Following Tomorrow Is Today From 50i Acquisition to 24p Exhibition

There can’t be very many filmmakers who know more about working with the HDV format than Frederic Haubrich. As president and co-founder of Lumiere HD, he helped a whole cross-section of videographers using JVC’s HD-10U get their footage into Final Cut Pro back in the dark days before there was such a thing as native HDV support. So it makes sense that, when Haubrich directed his first feature film, Tomorrow Is Today, he decided to shoot it in HDV.
“The first reason was cost – knowing that we could get a camera for $5000 and get a decent picture,” Haubrich explains. “Because I had so much experience with the format on the editing, engineering and shooting side of it, we knew to do things a certain way. You don’t have as much flexibility, but you have to keep in mind – you’re shooting with a $5,000 camera. You have to be cognizant of that.”

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 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.

Shooting 1080i Instead of 720p
The original plan was to shoot in 720p with JVC’s second-generation HDV camcorder, the HD100U, but working models just weren’t ready in time. So Haubrich ended up shooting at 1080i using a Sony HVR-Z1U instead. That turned out to be a good decision in part because the project’s 2.35:1 aspect ratio meant pixels were going to be discarded at the top and bottom of the image, and shooting in the higher-resolution format meant more real estate for the widescreen picture – even though it meant the production had to settle for interlaced acquisition. Greater care was taken while shooting to avoid potential artifacts during the interlaced-to-progressive conversion process in post.

“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.”

ND Grad Filters Keep Exposure Under Control
Haubrich directed and edited; Kevin C.W. Wong was the cinematographer. The film was shot on a seat-of-your-pants 16-day shooting schedule, meaning the lighting and camera set-ups had to stay relatively simple. ND grad filters were the camera’s best friend on set, because the most important thing was to keep shadows and highlights under careful control.

“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.”

Secrets of 50i Acquisition
Significantly, Haubrich decided to shoot not in Sony’s “CineFrame” mode, which simulates a 24p capture, or even at the obvious alternative, 60i. Instead, Tomorrow Is Today was shot at 50i with an eye on the possibility of an eventual film-out.

“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.”

Post Workflow: From HDV to DVCPRO (and Back Again?)
The project’s 45 HDV tapes were ingested by Final Cut 5 for an HDV-native rough cut. Cinema Tools won’t convert an MPEG file to 23.98 progressive because MPEG is an interframe codec, so that cut was converted using the media manager to DVCPRO 50i, which Cinema Tools then converted to 23.98 progressive.

“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.”