Battling with A7S footage!

I don't know how beneficial this will be for anyone but me, but I thought why not put it here and maybe it could help someone? 

This is going to a very technical blog. You've been warned. 

I recently got hired to edit a project that was shot on the Sony A7S camera and I picked Premiere Pro CC as the tool of choice to splice. Every new project brings lots of challenges and there is always something you'll learn going through the process.

Over the years I've created a very organized workflow for my editing process. The pre-requisite for having that workflow is organized footage with proper notes and documents, and this was not the case with this movie. I think the reason why I'm able to make projects come out so fast is because I do all the do diligence of figuring out how the post-production is going to go. This is where me being an independent filmmaker pays off because, like it or not, if I want to get my movie made I have to suck it up and do as much as I can. 

But I'm not naming names and I'm just grateful that the majority of the footage was slated, except the B-Roll. Now, my pet peeve about B-Roll is people going free range on it. This is not the first time I've had to go through this process; this is something I've see quite often. Personally, when directing I go by the commandment "Though Shalt Not Get Unnecessary B-Roll". You better know all the cutaways and be very conservative about packing all your B-Roll which no one is ever going to use and it is going to sit on your hard drive and eat up space. 

Now, since all of that is off my chest I can address the real issue. 

So, the whole short film was shot on the Sony A7S, which outputs H.264 compressed .MP4 files and for some reason it was giving me choppy playback. Unfortunately, I noticed the choppy playback quite late as I was nearing completion of the first cut.

After getting the initial notes on the cut, I started fixing things and noticed the choppy playback had graduated from a state of slight annoyance to a big issue. I looked for solutions on the interwebs, but nothing really concrete came up. However, I did notice one thing that kept pooping us and that was: "TRANSCODE to ProRes".   

As a side note, I am totally grateful to the director/producer of this project for being patient. I told him the issues I was having and he said "Do whatever you need to do."

So, the most cliched saying about filmmaking actually does hold up during times like these. "Filmmaking is mostly problem solving". 

The problem at hand for me now was to transcode all the footage, which essentially means all the work my AE has done will go to waste. Then I have to re-conform which means additional hours and hours of work.  

The transcoded footage is in 422 ProRes(Proxy) 1080P

Future me this is where I should be paying attention. I used Media Encoder to do a batch transcode. If you don't remember how to do that,  look it up on YouTube. 

Now, the file structure I kept similar to the film structure of the actual footage. Why? Because I want a way to differentiate between the file names. Ideally we should have a naming convention, but I was not bestowed with that luxury. Hindsight is 20/20  and the bigger the project the more organized one should always be because it just makes life easier down the line. 

Now, this is the trick that we have been waiting for. I created a copy of the project file and then I went into the footage directory and prepended an "_" on the directory names. When I opened the project file, Premiere Pro couldn't find the files because the folder names has been changed, so it asked me to link the media, and I directed it to the Proxy folder. When it opened and I saw the playback was so smooth, a tear drop trickled down my cheek. I got on my knees and raised my hands in the air in celebration. 

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