I’ve worked on two RED features this year. Bedrooms was shot in January and Finding Gauguin in August, one and two-camera shoots respectively. Both cut on Final Cut Pro. Although neither is through the finishing process the workflow was different for each. In theory the workflows should be identical but technology has a way of creating the unexpected.
Bedrooms – Easy Ingest
Single RED ONE. One quad-core Mac Pro with stock parts except the CalDigit RAID card running 4 TB in RAID-5.
We changed camera mags twice a day. The mag contents were copied using R3D Data Manager and the 1K RED proxy files imported directly into Final Cut Pro 6.05. We did not transcode to ProRes 422 because there was no need; our color timer will use Crimson Workflow and their own custom software to conform the _M proxy files to the 4K files and grade using Scratch.
What’s interesting about this production is the ease of using the 1K proxies. The image was acquired using the 16:9 aspect ratio which scales down to the _M proxy and frame size of 1024×576. The performance inside of FCP was excellent using these clips. Few renders were needed and only for effects.
The advantage was a fast turn-around from camera to cut.
Finding Gauguin – Taming the Beast
Two RED ONE cameras acquiring the image at 4K. One 8-core Mac Pro with Apple RAID card hosting a 4 TB RAID-5 array. A second Highpoint eSATA RAID card hosting an 8 TB at RAID-5.
We attempted to use the same workflow as Bedrooms without success. The D.P. chose the 2:1 aspect ratio and the resulting 1K proxy files are 1024×512 (instead of 1024×576) and would not play properly in FCP 6.05. Playback stuttered then stopped. We never found a solution to this, our best guess being a bug within FCP’s handling of the 2:1 aspect ratio. During troubleshooting I couldn’t find much on the subject as it appears productions don’t often use RED proxy files – they transcode to ProRes 422.
A more powerful video card might have allowed us to use the RED proxy files but the money (and time) wasn’t there. We used FCP’s Log & Transfer to transcode and ingest quarter-res (1K) files in ProRes 422. This proved unreliable (i.e.: skipped media clips) and we switched to REDrushes (and maintained the quarter-res transcode to ProRes).
Final Cut Pro had no problem with the 1024×512 ProRes files. Fast and very little rendering except for effects.
This is an abbreviated, and hence incomplete, workflow. I’ve left out the on-set transfers and additional backups, but once the media has been ingested it’s really a no-brainer. For us RED proxies are the way to go (when they work) and best served at 16:9.
I’ve had a difficult time determining how anyone can use 2K proxy (or raw R3D) files on a stock Mac Pro. A high-end video card is required and it’s been suggested to use the nVidia Quadro FX and/or Kona. Of course there is the RED Rocket but that’s substantially more expensive.
The 1K proxy files at 2:1 aspect ratio with stuttered playback is a mystery. Considering the oddity of that frame size it could be a simple bug but a costly one due to the additional transcoding that is required.
Every project is different but we’re finding some general guidelines across shows.
- Perform camera tests early by shooting for a day at the intended resolution. Pound on the edit system in advance, using the test footage, to ensure all equipment is operating at its peak performance.
- Ensure the camera department is running audio to the RED. The quality is excellent and avoids the need to sync later. Also ensure that external audio is being jam-synced should the need arise to sync later.
- This sounds like common-sense but have the camera department label every mag and card being used. Use a turnover log signed by the camera operator when drives are exchanged. Just because film cans are gone doesn’t mean that camera logs are obsolete – they are equally important today as 20 years ago.
- Transfer, transcode, and log on-set. Use R3D Data Manager to copy simultaneously (at least two backups) then transcode (if required) into ProRes 422 HQ. These transcoded files can be imported into a temporary FCP project, logged, then copied to a transfer drive. The transfer drive is brought to Editorial where the contents are copied and imported into the primary editing system.
Because no workflow is complete until the project is finished (sound edit, final mix, visual effects, color correction), look for a follow-up story when that time comes.