Picture Lock! After months of editing, Marlene Booth’s documentary Kū Kanaka is nearly finished. I am sitting in Stanford Chang’s edit room at Gravity in Honolulu as he color corrects and finishes final picture on this mostly-Adobe Premiere edit.
In order to move the picture locked sequence to Stan’s system, I needed to learn and use Adobe Premiere Pro’s Project Manager feature. But first we spent some time cleaning up our sequence and getting the highest resolution stills and archival footage possible. We also upconverted a lot of SD sources to HD via Teranex hardware. I will detail this process in this blog, and I will talk about Project Manager in additional detail in the next blog.
If you look back to last winter’s blogs you can see where I documented the beginning of our editing process. To work efficiently we edited with Canon and Sony native camera codecs, some archival footage in ProRes codec, and lots of mp4 temporary archival footage from the web, along with JPEG, TIF and even PNG and GIF still images, all in a single sequence. We saved an enormous amount of time and hard drive space not having to transcode all our source media.
But now that we are at the end of the process, we want to make sure everything looks as good as possible for our 1080 HD PBS deliverables, as well as on the big screen for upcoming film festivals. The main character of our film, Kanalu Young, was active in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000’s, so most of the archival footage of him is on VHS, 3/4 U-matic and Betacam SP tapes. Marlene and I spent months finding the footage on the internet and then hunting down the best resolution videotape sources, then getting the tape baked, cleaned and digitized to ProRes 422 codec. We can’t say enough great things about the film archives and researchers and librarians who helped us with this process, particularly the amazing archivists at ‘Ulu‘ulu The Henry Ku‘ualoha Giugni Moving Image Archive.
Then when we were close to picture lock, we sent our SD archival footage to expert online editor Heather Weaver in Oakland, California for her to do a hardware conversion of the 720×480 SD footage to 1920×1080 HD. Heather has been the secret to my success when it comes to image quality and meeting broadcast standards and she had done standards conversions and HD mastering on several of the docs I have edited. I know that some folks will claim that you can do it all in Adobe Premiere, but frankly I don’t have the expertise or the hardware required to truly see the video signal at the level I feel I would need to in order to guarantee that our film would meet broadcast standards. Plus I still believe that in many cases, hardware like Teranex can do a cleaner, higher quality conversion than I could do with software.
Teranex is a processor that will convert any footage to whatever codec, frame size or frame rate you need it to be. On Kū Kanaka we have mostly been using it to deinterlace and upconvert SD footage to HD while eliminating “jaggies.” In a few cases we used it to convert 23.976 frames per second footage to 29.97 fps. To quote Heather Weaver, “While Premiere will play back many different formats, it is not performing a true frame rate conversion on the media as a Teranex does. So the end result is that some of the footage is going to have weird, steppy motion. It looks really bad. This is primarily an issue for documentary filmmakers, since we pull from a variety of sources.”
Heather is a broadcast video genius, and I love bringing her expertise to this project. I needed to gather and organize all our SD footage onto one small USB 3.0 drive that I could ship to her in Oakland. She asked me to organize the footage in a Premiere Pro project by sequence and by codec and frame rate. She also asked for an exact copy of the video files, not a Quicktime that was exported, so that we could avoid accidentally changing the codec, frame rate, frame size, pixel type, etc. I already had all our 720×480 SD archival footage captured as ProRes when we ordered it from the archives, so I created two new sequences, one for the ProRes SD footage that was 29.97 fps and one for the ProRes SD footage that was 23.976 fps. I matched the sequence settings exactly to the frame rate and frame size of the footage.
Then I copy and pasted the SD footage into each sequence.
Then I selected Project Manager from the File Menu. Project Manager is Premiere Pro’s tool for copying and/or transcoding footage from one drive to another.
In Project Manager, I selected the two ProRes SD Sequences. Project Manager has a lot of options, mostly related to consolidating and transcoding footage, which I will talk about in my next blog. But in this case I only wanted to “Collect Files and Copy to New Location.” Under Destination Path, I clicked the Browse button to select the USB 3.0 drive on which to save the files. There is a Calculate button that you can click to determine how much drive space you will need. I clicked the OK button and Project Manager created a new Premiere Pro project on the destination drive, copied the two sequences into the project and began copying the footage onto the destination drive.
Very important: you should allow plenty of time for this process to happen. When Project Manager copies your files, it doesn’t just take the frames that you used in your edit. It copies the entire file. So if your clip is 20 minutes long and you used 20 seconds of it in your film, it will copy the whole 20 minute long mediafile. This was all SD footage, so even the longer files were relatively small. But it still took nearly 45 minutes to copy approximately 92.6 GB from a Thunderbolt drive to a USB 3.0 drive, and that was for sequences containing a mere 6 minutes total of SD video. If I was copying HD footage, I would allow several hours for this copying process.
When copying finished, I unmounted the main hard drive and with only the USB 3.0 drive plugged in, I launched the new Premiere project and checked the two sequences to make sure all the footage did indeed copy. All good!
Then I sent the drive with the new Premiere Pro project and copies of all our SD media to Heather, and after she ran it all through the Teranex and she shipped back the drive with HD conversions that I edited into our sequence. Now all our SD footage is converted to high quality 1080p HD. And it looks great.
Next, it was time to move the film off my computer and onto Stanford Chang’s computer so he could add motion graphics and color grading. In my next blog I’ll talk about how I dove deeper into Project Manager and used the Consolidate and Transcode feature to convert native camera formats in my final picture-locked sequence to ProRes.
How are you using Project Manager for media management on longer projects? I’d love to hear from you.