Monday, April 15, 2013

Cutting with FCPX for broadcast, week 1

Good evening everyone,

You've guessed correctly...So little time and sooo much to say about FCPX in a broadcast environment. Indeed, as a proof, I am writing this post as I am editing using FCPX.

FCPX interface

The last 10 days have been very busy. Aside of adapting to an ever evolving FCPX workflow I also deployed a SAN (Storage Area Network) using sanMP (multi platform management software by Studio Network Solutions). 

Before anything, you should know that neither Event Manager by Intelligence Assitance nor Xfile Pro by will work on SAN volumes. (Thank you to for the referral). 

So why am I working with a SAN? Simply because it allows me to share volumes with my team. Therefore when you go this route, when a version of an episode is done, a producer could open it on his workstation and create his text for any voice over needs while a post production assistant could export it for feedback to the the network. To make a long story short, a SAN usually multiplies your post production force by 4 to 5. Not bad at all. For inquiries about SAN products contact the folks at Studio Network Solutions and mention my name (I've been reselling their products for almost 5 years now).

So let's talk about the workflow and the huge amount of media I have to log, de-rush as well as edit with two co-workers. Before the SAN was up and running we made 3 copies of our HDD containing all our footage because we had to find a way to share our projects and keyword collections. However the workflow explained below should only be applied for those who do not work with a SAN.

Therefore, as we did work with a SAN on Episode 01, I had one assistant editor adding keywords to all the media located on a clone of the HDD I am using fro editing. We've preselected keywords together with the copyrighter/producer during the production so that:
a) we don't end up with a few hundred keyword collections
b) we have a clear target of what we need.

We've been utilizing the following keywords and it's been quite successful so far:
EP1, EP2, EP3 (...) EP9, Q (for quote or sound bite), Characters Names (such as John, Bobby and so on), Day, Night, Adventure, Challenge.

Once the key words are applied to FCPX events located on the HDD utilized by the assistant editor

FCPX keyword collections
Such as those...

You have to find a way to retrieve those keyword and bring them into your events located on your HDD.

In order to retrieve those keywords and somehow "transfer" them to another HDD containing the same events with the same media the only solution we came up with is to select the events one by one, copy them to another volume, then merge them as one event entitled "Episode 01" and voilĂ .  Unless someone can come up with a better solution, please let me know.

Finally, in order to avoid long period of time while copying your events, I'd suggest that your transcode all your medias to Proxy (ctrl + click your event). You'll be amazed how fast FCPX will process your media. I had mp4 clips shot with contour cameras (up 1 hour long) that I tried to transcode using compressor and after a few hours I gave up because compressor would just hang. I then gave it a try within FCPX with the ctrl+click shortcut

ctrl+click an event in order to access the transcoding FCPX window

And it took FCPX about 15 minutes to transcode it. I then selected all my events and transcoded all the Episode 1 media. It took 4 hours for FCPX to transcode everything in Proxy. The configuration I am currently using this one (for the week-end only because I worked from home last night in order to advance)

My iMac FCPX workstation configuration

Anyhow, this week we'll be using the SAN (3 year old Promise Vtrack) ran by a 3 year old Xserve who's in desperate need of more RAM which will be added this week.

At last, I am still and constantly being attacked by other editors who still think FCP7 is the way to go. I have to admit, as a  certified trainer for both FCP7 & X I wish FCPX would have a built in timecode window (not the generator timecode window trick), and I really really really wish FCPX could show the timecode overlay in the event viewer...

All right, so far EP01 is at 22 minutes and I need another 3 minutes in order to be done. My deadline is in 48 hours (excluding sound mixing, grading and effects). 

Before I go, the X2Pro plug in works perfectly for both LOGIC (yes logic) and ProTools, but that is another post.


Joachim Levy
Motion Picture Director & Editor
 Certified Trainer FCPX & 7

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Reality TV post-production with FCPX Day 3: ProTools & MXF export test

Hello All,

I know I was supposed to post 2 days ago, however running a reality television broadcast season on a new tool such as FCPX requires lots of resources as well as patience.

Post-Production status:
Episode one is already well under way. So far I am 4 minutes in. Not bad considering I've been cutting just for one day not to mention all the stress co-wokers magically lay on you when they all keep saying: FCPX won't work. Pffffff, it is so not true. FCPX works like a charm.

FCPX and Sound Design:

Thursday morning I was asked how I was going to provide an "omf" to the sound studio in order to have each episode properly mixed for broadcast. Above all, FCPX cannot and will not export omf files. Therefore I thought I had the two following options:

Option A)
Export a "Master File" for each episode:
Export Masterfile from FCPX share tab

with all of its audio tracks and that with one click by selecting "export roles as separate tracks" located in the "settings" tab
Export Roles as separate files (Setting Tab)
I thought: VoilĂ . Well I was wrong however still very enthused. The problem when you export your roles as separate tracks is that if you have many dialogues overlapping each other in your storyline/timeline (just like these in the image below)

Blue Audio Tracks labeled as Dialogues & overlapping

FCPX will export your dialogue Role as one track. Unless you relabel your dialogue roles such as Dialogue 1, Dialogue 2, Dialogue 3, it will work, however it will be time consuming knowing a 27min cut of a survival reality tv show has hundreds if not more than a thousand cuts. Therefore I turned to Option B.

Export using X2Pro ($150 in the app store). There are two versions, if you need to export wave reference files then get the X2Pro (not he X2Pro Le)

The process is pretty straight forward. X2Pro will create a file that ProTools will be able to open.

However....Make sure you go in X2Pro preferences and activate the 24bit audio option during export. And for some reasons, when I tried to export my 4 minute long Episode 1 cut in progress, X2Pro kept giving me an error, I therefore tweaked the export options and noticed that if I would turn of the 'Reference wave files in place" the export would work...

