Color and Resolution Tools: Why You Need Them

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In/Out, Up/Down—it seems like everything takes everything today, and spits it all out. It wasn’t always the case. Now you can just let the technology do all the work, and the thinking too, but that is where you can run into trouble. Monitors are great for taking a wide range of image formats and even converting them for output. However, monitors are for evaluating your images, not for making the best video format conversions. So, although onboard monitors do a good job of displaying a useful image for your production, beyond that, you really want to take control of your image-conversion tools, whether they are software or hardware based.

For Your Edit

As powerful as post-production tools have grown, it is just better to have all your media in the same format, resolution, and color space. This will prevent your NLE from having to work extra hard when working with clips of different formats, resolution, or color bit-depth.

Hardware

By far, the best time to convert you video is during capture. If you are recording internally, then you are limited to the codecs and color space that your camera can capture. However, if your camera has a clean output, either SDI or HDMI, that creates a huge number of possibilities. This is especially useful if you are working with multiple cameras for on-set monitoring and for post.

Signal Converters

These hardware-based signal converters cover an extreme range of processes, from cross-converting SDI to HDMI and/or HDMI to SDI. While you may feel that it is worth investing in a monitor that also cross-converts, consider how much of the monitor is dedicated to displaying an image, and how much is dedicated to converting the signal, and you will see why it often makes sense to have a separate hardware box that is dedicated to signal conversion. Useful in live production and to feed switchers, hardware signal converters also find themselves at home on narrative productions, in the studio and on location.

While many converters are automatic, you may feel it is better to have more control over your signal and look for a converter that allows you to select the output format. If your camera is not a world camera that will shoot at either 60/50 Hz frame rates, and you need to record in a different frame rate than you normally do, I’d recommend a frame rate converter, which will convert the frame rate of your video from 60Hz-based to 50 Hz-based. It is a nifty bit of kit to have when you need it. Scan converters usually take computer-based signals like VGA or Display Port and convert them to SDI for use in a broadcast environment.

Scalers cover a wide variety of signal processing, from scaling frame sizes to converting signals. Please note that the device you are using may be meant to be free standing, rack mountable, or wall mounted, which will help define whether the converter is meant for location work, permanent studio mounting, or meant to be used in a rack or possibly a fly pack for location use.

DECIMATOR MD-HX Miniature HDMI/SDI Cross Converter with Scaling & Frame Rate Conversion

Backups

Something to consider when shooting to media cards is backing up and managing your media. Two backups of your files are pretty much the minimum these days; three backups are even better. Although backing up can be a simple process, every time you copy, you can introduce errors. There are a variety of hardware and software solutions available that allow you to make single or multiple backups, and offer you the choice of how much data checking and confirmation you want to employ during the transfer. Just note that the more stringent the error checking, the longer the backup will take. I highly recommend not leaving set without having backed up every card at least twice—one for camera, one for edit, and a third, if possible, for archive.

Sanho HyperDrive ColorSpace UDMA 3 Wireless Storage Device

Software

Once you move past the production phase and are into post, the format choices can become more complex. While, as mentioned above, it is most efficient for editing and color correction to work with media that has the same format, both in terms of resolution and color space. Now you can elect to have your NLE transcode for you; some can do that in the background and, usually, it is an invisible process—but not always. Plus, you are creating additional media that your system must keep track of, which can become problematic, annoying, and time consuming when you have to relink media. If your video is recorded as a file, and today almost all video is, then before you start editing, I’d recommend transcoding all your media to the same format for editing, and then archiving your original media and working with the transcoded media. Some might choose to transcode to a lower data-rate file, for snappier and easier editing, and then conform the original files after picture lock for color correction and delivery. Remember, the earlier in the post-production process you do any conversions, the better.

Editing

If you are looking for an edit system, Non-Linear Editing systems abound. I’ve been using the free version of Blackmagic Design's DaVinci Resolve, but when working with 10-bit footage, you either have to transcode to ProRes in FCP, or upgrade to the Studio version of Resolve. Many NLE systems will transcode your footage to different resolutions or color spaces, but this can be a time-consuming process. Whichever NLE you work with, at some point you are going to want to expand its capabilities using plug-ins. If you are working with Adobe's Premiere Pro or After Effects, Red Giant Instant 4K Upgrade is a plug-in that enables you to upscale footage and has multiple presets and anti-aliasing filters for creating high-quality conversions.

Red Giant Instant 4K

Highest Quality

Whether you edit in full resolution, or use proxy files, when it is time to finish, you want to use the files with the highest quality and color bit depth. If using proxies, or lower quality files, you will need to conform the original files to your edit. I’m a big believer in creating a master file at the highest resolution and quality, and then re-encoding that to meet the specs of your delivery channel. Although you can do this in many NLEs, a stand-alone encoder is most likely going to the job as well, if not better, and quicker. Stand-alone software encoders cover a variety of software solutions, including streaming, DVD creation as well as file encoding.

Wondershare Video Converter Ultimate 8 for Windows

It’s a Wrap

I hope this has helped illustrate the importance of color and resolution tools, and when to use them. If you have any preferred hardware, software or workflow suggestions, please feel free to share them below. Be sure to check out the the B&H Photo website or when you’re in New York, come visit the B&H SuperStore.

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