It seems like only a year ago that doing post-production on the RED ONE camera was a confusing imbroglio of what to do and what tools to use to do it. There where a lot of options for posting early RED footage as long as you wanted to use Final Cut Pro and/or Assimilate Scratch. Yep, there was REDAlert and RedCine from day one but if you wanted to perform an offline edit and then conform that edit to the raw .R3D files then good luck. Crimson Workflow popped up and helped with that but it still wasn’t easy. Now, some year and a half later, RED post is maybe only a morass with a dizzying number of options with terms like debayering, Monkey Extract, native RED QuickTimes … just a few of the terms that might pop up in a RED post discussion. There really are more choices out there than many of us though we would ever see. Finding the right one can be challenge.
For my money it’s hard to beat a workflow like we are using at FilmWorkers Nashville with our Quantel eQ. If you are staying in a 1080 world for broadcast or DVD delivery then this is a great solution. Quantel recently released a version of their software that supports the native .R3D RED files. The company has been working on their RED workflow support and now has IMHO one of the best options. They also have a white paper available (pdf link) that outlines their workflow. And they keep moving forward with a recently added ability to conform 2K on the eQ system. Before this update we (and by we I mean more he as in John our eQ artist) had to do a RED conform from DPX files before color grading and while it was totally possible it was a much more tedious process that sometimes involved any number of outside pieces of software actually generating those DPX files. The eQ now gives the online artist access to the RED files with all of the normal input parameters:
This is such a timesaver and eliminates the step of creating DPX files. The RED media is imported into the eQ and then, in our case, usually sent to HDCAM SR for color grading on a DaVinci 2K Plus. Yes it’s 1080 and not 2K or 4K (the whole resolution thing has been discussed ad nauseam) but for our market it’s perfect. But that’s only part of what makes this work. The other part comes from Automatic Duck. We all know and love the Automatic Duck world of plug-ins as a great way to get edits into After Effects but they also offer a plug-in called Pro Export FCP that (among other things) will export an AAF file from FCP that the eQ can read. This is so much better than an EDL since it carries across much more information than an EDL-based confrom can. That information includes layers, dissolves, SMPTE wipes, references to external file media, freeze frames and motion effects! Motion effects is a big one since the current method of doing color grading in Apple Color involves taking all the speed effects in your edit, removing those speed effects, doing your color grading and then reassembling those speed effects. Clunky to say the least. Another great thing is all layers are imported intact. This image is of a recently conformed music video:
You can also see the image on Flickr with some notes attached. That is a 5 layer music video with repositions, crops, dissolves and speed effects all conformed off of the same list. If that doesn’t make a director and producer happy then I don’t know what does. More translated information from offline to online means less time spent eye-matching moves and effects. Less time means more money saved. While I don’t know all of the ins and outs of exactly what an Assimilate Scratch system can do I do know that it uses an EDL from your editing application so that right there tells you that you are working with only a single video layer with limited transitions and effects translated. There’s a great discussion thread on reduer.net titled Scratch vs. Pablo (Pablo is a Quantel’s high-end color grading product, among the other things it does) that gives a bit of detail and discussion on a Scratch vs. another Quantel system. Yes a Pablo is very different than an eQ but a good discussion can reveal a lot of good info. Avid recently announced native RED .R3D support in their DS systems. Couple that new DS support with a conform from an Avid Media Composer and that will be another great workflow that will keep a lot of information intact from offline to online. I think that’s such an important part of a RED conform that it is often overlooked, being able to do things in the creative edit other than just cuts and dissolves and then being able to recreate those things in an online conform from native RED .R3D files with ease. That has been missing from the RED workflow. If you are doing a feature film with RED then you often don’t need many fancy edit tricks but if you are doing music videos or commercial spots that go to broadcast then this ability to conform is huge.
This post isn’t an attempt to compare and contrast any systems or workflow, only to discuss a single workflow, one that works and one that has made the often confusing world of RED into a very streamlined process that brings clients in the door with a drive full of RED footage and out later with their color graded master tape in hand … with minimal headaches. We have literally spent hundreds of hours over the last year working with RED footage in a number of different ways to try and establish what is the smoothest, most reliable workflow for a full service of RED post production. While there are many options (many of those that we still do in-house at Filmworkers Nashville on a regular basis) this is one that works and is working well. RED > FCP > Automatic Duck > Quantel eQ v4 > Smile.