5 Tips to Maintain Sanity in RED Post

Mark Christiansen
By Mark Christiansen 03.20.09


  1. Ascertain the target output format at the outset (if you control your own format destiny, skip to 2)

  2. Decide who, if anyone, controls the color intent at the outset (if no one has specified how the footage must look on set, skip to 3)

  3. Leave R3D and 4K behind as soon as possible (and no sooner)

  4. Take control of sharpness, noise & more during conversion; don't leave these to tools that can't work with them

  5. Make use of great free and cheap tools if you can't just rely on Scratch

The RED ONE camera is innovative technology that will only improve. Someday, perhaps the good people at RED will anticipate the workflows most often used to work with their footage and offer specifications that help ensure their users' success; for now, however, the following incontrovertale facts about RED often guarantee the need to make decisions more or less on your own:

  • no tools exist to write an R3D file (although several can read them), nor does RED endorse any alternate standard for converting their footage

  • the color intent of an R3D file cannot be controlled (although it can be specified)

It is no coincidence that the happiest RED post-production pipelines have been the ones in which a given studio is master of its own destiny when it comes to the color look and output format of its footage. Likewise, hapless studios have in some cases encountered actual crisis when confronted by the demands of the director or DP to match the footage to how it looked when shot, or when required to deliver a particular format to another facility (typically for the purposes of conforming and finishing, often on a system standardized around 10-bit log Cineon DPX files).

Things can only get better. Meanwhile, here are some tips to keep from going crazy.


Tip 1: Decide target output before beginning post-production

Nothing screws up a RED workflow like the surprise discovery that output is required in an unanticipated format. Conversion takes time, and certain types of conversion, such as between different types of log files, are not at all straightforward, if supported at all in your toolset. And if the decision was made at some point to convert to a lossy format like ProRes 4:2:2, valuable that someone else needs may have been thrown away.

It's essential to know whether you are finishing your project in-house, according to your own specifications, or whether at any point you will need to hand off files to another facility.

Why? An R3D file will inevitably give birth to some other file format before it is seen outside your facility, because there is no means to write an R3D file. Depending on who is finishing it, this conversion may involve the application of LUTs and log color. If you've never worked with a LUT or converted a file from a log color space, that's certainly nothing to be ashamed of, nor is it a prerequisite for working with RED files. On the other hand, if your work is headed to a DaVinci or Lustre for finishing, you may have no choice but to dig in (although DaVinci has recently announced support for R3D files, so if you're not doing anything but cutting them together, with no need to re-render, you might be okay).

No matter what - and this is important - you won't be outputting 4K (4096 pixel wide) R3D files, for a couple of reasons:

  • (once again, with feeling) you cannot write an R3D file

  • in 99.9% of cases there is no means to project 4K

Therefore, if the project is to be finished in-house, skip to tip 2 (if necessary) or more importantly 3, where I will try to influence you nonetheless to convert to some other format. If your project is to be finished at another facility, find out where and how the conform will be done, because it may dictate the type of file you give them. Only Assimilate Scratch and Quantel systems such as Pablo (and now, da Vinci Resolve) can accept R3D files natively; for Lustre you are likely to have to provide DPX files in 10-bit log format, and converting to this format if you've been working in another can be tricky and cause extra days of conversion time that you haven't planned for, depending on the size of the project.

If, because the delivery format will be DPX files, you elect to convert to DPX at the start of the process, check out tip 2.

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