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The Compleat Idiot’s Guide to RED Post on a Budget

Written by a complete post idiot, these RED tips may make your life slightly easier

By Art Adams | May 12, 2008

This is by no means a definitive manual on how to post RED footage. Rather, this is how I managed to work with R3D footage while creating a spec spot using the RED. Your mileage may vary. I expect to be flamed repeatedly regarding my handling of this shoot's post process, but from the ashes I hope to extract some knowledge as to how to do it all better next time.

We did not record any sound on the shoot, so that part of the post process is not addressed. Yay!

For behind-the-scenes action, see Adam Wilt's post on the shoot itself.


We shot using RedCode 36, which records more data per second than RedCode 24. Either one can be used with the RED drive; only RedCode 24 can be used with the CF card due to the slower write speed.

Adam Wilt acted as DAS (digital acquisition supervisor) during the shoot, and as such he:

-Occasionally checked focus and exposure by pulling the RED drive and checking the R3D files directly on the drive. (This was much faster than copying the files over and then checking them. Files were copied during meal breaks or time-consuming lighting setups.)

-Made multiple copies of the data, both for safety reasons and to ensure that the director and I both walked away with copies of the footage to work with on Firewire drives. Additional copies went different directions as backups.

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Jeff: | May, 12, 2008

“The Compleat Idiot’s Guide…”

Most ironic title ever.

Mike Prevette: | May, 13, 2008

In addition to the histogram, the Red offers both a RGB Parade, and a Waveform. The latter being less than optimally implemented but usable.

Mike Prevette: | May, 13, 2008

Page 4

Clicking on the “input file name” button in Redcine’s file naming panel will result in files that are named according to the input files. That would have avoided all the hunting you must have had to do.

Mike Prevette: | May, 13, 2008

page 6:

Hire a professional. Instead of clouding everyones vision of the process, consulting a post-pro first would save everyone a lot of hassle.

Almost everyone familiar with it would have kept you away from the Log/transfer option. Not only is it in it’s very first version functionally, but it provides very little different than the proxies themselves.

RedLog is great, but not totally necessary unless your post house stipulates it (for legacy reasons) or your doing a film out. A nice low contrast rec709 output would have gotten you very close to the same information, and less chance for error should you hand the files off to someone.

Finishing in FinalCut is almost never a great choice. Apple has really screwed the pooch on color management as you discovered with 10bit errors. I usually use it for a conform, but then pass the edit off to After Effects to build the varying sizes (HD, SD, 3:2 pulldown etc) and final color.

Mike Prevette: | May, 13, 2008

One thing that should be made clear is that Posting Red stuff isn’t rocket science. In fact it’s almost identical to standard film based shoots. HOWEVER it can appear daunting to the uninitiated because instead of spreading the work flow evenly between a few experts, people are tempted to do it all under one roof because “they can”

Shoot, Soup the neg, transfer, cut the offline, online and retransfer, finish.

Nothing here is new, and none of it is all that hard in itself. When it’s all lumped onto one person it’s manageable as long as they are familiar with standard practices.

People looking for anything simpler were just blind to the practice in the past. This level of imagery has always required this level of attention and this many hoops to jump through.

For your next edit I would recommend this work flow (simplified)

1) Use the finder to import all the “_m” proxies into finalcut

2) edit

3) Lock the edit (this also becomes the audio master cut. So send your OMFs to your sound guy)

4) export a XML and use Crimson to take the edit to RedCine.

5) do a basic CC, color, level, NR, etc

6) import the results into finalcut + the final audio from your audio guy.

90% of people will be done here.

7) final color correct with whatever you love. I prefer Color or After Effects.

8) pop out all your differing masters (hd, sd, Iphone, viewmaster).

Keep in mind that 3-8 take less than a day for most TV spots. I’d recommend worrying about 2 the most.

Mike Prevette: | May, 13, 2008

Here is an alternate workflow. I actually prefer this one due to it’s simplicity.

1) Create a Redcine file for each “mag” of footage.

2) color correct your little heart out in redcine. Or go flat if you know you’ll have the energy in the end to revisit it. Consistency is key here, and more important than your exact color corrections.

3) Export files you know you can work with. These should be either the highest res the final will EVER be, or one step above. For example 1080 for 720, or 720 for SD.

4) Edit (again worry about this the most)

5) lock picture, do the audio, use After Effects or simple FCP filters to do a light finishing grade (usually just levels, depends on how well 2 worked). Make all your different versions.

5) your done, go home, kiss your wife.

I love this simple, slightly unusual method. Working like this is the reason HD and DV have had the success the have.

It also lets the DP sit in on the initial grade. He or she is far more likely to be available the day or night after a shoot then a month later as a typical spot is doing it’s finishing.

Mike Burton: | May, 13, 2008

Mike, I agree with you, mostly.  However, I have been beta testing the Log & Xfer Window for quite a few months before its release at NAB and I have used it on quite a few jobs with great success. 

It is young but its great if you have a client over your shoulder while you are performing your edit and to give VFX a start if you have an extremely quick turnaround so they can matchmove etc before the final graded material makes its way to them.  The ProRes files from L&T;look better IMHO and are easy for any editor to work with.

