What is currently the best and most efficient way to work with RED Scarlet Raw files in Apple’s Final Cut Pro X? That is the question I asked myself. This blogpost is an attempt to describe my workflow in detail.
Note 1: this document is a work in progress and will be updated
Note 2: this workflow is the result of testing, personal taste, more testing and experimenting. This is by no means a scientific approach or a technical review!
Note 3: Why FCP-X? Well, I've been working with FCP 6/7 for many years. After a short sidestep to Adobe Premiere CS5.5 I switched back to FCP-X for easy of use and editing speed.
Note 4: FCP-X release 10.0.6 finally supports R3D files and Red Rocket! Nevertheless my workflow stays in place because working with 4K files is too taxing on an average computer.
You can work natively with the 4K R3D files in Final Cut. But it will be very taxing on your computer. FCP-X has a great function called Proxy Files. In the background it will convert all your clips to low-res proxy files. Done processing you can edit with these proxy files. Only when rendering out a master version you revert back to the original 4K files.
This is a reasonable good workaround, with a few drawbacks:
So while you can play R3D files in FCP-X or use proxy files, there is still a need for a more traditional workflow.
Although FCP-X supports 4K, many editors use 1080p as primary delivery format and will continue to do so for a long time. With adoption of 4K only commencing it is still a couple of years before we start to see 4K broadcast and 4K television sets invading the living room.
Working in 1080p is easier on your hardware. You can even do this on an average laptop. Most of my work gets broadcasted over the internet anyway so working in 1080 is fine for the time being.
Within a few years and a few software & hardware upgrades 4K editing will be standard and a breeze. And since the RED records 4K you can easily update your productions to 4K when the time is there.
My main workflow is based on working in 1080p/25fps (Europe, PAL Area). Your R3D Raw files need to be converted to ProRes, since this is the native format of Final Cut (and a very good editing format).
A good workflow consist of these steps:
A good workflow guarantees good & pleasing images, low noise, optimal sharpness and is a workable proces.
A detailed explanation of every step follows…
The Red Scarlet sensor has an enormous latitude, an incredible number of pixels and gives a natural looking and organic image. A Red can be recognized by the beautiful skin tone rendering. How to tame this beast to make sure you get the best out of your shoot? A few tips:
With 1:8 and recording in 4K you can:
Fire up Redcine-X, the free tool from RED to work on your R3D files. Make a project and drag you clips in. Now you can start doing some preparation on your shots. This is my preferred sequence of steps:
Now do an export to ProRes 422 of your starred clips. Do a full debayer for maximum result. This process takes a LONG time, probably HOURS for your clips.
Unles you have a Red Rocket card. In that case rendering is done faster than realtime. I recently installed a RED Rocket card. This is really a big improvement in workflow speed. It adds loads of computing power during working and rendering in Redcine-X.
A bit later you have a bunch of freshly converted ProRes files to start working with!
Create a project, make an event, drag the files to the event folder and start editing with light speed in FCP-X.
Because of some incomprehensible gamma issues on Mac computers (which to this date I can’t find a solution) some ProRes clips look a tiny bit flat when viewed in Quicktime or in FCP-X. To overcome this, open the colorboard, do a good light correction and add 5% of saturation. you should do this anyway during your editing.
If you have noisy parts in your image use the NeatVideo plugin. It will perform miracles with noisy footage.
If you find your footage to be a little on the soft side, which easily happens since the RED cameras don’t add any sharpness during filming (instead of many video cameras that add TONS of oversharpening), use the sharpen filter with 2% ~ 2,5 % sharpening. If you want more pleasing sharpening results and you have Motion installed, make a Final Cut Effect with the USM filter from Motion. It is definately the way to go. More details on settings in a later blog post on sharpening.
Editing in FCP-X works very quick and very intuitive. Although not every function is present in the current release of FCP-X I think Apple is slowly adding the bells and whistles we need as editors. Making FCP-X an interesting alternative to suites like Premiere Pro and Avid.
If you want you can export a 4K ProRes file. The ProRes format suppors 4K. Normally that wouldn't be sensible: why bother with these big clunky files if you work in 1080 anyway. There are 2 instances where it does make sense:
Good luck! If you have any comments feel free to sent me an e-mail. That will enable me to improve this little workflow guide.
Update 1: not happy about the sharpening within Redcine-X. I did some testing and figured out sharpening is best being done in FCP-X.
Update 2: since I have a RED Rocket card, rendering is done so much faster. I can recommend this card to every Scarlet/Epic owner. It's expensive but worth the increase in workflow speed
Update 3: FCP-X now supports R3D files natively. But you will need a beefed up computer for it to work.
Erwin van Dijck is a video producer, cameraman and editor in the Netherlands. With many years experience in the video production field, he helps companies with producing their internet videos, promo’s, event impressions, client testimonials etc.
He is available for your next video project. For more info: contact!