Goodbye Tape, Hello Digital! Part Two

There were some big changes over the summer at my School; in fact, as we start the 2013 school year the changes are still being implemented much to the concern of my administration.

I get comments like, “It looks like you still have a lot to do.” Yes, yes I do. This month I will discuss the move from standard definition DV tape to a file based high definition workflow using our portable cameras.

Part of our school’s Mission Statement mentions that we “connect Team Members (students) to their future by implementing a relevant and rigorous career-themed curriculum using current technologies and state-of-the-art equipment.” Fortunately, I am in a District where they not only say it, they mean it. I feel like when my students go off to college or the workforce they have a real taste of what it’s like in the “real world.”

My journey to HD began about four years ago when I made my first trip to the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Convention. Talk about overwhelming! There are so many options and types of equipment that sorting it out can be challenging. There is no way to see it all.

After weighing my options and talking budget with my school’s technology coordinator we decided on a three-year plan. In year one, during the summer of 2011, we purchased the Avid ISIS 5000 16tb shared storage system. Even with tape-based cameras having shared storage available to all edit workstations was a great time saver.

In year two, in the summer of 2012, we decided to focus on upgrading our portable and studio cameras to HD. I thought this would give us the most options and immediate workflow upgrade by being able to shoot and edit in HD even if our studio control room was not.

For this upgrade, and after evaluating many cameras, I decided on Sony NX5U cameras. I thought that would give us the most “bang” for the buck. They are true 3-chip cameras that can be fully manual, fully automatic or something in-between. After using them for a year, I have not regretted the decision one bit. They are rugged cameras that can make some very nice images. I have nothing against Panasonic, JVC or others but I have had really good luck with Sony cameras in my school and when I was working professionally as a videographer.

The challenge came when trying to devise a workflow and how to keep track of the camera cards. The Sony NX5U shoots on relatively low cost SD cards. The problem is that they are small and easily lost. Also, I still haven’t found anything that will write on them permanently. Even a Sharpie rubs off. Despite the fact that they are easily lost, I don’t miss tape. For storage, Pelican makes a great little case that can hold up to 12 cards.

Workflow wise, I decided that our standard would be 1080/60i when shooting in the field. This is the highest quality that the Sony NX5U will shoot, so why not. We also shoot a lot of sports so that’s why we decided against a 24p frame rate for our day-to-day shoots. For special projects, or if students want that “film look” we will shoot in 24p. Fortunately Avid Media Composer handles the NX5U’s AVCHD format very well, and if needed, mixed frame rates on the same timeline.

For class projects this is basically our workflow:
• Shoot in AVCHD 1080/60i
• For multi-cam shoots, sync timecode between all cameras
• Transcode the footage into an Avid 1080/60i project using the Avid DNxHD 145 setting
• Edit in 1080/60i
• Export “same as source” for anything less than 10 minutes in program length and burn a DVD with Adobe Encore or Apple iDVD
• Export “quicktime reference” for anything greater than 10 minutes in length and encode with Sorenson Squeeze, or burn a DVD with Adobe Encore
• For airing on the School District’s Cable channel use Adobe Media Encoder or Sorenson Squeeze to encode to MPEG2 in a 16:9 format
• For web encoding we use Adobe Media Encoder or Sorenson Squeeze H.264 presets for encoding and uploading to Schooltube, Eduvision, Vimeo or YouTube

Archiving is still a challenge for us. When shooting and editing in HD it’s easy to eat up a lot of storage. We save only the edited programs by consolidating the final sequence in Media Composer and then deleting the raw footage. At least that’s what we try to do. As I sit here at the beginning of the year I have a nearly full shared storage system, so it is time for a little beginning of the school year cleaning/deleting.

Next month I will discuss our Summer of 2013 upgrades which focused on our control room to complete the switch to tapeless HD. It’s been quite a challenge because nearly every piece of equipment is essentially a computer. Even my new monitors have IP addresses!


 

Dupont-HeadshotAlbert Dupont has been the Advanced TV Broadcasting Facilitator (Teacher) at the Satellite Center in Luling, Louisiana since its opening in 2005.  The Satellite Center is a “satellite” facility of Hahnville and Destrehan High Schools.  The schools are a part of the St. Charles Parish Public School System located near New Orleans.

Before becoming a teacher, Mr. Dupont was a news and sports videographer for WVUE-TV in New Orleans for twelve years and news producer at WAFB in Baton Rouge and KATC in Lafayette for five years.  As a sports photographer, Mr. Dupont was a field videographer at the New Orleans Saints games from 1994 to 2009.  He also was a videographer at two Superbowls and numerous college national championship games in a variety of sports. He is an Avid Certified Instructor in Media Composer 5.