How to Plan Around HDV Issues

I’m a little behind on many things (happy birthday, Lee), but I just noticed that HD For Indies has posted a link to a Studio Daily Case Study on working with HDV. It centers on the film Tomorrow is Today, which was directed by Frederic Haubrich, developer of Lumiere HD, a tool for Final Cut Pro that allowed it to better capture and edit HDV.

As you might guess, Haubrich knows the ins and outs of HDV very well, and used the Sony HVR-Z1U camera to shoot 45 tapes over a sixteen day shooting schedule. He recommends shooting 1080i over 720p; the benefits of extra resolution outweighs the slight perceptual sharpness hit of deinterlacing footage later. Cinematographer Kevin C.W. Wong used glass filters heavily to manage exposure, particularly ND grads, but probably polarizing filters as well. Also, they shot everything at 50i, not 24p. This is my favorite framerate workflow, since 50i deinterlaces to 25p perfectly, which then slows to 24p without any of the issues, flicker, or temporal artifacts of proprietary 24p solutions.

Then for the edit, they converted all their HDV files into DVCPRO HD as an intermediary codec for better flexibility. Remember that HDV is 25mb/s, like DV. This breaks down to about 12gb per hour on disk, which is very manageable. This is the advantage of HDV; it’s small and easy to store and quick to move around. The downside is that it is very highly compressed, which makes it hard to color-correct or recompress without losing quality. The ideal solution is to convert all of the source files into a larger intermediate format and edit those without the limitations of HDV’s intraframe MPEG.

The downside is that an uncompressed or lossless codec takes up far more space, and all the source files from 45 tapes would have required a massive storage system. My workaround solution for this is to go ahead and edit the video as HDV in a native HDV project (using Premiere) with as few adjustments or effects as possible, then delete all the temp files (to keep the NLE from getting confused) and export only the final edit (as scene-by-scene chunks) into an uncompressed or lossless intermediate codec, and then apply my color correcting, tweaking, deinterlacing and retiming pass to that.