X2Pro export window

However, for some reasons X2Pro kept asking me permission to access my media. Fine with me as long as it can send my files to ProTools. The whole process: install, export, figuring out the export issue took me about 20 minutes. I then sent the files to a ProTools engineer who will get back to me on Monday morning. So far no complaints.
X2Pro Alert message

My next step was to find a way to export an MXF from FCPX in order to be able to deliver each episode on XDcam disks.

XDCam disk
I knew the solution lied within Hamburg Pro Media with their ImEx suite. So I contacted them and got the trial version: 

Just know that once Hamburg Pro Media provides you with their plug-in you'll have 7 days to export as many MXF as possible after that, you'll have to pay almost 800 for it.

Coming back to our MXF export, once you install the Imex Suite plug in for FCPX, if you want to generate an mxf you will have to do it through the compressor interface and chose the MXF export settings: however you'll most probably get this alert once you hit export. (I got it on 3 workstations)

Again, no need to swear out loud at either Apple, Sony or Hamburg Pro Media. This alert simply means that in the e-mail you received from Hamburg Pro Media (the one that contains the Imex Suite Installer .dmg file) you need to read it (the email) and you'll notice they provided you with a serial number that will activate the plug in.  Once you locate your serial, do the following:

Go to System Preferences, in the "other tab" (see image below) locate the MXF blue cube and click on it.

System Preferences Window

 Select the Software tab

MXF system preference window tab

Click on the "online tab" located on the bottom right
MXF system preferences software window
 And copy paste the serial number Hamburg Pro Media sent us by e-mail

MXF system preferences serial number window
Now you are able to export MXF files right out of FCPX. All right, that's it for today.

Monday I will talk about why I asked all the camera team to capture their footage using the FCPX import window. 

Coming up Wednesday: reconfiguration of the Xserve, Xraid and turn it into a SAN. So stay tuned and thank you for reading.

Joachim Levy
 Certified Trainer FCPX & FCP7
SAN integrator
Motion Picture Editor & Director

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Reality TV post-production with FCPX DAY 01: reconfiguring the edit bay

So today was the first post-production day on "Das Experiment" produced by John Allen AG. The show will premiere May 7th on SRF.

This morning when I walked in, the edit bay I was given in order to edit the next season of Homerun newly entitled "Das Experiment", was a MacPro 4.1 2.26 Nehalem with a Deck Link Studio 2 card by Black Magic and that hooked up to a TV logic 19' broadcast monitor. This MacPro contains 4 internal HDD: 1 for the OS (Snow Leopard) and 3 for scratch. Right away I formatted the 3 scratch disks as follow:
1 as OS with Mountain Lion
1 as Scratch 1
1 as Scratch 2
I intentionally left the old Macintosh HD as is as there might be some producers wanting to edit using good old FCP7.

After installing Mountain Lion,  I downloaded and installed FCPX (pronounced ten and not x) from the app store. I also installed EventManagerX by Intelligent Assitance knowing I already have about 50 events that were created by the camera teams on a daily basis (we'll get to this later). Event Manager allows you to hide unwanted event in FCPX, it uncloggs your event browser, and for $4.99, it's quite a fantastic tool.

Next step, I launched FCPX knowing I still had to install a few plug-ins as well as drivers such as: Black Magic & Red Giant Magic Bullet Looks II.

As FCPX could not see the Deck Link Studio Card in my preferences (⌘,)

FCP X 10.0.8 Playback Preferences

I figured I had to install the driver from Black Magic, which is this guy:

Black Magic Desktop Video Driver

However, if you want to download it from the Black Magic Design Support page, you will need to provide your Deck Link Serial Number which is actually located on the Deck Link Studio card itself.  First turn off your MacPro, unplug it, open it, take the card out and RIGHT DOWN its serial number. (don't ask me why you have to write it down).

After the driver is installed, restart your machine, go to system preference and set up your Black Magic preferences. Make sure you match Black Magic output settings to your footage, if not FCPX wont output anything but a black screen.

Once this is done, launch FCPX, go to your preferences (⌘,) and under the playback tab A/V outupt drop down menu select your Black Magic card. Playback a clip from any of your event and FCPX should display your footage on your broadcast monitor. If your monitor remains black, which will probably be the case for most of us, do not swear out loud at either Apple of Black Magic. Instead go to the window menu and enable A/V output just like this:

FCPX 10.0.8 interface
Audio-wise, I do it all with the Black Magic Deck link card as well.

After a few hours (download and install Mountain Lion, FCPX, EventMangerX, Magic Bullet Looks II) I was finally able to start editing without a single crash.

Now, as all the media are on a FW800 drive (and backed up 3 times), my next step is to transform the existing Xraid

X raid by Apple Inc

In a rock solid SAN solutions by using sanMP and Xtarget by Studio Network Solutions.

SAN (Storage Area Network) volumes by Studio Network Solutions

Why? Because it will allow me to share my projects and events in real time with speeds of up to 108MB/s per workstation and that with 3 other team members:
1 producer, 1 writer/producer, 1 assistant editor.

In the next post (tomorrow) I will demonstrate why I have been asking all camera operators to off load their footage using FCPX and why I learned one of the P.A.'s (production assistant) how to create and assign keywords to the clips while on the set.

At last, the footage was shot using the following cameras:
GoPro x3, Contour Design x3, XDcam x3 and Sony NX x3. Each episode features a multicam as well as 3 different XDcam camera teams.

Joachim Levy
 Certifed Trainer FCP7 &FCPX
Editor, Workflow Expert & SAN integrator