Monday, January 31, 2011

Editing a concert DVD / Blu Ray

Being the front of house mix engineer for a variety of great performers is a real privilege but sometimes it also leads to other work. Howard Jones asked me to edit the footage from his gig at the IndigO2 back in November. It was a 9 camera shoot and a right mixed bag of cameras and codecs... XDCAM HD, XDCAM EX, AVCHD, Go Pro HD, Canon H.264... it took over a week just to convert all the footage to a common codec for editing... I've gone into this in a previous post.

Now i'm halfway through the edit, i've got into a rhythm and it's coming together quicker. I considered using the multi-angle clip route, but have instead just plonked all the footage in a big stack in FCP and am ploughing through it that way.  It took a good couple of days to get everything sync'ed properly, but it wasn't too hard.

The difficulty with editing a concert DVD like this is finding the style. I get very bored watching edits where it's just cutting from one angle to the next...interspersed with long dissolves and the occasional wideshot..  it's tired and dull. I've decided to assign certain visual characteristics to certain cameras. The Go Pro cameras which are very uniquely positioned right up close to the performers are always either black and white and grainey or very bleached out colour.... i'm not using any 'normal' colouring on their shots. Any shot which has a big zoom in suddenly closing in on Howard... that's black and white too. The graphics from the screen at the back of the stage are only overlayed onto the footage if there's a good reason for it... not the whole way through. There's one section where the whole song is in black and white apart from the motion graphics which are overlayed in deep, rich colours to frame the shot and give the monochrome look more definition.

My way of working is simple, but a little long winded. I watch every single line from the song from each angle and pick the best one... sometimes i change angle every 4 bars, sometimes every 8 bars and sometimes i ignore the music and go right across the beat... if it works.  Once i'm a 1/4 of the way into a song, it's usually developed a style of it's own which i then stick with for the rest of the song.

Obviously, this is a live gig with a big audience, so i cut away to the audience sometimes, but not too much...i want this to be an experience to watch in it's own right, not just something to remember the gig by if you were there.

Here's how mad the timeline is looking... and this doesn't even show all the layers!

Only another 2 weeks of editing to go...


Random, I know...but funny.

Got this pic this eyeing up some possible lunch.

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

HairCut One Hundred at IndigO2

On friday last week i did the live mix for HairCut 100 at the O2.  I love the IndigO2... it's such a great venue with some of the best in-house crew and best PA system in London. I've done quite a few gigs there and it always goes really well.

This gig was no exception. The band were tight, and a lot funkier than i remember and everyone had a great time... me included.  I managed to grab a few photos and tiny bit of one handed filming while i was mixing. It's really shaky... but i was looking at the mixing desk at the time...sorry!

For anyone interested in the technical side of things... i used the in-house Soundcraft Vi6 digital mixing console and nothing but internal effects and dynamics. The PA system is a Vertec Line-Array with 9 boxes a side and 12 subs...they all use dBx speaker management. I used my usual mic set up of beta52 on the kick, beta57 top and bottom of the snare...414s on overheads... errr...what else... UHF SM58 on vocals (never Beta58s...i hate them) 409s or 509s on guitar cabs, SM57s on perc and MD421s on brass.

The whole gig was recorded live straight off my desk and burnt live to CDr and then sold as people left the venue...all sorted by Abbey Road mobile recording....amazing.

View of the O2 from my hotel.

The end of the show...

Nick and the band.

My Soundcraft Vi6 with the set-list sitting on it during soundcheck.

Blog posting HTC app test...

This post won't be here long... it's just to test a new app on my phone. It would be quite handy to post on the move sometimes.

Well, it appears to work pretty well...  i might leave this here anyway. For those on HTC phones, Blogger-droid seems to be a pretty good solution for blogging on the move.

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Post Production with 550D(T2i) Footage...observations.

 Over the last couple of weeks i have been doing post production work with Canon 550D footage using Final Cut Pro.  It's not the first time i have done this, but it's the first time i have tried to work purely in a Pro Res environment at 1080p. Previously i have only worked at 720p for web delivery with 550D footage. I have made some interesting observations that should help me (and you) shoot better footage with post-production in mind.

Firstly, you must shoot flat... i use the Stu Maschwitz settings to make sure i get the most detail in my original footage. Also, custom white balance whenever you can, especially in low light shots.

Stu Maschwtiz's much respected 'flat' settings.

Another thing to bear in mind at all times is that using the light meter on the camera isn't going to be telling you the whole truth. I've had shots where it's said for sure that it was 2 stops over and yet it clearly wasn't. You need to use a proper light meter and more importantly, trust your eyes. Use an external monitor or even a loupe or EVF, but make sure there is plenty of light. It's best to be a stop over with the 550D... you can always darken it in post. Grading is much easier and you will have more room for adjustment if you have a brightly light shot to start with, with no noise or too many black areas. Use a graduated ND filter if you need to shoot in bright sunlight to keep skies looking nice without getting a white-out.

