The process of editing film digitally is constantly evolving, but the basic concept remains the same-you start and end on film, with only the creative part of the editing process changing. Following is a simplified work flow outlining the basic process.

Although this work flow appears more complicated than the traditional editing method, many of the steps can be automated. For most filmmakers, the benefits of being able to edit digitally easily offset any added procedures.
Several parts of this process are the same as for the traditional method-as mentioned earlier, it is only the middle part of the film editing process that is affected by editing digitally.

Stage 1: Shooting the Film and Recording the Sound
Audio is always recorded separately from the film, on a separate sound recorder. This is known as shooting dual system sound. While shooting the film, you need to include a way to synchronize the sound to the picture. The most common method is to use a clapper board (also called a slate or sticks) at the beginning of each take. There are a number of other methods you can use, but the general idea is to have a single cue that is both audible and visible (you can see what caused the noise).

Stage 2: Developing the Film
The developed film is known as the original camera negative. This negative will eventually be used to create the final movie and must be handled with extreme care to avoid scratching or contaminating it. The negative is used to create a video transfer (and typically a work print, as with the traditional method) and then put aside until the negative is conformed.

Stage 3: Transferring the Film to Video
The first step in converting the film to a format suitable for use by Final Cut Pro is to transfer it to video, usually using a telecine. Telecines are devices that scan each film frame onto a charge-coupled device (CCD) to convert the film frames to video frames. Although the video that the telecine outputs is typically not used for anything besides determining edit points, it’s a good idea to make the transfer quality as high as possible. If you decide against making work prints, this may be your only chance to determine if there are undesirable elements (such as microphone booms and shadows) in each take before committing to them. The video output should have the film’s key number, the video time code, and the production audio time code burned to each frame.

The actual videotape format used for the transfer is not all that important, as long as it uses reliable time code and you will later be able to capture the video and audio digitally on the computer prior to editing. An exception is if you intend to use the video transfer to also create an edited video version of the project, perhaps for a video trailer. This requires two tapes to be made at the transfer-one that is high quality and without window burn, and another that has window burn.

It is strongly recommended that the audio be synced to the video and recorded onto the tape along with the video during the telecine process. There are also methods you can use to sync the audio after the telecine process is complete-the important thing is to be able to simultaneously capture both the video and its synchronized audio with Final Cut Pro.

Stage 4: Creating a Cinema Tools Database
The key to using Cinema Tools is its database. The database is similar to the traditional code book used by filmmakers. It contains information about all elements involved in a project, including film key numbers, video and audio time code, and the actual clip files used by Final Cut Pro. Depending on your situation, the database may contain a record for each take used in the edit or may contain single records for each film roll. The film-to-video transfer process provides a log file that Cinema Tools can import as the basis of its database. It is this database that Cinema Tools uses to match your Final Cut Pro edits back to the film’s key numbers while generating the cut list.

There is no requirement that the database be created before the video and audio are captured, or even before they are edited. The only real requirement is that it must be created before a cut list can be exported. The advantage of creating the database before capturing the video and audio is that you can then use it to create batch capture lists, allowing Final Cut Pro to capture the clips. The database can also be updated and modified as you edit.

Stage 5: Capturing the Video and Audio
The video created during the telecine process must be captured as a digital file that can be edited with Final Cut Pro. The way you do this depends on the tape format used for the telecine transfer and the capabilities of your computer. You need to use a third-party capture card to capture files from a Betacam SP or Digital Betacam tape machine. If you are using a DVCAM source, you can import directly via Fire Wire. To take advantage of the batch capture capability of Final Cut Pro, you should use a frame-accurate, device-controllable source.

As opposed to the captured video, which is never actually used in the final movie, the edited audio can be used. You may decide to capture the audio at a high quality and export the edited audio as an Open Media Framework (OMF) file that can be imported at a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) for finishing. Another approach is to capture the audio at a low quality and, when finished editing, export an audio EDL that can be used by an audio post-production facility, where the production audio can be captured and processed at a very high quality.

Stage 6: Processing the Video and Audio Clips
Depending on how you are using Cinema Tools, the captured clips can be linked to the Cinema Tools database. They can also be processed, using the Cinema Tools Reverse Telecine and Conform features, to ensure compatibility with the Final Cut Pro editing timebase. For example, the Cinema Tools Reverse Telecine feature allows you to remove the extra frames added when transferring film to NTSC video using the 3:2 pull-down process.

Stage 7: Editing the Video and Audio
You can now edit the project using Final Cut Pro. For the most part, you edit your film project the same as any video project. If you captured the audio separately from the video, you can synchronize the video and audio in Final Cut Pro.
Any effects you use, such as dissolves, wipes, speed changes, or titles, are not used directly by the film. These must be created on film at a facility specializing in film optical.

It can be helpful for the negative cutter if you output a videotape of the final project edit. Although the cut list provides all the information required to match the film to the video edit, it helps to visually see the cuts.

Stage 8: Exporting the Film Lists

After you’ve finished editing, you export a film list that can contain a variety of film-related lists, including the cut list, which the negative cutter uses to match the original camera negative to the edited video. Additional lists can also be generated, such as a duplicate list, which indicates when any source material is used more than once.

Stage 9: Creating a Test Cut on a Workprint
Before the original camera negative is conformed, it is strongly suggested that you conform a work print to the cut list to make sure the cut list is accurate (some negative cutters insist on having a conformed work print to work from). There are a number of things that can cause inaccuracies in a cut list:

Damaged or misread key numbers entered during the telecine transfer process

Incorrect time code values

Time code errors introduced during the capture process

With NTSC video, 3:2 pull-down problems

In addition to verifying the cut list, other issues, such as the pacing of a scene, are often hard to get a feel for until you see the film projected on a large screen. This also gives you a chance to ensure that the selected shots do not have unexpected problems.
If your production process involves work print screenings and modifications, you can also export a change list that describes what needs to be done to a work print to make it match a new version of the sequence edited in Final Cut Pro.

Stage 10: Conforming the Negative
The negative cutter uses the cut list, the edited work print, and the edited video (if available) as a guide to make edits to the original camera negative. Because there is only one negative, it is crucial that no mistakes are made at this point. As opposed to the cutting and splicing methods used when working with the work print, the cutting and splicing methods used for conforming the negative destroy frames on each end of the edit. This makes extending an edit virtually impossible and is one of the reasons you must be absolutely sure of your edit points before beginning the conform process.

Stage 11: Finishing the Audio
You usually rough-cut the audio while editing the video (stage 7); the audio is typically finished while the film is being conformed. As mentioned in stage 5, you can use an exported OMF version of the Final Cut Pro edited audio or export an audio EDL and recapture the production audio (using the original sound rolls) at a DAW. Finishing the audio is where you perform the final sound mix, including cleaning up dialogue issues and adding sound effects, backgrounds, and music.

Stage 12: Creating the Answer and Release Prints
After the original camera negative has been conformed and the audio finalized, you can have an answer print created. This print is used for the final color timing, where the color balance and exposure for each shot are adjusted to ensure the shots all work well together. You may need to create several answer prints before you are happy with the results. Once you are satisfied with the answer print, the final release print is made.

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