We Make Movies (Better): A Final Cut Pro X/RED feature film workflow, Part 3
by Sam Mestman

Finishing your RED movie using Final Cut Pro X, Redcine-X, and DaVinci Resolve

In Parts 1 and 2, I showed you how to properly set up your project, as well as some ways Final Cut Pro X (FCPX) can make your editing life a little bit easier. This final installment is going to be all about how to finish your RED movie at the highest quality, whether you’re delivering in SD, HD, or even 4K.

In Final Cut Pro 7 (FCP7), My biggest frustration with using RED footage was how hard it was to switch back to your original R3D media and take advantage of the RAW and full 4K resolution. You either had to transcode initially to ProRes and do a giant re-conform dance using Redcine-X, Clipfinder, and Color, or you had to work with 2K versions of your RED media to varying degrees of success. The bottom line was just that in order to finish a RED film properly, it required a ton of time and highly specialized skill set, and eventually, shooting RED and going back to the original R3D’s was all too often an overlooked step. The idea of working with R3D’s was so daunting to producers that they’d often just finish on their original transcoded dailies, either because they were lazy, or didn’t have any idea how to do it properly.

Fortunately, working with your RAW is now plug and play in FCPX, and I think it’s going to be the breakthrough we’ve all really been waiting for, an innovation that’s truly going to change the way the average person makes and delivers movies. Working offline/online in 4K is now not only possible, it’s actually easier. Shooting RAW in 4K (or even 5K) and delivering that 4K master can all be done within FCPX—and you don’t need any expensive gear to do it. And now that delivering in 4K is so easy, I think it won’t be long before it becomes the standard for delivering movies, whether it’s for the theater or elsewhere.

And if you don’t believe any of what I’m about to write and you’re going to be at NAB, come say hi and see a demo of it in person (including some things that aren’t in any of these articles) at the Accusys booth (Booth# SL15113 next to the “Post Pit”).

Anyway, let me show you how this works before a client asks you for a 4k deliverable and you get all freaked out about it.

 

When your cut is locked, switch back over to the Original R3D’s. So, you’ve spent months editing your movie, and now the producers say you’re done and you want to finish in 4k. It’s easy to do this. Simply go into FCPX Preferences, and under the Playback tab, switch from “Use Proxy Media” to “Use Original or Optimized.” And that’s it. You’re done. All of your scaling, effects, etc. will now be automatically reapplied to your R3D’s exactly how you had it in your proxy timeline. Easy.

Media Management. Let’s say you’ve been cutting offline in ProRes Proxy on a FireWire drive, and your RAW footage all lives on a FireWire drive as well, but your producers were gracious enough to buy you a Thunderbolt drive for finishing. What’s the best way to do this? It’s really simple, actually—especially if you’ve been using sym links (see Part 1) up to this point. Here’s all you need to do:

 

1. From the Project Library (Cmd-0), right-click your Project and select Duplicate Project.

2. The Duplicate Project menu will open and you should select “Duplicate Project + Used Clips.”  Make sure “All Used Clips” is selected, and that the new event name and Destination Drive are correct.

3. FCPX will then make a new Project and Event that will live on the drive (Thunderbolt) you specified. And if you’ve used only sym links to your RAW files, only the sym links will be passed over to the new drive. Also, if you know your edit is done and you don’t need your proxy files anymore, delete them ahead of this step so those won’t be carried over.

4. Now, select your new Event from your Thunderbolt Drive, open the File menu, and choose Organize Event Files. FCPX will copy all of the used files in your project onto your Thunderbolt Drive, and you can even keep working as this is happening.

 

Now it’s time to grade your RAW. There are a few different ways to do this:

 

1. Using Redcine-X Pro: If you want complete and total control over your R3D’s, this is the way to go. There is simply no other program that is better for RED RAW manipulation than RCX. There’s a million sliders and the possibilities are endless, and I won’t get into them here. But the best part of using RCX is how fast it is to go from one shot to the next with the copy/paste looks option. You currently can’t paste just the RAW settings in FCPX (or anywhere else that I know of, for that matter). So when working with RAW, RCX pro is your best bet. Not only that, but it’s extremely simple to roundtrip from RCX back into FCPX. Here’s how to do that:

A. In FCPX, go to your Keyword Collection that you labeled “R3D” (See Part 1 of this series) that contains all of your RED media, and select all of your R3D files.  Click “Modify RED RAW settings” in the Inspector, and set your color and gamma spaces however you’d like them to appear in Redcine-X. FCPX is the best place to globally modify your color/gamma spaces. For everything else, use Redcine-X Pro.

