24p sequence was saved out as a Quicktime and brought into Compressor. The MPEG4 presets were used to produce the movie.