Thursday, April 11, 2013

CS6 and DaVinci Resolve workflow update

Here's what I've come up with as a workflow to edit and finish in Premiere Pro, but color grade in Resolve Lite:
  1. Edit project in Premiere Pro.
  2. When finished, consolidate project to new folder and/or drive.
  3. Import all used footage in new folder into After Effects as separate clips. If you can trim the clips with handles on the sides, even better.
  4. De-noise/sharpen clips with Neat Video. Render all clips out (separately) to new "Ungraded" folder. This takes approximately 6x real time on my system.
  5. Import clips from "ungraded" folder into new Resolve project.
  6. Grade clips in Resolve Lite.
  7. Export clips (again, as separate clips) to new "Graded" folder. Make sure settings and naming match those of "Ungraded" clips. If the "Ungraded" clips have audio, remember to render out "Graded" clips with audio.
  8. Make new Premiere Pro project, import old project into it. Save project and Close Premiere Pro before next step.
  9. Move "Ungraded" folder to different directory.
  10. Open copied Premiere Pro project.
  11. Link files to "Graded" clips.
  12. Save project, render to appropriate format(s).
I alleviate some of the storage concerns by rendering out to Cineform Film Scan 1 444 instead of uncompressed video, but the render time for denoising all that footage is absolutely nuts. Even after consolidating my project in Premiere Pro, it would end up taking me over a week of rendering (12 hour days) to get all the footage prepared for my latest project. This is mainly because the project manager trim footage option doesn't appear to work for DSLR footage. Oh well.

Even with this workflow, Resolve still has some issues. It can be very finicky when it comes to what footage it will actually import:
  • I had to re-render some Cineform transcodes twice to get Resolve to see them. No idea why.
  • Resolve does not import most flavors of .AVI files, so I had to re-wrap my Cineform .AVIs to Quicktime files (Can be done in Cineform's own HDLink program, but only for Cineform files). 
  • Rendering the original footage to uncompressed Quicktimes files appears to alleviate some of the import issues, but comes with a huge filesize increase.
  • When rendering the final graded clips out of Resolve, make sure to go to the timeline in the "Deliver" panel and right-click above the clips so you can "Select All". Otherwise, you might end up rendering one clip and banging your head on your desk in frustration.
  • Make sure you render to the same bit-depth that you work in, or your luminance values will be screwed up.
So what can I do if I can't use the above workflow? My current solution is to clean up my sequences in Premiere Pro so they're all on one track (one video track and one audio track) with only cuts, speed changes and cross dissolves. Then, I  import the project into After Effects to denoise/do a basic grade. I think in the future, I'll see if I can use just Premiere Pro plugins to do all this stuff instead of having to roundtrip or finish in another program. Or I could just shoot footage with a better camera/codec so that I don't have to go through the denoising step.

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Just for the heck of it, I also tried messing with the footage using the ACES colorspace. 

ACES is basically a super wide gamut color space that is designed to encompass all other color spaces. It works by selecting a premade LUT for the input source (camera model, film, etc.), a working LUT (don't ask), and a display/output LUT to make sure the device/format you're outputting to displays the footage properly.

That's the theory. The reality is that my low-gamut DSLR footage ended up looking like crud when imported, and I couldn't figure out how to adjust the grade to fix it. I will investigate more later, possibly with footage from a better camera.

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