The Mentoring Room - Ask the Working Pros

Mentoring Room

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This is a Public Topic geared towards first-time filmmakers. Professional members of The D-Word will come by and answer your questions about documentary filmmaking.

Darla Bruno
Fan

Erica,

So you converted how? With your own software or professionally? How did the conversion turn out?

Darla

Erica Ginsberg
Host

Well we were in a very similar situation to you moneywise, so we could not afford to get them converted at a dub house, which would obviously be the preferred method. This was also in the days when we were just starting to transition from Beta-SP to DV, so the PAL tapes were all Beta PALs and had to be converted to DV NTSC. Our soundguy (who was also a co-producer) knew lots of kooky characters in the industry from his freelance sound work, so he called up a friend who had accumulated dozens and dozens of different decks in his basement and he did the conversion for us at a fairly reasonable rate and a fairly slow turnaround. But the quality was good enough for what we needed.

Wolfgang Achtner
Pro

Darla,

Contrary to Erica's suggestion (Erica, please forgive me!) I advise you NOT to convert your material BEFORE the edit.

You might have, for example, to convert 20 sixty minute shooting tapes whereas, AFTER the edit, only 52 minutes TOTAL ( if your doc is a one-hour-long format) or even less than that if part of it was shot in NTSC.

Also, if you're only shooting in Italy, it'll all be PAL. If you'll be doing some shooting in US, shoot in PAL (if you can) or shoot NTSC. It won't make any difference as you do a rough cut; convert at the end and splice it all together.

If you check B&H you'll notice that – in a worst case scenario – converters are cheap today.

If you do a search on the B&H website www.bhphotovideo.com using the words "PAL NTSC standards converter" you'll find several models listed including the AV Toolbox CDM-660 Standards Converter that costs only $179.95. There are several other models that cost between $359 and $539.

I don't see why the cheaper one couldn't do the job. In any case, I imagine – as a worst case scenario – that it would be cheaper to buy than convert all the tapes.

I'd advise you – for the moment – not to keep worrying about what comes next. Concentrate on your upcoming shoot in Italy and enjoy yourself.

If you MUST worry about something, worry about finding an excellent editor! :-)

Wolfgang Achtner
Pro

Darla,

By thye way, if you edit using a MAC laptop or desktop monitor, you can use PAL.

A regular TV monitor needs to be PAL or NTSC or both, but the advantage of using digital video on a computer screen is that PAL or NTSC makes o difference. This is why you can play DVDs originating form video sot in either NTSC or PAL on any computer monitor.

I have edited severa docs on a MAC laptop with a 17 inch screen, so – if you're trying to save money – I don't see why you couldn't do the same.

Wolfgang Achtner
Pro

Darla,

Excuse the garble in the previous post, I punched post too hastily, about to go to bed (it's 2 AM here).

Corrected version: By the way, if you edit using a MAC laptop or desktop monitor, you can use PAL without any problem.

A regular TV monitor needs to be PAL or NTSC or both, but the advantage of using digital video on a computer screen is that PAL or NTSC makes no difference. This is why you can play DVDs originating from video shot in either NTSC or PAL on any computer monitor.

I have edited several docs on a MAC laptop with a 17 inch screen, so – if you're trying to save money – I don't see why you couldn't do the same.

Darla Bruno
Fan

Thanks, Wolfgang. My DP actually has a convertor, a MAC, FCP. Though, I'm not choosing him for editing, but I know he can help convert if need be.

I'm no longer worried. I think it's people who give me advice like "find another DP" or get an NTSC camera, that get me all worked up. My DP is the one for this film and his equipment is what it is. The whole thing will be shot in Italy and mostly likely with him and his camera (unless something happens to him between trips – the next one won't happen for a while).

Beyond that, I'm going to enjoy for now. I'm about to meet the best cook in all of (the village that I'm shooting in). So I really can't go wrong as far as I'm concerned :)

Wolfgang Achtner
Pro

Good. Since you're shooting everyting in Italy and in PAL, convert at the end, if need be.

Since your DP has a converter I'm certain that you'll be able to find a simple and cheap way to deal with this when you've completed your final cut (by the way, that's where FINAL CUT PRO got the name).

By the way, this talk of the best cook is making me hungry! I feel if your story isn't taking place too far away from Rome you ought to invite me over for lunch!

Robert Goodman
Pro

Wolfgang – thanks for including Editing Digital Video in your list. One correction – Brian McKernan and John Rice did not write the book. The book was part of a series of books about video that they were supposed to brand. I co-authored the book with my good friend Patrick McGrath.

Wolfgang Achtner
Pro

Robert,

Of course!!! I'm an idiot – in my haste, and half asleep (it was past 02.00 in the morning) – I copied the names of the series advisors of the book cover and not the authors!

By the way, in your book I discovered my favorite definition of a documentary film.

"A documentary is a film without women. If there is a women, it's a semi-documentary," according to Harry Cohn, the head of Columbia Pictures, as quoted by Fred Zinneman in his autobiography.

I love that one!

Darla, I guess you better run out and buy this one (or get it on Amazon), 'cause Robert is watching!!!

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