Adobe Premiere Pro, Movie Recorder & Growing Files

Over the past 2 years, I’ve been lucky to travel to some great places working the global events for Burton Snowboards.  Our premier events happen all across the globe – in New Zealand, Japan, Switzerland and in Vail, Colorado.  I’m sent to the events to film and edit video content which is used for broadcast promotion, features for the television/live shows, recaps of the action and other video assets.  All of our events are broadcasted live on Burton.com.  Our video team works closely with MSI Live, the company who produces the live broadcasts, to elevate the production and create a better viewing experience.

We have always ended the live shows with a roll out package, highlighting the days best action.  For past events, we have relied on the Newtek 3-Play to create the highlight packages.  We have been pleased with the 3-Play and the packages you could create with it, but something was missing.  We felt that the highlights weren’t tight enough.  Sure, we could play all of the best clips from the day with a music bed below it, but we wanted more.  Our ideal situation would be to have the highlight package tightly edited to music with the ability to add titles for the snowboarders on screen.

For the past few months I have been looking for a solution that would allow us to do this.  I researched quite a bit and noticed that Adobe Premiere Pro has the ability to import “growing files”.  What I didn’t know was how to create these growing files.  I read a great post about Adobe’s roll at the World Cup in Brazil, so I knew it was possible to integrate Premiere Pro into our live production workflow.  My hopes started to shatter when my research lead me to large EVS servers and expensive hardware that could create growing files.  We have budget for these events, but not that type of budget!

What I wanted to do was take the live feed via SDI, route it through a Black Magic UltraStudio Mini Recorder and into my Mac Book Pro via Thunderbolt.  I just needed to find out how to create these damn growing files.  I tested lots of ways… capturing into Premiere Pro, capturing from BMD Media Express and even trying to capture via Final Cut Pro.  Nothing seemed to create these growing files.  Every time I would import the files that I thought would work, I’d get the “Unsupported File Type” message.  I was frustrated and about to give up when I found a Google result that mentioned a software called Movie Recorder 3.  Skeptically, I clicked on the link.  What I found changed everything!

Movie Recorder 3 is a software for Macs created by Softron Media.  It is a cost-effective ($1,400) way “to capture video for collaborative editing”.  I couldn’t believe what I had stumbled upon.  The description on their website says, “…it is possible to start editing in Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere Pro or most other editing solution seconds after the ingest has started”.  This was exactly what I was looking for.  Softron offers a free download of the demo software, so I downloaded and started testing.  It worked exactly like I had hoped.  I was able to capture the feed via the Mini Recorder and create growing ProRes files.  I tested a bunch of clips making sure the software wouldn’t drop frames or crash.  Movie Recorder passed the tests with flying colors.  I purchased the software and was off to Switzerland the next day for the Burton European Open to put Movie Recorder to use in a live situation.

Not a bad view from webcast booth at the Burton European Open
Not a bad view from webcast booth at the Burton European Open

For the first time, I was in the tiny webcast production booth with the rest of the MSI Live crew.  The broadcast is produced on-hill, so the production booth is literally a small shipping container on top of the mountain!  Being the in-house video editor at Burton, it made the most sense for me to be the one putting together the edit.  Excited to see how this would work, I setup my laptop and got ready for the broadcast to start.

This was my setup for live ingesting at the event:
Mac Book Pro 2.3 GHz i7, 16GB RAM
Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2014 / After Effects CC 2014
BMD UltraStudio Mini Recorder (SDI IN from switcher > Thunderbolt OUT to MBP)
Lacie Rugged 2TB USB 3.0 external drive
Softron Movie Recorder 3

Inside the webcast booth at the Burton European Open
Inside the webcast booth at the Burton European Open

I had setup Movie Recorder to record in ProRes LT so that I could conserve room on the external drive since I wasn’t sure how much room I would need.  I started the capture, opened Premiere Pro and imported the growing file via the Media Browser.  With a sigh of relief, everything worked just like my tests at the office, so I began laying out the edit.  It was amazing to be able to work in Premiere Pro and growing files.  If an awesome trick happened, I would wait 15 seconds for my file to refresh (a setting you can change in Premiere) and then I could scrub to that trick, grab it and put it on the timeline.  I did this for 3 days for about 5 to 6 hours a day.  Being able to create lower 3rds for all of the snowboarders in After Effects and place them in Premiere Pro via Dynamic Link was also a huge for me.  It really enhanced the highlight package and made it look way more polished.

After the last rider finished their run, I had about 3 minutes to get the project ready for playback.  We had another MacBook Pro sending out a HDMI feed to the live switcher.  I ejected the Lacie external drive from my editing machine and plugged it into the MBP with HDMI out.  I opened up the project in Premiere Pro, made the Program monitor full screen and was ready to play off of the timeline.  I know it sounds risky to play off the timeline, and it is, but with only having about 3 minutes from putting the last touches on the edit to when it’s on the live broadcast, there is no other way.  Premiere Pro with the Mercury Playback Engine handled the ProRes footage with ease and the live broadcast ended with a bang.  Another big advantage of this workflow is that right after the broadcast ended, I was able to upload the highlight package to the Burton YouTube page.  Insane!

It was really amazing to work with this technology and see it perform exactly how I wanted it to.  I’m looking forward to using this workflow at our next event, the US Open of Snowboarding, March 4-7 2015.  Be sure to tune in!  In the meantime, check out some of the highlight packages posted on this page from the Burton European Open!