B. In FCPX, with your timeline open, choose File > Export XML. Name it, and save it.

C. Open Redcine-X Pro and choose File > Import. You’ll see a dialog box that’s going to ask you what directories all of your RED footage lives in. In this case, all you should need to do is select your FCPX Original Media folder. Even if you’re using sym links to footage that lives elsewhere, RCX should still be able to find your R3D files this way.  You can also just tell it to link to wherever you stored your RED files outside of FCPX. Once you’ve added these destinations, click “Import” on the bottom of the dialog box.

D. A new Finder type window will open up wanting to know where you saved your FCPX XML. Find your XML and click “Open.”

E. A full timeline containing all of R3D’s should open. (NOTE: If footage from other cameras is in your edit, it won’t appear. This doesn’t matter) You can now go from clip to clip with the up and down arrows and adjust your RAW accordingly from the panel on the right.

F. Copy and paste your RAW looks from shot to shot easily in RCX. Opt – (1-6) will copy a look. Cmd (1-6) will paste it.

G. When you’re done grading your RAW, save your RCX project for future use, and then jump back over to FCPX.

H. Most likely, your clips won’t have updated yet (especially if FCPX was still open while you did all this). No big deal. Simply select all of your RED clips again in the R3D Keyword Collection, once again open up the “Modify RED RAW Settings” box in the Inspector, and when the HUD opens up, hit CANCEL. All of the changes you made to the RAW in RCX will now be reflected in FCPX.

I. You don’t have to use an XML of your timeline to grade your RAW. An easy way to get access to all of your clips is to simply right-click your Original Media folder in the RCX file Browser, and select “open in bin (include subfolders).” All of the RED media from your entire movie should now be grade-able in RCX from the bin that opens up.  The only disadvantage here is that it won’t be in your timeline order, which is the major reason for using the XML approach.

J. If you need a visual representation of some of this stuff, I made a video you can watch here.

 

2. Using FCPX. We’ve already covered how to open up the RAW HUD, but here are a few tips/tricks to grading your raw in FCPX.

A. The RAW HUD: about 90% of the commonly used RAW sliders are present in the RAW HUD of FCPX. Some easy ways to manipulate these are:

i. Select in bunches and adjust common parameters (color space, gamma space, etc.). Make sure you click “Apply” before jumping to your next clip.

ii. If you’ve made a mistake, simply select “Revert to” and either go back to how the clip was shot originally in camera or to “neutral values,” which will reset the FCPX RAW slider back to its default positions.

iii. Always click apply or cancel when you’re done making adjustments. Otherwise, you’ll get an annoying dialog box when you try and move to the next clip to modify.

B. As long as it’s not part of a Synchronized Clip, you can grade your RAW clip to clip in the FCPX timeline. Simply select a RED clip in the timeline, go into the inspector, and select “Modify RED RAW settings” as you normally would.

C. Synchronized Clips: If you’ve used synchronized clips in your edit, you’ll have to break them apart to get this to work. A quick way to do this is to type “Sync” into the Timeline Index, select all the clips that come up, open the Clip menu, and choose Break Apart Clip Items. (NOTE: You’ll need to finalize any Auditions for that step to work.  Also, if you do this, you will lose all scaling/levels adjustments you may have made to the clips.)

D. A NOTE TO OUR FRIENDS AT RED: If there was some way to do all of the syncing of audio directly to the R3D in Redcine-X (using the awesome timecode sync feature in the app)—maybe through the RMD file—this would make me really happy. Basically, it would mean being able to drop your clips into FCPX, and completely eliminate the intermediary sync steps in FCPX. Just throwing it out there if you’re reading this and it’s actually possible.

E. Using your Scene bins to grade your RAW: Another way to get around the sync clip issue is to grade your RAW directly from your scene bins from the native R3D’s that have been “rejected” (see Part 1) to make room for your sync clips. Simply change the Event Browser filter setting to “Rejected,” and only your rejected, non-synced audio and video clips will appear.  To remove the audio from it, type .R3D into the search setting, and now grade all your RAW from scene to scene as opposed to doing it from the Timeline.

F. Simply grade directly from your R3D Keyword Collection if you want to go through and just grade all your RAW clips and have them be in one place. (NOTE: If you’ve been rejecting your R3D’s, make sure your Event Browser filter setting is set to “All Clips,” or they won’t show up.)

 

3. Project/Render Settings. Here’s a whole bunch of stuff you should know about your Project Properties (Sequence Properties for FCP7 users) in FCPX.

