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5 Tips to Maintain Sanity in RED Post

Lose less life working with R3D source

By Mark Christiansen | March 19, 2009


  1. Ascertain the target output format at the outset (if you control your own format destiny, skip to 2)

  2. Decide who, if anyone, controls the color intent at the outset (if no one has specified how the footage must look on set, skip to 3)

  3. Leave R3D and 4K behind as soon as possible (and no sooner)

  4. Take control of sharpness, noise & more during conversion; don't leave these to tools that can't work with them

  5. Make use of great free and cheap tools if you can't just rely on Scratch

The RED ONE camera is innovative technology that will only improve. Someday, perhaps the good people at RED will anticipate the workflows most often used to work with their footage and offer specifications that help ensure their users' success; for now, however, the following incontrovertale facts about RED often guarantee the need to make decisions more or less on your own:

  • no tools exist to write an R3D file (although several can read them), nor does RED endorse any alternate standard for converting their footage

  • the color intent of an R3D file cannot be controlled (although it can be specified)

It is no coincidence that the happiest RED post-production pipelines have been the ones in which a given studio is master of its own destiny when it comes to the color look and output format of its footage. Likewise, hapless studios have in some cases encountered actual crisis when confronted by the demands of the director or DP to match the footage to how it looked when shot, or when required to deliver a particular format to another facility (typically for the purposes of conforming and finishing, often on a system standardized around 10-bit log Cineon DPX files).

Things can only get better. Meanwhile, here are some tips to keep from going crazy.


Tip 1: Decide target output before beginning post-production

Nothing screws up a RED workflow like the surprise discovery that output is required in an unanticipated format. Conversion takes time, and certain types of conversion, such as between different types of log files, are not at all straightforward, if supported at all in your toolset. And if the decision was made at some point to convert to a lossy format like ProRes 4:2:2, valuable that someone else needs may have been thrown away.

It's essential to know whether you are finishing your project in-house, according to your own specifications, or whether at any point you will need to hand off files to another facility.

Why? An R3D file will inevitably give birth to some other file format before it is seen outside your facility, because there is no means to write an R3D file. Depending on who is finishing it, this conversion may involve the application of LUTs and log color. If you've never worked with a LUT or converted a file from a log color space, that's certainly nothing to be ashamed of, nor is it a prerequisite for working with RED files. On the other hand, if your work is headed to a DaVinci or Lustre for finishing, you may have no choice but to dig in (although DaVinci has recently announced support for R3D files, so if you're not doing anything but cutting them together, with no need to re-render, you might be okay).

No matter what - and this is important - you won't be outputting 4K (4096 pixel wide) R3D files, for a couple of reasons:

  • (once again, with feeling) you cannot write an R3D file

  • in 99.9% of cases there is no means to project 4K

Therefore, if the project is to be finished in-house, skip to tip 2 (if necessary) or more importantly 3, where I will try to influence you nonetheless to convert to some other format. If your project is to be finished at another facility, find out where and how the conform will be done, because it may dictate the type of file you give them. Only Assimilate Scratch and Quantel systems such as Pablo (and now, da Vinci Resolve) can accept R3D files natively; for Lustre you are likely to have to provide DPX files in 10-bit log format, and converting to this format if you've been working in another can be tricky and cause extra days of conversion time that you haven't planned for, depending on the size of the project.

If, because the delivery format will be DPX files, you elect to convert to DPX at the start of the process, check out tip 2.

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Zak Ray: | March, 19, 2009

Re #3: Forgive me if this is silly, as I have no actual experience posting RED, just conjecture. Isn’t it possible to offline with whatever format you wanted to use (ProRes422, for example), and work with that, scaling till your heart’s content (up to 500%), then reconnecting the original R3Ds into your NLE to online? I mean, you would still have to render and output in another format (DPX, perhaps, as you suggest), but this would allow you to make decisions regarding scaling on the fly while cutting, as opposed to making all your decisions beforehand when transcoding out of R3D?

Scott Simmons: | March, 20, 2009

That’s how I do it Zak. offline in whatever format I need, make repos at will and when the project is conformed they repo from 4K and the shots look great. This is usually finishing in 1080 so you scale way up. This is conforming on a Quantel eQ who can read the R3Ds natively so it works well.

steveharnell: | March, 20, 2009

>you can even create a color look in REDAlert or >Scratch and transfer it to an SD card to load it >directly onto the camera as a preview LUT.

>Many people don’t know this, and so it is the >rare shoot on which this happens.

You can only save and load looks created in camera. You can re-name those look files on a computer but cannot load a .rsx or .rcc file from redalert or redcine. I can’t speak on for the Scratch software, because I don’t own it.

Red says these feature will happen in the future.

Post #3

paddy: | March, 20, 2009

“Take control of sharpness, noise & more during conversion; don’t leave these to tools that can’t work with them”

Not sure if this works too well with vfx plates. We require unsharpened images, untreated as far as possible (though of course we can’t work with raw un-debayerized). For us, things works much better if the tweaks necessary for making the RED images look nice and crisp on the big screen happen downstream from us, NOT during the conversion out of RED raw into dpx or whatever.

This is what we did for the vfx on upcoming feature “Tormented” and it all worked very well.

Mark Christiansen: | March, 24, 2009

I’m gonna test creating on camera looks this week and will post what I find - thanks Steve.

Paddy, I understand the age-old habit of lowest possible sharpening on VFX plates, but I’ve found that some artists rely on the downsample to a lower res to do the sharpening “automatically” and that seems wrong given that a Bayer image needs sharpening. Do you stay at 4K and sharpen at the very end?


paddy: | March, 24, 2009

“age-old habit?” Hmm - well, not quite the phrase I’d choose, but anyway…

Given that sharpening is only ever a trick to give a greater subjective impression of detail, without actually providing any additional information, it is certainly best left to the end of the image chain if vfx are to be involved. We don’t want to have to emulate the sharpening artefacts alongside everything else we do! Also - sharpening affects the image in non-obvious ways. It can make motion tracking much harder. It can make keyed edges noisier, etc.

Regarding what you say about using the interpolation filter when downsizing to add sharpness - I always recommend a “box” filter as the best choice. No fake sharpness, no aliasing, no ringing edges. It’s the most “honest” downsize, if one can put it that way.

On Tormented, all the sharpening did happen at the end - in the DI realm, so I have no detailed knowledge of what they did. But the editor and director are both highly tech savvy ( ), and I have no doubt they made a good choice.

In the vfx area - we did take some plates in at 4k - for instance if we were going to be zooming into any plates and applying post camera moves.

But the majority of the show was done with RED plates exported to us at 2048x1556 digital anamorphic. We horizontally squeezed the 4k raw 2.35:1 image to fill a 2048x1556 4:3 frame. Thereby doubling the vertical resolution of a standard 2k export.

The images looked a little on the soft side, compared, for instance with the aggressively sharp and grainy images I have seen from the ARRI D21, or some film scans. But nevertheless - very good. And, as they were very clean and low noise, I’m sure the DI sharpening options at the end were very good.

I have no doubt the film will look extremely good on the big screen.

Steve Shaw: | March, 27, 2009

If your interested in using/working with LUTs, and if you’re using Red you should be, have a look here:

Once you grasp this a lot of the ‘mumbo-jumbo’ vanishes.

And this may alos be of interest - just my views on working with Red:


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