A few weeks ago I directed a short film titled ‘Model’, which I also DP’d on the Blackmagic Cinema Camera in RAW. While I’m currently in the final stages of post-production (audio mix and final color correct), and have some downtime from the project, I wanted to share my workflow as it was quite different than my usual process. I’ve also had a lot of requests recently for a more detailed BMCC – FCP X Workflow, so if you are waiting on that article, please know that it is coming! But for now, I’ll outline a slightly backwards workflow that has worked really well for this project –
If you read this site regularly, you likely know that I use just about every major NLE out there at any given time. I get a lot of client jobs on FCP 7 and Avid, a few on Premiere, and mainly use FCP X for my personal work. Although this was a personal project and I would have normally cut it on FCP X, I decided to go with Premiere… Partly because I hadn’t used it in a while and wanted to play around more with the new CC version, but more so because I enjoy stepping out of my comfort zone during all phases of the filmmaking process – editing included. There’s something very creatively freeing when you are working in a headspace that you aren’t accustomed to. It can really prevent you from overthinking the task at hand, and will help you to look at things more objectively.
Once I had decided to go with Premiere Pro CC for the edit of my film, I knew that I was going to need to develop a new workflow to get the RAW BMCC footage into Premiere. In the past, with FCP X I would simply convert all the RAW files to ProRes in DaVinci Resolve, edit in X, and then send a .fcpxml file back to Resolve to be relinked to the RAW CinemaDNG’s and colored. That is a pretty standard RAW workflow, no matter which NLE you’re cutting with, and while I could have used this method with Premiere as well, I opted to do things quite differently this time for a couple of reasons.
This film is unique in that every scene was done in a single take, and I never moved the camera at all. Since the film is centered around a fashion model, the idea visually was to shoot the film in a way that was very photographic and still, never panning, tilting, or moving in any other way. It was a nice challenge to have on set creatively speaking, and called for a different post process than usual based on the simplicity of the footage. Since there are only 5 scenes in the film (it only has a runtime of 4 minutes), and each of them is done in a single take, I knew from the get-go that my workflow didn’t need to involve round tripping back and forth from DaVinci to Premiere and then back again. It was just too overkill for the minimal amount of footage that I was working with, and given that I was working on a somewhat tight deadline, I knew I could use as much extra time in the edit as possible.
Here are a couple of screen grabs from the film:
Essentially my process was the exact opposite of what it normally would be – I colored the film first, and then brought it in to Premiere CC to be edited. As far as the workflow itself, it was extremely simple:
1 – Import the cDNG files to DaVinci Resolve
2 – Drop selected takes (based on continuity notes) into a Resolve timeline
3 – Full color correction done in Resolve, in a 2.5K timeline
4 – Render to 2K ProRes4444
5 – XML out from Resolve – XML Import Into Premiere
6 – Picture edit in Premiere
7 – OMF out for audio
8 – Final audio mix brought in to Premiere
9 – Output masters
When This Workflow Can Work
This workflow is not going to be ideal for most situations. You normally would be wasting a lot of time by using this method as you would end up color correcting loads of footage that you’re not even using in the finished film. Not to mention that based on your edit, you would still likely need to color at least some of the shots again at the end of the process, as various takes that are intercut with each other won’t always match perfectly. That said, there are two main types of scenarios where I think this can work well:
The first scenario that it’s great for is one that is similar to my situation on ‘Model’. If you are producing a project that is a short format (commercial, music video, short film, etc.), with minimal coverage, and a demanding deadline – it can work really well. There can often be small workflow issues that arise at the very final stage of a typical online process, and when dealing with a quick turnaround job, you’re going to be better off resolving any potential workflow issues up front as opposed to at the end of your pipeline. It’s a lot easier to troubleshoot an unknown technical issue early on, rather than while you’re under the gun, trying to make a deadline and needed to output your final masters. Regardless, if you are shooting cDNG, you need to convert those files to ProRes (or another editable format) anyways, so why not color them first? As long as you have good continuity notes and can focus on coloring just the takes you are going to use, this method will save you a lot of time, and probably some potential headaches at the end of the process.
The second scenario where this would work well is on live multi-cam projects. The reality is that most multi cam productions, especially live ones aren’t going to be shot in RAW, but there are some unique situations where it does make sense to shoot RAW in a multi-cam environment. Assuming for example there was a 4 camera BMCC setup, capturing a live concert for a big artist and RAW was needed, it could actually make sense to color this footage before editing – especially if you need to save time in the post process. One way to do this would be to drop each of the 4 camera’s clips into one big timeline (so 4 clips total – 1 from each camera, lined up), and then color grade/match them in Resolve. That way, when you output each of them individually and sync them up in Premiere (or any other NLE), you can simply perform a multi cam edit on the project quickly, and be ready for output without having to roundtrip back to Resolve, and then having to still apply the color and make sure that your color is accurately linking to each individual edit in the timeline.
A few quick thoughts on Premiere CC
I’ve always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with Premiere. On the one hand, I really like that Adobe is trying so hard to aggressively develop this software, and have truly made Premiere such a powerful and amazing tool. It has come so far over the past few years, and Adobe genuinely wants to make Premiere the best NLE it can be. On the other hand though, sometimes I feel that they might suffer from the issue of trying to be too many things for too many people. Adobe has created a product that is very feature rich and positioned to satisfy a very wide range of editors, but it is not yet perfectly functional in all of those capacities. The tools all of course function on a basic level, but they don’t feel particularly smooth or intuitive. That’s not to say it isn’t an exceptionally powerful tool – which it very much is. But there are a lot of older artifacts in the software that make it feel clunky and less intuitive than let’s say FCP X in my opinion. FCP X conversely, has the opposite issue of Premiere. Everything that is under the hood seems to work extremely well and it feels very intuitive and modern, but it is less feature rich and appeals to a much smaller demographic than Adobe Premiere.
At the end of the day though, most my complaints with Premiere are fairly surface level, and nit-picky. There are lots of little things I don’t enjoy, like the fact that there is no easy way to add a letterbox to your clips (without creating a custom effect/title), and the UI leaves a lot to be desired… Take these scopes for instance:
The UI is not going to make or break your project, but personally speaking I really like working in a clean simple environment as it can help my creative process. Premiere does a lot of things very well, but in my opinion the interface isn’t one of them.
Overall, I really like what Adobe is doing and I did enjoy cutting my film on Premiere CC. In fact, I’ll likely cut my next one on it as well since I did have such a great overall experience with it. The features are all there now, they just need to be refined to make them feel smoother and more intuitive. That said, there are jobs when Premiere Pro CC will be the best tool to use, and jobs when FCP X or Avid MC would be better. It all comes down to the specific requirements of the project, and I’m sure in time Premiere will continue to evolve to a point where it can be used just as well for nearly any project type. It is certainly well on it’s way!
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