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Sundance Submission – Shot On Blackmagic in RAW & Cut on FCP X

First off, I would like to thank FCP.co for kindly sharing this article on their site this week. If you haven’t already checked them out, they are an excellent resource for post production news, tutorials and stories, specifically as they pertain to FCP X.

Before you jump into the article, feel free to take a look at the teaser trailer for the film:

Over the past few weeks I have been scrambling to finish my film “Brother Sister” in time for the Sundance submission deadline. The film which I directed, shot and edited was shot on the Blackmagic Cinema Camera and cut on FCP X. This was a new experience for me as I typically shoot straight to ProRes on the BMCC, but due to the nature of this project I opted to shoot everything in RAW, which turned out to be a great choice. It added a couple of extra steps to my normal process, and even though I used a fairly standard workflow, I still wanted to outline it here for those looking to work with this combination of camera and NLE as it seems to work exceptionally well and quite seamlessly.

CONFORM

My first step was to create proxy files from the RAW Cinema DNG’s. To do this I used DaVinci Resolve, as naturally it is built with the BMCC in mind. There are many other options for conforming BMCC footage including going to Photoshop or After Effects to create your proxies, but with the amount of time I had to do this, I used Resolve as I knew it was a tested workflow that was pretty bulletproof.

In Resolve I did a very minimal one light pass where I essentially balanced out contrast and brought down the exposure. This was crucial as on the BMCC you typically want to expose to the right and the images coming straight off the camera can look extremely overexposed. It would have been difficult to edit any material without first doing a quick one light pass on everything. This only took about half an hour as I wasn’t worried about adjusting white balance or anything else at that point.

Once the session was ready to be exported, I rendered out everything to ProRes LT .MOV files to edit in FCP X. I decided to go with ProRes LT rather than ProRes 422 as I knew there would be at least a small increase in speed once the edit got more intensive. In total I only had about 4 days to go from raw footage to a picture lock, so using LT files rather than 422 put my mind more at ease.

OFFLINE EDIT

Once everything (video and audio) was brought into FCP X, I simply went through all of the video clips and labeled them by scene and take, and then did the same for audio. This made it extremely easy to sync audio with video as I then organized the viewer to display by name and went through the list sequentially, clicking each corresponding video and audio file and then synchronizing them automatically. This feature alone saved me a massive amount of time in the process as I was able to label and sync all of the footage in no time.

During the edit itself, there were quite a few new ideas that I decided to try based on the footage that we had. There were some technical issues to work around and some happy accidents that happened on set that I needed to experiment with to fit into the edit as a whole. The magnetic timeline was a treat when it came to trying out new ideas. This was not a new concept to me as I have loved the simplicity and general concept of the magnetic timeline since I’ve started using X, but this was a perfect case-in-point situation where it really helped. I was able to try out many ideas in a very short period of time and was able to make critical decisions quickly.

As far as audio went, initially I didn’t do a lot of audio adjustments within FCP X as I knew from the beginning that the audio edit and sound design would all be done in ProTools by a colleague of mine. However on some problem areas, I did have to do some minor audio edits to selectively adjust which mic track I was using (lav or boom). I primarily did this to give myself peace of mind, knowing that the audio was in fact there on another track and confirming that I didn’t need to do any ADR.

fcpx-brother-sister

POST AUDIO

I used X2PRO to create an AAF from the .fcpxml file and delivered that directly to my sound editor. He brought that into ProTools in his excellent 5.1 studio and was able to get his session up and running without a hitch. I have to say, I’ve now used X2PRO several times and am very impressed with it. Each time, I find myself less anxious about translation issues as it still has a perfect record as far as my projects are concerned.

We did have some issues with the post audio though, in that our sound editor was running out of time and couldn’t complete everything that he needed to in the time that we had. Ultimately the background audio was all in place and most of the foley was in there, but the dialogue still needed some work. Being in a pinch, I decided to have him export audio stems and I brought them back into FCP X to do a final audio pass myself. I used his backgrounds and foley (and some of his dialogue), but mostly re-did the dialogue edit myself. This was the most extensive audio work I’ve done in FCP X to date and while I’m by no means an expert in that field, I was easily able to accomplish what I needed to with the tools within FCP X. Specifically many of the Logic plugins/filters were extremely valuable.

