Multicamera Nickelodeon Show Uses ScriptSync with HD/SD Workflow.
Jordan Lewis is a teenager on the move. In the popular Nickelodeon show Just Jordan, the scrappy 14-year-old relocated from his hometown of Little Rock, Ark., to Los Angeles, where he works in his grandfather's diner and lives with his over-protective Mom, younger sister, and cousin - all of whom seem focused on thwarting his every action. For Brian Schnuckel, an editor on the half-hour show, keeping pace with the lively on-screen teenager and his family requires some high-powered post tools. The show uses two Windows-based Media Composer Adrenaline v2.7 systems, which come complete with the latest ScriptSync and Multicam features that are essential for delivering each episode of the weekly show on deadline.
The program, which airs on Sunday nights, is shot at North Hollywood-based Occidental Studios, where Schnuckel edits every other episode of the show alongside an assistant editor, an associate producer, a post supervisor, and a post coordinator. A second editor, Jeff Wright, handles the alternating episodes to keep pace with the broadcast schedule.
Each program, which is shot using four cameras, typically takes about four days to edit with the only wildcard being the complexity of visual effects shots within an episode. For example, the show includes signature freeze moments in which the Jordan character says, freeze, and stretches out of his body, talks directly to the camera, and then walks back into the scene to rejoin the action. This effect is accomplished through the use of a green screen, which Schnuckel composites in the Media Composer Adrenaline system to create a temporary effect for review and approval by his producers. The final visual effects shots are created by LookEffects, Inc.
It really would not be possible to meet today's tight schedules without Multicam for sitcoms. It's a must.
For the 2007 season, Ikegami HDK-725P (24p) cameras are being used to handle the multicamera shoot and recording onto HDCAM tape. Pre-shoots take place on Thursday with Schnuckel's assistant, Seung Im, coming in on Friday mornings at 5 a.m. to prep dailies for offline editing in SD. It's then that the power of the Avid systems really kicks in.
He'll digitize groups of clips and script the scenes that will be edited and played back for the audience, says Schnuckel. On Fridays I come in around 11:00 a.m. and start cutting scenes together, and Seung will still be finishing in the other Adrenaline bay while I am editing the night's playbacks.
Schnuckel believes that an Avid system offers many advantages for the show. He particularly appreciates ScriptSync, a next-generation script-based editing tool within the Media Composer Adrenaline system, which uses phonetic speech indexing technology to automatically sync text with media. The ScriptSync capability offers automated features that provide time-saving shortcuts for editing the show to help stay on deadline. It seems like I've been using [ScriptSync] forever, says Schnuckel
The Multicam feature is also essential for the four-camera show, since the amount of action and reaction shots in any given scene requires the ability to look at multiple camera angles instantly. Sitcom editors need Multicam to see the scenes in sync as the scenes were shot, he explains. Before nonlinear, I would have four playback machines and then have to sync the machines up by timecode. That meant pre-rolling the editor and watching the individual monitors for each iso [feed from the camera], requiring a lot of mental notes while watching the scenes play. Then every time there was a camera load change you would eject all the ¾-inch source tapes and put a new set of tapes in.
But those days are over with the Multicam feature. Now, shots are loaded in and called up on a monitor for simultaneous viewing without the need to sync up with timecode or insert and eject videotapes for different shots. It really would not be possible to meet today's tight schedules without Multicam for sitcoms, he says. It's a must.
Audio is also an important aspect of the program, and Schnuckel appreciates the 24-track audio capabilities inherent in the Media Composer Adrenaline system. I spend a lot of time with my audio in offline and it stays 48k all the way, he says. It sounds really good.
Working with the latest version of the Media Composer Adrenaline system, with the most up-to-date features such as ScriptSync, has enhanced the editing team's ability to streamline their workflow. Our Avid [systems] are very solid, says Schnuckel. We upgraded to version 2.7 literally hours before our first show and have had few problems.
For online assembly, the team uses a Symphony Nitris system at Hollywood-based online facility Nickelodeon on Sunset. The Symphony Nitris system Total Conform capabilities allow seamless transfer of every cut and effect created offline with the Media Composer Adrenaline systems for the most efficient offline-to-online workflow. Larson Studios handles the sound work using Pro Tools systems, making for a smooth exchange of picture and audio files and media.
Our Avid [Media Composer Adrenaline systems] are very solid. We upgraded to version 2.7 literally hours before our first show.
HD Start to Finish
While Just Jordan is shot on HDCAM, it's still only seen in standard definition as Nickelodeon has yet to launch its HD service. We downconvert our dailies to letterbox so we can see everything at once, says Schnuckel. I frequently use my 4x3 graticle [with a grid that shows the viewing area] to look at that composition.
He and his team, however, do create an HD master and then do a 4x3 center cut that is aired in SD - for now. Nickelodeon will be airing in HD soon so we have HDCAM masters of all the episodes, he says.
In terms of the future, Schnuckel says that the Avid DNxHD codec is on his must-have list. I have seen demos several times and it seems like a great workflow, he says about the compression format, which offers storage-efficient HD media management along with top-quality visuals that capture the nuances of rich, high-def media. It's needed desperately because everyone is shooting HD and looking at HD on the set. And then we kick it back to SD [for the offline cut] before finishing it in HD. But that [HD] master always surprises me with subtleties that I never saw in offline.
He adds, I knew I couldn't get an Avid DNxHD upgrade this season, but I have the producers and studio execs interested in it, so we'll see about next season.
That said, Schnuckel sees SD sticking around for some time, particularly for a network such as Nickelodeon that has a demographic that is rumored to be just as happy watching video on a computer as on a television monitor. Still, he's looking forward to delivering an HD product.
I just purchased a Sony 46-inch LCD HDTV set for the home and it's amazing what you can see, he says. HD is here now and the TV prices have lowered considerably.
For Schnuckel, a world full of HD viewers demanding HD content can't come soon enough. HD requires more thought into every stage of the production but the payoff is huge, he says.
CREDITS: © 2007 Viacom International Inc. All Rights Reserved.