June 30, 2008

Intelligent Assistance - 212 page PDF, 54 MB download, $15.95
By Philip Hodgetts

Review by Ken Stone

Several years ago, when High Definition (HD) first started to hit the market, the one thing that everyone hoped for would be a standardization of the format. All progressive frame video, fixed color spaces, field order, anamorphic/16:9, standard frame sizes and rates and of course common codecs. Life was going to become easier.

Well, as we now know, the exact opposite happened. Each camera manufacturer came out with their own propriety formats that shared nothing in common with any of the other manufacturers formats. To make matter worse, each manufacturers introduced a number of different formats within their own line of HD cameras. With each update of FCP, new codecs (Easy Setups) have been introduced in an effort to keep up with the deluge of new formats pouring out from the camera manufactures. Even Apple got into the act by introducing it's own codec, ProRes 422, which we now can use to wrangle these new codecs, to have some semblance of order in this 'Brave New World of HD'.

Of course, for the working FCP editor, all of this can be a bit of a nightmare. It's not just a matter of getting sequence settings to match the format of a particular camera, but issues of codec, color space, bandwidth, storage space, square vs. anamorphic pixels, progressive vs. interlaced, Pulldowns, etc. Questions about archiving video footage (for those cameras that shoot to solid state memory cards), and sometimes, the need to transcode to a different codec for post production work or for final delivery. It is a virtual quagmire and help is needed.

Help has just arrived in the form of the "HD Survival Handbook (2008)" by Philip Hodgetts. Philip has been providing educational tutorials for us since FCP first shipped and not just about FCP workflow, keyboard shortcuts and the like, but equally about the more technical aspects of video editing. Philip's great gift is not just that he understand the technical aspects of video, but that he can write about all of this in a clear and concise manner, provide the information required, but in a way that non-tech savvy editors can understand and then employ. The "HD Survival Handbook (2008)" is about answering any questions you might have about "HD" and it does.

The "HD Survival Handbook (2008)" is a 217 page PDF document available for download with 22 chapters, shown below, which are further broken down into sections.

Table of contents


Post Production
  • Storage
  • Capturing HD
  • Getting video into the computer world
  • Monitoring HD Video
  • HD Workflows
  • 24P
  • 24P Workflows
  • Storing and Archiving Tapeless Media
  • Blu-ray Disc
  • HD Data files
  • Getting the files out
  • Standard Definition Distribution from HD Masters

   Sample page from the HD Survival Handbook.

Here are two sample excerpts from the handbook that you can check out: What is HD? and RAID.

Now I know that 217 pages of HD information might sound a bit 'cut and dried' but this not the case with the "HD Survival Handbook (2008)". The PDF is thoughtfully constructed and broken into meaning full sections. The writing style, while dealing with technical information, is actually a good read. There is an abundances of art throughout the handbook which is both high quality and relevant. Additionally there is a large section on all most all of the new 'HD' cameras, each camera is well described with pertinent information and all specifications are provided that would help you in deciding which camera to purchase and runs from consumer cameras all the way through high end Pro cameras.

The "HD Survival Handbook (2008)" is intended to answer any and all questions you might have about "HD" and this handbook really does cover the gamut. The heart of the handbook is the large 'Post Production' section which covers everything from bringing video into FCP, to final delivery including Broadcast, SD DVD, Blu-ray and the Web. I could go into great detail about the contents of the 'HD Survival Handbook (2008)' but it would take me 212 pages to do it, and at $15.95, you might as well buy the handbook. I have always recommend that anyone working with FCP have a copy of Lisa Brenneis' Final Cut Pro book, now I have a second recommendation to make. For "HD" video, I strongly recommend that you get "HD Survival Handbook (2008)". In this 'Brave New World of HD', you are going to need it.




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