Join Robbie Carman for an in-depth discussion in this video Overview of Color workflows, part of Color 1.5 Essential Training.
When I teach in the classroom or speak at industry conferences, someone always comes up to me and asks, "Where should I create my project? "In Final Cut Pro or Color?" It's a very good question and one that we should talk about. After all, the choice you're making in what application you used to grade your program influences what type of Workflow you'll choose. And we'll cover several different types of Workflows in this movie and then in the rest of this chapter, we'll put most of those workflows into action. The first step in choosing where you should grade your program is to simply evaluate your needs. There are a lot of variations on these questions, but these are good place to start.
Is the goal in grading your project just a temporary fix, so you can show a client for example, without them saying "Why are these shots so dark?" or is it to perform final grading? If the answer is an initial pass, then do it in Final Cut Pro. If it's final grading there after, choose Color. Often, to get your footage just right you'll need multiple tools. If you think that you are doing a lot of different primary, secondary and other types of corrections, choose Color. Otherwise, if it's just simple primary and secondary corrections, then you might want to think about staying in Final Cut Pro and using the Color Corrector 3-Way.
If you need to work at 4K resolution with red footage, the only way to do that is by using Color. Likewise, if you need to output DPX or Cineon files which are suitable for printing back to film, you'll also need to use Color. Final Cut Pro is obviously a powerful, feature-rich application. It has some advantages for grading your footage. First, you don't have to leave Final Cut Pro to grade your project. You simply apply color correction filters to your clips inside of Final Cut Pro. Because you're staying in one place, another advantage a Final Cut Pro has, compared to Color is that you can actually start color correcting and grading your project while you are still editing it.
Then in most cases to use Color your project should be picture locked. Another advantage of Final Cut Pro for color correcting and grading footage is that because you're staying inside the application, there is no special sequence prep necessary. In a later chapter, we'll explore prepping a Final Cut Pro project for Color. Finally, instead of having to learn and then implement multiple toolsets as you do in Color to correct and grade your footage, in Final Cut Pro, you really just need to learn one, the Color Corrector 3-way filter. This single tool allows you to perform both primary and secondary correction.
Well, obviously this title is about Color and choosing Color to grade your project is an excellent choice. Color has several advantages over Final Cut Pro. First, the application is task specific, meaning color correction grading is all the application does, as opposed to Final Cut Pro, which has a lot of hats to wear. Because the application is a dedicated grading program it provides the multiple toolsets for performing primary, secondary, and other types of corrections such as tracking and color effects corrections. Color, unlike Final Cut Pro, has the ability to work the DPX and Red files at true 4K resolution.
And with red footage you can leverage Color's ability to perform while processing. So let's get an overview of several Color Workflows. The most basic workflow with Color is called the Roundtrip Workflow. You start in Final Cut Pro where you're Ingest media. Edit your show and when you reach picture lock. You send your Final Cut Pro sequence to Color via the Send to Color command in Final Cut Pro. What this does is behind the scenes it sends an XML file to Color. That XML file simply points Color to where the Original Media is on disk and contains instructions in the layout of your sequence.
Once in Color, you grade your show and when you're done you rendered a new QuickTime files that have your corrections baked in and then you send your Color project back to Final Cut Pro via the Send to Final Cut Pro command in Color. This also sends an XML file, but this time to Final Cut Pro. Your color corrected sequence arrives back in Final Cut where you can apply any Tweaks and Output your show. Traditionally, most Color Grading has happened Tape to Tape meaning the Master Tape was placed in one deck and as it was plain, the footage was graded and then recorded back to another tape.
Well we can emulate this Workflow in Color and this Workflow is really the way to go when you have a project that didn't start in Final Cut Pro. How it works is you ingest the Master Tape or get a Master QuickTime file, you have an EDL from the original edited sequence and you take that EDL and open it in Color, which creates a new Color project. You then use the EDL to notch or cut up the Master QuickTime into separate clips. Next, you grade the project and then render the project, which creates a new QuickTime Media. Once you done grading, you use the Send to Final Cut Pro command inside of Color to send the Color project back to Final Cut Pro where you can tweak and output the show.
The red camera has grown immensely in popularity over the past few years and Color supports several workflows for the Red footage. The most basic Workflow is to ingest Red footage into Final Cut Pro using an Apple ProRes codec. By doing this you can work with 2K footage. Any 4K red footage is scaled down to 2K resolution in this workflow. The rest of the workflow is exactly the same as the Roundtrip Workflow. An alternate and exciting workflow of red footage is ingesting the red footage as needed or what is referred to as Red QuickTime's. While the workflow is almost identical to our regular Roundtrip, when footage is ingested as Red QuickTime's, when the project gets to Color, you've access to the red tab in the primary in room.
And here you can essentially perform raw processing like with the digital still file. Additionally, Red QuickTime's contain 4K resolution data, so it's possible to work at true 4K resolution. If you're lucky enough to work on a project shot on film, a cool workflow with Color is to do a First Light or an initial color grading pass on films scan via DataCine to DPX or Cineon image Sequences. The Idea behind our First Light color pass is to get all your footage in the same Ballpark and with a similar feel. After scanning in the files you then import those DPX or Cineon image sequences directly into Color.
And there you can perform an initial or First Light Color pass. You then Render QuickTime Files, which you import into Final Cut Pro to edit your show. For a lot of workflows you can create HD Files that use a high quality codec like a Apple ProRes 4x4. Using Color in this workflow, you can also create off-line files or files that use a low data rate codec. Apple ProRes proxy is a good choice. So that leads us to the last Workflow. We won't actually do this workflow in this title, but it still good to know about. Everything in this workflow is the same as the First Light Workflow, but after editing your project you export an EDL from Final Cut Pro and then use that EDL by itself or in conjunction with a Cineon tool database to conform and reconnect back to the original Cineon or DPX files.
After the show has been conformed, we perform Final Color Grading and then Export the show as DPX or Cineon image sequences and then hand these files off to the film house that will be doing the final print. Okay, so that's an overview of some Color Workflows. Let's put this knowledge into action over the next several movies.
- Round-tripping with Final Cut Pro and Color
- Ingesting RED footage for color grading
- Understanding the Color interface and navigating Color's Finder dialogs
- Performing primary corrections in the Primary In room
- Applying secondary corrections using HSL keys, vignettes, and curves
- Using the Color FX room
- Keyframing corrections in a clip
- Preparing for rendering and output from Color back to Final Cut Pro