Currently I am having another sound editor do an audio pass for our final master as the current version was only used for the Sundance submission cut. He will be using Logic X to do it, and we are trying out to .fcpxml workflow with Logic X which should be an interesting test. I’m looking forward to sharing the results of that workflow as well once we have it established.

COLOR CORRECTION

With the audio complete, I exported a .fcpxml file once again and brought it into DaVinci Resolve. Within Resolve I made sure to bring in all of the RAW files first, and none of the prores LT files. The XML rebuilt the timeline without a hitch and all of my edits and transitions were perfectly in place. The grade itself only took a single day to do as I wasn’t doing a lot of tracking or power windows. On my own projects, I tend to prefer working with more natural color grades and avoid making things overly synthetic by re-lighting in post. This helped keep the color process on the short side too.

With the basic looks all complete, I then exported the sequence in 2K resolution using ProRes4444. This was brought into FilmConvert, where I added film stock emulation to the entire film. I didn’t go shot by shot, but rather added an entire wash to the film as a whole to give it some more consistency.

After that was rendered out, it was once again brought back into FCP X for titles and output.

davinci-brother-sister

CONCLUSION

While I knew that FCP X would vastly speed up my post workflow, this project just proved to me how fast and efficient it actually is. In a real world scenario I was able to go from raw footage to a final master within 2 weeks, and most of that time was spent in ProTools. The ability to have so many audio and colour tools within FCP X is invaluable as it allowed me to make minor tweaks and adjustments on the fly to try out ideas, or in some cases make necessary adjustments that had to be done without sending it out to another application. Even mastering the final video file and DVD went off without a hitch and was completely done within FCP X.

This short film was done as a precursor to my upcoming feature of the same name, and was a testing ground both creatively and technically to establish relationships with the actors and crew as well as test out gear and workflows. While many things will change before we go to camera on the feature, one thing that is for certain is we will be cutting the film on FCP X.

IF you missed part one of this article, be sure to go back and check out: Shooting Narrative With The Blackmagic Cinema Camera.

If you enjoyed this article please help to support the site by sharing on Facebook using the link below, and following me on on twitter  – @noamkroll

About Author

Noam Kroll is an award-winning Los Angeles based filmmaker, and the founder of the boutique production house, Creative Rebellion. His work can be seen at international film festivals, on network television, and in various publications across the globe. Follow Noam on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more content like this!

22 Comments

  • Oscar
    June 23, 2014 at 1:45 pm

    Wonderful work!! Good work! Noam, we´ve the BMCC too but… Wich format you exported the video? Because we render an export in full 16:9… 🙁

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      June 23, 2014 at 7:49 pm

      Hi Oscar, thanks for the kind words! I did my final export in 16:9 but with a 2.35:1 letterbox on it. I chose to keep it at 16:9 for any possibility of airing it (or clips of it) on television. I mastered it to ProResHQ at 2K as I do with most of my work.

      Reply
  • Flaaandeeers
    April 14, 2014 at 9:32 pm

    Looking forward to that article Noam!
    Really interested in knowing your workflow, system config, etc.
    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      April 21, 2014 at 4:28 pm

      Thanks again! I am working on it and will have it released very shortly!

      Reply
  • Ernest
    March 27, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    I’m new to working in Raw. Just acquired the 4K BMPC. I know your BMCC is 2.5K and is different than 4K raw, but would love to know your on set workflow (drives, monitoring, laptop conf, etc…) Btw, great article.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      March 31, 2014 at 8:06 pm

      Thanks Ernest –

      I actually just used the BMCC on another film shoot this weekend and have been thinking about doing a post about the workflow. After seeing your question I’ve decided to go ahead with that as my next article, so check back later this week and you will have your answer!

      Reply
      • Flaaandeeers
        April 14, 2014 at 4:27 pm

        Looking forward to that new new article abut your editing workflow Noam, and also about your system config (drives, monitoring, etc.).
        Very interested.
        Thanks!

        Reply
  • Abehjha
    December 27, 2013 at 6:15 am

    Thanks for sharing your experience. The film looks intriguing. You didn’t say whether you were editing using a laptop or desktop or what your hard drive set up was. You mentioned that you used proxies, were you using thunderbolt or firewire 800? Would thunderbolt be an advantage over firewire 800 when working with ProRes 422 in Resolve 10?

