Our Workflow, pt. 1

26 05 2010

We get a lot of emails asking about our workflow on the Sparrow Songs films and about the sound and camera set up we use, so I thought I’d just lay out our basic workflow here.


We shoot on the Canon Mark II 5d and record second source sound on either a Sound Devices 744T (when we can afford it) and more often on a Tascam DR100.   When we’re doing interviews in which the subjects are seated and will be in one place for a little while we mount the boom mic on a C-stand, when we’re shooting more verite pieces (the moment of prayer in L’Arche, all of Donuts) I hold the microphone and move around to get the best angle.

Getting into Post

The Mark 5d shoots everything in the h264 codec.  To work with it in Final Cut you need to transcode it to the Apple ProRes 422 codec.  We use MPEG Streamclip to do this.  This transcode takes a long long time, somewhere around3-4 times real time.  In other words if you have three hours of footage the transcode will take nine to 12 hours.


Because we record a guidetrack on the camera we’re able use a program called PluralEyes that automatically syncs the second source sound to picture.  (I know, I know, I didn’t believe it would work when I heard about it either).


This basically involves me staying up for three to four nights in a row, going to my day job completely exhausted, coming home and getting frustrated with the cut and then finding some way to push through.

Near the end I tend to get technically sloppy because I’m feeling the pressure of the end of the month coming and I’m too tired to stay focused on those things, so I’ve taken to writing notes to myself that say things like: ‘Do an audio pass before finishing’ ‘Collapse video layers.’ ‘Add fades.’


I then turn the Final Cut Pro project file — with collapsed video layers — of the piece back over to Michael who does a quick color pass using the program, Color.


We keep all original media on two redundant drives.  Lately we’ve been getting inquiries from film festivals about screening some (or all) of the pieces and since we’ve preserved all of the original elements of each piece we’ll be able to go back in and re-work the look and sound of some of the pieces.

My guess is after reading this you may have more questions than answers so feel free to email or post a comment and I’ll answer it the best I can.

Next up, why none of this matters.




One response

28 05 2010
It’s Not About the Camera, or Our Workflow, Pt. 2 « Sparrow Songs

[…] or Our Workflow, Pt. 2 28 05 2010 In the last post I detailed the technical basics of our workflow. As I mentioned, a lot of people – friends and strangers alike — email me to ask about the […]

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