In many cases I have transcoded ProResHQ files on set and the editor is cutting them the next day, although it usually requires some hours after the shoot.  Not the best workflow for all scenarios but it does work well if your shooting 4K 2:1. 
Also, the ProRes works just fine in the Crimson workflow as well.  I personally think that its better if your not worried about offline quality to cut the proxies and work that way but the ProRes workflow is easy on the system and has its benefilts.  Once they enable all that the L&T;should be and open up its potential it will be a great tool IMO. 

I agree that finishing in FCP is never a great choice.  However, if you are going to finish in AE or any other non-r3d native grading station,  I usually export DPX files from my Crimson Conformed project in REDCINE and use those 10bit 444 files to online with.  This does require some major disk speed (about 300MB’s Constant Read speed at 2K) and a fast system.  But if your not worried about realtime performance in AE throughout your online than you might as well online in the best quality you can.  Of course, only a few select people will ever see it at that quality level if its going to broadcast or web but its better to master those inferior H.264’s from a better online source than an already compressed source such as ProResHQ etc. 

There are many ways to work in post with RED, it all depends on your time, budget and final delivery.  You can judge which workflow best fits your particular scenario as each project arrives. Once you understand the pro’s and cons for each you will no what to do in whichever scenario or like Mike said, hire a post supervisor/professional that knows best.

Mike Prevette: | May, 13, 2008

Right on Mike. I didn’t have any knowledge of the L&T;system tell it rolled out at NAB. Glad it’s working solidly. Have you noticed any glaring difference VS the Proxies?

I left out the DPX route as I was trying to verbally simplify the process. I might have become part of the problem at that point. I’m very sorry for that. DPX is a great option, if it is an option you know how to use properly. It can also be overwhelming to the average schmoob.

A codec or file format is a tool, just like a hammer, and there is a right one for every job. DPX is the cadillac, and prores is the Accura. Both will get you there in style, just slightly differing style.

Mike Burton: | May, 13, 2008

I have noticed that the ProResHQ transcodes look quite a bit cleaner to my eye than the proxies and are easier to work with as far as computer processing and rendering is concerned.  That said, they will take time to process and if you are going to go the Crimson route you cannot make in and out points before sending your transcodes to FCP otherwise it will not match up later when you attempt to conform from the original R3D’s.  Ian once mentioned he was aware of this and going to make an update to remedy this issue but I’m sure its just another thing on a long list for him. 

DPX is just another option, more expensive (computationaly) than ProResHQ, but better quality.  Its not the only option though, just depends on what you and the client are happy with at the end of the day. 

You are exactly right about “getting there in style.”  I have not been a part of one RED project yet that has disappointed me in the end no matter what post workflow we performed.  Its best to experiment and consult someone that has the post workflow’s down before beginning your projects but sometimes you just need to jump in and learn to swim.  Just don’t drown in someone else’s pocketbook smile

Michael Scott: | May, 14, 2008

Page 2

Did you have “Render all YUV Material in high-precision YUV” checked in the Video Processing tab under Sequence Settings?

Given the tenor of this article, I’m guessing no, since many post professionals don’t even know about it.

That’s where your banding artifacts are coming from. Click that on and you should see those artifacts vanish.

Adam Wilt: | May, 15, 2008

“Did you have ‘Render all YUV Material in high-precision YUV’ checked in the Video Processing tab under Sequence Settings?... Click that on and you should see those artifacts vanish.”

And, of course, render the result. The RT engine in FCP is always 8-bit, so unless/until you render the clip, the ‘scopes will still show 8-bit banding.

A real advantage of L&T;is that the resulting ProRes files play back a lot more easily than the camera’s (or RED Alert’s) QT proxies pointing to R3D files. L&T;clips let you play and edit 1/2-size (2K) files in real time on a MacBook Pro, which can be a big help in interactive reviewing / field editing. And, of course, the workflow happens entirely within FCP, so it’s less intimidating and more familiar to folks used to P2, SxS, and even (shudder!) tape ingest. FCP users need not ever open one of those scary RED apps until they’re good and ready to, grin.

Jendra Jarnagin: | May, 16, 2008

Art, you said:
“Thanks to Adam Wilt I now know that the proper gamma correction to get around Apple’s H.264 gamma bug is 1.22.”

Where does one do something to compensate for this while outputting?  I’m totally lost on all these inconsistencies.  Difference between Mac & PC Gamma, FCP gamma shift, h264 gamma shift, etc.

I have my computer monitors profiled and I still don’t know if and when I can trust them!

Do you know of a source that spells out the issues and work arounds all in one place?  If not, someone wanna write one?


Jason Chocianowski: | May, 16, 2008

I hope this dosen’t come off like a rant, but I sure miss the days of shooting on film, editing on film, and finnaly projecting on film.  Those days seem’s so much easier and faster compared to where we are heading today.

Jessica: | December, 23, 2008

I have just finished reading “The Compleat Idiot’s Guide…” .It is really an ironic title as Jeff said.I will be reading others, but this book is very special to me because the story is very touching - Thank you so much.

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