HDV and the AIC Codec
To begin with, note that when capturing HDV material, you should always capture and edit using the Apple Intermediate Codec (AIC), since it is an all I-frame format. Image quality will not suffer, and your system will run more smoothly. Let's briefly look at the mystery of HDV's Long-GOP format. HDV is made up of three different types of frames, I-frames being the only ones with all of the original image data, and the only ones we really care about. The other two frame types fall in between in specific patterns and make up their images based on data from surrounding I-frames. Thus, you can only place edits on I-frames.
FCP is one of the NLEs that allows you to edit in a native HDV mode and place edit points anywhere you wish, conforming the Long-GOP structure to fit your edits on-the-fly. This relies more heavily on the CPU and takes more time during the edit process. It also requires more rendering, and the dreaded "conforming" process will slow you down quite a bit.
So why edit in native HDV mode? To save hard disk space. Intermediate codecs for HDV, such as those from CineForm and others, take up more disk space than native HDV, and AIC is no exception. Image quality does not suffer when using AIC. AIC assigns every frame to be an I-frame, so there's no conforming process to worry about during editing. The conforming takes place on capture, and on output back to a native HDV Long-GOP format if you choose to go that route once you've finished editing. But if you're going straight out to SD DVD, you'll be rid of the Long-GOP structure as soon as the footage is out of the camera and on to your hard disk.
Capturing HDV in FCP as AIC
If you decide you want to use the AIC codec when working with HDV source footage in FCP, the first step is to set up your AIC format project. Open a new project in FCP. From the FCP menu, choose Easy Setup. In the Easy Setup window, from the Setup For drop-down menu, choose HDV-Apple Intermediate Codec 1080i60 (or 1080i50, or 720p30). Double-check by opening the Sequence in the Timeline window, then going to Sequence > Sequence Settings. It should read HD (1440x1080) (16:9). In that window's QuickTime Video Settings section, Compressor should be set to Apple Intermediate Codec.
The next step is to capture our HDV material from the camera into FCP as AIC. From inside FCP, open the Log & Capture window (Cmd+8). The first thing we'll do here is go to the Capture Settings tab. We want HDV-Apple Intermediate Codec for our Capture/Input setting. Then we'll just capture as we normally would anything else over Firewire and edit as you normally would any FCP project.
DVCPRO-HD (P2) and FCP
When it comes to DVCPRO-HD (P2) footage, we don't capture it; we ingest, or import, it. Since it comes in an MXF data format and not tape, it's just a slightly different workflow, but one that is much faster and easier than capturing from tape. Also, DVCPRO-HD is an all I-frame format, so there's not the Long GOP MPEG-2 compression scheme to have to work around.
Your DVCPRO-HD footage is going to originate in one of two places: on a Panasonic P2 card or on a FireStore FS-100 (as of this writing, the CinePorter had not yet been released). There are several ways to access this footage: mount the P2 cards as hard drives via a FireWire cable from the camera to your Mac, mount a P2 card as a hard drive via the PC slot on a Powerbook (MacBooks don't have the proper slot to read P2 cards), or mount an FS-100 as a hard drive on your Desktop.
Once this is done, you can ingest the footage directly from the P2 card or FS-100 into FCP, or copy the CONTENTS folder and LASTCLIP.TXT file to a folder on your hard drive and ingest into FCP from that folder. Regardless of which method you use, you end up doing the actual import of P2 footage the same way.
In a new FCP project, go to Easy Setup and choose the DVCPRO-HD format you are editing in. Then in the Browser create a new Bin. Right click (Cmd+click for one-button mice) on that Bin and from the pop-up menu select Set Logging Bin. A little clap board icon appears next to it. Next, go to File > Import > Panasonic P2. Give a meaningful Reel Name; this Reel Name will apply to all the clips you import. If your source material doesn't automatically show up in the Volumes/Path field, click the plus sign and find it.
At the bottom of the P2 import window is an option called Remove duplicate/adv. pull-down frames. Since all footage is stored in a 60fps format, you'll want to un-check this. If you used alternative frame rates, don't check this box, because it requires use of the DVCPRO-HD Frame Rate Converter tool that we won't go into at this time, but we will in a future article. Your original footage will have the original frames flagged for any format other than 60fps. If you shot in native 60fps, un-check this box, then highlight the clips you want and click Import, or simply click Import All to ingest all the clips listed.
Once this footage has been ingested into FCP, it should all show up in the Bin you set as your Logging Bin. This process will convert the MXF data into QuickTime DVCPRO-HD files on your hard drive. These QT files are what show up in your Logging Bin. Edit as you normally would with DV footage.
Once you're done editing your HD- or HDV-sourced Sequence, it's time to output for SD DVD authoring. Both HDV and DVCPRO-HD will work the same way at this point. Go to the FCP menu, and in the Easy Setup window, specify DV-NTSC, then make a new Sequence. I usually call mine something clear and desriptive like "NTSC-DV Output Sequence" so I know what it is for. Then open it in the Timeline window. Go to Sequence > Sequence Settings (Cmd+0).
Here we'll verify all our settings for normal NTSC-DV (3:2). Remember to verify that Field Dominance is set to Lower; you'll need to check this when working with footage ingested as HD 1080i, because it has a Field Dominance of Upper. Field Dominance can trip you up and cause a sort of trembling in the final video, so double-check your Sequence Settings on this output Sequence! The Compressor setting should be DV/DVCPRO-NTSC, and the Anamorphic 16:9 box should be checked.
Drag and drop your finished HD Sequence into this new DV Sequence in the Timeline window. Right click the resulting HD "Nest" (a Nest is simply a Sequence sitting inside another Sequence), and from the pop-up menu that appears, choose Open In Viewer. I suggest you decrease the image size in the Canvas and enable the Image + Wireframe fuction for this operation.
Next, go to the Motion tab, and set the Scale to whatever it needs to be in order to fill this SD frame size properly. I recommend punching in 50% just to start with and then tweaking as needed. Then set all your Chapter Markers as you normally would and render the whole thing out. Remember that we're doing an HD-to-SD conversion in this step, so rendering times can vary based on a number of factors.
Once your DV Sequence has rendered, you need to export it. Go to File > Export > QuickTime Movie (or straight to Compressor). In the QT export window, make sure the following parameters are set:
• Setting = Current
• Include = Audio and Video
• Markers = Chapter Markers
• Recompress All Frames is un-checked
• Make Movie Self-Contained is checked
With these parameters set, click Save. Then open that QT movie in Compressor and output as MPEG-2 video and Dolby 2.0 audio as you normally would with any other DV footage for DVD authoring.
DVD Studio Pro Settings
In DVD Studio Pro, before you import any assets, go to the Outline tab, highlight the DVD, and check its settings in the Inspector. Be sure it is set for SD DVD and for NTSC. Next, highlight the Track you'll be putting your video into, and go to the Inspector and be sure Display Mode is set to 16:9 Letterbox.
Also, you'll want to highlight any menus you create, so go to the Inspector, and make sure under the Menu tab that your Display Mode is set to 16:9 Letterbox. That matches your menus to the aspect ratio of your video tracks. Finally, import your video and audio assets, and author your DVD as usual.
That's it! Until next month . . . Happy Editing, ya'll!
(A special thanks to LaDonna Moore and DVXuser.com for their generous help in troubleshooting these workflows.)