A. When you’ve locked your edit, the first thing I recommend you do is delete your project render files. The reason for this is, you’re about to be making a lot of duplicates of your projects, and every time you do, unless you’re careful, you’ll be duplicating your render files, too—which will start to take up A LOT of space, especially when finishing a RED project. The easiest way to do this is go into your Project Library, select your project (sequence), and then select File > Delete Project Render Files.

B. Now, you’re going to duplicate your finished project by right-clicking on the project in the Project Library, then selecting Duplicate Project. You’ll see a new window open. Select the default option Duplicate Project Only. This will clone your existing project, so in case you make mistakes and need to revert back to the original, that will always be there.

C. If you’re finishing your project in FCPX, before proceeding to the next step, you should perform all color correction, finalize VFX, titles, etc. In other words, before moving on, your film should be FINISHED.

D. To modify Project Properties, select your duplicate project now, and with the Project Library still open, select the little wrench icon on the bottom right of the Inspector (Cmd-4). This will allow you to change your project properties, including resolution and render settings, for your given timeline. For every deliverable and resolution you have, you should make a new project for it. When changing resolutions for a project, FCPX will automatically rescale your project to fit the new resolution, while preserving your scale and position attributes. If you’re using the Spatial Conform setting, this will be preserved as well.

E. Pay close attention to your render setting in this dialog box. You should match your render setting to whatever ProRes deliverable your distributor has asked for. This is usually ProRes HQ.  The default is ProRes 422, so you’ll need to adjust this accordingly. This will mean that when you share, your master file setting will be tied to whatever you select here. Also, it will determine the quality of your FCPX renders. The higher you make this setting, the larger those render files will be.

 

4.  Spatial Conform. I tend to not use the Spatial Conform settings in FCPX. The reason for this is that they don’t come through in a DaVinci Resolve workflow. Accordingly, I adjust my clips manually either in the Viewer or Inspector. However, if you plan on finishing directly within FCPX, this can be a really fast way to adjust footage shot in other aspect ratios to fit into your timeline. You can do this by setting the Spatial Conform setting to “Fill.” Your footage will now be scaled to fill the entire frame, removing any black bars that might have been there. Setting this to “None” will center cut your image (zoom in) so that you see it a 1:1 pixel representation of what the footage looks like based on your timeline settings. This can be useful to see just how far you can zoom into an image before you start to lose resolution.

 

5. VFX Workflow. If you have a dedicated VFX person, depending on what program he/she’s using, you have a bunch of different options.

A. Smoke: Smoke accepts FCPX XML’s, so you can export an FCPX XML of the whole film that will be readable in Smoke, at which point, the Smoke artist can either send you back finished renders to cut into your film, or just finish the whole film directly in Smoke.

B. For After Effects and everyone else, this is my workflow:

i. Set markers for each VFX shot.

ii. Export each VFX shot according to a specific naming scheme (VFX_01, etc.). Make sure your markers are labeled the same way. Also, make sure you export at your VFX artist’s desired setting (you may need to change your project’s render setting in order to do this). The easiest way to export is to set an in/out around the area you want to send out. If it’s just a single clip, push “X” to set an in/out around a given clip.

iii. Share using the “Master File” setting, and deliver your clips to the VFX artist.

iv. When the VFX artist returns the various iterations, use Auditions to cut them in, or simply press “Q” to cut them in above the timeline. Also, don’t forget to use the Timeline Index to quickly jump from marker to marker.

 

6. Getting out to Pro-Tools. If you need to deliver to a Sound Designer who uses Pro Tools, you can send him your audio based on Roles. However, most pro sound designers want you to deliver to them media with handles, so you may need to invest in X2Pro to deliver to your sound designer.

 

7. Color in FCPX. While personally I may not be the biggest fan of FCPX’s Color Board, once you figure out how it works, it does what you need it to do. However, the rest of the FCPX color controls are fantastic and far better than what’s in FCP7.  Here’s a little rundown:

A. Secondary Corrections: These are really powerful, easy to apply, are unlimited in number, and are really no different than what you would find in a professional grading app. In some cases, they’re actually better.

B. Masking tools: These are great as well, and can accomplish 90% of what a power window in Resolve can accomplish.

C. Match Color: This is extremely useful, especially when it comes to getting the heavy lifting for a grade off the ground as you start to match shots. Basically, grade a shot, then find all the shots you want to match that shot (typically it will be the rest of the scene). Select them, and hit match color. Find a frame from the graded clip in the timeline that you think is representative, select it,  and press “Return.” All of the shots will get matched to that shot, and it’s usually pretty accurate. You can modify from there, and then use copy and paste attributes on the various shots once you’ve refined the look further.

