Prepping for Movie Score Work

Here are my notes on prepping for movie work for future reference and provided for the edification of anyone who might care.


1. Write down a bunch of specs on the movie — the size, color content, length to play, etc. Watch the movie a couple of times. Go “oooh.”

2. Pop open ffmpegX and convert MPG to an MP4 proxy movie. This will use MacOSX codex to convert the digital movie into something the Mac can work with. Manipulate whatever settings are necessary to ensure that it runs in NTSC mode (29.97 frames/second.)

The MP4 is not as clear or as clean as the original MPG, but the point here is to get to enough video to work with in the DAW, not to have something ready for the screen.

A proxy movie is the same movie but much tinier. Memory footprints are important, so smaller movie size is better. Use ffmpegX to do the conversion again and end up with a 320×174 version of the movie. Make sure this runs in Quicktime. All video manipulation suites from Apple all use the Quicktime format, so if it doesn’t work in Quicktime, it doesn’t work at all.

3. Open Logic. Open a new project with the Music for Video (NTSC) template.

4. Click on Open Movie… Pull the reference movie in to Logic.

5. Take a minute to cry as your powerbook comes to its knees.

6. Turn on the SMPTE Time Ruler. (View -> View SMPTE time ruler)

7. Click on File -> Synchronization… and make sure that the frame rate is set to the correct rate. This is an NTSC mode movie, so 29.97 frames/sec is correct. (You can get this from opening the movie in Quicktime and hitting cmd-I as well.)

8. Also tell it through the Synchronization pane that Bar Position 1 1 1 1 is at SMPTE position 1:0:0:0:0.0.

9. Pull everything down so the SMPTE bar and the measures bar is visible.

10. Spend some time fooling around with the layout of buttons and whatnot to make everything happy.

11. Click on Detect Cuts. And just my luck, Detect Cuts did not detect the scene changes. So now I spend many hours doing it by hand! Woo!