Final rendering options: Preparing for film/video, aspect ra

Hey, all–

I may be jumping the gun a bit in asking this, and I’m sure it’s been discussed elsewhere (although my searches weren’t fruitful)–

I’m about to the point where I begin applying what I’ve learned to some of my own original animated shorts. I would like to tailor my workflow to a foreseen end, however.

After rendering, I will be editing/applying the soundtrack/finalizing in Ulead MediaStudio Pro (an older version, but that shouldn’t matter here).

Immediately, of course, my projects will be seen on computer and DVD, but I would also like to plan on potential film festival submissions if/when they’re good enough to warrant it. All projects will be 16:9 aspect ratio.

Right there, if I understand correctly, I have 3 different potential rendering configurations:

Computer: regular high-resolution, letterbox rendering, 30 fps.
DVD: NTSC field rendering (my terminology might be shabby, please feel free to gently correct), with the implied corresponding 29.97 fps. Total aspect ratio of viewing area is 4:3
Film: 16:9 aspect ratio, 24 fps.

Now, would my best bet be to go ahead and render it at 16:9, high resolution, 24 fps, and let my editing software finalize it depending on what’s needed, including dropping the letterbox version over a 4:3 black field to accomodate 4:3 aspect ratio without cropping? I’d prefer the “film look” as far as fps, so is it best to render at 24 and let the editing software do the necessary massaging to get it to 30 fps (as would be seen on a DVD)? Since I’m trying to avoid extra time spent and keep the different finalized versions consistent, would it be best to COMPLETELY finalize the project as 16:9, 24 fps and then do another pass placing that over the 4:3 “black bars” for video, or would that lead to quality loss (I would think not if I watch my settings).

Basically, I want to come in armed, so I don’t have to have a beautiful finished work of art which I then have to go back and completely re-render, as that would be time consuming (to put it VERY mildly).

Thanks for any help/links/info!

You have to put a lot of thought into this.

If you are going from 16:9 to 4:3, which is totally possible and acceptable if done right, you must think about the differences in the picture before you render. You must realize what portion of the screen/camera view you will lose on conversion. You must them make sure that no essential screen elements are trapped in those areas.

If your editor can do it you can pan the 16:9 at critical times in 4:3 mode to see an essential element. If you have any DVD’s that have both 16:9 and 4:3 viewing modes watch them to see what I mean. You lose quite a bit of perspective going from 16:9 to 4:3.

In terms of going from 24 fps to 30fps, that depends on your editor or compositor too. Never used ULead so I can’t really comment on what it does. But I can tell you the ability to stretch frames well is not available in all editors. You’ll just have to try it out and see if it is smooth. Hopefully, it will be so you don’t have to re-render.

Stretching frames works best when done in specific increments, specifically 33%, 50%, and 66%. As I said, depending on the editor, will depend how well it stretches in that increment.

Can you capture with your video card? If you can you can make a 24fps and then re-capture it at 30fps. That seems to work quite well. I work a bit with European media (PAL is 25fps), and they’ll usually have me show it on a television and they use their camera to record the screen.