At an all-day seminar near Universal Studios, Gamma & Density
introduced the use of its 3cP color management system for the RED camera systems
. First up was first-hand experience: RED camera tech Tim Sutherland related his experiences using 3cP with the camera for six days. “The monitor is like a video tap,” he said. “Thereâ€™s a lot more information recorded than what you get on your monitor, which is what makes color correction on set important. With 3cP you can see the look on the set. One of my favorite things about 3cP is that I can trust what Iâ€™m looking at because itâ€™s a calibrated monitor.”
Sutherland continued by noting that throughout the shoot, the cinematographer came in at lunch every day to see the footage after it was downloaded. “Before, I had to take the camera proxies, get them into FCP, render them all night long, burn them and bring it in the next day,” he said. “With 3cP, I can do all this at the same time. Instead of dragging and dropping, I can do secure image transfer and work on images Iâ€™ve already downloaded. Most people know Apple has gamma issue in between FCP and Color; the QuickTime movies I generated looked terrible. With 3cP, I can have color corrected dailies.”
Next, Gamma & Density’s Bob Currier spoke on how 3cP applies to the RED workflow. He began with a quick description of
the characteristics of the RED camera, and what it dictated for post production: Red One camera has a single 12- megapixel CMOS Super 35mm-sized sensor, and generates 4K Bayer-encoded data in 12-bits. How many stops is yielded by that 12-bits was a can of worms: Currier noted that RED claims 11.3 stop (66 dB) dymamic range, but that “most of the DPs he’s spoke to who used the RED said it has a practical range of 5 to 5.5 stops.” “You’re basically dealing with the exposure of reversal film,” he said. “You do have to plan ahead where you put those stops.” RED’s Mysterium sensor is 12-megapixel Bayer filter array sensor, with 5520×2540 total pixels, 4096 x 2304 of which are reecordable. Most common recording mode is the 2:1, 4K by 2K image format, and the full sensor can be recorded at up to 30 fps. Using smaller area of sensor allows higher frame-rates: 3K mode at up to 60 fps and Super 16 mode at 2048×11152 at up to 120 fps. Use of smaller sensor area increases frame rate but also alters depth of field.
The Bayer pattern provides a single chip color solution, which requires software processing to recover the full color image.
“It exchanges manufacturing simplicity for decoding complexity,” noted Currier. The Bayer pattern data is encoded into proprietary Redcode format. recorded at 28 or 36 Mbytes/second. Redcode is not directly readable by most applications but the camera produces QuickTime proxies to allow viewing a degraded version of the image in such applications as After Effects and Adobe Premiere.
The current state of RED post production is complex and constantly changing, noted Currier, who reported that Assimilate products are the only ones that access the REDcode file format directly (although that exclusivity deal has expired). Other applications use QuickTime proxies or must transcode to another codec. A couple of applications deal with RED internally, hiding the details from the user. Apple Color was one of the first ones to do this; Gamma & Density’s 3cP now joins that group.
Obvious benefits accrue to not working with proxies. “There are performance issues with using QuickTime proxies,” said Currier. “You also have to make decisions as to how to define the proxy parameters, or which part of the range of the RED file youâ€™ll put into your files. If you make those decisions too early, everyone may be seeing something that might not be the best use of all the bits recorded. You want to defer that decision as long as possible, although eventually you have to freeze it into a visible form.”
Currier pointed out some of the challenges of the RED workflow, including communicating with editorial and post production. “Simply recording the video tap off the camera isnâ€™t good for much,” he said. “And problems with the images can generate lack of confidence, even if itâ€™s not being recorded.” He also noted the impracticality of transcoding on-set. “You have to import the whole file to get one frame,” said Currier. “And because it’s enclosed architecture, we can’t pull out one frame.”
In answer to a question about how long 3cP’s transcoding took, Currier responded that “weâ€™re the same speed as Redline if youâ€™re using that. Weâ€™re slightly faster than FCP, about the same speed as Compressor. Thereâ€™s the same amount of work to be done. When youâ€™re in 3cP, you can color correct footage on an 8-core Mac Pro, for example while youâ€™re transcoding. Once you get a pipeline going, it works efficiently as opposed to a linear step-by-step process.”
The 3cP workflow with the RED camera offers a variety of advantages, said Currier. *3CP hast its own back-up that goes to up to three destinations and provides full verification,” he said. “Some types of data corruption could slip by, so we also offer byte-by-byte comparison. We do non-cached reads and writes when we do it, so we donâ€™t read a corrupted version in RAM. The byte-by-byte verifications isnâ€™t that slow although itâ€™s a little bit slower. It can also verify in the background, so you can be doing something else.”
On-set, 3cP understands RED file structure on media and uses files directly with no transcodes or proxies. “So when you back-up media, you just point to the device and it puts them into the 3cP gallery, creating folders as it needs to. The RED naming convention is well thought out and usable so we maintain it.”
Dailies can be output to QuickTime, DVD, iPhone, web, or tape (DVCAM and DVCPRO all the way to HDCAM SR), the latter generated by 3cPâ€™s Print-to-Video feature. Output can be full 4K, 2K, 1080p, 720p, with options for letterboxing and cropping. 3cP can generate slates to identify not just the scene name, number, take number, media name but also color correction settings and the RED settings. “Looking at worst case scenarios where youâ€™ve lost your files in a hard drive catastrophe, you can recreate those files just with the slates.”
3cP also generates master files for final grade DI session in a wide variety of formats, and provides color information to the final grade via ASC CDL direct interface to Apple Color, direct interface to Synthetic Aperture Color Finesse, and 3D LUTs for Autodesk Lustre, Pandora Pogle, Assimilate Scratch and Filmlight Truelight and others.
“Along with these automated processes, we include the 3cP reports, which are a visual representation of whatâ€™s been done,” said Currier. “It’s a quick way to do visual checks and make sure there are no mix-ups.”
“We tried to make 3cP resolve some of the issues of the existing systems for posting RED footage,” said Currier. “And 3cP is set-up to do a lot of different tasks in the workflow but weâ€™ve made it internally modular so you can use your favorite tools for any part of the process and still use 3cP for the other tasks.”
“The difference between 3cP and other systems out there is that ours is the only one not created by engineers or colorists,” added Gamma & Density founder, cinematographer Yuri Neyman, ASC. Currier agreed, adding, “Itâ€™s not practical to move the color correction suite on set. Our goal is to preserve the DPâ€™s vision so the colorist can do his job properly. The goal isnâ€™t to do away with the colorist or move him/her on set.”