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The Moving Picture: Taking Tips
Posted May 30, 2006 Print Version     Page 1of 1

I recall an old Saturday Night Live skit that featured Billy Crystal as a terminally ill Borscht Belt comedian who kept repeating the punch line to his favorite joke: "He only took tips." The joke, about a mohel, who performs the Jewish rite of circumcision, was something like, "Did you hear about the mohel who didn't charge for circumcision? He only took tips."

What brings this joke to mind after all these years? I've signed up to write a book on the top 100 or so tips for the Adobe Production Studio entitled Adobe Digital Video How-To's. My focus will be integration first, then top tips as they relate to video production primarily for Premiere Pro, Encore, After Effects, and Photoshop. And I want to take your tips.

Specifically, if you have any tips that help you create higher-quality video faster or more efficiently, I'd appreciate your sending them to me at the email address below. While I can't give attribution for the tips in the body of the book, I will mention those who sent original tips used in the book in the foreword, and will send books to the best five tips as judged by EventDV editor-in-chief Steve Nathans, who will also edit the book.

I'd like to start by sharing two tips that probably will appear in the book, both relating to Premiere Pro. I mentioned one in this month's HDV camcorder quality comparison ("HDV Camcorder Showdown, Part 2"), but if you run across this column on the web, or missed the article, you may not have seen it.

If you decide to experiment with the faux-progressive formats in the Canon XL H1 and Sony HDR-FX1, when you try to capture the video in Premiere Pro (or even pre-5.1 versions of Final Cut Pro), you won't find a preset specifically for the formats, and if you muck around and create your own, you could capture the file incorrectly. Instead, download Aspect HD from CineForm, which provides the capture presets and converts the captured video into an AVI format that Premiere Pro can edit. Sure, it's not the native HDV MPEG format, and the format has an irritatingly chirpy name (Visually Perfect), but the solution worked well in all my tests.

In addition, when I worked with video from the JVC GY-HD100 in its native format, 720/30p, Premiere was sluggish and often crashed. When I tried CineForm, these problems disappeared. CineForm is free for 15 days, then costs $449. Note that Premiere handled 1080/60i HDV from the Sony HDR-FX1 and Canon XL H1 with no problem.

The second tip relates to HDV downsampling. I've produced a number of HDV-source projects in Premiere Pro, with generally good results. Recently, however, working with some multicamera projects, I started to notice some anomalies.

When panning and zooming inside a clip in the multicam sequence, quality wasn't what I expected. As you probably know, one of the benefits of shooting in HDV mode for SD output is the ability to pan and zoom within the higher resolution frame and not lose quality. It's just like zooming into an ultra-high resolution image in an image-editing program; so long as you're still accessing original pixels, the image doesn't get grainy or pixelated.

When editing in Premiere Pro without multicam, this worked well, meaning I could pan and zoom around the image without distortion. With multicam, however, the image appeared much blurrier when zooming in. The real kicker was that if I panned around the image, I couldn't access parts of the frame that I knew were in the original HDV image. I saw a black bar instead, as if the pixels simply weren't there.

Long story short, I discovered that if you use an SD output preset (usually 16:9 720x480) for your project, as I was doing, when Premiere Pro creates the multicam sequence, it locks all videos in the multicam sequence at that resolution. Once you drag the multicam sequence into another sequence for editing, you can't access the original HDV files. It's almost as if Premiere Pro converted the HDV file to DV, though it doesn't physically create the DV files. So if you zoom into the HDV file during editing, Premiere can't access the extra pixels in the HDV file and has to make them up (called interpolation) so the video looks blurry, just as it would if you tried to zoom into a DV file.

The obvious initial solution is to produce your video in an HDV preset. Sounds good, but in the quality comparisons I've done, Premiere Pro produces noticeably better quality when outputting HDV video to SD output from an SD project preset than from an HDV project preset. Sounds funky, but it's true. So you're always better off using a preset that matches your target output.

What about pan and zoom? When I presented the problem to Adobe, they came up with a creative, albeit labor-intensive solution. Specifically, you have to create your pans and zooms in the sequence where you create the multicam group, not where you edit it.

If you're reasonably skilled with Premiere Pro, you can probably take that ball and run with it. But here's one mini-tip that may help: if you hit Shift+T from the sequence where you're editing the multicam sequence, Premiere Pro will jump directly to the source clip at the same location. For less experienced users, space doesn't allow a full description, but rest assured it will be described thoroughly in the book.

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