I have learnt the hard way that if your shot is even slightly under exposed, you will struggle to do much to fix it in post. If you start adding gamma or over-doing the colour correction, you will get that nasty pixelation or banding...and that looks terrible.

My workflow for the Canon footage is this:

Copy H.264 files from SDHC card and back-up to 2 different drives.

Preview the footage and rename only the shots i want to use. (Generally only 2 different takes of each shot)

Use Magic Bullet Grinder to convert to Pro Res and save the files on the drive i wish to edit from.

Import the Pro Res files into FCP and edit.

Colour correct with FCP's own colour corrections tools.

Grade each scene (once is has been nested) with either Magic Bullet Mojo or Looks.

Export master file using 'Export Quicktime'. (Pro Res)

Export Web version using 'Quicktime Conversion'. (H.264, cropped 2.35:1, 5000mbps, AAC Audio)

I rarely use 'Compressor' as i find it struggles to make a better looking file than 'Quicktime Conversion' in FCP. Also, i find 'Compressor' makes the video files darker for some reason... i always have to lighten them using the tools within 'Compressor' and i'd rather not have to.

For those that are wondering, i always use separate system audio and i do all my audio within Logic Studio. I usually do a rough edit which i then drop into Logic to allow me to sync my music and foley, before doing a mix which i then drop back in FCP for the final export. FCP audio is nowhere near good enough for proper sound mixing, so i don't even bother trying..  sound is too important.

Of course, there's some post tools that can help salvage dodgy footage... De-Noisers are handy and i use one sometimes, but i don't like the way they make the footage soft if you push them. Another trick i sometimes employ is to blur dark areas if they are starting to look noisey, but you have to be careful as they can often look bad again once you compress for delivery.

As usual, it all comes down to light... fast lenses and good lighting will always make for a better looking image. And remember, if you're planning on darkening a scene in post using a heavy grade, then remember to light accordingly in the first place. Faces will have to be significantly better lit than backgrounds in order to still stand out once darkened. Forgetting this has led to some frustrating post sessions trying to rescue footage... don't make the same mistake! If there's one lesson i've learnt, it's take your time on lighting a scene...never rush it, and don't push the ISO setting above 800.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hit the ground running...

January is usually a slow start... frustrating slow in my view. But, not this year.  After getting New Year out of the way, i've not stopped. We had to crack right on with the shoot for the 'Their Law' trailer and also shooting the footage for my short for Cannes at the same time. Both are looking fantastic, even if i do say so myself and i'm really pleased with how it's all going.

As if all the shooting wasn't enough, i'm also editing a concert DVD for Howard Jones. Yes, Howard Jones the multi-talented artist best known for his 80s hits like 'Like to Get To Know You Well', 'What Is Love?' and 'New Song'.  I'm Howard's live sound engineer, so he knows i'm into my filming and editing on the side, so he asked me to edit the DVD of his IndigO2 show which was shot on the 6th November last year. It's a huge job... 9 cameras and a right mixed bag of formats including... XDCam, XDCamEX, AVCHD, Go Pro HD MP4, Canon H2.64 and more...  It took a solid week of transcoding it all into a format i could edit with. Usually i work with Apple's Pro Res, but seeing as so much of it was XDCam already, i went with that.  The biggest pain was the Go Pro footage. It took 16 hours of StreamClip batch-converting to get it all into XDCam format....very very boring.

Anyway, the edit is coming together nicely now and i'm really pleased with how it looks. The EX3 footage looks a little more red than the XF305 and XDCam footage, but it's working well with a little colour correction.  Another couple of weeks work i reckon to get it all how i want it.

Over the next couple of weeks (in-between the Howard Jones edit sessions) i will be starting to put the 'Their Law' trailer together. We've got pretty much all of the footage now, although i think i might take a trip into London with my Camera to get some B-Roll stuff to give it more of a London flavour.  That's a big bonus with DSLR shooting...i can get on a train, wander around central London and get some great footage, and most people just think i'm taking stills.... so i get left alone. It should be quite a nice day, shoot some footage, have a pint, shoot some more footage, have another pint....train home. Easy.

In other news... Haircut 100 have asked me to do the FOH mix for them at their IndigO2 gig on the 28th Jan. I used to love Haircut 100 when i was at junior school...i think 'Love Plus One' was one of the first singles i bought. I'm looking forward to it. It also gives me a chance to grab a bit of footage of the outside of the O2 for my Howard Jones Edit...

So, that's January shaping up.... Next month it all kicks off with the Kim Wilde European Tour, the edit, mix and finishing up of the 'Their Law' trailer and getting my Cannes films sent in.

After last year's diabolical start, 2011 is a refreshing change of pace.