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24p HD Offline on Your Laptop with Final Cut Pro

By Kevin McAuliffe

When it comes to production, the best quality at the lowest cost is key.  In today's production world, we are seeing more and more independent producers wearing multiple hats as producers, directors, editors, etc.  Another thing that we are seeing more and more of is higher end Macintosh computers coming out, with lower prices that can do more than they ever could in the past. 

It's been my experience that most people think you need a high end machine to offline for HD, and that's just not the case.  Believe it or not, you could even offline 24p for an HD online on a G4 laptop if you wanted to, as all you really need is a laptop, a copy of FCP, an external FireWire drive, a rented HD Cam VTR and a capture card.

For the purposes of this article, lets say that you have shot all your footage using a Cine-Alta F900 HD Camera in 23.976 psf. The first thing to keep in mind is that ideally, you would want to have a laptop (or iMac) that has two FireWire ports. Whether they are both FireWire 400, or if there is a 400 and 800, it really doesn't make a difference. For the capture card, I would recommend the AJA Io breakout box as it easily hooks into your laptop via FireWire 400, and you will have SD SDI input/output (that will be converted to FireWire on input/output) as well as an RS-422 remote control to control your VTR, and you will have your other FireWire port free for your external hard drive (if you have both FireWire 400 and 800, I would recommend the FW 800 for your external HD). 

Once you have your laptop, external FireWire drive and capture card/unit setup, the only thing left is the VTR.  Most people might say that renting an HDCam VTR is overkill, but for a day's rental of $1,000 (HDCam F500), you could easily work this into your offline budget to not only save yourself money, but also increase your overall profit.  The main thing to remember when renting a HDCam VTR is that it MUST have an SD SDI output (which is an expansion card in the VTR).  For 24p offline, you will need either an HDCam F500 or an HDCam SRW 5500, as both have support for 24p.  What I would recommend is that you explain to the rental shop what you are doing, and ask them to set the VTR up in 24 frame mode for not only picture, but for Timecode Sense as well, as it is crucial that your RS-422 is sending out 24 frame timecode, or none of your edits will be frame accurate; They wont even be close. Once you have wired up your SD SDI output of your VTR and remote control into your I/O box, you are ready to digitize.

Believe it or not, there is not very much that you have to set up in Final Cut Pro. What you are essentially doing is editing in DV resolution with 23.976 frame timecode instead of 30, and thankfully enough, Apple has already provided you with a preset to use.

Once you have selected your preset, there is really only one more important thing that you must make sure of before you start digitizing, and that is frame size.  Obviously, DV is a 4x3 aspect ratio and HD is a 16x9 aspect ratio, and if you start creating titles or other elements to place in your shots, and your frame aspect is wrong, you will run into big problems in your online with objects not appearing where they should in the frame (which will cost you time and money).  There is a very simple way to correct this problem, but a setting on the VTR is required to be changed as well as a setting in Final Cut.  On the VTR, you will need to press the "Setup" button on the main panel, and you are looking for menu item 754 on an F500, or menu item 930 on a SRW 5500.  As you will see on both machines, that setting is for "downconverter mode".  What you want to make sure of, is that the setting is set to "Squeeze".  As you will see, it has taken your 16x9 image, and stretched it to fit a 4x3 aspect ratio. Now, we are going to have Final Cut correct the image back to be "16x9", so that all title or graphic elements you create in your offline will appear in the correct place. In Final Cut, you have to make two changes to the easy setup you are using.  The first is in your "Capture Preset Editor", and you want to make sure "Anamorphic" is checked.

Secondly, on your "Sequence Preset Editor", you want to make sure "Anamorphic" is checked again.

Now, you are ready to start digitizing and editing your HD footage in DV widescreen mode. This is the workflow I would suggest for producers/directors/editors that do a lot of HD offlining, and want to setup shop in their house or an office they have rented.  For people who are going to be doing an offline here or there, and/or don't want to go through all the headaches of renting or buying gear (HD Decks/Capture cards), I would suggest finding a post production facility in your town that is already using a FCPHD system with an HD Cam deck, take your FireWire drive and tapes to them, and they can have someone on the night shift digitize your footage in the method I have described above to your FireWire drive, then you would take it home, plug-in and start offlining.  

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Kevin P McAuliffe is currently a Senior Video Editor working in HD post production in Toronto, Canada. He has been in the television industry for 12 years, and spends his days onlining on a Final Cut Pro HD. Kevin's high definition onlining credit list includes concerts for Coldplay, Sarah McLachlan, Barenaked Ladies, Snow Patrol, Sum41, Paul Anka, Il Divo and Pussycat Dolls, to name a few. Also, Kevin is an instructor of Advanced Final Cut Studio 2 at the Toronto Film College. If you have any questions or comments, you can drop him a line at kevinpmcauliffe@gmail.com

Related Keywords:Final Cut pro editing, 24p HD Offline, video editing, HD editing,

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