Monday, March 15, 2010

Cutting The 7D In AE

The other day I went out to shoot some footage of my good friends Chadd and Nate walking in the rain. The idea behind this was partially for fun and partially as a test for an upcoming project. I wanted to know what shooting with Matt Johnston's new Canon EOS 7D would be like and, more importantly, what it was like working with the footage in post.

We started out shooting with his 7D and my XH A1 simultaneously but after one shot I abandoned the use of my camera. Not for any technical reasons but mostly because the extreme portability of the 7D made it convenient, both for protecting it from the rain and from the inhabitants of Philly's Broad St. Subway at that hour.

As others have probably realized, editing footage from a Canon 7D can be an arduous process in Final Cut Studio 2. I found that every time there's a cut, playback pauses and then picks up the following shot a second or two later.

So I decided I'd cut the movie in After Effects CS3. I had already done some rough cuts in AE just to see how some of the shots related to one another. I dropped all the footage into it's own comp, set in & out points using the work area indicators, then trimmed the comp to the work area. I then dropped those comps into the final comp for playback. I found that as long as I kept the resolution on 1/4 I could get almost real-time playback on my 2.93 GHz iMac.

The added convenience of this process is that I'm already in my color correction program while I'm editing. It kind of reminds me of how it was cutting 16mm film together with a razor blade and a bottle of adhesive. It's a slow process but it really makes you think about every cut. While I certainly wouldn't advocate doing this unless you absolutely need to, it works and you get used to it. Since this really boils down to being a camera test I wasn't too worried about having to make changes to the timeline. It is comforting, as Matt pointed out, to know that if it came to it all you would absolutely need in order to make a movie well would be After Effects.

As for the footage itself, it's pretty fantastic with few obnoxious pitfalls. Much to my surprise it wasn't the rolling shutter that bothered me the most but the artifacts from downsampling in finer horizontal details that others have pointed out.

Even so, this stuff is just beautiful and as I said while shooting, I fee like the film-maker I was meant to be when shooting with this camera. I've concluded that while this has been a positive experience, DSLR cinematography isn't quite 100% there yet so I'll probably end up using both the 7D and my XH A1 on this next project for what each is best at.

The video should be up on vimeo tomorrow or Wednesday.

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