Making an Indie HDV Feature Without Making Big Mistakes
Following Tomorrow Is Today From 50i Acquisition to 24p Exhibition
Tomorrow Is Today world-premieres at the Rhode Island International Film Festival, where it will be screened in HDCAM 1080p24 using Sony's 4K SXRD projector, on August 13 at 2:45 p.m.
For more information on the film, including a trailer, visit www.tomorrowistodaymovie.com. Click the links below to see clips from Tomorrow Is Today with an exclusive audio commentary by Haubrich describing the set-ups behind each scene and offering tips for working in HD and HDV.
“It’s not an action film, but we composed our shots carefully,” Haubrich says. “We didn’t want too much motion going across the screen because we knew we’d be going progressive at some point.”
“You don’t want to underexpose like you would with film, knowing that you have a whole bunch of latitude to play with [in post],” Haubrich cautions. “If you try to brighten your scene, you’re going to realize that you don’t have the data. When the MPEG-2 encoder doesn’t see much detail [in part of a scene] it decides not to encode the detail. So it’s pretty much gone.”
“Shooting 50i, you have a straight path to 24p,” Haubrich says. “Deinterlacing your 50i, you end up with 25p. Slow down the footage approximately 4 percent and you end up with 24p. If you can have a workflow where you don’t add or remove any frames, that’s the most desirable path. If we had done 60i, we’d need to go from 60 interlaced frames to 24p – and that gets a little bit more tricky.”
“We had our footage in DVCPRO HD 50i codec playing at 23.98 progressive,” Haubrich says. “It’s funky, but it works great. Now you have a progressive 24p timeline that we can output in HD using our Kona LH card right to the monitor. It’s a beautiful way to shoot HDV 50i and end up with a 1080p24 timeline in real time.”
It was also important to get out of HDV early in the post process to avoid some chroma artifacts that Haubrich saw when doing color-correction tests. And, he notes, the production used G-Tech G-RAID FireWire drives that handle DVCPRO HD a little better than HDV in a real-time color-correction environment. “Also, we were applying color-correction at the end of the process on a 24p timeline – and you can’t have HDV 24p in Final Cut,” Haubrich says. Color-correction happened entirely within Final Cut, with some help from Digital Film Tools and Red Giant’s Magic Bullet for certain effects.
"I used Digital Film Tools 55mm for special color and lighting effects," he recalls. "It worked great for flashbacks, or for bringing the footage up a couple of stops when needed. Magic Bullet gave me more color themes and an amazing vignette plug-in. And I used Nattress Plugins to deinterlace the footage from 50i to 25p, and to add a Film Gamma – which is so easy to use and really makes your footage pop." That leaves the problem of sync audio – just the dialogue, fortunately – which needs to be slowed down by the same amount to match the picture. That didn’t end up being as difficult a task as Haubrich expected. “Whenever you do that, you can lose sync pretty easily depending on the tools you use,” he says. “But when I was using the new QuickTime kit framework from Apple, I saw that they had a pitch-correction method. When we conformed the 25p footage with audio to 24p using Cinema Tools, I discovered that the latest version [of QuickTime] does pitch-correction automatically. And it was so good it’s amazing.”
HDCAM 1080p24 masters can be derived from the DVCPRO HD 23.98 timeline, and those are the tapes that Haubrich expects to use for screenings at festivals that have 1080p decks. Other screenings will use a 60i tape derived from the 24p master via standard pulldown techniques, and Haubrich says he might even use Lumiere HD to convert his 1080p24 timeline to 720p24, suitable for creating a HDV master on D-VHS – essentially the same format used by the JVC camcorder Haubrich had originally planned to shoot with. He enjoys the irony. “When you know all this stuff, you can play with all the different formats and use every manufacturer to get what you want,” he says with a laugh.
The final result, Haubrich says, is defined only in some small part by his choice of format. “I have a philosophy that the format you choose is only 20 percent of the production value of the whole film,” he says. “Story, casting, lighting and sound is the remaining 80 percent. So shooting HDV never was a big decision to me.”