A while back I looked at an instructional DVD from Noah Kadner and Call Box about 24P post production with the Panasonic DVX100. That isn’t an overly complex camera aside from what was then the new production format of low cost shooting at the 24 Progressive frame rate. Noah’s DVD wasn’t a necessity to shoot that camera properly but it was very helpful. Now Panasonic has the HVX200 and it’s a different story. It’s easy to see where confusion can set in with this current camera as it has tons of different shooting modes ranging from DV standard definition up to 1080 HD. And there are a lot of options in between, variable frame rates included. Thats’ where a disc like Panasonic P2 Workflow with Final Cut Pro and the HVX200 can be a Godsend.
That’s one thing about the DVD that I found particularly useful. A good explanation of many of the frame rates that the HVX200 can shoot. Since the DVD isn’t geared only toward the camera itself Noah goes into a good bit of detail about the different frames rates and in an especially useful touch shows us a full screen detail of the HVX menus as he steps through them. There are quite a few menus on this cam so any up-close explanation is handy when trying to master them all. There are quite a few more frame rates than Noah mentions but there’s probably too many frames rates to go into extreme detail as the disc isn’t only geared toward the camera but also the workflow and integration with Final Cut Pro. As Noah mentions there are other DVDs geared specifically toward that camera alone. One of the most important things to understand with the HVX200 is the use of what is called Native shooting mode and I have encountered quite a few producers and directors who don’t understand Native. The short of it is that in Native mode the camera only records 24 true frames of video to P2 with no pulldown or redundant frames. Native shooting mode is explained early on in Noah’s DVD and is very important to understanding the HVX200. This alone can make it worth giving as a gift to the producer on your next job who doesn’t really understand what he/she is shooting on.
Noah passes along a lot of good tips throughout the disc. One of my favorites is how to set-up a quick RAID when downloading the footage. This is a great safety mechanism and could be a life-saver with a hectic shooting day. He also explains the importance of a good footage offloading system on the set and gives an example of what he uses. I’ve often equated the offloading of P2 cards to downloading a film mag. You carefully download what film has been shot, mark it in an idiot proof manner and return a fresh, unexposed mag of film to the set. Offloading P2 media is really no different and should be treated with the same care and careful procedures as a film shoot. While you may not have the physical cost of thousands of feet of film the footage your shoot is just as priceless (and often as difficult to recreate come disaster) … film or video. One thing that I would have stressed more in the DVD is the importance of maintaining the P2 card file structure (the lastclip.txt file and the Contents folder) when downloading the cards. I’ve had a job where they didn’t save any of the lastclip.txt files. These little guys are very important to bring along with everything else. While there are workarounds to rebuilding the lastclip.txt files or being able to recover footage without them at all, they are tiny files and really should be offloaded as well.
Besides Final Cut Pro, Noah also takes the viewer through exporting footage for DVD authoring in DVD Studio Pro as well as taking footage to Color. He kind of downplays the importance of a good colorist (as many people do now that Color has come along) but never underestimate what a trained colorist and their eye can bring to your project. If you think your HXV200 footage looks good now, give it a good color grading session with a good artist and it will look fantastic.
There is also a whole section of advanced workflows on the DVD as well. For a more seasoned HVX/Final Cut Pro user this might be the most interesting part of the disc. Software such as Panasonic P2 Content Management Software (P2 CMS), Raylight, P2 Log Pro and HD Log are all demonstrated and explained. If you’re a PC user beware there’s not a lot of reference to the PC platform but since this disc is geared toward Final Cut Pro then there probably won’t be a lot of PC users buying the disc anyway. It would be nice to see a DVD-ROM part of the disc that has links to all of the software mentioned or even some demos of the software on the DVD. But that might be an authoring or licensing issue that the creators don’t want to get into. And of course with Google it’s easy to find most anything on the web these days (speaking of … they are all linked above). There’s also a section on the Firestore hard drive recording device, 1394 Host Mode on the camera and quite a lot about metadata. Metadata is a powerful feature that recording to solid state media allows and it is often overlooked, so the emphasis on metadata is welcome.
Do you need this DVD? If you are an experienced HVX200 user or owner then maybe not. If you are one that needs to take media back to Final Cut Pro and you aren’t experienced with the software then you could benefit from your own copy. But even if you are experienced with FCP there’s things that you can probably learn as well. To me the best use of this DVD is if you encounter some client who is going to shoot on the HVX200 and they really don’t know a lot about the format or why they want to shoot on it. The hope is always that they will hire a good director of photography that can properly take them through the process. Whether that is the case or not the best use of the DVD might be, as I mentioned above, to buy a stash of them and toss them on your shelf. Then give one as a gift to that occasional client who shoots the format but could stand to learn a bit (or a lot) more about what they are shooting. The client will thank you and in the end you might just thank yourself as well.