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HDSLR TIPS: WORK FLOW, DATA, AND THE EOS E-1 PLUGIN FOR FINAL CUT

October 29th, 2010

12_HDSLR-FCSThis is part of a series on using the “new” storytelling tool granted us by the convergence of the digital still camera with the video camera. This is an evolving field so check the dates on everything; it may no longer be current or relevant.

There are a lot of online posts from Hollywood film makers, high-end advertising photographers, and others who are producing beautiful work using the new HDSLR. Their exploratory work is helping push the boundaries of the HDSLR and to develop aftermarket equipment. While we can learn from the big-budget work, this series of posts is intended for people like me: photojournalists and documentarians who work with few resources and a minimal footprint.

12_HDSLR-Canon-logoI’ve met still photographers struggling to learn video and the new HDSLRs, so I thought this series of posts might help. If you’re a pro with a lot of experience in film and video, and you wish to contribute your knowledge, I welcome you to post to the comments or to author a guest blog.

WORK FLOW, DATA MANAGEMENT, AND THE EOS E-1 PLUGIN FOR FINAL CUT

Data management is crucial to successful work flow. There isn’t much worse than opening up a project, seeing some assets are offline, and then spending a few hours trying to find them because of poor data management. Except when you can’t find the assets because you accidentally deleted them which, so far, hasn’t happened to me. Though I might have lost a modified version of an asset, I’ve been good about backups and haven’t lost a RAW file or footage.

Canon, with its EOS E1 plugin for Final Cut Studio, is making an effort to help us streamline our work flow. Final Cut Studio (FC) doesn’t play well with the h264 codec the Canon 5D MK II uses to compress its movies, which means it’s necessary to convert all Canon 5D Mark II footage to a different codec before importing it into FC and editing. (You can import the h264, but every time you make a cut or a move or anything, FC will need to re-render the clip. Tedious.) Before the EOS E1 plugin, you needed to use Compressor, setting up a preset to make the codec conversion, task your processors using Qmaster, and then go get lunch while the machine labored. With the EOS E1 plugin, you still should go get lunch, but if you manage your data well it’s a cleaner process.

Note: The EOS E1 plugin is compatible with FCP 6.0.6/7.0.1 in an Intel-based Mac OX 10.6.2 and later environment, and you will need substantial hard disk space for the codec conversion.

DATA MANAGEMENT

I’m sure you’ve figured out a good data management work flow for yourself that includes multiple backups to hard drive for archive redundancy and offsite security; if you haven’t, I recommend you look into this. For now, I’m going to share some of my project-based data management I use to build the architecture I reference with the EOS E1 plugin.

I use a year-month-day-jobname labeling system. Here, for the “Sasquatch or Bust” media project I produced, I called it “20100616_SPIKE” after Spike, whose story it is.

Within the Job Folder, I create sub folders:

“1_foldername” is the Adobe Lightroom Catalog folder. Create this folder using Adobe Lightroom when you create the job-specific Adobe Lightroom Catalog. (See Figure 1)

“2_foldername” contains all the selected images from my first edit (for which I use PhotoMechanic for its speed at previews, editing, renaming, and filling in the IPTC). (See Figure 2)

“3_foldername” contains all the movie files I shoot. I can break this down by camera, by codec, etc. Never delete these. They are your originals. (See Figure 3)

“4_foldername” I use this for images output from Lightroom. They can be high-res jpegs for clients, Photoshelter, submitting to my agencies, for Final Cut, watermarked low-res for social media, etc.

“5_foldername” I use this for all my initial out takes derived from my first edit in PhotoMechanic. The files names become 20100616_SPIKE_U_001, 002, etc. where the “U” stands for “unselect.”

“20100616_SPIKE_MM” is the multimedia project folder (See Figure 4). Having a separate folder is important for Final Cut projects because you need to know where all your assets are, especially if you’re going to back up or hand off the project to someone else. One folder with all the data is key, and you want to mimic this in the Final Cut project. (See Figure 5).

FIGURE 1:
1_HDSLR-wkflw-LRcat

FIGURE 2: I keep my images in .CR2 but you could (and I probably should) be converting these to .DNG

2_HDSLR-wkflw-img

FIGURE 3: Note the unique names of the video folders. These are re-named from the original EOS folders created in the camera.

3_HDSLR-wkflw-MV

The Finder folder is going to mimic the folder structure you create in your Final Cut project. That way, when you’re fishing for some asset, it should be in the same place in both Final Cut and on your hard drive.

FIGURE 4: The Finder-Level Final Cut project folder.

4_HDSLR-FC

FIGURE 5: Mimicking the Finder folder structure in the Final Cut browser.

5_HDSLR-FC-browser

SYSTEM SETTINGS: THE SCRATCH DISK

I don’t work off the disk that holds my OS and applications; I use a separate “Workdisk” that is actually a drive in RAID 1 configuration, meaning, it’s writing to two separate hard drives at once, but to me it appears as one drive. It probably slows things down a little to write to the drives like that, but I like the security of knowing my drives are mirrored in case a drive fails. The drives are on trays I can pull from the device. If I’m editing in the field with my MacBook Pro, I can use a terrabyte sized bus-powered drive, like theSeagate FreeAgent Go, then back it up to a second drive daily.

The Project Folder is on the Workdisk, along with a separate generic folder labeled “z_CAPTURE_SCRATCH.” The “z” pushes it to the bottom of the finder window, and Capture Scratch is where video temporarily goes when it’s imported into the project. It’s a catch-all folder I set Final Cut up to recognize, regardless of the project I’m working on.