D. Built in looks: Lots of looks are built into FCPX that you can preview just by hovering your mouse over the look’s thumbnail in the Effects Browser. Also, there are TONS more available for purchase in the various FCPX plug-in packages. The FCPX plug-in ecosystem and implementation, especially when it comes to looks, is really impressive.

E. Curves: If you’re used to working with Curves to do your color grading, you probably will want to check out Nattress Levels and Curves from FxFactory.

F. Scopes: FCPX has fantastic scopes now, and the keyboard shortcut is Cmd-7.

 

8. Color in DaVinci Resolve. Here are some basics on what you need to know going to and from DaVinci Resolve with FCPX. For shorter projects that don’t pay so well and have quick turnaround times, the FCPX color controls are totally fine. However, if it’s a project you really care about, or it’s a client that’s willing to pay a reasonable amount for quality work, you’d be crazy not to take advantage of what Resolve has to offer—especially considering that it’s a free program if you’re delivering at 1080 or below, and only $1,000 if you need to deliver in 4K. It might be a bit more work to set up, and another program to learn, but once you do, you’ll be amazed at the power Resolve gives you over your image. Here are some workflow tips when roundtripping between Resolve and FCPX:

A. The following will transfer properly in an XML to Resolve from FCPX: RED RAW files, Transform Properties, Multicam Clips, and Auditions.

B. The following should be removed/broken apart/not used if going to Resolve as of right now: Spatial Conform, Primary Color corrections (not accurate), Secondary corrections, Motion generators, effects, plug-ins, speed adjustments, and Compound Clips.

C. Workflow suggestions: Make a new project before going to Resolve (similar to what you’d do for Apple Color) and make necessary prep for Resolve. Upon roundtrip, use the original picture locked sequence and copy and paste attributes to reapply all necessary finishing adjustments.

D. Finishing at multiple resolutions: Within FCPX, send multiple XML’s or versions at various resolutions/aspect ratios to Resolve for finishing and it will reference grades you’ve made already in other versions, OR simply grade one at the highest resolution you’ll be delivering at and use FCPX and the Duplicate Project command to adjust your new project at your various resolutions and deliverables.

E. RAW grading in Resolve: I don’t particularly love how this works in the app. My recommendation is to grade your RAW in Redcine-X, and then do everything else in Resolve. However, make sure you’ve graded your RAW in RCX first, as your changes won’t be reflected once you’re in Resolve. The general idea with working with your RAW footage is to get it to its best possible starting point, and then use the regular color controls in FCPX or Resolve to really go in depth with your grades.

Confused about any of this? I’ve got a video for Resolve workflow, too. Also, if you’re interested in really learning how to fully take advantage of what Resolve has to offer, Ripple Training has an amazing tutorial for it, done by Alexis Van Hurkman, who is literally the guy who wrote the manual for the program.

 

9. Editing in FCP7 and Finishing in FCPX. If you have a RED movie that you’ve edited in FCP7 and want to finish in FCPX, I’ve got a couple videos for that, too. You can watch Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.

 

10. Final Masters. These are pretty straightforward in FCPX. When you’ve got everything finalized, just hit the share icon and select the preset you want to use. However, what I will mention is that FCPX can post directly to YouTube, Vimeo, etc. Also, your custom Compressor presets will show up within FCPX as options as well. Not only that, but there’s a really cool thing called bundles that will allow you to do multiple exports at one time. I could describe how to do that, but it’s probably just easier for you to watch this episode of Macbreak Studio about it.

 

That’s going to pretty much do it. If you actually made it this far, I’m impressed, and hopefully it has dispelled a few myths about what everyone’s told you about FCPX. The fact is that this is a next generation professional editing application, and you shouldn’t be afraid of using it anymore. And when it comes to RED workflow, there’s simply nothing better on the market in my opinion. The bottom line is, I get done with projects twice as fast as I used to in FCP7. With a little time and practice, you can too.

 

Read Part 1.
Read Part 2.

 

Bio: Sam Mestman has worked for Apple, ESPN, “Glee,” and Break.com, to name a few, and now runs his own post production operation at www.wemakemoviespost.com. He’s a regular writer for MovieMaker Magazine, teaches post workflow at RED’s REDucation classes, and specializes in saving independent producers tens of thousands of dollars while delivering a top quality product.  He is also the founder and CEO of We Make Movies (www.wemakemovies.org), which in just three years might have become the largest film collective in Los Angeles (and now Toronto).

 

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2 Responses to “We Make Movies (Better): A Final Cut Pro X/RED feature film workflow, Part 3
by Sam Mestman

  1. Acekard 2i

    Thanks for another wonderful post. Where else could anybody get that type of information in such an ideal way of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I’m on the look for such information.

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