Testing the RED Post Workflow
Proxies vs ProRes, Apple Color & RED and Final Cut Server
The DR Group has been undergoing a digital transformation for many years after starting out in the Ã¢Â€Â˜90s selling and buying surplus film stock. Seeing the digital writing on the wall a decade ago. The DR Group began moving its business to digital services, investing in Final Cut Pro systems, and offering editorial. Today, it services include online/offline editorial, color correction and conform as well as consultants for facility design.
With the RED phenomenon, The DR Group has been testing the workflow to come up with the best, most efficient solutions for RED. We spoke with Lowell Kay, founder of the DR Group about their move to handle RED workflows and what their tests have found so far.
The interesting thing about RED is that it keeps evolving, and very quickly. Assimilate has had a lock on that code for a year but that is now up so the API for the r3dcode is now available so all the other manufacturers are going to include it in upcoming releases, which will be pretty exciting.
So what are people today shooting with RED need to know for the post side?
There are two trains of thought with Red. A lot of people are just using the proxies with the Red camera, bringing them into Final Cut and editing. That is great if you are doing feature film, if that film is fairly simple and just has straight cuts. That’s a fantastic workflow because there is no front end processing. But it does require an Intel Mac and the latest and greatest software. You can’t do it on anything below that, it just simply will not work.
For those that are going to be dealing with a lot of transitions and effects my suggestion is moving it over to ProRes as you will have a better experience in the long run just because you have pre-processed it in a sense into a codec that is more efficient with Final Cut. If you have got one layer, maybe two layers of video, go for it with the proxies. As soon as you move out of that and start doing anything besides a linear story I think you really need to look at processing prior to coming into your edit. And that is where we can come in and help. We have a lot of computers here and we can do a lot of that pre-processing to move the project along faster. There’s a lot of people that say they can do that all on their own, but if you do that you take up your computer and it takes a lot of time to be able to handle that.
Red workflows require a lot of storage. As a post house we are not going to be looking at this in terms of just processing power but how are we going to handle your data management, how are we going to handle your data workflows. And that is going to be an interesting transition for all post houses. A lot of people say they can handle it but if they haven’t done this work, if they haven’t managed projects of these sizes attentive to minute detail, if they haven’t archived footage, if they don’t have an LTO3 backup storage, then these will bite you in the ass.
What is your recommendation for handling the data from on-set and then in post?
You shoot onto the drive and then you are going to transfer that disk in to two redundant sources or mirror it. Then that has to go to a facility and that should be archived onto LTO tape and also to a SAN which has redundant RAID 5 storage so you are editing on the footage that may or may not have been processed. Basically your LTOs become your new film master. That seems to be robust, it is enterprise level and it’s not going to go away for a while.
Again it depends on what the budget of the feature is. There’s a good, better, best scenario at all times. Good – do it at your home come to us when you want to color correction and the final post out. There’s the middle of the road: we want you to handle this, take it to ProRes and we’ll finish it in that. Then there’s the ones that want to be able to open that 4K file, manipulate it and be able to scan it and really go out to film. The last category is less obviously. 4K is great but 2K is what most people are looking at. Projectors are 2K except for the Sony and most people doing color correction are doing it on a 2K image. You may be able to open a 4K image but you are only able to look at it at 2K.
The key of data management, and this doesn’t matter if it is RED, P2 or whatever, is retaining the named file. Editors have to get used to the fact that once they receive the named file that is the name, period. The proxies are all built off of that main file so if you change the root structure of that named file then everything else collapses. Same thing happens with P2. If you change the root structure, it all fails. If you want to sort, use the log notes. The name of the clip is now less important than the log notes. Once you process the image they are just 4K DPX files and any color correction system worth its weight should be able to handle it.
Have you tested color correcting RED footage and are you using Apple Color for that?
You don’t want to be color correcting these images at the full resolution in Color. The problem is in a 4:4:4 color space. If you have to do transitions and you go from Final Cut Pro to Color and then back again there are issues in that process. That is why we are looking at the major players as far as color correction: Autodesk, Quantel, Digital Vision and Baselight, we have to find the solution that offers us the proper roundtrip.
This isn’t just Red. Apple Color is great if you want to roundtrip 4:2:2 between Final Cut and Color and then back. First reason is that when you are looking in Color you are only seeing a single link, you are never truly seeing a single link. You have to do a LUT to approximate what the 4:4:4 is going to look like. That’s the first thing. If you are going to be working on these files it would be nice to see 4:4:4 log on a consistent basis and from one source. So if you are 4:2:2 and going between Final Cut and Color there is no problem because 4:2:2 works in a YUV color space. So when you do any transitions or any of the final processing, Final Cut Pro reacts properly.
We just did a project where we brought it in 4:4:4 log brought it to Color, worked in 4:4:4 log but looked at in 4:2:2 brought it back to Final Cut Pro and anytime we did any processing we had gamma shifts in any transitions. So the issue is that Final Cut Pro for final output is just not able to handle that right now. In addition when you use Color you are rendering it in Color, you bring back those render files into Final Cut Pro and then any transitions you have to do a render again. Then we find out the transition don’t work. If you are doing opacity changes or fades or wipes you then have to apply those in Color, bring those back out as a single clip and then apply it that way. So in a RED world, especially if you are working in 2K 4:4:4 or 4K 4:4:4, you need to bring those into a system that is not Final Cut Pro for final output, and that’s the dirty secret that no one is talking about. So now your cheap and wonderful color correction, editing, finishing system breaks down. Now you can do Red Cine, but that doesn’t really give you the full complements of tools we are used to as post facilities for color correction. It’s good. For the person that is just working at home to finish their own film it works great, but is it going to work as efficiently on a professional level? Not really.
How do you handle the processing and data management now and will that change?
What we would do is stick it on our SAN and then use RedCine to process it through multiple computers. RedCine is like using Compressor. One thing that I am interested to test is Final Cut Server, since the asset management software is in place, to have all of our RED footage go through Final Cut Server so that it is tracked and asset managed. From that point if you use that as your central input station you know where it is on the LTO, you know where it is on the SAN and the FireWire, so that everything is built into the front end. If we have Final Cut Server deployed and ready to go we can put this onto a Web page, there’s review and approval system. There’s just so many things that it could open up.