Wherever you decide to place your Capture Scratch, the place to set it is:
“Final Cut Pro / System Settings” or the short cut “Shift Q”

You’ll get a window that looks like this (Figure 6). Although my scratch disk isn’t set up properly (for this tutorial I’m using an archived project), I’d like to note that the Waveform and Thumbnail Cache are in my User folder on my local drive (Supercharged) as is the Autosave Vault. This is super important; autosave can be set to every 10 minutes (or less) and it’s a good idea to put it on a drive you’re not taxing (like the workdisk). That way you’ve always got a backup of the project file, as recent as 10 minutes ago.

Periodically you’ll need to dump your Cache folders so your local drive isn’t consumed by Final Cut data.

FIGURE 6: The Setting up the Scratch Disk

6_HDSLR-FC-system

EOS E1 PLUGIN FOR FINAL CUT PRO

First, make sure you’ve installed the plugin. Links here:
EOS E1 Plug In for 5D MK II
Select your Operating System to view available downloads

The Canon Guide

Quick Start Guide in PDF

Canon 5D MK II Firmware Version 2.0.4 (in case you don’t have it yet)

The Video Folder:

When you download your CF Card, download the whole thing, so you end up with whole DCIM and MISC folders.
Separate the still images (the .CR2 files) but leave the MOV and THM files.
Rename the parent folder per your project naming scheme like in Figure 7.

FIGURE 7: Preserving Folder Structure

7_HDSLR-DCIM

FILE LOG AND TRANSFER WITH THE EOS E-1 PLUGIN

With the EOS 1 Plugin installed into Final Cut:

• Open Log and Transfer (shift-command-8)

• Top center is a tools symbol where you will select Apple ProRes for the codec (Figures 8, 9)

FIGURE 8

8_HDLSR-LT-Pref

FIGURE 9

9_HDSLR-LT-ProRes

• Top Left is an “add folder” symbol. Click this and add folders from your “3_foldername” folder where all the RAW video files are kept. (Figure 10)

FIGURE 10

10_HDSLR-LT-select

• Select all, then click “Add Selection to Queue.” FC will: (Figure 11)
–Ingest the files it finds in the folders
–Log them
–Transfer the new ProRes files to your Capture Scratch Folder

FIGURE 11

11_HDSLR-LT-process

• With the FC Project open:
–go to the Finder
–Select then drag the new ProRes files in the Capture Scratch into your Project’s Video Folder and the appropriate Sub Folder
–by having the FC Project open, FC will follow the move of the assets so you don’t need to reconnect the media later

• NOTE: if you want to log and transfer files for which you’ve already deleted the .THM files, you can take a .THM file from any other clip, rename it to match the file with the missing .THM, and use it as a substitute. The file preview and timecode will not coincide, but FCP will transcode and log the .MOV.

• NOTE: if you are unable to use this method, you can still use QMaster and Compressor to transcode the h264 files from the Canon 5D Mark II to either HDV1080p30 or Apple ProRes 422.

WHEN ARCHIVING: Manual media management for multi-camera synchronizations with Pluraleyes, ProRes files, and dumping data to archive smaller project files.

Conserving space for archived projects is important. For me, this usually means dumping all unnecessary data, and relying on the time-consuming process of re-rendering or re-logging footage if I work on an archived project. ProRes files are much larger than the h264 files the Canon 5D Mark II creates, however your entire project is built off the ProRes files. If you’ve shot a multi-camera project, and used Pluraleyes to sync it, all the sequences created by Pluraleyes will be reliant on the ProRes files. Final Cut will say media is offline, and will stall while as it catalogs what’s missing. Be patient, then start re-building your assets. Excellent data management when you initially created the project will be essential to your success.

When I manually Media Manage, I remove the ProRes files that were not included in the end product, along with music or other assets. I might also dump still images, but they’re not that big and sorting through them may be time consuming. Note that I have yet to completely trust Final Cut’s Media Manager.

To re-open the archived project for editing I:
Use the FCP EOS 1 Plugin action to re-log and transfer the h264 footage from their respective folders (which I’ve kept), manually placing them into the FCP Project Video folder.
Once this is done, I can reconnect the media.

You will need to do this if you are going to use any of the multicam or Pluraleyes sequences.

That’s about it for this installment of HDSLR tips. If you have questions, please email me. If you have input that will create a better work flow, please email me or post it below.

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3 Responses to “HDSLR TIPS: WORK FLOW, DATA, AND THE EOS E-1 PLUGIN FOR FINAL CUT”

  1. Ryan says:

    Wow, thanks for such a thorough explanation of your workflow. Really helpful.

  2. Bosmat says:

    Hi,
    Thank you for the plug in and the encoding information.
    I work with Final Cut Pro and just started using the canon SLDR 5.
    I have Logged and Transfered the footage and it looks great on Quick time in the scratch disk,
    how ever when i play back the clips in the viewer and Time Line in FC they seem slower and not smooth . What could be the problem?

    Best, Bosmat

  3. tim says:

    Bosmat,

    My guess on the playback is this: Quicktime handles the files great, but when it’s run through FC, the application doesn’t have enough available resources to render it smoothly for playback.

    If this is the case, these are some potential issues:
    • your scratch disk isn’t sending data fast enough to your processor
    • that your processor isn’t fast enough
    • you don’t have enough RAM or your computer’s hard disk is too full

    Sometimes I edit on a MacBook Pro with, a 2.53 ghz core duo w/ 4gb of RAM. I make sure everything is rendered and keep my viewer at 25%. My scratch disk is an external and that can lead to dropped frames. I also close all other apps that I can (running lightroom is definitely a no-no) and in general try to keep 50-90gb free on my 320gb system disk. If I don’t, all apps slow down, not just FC.

    Hope that helps.
    T

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