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3 Ways to Get RED Footage into Final Cut Pro

RED Workflows with Final Cut

By Scott Simmons | February 12, 2009

The RED camera and its proprietary .R3D, file-based workflow has been a subject of much discussion, speculation and frustration for many in the post-production industry since it began shipping. It has also made a lot of shooters and camera owners into post-production people since they are choosing to do (or attempt to do) a lot of the complex post-production themselves. There has been much discussion on reduser.net from day one on how best to edit RED camera material. Early on RED had an exclusive deal with Apple and that made Final Cut Pro a choice for most. FCP's QuickTime based architecture makes it a natural choice since RED supplies (for free) a QuickTime component for download from their website.

This codec will give any Intel Macintosh the ability to playback the QuickTime reference files (or "proxies" as they have come to be called) that the RED camera generates during a shoot. These files live in a folder with the raw .R3D file and as long as they are kept together on a hard drive the RED codec will allow most any QuickTime aware application to work with the clips. While very convenient, the ability to use the proxy files is very processor intensive. Depending the speed of your hard drives, speed of your computer and any number of other factors (RAM, background processes, alignment of the moon) playback might not be perfect. These proxy files can also be imported directly into Final Cut Pro and edited. A recent update to FCP will also allow the application the ability to import native RED QuickTime files. This is a re-wrap of the .R3D files into self-contained QuickTime files. Both methods (proxies and native RED QuickTimes) are similar in performance. A search of reduser.net will reveal people who have great success with these methods and others who have great frustration. While the process does work it is, IMHO , less than ideal for anything other than the simplest single-layer edit. One reason I say this is that RED's own white paper on the subject states "Because native RED media is extremely processor-intensive to work with, you'll want to use Unlimited RT while you work. Otherwise, you may need to do a lot of rendering." Whenever I see instructions to edit a Final Cut Pro timeline in Unlimited RT I start looking at options of how I can transcode the footage to a more use-able format. While this does make realtime full frames-per-second playback (somewhat) possible it becomes a bottleneck in a smooth edit process when you begin to do things like adding transitions and effects, make multigroup clips for a music video or multicam shoot, add motion and/or speed effects or anything you do in the normal course of an edit. It becomes time to render pretty much everything. Rendering each and every dissolve and playing back as less that the full frame rate is not an efficient way to edit.

That leaves the question of: Into what format do you convert your RED footage in order to offline edit?

This whole discussion will beg the question of why do you need to offline in today's world of file-based, low bandwidth / high quality HD codecs? Truth is you really don't need a traditional offline to online workflow with much of the technology that is available today. It's often more a matter of retraining your thought process to working with graphics, audio lay-back, fine tuning and things like that for an online today more than it is recapturing media at a high resolution. Or it may mean passing off the edit to an online editor more fluent in final graphics and broadcast specs than a creative editor is. But with RED and the processor intensive nature of the RED proxies and RED QuickTimes an offline to online workflow is a great option. Even if you are doing it all yourself you can still "offline" in ProRes and "online" with native RED QuickTimes which can be sent to Color. The RED Final Cut Studio whitepaper (here's a pdf link ) outlines this process. It is an extra step but it does work relatively well (at least it did on the two jobs that I have tried it on).


My choice for offline editing in Final Cut Pro is to convert all of the raw footage to Apple's compressed but high quality codec ProRes 422. There are choices for ProRes in both standard definition and high definition as well as regular quality and HQ (high quality). I usually offline RED projects at 1920x1080 ProRes with the occasional conversion to a standard definition ProRes file depending on where the editing will take place and on what type of system. Older G5 Macs will work very well with SD ProRes files. Since this is offline editing there is no need to use the higher bandwidth ProRes HQ since the visual quality is pretty much indistinguishable. What if you don't plan to online your RED project? Then a conversion to ProRes HQ would be in order but doesn't it seem to defeat a large part of the purpose of shooting a "camera raw" format like RED when you don't conform an edit back to the original raw .R3D files and all of the advantages the format offers? Would you transfer a film with only a one light and never properly re-transfer selects? There are so many options for RED available today so the question is: why would you not? That's a discussion for another time.

Using Apple Compressor

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A conversion of the raw RED footage to ProRes files for the edit can happen in one of three ways. A tried and true method that has worked since day one is using Apple Compressor and running the RED camera created proxy files through a batch conversion to create self-contained ProRes QuickTimes. As mentioned above the RED camera creates the proxy files when shooting (or they can be regenerated in RED's REDAlert software) and these proxies can be placed into a Compressor batch and be trans-coded into a new self-contained QuickTime.

