I am checking in to see if some of these steps are redundant, overkill or the optimum I need for best quality in wide-screen HD video for festival screenings while leaving my options open for green screening/cloning/compositing in editing.

1. HD (1080i60. 19.97 fps) captured in Final Cut Express
2. Export to QTPro - animation codec, current fps, millions of colors+, best quality and size is native.
3. Import into StudioArtist 3.5 - movie compression: animation, 29.97 fps, millions of colors+, best quality. Canvas size - 50% (1920x1080 becomes 960x540) , 300dpi. Process paseq - 1st: layer to supersize source. 2nd: gradient lighting.
4. Re-export to QTPro- animation, current fps, millions of colors +, best quality - size: HD: 1920x1080, 16:9.
5. Import to Final Cut Express  - apple intermediate codec and size defaults to 1440x1080 in editing sequence specs.

I have an iMac OSX 10.4 with 4 gigs of memory and an external hard drive - so the computer will handle it I am thinking/hoping, but just wondering if I need all this (bearing in mind I might want to greenscreen and composite)

Thank you anyone out there for helping me get this right. It's a lot of detail but each step seems to affect the outcome - thank you!!!

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I mean HD 1080i60, 29.67 fps captured in Final Cut Express.......
Your HD 1080i60 footage is the live-action footage you want to manipulate in SA?

The best thing actually is to use progressive footage as opposed to interlaced footage for work in SA and also with green screening or compositing and other special FX work. So ideally you'd want to shoot in 1080p, not 1080i. However, if you've already shot 1080i, then it's possible to deinterlace the footage. You can either batch deinterlace using Compressor or some other program or do it in SA as PASeq step. If you work with interlaced footage, you'll find yourself with jagged little edges everywhere.

For festival screenings in HD, you'll want to wind up with an HDCAM tape, either 1080i60 or 1080p24, depending on the festival projection specs. Currently, I think most festivals show 1080i60 tapes. So you'll interlace your footage again at the end of the process - not a big problem at all. You can keep your digital master at 1080p24 and have a transfer to tape done at 1080i60.

As for your other workflow steps, I am not so familiar with FCP express, but you may have trouble with playback with the animation codec. I recently did a project and used the Apple ProRes codec throughout, including some special FX work and green screen, and it was fine. In fact, we worked in FCP and After Effects in 720p (1280 x 720) and then did an upconvert of the file project to 1080p (1920 x 720) in After Effects. It looks great and no one would know the difference. Working in 720 is much, much easier than working in 1080 for effects work.

So I would export your captured footage to Apple ProRes 720p, work with that in SA however you want, export as 720p Apple ProRes quicktimes from SA, import to FC Express for any additional editing, export as a Apple ProRes 720p digital master, and then upconvert that to 1080p for your final digital to tape transfer to HDCAM. You can also have the people who do the digital to tape transfer handle your upconvert from 720p.
I would try to avoid format and size changes as much as possible, you are likely losing some quality every time you do that. I can understand the format changes, because of FCE's limitations, but why all the size changes? Is it to reduce the processing time in SA?

In Studio Artist, I use I use the same export settings you do (animation, best quality) except that I also select 1 keyframe for each frame. With these settings, Animation is supposed to be lossless.

Hope this helps...
True, you could export your captured footage at 1080p Apple ProRes and use that as a source image video in SA but still specify a 1280 x 720 (720p) canvas and that would work well too. You'd be working from your 1080 footage but creating new 720 footage in SA.

Plus, John is telling me that the new Intel Macs coupled with SA 4 can handle the 1080 (1920 x 1280) frame size better these days. Not sure how an iMac would do with it though. It's probably best to work in 720p.
Thank you David -
I have learnt so much from your suggestions. I've been experimenting like mad with my equipment and software as a result, getting insights.
My iMac is 2 GHz Intel Core Duo, so I am able to handle 1080.
I now understand that 720p, because of the need to deinterlace and use a smaller size, is good for working in After Effects and with special effects in general.
I didn't know about HDCAM - thank you!
For all Final Cut Express users, Final Cut Express uses the Apple Intermediate Codec, which is a compression option in Quicktime Pro and Studio Artist. I'm not yet at 1920x1280. It's 1440 x 1080 with my camera until then.
Your input has been invaluable for me to understand the technicalities: compression, progressive v. interlaced in readiness for when I use more professional software. Thank you!
I'm wondering if SA4 would be a good upgrade for me now or best for when I get to Final Cut Pro, since I use very basic PASeqs in SA3.5.3.a6 like Gradient Lighting and Colorizing.
You will see a large speed improvement if you upgrade to Studio Artist 4, since it runs native on intel macs, and also has additional speed optimizations built into it.
How is the transition from SA3 to SA4? Is it a big adjustment since it's a while since I've worked in depth on SA as all I've required for this current feature film I'm making is my own PASeqs (although the added SA4 features would give me more scope I realise)

Is there anything I need to do beforehand to ensure not losing my PASeqs before upgrading?

Thank you for your help.

Celia (iMac OSX 10.4 (2GHz & 4.667 RAM) )
You can take your existing knowledge of how Studio Artist 3 works and make the transition to 4 pretty smoothly i think. The basic concepts are the same. The interface is much more flexible and user configurable, but you can set it up to emulate the v3 interface with source and editor on the left side.

You can use all of your old presets in Studio Artist 4.
.......and it is notably faster for processing video through PASeqs? Is it 2ce as fast for example?
Studio Artist 3 runs in emulation on intel processors. Studio Artist 4 runs native on intel (and PPC) processors. That's a big speedup.

Studio Artist 4 has many more routines that take advantage of threading on multiple processor cores, so anything that takes advantage of that will run faster.

We spent a lot of time trying to optimize various code routines within Studio Artist 4, so there are additional speedups because of that.

You can configure the PASeq preferences in Studio Artist 4 to only update the editor control panels and canvas at the end of each PASeq cycle when processing a movie or building an animation. This can also lead to movie processing speedups, especially is using a lot of small brush strokes.
sold to the woman with the beard!
Florence thank you.
So, I figured it out. I was mistaken with the capture settings in Final Cut Express, therefore needlessly fiddling with canvas size in SA which seemed to fix the problem at the time.
I believe David Kaplan is recommending format and size changes for improved workflow when working with special effects especially Adobe After Effects.
I've just tried your Animation compression, best quality, 1 keyframe for each frame settings in SA and it works great! Thank you Florence.
So -------if special effects is not the issue, all one has to do is calculate how large the final file size of this 90 or so minute film is going to be. File sizes can get so big when working in HD video.


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