Conforming Red

Red is now Hollywood’s great science experiment, with workflow options proliferating almost every day. How do you do dailies? How do you transcode and sync? Who is archiving your media? We’re finally starting to get our arms around those issues, but there are still too many options. And the bigger question now is how you conform.

“The Social Network” team actually did it in their offline cutting room, moving from Final Cut to Premiere and from there to After Effects, using EDLs (not XMLs) and dpx files (not the native R3D files). They then turned over to a Pablo for timing. (Adobe has posted a video laying this out.) I’m finishing a TV movie that was cut with Media Composer 5, conformed in Smoke and timed in Lustre using the native R3Ds, which gave us all kinds of color control. And those are just two of the dozens of permutations available. Before we started shooting, I spent a full week going over them, and at the end, the conversations were so filled with jargon that a normal mortal listening in would have thought we were nuts.

We do more and more visual effects work in our offline editing rooms. In television, I’ve gotten very spoiled seeing my work conformed perfectly using Symphony. There’s a tremendous sense of freedom in that — if you get something right, it’s finished and you never need to think about it again. But in features we don’t generally experience that particular thrill, because above HD resolution everything has to be rebuilt, and too often, by eye. Each system has its strengths and weaknesses. Smoke is powerful, interfaces with Lustre for timing and understands many MC4 effects — but MC5 is another story. Baselight understands XML (but not all effects). After Effects is cheap but doesn’t understand either one. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The whole thing is a mess. Conforming complex visual effects by eye is crazy, and somebody is going to make real money straightening it all out. More fundamentally, will we be conforming in our cutting rooms or at a post house? Or will increases in processing power make the whole thing moot?

Meanwhile, be prepared for a new workflow on every show you do, with new options, new gotchas, and new things to learn each time.

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7 Comments on “Conforming Red”

  1. Ramos Says:

    Hi Steve,

    Do you think if the editors for “The Social Network?” knew Adobe Premiere better they would have skipped Final Cut for the editing? With the built in 4k work flow of RED .R3d files, they could have skipped the whole transcode to ProRes. Does anyone have the courage yet to tackle a feature with Premiere Pro CS-5 yet? Especially one shot on RED.

    • Steve Says:

      Sadly, nobody I know thinks PP is ready for the battlefield of a big Hollywood show, with large amounts of media and sequences and multiple editors. For me, the lack of a robust trim mode would be an immediate show stopper, but I haven’t spent enough quality time with PP to offer much more useful info.

      Steve

      • Sergio Says:

        The trimming in PP has been for years the closest to MC there is.
        I used to edit in MC (never liked FCP much, specially back in the day when the playheads were unprecise) And switched to PP for a feature five years ago. Now I was trying to use MC again for a project, and felt it was too far behind in UI and operability.

  2. Mark B Says:

    Hi Steve,

    Its always great when I have a problem, then a day later, read about someone having similar issues! We’re about to start moving a feature from an MC4 offline to a Smoke conform, then onto DaVinci for the grade.

    I’m used to normally doing film scan conforms where the trusty EDL rules, but this is a feature doc and so most source material comes from HD tape based sources which we used for the offline at DNx36.

    However when we came to test the MC4 – Smoke conform route via an AAF of each Reel, we were told by the facility that the AAF was not being ‘accepted’ and they had not had any success with them in the past.

    I was hoping you could elaborate on what you have found with the MC4 – Smoke workflow with AAF. Which effects have been a success? Any nifty tricks we need to try etc.

    Many thanks
    Mark

    • Steve Says:

      Mark,
      Smoke should handle material from MC4, and it will understand many basic effects, including resizes, 3D warps, timewarp keyframes (but not custom ramps) and other things. I was told by the Smoke editor at our post house that with MC4 all this would work, and I’ve heard the same thing from others (MC5 is another story — not working yet, but will soon).

      Something strange is going on if your post house says that it’s never worked. Maybe they haven’t upgraded the Smoke software. In any event, a call to Autodesk might be in order.

      There will inevitably be some hand tweaking, but basic effects ought to come over automatically without much trouble.

      I know that’s not as specific as you need — but I hope it helps.

      Steve

      • Mark B Says:

        Thanks Steve – very good to know it should be possible, after all thats what AAF was supposed to enable right!
        I’ll go back to the facility and see if they can elaborate on what was happening and what Smoke version they are operating.

  3. Steve Says:

    Mark,

    Let us know what happens …

    Steve


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