Monday, July 28, 2008

For Want of 30, the 24 was Lost

Things are going full-speed ahead over at the contest. Yes, we have three whole entries! Around here, that's like a stampede. Thanks to eric, Dave, and joe for entering so far. We know there are hundreds more of you who want to enter but are intimidated by your chances of winning. I can not re-iterate enough that the prize is really not worth stressing out about. I mean, as cool and exciting as it is to get your name in the credits for our next video, really, it's not like we'll be curing cancer in your name, or giving you a free trip on Virgin Galactic. So don't let the pressure dissuade you from entering. Go ahead! It's fun! Even if you get them all wrong, you will have gained an important cache of knowledge.

Speaking of prizes, wouldn't it be cool if we could give out a DVD of our first 6 episodes as a contest prize? Why, yes, it certainly would. Well today I will blog the saga of why we so far do not have an LFTI DVD available to buy or win.

The one item holding our DVD back is Episode 6. This is the only episode that was shot with two cameras simultaneously, both of them HDV jobbies. Scott, the director, had fantastic access to these fancy cameras, as well as cameramen and post facilities, so Episode 6 was the only episode that we've shot in high def and on multiple cameras.

Our normal set-up, in case you're wondering, is a single Panasonic AG-DVX100A camera, which we use to shoot at standard-def 24p anamorphic.

Unfortunately, for reasons pretty much unknown, one of the HDV cameras shooting Episode 6 was set to 30fps, not 24fps. That made half of the footage used in the episode look like it came from some terrible soap opera. Online, you really can't see the difference unless you have very sharp eyes, like the eyes not of a potato. However, as soon as Episode 6 is seen on a TV, it looks horrifying.

Robb started the DVD production process, but I took it over in an effort to spare him the extra work. That made me the one in charge of finding out how to turn Episode 6's 30fps shots back into 24fps. Of course, even though we shoot at 24, the video is really actually 30. The camera does some processing to get the 24 to fit onto 30, giving it that "film look." So really what I had to do was find something that would take our 30 footage, toss out some frames, then double up on other frames so it looked like the footage had been faux-24-ed in-camera.

Got it? I'd go into more detail, but you really don't want me to do that, do you?

Okay, so I needed a plug-in to Final Cut Pro that would do something like I described above. After some asking around on Apple's forums, I got the recommendation to use a Nattress plug-in, Film Effects. There were a zillion settings for the Film Effects G Film filter, so I had to test a bunch of them out to see what would give us the best 30-to-24 conversion. For each round of tests, the samples had to be output to DVD, because you can really only see the results for realsies on a bona-fide TV.

The process of testing the plug-in settings did not go uninterrupted. We shot an episode somewhere in there, and lost a cast member, and had to re-jigger the show, so work on this Episode 6 conversion had to wait.

However, I have since nailed down the best setting to use, and now all I have left to do is... take the entire episode, go through it shot-by-shot, isolate all the 30fps footage, then apply the G Film filter and render the whole thing. This is what I need to do, and though I have a good fourth of the episode separated, it will take some time to do the rest.

That, in a clam shell, is why we do not have a DVD of Life from the Inside Episodes 1–6. It's coming, but it's not here yet.

It has been incredibly frustrating, this 24/30fps thing. Why one camera was shooting one way and another was shooting the other—across multiple shoot days—is beyond me. It is all water under the Nattress, however, and with just a bit more work, our first DVD will be ready for your viewing pleasure.

Until then, how about getting your name in the credits? Sounds pretty dang swell, huh? Almost as good as curing cancer or flying in space? Then high-tail it on over and enter our contest! Fame awaits!

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