My last post was about tools used in the creative process and how they can be an asset or a liability. The train of thought is that the tool is secondary to the final result and don’t get caught up in the hype of the latest and greatest tools for the sake of being on the bleeding edge of tech.
There’s another tool I’ve discovered. It’s a reinvented wheel, a new way to get to the same place, a new breed of horseless buggy. It’s Apple’s Final Cut Pro X, affectionately know as FCP X.
Sorry. No nuggets of profundity, suitable for sharing with friends or family this time, unless of course you’re in a family of digital film editors.
Apple changed the game in editing for many of us with this complete and total rebuild of their non linear film and video editing program. I really want to get on my soap box about it because it deserves it. However there is no shortage of pontification (positive or negative) on the subject, so what I want to do is introduce what I hope will be the first of many editing tips.
The “filmic” look to video has become less elusive than when video cameras first started shooting at 24 frames per second. Typical “video” for TV broadcast was shot at 30 fps (or 60 interlaced fields per second) while movie film was shot at 24 fps and the two have always had a different look. In 2002 Panasonic introduced the first video camera to shoot 24p footage, the DVX 100. In the following 10 years HD video has become the new standard and cameras have evolved into “digital film” cameras from video cameras. Just as in still photography before it, film making now has a digital workflow from start to finish that is no longer second to traditional film, although most features are still shot on film.
However, there is still a massive archive of television broadcast video footage at 30 frames per second and people still shoot new material at 30 fps. What if you want to mix 30 and 24 fps material in the same program? It can be tricky converting the 60 interlaced fields of 30 fps video into 24 p footage but I discovered a way to do it pretty nicely within FCP X. This explanation assumes that you are already familiar with FCP X so here’s how I do it.
With a 24p project already set up and a 24p storyline in use, just drag, insert, append, or connect your 30 fps clip to it. it will automatically be converted to 24p. The interlaced frames will be de-interlaced. The clip will keep its original length in time but 20% of the frames will be tossed to fit only 24 frames within a second. Is that all there is to it? Nope. If you play it back you will notice a stuttering in the playback. FCP X just removed 6 frames per second and so there is a jump from frame 24, to frame 1 of the next second. Now here’s the trick.
Select the clip you just put in the storyline. Click the Retiming icon in the tool bar and in the drop down menu chose “Conform Speed”.
The net result of this is that all of the 30 frames in each second are played back but only at 24 per second slowing the timing of the clip down to 80% of the original. If the footage was intentionally shot at 30 fps to be played back at 24 fps, that would be “over cranking”, a technique for producing smooth slow motion. This is actually used quite a bit to give the motion a smooth, fluid playback but not really slo mo looking. But we want to have our 30 fps clip playback smoothly at 24 fps and at 100% of its original timing.
The solution is to now speed up the clip to its original timing. Select the clip and use keyboard shortcut “command R”. This opens the clip’s Retiming Editor. You will now see its timing listed as 80%.
Next, grab the retiming handle on the orange bar (which indicates slow motion) in the Retiming Editor and drag it to the left until you reach 100%. The interesting thing is that FCP X sees this as a retiming edit rather than an undo edit of the “Conform Speed” command. You now have the option of how you would like FCP X to blend frames. Click on the Retiming icon in the tool bar, go to “Video Quality” and choose “Optical Flow”. Apple’s Optical Flow technology for FCP X is borrowed from Motion and is a pretty amazing thing. It creates new, discrete frames between the original frames of retimed footage rather than blending or leaving them out. This creates really smooth movement of slow mo material and does a nice job of converting to another frame rate.
So there you have it. Another way to use a new brush. Coming soon is my review of the Rokinon cine lenses.
Let me know what you think and what inspires your creativity to overcome problems in editing and in life.
Dave Perry is a Roanoke Virginia digital film producer, editor and photographer. His sideburns are only a hobby.