Broadcast Video Expo: BBC on Final Cut Studio

In which I transcribe some notes on how the BBC uses Apple’s Final Cut Studio suite to make TV programmes.

I thought it would only take a day, but tomorrow I’m going back for more!

Trade shows bring out the worst in me. In recent years I’ve learned to do without them. However this time I have a couple of new reasons to go to an exhibition featuring Avid, Sony, Canon, Panasonic et al. demoing software and kit for post-production.

I spent the day at the Broadcast Video Expo here in London. I haven’t been in three years, so was expecting economic considerations to reduce the number of stands and attendees. I was wrong on both counts. The show isn’t huge, but it was big enough to be worth attending, and small enough to look very busy for the number of people there.

Here’s a picture I posted using my iPhone/Twitter/Twitpic/TwitterFon (!):
A busy Broadcast Video Expo 2009

Today was a day of seminars, starting with the BBC on how they use Final Cut Studio for HD workflow. They concentrated on Final Cut Pro’s links with Color. Here are my live tweets from today, with extra notes.

100:1 shooting ratio: Offline at dv res. 100 hrs=1.2Tb
– For documentaries, the shooting ratio ranges from 100:1 to 200:1. That is too much for anything other than DV resolution. 100hrs of DV rushes is only 1.2TB

HDcam not great. Avid worth it if time pressure is high.
– Problems with HDCam tapes. Using Adrenaline/Nitris etc. workflow is fine, but not worth the extra cost unless you have a very tight transmission deadline.

Mouse based colour tools not great. Like control surfaces.
– The Avid colour correction tools they used had to use mouse/keyboard and bright screens. Darker displays and control surfaces are much better

Apple Color is good option. Stable version of Final Touch
– BBC used Final Touch before Apple bought it. Worth the high price, but not reliable. They thought Apple were right not to change anything but improve the reliability. Now any problems are due to operator error, so allow for a couple of extra rendering hours in case something goes wrong overnight.

Use Apple ProRes as equivalent of Avid dnxhd. 6:1 ratio.

Docs need too much storage for uncompressed – can’t delete footage – producers always coming back with changes
– As HD takes so much storage, rushes need to be removed to backup. That is bad news for docs. Producers and directors are always coming back with a couple of little changes every few days. That doesn’t work well with high-end systems.

Apple Color doesn’t roundtrip well. Export full res qt from fcp, grade in color and bring back into fcp.
– Export ProRes QuickTime from Final Cut timeline. Import that QuickTime onto a new video layer in your project. Use the blade tool to slice your movie at each edit point in your timeline. Delete your original clips. Send to Color. Correct in Color. One problem is that you can’t correct Picture-in-picture sequences this way. You need to 3-Way Color Correct these in Final Cut relative to the background picture before you export to QuickTime. Once the grade is ‘over’ export at ProRes QT and return to Final Cut for captioning.

Grade in Color in 20 minute sections
– This is the most stable way to use Color, a figure determined by trial and error and talking to Apple.

Apple Color one flaw for pros: can’t get sound cues. Color is mute

BBC uses Natress Bleach Bypass filter in Apple Color
– There is a built-in Bleach Bypass filter, but Natress’s one is better. They also use Natress’s film effects plugins.

Apple Color can match any high-end system at a fraction of the price – if you have the time.
– The problem is that clients/production people need to understand that Color will seem to be dropping frames. However tricked out the Mac is, it seems to play 90% of the frames per second. You need time because rendering usually takes 6 times real time.

Apple Compressor for standards conversion very slow, but good enough

More soon…

  1. synapticlight said:

    Nice, thanks for the updates.
    Very interesting to hear how the BBC use FCP, and that they use – I didn’t know that


  2. Lu Nelson said:

    Great! — always good to know what the BBC considers to be usable techniques and tools. Would love to see any more notes on it

  3. Very helpful. especially Pro res Info. What would be really good to know is BBC’s take on Stu Mashwitz’s assertion that FCP can’t be used for Online due to Bit Rate being too low for Pro.

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