No more RED proxies necessary?

September 11, 2014 Tags: , , ,
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Sam here…

I’m noticing RED proxies may no longer be needed in FCPX. So… way back when 10.1 got released there was a little feature in the release notes that’s actually a big deal, but no one really talks about… and I’m not ever sure anyone really noticed it:

If you have transcoded RED RAW files to ProRes through a third-party application, you can relink to the original RED files within Final Cut Pro.

For me the Proxy workflow with RED stuff always worked fine… but last week, I did a little test. Basically, I brought some RED files into FCPX, did a quick batch rename, some prep, etc. Then, I went and transcoded out a 1:1 5k prores LT file from the Epic footage in REDcine-X. I went back into FCPX to relink from the R3D to the RCX prores file… relinked with no problem.

It would seem that you don’t need proxies anymore to be offline/online with RED footage… you can import your RED files right into FCPX, get prepped, etc… in the meantime, you can be trancoding that same footage through RCX to whatever codec you want (I’d typically recommend Prores LT for offline)… and then when you’re done transcoding, just relink to your to your transcodes, edit away, and when you’re done, relink back to your RED files and then finish. There should be no downtime and your relink should be almost as fast as flipping from proxy, except that you won’t be stuck with the prores proxy codec for your offline, and you can work with other non-RED formats in the same timeline in optimized/original mode largely without issue. Kind of awesome.

One small caveat – when you’re transcoding your RED footage, make sure your timecode setting matches the timecode displayed in FCPX. I did a test that had the timecode set to Edgecode for some reason, and it caused some relink issues until I noticed that my timecodes for the Prores transcodes weren’t matching the timecodes for the RED files in FCPX. Once I was on the right timecode setting, I was able to relink without issue.
RED proxies
Anyway, for smaller RED only projects, I’m still going to use the Proxy workflow, only because it’s so easy and I can transcode in the background right in FCPX, and flip modes as necessary… however, for longer form work where I know I’ll be working offline for an extended period of time, the flexibility of being able to easily relink to RCX transcodes is great.

Now… here’s the million dollar question that I haven’t tried… will this relinking business work with non-RED formats? If anyone has a chance to check, let me know in the comments…

RED Raw For Your Colorist

August 14, 2014 Tags: , , ,
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Sam here… we’re going to talk RED RAW today, because there’s no reason for this to be so hard and complicated.  Mostly, it’s a public service to DP’s everywhere, many of whom seem to be confused by how all of this works.  It’s been my experience that a lot of DP’s try to capture their LOOK on set… and yet they’re shooting RAW.  Mostly, this is because of a fear (often justified) that post will screw it up later if they don’t lock in their look now.  Unfortunately, this approach is counter intuitive to how the camera is designed to work, and doing things this way will often lead to a lot of finger pointing, anger, and inflated post budgets once the film hits the finishing stage.

The bottom line is that if you’ve ever heard your DP say the following words… show them this post:

“The RED is a noisy camera… I’ve always got add noise reduction in post to my footage.  Also… I always like to save LUTs and looks when I shoot RED.”

With the RED, LUTs are stupid.  Sorry.  Someone needs to say it. You’re just going to go back to REDlogfilm when you hit the finish line anyway… or you should be using the controls in RCX to manipulate the RAW the way you want it AFTER YOU’VE SHOT IT.

If exposed and lit correctly, you should NEVER want/need a LUT when you hit the color room.  Use the standard REDcolor/Gamma settings while you’re shooting as a baseline, and then tweak later in REDcine-X.  When it comes to RED, probably the worst thing you can do is try and dial your look in while you’re on set.  It defeats the whole purpose of shooting RAW.

The truth is that shooting RAW is not a cure all.  While it provides greater flexibility than traditional codecs, You need to do certain things correctly and understand a couple things in order to get good results.

Fortunately, there isn’t all that much that you need to know.  In fact, if you do the following, you’re pretty much guaranteed good results with your Scarlet/Epic/Dragon:

  1. Shoot at 800 ISO – The RED sensor is rated to be shot at this ISO.  Start here while on set.  While you can shoot at other ISOs, you shouldn’t unless you absolutely have to.  Play with that stuff later in Redcine-X.  Shoot and light it for 800.
  2. Don’t clip – Look at your histogram.  Make sure everything you’re shooting is between the “goal posts”.  If it’s not… do a better job with your lighting, or accept certain realities in post.  Also, keep in mind you always have HDRX available to you in extreme cases.
  3. Expose your skin tones correctly – For the love of God, don’t underexpose your skin tones.  Seriously… just don’t.  It’s the number one reason why people end up unhappy with their RED footage and why things turn out noisy, because they find they want to brighten up their skin tones in the color room.  To make sure your skin tones are exposed properly, use the False color mode and make sure your skin tones are “pink”.  If they are, you’re good to go.  You can always make things darker later… rarely, however, can you make things brighter and not introduce unwanted noise.  Even if you want things “moody”, EXPOSE YOUR SKIN TONES PROPERLY.
  4. The smaller your resolution, the grainier your footage – Basically, if you shoot with the Dragon/Epic at 4k, 3k, or 2k… you’re using less and less of your sensor, and less and less information is being captured.  Many complain that their 2k stuff looks worse than their 4k and 5k stuff… that’s cause it does.  You’re only using part of your sensor, and depending on your compression rate, you may start to see a lot of problems, noise, and grain introduced… especially when you shoot at 2k.
  5. Up your compression ratio if you’re going to reframe – For the same reasons discussed in #4, the higher the compression ratio you shoot with your RED at, the more noise you’re going to see from your punch ins in post.  Once you get past 7:1 compression or so, expect the quality of your punch-ins to decrease and become far more noticeable.  While there’s no reason to shoot RED RAW uncompressed (not even really a good reason to go below 5:1), keep in mind that the higher you go, the more noise will be introduced, and this noise will be compounded when you reframe/punch in during the edit.  Even though you shot at 4k, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all punch-ins are created equal when you come down to 1080.

Seriously, those five things are all you really need to know in order to make you and your colorist happy when you reach the finish line.  Why people make this so hard, I’ll never understand.

For more info on some of the RED exposure tools and how all this works, read these articles –
http://www.red.com/learn/red-101/red-camera-exposure-tools http://www.red.com/learn/red-101/exposure-false-color-zebra-tools