Feature Film Editing in Final Cut Studio

It’s been awhile since I’ve updated my blog. Other than editing, not much else is happening. I’m spending my days buried in Final Cut Pro. I’ve got about 70 minutes of the 90 minute film edited. It’s great seeing the story come alive. Just yesterday, I sat down with my mom and watched the fist 70 minutes. What fun!

I must say, Apple has really done well with the new release of Final Cut Studio 2. I did the one thing that most people tell you not to do–upgrade in the middle of a project. But, the new features of FCS2 were needed, so I upgraded. And thankfully, it’s been a relatively smooth transition.

The two new features that I’ll be using extensively are: Color and ProRes 422.

Color: This new feature is so much more than a feature. Just last year, you could by this high-end coloring system (previously known as Final Touch) for just under $6,000. Today, it’s simply included as part of the Final Cut Studio package. With Color, you can now take your regularly footage and begin telling your story with this coloring tool. (See my previous blog on the importance of color in storytelling.)

ProRes 422: This may get a bit technical, but I’ll try to explain. When editing movies on computers, the frist step is to digitize each frame into a digitial image that the computer can recognize. Once your film is digitized (captured onto the computer), then you can begin editing by adjusting those images. How the computer stores those images is of great importance.

Think about the videos you’ve seen on the web. They’re a bit pixelated, fuzzy, sometimes hard to see (and hear). Well, those are highly compressed videos for transferring over the web. With video editing, you can still use your local hard drive, but even then, one single hard drive has its limitations (speed of the drive, how fast data is transferred, etc.). And, when it comes to full frame High Definition (HD) video, hard drive speeds and data interfaces can easily hinder the editing and playback process.

Well, Panasonic introduced a highly compressed format for capture and editing called DVCPro. In fact, we used this format when shooting. We captured our movie on a Panasonic Varicam camera using the DVCPro 720p codec at 24 frames a second. And, I am editing in Final Cut Pro using this format as my baseline format.

However, I don’t really want to finish in this format, because I want to use the new Color application at it’s maximum quality. Introduce ProRes 422.

There are higher qualities than ProRes. For example, I can convert my project to uncompressed HD, but this format is very large and requires a very fast system of drives and interfaces. Huge disk arrays can be costly and quickly become outdated. Plus, you need a high-end fibre optic or Serial Data interface to transfer the high-speed data. Sure, I could upgrade my drives and my interface for uncompressed, but now with ProRes, I don’t need to. ProRes uses the standard interface and can work on a single SATA drive. Amazing! Now, I can use ProRes as my Digital Intermediate (DI).

So, here’s my workflow:
1. Capture the film using DVCProHD 720p.
2. Edit the film in FCP using DVCProHD (no generatlional loss).
3. After it’s locked, we’ll use Color to color the film.
4. Directly out of Color, we’ll create a ProRes version of the film.
5. We’ll then sync the audio with the final, colored edit.
6. Using a Kona3X card, we’ll output the high quality edit to D-5 HD.
7. Then, we’ll buy some popcorn and enjoy the show!

I warned you–it was a bit technical. But, these new Apple announcements have really changed how we’ll “finish” the film. I’m excited about living in this age of technology. It’s truly amazing that we can produce entire feature films at such a lower cost than just a few years ago.

It reminds me of a quote from concerned filmmaker, Francis Ford Coppola: “Some little girl in Ohio is going to make a beautiful movie with her father’s camcorder…”

…and Final Cut Studio in HD and ProRes and Color…

This entry was posted on Sunday, June 17th, 2007 at 9:22 am and is filed under general.
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One Response to “Feature Film Editing in Final Cut Studio”

  1. mike higgins Says:

    Hi, Russ. I am a friend of Dan Millican’s and got to your site thru s-films site. I enjoyed your blogs. Reminded of me when I was his police tech advisor on “The Gunman”. First time I had done that. People don’t realize the amount of work that goes into making a film (pre,prod.,post,promoting) especially on the set 12 hours a day, setups, etc. I’m anxious to see your final product. I wish I had known about it during pre-prod, I would have like to applied as tech adv or actor (I retired from Arlington PD after 28 years, currently at Tarrant County Sheriff’s office). Film making is a lot of work but will be worth it when you are showing it on the big screen. You have a good helper in Dan. He knows his stuff! I wish the money people could see him behind the scenes. They’d be throwing money at him to be a producer on his films. ( No, I am not brown nosing…hahahaha). Good luck!!