Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Brief History of “Zorg” Upgrades

I know what you’re thinking: Two posts in a day and three within a week from Guy! Something’s terribly wrong! Any second, it’s going to start raining frogs!

Not to worry, it’s all part of my post-audio, delayed-onset, procrastinator’s New Year’s resolution to blog more consistently, which like so many of my past resolutions, of course leads me to massively overdo said resolution, ending in total burnout before the research-based conclusion that one simply needs to repeat any activity for 21 days for that activity to be habituated.

But that won’t happen this time! And I'm going to start exercising, too!

And what better blogging material to share with you than my latest post production dilemma?

Basically, “Zorg” post is, sadly, a history of working with HDV on a Mac (yes, it’s been that long). My first editing computer was a Powerbook G4, running Final Cut 4.5, neither of which could really effectively edit HDV. Well, I gave it a good go, though, using a program called Lumiere HD (now irrelevant and out of business) to convert my footage to a lower-resolution format for proxy editing, until I discovered a rather severe audio drift problem. Ugly. My next computer was an Intel iMac, running Final Cut 5, which did offer native HDV editing and did a great job finishing the rough cut, until it wasn’t able to cope any longer with audio work. My latest computer is the 2.66 GHz Mac Pro, still running Final Cut 5.1.4 and has been up to all tasks, wonderfully stable, without even a program crash.

So, why throw all that good Karma away and upgrade to the latest, greatest version of Final Cut Studio yet again, you ask? Well, Apple has come out with two compelling reasons. The first is Apple ProRes, a new codec that offers a larger colorspace to work with, meaning that if we convert our existing HDV project to ProRes HQ (the high definition flavor), we’ll be able to take advantage of a far superior format to work in for both visual effects and color correction. Which would mean a better-looking final product. In theory, at any rate.

By the way, since I seem to throw the term “color correction” around quite a bit, if you’re interested in seeing what a dramatic difference it can make, check out this post by visual effects pro Stu Maschwitz on his ProLost blog.

Speaking of which, the second good reason to upgrade is Apple Color, a dedicated color correction program that ships free with Final Cut Studio. On the downside, it looks massively complicated, has a steep learning curve and appears to be fairly finicky, judging from the posts on the Apple support forms pleading for help. Nevertheless, again, using it should provide a better-looking final product.

Hard to learn? Buggy? Sign me up!

So, I’ve been wrestling with this decision for a couple of weeks now, trying to weigh the advantages of my beautifully stable system and staying in HDV versus the risk/rewards of upgrading, when I ran across this thread on Creative Cow. Exactly what I was looking for. Seeing the differences in the HDV and ProRes footage sealed the deal. Tomorrow, I’m wiping my hard drive with a clean install of the OS, then installing my shiny new copy of Final Cut Studio 2.

I’ll keep you posted on the upgrade.

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