Practical Action DRTV re-edit

Practical Action asked us to help with a refresh and re-edit of their recent ‘Turkana’ ad which, while brilliantly responsive, wasn’t generating quite the quality of donor they need. It’s often the way with DRTV, you create an ad, it’s responsive but not doing ‘enough’, so you refine it, then look at results again, refine some more… until you have your banker.

There was a challenge to us in working with existing footage, which isn’t our preferred method of creating any film let alone one as important as a broadcast ad. The crew who had been to Northern Kenya had captured great shots, but obviously our choices for the storyboard were limited by the content of the original concept.

So to try to attract a different type of donor, we focussed on the script. We shifted the focus from a child to her mother, and asked viewers to put themselves in the shoes of a mother with only filthy water to cook with or give her children to drink. We attempted to say less – but better. We had to tone the script down to get it through Clearcast – which pre-approves British TV commercials – but we believe we’ve ended up with a strong and compelling script – and we hope the results will bear us out!

We were lucky enough that Charlotte Green – already a committed supporter of Practical Action’s work – offered her distinctive and authoritative voice to the campaign; we think it really adds to the sense of urgency – if you weren’t looking at the screen you might almost think you were listening to the news.

The rest was down to editing. We deliberately chose not to apply post-production stabilisation to certain shots – the rawness adds to the urgency and authenticity.

It’s very early days (the ad has been on air less than a week at the time of writing) but initial signs are hopeful that it may do what’s required – bring in a lower volume but a better quality of Practical Action supporter.

From Final Cut Pro X to UK broadcast

This project was the first I’ve edited on Final Cut Pro X that needed to go to broadcast. I can’t say I had a lot of confidence in FCPX, because the delivery spec for TV is very detailed and FCPX is designed to automatically deal with the complexity and shield me from it. That’s great if it works – and it seems it does.

We created 5 versions of the ad, each with a different phone/text response mechanism. I uploaded one version initially as I expected it to fail a technical check at IMD, which distributes ads to television stations via the internet. The details of the failure would allow me to verify the proper settings and tweak mine to match. Having been through that process – and then had the whole batch pass with the tweaked settings – I now have complete trust in FCPX, as long as I note a few things. This is for UK television. Standard definition. Full height anamorphic.

Title Safe
Digital Heaven WideSafeX filter is correct at the following setting: 14:9 Letterbox
But if your source footage has square pixels, do not stretch the filter to accommodate rectangular pixels. Just leave at 100% with gaps on each side. This matches IMD’s title safe measurements.

Minimum Text Height
Clearcast provides a test card which allows you to check your text meets the minimum size spec.

Clearcast_Testcard

Clearcast minimum text height – click for 1080p version

Find out more from Clearcast.

Audio
Only 6 frames of silence are required at beginning and end, not 12. It used to be 12.

Audio should be compressed and limited to peak at -10. I think there should still be about 6dB of dynamic range. That means the signal should consistently be hitting -10 and not really fall below -16 very often.

Output Format
The output format is IMX 625/50 (50mbps). I created a output setting for FCPX called “Broadcast IMX 625/50,” obviously enough, which I’m sharing.

Download this zipped file (6kb): fcpx-pal-tv-destinations.zip

The zip file also includes settings for Clearcast. Please accept the settings in the spirit in which they are shared: you shouldn’t really trust them until you test them for yourself. I will be using them as no problems were reported.

Personally, I would unzip them and drop them in Compressor Settings in Application Support:
YourHomeFolder/Library/Application Support/Compressor/Settings/
This will make them appear in you FCPX’s Share Menu.

Alternatively you can drag and drop the settings from the Finder to the Custom folder in Compressor4’s Settings window. Then you can add them to FCPX via File > Share > Add Destination in the normal way.

Interlacing
MOST IMPORTANTLY, it seems when outputting *progressive* footage from FCPX, you only get to switch to interlaced once! This means you should wrap Version Masters in a Compound Clip, then add a clock in front of it, add Broadcast Safe filter and final audio compression to the Compound Clip.

It seems you can’t export interlaced ProRes, then import for clocking in a new project. That’s what I did initially and it resulted in weird interlacing artefacts. They were actually visible on a computer display if you looked very closely at the IMX files. After a number of seconds a wave of combing would wash over the image, then it would go soft and shimmer. It appeared intermittantly for 10 seconds at a time. Interlaced video is the work of the devil.

Video Levels
When colour correcting and grading, work to Luma levels in Waveform Monitor, not RGB levels. Video levels must remain within legal limits, but the limits are measured with Luma, not RGB. I have got so used to working in RGB I didn’t notice how significant the difference is. In any case, you DO still have to add a Broadcast Safe filter to deal with RGB levels. Set levels with WFM set to Luma, then use FCPX’s Broadcast Safe filter to deal with illegal RGB levels, which will be quite moderate.

Next time everything should just work. For reference, IMD have produced a very detailed PDF of the spec.

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