    Abehjha

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      December 30, 2013 at 12:48 am

      Thanks for the feedback. I cut the film primarily on my mac pro (12 core tower), but I also used my laptop at times using a USB 3 drive and it worked perfectly. As for thunderbolt, I would say it is definitely advantageous even when using prores, especially if you are doing any compositing or multi-cam.

      Reply
  • video editing effects
    December 23, 2013 at 9:47 pm

    I’m really looking towards the additional features throughout FCP
    10.1!

    Reply
  • Templates for Final Cut
    December 23, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    I’m really fired up with the completely new media management throughout Final Cut 10.1.

    Reply
  • RJ
    December 18, 2013 at 9:55 pm

    Thanks for the interesting post! Very informative and helpful. It’s great to be able to demistify the process of working with raw files. I’d love to have known more details about the post workflow minutae of working with Resolve, but the article was very helpful nevertheless. Thanks

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      December 19, 2013 at 11:48 am

      Thanks a lot RJ. Feel free to ask me any questions about my workflow and I would be happy to address them for you!

      Reply
  • Heri
    November 29, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    How do you deal when you work with a team? With assistant editor or a colorist who have their own setups.

    I also love FCP X’s quick turnaround but always lost days when I wanted to collaborate with someone else.

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      December 3, 2013 at 9:28 pm

      Depending on your specific setup, there are a number of ways to approach this. In regards to color, the easiest thing to do is export a .fcpxml file (assuming they are on DaVinci Resolve). With an assistant editor, you can have a duplicate event on your drive and their drive and share the ‘currentversion’ file as needed to pass the project back and forth. There is also a workflow with sparse disk images if you are wishing to work with another editor on shared storage.

      Later this month when FCP X 10.1 is released, it will be interesting to see if they address collaborative workflows at all.

      Reply
  • Samuel Jacob
    October 10, 2013 at 12:39 am

    Wonderful work.

    I can’t wait to see more. There’s an interesting undertone of pain. Seems to have a lot of back-story and mystery elements that reveal later on in the story.

    Keep it coming.

    Best,
    Samuel

    Reply
    • Noam
      October 10, 2013 at 8:39 pm

      I’m glad you enjoyed it Samuel and thanks for your feedback. The idea was to create a level of mystery and ambiguity so I’m glad that you picked up on that.

      Reply
  • adam
    October 6, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    thanks so much for taking the time to put this together. great information. ill be getting the BMCC next week.
    what lenses did you use on the short? the footage looks incredible! gotta love those 13 stops.
    did you get the EF mount or MFT?
    thanks again for your time.

    Adam-

    Reply
    • Noam
      October 10, 2013 at 8:38 pm

      Thank you Adam, and congrats on your BMCC purchase. I only used three lenses on the shoot – My Tokina 11-16, Rokinon 35mm and Rokinon 85mm. I would have to say the Tokina was used the most.

      I have an EF Mount as I was eager to get one and couldn’t wait for the MFT at the time… But with that said, I’m glad I have the active mount and don’t see EF as being as a disadvantage for my work. When I need to shoot with PL glass, chances are I’m not using my own gear and the production is on an Alexa or similar. So for smaller personal projects, the EF is ideal for me!

      Reply
  • Xiong
    October 1, 2013 at 8:23 pm

    Good read, looks like FCPX has come a long way since release. The teaser looks intriguing, really like the more natural look of your grade. How much of an improvement was Film Convert to your original grade? Was it just a small touch to even the whole short?

    Reply
    • Noam
      October 2, 2013 at 12:03 am

      FCP X has definitely come a long way! I liked it from the beginning even though I was frustrated with some of the shortcomings… But over the last couple of years it has become a really strong tool. May not be the best choice for everyone, but I do appreciate the flexibility it gives me.

      About 90% of what you’re seeing was a result of DaVinci. I did do a pass on the entire film with FilmConvert, but there isn’t a staggering difference after running it through FilmConvert, at least in this case. I just wanted to add a slight touch of a look to the whole thing to give it all consistency and to help the colors blend together.

      Reply

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