This blog will be very technical and very few people will enjoy the minutiae of computer and video editing detail, so I apologize in advance for boring the pants off of several readers.
I just finished a shoot for my next feature and we shot on the RED ONE camera, a video camera that shoots incredibly film like images. It has a 35mm sensor, so the depth of field and lenses are exactly the same are shooting on 35mm film. Combine that with the frames being 4096x2160 at 24 frames per second, and we have a diverse camera.
Greg Sabo owns a RED camera now and wanted to have some more freedom than the TV spots are affording him, and I traded some website work for the chance to use it on my project. He shot some test footage over a month ago so I could test the most basic workflow for how I would edit footage from the camera.
I tested this pipeline on my basic PC at home. Luckily Adobe had a link to a 47 minute instructional video on how to use CS4 and the RED because it showed several cool tricks. The coolest of these was how to turn the source and timeline monitor resolutions down to ½, ¼, or 1/8 resolution so that editing was manageable, even on this computer.
I am on a PC and I use Adobe Premiere Pro and the Creative Suite (CS) packages. I’m on CS3, but in order to edit RED, I needed to upgrade to CS4 and Premiere Pro CS4. I hadn’t wanted to spend the $$$ on that yet, but it was a necessity. Now the RED plug in for Premiere Pro CS4 requires a 4.1 upgrade, and they are on version 1.7 of the RED plug in.
At work, I have a much faster, better computer with the Matrox RTx2 video editing card in it. This allows me to monitor my timelines, including 1280x720 HD and 1920x1080 HD, on a TV or an HD monitor. We just got a 32” HDTV here at work, but it’s a 720P, so I can’t view 1920x1080 timelines on it.
I’ve made the decision to downres the 4K footage to both 1920x1080 HD and 1280x720 HD. I will edit with the 720P files so I can see them on the 32” monitor. I learned a lesson on my earlier short RELATIONSHIP CARD that seeing things on a high resolution monitor makes a significant difference if people will see it that way. Being able to see and correct mistakes, or details that you want to affect, the bigger the better, and that means resolution too.
I do want to have a full 1080P version of this project too. So I have 2 folders, one for the 720P Matrox AVI files and another for the 1080P. All of the files names exactly match the R3D files in the other folder. This will allow me to later conform the 4K files to match the HD edit I do. I can create the EDL (Edit Decision List) and just change the *.avi to *.R3d and I’ll have my exact edit done in the original RED raw files.
As we’ve started to export the HD files, I discovered that it takes a really long time. About 45 minutes per 1 minute of RED. That means the first 3rd of my raw footage will take approximately 36 hours to render. I setup a sequence as a 4K RED sequence, then export to the Matrox HD files.
The hypothesis I’m working with is that the RED color correction I’m using is adding to this render time. Right now, I’m still waiting on this first 3rd, all the exterior shots with no sync sound, to finish rendering before using any of the interior footage and sound and exporting those already synched.
Because the images from the RED camera are “raw”, as in it’s the raw data straight off the chip; you have a much more broad range of control over the image (like a film negative in the telecine). This also means you pretty much HAVE to affect the images a little to get a balanced look. For the exteriors, shot at high noon on a sunny August day, I had to bring the levels down since they appeared blown out, but really weren’t. I changed it from the RED COLOR SPACE/CONTRAST to the REC.709 and that seemed to match what we were seeing on the monitor during the shoot pretty close by itself.
Adobe Premiere has a plug in with the RED software that acts the same as the REDCINE software that is separate. This acts as a filter within Premiere. Once you affect the colors using this, it treats the file everywhere in Premiere as if it is natively that color/contrast without affecting the source file or creating a temporary file or needing rendering.
Something's funky in that I have a message that clearly states "No Matrox Acceleration", which means the extra GPU chip on the Matrox card is NOT being used at all, when it should/could.
As soon as this next file finishes rendering, I'm going to upgrade the drivers for my video card and the Matrox (with a slight 4.0.1 to 4.1 version upgrade) that may solve a lot of the render time issues.
I solved the long time render issues. If I make the timeline a Matrox 720 or 1080, then scale the footage down in Premiere BEFORE the render, instead of IN the render, it went from a 45 minute render down to 3.75 minutes. And it will still BATCH process. The only difference is I have to make 2 separate timelines, one for 1080 and one for 720P, which is only a few seconds longer to cut & paste with 2 clicks of Ye Olde Mouse.
All this techie talk means is that I can edit as early as Saturday instead of next Wednesday...The Rossman is happy.