imageSince the RED camera places each shot into its own folder and then those folders are usually placed into another folder per download of CF card, getting the proxies to Compressor can be a time consuming process if you attempt to drag them in one at a time. That's where a search on your media drive for a specific string can come in handy. Since the QuickTime proxies always have an identifying suffix you can just search for that specific suffix and then drag the search results into Compressor. The proxies are created in 4 sizes, _P for the smallest size, _M for medium, _H for high and _F for full size. Depending on your shooting resolution you could use the _M, _H or _F files for processing since Compressor will scale the footage to your desired resolution. But be aware that the _F is a big file when shooting 4K. To make selection of these files easy I use the Find function of my favorite Finder replacement tool Pathfinder . Pathfinder allows you to designate a single directory for very detailed and very powerful search strings. Search for "_H" and all the _H size proxies from a shoot show up in Pathfinder's search results. Drag the results to Compressor and then choose your setting:

I use a ProRes 422 1920x1080 setting but once in Compressor the files can be trans-coded to a variety of resolutions and formats. If you are working on a less powerful computer then you could even create standard definition DV rez files for easy playback. Once Compressor has batch processed the files you are ready to edit.

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Comments

Bill Garmen: | February, 12, 2009

You forgot to mention that the only way to be able to go back to the original raw red files for the online/color process is if you use the final cut log and transfer method. Other wise you are use a third party system like clipfinder to match you ripped red footage to the original r3d files. If you want to take full advantage of raw r3d files in color your best option is final cut’s log and transfer

Scott Simmons: | February, 12, 2009

Good point Bill.

Seems FCP generates some kind of internal metadata that says to open the Log and Transfer tool for a batch re-import if you use L&T;as opposed to creating offline ProRes files in something like Clipfinder. It’s a real shame that that is the case.

But there are may options for grading RED besides Color! And that’s part of the point of the article….

lmerino: | February, 14, 2009

Great write up.  I was hoping to hear a little more about how to go back to the original r3d files for onlining using the options other than FCP Log and Transfer. 

In the beginning of the article you stated the question; why shoot on Red if you’re not going to go back to the original data?  Well, I agree, but can you point us in a direction to get a clear workflow?  Which programs keep the metadata when transcoding?  Which programs can pull just the frames used in an edit and give us high quality output, etc.?

Thanks

Scott Simmons: | February, 15, 2009

Unfortunately as Bill stated the RED white paper of re-batch transfering of ProRes to native RED quicktimes doesn’t work unless you use Log and Transfer. If you check out Clipfinder linked above, there are some options there. It seems that software is constantly being updated so check it often. Crimson Workflow is another applications that can help in this respect. Also check out software called Monkey Extract from Rubber Monkey. (this is a great idea for another article btw)

At our shop we have a Quantel eQ that takes an offline list and conforms from the .R3D files. Assimilate Scratch does the same thing. At this point in time an online option like that is one of the best routes as they work solidly and very well. Of course not as many people have an eQ or Scratch as have Apple Color. But until Apple gets their workflow bulletproof there will be some hoops to jump through for this type of offline/online workflow.

lmerino: | February, 15, 2009

Sorry to use the comments section for a question, but it’s very quick smile  Does the EDL you put into your eQ box basically contain the TOD timecode from the transcoded quicktime edit (timecode which I assume was brought over when transcoding the original footage using RedRushes or other)?  Then, that timecode just matches the timecode on the original .R3D files?

Scott Simmons: | February, 15, 2009

It’s the perfect place to ask a question!

The shoots usually use time-of-day code on shoot that’s what we use through the edit. And EDL from Avid or an AAF (via Automatic Duck) from FCP to the eQ uses TOD code. But the eQ allows you to choose which timecode track to use for a particular conform. It’s very flexible and works well.

lmerino: | February, 15, 2009

We cut on Avid, and I think that’s what has been failing us.  We have tried following several documents for the Avid workflow, keeping metadata intact and so forth, and so far the results have not been pleasant.  I think what adds to the problem is that our production machines are all Windows based, and most tools are for the Mac.  RedCine, which seems to be the only Windows tool for transcoding media, is… well, we have raised our fists in anger more than once against that program.

Fortunately, this is all internal work for now as we try to understand the test the workflow… so we have time.

What has been your best workflow for getting media into Avid while keeping all timecode, etc.?

Scott Simmons: | February, 15, 2009

<What has been your best workflow for getting media into Avid while keeping all timecode, etc.?>

MetaCheater. It has worked very well. It creates a batch list with all metadata intact. I believe that REDRushes does the same now with the metadata but I can make MetaCheater do it’s thing so quickly that I still use itI I don’t know if it’s avail on PC or not. One solution would be to have a Mac to transcode your DNxHD media that could then be brought into a PC Avid.

winnith: | August, 28, 2009

I’ve transcoded 2k Pro Res clips for offline editing. Is it possible to conform these to 4k pro pres (referencing the r3d files) to bring into after After Effects for compositing? Thank you!

Scott Simmons: | August, 30, 2009

winnith, you can’t conform to 4K in FCP as it doesn’t handle that rez. My guess would be using something like Automatic Duck get get to AE and then using Adobe’s native R3D support to work at 4K. I don’t use AE very much so my knowledge is limited.

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