Cinema Tools: An Introduction to Cinema Tools for Final Cut Pro

In today's post-production environment, it's common for editors and filmmakers to find themselves faced with a confounding array of formats, frame rates, and workflows encompassing a single project. Projects are often shot, edited, and output using completely different formats at each step. For editors and filmmakers who specifically want to shoot and finish on film or 24P high definition video, Cinema Tools for Final Cut Pro becomes an essential part of the post-production process when editing with Final Cut Pro, because it allows you to convert between different formats.

For example, when working with film you need to be able to track the relationship between the original film frames and their video counterparts. Cinema Tools includes a sophisticated database feature that tracks this relationship regardless of the video standard you use, ensuring that the film can be conformed to match your Final Cut Pro edits. Cinema Tools also provides tools that enhance Final Cut Pro's ability to edit video at a 24 frames per second (fps) rate, such as the import and export of 24 fps Edit Decision Lists (EDLs).

Also provided is the ability to convert captured video clips to 24 fps video. For NTSC, this includes a Reverse Telecine feature that removes the extra frames added during the 3:2 pull-down process commonly used when transferring film to video or when downconverting 24P video.

Cinema Tools works with Final Cut Pro to provide tools designed to make both editing film digitally and working with the emerging 24P high definition video standard easier and more cost effective, providing functionality previously found only on high-end or very specialized editing systems.

Editing Film Digitally

Computer technology is changing the film-creation process. Most feature-length films are now edited digitally, using sophisticated and expensive nonlinear editors designed for that specific purpose. Until recently, this sort of tool has not been available to filmmakers on a limited budget.

Cinema Tools provides Final Cut Pro with the functionality of systems costing many times more at a price that all filmmakers can afford. For filmmakers shooting with 35mm or 16mm film who want to edit digitally and finish on film, Cinema Tools allows you to edit video transfers from your film using Final Cut Pro, then generate an accurate cut list that can be used to finish the film.

How Does Cinema Tools Help You Edit Your Film?

Editing film has traditionally involved the cutting and splicing together of a film workprint, a process that is time consuming and tends to discourage experimenting with alternate scene versions. Transferring the film to video makes it possible to use a nonlinear editor (NLE) to edit your project. The flexible nature of an NLE makes it easy to put together each scene and gives you the ability to try different edits. The final edited video is generally not used-the edit decisions you make are the real goal. They provide the information needed to cut and splice (conform) the original camera negative into the final movie. The challenge is in matching the timecode of the video edits with the key numbers of the film negative so that a negative cutter can accurately create a film-based version of the edit.

This is where Cinema Tools comes in. Cinema Tools tracks the relationship between the original camera negative and the video transfer. Once you are finished editing with Final Cut Pro, you can use Cinema Tools to generate a cut list based on the edits you made. Armed with this list, a negative cutter can transform the original camera negative into the final film.

Film Is Not Going Away

For many, film still provides the optimum medium for capturing images, and if your goal is a theatrical release or a showing at a film festival, you will need to provide the final movie on film. Using Final Cut Pro with Cinema Tools does not change the process of exposing the film in the camera or projecting the final movie in a theater-it's the part in between that takes advantage of the advances in technology.

What Cinema Tools Does

Cinema Tools tracks all of the elements that go into the making of the final film. It knows the relationship between the original camera negative, the transferred videotapes, and the captured video clips on the editing computer. It works with Final Cut Pro to store information on how the video clips are being used and generates the cut list required to transform the original camera negative into the final edited movie.

Cinema Tools also checks for problems that can arise while using Final Cut Pro, the most common one being duplicate uses of source material: using a shot (or a portion of it) more than once. Besides creating duplicate lists, you can use Cinema Tools to generate other lists, such as one dealing with opticals-the placement of transitions, motion effects (video at other than normal speed), and titles.

Cinema Tools can also work with the production sound, tracking the relationship between the audio used by Final Cut Pro and the original production sound sources. It is possible to use the edited audio from Final Cut Pro when creating an Edit Decision List (EDL) and process (or finish) the audio at a specialized audio post-production facility.

It's important to understand that you use Final Cut Pro only to make the edit decisions- the final edited video output is not typically used, since the video it is edited from generally is highly compressed and includes burned-in timecode (window burn) and film information. It is the edit-based cut list that you can generate with Cinema Tools that is the goal.

Why 24P Video?

The proliferation of high definition video standards and the desire for worldwide distribution has created a demand for a video standard that can be easily converted to all other standards. Additionally, a standard that translates well to film, providing an easy, high-quality method of originating and editing on video and finishing on film, is needed.

The 24P video standard provides all this. It uses the same 24 fps rate as film, making it possible to take advantage of existing conversion schemes to create NTSC and PAL versions of your project. It uses a progressive scanning scheme and a high definition image (1920 pixels per line, 1080 lines per frame) to create an output well suited to being projected on large screens and converted to film.

Additionally, the 24P standard makes it possible to produce high-quality 24 fps telecine transfers from film. These are very useful when you intend to broadcast the final product in multiple standards.

Working With 24P Sources

With the emergence of high definition 24P video recorders, there is a growing need for Final Cut Pro to support several aspects of editing at 24 fps. Using Cinema Tools with Final Cut Pro provides the following:

* the import and export of 24 fps EDLs
* the ability to convert NTSC 30 fps EDLs to 24 fps EDLs
* a Reverse Telecine feature to undo the 3:2 pull-down used when 24 fps film or video is converted to NTSC's 30 fps
Editing 24P Video

The excellent quality of 24P video presents a challenge when it comes to editing-the bandwidth and storage space it requires. Editing uncompressed 24P video directly in Final Cut Pro requires you to have a system with large, fast drives and specialized capture hardware. Even with a properly configured system, you will only be able to capture the video you actually intend to use, not the typical 20 to 100 hours you may have shot.

The typical approach is to edit in two steps: an offline session, using compressed and downconverted (to NTSC or PAL) clips, followed by an online session with recaptured uncompressed clips.

Even if your Final Cut Pro system is not configured to edit uncompressed 24P video, it can serve as an offline editor and export a 24 fps EDL to be used by a 24P online editing system. Even better, if your online 24P editing system uses Final Cut Pro, you can simply copy the project from the offline system, allowing you to preserve far more information about the edit than an EDL alone can provide.