SPECIAL REPORT: RED WORKFLOWS
AMSTERDAM — With 2,500 Red One digital cinema cameras now delivered into the market, and rising at a rate of 200 per month, a considerable volume of new large format footage needs to graded and edited. Although the post/DI industry had already geared up to handle 4K images, the maximum size offered by Red One, exactly how to get them from the camera and into the necessary equipment had not been clear until very recently.
Several manufacturers on the IBC exhibition floor reported that they got the long-awaited SDK from Red Digital Cinema only three weeks before the show. So, although this was a great opportunity to see how it would work, understandably, the demonstrations were using early versions of their Red One download tools. Exceptions were Assimilate, who was showing its Red workflow as long ago as NAB this year, and Apple, who decided not to exhibit at the show.
IBC was the place to see Red as, for once, there was no queue to get onto the stand! However, the place for rapid Red learning was the IBC Big Screen auditorium where its 1,700 seats were mostly occupied to hear Ted Schilowitz from Red giving a one-hour soup-to-nuts explanation of Red and its technology. The first slide read, “Under development. All specifications are subject to change... Count on it.” This was a useful reminder that, amid all the excitement, it’s easy to forget that this company is still only three-years young and they had developed a whole lot from scratch in that time. The starting point for post is importing the Red One images that are supplied in RedCode RAW form as r3d files, typically on RedDrive (RAID) or RedFlash memory at a data rate of up to 36MB/s.
With most manufacturers still getting to grips with the very new Red SDK, a good place to start inquiries was the one company at the show with any real native-Red experience: Assimilate and its CEO Jeff Edson. “We’ve got beyond the Red camera being a phenomenon that people don’t understand,” he says. “Now they know it gives them a good image, what they are expecting, or better, and they are moving on with it. Forget the interesting gadgets and big technology, at the end of the day all people acquiring the camera are in the business of making projects as opposed to just having fun.”
Edson also shared some his Red post experience. “Red presents the r3d file data to the application complete with the metadata. You can extract the file with the SDK with the metadata associated with it, and then, as long as it supports that file format, bring it in. You can get QuickTime for going down the FCP route, or you can take the r3d directly into Scratch, or take r3d file to Red Cine or Red Alert, or one of the Crimson workflow products, and transcode it to DPX. Then you have a format that everyone knows, but you’ve also baked everything in — flattened the file. The Red One camera deals with low lights extremely well and there’s a lot of data in the black. So by bringing an r3d file into Scratch, there’s a lot of data you can extract from the low-light environments that you don’t usually do. But if you’ve already flattened the file, that data’s not there any more. So keep it in r3d as long as you can — and that’s what we do. For finishing the workflow you need to pull multiple formats, the text, titles and digital effects as TIFF or DPX files, video files, whatever, so you really have to be able to deal with r3d just as any other format.”
Adobe announced it is adding Red support for its Creative Studio 4. This involves using the Red SDK and working with the r3d files in the CS environment. Simon Hayhurst, senior director, product management, dynamic media commented, “Access to the RAW [r3d] files gives us more control in post, and in Premiere Pro we can import the files to our timeline without transcoding or rewrapping. We can also pick the resolution to work at. For example, working at a quarter or an eighth resolution is really fast. We can also use After Effects to give a first look at frames of up to 4K resolution. It’s like working with film all the way through.” This ties in with Adobe’s and Assimilate’s recently announced collaboration to provide a “seamless and well integrated” solution.
Digital Vision now offers workflows that include r3d files and retain flexibility to change settings after conforming. The workflow follows DV’s established pattern starting with batch import of shots, which can be put onto Film Master’s timeline and graded. Each shot can be exported as a separate folder for editing, in a format such as MXF or QuickTime, with the source metadata from the r3d files added to the header. Then, after editing, the edit list is brought back to Film Master and “Network Conform” is applied. For the r3d files, this automatically opens up the header metadata, finding the right ones for the timeline and does a “Data Conform” of that.
President/COO Simon Cuff, says, “Unlike doing a tape conform, this only takes about a second. At that point you can still change any of the r3d decode settings, so if you wanted some shots at 4K instead of 2K, it can still do that from the original data.” Red support will be a free upgrade for all DV customers on Premium Support.
What the Red SDK can do was well illustrated on Quantel’s IBC Red importer menu. There’s a lot that can be done to the images as they are decoded and imported. Decode mode offers full res (maybe 4K), half (2K), quarter (1K)... and did I hear an eighth res? The direct divide-by-two extraction of images is a feature of JPEG2000 compression that is rumoured to be used in RedCode. Steve Owen, director of marketing, pointed out that, “Many users want to use the Red footage in HD, so we’ve used some of our horsepower and added that in our new importer menu.” Native Red support for eQ, iQ and Pablo is added free of charge to V.4.0 software.
AND MANY MORE
Autodesk announced its agreement with Red for the SDK on the last day of the show. Maurice Patel, entertainment industry manager, commented that Autodesk would make this “as efficient as possible.” Since the show, Avid has also joined the growing list of signatories for the Red SDK, and there is little doubt that it will become widely available in the post industry. With so many cameras out there, it has to be.
Whether this is the end of this story is another matter. Delivering the data, that represents up to 4K-size footage, as 36MBps data means that it is highly compressed, and that’s not usually considered the best solution for those seeking the highest quality. Although this is convenient for some, there is higher power post production equipment that is well able to efficiently handle the uncompressed data. Why not make it available?